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June 12 martyr honoured by Nigerian government, Buhari names stadium after Abiola

President Buhari said it was aimed at “correcting injustice” by previous Nigerian governments

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June 12 martyr honoured by Nigerian government, Buhari names stadium after Abiola
President Muhammadu Buhari waves to Nigerians in show of appreciation for his re-election during the first edition of the National Democracy Day on June 12 in the country’s capital, Abuja. Top dignitaries across Africa and the world witnessed the ceremony. Photo: State House

Nigeria has a new national democracy day, June 12, as the country formally honoured Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election with the day; naming the national stadium in the country’s capital, Abuja after him.

In a bid to boost national reconciliation and healing, President Muhammadu Buhari, at a colourful national parade to celebrate his re-election in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was a move aimed at “correcting injustice” by previous Nigerian governments.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari delivers a speech during celebrations to mark Democracy Day in Abuja, on June 12, 2019. -(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

“Correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity. As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential elections of that year.” Buhari said.

“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium,” President Buhari told a packed audience which had several African leaders and representatives from the global community in attendance. Many applauded the move.

Abiola had been elected 26 years ago but the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the result of the election via an orchestrated court order once it became obvious that then presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was coasting home to victory.

“From this moment, a new Government of National Unity is in power throughout the length and breadth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, led by me, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, as President and Commander-in-Chief…I call upon the usurper, General Sani Abacha, to announce his resignation forthwith, together with the rest of his illegal ruling council,” Abiola had said on June 10, 1994 while declaring himself president. “We are prepared to enter into negotiations with them to work out the mechanics for a smooth transfer of power,” Abiola concluded.

Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election conducted on June 12, 1993 but annulled by the military regime headed by General Ibrahim Babangida. (File photo)

General Sani Abacha, another military head of state who had, through a palace coup, succeeded Babangida’s Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan denounced the self-declaration and went on to incarcerate Abiola for declaring himself president.

Both Abacha and Abiola would die in 1998 thereby entrenching a new dispensation of democracy that began in 1999 and remains unbroken for twenty years now. A first for the country since its independence from Britain in 1960.

Buhari had since 2018 offered a formal apology from the Nigerian government to the family of the late Abiola after hosting them at the presidential villa in Abuja, honouring the deceased posthumously and sent in a bill to the National Assembly to formalize June 12 as a national holiday. He assented to the bill on Monday.

Related: Muhammadu Buhari launches his second term with a defence of poll outcome in Nigeria

Nigerians were enthusiastic about the renaming of the national stadium and other efforts taken by the government to bring a closure to the June 12 fiasco.

“June 12 is at the soul of our democratic struggle, a threshold in our national life.” Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President and Buhari’s major opponent in the February 2019 presidential polls said in a statement to mark the day.

In a tweet later, Atiku said “Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism (on June 12).” Atiku almost became a Vice Presidential candidate to the late Abiola in 1992. He is currently challenging the results of the 2019 polls in court.

“In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want ‘change’, But ‘change’ has come, we now must move to the ‘Next Level.’” Buhari concluded in his address to Nigerians at the maiden June 12 National Democracy Day celebration.

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Anti-graft agency seizes NFF chiefs’ properties in Nigeria

Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation

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Senior NFF officials under investigation
Courtesy: NFF - thenff.com

Nigerian authorities on Monday seized a dozen properties from senior officials of Nigeria’s top football body, including its president Amaju Pinnick, in a fresh corruption probe.

Agents of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) took over 12 properties – half belonging to Pinnick, including a property in London — in the latest investigation to target senior officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), accused of laundering millions of dollars.

ICPC spokesperson Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation. What they have is in excess of what they have earned.”

NFF bosses led by Pinnick are currently under three separate corruption probes, including a 17-count charge in courts ranging from failure to declare assets and embezzling $8.4 million (7.5 million euros) paid to the federation by world football governing body FIFA.

The case continues on September 26.

In a separate case, Pinnick, general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and three NFF accountants have also been charged to court over an alleged theft of over $10 million in grants from both FIFA and the African Football Confederation (CAF),  meant for the development of football in Nigeria.

