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IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, asks United Nations, United States, United Kingdom to send representatives to witness treason, terrorism case

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Detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has asked the United Nations, Governments of the United States of America and United Kingdom to send representatives to witness the seven-count amended charge preferred against him and pending at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division due to continue on the 18th, 19th and 20th of January, 2022. 

In June 2021, the IPOB leader was arrested in Kenya and extradited to Nigeria to face treason charges.

He was subsequently arraigned and brought before Binta Nyako, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, who asked him to be remanded at the DSS custody.

Kanu is facing charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him at the court in response to his agitation for the Republic of Biafra.

He was granted bail in April 2017 on health grounds but skipped bail after disregarding some of the conditions given to him by the court.

On July 26, Justice Nyako adjourned his trial till October 21, owing to the failure of the Nigerian government to produce him in court.

On August 9, IPOB announced the enforcement of a lockdown every Monday until Kanu was released but later suspended the directive, a few days later.

Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lead counsel to Kanu, in different letters dated January 11 to the UN, US and UK, asked them to send representatives to observe the proceedings of the court on the adjourned dates.

According to Ejiafor, the request “is compelling in the circumstance, to ensure that the whole process of our client’s trial is fair and just in all circumstances”.

The counsel to the IPOB leader also asked the UN, UK and US to prevail on the Nigerian Government to caution its security agents to exhibit a modicum of civility in their operations and refrain from harassing, intimidating and arresting innocent civilians who may throng the court premises on the said dates.

One of the letters read, “We act as barristers and solicitors to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (hereinafter referred to as, our client). We write this letter to the Secretary-General on behalf of our client and with his consent and authority. 

“May we respectfully notify the Secretary-General that criminal proceedings in respect of the 7-count amended charge preferred against our client and pending at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, are due to continue on the 18th, 19th and 20th of January, 2022.

“In view of the foregoing, may we, gratefully, please, request the Secretary-General to send representative(s) of the United Nations to observe the proceedings of the court on those adjourned dates and on any other date to which further proceedings in the cause may be adjourned until the matter is disposed of.

“The need to ensure that our client is given a fair trial has compelled us to make this request. The instant request is compelling in the circumstance, to ensure that the whole process of our client’s trial is fair and just in all circumstances. It must be remembered that his purported indictment on criminal charges has a political undercurrent. This fact impels all truly democratic institutions of the world, to keep a close, watchful and attentive eye on the whole judicial process that has intervened to determine his culpability.

“The Nigerian Government, clearly, has a profound interest in the criminal charge pending against our client and the outcome of his trial. The said government overreached itself by ensuring that our client was brought back to Nigeria by every means possible. Some leading members of the government have also made certain unsavoury comments about our client. For this reason, we view as compelling the need to invite representatives of true democratic institutions of the world to observe court proceedings in relation to his trial.

“Further, we view the recent extra-judicial comment made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a media chat he had with two journalists about the pending trial of our client with circumspection. We firmly believe that the comment approximates to a taunt. To forestall any undesirable consequence that may eventuate on it, we consider it expedient that truly democratic institutions of the world send representatives to observe proceedings of the trial of our client. We firmly believe that the presence of those representatives in court would make all parties tow the path of honour and rectitude and assure the fair trial of our client.

“In view of the foregoing, and anticipating the indulgence of the Secretary-General, may we then respectfully request the Secretary-General to forward to us the name of at least a representative, to enable us formally notify the court of his expected presence in court on the adjourned dates.

“We also wish to use this opportunity to appeal to the United Nations to prevail on the Nigerian Government to caution her security agents. They should exhibit a modicum of civility in their operations and must refrain from harassing, intimidating and or arresting innocent civilians who may throng the court premises on the 18th, 19th and 20th of January, 2022, in demonstration of their unwavering solidarity to our client. It is on record that these civilians who have remained devoted and steadfast in their commitment and solidarity have conducted themselves peacefully and in the most civil manner.

“It is also on record that, notwithstanding the fact that these civilians have always been peaceful in their conduct and show of solidarity, the security agents have continued to harass intimidate and arrest them. Many of these persons so arrested are still languishing in various detention facilities in Nigeria.

“While thanking the Secretary-General for the expeditious attention accorded to this request, may the Secretary-General accept the assurance of our highest regards.”

