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65 Wounded As Powerful Car Bomb Rocks Kabul

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Dozens of people were wounded with fatalities feared as a powerful car bomb rocked Kabul early Monday and gunmen battled special forces in an area housing military and government buildings, officials said.

The rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital and shook buildings up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) away, with an AFP reporter saying he could hear gunshots after the blast.

“At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers,” interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar tweeted that 65 wounded people, including nine children, had been taken to hospital. He warned that casualties could rise.

The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and Cricket Board.

“We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us,” Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 metres (yards) from the blast.

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He said the blast appeared to have occurred near Gulbahar Tower, which contains a shopping mall and residential units and is next to a government building.

“When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming,” Usman told AFP by telephone.

Brief lockdown

Police said they do not yet know the target.

Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near their HQ gates.

“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” he said.

Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices but said it was not the target.

The nearby “Green Zone” diplomatic area was briefly put on lockdown, but later opened again.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State group are active in Kabul.

The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the US began their seventh round of talks in Qatar as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan’s September presidential election.

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

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A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.

In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

AFP

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Ooni’s new prince: Palace disowns viral pictures, says traditional rites ongoing

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The Palace of  Ooni of Ife, on Monday informed the general public to disregard the two viral pictures in circulation misrepresenting the newly born heir to the ancient sacred throne of the Ooni who joined the Ogunwusi royal family recently.

Ooni’s Palace added that his   father, Arole Oduduwa , Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife who has the sole right to make the face of the baby public is yet to do so, as essential traditional rites to formally welcome the Prince in accordance to culture and traditions are still ongoing.

The Palace in a statement signed by its Director, Media & Public Affairs, Comrade Moses Olafare, unequivocally stated that the pictures are not that of  the Prince,  urging the public to ignore the social media circulation of the pictures capable of threatening the privacy of the babies in those pictures and their parents.

Olafare further urged Journalists and bloggers to always verify sources of news materials and pictures before publishing or posting so as to avoid ‘Invasion of Privacy’ which he said  is an actionable offense punishable by law.

He added that child and mother are  doing perfectly well as the palace remains agog with daily jubilations and congratulatory visits.

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We will remain bullish in our approach to developing Oyo – Makinde

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Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Monday, presented the 2021 Appropriation Bill to members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, declaring that his government will remain bullish in its determination to develop the state.

Governor Makinde, who stated that though the government was able to grow the state’s Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) geometrically in the last one year, recording a 26.4 percent year-on-year increase in IGR, it will not rest on its oars in its drive to take the state off its total dependence on federal allocation.

The governor added that his administration plans to increase the state’s IGR to N102,824,207,213.46 in the year 2021 up from the current N25.6 billion.

According to him, the state hopes to achieve that feat by widening the tax net, bringing more tax payers into the system without necessarily increasing taxes on the people.

A statement by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, indicated that the governor stated these at the House of Assembly Complex, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, where he presented the 2021 Budget Proposal to members of the Assembly.

The governor appreciated the members of the House of Assembly for their cooperation over the past months, saying the successes recorded so far were due to their continuous support of the government’s fiscal policies, which have led to an impactful implementation of the Roadmap for Accelerated Development of Oyo State 2019-2023.

The governor added that his administration was able to make significant progress in the actualisation of its plans for the state in the last one year, saying: “We have been able to lower our infrastructural deficit, make improvements in healthcare delivery, improve the quality of education and achieve milestones in our security systems.

“We remained bullish in our approach to developing Oyo State. Let me share one of our biggest wins in the last year. You will recall that in my 2020 budget presentation, I had stated that from January 2020, we will be recording a monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of three billion Naira. I am happy to report to you that despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, we were just less than two hundred million Naira shy of our target monthly. As at September 2020, we had recorded an IGR of 25.6billion Naira. And using the half-year figures, that represented a 26.4 percent increase in IGR year on year.

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“Permit me to share some of our other wins from the 2020 fiscal year. You may recall, Mr. Speaker Sir, that one of the issues I highlighted that has been facing our state’s budget is underperformance. By the end of quarter one, (Q1), 2019 budget performance was 38 percent. We were determined to increase this and had set a mark of 70 percent performance. Honourable Members of the House, although we have not yet met up with our target, our budget performance as at now is above average at 50.32 percent. We accomplished this despite the economic shock induced by the pandemic.

“Let me quickly state that our use of the Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA), the Contractor’s Project Financing Scheme, as well as targeted loans, have gone a long way to helping us to improve our budget performance.

“This year, we are again pegging our budget performance goal at 70 percent. Since we have been able to increase by 12 per cent points in performance over 2019 thus far, despite the economic challenges we faced, an additional 20 percent points increase should be attainable.”

Governor Makinde explained that the recurrent expenditure in the 2021 Budget Proposal stands at N136,262,990,009.41, while the capital expenditure is N130,381,283,295.63, saying that the larger share of N56.3 Billion or 21 per cent has been earmarked to the education sector, because his administration considers education as the only way out of poverty.

