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Saudi Arabia lifts COVID-19 restriction after two years, welcomes Muslims globally to 2022 hajj

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Hajj

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced that one million pilgrims will perform Hajj this year.

The Kingdom in a tweet via the official handle of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the figure would be for both foreign and domestic pilgrims.

Recall that foreign pilgrims were barred from hajj for two years following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, with only 60,000 Saudi nationals allowed for the 2021 pilgrimage.

At its peak, the country accommodates two million pilgrims all over the world to perform hajj.

In the statement, it said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was seeking to preserve the success it had recorded in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, thus, those under the age of 65 would be allowed to perform the pilgrimage with a 72-hour pre-departure negative PCR test.

It read, “The number of pilgrims coming from specific countries for this year’s Hajj will be in accordance with the quotas allocated to each country and in consideration of compliance with all health recommendations.

“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that this year’s Hajj will be conducted according to the following regulations: This year’s Hajj is open to those who are under 65 years old and have received the main COVID-19 vaccinations approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health.

“Pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom are required to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from a test performed within 72 hours of the time of departure to the Kingdom. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has instructed that all pilgrims must follow the health instructions and comply with all precautionary measures to preserve their health and safety while performing the Hajj rituals.”

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Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo disowns fake Facebook account endorsing Obi over Tinubu

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Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo has distanced himself from a fake Facebook account allegedly created in his name.

Nana Akufo-Addo in a tweet on his verified Twitter handle on Tuesday also denied wide reports that he has written to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu to step down for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi.

The tweet reads:

My attention has been drawn to a disturbing post making the rounds on social media, where it is alleged I have written to the 2023 presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to “give Peter Obi a chance and seek treatment for his health”.

This is completely false and mischievous, with no iota of truth whatsoever in it

I have written no such letter to the APC leader, and it will not occur to me to do so. Ghana and Nigeria boast of decades of cordial, strong and brotherly relations, and I am not going to be the one to interfere in the internal affairs and politics of Nigeria. 3/3

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Nigeria ranks fourth on World Bank debtors’ list with $13bn debt stock

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Nigeria has risen on the World Bank’s list of the top ten International Development Association borrowers.

According to the newly released World Bank Fiscal Year 2022 audited financial statements for IDA, Nigeria has risen to fourth place, with $13 billion in IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2022.

Nigeria was ranked fifth in the World Bank’s Fiscal Year 2021 audited financial statements, known as the IDA financial statement, with $11.7 billion in IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2021.

The new data shows that Nigeria’s IDA debt stock approximately rose by $1.3 billion in a fiscal year, rising above Vietnam to become the fourth largest debtor.

This debt is distinct from the $486 million loan from the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Except for Nigeria, the top five countries on the list reduced their IDA debt stock slightly.

India, which is at the top of the debtors’ list, reduced its IDA debt stock from $22 billion in the previous fiscal year to $19.7 billion.

This is followed by Bangladesh, which reduced its IDA debt stock from $18.1 billion to $18 billion.

The economic profile under President Muhammadu Buhari on all fronts does not look good for Nigeria.

Similarly in July 2022, a report by SBM Intelligence, published by SaharaReporters showed how the rate of malnutrition had increased among children in Nigeria since President Buhari came to power in 2015.

According to the report, information and data were gathered from different interview sessions conducted in 10 states across the country to examine how inflation has aggravated food scarcity in the country, particularly among young children.

The report reads in part: “Interviews were conducted in 10 states across the country (Abuja, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Kogi, Lagos, Rivers and Sokoto) to examine if the present economic condition has affected the diet of children. That is to say, are children now seen with signs of malnutrition?

“Respondents in Sokoto confirmed that children are beginning to show signs of malnutrition in the region. One of the respondents had this to say: ‘The average Northerner does not care so much about the food he eats or whether the food is a balanced diet. They just make sure there is something in their stomach. They do not care if the food given to the children is balanced as well. The recent economic situation, especially the increase in prices of foodstuff has made the situation worse. So will say yes, more children are now showing signs of malnourishment. They look pale when they come to school.

“Judging from this respondent’s statement, we can infer that more people have fallen below the poverty line. A respondent in Kogi, a petty trader, said that her husband, who is a university lecturer, has not been paid his salary for months because of the ongoing ASUU strike, hence the family is struggling to feed.

“From her point of view, her family can still afford food for now, but she does not know what will happen if the ASUU strike and nonpayment of salaries continue till the end of the year. She also mentioned that children are increasingly being seen in the streets with signs of malnutrition.

“Those who hitherto could easily provide their families with three square meals a day are now struggling to keep up because of economic hardship. Some have dropped to two meals, but most have been reduced to one. This was according to a respondent in Edo State. A staff member of the state university in Edo said that he currently has challenges feeding his family as he has not been paid for seven months.

“According to him, some of his colleagues are suffering the same fate. ‘So why will you not see children with malnutrition when there is not sufficient money for a balanced diet?’” he asked.

The report also explained how the average cost of making a pot of jollof rice went up from N8,595 to N9,311 at the end of Q2 2022, an 8.3 percent increase.

