Barely 24 hours after some concerned Nigerians trooped out en mass in the United Kingdom to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, their counterparts in the United States (US) have followed suit.
These Nigerians, under the auspices of Restore Nigeria Coalition (RNC) were spotted in the streets of Washington, chanting ‘Sai Baba’ as they urged the Donald Trump-led government and the United Nations to support President Buhari in flushing out corruption.
Cosmas Collins, President of RNC, speaking on behalf of the group, believes Nigeria has made tremendous progress in the anti-corruption fight as witnessed in the case of embattled Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.
“They are sufficing to note that since 2015, the present administration has initiated measures aimed at reducing corrupt practices in the conduct of government business at all tiers of governance. This effort has yielded positive results to the admiration of the bulk of Nigerians and the consternation of a select few that have benefited from the rot in the system,” he said.
“Undeterred, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has carried on with enthusiasm and a determination to see that structural defects are fixed to curb the rot in the system for the betterment of Nigeria as a country.
“You may also wish to note that the bane of underdevelopment in Nigeria is as a result of the lackadaisical attitude of previous governments in the fight against corruption that has resulted in the wanton disregard for accountability and transparency in the conduct of government businesses and by extension governance in Nigeria.
“Since 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over the affairs of the state in Nigeria, Nigeria has recorded tremendous progress in governance evident in the dividends of democracy trickling down the ladder.
“However, the present administration has encountered numerous challenges from individuals and organisations that have subverted the system through nefarious ways and means all in the quest to portray the Muhammadu Buhari administration in poor light in an attempt to pitch the populace against the government to fulfil their personal agenda of causing unrest and disaffection in the country.
“The recent case of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, who violated the law in declaring his assets as stipulated by the law has further emphasized the level of rot in the system.
“A particular segment of the Nigerian society has cried wolf where none exist and painted a picture of political persecution, forgetting that Nigeria was on the brinks of imminent collapse due the activities of a few that have benefitted from the rot in the system.
“We are through this medium soliciting for assistance from the United States and United Nation in the war against corruption in Nigeria as initiated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in recent times.
“A vivid example can be seen in the instance where the Chief Judicial Official in Nigeria, either by omission or commission failed to declare a part of his assets running into millions of dollars.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria as the number one judicial officer in the country for inexplicable reasons did not declare a part of his assets before the Code of Conduct Bureau in Nigeria. The CJN cited “forgetfulness and mistake” as the reasons for the non-declaration.
“The non-declared items are bank accounts with balances that runs into millions of pounds sterling and dollars. This is too much to be right in our considered opinion. As the number one judicial officer in the country, it is wholly untenable for such an excuse, unless for deliberate reasons.”
The camp of the opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom State has suffered another setback following the defection of prominent chieftains of the party in Esit Eket local government area. Bassey Dan-Abia and Emem Edoho defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, along with their numerous supporters, saying they were sorry for joining APC.
Dan Abia jnr, a former House of Representatives Member for Eket Federal Constituency, is a brother to a former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Bassey Dan Abia (Snr).
They dumped their former party, the APC, alongside hundreds of their supporters, when the PDP took its campaign rally to the area on Wednesday.
Dan- Abia, who apologised for making a mistake in joining the APC, added that he decided to return to the PDP after his political sojourn in the broom party, maintaining that the APC has nothing to offer Akwa Ibom people in particular and Nigerians as a whole.
He said, “PDP is a religion, not only in Akwa Ibom, but here in Esit-Eket and we are back to the fold (PDP). I am happy to work for the victory of the PDP. APC is an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself. Example abounds in Rivers State.
“We are sorry we made a mistake, we faltered and we have returned home. We will work for the success of our party. In view of the fact that the APC is only pretending and is really not visible in most parts of the country, I believe I am not too big to say I am sorry, I am coming back home to work for the overall success of our great party, the PDP in all the elections.”
The PDP political leader of the area, elder Benji Udobia, spoke on their behalf assured Governor Udom Emmanuel of their total support towards his re-election bid.
Similarly, Dr Ini Adiakpan who spoke on behalf of the women, said Esit Eket women were not ready to be tricked into slavery through the “broom party” and assured to give PDP 100 percent support.
