Pakistan to ban far-right religious party. (Reason).

Interior Minister Rasheed accused TLP leaders of negotiating with the government in bad faith over a planned parliamentary resolution on the issue of blasphemy.

Pakistan’s government will move to ban the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which has held days of violent countrywide protests resulting in the deaths of at least two police officers, the country’s interior minister says.

Protests by the TLP continued in pockets across the country on Wednesday, with Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed confirming that at least two policemen had been killed and more than 340 wounded by demonstrators in the past 48 hours.

“Today we have decided to ban TLP, and this file is going to cabinet for the approval from today,” said Rasheed at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.

In a later tweet, he said the ban would be issued under Pakistani anti-terrorism legislation.

Rasheed said protesters had abducted policemen in several areas during the demonstrations, but that all law enforcement personnel had now been recovered.

The TLP, a religious group founded by firebrand Muslim leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has made the issue of perceived “blasphemy” its rallying cry, and has been agitating since November for the expulsion of the French ambassador and a ban on all French goods over remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron last year.

It called off a big sit-in protest that had blocked a main highway into the capital Islamabad in November after reaching an agreement with the government on consideration of its demands.

Arrest of TLP chief
In February, it threatened further demonstrations if the government did not comply with its demands, but government negotiators were able to secure an extension in the deadline for action.

On Monday, however, before the new April 20 deadline, police arrested TLP chief Saad Rizvi, son of party founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi who died of natural causes shortly after the November protests.

The arrest sparked days of unrest, with thousands of TLP supporters launching protests and blocking roads and highways across the country. Video footage from protests in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere showed violent clashes between police and protesters.

Interior Minister Rasheed accused TLP leaders of negotiating with the government in bad faith over a planned parliamentary resolution on the issue of blasphemy.

“Until the last moment our aim was that a draft resolution could be prepared to present in the assembly with their agreement,” he said.

“But all of our efforts failed and one of the main reasons for [this] was that they wanted to come to Faizabad chowk [to hold a protest] no matter what.”

Rasheed said the TLP sought a resolution “that would mean [diplomats from] European countries … would all have to leave the country”.

“We want[ed] a draft that will raise the flag of the Prophet high … but what [the TLP] want[ed], that will create a perception in the world that we are an extremist country,” he said.

Police operations to clear the remaining protests in parts of Lahore and Faisalabad continued on Wednesday.


#Newsworthy

Justin Bieber speaks on his drug addiction.

Justin Bieber has opened up about his transformation from wild child to reformed character.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the 27-year-old singer spoke freely, revealing the extent of his drug problem and the development of his relationships with wife Hailey Baldwin and Christianity.


“I have a wife who I adore, who I feel comforted by. I feel safe. I feel like my relationship with God is wonderful. And I have this outpouring of love that I want to be able to share with people, you know?” Bieber told journalist Zach Baron.
Bieber and wife Hailey Baldwin Bieber
Bieber and wife Hailey Baldwin Bieber
The Canadian superstar developed a reputation for bad behavior and a serious drug habit in years past, to the point that security guards would come into his room at night and check his pulse to make sure he was still alive, Bieber told GQ.
“It was like I had all this success and it was still like: I’m still sad, and I’m still in pain. And I still have these unresolved issues. And I thought all the success was going to make everything good. And so for me, the drugs were a numbing agent to just continue to get through,” he said.
Hailey Bieber on marrying Justin ‘insanely young’
Hailey Bieber on marrying Justin ‘insanely young’
Bieber’s first single, “One Time,” went platinum in 2009 when he was just just 15. He became a global star over the next few years, before his behavior became increasingly erratic, with a string of brushes with the law.
In November 2018, Bieber announced that he had married Hailey Baldwin.
Then, in March 2019, he said he was taking time away from music to focus on his mental health.
He discusses these struggles, as well as his June 2020 revelation that he was suffering with Lyme disease, in the GQ interview.
“To be honest, I am a lot healthier, and I did have a lot of things going on. I did have mono, and I do have Lyme disease,” Bieber said.
“But I was also navigating a lot of emotional terrain, which had a lot to do with it. And we like to blame a lot of things on other things. Sometimes… It’s a lot of times just your own stuff.”
Justin Bieber’s ‘Lonely’ shows the dark side of childhood stardom
Justin Bieber’s ‘Lonely’ shows the dark side of childhood stardom
Bieber said his marriage has become a major positive force after a difficult start.
“The first year of marriage was really tough,” he said, “because there was a lot, going back to the trauma stuff.”
But now, he said, “we’re just creating these moments for us as a couple, as a family, that we’re building these memories. And it’s beautiful that we have that to look forward to.”
Baldwin previously said the pair were “insanely young” when they tied the knot. She was 21 and Bieber was 24 at the time.
His faith is another reason why Bieber seems to be in a better place these days.
God “is grace,” he said. “Every time we mess up, He’s picking us back up every single time. That’s how I view it. And so it’s like, ‘I made a mistake. I won’t dwell in it. I don’t sit in shame. But it actually makes me want to do better.’ ”
Bieber released his sixth album, “Justice,” in March.


#Newsworthy

Ministers seek new approach to stable Energy in Nigeria.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Uche Ekwunife decried the short lifespan of most solar street lights in the country, urging the ECN to find a sustainable solution to the issue.

Stakeholders in the and energy sector have raised concern about Nigeria’s energy outlook, insisting that unless the country addresses critical challenges that limit private sector investment, sustainable energy development may remain a mirage.

Nigeria faces a critical challenge in attracting investments that would have unlocked the enormous energy inadiquate electricity, gas and refined petroleum products cripple economic growth and push millions into poverty.

But heads of key energy ministries/agencies, lawmakers and other stakeholders, who converged on an international energy summit in Abuja, yesterday, believe that energy sufficiency and sustainable economic growth could be achieved in the sector if the private sector plays its role.

While the stakeholders stressed that urgent attention was needed to de-risk the sectors to encourage private sector-led investment, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, noted that given Nigerian’s huge energy resources, leveraging science and technology could help in achieving sustainable energy.

“The most important thing is that Nigeria has enormous energy resources. And what we need to do is to use science, technology and innovation. So, we need to add knowledge. We need to add knowledge to add value to the resources we have. And with that we can solve the energy problem that we have in the country,” Onu said.

