Atiku Abubakar

Atiku Accuses Buhari of Stoking Violence, in Nigeria”:

Nigeria must return to path of development, says Jonathan

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of stoking the embers of violence in his campaigns.

This is as he urged Nigerians to reject any leader who tries to pit Nigerians against each other.

This comes as the former President Goodluck Jonathan also urged Nigerians to vote the PDP to return the country to the path of development.

Addressing a mammoth crowd of supporters at the PDP mega rally at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt Monday, Atiku said it was worrisome that a president would be inciting the citizens to violence when he should be preaching peace.

He accused Buhari of encouraging the people of Zamfara to violence when he visited them on Sunday.

He said: “Do you know what the president said yesterday (Sunday) in Zamfara? He told the people: Let us pray for rainfall; let us pray we grow food; let us pray we eat well; then we can make trouble. Is that what a president should say? Buhari, I am addressing you.

“This is a president who is preaching violence. And this is not the first time he has done so in this country. We are not going to allow any person to knock our heads together and make us fight.

“We want peace. We want development. We want prosperity. We want jobs. These are the things we want for this country. We are not ready to fight each other again. So, any leader who has come to instigate us to fight against each other, we will use our ballot paper to throw him out. Buhari must go.”

He also assured the people that he would protect the constitution if elected.

“I assure you that I will protect the constitution. Nobody has gone to court more than me to protect the constitution. I will protect separation of powers. I will not interfere with the National Assembly because I believe in checks and balances. I will not interfere with the judiciary because it is part and parcel of our checks and balances. I will uphold the rule of law. I will not allow rule of law to be trampled by anybody,” he said.

Atiku also assured the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta that he would pursue restructuring of the country to ensure the development of all parts of the country.

“I am the author of restructuring. I will give it to Rivers State. I will give it to Niger Delta. We must restructure,” he said.

He also noted that it was under the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku presidency that the East-west Road was initied and vowed to ensure its speedy completion.

“The ports in Port Harcourt and Onne are dead under the APC. We will reactivate them so that we can create jobs for thousands of youths in Rivers State,” he said.

He accused the APC of not executing any projects in Rivers State or the Niger Delta region in the past four years and promised to reverse the trend when elected.

Also addressing the rally, former President Jonathan lamented that all indices of development had recorded negative growth since the APC came to power and called on the people to return the PDP to power if the country would be on the path of development again.

“The only person that can lead the country out of the woods now is Atiku. He will not discriminate between 95 and five per cent. He will treat all parts of the country equally. He has been tested and can be trusted. A vote for Atiku, PDP, is a vote for progress,” he said.

Atiku’s running mate, Mr. Peter Obi, also said it is only the PDP that can restore Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta to what it should be through restructuring and creation of jobs.

The National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, stated that the APC was now in disarray with the collapse of the North-west earlier considered a stronghold of the party.

“You saw what happened in Kano yesterday. It was a tsunami. The North-west is now for PDP. The APC is now in disarray, desperate and confused. They cannot gather the people again; that was why (Governor) el-Rufai will talk about ‘body bags’, the language of a terrorist,” he said.

The Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike assured the campaign team that Rivers State would vote massively for the PDP as that is the only party that the people of the state believe in.

Rivers APC Guber Tussle: Supreme Court Decides Abe, Cole’s Fate Tuesday

Rivers APC Guber Tussle: Supreme Court Decides Abe, Cole’s Fate Tuesday”: in Abuja

The Supreme Court will on Tuesday decide between Magnus Abe and Tonye Cole, who is the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 2, governorship election in Rivers State.

A five man Panel of the Supreme Court on Monday adjourned till Tuesday to deliver judgement on the appeal challenging the judgement delivered by the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court which set aside the 2 primaries conducted by two factions of the APC in Rivers state.

Presiding Judge, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, announced that the Apex Court would deliver its judgement on the appeal shortly after both counsel for appellant, APC , Lateef Fagbemi and counsel for the respondents, Henry Bello, made their final submissions on the matter.

While one of the factions is headed by Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, the other is led by Senator Magnus Abe.

Fagbemi in praying the Apex Court to nullify the judgement of the trial court submitted that the trial court had no jurisdiction when it entertained the suit.

He also claimed that since the trial court had no jurisdiction, its judgement in the matter amount to a nullity and should be set aside.

Fagbemi specifically asked the Supreme Court to invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court Act and give final judgement in the matter to end the multiple cases arising from the Rivers State APC primary election.

On his part, counsel to the respondents in , Bello urged the Apex Court to dismiss the appeal of the APC on the ground that it had become a mere academic exercise having been overtaken by event.

He argued that by the decision of the apex court on February 8, 2019 which upheld the decision of the trial Court and barred APC from primary election, the case of APC had died and should be buried.

Bello told the court that the respondents led by Ibrahim Umar who were aggrieved by the violation of the Electoral Act and the 1999 constitution in the manner APC conducted pre- election matters in Rivers, had secured a consent judgement in their favour that the judgement still stands.