It was noted that Bauchi had the highest cost at N11,600, followed by Wuse II at N11,300. The noticeable pattern here is that the Northern states had a higher cost of making a pot of jollof rice despite their farming and livestock rearing occupations.

“This trend is accounted for by increased insecurity in those states. Traders who purchase from the rural markets are boycotting those areas. Transportation costs have greatly increased, not only because of fuel shortages but also because of the risk involved in travelling those kidnap-infested roads,” it said.

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INEC succumbs to pressure from APC, backdates documents to recognise Lawan, Akpabio as senatorial candidates

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has backdated Certified True Copies of reports of the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries to accommodate Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Godswill Akpabio and others as candidates in the 2023 general elections, SaharaReporters has gathered. 

Bashir Machina won the party’s ticket for Yobe North Senatorial District, while Udom Ekpoudom won the primary election for Akwa Ibom North-West which was monitored by INEC officials. 

In Yobe, a certified true copy of the commission’s report from the election of May 28, 2022, revealed Machina polled 289 votes out of 300 delegates. The document was certified by the electoral office on June 23, 2022. 

The National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu had warned of severe sanctions if Machina refused to relinquish his ticket to Lawan. 

Adamu claimed that the party is supreme and that it reserves the right to decide who gets its ticket in any election. 

In Akwa Ibom, Akpabio was declared the winner of another primary, but Mike Igini, INEC resident electoral commissioner (REC) for the state, had said the exercise which produced the former minister as a candidate was not monitored by the commission. 

Section 31 of the Electoral Act only allows for substitution when a candidate dies or when he or she withdraws from the race and informs INEC in writing. 

 The section reads: “A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the commission not later than 90 days to the election.” 

The INEC leadership it was gathered are planning to shred the reports of the Resident Electoral Commissioners in the affected states by backdating them to favour Lawan, Akpabio and others. 

“INEC has caved in to political pressures and other forces deployed by the outgoing Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan and his backers to shred the report of the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner that supervised the APC primary Elections in Yobe state by doctoring and backdating it to accommodate the Senate president and others in states where they have an interest,” a source had said. 

“Shockingly, the Chairman of INEC Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu is fully part of this plot, making direct telephone calls to state offices.  

“Despite the glaring fact that Ahmad Lawan was a principal actor in the APC presidential primary, which saw him lose to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he has since mounted relentless pressures on INEC leadership to obtain a senatorial ticket in Yobe state by all means possible.” 

A source confirmed that the certified true copy of reports had been doctored and backdated to accommodate the Senate President and former Akwa Ibom Governor. 

“Nigerians will be shocked that despite serial denials by Professor Yakubu-led commission that Lawan and Akpabio names would not be on the ballot as senatorial candidates respectively, INEC is merely deceiving them, signifying a roll back to Professor Maurice lwu-led commission that gave so much hope for the 2007 election which later became the worst election in Nigeria’s electoral history. 

“The EPM (Election Monitoring Department) under a very compromised Director, Musa who is about to retire from service and one Barr. Tanimu of the legal department have back-dated documents to include Lawan and Akpabio on the ballot. INEC is now returning gradually to Prof Maurice lwu’s era. 

“Just as it was then that there was a notorious National Commissioner named Chukwuani who was the politicians’ hatchet man of that inglorious period, so is Festus Okoye now who is the hand-gun of politicians being used in the emerging efforts to mess up the outcome of party primaries by accepting from political parties names of individuals who didn’t participate in primaries monitored by its states’ offices. 

“Nigerians will recall that Festus Okoye had been in virtually all television stations granting interviews on Channels TV to prepare the minds of Nigerians to what they are about to make public on the final list when he said ‘RECs are not recognised members of INEC and the commission is not bound by the reports of party primaries monitored by state offices because they also send monitors from Abuja that write reports to INEC Headquarters’. 

“Both the EPM and legal department have advised lawyers of Akpabio to file a writ of summons so that witnesses could be called and Abuja INEC Headquarters will prepare and bring forward a staff member that will testify that he or she monitored the re-run primary in line with what Okoye had told Nigerians. This is how they planned to do away with state offices’ reports of the party primaries submitted to the headquarters. 

“APC has taken control of INEC headquarters, that is why there’s an outcry over the outcome of the primaries in virtually all the states across the country, from Oyo, Ogun, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Sokoto, it’s the same story. Festus Okoye’s interview has done so much damage to the confidence Nigerians were beginning to have over the outcome of recent elections. 

“Commissioner Okoye is now the spokesperson for both INEC and corrupt politicians, as he has been assuring them of having not committed any offence under section 115 of the 2020 Electoral Act despite a Federal High Court judgment in Ebonyi State. Politicians have infiltrated and are in control of INEC. The chairman of INEC at a recent event deceptively told his listeners that they will implement the provision of the 2022 Act and that politicians should study it yet he accepted from political parties names of persons who didn’t go through primaries and refused to apply the provisions of section 84 of the same Act and section 285 of the Constitution to reject those names that his commission published as candidates. 

“The discordant tunes from headquarters and states where party primaries were conducted have created serious doubts about the trustworthiness of Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s headship of INEC to conduct a free fair and credible election in 2023. The brazenness of INEC in forging a document showing that the name of Akpabio was submitted to it is a further confirmation of compromise at the highest level.” 

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