Onu said the country can only provide jobs for the teeming unemployed population if efforts are geared towards industry, adding that without adequate electricity, industrial development would remain a mirage.

Urging Nigeria as to remain optimistic about the power issue, he noted that some of the efforts being taken by the government were the basics needed to deliver sustainable energy.

He said it was necessary to attract local and foreign investors to harness the energy resources in the country, adding that the government was working hard on the best incentives that would attract investors.

Director-General, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), which organised the summit in collaboration with International Energy Charter (IEC), Prof. Eli Bala, noted that de-risking the energy sector was important for attracting private sector-led investments, noting that the sectors must be competitive and deliver a return to investors.

According to him, government has developed incentives and support schemes to reduce the unit cost by kilowatt per hour of energy.

Bala noted that partnership with international and local bodies remains critical to the growth of the sectors, adding that cooperation on energy development would provide the needed investor confidence.

“It enhances confidence. Foreign investors will come in. That is the essence of partnership, especially international partnership.

The prospects are high and the situation, certainly, will improve because more funds will come,” Bala stated.

Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, noted that the government was doing everything possible to ensure sustainable energy through renewable energy.

He said the country was working hard to ensure that renewable energy accounts for about 30 per cent of the country’s energy supply.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Uche Ekwunife decried the short lifespan of most solar street lights in the country, urging the ECN to find a sustainable solution to the issue.

The Senator also asked the agency to look into the process of sourcing local raw material components in the sector, adding further that the agency must give priority to policy formulation that would address existing challenges in the country’s energy outlook.

Chairman, House Committee on Science and Technology, Beni Lar said while the country has been afflicted by the power crisis, global development has shown the need to focus on clean energy to mitigate climate change challenges.


#Newsworthy

Fresh concerns rise over Nigeria China’s loan debt.

The Chinese aggressive debt programme has drawn the ire of national lawmakers as well. Last year, a House of Representatives panel raised the alarm over clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in a loan agreement.

As Nigeria and China this year mark their golden jubilee of official relations, there are growing fears over the imbalanced relationship, especially with China’s predatory lending bond with Nigeria and the country’s debt exposure to the Asian powerhouse, which has risen geometrically in recent years.

Official relations date back to February 1971 when Nigeria established diplomatic relations with China, and today Nigeria remains China’s major investment destination in Africa. At an event in Abuja to mark 50 years of Nigeria-China relations, the Chinese Charge de Affaires in Nigeria, Mr. Zhao Yong, disclosed that China’s trade with Africa has hit $208.7 billion with foreign direct investment totaling $49.1 billion.

According to Yong, the trade volume between China and Nigeria reached $19.27 billion in 2019, which was 1900 times that of 1971 when the diplomatic relationship was established, but fell to $13.66 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Yong said: “Despite the adverse effects of COVID-19, the bilateral trade volume from January to October of 2020 increased by 0.7 per cent year on year, which was 14% higher than the trade growth rate between China and Africa as a whole. Nigeria surpassed Angola and South Africa respectively to become China’s second-largest trading partner and largest export market in Africa.”

The growing trade and presence of Chinese in Nigeria has also led to changing narratives about increased migration on both sides. As of March 31, 2020, Chinese loans to Nigeria stood at $3.121 billion, which is 11.28 per cent of the country’s external debt of $27.67 billion.

Meanwhile, a new study has found that China, the world’s largest public lender to developing countries, imposes unique conditions on borrowing nations, which gives Beijing undue influence over their economic and foreign policies.

According to the study from Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) released two weeks ago, after analyzing 100 Chinese loan agreements with 24 countries, China’s financing state banks establish new lending terms or adapt standard ones in ways that “go beyond maximizing commercial advantage.”

“Such terms can amplify the lender’s influence over the debtor’s economic and foreign policies,” the report said. It goes on to list several examples.

Over 90 per cent of the reviewed Chinese contracts include a clause that allows the creditor to terminate the contract and demand repayment in the case of significant law or policy change in the borrowing country. While policy change clauses are standard in commercial contracts, the researchers argue that this takes on a different dimension when the lender is a state entity and not a private firm subject to standard financial regulation.

The contracts also contain “unusually far-reaching confidentiality clauses,” researchers found. “Many of the contracts contain or refer to borrowers’ promises not to disclose their terms — or, in some cases, even the fact of the contract’s existence,” write the authors, who obtained access to these documents only through a multi-year data collection initiative carried out by AidData, a research lab in the United States.

This secrecy prevents other lenders from reliably assessing a country’s creditworthiness. “Most importantly,” the authors write, “citizens in lending and borrowing countries alike cannot hold their governments accountable for secret debts.”

In Nigeria, while the Chinese debt increases, projects funded with the borrowed funds face cash flow and viability challenges, raising questions on the country’s ability to fulfill its obligation to the lender.

Amidst the growing concern over the country’s ability to offset the growing debt, much of which the National Assembly said the conditions are shrouded in secrecy, the Federal Government sees China as a reliable partner in its efforts to resuscitate the country’s moribund infrastructure.

Sources in the government’s establishment saddled with the responsibilities of negotiating the debt agreements and overseeing the underlying projects said the waning interest among traditional European lenders, including the Paris Club, has made the incessant trips to China irresistible and puts the Federal Government in a dilemma.

“It is a dilemma if you consider the long period of neglect of the most important infrastructure. The government must find a way to fund the projects. And if the traditional market is unwilling to give loans, should the government sit back and lament?” the source asked.

Nobody, not even the opposition, expects the government to sit back in the face of a dwindling economy, low production and growing unemployment that are rooted in poor infrastructure; but the least that is expected of the government is to keep a bloated governance structure in the face of falling fortune.

Economists and allied professionals have asked the current administration to bite the bullet in fulfillment of its electioneering promise and reduce the cost of governance manifesting inexpensive official lifestyle and unreasonable wages/allowances to public officials.

Despite these, the government sticks to its gun, pays lip service to cut the cost of governance, lives off the future earnings or prints money as alleged by the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, to survive while going on a borrowing spree to finance basic infrastructure.

