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Buhari arrives Katsina ahead of Saturday presidential election


President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived Katsina, Katsina State, for onward trip to Daura, his country home, ahead of the forthcoming presidential election on Saturday.

The presidential aircraft conveying the president and members of his entourage landed at Umaru Musa Yar Adua Airport, Katsina, on Thursday at exactly 4.40 p.m.

The president, who was received at the airport by Governor Aminu Masari and other state government dignitaries as well as heads of federal government agencies and departments, would be casting his vote in Daura.

Prior to leaving Abuja for Katsina on Thursday, Buhari summoned a Security Council Meeting where he met with heads of security agencies to intimate them on the need to protect electorate, ensure hitch-free and fair elections.

The president also met with the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in Abuja, where he was assured of the commission’s readiness and commitment to conduct free and fair general elections on February 25 and March 11, 2023.

The Nigerian leader was also present at the International Conference Centre Abuja, where candidates participating in the 2023 presidential election signed a peace accord on Thursday.

Buhari had charged all the candidates to accept the outcome of the elections as the choice of the electorate.

In the build up to the elections, Buhari had in February. 2022 signed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.

He had also repeatedly vowed to bequeath an electoral process that would be adjudged credible and transparent.

Source: NAN

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Ukraine ‘will prevail’, says Zelensky on war anniversary eve


Since the war started, Western leaders have rushed to support Kyiv, and G7 ministers discussed new sanctions on Russia Thursday, while the White House said Washington would announce “sweeping” new measures.

Zelensky vowed to keep up the fight as Ukraine prepared to mark one year since the invasion on Friday.

“We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail,” Zelensky said on social media.

“We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land.”

In the capital Kyiv, which saw Russian troops at its doorstep at the start of the invasion last February and which has suffered relentless attacks since, residents remained defiant.

“This has been the most difficult year of my life and that of all Ukrainians,” said Diana Shestakova, 23, whose boyfriend has spent the last year away in the army.

“I am sure that we will be victorious, but we don’t know how long we will have to wait and how many victims there are still to come,” said Shestakova, who works for a publishing house.

– ‘I don’t see any future’ –

Ahead of the anniversary, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov warned that Russia was planning a missile attack on Friday to mark the day.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin promised victory as he laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before meeting soldiers in Red Square under blue skies and brisk temperatures.

Russia’s “unbreakable unity is the key to our victory,” said Putin, who has likened his offensive to Moscow’s fight against Nazi Germany in 1941-1945.

Political commentators say the 70-year-old Kremlin chief is steeling Russians for long conflict with the West, insisting the country’s survival is at stake.

Many Russians have embraced that rhetoric.

“The country is really changing for the better,” Lyubov Yudina, a 48-year-old guard, told AFP.

Yudina said a lot of her friends had seen their sons drafted.

“Some of them died. That’s how it is.”

But others say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

“I don’t see any future now. I do not see why I would have children, for what reason I would have children now?” said Ruslan Melnikov, a 28-year-old teacher.

– Call for immediate withdrawal –

The conflict has devastated swathes of Ukraine, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, is estimated to have caused over 150,000 casualties on either side.

The UN General Assembly voted Thursday to demand Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine and called for a “just and lasting” peace in the war-torn country.

While non-binding, the vote made clear the extent of support for Kyiv around the world, with 141 of the 193 UN members in support, seven opposed and 32 abstaining.

In India, Group of Seven finance ministers met in the city of Bengaluru to discuss further sanctions and more financial help for Ukraine.

The G7 said that for 2023, based on Ukraine’s needs, it had increased its commitment of budget and economic support to $39 billion.

It added that sanctions so far have “significantly undermined Russia’s capacity to wage its illegal war” and that the G7 would “take further actions”.

The United States and its G7 allies plan to unveil “a big new package of sanctions” around the anniversary, including measures to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions.

“The United States will implement sweeping sanctions against key sectors that generate revenue for Putin,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.

The latest Western leader to visit the Ukrainian capital, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said he hoped to send up to 10 Leopard tanks to Ukraine in the coming months.

