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Mandela Marks 20yr Freedom



South Africans, yesterday, celebrated the steps that sounded apartheid’s death knell 20 years ago: Nelson Mandela walking to freedom after 27 years in prison.

Thousands gathered for commemorations near Cape Town at what was known in 1990 as Victor Verster, the last prison where Mandela was held.

The crowds milled around a 10-foot (3-meter) high bronze statue erected at the prison in 2008 depicting Mandela’s first steps as a free man.

Exactly 20 years ago, Mandela emerged from Victor Verster on foot, hand-in-hand with his then-wife Winnie, fist raised, smiling but resolute.

“We knew that his freedom meant that our freedom had also arrived,” Cyril Ramaphosa, a leader in Mandela’s African National Congress who headed a welcome committee for Mandela in 1990, told the crowd at the prison yesterday.

Earlier, Ramaphosa and other ANC leaders had approached the gates of the prison to re-enact Mandela’s 1990 walk. Arms linked, they stepped through shouting: “Viva Mandela!”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, divorced from Mandela in 1996, had been expected to join the re-enactment, but did not, telling the BBC she would have found it too painful.

Just four years after Mandela’s release, South Africans held their first all-race elections, making Mandela their first black president. Mandela stepped down after one five-year term, helping to entrench democracy in South Africa in contrast to elsewhere on the continent where politicians hung on to power through fraud and violence.

Mandela also is beloved for championing racial reconciliation, ensuring a peaceful transition that spared South Africa the chaos and destruction of anti-colonial wars elsewhere in Africa.

Since 1994, his ANC party has reduced the number of people living in poverty, built houses and delivered water, electricity and schools to blacks who had been without under apartheid.

 But needs remain great, and impatience has grown along with a gap between the poor and the rich, among them new black entrepreneurs.

Mvuso Mbali, 37, was in the crowd yesterday and said he was at the prison 20 years ago.

“And I still remember vividly what happened,” he said. “Today (Thursday) we are reinventing our freedom, and uniting our people to follow the values of Mandela.”

Others at the prison  yesterday said Mandela’s release,  triumphant as it was, carried uncertainty, too.

“When Mandela was released we did not know what was going to happen,” said Nontuntuzelo Faku, who came to yesterday’s event.

Being at the prison 20 years later, she said, “makes me realise how far the country has come.”

Mandela’s release was the culmination of an eventful few days for South Africa. On Feb. 2, then-President F.W. de Klerk announced the unbanning of the ANC and other organizations. On Feb. 10, de Klerk announced at a press conference that Mandela would be released the next day.

Whites conditioned to see Mandela as an enemy who would destroy their way of life were shocked and confused. Blacks were uncertain that Mandela, known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba, was right to trust de Klerk. Civil war seemed possible.

“I think the imprint of February is deeply etched into the psyche of our nation,” Mac Maharaj, a key ANC leader at the time, told The Associated Press.

“That image of Madiba, Winnie, walking out of Victor Verster, holding hands. Madiba looking quite, quite somber, not celebratory, not pumping the air and jumping about like a victorious boxer, but walking very sternly, and I think I see a sense of bewilderment in him.”

South Africa marked yesterday’s anniversary with speeches, photo exhibits tracing Mandela’s life, radio and TV specials and newspaper supplements across the country.

Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement captured imaginations around the world, as British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown recalled in an essay in London’s Independent newspaper yesterday.

Brown, who has often spoken of his admiration for Mandela, said the anti-apartheid struggle “was the defining political question of our time.”

Brown said Mandela has “a generosity of spirit that lifts the world.”

Mandela marked the anniversary of his release at home last week, reminiscing with fellow veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle for the camera’s of his daughter Zindzi’s production company, which was preparing a documentary called “Conversations About That Day”.

Mandela, who will be 92 in July, has largely retired from public life.

