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828 depart Lagos, Kaduna for Medina as hajj airlift begins

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The airlift of intending pilgrims to this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia began yesterday with the departure of 540 from Lagos and 285 from Kaduna.

Sunday’s’s inaugural flights like the remaining ones are expected to land in Medina instead of Jeddah due to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON’s) resolve to enhance the welfare of Nigerian pilgrims.

This came as President Muhammadu Buhari announced the constitution of a five-man Central Coordinating Team headed by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi.

Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai who represented President Buhari at the event listed the Emir of Zonga in Kwara State, Dr. Aliyu Yahaya, Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed, Alhaji Zakariyyahu Babalola and a traditional ruler from Edo State, Alhaji Aliyu K. Danesi, as members of the committee.

The president said the federal government would not sponsor any delegation to this year’s hajj, including the Sanusi committee which he said would be sponsored from the service charges of NAHCON.
While advising the intending pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the country, Buhari  urged them to pray for the country to overcome its numerous challenges.

The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Emir of Gwandu Alhaji Ilyasu Bashar, Emir Sanusi and Emir of Zazzau Dr. Shehu Idris among other traditional rulers in their messages urged the pilgrims not to act ignorantly but always ask about issues not clear to them.

They also urged them to abide by the rules of the host country and avoid acts that could nullify their participation.

Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mohammed Mukhtar, said the six airlines and 13 aircraft to be used for the exercise would complete the airlift of the 66,000 pilgrims of the commission before September 17 deadline tentatively fixed by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

“According to Saudi Arabian authorities, Arafat is likely to be September 22. The first flight back home will be September 27 and the last flight October 27. In line with the sultan and other stakeholders’ efforts which have been yielding results, the first to leave Nigeria insha Allahu would also be the first to depart Saudi Arabia back to Nigeria,” Muhammed said. He also told the pilgrims not to buy Zamzam water as the commission and the airlines have made provisions for that.

Medview Airline yesterday airlifted 540  intending pilgrims from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos.

The airline is expected to airlift 9, 000 pilgrims from across the country beginning with the Lagos zone which comprises Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Edo States.

After completing the Lagos zone, the airline will proceed to Maiduguri, Borno State to airlift 1000 pilgrims followed by Enugu zone to lift pilgrims from South-East and South-South states.

The airlift started with Ogun State pilgrims who were conveyed to the holy land in Boeing 777 and Boeing 767 planes which have the capacity for 320 and 220 respectively, making a total of 540 that made the first flights.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Medview, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, said  the airline decided to bring in the Boeing 777 and 767 to give the pilgrims a better treat.

“We feel that these people are going on an international operation, call it pilgrimage, call it anything, they deserve a better equipment, at least give them a treat like any international passenger travelling on any flight”, he said.

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Organ harvesting: Dino Melaye reacts to arrest of Ekweremadu, wife

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Dino Melaye

Former Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye has expressed his support for ex-Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu amid controversy of alleged organ harvesting.

Melaye said he stands with Ekweremadu because there was no wrongdoing by the Senator.

Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice were arrested in London for allegedly plotting to harvest the kidney of a Nigerian minor.

The UK metropolitan police had arrested and charged Ekweremadu and his wife to court, but the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges at the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court.

“These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until 7 July back here at Uxbridge,” Magistrate Lois Sheard said.

Ms Sheard remanded both defendants in custody ahead of their hearing next month.

Sharing Ekweremadu’s letter via his Twitter handle, Melaye wrote: “Sen. Ike Ekweremadu notified the British authorities on his trip with the said boy. I stand with Ike.”

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Supreme Court set to rule on controversial Electoral Act on Friday

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria will on Friday deliver judgment on the legality or otherwise of the controversial section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 .

The apex Court is set for its verdict in the suit instituted against the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and Minister of Justice.

A notice for the judgment delivery has just been sighted, indicating that the apex Court will make its position known this morning.

The notice was served on Buhari and the National Assembly on Thursday, inviting them to appear before the court today for their judgment.