This has triggered the fear of a possible China debt-trap diplomacy though the government has dismissed repeatedly that there is no trap in the new-found love with the Chinese government and its agencies.

The China debt-trap diplomacy is a global concern and has taken firm root in Nigeria in the past years, assuming a market square joke of a sort among urban folks. But the government often dismisses it as “unfounded”.

The Debt Management Office (DMO), realising the growing worry, explained that the tenure of the concessional loans was 20 years with a moratorium of seven years, a clause that inadvertently pushes the responsibility of servicing and full payment of the current tranches of facilities to subsequent administrations.

Though China’s share of credits to Nigeria is nascent and accounted for a negligible portion of the country’s external borrowing about a decade ago, the country’s debt exposure to the EXIM Bank of China has increased in 22 folds in eight years, jumping from $8.4 billion in 2012 to $195.5 billion by last December. The increase is about 2,200 per cent.

In the past five years which saw EXIM Bank become an undeniable part of Nigeria’s quest for infrastructure renaissance, the development bank’s debt assets in the country have expanded steadily from $58.8 billion to $195.5 billion, which is over three times.

The total Chinese credits to Nigeria are not known but at the close of books last year, NEXIM Bank alone accounted for 76% of Nigeria’s $258 billion bilateral loans, pushing the Paris Club members to the fringe of the country’s debt market.

Notwithstanding government’s explanation that there is no usual risks in all of these, Godwin Owoh, a professor in economics who runs a debt management consulting firm, said the debt-trap concern is real as the country has not shown sufficient commitment to proper management of the proceeds and projects executed in the manner that the debt can be offset.

The Chinese aggressive debt programme has drawn the ire of national lawmakers as well. Last year, a House of Representatives panel raised the alarm over clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in a loan agreement.

RECENTLY, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, lamented that ‘selfishness’ of some legislators, which triggered the probe of the details of a 2018 Chinese loan agreement, has negatively affected the country. He said the lawmakers’ tendency to ask “more questions” has affected other countries’ willingness to grant needed facilities to develop the country.

But lawyers and public affairs analysts have insisted the National Assembly has done nothing untoward in their quest for probity. Seni Adio, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “The National Assembly is not in error for querying the Chinese loan openly. It is axiomatic that there are three arms of government. Equally elementary is that they are equal, and have distinct roles. Legislative oversight is part and parcel of the democratic process and, whereas law-making is the primary role of the National Assembly, a corollary and very important additional responsibility is legislative oversight of Ministries and by extension Departments and Agencies.

“Therefore, the lawmakers are simply fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities. Presumably, the loan agreement was negotiated at arm’s length and seasoned banking and finance counsel represented our Republic. If so, the agreement should pass muster. If not, the oversight will be quite revealing. All said, the National Assembly also has a concomitant responsibility not to unduly impede the Ministry.”

Also speaking, Dr. Jerome Okoro, a lawyer, said: “By the doctrine of checks and balances, the National Assembly (NASS) is empowered to question clauses in agreements and treaties of the Federal Government. Precisely for external borrowing, Section 21(1) of the Debt Management Office Establishment Act forbids the Finance Minister to approve or obtain any external loan unless the terms and conditions of the loan have been first presented to NASS and approved by its resolution.

However, it should be understood as a backdrop that waiver of sovereign immunity in a commercial or loan agreement does not mean the country is ceding all or any of its sovereignty. The waiver is only a protective clause for the lender to sue the borrower nation in a foreign court or arbitral forum and also enforce the judgment or award on foreign assets of the borrower in the event of a default.

Sovereign immunity waiver clauses are common in foreign loan agreements of nations, especially where the borrower has no strong reputation of repayment or convincingly independent judiciary or dispute resolution forum. It is therefore not realistic to expect any country or entity offering a loan to Nigeria not to insist on adding such a clause in the loan agreement.

“But in this case, the lawmakers’ complaint against the neglect of due process and details in negotiating the agreement is very cogent. The controversial clause in this agreement waives the immunity of Nigeria’s property to enforcement of judicial or arbitral decisions from the agreement ‘except for the military assets and diplomatic assets.’

“In other words, such enforcement can be carried out on any other asset except the two classes specifically exempted. That is too wide and unsafe. Again the dispute resolution forum is stipulated to be in Hong Kong-based on the waiver clause. Meticulous negotiation would have brought many other sensitive classes of assets under the exemption or specified the assets that would be subject to the waiver, and also ensured a neutral dispute resolution forum.”

Another lawyer, Abdulwasiu Esuola, stressed that the lawmakers were “merely exercising their powers of legislative oversight under section 67(2) of the CFRN, which empowers either the National Assembly to invite any minister to explain any conduct of his ministry that is of interest to them as the representatives of the Nigerian people”. He said Nigerians deserve to know the details of the loans since they are a party to any agreement that the Federal Government enters into.

Joseph Ekwe noted: “In line with the principle of separation and checks and balances, the legislature, executive and judiciary are independent arms of government but are partners in the progress of every government. There’s no watertight separation of power in practice because that would make a government a marketplace with sellers but without buyers. Each arm has to come and buy from the other. The parliament is the representative and by extension, the gathering of the entire people of a country and are charged with the responsibility of law-making, approval of budget and appointments (made by the Executive) and has oversight functions.

“Whereas the Executive in our system is headed by one person (called the President or Governor) elected to make, implement and execute decisions, policies in line with the law of the land or as approved by the Legislature. The Sovereign immunity clause means that if Nigeria fails to pay back the loan, the principle of sovereignty of nations will not prevent the Chinese Government from laying hold of any asset belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria as alien.

“To abridge this narrative, Nigerians are not 100 per cent literate as to know without explaining the meaning of the sovereign immunity clause in the Chinese Loan Agreement. The executive is obligated to explain to the Legislature as the microcosm of the Nigerians. The period this explanation may take does not amount to delay because it is the constitutional responsibility of the executive to do so.”


#Newsworthy

Pst Adeboye predicts victory over Banditry.

The clergyman, who said he has known the governor for many years, described El-Rufai as a tender-hearted man and that many who might be criticizing him now will later see the other side of him.

