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Nigerian workers reject VAT increase, fuel subsidy removal

A new national minimum wage of N30,000 was passed by the National Assembly in January and signed into law by President Buhari on April 18.

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May day celebration in Nigeria
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Cabinet Secretary Boss Mustapha, Labour Minister Chris Ngige, NLC President Ayuba Wabba and other labour leaders at May Day celebration in the Abuja./Daily Trust

Plans mulled by the Nigerian government to increase the country’s Value Added Tax (VAT) from the current 5 per cent and remove petroleum subsidies have hit the rocks, as labour unions have rejected such future decisions and linked them to pressure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on President Muhammadu Buhari.

At the 2019 May Day celebration in the country’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday, labour leaders took turns to reject any future increases that may lead to more poverty and reduce the gains achieved by the recent wage increase by the government.

“Organized labour in Nigeria is perturbed at the recent return of long queues at petrol stations in many of our cities”, said Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress. “We believe that the current chaos was induced by the unsolicited advice by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that our government should stop subsidizing PMS (fuel).” Wabba said.

The NLC president who was flanked by President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama as he read the joint statement said;

“What the IMF means by subsidy removal is an increase in the pump price of petroleum products and the cost of government’s failure to the masses.”

“The working class in Nigeria notes that the intervention of the IMF in Nigeria has always been about three issues – the removal of the so-called subsidy, petrol subsidy, Naira devaluation and opening of our borders to allow the influx of foreign goods.” union leaders said.

Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo represented the government at the May Day rally which had several unions in different kits and attires marching to showcase their work skills.

“Most labour-friendly President.”

The Nigerian government said it was working hard to improve the working conditions and welfare of workers in the country, describing President Muhammadu Buhari as “most labour-friendly President.”

“While I sincerely salute the resilience of the nation’s workforce and its numerous contributions to national development, we owe plentiful accolades to the most labour-friendly President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who took practical steps to douse the restiveness in the labour force he inherited four years ago due to unpaid salaries and allowances.”

-Chris Ngige, Labour Minister said.

Minister Ngige went on to list many achievements of the government. He said Buhari “released bailout funds at the state and federal levels, and capped it all with a new National Minimum Wage for the Nigerian working class in public and private sectors.”

A new national minimum wage of N30,000 was passed by the National Assembly in January and signed into law by President Buhari on April 18. The former wage was N18,000.

The workers are now seeking an immediate payment of the new wage as they said many working families are unable to meet up with the basic costs of living, especially feeding and decent accommodation.

East Africa News & Stories

Court in Kenya convicts 3 over involvement in Garissa massacre

The Garissa massacre was the second-bloodiest terror attack in Kenya’s history

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Court in Kenya convicts 3 over Garissa massacre | News Central TV
Suspects Hassan Aden Hassan, Mohamed Ali Abdikar, Rashid Charles Mberesero and Sahal Diriye sit in the dock as they wait for the verdict where they were charged with helping those who carried out the attack on Garissa University in 2015; at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, Kenya June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A Nairobi court on Wednesday found three men guilty of abetting Somali jihadists who carried out a 2015 attack on Garissa University in northeast Kenya in which 148 people were killed.

A fourth individual was acquitted, Judge Francis Andayi said, adding that sentencing will be handed down on July 3.

The April 2, 2015 attack was carried out by four gunmen from Al-Shabaab, a Somali jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda.

Firing their weapons, they stormed the students’ hall of residence at dawn.  

They first separated the victims according to their religion, letting Muslims go but keeping and then killing the others, most of whom were Christians.

It was the second-bloodiest terror attack in Kenya’s history, surpassed only by al-Qaeda’s bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998 that killed 213 people.

Andayi said the three — Kenyans Mohamed Ali Abikar, Hassan Aden Hassan and Rashid Charles Mberesero, a Tanzanian — “were members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group whose members carried out the attack”.

Prosecutors had proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that they were involved in a conspiracy for “committing a terrorist act,” he said.

