Breaking: Again, Buhari jets out of Nigeria

Barely two days he visited Senegal, President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday jetted off for an economic forum in Jordan.

Buhari who promised to leave Nigeria better than he met it, stormed Amman to participate in the world economic forum in Jordan and investment summit in Dubai.

He was invited by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.

President Buhari will deliver an address at the opening of the plenary alongside King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, and join world economic leaders in an informal gathering at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre.

The Nigerian leader will also hold bilateral meetings with some world leaders on the sidelines of the Forum.

President Buhari will depart Amman Sunday for Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in the ninth edition of the Annual Investment Meeting, April 8-10, 2019.

Invited by His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rachid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Nigerian President as Guest of Honour, will deliver the keynote address under the theme, “Mapping the Future of Foreign Direct Investment: Enriching World Economies through Digital Globalization.”

According to the organisers, the meeting is “the largest gathering of corporate leaders, policymakers, businessmen, regional and international investors, entrepreneurs, leading academics and experts showcasing up-to-date information, strategies and knowledge on attracting FDI.”

Buhari travels to Jordan
Buhari travels to Jordan

The meeting also seeks to explore investment opportunities in more than 140 countries, connect businesses and countries willing to engage in sustainable partnerships with investors.

President Buhari will be accompanied on both trips by Governors Abubakar Badaru, Abiola Ajimobi and Yahaya Bello of Jigawa, Oyo and Kogi States respectively.

Others on the entourage include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), and other top government officials.

The diets cutting one in five lives short every year

The food we eat is putting 11 million of us into an early grave each year, an influential study shows.

The analysis, in the Lancet, found that our daily diet is a bigger killer than smoking and is now involved in one in five deaths around the world.

Salt – whether in bread, soy sauce or processed meals – shortened the highest number of lives.

Researchers say this study is not about obesity, but “poor quality” diets damaging hearts and causing cancer.

So which diets have got it in for me?

The Global Burden of Disease Study is the most authoritative assessment of how people are dying in every country in the world.

The latest analysis used estimates of countries’ eating habits to pin down how often diet was shortening lives.

The dangerous diets were those containing:

  1. Too much salt – three million deaths
  2. Too few whole grains – three million deaths
  3. Too little fruit – two million deaths

Low levels of nuts, seeds, vegetables, omega-3 from seafood and fibre were the other major killers.

“We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it’s really quite profound,” Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington told the BBC.

How is this killing people?

About 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease and that explains why salt is such a problem.

Too much salt raises blood pressure and that in turn raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Fish and chips
Salt is popular with fish and chips

Salt can also have a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels, leading to heart failure when the organ does not work effectively.

Whole grains, fruit and vegetables have the opposite effect – they are “cardioprotective” and lower the risk of heart problems.

Cancers and type 2 diabetes made up the rest of the diet-related deaths.

How far is the world off a perfect diet?

No country is perfect and each favours some part of a healthy diet more than others, but this is how far the world is from an optimal diet.


Nuts and seeds again?

The healthy foods missing from the most diets around the world were nuts and seeds, according to the study.

Eager readers will have noticed they featured heavily in the planetary health diet, unveiled in January, to save lives, save the planet and feed 10 billion people.

So why don’t we munch them?

Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, said: “The perception is they are little packs of energy that will make you fat, whereas they are packed full of good fats.

“And most people don’t see them as mainstream food; and the other issue is cost.”

Nuts – they are not just for squirrels.

I thought meat and sugar were the bad guys?

The huge fat versus sugar debate and the link between red and processed meats with cancer have attracted huge headlines in recent years.

“These can be harmful as we show, but they are much smaller issues than low whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetable intake,” said Prof Murray.

Although, the study did show too many fizzy drinks were being drunk in every corner of the world.

The researchers say it is time for health campaigns to switch from talking about nutrients like fat and sugar and instead promote healthy foods.

But is a tasty unhealthy diet worth it?

Bad diets are knocking a couple of years off life expectancies around the world, according to the researchers.

But Prof Murray warns this is just the average and says the real question we should be asking is: “Am I going to die in my 50s from a heart attack? Or am I going to have some of the diet-related cancers in my 40s?”

Are any countries doing well?

Mediterranean countries, particularly France, Spain and Israel, have some of the lowest numbers of diet-related deaths in the world.