He urged the court to hold that the instant appeal has become accademic exercise.

The Apex Court after listening to the counsel, said judgement will be given Tuesay, while the reasons for its position would be given at a later date.

Police Arrest Another PDP Chieftain in Kaduna “

Another chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State, Alhaji Yaro Makama, has been arrested.

Makama, a former chairman of the PDP in the state, was arrested on Monday morning by the police for alleged hate speech and was whisked to Abuja.

He was said to have been invited to the Kaduna State Police Command and upon honouring the invitation, he was taken to Abuja after writing a statement.

Makama’s arrest came less than 24 hours after the spokesman of the state PDP Campaign Organisation, Ben Bako, was arrested on Sunday evening by the Department of State Services (DSS) and taken to Abuja.

Bako was arrested for allegedly making inciting comments in a video clip recorded during the PDP campaign rally in Kafanchan, Jama’a Local Government Area of the state last week.

The Deputy Director General of the Campaign Organisation, Danjuma Sarki, who confirmed Makama’s arrest in a telephone interview, said the arrest was part of the grand design by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to clamp down on PDP members before the elections.

Sarki said: “This morning, Makama was invited by the state police command. He honoured the police invitation as a law abiding citizen.

“They accused him of hate speech and was asked to write a statement. We thought that after writing the statement, they will let him go, but surprisingly he was taken to Abuja after writing his statement.

“Yesterday (Sunday), when we addressed a press conference, we said there were plans by the state government to frame and arrest 150 prominent PDP members before the elections.

AFP

Buhari Mourns Ejoor, Describes Ex-Army Chief as Man of Positive Character”: in Abuja:

President Muhammadu Buhari Monday said he was saddened by the death of the first military governor of Mid-western Region and a former Chief of Army Staff, Major General David Ejoor (rtd.)

The president, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, commiserated with the Ejoor family, the Urhobo nation, and the government and people of Delta State on behalf of the Federal Executive Council on the demise of the elder statesman whom he also described as a “courageous officer, who had a distinguished career in the military and remarkable service to the nation.”

According to the statement, Buhari recalled that as the first military Governor of the Mid-Western Region, “during one of the darkest years in the nation’s history, and first indigenous Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, who also held many other national leadership positions, the President regards Gen. Ejoor, as a hardworking military officer whose loyalty, commitment and dedication to the unity of the country were never in doubt.”

It added that Buhari affirmed that the former army chief, who was once the President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union, would be long remembered and honoured as a man of positive character and vision, whom he said provided profound inspiration to countless number of military officers and Nigerians that came in close contact with him.

The statement added that the president prayed the Almighty God to repose the soul of the departed senior citizen and comfort all who mourn the much respected octogenarian.

Leah Sharibu Not Dead, FG Reassures

  • Family demands her release before February 19

The federal government has again reassured that Leah Sharibu, the teenager abducted by Boko Haram terrorists, is not dead.

However, despite this reassurance, her family has asked the federal government to ensure the release of their daughter before February 19, which will mark exactly one year of her abduction.

Addressing journalists yesterday in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described as absolute fake news of the reported death of abducted Dapchi school girl.

He said the rumour of  Sharibu’s death, which surfaced just a few days to the presidential election, was another ploy by the political opposition to tarnish the image of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and exploit primordial sentiments ahead of the polls.

According to him, “It is absolutely fake news. There is nothing like that,” the minister said. “I think it is part of the opposition’s strategies to throw everything at the administration and at the president. I think everyday, they are realising the hopelessness of their position.

“Everyday they are amazed by the support the President is receiving from every part of the country and they have decided that they are going to spread falsehood, inflame passion and make this election a Muslim-Christian affair or North-South affair, but people are not listening to them,” Mohammed said.

Meanwhile, the family of Leah Sharibu has petitioned the federal government to ensure the release of their daughter before  February 19, which will mark exactly one year of her abduction.

On the night of February 19, 2018, the 14-year-old Leah Sharibu was kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists from her school, Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe State alongside 111 other girls.

All of the girls who survived the kidnap were later freed by the Boko Haram sect except Leah, who reportedly refused to denounce her Christian faith.

Her mother,  Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu who was all tears  at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, called for the release of her daughter as promised by the federal government.

She pleaded that President Muhammadu Buhari should do everything possible to ensure the release and safe return of Sharibu.

The distraught mother, who spoke in Hausa, recounted that President Buhari spoke with her on phone and gave her his assurance of Leah’s release, which was backed up
with the visitation of a high-powered federal government delegation that had three ministers led by the Minister of information and Culture,   Lai Mohammed.

She said: “I have come before you and the federal government to plead that you don’t forget Leah. The president spoke with me on phone and encouraged me not to worry, and with the assurance that my daughter will be released.  Three ministers also visited me and gave me assurance but till today, I haven’t heard anything, hence my coming before you to plead.