As security agencies continue to grapple with upsurge in kidnapping and banditry, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has said that the country’s victory in its battle against insecurity is around the corner.

Pastor Adeboye made this known yesterday when he paid a courtesy call on Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, days after some RCCG members were abducted in the state.

The respected cleric had announced his visit to Kaduna on his Twitter handle, when he wrote:
“Earlier today, I decided to go out of my schedule to see my children who God delivered from the den of kidnappers while they were on their way to the venue of the Lets Go Fishing exercise. To the Glory of God, they are hale and hearty.”

Adeboye disclosed that Governor El-Rufai “appealed to me to visit the State House in Kaduna to pray for the state, its people and its leadership for peace and protection after laying hands on my children who were sick. It is my prayer that the peace and kingdom of God will be established in Kaduna State.”

Adeboye had on April 8 announced that eight of his church members kidnapped by bandits on March 26 in Kaduna had regained freedom. Shortly after their release, all the abducted persons were taken to a hospital for medical check-up.

The clergyman, who said he has known the governor for many years, described El-Rufai as a tender-hearted man and that many who might be criticizing him now will later see the other side of him.

“We know that you have a problem that only God can solve. The problem is far beyond the abilities of any human being. We have known each other for years. I know the kind of person you are. I know you are tender-hearted, I know how you definitely must be feeling, particularly when the kidnappings are going on. When they begin to kidnap school children, I know how you must be feeling.”

The General Overseer assured the governor that “victory is around the corner. We are praying for you and I believe God is going to answer the prayers. I am assuring you that the Almighty God is going to fight for you, He is going to fight for Kaduna State, He is going to fight for Nigeria.’’

In his response, Governor El-Rufai commiserated with the RCCG family over the recent abduction of some pastors and parishioners in Kaduna, adding that “we seek your blessings and prayers, as a great man of God, to assist us with the challenges that we are facing here and the country at large.”

DESPITE the assurances of a turn in the bend by Pastor Adeboye, the kidnap epidemic continued without restrain across the country. A police officer was shot while trying to foil the abduction of some members of Tungan-Maje community in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja yesterday.

Witnesses said the gallant officer, Inspector Ambi John, who was leading one of the teams in repelling the attack, sustained gunshot injuries and was rushed to hospital for medical attention but passed away eventually. The kidnappers were operating along Dankusa, Angwan-Zegele-Zuba axis when a distress call was sent to the police.

A resident of the area, Ibrahim Saidu, said the gunmen in their numbers went on rampage as they engaged both the police and some vigilantes in a shootout. Saidu said the gunmen, who first attacked residents of Anguwar Samu in Tungan-Maje, whisked away two persons after an exchange of gunfire that lasted over an hour.

“The entire residents of Anguwar Samu were gripped with fear because of the gunshots but unfortunately, they succeeded in abducting two people,” he said.

According to him, after the police were overpowered, the kidnappers proceeded to New Poultry area of the council where they also abducted two residents. He said the police officer and a vigilante who sustained injuries in the incident had been taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment.

The spokesperson for the FCT police command, ASP Maryam Yusuf, neither responded to calls nor replied text messages when her reaction to the latest kidnap incident in the nation’s capital was sought.

AGAIN, daredevil men on Monday abducted three women at Onipe community, near Idi Ayunre, Oluyole local government area of Oyo State. The gunmen emerged from the bush around 8:20a.m. and shot sporadically into the air before whisking the victims away.

The victims were identified as Mrs Okeowo, Mrs Abosede Adebayo and Mrs Bola Ogunrinde. Ogunrinde was driving a Toyota RAV-4, with registration number AGL 66 FY.

It would be recalled that three quarry site workers and a female commuter were kidnapped on the road some days ago. They regained their freedom last Friday.

Two men (names withheld) had lodged a report on the kidnap incident at Idi Ayunre Police Division, which galvanised policemen into action.
The police operatives were joined by local hunters and vigilance group members in search for the victims and the abductors.

Confirming the story, the president of Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria, Oba Nureni Ajijola Anabi, said he and his men were awaiting directive from the Oyo State Government before they could go for search operation.

“Yes, we heard and a security officer with the state government promised to get in touch with us but we have been trying to call him. We need to be mobilised. First, the thick forest where the kidnappers took their victims to is owned by the government. Also, we don’t have money we can spend.”

Earlier on Sunday, 15 passengers travelling in a commercial vehicle with registration number KZR 345ZT, were abducted by heavily armed gunmen suspected to be bandits along the Tsakskiya-Ummadau road in Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State.

The incident, according to eyewitness, occurred around 3:00p.m. when the over 20 bandits ambushed the J5 bus conveying the victims returning from Jibia market.

IN Rivers State, six persons were killed and scores others wounded as unknown gunmen invaded Uegwere community in Khana local government area of the state. The Guardian gathered that the assailants entered the community and opened fire on a group of youths going about their lawful duties.

Former Chairman, Community Development Committee of the community, Gospower Ipianeh disclosed that the gunmen came in a commando style, went to a section of the community called Kako, and executed their deadly mission.

The Chairman, Governing Council of Uegwere community, Mr. Chied Raphael Kponee, appealed to the government to come to their aid, saying learning has been disrupted.

“We really want the government to come to our aid because if things continue this way, we will end up losing all members of our community. Everybody is scared and so we need the government to assist us. Already, some people have deserted the community. The few living there now are in fear because of what they witnessed. School did not open because of this incident,” he added.

Chief Kponee said the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Bori Command came and saw the lifeless victims before they were buried.

IN Ogun State, the state council of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) has embarked on strike action over the kidnapping of its members and insecurity in the state. The strike took effect from midnight of April 13.

In a statement by the chairman of NANNM, Roseline Solarin and the state NMA Chairman, Dr Oladayo Ogunlaja, and addressed to the Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Tomi Coker, the nurses condemned the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards the release of their colleagues.

It described the recent kidnappings of health workers as “disheartening, repugnant and unacceptable.”

It added that the state government’s approach of not negotiating with the kidnappers had made victims believe that their lives and property were of no essence to the government. It alleged that the state had not shown any commitment that could facilitate the early release of their members, hence, the decision to down tools.

