Police fired tear gas at protesters in one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts on Sunday as growing numbers took to the street.
The protesters are in opposition to Beijing’s plans to impose a national security law that bypasses the local legislature.
Water cannon and armoured trucks were deployed across the city before protests even kicked off, as police prepared for mass protests, the first of their kind since the city got COVID-19 under control.
While some protesters dug up bricks from walkways, scenes largely included dozens of riot police, moving people on or blocking roads in line formations, determined to keep traffic moving for as long as possible.
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The demonstrations are expected to intensify throughout the day.
The Police issued two statements in quick succession, condemning protesters for turning up and flouting social distancing laws, after calls to gather were advertised online, despite not having the official go-ahead.
The Police also appealed to the public to get out of the area and stay safe, as they undertake “enforcement actions against rioters’’.
Widespread outrage has engulfed the city as new laws concerning national security led the discussions on Friday at the National People’s Congress rubber-stamp parliament in Beijing.
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Many Hong Kong citizens feel the new laws would infringe on the freedoms widely enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city as it would allow Chinese companies to set up security agencies.
Protesters, who can currently be arrested and fined for flouting social distancing laws and for illegal assembly, may also be charged with “local terrorism” under the new national security law if it is passed by Beijing.
International human rights organisations say the laws would mean the end of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, the 1997 understanding implemented when Britain handed control of the city back to China, which left Hong Kong a degree of autonomy.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam and Andrew Leung, the President of the territory’s Legislative Council (Legco), welcomed the move.
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Both politicians have been embroiled in a political stalemate between pro-establishment and pro-democratic camps in the local parliament, amid ongoing anti-government protests.
Tensions came to a peak last week in the Legco when opposing sides battled it out during an election for Chair of the House Committee, which reviews bills.
Some pro-democracy legislators were carried out of the chamber by security guards during the hour-long debacle.
The coronavirus pandemic temporarily shut down protests, but now that there are no new COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, some have accused the government of keeping social distancing measures in place to quash the return of protests.
A heavy police presence could be seen throughout the day on Sunday, with the Police stopping and searching individuals, while groups of riot police could be seen loading weaponry with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.
The Police came under fire during the protests last year for their use of tear gas as a dispersal weapon in densely populated areas.
APC Blames PDP For Impoverishing 133m Nigerians
The ruling All Progressives Congress has exonerated the administration of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the poverty level of over 133 million Nigerians.
This clarification was made by the APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, when he appeared on Sunrise Daily, a popular programme on Channels Television, on Monday.
While stating he could not dispute the recent statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics, Ibrahim fingered the opposition Peoples Democratic Party for plunging the nation into a sorry state as result of bad governance.
The NBS had in November disclosed that about 133 million people, which represented 63 per cent of Nigerians were ‘multidimensionally’ poor.
The bureau further indicated that 65 per cent of the impoverished people live up the north, while the remaining 35 per cent are represented in the south.
But the APC publicity director stoutly defended the Buhari’s regime, saying it had no case to answer when it came to the impoverished state of the average Nigerian.
He said, “I am happy the NBS did not say it is the APC that impoverished Nigerians. This poverty that has taken control of Nigeria is as a result of the misrule of the PDP for 16 years.
“The APC, since it came into power, has been doing everything to uplift the standard of living, to take people to the place of their ambitions, and it promised to provide succour, and it is doing so.”
Continuing, Ibrahim applauded the current administration, which he said deserved accolades for producing more millionaire rice farmers since it was elected in May 2015.
Nigerians Most Litigious People On Earth, CJN Ariwoola Laments
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola lamented on Monday in Abuja that Nigerians, especially the political class are the most litigious people on earth putting unprecedented pressure on the judiciary.
Justice Ariwoola canvassed the need for the Nigerian public to be told to do less litigation and embrace more of alternative dispute resolution to free the courts of unnecessary over-stretching of human and material resources.
Speaking against the incessant rush to court after every little disagreement, the CJN explained that Nigeria has various alternative dispute resolution mechanisms across the country that can conveniently be leveraged, with a view to freeing the courts of the incessant case overload.
“In every little disagreement, we rush to court; and in every lost case, we rush to appeal even up to the Supreme Court, no matter how little the issue might be. That has obviously accounted for the several appeals pending in Supreme Court.
“Though we receive scathing criticisms from members of the public over our over-blotted docket, we are neither in any position to regulate case inflow to the court nor have the supernatural powers to attend to all in one fell swoop.”
Justice Ariwoola spoke at the Supreme Court at a special court session to mark the 2022/2023 legal year of the Apex Court and the inauguration of the 62 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN.
To buttress his claim, Justice Ariwoola explained that during the 2021/2022 legal year alone, the Supreme Court entertained a total number of 1,764 cases, comprising of motions and appeals.
