President Donald Trump on Tuesday rejected the possibility of U.S. lawmakers censuring him over accusations he improperly pressured Ukraine to probe a political rival, as a congressional committee prepared to layout Democrats’ case for impeachment.
Trump, speaking at a wide-ranging, nearly hour-long news conference at the NATO summit in London, lashed out at Democrats in the House of Representatives leading the impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine matter.
Trump also denounced the censure idea raised by some members of Congress as “unacceptable”.
The Democratic-controlled House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on its findings later on Tuesday.
The matter will then go to the House Judiciary Committee, which will launch its proceedings on Wednesday.
The full House would then vote on the formal impeachment charges, setting up a trial in the Republican-led U.S. Senate if it passes the lower chamber.
So far, analysts doubt Trump’s fellow Republicans would convict and remove him from power, although some lawmakers have raised the idea of censure in recent days as a way to rebuke the president’s actions without the risk of removal from office.
“I did nothing wrong. You don’t censure somebody when they did nothing wrong,” Trump said in London.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Monday said the panel was finalising its report for a public release on Tuesday, with panel members expected to vote on it Tuesday night.
Republicans, in a prebuttal report released on Monday, said that Democrats had not established that Trump had committed an impeachable offense.
At issue is whether the Republican president misused the power of his office to pressure Kiev to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Lawmakers and the public have heard testimony from current and former officials that military aid was withheld from Ukraine.
A White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was conditioned on Kiev probing Biden and his son Hunter as well as a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
(Edited & Vetted By: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim)
REPORT: COVID-19: Insecurity, lack of government support impeding farming in Niger
COVID-19: Insecurity, lack of government support impeding farming in Niger
As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages Nigeria and the rest of the world, the effect on food security may have to be properly addressed by all the three tiers of government to reduce the hardship associated with food scarcity.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Desalegn Boshe, warned that 80 million Africans risk extreme poverty if the COVID-19 response is not focused on food security, agribusiness and rural development.
The two statesmen warned that the continent could be the worst hit from the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic as a result of the disruptions of the food ecosystem.
This scenario is playing out in the agriculture sector in Niger state where members of the Smallholders Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) are faced with peculiar challenges in their quest to feed their families and the country.
The women from Suleja, Kontagora, Rijau, Paiko and Lavun Local Government Areas of the state shared their experiences with the News Agency of Nigeria .
Mrs Mary Hamzaranda, the state Coordinator SWOFON, said that the novel Coronavirus pandemic lockdown was preventing the farmers from going to their farms as security agencies stop and turn them back.
“The COVID-19 has prevented us from going to the farm; you know that some crops have a season. If you don’t cultivate them at the right time, they will not produce any meaningful thing for the season, then the investment is wasted.
“Our children no longer go to school, so they are just at home eating. They even eat more than three square meals per day because they are idle, while our husbands cannot go to work to earn money to cater for the family,” she said.
Hamzaranda, who is also the Coordinator of Kainyuwa Women Cooperative Society in Suleja local government of the state, said that under the COVID-19 movement restrictions, transportation was a challenge as few seen on free days increased their fares.
“We spend more money now transporting labourers, inputs and implements to the farm,” she said adding that the challenges caused by the pandemic have made the daily labourers who cultivate the land for the group to increase their charges.
The State Coordinator said the farmers have not received any palliative as a group or individually from the government since COVID-19 started.
Hamzaranda said that the Federal and state governments’ assistance for members of the organisation would enhance their activities and increase food production not only in the state but the country at large.
“We are poor subsistence farmers that pulled resources together due to inadequate funds. If we get any support from the government, in the form of loans, inputs and equipment it will help us to increase food production for our families and other Nigerians,” she said.
According to Hamzaranda, the women have resorted to farming on plots of land in residential areas as suspected bandits kidnap farmers and demand for ransom.
“The bandits also rape women and sometimes kill their victims when the ransom is not paid,” she said and decried a situation where herdsmen bring their livestock to graze on crops, causing farmers to lose their investments.
“Instead of you to challenge Fulani herdsmen, you run for your dear life. If you question them, you may be attacked,” she said.
The 30-member Suleja group cultivates rice, maize, soybeans and beans.
NAN reports that SWOFON, with over 10, 228 registered members in Niger State, is a coalition of women farmer groups across Nigeria, representing over 500,000 grassroots women farmers.
In Niger, the organisation has representations across the 25 Local Government Areas of the state and it serves as a forum for articulating the challenges and engagements of the women farmers whose contributions have assisted in the drive towards food security and sustainability.
