The body of Baroness Thatcher has arrived at the Houses of Parliament for a private family service.
Draped in a union flag, her coffin was brought by hearse to the Palace of Westminster, to be laid in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft before her ceremonial funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral,today.
Topped by a large bouquet of white flowers, it was lifted from the hearse and carried into Parliament by four pallbearers in black ties.
Lady Thatcher’s son and daughter, Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher, arrived to pay their respects.
A short private service to receive the body into the chapel was being led by the Dean of Westminster and attended by close relatives and senior figures from both Houses of Parliament who worked closely with Britain’s first female Prime Minister.
After the service, the chapel will remain open for MPs, peers and parliamentary staff to pay their respects to the woman who dominated Westminster as Prime Minister from 1979-90 and served as an MP and peer for more than half a century from 1959 until her death aged 87 last week.
The Speaker’s Chaplain, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, will then maintain a vigil through the night.
As her body lies in the chapel, MPs will later take part in a potentially bitter debate about her legacy – and the cancellation of Wednesday’s PMQs to allow politicians to attend the funeral.
MP George Galloway and Labour veteran Dennis Skinner have objected to the move, which means the proposed change in sitting time will now be voted on after a debate lasting up to three hours.
MPs had the chance to pay tribute to Lady Thatcher when Parliament was recalled at the request of David Cameron last week.
But Bradford West MP, Mr Galloway said he was prevented from making a “disrespectful” contribution and would relish the chance to give his verdict on her time in office.
“This was a wicked and divisive woman who was hated by half of the country and did great damage to a society she said didn’t exist,” he said.
He also hit out at plans to silence the bells of Big Ben and the Great Clock at Westminster.
“The muffling of the chimes of Big Ben is a step too far and now Mr Cameron will miss Prime Minister’s Questions for four weeks. It is unconscionable.
“It was indicated to me that no disrespectful contributions would be tolerated in the debate last week so … I will have a lot to say.”
The decision was taken to silence the famous London landmarks as a mark of respect to the UK’s first and so far only female prime minister, who died last week aged 87.
The last time the chimes of Westminster’s Great Clock were halted in this way was for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
Lady Thatcher’s coffin will leave the Palace of Westminster by hearse before being transferred to a gun carriage for the final leg of its journey to St Paul’s during the ceremonial funeral service.
The international guestlist for the ceremony, particularly attendees from the United States, has been growing.
Former US vice president Dick Cheney and ex-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger have confirmed their attendance.
The two former top US politicians join an increasing congregation of former leaders, current politicians, Falklands veterans and a string of celebrities who will pay their respects to the former Prime Minister.
The pair do not form part of Barack Obama’s official presidential delegation, which will be led by George Shultz and James Baker, who both served as Secretary of States during the Thatcher era.
No members of the current White House administration are expected to attend.
Also on the increasing list of attendees were King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece, two-times US presidential candidate Ross Perot and Olympics supremo Lord Coe.
However, there will be no official representative from Argentina.
President Cristina Kirchner was not invited, but, in keeping with diplomatic protocol, an invitation was sent to the Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, who declined.
Former South African President, FW de Klerk is among the 2,000 guests attending the funeral.
In an interview with Sky News yesterday, he hailed Lady Thatcher’s “honest, open and purposeful leadership” and her ability to convince the majority to “follow that lead and to embrace that vision”.
“This she did for Britain, and she changed around the history of Britain,” he said.
Declare Buhari’s Seat Vacant, Owuru Urges Court
The candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the last presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari vacant.
Owuru, who was among the four petitioners that went to tribunal to challenge Buhari’s re-election, in his fresh suit, sought for an order to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from “undertaking or planning any other election into the office of the President”, in 2023.
The Plaintiff, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021, maintained that Buhari is “an unlawful President that is illegally occupying the Presidential seat”.
It would be recalled that Owuru and his party, HDP, had in an earlier appeal they litigated up to the Supreme Court, insisted that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, erroneously dismissed a petition they lodged against the return of Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the presidential election that held on February 23, 2019.
They specifically prayed the apex court to sack Buhari on the premise that he emerged through an illegal process.
