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.
NBA Drags FG, Lagos To Court Over New Proof Of Car Ownership Levy
Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, NBA-SPIDEL, has dragged the Federal and Lagos State governments before a Federal High Court in Lagos over the imposition of a Proof of Ownership levy on all vehicle owners.
The NBA-SPIDEL is, among other demands, asking the court to declare the new yearly vehicle documentation, which came with a N1,000 price tag, as multiple taxation and unlawful.
The plaintiffs in the suit, which is yet to be assigned to a judge, are NBA-SPIDEL; the Chairman of the section, John Akpokpo-Martins; the Secretary, Funmi Adeogun, and a member of the Governing Council of NBA-SPIDEL, Francis Ogunbowale.
The defendants in the case are the Federal Government, the Joint Tax Board, and the Governor of Lagos State.
The plaintiffs are asking the court for a declaration that “by Section 86 (1) of the Personal Income Tax Act 2004 that sets up the Joint Tax Board (JTB), the power it purportedly exercised to impose yearly fees for annual renewal of Proof of Ownership (POC) Certificates on vehicle owners, is ultra vires, unlawful and unconstitutional.”
They are also urging the court for a declaration that the imposition of annual renewal of Proof of Ownership certificates on vehicle owners amounts to multiple taxation and, therefore, illegal because tax agencies and other agencies of Governments usually issue certificates of proof of ownership to vehicle owners at the point of registration of vehicles.
The plaintiffs are further seeking “an order striking down the provisions of sections 73(1), (2) & (3) of the National Road Traffic Regulation No. 101, Vol. 99 of 25th of December 2012, on the grounds of being in violent breach of Item 63 of Part I of the 2nd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution and section 1(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and therefore unconstitutional.”
Nigeria’s Forex Market Needs Restructuring—Tinubu’s Aide
The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Affairs, Dr Tope Fasua, has called for a structural reform of Nigeria’s foreign exchange market.
Fasua made the call at a roundtable organised by the National Policy Advocacy Centre (NPAC) of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on Tuesday in Abuja.
The theme of the event was “Unification of Foreign Exchange and the Effect of Fuel Subsidy Removal on the Business Community’’.
“I believe we should reform the Bureau De Change (BDC) sector and make it stronger. You cannot manage over 5,000 BDCs selling money on the streets.
“If we can do the structural reforms in the BDCs sector and the banks and supervise them well, the CBN with our reserves can incentivize that sector, allowing people to get money much quicker.
“And you have to define the illegal market and by then we will be able to find stability,” he said.
Fasua said that Nigeria spends over $45 billion annually importing refined petroleum products, milk, chemicals and fish, among others.
He said: “I hear things like scarcity of forex. What is scarcity of forex, as if the world owes us any forex.
“The world does not owe us any forex. The forex you get is depending on the trade that you do.
“If you look at Nigeria’s import and export profile, over 20 items that we import in Nigeria are in the billions of dollar range.
“Our biggest import, fuel and diesel take about $25 billion to $30 billion every year.
“We have things like cars, which is about four billion every year; sugar, fish, milk one billion each; wheat four billion; chemicals, three billion dollars; pharmaceuticals two billion dollars.”
Fasua listed crude oil and fertiliser as two things that Nigeria exports in the billion dollar range.
“The first is petroleum and gas, you will see a figure like $57 billion, but out of that only 30 per cent is ours, according to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
“The international oil companies that have the technology that do production own most of that money,’’ he said.
The Director, Policy Advocacy Centre, ACCI, Mr Chidiebere Onwumere, said that foreign exchange unification held promises of increased transparency, improved access to forex and reduced market distortions.
He, however, said that it raises questions about exchange rate stability, inflationary pressures and the cost of imports.
“We must carefully consider how these factors will affect the competitiveness of our industries and the purchasing power of our citizens.
“Fuel subsidy removal, on the other hand, is expected to free up fiscal resources, reduce government spending, and potentially lead to increased investment in critical sectors.
“Yet, it also raises concerns about the immediate impact on transportation costs, inflation, and the welfare of our citizens, especially those in vulnerable communities,’’ he said.
Mr Oscar Onyema, Managing Director, Nigerian Exchange Group (NEG) PLC, said collaborative dialogue was essential in formulating policies that balance short-term challenges with long-term benefits.
Highlighting the effects of both policies on the economy, Onyema said that immediate transition could disrupt businesses and the economy in several ways.
Represented by Mrs Cordelia Ihedioha, Onyema said that businesses that were heavily reliant on imports may face short-term disruptions due to the sudden shift in exchange rates.
According to him, this could result in increased costs for imported raw materials, leading to potential price adjustments for end consumers.
“To mitigate these disruptions, businesses may need to explore alternative sourcing strategies and adjust their pricing models,” Onyema said
Mr Dele Alimi, Director General, Institute of Directors of Nigeria appealed to the Federal Government to take total control of the mineral sector.
He said: “The mineral sector over the years has been poorly handled by previous governments as host communities have been left impoverished by illegal mining activities.”
Alimi described the subsidy removal and unification of the foreign exchange as bold steps by the Federal Government, saying that it was a necessity for economic revival.
He urged more emphasis should be placed on efficiency of governance than cost of governance.
Dr Chijiokr Ekechukwu, Vice President of ACCI, urged the Federal Government to fix the refineries and dvocated alternative sources of energy for cars to cushion the effect of the petrol subsidy removal.
According to him, 60 per cent of cars in the United States run on electricity, adding, “that is where we should be headed for.”
He expressed concern that while the unification of foreign exchange rate brought checks and balances and better accountability, saying, “the high exchange has affected prices of goods and services.
“The inflation rate continues to coast upwards and there is a high cost of production, criminality, low standard of living and unemployment has risen above 33 per cent to 35 per cent.’’
Mr Asishana Okauru, the Director General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, represented by Olarenwaju Ajibasile said the cost of governance needed to be channelled to the local sector.
“Pattronising locally made products will bost the local economy,’’ he said.
Olasupo Agbaje, General Manager Economic Regulations, Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said that efficiency in the downstream operations was key in sustaining the petrol subsidy removal.
“What we hope for and where we want to be is not just the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) being the sole supplier.
“We want other operators, the private sector coming in and this is one of the objectives of the Petroleum Industry Act,” Agbaje said.
Tinubu’s Ministers Resign
The Minister of Interior, Tunji Olubunmi-Ojo, and the Minister of State for Education, Tanko Sununu, have officially resigned from the House of Representatives.
Their letters of resignation were read on the floor of the House on Tuesday by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas.
Messrs Olubunmi-Ojo and Sununu were appointed by President Bola Tinubu and cleared by the Senate in August, however, the House had been on recess since July.
While Mr Olubunmi-Ojo represented the Akoko North-east/Akoko North-west federal constituency of Ondo State, Mr Sununu was the representative of the Yauri/Shanga/Ngaski federal constituency of Kebbi State in the lower chamber.
Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution provides that a member shall cease to be a member if appointed as minister.
“(1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if -he becomes President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor or a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government of a State or a Special Adviser,” the section reads.
New member sworn-in
Meanwhile, Salisu Majigiri (PDP, Katsina) was sworn in as a member of the House at the resumption of plenary.
Mr Majigiri was declared the winner of the 25 February election for Mashi/Dutsi federal constituency of Katsina State after polling 27,387 votes to defeat his closest rival, Mansir Ali of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who polled 20,596 votes.
However, his candidacy was challenged by Nazifi Yusuf at the Supreme Court, which In April, affirmed the candidacy of Mr Majigiri.
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