After months of hesitation European countries agreed in January to send battle tanks to Ukraine to help repel Russian forces.

Russia has denounced the growing arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying they only lead to escalation.

“Today we are once again in serious danger,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.

“Using Ukraine, the collective West is seeking to dismember Russia, to deprive it of independence.”


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Military kills over 100 terrorists in two weeks –DHQ


The Defence Headquarters has said that troops of Operation Hadin Kai, have in two weeks eliminated more than 100 terrorists in land and air operations across the North East.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami, made this known at the bi-weekly news briefing on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.

Danmadami said the troops conducted several raids, fighting patrols and ambushes operations within the theatre with heavy casualties on the Boko Haram/Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, terrorists.

He said the air component had on February 13, conducted an air interdiction on the gathering of terrorists top commanders and leaders at Madara Mountains to restrategise on their terrorists activities.

According to him, feedback from the raid revealed that the airstrike dealt a massive blow on the terrorists as several of the terrorists were reported to have been neutralised including some of its key commanders while others escaped with severe injuries.

“A similar operation was conducted at Yuwe fishing pond area of Borno, following the sighting of about 50 terrorists in the general area.

“The location was consequently bombarded with several of the terrorists neutralised in the strike.

“Equally, on February 19, an air interdiction operation was conducted at identified terrorists enclaves at the Timbuktu Triangle in Damdoa Local Government Area of Borno following intelligent report that revealed stockpile of weapons and supplies to the area to sustain ISWAP activities.

“It was further revealed that the location is one of the enclaves from which terrorists launch attack against the Maiduguri-Damboa general area.

“Hence, the location was bombarded and reliable feedback revealed that several terrorists were neutralized and their weapons and structures destroyed in the air strike.

“Another air interdiction at Baranga and Dogon Chuku, both in Southern and Northern Tumbuns on February 20 led to the killing of several terrorists,” he said.

Danmadami said that large cache of arms and ammunition including 17 AK47 rifles, nine dane guns, 12 AK47 magazines, 86 rounds of 7.62mm special, 71 rounds of 45mm ammunitions and 145 rounds of 7.62mm NATO were recovered.

He added that land troops also neutralised 27 terrorists and arrested 18 logistics suppliers, spies and informants at different locations within the theatre as well as rescued 20 abducted civilians during the period.

According to him, a total of 252 terrorist and member of their families comprising of 24 adult male, 79 adult female and 150 children surrendered to troops at different location within the theatre of operations.

“All recovered items, rescued civilians, and apprehended suspects have been handed over to the appropriate authority for further action while surrendered terrorists and members of their families are being profiled for further action,” he said.

Source: NAN

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Harvey Weinstein bags 16-year imprisonment for rape


Former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced on Thursday to 16 years in prison for the rape of a woman in a Beverly Hills hotel room a decade ago.

The sentence was handed down by a Los Angeles court. Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence for his separate 2020 conviction in New York for sex crimes.

It increases the likelihood that the Academy Award-winning “Shakespeare in Love” producer, 70, will spend the remainder of his life in prison — though he is appealing in both cases.

In December, he was convicted by a Los Angeles jury of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object of a European actress whose identity was not revealed.

The court heard explicit accounts of meetings between the previously influential movie producer and several young women who were attempting to find a foothold in Hollywood.

Prosecutors said Weinstein exploited and abused women for years, and long enjoyed impunity because of his then-powerful position in the industry.

The women would have risked losing their future Hollywood job prospects if they had publicly accused Weinstein at the time, prosecutors said.

Weinstein was ultimately convicted in the Los Angeles case of assaulting one woman, but acquitted of sexual battery involving a second.

The jury did not reach a verdict on charges relating to the alleged assaults of two other women, one of whom was identified by her lawyers as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the now-wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Weinstein’s lawyers had filed a defense motion requesting either a new trial or a reduced verdict, alleging they were precluded from admitting important evidence about the rape victim — including Facebook messages with an alleged lover which the judge deemed irrelevant — and that their cross-examination was limited.