Governor Emmanuel, who promised to do more in the area if re-elected into office, announced his intention to construct the Stadium road, adding that modalities were at advanced stage for the reactivation of the Akwa Palm project.
According to him, “In three years, I have done 19.75km in Esit Eket. Those who promised 20 kilometres in eight years did none.
“We have started making some moves with the support of the PDP and the incoming President Atiku Abubakar, to ensure that Esit Eket, Mbo and Ibeno become the new Nigeria through the actualization of Ibom deep sea port project. All I need is the cooperation of all and sundry to actualize the vision.” he appealed.
He, however, warned the people not to allow opposition elements to trick them into parting with their PVCs, saying that their voter’s cards remain their only power to support PDP’s candidates in the forthcoming elections.
In a morning series of tweets, he also said a final deal would leave “NOTHING” unresolved but such a bargain could only be struck after he met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “in the near future.”
The meetings are “going well,” Trump said on Twitter.
“China does not want an increase in Tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct.”
The two sides have just a month remaining in a 90-day truce declared in December. Should the talks fail, US import duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports are due to more than double on March 2 — something economists say could help knock the wind out of the global economy’s sails.
But Washington’s aggressive prosecution of the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei — which federal prosecutors accused this week of industrial espionage, sanctions violations and fraud — threatened to upend the talks, drawing irate objections from Beijing.
“No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points. Very comprehensive transaction,” Trump said.
“China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table. All of the many problems are being discussed and will be hopefully resolved. Tariffs on China increase to 25% on March 1st, so all working hard to complete by that date!”
Petty traders, such as food vendors and sachet water sellers, are making brisk business in Kano on Thursday as the people of the State await the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari for his re-election campaign, at the Sani Abacha stadium.
ASABA, the Delta State capital has been shutdown as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar campaign team arrived the State for campaign rally.
There was serious traffic grid at Nnembisi road, which leads to the Stephen Keshi Stadium, venue of the rally, even as men of the Federal Road Safety Corps, the police and other security agents were seen trying to control vehicular movement.
Meanwhile, the Stephen Keshi Stadium was full to capacity as thousands of Deltans thronged the venue to catch a glimpse of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Tsio Tsio musical band led by the Governor of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN, Mr Quincy Tebite, Davido, Timaya, among other musicians and comedians, were on ground to entertain the people.
Also, PDP women and youths cladded in customized wrappers and T-shirts danced round the stadium in solidarity for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and the PDP. The State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, his Deputy, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori and some other top government functionaries led Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, Mr Peter Obi among other top PDP chieftains from the Asaba international airport, where he landed to the campaign rally venue at exactly 1:10pm in an open roof luxurious bus. He waved at the crowd beaming smiles of satisfaction.
Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.
The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.
The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.
The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.
The infestation of brown and black rats was discovered in early 2018 and prompted action by NGO Island Conservation and the Galapagos’ Ministry of the Environment to rid the territory of the pest.
Rare species including frigate birds and the blue-footed booby raise their young in nests on the ground making them easy prey for the rats. The island has few trees so it is difficult for the indigenous birds to escape predation.
The rats are also known to eat native plants including the opuntia cactus and fragrant palo santo tree.
In addition, there are no species living on the island that prey on the rats. The birds mainly eat fish and North Seymour’s land iguanas eat cactus.
Island Conservation hopes that if the rats can be eliminated, this will herald the return of lava gulls that no longer nest on North Seymour.
While other eradication projects have used helicopters to deliver poison, this was not feasible on North Seymour because of its remote position. Any helicopter, and its pilot, would first have to be delivered to the island on a boat before it could be used.
Drones can deliver poison much more precisely than is possible via helicopter, said Karl Campbell, South American regional director for Island Conservation. Each drone was flown for many 15-minute journeys, during which time they dispensed about 20kg (44lb) of poison.
The poison was cooked up by Bell Labs, which used a custom formula that can survive the island’s extreme weather.
While 52% of North Seymour was baited with the drones, the rest of the 1.9 sq km (0.7 sq miles) island required work by more than 30 park rangers to cover the rugged territory with poison.
Island Conservation said it planned to put down the deadly bait once more before starting to look at the effect on the island’s rats.
