Monday, December 7, 2020

Iranian official close to Khamenei's office says leader is in good health - Fars


An official close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denied rumours on social media that the top authority's health was deteriorating, the semi official Fars news agency reported on Monday.

"By the grace of God and with the good prayers of devotees, the Gentleman (Ayatollah Khamenei) is in good health and is busy vigorously carrying out his plan according to his routine," Fars reported, quoting a tweet by Mehdi Fazaeli.

Fazaeli has worked in an office publishing Khamenei's work.

Some unconfirmed reports on Twitter suggested that Khamenei had transferred his duties to his son because of concerns over his health. Some users on social media also said he had passed away. 

Culled from Reuters

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Sacked driver plots with gangs to kidnap boss's wife


A driver, Tigidam Bright, has been arrested for his complicity in the kidnapping of his boss’ wife, Mrs Gift Topba, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

He was apprehended alongside two suspected kidnappers – Isaac Michael, Leera Barisua – by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team.

City Round learnt that some gunmen kidnapped Gift, the wife of an Ogoni human rights activist, Gani Topba, on August 25, 2020 at the entrance of an estate where she lives and took her to their den in the Khana area of the state.

They reportedly demanded N100m ransom initially but later reduced it to N500,000, which was paid by the family before she was released.

IRT detectives investigating the incident were said to have traced a mobile phone the gang used for negotiating the ransom to an unnamed man who assisted them in arresting Michael and Barisua.

It was gathered that in the course of interrogation, the duo mentioned Bright as the mastermind and he was also picked up.

In an interview with City Round during the week, Bright denied orchestrating Gift’s abduction but confessed to have got N100,000 from the ransom.

He said he told his friends (Michael and Barisua) how his boss of eight years allegedly sacked him unjustly and they promised to help deal with him.

He explained, “I am from Khana. I left secondary school in 2006 and went to learn how to fabricate metals. When I completed the apprenticeship and couldn’t secure a job at an oil company, I went to work with Chief Gani Topba as his personal driver. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and there was a lockdown, Chief (Topba) was in Abuja. He asked that his Port Harcourt office should be shut down and I dropped his keys with his secretary.

“He paid my salary one month into the lockdown but after the lockdown, he refused to take me back as his driver. I tried all I could to get back the job but it wasn’t possible. I learnt that the chief sacked me because I diverted a business contract he was supposed to execute to someone else. But I didn’t do such a thing.

“Sometime in August 2020, I travelled to Khana to visit some of my friends. They asked if I was still working with the chief and I told them that he fired me over an unfounded allegation. Then they promised to deal with him on my behalf. I didn’t know that their plan was to kidnap his wife. I learnt that she was kidnapped and after she was released, I was given N100,000 as my share of the ransom.”

Bright claimed that he collected the money because he was scared his friends might kill him if he failed to cooperate with them.

Michael, 37, said he was introduced to kidnapping by a friend at large, identified simply as Mark, who in turn linked him up with Barisua, to form a four-man gang.

The father of two confessed to having participated in three operations since he joined the gang in July 2020, adding that they freed one of their victims without collecting ransom because he was a pastor.

He said, “We kidnapped a woman at Rumuporisi area of Port Harcourt and took her to our camp in Kaani-Kor community (Khana area) in Mark’s car. She spent three days with us and was released after N2m was paid as ransom to secure her freedom. I got N300,000 as my own share.

“My last operation was the kidnapping of the wife of Chief Gani Topba. His driver brought the job to our gang and he was also the person who showed us his house in Port Harcourt. He also told us the colour and brand of car his wife drives. We kidnapped her on August 25, 2020 and kept her in our camp, while one of my phones which I later sold was used for the ransom negotiation.

“A ransom of N500,000 was eventually paid and I got N100,000 as my share. I know Chief Gani Topba; he is from my community but his driver claimed he treated him badly which made us kidnap his wife.”