But Judge Lisa Lench denied the motion, and sentencing went ahead.

In New York last June, Weinstein lost his first appeal against his criminal verdict and sentence in the state’s intermediate appellate court.

But he has also further appealed that case to the higher New York Court of Appeals.

– #MeToo –

Weinstein’s behaviour had been the topic of rumours in entertainment circles for years, but his power player status in Hollywood ensured few were willing to publicly call him out.

Bombshell allegations broke against him in 2017, launching the #MeToo movement and paving the way for hundreds of women to fight back against sexual violence in the workplace.

Dozens of women have now accused Weinstein of predatory behaviour.

After his conviction in New York, a civil trial awarded $17 million to dozens of other women who had accused the former movie magnate of abuse.

Earlier this month, the European actress who Weinstein was convicted of raping in Los Angeles also sued him for damages.

The civil case alleges sexual battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

“The conduct of Defendant Weinstein was despicable, and done with malice, oppression and fraud, thus justifying an award of punitive damages against him,” her lawsuit says.


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Why Nigerians should reject ‘Greek gift’ from politicians -Abbah


Ahead of the 2023 general elections, Nigerians have been urged to resist selling votes to politicians, warning that electing the wrong candidates is dangerous to the nation’s democracy and will further shrink the civic space.

Vote buying has become a disturbing phenomenon in recent off-cycle elections in Nigeria and is now a major concern ahead of the general 2023 polls.

The Executive Director of Daily Trust Foundation, Dr Theophilus Abbah, issued the caution during Public Conscience, an anti-corruption radio programme produced by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.

He asked electorates to reject the “Greek gift” by politicians.

While stressing the need for citizens to participate in the 2023 general elections, Abbah urged Nigerians to vote their conscience, noting that the outcome of the coming elections would shape what happens in the next four to eight years.

READ ALSO: NMA declares Korean hospital in Abuja illegal, gives reasons

He urged electorates to jettison the idea of collecting money offered by politicians during the election and voting their conscience, warning that any politician paying to vote was making an “investment” and would seek to recoup the money spent.

“Nigerians are well aware that vote buying is not good for our democracy, anybody who gives money to get elected is actually making an investment, and if he wins the election, he will want to recoup that money as his salary is not enough to recoup that money.

“The president does not earn up to N2 million per month according to the official salary of the president. Imagine if he distributed 100 billion to get elected. You can imagine how long it will take him to recoup that money from his salary. It doesn’t happen. That means anybody who gives so much money definitely is going to use the resources we have, that should have been used to develop society and provide social services to replenish his coffers.

“And anyone who pays to get the vote, his conscience will not be pricked if he is stealing the money. He will say, after all, I paid to be elected.

“You cannot in all conscience vote for another person. Your conscience will tell you, and you have eaten from this man, you cannot go against him; you must fulfil your promise. So, it is not the right thing to do, even if your preferred candidate is not going to win an election, you should shun that momentary pleasure, advantage derived from the little money,” stressed.

Abbah decried the shrinking civic space in Nigeria owing to a spate of attacks on journalists and human rights activists by non-state actors and thugs working for politicians, cautioning that the development is impeding democracy.

“When you look at the issue of civic space, in a situation whereby journalists, right civil activists, and anti-corruption activists are not finding it convenient to operate effectively in the country, it is not good for democracy.

“If you vote for the wrong candidate in a sense that candidate who doesn’t respect the role of the media, who doesn’t respect the fact that the media are partners in the country’s democratic experiment, if you vote in leaders like that, it will affect the civic space,” he stated.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio programme used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The programme has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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Adamawa LP gov candidate dumps Obi for Tinubu


The governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Adamawa State, Umar Mustapha, and his supporters, on Thursday, declared their support for the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Bola Tinubu, ditching the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.

Mustapha’s withdrawal of support for Obi followed the collapse of Umar Mustapha’s LP structure in Adamawa into that of the APC.

Umar who announced his backing of Tinubu said he found the people who ran the Labour party in the state to be as bad as the system he wanted to see changed.