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RSHA Donates One-Month Salary To Fight COVID-19 …As FG, Govs Agree On More Palliatives For Nigerians



Members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, resolved to collectively donate their one-month salary to assist the state government fight the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
In a press conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, said that the members arrived at the decision after an interface with officials of the Ministry of Health on the concerted fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “Based on this feedback so far received from the joint committee on the proactive and preventive measures put in place by the State Security Council headed by the Rivers State governor, and bearing in mind that as responsible representatives of our various constituencies, we resolved that one month salary of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly be deducted by the Ministry of Finance and remitted to the committee set up to fight Coronavirus in the state.
“This sacrifice by members is not to the exclusion of other individual contributions of members in their respective constituencies to ameliorate the shocks associated with the pandemic.
“We restate our commitment to the fight against Coronavirus pandemic and our full support of all efforts and actions taken by the Rivers State Government to keep our people safe and healthy.”
The speaker further added that members took the decision bearing in mind that as responsive and responsible representatives, they cannot turn their back on the yearnings of the people.
He also clarified that the decision was based on the feedback from Standing Committees on Health and Information mandated to interface with the Ministry of Health and other agencies set up by the state government.
Ikuinyi-Owaji was flanked by principal officers of the House, including the Deputy Speaker, Hon Edison Ehie, and other prominent members at the briefing.
Meanwhile, the Special Committee of the National Economic Council on COVID-19 has its second meeting as it continues its task of coordinating the federal and state governments’ responses to the impact of COVID-19 on Nigerians.
The NEÇ Committee meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, agreed to finalise its work towards developing additional measures to alleviate the challenges being faced by Nigerians because of the implications of the global pandemic in the country.
Present alongside the Vice President at the meeting held via videoconference anchored from the Presidential Villa are Governors Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna; Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa; Mohammed Abubakar, Jigawa; Godwin Obaseki, Edo; David Umahi, Ebonyi; Dapo Abiodun, Ogun; and Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi.
According to the VP’s Spokesman, Laolu Akande, the meeting was also attended by the Finance Minister, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze; among several other top officials.
The NEC Committee received the report of its Technical Working Group which proposed an array of policy options and recommendations on how federal, state and local governments can bring relief to the people and take other adequate measures in containing and responding to the adverse economic effects of the pandemic.
Speaking at the meeting, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, emphasized the importance of the assignment and the urgency required, asking that public enlightenment and sensitization on the seriousness of the pandemic should be further intensified at all government levels so that more and more Nigerians would become aware of the compelling and critical dimensions of the situation.
He assured the governors that the Federal Government is already packaging further resources for a comprehensive economic response to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, support the states and provide succour to Nigerians in a timely and effective manner.
He disclosed that the newly created Economic Sustainability Committee (ESW), constituted by the President will also be meeting this week to start its work and respond to the situation appropriately.

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IPMAN Kicks Against Fuel Price Reduction To N123.50



The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), yesterday, kicked against the N123.50 new fuel pump price announced by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) effective April 1, saying that its members would not comply with the adjustment until they have exhausted their old stocks.
This was as it says that its members incurred losses to the tune of N5.5billion from the N125.50 price adjustment from N145 per litre barely two weeks ago.
The Chairman, Kano branch of IPMAN, Alhaji Bashir Danmalam, stated this while speaking with newsmen in the state on the development of the new N123.50 pump price.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government reduced the price from N145 to N125 and now to N123.50, yesterday.
Danmalam said, “the last time the Federal Government reduced the pump price of the product from N145 per litre to N125 per litre, our members nationwide lost over N5.5billion as a result of the sudden reduction.
“We called on the government to compensate or support our members who incurred the huge losses due to the sudden reduction in fuel pump price but nothing was given to us.
“But to our surprise, the private depot’s owners were paid but none of our members was supported to cushion the losses they incurred. This time around we will not sell our product at that price until the old stocks are exhausted. We will not continue to operate at loss.
“Apart from the Federal Government, IPMAN is the largest employer of labour in the country and we cannot afford to continue to support the government at this trying time while as business people we are operating at loss.
“Even though we are happy with the new development and the Federal Government should be commended for the gesture but the government should consider the fact that no sane marketer or businessman will continue operating his/her business at loss.
“Before the last announcement, many of our members have already bought and loaded their vehicles with the product at old prices from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri and we spend five to seven days before reaching our destinations. So, we are not going to sell the product at the new price until we sell the old stocks.
“The management of the PPPRA should be accused of trying to sabotage the Federal Government’s efforts to ensure sustained fuel supply and distribution across the country through some policies that could plunge the sector into a serious crisis.
“We would not hesitate to ask our members to withdraw their services should any filling station of its member is closed for not selling at the new pump price of N123.50 per litre.
“We hope the Federal Government will see reason and come to the aid of our members as it supported private depots because our members will not continue to operate at loss,” Danmalam stated.
Earlier, the Federal Government, had further slashed the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, to N123.50 per litre, with effect from April 1, 2020, from N125 per litre. The new price, which would last throughout the month of April, was coming on the back of a continuous decline in the price of crude oil in the international market.
In a statement in Abuja, Tuesday night, Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Abdulkadir Saidu, stated that the new price was in line with the approval of the Federal Government for a monthly review of the price of petrol.
He said, “PPPRA, in line with the government approval for a monthly review of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) pump price, hereby announces Guiding PMS pump price of N123.50 per Litre.
“The Guiding price which becomes effective 1st April, 2020, shall apply at all retail outlets nationwide for the month of April, 2020.
“PPPRA and other relevant regulatory agencies shall continue to monitor compliance to extant regulations for a sustainable downstream petroleum sector. Members of the public and all oil marketing companies are to be guided accordingly.”
The Federal Government had on March 18, announced a reduction in the price of fuel from N145 per litre to N125 per litre.
Hours after the announcement of the reduction, the PPPRA explained that there is the possibility of a new price regime for the commodity from April 1, noting that the new N125 per litre pump price would last till the end of March, 2020.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Mr. Abdulkadir Saidu, had stated that the agency would be undertaking a review of PMS price, and would announce a new price for the commodity, April 1, 2020, if there is a change in the parameters used in determining the current price.
He noted that the price announced Wednesday, March 18, 2020, would apply till March 31, 2020, and a new price might come into effect after the review, adding that henceforth, PPPRA would be undertaking a review of petroleum products prices on a monthly basis.