Barisua, a graduate of Electrical Engineering, said he went into kidnapping after losing his job at an oil company in Port Harcourt, but insisted that he did not participate in Gift’s abduction.

Culled from the Punch

I don't intend to remarry - Angela Okorie


Actress and singer, Angela Okorie, has said she does not intend to get married again.

Recall that some months ago, there had been rumours that she was engaged to a young lover. But it turned out that the pictures that went viral then were from a music video for her new song, ‘Baby Chu Chu’. In an Instagram Live session with her fans, the mother of one stated that she was scared of entering into matrimony with another man. She said, “I’m so scared about marriage right now because I have once tasted it and I know what it feels like. I do not want to get myself into any marriage, then get divorced again. Nobody plans to get married and divorce their spouse but issues happen― lies and things one is not ready for. Nobody would want to leave a peaceful marriage but once it is not peaceful, one wouldn’t want to stay there. I wouldn’t advise anyone to be in an abusive marriage or a marriage that is not helping one’s mental status.”

Contrary to what some may have thought, the actress of Ebonyi State origins maintained that her first marriage was not abusive. She said,

“The man I got married to was not a bad man. He was a very nice guy with a good heart. But, he had his own problems that he needed to fix. It is not only about being nice; there are many things that come with marriage. One just has to marry one’s best friend; somebody one could tell everything. I don’t know how to hide things and I would not want to get married to a man I wouldn’t be able to talk to; or a man that would criticise my dressing. He should understand that I am a celebrity and that the person he is married to is outspoken. The best decision is for anybody to get married to a spouse who loves one, one’s kid, one’s job, and is always praying for one to get to the next level. Some people could be very possessive.

They could tell you their family is a royal one and because of that, they limit the types of role you could play in movies. You cannot marry a career woman and keep her in the house. If you want to get married to someone, you should love.

Culled from the Punch

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Isreal Adegoke Adeusi Killers, 15 Others Arrested By Amotekun


Suspected killers of the Ondo first-class monarch, the Olufon of lfon, Oba Isreal Adegoke Adeusi, have been arrested by the personnel of the state Security Network Agency codenamed “Amotekun Corps”.

Also, the security outfit has arrested 15 other suspected criminals in different flashpoints across the state under its “Operation Clean up” exercise.

The late Oba Adeusi was gunned down by suspected kidnappers at Elegbeka village in Ose council area of the state last week.

Addressing newsmen in Akure, the state Commander of the security outfight, Amoyekun Corps, Chief Adeleye, who did not disclose the number of suspects arrested in connection with the killing of the traditional ruler said an investigation was still ongoing on the matter.

Adeleye said that their identities would be made public after thorough investigations by the security outfit.

According to him, the suspects were arrested after the security outfit in conjunction with other conventional security agencies, local hunters and members of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) combed the forest where the monarch was murdered.

Adeleye said that “we were also able to rescue four other victims that were earlier kidnapped and held hostage in the thick forest around Elegbeka where the monarch was shot dead.

He said that the outfit had launched “operation clean up” to rid the state of criminal element terrorising the people of the state.

He said that the exercise would last a month adding that the spate of crime necessitated the massive patrol by the personnel of the security outfit.

“Following the increase in the spate of criminal activities, the Amotekun went into action with other security agencies and put up some measures that had yielded positively by stepping down the activities of the criminals.

“We have decided to change tactics; this involves massive patrol using a bike, motorised patrol of the state. We have decided to take the war to where the criminals are rather than waiting for them to come out.”

Culled from Vanguard

Boko Haram is international conspiracy to split Nigeria - Nigeria Army


The Nigerian Army has said that the Boko Haram attacks are an international conspiracy to “cut Nigeria to size” and to destabilise the peace of the country.

The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, stated this, claiming that there are some international paymasters sponsoring Boko Haram.Musa stated this in an article he shared on social media and with journalists.