Other projects in remote regions to remove rats had shown “dramatic” results, said Island Conservation. Five years after rats were extinguished on Palmyra Atoll, also in the Pacific, native tree cover had increased by 5,000%, it found.
“And while these figures are disturbing, I am optimistic that the measures we have been putting in place will help us to reduce violence and ultimately better protect the public.”
‘Making a volatile situation even worse”
PRT’s head of policy, Mark Day, said government plans were not working and warned Pava sprays could make “a volatile situation even worse.”
“The measures the government have put in place to improve prison safety, including increasing staff numbers and the roll out of a new key worker model, have not yet succeeded in reversing this rising trend.”
Prison staff union the Prison Officers’ Association said the figures were shocking and showed no progress had yet been made.
Most headers & most sub appearances – Crouch’s Premier League record
Crouch was handed his Premier League debut at Aston Villa by Graham Taylor – at the age of 21. He started in a 3-2 defeat against Bolton in March 2002 and his team-mates included Peter Schmeichel, Steve Staunton and Gareth Barry.
Crouch’s club-by-club Premier League career
A veteran of 42 England caps, Crouch has scored the most headed goals in the Premier League and made 152 substitute appearances – the most in Premier League history.
Most headed goals in Premier League
Premier League goals
Peter Crouch (Aston Villa, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham, Stoke)
Alan Shearer (Blackburn, Newcastle)
Dion Dublin (Man Utd, Coventry, Aston Villa)
Of the 28 players to score 100 Premier League goals or more, Crouch is the oldest. He brought up his century playing for Stoke against Everton on 1 February 2017 – two days after turning 36.
He has also scored for each of the six clubs he has played for in the Premier League.
Only Craig Bellamy – for Coventry, Newcastle, Blackburn, Liverpool, West Ham, Manchester City and Cardiff – has scored for more.
Crouch has scored more Premier League goals (108) than Dennis Bergkamp (87), Fernando Torres (85), and Cristiano Ronaldo (84).
It said it had brought the appeal “because it involved complex legal issues which have never been fully tested in the private sector and we will continue to ensure this case is given the legal scrutiny it deserves”.
The Employment Tribunal first ruled against Asda in October 2016. It said shop workers, who mainly work at check-outs or stacking shelves, could compare themselves with staff who work at warehouses.
Asda then appealed against this decision on 10 different grounds.
In August 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled all points of their appeal unsuccessful. Asda then took its case to the Court of Appeal.
Following Thursday’s ruling, the Court of Appeal denied Asda the right to appeal. However, the BBC understands the supermarket chain intends to apply to the Supreme Court to appeal against the ruling there.
There are three key stages in an equal pay case
Are the jobs comparable?
If the jobs are comparable, are they of equal value?
If they are of equal value, is there a reason why the roles should not be paid equally?
Leigh Day represents more 30,000 shop floor staff from the big four supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons – in similar cases.
The legal firm said the claims against the big four supermarkets, if they lose their cases and are ordered to pay all eligible staff, could total more than £8bn.
The GMB union, which represents some Asda workers, welcomed what it described as Thursday’s “landmark” judgment.
General secretary Tim Roache, said: “We know we’re not all the way there, there are more hurdles to jump in this process and as always we remain ready to negotiate should Asda want to get round the table.”
Asda said: “Our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for female and male colleagues and this is equally true in our depots.
“Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres because the demands of the jobs in stores and the jobs in distribution centres are very different; they operate in different market sectors and we pay the market rate in those sectors regardless of gender.”
A driver who admitted killing Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman’s mother by running over her has been sentenced to 30 weeks in prison.
Liam Rosney, 33, of Connah’s Quay, had previously admitted causing death by careless driving at Mold Crown Court.
Carol Boardman, 75, died in July 2016 after she fell off her bike in Deeside, Flintshire.
The court heard Rosney was distracted as he made or received three phone calls before the incident.
He faced a charge of causing death by dangerous driving but later admitted the lesser charge.
As well as the prison sentence, Rosney was banned from driving for 18 and a half months.
“This was an accident which could have easily been prevented and your contribution to that accident is significant in as much as you were distracted,” said Judge Rhys Rowlands.
“The distraction being as a result of you using your mobile phone before the actual collision.”
