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Netherlands to support Nigeria on Ogoni clean-up — Envoy



The Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Marion Kappeyne, on Wednesday said the country was ready to support Nigeria to clean-up decades-long oil spills in Ogoniland.

Kappeyne made the disclosure in Ebube while inspecting ongoing remediation of one of the polluted sites in Ebube community, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers.

She said the clean-up project was one of the Nigerian government’s top priorities that needed the support of all to succeed.

“I came to see things for myself rather than sitting in Abuja and just reading them in the newspapers.

“This part of the country (Niger Delta) is very important, and so, we are following things up to ensure the clean-up is a success,“she said.

She expressed confidence that the clean-up would be carried out in line with global best practice due to collaboration and supervision of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The people are assured that they are not forgotten, as we came to see how we can support the clean-up exercise.

“I understand the impatience as people want to see results in cleaning up of their lands. I can see that work is ongoing and hopefully it will produce results soon.

“However, it will be of no one’s interest that the lands which are being remediated get re-contaminated again,” she said.

Also speaking, the UNEP representative to Nigeria, Mike Cowing, said the global body was satisfied with biological processes being carried out in the Ebube remediation site.

He said that the Federal Government had re-engaged UNEP to strengthen the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for full implementation of the 2011 UNEP recommendations.

“The Ebube site is a site that is going to be less complex. When we move to the heavily contaminated sites, then we will face a more sophisticated remediation approach.

“For site of this nature, what I am seeing now is appropriate and in line with what I had expected.

Cowing said that UNEP had  initiated some training courses and had  taken members of the clean-up governing council to the United Kingdom (UK) for training.

“We took them to the UK to expose them to large remediation projects in the UK, so that they would have an understanding of how projects are done.

“The council members were exposed to the technology, planning, contractual relationship as well as compliance to legislation.

On his part, Dr Marvin Dekil, Project Coordinator of HYPREP, said that contractors handling the clean-up were already using one of the best soil treatment technologies, biocell, for the project.

According to him, biocell was a biological treatment facility that remedies contaminated soil with use of natural micro organisms.

“The contaminated soil is excavated and put into the biocell for bio-remediation treatment to take place. This allows the natural micro organism to degrade the contaminated soil.

“The micro organism degrades the contaminated soil to a level that would be good enough for us to return the soil back to where we took it from,” he said.

Dekil said the clean-up  was the first time the Federal Government would be undertaking such task and, as such, was taking practical steps to ensure its success.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that HYPREP in the Federal Ministry of Environment was set-up by the Federal Government to coordinate the clean-up of oil-rich but polluted Ogoniland.


29 people die as South Sudan clans clash over Nile Island



At least 29 people were killed in South Sudan on Thursday when two rival clans clashed over the ownership of an island on the Nile river.

An Area coordinator, Joseph Deng Mawaat told dpa that the early-morning clash also left nearly 20 people injured.

The clash involved clans from the states of Eastern Lakes and Jonglei with both claiming ownership of the island, which is strategic as a docking site for boats.

Tribal clashes are common in the East African country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

An ensuing civil war left hundreds of thousands dead and millions of people displaced.

Edited & Vetted By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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Crowds hit streets as French pension strike stalls transport



 Protesters took to the streets around France on Thursday as a strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans hit public transport and air traffic.

The Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris was all but deserted in the Monday rush hour, with the departure board showing just seven trains scheduled to leave between then and 6:53 pm (1753 GMT).

State railway company SNCF said only one in 10 long-distance trains would be running, while most of the Paris metro’s 16 lines were either shut down or offering a minimum peak-hour only service.

Many schools have closed, with the Education Ministry saying almost half the country’s teachers had joined the strike.

Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said 20 to 30 per cent of flights had also been cancelled.

Civil aviation authorities said 20 per cent of flights would also have to be cancelled on Friday.

The Eiffel Tower closed for the day, as did the Musee d’Orsay modern art gallery, where an Australian tourist who gave his name as Frank told dpa he’d come there to show his son the museum.