The army spokesman said, “The recent killing of our people on a rice farm in Borno State was unexpected, inhuman, cowardly, dastardly and sadistic cruelty by the Boko Haram terrorists. There is no normal human being that will take pleasure in such inhuman massacre of defenceless and armless civilians, working on their farms; but that is the nature of terrorism and those who sponsor it.

“There is an international conspiracy to cut Nigeria to size and compromise national renegades making attempts to destabilise and dismember Nigeria if possible in subservience to the international paymasters; who are the owners of Boko Haram.They train them, arm them, finance them and supply their logistics.

“Without this treacherous international support of Boko Haram; they would have since been defeated. Yet, we can defeat them through our unity and unflinching support and encouragement of our security forces, particularly the military.”

US passes bill that could delist Chinese companies from stock markets


The bill calls for allowing US audit reviews of Chinese companies listed on American stock exchanges. However, Beijing is not known for being cooperative with foreign auditors peering into the books of Chinese firms.

The US Congress passed a bill on Wednesday that would close US stock and money markets to foreign companies that do not comply with US oversight of financial audits. It came as part of a bipartisan push by lawmakers to put more economic pressure on China. 

"The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act" (HCAA) was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate and it will now be sent to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

The new rules would mandate that any foreign companies listed on US stock exchanges must comply with accounting requirements stipulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), while barring any foreign company from being listed on US exchanges if its financial audits cannot be inspected an SEC watchdog.

Although the HCAA covers all foreign companies, the language used by US lawmakers drafting the bill clearly targets Chinese companies, as it requires disclosure of any board members as Chinese Communist Party officials.

Most foreign companies already comply with US auditors. However, Chinese law prevents audit papers from leaving China, meaning US regulators cannot easily verify their quality and identify potential risks for investors.

The SEC, responsible for enforcing US securities law, has long struggled with Beijing over inspecting audits of Chinese companies listed on US markets.

In 2013, an agreement between US and Chinese auditing authorities was intended to streamline a process allowing an SEC auditing watchdog to access audit documents of Chinese companies listed on US markets.

The deal was initially welcomed as a breakthrough for financial transparency. However, US officials say China has not allowed access to audits.

In August, William Duhnke, chairman of the SEC auditing watchdog, known as the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), said the board has "no prospects" of being able to oversee disclosures and prevent accounting fraud in China.

"We must trust and verify, but we have no ability to verify in China," said Duhnke.

If passed into law, it remains to be seen whether the HCAA will force China to be more transparent with PCAOB's audit requests, or if it will result in mass delisting and further destabilize the business environment between the world's two largest economies.

Some Chinese companies will be already be forced to delist from US stock exchanges within three years unless US and Chinese authorities can iron out current difficulties in audit inspections, according to the China Business Review.

The bill's sponsors, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, and Republican Senator John Kennedy, said in a statement that US investors have been "cheated out of their money" after investing in "seemingly-legitimate Chinese companies that are not held to the same standards as other publicly listed companies."

One case involved a Chinese coffee company, Luckin Coffee, which built up massive investment capital in the US toted as the future "Starbucks of China," before it admitted to fabricating $300 million in revenue in 2019, and was subsequently delisted from NASDAQ at a heavy loss to investors.

There are 217 Chinese companies listed on NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and NYSE American, with a total market capitalization of $2.2 trillion, according to a congressional commission on US-China economic relations.

A small number of these firms are also listed on Asian stock exchanges. Several US-listed Chinese firms, such as the e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and KFC China operator Yum China, have recently carried out secondary listings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Culled from Dw-world

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Why we killed 78 farmers - Shekau

 The leader of the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, has made a video explaining and justifying why the group beheaded 78 rice farmers in Zabarmari, Borno state, Nigeria.

