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Top lawyers give conditions for democracy to flourish in Nigeria

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Top lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Seyi Sowemimo, said on Wednesday that the culture of impunity must be stopped for democracy to take firm root in Nigeria.

Sowemimo told a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that the political class must eliminate impunity and allow parties to make free choices on candidates for democracy to thrive.

Nigeria returned to popular democracy 20 years ago after a ruinous military era that left Africa’s most populous nation prostrate.

On June 12, an election, described as free and fair that businessman Moshood Abiola was poised to win was annulled by veteran military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.

However, 26 years after the annulment, the Federal Government has immortalized Abiola, endorsing June 12 as Democracy Day.

Sowemimo lauded the government for adopting June 12 as Democracy Day to honour Abiola for his sacrifice in setting the path to democracy.

“l commend the government for taking this type of initiative to have June 12 celebrated.

“When we celebrate people like Abiola, we make it easier for others to make sacrifices for the country.

“However, government must ensure that candidates are not imposed on the electorate during elections. Elections should be made free and fair.

“We still have a long way to go to enjoy the dividends of democracy as we wish because whenever we have elections, we still talk about rigging. It shows that a lot needs to improve,” said Sowemimo.

Another lawyer, Mr Daniel Idibia, told NAN that declaring June 12 as a statutory holiday was not sufficient for democracy.

He said that such declaration would remain mere pronouncement unless the dividends of democracy were widely felt.

“We have a big challenge today were a common sachet water seller needs electricity to refrigerate the water in order to make more sells. A welder who welds steel also needs electricity to do his work.

“We experience strikes by workers in education and health sectors now and then.

“All these challenges affect economic development. Therefore, our leaders should emulate what they see in developed countries to develop our country.”

“Those who annulled June 12 are still alife. I am not aware that they have apologised to Nigerians. They should be made to apologise to Nigerians. That’s the way forward.”

Similarly, another senior lawyer, Mr Ogedi Ogu, said “the acceptance of June 12 as Democracy Day is a wakeup call towards the need for a more grounded and robust democracy in the country.

“Therefore, June 12, having been made Democracy Day now offers Nigerians the needed opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of our past heroes.”

He noted, however, that democracy had not been fully strengthened since the return of democracy in 1999.

Ogu said that democracy needed to be improved upon especially, in the area of obedience to the rule of law.

He advised that court orders should be obeyed totally and not selectively, stressing that agencies with prosecutorial powers should prosecute anyone found wanting.

Edited by Silas Nwoha

Omeire Cecilia: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll tops 23,000 after 807 fatalities in a day

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Brazil on Monday said its death toll from the novel coronavirus climbed to 23,473, following 807 fatalities in a single day.

The total number of people who have tested positive for the disease reached 374,898, with a mortality rate of 6.3 percent, according to the Health Ministry.

In the past 24 hours, 11,687 new cases of infection were detected, while a total of 153,833 people have recovered since the pandemic reached Brazil.

The White House on Monday brought forward the effective date of its travel restriction on Brazil, saying in a statement that the measure will now come into force two days earlier, beginning at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday instead of the initial date of Thursday.

Brazil’s Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello warned towns in the interior of the country to brace for the pandemic, which has mainly ravaged Brazil’s larger coastal cities, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Interior cities need to prepare their healthcare networks for a wave of COVID-19 cases, including from smaller surrounding towns, he said.

“We must have the structures that were prepared in the capital and metropolitan regions to receive these people from the interior, where they don’t have these structures,” Pazuello said in a video conference organized by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Brazil’s leading research center for diseases.

Brazil is entering the stage of the pandemic that will see “its dispersion somehow towards the interior,” he said.

At the start of May, some 44 percent of Brazilian cities with 20,000 to 50,000 inhabitants registered cases of infection, according to a study by Fiocruz.

(XINHUA)

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Jordan’s public, private sectors to resume work after over 2-month stoppage

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Both the public and private sectors in Jordan will resume work on Tuesday after more than two months of stoppage as part of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, the government said Monday.

