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March 9: DIG tasks INEC on timely delivery of election materials in Abia

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March 9: DIG tasks INEC on timely delivery of election materials in Abia

Election

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been charged to ensure the timely delivery of election materials to the polling centres during Saturday’s Governorship and state Assembly polls in Abia.

Mr Anthony Ogbizi, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), supervising the general elections in the South-East, gave the charge on Thursday in Umuahia, during a meeting of the heads of security agencies and political party chieftains in Abia.

Ogbizi expressed concern that the lapses that characterised the Feb. 23 polls in the state, including the late delivery of election materials, inefficiency of the smart card readers and absence of INEC officials at some polling units, created more tension and security challenge. He therefore urged the commission to put the necessary measures in place to avoid a recurrence in Saturday’s exercise.

The DIG also said that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, beefed up the size of police personnel deployed in Abia for the polls.

He said, “The IGP has deployed more hands in Abia for the elections so there will be adequate security.

“People should feel safe to go and vote for the candidates of their choice.”

He said that some of the identified flashpoints in the state, including Ukwa East and West, Osisioma and Umunneochi, would be effectively policed to avert any violence.

Ogbizi said that the restriction of movement was still in force and that only accredited election monitors and observers would be allowed free movement during the polls.

He warned policemen attached to Very Important Persons (VIPs) to desist from moving around with the VIPs during the election period.

He further said that it was mandatory for all the police personnel to dress up in their conventional uniforms and that no one would be allowed to put on the camouflage.

Also, Brig.-Gen. Abdulkarim Ibrahim, the Commander, 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Ohafia, promised that the army would remain neutral and apolitical while discharging its constitutional duty during the polls in Abia.

Ibrahim was reacting to an allegation that some army personnel were seen at polling units during the Presidential and National Assembly polls, contrary to the rule of engagement.

He said that although he could not completely deny such a development, it could be an isolated occurrence.

The brigade commander promised that the army would work in synergy with other sister-security agencies to ensure the success of the elections in the area.

He said that the army was fully prepared to ensure a violence-free exercise, warning that they would not tolerate thuggery under any guise.

Ibrahim said that “unconfirmed reports reaching the army indicate that some politicians have sewn militarily uniforms for their thugs to cause violence during the elections.”

He gave assurance that the army would go after such persons, saying, “the army will not stand by and watch hoodlums disrupt the governorship and state Assembly elections in Abia.”

In his speech, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Edet Okon, said that the command was “100 per cent prepared for the elections in ths state.”

Okon gave assurance that the command would improve on the successes it recorded during the Feb. 23 polls.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the meeting was attended by representatives of some political parties and the Inter-Party Advisory Council in the state.

Foreign

UK defends digital service tax against United States investigation

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Britain has defended its digital service taxes after the United States launched a formal investigation into 10 U.S. trading partners, including Britain, for imposing or plan to levy new taxes on tech giants, British media reported.

Our Digital Services Tax ensures that digital businesses pay tax in the UK that reflects the value they derive from UK users, and is compatible with the UK‘s international obligation,” the BBC quoted a spokesperson of the British Treasury as saying.

The remarks came after the United States announced on Tuesday its investigation into Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, European Union, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Britain on digital service taxes over concerns they “unfairly target” U.S. tech giants like Facebook.

It is the first step in a process that could lead to the introduction of tariffs, or other trade retaliation.

From April, the British government introduced a new 2 percent digital service tax on the revenues of search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces which derive value from British users, despite complaints from the U.S. technology companies and government.

Concerns have arisen that the U.S. government’s investigation would exacerbate global trade tensions and derail post-Brexit trade talks between London and Washington.

“We have always been clear that our preference is for a global solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation and we’ll continue to work with the U.S. and other international partners to achieve that objective,” said the spokesperson from the British Treasury.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Feature: Israel’s effort in digital diplomacy fosters new connections, reaching audiences in hostile countries

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Top Israeli foreign ministry officials say that increasing efforts in social media targeting countries and audiences usually hostile to the Jewish state are increasingly bearing fruit.

