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Many feared abducted as terrorists attack Kaduna-bound train

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Suspected terrorists yesterday night detonated explosives on the Abuja-Kaduna train and opened fire on about 970 passengers on board.

The Kaduna-bound train derailed after explosives believed to be planted on the rail track went off close to Rigasa area of the state. The 6:00p.m. train, which took off from Idu Train Station at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, hit the explosive device about 30 minutes to Rigasa train station in Kaduna at a point between Katari and Rijana community.

Details were sketchy at the time of filling this report but The Guardian gathered that security agents were mobilised to the area to rescue the passengers.

“There is no network in the area so we cannot get any information until the team we have dispatched returns,” said a top security source in Kaduna.

“What we know is that suspected IEDs were planted on the track and the train has derailed. We don’t know for sure if there is any injury or death,” he said.

The Managing Director/CEO of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fidet Okhiria, confirmed the attack but did not go into details, as he was yet to get a clear picture of the whole incident.

“There was an incident but we are managing it. I don’t have the details now,” he said via phone.

A passenger through a phone call confirmed the incident saying the attackers surrounded the train, shooting sporadically.

“All the passengers are currently lying on the floor of the train. The bandits are shooting sporadically. We are in serious danger,” the panic-stricken passenger said.

According to an official source, there were at least 970 passengers onboard the train.

Many passengers are feared injured while several others were said to have been kidnapped by the assailants, though the police authorities are yet to confirm the attack.

Another passenger on the train told Channels Television that upon the stoppage of the train, the assailants began to fire gunshots sporadically. He added that the terrorists later forced their way into the train and kidnapped an unspecified number of people, with some others feared killed.

Meanwhile, troops have been mobilised to the scene of the attack to rescue the remaining passengers.

The passenger, Anas Danmusa, took to his Facebook page to cry for help. “Please this is an emergency. We are inside train at the moment. Kidnappers planted explosives and the train engines have been ruined. We are helpless. Abuja to Kaduna train. Gunshots still being fired right around us. We are just under the seats praying to God while waiting for help. Since 8:00p.m. we have been here.”

According to him, nobody could come to their rescue about one hour into the incident as the assailants tried to force their way into the train.

“There is bad network where we are at the moment. It is just luck that I am able to type this. They are actually trying to force themselves inside the train. No help yet after over one hour.”

After about 20 minutes later, Danmusa confirmed that army personnel had arrived at the scene of the attack.

“Alhamdulillah! The army are with us. We are safe. They have secured the train!”

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UAE tightens visa rules for Nigerians

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has released stiffer visa regulations for Nigerians. The new regulations which came after a public disturbance purportedly by some Nigerians have generated concerns among Nigerian travellers while it has created uneasy calm in the travel industry.

When a video emerged last week of some Africans causing a public disturbance in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it was clear the government of the Middle East country would react appropriately in a bid to protect the country and its citizens from any form of harm.

In the video, youths were seen fighting in a Dubai community and destroying public property. An unconfirmed report claimed that a Dubai Police officer was killed by the hoodlums.

The Nigerian Community in Dubai under the umbrella of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), United Arab Emirates (UAE) chapter, swiftly condemned the development while particularly commending the swift intervention of the Dubai Police who got the hoodlums, about seven of them, arrested.

After arresting them, the police said a criminal case has been registered against the suspects and they will be referred to the public prosecution for further action.

The Dubai Police warned against such unacceptable behaviour and urged the community members to report such behaviour through ‘Police Eye Service’ on Dubai Police app or by calling the emergency hotline 999. The Force also warned the public of publishing or forwarding clips to avoid legal accountability according to article 52 of the UAE Federal Law No. 34 of 2021 on countering Rumours and Cybercrimes.

The law stated that whoever uses the information network to announce, disseminate, re-disseminate, circulate, or recirculate news or data, or broadcasts any provocative news that would incite or provoke public opinion, disturb the public peace, spread terror among people, or cause harm to the public interest, the national economy, the public order, or the public health shall be punished with at least one year of imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh100,000.

