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Electoral Act Amendment: Ortom Kicks Against Direct Primary, Says It Weakens Democracy

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Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has condemned the direct primary option passed by the National Assembly in the Electoral Act amendment, saying it will deny political party members from making their own decisions.

Ortom said direct primaries will empower governors to manipulate and dictate for the electorate, which according to him, does not give room for free and fair primary elections like the indirect primary elections.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Ortom urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the national assembly to disregard direct primary in order to strengthen the democratic system.

He said: “Direct primaries will even give the governors more power to do what they want if they so wish to do it.

“For me, I believe in fairness and justice and I will allow transparency to rule the primaries to the conducted. But honestly, if any governor wants to manipulate the system, the direct primaries will be easier for him than indirect primaries because, in indirect primaries, everybody is there with the governor.

“But in direct primaries, not everybody will be there and so, the governor can find a way of sending electoral officers at the party level who will conduct the primaries.

“But when it is indirect primaries, those who are elected by the people from the various council, wards, and the statutory delegates, they converge in the electoral college and everybody will be there.

“So, if there is any form of injustice that is being meted out, the people will be there to resist it right there in the presence of the governor. But for direct primary, the governor has access in the whole system and no one can stop him.

“Now, talking about direct primary alone is not leaving any room for that. I still want to appeal to Mr. President to reconsider that bill and send it back to the National Assembly and allow the political parties to decide whether to adopt indirect or direct primaries depending on what the people want.

“This will help and encourage democratic norms because even the indirect primaries, it is the same people that are involved.

“Here in the electoral college, everybody is under one roof. So, issues of transparency, fairness, and equity are easy to achieve at that level. But for indirect primaries that INEC has to monitor, INEC does not have the capacity.”

 

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IPOB condemns bandits comparison by Sheik Gumi

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The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has voiced its condemnation at the Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, for comparing it to bandits recently pronounced a terrorist group by an Abuja court.

“In case, Gumi has forgotten, Fulani bandits and herdsmen are already designated the fourth deadliest terror organisation in the world. But IPOB as a peaceful Movement maintains its presence in over 100 countries of the world without any molestations,” the spokesperson of the group, Emma Powerful, in a statement on Sunday.

“It’s only in Nigeria that Gumi and his likes will liken IPOB to a terror group that it is not. What a blackmail.

“Can the mischievous Gumi be honest to tell the world if IPOB has kidnapped anybody at any time and demanded ransom for him to liken us with bandits?”

Mr Powerful added IPOB will maintain its peaceful nature with a vision of restoring the Sovereign State of Biafra.

“We believe in peaceful restoration of Biafra and our philosophy has not changed.” he noted.

IPOB also would like to remind Nigerians what Sheik Gumi’s true colours are.

“It’s because of hypocrites like him that bandits and terrorists keep spilling blood across the country as they know he will always make a case for them.

“Were Nigeria to be a sane society, Gumi and his types should have been serving their jail terms for their unhidden sympathy for terrorists.

“An advocate of bandits can’t claim to be a true Islamic cleric,” Mr Powerful concluded.

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PCR tests can detect Omicron, further research still ongoing, WHO says

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While PCR testing can identify Omicron infection, research is being conducted to see whether the Covid-19 variant of concern has any effect on other test types, according to the WHO on Sunday.

“The widely-used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants,” WHO said in an update about the new variant.

“Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.”

The WHO classified Omicron, discovered earlier this month in southern Africa, a threat on Friday. The categorization placed Omicron among the universally dominant Delta and its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.

Global border closures and further restrictions were reported on Sunday as Omicron spread around the world.

The strain has placed doubt on global attempts to fight the pandemic, causing governments to reimpose safeguards they had thought were no longer necessary.

The WHO stated it was “not yet clear” if Omicron spreads more readily or induces more severe illness than other strains.

“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants,” the UN health agency said.

While early data show a higher likelihood of reinfection with Omicron in those who previously had Covid, data is limited. The WHO said it was studying the variant’s influence on current countermeasures, including vaccinations.

“WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron,” it said. “More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks.”

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South African airports grind to a halt, passengers stranded due to Omicron

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The discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant disrupted flights and sparked worries of a hard shutdown in Africa’s most industrialised economy, causing shock and panic in South Africa.

Flights from South Africa to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European countries were quickly halted after South African scientists reported the virus strain’s discovery on Thursday.

“This is absolute chaos. Nobody can tell us what is possible in terms of travel at this point,” said stranded passenger Steve Lawrence in OR Tambo, one of Africa’s busiest airports.

Since early November, the number of daily coronavirus infections has increased thirteenfold, with 3,220 new cases recorded on Saturday alone. 89,791 people have died in South Africa since the outbreak began.

Panic caused 600 passengers on two KLM aircraft from Johannesburg to Amsterdam to be stuck on the runway at Schiphol Airport.

“It’s naïve for developed countries to believe they can stop the spread of this variant with a blanket ban on countries in southern Africa.

The virus has already found its way into these societies from individuals that haven’t even travelled to or come into contact with anyone from southern Africa,” said Shabir Madhi, a South African vaccinologist, to Al Jazeera.

Flight cancellations increased immediately after the unexpected suspension of aircraft startled the tourism sector.

The South African tourism industry lost $10 billion in bookings in 2020 due to a decrease in international tourists, and an estimated $10 million each week due to airline cancellations.

The South African government labelled any travel restrictions on the nation “misdirected”, while the WHO urged for calm.

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