“It’s closed, we’re very disappointed,” he said.

Chinese and Japanese tourists meanwhile struggled to understand the notice about the closure, which was written only in French, English and Spanish.

Outside the closed Opera metro station in central Paris, an Argentinian tourist waiting with a suitcase said she was looking for a bus to the airport.

“I hope my plane will take off,” she added.

With Paris workers encouraged to work from home or use ride-sharing apps and e-scooters, the two working metro lines were not exceptionally busy.

A monitoring site showed road traffic around Paris well below normal.

Paris police ordered shops along the route of a trade union march to close with the march getting under way in the afternoon.

Police chief Didier Lallement said that 6,000 officers would be deployed to secure the protest.

Officers had checked 6,476 people and arrested 65, according to police.

The capital’s last major trade union march, the traditional May Day parade, degenerated into clashes when radical protesters threw missiles at police who responded with charges and copious tear gas.

The hardline CGT trade union accused police at the time of not distinguishing in their response between the radicals and peaceful protesters.

Macron is seeking to implement a campaign promise to replace France’s more than 40 pension schemes with a single universal system that would, he argued, treat all workers equally.

Public transport and public hospital staff are particularly worried about the pension reform plans as they currently benefit from early retirement rights that are likely to be phased out.

Initial proposals suggest that early retirement regimes similar to those currently in place will be kept only for the security forces, firefighters and sailors.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said that Macron’s pension reform would “worsen inequality,” as the new system would be based on whole-career earnings without making allowances for individual or career-related circumstances.

Where public sector workers enjoy earlier retirement rights than people in similar jobs in the private sector, those rights should be extended to all rather than abolished for all, he told RMC radio.

Djebbari acknowledged that the strike could drag on for days.

The Elysee meanwhile said that Macron was following the situation “closely, with calm and determination.”


Edited & Vetted By: Emmanuel Yashim

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Indian rape victim set on fire on her way to court



Police on Thursday said that a 23-year-old woman, who was allegedly raped was set on fire while going to court in northern India, and is currently battling for her life.

The Police added that the woman in Uttar Pradesh state’s Unnao district was on her way to attend a hearing in the case she filed against two men in March.

State police chief OP Singh said in the regional capital Lucknow that five men, including the alleged rapists, were arrested hours later in connection with the attack.

However, senior police officer SN Sabat said that doctors treating the woman said that her condition was critical as she had suffered 70-per cent burn injuries.

Sabat said she would be flown in an air ambulance to New Delhi for better medical care.

“We saw her coming toward us, screaming for help. She had been set on fire. We were scared.

“She had walked for nearly one kilometre before she reached us,’’ an eye witness said.

The latest incident would only add to outrage in India over violence against women, after a 27-year-old veterinary doctor was raped and set on fire near Hyderabad city on Nov. 27.

Protests were held in Indian cities after her charred remains were found by the police.

Despite stricter laws and measures to increase security since the gang-rape and murder of another young woman on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, a high number of such crimes continue to be reported in India.

According to the latest government data available, 33,658 women and girls were raped in India in 2017.

Edited & Vetted By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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Body of Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura given to embassy in Kabul



The body of Tetsu Nakamura, a prominent physician from Japan who was killed in an attack in Afghanistan, has been handed over to the Japanese embassy in Kabul on Thursday.

Many Afghans have called on the government to provide Nakamura a state funeral and asked that the government start awarding an honorary prize in his name.

Nakamura, who headed the NGO Peace Japan Medical Services (PMS), was killed along with five other people when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province on Wednesday.

The spokesman for Nangarhar governor Attaullah Khogyani told dpa that Nakamura’s body was first taken by military helicopter to Kabul on Wednesday evening and was later handed over to the embassy.

Following Nakamura’s death, many Afghans expressed guilt for the country being unable to protect the 73-year-old aid worker who dedicated his life toward the well-being of the war-torn country.