To address the challenges faced by small scale farmers like the women in Niger due to the COVID-19, the federal government promised to provide some palliatives and announced some stimulus packages.
One of the measures targeted at farmers is the three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni, and FarmerMoni loans. Farmers who receive loans under the Social Intervention Program, SIP, would have a three-month breather before repaying.
Being women and mostly the breadwinners for their families, smallholder women farmers were expected to be beneficiaries of both the food distributed to households and the Conditional Cash Transfer, particularly, the additional one million households ordered by the President to be included in the National Social Register.
However, from the responses of the women, they had not benefitted from any of the support promised by the government and are unable to have yields like in past years.
Hajiya Aishatu Ahmed, Coordinator, Alheri Women Farmers Cooperative, Kontagora local government area said that the 20-member group who engaged in wet season farming waited for the rains to come, but the pandemic and its challenges is now a big threat to this year’s farming activities.
Ahmed said that the COVID-19 lockdown affected the socio-economic lives of the members negatively as the cost of living has increased.
“People cannot move freely anymore to avoid contracting the disease. There may be hunger next year if the COVID-19 is not tackled because our families are at home eating what we produced last season. The free movement allowed by the government is not enough to provide our family needs and also attend to our farms properly,” she said.
According to her, some of their husbands who go out daily to work and support the family and the farming activities can no longer move freely for fear of being arrested by security agencies.
“Some of the men now have no money to take care of their families as a result of no daily job during the COVID-19. What they do in the morning is that they go out leaving the women and children at home.
“No woman will want to see her children crying because of hunger, she must do something. You can see that life has not been easy with women and children under the COVID-19,” she said.
Ahmed said that during the 2019 harvest, suspected bandits and herdsmen stole farm produce from the farms, making farmers to lose their investments.
She said that the women never got any intervention and palliative from both the federal government and the state before and during the COVID-19.
“We were told to apply for government intervention and we did until now we have not seen anything,” she said.
Ahmed said that inadequate funding was affecting their farming activities as family members also feed on their farm produce leaving small quantity for sell.
She said that the women cultivate beans on over two hectares of land and harvests 40 bags of the commodity measuring 75kg each from the farmland.
She said that out of the beans, 30 bags were sold at N8,000 per bag and the proceeds invested in this year’s farming activities, while the balance of 10 bags was shared among members for consumption.
Ahmed said that there was a need to assist women farmers as they produce food for consumption and commercial purpose.
“We want the government to support us so that we can produce enough food for our families and for commercial purpose. We are trying our best as women farmers but we need financial assistance to expand our farmland and increase food production,” she said.
Hajiya Zainab Yusuf, a subsistence farmer in Kontagora, who practices mixed farming, said that she cultivates in both wet and dry season.
Yusuf, a retired civil servant cultivates rice, maize, beans, okra and pepper on three hectares of land where she also established small poultry and livestock farms.
She said that her supportive husband has been bedridden for some time now, while her 25-year-old daughter, Miss Hussaina Yusuf who assists her with farm work was preparing for her final year programme in the university.
“If supported, I will use any help from government or development partners to improve my agri-business in order to sell farm products and make money to meet my family needs,” she said.
The daughter, Hussaina, a final year student of Physics with Electronics Engineering at Federal University Birnin Kebbi told NAN that her mother has been using the proceeds from her agri-business to fund her education.
Hussaina who said that she has been supporting the mother for the past 10 years noted inadequate funds as part of the challenges of the rural women farmers.
She said that the mother only received financial support from her sick father in the past, but none from the government.
Hussaina said that there was a need to help the women farmers with loans, inputs such as agro-chemicals, fertilisers, improved seedlings and gender-friendly equipment such as the power tillers, hand planters and others.
Hajiya Aishatu Usman, Coordinator, Himad Women Farmer Cooperative Society in Rijau local government area said that the 100 members of the group cultivate maize, rice, beans, groundnut and millet on four hectares of land.
Usman, who said that the farmers only practice wet season farming, disclosed that they produce 50 bags of rice and 50 bags of maize measuring 75kg each per annum.
A bag of the processed rice sells for N32,000, while maize goes for N17,500 per bag.
The Coordinator said that the COVID-19 lockdown was affecting them negatively because they have consumed almost all the foodstuffs as a result of pressure by family members.
“The food items we reserved for consumption have reduced drastically. We have exhausted the proceeds made from sales of our farm produce because the prices of foodstuffs and condiments increased during the lockdown. Right now we have no money to go back to the farm unless we borrow,” she said.
She urged the government to increase budgetary allocation to agriculture to provide inputs and implements to farmers at subsidized rates, adding that this would attract other women into agri-business.
