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COMMUNITY SEEKS SOLUDO’S HELP OVER HARASSMENT BY SECURITY OPERATIVES

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The community leaders in Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, have called on Governor Chukwuma Soludo to save them from the incessant harassment and intimidation of indigenes allegedly by security operatives in the town.

They made the call on Friday in Awka at a news conference following the invasion of Nteje by suspected security operatives on Thursday.

The spokesman for the community, Mr. Martins Okechukwu, said seven persons, including the acting President-General of Nteje, Chief Benneth Chinweze, were seriously injured by the security operatives.

Okechukwu said, “Apart from our president-general, who is now lying critically ill in the hospital, one Oluebube Anukwu, who was among the seven persons that sustained gun shots is now dead, while five others are receiving treatments in different hospitals.

“Before now, Nteje has been a peaceful community, but in the past 10 years now, all that we are facing are incessant attacks and arrest of our people, who in some cases, are taken to Abuja where they suffer grievously.”

Okechukwu who blamed the ugly development on some natives mentioned one Chief Mike Nwakalor as the person fanning the crisis due to his interest in land grabbing activities.

He said that the Nteje community today has about four army checkpoints which some privileged individuals take undue advantage to harass the residents.

The acting President General of Nteje, Chief Benneth Chinweze, who spoke from his hospital bed in Awka, when our correspondent visited the hospital, said he had a harrowing experience in the hands of the security men on June 16.

“I was driving when, suddenly, some persons who all covered their faces double-crossed my vehicle and ordered me out.

“They forced me into their Hilux truck, tie my legs and hands and blindfolded me before they began to give me treatments like a common criminal.

“This incident took place on Thursday, June 16, but it was on Friday, June 17, that I regained consciousness in a hospital.

“As you can see, I cannot raise my two hands up or use them to eat and bath, I am just helpless here as you can see,” he said.

Chinweze who doubles as the regent of Nteje Community, added that he suspected that it was Chief Mike Nwakalor that was behind his ordeal.

”Before I lost consciousness, the people beating me kept saying, you always insult Chief Mike Nwakalor and if you don’t respect yourself, we will teach you bitter lesson,” he added.

When contacted, Chief Mike Nwakalor said he was not involved in the problem which occurred in Nteje on June 16 and do not have any hand in land grabbing activities in Nteje.

“As a community leader, I heard what happened and upon investigation I was told that Chief Chinweze wrote a petition and when security operatives came for him, he tried to evade arrest.

“I further gathered that those who were wounded by gun shots blocked security operatives and in the exchange of gun fire some of them got injured,” he said.

Nwakalor, however, explained that he was also not involved in any land dispute with any person in Nteje, saying, ”I have 200 plots of land between Nteje Park and Umunya and the property is not in dispute because I have my certificate of occupancy.”

Reacting, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said that the command was not aware of the matter which occurred in Nteje on June 16.

He rather urged people of Nteje who were affected in the matter to come up with information that could help police in nipping the matter in the bud.

PUNCH

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GOOD LEADERS AREN’T APPRECIATED UNTIL THEY LEAVE OFFICE, OSHIOMHOLE EULOGISES JONATHAN

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Former President, Goodluck Jonathan and the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole

The former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, has said that Nigerians don’t appreciate good leaders until they leave office, noting that former President Goodluck Jonathan left enviable legacies behind.

The ex-national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) confessed that he fought former President Jonathan out of office due to their differences in political interests.

He stated this at the one-year memorial lecture in honour of late Captain Hosa Okunbo, in Abuja today.

Oshiomhole said: “You (Jonathan) left legacies even though that I had cause to fight because it is politics. The legacy you have left, there is no successor who can afford to do less.

“But the logic of multi-party democracy is that even an angel can be defeated. You have set a standard that none of your successors can afford to go below.

“Part of your (Jonathan) legacies was when you launched the almajiri school and your thought was that no Nigerian child should be left on the street and also appropriated special funds.

“These ideas are not new but what we lack is the will to transform it to practice. We never know who are our friends until when we are no more.

“No one is appreciated until he or she leaves office,” he said.

Other speakers at the event were Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwase III decried the glorification of stomach infrastructure in Nigeria’s political culture, among others.