“Leah is just 15 years old. The beauty of a promise is in its fulfillment. Please save my daughter. I plead with you to help me,” she lamented.

Also speaking on her plight, Ambassador, IFES World Assembly, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, said there was the need for presidential aspirants to tell Nigerians what they hope to do to ensure Leah’s release and that of others in captivity if she is not released before February 19.

He noted that this is a campaign era, adding that the silence from all the candidates has not been encouraging, stressing that her issue should be used at campaigns.

He affirmed that the issue of religion is a human rights issue, nothing that there is no reason for Leah to remain in captivity as a result of her refusal to renounce her faith and conviction without fear.

He said: “We will love to hear from all the presidential candidates what exactly they are planning to do to bring Leah to freedom if for any reason she is not released before February 19. We want to hear her name and story becoming a campaign issue.

“The silence from all the presidential candidates about Leah and others in captivity is not encouraging. So, we are using this appeal and thus campaign season to hear what the presidential candidates have to say about Leah’s freedom. It is important for all Nigerians and the global community,” he added.

Sharibu’s denomination has called on all Christians to seek the face of God through prayers and fasting, come February 19.


Atiku’s Kano Rally Throws Open Buhari’s Northern Strongholds”:

  • Massive crowds at Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna show PDP candidate has altered equation

The mammoth crowd of supporters that attended yesterday’s rally of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano has further strengthened the growing forecast that the main opposition party’s flag bearer is in strong contention in areas hitherto believed to be strongholds of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Buhari had won convincingly the massive voting North-west states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano in the 2015 general election that saw him squaring up with the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, making bookmakers to declare them his strongholds.

But with the advent of Atiku and his campaign, the large numbers of enthusiastic supporters that subscribed to his rallies have got analysts rethinking their permutations and giving the PDP standard bearer a winning chance in some of the states.

Atiku’s rallies in Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina, the home state of the president, drew such an unprecedented crowd that some leading lights of the APC, THISDAY learnt, have expressed fears privately that Buhari might have shed a heavy weight.The situation is not markedly different in the North-east states of Bauchi and Bornu that were thought to be Buhari’s impregnable fortresses. If anyone had any doubt that that was no longer the case, said one analyst, Atiku’s last week’s rallies in those states must have cleared such doubt.

Perhaps encouraged by the massive crowd, Atiku spoke glowingly of the failure of Buhari’s government, saying that it has brought the nation’s economy to its knees and must be punished for it.

The punishment, he said, should come in form of votes that would send its President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration out of office.

With all available spaces occupied by PDP’s followers at the stadium, 28 persons were said to have slumped at the event, while the huge crowd that flooded the stadium made it difficult for movement within the Kano metropolis, especially around the stadium.

People were seen lined up the streets, as early as 9am to welcome Atiku to the ancient town. As soon as he arrived in the city, the presidential candidate headed to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi.

For a journey of less than 20 minutes, it took Atiku-led campaign team over four hours to get to the palace and another three hours to get to the stadium because of the human/vehicular traffic created by Atiku’s visit.

He was accompanied by the Director-General of the presidential campaign, Senate President Bukola Saraki; the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; and former governor of Kano, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; among other key party’s leaders.

Until recently, Kano was a Buhari stronghold, securing his highest number of votes, nearly two million, in 2015. Kwankwaso, who was the governor of the state when this happened, is now in PDP.

Speaking to PDP supporters, Atiku disclosed that if given the mandate on Saturday, he would support the renewal of agriculture and the economy, which according to him, are in shambles.

He said: “Are you going to vote for PDP? If you vote for PDP, the government will revitalize business and the moribund industries in Kano. We will also boost agriculture.

“I will ensure that among my priorities would be the revitalization of agriculture, industries and commercial activities so as to boost the economy, which has been killed by the APC government.”

Atiku noted that Kano, which used to be the centre of commercial activities in the North, is experiencing backwardness in business and commerce.

Also speaking at the rally, the PDP national chairman told the overwhelmed crowd that the Kano rally represents a revolution and a pointer that Kano people have reembraced PDP.

Saraki said there is hunger in Nigeria, accusing the APC government of bringing hardship on the people, saying there is need for Nigerians to vote out the government.

Atiku’s Kano Rally Throws Open Buhari’s Northern Strongholds":
AFP Atiku Abubakar

“Today, Kano people have spoken; and what we have seen in this unprecedented crowd today is that PDP has taken over Kano. People have agreed to vote for PDP. A vote for PDP and a vote for Atiku will put food on our table,” the Senate president added.

In his address, former governor of the state, Kwankwaso said the mammoth crowd had sent a message to Aso Rock that PDP has already taken over Kano.

’Today, Kano people and particularly, the youths have shown that Kano is for PDP and Kwankwasiyya,” he said.

Atiku, who was visibly overjoyed over the mammoth crowd, was clad on Kwankwasiyya red cap and white Babarriga to match.

