Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Friday ordering Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia museum to be handed over to the country’s religious authority and reopened as a mosque.
Erdogan shared the decree on Twitter with the caption “congratulations’’.
It was not immediately clear when the compound, originally built in the 6th century, would be open to Muslim worshippers.
It was founded as a church, later converted into a mosque, and then operated as a secular museum that is a magnet for tourists.
The decree was signed by Erdogan just over an hour after Turkey’s top administrative court overturned an earlier 1934 decree that made the Hagia Sophia a museum.
In justifying its ruling, the court said the Hagia Sophia is actually registered as a mosque and the property of a foundation established by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who in 1453 captured Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, and turned the already 900-year-old Byzantine church into a mosque.
The court was reviewing a 2016 petition by a little-known association, which argued the Hagia Sophia was the property of Sultan Mehmed II.
It had also argued a signature by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern secular Turkish republic, on the 1934 cabinet decision was forged and thus invalid.
“The Council of State has corrected a wrong decision made 86 years ago,’’ the petitioning association’s lawyer, Selami Karaman, told dpa by phone.
The verdict comes as a result of long-standing calls by Turkish Islamic hard-liners to turn the UNESCO heritage site back into a mosque.
The United States, Russia and Greece, along with UNESCO, expressed concern ahead of the ruling.
“The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,’’ Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Vladimir Legoida, spoke of Friday’s court ruling, in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.
Erdogan earlier this month rejected international criticism as an “attack” on Turkey’s sovereignty.
Ahead of the decision on Friday, the Police barricaded the area around the Hagia Sophia.
A small group of people chanted Islamic and nationalist slogans, raising their index fingers and shouting “God is Great” behind a police barricade, footage from state news agency Anadolu showed.
The decision could undermine the universal value of the site and trigger a heritage review, UNESCO warned ahead of the court decision.
A cultural landmark for both Christians and Muslims, the Hagia Sophia attracted 3.7 million visitors in 2019, according to Istanbul governor’s office.
The mosque conversion “will disappoint millions of Christians around the world’’, Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian Church, said in a statement earlier this month.
Karaman said the Hagia Sophia may not be able to be opened for Muslim worship immediately due to logistical issues including covering Christian symbols prohibited in mosques.
Pro-government media recently suggested stretching a curtain over the symbols, among them a well-known mosaic face of an angel uncovered in 2009.
Long a reminder of Turkey’s secular constitution to many with its neutral position, Hagia Sophia hosted an Islamic ceremony accompanied by a call to prayer back in 2016, the first such event in 84 years.
“Hagia Sophia Mosque” hashtag was a trending topic on Turkish Twitter on Friday, with members of the Cabinet also congratulating the conversion.
Lawmakers applauded as they stood up while the parliament speaker read out loud Erdogan’’s order, state broadcaster TRT footage showed.
Leader of main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, earlier this month accused Erdogan of “using as a political tool” the Hagia Sophia issue.
A recent poll by Turkey’s Metropoll found that 44 per cent of Turks believe the government brought Hagia Sophia on the agenda to divert attention from economic troubles.
Turkish media have reported that Islamic prayers could be held there on July 15, the fourth anniversary of a failed coup by a faction in the military.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
Nadal to skip United States Open due to COVID-19 concerns, as organisers announce entries
World number two Rafa Nadal confirmed on Tuesday that he would not defend his United States Open crown this year at Flushing Meadows.
His announcement came as organisers released the singles entry list for the Grand Slam.
“After many thoughts I have decided not to play (at) this year’s United States Open,” Nadal said on Twitter.
”The situation is very complicated worldwide, and the COVID-19 cases are increasing. It looks like we still don’t have control of it.
“We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play.
”I understand and thank (everyone) for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year.
“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”
The United States has the highest tally in the world with more than 4.7 million confirmed novel coronavirus cases and nearly 156,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
World number one Novak Djokovic, a three-times champion in New York, headlines the men’s list along with last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev.
There are other top 10 players, including Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
Swiss Roger Federer, a five-times United States Open champion, will also be absent after the 38-year-old was forced to undergo knee surgery in June which prematurely ended his 2020 season.
Nine of the top 10 women’s players, including 23-times Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and holder Bianca Andreescu, are on the entry list along with 2018 champion Naomi Osaka.
As many as 13 Grand Slam champions are in the women’s draw.
These include Romania’s Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion and 2018 French Open winner, and this year’s Australian Open champion American Sofia Kenin.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said eight additional wildcard entries would be selected in both the men’s and women’s fields.
Organisers said the seedings would be announced closer to the start of the tournament which is scheduled for Aug. 31.
A number of players are also set to take part in the Aug. 20 to Aug. 28 Western & Southern Open in New York, which serves as a warm-up event for the United States Open.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)
Digital economy: Nigeria must shift focus from certificate to skills – Pantami
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has advocated for shifting of focus from certificate to skills education for the actualisation of Nigeria’s digital economic drive.