For the Nigerian community in Dubai, that singular incident was a signal to what would happen in days to come. The incident sent jitters down the spine of Nigerian immigrants in the Arab country and this was coming at a time Nigerians have issues securing jobs in the country.

In a statement, the NIDO UAE Group, while commending the Dubai authorities for swiftly bringing the matter under control, clarified that the illicit act does not represent what the country stands for.

“We the Nigerians In Diaspora Organization (NIDO) United Arab Emirates group which represents the interest of law abiding Nigerians in the UAE wish to express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the Dubai Police for their swift action in clamping down on the perpetrators of the disturbing video in the last 96 hours.

“We commend the Authority and we wish to state categorically that such illicit acts do not in any way define or represent us. We are good ambassadors, law abiding citizens and therefore, we distance ourselves from those miscreants. We assure the security agencies of our full support and cooperation if the need arises.”

Not satisfied with the clarification of the Nigerian community and as a further belt tightening measure to screen those coming into the country, Dubai has updated its visa requirements by including three new conditions.

There was an initial rumour about the suspension of visa application to Nigerians which was denied by the Nigerian community. It was gathered that the visa was showing pending on the visa status portal which indicates it was neither approved, nor rejected.

But the fear of the Nigerian community was confirmed when the Dubai authorities imposed fresh visa requirements for applicants.

As seen from the updated visa portal, there are three new Nigerian requirements mandatory for all visa applicants to provide.

These requirements are to be scanned and uploaded in the visa portal as provided to enable the applicant complete and submit visa application online.

The three updated requirements are Hotel reservation/place of stay in UAE, six-month Bank Statement and return flight ticket. While the UAE did not state any reason for the new requirement, it is believed the decision was taken to control the influx of individuals with criminal intent into the country.

It was gathered that the development is already causing uneasy calm in the travel industry as many travellers scramble to meet the new requirements. This may ultimately reduce visitors to the country for those who are unable to meet the new requirements.

The new requirements have been greeted with mixed feelings from stakeholders with the majority saying the development was a lesson to Nigerians to imbibe the habit of doing the right thing in accordance with the laws of their host countries.

Our correspondent reports that Dubai is one of the most frequently visited countries for business and tourism by Nigerians. About 200,000 Nigerians averagely visit the country annually either for business or tourism.

Before now, many Nigerians enjoyed the privilege of travelling to Dubai with very relaxed requirements until some Nigerians began to abuse the near free entry status granted to them, according to analysts.

This, they noted, would further hurt some Nigerians with legitimate reasons for going to Dubai. Among those to be affected are Nigerians in search of jobs in the Arab country.

“This development is good and also will prevent some fraudulent people coming in. But the point now is, they should allow us that have a visa inside the country work before it expires, please, so that we can pay our taxes and live peacefully. Please beg on our behalf,” said a Nigerian in search of jobs in Dubai.

According to the Director of Research and Strategy, Zenith Travels, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, the UAE as a country can impose any requirement it deems necessary in the interest of her country and the citizens.

He said, “Every country has the right to introduce some consular requirements to protect their country and ensure that eligible tourists, visitors or business men are those who come into their country.

“The UAE has been very relaxed with their visa. It is the most relaxed of the Middle East countries. Unfortunately, we have not behaved well. We have abused it. At a time, they stopped single ladies from coming except you are 40 and above.

“I have no objection to it. It is their country. They need to do what they need to do to safeguard other tourists apart from Nigerians and ensure that their country is protected.”

President of NANTA, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, also blamed Nigerians for the new requirements imposed by Dubai, saying the UAE authorities must have changed its entry rules due to abuse of the visa process.

She said while the travel agents are not happy with the development, everybody must learn to live by it.