Mustapha who’s popularly known as Otumba said his decision and that of his supporters, to support the candidate of another political party both at the national and state levels was made after it became clear to him that the party in the state will get nowhere based on the way it was set up in the state.

The PUNCH had earlier reported, that the governorship candidate of the LP and his supporters, had boycotted, the campaign rally of Obi.

In a statement detailing why he boycotted the Obi rally, Mustapha had, accused the party’s leadership and the LP Presidential Campaign Council of sidelining him.

Details later…

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U.S. president sends message to Nigerians ahead of election


U.S. President Joe Biden has called on Nigerians to ensure that Nigeria’s presidential election scheduled to hold on Saturday is peaceful and transparent.

The U.S. president also urged candidates and parties to accept the results as announced by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Nigerians are set on Saturday to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections that are seen as the most wide-open since Africa’s most populous nation switched from military rule to democracy in 1999.

Of the 18 candidates vying to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, three stand a chance.

Former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, 70, the ruling party (All Progressives Congress) candidate; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party), 76, the main opposition candidate; Peter Obi (Labour Party), 61, a challenger popular among young voters.

More than 93 million people are registered to vote.

There will be about 176,600 polling stations across the country, including in camps for people displaced by the conflict between Islamist insurgents and federal troops in the northeast.

INEC says it has taken measures to ensure this election will be free and fair – a major concern in a country with a long history of electoral discord and violence.

Voters will present their voting cards and be identified by a Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, that uses fingerprints and facial recognition.

This is aimed at reducing the risk of fraudsters voting several times.

On voting day, results from individual polling stations will be pasted outside for citizens to view, and sent through BVAS to an INEC portal.

The results will be displayed on the portal in real-time and accessible by the public, INEC has said.

It is hoped this will reduce the risk of the figures being manipulated along the way.

INEC said that citizens wishing to witness the sorting and counting of ballot papers at polling stations should do so from a distance of 300 metres.

In the past, one of the forms of vote-rigging seen in Nigeria was the intimidation of electoral officials by thugs paid by politicians.

A presidential candidate must receive the largest number of votes cast nationwide and at least a quarter of the vote in no fewer than 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

If no one clears both hurdles, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off.

The constitution says the run-off must take place within 21 days of the announcement of the result.

No run-off has been necessary since the transition to democracy in 1999.

For the parliamentary poll, candidates for a seat in the House of Representatives or the Senate must win a simple majority of votes in the constituency or senatorial district they are contesting in order to win.

The counting and collating process is expected to take several days.

While INEC has not said exactly when it would declare official results, this is expected to take place in the first half of next week.

Source: Reuters/NAN

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INEC begins distribution of sensitive materials in Bauchi


The Independent National Electoral Commission in Bauchi State has commenced the distribution of sensitive materials to the 20 local government areas of the state in preparation for Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

Our correspondent, who was at the INEC headquarters in Bauchi on Thursday afternoon, observed that the materials for some LGAs were being sorted out while others were being loaded into waiting vehicles there.

There was a heavy presence of security personnel, comprising the Department of State Services, Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, the Nigerian Army including the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.

Speaking in an interview with our correspondent in his office, the Head of Department, Voter Education and Public Enlightenment, Bauchi State INEC, Adamu Gujungu, said that the commission in the state is fully ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections across the state.

“Preparations are in top gear today, being Thursday, at the state INEC headquarters. We are presently distributing sensitive materials to the Electoral Officers of the 20 local government areas of the state. As you are aware, we finished the distribution of the non-sensitive materials some weeks ago and nothing is left here at the State Headquarters as far as non-sensitive materials are concerned.

“For the sensitive materials, that is, ballot papers and the result sheets among others, these would be distributed today to the Electoral Officers so that they can take them to their local government areas. So far, we don’t have any challenges, everything is going on smoothly.

“The hard-to-reach and difficult areas like Zaki, would be given their consignments first before the less difficult areas would get theirs,” he stated.