The working hours for the public sector will be from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The work stoppage in Jordan started on March 21.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian health ministry said three cases of coronavirus were reported on Monday, bringing the overall number to 711.

The kingdom has so far carried out 165,109 tests for coronavirus after 1,936 were added on Monday, according to the ministry.

On April 27, China‘s State Development & Investment Corporation, a key partner of Jordan’s Arab Potash Company, donated medical supplies worth 1.2 million U.S. dollars to help Jordan fight COVID-19.

Also in April, Urumchi, capital city of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, also donated a batch of medical equipment to Jordan’s Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.

(XINHUA)

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UK PM’s top aide defends actions during COVID-19 lockdown

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser Dominic Cummings on Monday defended his actions during his first public appearance since a major row erupted over reports that he “broke” Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown rules.

During a press conference in the rose garden of the Downing Street, Cummings told reporters that he had behaved “reasonably”.

The row has dominated newspaper headlines in Britain since it was revealed on Friday that Cummings, together with his wife and their four-year-old son, drove 260 miles (about 418 km) from London to his parents’ home in northeast city of Durham.

A number of MPs from Johnson’s ruling Conservative party stepped up calls Monday for Cummings to resign or be fired as he “flouted the rules of staying at home” repeatedly stressed by the government at the time. Johnson has stood by Cummings, saying Cummings has acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.

During the press conference, Cummings explained that he made the car journey when his wife developed COVID-19 symptoms. He was worried that if he also became ill, which he subsequently did, there would be problems looking after their young son, so he headed to Durham to isolate there for 14 days close to his family members.

“I don’t think it would be reasonable to ask some friend to come and expose themselves to a deadly disease when a 17-year-old niece has offered to do it for me,” he said.

The lockdown rules have always allowed exceptions in certain circumstances, said Cummings.

“It says that in some circumstances you won’t be able to follow the rules and it seems to me that I was in such an exceptional circumstance and I was trying to balance all these very complicated things,” he said.

“I believe I made the right judgement,” said Cummings.

He said there was understandably public anger about the circumstance, but a lot of that anger was based on reports in the media that have not been true.

“I don’t regret what I did,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Top aide to British PM defends actions amid row over lockdown rules

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Defence

London, May 25, 202 Dominic Cummings, a top adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, defended his decision to leave London amid lockdown travel restrictions, saying he acted “reasonably.”

“I did not ask the prime minister about the decision, he was ill himself and he had huge problems to deal with,” Cummings told reporters.

Cummings travelled 430 kilometres from London to his parents’ home in County Durham at the end of March. Both Cummings and his wife were ill at the time and suspected they had the coronavirus.

He and his wife were worried there was “nobody in London [they] could reasonably ask to look after [their] child and expose themselves to COVID-19.”

Calls have mounted for Cummings to resign over the decision, but Cummings said he had “not considered” that.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

 

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Coronavirus cases in Albania top 1,000

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across Albania has exceeded 1,000, health authorities reported on Monday.

Speaking at a daily briefing, Eugena Tomini, an expert from Public Health Institute, said that six coronavirus cases were registered in Albania over the last 24 hours, raising the total to 1,004.

“Since the start of the epidemic, about 79 percent of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have already recovered,” Tomini said.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection reiterated its call on all citizens to be careful, respect physical distance and personal hygiene, especially when the government has decided to ease the majority of restrictive measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

As of Monday, Albania confirmed 32 deaths from coronavirus. Health authorities have tested a total of 14,659 people suspected of being positive with the coronavirus, according to Tomini.

(XINHUA)

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Sport

Bayern Munich’s Thiago to miss top game at Borussia Dortmund through injury

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Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara has been ruled out of Tuesday’s Bundesliga top game against Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich’s coach Hansi Flick said on Monday.

This came to light after the playmaker, who had already missed Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, failed to recover from a muscle injury.

“Thiago did not train today,” Flick told a virtual news conference. “Unfortunately he will miss the game (at Dortmund).”

Bayern Munich are top of the table on 61 points, four ahead of Borussia Dortmund, with seven matches remaining in the campaign.

Victory in Dortmund would send them seven points clear and put them within touching distance of a record-extending eighth consecutive league crown.