Mrs Boardman, 75, whose cyclist son Chris won gold at the 1992 Olympics, suffered multiple injuries when she was hit by Mr Rosney’s Mitsubishi pick-up truck after falling from her bike on a mini-roundabout in Connah’s Quay on 16 July 2016.
Judge Rowlands said: “Any accident which results in someone losing their life is the most appalling tragedy, the more so when the deceased, as here, was well-loved and, as I have indicated already, a pretty remarkable woman.”
The court heard that in the minutes before Rosney hit Mrs Boardman, who had fallen from her bike on the junction of Mold Road and Ffordd Llanarth, he made or received three phone calls while driving his vehicle, which did not have a hands-free facility.
Matthew Curtis, prosecuting, said: “It’s clear he was speaking to his wife on the telephone four seconds before the fatal collision and he was, we submit, still distracted by the telephone call and mobile telephone handset.”
Oliver Jarvis, defending, said Rosney did not “want to make any excuses for his behaviour” and realised he had “destroyed the lives” of Mrs Boardman’s family.
Chris Boardman said: “My dad has lost his partner of 50 years which has just been absolutely gutting.”
Looking at the devastating impact the incident has had on his family, he questioned the nature of the charge.
“We don’t treat crime committed in cars as serious crime, so somebody can be careless and crush somebody else to death and it’s classed as careless,” he said.
While he said he did not want to see lots of people go to prison, he wanted to see the ability to do harm taken away.
Boardman called for a review of the law, saying people do “the easiest thing” when driving [such as using their phones] and “react to the consequences”, adding: “If the consequence is minimal then where is the reason to change behaviour?”
Rosney and his wife Victoria were cleared of attempting to pervert the course of justice in July.
Mrs Boardman had been a competitive cyclist in her youth and had remained active in cycling until her death.
Two students banned from the University of Warwick for 10 years for their involvement in a group chat that threatened rape will be allowed to return later this year, it has emerged.
One woman who was targeted said she felt “terrified at the prospect of having these boys in my seminars”.
Several of those in the chat encouraged others to rape specific students.
The university said it had reduced the length of their bans to one year after they appealed.
In a letter, seen by the BBC, a university official apologised to the women for not informing them of the appeal’s outcome sooner – citing “my delayed summer break”.
One of the two women who received the letter, in October last year, said she was talking about it now because she wanted to highlight what she describes as “horrendous” treatment by the university.
The Facebook group chat was first reported last summer by Warwick student newspaper The Boar .
One of the messages said: “Sometimes it’s fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls.”
While another said: “Rape the whole flat to teach them all [a] lesson.”
Another post included a racially offensive term and anti-Semitic language.
At one point, a user wrote: “Rape her in the street while everybody watches,” with another responding it “wouldn’t even be unfair”.
After a disciplinary investigation by the university, five students were suspended.
Two were banned for 10 years – and have now had that reduced to one year, two were excluded for one year, and one was given a lifetime campus ban.
This means four out of the five of the men initially suspended will rejoin classes in September 2019.
‘Humiliated, as if for sport’
In an open letter to the university, one of the female students targeted in the chat said: “We were discussed so violently.
“We were humiliated, as if for sport. These boys were my friends – like my brothers. And they destroyed me.
“You expect us to return from semesters abroad and study alongside these men?
“It is a source of shame for past, present and future Warwick alumni that you lack the courage to stand by us.”
A spokesman from Warwick University said they were unable to comment on individual disciplinary cases.
But he added that the university’s focus had been “to ensure that anyone involved in this matter who remains a student at Warwick is able to complete their studies while minimising any further contact between the original complainants and anyone who received a sanction from the discipline committee.”
Liam Jackson, the president of Warwick Students’ Union, said the union would continue to push for a review of the university disciplinary procedure.
Students from the university have taken to Twitter to voice their anger at the university’s decision using the hashtag #ShameOnYouWarwick.
Leaving the EU with no deal is the default position on 29 March unless a withdrawal agreement can be approved in Parliament in the next few weeks.
The only other options are to extend the Article 50 negotiating process to buy more time, or to withdraw the Article 50 notification altogether, which would mean Brexit wouldn’t happen.
So – with two months to go – what does the government still need to do to prepare for a no-deal scenario?