AS activities of kidnappers, bandits, ritualists, armed robbers, cultists, unknown gunmen and insurgents continue to be a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday threw their weight behind the establishment of regional security outfits to provide cover for defenceless Nigerians suffering the brunt.

However, they cautioned governors not to use regional security corps to oppress perceived enemies and gag voices of citizens that will lead to abuse of operations, but should allow them operate within the scope of the Act establishing them for professionalism and effective service to the people.

As security agencies continue to grapple with upsurge in kidnapping and banditry, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has said that the country’s victory in its battle against insecurity is around the corner.

Pastor Adeboye made this known yesterday when he paid a courtesy call on Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, days after some RCCG members were abducted in the state.

The respected cleric had announced his visit to Kaduna on his Twitter handle, when he wrote:
“Earlier today, I decided to go out of my schedule to see my children who God delivered from the den of kidnappers while they were on their way to the venue of the Lets Go Fishing exercise. To the Glory of God, they are hale and hearty.”

Adeboye disclosed that Governor El-Rufai “appealed to me to visit the State House in Kaduna to pray for the state, its people and its leadership for peace and protection after laying hands on my children who were sick. It is my prayer that the peace and kingdom of God will be established in Kaduna State.”

Adeboye had on April 8 announced that eight of his church members kidnapped by bandits on March 26 in Kaduna had regained freedom. Shortly after their release, all the abducted persons were taken to a hospital for medical check-up.

The clergyman, who said he has known the governor for many years, described El-Rufai as a tender-hearted man and that many who might be criticizing him now will later see the other side of him.

“We know that you have a problem that only God can solve. The problem is far beyond the abilities of any human being. We have known each other for years. I know the kind of person you are. I know you are tender-hearted, I know how you definitely must be feeling, particularly when the kidnappings are going on. When they begin to kidnap school children, I know how you must be feeling.”

The General Overseer assured the governor that “victory is around the corner. We are praying for you and I believe God is going to answer the prayers. I am assuring you that the Almighty God is going to fight for you, He is going to fight for Kaduna State, He is going to fight for Nigeria.’’

In his response, Governor El-Rufai commiserated with the RCCG family over the recent abduction of some pastors and parishioners in Kaduna, adding that “we seek your blessings and prayers, as a great man of God, to assist us with the challenges that we are facing here and the country at large.”

DESPITE the assurances of a turn in the bend by Pastor Adeboye, the kidnap epidemic continued without restrain across the country. A police officer was shot while trying to foil the abduction of some members of Tungan-Maje community in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja yesterday.

Witnesses said the gallant officer, Inspector Ambi John, who was leading one of the teams in repelling the attack, sustained gunshot injuries and was rushed to hospital for medical attention but passed away eventually. The kidnappers were operating along Dankusa, Angwan-Zegele-Zuba axis when a distress call was sent to the police.

A resident of the area, Ibrahim Saidu, said the gunmen in their numbers went on rampage as they engaged both the police and some vigilantes in a shootout. Saidu said the gunmen, who first attacked residents of Anguwar Samu in Tungan-Maje, whisked away two persons after an exchange of gunfire that lasted over an hour.

“The entire residents of Anguwar Samu were gripped with fear because of the gunshots but unfortunately, they succeeded in abducting two people,” he said.

According to him, after the police were overpowered, the kidnappers proceeded to New Poultry area of the council where they also abducted two residents. He said the police officer and a vigilante who sustained injuries in the incident had been taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment.

The spokesperson for the FCT police command, ASP Maryam Yusuf, neither responded to calls nor replied text messages when her reaction to the latest kidnap incident in the nation’s capital was sought.

AGAIN, daredevil men on Monday abducted three women at Onipe community, near Idi Ayunre, Oluyole local government area of Oyo State. The gunmen emerged from the bush around 8:20a.m. and shot sporadically into the air before whisking the victims away.

The victims were identified as Mrs Okeowo, Mrs Abosede Adebayo and Mrs Bola Ogunrinde. Ogunrinde was driving a Toyota RAV-4, with registration number AGL 66 FY.

It would be recalled that three quarry site workers and a female commuter were kidnapped on the road some days ago. They regained their freedom last Friday.

Two men (names withheld) had lodged a report on the kidnap incident at Idi Ayunre Police Division, which galvanised policemen into action.
The police operatives were joined by local hunters and vigilance group members in search for the victims and the abductors.

Confirming the story, the president of Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria, Oba Nureni Ajijola Anabi, said he and his men were awaiting directive from the Oyo State Government before they could go for search operation.

“Yes, we heard and a security officer with the state government promised to get in touch with us but we have been trying to call him. We need to be mobilised. First, the thick forest where the kidnappers took their victims to is owned by the government. Also, we don’t have money we can spend.”

Earlier on Sunday, 15 passengers travelling in a commercial vehicle with registration number KZR 345ZT, were abducted by heavily armed gunmen suspected to be bandits along the Tsakskiya-Ummadau road in Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State.

The incident, according to eyewitness, occurred around 3:00p.m. when the over 20 bandits ambushed the J5 bus conveying the victims returning from Jibia market.

IN Rivers State, six persons were killed and scores others wounded as unknown gunmen invaded Uegwere community in Khana local government area of the state. The Guardian gathered that the assailants entered the community and opened fire on a group of youths going about their lawful duties.

Former Chairman, Community Development Committee of the community, Gospower Ipianeh disclosed that the gunmen came in a commando style, went to a section of the community called Kako, and executed their deadly mission.

The Chairman, Governing Council of Uegwere community, Mr. Chied Raphael Kponee, appealed to the government to come to their aid, saying learning has been disrupted.

“We really want the government to come to our aid because if things continue this way, we will end up losing all members of our community. Everybody is scared and so we need the government to assist us. Already, some people have deserted the community. The few living there now are in fear because of what they witnessed. School did not open because of this incident,” he added.

Chief Kponee said the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Bori Command came and saw the lifeless victims before they were buried.

IN Ogun State, the state council of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) has embarked on strike action over the kidnapping of its members and insecurity in the state. The strike took effect from midnight of April 13.

In a statement by the chairman of NANNM, Roseline Solarin and the state NMA Chairman, Dr Oladayo Ogunlaja, and addressed to the Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Tomi Coker, the nurses condemned the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards the release of their colleagues.