Meanwhile, with six days to the presidential election, PDP has called on its members and supporters to use every legitimate means available to them in a democracy to defend themselves and resist all acts of intimidation by the ruling APC.

The main opposition party said it has resolved to use, in full measure, all defence machinery legitimately available, including its numerical strength, in marching with millions of Nigerians across the nation to defend its votes, with the stiffest resistance, ever, against any infraction by the APC and the Buhari presidency.

The Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, made the call yesterday while addressing a press conference in Abuja.

He said: “You will particularly recall that on February 4, 2019, the PDP handed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a 48-hour ultimatum to make public the list of all officials and ad-hoc staff that will play any form of role in the February 16 Presidential election at all levels, for verification by stakeholders.

“That demand was predicated on our findings that the INEC leadership in deferring to directives by Buhari Presidency and the APC had collected lists of APC loyalists from APC state governors and candidates, across the federation to serve as electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff and returning officers at the polling units.

“You will recall that upon our demand the APC openly directed INEC to ignore the PDP and go ahead with its compromised list. Shockingly INEC leadership appeared to have obeyed the APC, ostensibly because of threats by the party to give its leadership the Onnoghen treatment if it fails to comply.”

Ologbondiyan noted that this was in addition to how the presidency has been importing mercenaries from Chad and Niger Republic to vote for Buhari and to unleash violence in the country upon his eventual defeat.

He said the party had also alerted of plots to manipulate the smart card readers so as to substitute biometric accreditation with manual verification and pave way for mass rigging and allocation of fictitious votes for Buhari.

Ologbondiyan stated: “From the foregoing, it is clear to all that the Buhari presidency and the APC are out to rig the election and that INEC is in clear deficit of the required will to conduct a credible, free and fair election.

“In this regard, the PDP charges all its members and supporters, in their millions, to politically occupy and become extra vigilant by closely monitoring all electoral activities around their polling centres.

“In this determination, the PDP is ready to confront the Buhari-controlled security forces and APC thugs, head to head, at all levels. For this, we charge our members and supporters to use every means available to them legitimately in a democracy to defend themselves and resist all acts of intimidation by the APC.”

REUTERS

Russia considers ‘unplugging’ from internet”

The net independence plan is seen as a way for Russia’s government to get more control over online life

Russia is considering whether to disconnect from the global internet briefly, as part of a test of its cyber-defences.

The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally.

A draft law mandating technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to its parliament last year.

The test is expected to happen before 1 April but no exact date has been set.

Major disruption

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russia’s ISPs to ensure that it can operate in the event of foreign powers acting to isolate the country online.

Nato and its allies have threatened to sanction Russia over the cyber-attacks and other online interference which it is regularly accused of instigating.

The measures outlined in the law include Russia building its own version of the net’s address system, known as DNS, so it can operate if links to these internationally-located servers are cut.

Currently, 12 organisations oversee the root servers for DNS and none of them are in Russia. However many copies of the net’s core address book do already exist inside Russia suggesting its net systems could keep working even if punitive action was taken to cut it off.

The test is also expected to involve ISPs demonstrating that they can direct data to government-controlled routing points. These will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians reaches its destination, but any destined for foreign computers is discarded.

Eventually the Russian government wants all domestic traffic to pass through these routing points. This is believed to be part of an effort to set up a mass censorship system akin to that seen in China, which tries to scrub out prohibited traffic.

Russian news organisations reported that the nation’s ISPs are broadly backing the aims of the draft law but are divided on how to do it. They believe the test will cause “major disruption” to Russian internet traffic, reports tech news website ZDNet.

The Russian government is providing cash for ISPs to modify their infrastructure so the redirection effort can be properly tested.

Presentational grey line

Analysis: Mr Ben Rory, BBC technology reporter

How does an entire country “unplug” itself from the internet?

It’s important to understand a little about how the internet works. It is essentially a series of thousands of digital networks along which information travels. These networks are connected by router points – and they are notoriously the weakest link in the chain.

What Russia wants to do is to bring those router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control- so that it can then pull up the drawbridge, as it were, to external traffic if it’s under threat – or if it decides to censor what outside information people can access.

China’s firewall is probably the world’s best known censorship tool and it has become a sophisticated operation. It also polices its router points, using filters and blocks on keywords and certain websites and redirecting web traffic so that computers cannot connect to sites the state does not wish Chinese citizens to see.

It is possible to get around some firewalls using virtual private networks (VPNs) – which disguise the location of a computer so the filters do not kick in – but some regimes are more tolerant of them than others. China cracks down on them from time to time and the punishment for providing or using illegal VPNs can be a prison sentence.

Occasionally countries disconnect themselves by accident – Mauritania was left offline for two days in 2018 after the undersea fibre cable that supplied its internet was cut, possibly by a trawler.