Countries in South East, Southern and Central Asia are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

  • Israel has the lowest diet-related deaths – 89 per 100,000 people a year
  • Uzbekistan has the highest diet-related deaths – 892 per 100,000 people a year
Deaths from salty diets graphic

Japan and China have curiously contrasting fortunes that reflect their changing relationship with salt.

China consumes enormous amounts of salt with soy and other salty sauces being a key part of the country’s cuisine.

But the rising popularity of processed foods is introducing yet more salt to their diet. It has the highest death rate because of salt of any country.

Prof Murray said: “Japan is very interesting because if you go back 30 to 40 years, they like China today had enormous salt intake.

“Salt is still their number one problem, but it has come down dramatically,

“And they have a diet that is higher in many of the things we think are protective for heart disease such as vegetables and fruit.”

Chinese dumplings with soy sauce
Soy sauce is high in salt

What about the UK?

The UK is behind countries like France, Denmark and Belgium.

The biggest problems are a lack of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts and seeds.

The study estimates 14% of UK deaths are related to diet, with 127 diet-related deaths per 100,000 people a year.

Any advice?

Prof Murray said: “Diet quality matters no matter what weight you are.

“The really big story for people to act on is increase your whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetable intake and reduce salt if you can.”

But money is an issue.

It is estimated that having your five fruit and veg a day would take up 52% of household income in poorer countries.

But Prof Forouhi warns: “The public can make healthier choices if informed and have the resources, but if what is on the shelves as buy-one-get-one-free is always unhealthy, then that message will fall down.

“Cheaper options that are healthy are badly needed.”

Both agreed there needed to be a shift from focusing on nutrients (fat/sugar/salt) and on to which actual foods people should eat.

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International outcry over Russian ‘whale jail’ in far east

International pressure is growing for the Russian government to release nearly 100 juvenile whales which have been kept in small pens in the far east for seven months.

French marine scientist Jean-Michel Cousteau and other experts are meeting government officials in Moscow. They plan to visit the so-called “whale jail” near Nakhodka on Saturday.

There are 11 killer whales (orcas) and 87 belugas in pens at Srednyaya Bay.

A criminal investigation is under way.

While they were in captivity last year, three belugas and one orca disappeared. Greenpeace Russia believes they died, as many of the whales are known to be in poor health.

The environmental group raised the alarm about the whales last October, and four Russian companies linked to the “whale jail” have been accused of violating fishing regulations and cruel treatment of animals.

The whales were caught last year in the Sea of Okhotsk. Greenpeace says the orcas and many of the belugas were probably destined to be sold to marine parks in China, where such tourist attractions are booming.

Individual orcas, often caught illegally, can fetch millions of dollars. Belugas are sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Orca and keeper, 1 Mar 19
A keeper examines one of the orcas at Srednyaya Bay

Who else is trying to save the whales?

Celebrities are also campaigning to rescue them. Hollywood star and Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio has urged his social media followers to sign a petition – and so far 1.43m have done so.

Pamela Anderson, the former model and Baywatch TV star, wrote to President Vladimir Putin, urging action to release the whales. She is active in the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Jean-Michel Cousteau in Moscow, 4 Apr 19
Jean-Michel Cousteau is the latest high-profile figure to campaign for Russia’s threatened whales

Mr Putin is well known for his interest in wildlife conservation and is now involved in the row over the “whale jail”, along with federal prosecutors and the FSB state security service.

Jean-Michel Cousteau is the first son of the late Jacques Cousteau, an explorer whose popular TV documentaries helped focus public opinion on threatened ocean species.

Greenpeace demo in Moscow, 2 Apr 19
Greenpeace drew attention to the whales’ plight with this Moscow demonstration

On Tuesday Greenpeace staged a demonstration in central Moscow to draw attention to the whales’ plight.

The US-based Animal Welfare Institute and other marine mammal experts have sent a letter to Mr Putin, saying urgent action is needed to keep the whales healthy. They say the pens should be expanded and the water heated prior to releasing the whales to rejoin their birth populations.

What condition are the whales in?

There is great concern because some are showing signs of hypothermia. Aerial photos show big sheets of ice in and around the overcrowded pens.

