China passes directive for religion station construction

By NewsDesk, with Agency report,

The Chinese ruling Communist Party has ordered local governments to regulate the construction of large outdoor religious statues in a better way amid increasing restrictions on religious expression of all kinds.

The directive viewed on the United Front Work Department websites on Saturday appears to target mainly the followers of Buddhism and Taoism—two of China’s five officially recognised religions.

It says regulating such statues and preventing further commercialisation of religions must be a “top priority.”

Thousands of Buddhist and Taoist temples and shrines, along with mosques and churches, were damaged or destroyed under communism, especially during the violent 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Although many have been restored and reopened since then, new regulations and a bureaucratic overhaul earlier this year have put the day-to-day running of religious affairs directly under the officially atheistic party.

40 die during auto crash in Uganda

By NewsDesk,

At least,  40 people have reported to have died in a road accident involving a passenger bus, a tractor and a beer truck in Northern Uganda on Saturday.

Although, the country police had initially put the death toll at 19,  the Red Cross said on their official Twitter page that the accident had “claimed over 40 lives.’’

The accident occurred late on Friday near Kiryandongo, about 260 kilometers from Kampala, police spokesman Emilian Kayima said, adding that children were among the dead.

The bus “rammed into a tractor and hit it badly, rolled and hit another beer truck,’’ he said in a statement.

“Evacuation teams are working tirelessly to rescue the injured. Reinforcement is being organised to support the rescue services,’’ Kayima added, without saying how many were injured.

Bus accidents are common on Ugandan roads and are blamed on speeding, drunken driving and the poor mechanical condition of the vehicles.

Ebola outbreak, cases hits 30, eight death on record

By NewsDesk, with Agency report,

The Congo Government,  through its Ministry of Health,  has raised alarm that number of confirmed Ebola cases had reached 30, including 8 deaths in 3 affected health zones in the country’s Equateur province.

However, the ministry gave the toll after surveillance teams in the capital, Kinshasa, were deployed along the Congo River to monitor people coming in there.

The Congo Representative, World Health Organization, Allarangar Yakouide, said that health brigades had also been set up at various entry points to Kinshasa and other cities as part of prevention and the body want to ensure that ports and airports are effectively protected

A wave of panic hit Kinshasa on Wednesday, after rumors of an Ebola case admitted to the Kinshasa General Hospital.

But Yakouide quickly denied it, saying that no cases are confirmed in the capital.

He warned against spreading false reports which “could create panic and undermine the effectiveness of the response to the Ebola outbreak.”

As of Thursday, Congo’s health ministry reports a total of 58 cases of hemorrhagic fever: 30 confirmed Ebola cases, 14 probable and 14 suspected.

It said that it was unable to confirm if a death in Bikoro was Ebola after the local residents refused to allow officials to take blood samples.

Border health officers monitored passengers arriving at Ngobila Beach in Kinshasa, which serves as the crossing from Brazzaville, Republic of Congo into Congo.

Health workers on Wednesday began registering passengers arriving, and took their temperatures.

“We ask all those who work in different services here at the beach, even state agents all must be behind the Health Department … if it (Ebola) reaches your neighbor, it can also reach you,” said Alphose Buka, a state official working at the beach.

Health workers detained a woman who did not have a vaccination card.

Antho Buka, who sells meat and fish at the Wahi market at a port in Kinshasa said she was surprised residents in Kinshasa are worried about Ebola, since it is in the northwest Equateur Province.

“Our relatives in Mbandaka have informed us that Ebola is in Bikoro, but here in Kinshasa, we do not have recorded cases, not even.”

Georgette Boluka also said that with all the teams going into Bikoro and the Equateur Province to fight Ebola, she hopes it will not spread.

Two Ebola victims die after leaving quarantine in Congo

By NewsDesk, with Agency report,

The Congo Government has reported that two of three Ebola patients who escaped quarantine from river port city of Mbandaka have died, while third patient was found alive, days after they were declared missing.

It disclosed that the third patient was currently under observation by MSF and the World Health Organization.

The Head, Medical Charity Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF), Henri Gray, said that three patients infected with the Ebola virus escaped from  isolation ward at a hospital in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

Speaking on the development on Wednesday, Gray hinted that two patients left the hospital on Monday night with the help of family members, then headed to a church.

He informed that one died at home a day after they escaped the quarantine and was buried with the help of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

According to him, other was sent back to hospital and died that night and another patient who was close to being discharged left on Sunday evening but was later found.

“This is a hospital. It’s not a prison. We can’t lock everything”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and MSF said that they could not force patients to stay in hospital but hoped that growing awareness of the disease and its risks would convince people to follow medical advice.

However, WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, stated that health workers had redoubled efforts to trace contacts with the patients. Health workers have drawn up a list of 628 people who have had contact with known cases who will need to be vaccinated.

“It is unfortunate but not unexpected,” he said. “It is normal for people to want the loved ones to be at home during what could be the last moments of life.”

Meanwhile, the report came as another WHO official warned that the fight to stop Democratic Republic of Congo’s ninth confirmed outbreak of Ebola had reached a critical point.