In July, CAF sacked Pinnick as vice president of the body following the charges against him, which he denied, with the NFF branding the investigations a “witch-hunt.”

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya, which joins Malawi and Ghana, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the WHO

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world's first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTS,S — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTS,S in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told reporters before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about 4 in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five. 

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world. 

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.

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Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings

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Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Tunisians walk in front of posters of presidential candidates in the capital Tunis, on September 7, 2019. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisia will hold on Sunday its second free presidential election by universal suffrage since the 2011 uprising that toppled an autocratic regime, with growing uncertainty over who will reach the next round.

Twenty-six candidates are in the race, including the incumbent prime minister and a media magnate who was arrested just weeks before the polls, as well as a presidential hopeful put forth by an Islamist-inspired party.

Seven million voters are expected to head to the ballot box after a campaign that largely focussed on social and economic challenges that have plagued the country’s fledgeling democracy.

“There are favourites and everything is possible, but even God cannot predict the results of the first round, let alone what will happen next,” columnist Ziyed Krichen said.

Political analyst Hatem Mrad agreed. “This election is really one of uncertainties,” he said.

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings sparked by its 2011 revolution.

Three years later, it held its first post-revolution election, during which the political fault lines were clear, said Mrad, with Islamists squaring off against modernists.

But this time around, the differences are huge, with a plethora of candidates — Islamists, secularists, populists and partisans of the toppled regime — political programmes and issues, he added.

Preliminary results are expected to be announced by the electoral commission on September 17, but the date of the second round, which will decide the presidency, is not yet known.

Heavyweights –

Heavyweight candidates include Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and his nemesis Nabil Karoui, the media magnate arrested on charges of money laundering just three weeks before the election.

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Prime Minister of Tunisia, Youssef Chahed speaks during a meeting ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, in Tunis, Tunisia on September 02, 2019. Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

Karoui’s supporters accuse Chahed of orchestrating his arrest, a charge denied by the ambitious prime minister who became the country’s youngest-ever head of government in 2016 at age 40.

A controversial businessman, Karoui has built his popularity by using his own Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.

On Wednesday, the jailed candidate started a hunger strike, according to a member of his defence team, Ridha Belhaj.

Studies suggest that his arrest boosted his popularity, and observers say that if Karoui makes it to the second round of voting, it will be hard for authorities to justify keeping him behind bars without a trial. 

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Nabil Karaoui, founder of Nessma TV, poses in his studio in Tunis. – The Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA), created in 2012 to reform the audiovisual landscape, fails to impose its decisions on media outlets with political support. With the elections approaching, however, measures were taken against Nessma TV, one of the country’s major private broadcasters, which was accused of “political advertising” for its founder Nabil Karoui. (Photo by Fethi Belaid / AFP)

Also in the race is lawyer Abdelfattah Mourou, 71, who was selected to run by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, and Mohammed Abbou, who was imprisoned under the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Candidates also include former defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat who said he would “restart the social ladder” and make public services accessible to all Tunisians, if elected.

Two women are also eyeing the presidency, including Abir Moussi, a staunch anti-Islamist lawyer and champion of Ben Ali’s regime.

Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Ennahdha Party’s Candidate for the presidential election in Tunisia Abdelfattah Mourou (C) holds a press conference regarding his election pledges ahead of the Tunisia’s presidential election which is slated for September 15, in Tunis, Tunisia on September 9, 2019. Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

Social challenges – 

The presidential campaign wraps up on Friday, but none of the candidates appears to have stood out despite squaring off in multiple debates that were broadcast on radio and television.

Around two to three million Tunisians are believed to have tuned in to three major debates, during which candidates were asked to respond to questions drawn randomly.

The economic and social hardships that undermine Tunisia’s transition to democracy took centre stage during the campaign.

The country, hit by terrorist attacks against its key tourism sector and security forces, has struggled to combat unemployment and bring down inflation.

Unemployment in Tunisia is at 15 per cent, while the cost of living has increased by more than 30 per cent since 2016.

The election was brought forward from November after the death in July of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first president democratically elected in nationwide polls in 2014.

It will be followed by legislative elections, due to take place on October 6.

Some of the 26 hopefuls have called for the president’s powers to be beefed up in Tunisia, which has a parliamentary system.

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