Whale pens, 22 Jan 19
There is ice in the pens and the whales are struggling to stay warm

In the wild, whales swim tens of kilometres every day – and that keeps them warm. But in small pens they get cold.

In January, Greenpeace Russia reported that some of the whales were showing skin lesions and flipper deterioration. Some of those injuries may have been caused by bumping into the sea ice.

Beluga at Srednyaya Bay, 1 Mar 19
New marine parks in China are buying belugas like this and other whales

What is the legal position?

Russian law allows the capture of whales for scientific or educational purposes. But the suspicion is that these whales were destined to go to Chinese marine parks in illegal, multi-million-dollar sales, for public entertainment.

In July Russia announced an investigation into the illegal sale of seven orcas to China.

UK-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation reports that 15 orcas caught in Russian waters are now at Chinese marine parks .

Several countries have banned the live capture of whales, as well as imports and exports, among them the US, Canada and Australia.

Commercial whaling is highly restricted under the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium.

But in December Japan announced that it would resume commercial whale-hunting.

The IWC reports that in 2017 Norway caught 432 minke whales in the North Atlantic and Iceland caught 17 minkes off its shores .

Whale pens, 1 Mar 19
The whale pens are at a remote site by the Sea of Japan

Ukraine election: Rivals agree to a stadium face-off

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has agreed to debate rival candidate Volodymyr Zelensky in a rare stadium event.

The incumbent has also agreed to take a drug and alcohol test on Friday.

A date has not yet been arranged for the televised face-off, which will take place in Kiev’s Olympiyskiy Stadium.

It comes days after Mr Zelensky, a comedian with no political experience, won the most votes in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential elections.

President Poroshenko had earlier challenged Mr Zelensky to a debate before the first wave of voting.

Mr Zelensky had initially agreed but later backtracked on his pledge, a move which drew criticism on social media.

Kiev Olympic stadium
The debate is to be held at Kiev’s 70,000 capacity Olympiyskiy Stadium

Then, on Wednesday, Mr Zelensky threw down the gauntlet in a slick social media video.

“You thought I’d run and hide…. no I’m not you in 2014,” he said, accepting the challenge and giving Mr Poroshenko 24 hours to reply.

The presidential hopeful also demanded the debate be held, in front of all interested broadcasters, at Olympiyskiy Stadium. The venue can hold up to 70,000 people.

Ukraine election: Rivals agree to a stadium face-off
Mr Zelensky spoke to the BBC after the exit polls were announced

On Thursday, Mr Poroshenko responded with his own, more sombre video, insisting that the stadium event not become a “show”.

“There’s no room for jokes here,” said Mr Poroshenko.

“Being a president and supreme commander is not a game… it means being responsible for the people, for the country.”

Both candidates have agreed to cover the costs of the event, as set out by Ukraine’s civil society watchdog Opora.

With half the ballots counted, Mr Zelensky – who plays Ukraine’s president in a popular TV sitcom – won about 30% of first round voting. Current leader Petro Poroshenko came second with 16%.

Since none of the 39 candidates won an absolute majority, a second, run-off election will be held on 21 April.

Sweden female gambling addicts outnumber men for first time

For the first time, the majority of Swedes with a gambling addiction are women, the health authority’s latest survey figures suggest.

The report found there was no longer a gender gap among problem gamblers, of whom half were women.

And among the 45,000 people with a problem severe enough to be considered a gambling addiction, 64% were women.

That is up from just 18% in 2015 – with the surge widely being attributed to the increase in online gambling.

The survey of 5,000 people found that overall numbers of problem gamblers had dropped since the last analysis published in 2015.

But at the same time, there was a 50% increase in problem gamblers – the category in which the gender gap vanished.

The number of women with a gambling problem had been increasing over the past 10 years, the public health agency said.

Ulla Romild, the investigator behind the report, said that despite the drop in overall numbers, it was “worrying” that serious problems were increasing “and that we see an increase among women”.

She said that from a public health perspective, the high proportion of female gambling addicts – those with the most severe problem – was not the most important result.

“Our focus is broader than only people being dependent on gambling,” she said. “We are more interested in a larger group experiencing harm… a combination of people with moderate risk and gambling problems.”

That group contains more than 100,000 people – just under 1.5% of Sweden’s population. Another 225,000 – just under 3% of the population – have some risk of becoming problem gamblers.