The Chief, Emegency Response,WHO,  Peter Salama, at the U.N. body’s annual assembly recently, noted the country was on epidemiological knife edge of this response and that in next few weeks would tell if the outbreak was going to expand to urban areas.

Besides, Health officials in country were particularly concerned by the disease’s presence in Mbandaka, a crowded trading hub upstream from Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people. The river runs along the border with the Republic of Congo.


AfDB draws $35bn, 10yrs investment support plan for African industrialization

By NewsDesk,

The  President, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has disclosed that the bank $35 billion dollars 10 years vestment plan, which was designed to support industrialization in Africa .

Adesina, while speaking at a breakfast meeting for newsmen at the bank’s Annual Meeting on Monday in Busan, South Korea, urged African countries to add value to their products in all sectors for rapid industrialisation of the continent.

He noted that Africa was greatly endowed with natural resources such as gas, oil and agricultural and mineral products that needed to be tapped for exports and that the continent needs to create jobs, add values to products for export because no nation achieves industrialisation by exporting raw material s,” he said.

The bank’s head opened on his view that Africa’s surest way to economic growth was through agricultural industrialisation and that countries across the continent needed to create jobs, wealth and fiscal base by encouraging the growth of medium and small scale enterprises.

He said a major challenge of Africa was that most countries exported raw materials, adding that the practice should stop.

According to him, Africa is a resilient continent, doing a lot of things for its growth and ready to take its right place.

He called for public/private sector participation to drive development and industrialise the continent.

He said most countries in Africa were driving industrialisation through government support for infrastructure development, foreign direct investments and mobilisation of money from the capital markets into the economies.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that South Korea is hosting the 2018 annual meeting as one of the non regional member of the bank as the 2017 edition held in India.

Adesina said such meetings were being held outside Africa to give the hosts sense of belonging

Other non regional members include Brazil, Argentina, Canada, U.S. and Korea.

The theme of the five-day meeting is “Accelerating Africa’s Industrialisation” .

The meeting is being attended by Africa’s ministers of Finance, Central Bank Governors and participants from both public and private sectors of the economy.

Fishermen rescue dozens African, Guyana migrants after 35 days on sea

By NewsDesk,

At least, two dozen of migrants from Africa and Guyana found drifting near northeast coast of Brazil after 35 days on sea, were rescued by Brazilian fishermen, who came in contact with them.

As gathered, the migrants were nationals of South American country of Guyana,  Nigeria and Senegal on the other side of the Atlantic.

However, human rights department for Brazil’s state of Maranhao said in a statement, on Sunday, that that migrants were rescued by Brazilian fishermen and that there were 25 people, all men, on the boat and two Brazilians, the navy said in a statement.

“Once ashore, they were “given medical attention and food,” before being taken for processing by the Brazilian federal police, the Maranhao human rights department said.

“The group will be put into temporary housing provided by the state,” it said.

“The federal police will investigate the possible committing of crimes against the foreigners in relation to their arrival in Brazil and evaluate their legal situation in Brazil.”

Media reported that Brazilian pair were suspected of being people traffickers and that the rescued migrants had spent 35 days afloat, but that there was no immediate indication of what route they had taken.

Sources confirmed that the boat, a catamaran, was carrying a Haitian flag and that local fishermen found the vessel drifting off the Brazilian coastal town of Sao Jose de Ribamar, south of the Amazon river, on Saturday.

The country’s navy disclosed that an attempt by the authorities to locate the migrant boat from the air failed, so the fishermen towed it to port, while also feeding the stranded voyagers.

It noted that the fishing captain signaled that there were no more food and water to give, as provisions were ending.


Congo reports Ebola outbreak, two cases on record

By NewsDesk,

The Congo Health Minister, Oly Ilunga, has disclosed that Ebola virus has spread to a city, capital of Equateur province, a worrying shift in new outbreak in the northwest.

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka city, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak began.

He said one sample proved positive for the deadly Ebola virus, bringing to three the number of confirmed Ebola cases in three health zones.

Ilunga said Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, with higher spread potential. He said epidemiologists are working to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified.

Congo has reported 23 deaths among the 42 suspected, probable and confirmed cases.

ECOWAS working on Morocco’s joining region request

By NewsDesk,

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has disclosed that a request by  Kingdom of Morocco to part of ECOWAS observer was still undecided

However, the President, ECOWAS Commission, Jean Brou, said that the request of Morocco was only agreed to in principle in 2016 at the 51st meeting of the Conference of Heads of States.

While fielding questions from members of the ECOWAS Parliament after presenting status of the community to  legislative arm during its 2018 First Ordinary Session in Abuja yesterday,Brou disclosed that the conference thereafter set up a committee to carry out an analysis on the impact and implication of Morocco joining the Sub-regional body.

Jean Claude Brou stated that upn the submission of the report in 2017 at the 52nd meeting of the Conference, the heads of state still asked for more work to be done and appointed Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and Cote d’Ivior to conduct more indept analysis on the implication of Morocco’s membership.