Our correspondent further observed that the suit is the only one for determination today.

Buhari and Abubakar Malami had filed the suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

In the suit filed on April 29, Buhari and Malami, who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.

Section 84 (12) has been a subject of intense litigation and political debate in Nigeria since President Buhari signed the amended Electoral Act 2022 into law in February this year.

Shortly after signing it into law, Buhari had asked the parliament to delete the controversial clause in the Electoral Act, but the National Assembly declined the president’s request.

According to Section 84 (12) of the legislation, “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot. These are the biggest decliners

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot
The Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical centre of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna's cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world.

After two years, Vienna has overtaken Auckland as the world’s most livable city, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Vienna ranked first in 2018 and 2019, but was overtaken by Auckland, New Zealand, during the pandemic and slipped to 12th place in 2021, according to the Global Liveability Index 2022.

The EIU said that Auckland’s position on the index dipped to the 34th place this year because of higher Covid-19 infection rates and strict border controls in 2021. Although lockdowns ended in New Zealand in December, well-vaccinated cities in Europe and Canada had begun easing restrictions earlier.

However, it’s unlikely that Auckland would’ve clinched the top position in this year’s ranking even without a pandemic, according to the EIU.

“Other cities falling was why Auckland was top last time. Without Covid, it would likely be top 10, but not number one,” said Simon Baptist, global chief economist at the research and advisory firm.

Five other European cities — Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt and Amsterdam — also made the top ten. Canada’s Calgary and Vancouver took the third and fifth spots respectively. Japan’s Osaka and Australia’s Melbourne shared 10th place — the only two “Asian” cities that made it to the top 10.

The 172 cities that were included in the rating were assessed on these categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Biggest decliners
Cities in New Zealand and Australia were the biggest fallers in the EIU’s livability ranking.

New Zealand’s capital Wellington dived by 46 places, while Australia’s Adelaide and Perth lost their 2021 positions in the top 10. They are now in the 30th and 32nd place respectively.

Australian and New Zealand cities snagged six of the top 10 spots last year, but were “much, much lower down” on this year’s list as their partial reopening coincided with the spread of the more contagious omicron variant, Baptist told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

But the EIU is optimistic that these cities would bounce back.

“We can expect to see Australian and New Zealand cities moving up the rankings next year, when we do the next round of the survey. And this will be because they will have relaxed more of their Covid restrictions,” said Baptist.

Other cities in the region saw their rankings slip as well.

Singapore fell three spots to 37th place this year, while Hong Kong dropped to 62nd place from 49th last year.

“This is a long term change, it’s not just about Covid. That is part of it. But Hong Kong’s loss of connectivity is likely to be permanent,” said Baptist, citing the decline of cultural and political freedom in the city.

Russian cities plunged
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw Moscow’s livability ranking fall by 15 places, while St. Petersburg dipped by 13 spots, the EIU reported.

“Both cities record a fall in scores owing to increased instability, censorship, imposition of Western sanctions and corporates withdrawing their operations from the country,” the report said.

The war on Ukraine also affected the rankings of other Eastern European cities that have been facing political standoffs security threats, food and energy insecurities, and rising inflation, EIU said.

For example, Poland’s Warsaw and Hungary’s Budapest saw their stability scores slip as a result of rising diplomatic tensions, the EIU added.

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was also excluded from this year’s report, and 33 new cities — 11 of them in China — were added.

The top 10
These are the world’s most livable cities and their scores, according to The Global Liveability Index 2022:

  1. Vienna, Austria (99.1)
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark (98.0)
  3. TIE — Zurich, Switzerland (96.3)
  4. TIE — Calgary, Canada (96.3)
  5. Vancouver, Canada (96.1)
  6. Geneva, Switzerland (95.9)
  7. Frankfurt, Germany (95.7)
  8. Toronto, Canada (95.4)
  9. Amsterdam, Netherlands (95.3)
  10. TIE — Osaka, Japan (95.1)
  11. TIE — Melbourne, Australia (95.1)

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