Well, first of all, it needs to replace laws that will disappear overnight if there is no withdrawal agreement with the EU and no transition period after Brexit.
But the IFG says five big bills in Parliament – on trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration and financial services – face major challenges.
Some of them have yet to start their passage through the House of Lords, where the government does not control parliamentary time.
And the government’s fragile majority in the House of Commons makes things worse.
The prospects for passing another law that will be needed in the event of no deal – on international health care arrangements – are described as uncertain.
The government is also behind schedule on passing secondary legislation – important technical changes known as statutory instruments (SIs).
Only about 100 of 600 SIs required for a no-deal Brexit have been approved and nearly half of that total haven’t yet been tabled in Parliament.
An even bigger risk, the IFG says, is that new processes, systems and staff would have to be in place by the end of March to avoid disruption – and, in many cases, they won’t be. Time is running out.
In eight out of 11 broad policy areas – including borders, health, and law and justice, the IFG report says the government would be unable to avoid some “major negative impacts”.
Part of the problem is that businesses and citizens also need to be ready.
They would normally be given years to prepare for these kind of sweeping changes but the government only started releasing technical notices about a no-deal scenario in August 2018.
Businesses also haven’t been told yet what kind of tariff regime (the taxes on goods coming into the country) will operate after Brexit, while surveys suggest small businesses simply haven’t had the time or the resources to prepare properly for a no-deal scenario.
Many of the problems, the IFG says, are down to the “sheer scale and complexity” of the task.
But the government is also criticised in this report for excessive secrecy in the way it has made preparations.
It has been “unwilling to talk publicly about its plans”, the IFG says, and has developed an “adversarial relationship with Parliament”.
The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) says, “The government has conducted extensive planning and preparation for the past two years to ensure the country is ready for a range of scenarios.
“In addition to extensive guidance online and a publicity campaign, this includes the publication of 106 technical notices, which help businesses and citizens prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.”
Prime Minister Theresa May still hopes, of course, that a deal can be done in the next few weeks and that Brexit on 29 March will be followed by a transition period of at least 21 months, when all the rules and regulations would stay the same.
And if a withdrawal agreement is ratified, and a transition period begins, the only legislation that would need to be passed before Brexit day would be a bill turning that agreement into UK law.
Meat from endangered sharks is finding its way on to the British menu, according to a study.
DNA tests show that shark products destined for restaurants include two species vulnerable to extinction.
Consumers may be unaware what shark they are eating – and whether it is from a sustainable population, British scientists say.
The UK is playing a continuing role in the “damaging trade in endangered shark species”, they say.
One of the two threatened sharks identified – the scalloped hammerhead – is subject to international restrictions.
University of Exeter researchers say, despite the small number of samples studied, they have demonstrated the sale of threatened sharks, highlighting the global nature of the damaging trade in endangered species.
“The discovery of scalloped hammerheads in shark fins that were destined to be sold in the UK highlights how widespread the sale of these endangered species really is,” Dr Andrew Griffiths told BBC News.
The research, reported in the journal Scientific Reports , examined both shark fins destined for restaurants and shark steaks sold in fishmongers and chip shops.
It found that Squalus acanthias (spiny dogfish) , a small shark classed vulnerable to extinction, globally – and, for one population in the north-east Atlantic, endangered, was the main shark being sold at chip shops, under the generic name huss, rock, rock salmon or rock eel.
The shark was probably imported from areas where stocks are sustainable, and generic names are permitted – but the scientists say it is difficult for customers to tell exactly what type of shark they are eating and where it comes from.
“It’s almost impossible for consumers to know what they are buying,” said Catherine Hobbs, also of the University of Exeter.
“People might think they’re getting a sustainably sourced product when they’re actually buying a threatened species.”
The scalloped hammerhead shark was identified among 10 shark fins imported for the UK restaurant trade. The fins are often used to make soup, a celebratory dish in some Asian cuisines.
How do we know that sharks are ending up on the British dinner plate?
Once shark meat is processed, it is difficult to tell which species it comes from. Therefore, the scientists carried out DNA tests to see what was entering the human food chain.
They gathered more than 100 samples from chip shops and supermarkets in southern England. They also looked at dried shark fins imported into the UK.