In a video released on the 1st of December, 2020, Shekau said the farmers were killed in retaliation for what they did to one of his brothers. It is alleged that a Boko Haram terrorist was apprehend by the farmers and handed over to soldiers. This enraged members of the group who later attacked the farmers in rice fields at Zabarmari, a village 15km from Maiduguri, the state capital. 

The killings which reportedly lasted for over 6 hours have shocked Nigerians and led to fierce criticisms of Nigeria's service chiefs and the security apparatus of the country. The killings are a reminder that the country  is still not safe from terrorist attacks despite claims by the military that the terrorist group has been technically defeated.

Nigeria has been embroiled in a war against Boko Haram for almost a decade and the terrorists have only got stronger and more emboldened. The latest incident brings to the front burner the fact that the Nigerian military lacks proper planning to execute an effective onslaught against the terrorists and win a decisive victory.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Coronavirus: Pfizer, BioNTech apply for EU approval of vaccine


Pfizer and BioNTech have lodged their COVID-19 vaccine with the European Medicines Agency for conditional approval. The companies have already taken similar steps in the US and UK.

Pfizer and BioNTech have applied to the European drugs regulator for conditional authorization of their coronavirus vaccine, the companies said on Tuesday.

The submission to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) comes after the US pharma giant and its German partner applied for emergency approval in the US. 

Clinical tests showed their vaccine, named BNT162b2, was 95% effective against COVID-19. BioNTech has said it could be made available in Europe before the end of the year.

"We have known since the beginning of this journey that patients are waiting, and we stand ready to ship COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as potential authorizations will allow us,'' Pfizer's chief executive, Albert Bourla, said in a statement.

The companies are competing with rival US firm Moderna, which announced on Monday that it had also applied to EU and US regulators to allow the emergency use of its coronavirus vaccine.

The Amsterdam-based EMA said that, if the data sufficed, it would complete an assessment of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine by December 29 at the latest, and of the Moderna vaccine by January 12.

While Moderna's drug can be kept in long-term storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four degrees Fahrenheit), Pfizer's must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Germany aims to start vaccinating in January 

Meanwhile, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the government was aiming to have the first at-risk people vaccinated against the coronavirus in January. 

"It remains true, and we have always said, that the cold winter months, in which we spend more time indoors, will be the harder part. That actually applies until the end of winter," Spahn told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

He added that the vaccine would be administered by health workers in mobile teams and at special vaccination centers. Vulnerable people, as well as nurses and doctors, will likely get the drug first.

Last month, Spahn said Germany was expected to get up to 100 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.

Culled from Dw-world

Fight Over A Lady's Love In Taraba Leaves One Dead, Many Injured


At least one person has been killed and several others injured in a feud that ensued between youths of two different settlements in the Water Board area of Jalingo, the Taraba State capital.

The clash, which was said to have been triggered on Sunday as a result of a fight between two young men over a lady’s love at a party hall, also led to the destruction of properties worth millions of naira.

This degenerated to a crisis when one of the young men hired thugs to inflict mayhem on the other, who in turn, called on friends to assist in fighting back.

Houses and worship centres were destroyed while vehicles were burnt, and shops looted in the wake of the crisis.

It took the intervention of security operatives before the tension in the area was doused.

A businessman who specialises in a bread bakery, Salihu Sale, decried that he was affected by the clash between the youth groups.

He told Channels Television that after the fight broke out, he fled for safety along with his workers only for then to return to pack what was left of his bakery.

“This incident started four days ago as a minor scuffle without notice. It then degenerated into a fight between youths of two communities over a lady.

“It later became a religious fight between Christian and Muslim youths. They broke my doors and windows, but fortunately, security operatives arrived and took control of the situation and that is why I am here to pack what is left of my bakery,” he said.

Another eyewitness, Ezekiel Ali, said he saw the lifeless bodies of two youths on the ground after the fight.

“Although I am not a specialist, from what I saw, one of the victims was hit by bullets because we saw holes in his body,” he said.

The Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Azare, who visited the area condemned the incident.