UPPA/TOPFOTO

High Court judge apologises after falling asleep”

Mrs Justice Parker is the second longest-serving judge serving in the Family Division

A High Court judge has been given “formal advice” after “momentarily” falling asleep during a hearing.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) said the conduct of Mrs Justice Parker was found to have the potential to undermine public confidence in the judiciary.

The judge, 68, who serves on the Family Division of the High Court in London, was investigated following a complaint.

The JCIO said she “expressed remorse” for the incident.

A statement published on the JCIO’s websitedid not provide details about when the court hearing took place but said “parties in a case” had complained the judge had fallen asleep.

Lord Chancellor David Gauke and Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett considered her conduct.

The JCIO said: “While concluding that this amounted to conduct which had the potential to undermine public confidence in the judiciary, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice took into consideration that the judge fell asleep only momentarily and has expressed remorse for doing so.”

Mrs Justice Parker is the second longest-serving judge serving in the Family Division of the High Court, after being appointed in 2008.

She received a damehood shortly after being appointed, as is tradition for all female High Court judges.

What happens in the Family Division of the High Court?

Most cases involving family matters in England and Wales will be heard by the Family Court.

Some cases, such as those involving complex issues, may be referred up to the High Court.

The court can also handle certain cases of child abduction, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The Family Division is one of three divisions of the High Court of Justice, along with the Chancery Division and the Queen’s Bench Division.

Nigeria election 2019: Mapping a nation in nine charts”:

The BBC maps the challenges facing Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation and largest economy, as it approaches a presidential election 20 years since the return of democracy:

Map showing state governors by party

Four years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) dominated the north and south-west of the country whereas the party’s main rival, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was more popular in the south and south-east.

However, unlike in the 2015 election, when a northerner, Mr Buhari, faced a southerner, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, this time the main challenger is the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, who is also from the north.

Analysts say the election is too difficult to call and the result is likely to be close.

The APC could suffer in the country’s Middle Belt, Benue and Nasarawa states, as there is dissatisfaction with the failure to deal with communal violence there, the BBC’s Abuja editor Aliyu Tanko says.

The APC is popular in the two states with the largest number of voters – Lagos and Kano – but there is the danger of voter apathy and a low turnout could become a problem.

The income map reveals a clear regional divide in how wealthy Nigerians are, with the north being much poorer than the south of the country.

President Buhari’s home state, Katsina in northern Nigeria, is the poorest area, where the average annual income per person is less than $400 (£309) – just over $1 a day.

Excluding the capital, Abuja, Lagos is the richest state and country’s commercial hub with the average annual income per person at nearly $8,000.

The relative wealth of the southern states, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom is a result of the oil industry.

The figures represent the mean average income and are not a reflection on how equally that money is distributed across the population.

Every year many thousands of young Nigerians start looking for jobs but there are few opportunities for formal work.

Sustainable job creation was one of the challenges for Nigeria that accountancy firm PwC identified last year.

In general, despite some downturns, the economy has grown strongly since 2000, but unemployment remains stubbornly high. Nationally, it stands at just over 23%.

Ironically, some of the states, in the oil-rich south, with high average income also have high unemployment. As well as pointing to income inequalities, this suggests that the oil industry is not producing enough jobs for the population.

Opec crude oil price 1960 – 2018Source:Opec

Map showing the oil pipelines in the country

The oil and gas industry accounts for 9% of Nigeria’s GDP, but the money the country gets for oil and gas makes up nearly half of all government revenue.

The global oil price, therefore, plays a big role in determining whether the government can pay its bills.

The first half of President Buhari’s term was hit by a falling oil price, which led to a sharp rise in government debt.

Security is a key election issue with inter-communal and Islamist-inspired violence accounting for nearly 10,000 deaths over the last four years.

Despite some military successes since 2015, especially in retaking territory from Islamist Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east, there has been a recent upsurge in attacks by the militants.

In the north-west, especially in Zamfara state, things appear to be worsening with armed bandits attacking villages and killing and abducting civilians for ransom, as well as stealing cattle.

The age-old conflict between settled farmers and nomadic herders has worsened in the last few years especially in central Nigeria. Mr Buhari’s government has been criticised for its poor handling of the situation, but the conflict appears to have subsided ahead of the elections.

Nigeria’s 196 million population is divided among numerous ethno-linguistic groups.

The Hausa-Fulani people, based in the north are mostly Muslims.

The Yorubas of the south-west are split between Muslims and Christians and the Igbos of the south-east and neighbouring groups are mostly Christian or follow traditional religions.

Both main presidential candidates – Mr Buhari and Mr Abubakar – are Fulanis, with running mates from the south. President Buhari’s deputy is Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba pastor and former law professor; Mr Abubakar has chosen Peter Obi, an Igbo politician.

According to the UN children’s agency (Unicef), one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria– though the percentage of school-age children actually in education varies widely across the country. There is a sharp regional divide, with the proportion of children going to school generally lower in the north.

It is estimated that 10.5 million children between five and 14 are out of school. Last October, a Unicef official said that 69% of those were in northern Nigeria, with the highest figure in Bauchi state, followed by Mr Buhari’s home state of Katsina.