A type of DNA analysis, known as DNA bar-coding, gave an insight into the shark species on sale.
A fragment of DNA can be matched with an online database known as the bar-code of life to identify the animal.
What did the study find?
Of the 78 samples on sale at chips shops in 2016 and 2017, about 90% came from the spiny dogfish.
Landing this shark is generally not permitted under EU rules, although that on sale was probably sourced from more sustainable stocks elsewhere, then imported and frozen, the scientists say.
Of the 39 fresh and frozen samples obtained from fishmongers, about half were assigned toMustelus asterias (starry smooth hound) , a type of hound-shark. This shark is judged of least concern in terms of extinction risk.
The Sphyrna lewini (scalloped hammerhead)was found in three of 10 dried shark fins on sale in the UK. These may have been imported and stored before international restrictions came into force in 2014.
This shark, which is not found in UK waters, is targeted for its fins and is in decline.
Where is shark meat eaten?
Shark meat is eaten across the world and has been part of the human diet for centuries.
But between 2000 and 2011, global imports of sharks, skates, rays and other cartilaginous fishes rose by 42%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The international trade in 12 species is regulated because of concern over extinction risks.
But there is debate among scientists over which – if any – sharks can be regarded as sustainable and harvested for food.
“Sharks are inherently more vulnerable to overfishing because they don’t produce many eggs and they take a long time to reach maturity – to be able to produce offspring,” said Dr Griffiths.
Corporation blames human error for suggestion caused by misplaced footage on News at Six
The BBC has blamed “human error” for a suggestion on its News at Six that Theresa May would be flying back to Brussels for more BREXI talks in a second world war Spitfire.
But the explanation has been greeted with scepticism by some who saw the incident as an example of pro-Brexit bias at the corporation.
At the end of Wednesday’s evening programme viewers were shown black and white footage of the iconic planes as newsreader Sophie Raworth summarised the prime minister’s plan to reopen Brexit talks with EU leaders.
As the footage of the planes was played, Raworth read: “Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to negotiate her Brexit deal but EU leaders say the deal is done and they will not reopen talks.”
The editor of the programme, Paul Royall, said the Spitfire clip had been intended to be a foretaste of an item about a new Battle of Britain museum at Biggin Hill in London.
In a tweet he blamed the mix up on human error and joked he was “pretty sure” that May would not be travelling to Europe in a Spitfire.
Tim Montgomerie, the pro-Brexit columnist and founder of the ConservativeHome website, said he believed Royall’s explanation, but many would not.
Some pro-EU Twitter users suggested it was a deliberate attempt to send a subliminal message about about May battling the European Union
A spokeswoman for BBC Newslight said the gaffe was a genuine error and there was nothing more to add to Royall’s explanation.
The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has multiplied since 2010. But in Finland’s capital Helsinki rough sleeping has been almost eradicated thanks to a groundbreaking scheme. What can cities in the UK learn from the Finns?
Emerging from Helsinki’s grandiose central railway station on a bitterly cold evening, it does not take long before you notice something unusual.
There are no rough sleepers and no-one is begging.
The contrast with the UK’s major towns and cities – where rough sleepers curled up in sleeping bags, blankets or tents are a common sight – is striking.
“In my childhood I remember there were hundreds, or even thousands of people sleeping in the parks and forests,” says Helsinki’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa.
“It was visible, but we don’t have it any more. Street homelessness doesn’t exist in Helsinki.”
For the past 30 years, tackling homelessness has been a focus for successive governments in Finland.
In 1987, there were more than 18,000 homeless people there. The latest figures from the end of 2017 show there were about 6,600 people classified as without a home.
The vast majority are living with friends or family, or are housed in temporary accommodation. Only a very small number are actually sleeping on the streets.
So how have the Finns managed it?
Since 2007, their government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the “Housing First” principle.
Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible.
It then provides them with the help and support they need. That may be supporting someone trying to tackle an addiction, assisting them to learn new skills, or helping them get into training, education or work.
This is very different to the traditional approach in the UK, where a permanent home is only offered after a homeless person has sought help in a homeless hostel or temporary accommodation.
One person who has benefited is Thomas Salmi, who became homeless when he turned 18 and had to leave his orphanage.