She said, “They must have their reason. It’s a diplomatic thing. There is nothing anybody can do about it. We don’t know why they did that. Maybe they are not comfortable with what many Nigerians are doing. Maybe they did it due to an increase in crimes by Nigerians.

“Before then, we learnt that there was a situation where a policeman was killed. I don’t think it’s just that one incident. Maybe it is a compilation of different incidents that have been going on and probably from their investigation (I have not confirmed that), it seems to always be the Nigerian community perpetrating it, according to them. We have not confirmed this though. Everything is according to them. They have not officially released any report to the Nigeria Police to say that this is the percentage of Nigerians committing crimes.

“But then again, it is a diplomatic thing. Every country has a right to do whatever they want to do and we cannot question them. Are we happy about it? No. We are not but there is nothing we can do about it. It is their country; they determine how people come into their country.

“Sad enough. It is a lesson to us too that when people give us easy access, we should not abuse it. If you abuse the easy access, it will be taken away from you and you cannot fault them. You cannot go to another man’s house and determine how the man should operate in his own house.

“It’s a lesson for all of us. And enough of even going to another man’s country. Why don’t we all sit down here and see how to make things better for ourselves? Running away to other people’s country and doing business or for holidays are two different things. I am not saying people should not travel to do business neither am I saying people should not travel for holidays. Because if it’s just business and holiday, we won’t be where we are now. Because if it’s business, you will come back. If it is a holiday, you will come back and there’s absolutely no reason why UAE would change their rules.”

Mrs Akporiaye advised Nigerians visiting Dubai to do the right thing to avoid a situation where the UAE would further tighten the requirements, saying for those with legitimate businesses to carry out in Dubai, submitting their six-month bank statement shouldn’t be a problem.

She said, “The problem is those that go in the name of business and holiday and they don’t come back. It is not only UAE but every other country.

“So, there’s really nothing much to say than to just respect their decision. It’s not going to be easy; everybody has to adjust. And for those that have legitimate things to go and do, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

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FG to implement telecoms, beverage taxes in 2023

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Finance Minister Says Food Prices Rising

The Federal Government through the Budget Office of the Federation has revealed that it will begin the implementation of its proposed excise duties on telecommunication services and beverages in 2023.

This is despite backlashes from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).

Pantami had during the maiden edition of the Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content Expo organised by the Nigeria Office for Developing the indigenous Telecom Sector, slammed the five per cent tax on telecoms services. He said, “The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is not satisfied with any effort to introduce excise duty on telecommunication services.

“Beyond making our position known, we will go behind the scenes and go against any policy that will destroy the digital economy sector. We will go to any extent to legitimately and legally defend its interest.”

The Budget Office of the Federation, which is under the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, revealed its plan in its ‘2023 – 2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper,’ which was released on Friday.

According to the ministry, this was in a bid to boost its non-oil revenue streams. The minister further said that it expected excise duty revenue to grow exponentially because of the introduction of telecoms service charge.

Discussing the tax which is under the purview of the Nigeria Customs Service, the government said the NCS would introduce frameworks for recovering duties, taxes, and appropriate fees from transactions conducted over electronic networks.

Explaining one of the strategies that would be implemented to improve Customs’ revenue collections over the period 2023-2025, the office said, “Full implementation of excise duty on telecom services, alcoholic, sugar-sweetened beverages, cigarettes and tobacco products.

“Therefore, excise revenue is expected to grow exponentially because of the introduction of the telecom service charge and SSBs”

It explained that the law now empowered the FIRS to appoint anyone as its agent to withhold or collect VAT and remit same to the service.

Stating the government’s plight, the budget office said, “Revenue generation remains the major fiscal challenge of the Federal Government.

“The systemic resource mobilisation problem has been compounded by recent economic recessions. Recognising that domestic revenue mobilization is important for sustainable development, the Federal Government has instituted the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiatives to improve government revenue and entrench fiscal prudence, with emphasis on achieving value for money.