It described the recent kidnappings of health workers as “disheartening, repugnant and unacceptable.”

It added that the state government’s approach of not negotiating with the kidnappers had made victims believe that their lives and property were of no essence to the government. It alleged that the state had not shown any commitment that could facilitate the early release of their members, hence, the decision to down tools.

AS activities of kidnappers, bandits, ritualists, armed robbers, cultists, unknown gunmen and insurgents continue to be a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday threw their weight behind the establishment of regional security outfits to provide cover for defenceless Nigerians suffering the brunt.

However, they cautioned governors not to use regional security corps to oppress perceived enemies and gag voices of citizens that will lead to abuse of operations, but should allow them operate within the scope of the Act establishing them for professionalism and effective service to the people.


#Newsworthy

NASS legislative aides protest non-payment of arrears.

While addressing the forum, Gbajabiamila said that every labourer deserved his wages, adding that the NASS leadership were already looking into it.

The National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum on Tuesday in Abuja protested the non-payment of their 20 months’ salary arrears.

Zebis Prince, who spoke on behalf of the protesting aides, said that since the inauguration of the ninth assembly, their salary arrears were withheld by the management.

He said that the matter was referred to the House Services Committee with the mandate to among other things investigate the irregularities in the payment of legislative Aides.

He however said that the Clerk of the National Assembly insisted on getting directives from the chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission before payment of the arrears.

“We are disturbed that despite an express legislative resolution mandating the CNA to ensure payment three weeks after, the Chief Accounting Officer of NASS has chosen to hold us to ransom.

“The continued refusal of CNA to pay about 2,500 Aides their 2019 salary arrears have created a sharp division between Aides and the management,” he said

He said that having exhausted internal dispute resolution mechanism, the forum has resolved to pursue their grievances using all legitimate tools at their disposal

“So, we are presenting our demands to the Speaker of the House of representative, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, as the boss of our principal and the Senate President.”

Some of the demands of the protesters include: implementation of minimum wage, duty tour allowances, and training.

While addressing the forum, Gbajabiamila said that every labourer deserved his wages, adding that the NASS leadership were already looking into it.

“The wages owed since 2019 is not excusable, I will just ask that you are a little bit patient and a little understanding.

“I know that there is a financial constraint but one thing I know is that I will make sure that these things are resolved and your arrears paid.

“We appreciate you by bringing this peacefully to our attention,” he said.


#Newsworthy

2023: Bukola Saraki’s Presidential campaign poster floods Abuja.

The media aide of the former senate president, Yusuph Olaniyonu, however, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that he knew nothing about it.

Posters of the immediate past president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, were sighted in conspicuous areas of Abuja on Tuesday, fueling speculations that he might soon declare his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election.

Our correspondent sighted some of the posters at the Wuse area of the nation’s capital and at the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party, popularly known as Wadata House in Abuja.

Saraki’s picture was displayed in the poster tagged, “Reset Nigeria 2023: Abubakar Bukola Saraki for President”.

The media aide of the former senate president, Yusuph Olaniyonu, however, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that he knew nothing about it.

He said, “If Senator Bukola Saraki wanted to contest for president, he will address a world press conference to make his intention known.

“We don’t know where the posters come from, we did not post them.”


#Newsworthy

Minnesota embarks on fresh #BLM protest amid Derek Chauvin trial.

It’s unclear if the officer followed protocol and had her gun and taser holstered on different sides of her belt—or how she could mistake the two weapons.

As the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, entered its eleventh day on Monday, another police killing of a Black man in Minnesota has grabbed the state’s—and the nation’s—attention.

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by a police officer in the city of Brooklyn Center, an inner-ring suburb with a larger than average Black, Latino and Asian population 10 miles from Minneapolis, on April 11 during a mid-afternoon traffic stop.

The mood in Brooklyn Center was tense Monday afternoon. This is a city of many shopping centers and chain outlets, modest but well-kept middle-class homes where the toys of comfort are visible—multiple cars in most driveways and boats, trampolines in back yards and small, remarkably green yards for this time of year in Minnesota.

Minnesota state troopers deployed to Brooklyn Center, Minn. on April 12
Janell Ross

During an April 12 press conference, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said that Wright was stopped due to “expired registration on the vehicle” he was driving. When the officers arrived at the car, they saw a “hanging item from the rearview mirror” which is also a violation of state law. The hanging item in question was an air freshener, Wright’s mother Katie Wright said on Sunday.

The shooting that soon ensued was the result of an “accidental discharge,” Gannon continued, as police attempted to arrest Wright for an outstanding warrant. (Gannon did not share details on what the outstanding warrant was but said it was a “gross misdemeanor warrant.”)

Body-camera footage of the shooting was played during the press conference. In the footage, Wright is seen being apprehended by an officer before he attempts to get back in the front seat of his car. At this, one female officer is heard yelling “I’ll tase you! I’ll tase you!”

But rather than pointing a taser at Wright, however, the officer has a handgun pointed towards his torso. She then shoots him.

“It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Gannon said. “This appears to me from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

It’s unclear if the officer followed protocol and had her gun and taser holstered on different sides of her belt—or how she could mistake the two weapons.

“This is deeply tragic and we’re going to do everything that we can to ensure that justice is done and ensure that our communities remain whole,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said on April 12.

Speaking out on Sunday evening, Katie Wright said that her son had called her when he was getting pulled over. She told him that, once the officers returned to his car, she would talk to them. But upon their return, she instead said she heard some scuffling.

“I heard the police officer say ‘Daunte don’t run,’ and then the other officer said to ‘put the phone down’ and then hung it up,” Katie Wright said. “Like a minute later I called and his girlfriend answered… and said that he’d been shot.”

“Daunte Wright is yet another young Black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us—not just the whitest among us,” Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is now representing the family, said in an April 12 statement. “This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane.”

The shooting led to protests and unrest overnight as officers and demonstrators clashed in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department building. Throughout the night, there were reports of objects being thrown towards the police station, while police officers worked to disperse the crowds.