He spent three years on the streets of Helsinki, where the average minimum temperature in February is -7C (19F).
“When you lose everything, it really doesn’t matter,” he says. “You’re thinking about suicide, am I going to die? Is it safe?
“It is cold, especially in the middle of winter. If you’re sleeping outside you might die.”
For the past two years, Thomas has had an apartment of his own at a large complex run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDI), one of several organisations providing accommodation for otherwise homeless Finns.
Now 24, he says living at the HDI has helped him turn his life around. He used to drink heavily while living on the streets but now only touches alcohol at the weekend.
Under Housing First, the offer of a home is unconditional. Even if someone is still taking drugs or abusing alcohol they still get to stay in the house or flat, so long as they are interacting with support workers.
They can pay rent through state housing benefit and people can even opt to stay for the rest of their lives.
“They told me that it’s my house,” says Thomas. “And I asked them – is someone going to tell me, ‘we need this house and you have to go’? But they told me ‘No, it’s your house, you can do whatever you want.’
“When I have a stable home, I can try to build everything else around it like work, studying, family, friends. But when you’re on the streets, you don’t have any of that.”
HDI has a total of 403 apartments in Helsinki and the neighbouring city of Espoo.
Tenants get together in the communal kitchen to make lunch and socialise in the lounge areas. Support workers are always on hand.
Pia Rosenberg, 64, has lived in the same Housing First project since 2014 after being homeless for two years.
“It suits me good because I’m an alcoholic and I’m allowed to drink in my room,” she says. “And if I need help, then I get it.
Charities such as Shelter say the real number of people sleeping rough is much higher. Official figures are based on the number of homeless people counted on the streets on a single autumn evening each year.
Housing First’s success has caught the attention of the UK government, which last year agreed to pay for pilot schemes in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands.
There are already several small scale trials being carried out in Wales, some run by The Salvation Army, others by local authorities. Those behind the schemes say the results so far have been positive.
Trials in England are due to start shortly and will be aimed at helping the most entrenched rough sleepers.
But is it a good idea to essentially hand over the keys to accommodation, without any obligation to give up alcohol or drugs?
“We can see that it works in Finland, so why can’t it work here,” says Neil Cornthwaite, head of operations at the homeless charity Barnabus Manchester.
“There are a lot of barriers to people getting into accommodation and certain groups of people are excluded from projects because of their addictions and/or their mental health.
“So if we’ve got another option where we can put people into a home and not just a bed, despite their issues, then I think that’s a really positive step forward.”
Will it work in the UK? While the scheme is regarded as successful in Finland, it does have drawbacks. Homes are not always available immediately and figures show roughly one in five people return to homelessness at some stage.
Housing people in this way does not come cheap. Finland has spent about £262m (300m euros) over the past decade, providing 3,500 new homes for the homeless and more than 300 new support workers.
The UK government is spending £28m on the three Housing First schemes and hopes about 1,000 homes will be provided.
One of the key architects of Housing First in Finland, Juha Kaakinen, believes it will only work if the UK authorities are fully committed.
“In many places, Housing First are small projects with a small number of flats available. You need to make it much bigger to end homelessness and for that reason it should be a national policy otherwise it won’t work.”
Mr Kaakinen suggests the UK’s priority should be tackling the housing crisis.
“The main issue seems to be the lack of affordable social housing. To solve homelessness, that’s something that you need otherwise it’s going to be a very difficult task.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is convinced the scheme is the right answer though.
“You cannot have good health or a good life without good housing,” he says.
“I’m confident we will show that Housing First can work. I will be asking the government to make this permanent.”
The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Heather Wheeler, insists the government is listening and taking action.
“No-one is meant to spend their lives on the streets, or without a home to call their own.
“And evidence shows that Housing First has an incredible rate of success in helping people rebuild their lives.”
Back in Helsinki, deputy mayor Ms Vesikana believes tackling homelessness and ending rough sleeping is not only a moral obligation but may also save money in the long-run.
“We know already that it pays back because we have expenses elsewhere if people are homeless. They have more severe health problems which are then taken to emergency care and hospital.
“Homelessness and rough sleeping is something we just can’t have in our cities, people dying on the streets. It’s not the type of society or city we want to live in.”
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