Pantami made the call at the Graduation Lecture of the National Defence Collage Course 28, titled; “Digital Economy and National Development in Nigeria”, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister added that emphasis on certificate must be reduced in engaging labour force, urging that focus should be shifted to skills if the nation must catch up with development.
He said that many developed and developing countries such as China, United States and Morocco had shifted attention to skills rather than certificate, adding that many of them had established skills centres.
According to him, certificate is important but secondary to skill and that is why we must pay attention to skills in our journey to digital economy.
“The digital literacy and skills pillar recognises the fact that citizens are the greatest assets in any economy, including the digital economy. It will support the development of a large pool of digitally literate and digitally skilled citizens.
“We recently provided a platform, the DigitalNigeria.gov.ng platform, to enable Nigerians receive training in diverse digital skills. Over 36,000 Nigerians have enrolled on the platform since the 2nd of April, 2020.
“We are championing a paradigm change that lays emphasis on skills, in preference to merely having degrees without skills.
“The National Defence College is an institution that supports the development of skills and there are many digital techniques that can support the great work that you are doing here,’’ he said.
Pantami stated that the digital economy was a prime catalyst for development, adding that in less than one year, government’s modest efforts had already yielded remarkable results.
According to him, the recent first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that ICT contributed an unprecedented 14.07 per cent to Nigeria’s total real GDP.
He explained that emerging technologies came with different solutions to security challenges of every nation such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotic technology, drone and many more.
“These are some of the emerging technologies that will go a long way in promoting security of nations. The security officials are in better position to look into and see how to customize them and make use of them.”
Also, the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, said the Federal Government had taken steps to adopt, adapt and internalise the digital economy in a functional manner.
Magashi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, said it was important that security and defence establishments show more than a cursory interest in the digital economy.
He added that the adaptation of digital economy could result in increased cybercrimes thus undermining national security.
“I wish to commend the Commandant, staff and the entire College community for their collective efforts in pursuing the ideals of the College.
“In particular, I commend you for organising the graduation lecture, which was exciting, educative and would be helpful to the economic and security needs of the Nigerian nation,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Commandant of the collage, Rear Adm. Markson Kadiri, said the lecture had become a key component of the training programme of the College and a major highlight of its annual graduation ceremonies.
Kadiri said that a total of 107 participants had successfully completed the course comprising 67 officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, seven Senior Police Officers and 15 participants from key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Others according to him, include 18 senior military officers from the Armed Forces of friendly nations.
“The Course was conducted under the theme “Economic Diversification and National Development in Nigeria”. Economic diversification is a broad based strategy designed to cause positive and multi-sectoral economic growth and development,’’ he said.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)
China’s A-share market sees IPO boom in July
In July, IPOs in the country’s A-share market raised a record amount of 109.81 billion yuan (about 15.73 billion United States dollars), surpassing 100 billion yuan in a single month the first time, said the paper.
A total of 52 firms were listed in July, accounting for 30 per cent of the total number of IPOs in the first seven months of 2020, which stood to 169.
In breakdown, the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange attracted 35 listings while the Growth Enterprise Market of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange hosted 43 IPOs from January to July, the paper reported.
Meanwhile, the STAR market, or the sci-tech innovation board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, saw 73 companies listed during the same period.
The stock market posted stronger gains amid the robust IPO activities, the paper reported in July, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, Shenzhen Component Index and ChiNext Index, China’s NASDAQ-style board of growth enterprises, went up 10.9 per cent, 13.72 per cent and 14.65 per cent, respectively.
Experts say that sufficient liquidity has created conditions for high-quality companies in different industries to raise funds in the A-share market, thus directing funds from the capital market to the real economy.
Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Ford Motor’s CEO steps down amid waning investors’ confidence
The Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company, Jim Hackett, is stepping down on Oct. 1 after three years at the helm.
In a statement on Tuesday, the American multinational automaker said Hackett would be succeeded by Jim Farley, its Chief Operating Officer.
According to reports, Hackett’s exit is coming amid the company’s $11 billion (N4 trillion) global restructuring programme said to be floundering.
Reuters reports that the No. 2 United States carmaker also “faces slumping demand in China, its second-largest market’’.
The 65-year-old outgoing CEO failed to secure investors’ confidence in his leadership amid a sharp crash in the value of the company’s stock under his watch.
Under his leadership, Ford has struggled with product launch problems involving the Ford Explorer, the Lincoln Navigator and the Police Interceptor.
But shares of the company rose by 2.8 per cent in early trading, on Tuesday, according to the news agency.
He will be the Ford’s fourth chief executive officer since the 2008 economic crash, reports say.
Edited By: Josephine Obute/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)