“It is a completely different game from the first one (which Bayern Munich won 4-0 earlier this season),” Flick said ahead of the game which will be played in an empty Dortmund stadium that normally sits 80,000 fans.

The Bundesliga restarted 10 days ago with a strict medical protocol banning fans from the stadiums to minimise the risk of infection.

“We are on a good run and have lost only twice in the last 23 games and drawn once. We relish this game. It’s what this job is about and that motivates the players more,” Flick added.
OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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Foreign

Germany’s top court rules against VW in diesel scandal compensation case

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A top German court ruled on Monday that leading carmaker Volkswagen (VW) must pay compensation for a buyer of the VW vehicle fitted with cheat device for emissions tests.

The latest episode of so-called dieselgate scandal sets an important precedent for about 60,000 similar cases.

The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe said in a statement that the buyer of the vehicle is entitled to compensation claims against VW, but the refund will not be the full purchase price, with the car’s mileage being taken into account.

A VW litigation spokesperson said in a statement that the ruling clarifies how the top court assesses the essential basic questions in the proceedings for the majority of the currently pending 60,000 cases.

The company is endeavoring to end these proceedings promptly in agreement with the plaintiffs, seeking “a pragmatic and simple solution with one-off payments,” according to the statement.

Monday’s ruling from the top civil judges basically confirmed the previous buyer-friendly judgment by a regional court in Koblenz. The plaintiffs and the defendants both appealed after the Koblenz court ruling, with the buyer demanding a full refund and the company arguing not paying at all.

The scandal surrounding illegally manipulated exhaust emission levels in millions of diesel cars turned out by VW became public in 2015. The German car giant has so far paid more than 30 billion euros (33 billion U.S. dollars) in regulatory fines and settlements worldwide.

In February, VW and the Federation of German Consumer Organizations reached an agreement on the negotiated 830 million-euro compensation settlement in a landmark action lawsuit, which involved around 260,000 VW customers.

(XINHUA)

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Pressure mounts on British PM over refusal to sack top aide

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday faced continuing pressure after refusing to fire his top aide Dominic Cummings over allegations he broke coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

No fewer than 15 lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservatives have joined calls by the opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, as well as health officials and bishops from the Church of England for Cummings, to resign or be fired.

Cummings reportedly broke lockdown travel restrictions more than once.

He travelled 430 kilometres from London to his parents’ home in County Durham at the end of March while he had coronavirus symptoms, as well as no less than twice in mid-April.

The Press Association (PA) news agency reported that Johnson was later scheduled to host a cabinet meeting on easing of virus restrictions, including proposals to reopen some non-essential businesses.

On Sunday, the prime minister said at a news conference that he had come to the conclusion that Cummings had “followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.”

However, critics said Cummings alleged behaviour risked undermining the government’s policy.

“If you give the impression there’s one rule for them and one rule for us,you fatally undermine that sense of ‘we’re all in this together’,” Stephen Reicher, a member of the government’s advisory group on behavioural science, told broadcaster ITV.

Conservative lawmaker Paul Maynard said Cummings behaviour was “indefensible,” while Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, tweeted: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)

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Bangladesh records highest daily spike with 1,975 new COVID-19 cases, death toll tops 500

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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh reached 35,585, including 1,975 new cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, the biggest daily jump since March 8, a senior health ministry official told a media briefing on television on Monday.

With 21 new deaths, the toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country reached 501 on Monday, said Professor Nasima Sultana, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health.

She said 9,451 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh, which used to record the highest daily increase of 1,873 cases on May 23.

During the last 24 hours, she said 433 more patients were released from hospitals and clinics, bringing the number of recovered patients in the country to 7,334.

(XINHUA)

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Oil & Gas

NNPC says top management appointments on merit

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says professional competence, adherence to the principle of transparency and accountability informed the recent top management appointment executed in the first week of March.

Dr Kennie Obateru, the spokesman for the corporation made this known in a statement issued in Abuja, on Sunday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the corporation in March disengaged some of its staff and appointed new top management staff.