“Inadequate funds have been our problem as rural people, then suddenly the COVID-19 challenges worsened it,” she said.
Usman said that the incessant attacks on farmers by suspected bandits has limited them to farm at residential areas instead of going to cultivate the arable land in the forest.
She said that in the past, the group never benefitted from the federal and state government intervention programmes such as Anchor Borrowers Programme, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Value Chain Development Programme and FADAMA programme implemented by some selected farmers in the state.
Hajiya Jumai Bala, Coordinator, Sati Women Cooperative Society, Paikoro local government area, said that 30 farmers make up the group practicing mixed cropping on individual farmlands.
Bala said that out of the 30 members, 10 are in charge of marketing their farm produce, while 20 are farmers, adding that in the wet season, the farmers cultivate crops such as rice, maize, melon and yam.
The Coordinator said that the group has off-takers from Owerri and Onitsha who come to purchase their farm produce before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, with the COVID-19, they now transact business through the banks and the commodities they ordered would be way-billed to them.
Bala noted that before the pandemic, the farmers had unhindered access to their farms, attended to their crops as at when due, but now the COVID-19 has led to additional challenges.
“The whole family is just at home eating and the little work we do now does not correspond with what we eat and the money we spend because of the lockdown. COVID-19 has compounded other problems faced by the women farmers, many of us may not meet their targets of bumper harvest this year,” she said.
She said that agri-business was capital intensive as the group which depends on daily manual labour also hires tractors at a high rate.
Bala said that members of the group in Aduni have stayed away from their farms recently as suspected bandits occupy their farmlands, kidnapping farmers and demanding for ransom.
“After investing huge amount of money on a farm sometimes we lose the greater part of the investment to animals,” she said.
Also speaking on her experience, Hajiya Fatima Abdullahi, president, Fahab Women Farmers Association, Lavun local government area, said that the group numbering 121 farmers were into the rearing of livestock.
“When four cows out of the five we had died, we sold the remaining one and used the little money to cultivate maize,” she said.
Abdullahi said that the farmers are planning to add other crops such as groundnut and soya beans on over two hectares of land, but said the main challenge is inadequate funds, coupled with the current COVID-19.
“We have been to the state Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to link us with the various federal government intervention programmes without any good result,” she said.
She said that the maize planted by the farmers need constant weeding and checks to avoid pests and stop herdsmen from bringing their livestock to graze on the crops.
“Depending on the weather, we are supposed to check the crops frequently but we cannot due to the lockdown. The pandemic has made it impossible for our labourers to come over to help us, so I don’t think that we will achieve much this year,” she said.
The Group’s Leader lamented that the farming season has fully commenced and they were yet to access some farmlands owing to COVID-19 challenges and insecurity.
In order to tackle the challenges of all categories of farmers in Niger, the state government on June 4 inaugurated the 2020 farming season and also provided subsidies for essential farming inputs to all farmers in the state including the women small scale farmers.
According to the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, the government will now provide subsidies for fertilisers, assorted seeds and agro-chemicals to small scale farmers using the private sector.
“The focus of Niger state government this year is to mobilise women farmer groups to achieve their targets. Any women group into agriculture will be supported to get the available inputs and implements,” he said.
He said that for this year’s farming season, 15,000 metric tons of fertilisers made up of 10,000 metric tons of NPK and 5,000 metric tons of Urea would be delivered to designated government fertiliser stores in the 25 Local Government Areas of the state for sell to farmers.
*This report was made possible with support from the International Budget Partnership (IBP)
#### If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria
Trump supporters to get temperature checks, hand sanitizer, masks at Tulsa rally
Supporters of United States President Donald Trump will receive temperature checks, hand sanitizer and masks before entering his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma later this week, manager of the reelection campaign said Monday.
There will be precautions for the heat and bottled water as well, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told CNBC that masks will be optional but each attendee of the Tulsa rally will receive one.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump claimed Oklahoma “has done very well” in addressing the coronavirus outbreak.
“Oklahoma is at a very low number,” Trump said. “They’ve done really fantastic work.”
As of Monday, there were more than 8,400 coronavirus infections in Oklahoma with 359 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Nationwide, there have been over 2.1 million confirmed cases and more than 116,000 deaths.
United States Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that Oklahoma has “flattened the curve.”
“Their hospital capacity is abundant. The number of cases in Oklahoma — it’s declined precipitously, and we feel very confident going forward with the rally this coming weekend,” Pence said.
After a public outcry against its timing, Trump rescheduled the Tulsa rally, originally scheduled for Friday, the Juneteenth, a day that memorializes the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa was home to one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the nation’s history, where many African Americas were massacred 99 years ago.