The government’s National Economic Council recommended in October 2018 that a state of emergency be declared in the education sector to address, among other things, the number of out-of-school children.

Literacy rates are generally lower in the north, especially for women and girls.

Snow was falling when US senator Amy Klobuchar announced her candidacy

Democrat Amy Klobuchar announces presidential bid”:

Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has announced she is running for president in the 2020 election.

Ms Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she was running for “everyone who wanted their work recognised”.

She won praise for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorney general nominee William Barr during recent confirmation hearings.

The 58-year-old enters an increasingly crowded field of Democrats competing to challenge President Donald Trump.

Ms Klobuchar called on people to join her “homegrown” campaign, saying, “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”

A record total of five women have so far entered the race for the presidency – these also include Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On her first full day of presidential campaigning, Ms Warren – a senator from Massachusetts – told supporters: “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”

Who is Amy Klobuchar?

After working as a lawyer in a private firm, she became chief prosecutor for Hennepin, Minnesota’s most populous county, in 1998.

Eight years later, she was elected to the Senate to represent Minnesota – the first woman to get the job.

Democratic Senator of Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (L) shakes hands with supporters with her husband John Bessler (R) after she announced that she is running for President
Ms Klobuchar is the fifth woman to run for the Democratic nomination

Ms Klobuchar has long prided herself in her bipartisanship; on being able to, as she wrote in her 2015 memoir, “disagree without being disagreeable”.

“Courage is about whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country,” she wrote.

It is this approach that has given her a reputation for being “Minnesota nice” – but it also, in her early years, reportedly earned her the unflattering nickname “Cotton Candy Amy” in some circles.

Presentational grey line

The dark horse candidate

Analysis by Emmanuel justice

Her kick-off rally looked like a scene out of the Disney film Frozen, with a snow-covered crowd gathered near the banks of an icy river. Amy Klobuchar’s newly announced presidential campaign, however, could generate some heat in 2020.

She may not have the same level of name recognition as recent and future entrants into the race, but the three-term Minnesota senator has shown the ability to win votes in the kind of Midwestern battleground state that Donald Trump appealed to in 2016.

She offers a steady, sensible political outlook that could attract the majority of Democratic voters who are more interested in electability than ideological purity.

Her buzz has been dampened a bit by recent allegations that she has been abusive toward her staff, but she may try to turn the criticism into a strength.

“I have high expectations for the people that work for me,” she told NBC News after her speech, “but I have high expectations for this country.”

Ms Klobuchar has become a fashionable pick as a “dark horse” candidate. It wouldn’t be a shock if she has a good showing in the neighbouring-state Iowa caucuses and rides that momentum deep into the primary season.

Presentational grey line

After years under the radar, the former prosecutor went viral last September for her tense exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaughover his history of drinking.

In January this year, she proved that this frank interrogation style was not a one-off when she grilled President Trump’s attorney general nominee Mr Barr about obstruction of justice allegations.

Meanwhile, former employees of Ms Klobuchar have disputed her “Minnesota nice” image too, telling the Huffington Post that at least three potential campaign managers have withdrawnover her treatment of staff.

Klobuchar asks Barr about obstruction

What are her views?

In an age when political views are condensed into 280 characters and measured in retweets, Ms Klobuchar’s reputation for working away in the background could help her stand out.

She was able to turn 43 Trump-voting Minnesota counties over to her side in last year’s mid-term elections.

But her bipartisan approach may not stand her in such good stead in a party now dominated by the progressive left.

For example, while she has publicly spoken out against President Trump’s immigration and border policies, she has not voiced her support for the movement to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of her opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ms Warren, have openly called for the agency to be dismantled, while Ms Harris has said it needs to be “critically re-examined”.

She has also avoided supporting Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill, known commonly as Medicare for All, preferring to back a “sensible transition” instead.

Many on the left also feel that her education reforms, which push for universities in the US to be more affordable, do not go far enough.

Ms Harris, and likely opponent Mr Sanders, both support making college tuition almost entirely free.

Protesters angered by the government's outreach to Catalan separatists call for new elections in Spain

Madrid mass protest over talks policy, Spain Catalonia:

Supporters of Spanish conservative and centrist parties have held a protest in Madrid against government plans to hold talks with Catalan separatists.

The centre-right Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) say Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s plan to appoint an intermediary for the talks amounts to treason.

The separatists have rejected the offer – they want a new independence vote.

Like the right, the ruling Socialists also oppose Catalan independence.

Far-right groups including the Vox party are also present at the protest, held under the slogan “For a united Spain. Elections now!”

Protesters filled the Spanish capital’s Colon Square and nearby streets, many of them chanting “long live Spain”. Police put the total number of demonstrators at 45,000.

What are the protesters saying?

They say the government’s offer to separatists to hold round table talks and appoint a special rapporteur amounts to a capitulation and they want elections scheduled for 2020 brought forward.