The appointments elicited criticisms from some Nigerians and some Niger Delta leaders.

Obateru explained that the principle of federal character was also a factor in the progression of the newly appointees.

He said many top management officers of the corporation were moved to new positions, while some were promoted based on their verifiable track records of performance.

“Some Chief Operating Officers, Group General Managers and Managing Directors of subsidiaries were affected in what some industry analysts described as the most objective placement exercise in the recent history of the National Oil Company.

Topping the list of the changes, he said, was the re-deployment of the erstwhile Chief Operating Officer (COO), Upstream, Mr Roland Ewubare, to the Ventures and Business Development Directorate as COO.

He said that under the arrangement, Ewubare, got an additional responsibility of business development, besides managing the group’s ventures.

NNPC spokesman said Ewubare’s position as COO Upstream was taken over by Mr Adeyemi Adetunji, erstwhile Chief Operating Officer in charge of Downstream directorate.

He noted that Adetunji was a first-class Mechanical Engineering graduate of the University of Lagos and started his over 30 years career as a maintenance Engineer and later a project Engineer in Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited (Unilever).

Obateru said  that the recent top management appointment also received affirmative action with the re-deployment of Ms Lawrencia Ndupu to the Downstream.

He said that Ndupu was a Physicists and renowned explorationist and started her working career in NNPC in January 1986, adding that through the years, she has held many key positions.

Obateru added that Mr Bala Wunti, the erstwhile Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company was appointed as the new GGM of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS).

“With a chain of experience spanning close to 30 years, Wunti who hailed from the North East, was the initiator of ‘Operation White,’ a system put in place to promote transparency and accountability in the distribution of petroleum products across the country.

“The list also included Mr Lawal Sade as the new Managing Director of the NNPC Trading Company, a subsidiary of corporation.

“ Before then he was the MD of NIDAS, a shipping arm of the NNPC. Mr. Sade had been essentially a marketer in the last 20 years with impressive outcomes.”

Obateru stated that the exercise kept in place Mr Adokiye Tombomieye, from the South-South, as Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing, a highly strategic position in the corporation.

The NNPC spokesperson explained that the new appointments depicted a leadership of the corporation determined on ensuring placement of square pegs in square holes.

He said this was done while not losing sight of geographical spread, in respect of staffing.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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China tells U.S. to stop wasting time in coronavirus battle

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The U.S. should stop wasting time in its fight against the coronavirus and work with China to combat it, rather than spreading lies and attacking the country, the Chinese Government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Sunday.

The Sino-U.S. ties have nosedived since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, with the administrations of President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping repeatedly trading barbs over issues related to the pandemic, especially the U.S. accusations of cover-ups and lack of transparency.

The two top economies have also clashed over Hong Kong, human rights, trade and the U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

State Councillor Wang, speaking at his annual news conference on the sidelines of China’s parliament, expressed his deep sympathies to the U.S. for the pandemic, where the death toll is expected to surpass 100,000 in the coming days, the highest number of any country.

“Regretfully, in addition to the raging coronavirus, a political virus is also spreading in the U.S.

“This political virus is using every opportunity to attack and smear China,’’ said Wang, who is also China’s Foreign Minister.

“Some politicians have ignored the most basic facts and concocted too many lies about China and plotted too many conspiracies.’’

“I want to say here: Don’t waste precious time any longer, and don’t ignore lives,’’ Wang said.

“What China and the U.S. need to do the most is to first learn from each other and share their experience in fighting against the epidemic and help each country fight it.’’

China and the U.S. also need to start coordinating macro policies for their respective economies and the world economy, he added.

China remains prepared to work with the U.S. in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, Wang said, when asked if Sino-U.S. relations would further worsen.

China has always advocated that as the world’s largest developing country and the largest developed country, both of us bear a major responsibility for world peace and development,’’ he said.

China and the U.S. stand to gain from cooperation, and lose from confrontation.’’

Last month, Missouri became the first U.S. state to sue the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus, saying China’s response to the outbreak that originated in the city of Wuhan brought devastating economic losses to the state.

Wang said such lawsuits lacked any legal basis.