They posted Nakamura’s picture on social media with the words `forgive us.’ And in a video now being shared by social media users, Nakamura says `I have tried to make no enemies.’

Nakamura had worked in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province for several decades and focused on resolving food shortages and malnutrition in Afghanistan, considered the main cause of illness in the country, with an emphasis on farm and irrigation initiatives.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani awarded him honorary Afghan citizenship for his years of humanitarian work.

The Taliban denied it was involved in the attack and no other organisation has claimed responsibility.

Edited & Vetted By: Hadiza Mohammed/Donald Ugwu

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Indonesia sacks airline CEO over smuggling allegation



Indonesia’s enterprise minister on Thursday sacked the head of flag carrier Garuda Indonesia for allegedly smuggling high-end motorcycle parts on a delivery flight from France.

Minister Erick Thohir said: “This is disappointing as we are trying to improve state-owned enterprises’ performance and image.

“Therefore I am dismissing Garuda’s president director.’’

According to the flight manifest, the plane was carrying 10 crew and 22 passengers, including chief executive Ari Askhara, when it arrived at Soekarno Hatta international airport in Banten, Indonesia on Nov. 17.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said that the contraband on board included spare parts of Harley Davidson motorcycles and Brompton folding bicycles.

Indrawati said that the smuggled items could have cost the state up to 1.5 billion rupiah (or 106,000 dollars).

Thohir said that the spare parts are believed to be owned by Ashkara who is thought to have transferred the money to a personal bank account of Garuda’s finance manager in Amsterdam to make the purchases back in April.

The company’s board has to approve Ashkara’s firing.

Edited & Vetted By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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UN says floods kill 280, affect 2.8m others in East Africa



At least 280 people have been killed and more than 2.8 million others affected by unusually heavy rainfall and flooding in eastern Africa, the UN humanitarian agency said on Thursday.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said homes, infrastructure and livelihoods have been destroyed in the hardest-hit areas, and the risk of communicable diseases including cholera is rising.

“Primarily driven by the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the heavy rains are likely to persist into December and to intensify in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,’’ OCHA said in its latest regional Flash Floods Update.

The UN agency said the annual short rains, which ordinarily last from October to December, have been exceptionally heavy in Kenya and affected more than 160,000 people in 31 of the country’s 47 counties.

“At least 132 people have reportedly died, including 72, who were killed by a landslide that buried their homes in West Pokot County,’’ said OCHA.

The storms have destroyed key infrastructure in Kenya, including houses, health facilities and schools, displacing an unconfirmed number of people and disrupting basic services.

Roads and bridges were damaged, hampering effective humanitarian response efforts in affected areas.

In Djibouti, the report says the equivalent of two years’ rainfall fell in one day, causing flash floods that have affected up to 250,000 people, including nine people killed.

“In many areas, the floods are coming on the back of consecutive droughts, while in others people impacted by the floods are also suffering from conflict and violence,’’ said OCHA.

“As families struggle to cope with these compounding and complex shocks, there is a high risk of their adopting negative coping mechanisms, including school drop-out and early marriage,’’ it warned.

According to OCHA, flooding in Somalia has affected 547,000 people, including an estimated 370,000 who have been displaced and 17 killed.

In South Sudan, where 908,000 people have been affected since June, the flooding has submerged entire communities, destroyed or rendered inaccessible basic services and markets.

It also caused crop losses that will result in an early start of the lean season in January.

The UN agency said more than 420,000 people were affected by floods from August to October in Sudan, during which 78 people died and 49,500 homes were destroyed.

It said about 570,000 people have been affected in Ethiopia, including more than 200,000 displaced, and rains have negatively affected the harvest season.

In Burundi, it said 3,100 people were affected by torrential rains in Munyinga province, while in Uganda, flooding and landslides have impacted at least 12 districts, including Bundibugyo district, where more than 4,000 people were affected.

In Tanzania, the death toll is more than 50, including 10 people, who were drowned by a flood-swollen river, the UN agency said.

Edited & Vetted By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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