Woman at the protest
Vox President Santiago Abascal at the rally
The far-right Vox party is also part of the protest – its president Santiago Abascal seen here

One protester, Mabel Campuzano, told Reuters news agency that Mr Sánchez was “betraying Spain and we think that Spaniards don’t deserve him as the president of the government”.

In a speech, PP leader Pablo Casado denounced Mr Sánchez’s policies as “Socialist surrender” and “deals under the table”, Efe news agency reports.

“Sánchez’s time is over,” Mr Casado said, adding that the protests were a turning point and the beginning of a return to “harmony and legality” in Spain.

What does the government say?

Speaking shortly afterwards at a local election campaign meeting, Mr Sánchez said his Socialist party had always been on the side of dialogue, and was now attempting to resolve a crisis made worse by the PP while it was in power.

On Friday the government said the separatists had rejected its framework for talks.

What happened to Catalonia? One year on

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the situation had “stalled”, as separatist calls for an independence referendum were “not acceptable”.

Meanwhile the separatists accused the government itself of abandoning dialogue.

What’s the background?

Mr Sánchez heads a minority government that relies on the support of other parties including Catalan nationalists.

His government faces a key vote on Wednesday on its proposed 2019 budget – failure to approve it could lead to a snap election.

Catalan nationalist parties have said that their support for the budget depends on whether Mr Sanchez’s proposed talks with separatists include the issue of independence.

Mr Sánchez has, however, ruled out the possibility of a Catalan independence referendum.

Polls show that the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox would together win a majority in a general election. In December the three parties together won power in the southern region of Andalusia ousting the Socialists, who had been in power there for 36 years.

What has been happening in Catalonia?

Catalan nationalists regained power in Barcelona in May, after a seven-month period of direct rule by Madrid.

Mr Sánchez became prime minister the following month, making negotiations with the pro-independence movement his priority.

Tensions remain high, as many Catalans resent Madrid’s show of force last year, when it charged pro-independence leaders with sedition.

Some of them are due to go on trial on Tuesday and face up to 25 years in prison.

In December Catalan premier Quim Torra irritated the Spanish government by praising Slovenia’s successful path to independence. It broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, after a 10-day war.

Pie chart showing more people didn't vote in the referendum than voted in favour of independence

Catalonia in numbers

  • 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces:
  • 25.6% of Spain’s exports
  • 19% of Spain’s GDP
  • 20.7% of foreign investment

Source: Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, Eurostat, Bank of Spain.

Mr Bouteflika was spotted voting in local elections in a rare public outing in November

Bouteflika seeks fifth term as Algeria’s president

Algeria’s 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will seek a fifth term in April’s elections, he announced in a message published by state media.

Mr Bouteflika has been in office for 20 years but has rarely been seen in public since he had a stroke in 2013.

He insisted his “unwavering desire” to serve Algeria allowed him to “transcend the constraints of health concerns”.

Critics say this makes it difficult for him to carry out his duties.

He is confined to a wheelchair and has cancelled recent official meetings.

Mr Bouteflika’s last meeting with a senior foreign official was during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September. An earlier meeting with her had been cancelled.

However, Mr Bouteflika is widely expected to win the April election, says BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Rouaba.

Is he the oldest world leader?

No, by quite a stretch.

The world’s oldest elected leader is 93-year-old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Mahathir joked about his own age

when he was voted in as prime minister in May.

“Yes, yes, I am still alive,” he quipped to the crowd at a news conference.

Yes, yes, I am still alive,” he quipped to the crowd at a news conference.

Mr Bouteflika can look closer to home to find another elected president who is quite a few years older than himself.

Algeria’s neighbour, Tunisia, is led by 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi.

All voting material in the Qua'an Pan electoral commission office has been destroyed

Nigeria election: Election office burnt down six days before polls

An office for Nigeria’s election commission has been burned down just six days before the country is due to vote in a general election.

The fire in Plateau State has destroyed everything needed to vote, including ballot boxes and voting slips.

A spokesperson called it a setback for the preparations for the election but is quoted in This Day as saying that it is too early to suspect sabotage.

The general election is due to be held on Saturday.

On Sunday President Muhammadu Buhari warned of potential electoral fraud.

“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has raised concerns over laundered money being funnelled into vote buying,” he said an editorial published in the Pulse newspaper.

He is running for re-election in Saturday’s poll where more than 84 million people are registered to vote.

Although there are many presidential candidates, analysts say Mr Buhari’s main contender is former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

A screenshot of the footage appearing to show Mr Heyit

Abdurehim Heyit Chinese images ‘disproves Uighur musician’s death’:

Chinese state media have released a images appearing to show a Uighur musician previously reported to have died in a detention camp.

The video, dated 10 February, features a man said to be Abdurehim Heyit stating that he is in “good health”.

Turkey earlier called on China to close the camps following reports of his death. Up to a million Uighurs are reportedly being detained.