Culled from Channels TV

He stated that only one person was killed during the crisis, adding that the police have made a few arrests in connection with the crisis.

“From the report gathered by my men on the ground, only one person was confirmed killed with many injured an

Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi Demoted By 3 Years Over Leaked Video


A Court Martial in Abuja has convicted the former Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi.

The tribunal on Monday found Adeniyi guilty of violating military social media guidelines and ordered his demotion by at least three years.

Adeniyi’s aide, Private Tokunbo Obanla, who was prosecuted alongside the general, was also found guilty and sentenced to 28 days in jail with hard labour.

Both convictions are subject to confirmation by the military authorities.

Sources said Adeniyi pleaded guilty to three-count of unlawful use of social media, and damage to service property amongst other issues.

The verdict came eight months after a video of Adeniyi complaining about a lack of military equipment to combat Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East went viral.

He also complained that insurgents were outgunning troops, noting that intelligence failure was responsible for an attack by insurgents that claimed dozens of soldiers.

Embarrassed by the revelations, the major-general was removed from the front and also suspended by the military authorities.

The Nigerian Army subsequently filed charges of military social media guideline violations against him.

Adeniyi had denied any wrongdoing, stating that he did not leak the video, adding that his phone was in Obanla’s custody at the time of the incident.

Obanla had in his statement allegedly admitted to posting the video on social media in error.

Adeniyi’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the judgment.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Turkey condemns killing of Iranian nuclear scientist, urges restraint


Turkey condemned on Saturday the “heinous assassination” of Iran’s top nuclear scientist and called for the perpetrators of the attack to be held accountable.

The foreign ministry also urged “all sides to act with common sense and restraint” in the wake of the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who Western and Israeli governments believe was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Earlier, Iran’s supreme leader promised to retaliate for the killing, raising the threat of a new confrontation with the West and Israel in the remaining weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Culled from Al-arabiya

Singaporean woman passes on COVID antibodies to baby


A woman in Singapore who contracted the coronavirus during her pregnancy has reportedly passed on antibodies to her baby. Meanwhile, North Korea is stepping up anti-virus controls at its borders. Follow DW for more.

A Singaporean woman who was infected with the coronavirus in March, when she was pregnant, has given birth to a baby with COVID-19 antibodies, according to the Strait Times newspaper.

Celine Ng-Chan told the paper that her son was born this month with antibodies against the virus, and that her doctor suspected that she had transferred them to him during the pregnancy.

The World Health Organization says it has not yet been established whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her baby.

Doctors in China have reported that antibodies in babies born to women with the coronavirus tended to decline over time. Meanwhile, a medical study published by US doctors last month found that transmission of the virus from mothers to newborns is rare. 

Culled from

Montenegro and Serbia expel each other's ambassadors

Relations between Montenegro and Serbia have plummeted to an all time low after both countries expelled each other's ambassadors. 

Montenegro declared Belgrade’s ambassador, Vladimir Bozovic, persona non grata on Sunday, for interfering with the country’s internal affairs, the ministry of interior said.

This came after Bozovic described a decision by Montenegrin authorities in 1918 to unify with Serbia as a "liberation.”

The tiny Balkan nation was a kingdom until an assembly decided in 1918 to abolish sovereignty and join Serbia and become part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

Montenegro, with a population of 600,000, stayed in a union with Serbia after Yugoslavia fell apart in the early 1990s, and finally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2006.

On Friday, the Serbian ambassador told a meeting of an association representing Montenegrin Serbs that the 1918 session was a "free expression of people's will to unite with fraternal Serbia.”

Montenegro's foreign ministry said on Sunday that despite written and verbal warnings not to meddle in its internal affairs, the Serbian envoy had interfered “in Montenegro's internal affairs” again.

"Bozovic in the most direct way belittled the state which gave him a diplomatic hospitality," said the ministry.