They described the late Captain Hosa Okunbo as a man with a large heart, the spirit of philanthropy and ardent love for the needy.

According to them, one of his legacies that will continue to endure is that he nurtured and mentored many to become responsible members of the society.

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RISING COST OF LIVING: SOUTHERN, NORTHERN, M-BELT ELDERS RAISE THE ALARM

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Elders and leaders of the various socio-cultural organisations across the country have raised the alarm that Nigeria seems to be on a precipice, warning that unless the challenges are tackled immediately, the country might witness an economic disaster pretty soon.

Leaders of different groups from the North, South and Middle Belt, including Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have warned President Muhammadu Buhari and other officials of the administration to address the current challenges head-on and save the country from collapse.

In the past few weeks, the nation has been bedevilled by a number of economic adversities beyond the security challenges afflicting virtually all parts of the country. The national currency, the naira, has suffered a hefty fall, while the nation’s foreign reserves have massively depleted. The debt figures have continued to soar. The aviation sector has continued to record assorted challenges, leading to cancellation and rescheduling of flights. A number of domestic airlines have announced the suspension of their operations. The high cost of diesel has led to some companies closing down and throwing workers into the labour market. The soaring prices of foodstuff have led to many families going to bed with empty stomachs.

In exclusive interviews with Saturday Sun, many of the socio-cultural organisations cried out that the country is on the precipice, and travelling on the road to a failed state.

Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Jare Ajayi, said the situations that unfolded in Nigeria in the past few weeks have further confirmed that those piloting the affairs of Nigeria currently are far from the realities that Nigerians are dealing with on an hourly basis. “It is therefore not surprising that steps being taken do not touch the problems confronting us as a nation, and that is why the country is grinding to a halt.”

Acting spokesman for the ACF, Shuaibu Lili, said the situation in Nigeria is really unfortunate. Hear him: “Let me talk on behalf of the Northern Region, which is the food basket of the nation. How do you expect a farmer who bought a bag of fertilizer for N5, 900 last year to buy it for N22, 000 this year? So, what can he produce? And even if he produced, where are the factories? The factories are mainly in the South, in places like Agbara in Ogun State. What will you give them to manufacture. No, no, the problem is too much for Nigerians. To be precise, mayhem may soon take place in this country.”

Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnaya, pointed that what is happening are the consequences of nepotism. His words: “Any place where appointment is made based on ethnicity and religion as against competence, it is always like this. What keeps these advanced countries going is that they look at merit, the accomplishment of an individual before they appoint a person into a position of authority.

“Take the service chiefs as example. It is difficult to contain the level of insecurity in this country because most of them don’t have the pedigree in the area of security; almost all of them come from the same ethnic groups and religion. There is no way under this kind of arrangement that Nigeria will not come to a halt. Activities of government that are supposed to be moving clockwise are now moving anti clockwise.”

Also speaking, Publicity Secretary of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman noted: “We have said it earlier that we are not in a failing state, but in a failed state. A state that has lost control of its economy, lost control of its land borders, highways, seaways and airports; it is certainly a failed state. You can see these since the coming to power of Buhari and these things have escalated to the level where people find it hard to eke out a living.

President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof Benjamin Okada lamented: “If you do a comparison between 2015 on the status of the Nigerian economy and what we have gone through in the last seven years, you know that we are on the fast lane of approaching not just the precipice of a failure, but of disintegration. It is not just the economy, though the economy is the foundation upon which other infrastructure, politics, social issues, religion, etc. rest. The economy is on a decline in a dastardly manner; that is why you see today the naira is climbing to as much as N710 to a dollar, which was about N190 in 2015. The prices of foodstuffs have quadrupled, and life in Nigeria is becoming meaningless. It is not a surprise that the Senate itself is contemplating the process of impeachment of Mr President. The universities teachers are on strike over poor infrastructure in the institutions of learning and the government says it doesn’t have money to do anything, but it is going ahead to take toxic loans; loans that impact only the pockets of the few. “The indices of a failed state are so demonstrated. If radical steps are not taken, in the nearest future, it will very difficult even to predict if there will be election in 2023.” The National President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu said Nigeria was grinding to a halt, even as he expressed fear that things could get worse with Boko Haram and other insurgents getting bolder.

