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Anambra State electoral commission office fire a ”setback” – INEC says

Previous fires have occurred in Abia state, also in the southeast, and the central state of Plateau

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Thousands of handheld devices needed to verify identities at Nigeria’s election this weekend have been destroyed in a fire at an electoral commission office in the country’s southeast.

The Independent National Electoral Commission said on Tuesday evening that the fire — the third at INEC offices in the last 12 days — broke out in Anambra state.

“There was no fatality or injury reported. Initial assessment, however, confirms that a total of 4,965 of the Smart Card Readers were destroyed in the inferno,” it added.

The machines would have been used to read biometric identity cards containing personal details of voters at Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The head of INEC’s information and voter education committee, Festus Okoye, said the loss of the machines was “a setback” but spare readers were being deployed from elsewhere.

“With the steps so far taken, the commission remains confident that the election in the state will proceed as scheduled,” he added.

Previous fires have occurred in Abia state, also in the southeast, and the central state of Plateau, destroying ballot boxes and other election materials.

INEC blamed “a drunken security man” for the Plateau fire. The Anambra blaze has been referred to the police and fire service for investigation.

On Sunday, Nigeria’s federal police chief Mohammed Adamu ordered “comprehensive watertight and round-the-clock security for all INEC offices and facilities nationwide”.

Concerns have been raised that this weekend’s poll, plus governorship and state assembly elections on March 2, could be hit by vote-buying.

INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu warned last month there had been attempts to buy permanent voter cards.

At the governorship election in the southwest state of Ekiti last year, the two main parties were accused of offering voters 3,000-5,000 naira ($8-13, 7-12 euros) for their cards.

A deadline for collection of cards was extended last week, after complaints of slow distribution and delays.

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North Africa Politics

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will of Egyptians”

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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday flatly denied allegations of corruption made by an Egyptian businessman, assuring he was “honest and faithful” to his people and army.

Videos posted online from outside the country since early September accusing Sisi and Egypt’s military of graft have gone viral, sparking rare debate about the army’s growing economic empire. 

The man behind them, 45-year-old construction contractor Mohamed Aly, claims that authorities have misappropriated millions of Egyptian pounds in public funds. 

He also alleges the military owes him hundreds of millions of pounds for projects his company was commissioned to build, including palatial residences for Sisi.

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will (of Egyptians) and make them lose all hope and confidence”. 

Quoted by local TV, Sisi said he decided to speak out despite “calls from all state bodies” for him not to respond. 

“Your son is honest, faithful and loyal,” he added.

Aly — who says he has fled to Spain — has not provided evidence to back up his claims and the Egyptian armed forces declined an AFP request to comment.

In the footage, released in instalments, Aly mocks Sisi – a former army chief – and lambasts the military.

In the first video, posted on September 2, Aly blasted Sisi, without naming him, saying: “You say the Egyptian people are very poor and that we should tighten our belts.

“(But) you are throwing away billions and your men are wasting millions.”

In a speech on Egypt’s economy two years ago, Sisi had said “We (Egyptians) are very poor”.

The reality is different, according to Aly, who says that some of the projects the military asked him to build included a luxurious guest house for Sisi in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and a palace in Cairo.

“People must know how their money is being spent,” Aly says in one video.

For decades, the military has played a key but opaque economic role, producing everything from washing machines to pasta, alongside building roads and operating gas stations.

Since the arrival of Sisi, who toppled his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the army’s economic involvement has been more visible amid austerity measures and rising prices.

The army spokesman said recently on a popular TV show that the armed forces oversee rather than “manage” some 2,300 projects nationwide, employing five million civilians. 

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189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said

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189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
People disembark from a plane as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated from South Africa on Wednesday following a wave of xenophobic violence that swept through the country and sparked sharp exchanges between the two countries.

A flight carrying 189 Nigerians landed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, with some of those onboard punching the air and singing their national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.

“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” said Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years.

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.

189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
Air Peace flight attendants hold placards to denounce xenophobia as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said.

“We were expecting 317 but from the information we have 189 are on board,” said Nigeria’s minister for diaspora affairs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

“There was about a five-hour delay courtesy of the South African authorities who actually frustrated this return of Nigerians,” she said, blaming authorities in Johannesburg for failing to help Nigerians without travel documents.

READ: Nigeria plans to repatriate 600 citizens from South Africa

“There was a lot of frustration in getting them back home but we’re glad that they will be here,” she added.

Leading the returnees in singing the national anthem, Dabiri-Erewa promised the government would provide financial support.

Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa speaks after a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrived in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola/NurPhoto)

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners last week, including many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

At least 10 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed while more than 420 people were arrested.

READ: South Africa vows to tackle xenophobic attacks against foreigners

No Nigerian was killed but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading nations.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

READ: African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa

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Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari’s February election win

The opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court

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Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari's February election win

A Nigerian court on Wednesday upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s election victory earlier this year, dismissing a request by opposition parties to overturn the result over claims of voting irregularities.

Buhari, 76, won a second term with 56 per cent of the February poll, which was long-delayed.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came in second with 41 per cent, immediately called the result a “sham”. Opposition parties lodged a legal challenge against the result in March.

Abubakar, 72, said he had been cheated of the chance to lead Africa’s most populous state after a conspiracy between the electoral commission INEC and Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, on Wednesday, the presidential election tribunal found there was no evidence of the opposition’s claims.

“This petition is, hereby, dismissed in its entirety,” judge Mohammed Garba said on Wednesday.

The ruling was widely expected, with Buhari’s government taking office last month.

Buhari has insisted that the election was free and fair, claiming the vote was “another milestone in Nigeria’s democratic development”. 

In a press statement reacting to the verdict, the opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court.

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