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Lebanon’s Former Public Works Minister Faces Questioning over Beirut Port Blast

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The judicial investigator probing the Beirut port explosion, Judge Fadi Sawwan has summoned former public works minister, Youssef Fenianos and the port’s former customs chief, Moussa Hazimeh to appear for interrogation next Thursday.

Six months after one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record, which injured thousands of people, victims are still awaiting the result of the investigation, although Lebanese leaders had earlier promised it would come within days.

Sawwan had already called former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, along with former public works ministers Ghazi Zoaiter and Fenianos for questioning over the blast.

However, Zoaiter and Khalil refused to attend the questioning, saying that as current members of parliament, they enjoy immunity.

The highly explosive chemicals that triggered the Beirut port explosion last August 4, were stored for years in poor conditions at the port, which lies in the heart of the Lebanese capital.

Since August, Sawwan has brought charges against 37 people.

But many Lebanese remain skeptical that senior politicians will be held to account, fearing the truth will never emerge from a system riven by corruption.

Human Rights Watch in a report released early this month notes Lebanese authorities have failed to deliver any justice for the catastrophic explosion in the past six months.

Meanwhile, lawyers of Palestinians, Egyptians and Syrians killed in the explosion are following up on a letter they presented last week to Sawwan.

The four lawyers had filed a complaint against the owner of a British-registered company possibly linked to the blast, Savaro, and the sole director at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, and the company’s former director Greta Bieliene, requesting they be questioned to reveal the real owners of the company.

In January, a Lebanese lawyers’ association asked British authorities to halt the voluntary liquidation of Savaro.

In the January 25 letter to British lawmaker Margaret Hodge, the Beirut Bar Association noted it had asked the UK corporate registry, Companies House, to prevent Savaro Ltd, which it described as an “indicted entity”, from being wound up, in order to allow investigations into its possible role in the blast to continue.

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Zimbabwe Regains Food Self-Sufficiency After Two Decades

Devastating droughts in Zimbabwe in the past two years cut maize harvest to 900,000 tonnes in 2020, half its annual requirements.

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Due to higher than usual rainfall, Zimbabwe expects to harvest up to 2.8 million tonnes of maize this year, three times the output from 2020.

Presenting the state of preparedness for the 2020/21 harvesting period, Lands and Agriculture Minister, Anxious Masuka on Tuesday told Cabinet Ministers that a bumper harvest was expected following a season of good rains.

He said “An estimated national production of 2.5 to 2.8 million metric tonnes of maize and 360 000 metric tonnes of traditional grains has been based on the promising bumper harvest in 2021”

Zimbabwe endured devastating droughts in the past two years, which cut maize harvest to 900,000 tonnes in 2020, half its annual requirements. Recent rainfall has boosted the country’s dam volumes which will enable farmers to reap more this year, the ministry of information said in a post-cabinet statement.

A Zimbabwe farmer

“For planning purposes, an estimated national production of 2.5 to 2.8 million metric tonnes of maize…has been based on the promising bumper harvest in 2021,” the statement said.

Farmers were expected to deliver 1.8 million tonnes of maize to the state-owned grains company, which has the monopoly to buy maize in Zimbabwe. The economy is projected to rebound after last year’s recession brought on by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and protracted droughts.

The government has set a producer price of 32,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($381) per tonne for white maize. 

Read also: https://newscentral.africa/zimbabwe-to-spend-133-million-on-maize-subsidies-after-drought/

Before now, Zimbabwe exported an estimated 400 000 metric tonnes of maize annually, which represents 6 percent of Africa’s total output.  

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Nigerian Army Denies Claim on Deserters

Military sources show three majors, two captains and seven lieutenants were among those declared wanted for fleeing the insurgents last month in Borno.

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The Nigerian Army has denied claims making the rounds in the media alleging that over 100 Nigerian troops were reported to have absconded after Boko Haram attacks on Marte and Dikwa.

Army Public Relations Director Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima stated that “the publication is false, unfounded and an attempt to malign the image and character of the Nigerian Army.”

He further explained that an error emerged from internal memo during a head count before soldiers who retreated rejoined their various units.

“…it is a routine that head count is conducted to determine the number of men and equipment holding aftermath of military offensive. Unfortunately, an internal correspondence that was originated by the formation was not properly done. It was later discovered that a good number of those affected rejoined their respective units and are currently part of the ongoing clearance operations.”

He reassures the general public and urged citizens to “disregard the story as the subversive intent of the promoters at dampening the morale and fighting efficiency of our troops.” 

Troops restored normalcy after fending off, neutralising and fighting to defend the Internally Displaced Persons Camp and United Nations Humanitarian Hub in Dikwa.  

Read also: https://newscentral.africa/nigeria-military-arrests-boko-harams-ieds-maker-in-north-east/

In another development, Bello Useni, a newly recruited soldier on his first posting with the Nigerian army school of armour in Bauchi, has committed. The army private shot himself in the stomach at his duty post, Obienu barracks in Bauchi State, North East Nigeria. There has been no explanation for the soldier’s action.

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Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury Agree to World Title Unification Bout

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Nigerian-born British boxer, Anthony Joshua has reached an agreement with WBC World Heavyweight Champion, Tyson Fury on a world title unification fight.

Both boxers have agreed to an all-British, mouthwatering pugilistic masterclass with the venue and date still to be decided.

Boxing show promoter, Bob Arum made the disclosure on Wednesday and said as far as he’s concerned there’s nothing stopping both fighters now to lay it all down.

Joshua holds three world titles – the WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles and faces Fury, usually dubbed the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Both boxers have gone on sprees of verbal onslaughts with their fans calling for a fight for years now.

Fury said in the past that the pandemic and logistics were reasons for the delay but with both parties now coming to an agreement, a potential match of great global proportions may finally be happening.

A potential summer date has been slated with June and July being tipped. If the match goes ahead, it will be the first time an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world will emerge since Briton, Lennox Lewis achieved the feat 21 years ago.

Both boxers will get 50% from the match which is reportedly worth more than $300m.

Saudi Arabia has been tipped as potential venue for the match, with Eddie Hearn, AJ’s promoter pointing out that there are little details to be agreed like who appears on the poster first and who gets on the ring first for the bout.

Joshua knocked Bulgarian, Kubrat Pulev out in the 9th round in their December clash and has called for a match once for all with his compatriot, Fury.

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