On Monday afternoon, clusters of National Guard offers were visible near entrances to the shopping center looted Sunday night. And at the police department, Minnesota State Troopers, local police and a few National Guard troops stood sentry outside as a crane erected more barricades. The troopers and local police were outfitted in riot gear and long wooden batons.

Protestors in Brooklyn Center, Minn. on April 12.
Janell Ross

As protesters still on the scene drew closer to the law enforcement flank, those in uniform began lowering their protective face shields. A white man stood inches from local officers holding a cardboard sign above his head that read “MURDER” “MURDER” “MURDER” on one side and “WHY DID DAUNTE DIE?” on the other side. A Black man yelling “murderers,” near the officers was maced. Protesters rushed to his aid to pour milk onto his skin and into his eyes.

Later in the afternoon, protesters—many of whom had been standing across the street from police headquarters—began to cross the street, chanting “Say his name, Daunte Wright” inches from the officers.

During a press conference on Sunday, Katie Wright had asked for any protesting to remain peaceful. “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars because that’s not going to bring my son back,” she said. “I don’t want everybody out here chanting and screaming and yelling, I just want him home.”

The national guard has been deployed to the city, with a curfew in effect for the Twin Cities metro area; COVID-19 vaccine sites in Brooklyn Center and at the area airport were closed early to allow workers time to get home before the curfew goes into effect. But candlelight vigils are planned tonight at Brooklyn Center Police Headquarters and near the spot where Wright was shot and killed. Unless organizers plan to begin while the sun remains in place, the vigils will put those gathered at odds with the curfew order.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is investigating the shooting. In a statement sent to TIME, the BCA stated that it is in the very early stages of their investigation and is awaiting the county medical examiner to conduct their preliminary autopsy.


#Newsworthy

Egypt impounds suez megaship over compensation talks.

A source with SCA, who declined to be named, told Reuters news agency earlier on Tuesday a court order had been issued for the ship to be held, adding that negotiations were still taking place.

Authorities in Egypt have impounded a megaship that blocked the Suez Canal and crippled world trade for nearly a week in the face of a financial dispute with its owner.

Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Lieutenant General Osama Rabie said on Tuesday the hulking Ever Given would not be allowed to leave the country until a compensation amount is settled on with the vessel’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.

“The vessel is now officially impounded,” he told Egypt’s state-run television late on Monday. “They do not want to pay anything.”

Yumi Shinohara, deputy manager with owner Shoei Kisen’s fleet management department, confirmed the canal had made a compensation claim but gave no further details.

UK Club, the protection and indemnity insurer for the Ever Given said in a statement Egypt had filed a compensation claim for $916m against Shoei Kisen. The insurer added it was disappointed that the container ship and its crew were being held in the canal until compensation was paid.

A source with SCA, who declined to be named, told Reuters news agency earlier on Tuesday a court order had been issued for the ship to be held, adding that negotiations were still taking place.

The Taiwanese operated and Panama-flagged cargo vessel got diagonally stuck in the narrow but crucial global trade artery in a sandstorm on March 23, setting in motion a mammoth six-day effort by Egyptian personnel and international salvage specialists to dislodge it.

The unprecedented six-day shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added to strain on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage had held up an estimated $9.6bn worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe.

That amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given blocked the canal.

In its court filing, the Suez Canal Authority referred to Articles 59 and 60 of Egypt’s maritime trade law which stipulates that the ship would remain seized until the amount is paid in full, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said.

The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7bn in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to official figures.

Rabie, the canal chief, told state-run television there was no wrongdoing by the canal authority. He declined to discuss possible causes, including the ship’s speed and the high winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm.

When asked whether the ship’s owner was at fault, he replied: “Of course, yes.”

Rabie said the conclusion of the authority’s investigation was expected on Thursday.


#Newsworthy

Armenians in Fury as Azerbaijanis lift war trophy.

Hundreds of helmets of Armenian soldiers killed in the war were displayed in the park in central Baku as well as wax mannequins of Armenian troops.

Armenia on Tuesday accused its historic rival Azerbaijan of fomenting ethnic hatred by displaying helmets of Armenian soldiers killed during the war between the neighbouring countries last year.

A decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region erupted into all-out war in September, killing more than 6,000 people.

Six weeks of fighting ended in November with Armenia’s defeat. Yerevan ceded swathes of territories to Baku under a Russian-backed ceasefire, which was seen in Armenia as a national humiliation.

On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited a “park of trophies” showcasing military equipment seized from Armenian troops during the war.

“Everyone who visits the park of military trophies will see the strength of our army, will see our willpower, and how hard it was to achieve victory,” Aliyev said in a video address published on his website.

Hundreds of helmets of Armenian soldiers killed in the war were displayed in the park in central Baku as well as wax mannequins of Armenian troops.

Aliyev said the park demonstrated the ‘strength’ and ‘willpower’ of the Azerbaijani army [Handout /Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office via AFP]
The park, due to be opened to the public shortly, sparked uproar in Armenia, with the country’s foreign ministry accusing Azerbaijan of “publicly degrading the memory of the victims of the war, missing persons and prisoners of war, and violating the rights and dignity of their families.”
“Azerbaijan is finally consolidating its position as a global centre of intolerance and xenophobia,” the ministry said in a statement.

Armenian ombudsman Arman Tatoyan said the park was “proof of genocidal policy” that “clearly confirms institutional hatred towards Armenians in Azerbaijan”.

This sentiment was shared by most people in the Armenian capital Yerevan, where mass anti-government protests have been held regularly against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to agree to the humiliating truce, leading him to call snap polls in June.

“This is true fascism,” 41-year-old historian Mher Barsegyan told the AFP news agency.

The park “recalls evidence of Hitler’s barbarism that is exhibited in museums around the world”, he said.

Ethnic Armenians declared independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and seized control of the region in a brutal war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have traded accusations of war crimes after the conflict – which had been largely dormant for decades – re-ignited in September.


#Newsworthy

Daunte Wright Shooting: Minneapolis protest enters second night. #BLM

Brooklyn Center is a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70 percent of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.

Protesters have clashed with police for the second night in the suburb of the US city of Minneapolis following the killing of a Black man during a traffic stop, with police calling the fatal shooting an “accident”.

Officials have said that the shooting death on Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright was “an accidental discharge”, adding that the officer had apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun.