A fourth person, Sahal Diriye Hussein, was acquitted. In January, the court also acquitted a university guard who was accused of taking pictures during the assault — an allegation for which no evidence had been produced, the judge found.

During the trial, prosecutors placed 22 witnesses on the stand, most of them student survivors.

They also showed evidence that the three had been in contact with the gunmen, especially by telephone.

Mberesero, the Tanzanian, had been also been seen on the university campus three days before the attack, and on the day of the attack itself had been found under a bed in the hall of residence and was unable to explain why he was there, prosecutors said.

The three convictions are the first to result from a long-running investigation and prosecution.

All four gunmen were killed by security forces. The operation’s suspected ringleader, Mohamed Mohamud, also named “Kuno,” a former professor at a Koranic school in Garissa, was killed in southwestern Somalia in 2016.

The Shabaab said he had been killed by “US crusaders”.

Ruthless jihadists –

The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.

They nevertheless control vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia. 

The group is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu but also regularly carries out attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia as part of AMISOM.

In September 2013, the Shabaab claimed responsibility for a dramatic raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people over a four-day siege.

In June-July 2014 around 100 people were killed in raids in the coastal Lamu region in Kenya’s northeast, home of a once-popular tourist island.

In January 2016, the Shabaab overran a Kenyan army outpost at El-Adde in southern Somalia. Some estimates say that as many as 180 soldiers died.

And on January 15 this year, 21 people were killed and 28 injured when five Shabaab gunmen attacked the DusitD2 hotel and office complex in Nairobi.

The security response to Garissa was strongly criticised by many Kenyans. 

It took 16 hours for a special anti-terror unit to bring the attack to an end, their deployment slowed by a senior police officer who had commandeered the force’s plane for a family excursion.

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East Africa News & Stories

United States to ban corrupt Kenyans from entering country

“You cannot allow somebody to steal Sh20 billion and fine them Sh10 billion.” -McCarter

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United States to ban corrupt Kenyans from entering country
(File photo)

Kenyans who have been implicated in corruption will not be granted entry into the United States, Ambassador Kyle McCarter has announced.

Speaking in Nairobi on Saturday, McCarter also said that their children and kin will not be allowed to travel or study in the US.

While speaking during the Junior Achievement Organization 100 year’s celebration, McCarter said that it is quite unfortunate that top government officials went unpunished after embezzling billions of shillings, while ordinary Kenyans are jailed over petty offenses.

“You cannot allow somebody to steal Sh20 billion and fine them Sh10 billion. We deal with thieves in a very brutal way, not even according to the law,” said McCarter.

“Somehow, we tolerate the theft of billions in Kenya. If we stop tolerating thievery, Kenya will be a shining star for democracy and prosperity in Africa.”

The ambassador further said that corruption prevents the country from achieving its development goals, including President Uhuru’s big four agenda.

“The cost of this is the same cost ironically as the Big Four. It could become a reality if we got rid of thievery.”

McCarter assured that Kenyan authorities had the full support of the US government in the fight against graft.

He also decried the high level of unemployment in the country and the slow growth of Kenya’s economy.

“We have a group of young people that are bitter and if we do not do anything, other people will employ them to harm,” McCarter added. 

US ambassador Kyle McCarter has been outspoken in his condemnation of what he has called “thievery”.

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North Africa

Turkey’s Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed

“Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene.” -Erdogan

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Turkey's Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Serhat Cagdas / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, who collapsed in court and later died, did not die of natural causes but that he was killed.

Erdogan, while giving a speech in Istanbul, cited as evidence that the deposed Egyptian president allegedly “flailed” in a Cairo courtroom for 20 minutes on Monday and nobody came to his assistance.

On Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “Unfortunately, Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene. Morsi did not (die) naturally, he was killed.”

Erdogan said his country would do everything in its power to ensure Egypt faces trial in Morsi’s death. He also called on the Islamic Cooperation Organization to “take the necessary action” over the death of Morsi.

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