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Border closure: Ogun rice traders laud FG’s policy, seek price regulation

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Some rice traders at Ota in Ogun on Friday attributed the current hike in the price of local rice to unregulated activities of middlemen distributing the commodity across the country.

The traders expressed the viewpoint in separate interviews with the Nigeria News Agency while reacting to the recent land border closure by the Federal Government.

According to the rice sellers, there is no scarcity of local rice but dealers who acted as middlemen between the sellers and the rice millers are the ones responsible for the high price of the commodity.

Alhaja Nurat Mustapha, a local rice sellerbat Oja Market in Ota, said she bought a 50 kg bag of the commodity at N22,000 and sold for between N23,000 and N24,000.

“We are even surprised that Nigeria has enough rice. We always get the rice when we need it, and people are really happy with what they are buying.

“I now eat local rice, and I must say it is very delicious, we just need some time to adjust to the new policy; but the dealers, who buy in bulk from the farmers in the North should be cautioned,” she said.

Another trader, Mr Ojo Adekunle, noted that some locally-produced rice that could match the quality of the imported brands.

According to him, those brands are selling faster because it has been properly de-stoned and well-polished.

“After the closure, it becomes difficult to get imported rice. So, all the rice I sell now are local products, but some of them actually look like the imported type, you will never know that it is a local brand until you cook it.

“I am particularly happy with the closure because a lot of the substandard rice coming in has stopped. We just have problems with the dealers bringing the commodity from the North.

“You might go to them to buy 20 bags of 50 kg at N20,000 each today, and tomorrow they will sell at N21,000; so, we need to regulate them,” he said.

Adekunle, also a dealer in Ofada rice, noted that business was booming, especially now that he could make profit of between N1,000 and N1,200 per 50 kg bag,  whereas, he made only N200 before the closure of the borders.

Mr Paul Obike, another trader, said the border should remain closed because it was going to be a win-win situation for everybody.

“I would not want the border to be re-opened because this is just the initial stage, we will adapt accordingly as time goes on. People are buying the local rice and I am sure the price will soon normalise,” he said.

A customer at the market, Ms Bolanle Gbadebo, said the commodity was very expensive, adding that rice was Nigerian’s staple food and the most popular diet of the people.

“For now, we do not have a choice. I just bought a paint bucket measure of local rice at N1,800; but before the border closure, it was N1,200.

“Although I support that government leaves the border closed, so that our farmers will have a market to sell their produce. We cannot continue to depend on imported things,” she said.

Prices of the commodity were similar when NAN checked at the Iyana-Ota and Ojuoore markets, both in Sango-Ota, Ogun but with a slight difference of less than N100, depending on the quality.

A De Rica measure of rice, which sold at N200 before, now sells at N250, N300 and N350, depending on the quality.

Also, a paint bucket measure, which was sold for N1,200, now goes for between N1,700 and N1,800, while those traders who had the imported rice, sold at N2,000 for that measure.

Meanwhile the price of vegetable oil has also increased considerably at the markets.

A vegetable oil trader, Mrs Victoria Abike, said that a 20-litre of the commodity, which used to sell for N8,000, now attracts N13,500.

Abike said that a bottle of vegetable oil now costs N350 while the five-litre measure goes for N2,800.

Edited by Folorunso Poroye/Wale Ojetimi

Foreign

UN steps up cross-border aid delivery to NW Syria

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The United Nations is stepping up cross-border delivery of life-saving assistance to people in need in northwest Syria, including health items to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, said a spokesman on Tuesday.

The massive scale-up has seen an average of over 1,350 trucks per month crossing from the two Security Council-authorized border crossing points in Turkey in the first five months of 2020, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In May alone, 1,781 trucks crossed into Syria, the highest number of trucks to go across the border since the operations were first authorized by the Security Council in 2014, he said.

Despite the massive operation, needs remain incredibly high throughout northwest Syria, with 2.8 million people in need, including over 1 million people living in camps or informal shelters, he told a virtual press briefing.

The United Nations remains concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people across the country, whose health care system has been decimated by almost a decade of war, he said.

The Syrian authorities reported 123 COVID-19 cases with six deaths as of Monday.

(XINHUA)

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Russian guards detain drunk Ukrainian serviceman for illegal border crossing

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Russian border guards have detained a drunk serviceman from the Ukrainian Armed Forces for illegally crossing the Russian border into Crimea, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Tuesday.

The intoxicated offender was identified as E. Dobrinsky, born in 1992, the FSB said in a statement.

During a search of the detainee, a narcotic drug was allegedly discovered and seized from him, the statement added.

An illegal crossing of the Russian border is punishable by a fine of up to 200,000 rubles (around 2,900 U.S. dollars), or up to two years of forced labor or imprisonment, according to the Russian Criminal Code.

(XINHUA)

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Four South Sudan soldiers shot dead by Ugandan military in contested border area

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At least four South Sudanese soldiers were killed by their counterparts from neighboring Uganda over the weekend, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Lul Ruia Koang, spokesperson for the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSPDF) said the incident between SSPDF forces and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) happened on Sunday after the two sides exchanged fire in a contested border area in the southern parts of the country.

UPDF soldiers opened fire on our soldiers in Buya and as a result, they killed four on the spot and wounded another,” the spokesperson told Xinhua by phone.

The disputed area is claimed by communities of Kajo-Keji county of Central Equatoria state in South Sudan and their neighbors from Yumbe district of Uganda.

Koang said the SSPDF soldiers were conducting foot patrol to enforce cross-border movement restrictions at the time of the clashes.