According to the Appellants, INEC, failed to follow condition precedents stipulated in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.
The HDP claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorates and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.
However, in a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, struck out the appeal for constituting “a gross abuse of the judicial process”.
Meantime, in the fresh suit, Owuru and his party argued that their suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court was inconclusive.
The Plaintiffs argued that the case was fixed outside the 60 days period that was allowed by the law.
Owuru asked the court to declare him the authentic winner of the last presidential poll, as well as, to issue an order for his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.
He prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.
More so, the HDP presidential candidate, aside from asking for Buhari’s immediate removal from office, equally prayed the court to compel him to refund all salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected while he unlawfully stayed in office as President.
Owuru also asked the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29, 2019, when he ought to have been sworn in, till date.
The Plaintiff further applied for, “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves and acting through their agents, servants, privies and or proxies howsoever from any further organizing, undertaking or planning of any other election into the office of the President of Nigeria or any such other Presidential Election interfering, harassing and or disturbing the Applicant adjudged acquired right as unopposed and unchallenged winner of the original scheduled and held the February 16 Presidential Election thereof until the 1st Applicant unserved constitutional four years term of office is served pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit by this honourable court”.
Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the matter were Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and INEC.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.
World Bank Report Exposes Buhari’s Lies, PDP Affirms
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the report by World Bank that 7 million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty in the last year, has clinically belied the integrity posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party said the World Bank report came in the face of the recent claims by President Buhari that his administration has lifted over 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years.
The PDP asserted that the report by the World Bank has further vindicated its position that President Buhari runs an uncoordinated and clueless administration that thrives on lies, false performance claims, deceit, and perfidious propaganda.
The statement added that, “Nigerians can now clearly see why the APC and President Buhari’s handlers are always in a frenzy to attack our party and other well-meaning Nigerians whenever we point to the poor handling of the economy and on the need for President Buhari to always be factual on pertinent issues of governance in our country.
“Unfortunately, it indeed appears that Mr. President enjoys living in denial while watching millions of Nigerians go down in abject poverty, excruciating hunger, and starvation as our country now ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index under his watch.
“Otherwise, why would Mr. President claim that his administration has lifted over 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty while official figures even from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show worsening poverty rate with 142.2% growth in food inflation and over 82.9 million Nigerians being unable to afford their daily meals due to the failure of the administration to take practical steps to grow and protect the food sector?
“Under President Buhari, Nigerians are now subjected to the worst form of poverty and hardship, with collapsed purchasing power, occasioned by a voodoo economy management that has wrecked our productive sectors and pummeled our naira from the about N167 to a US dollar in 2015 to the current over N500 per dollar.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. President will choose to always bandy fictitious figures and false performance claims, when he has, in a space of six years, destroyed our national productivity and reduced our country to a beggarly nation, a laughing stock and object of pity among the comity of nations.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note President Buhari and APC’s similar false performance claims in other critical sectors, including power, transportation, road infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, security, aviation among others, where the Buhari administration has been bandying fictitious figures with no tangible project to point at.
“Our party counsels President Buhari, his handlers as well as their party, the APC, to note that Nigerians have seen through their deceitful clams.
“The PDP, once again, urges Mr. President to end his false performance claims and get more competent hands to manage the economy before every Nigerian is turned into a street beggar.”
Amnesty Kicks As FG Pushes Social Media Regulation
Amnesty International has strongly opposed the call by the Nigerian Government to regulate the use of social media and online broadcasters.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had urged the House of Representatives to include regulation of Twitter in the National Broadcasting Commission Act.
The minister made the call at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information.
“I will want to add, that specifically, internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content— including Twitter,” he said.
Reacting, Amnesty International, in a tweet via its Twitter account, yesterday, kicked against the motion.
It noted that when social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media.
It further noted that criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“When social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the Internet and limit access to social media.
“Criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“Regulating social media in Nigeria could be easily abused to punish critics of government policies and actions, and anyone who asks difficult questions could find themselves liable for ‘diminishing public confidence in the government.’
“Seeking a law to prohibit abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour is open to very wide interpretation. This section would pose a threat to critical opinion, satire, public dialogue and political commentary,” the statement added.
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