“The China of today is not the China of a century ago, and nor is it the world,’’ he added.

“If you want to infringe upon China’s sovereignty and dignity with indiscriminate litigation, and extort the fruits of the hard work of the Chinese people, I am afraid this is a daydream and you’ll only humiliate yourself.’’

Wang also offered his strong support for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, frequent targets of the U.S. criticism.

“To support the WHO is to support saving lives.

“This is the choice any country with a conscience should make,’’ he said.

Trump, who has accused the agency of being “China centric”, has threatened to permanently halt funding to the WHO and to reconsider his country’s membership of the agency.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Foreign

Live COVID-19 updates: Cases in Netherlands top 45,000

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The following are the updates on the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

– – – –

THE HAGUE — The number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands exceeded 45,000, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced on Saturday.

Since Friday 176 people tested positive to COVID-19, raising the total infections to 45,064. “The actual number of infections with the novel coronavirus is higher than the number mentioned here, because not everyone who may be infected is tested for the virus,” the RIVM stated.

– – – –

GAZA — The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza on Saturday reported the first death from COVID-19 in the Palestinian enclave.

In a press statement emailed to reporters, the ministry said the death case is a 77-year-old woman from the district of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip who died at the quarantine hospital near the border with Egypt earlier in the day.

– – – –

HANOI — Vietnam reported no new COVID-19 cases for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday, and no local transmission of COVID-19 for 37 straight days, with its total confirmed cases remaining at 324, according to its Ministry of Health.

There are over 14,700 people being monitored and quarantined, with no deaths from the disease reported so far.

– – – –

TOKYO — The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan increased by 25 to reach 16,543, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities on Saturday.

The number excludes the 712 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.

– – – –

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections rose on Saturday by 11 cases to 1,097 while death toll remained unchanged at 26, the National News Agency reported.

Lebanese officials are adopting localized isolation in some areas to restrict the spread of the virus since they cannot keep the country closed for a long period amid the current economic deterioration.

– – – –

DAMASCUS — Eleven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Syria on Saturday, bringing the overall number of infections in Syria to 70, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said there are 29 active cases in Syria, 24 of which came from outside the country.

– – – –

KATHMANDU — The Nepal Overseas Chinese Business Association has distributed books based on the first-hand experience of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

The “Wuhan in Coronavirus Lockdown: Stories of Courage and Determination” published in Nepali language by Makalu Publication House will be distributed to ministers, leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs, among other prominent figures of Nepal or working in Nepal. The association purchased 200 books from the publisher for distribution on Friday.

– – – –

GENEVA — Globally as of Saturday morning, there have been more than 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), the latest WHO dashboard on the disease showed.

According to the latest WHO figure, as of 9:32 a.m. Geneva time on Saturday, there have been 5,061,476 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 331,475 deaths, reported to WHO.

(XINHUA)

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COVID-19 infections in Netherlands top 45,000

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The number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands exceeded 45,000, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced on Saturday.

Since Friday 176 people tested positive to COVID-19, raising the total infections to 45,064. “The actual number of infections with the novel coronavirus is higher than the number mentioned here, because not everyone who may be infected is tested for the virus,” the RIVM stated.

The number of deaths rose by 23 to 5,811, while the number of people who are or were admitted to hospital increased by 10 to 11,659.

(XINHUA)

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Health

Activist hails Imo gov. for stopping pensions to ex-govs.

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Activist hails Imo gov. for stopping pensions to ex-govs.

Abuja, on Saturday lauded Gov. Hope Uzodimma for repealing the pension and gratuity law that provided for payment of pensions to former Imo governors.

Ekenulo told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that the governor’s action demonstrated selflessness in governance.

He described the action as a roadmap to sustainable development and economic stability in the state, saying that people of Imo would be better for it.

“This shows that the governor is for the people. He is selfless and determined to rescue the economy for the people to enjoy.

“He does not care about his personal gain and benefit but what the totality of Imo people will gain.”

Ekenulo urged Imo people to continue to support the governor, to reposition the state for the greater good of the people.