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140 Days after, Nigeria loses N3bn on suspended Kaduna-Abuja train service

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The federal government has lost over N3 billion in revenue since it suspended Abuja-Kaduna train services in March, this year.

Besides, the businesses of hundreds of people who earn livelihood around the railway corridor have collapsed.

The stoppage of the service followed the March 28 attack on Kaduna-bound train which was bombed after explosives planted on the rail track by terrorists went off between the Dutse and Kakau areas of Kaduna State.

The train, which took off from the Idu Train Station in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) hit the explosives about 30 minutes from the Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna.

About 970 passengers were on board the train, out of which the terrorists killed some and abducted over 60 others.

Subsequently, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the indefinite suspension of train service on the Abuja-Kaduna railway line.

Although a number of the passengers have been released after unspecified amounts were paid as ransom, some of them are still languishing in the kidnappers’ den.

Meanwhile, NRC recently reiterated that until all the passengers currently in the custody of the terrorists were released to their families, the Abuja-Kaduna train service would not resume.

N3.024bn ticket revenue lost so far

Checks have shown that for the past 140 days since the train service was suspended, NRC has lost about N3.024bn revenue, which could have been raked from ticket sales.

The coaches, which ply the Abuja-Kaduna rail line have the capacity to carry between 900 and 1,000 passengers per trip.

About eight trips were also recorded daily between Rigasa in Kaduna and Idu in Abuja.

An average economy ticket before the suspension sold between N2, 800 and N3,000 while VIP tickets sold for N6,000.

A breakdown of daily ticket sales shows that the NRC makes a minimum of N2.7m per trip at N3,000 a ticket for a train that has the capacity to carry 900 to 1,000 passengers.

Consequently, for the eight trips that the Abuja-Kaduna train does in a day, a total of about N21.6m is realised. Subsequently, this amounts to about N151.1m in seven days (one week).

As such, for the over four months that train services have been suspended, the federal government has lost nothing less than N600m monthly.

Some other services tied to the train services that have been crippled include shop owners at the train stations, especially Idu, Kubwa and Rigasa.

Some of these small businesses, which are unable to move to other locations outside of the train stations have sacked their staff.

“I closed my shop a day after the train was attacked,” said Halima Abubakar, a restaurateur at the Idu train station in Abuja.

“Everything has stopped…I asked my staff to go because I am unable to find another place,” she said.

The booming taxi services and pool buses have also been crippled.

Ambrose Alex, a taxi driver at the Idu station called on the government to do the needful.

“We have all been displaced with the closure of the train service. I took a loan to buy my car and was operating from the station. Things are really tough now because some of us are only doing town service instead of shuttle service, which brings more money,” he said.

It was learnt that the NRC is also losing out on rental fees as these businesses will have to be either refunded or be allocated the exact months they have lost since the facility was shut down.

Another significant loss is to the ticketing firm, SevureID Solutions, which got the concession at N900m to operate for 10 years.

Because they are no longer earning on the train service, they may be forced to lay off their staff. They may also have to renegotiate the terms of the deal.

Commenting, Dr Frank Ojiadi, a faculty member at Lagos Business School, and an expert in transportation and logistics, said the continued shutdown of the train service was not only a loss to the government but to citizens who had built an economy around the train corridor.

He said while the risks associated with aviation were there, different from rail transportation, it is unlikely the aviation industry would be shut down for “This long in an event of a terror attack because of many factors.”

He said with the robust insurance packages in aviation and the critical nature of aviation to a country’s economy, the airport won’t remain shut down in perpetuity because of a terror attack.

He advised NRC to ensure its trains across the country are insured.

He explained further that the impacts of the sustained shutdown of the rail service were not economic and social.

On the economic impact, he said the government would lose huge revenues as NRC suffered downtime since no train was running that route. He also said the facilities (tracks and trains) might deteriorate with non-usage.

He noted that “The equipment not being utilised might lead to depreciation. Also, the roads will be pressured more with more usage. The train took so many vehicles off the road.”

He added that more people would be exposed to attacks by terrorists and bandits on the Abuja-Kaduna highway.

On the social impact, he said the train had opened up business activities in the corridor by the locals, especially around the train stations.