In a video briefing held on Wednesday by officials from the digital diplomacy department at the ministry, they described the efforts being made and the results they are increasingly seeing. The online platforms allow direct contact with citizens of neighboring countries which Israel does not have diplomatic relations with.

“Digital activities have become a core activity of the ministry,” said Yiftah Curiel, head of digital diplomacy department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The department was formed in 2011, when it was becoming increasingly evident that what was once a side task for a diplomat, online activity is now a major part of the job. Upon beginning their training, ministry cadets are immediately instructed to open and actively maintain Twitter accounts.

The office operates five channels on the different online platforms in six languages with 80 accounts in total, all run by 25 staffers. According to the officials, they reach 12 million people every week through the various outlets.

One of the concerted efforts undertaken by the ministry is the maintenance of a Persian language Instagram account targeted at bringing in Iranian audiences. Instagram is the only social media platform not banned in Iran. There is a concerted effort by diplomats to establish direct contact with Iranian citizens. The account has half a million followers, a milestone that was celebrated by the ministry earlier this week.

“Our goal is not only to interact directly but also try to break stereotypes about Israel,” said Mr. Yonathan Gonen, director of New Media in Arabic at the Israeli foreign ministry.

There have also been several online exchanges between Israeli and Iranian officials, the only arena in which the two interact.

Gonen and his staff also operate two virtual embassies, one for Iraq and one for the Gulf states. According to him, people are interested in the cultural and hi-tech scenes in Israel. The majority of comments on those pages are positive, Gonen said.

The pages focus on “mutual interests and common values,” with short movies being posted frequently. The recent hot topic is the global fight against the spread of COVID-19, which has further highlighted the commonalities between countries.

According to ministry data, the number of followers on all platforms combined doubles every year. Polls conducted by the department annually demonstrate changes in public opinion towards Israel. They have seen improvement especially in Gulf states and in Iraq, with a slight improvement in attitudes in northern African countries.

“It’s not always about numbers though. People tell us in comments that they have changed their mind. This is a sign of success,” said Gonen. But, he says, the change cannot be only attributed to social media activism. Other changes in the Arab world in recent years have also shifted opinions.

While the pages attract many positive responses, the officials acknowledge there are still many negative comments on the pages. They try to answer as many as possible, both favorable and the less sympathetic ones.

“It will take some years, perhaps not generations, before we see more positive than negative comments,” he added.

However, according to the ministry, the change is significant and must not be underestimated.

“Israel is no longer seen as the big problem for their local issues. This is a big change we see,” he said at the briefing, “We hope that we are planting the seeds for the future.

(XINHUA)

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Health

Red Cross, Facebook to launch digital campaign against COVID-19

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The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is partnering Facebook to launch a digital campaign- #AfricaTogether, calling for vigilance against COVID-19.

The movement made this known in a statement issued through the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday in Abuja.

The statement said that the two-day campaign and festival slated to be inaugurated on Thursday and Friday, would feature artistes from across Africa to encourage continued vigilance against COVID-19.

“With more than 100,000 confirmed cases on the continent, and containment measures easing in many countries, #AfricaTogether combines musical and comedy performances with information from COVID-19 first responders and fact-checkers from across Africa.

“#AfricaTogether will include a festival with performances by artistes such as Aramide, Ayo, Femi Kuti, Ferre Gola, Salatiel, Serge Beynaud, Patoranking, Youssou N’dour, among many others.

“It will also include a digital awareness campaign with prevention messages developed with Red Cross and Red Crescent health experts and targeting simultaneously Facebook users in 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

“The event will be streamed on Facebook Live on Thursday in English and hosted by the Nigerian popular actor and comedian, Basketmouth and in French on Friday by the renowned media personality, Claudy Siar.

“To watch the live shows, viewers can tune in to the Facebook Africa page and Red Cross and Red Crescent Facebook pages.

“To register and learn more about the artiste line up and how to tune in, please visit the Facebook event pages in English and in French,’’ it stated.

The statement quoted Mamadou Sow, a long-serving member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis.

“It is unprecedented crisis in that, it can affect us all, and ignores borders, ethnicities and religions.