One area the report highlights is the increasing amount of gambling done online, and the “new game forms” on the internet which are changing gaming patterns.

Professor Anders Håkansson from Lund University – a specialist in gambling addiction – told Radio Sweden that this could be one explanation for the rise in women gambling.

“We have to consider the face that the gambling market is very different now… mainly with the high proportion of gambling happening online,” he said

“Women who do seek treatment are more likely to report online casino gambling than men do,” he said.

Men play significantly more poker and bet more on sports and horse racing than women, the figures showed. But that gap narrowed or vanished entirely when it came to playing the lottery, slot machines, or bingo.

‘Aggressive’ advertising

Since 1 January, Sweden has been operating a new licensing system for gambling and lotteries, and the country is now considering how such games are advertised.

Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi released a statement alongside the report promising to “put an end to the aggressive game advertising”.

The gambling industry had proposed a form of self-regulation, but Mr Shekarabi said on Wednesday that it “will not be sufficient.”

“More needs to be done so that those who are most vulnerable in the market are protected,” he said.

In the UK, the gambling commission says men are far more likely to have gambling problems – 0.9% compared with 0.1% of the population. In the US, the gap between male and female gamblers is narrowing, according the National Council on Problem gaming – and women even outnumber men in the 45-64 age group.

Street cannabis ‘contains dangerous amount of faecal matter’

Cannabis resin sold on the streets of Madrid is contaminated with dangerous levels of faecal matter, a study says.

Traces of E.coli bacteria and the Aspergillus fungus were found by analysts who examined 90 samples bought in and around the Spanish capital.

The samples of hashish were wrapped up in plastic “acorns” were the worst offenders, reportedly because of the way they are smuggled into the country.

Some 40% of these also had the aroma of faeces, the study’s lead author said.

Buying, selling and importing cannabis is against the law in Spain, as is using it in public – although it is technically legal to grow it for personal use, provided it is not publicly visible, and to consume it in private.

How was the study carried out?

José Manuel Moreno Pérez, a pharmacologist from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, collected hashish samples (also referred to as hash or resin) directly from street dealers, both in the city and the surrounding suburbs.

The aim was to determine whether the drugs sold were suitable for human consumption.

His research team then separated the contaminated samples by shape, with some of them resembling “acorns” and others “ingots”, to see if one shape had more contaminates than the other.

The study, co-authored with Pilar Pérez-Lloret, Juncal González-Soriano and Inmaculada Santos Álvarez, has been published in the journal Forensic Science International.

What were the findings?

They found that 93% of the acorn-shaped samples contained dangerous levels of E.coli bacteria, as did 29.4% of the ingot samples.

Some 10% of the cannabis samples were also contaminated with Aspergillus, a dangerous fungus that can cause serious health problems.

Most of the samples tested – 88.3% – were not suitable for consumption.

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Escherichia coli 0157:H7
Coloured scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli (E.coli) 0157:H7

Mr Pérez later explained the contamination – and the smell – to the Spanish newspaper El País.

The acorns, he said, were more likely to be contaminated because of how they were brought into the country – the cannabis is wrapped up in small plastic pellets and swallowed before the drug smugglers then “take a laxative and expel” them in a toilet. These are then sold by dealers.

Apart from being unpleasant, what are the health risks?

According to the study, the risks associated with E.coli and Aspergillus are serious enough to make the illegal street vending of hashish “a public health issue”.

The E.coli infection, for example, can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pains, fever, and blood in faeces – and for some people this can then lead to even more serious conditions.

Meanwhile, inhaling Aspergillus mould can cause serious problems for people who already have lung conditions, like asthma or cystic fibrosis, or in people who have low immunity.

The study says this is particularly dangerous for cancer patients, who sometimes smoke cannabis to help with the symptoms of chemotherapy.

“These patients have a weakened immune system, meaning that an infection caused by the consumption of contaminated or adulterated hashish could be fatal,” it adds.

There are three main types of street cannabis – hash, herbal cannabis (weed, grass or marijuana) and high-potency cannabis or skunk.

Belgium sorry for mixed-race kidnappings in colonial era

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has apologised for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during the colonial rule of Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda.

The “métis” children born to Belgian settlers and local women were forcibly taken to Belgium and fostered by Catholic orders and other institutions.

About 20,000 children are believed to have been affected.