The shooting sparked unrest in an area already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged over the killing of another Black man, George Floyd, last year.

Hundreds of protesters faced off against police in Brooklyn Center after nightfall on Monday, and hours after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced by the governor. When the protesters refused to disperse, police began firing tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and chasing some protesters away.

A long line of police in riot gear, rhythmically pushing their clubs in front of them, began slowly forcing back the remaining crowds.

“Move back!” the police chanted. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” the crowd chanted back. By late Monday, only a few dozen protesters remained.

Law enforcement agencies had stepped up their presence across the Minneapolis area after Sunday night violence.

The number of Minnesota National Guard troops was expected to more than double to more than 1,000 by Monday night.

‘Difference between plastic and metal’
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon earlier on Monday released body camera footage that showed the officer shouting at Wright as police tried to arrest him.

“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” she can be heard saying. She draws her weapon after the man breaks free from police outside his car and gets back behind the wheel.

After firing a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away and the officer is heard saying, “Holy sh*t! I shot him.”

Gannon commented: “This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officers’ reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr Wright.”

But Wright’s brother, Dallas Bryant, told about 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Monday evening that his brother sounded scared during the phone call, and questioned how the officer could mistake a gun for a Taser.

“You know the difference between plastic and metal. We all know it,” he said.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic” and said the officer should be fired.

“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole,” he said.

Elliott later announced that the city council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department.

This “will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. He also said the city manager had been fired, and that the deputy city manager would take over his duties.

‘Was it an accident or intentional?’
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, identified the officer as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran who has been placed on administrative leave.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Gannon would not say whether she would be fired. “I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning,” he said.

US President Joe Biden described the video footage as “fairly graphic”.

“The question is .. was it an accident, was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” he told reporters on Monday.

Later, the president said he was thinking about Wright and his family “and the pain, anger, and trauma that Black America experiences every day”.

Brooklyn Center is a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70 percent of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.

“I have four African American boys, so as a father raising boys in America how do you think that makes me feel? It’s terrifying,” a Brooklyn Center resident told NoRM.

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, earlier said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.
During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.

Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.


#Newsworthy

China warns US on Taiwan relationship.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the US is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the western Pacific by force.

China has warned the United States “not to play with fire” on Taiwan issues after the Department of State updated its guidelines easing restrictions on meetings between US officials and their counterparts from the island, which Beijing claims as its own.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged the US to “immediately stop any form of US-Taiwan official contacts, cautiously and appropriately handle the matter, and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial and diplomatic issue, and a regular source of friction between Washington and Beijing, which has never ruled out using force to bring the democratically ruled island under its control.

Lijian’s comments came after the US decided on Friday to update its guidance to deepen relations with Taiwan, in a move that shows President Joe Biden’s willingness to formalise the increasingly vocal US support for the island.

China’s aggressive action
The US has recognised Beijing as China’s legitimate government since 1979 when the countries established diplomatic relations and downgraded relations with Taiwan.

The new guidelines will do away with some of the convoluted rules that restricted dealings with the island, including in-person meetings.

As the US seeks closer relations with Taiwan, China has been stepping up its military activity around the island in the past months. Monday marked the largest reported Chinese incursion to date, with 25 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, entering Taiwan’s air defence zone.

China has in the past said such missions were to protect the country’s sovereignty and deal with “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the US is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the western Pacific by force.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced days before the end of former President Donald Trump’s presidency in January that he was lifting restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.

The US is Taiwan’s most important international supporter and arms supplier and is required by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China believes the US is colluding with Taiwan to challenge Beijing and support those who want the island to declare formal independence.


#Newsworthy

Just in: Iran meets Russia, discuss middle east ties, nuclear deal.

The president further said Iran and Russia should also boost bilateral economic activity, especially using private companies, in the oil, energy, transportation, and nuclear sectors.

Iran and Russia have held high-level talks on bilateral ties, the region, and Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers during Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s trip to Tehran on Tuesday.

In a meeting with Lavrov, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran wishes to expand regional cooperation with Russia on Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen in order to help establish stability and combat American interventions.

He also called for more defence and military cooperation, especially as a United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Iran ended in October 2020.

“Opening the Zionist regime’s foothold to the Persian Gulf region as a destabilising and tension-creating element will be a dangerous act,” Rouhani said of Israel, which Iran has accused of orchestrating “nuclear terrorism” on its facilities at Natanz on Sunday.

The president further said Iran and Russia should also boost bilateral economic activity, especially using private companies, in the oil, energy, transportation, and nuclear sectors.

He called on Russia to accelerate the process of delivering more doses of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 to Iran and said Iran is eager to finalise a plan to establish a joint vaccine manufacturing line with Russia.

Iran has so far received more than half a million doses of the vaccine, and has had difficulty in administering it as the first and second doses of Sputnik V – that need to be injected 21 days apart – are different.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, was also a main topic of talks as multilateral talks in Vienna to restore the deal the US abandoned in 2018 will continue on Wednesday.

Rouhani said Iran wants conditions of the landmark accord to be restored to what they were in 2015 when it was originally signed.

“We are neither willing to accept anything less nor wish to achieve anything more,” the president said.

Lavrov told Rouhani that Russia is of the same opinion as Iran on the fact the US must come back into full compliance with the JCPOA, and that trying to add new conditions to the deal would not be acceptable, according to the president’s website.

“Any complementary or additional documents on different issues, including regional issues or military development, can be considered outside the framework of the JCPOA and with the participation of regional countries in order to ensure the safety of the region and the Persian Gulf,” he was quoted as saying.

The Russian foreign minister welcomed boosting bilateral ties with Iran, saying “there are no limitations” on developing technical and defence relations.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lavrov signed a “cultural cooperation agreement” with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, the specific details of which have yet to be disclosed.

The two countries were also expected to discuss the renewal of their comprehensive cooperation accord, which was originally signed in 2001. Iranian officials had previously said if neither of the two sides has any objections, the accord will automatically renew for another five years.

In a late January trip to Moscow, Zarif had also signed an “information security” cooperation agreement with Russia that the Iranian foreign ministry called a turning point in joint cybersecurity work.


#Newsworthy

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