“The area where our servicemen were killed is a disputed area,” the spokesperson said, adding that calm has since returned to the region after the two governments agreed to investigate the cause of the fighting.

“We have requested for an investigation to be conducted so that we know why they opened fire on soldiers who were on foot patrol and does not pose any threat to them,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Tunisia to reopen land, air and sea borders from June 27

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Tunisia decided to reopen the land, air and sea borders from June 27, Tunisian government announced on Monday.

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh also decided that Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4, after his meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus.

Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far.

China has helped Tunisia in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.

Meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Tunisia Wang Wenbin on May 1, Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said his country is grateful to China for its support in Tunisia’s ant-coronavirus fight.

(XINHUA)

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Russia says NATO increases military activity near its borders

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Despite the spread of COVID-19, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has significantly increased military activity with a “clear anti-Russian orientation,” Russia’s top general said Monday.

“By similar actions, the United States and its allies, hiding behind an invented threat of ‘Russian aggression,’ continue to destroy the existing security system in Europe,” Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told a briefing.

Naval drills held by NATO in early May on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War were provocative because they involved striking targets on Russian territory, he said.

According to Rudskoi, the Russian Northern Fleet has discovered the deployment of the NATO ships and began tracking them, which “prevented incidents and demonstrated our determination to protect our interests in the Arctic.”

The Russian Defense Ministry constantly monitors and records the high level of military activity of the United States and its NATO allies near Russian borders, Rudskoi said.

Although the NATO Defender-Europe 20 drills were scaled down this year because of the pandemic, almost all combat training tasks during the drills were carried out at training grounds located in close proximity to Russia.

Currently, activity by the United States air forces and Washington’s NATO allies has also increased near the Russian border, along with aerial reconnaissance near the Baltic and the Black seas.

On top of this, Russia is concerned about the continued build-up of missile defense infrastructure in Poland, in addition to an already deployed facility in Romania, where Tomahawk cruise missiles could be placed, Rudskoi said.

(XINHUA)

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Iran, Turkmenistan agree to reopen borders amid easing of COVID-19 restrictions

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Iran and Turkmenistan have agreed to reopen borders on June 10 as the restrictions pertaining to the novel coronavirus are eased in both countries recently, Iranian ambassador to Ashgabat announced on Sunday.

The rail and road borders between the two countries will reopen under strict monitoring of health protocols, Gholamabbas Arbab Khales told official IRNA news agency.

Iran and Turkmenistan had previously agreed to reopen borders on June 1, but the date was postponed to June 10 for disinfection operations at the border posts, said Arbab Khales.

He noted that at a ministerial meeting among Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as well as negotiations between the heads of railway companies of the three countries, they have agreed to install sanitizing tunnels at both sides of the borders to help better implement health protocols.

The ambassador did not mention whether the reopening of border crossings includes only trade transactions or passengers as well.

Iran and Turkmenistan closed borders in late February after Iran reported first cases of COVID-19 in the country.

(XINHUA)

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Zimbabwe steps up security measures at quarantine centers, border areas

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Zimbabwe will tighten up security at COVID-19 isolation centers across the country to prevent quarantined returnees from escaping, a senior government official has said.

Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa told the Sunday Mail that government will tighten up security, especially in the country’s border areas to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“It has been the government’s position that security be heightened so that we reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Government is even working on introducing drones so that we increase security measures in border areas,” Mutsvangwa said.

More than 118 people have fled from a coronavirus quarantine centers in Zimbabwe, sparking fears of a potential coronavirus outbreak.

The escapees were citizens who had recently returned from abroad, mainly from Botswana and South Africa.

Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi urged the community to report returnees who evade the COVID-19 screening processes.

“We appeal to the community to put their safety, health and security first, and report all returnees who evade the required COVID-19 screening processes to curtail the spread of the pandemic,” said Nyathi.

Zimbabwe had as of Saturday reported 174 COVID-19 positive cases.

(XINHUA)

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Sudan summons Ethiopian charge d’affaires in protest over army-backed cross-border attack

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The Sudanese foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the Ethiopian charge d’affaires in the capital Khartoum in protest over a cross-border attack by Ethiopian militias on eastern Sudan.

The attack was “backed by the Ethiopian army” and killed a Sudanese army officer and injured a number of soldiers as well as civilians including children, according to a ministry statement.

The “sinful” attack came “at a time when preparations were underway in Khartoum to hold the second meeting of the high-level joint committee on border issues,” the statement noted.

This is the first time that Sudan accuses the Ethiopian army of supporting the country’s militias in attacking the Sudanese territories.

(XINHUA)

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Portugal bars entry of nearly 3,000 people at land borders amid pandemic

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Portugal‘s Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) said on Friday that it had prevented about 3,000 people from entering its land borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in an operation that reached approximately 500,000 people in the last two and a half months.

With the collaboration of the National Republican Guard (GNR), another 15 people were also detained at Authorized Crossing Points (PPA) with Spain, SEF said in an official statement.

The PPA with the largest movement of people was that of Valenca, where over 200,000 people were handled, followed by that of Caia, with around 70,000, and Vilar Formoso, with 60,000.

The control of land borders with Spain has been in effect since 23:00 on March 16 at nine authorized crossing points and will remain closed until 00:00 on June 15.

According to the SEF, tourist and leisure travel between the two countries is prevented, with only the transport of goods, cross-border workers, seasonal workers, emergency and rescue vehicles and emergency services being allowed.

The Directorate-General for Health (DGS) announced 14 more deaths of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s total deaths to 1,383. The number of infected people increased by 350 to 31,946 in total.

(XINHUA)

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