Out of the figure, he said justices of the court heard 816 civil, 370 criminal and 16 political matters, making a total of 1,202 motions.
Similarly, he said, the court considered a total number of 562 appeals, comprising 341 civil, 186 criminal, and 35 political. A total number of 154 judgments were delivered in the year.
“[Of] our pending (backlog) civil appeals are 4,741 while the number of pending (backlog) criminal appeals is 1,392.
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“On the other hand, we have 751 moribund appeals for disposal. That brings the total number of pending (backlog) appeals in this Honourable Court to 6,884.
“Out of the 4,741 appeals in the court’s docket, 1,495 have briefs filed and exchanged and are ready for hearing; whereas, the remaining 3,246 appeals are having about 10,000 motions, with some contentious and others innocuous in nature.
“As for the pending 1,392 criminal appeals, 461 already had briefs filed and exchanged and are ready for hearing. The remaining 931 appeals have about 2,000 different motions for hearing to determine their eligibility for hearing.
“However, the identified 751 moribund appeals are to be disposed of for non-compliance with the Supreme Court Rules, i.e. Order 8 Rule 8,” he said.
He further stated: “Available facts on judicial activities in various jurisdictions across the globe still emphatically confirmed that the Supreme Court of Nigeria remains the busiest and most hardworking Supreme Court in the world.
“It is on record that we work from Monday to Friday every week. We conduct sittings on daily basis. It is only on Wednesdays we do chamber sitting to consider non-contentious matters. On Fridays, we deliver judgments and rulings.”
He noted that there are debates in the public space as to whether the Nigerian judiciary is independent or not.
“In the course of these various engagements, discussants always assess the situation from different unrelated perspectives; and that has largely accounted for the often conflicting solutions proffered at the end of each dialogue session.
“The Nigerian Judiciary, to a very large extent, is independent in conducting its affairs and taking decisions on matters before it without any extraneous influence,” he stated.
According to him: “At the Supreme Court, without mincing words, we are completely independent in the way and manner we conduct our affairs, especially in our judgments.
“We don’t pander to the whims and caprices of anybody. If there is anybody to be feared, I must say with full confidence, that it is only the Almighty God. We will never be subservient to anyone, no matter his position or influence in the society.
“Nevertheless, I will make it clear to whoever that cares to listen that when the Nigerian Judiciary is assessed from the financial aspect, we are yet to be free or truly independent.
“The annual budget of the Judiciary is still a far cry from what it ought to be. The figure is either stagnated for a long period of time or it goes on a progressive decline when placed side-by-side with the current realities in the market.
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“Prices of goods and services are not getting less or friendly to buyers; while at the same time, our purchasing power is abysmally low and weak enough to transmit on the same wavelength with the market forces.
“The only thing I can do at this juncture is to plead with the other arms of government and allied agencies to clear all the impediments so we can enjoy our independence holistically.”
FG Gives Reason For High Cost Of Fertiliser
The Federal Government, on Monday, explained that the cost of fertilizer had continued to go up due to a global increase in its production components.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the explanation in Abuja at the fifth edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) Administration’s Scorecard 2015-2017 series.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the scorecard series is organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture, with the fifth edition featuring the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar.
Responding to a question on the high cost of fertiliser in the country, the Minister of Information and Culture said it was a global issue.
He explained that from 2017 till date, the prices of three major raw materials for fertiliser production, that is, phosphate, potash and urea, had gone above the roof.
“In 2017, one metric ton of phosphate cost 290 US Dollars (USD). Today, the same metric costs 1,255 USD.
“In 2017, one metric ton of potash cost 256 USD. Today, the same one metric ton costs 1,187 USD.
“In 2017, one metric ton of Urea was 300 USD. Today, one metric ton is 1,037 USD.
“You can see that the prices of fertiliser components at the international market have gone up and this is not peculiar to Nigeria,’’ he said.
The minister recalled that when the Buhari-led administration came on board in 2015, it launched the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to address the perennial challenges faced in the production, cost and distribution of the commodity.
He said that the initiative yielded results, including the increase of fertiliser blending plants from four in 2015 when they assumed office to 72 presently.
The minister also recalled that before the prices of the fertilizer components started going up in 2017, the Buhari administration succeeded in bringing it down from N10,000 to N5,000.
According to him, if not for the fertiliser initiative of the federal government, the cost of fertilizer would have been higher than what is presently obtained in the market.
NAN reports that the price of the commodity in the retail market currently is between N20,000 to N25,000 for a bag of NPK or urea fertiliser.
Corroborating Mohammed, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development attributed the increase in the prices of fertilizer and its production components globally to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the Russia-Ukraine war.
He said that Nigeria was not insulated from the global impacts and inflationary trend.
The minister assured that the federal government would continue to mitigate the impacts and implement policies and programmes that would cushion the effects of the high cost of fertiliser.
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