The activist who called on other states of the federation to replicate the action of Uzodimma, wondered why some former governors would be earning pension together with other official salaries.

Ekenulo explained that the law contravened the 1999 Constitution as amended, which according to him, stipulates that a pensioner must have worked for at least 10 years.

On May 22, Uzodimma signed a bill, repealing pensions and gratuity for former governors and speakers in the state.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

 

 

 

 

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Foreign

Global COVID-19 cases reported to WHO top 5 mln

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Globally as of Saturday morning, there have been more than 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), the latest WHO dashboard on the disease showed.

According to the latest WHO figure, as of 9:32 a.m. Geneva time on Saturday, there have been 5,061,476 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 331,475 deaths, reported to WHO.

In the United States of America, the country hardest hit by the virus, from Jan. 20 to 9:32 a.m. CET of May 23, there have been 1,547,973 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 92,923 deaths.

The Russian Federation, the second worst hit country, has reported 326,448 confirmed cases with 3,249 deaths to the WHO from Jan. 31 to May 23.

In Brazil, now the third on the list of confirmed COVID-19 cases, has reported 310,087 cases with 20,047 deaths to the WHO from Feb. 26 to May 23.

That was followed by the United Kingdom and Spain. From Jan. 31 to Saturday, the two countries have reported respectively 250,912 and 233,037 confirmed cases to the WHO, with a death toll of 36,042 and 27,940, respectively.

In Italy, from Jan. 29 to Saturday, there have been 228,006 confirmed cases, with 32,486 deaths.

(XINHUA)

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U.S. COVID-19 cases top 1.6 mln — Johns Hopkins University

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The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States reached 1,600,481 and the national death toll of COVID-19 rose to 95,921 as of 7:32 p.m. (2332 GMT) Friday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

New York remains the hardest-hit state with 358,154 cases and 28,853 fatalities. Other states with over 50,000 cases include New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Texas, the CSSE data showed.

All 50 U.S. states have started the process of reopening as pushed by President Donald Trump in order to reverse an economic free fall, while health experts have warned that premature moves would lead to more infections and deaths.

Trump said on Thursday that the United States would not close if a second wave of COVID-19 comes.

“People say that’s a very distinct possibility … We’re not going to close the country. We’re going to put out the fires,” Trump told reporters during a Ford manufacturing plant tour in the state of Michigan.

(XINHUA)

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Egypt, EU top diplomats discuss ties, regional issues

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell discussed mutual ties on Friday.

During a phone conversation, both officials highlighted the importance of continuing constructive cooperation between the two sides in order to strengthen the partnership in various fields, Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Shoukry expressed appreciation for the recent support provided by the EU to Egypt to develop its health sector, the statement said, adding that they have also touched ways to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Shoukry and Borrell also discussed many regional issues, especially the latest developments in the Palestinian cause and efforts to resume the peace process based on the two-state solution.

The latest developments in Libya were also discussed, where the Egyptian minister stressed the importance of reaching a comprehensive political settlement, and the need to restore security and eliminate terrorism in order to achieve the desired stability for the Libyan people.

They discussed the issue of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, stressing the importance of reaching an agreement and refraining from taking any unilateral measures.

(XINHUA)

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Iran’s armed forces to respond to U.S. military threats: top commander

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Iran’s top military commander said Friday that Iranian armed forces monitor U.S. military movements in and far beyond the region and will respond to their threats against Iran’s interests, Press TV reported.

Iran’s armed forces have “a thorough intelligence command of the status, location, tactics, and movements of enemies, including America, … in the region and remote territories,” Mohammad Baqeri, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said in a statement on Friday.

Iran’s armed forces are ready to “give an appropriate response to any miscalculated move by those forces against … Iran’s national interests anywhere in the world,” Baqeri was quoted as saying.

The remarks by the Iranian top commander came after the White House announced last week that the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to the crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Iran’s defense minister on Wednesday said that moves causing any insecurity to the oil tankers and maritime trade routes is in violation of the international law and would draw reaction of international institutions and countries.