As gathered, the report was billed to be submitted to the Heads of State at their next meeting in June.

Below is the full text of the translation of the speech of the ECOWAS Commission President who spoke in French.

“During the 51st Ordinary Summit of the Head of States and Government (HOSG) in Abuja, an agreement in principle was given for Morocco to join ECOWAS.

“Following that principle, and during the states summit in Monrovia, ECOWAS was asked to carry out a report on the impacts and the possible implications of Morocco joining ECOWAS.”

“The report was considered during the 52nd Summit of Head of States held last December in Abuja. We were asked by the Head of States to deepen that report, and a committee was set up including Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Cote d’Iviore to supervise that study. We are at that stage where we are deepening that study. And during the forthcoming meeting of the Head of States, we are going to give them the status report.”

“This issue is being followed closely by the Head of States, and we will make sure that we do our bit and send the status report to the Head of States, and work with governments to supervise the study, and submit to the Head of States during their next meeting,”

Uganda works out taxes for Bible, Quran, other books sales

By NewsDesk, with Agency report

The Uganda Government, has worked out taxes on religious groups for sale of Bibles, Koran, prayer and hymn books.

Although, clerics were insisting that religious materials should be tax-exempt since they use them for “spiritual nourishment” of Ugandans.

However, the country’s Revenue Authority (URA) imposed the taxes prompting clerics across faith groups expressing consternation and disbelief.

The Commissioner General, URA, Doris Akol, disagreed, saying the practice of not taxing the entities and materials was in the first place “an anomaly”.

“We understand that Value-Added Tax (VAT) has in the past not been paid on the said Bibles, prayer books and hymn books. This was an anomaly,” she wrote in an April 19 letter.

Ms Akol was responding to a petition a month earlier by the Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.

The prelate had asked the tax man to release a consignment of 9,120 prayer and hymn books imported from Nairobi, Kenya, without the church having to pay VAT.

Maryam Sanda, reading her Koran in court with her face covered

In his March 18 letter, Archbishop Ntagali noted that items had been shipped in by Centenary Publishing House Limited, Church of Uganda’s (CoU) publishing arm, which in his view should be tax-exempt.

“It is from this point of view that we write to you, appealing that the VAT be waived… since they (books) are used to educate the masses and Christians by spreading the word of God as our nation’s motto affirms, ‘For God and my country,” he stated.

Ms Akol said she had no power to waive a tax not excluded under the law and, as such, URA released the consignment only after CoU paid Ush8.9 million ($2,395).

In a country where nine out of every 10 citizens are either Christians or Muslims, the proposed tax that a church official said would result in increase of, for instance, a hymn books’ cost by Ush3,000 ($0.80).

If enforced, it also means the government could raise substantial revenues from taxes on religious materials.

The religious institutions were unable to immediately provide the number of Bibles, Korans and other worship materials sold in a year.

Mr Joshua Kitakule, the secretary general of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, an umbrella body of different faiths, on Monday said whereas religions should not entirely be tax-exempt, imposing 18 per cent VAT on Bibles, Korans and prayer books would be “erroneous”.

“These items are not meant for profit; so, it is erroneous to tax them. Prayer books are supposed to strengthen the spiritual nourishment of individuals,” he said.

The tax body’s break from tradition followed months of engagement with religious leaders who remained opposed to the proposal.

For instance, Mr Ramathan Mugalu, the secretary general of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, said President Museveni had said all imported prayer materials that are not for sale should not be taxed.

“This government has gone too far in its collection of taxes. How can you tax the word of God? It should instead come in to assist in publishing these materials,” Mr Mugalu said.

Canon Joram Kahenano, a CoU commissioner, said URA should have referred its proposal for consideration by Parliament before proceeding to implement it.

60 Shiite members inside police net after violent protest in Abuja

By NewsDesk,

Sixty members of  Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), know as Shiite, have been reported to have arrested by Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command during violent protest over detention of the group’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, in the territory.

As gathered, the group defied warning from police that members of the movement should not staged violent protest in demand for release of their leader who was been under detention since 2016.

The command spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, who confirmed the arrest, disclosed that two personnel of the office were severely injured during the protest, aside property that were destroyed by the group members.

Speaking during his visit Garki Hospital were the policemen were under taken treatment on Tuesday,  Manzah identified SP Linus Ogah and Insp. Mary Ameh, as two offcers who sustained injuries durong the protest.

He said that both of them were recuperating and that bullet was removed from Ameh’ hand, adding that, the protesters also destroyed some police operational vehicles.

“During the Monday protest, members of IMN or otherwise known as Shiites engaged police and haul stones at police personnel deployed to disperse them.

“They also smashed some vehicle glasses parked around the Federal Secretariat,” he said.

On April 16, the police had arrested 115 members of the sect when they embarked on a similar violent protest to demand that their leader be freed.

Manzah, who said that though citizens had right to protest, advised that they should do that in a “civil manner’’ and not disturb public peace.

He said that the command had taken proactive measures to check violent protest in the territory.