Most fathers refused to acknowledge paternity of their children.

Some of the children, born in the 1940s and 1950s, never received Belgian nationality and remained stateless.

Speaking in the Belgian parliament, Mr Michel said the country had breached the children’s basic human rights, seeing them as a threat to the colonial system.

It had, he said, stripped them of their identity, stigmatised them and split up siblings.

“I vow that this solemn moment will represent a further step towards awareness and recognition of this part of our national history,” he said in his statement.

Many of the mixed-race children had gone on to help Belgium become a “more open and tolerant society”, the prime minister added.

Two years ago the Catholic Church apologised for its role in the scandal.

Last year, Belgian MPs called on the government to help the affected children find their biological parents and also gain Belgian nationality.

Meanwhile, their mothers have also been searching for the children who were taken away from them.

Michel speaking in the Belgian parliament
Mr Michel has apologised for the kidnappings

Georges Kamanayo, one of the children who were taken to Belgium, said Mr Michel’s apology was the “ultimate recognition of an injustice”.

We have felt like third-rate Belgians for a long time. In the colony we were set apart from the white children. It was pure segregation. We tried to immerse ourselves in Belgium, so we wouldn’t stand out.” he told daily newspaper De Standaard.

“In Belgium we always react a little slower, other countries have preceded us,” he added.

Belgium was particularly brutal during the colonial period. An estimated 10-15 million Africans were killed during its rule of Belgian Congo, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last month, the UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent told Belgium to apologise for atrocities committed during its colonial era.

Racial discrimination was “endemic” in Belgian institutions, the UN experts said in a report.

“The root causes of present day human rights violations lie in the lack of recognition of the true scope of violence and injustice of colonisation,” their report added.

Mr Michel did not respond to the UN report, Belgian media reported.

However, in parliament he said his apology to the kidnapped mixed-race children must also strengthen efforts to fight all forms of discrimination and racism in the country.

Brexit: Cross-party talks enter second day

Talks between Conservative and Labour teams are taking place for a second day as they try to end the Brexit deadlock.

It follows discussions between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday, which were described as “constructive”.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the idea of a “confirmatory” referendum on any Brexit deal would be discussed.

MPs backed a bill, which would force the PM to seek a new delay to Brexit. Peers are due to debate it later.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April, and as yet, no withdrawal deal is in place.

But Ministers have warned the backbench bill – put forward by Labour’s Yvette Cooper – could increase “the risk of an accidental no-deal”.

No 10 says the bill, passed by the Commons with a majority of one vote on Wednesday, would deny the PM the power to agree a deal with EU leaders on April 10 – two days before exit – as MPs would have to agree to any new Brexit date.

Any Brexit delay will require the unanimous backing of all 28 EU leaders at a summit next Wednesday.

If they agree but suggest a different date to the one backed by MPs – the prime minister would have to bring it back to the Commons for further approval on Thursday 11 April.

“By April 11, the European Council will have concluded and the leaders will have returned to their member states. In the words of the secretary of state, the bill could increase the risk of an accidental no-deal exit,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Corbyn: May meeting “useful but inconclusive”

The backbench bill will need the approval of the House of Lords if it is to become law. Lords are debating the procedure to bring forward the bill, before discussing the bill itself.

But ultimately it is the EU which decides whether to grant an extension. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said a no-deal Brexit was still “highly likely”.

Arriving for the latest round of Conservative-Labour talks, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the idea of a “confirmatory” referendum on any Brexit deal would be discussed.

“We have been discussing Labour’s alternative plan and issues such as confirmatory votes,” he said.

Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that Labour would not be talking to the government “if there wasn’t the possibility that Labour Party policy – which is to take this back to the public on any deal that is agreed by Parliament – couldn’t be pursued and enacted”.

He said that even if a joint deal agreed by Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May was exactly the same as Labour’s Brexit plan it should still go back to the public, with the option of remaining in the EU on the ballot paper.

But it has emerged that party chairman Ian Lavery offered to quit the shadow cabinet, after twice defying orders to vote in favour of another referendum.

And 25 Labour MPs – including former minister Caroline Flint and a number MPs for Leave-voting seats in the North and Midlands – have written to Jeremy Corbyn, saying another referendum should not be included in any compromise Brexit deal.