“African communities, so far have responded quickly, but the risk remains very real. If we all do our part, we will beat COVID-19.

“Music is a powerful uniting force, and we hope that the #AfricaTogether festival will bring renewed hope and action against this dangerous disease,” it stated.

The statement also quoted, Jocelyne Muhutu-Rémy, Facebook’s Strategic Media Partnerships Manager for sub-Saharan Africa, as saying: “The Use of Online During the Pandemic Shows Its Usefulness.

“The spike in the use of online tools during the COVID-19 pandemic shows the social usefulness of digital platforms in difficult times.

“We are seeing many incredible initiatives from artistes, bringing their communities together on Facebook Live.

“The #AfricaTogether campaign will enable people to learn more about fighting COVID-19, while enjoying entertainment from their favourite African performers.

“We will be spreading joy in a way that doesn’t spread the disease,” it added.

According to the statement, the event is one of the many ways that Facebook and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are both contributing in the fight against COVID-19 across the continent.

“Facebook continues to work with governments across sub-Saharan Africa, including partnering with organisations like health agencies and NGOs who are actively using its platforms to share accurate information about the situation.

“It has launched COVID-19 Information Centres in more than 40 countries, which provides real-time updates from health authorities and helpful articles, videos and posts about social distancing and preventing the spread of the virus.

“With a network of more than 1.5 million volunteers and staff across the continent, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is on the frontlines of combating COVID-19 in communities.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian network.

It is neutral and impartial and dedicated to preventing and alleviating human suffering, protecting life and health, and upholding human dignity especially in armed conflicts and emergencies such as health crises and disasters.

The Movement is composed of 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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General news

COVID-19 : Ondo assembly urges wealthy indigenes to assist PLWDs

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The Ondo House of Assembly has appealed to wealthy indigenes of the state to assist People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) to  cushion the effect  of the novel coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic.

Mrs Favour Tomomewo, Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development, made the call during the committee’s oversight visit to the Ondo State Agency for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities, on Wednesday in Akure.

Tomowemo noted that there was need to support and empower the PLWDs in order  to ameliorate their plight.

” On behalf of other committee members and the state house of assembly, I want to appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians, especially Ondo state indigenes to show support for all persons living with disabilities in the state.

” Looking at these people living with disabilities, they have a lot of restrictions to cater for their needs.

“Please, let us support them, empower them with our resources,” she urged.

She asked the PLWDs to observe all COVID-19 preventive guidelines in order not to pose more danger to themselves.

The committee chairman urged the agency’s management to often liaise with lawmakers in their respective constituencies so as to be considered in their programmes and events.

She stressed the need for the agency to indulge technology-based innovation in order to be in tune  with global standard.

Tomowemo added that the agency should create policies and ideas that would enhance welfare and well-being of the PLWDs.

The committee chairman explained that the oversight visit was aimed at  helping the agency to achieve its goals.

Mr Taofik Mohammed, a member of the committee, noted that the state assembly would not relent in addressing the agency’s needs considering its special attention to the welfare of PLWD in the state.

Similarly, Mr Samuel Edamisan, another committee member, lauded the agency’s management for its diligence and efforts, saying that the committee would support the agency to make it better for humanity purposes.

Earlier, Mr Sanmi Alegbeleye, the Chairman of the agency, thanked the committee for the visit despite the COVID -19 effects in the society.

Alegbeleye appealed to the committee to fast-track the approval by the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, for the  employment at least 30 persons living with disabilities into the state civil service.

He said that the governor had  approved the said employment in 2018,  but the beneficiaries were yet to receive their letters of  employment.

“We don’t know the cause of the delay despite the governor’s approval of 30 persons. Please, help us because the governor has said it on several occasions.

” Also, we are yet to receive the  18-seater bus approved by the  governor for conveying the disabled to events and programmes.

” These people travel a lot but we have not seen the light,” he stated.

Alegbeleye appealed to the state government to remember the disabled in its COVID-19 palliative programme, saying that the  over 7,000 persons with disabilities in the state were yearning for help.(NAN)


Edited By: Chioma Ugboma and Isaac Ukpoju (NAN)

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Foreign

France sticks with digital tax despite United States tariff threat

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France will maintain its planned tax on digital services at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) level despite Washington’s threat of punitive tariffs, Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said on Wednesday.