He added that the agriculture sector will receive an allocation of N9.5 billion, which is about 3.6 percent of the Budget proposal, stating that his administration’s plan to grow the state’s economy through agribusiness remains well on course.

The governor highlighted how the administration, in the last one year, began a massive turnaround of the agriculture sector, with partnership agreement with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on the Start Them Early Programme in agribusiness and the ongoing upgrade of the former OYSADEP Headquarters, Saki, now rechristened the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), among others, to drive the focus on agriculture.

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The governor also said that the sum of N13.2 Billion was earmarked to the health sector, adding that the administration recorded tremendous achievements in the sector by turning the COVID-19 pandemic to an opportunity for aggressive turnaround of health facilities.

According to the governor, the government would go ahead with the revolution in the health sector with its plan to upgrade one Primary Health Care Centre across the 351 electoral Wards of the state, among other key efforts that will ensure the consummation of the works already started in reforming the health sector.

He said: “Mr. Speaker Sir, Distinguished Members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, please permit me, at this point, to present to you the Oyo State 2021 Budget Proposal. The total budgeted sum is Two Hundred and Sixty-Six Billion, Six Hundred and Forty-Four Million, Two Hundred and Seventy-Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Five Naira, Four kobo (₦266,644,273,305.04). This sum represents a 53.16 percent increase over the 2020 revised budget. Let me emphasise that the tenets of the Federation’s Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) and other development aspirations were used as a guide in the preparation of the 2021 Budget.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, I must also mention that we have been able to resolve some of the issues around moribund industries in Oyo State. As you are aware, these have been a source of worry to members of this assembly and indeed the entire people of Oyo State. We have been able to put back in business state enterprises that have been laying waste for decades.

Among these moribund industries are the Pacesetter Quarry and Asphalt Plant, Ijaiye; the Pacesetter Fruit Processing Plant in Oko; and the Agbowo Shopping Complex in Ibadan.

“It will also please you to know that we have commenced the preparation of the Twenty-Year Oyo State Development Plan (2021-2040). Oyo State has never had such an overarching blueprint. The plan, when completed, will facilitate a speedy socio-economic development with the Medium-Term Sector Strategy and Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.

“It has, once again, been my honour to present this budget proposal to you, Mr. Speaker Sir and Distinguished Honourable Members of the House. It is my prayer that you give our proposal the usual consideration in a timely manner so that implementation may commence; and Oyo State will continue on the path to accelerated development.”

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In his speech, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ogundoyin described the 2021 Budget as pragmatic and realistic, commending the governor for ensuring the timely presentation of Appropriation and Finance Bills to the House.

This was as members of the House of Assembly, including the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Mohammed Abiodun Fadeyi; Majority and Minority Leaders, Hon. Sanjo Adedoyin and Hon. Asimiyu Alarape, respectively, as well as Hon. Wumi Oladeji severally commended the governor for different reasons bothering on good performance.

While speaking, the Speaker equally lauded the governor for the steps being taken to rebuild the state and place it on the pedestal of socio-economic growth and development, saying: “It is commendable that in the recent history of governance in Oyo State, the present administration, ably led by our diligent and highly energetic Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde has ensured that Appropriation and Finance Bills are timely presented before the House.

“This is particularly praiseworthy as it enhances the proper and meticulous monitoring and evaluation of Budget performance and prevents wasteful spending and improper execution of Government programs and projects.

“Let me assure that, as a House, we are always ready to perform our constitutional duty of law-making in particular and to also ensure that the Executive arm of Government encounters no legal impediment in the performance of its functions for the overall welfare and wellbeing of the State and its residents.”

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‘Why unions are fighting me’, UI VC reveals

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Outgoing University of Ibadan Vice Chancellor, Prof.  Idowu Olayinka has provided insights into the face off between his administration and the unions on campus, saying the unions do not hate him as a person, but because the economic situation in the country is too harsh.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Bovas and Company Limited at the second gate of the University of Ibadan, Ajibode junction where the oil company plans to open a station, the outgoing VC stressed that with the poor economy in the country, everyone was tensed up, adding, “workers are agitating, students are impatient if we fail to pay for Internet”

According to him, “these unions that are agitating do not hate me because I am ugly. I am not ugly. At least my wife told me that I am handsome. But the real reason why these unionists are shouting my name everywhere is because of the paucity of fund in the system. There is no money. Federal government does not allow us to charge appropriate school fees, yet the money coming from the federal government is like a drop in the ocean.

“Currently, UI is owning Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company N49million. We don’t have that money. We have to plead with the electricity company to give us time. If they disconnect us now, pressmen will go to town with screaming headlines that UI is bankrupt. We should please appeal to the unions to see reasons with us. The money is not just there”.

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The VC continued, “we are one family in UI. I know that the unions don’t hate me. The major problem is nothing but money. Money is the problem causing the sleepless nights. But I believe with time, this hard time shall pass away ”

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