The rally will come after nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month.
The editorial board of Tulsa World, a local newspaper, on Monday called on Trump to reconsider hosting the rally.
“Tulsa and the nation remain on edge after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the board wrote. “There may also be confrontation and inappropriate behavior from some.”
It also added that the city “is still dealing with the challenges created by a pandemic.”
“The city and state have authorized reopening, but that doesn’t make a mass indoor gathering of people pressed closely together and cheering a good idea,” according to the editorial. “There is no treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine. It will be our health care system that will have to deal with whatever effects follow.”
Trump pushed back against the criticism, tweeting on Monday that the “Far Left Fake News Media” is “trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies” despite having “no problem” with the massive protests that have formed across the nation following Floyd’s death.
“Won’t work!” Trump tweeted.
A registration form for the Tulsa rally says, “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” as well as the rally site or organizers, “liable for any illness or injury.”
On Monday, Trump also tried to downplay concerns over a rising number of coronavirus cases in some states, attributing them to more testing.
“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Without testing, or weak testing, we would be showing almost no cases,” he said additionally in a tweet. “Testing is a double edged sword – Makes us look bad, but good to have!!!”
Lagos Speaker mourns Osinowo, says House lost a political stabiliser
The Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, has commiserated with the family of Sen. Bayo Osinowo who died at age of 64.
Obasa, in a condolences message in Lagos on Monday, said that Lagos Assembly had lost a political stabilizer.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the late Sen. Osinowo was a four-term member of Lagos House of Assembly, representing Kosofe Constituency I, before moving on to National Assembly.
The speaker said that the late politician helped many to resolve their socio-political problems because of the sagacity and wisdom he applied to issues.
Obasa said the death of Osinowo, who representated Lagos East in the Senate, had come as a rude shock many in the Lagos House of Assembly were yet to recover from.
“Not many could believe that the ebullient and ever-smiling Pepperito, like a candle in the wind, had been blown out.
“Even with the evidence that death has done its worst, it is still difficult to come to terms that a political pillar and peacemaker is gone.
“For the 16 years (2003- 2019) he was in the Lagos State House of Assembly representing the good people of Kosofe Constituency 1, many loved him for the stabilising role he played at every point in the period.
“Throughout his stay in the House, many ran to him for solutions to their socio-political problems because of the sagacity and wisdom he applied to issues,” he said.
Obasa said the Lagos Assembly Muslim community would forever be grateful for his fatherly role and financial commitment to the building of the ultra-modern mosque within the assembly complex.
Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Spotlight: Trump to sign executive order on police reform amid intensifying outcry
United States President Donald Trump said on Monday that he will sign an executive order on police reform on Tuesday.
“The overall goal is we want law and order and we want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“This is about law and order, but it’s about justice also,” he said.
The move comes amid growing calls for action following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota late last month, which has triggered nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racism.
The outcry has intensified after a white police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old African American man, in Atlanta, Georgia last week.
“The trust that we have with the police force is broken and the only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change with the police department,” Brooks’s cousin said Monday.
Asked about the Brooks case on Monday afternoon, Trump called it “very disturbing.”
“I thought it was a terrible situation,” he said. “I studied it closely. I’m going to get some reports done today, very strong reports, and we’ll have a little more to say about it tomorrow.”
Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from organ damage and blood loss from the wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement on Sunday.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Brooks, was fired. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned over the shooting.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office is hoping to announce a decision about possible charges by the middle of next week.
Brooks died after a confrontation with police officers who were responding to a complaint that he was asleep in the drive-thru of a restaurant.
Police said the officers tried to take Brooks into custody after he failed a sobriety test, which led to a struggle between the two sides. Police claimed that Brooks, while allegedly resisting, grabbed an officer’s Taser and ran off with it.
Footage capturing the scene from the restaurant’s parking lot showed that Brooks turned around and appeared to point the stun gun at the police officers before being shot.
An ambulance transferred Brooks to a local hospital, where he died after undergoing surgery.
The shooting prompted protests over the weekend in Atlanta, and the restaurant where the shooting took place was set aflame.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Monday that she is signing a series of administrative orders to reform the use of force within the Atlanta Police Department.
Bottoms, speaking to reporters, said that she and the city will continue to do what the city needs to do to ensure all Atlantans are treated with dignity and respect.
“We saw the worst happen on Friday night with Mr. Brooks. It angered me and it saddened me beyond words,” she said. “Burning down buildings will not get us change in this city because if anything it is going to erase the message and it is going to eclipse what this is all about.”