“These measures include improving the tax administration framework, including tax filing and payment, as well as the introduction of new and/or further increases in existing pro-health taxes like excise on sugar-sweetened beverages, tobacco, and alcohol. Mixed reactions have greeted the implementation of these measures.”

Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum on the implementation of excise duty on telecommunications services in Nigeria, the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who spoke through Assistant Chief Officer of the Ministry, Mr Frank Oshanipin, said, “The duty rate was not captured in the Act because it is the responsibility of the President to fix rate on excise duties and he has fixed five per cent for telecommunication services which include GSM.

“It is public knowledge that our revenue cannot run our financial obligations, so we are to shift our attention to the non-oil revenue. The responsibility of generating revenue to run the government lies with us all.”

Responding to the new levy, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Owners of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, had said telecom consumers would bear the burden of this additional five per cent tax, bringing the total tax paid by consumers to 12.5 per cent.

The Federal Government would generate about N160.46bn from excise duty on telecom services if it is implemented in 2023.

Speaking to our correspondent, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “There is ample time to continue to advocate against it before then. They are set to implement and impoverish more people on their way out.

“It is unfortunate that despite the minister’s resentment, they are still going ahead. Why appoint the minister at all. Ministers are to advise the president on matters that are within their purview. They shouldn’t implement it, otherwise, Nigerians will react to this insensitive nature of the government. Let them look to other sectors, why telecoms?

“We will mobilise Nigerians to go against this.”

MAN had earlier opposed the imposition of taxes on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, saying that it would hurt the industry.

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US, Bagudu’s brother near deal on Kebbi governor’s money laundering case

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The United States is nearing an agreement with the brother of Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, to resolve a court case over more than $140 million that it said was laundered by the governor.

Bloomberg disclosed that the Justice Department had been trying to seize four investment portfolios held in trust for Bagudu and his family since 2013.
The US alleged that Bagudu, 60, was part of a network controlled by former dictator Sani Abacha that misappropriated billions of dollars from state coffers in the 1990s.

However, Governor Bagudu has always maintained his innocence of the alleged crime.
The US and Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, applied on August 3, to suspend the case that is ongoing in a federal court in Washington, DC.
They “agreed upon the principal terms of a settlement” on July 19 and “believe a brief stay will allow the parties to reach a final agreement resolving the litigation,” it quoted their joint motion to have stated.

The judge, who accepted the request, ordered the parties to provide an update on their negotiations by November 2. The motion didn’t provide any details about the contents of the potential settlement.

Bagudu is the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Governors’ Forum, an influential body of governors and recently oversaw the party’s selection of Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate for next February’s general elections.

Ibrahim Bagudu, who is entitled to an annuity from the assets, had challenged the forfeiture efforts.
The US and Ibrahim Bagudu have been negotiating a broader agreement that includes his brother as well as the Nigerian and United Kingdom governments, documents filed during the litigation show.

A UK court froze the investment portfolios in 2014 after a request from the US.
The government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had said it was unable to assist the US because it’s bound by a settlement Abubakar Bagudu reached with a previous administration in 2003.

That arrangement allowed Bagudu to return $163 million to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him, according to court filings.

Buhari’s government and Bagudu concluded a new agreement in 2018, that would see ownership of the investment portfolios worth €141 million ($144 million) in late 2019 — transferred to the Nigerian state, which would then pay €98.5 million to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to US court documents.
Buhari’s administration had applied to the UK court to unfreeze the assets.

While the US and Ibrahim Bagudu obtained an initial stay in early 2020 to explore an out-of-court resolution, they said in March that those talks had reached an “impasse” and the case should restart. Discussions continued following the resumption of the litigation five months ago.

The US Department of Justice declined to comment. Spokesmen for Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami, as well as lawyers for the Bagudu brothers, didn’t respond to requests for comment, according to Bloomberg.

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