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Fire destroys buildings, seven vehicles in Aba

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Property worth several millions of naira was on Friday destroyed in an early morning inferno that occurred along the busy Aba-Owerri road in the commercial city of Abia State.

The tragedy happened three days after four persons were killed after an articulated truck driver rammed into three commercial tricycles and a Toyota Sienna SUV and discharged its content on the victims in a nearby ditch.

While no life was lost in the fire incident, it was gathered that about seven vehicles, three commercial tricycles, commercial and residential buildings were destroyed in the fire.

An eyewitness, Ifeanyi Okoro, said: “A fuel tanker was going into the opposite filling station, but we didn’t know that it was carrying fuel. Normally, because it is a long truck, other vehicles coming from Osisioma into Aba will wait and allow it to pack very well.

”So, while the driver was trying to reverse to enable him pack well, the body of the truck pulled off the body. The body then fell down and spilled its content on the road. And because we know the dangers it portends, we rushed to the other side of the main road to stop vehicles and avert the impending dangers. But a stubborn commercial driver who could not wait tried to beat the hold-up.

“We suspect that the heat from the exhaust pipe was what ignited the fire, and before you know what was happening, everywhere was in flame. The fire was so fierce that some of us had to run for safety until the Abia State Fire servicemen arrived the scene.

“The fire servicemen were very swift, and that was what saved several other property that would have been consumed by the fire. We thank God that no life was lost, but the damage was too much.”

A victim, Nnamdi Ukata, whose vehicle was destroyed by the fire, said: “I am a driver and I come to Aba from Umuahia on daily basis. At the end of each day’s work, I will park my vehicle in nearby compound and return the next day. While I was coming into Aba this morning, I saw a thick black cloud.  When I got here I saw my car burnt to ashes. I don’t know what to do. I am just confused,” he said.

Another man who lost his car in the inferno, Rev. Alfred Okeke, told reporters that he parked his car by the roadside to buy feed for his livestock. He lamented that his car was destroyed by the inferno.

A resident of one of the affected buildings, Mr. Emmanuel Kingsley, while thanking God for sparing the lives of the members of his family, described the incident as one of the horrific experiences he has had in recent times.

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Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join the world’s biggest military alliance, a move driven by security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday after receiving their application letters from the two Nordic countries’ ambassadors.

“This is a historic moment, which we must seize,” Stoltenberg said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Neutral throughout the Cold War, the two countries’ decision to join the alliance is one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades.

The applications must now be weighed by the 30 member countries. That process is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the Nordic countries’ heads.

Canada, for example, says that it expects to ratify their accession protocol in just a few days.

Several NATO allies, most notably the United Kingdom, have offered security assurances to Finland and Sweden during the application period before they are covered by the alliance’s mutual defence pact.

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

“Over the past few days, we have seen numerous statements by allies committing to Finland and Sweden’s security. NATO is already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region and NATO and allies’ forces will continue to adapt as necessary,” Stoltenberg said.

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 Nigerian government puts Facebook under watch over IPOB

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Facebook and other social media platforms have been cautioned against yielding their platforms to the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to incite violence and instigate ethnic hatred in Nigeria.

The Federal Government gave the instruction through Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed at a meeting with a team from Facebook.

In a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Segun Adeyemi, the minister said since IPOB had been proscribed and classified as a terrorist organisation, Facebook has no justification to continue allowing its platform to be used by the organisation to further its campaign of hate and destabilisation of the country.

Mohammed was quoted as saying: “I have called this meeting to enable us to discuss the increasing use of Facebook by separatists and anarchists, especially those of them based outside the country, to instigate violence and ethnic hatred in Nigeria.

“For whatever reason, they seem to have now chosen Facebook as their platform of choice. And their tools include disinformation, incendiary statements and hate speech.

“They use Facebook broadcasts to reach their followers, who are in thousands. They tag those opposed to their violent ways as ‘saboteurs’ who must be attacked, maimed and killed. They use both English and their local language as it suits them.”

He said the actions of the outlawed group have real-life implications, adding: “By purveying hate and inciting violence, people are getting killed while private and public property are being attacked and destroyed. Security agencies and other symbols of government are their choice targets.”

The minister said that despite the numerous complaints to Facebook on the activities of IPOB, nothing has been done by the company to curtail the group’s excesses on the social media platform.

He said: “Our social media people have been monitoring these separatists, anarchists and purveyors of hate, and have been reporting their atrocious actions to Facebook, but all they get are default responses that their complaints have been received and are being looked into.

“Most often than not, nothing has been done about such complaints… The truth is that whatever Facebook is doing to check these people is mere tokenism and is totally ineffective.”

Mohammed said the government would be monitoring Facebook and other platforms closely in the days ahead to ensure compliance with the demand, as it steps up the campaign for the responsible use of social media.

He said: “We have always advocated a responsible use of social media, and consistently called on all stakeholders to join us in achieving this. Some have tagged our efforts as an attempt to stifle social media.

“They are wrong, because we have no intention of preventing Nigerians from using social media responsibly. All we have been advocating is a responsible use of social media,” the minister said.

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Kano Explosion: Death toll rises to nine

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The death toll in the gas explosion which occurred at Aba by Court road in Sabon Gari, Fagge Local Government Area of Kano State on Tuesday morning, has increased to nine.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs announced this in a tweet.

Nine dead bodies have been recovered so far from the rubble of a collapsed building beside a primary school following an explosion from a gas cylinder at Aba Road in Sabon Gari area of Kano State,” the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs said in the tweet.

“Persons injured by the explosion were taken for treatment at Airforce Hospital, Kano,” it added.

Kano Commissioner of Police, Sama’ila Shu’aibu Dikko, had earlier confirmed the death of four persons.

“As of now, one female and three males have been killed. All the security agencies are here. The Civil Defence, Brigade commander, Air force, myself and the director, DSS, are all on ground.”

“We will extend our investigation and at the end of the day we will come out with exactly what happened,” he had said.

The incident sparked tension in the community as parents rushed to schools to withdraw their children.

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