He advised that even when the train resumed, it must not run at night as the risks were higher then.

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Priest, seminarian abducted near military checkpoint, N50m demanded

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Gunmen have kidnapped the Deputy Registrar of Spiritan University, Nneochi, Fr Chinedu Nwadike.

Nwadike, a Catholic priest, was kidnapped on Friday on the Enugu-Okigwe Road.

The priest was abducted alongside a seminarian, Emmanuel Nwafor.

It was gathered on Sunday that their abductors had established contact with their relations and demanded a ransom of N50m.

A family source said, “Rev. Fr. Dr. Chinedu Nwadike from Umuezeanoruo Eziama, Nkwerre LGA, Imo State, and a young seminarian, Emmanuel Nwafor, were on Friday kidnapped on their way to Enugu State, Umunnochi axis, along Enugu-Okigwe Road.

“Both are members of the Holy Ghost congregation missionaries, living their lives of sacrifice and selflessness in service to a better society.”

Another source said it was the second time the priest would be attacked by kidnappers.

“In the first attempt, they shot directly at him but he managed to escape. This time, they succeeded and are said to be demanding a ransom of N50m. Curiously, a military checkpoint is around the place,” the source added.

The priest’s younger brother, Chikezie, said the family was praying for the safe return of his younger brother and the seminarian.

The Director, Catholic Communication, Enugu Catholic Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Benjamin Achi, confirmed the incident.

Although he did not provide details, he simply said, “Yes, father was kidnapped.”

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Monkeypox spreads to 27 states, cases hit 172

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has confirmed the number of monkeypox cases has risen to 172 in the country.

The centre’s Week 31 reports indicated the spread has reached 27 states since January.

From January 1 to August 7, 2022, NCDC said four deaths were recorded from four states – Delta (1), Lagos (1), Ondo (1), and Akwa Ibom (1).

The report also showed that there were at least 473 suspected cases of the disease in the country.

The report read in part, “60 new suspected cases were reported in Epi Week 31, 2022 (August 1-7, 2022) from 19 states.

“Of the 60 suspected cases, 15 new confirmed cases have been recorded in Epi Week 31 from 10 states – Imo (3), FCT (2), Ondo (2), Rivers (2), Abia (1), Anambra (1), Ebonyi (1), Edo (1), Ogun (1), and Nasarawa (1).

“From  January 1 to August 7, 2022, there have now been 473 suspected cases with 172 confirmed cases (115 male, 57 female) from 27 states – Lagos (20), Ondo (16), Adamawa (13), Rivers (13), Delta (12), Bayelsa (12), Edo (9), Nasarawa (9), Anambra (7), FCT (7), Imo (7), Plateau (6), Taraba (5), Kwara (5), Kano (5), Abia (4), Cross River (3), Borno (3), Oyo (3), Gombe (3), Katsina (2), Kogi (2), Ogun (2), Niger (1), Bauchi (1), Akwa Ibom (1), and Ebonyi (1).

“Overall, since the re-emergence of monkeypox in September 2017, 985 suspected cases have been reported from 35 states in the country. Of these 985 suspected cases, 398 (40.4%) were confirmed (263 male, 135 female) from 30 states.

“12 deaths have been recorded (CFR = 3.0%) since September 2017 in nine states—Lagos (3), Edo (2), Imo (1), Cross River (1), FCT (1), Rivers (1), Ondo (1), Delta (1), and Akwa Ibom (1).”

The NCDC, however, said there are ongoing efforts to strengthen surveillance at the national and sub-national levels, to increase awareness, and to promptly detect and respond to the outbreak.

Speaking with The PUNCH, the Ondo State Epidemiologist, Dr. Stephen Fagbemi, said people need to visit the hospital once they notice the symptoms.

The symptoms, according to him, are fever, swelling of lymph nodes, back pain, intense headache, muscle aches, and lack of energy.

“There is a need for increased awareness on the steps to reduce the virus exposure and people need to report to hospitals once they notice the symptoms.”

Also, the Senior Vice President for Africa, Human Health Education and Research Foundation, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, said Nigerians must ensure that they protect themselves against the disease.

“You must ensure you wash your hands thoroughly, and always avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus, including sick or dead animals. Personal hygiene is always important,” Nsofor said.

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