“We will give no ground on digital tax. I call on all G7 (Group of Seven) states to step up work at the OECD to reach an international solution by the end of 2020,” said Le Maire during a G7 finance ministers’ conference call.

“There is a real contradiction between the United States‘ call for unity within G7, which we support, and the perspective of new trade sanctions,” he said.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced on Tuesday a “Section 301” investigation into digital services taxes that have been adopted or are considered by the U.S.’s ten trading partners (Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

“Section 301,” under an outdated U.S. trade law adopted in 1974, allows the U.S. president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions on foreign countries.

Last July, the French parliament adopted a digital tax bill, paving the way for the eurozone’s second largest power to unilaterally tax internet giants by three percent on much of their digital sales in France.

Washington has completed a “Section 301” probe into France‘s digital tax regime and threatened to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on 2.4 billion U.S. dollars worth of French goods in retaliation for the tax that it deemed discriminatory.

It agreed to delay the imposition of tariffs on France as a multilateral deal on international taxation was under negotiation at the OECD.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

German bans digital doppelganger passport photos

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Germany says it will outlaw the morphing of passport photos, in which pictures of two people are digitally combined, making it possible to assign multiple identities to a single document.

Morphing can trick artificial intelligence used at passport control into recognising different individuals.

The government on Wednesday backed a law requiring people to either have their photo taken at a passport office or, if they use a photographer, have it submitted in digital form over a secure connection, spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics found that it is possible to morph photos of the faces of different people who are not even related.

A certain degree of similarity is sufficient, such as the eyes being aligned.

Such manipulation of photos is typically invisible to the human eye, the researchers found.


Edited By: Halima Sheji (NAN)

 

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Foreign

United States initiates trade probe into digital services taxes considered by 10 trading partners

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The United States is starting Section 301 investigations into digital services taxes considered by 10 U.S. trading partners, including the European Union (EU), Brazil and India, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced on Tuesday.

“President (Donald) Trump is concerned that many of our trading partners are adopting tax schemes designed to unfairly target our companies,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. “We are prepared to take all appropriate action to defend our businesses and workers against any such discrimination.”

The probe announced Tuesday encompasses digital services taxes that have been adopted or are under consideration by Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, the EU, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, according to a draft Federal Register notice.

In light of the uncertainties arising from COVID-19 restrictions, “USTR is not at this time scheduling a public hearing in these investigations,” the USTR’s Office said.

The United States has launched and completed a Section 301 probe into France‘s digital services tax regime but agreed to delay the imposition of tariffs on the country, as the two sides are negotiating a multilateral deal on international taxation at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It remains to be seen if the digital tax dispute between the United States and other trading partners will intensify in the coming months.

The so-called Section 301, under an outdated U.S. trade law adopted in 1974, allows the U.S. president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions on foreign countries.

The global trading community has become increasingly concerned that the U.S. government’s frequent use of Section 301 would go against the World Trade Organization rules, undermine the multilateral trading system and disrupt the global supply chain.

(XINHUA)

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General news

Gov. Makinde issues 200 digitised Certificates of Occupancy

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Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State  has issued 200 digitised Certificates of Occupancy to the first set of beneficiaries under the State Home Owners’ Charter Scheme which commenced on April 1.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the initiative is to ensure property owners obtain their Certificates of Occupancy within 60 days from the date of submission of application.

Makinde, during the symbolic handing over of the Certificates of Occupancy to seven of the beneficiaries at the Government House in Ibadan, said the initiative had eliminated the bottlenecks that characterised issuance of the document in successive administrations.

“Though there has been various unsuccessful attempts by similar initiatives under previous administrations in the state, with the new initiative by this administration, the problem associated with the processing has been solved for good in Oyo State.

“You will agree with me that anyone who has proper documentation to prove ownership and purpose of property will have peace of mind regarding that property.

“For entrepreneurs, being able to quickly obtain this legal document is important in making business decisions.