“This government has failed economically and failed in the security sector. Without security, there can never be economic development.

“So far, there is total collapse of governance and we are running as if it is not a country at all; we are running on auto pilot.  Things have to change. Remember, all the short periods when the president left this country because of ill health, anytime the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took over for that short period, there was a marked difference because he did the right thing when needed,” Pogu stated.

PANDEF President, Sen. Emmanuel Ibok Essien, noted that places like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Syria, Afghanistan and many others started with insecurity, inflation and then hyperinflation and at the end of the day, they became failed states.

“I pray that Nigeria will not travel that road. How can the dollar rise to N710 in the parallel market? That is unimaginable. How can petrol go up to N200 per litre when we are producing the oil? As there is no road for anybody to travel, people resorted to air travel and now airlines are closing down. It means that people will not be able to move around in the country.

“The present government is driving this country into a failed stated. Sometimes they think that it is the ordinary people that would be affected by the things going on in the country. But what is going on may wipe out even the elite.”

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AUTHOR SALMAN RUSHDIE ON VENTILATOR AFTER ATTACK IN NEW YORK

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Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, US [Joshua Goodman/AP Photo]

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and abdomen as he was being introduced to the audience at a literary event.

Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, has been stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in southwestern New York state.

Police confirmed Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” on Friday after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer just as he was being introduced to the audience.

After being airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak on Friday evening.

“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to the Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.

Major Eugene Staniszewski of New York state police told reporters on Friday afternoon that officials do not have “any indication of a motive” at this “very early” stage of the investigation. They said they believed that Matar was acting alone.

Portrait of writer Salman Rushdie
Rushdie won the Booker Prize for his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, but became widely known after the publication of The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous [File: Rogelio V Solis/AP Photo]

Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told The Associated Press news agency that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.

“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.

“A man jumped up on the stage from I don’t know where and started what looked like beating him on the chest, repeated fist strokes into his chest and neck,” said Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience. “People were screaming and crying out and gasping.”

Stunned attendees helped pull the man off Rushdie, who had fallen to the floor. A New York state police trooper providing security at the event arrested the attacker, while a doctor in the audience helped look after Rushdie until emergency services arrived.

Life in hiding

Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in Iran and some other countries, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. In 1989, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran’s government has since distanced itself from the decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered.

“The fatwa belongs to the Ayatollah and cannot be rescinded by the state according to Iranian practice,” Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told Al Jazeera. “They [Iran] took this distance from it as part of a pre-condition for the Iranians and the UK to restore diplomatic relations. Ever since, the threat picture against Salman Rushdie seems to have reduced significantly, but clearly not enough.”

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation had increased the amount on offer for the writer’s killing from $2.8m to $3.3m.

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the money and published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about his ordeal. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.

Rushdie rose to prominence in 1981 when his second novel Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize, but it was with the publication of The Satanic Verses that his name became known around the world.

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed
Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York [Twitter@HoratioGates3 /via Reuters]

The Chautauqua Institution, about 90km (55 miles) southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series.

Rushdie, who started out in advertising, has published more than a dozen books and spoken at Chautauqua before. He had been scheduled to talk about the United States giving asylum to artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression”, according to the institution’s website. His new novel Victory City is due to be published in February.

The author, who currently lives in the US, had lived under police protection because of threats to his life. The United Kingdom awarded him a knighthood in 2007, which sparked protest in several countries in the Muslim world.

Writers, advocacy groups and politicians in the US and Europe condemned Friday’s attack and defended freedom of speech.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Rushdie was stabbed “while exercising a right we should never cease to defend”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal.”

Pen America, a writers’ association that promotes freedom of expression, which Rushdie once led, described the assault as a “premeditated attack”.

“PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York,” the group’s CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.

“We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.”

Law enforcement officers detain Hadi Matar, 24 and take him to a police car outside the Chautauqua Institution
Law enforcement officers take suspect Hadi Matar, 24, to a police car after the attack on Rushdie. Matar was tackled by members of the audience who rushed onto the stage [Charles Fox via AP Photo]

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who represents New York, called the assault on Rushdie an “appalling” attack on “freedom of speech and thought”.

“I hope Mr. Rushdie quickly and fully recovers and the perpetrator experiences full accountability and justice,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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