In a “reciprocal manner,” Belgrade also expelled Montenegrin ambassador, Tarzan Milosevic, giving him 72 hours to leave the country.

Ties between the two neighbors have strained since three opposition coalitions — dominated by the pro-Serb nationalistic camp — won a majority in an August election.

Montenegro's outgoing government, which decided on the expulsion, is now set to be succeeded by a new pro-Serb cabinet of parties.

The new cabinet is set to be voted into office on Wednesday.

The country remains deeply divided among those seeking closer ties with Serbia and Russia, and those who call for closer ties with the West.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who ruled the nation for almost three decades, directed the country away from its traditional alliance with Serbia and Russia by joining NATO in 2017.

His long-ruling pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists accuses Serbia of aiding pro-Serb political forces in Montenegro to install allies in power and regain influence.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Afghanistan: Car bomb kills dozens of people in Ghazni province


A suicide bomber has struck at an army base, killing dozens of security personnel. It is one of the bloodiest attacks in Afghanistan in recent months.

At least 26 people died when a suicide car bomber struck an army base in the Afghan province of Ghazni on Sunday.

"We have received 26 bodies and 17 wounded so far. All of them are security personnel," Baz Mohammad Hemat, director of Ghazni hospital, told AFP news agency.

Government forces and the Taliban militant group has regularly clashed in Ghazni city for the past few years.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the interior ministry, confirmed that a suicide bomber had detonated a vehicle full of explosives in Ghazn. He, however, did not confirm the death toll.

Culled from Deutsche Welle

The Pope nominates first African-American cardinal


Archbishop of Washington Wilton Gregory broke new ground by becoming the first US cardinal of African descent in a Vatican ceremony. Pope Francis also gave the title to 12 others and warned the group against corruption.

The Catholic Church gained its first African American cardinal on Saturday, with Pope Francis elevating Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory to the prestigious rank. Although other Black clerics previously served as cardinals, Gregory is the first Black US national to gain the title.

Ahead of the Vatican ceremony, Gregory told The Associated Press news agency that he saw the move as "an affirmation of Black Catholics in the United States, the heritage of faith and fidelity that we represent.''

Run-in with Trump

Gregory's appointment comes after protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd in May against police brutality and racism spread across the Western world.

"There is awareness now of the need for racial reconciliation, an awareness that I have not seen at this level and at this intensity before," Gregory said.

The US cleric came into the public eye by decrying a visit made by US President Donald Trump to a Catholic shrine in Washington DC amid anti-racism protests. Gregory said he found it "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated."

No 'kiss of peace' due to coronavirus

On Saturday, Pope Francis also awarded the cardinal title to 12 other candidates in the Vatican ceremony, which is officially known as a consistory. Traditionally, the event would see the pope give the symbols of the rank — a ring and a red hat — to the men and exchange a "kiss of peace" with the newly appointed cardinals.

However, two of the appointees could not make it to the St Peter's Basilica due to the coronavirus restrictions and had to receive their rings from a papal delegate while attending the ceremony online. The "kiss of peace" tradition was also scrapped to minimize the risk of infection.

During the ceremony, the 83-year-old pope urged the new cardinals to stay close to the people and not to be seduced by trapping of their new rank.

"Let's think of so many types of corruption in the life of the priesthood," he said, warning them not to use the cardinal title for personal advancement.

What's next after Pope Francis?

Out of 13 cardinals promoted on Saturday, nine are under the age of 80, allowing them to vote and run for the next pope after Francis' death or resignation.

The current pope has so far named 73 of the 128 voting-age cardinals, with the remaining 55 named by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II. The split makes it more likely that the next pope would follow Francis' relatively liberal, reformist path.

After the Vatican ceremony, the pope and the new cardinals also paid a visit to the retired pope Benedict, who lives on Vatican grounds.

Iranian official close to Khamenei's office says leader is in good health - Fars

  An official close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denied rumours on social media that the top authority's heal...