(XINHUA)

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Japan’s Abe, justice minister under pressure as top prosecutor quits for gambling

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Justice Minister Masako Mori came under pressure from opposition party members Friday to take account for a scandal involving Japan’s second-highest ranking prosecutor gambling during the the coronavirus state of emergency.

The pair have also come under fire for Hiromu Kurokawa, former head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, allegedly favored by Abe and his administration, being allowed to stay in his post beyond the retirement age for prosecutors.

“I have been entrusted with stopping the spread of coronavirus, and protecting the health and lives of the people as well as employment and businesses,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, having said he has no plans to step down to account for the scandals.

“It will be a very difficult road ahead, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there can’t be a delay in implementing judicial policy,” Mori, for her part, told a press briefing on the matter, having sough the opinion of Abe who supported her staying on in her role.

The opposition camp, however, have accused the pair of not assuming their political responsibility over the ordeals.

Jun Azumi, from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said that neither Abe nor Mori had “assumed political responsibility at all.”

Kurokawa’s resignation was formally approved by the Cabinet on Friday, a day after he tendered his resignation after admitting he played mahjong for money with reporters on multiple occasions during the coronavirus state of emergency.

The senior prosecutor played mahjong on May 1 and May 13 for money with two reporters working for the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and an employee from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, according to a scoop carried in the online edition of the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday, prior to the print version being released the following day.

Reports claim that Kurokawa played mahjong a total of four times with the reporters after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency for Tokyo and several other prefectures on April 7.

The emergency period was then expanded to the whole country and officially extended to the end of May. It is still effective for Tokyo and neighboring regions as well as Hokkaido, with social distancing measures still in place, as well as stay-at-home requests, to further curb the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.

Mori described Kurokawa’s actions as being “truly inappropriate and extremely regrettable.” She added that he had been formally admonished for his wrongdoing.

Kurokawa, for his part, said in a statement that he was “deeply reflecting on his thoughtless actions.”

Kurokawa hit the headlines in January when the Cabinet permitted him to remain in his post despite having reaching the retirement age of 63 for prosecutors.

Amid criticism of his tenure being extended past the retirement age, a possible breach of the law regarding the Public Prosecutors Office, the government along with the ruling coalition set about trying to push legislation to revise the law to raise the retirement age for prosecutors to 65.

The controversial move, seen as favoritism towards Kurokawa as it would allow him to at some point become the nation’s highest ranking prosecutor, was met with a harsh backlash of condemnation from opposition parties and the public.

On Monday, Abe decided to postpone the seeking of passage of the contentious bill aimed at extending the retirement age of public prosecutors.

Many opposed to the bill believe the move would have led to the undermining of the independence of prosecutors and could lead to the partisan appointment of personnel being made by the government.

The Japanese hashtag meaning “I oppose the revision of the public prosecutors office law” began trending on Twitter from May 8 and has attracted wide swathes of public support as well as increasing support from influential celebrities.

As for Kurokawa’s gambling gaffe leading to his wish to resign, the former top prosecutor could be facing criminal charges and slapped with a fine of up to 500,000 yen (4,600 U.S. dollars), as Japanese law prohibits unauthorized gambling.

(XINHUA)

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Reported coronavirus cases in Portugal top 30,000

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Portugal on Friday reported 288 new cases of coronavirus infection in the last 24 hours, raising the tally to 30,200 cases, health authorities confirmed.

A further 12 people had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the 24-hour period, taking the death toll to 1,289 in Portugal.

The country’s northern region has the highest number of deaths (725), followed by the region of Lisbon and the Tejo Valley (300), the Center (233), the Algarve (15), the Azores (15) and Alentejo, which registers only one death, with the Autonomous Region of Madeira remaining without a death record.

A total of 7,590 people have recovered from the disease, 1,138 more than the previous day, the health authorities said.

Currently, 576 patients are hospitalized. Of them, 84 are in intensive care units, while another 2,257 tests are awaiting laboratory results.

Health authorities also reported that 26,189 people are under surveillance in the country.

Portugal‘s Director-General of Health Graca Freitas told reporters that all safety protocols are being respected in order to release the full capacity of flights, a measure that was announced by the government for the month of June.

(XINHUA)

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