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Nigerian journalists attacked, threatened while covering Bayelsa, Kogi selections

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Nigerian authorities should investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the harassment of journalists working to cover the November 16 gubernatorial and federal assembly elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Armed men threatened and harassed reporters, security forces barred journalists from entering electoral buildings, and demonstrators threw stones at reporters trying to cover the elections, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.

The elections in these two states followed nationwide elections in February, which were also marred by violence against journalists, as CPJ reported at the time.

“Journalists play an indispensable role in the conduct of credible elections and should never be the subject of threats, violence, or harassment,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from Washington, D.C. “Nigerian authorities must investigate all allegations made by journalists about interference in their work covering the November 16 elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.”

In Kogi state, Chinedu Asadu, a reporter with the privately owned The Cable online newspaper, told CPJ in a phone call that police officers seized his cell phone for 15 minutes when he attempted to take photos of a politician giving money to women waiting to cast their votes. After police returned his phone, Asadu said another officer made threatening comments, and he feared the officer would harm him, so he left the polling place.

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Lolafunke Ogunlolu, a journalist with the privately owned Africa Independent Television broadcaster, told CPJ in a phone call that a group of armed men threatened to beat her after they saw her film them assaulting a woman at a polling station in Aiyetorogbede, Kogi state.

Ogunlolu said the men, whose identities she could not determine, demanded she delete all the pictures and videos she took of them. Ogunlolu said one man was about to hit her and take her phone when another stopped him after recognizing Ogunlolu as a reporter with the station.

Two journalists with the privately owned Splash FM radio station, Tobi Kusimo and David Bello, told CPJ in phone conversations that a group of demonstrators in Aiyetoro Gbede, a town in Kogi state, threw stones at their van when they tried to interview a polling officer. The journalists said they fled after demonstrators broke their rear windshield and otherwise damaged their vehicle, and appeared angry enough to kill them.

“If we had waited for two additional seconds, only God knows what would have happened,” Bello told CPJ.

In a separate case, Sam Egwu, a journalist with the privately owned newspaper The Nation, and Sunday Amachi, a reporter with the government-owned Kogi State Radio broadcaster, told CPJ via phone that a group of demonstrators in Anyigba, in Kogi state, surrounded their car while they drove to a polling place and threw stones at their vehicle.

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“In fact, they destroyed our vehicle. It was a miracle we left that place unhurt,” said Egwu.

Egwu and Amachi told CPJ that protesters alleging election interference barricaded all exit routes and surrounded their car. Protesters climbed on their car in an attempt to force the journalists out, but the demonstrators dispersed after security forces fired their weapons, Egwu said.

In Bayelsa state, four unidentified individuals wielding canes and bottles intercepted Adejumor Kabir, a reporter with the Premium Times newspaper, while he was traveling to the main office of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, he told CPJ via phone. The individuals forced his driver to leave, and drove Kabir to an isolated area in Opolo, in Yenagoa, the state capital, where they interrogated him for two hours, he told CPJ. Kabir said his abductors had mistaken him for a government official and, after questioning and accusing him of manipulating election results, they released him.

Kabir then traveled to the Independent National Electoral Commission office to cover the collation of the results, but police blocked him and other reporters from entering the building, even though they identified themselves as journalists, Kabir said. He said the officers told the journalists that they were working on orders from above not to admit members of the press.

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CPJ’s calls and text messages to Oluwole Ozassi-Uzi, the Independent National Electoral Commission spokesperson, went unanswered. The head of voter education in Bayelsa State, Wilfred Ifogah, told journalists that security officials “misunderstood INEC instructions” when they bared reporters from entering the commission’s office, according to a report by Premium Times.

In a text message to CPJ, Nigerian police spokesperson Frank Mba said he was not aware of any assaults on journalists and said, “The safety and wellbeing of journalists and media practitioners generally was of paramount importance to the Nigeria Police Force.”

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Nigerian physician, Funsho named one of TIME’s most influential people in the world

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TIME named Nigerian physician, Dr. Tunji Funsho to the 2020 TIME100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The list, now in its seventeenth year, recognizes the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals.

Dr. Funsho, a cardiologist based in Lagos, Nigeria, is the first Rotary member to receive this honor for the organization’s work to eradicate polio, having played an essential role in ensuring Africa’s certification as wild polio-free in August of 2020.