On security arrangements, Gujungu said: “You have seen the security here, no Electoral Officer would be allowed to take his ballot papers and the other electoral materials without security escorts. This arrangement has been so for a long period of time.”

The Head of Voter Education and Public Enlightenment said that a total of 5,423 ad-hoc staff have been engaged by the Commission to participate in the conduct of the election in Bauchi State.

“The ad-hoc staff would be calculated based on the number of polling units we have. We have 423 polling units and each of them would be manned by a Presiding Officer and three Assistant Presiding Officers.

“We also have Collation Officers, we have supervisors at every level from RA to local government up to the state level, these ad-hoc staff were engaged in various capacities. In total, we have 5,423 ad-hoc staff that will be used for the 2023 general elections in Bauchi State.”

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Saraki prays court to relist his suit against EFCC, ICPC, others


Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has approached a Federal High Court, FHC, Abuja to seek an order relisting his suit filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and others.

Justice Inyang Ekwo had, on January 25, struck out two separate suits filed by Saraki against the anti-graft agency and others for lack of diligent prosecution.

The ex-Senate president had filed the suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/507/2019 and FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2019 at the FHC on May 10, 2019.

In the suits, the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Inspector-General of Police and State Security Service, SSS, are 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

Others are EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, as 4th to 6th respondents respectively.

The ex-Senate president had filed the suits following the EFCC’s decision in 2019 to probe Saraki’s earnings between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor of Kwara State.

The anti-graft commission was reported to have seized some of his houses in Ikoyi area of Lagos then and Saraki filed the suits to enforce his fundamental rights.

But the suits were struck out by the judge.

When a suit is struck out by a judge, it can be refiled but when a suit is dismissed, the decision of the lower court can only be appealed against at higher court.

However, in a motion on notice dated February 1 and filed February 3 pursuant to Order 19, Rule 1 and 3, Order 26, Rule 3 of FHC Civil Procedure Rules, 2019 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court by his lawyer, Sunday Onubi, from Afe Babalola & Co Law Firm, Saraki sought for two orders.

He prayed for an order extending the time within which he could apply to relist the suit to the court’s cause list.

He also sought an order “relisting suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2019 between Senator Olubukola Abubakar Saraki v. Attorney-General of the Federation & 5 Ors. to the court’s cause list.”

He gave 17-ground why his application should be granted.

Saraki said though his lawyer was not in court on January 25 when the matter came up, leading to its striking out, it was due to an oversight on the part of the secretary in the law firm.

He said ever since the case was reassigned to Justice Ekwo, his counsel, Onubi, had been diligent in the prosecution.

Sakari said on June 27, 2022 and October 5, 2022, the matter was adjourned off record because the court did not sit on the two occasions.

READ ALSO: Court strikes out Saraki’s suits against EFCC, ICPC, others

He said on February 1, Onubi, however, read on the internet that the suit came up on January 25 and was struck out because no lawyer represented him in court.

“Upon interrogating the matter, it was discovered that while preparing the office weekly cause list, the office secretary inadvertently omitted the case from the cause list.

“The absence of the applicant’s counsel on 25th January, 2023 and the delay in presenting this application is not out of disrespect to this honourable court,” he said.

The ex-lawmaker urged the court to grant his prayers in the interest of justice as the respondents would not be prejudiced by the grant of the motion.

He said he was desirous of prosecuting the suit diligently to its logical conclusion.

The judge fixed March 31 for mention.

Source: NAN

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Finland authorities ‘arrest Simon Ekpa’


Finland authorities on Thursday arrested a man said to be a Nigerian popular separatist agitator, Simon Ekpa.

According to a Finland news outlet HS, the police escorted the separatist out of his apartment in Lahti.

The platform claimed that they had gone to Ekpa’s residence for an interview but to their surprise, the Finland police, KRP, answered when the HS team rang the separatist bell.

The HS said the KRP prevented their team from entering Ekpa’s apartment and said that the interview would be moved “to the future”.

As of the time of this report, The PUNCH can’t independently confirm Ekpa’s arrest.

Details later…

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