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We Won’t Allow COVID-19 Spread Into Prisons -FG



The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has assured that the ministry is doing everything necessary to see to it that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) does not spread into Nigerian prisons.
He also explained the reason for the disruption at the Kaduna State Prison on Tuesday, assuring that it was effectively managed and that it would not repeat itself in the system.
The noted that while making efforts to keep people in detention safe from the disease, government was also being careful not to resort to a measure that might put the larger society in danger, specifically speaking about the suggestion being made that the custodial centres be decongested.
”The congested custodial facilities are in some of our urban centres – not all urban centres though – they are in areas where you have a huge population of people and understandably those who have the cause to be detained are more than the facilities we have, particularly the awaiting-trial persons.
“I can assure you that all efforts, all actions required to ensure that there’s no occurrence or spread of COVID-19 in any of those custodial centres, are being made.
“I spoke about Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday); there was a mild disturbance in Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday) and it was put under control. It happened because the inmates in the condemned section were anxious to know the outcome of our efforts to decongest some of the centres and they became agitated.
“It was put down without any casualty and I want to believe that, having been handled, information has gone round the commands to appraise the inmates of the efforts we are making, to see that the approval given by the president is effected very soon.
“I must add that what we are trying to do cannot be done by us as the Federal Government alone. More than 80% of the inmates in the awaiting trial group are from the states; they are state offenders.
“We are, therefore, working with the state governments, along with our own system, to break down the profile basis of incarceration in terms of detention and several other factors to ensure that if at all people will be released, they will be released without jeopardising the security of the nation. We are, therefore, careful and sensitive on the steps we take, even with the threats of COVID-19.
“I must add this because it is important, the NJC has been of tremendous help. By the middle of last week, NJC issued a directive to all courts in Nigeria to suspend trials that could lead to any detention in the custodial service.
“I must equally commend the directive from the IGP to all police formations in the country to release offenders or suspects detained on minor offences and that will go a long way in ensuring social distancing and reduction of detainees in those centres so as to ensure that occurrence of COVID-19 infection and the spread will be reduced, if not eliminated.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while addressing some questions raised by journalists, said the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had directed all cable television service providers to leave all local channels as free service to their subscribers, even when subscriptions had yet to be renewed during this period. He said this was meant to make the public adequately informed.
He also said he had been informed, after consultations with coordinators of bankers services, that all banks had been permitted to open for services across the country while the restrictions last.
On the operations of construction companies, he said the Minister of Works and Housing had approved the suspension of all ongoing construction works across the country till April 20th, explaining that the suspension was meant to allow for social distancing.

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