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Nigeria Does Not Have a Policy of Religious Prosecution – Minister

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The Nigerian government has denied claims by the United States of engaging in systematic and egregious religious freedom violations.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, said that Nigeria does not have a policy of religious persecution.

Lai Mohammed described the allegation as a case of honest disagreement between the two nations on the causes of violence in Nigeria.

“Nigeria does not engage in religious freedom violation, neither does it have a policy of religious persecution.

“Victims of insecurity and terrorism in the country are adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions,’’ he said.

Lai Mohammed said Nigeria jealously protects religious freedom as enshrined in the country’s constitution and takes seriously any infringements in this regard.

The U.S. reportedly on Monday placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Nigeria as “Country of Particular Concern’’ for religious freedom, alongside nations that include China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo, however, did not elaborate on the reasons for including Nigeria on the list.

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West Africa Politics

One Million Nigerians to Get COVID-19 Cash Transfer – Vice President Osinbajo

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No fewer than one million Nigerians are to benefit from the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Cash Transfer Project which aims to lift the urban poor affected by the pandemic out of poverty.

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said this on Tuesday in Abuja while inaugurating the COVID-19 Rapid Response Registration (RRR) Cash Transfer Project.

According to him, the project is a national initiative to build a shock responsive framework for capturing and registering the urban poor and vulnerable populations across Nigeria.

Osinbajo said that the new register complements the already existing platforms under the World Bank supported National Social Safety nets Project (NASSP).

“As of Dec. 31, 2020, we have identified and registered about 24.3 million poor and vulnerable individuals into the National Social Register; equivalent to about 5.7 million households.

“Through this project, we are currently injecting about N10billion directly into the hands of about two million poor and vulnerable households every month.”

According to him, the initiative is about the largest evidence-based effort by any administration on poverty reduction and its impact on the lives of the poor is huge.

“This is by way of improving the livelihoods of the beneficiaries through enhanced household purchasing power, smoothening consumption, increasing savings and acquisition of household assets and improving the local economy.

Osinbajo said that the RRR was designed to focus mainly on the urban poor wards selected using scientifically validated methods of satellite remote sensing technology, machine learning algorithm and big data analysis.

“This social protection method of targeting is the first strategy to be developed and tested in the Sub-Saharan Africa region and Nigeria will be the first country for its implementation.

“With the RRR, which uses a wholly technology-based approach, we are primed to achieve an end-to-end digital foot-print in cash transfers for the urban poor.

“Which also helps us achieve our financial inclusion policy under the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access programme (EFInA).”

The first set of 3,115 beneficiaries have already received N5,000 each cash transfer and the programme will continue until it reaches the one million target.

The cash transfers will be received by the beneficiaries for six months.

Also at the event, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said that the RRR would provide the gateway to many social development initiatives.

“This is because it uses innovative advancements in technology, in combination with ground-truthing processes, to generate an early response system.

“By design, the register also links to other databases such as banking information of respondents and national identity numbers.

“It is a process that is advanced in unifying national databank towards the delivery of social development in Nigeria.

“There is no doubt that in future, as has been demonstrated in the previous presentation, we will be reverting to the process used here and the register itself, to aid emergency assistance and support social protection activities in Nigeria.”

According to her, with the inauguration of the project, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development now has the database that can provide evidence for impact tracing for most social development projects in Nigeria.

In his remarks, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank Country Director said the COVID crisis hit Nigeria very hard, especially on the socio economic front.

“Even in the absence of the crisis, we were projecting that perhaps another seven million Nigerians were at risk of falling into poverty over the next two years.

“With the COVID crisis and the economic pressures that have resulted, we are now projecting that that number could rise to close to 18 million.

“So, I think it should be pretty obvious that this kind of scale up effort is absolutely critical to the overall COVID response,” Chaudhuri said.

The target groups are small businesses, street vendors and petty traders as well as low-wage employed individuals and families.

It also covers daily labourers earning wages by engaging in construction and other forms of daily wage-based activities, employees of businesses involved in services and workers in different industries and manufacturing firms.

Others are taxi drivers, street dwellers, orphans and vulnerable children, people living with disabilities and vulnerable families living in slum areas.

The project provides a sustainable framework that supports humanitarian disaster risk response delivery system and shock response in future emergencies.

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East Africa Politics News

Uganda Election: Nigerian Lawyer, Falana, Takes Museveni Complaints to the UN

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Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has filed a complaint at the United Nations against President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda over the illegal detention of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

Bobi Wine, a former reggae musician, had been under house arrest since Thursday night.

News Central reports that 38-year-old Bobi Wine was Museveni’s main challenger in the 14 January 2021 Presidential election.

Contesting as a presidential candidate under the umbrella of the National Union Platform (NUP), Bobi Wine had emerged second best after polling 38 per cent of the votes.

Museveni was declared winner after claiming 58 per cent of votes cast.

However, Ugandan forces had condoned off Wine’s house since last Thursday, effectively keeping him and his wife under house arrest and incommunicado.

On Tuesday, the United States Government announced that the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, had been barred from seeing Bobi Wine

In a statement same day, Falana said that Bobi Wine had been denied access to his lawyers in a bid to prevent him from filing a petition against the declaration of Museveni as the winner of the highly flawed Presidential election.

“We have submitted a complaint against the government of Uganda to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the detention of the detained couple,” Falana said.

The complaint by Falana, which was attached to the statement, read in part, “Mr. Wine and his wife are being illegally detained for days without any criminal charges preferred against him. He has also been denied adequate supply of food by hundreds of Uganda military forces and policemen who have laid siege to his house for the umpteenth time since the election day.

“I am therefore seeking an opinion from the Working Group finding the house arrest and continuing detention of Mr. Wine and his wife to be arbitrary and in violation of Uganda’s Constitution of 1995 (as amended) and obligations under international human rights law including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Uganda is a state party.”

Also, a top U.S. diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, called Uganda’s electoral process “fundamentally flawed,” citing “authorities’ denial of accreditation to election observers, violence and harassment of opposition figures” and the arrest of civil service organization workers.

“We continue to urge restraint and rejection of violence by all actors as Uganda’s election results are announced,” said Nagy in a series of tweets,.

“The immediate and full restoration of Internet connectivity is essential. The U.S. response hinges on what the Ugandan government does now.”

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East Africa Politics News

Somalia Denies Its Soldiers Participated, Died in Ethiopia’s Conflict

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Osman Abukar Dubbe, Somalia’s Minister for Information Culture and Tourism, has denied reports that Somali soldiers trained in Eritrea took part in the fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the TPLF in Ethiopia’s Tigray province.

Dubbe also dismissed as untrue reports that hundreds of Somali soldiers were killed in the conflict.

The minister said, “There are no Somali soldiers who have been enlisted by Ethiopia or taken part in the Tigray region fighting.

“It is unfortunate that people are trying to find political gains from our national army.

“We are confirming that the fake news, which is meant for politics and business, that claimed Somali troops training in Eritrea took part in fighting in Tigray Region, northern Ethiopia, is not true.”

The minister said the Ethiopian government did not request Somali soldiers to fight in Tigray.

Dubbe said similar “propaganda was spread in the past claiming Somali soldiers took part in fighting in Libya and Azerbaijan, which was confirmed to be fake”.

The minister’s statement comes after a former deputy chief of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Abdisalan Yusuf Guled, claimed some 400 Somali soldiers were killed in Tigray in November last year.

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