” In fact, how quickly such document can be processed can greatly influence an investor’s decision about where to situate a factory or other business premises.

“It is, therefore, government’s responsibility to ensure the right policies are put in place to make the documentation associated with home ownership quick and easy.

“This new platform has all operating equipment and facilities funded by the Oyo State Government, all data will be domiciled on state-owned servers and we will ensure the security and safety of all these documents.

“We have also installed new security features for these documents to checkmate forgery,” he said.

The governor called on those without the certificate to make use of the opportunity to get one, saying the scheme would be on till Dec. 31.

“You can buy the scratch card to obtain the application form for N6,000 and if you are among the first 2,000 applicants, you will get a 15 per cent discount for   processing the  C of O.

“I am pleased to extend this intervention to individuals in all the 33 Local Government Areas and 35 Local Council Development Areas of Oyo state.

“It is my hope that all will take advantage of this opportunity to regularise their home ownership documents and enjoy peace of mind; another perk that comes with legal ownership of property in the state,”  he further stated

Earlier, Mr Abdu-Raheem Abiodun, the state’s Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, had described the initiative as a step in the right direction.

Abiodun said the present administration in the state had reviewed the “inherited logjams” and set up a smooth, prompt and adequate computerised method of processing the certificates and other land title documents within 60 days.

He implored all eligible land owners in the state to subscribe accordingly, saying “this initiative if well supported by all will go a long way to add immeasurable value to individual and corporate land holdings across the state.”

Three  of the beneficiaries, Saheed Adeniyi, Margret Ajibike-Oke and Azees Babatunde, expressed appreciation to the Makinde administration for speedy processing of their Certificates of Occupancy.

(
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Mufutau Ojo (NAN)
)

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Science & Technology

Facebook, Red Cross launch digital campaign against COVID-19

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Facebook says it has launched “AfricaTogether,” a digital campaign to encourage vigilance against COVID-19 in partnership with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Jocelyne Muhutu-Rémy, Facebook’s Strategic Media Partnerships Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, said on Monday that as part of the launch, there would be a digital campaign across Africa and a two-day festival on June 4 and June 5 featuring artists.

“With about 100,000 Covid-19 cases on the continent and containment measures easing in many countries, ‘AfricaTogether’ combines musical and comedy performances with information from COVID-19 first responders and fact-checkers from across Africa.

“It will include a festival with performances by artists such as  Femi Kuti, Ferre Gola, Salatiel, Serge Beynaud, Patoranking,  Aramide and Youssou N’dour.

“There will also be a digital awareness campaign with prevention messages developed with Red Cross and Red Crescent health experts targeting simultaneously Facebook users in 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

“The event will be streamed on Facebook Live on  June 4 in English and hosted by the Nigerian popular actor and comedian Basketmouth and in French on June 5 by the renowned media personality Claudy Siar, ” Muhutu-Rémy said in a statement.

She said to watch the live shows, viewers could tune in to the Facebook Africa page, Red Cross and Red Crescent Facebook pages.

“The spike in the use of online tools during the COVID-19 pandemic shows the social usefulness of digital platforms in difficult times.

“We are seeing many incredible initiatives from artists bringing their communities together on Facebook Live.

The ‘AfricaTogether’ campaign will enable people to learn more about fighting COVID-19, while enjoying entertainment from their favourite African performers.

“This event is one of the many ways that Facebook,  the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are  contributing in the fight against COVID-19 across the continent.

”Facebook continues to work with governments across Sub-Saharan Africa, including partnering with organisations such as health agencies and NGOs  to share accurate information about the situation of COVID-19,” she added.

Mamadou Sow, a long-serving member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, said the COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented crisis, noting that it was affecting everyone regardless of ethnicities and religions.

“African communities so far have responded quickly, but the risk remains very real.

“If we all do our part, we will beat COVID-19. Music is a powerful uniting force and we hope that the ‘AfricaTogether’ festival will bring renewed hope and action against this dangerous disease,” Sow said.

He further said with a network of more than 1.5 million volunteers and staff across the continent, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was on the frontlines of combating COVID-19 in communities through information campaigns.


Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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