Some Uighurs have questioned the video’s authenticity.

Nury Turkel, chairman of the US-based Uyghur Human Rights Project, told the BBC that some aspects of the video were “suspicious”.

The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic-speaking minority based in the north-western Xinjiang region of China, which has come under intense surveillance by Chinese authorities. Their language is close to Turkish and a significant number of Uighurs have fled to Turkey from China in recent years.

What is in the video?

The video was released by China Radio International’s Turkish-language service, which said Turkey’s criticism of China was unfounded.

In it, Mr Heyit appears to say he is “in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating national laws”.

What did Turkey say?

Its foreign ministry had said that detained Uighurs were being subjected to “torture” in “concentration camps”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the reports of Mr Heyit’s death “further strengthened the Turkish public’s reaction to the serious human rights violations in Xinjiang”.

“The reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st Century and the systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities against the Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity,” Mr Aksoy said.

He called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “to take effective steps to end the human tragedy” there.

China has described the comments as “completely unacceptable”.

Presentational grey line

China’s hidden camps

BBC

How unusual is the Turkish stance?

So far few Muslim-majority countries have joined in public international condemnation of the allegations. Analysts say many fear political and economic retaliation from China.

However Mr Turkel said the release of the video showed that the Chinese government did respond to public pressure.

“The Chinese government responds to Turkey because of the influence it has in the Muslim world,” he said, adding that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had been “awfully quiet” on the issue of detentions in Xinjiang.

“The ball is in the Chinese government’s court. They detained Heyit. They detained 10% of the Uighur population. They are trying to tell the world there is no abuse and these are just so-called vocational training centres. It’s their responsibility to prove the video is authentic,” he said.

Mr Turkel said the Chinese government was capable of doctoring video because of the “technological advantages it has”.

“With today’s technology it is possible to create a video presentation. It’s not that difficult,” he said.

What do we know about Heyit’s fate?

Amnesty International has said it is very concerned about reports of his death.

He was a celebrated player of the Dutar, a two-stringed instrument that is notoriously hard to master. At one time, he was venerated across China. He studied music in Beijing and later performed with national arts troupes.

Mr Heyit’s detention reportedly stemmed from a song he had performed titled Fathers. It takes its lyrics from a Uighur poem calling on younger generations to respect the sacrifices of those before them.

But three words in the lyrics – “martyrs of war” – apparently led Chinese authorities to conclude that Mr Heyit presented a terrorist threat.

Who are the Uighurs?

The Uighurs make up about 45% of the population in Xinjiang.

John Sudworth reports from Xinjiang, where one million Uighurs have reportedly been detained

They see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

In recent decades, large numbers of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) have migrated to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

Theresa May has responded to Jeremy Corbyn's letter setting out his five demands for a Brexit deal.

Brexit: Theresa May responds to Jeremy Corbyn’s letter”:

Theresa May has responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s letter setting out his five demands for a Brexit deal.

The prime minister queried his call for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU – but welcomed more talks with Labour on a Brexit agreement.

Mrs May wants the two parties to discuss how “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop – a commitment to avoid a hard border – could work.

Brexit: Donald Tusk’s planned outburst’:

She did not reject any of his conditions outright in her reply.

The letter from Theresa May to Jeremy Corbyn

Writing her response to his letter of last Wednesday, Mrs May told the Labour leader: “It is good to see that we agree that the UK should leave the European Union with a deal and that the urgent task at hand is to find a deal that honours our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, can command support in Parliament and can be negotiated with the EU – not to seek an election or second referendum.”

Brexit: UK still safe in no-deal scenario, says Javid’.

This is despite Mr Corbyn repeatedly saying there should be a general election if Mrs May cannot get a deal through Parliament. He has also faced pressure from some of his MPs to push for another public vote on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn

However, BBC political correspondent Emmanuel, said it appears there are some potential stumbling blocks to a deal.

Labour has asked for “a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union” with the EU, with the same external tariff. It would give the UK a say on any future trade deals that the EU may strike.

Mrs May does not agree, and wrote: “I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals?”

Brexit: Will MPs find agreement in their plans?

The existing Political Declaration, setting out the goals for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, “explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union – no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors and no checks on rules of origin”, Mrs May told Mr Corbyn.

It also recognises the development of the UK’s independent trade policy, she added.

Mrs May said securing frictionless trade for goods was “one of our key negotiating objectives”.

She added: “The fundamental negotiating challenge here is the EU’s position that completely frictionless trade is only possible if the UK stays in the single market.

“This would mean accepting free movement, which Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto made clear you do not support.”

Labour also wants the UK to stay in step with the EU if workers’ rights improve in Europe.

While the prime minister says existing rights will be protected, there will be no automatic upgrade in line with the EU. Instead, Parliament would be asked if it wanted to follow suit each time.

The letter concludes with Mrs May saying she looked forward to the two parties meeting “as soon as possible”.

Labour is yet to respond to the letter.