“I’m honored to be recognized by TIME for my part in ensuring that no child in Africa will ever again be paralyzed by wild polio, a disease that once disabled 75,000 African children every single year,” said Dr. Funsho. “Eradicating the wild poliovirus in Africa was a team effort that required the cooperation and dedication of governments, partners, Rotary members, hundreds of thousands of health workers, and countless parents who chose to have their children vaccinated against polio.”

As the leader of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, Funsho has worked alongside Rotary members throughout the country to raise awareness about the importance of polio immunization, encouraged governments and public figures to support polio eradication, and served as a vocal leader and advocate for Rotary’s fight to end polio in Africa.

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Dr. Funsho works closely with Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI): the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. As a member of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on Polio, he has coordinated immunization and advocacy campaigns with the Minister of State for Health and the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee for Polio Eradication. He has also worked closely with the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, the Dangote Foundation, the Traditional Leaders Council and the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria.

In August 2019, Nigeria reached three years without a case of wild poliovirus. Nigeria’s progress, led by Rotary, its GPEI partners and local and national governments, was the result of decades of sustained efforts, including domestic and international financing, the commitment of hundreds of thousands of health workers, and innovative strategies to immunize children who previously couldn’t be reached due to insecurity in the country’s northern states.

On 25 August, the African region was certified wild polio-free. This historic announcement means that five of the WHO’s six regions, representing more than 90 percent of the world’s population, are now free of the wild poliovirus. The virus is now endemic in just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Rotary’s nearly 32,000 members in Africa have played a critical role in helping the region achieve its wild polio-free status by holding events to raise funds and awareness for polio, and working with world governments and national and local leaders to secure funding and support for polio eradication.

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Lagos govt. approves full reopening of churches, mosques

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The Lagos state government on Saturday approved the full reopening of worship centres in the state.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who announced this during a briefing in the state said churches are now allowed to observe their mid-week services, while the mosques are also allowed to carry out their five times a day prayer routine, with strict compliance to COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We must not forget that the coronavirus pandemic is still very much with us, and we must, therefore, strive to prioritize the safety of all our children, teachers, parents, and the entire society,” the governor said.

Before now, the state had allowed for a gradual re-opening of places of worship as lockdowns eased.

With the full re-opening now, the governor has urged Lagosians to continue to act responsibly and maintain the required levels of hygiene.

Some other parts of the world have witnessed a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and rising possibilities of “hard lockdowns”, which according to Governor Sanwo-Olu may become inevitable for Nigerians if caution is not applied.

“Let me make it clear that if we do not continue to maintain our guard, and sustain the adherence to all required protocols and guidelines, we will find ourselves in a situation where fresh lockdowns are inevitable,” he warned.

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“The only way to avoid this is to continue to act responsibly: maintain the required levels of hygiene, through regular handwashing and use of sanitizers, wear masks in all public places, avoid non-essential public gatherings, and maintain the prescribed levels of physical distancing at all times”.

The total infections in the country have now risen to 56,956, with 48,305 patients recovered and 1,094 deaths recorded.

At the onset of the virus in Nigeria, Lagos became the epicenter, gapping other states with its case load despite frantic efforts to curb the spread.

However, in recent times, other states such as Plateau have started to witness a surge with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 stating that it might become the new epicenter in the country.

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Photos: Oyo deputy gov. donates patrol motorcycles to security operatives

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The deputy governor of Oyo state, Engr. Raufu Olaniyan on Friday made a personal donation of patrol motorcycles to security operatives in Oke Ogun area of the state to boost their role of ensuring the safety of lives and properties.

Speaking at the event, Olaniyan noted  that Security is one of the cardinal objectives of the present administration headed by Governor Seyi Makinde, adding that the government has invested massively to provide facilities and equipment for security operatives in the state to perform their roles.

Speaking further, the deputy governor remarked that ” In the light of the security challenges in the country, it is imperative that we support the government in tackling this malady. It was therefore a delight for me to donate patrol motorcycles, from my purse, to the various security outfits operating in the Oke Ogun area of our state.”

He stressed that security matters should be the responsibility of all and not the government alone.

Olaniyan, however , urged well meaning individuals and lovers of peace to support the government in creating a safe and conducive environment for growth.

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