​Buhari to address Nigerians Thursday at National Assembly

President Muhammadu Buhari will next Thursday address a joint session of the National Assembly on efforts by his government to address the sundry security challenges besetting the country.

This was disclosed by the Personal Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, in a message on her Twitter handle, @Laurestar, she posted on Monday.

The message read, “President @MBuhari will address a joint session of the National Assembly (@nassnigeria) on Thursday, December 10, 2020.”

Recall that the House of Representatives had last week Tuesday invited the President to appear on the floor of the Green Chamber to offer an explanation on the rising spate of insecurity in the country.

The invitation was a sequel to a motion of urgent national importance brought by the Borno State caucus over last weekend’s killing of farmers in the state.

The Senate had also in a separate resolution asked the President to sack his service chiefs.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had last week paid a visit to President Buhari where he hinted that the President agreed to address citizens via the Parliament on the security challenges confronting the nation.

​Immigration Recruitment: Officials nab two foreign applicants in Lagos

Officials of the Ministry of Interior have arrested two foreigners in Lagos state who attempted to sit for the ongoing entry examination into the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS.

Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Mohammed Manga disclosed this in a preliminary statement issued Monday in Abuja on the conduct of the exercise.

He said; “Reports reaching us show that, at the Ilupeju Centre of the exercise, some officers of the Ministry who were monitoring the CBT exercise, screened out two non- Nigerians, a Cameroonian and Beninoise who attempted to participate in the recruitment test.

“They have therefore been interrogated, profiled and referred to ACG zone A for further action”.

He added that the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on his part made a surprise stop-over in Ondo state to inspect the on-going Computer-Based Aptitude Test for recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) with a view to having an on-the-spot assessment of the exercise

At the JAMB CBT Centre in Hollaram Educational Centre, Akure, Ondo State, the Minister said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was fully committed to ensuring transperacy in the recruitment process of the Services under the Ministry of Interior

According to him, “with the introduction of the computer-based aptitude test innovation, the era of stampede and pandemonium during recruitment exercises has been completely wiped out”

He stated further that “there is now an assurance of confidence, credibility, equity and integrity in the process on the part of both the examiners and applicants”

According to him, scripts will solely be marked and graded by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board JAMB, adding that no one would be shortchanged in the exercise as “eagle eyed” officers have been deployed in all centres across the country to monitor the exercise.

Earlier, the Deputy Director, JAMB, Ondo State, Mr. Babatunde Bamisaye Benjamin commended the innovation introduced by the present Administration in the recruitment exercise of the Services under the Ministry of Interior.

While noting that COVID-19 guidelines and protocol were closely observed as advised by relevant authorities, he added that with the involvement of the examination body, credibility is assured for the exercise which has been divided into three segments of 750 candidates made up of 250 candidates per session.

Also speaking, one of the candidates, Mr Akimoladun Tolulope, applauded the innovation introduced by the President Buhari administration expressing optimism that it would enhance merit in the recruitment process.

​US adds Nigeria to blacklist on religious freedom

The United States on Monday placed Nigeria for the first time on a religious freedom blacklist, pressing an ally as Christian groups voice growing insecurity.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom, the rare inclusion of a fellow democracy in the US effort to shame nations into action.

“These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act,” Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, wrote on Twitter.

Nigeria maintains a delicate balance between Muslims and Christians, but church groups have expressed their rising concerns to the United States.

US law requires designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

The nations on the blacklist include Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which both have historic albeit complicated alliances with the United States, as well as China and Iran, arch-rivals for President Donald Trump’s administration.

The other nations on the list are Eritrea, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Pompeo notably did not target India, an increasingly close partner of the United States.

India voiced outrage earlier this year when the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which provides recommendations to the State Department, called for India’s blacklisting over what it said was a sharp downturn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist.

Sudan, which is transforming after decades of dictatorship, exited the blacklist last year, and Pompeo on Monday lifted the country from a second-tier watchlist along with Uzbekistan.

Under US law, nations on the blacklist must make improvements or face sanctions including losses of US assistance, although the administration can waive measures.

– Worries about Nigeria worsening –

The State Department did not immediately elaborate on why it designated Nigeria but, in its annual report earlier this year, took note of concerns both at the federal and state levels.

It pointed to the mass detention of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a Shiite Muslim group that was banned last year on terrorism allegations.

The Nigerian army killed some 350 Shiites, many of them gunned down or burned alive, in a 2015 confrontation, according to rights groups.

The movement has taken inspiration from Iran, ordinarily a major target for Trump. But the Catholic Church criticized the prohibition on the group, fearing it set a dangerous precedent for all religions.

The State Department report also highlighted the arrests of Muslims for eating in public in Kano state during Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight hours, and new regulations on preaching in Kaduna state.

Nigeria is the base of Boko Haram, the Islamist extremists whose 11-year insurgency has killed more than 36,000 people and spread to neighboring countries.

But the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a letter to Pompeo, said that far more Nigerians were being killed in herder-farmer conflicts, in which Christians have borne the brunt as climate change worsens desertification.

Christian groups have also accused President Muhammadu Buhari of paying insufficient attention after jihadists abducted and killed a pastor, Lawan Andimi.

The International Committee on Nigeria, an advocacy group, has urged the United States to appoint a special envoy, calling the Buhari government’s response to the violence “weak” and voicing fear it will worsen.

– Bipartisan push on blasphemy –

Religious freedom has been a core issue for Pompeo and Trump, who count on strong evangelical Christian support and have often played down other human rights concerns among allies.

In a bipartisan effort as Trump exits, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution Monday that asks the United States to put a priority on repealing blasphemy laws around the world.

The resolution noted that more than 70 countries had blasphemy laws on the books and voiced alarm over Pakistan, where minorities have frequently been targeted, as well as about attacks on secularist writers in Bangladesh.

The House also unanimously approved a resolution calling for an end to Iran’s “state-sponsored persecution” of the Baha’i community and urged the immediate release of detained members of the faith.