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Nigeria’s Parliament elects Ahmad Lawan as Senate President, others

Lawan who had the backing of the president scored 79 votes to defeat fellow party member, Senator Ali Ndume.

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Nigeria's Parliament elects Ahmad Lawan as Senate President, others

Senators in Nigeria’s upper parliament have elected Senator Ahmad Lawan representing Yobe North as the new President of the Nigerian Senate.

Lawan who has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress was overwhelmingly voted with 79 votes defeating fellow party member, Senator Ali Ndume representing Borno South, who despite the backing of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party got 28 votes.

107 senators-elect were present at the inauguration of the 9th Senate out of a statutory 109.

Senators were jubilant after Lawan’s declaration by Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori at the Tuesday inaugural proceeding in the country’s capital, Abuja. It had in attendance governors of various states, observers and top bureaucrats in the Buhari administration.

Intense lobbying and horse-trading –

Senator representing Delta Central in the APC surprisingly emerged as Deputy Senate President after defeating immediate past Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, in a keenly contested election. Omo-Agege got 68 votes while Ekweremadu had 37 votes.

Ekweremadu, a former Chairman of the ECOWAS Parliament, had been Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President for twelve years since 2007.

Omo-Agege emerged despite the last minute alliances between opposition Peoples Democratic Party and some elements of the ruling party, APC.

“Congratulations to the new Senate President of the 9th National Assembly, Ahmed Lawan,” said ruling party chairman, Adams Oshiomole in a tweet.

After the emergence of the Deputy Senate President from the ruling party unlike in recent past, Oshiomhole tweeted another congratulatory message “Victory at last. Victory for everyone. #NASS #NASSElection #9thAssembly”

US urges lawmakers to tackle insecurity, national challenges –

Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, Kathleen FitzGibbon, who was in parliament during the election called on the new leadership of the National Assembly to help towards tacking insecurity in Nigeria.

“We wish and hope that the National Assembly can get to work as soon as possible to solve some of the critical issues in the country like insecurity, development among others.” FitzGibbon who represented U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington told the News Agency of Nigeria in an interview. “I am sure everybody here is looking forward to doing just that.”

“APC have the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President they wanted. Leaves zero room for stories and excuses. I hope Mr. President will send his list of ministers immediately. There is no need to waste time over a list that won’t surprise anyone,” popular blogger Japheth Omojuwa said in a tweet.

Other Nigerians are tasking the re-elected government and ruling party to deliver on its campaign promises focused on providing security, boosting economy and fighting corruption.

The House of Representatives was still voting at the time of this report. Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila and Ahmad Wase of the ruling All Progressives Congress are expected to emerge as Speaker and Deputy Speaker after endorsements by party officials and fellow lawmakers. Umar Bago is opposing the duo.

Unlike in 2015 when the ruling APC shared power with opposition PDP in the position of Deputy Senate President, the situation has changed due to the direct intervention of President Buhari and top party officials who, on the eve of the election, read out a riot act to lawmakers on the need to toe party line.

By protocol arrangements, the Senate President is the number three citizen of Nigeria and Speaker of House of Representatives is the number four citizen of the country; after President Buhari and his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

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Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum

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Fallen Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was Sunday seen in public for the first time since being ousted, as he was driven in an armed convoy to the prosecutor’s office. The former strongman, who ruled his northeast African nation with an iron fist for three decades, was toppled on April 11 after weeks of protests against his reign.

Dressed in a white traditional robe and turban, Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to prosecutors’ office to face charges of alleged corruption.

Prosecutor Alaeddin Dafallah told reporters after Bashir left the office that the ousted president had been informed that he was facing charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”

Meanwhile, a top general from the country’s new ruling military council vowed that those who carried out a deadly crackdown on an iconic protest site that left dozens dead earlier this month would face the death penalty. “We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“Whoever committed any fault” will be held accountable, Dagalo added. Thousands of protesters who had camped outside Khartoum’s military headquarters for weeks were violently dispersed by armed men in military fatigues on June 3, according to witnesses.

More than 100 people were killed that day in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement, while the health ministry put the nationwide death toll at 61.

‘Regret’ for crackdown

Protesters and witnesses accuse the feared paramilitary group led by Dagalo, the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out the assault on demonstrators. Demonstrators and US officials have called for an independent probe into the crackdown.

On Thursday, the military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi expressed “regret” over the crackdown. But the council insists it did not order the dispersal, saying it had actually planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people are said to sell drugs.

“The planning of the operation of Colombia (area) was done by military and security authorities,” the council said in a statement late Saturday. “We assure you that the council is keen to investigate minute by minute facts through its investigation committee.”

Brigadier Abderrahim Badreddine, a spokesman for the investigative committee, told state television Saturday initial findings indicate that “officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces” had entered the sit-in without any orders from their superiors.

As calls for an independent probe grew, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Khartoum on Sunday where the military council said he met its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Bashir had swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. When he imposed a state of emergency on February 22 in a bid to quell protests that erupted in December over the spiralling costs, Bashir issued a decree making it illegal to possess more than $5,000 in foreign currency.

But in April, military council chief Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence after he was toppled. A team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds

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GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

GNA leader proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene

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The head of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord announced Sunday a new political initiative and elections in a bid to move the conflict-wracked country beyond eight years of chaos.

“I present today a political initiative for a way out of the crisis (involving) simultaneous presidential and legislative elections before the end of 2019,” GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a short speech broadcast by Libya al-Wataniya TV, without specifying a date for polls.

He proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene, and supporters of a peaceful and democratic solution” to Libya’s crisis. Sarraj’s GNA holds Tripoli, but strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army holds the east and much of the south of the country.

The LNA launched an offensive to take the capital in early April, but counter-attacks by forces loyal to the GNA have resulted in a stalemate on the southern outskirts. Sarraj said his proposed initiative would take place with support from the UN mission in Libya.

“Our army and the forces which support it have given a lesson in bravery to (Haftar) and to his militias,” Sarraj said. “His army has been broken, likewise that of his triumphalist entry to Tripoli that he presented as a two-day walk,” he added.

The two camps have so far refused to negotiate a ceasefire. The GNA is demanding that Haftar’s forces retreat to their previous positions, in the south and east. “We are confident that our forces are capable of repulsing the aggressor and of him sending him back to where he came from… victory was our ally, thank God,” Sarraj said.

He alleged that Haftar is seeking to “undermine the democratic process… and to re-establish a totalitarian regime; that of an individual and a single family”. Haftar meanwhile claims he is fighting “terrorists” and refuses to retreat.

Fighting since April 4 has killed 653 people, including 41 civilians, while more than 3,500 have been wounded — more than a hundred of them civilians — according to the World Health Organization.

The UN says more than 94,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people

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somalia journalists bash police

A Somali journalists’ association Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near parliament and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, stopped a group of reporters from international newsgroups.

“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.

Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.

“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” said the SJS.

It charged Somali police treat journalists “like criminals”, preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country. “This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia”.

It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.  

AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Shabaab attacks.

The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”

“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.

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