‘No guarantee’ UK won’t fight EU elections

They wrote: “Delaying for many months in the hope of a second referendum will simply divide the country further and add uncertainty for business.

“A second referendum would be exploited by the far right, damage the trust of many core Labour voters and reduce our chances of winning a general election.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit. He also described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4 Today he was “very strongly against” a public vote and he would not want to see a long extension to Brexit.

The cross-party talks have provoked strong criticism from MPs in both parties, with two ministers resigning on Wednesday.

Reports in papers including the Sun suggest as many as 15 more – including several cabinet ministers – could follow if Mrs May strayed too far from previous commitments.

Among Mrs May’s “red lines” was leaving the EU’s customs union, which allows goods to move between member states without being subject to tariffs. It also imposes the same tariffs on goods from outside countries.

Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

Labour wants a new permanent customs union with the EU, while Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which props up Mrs May’s government – indicated on Wednesday that it could support the idea.

The prime minister wants to agree a policy with the Labour leader for MPs to vote on before 10 April – when the EU will hold an emergency summit on Brexit.

But if they cannot reach a consensus, she has pledged to allow MPs to vote on a number of options, including the withdrawal agreement she has negotiated with the EU, which MPs have already rejected three times.

In either event, Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a further short extension to Brexit in the hope of getting an agreement passed by Parliament before 22 May, so that the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

Bill ‘passed in haste’

Yvette Cooper’s backbench bill to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312 on Wednesday.

Tory Brexiteers expressed frustration at the unusual process of a backbench bill clearing all stages in the Commons in a matter of hours, rather than months.

On Thursday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs he would hope the Lords would “scrutinise this bill passed in haste with its constitutional flaws”.

He added that there was “no guarantee” that the UK will not take part in the European elections in May and to participate would be a “betrayal” and “inflict untold damage”.

General elections: President Buhari speaks on Nigeria’s democracy

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday said that Nigeria now ranked amongst the leading democracies in Africa and in the Commonwealth, 20 years after it began to experience uninterrupted democratic culture.

President Buhari was the visitor at the final day of the 50th Convocation Ceremonies of the University of Lagos.

The president was represented by the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Rasheed Yakubu.

“With the 2019 general elections that had come and gone, we as a nation have once again reiterated our choice of democracy as the system of government by which we hope to imbibe an all-round development.

“Our administration is committed to ensuring that the sacredness of that choice is preserved. With this policy enunciated and every programme instituted, we shall ensure that our democratic culture takes firmer roots and legacies further consolidated.

“Let me reiterate that my administration will not waver in its commitment to following due process, preserving the sanctity of the rule of law, battling grand corruption, securing the lives and property of our people and rehabilitating or upgrading our critical infrastructure.

We will continue to be unrelenting in enthroning hard work, honesty and place the welfare of our citizens above everything else.

“We must all join hands to take Nigeria to the next level of progress,’’ President Buhari said.

According to him, his administration will continue to encourage Nigerian universities to build closer and better relationships with the industrial sector.

He said this would help to bridge the gap between theories and practicality with a view to addressing some of the most required needs of the nation.

He added that his administration believed in the imperative of sound educational system for national development.

“We recognise the place of our intellectuals to undertake cutting edge researches that will address the challenges of development and contribute to making lives better.

We acknowledge that our advancement as a nation will be driven by a robust human resource base.

“It should, therefore, be our collective determination to do our best to guarantee a peaceful and stable future for Nigerians through education.

“We shall continue to interface with the unions of universities in our bid to ensuring that we have a stable higher education sector that contributes to the nation’s global competiveness,’’ he said.

While congratulating the graduating students, President Buhari charged them to make their impacts felt in matters of national development.

“As you make your ways into the world beyond this ivory tower, let me assure you of our administration’s commitment to ensuring that the skills and knowledge you have acquired are put to use and be productively engaged.

“While many of you will be gainfully employed in the public and private sectors, some of you may choose to explore the entrepreneurial route by founding and co-founding small and medium scale businesses.

In a special way, the knowledge and competences you have developed in the course of acquiring Nigeria’s degrees, diplomas and certificates are to be applied to the noble course of national development,’’ he said.

Osun guber: Court orders Saraki, Melaye, Bruce to honour police invitation

The Federal High Court, Abuja has ordered the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Sen. Dino Melaye and Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce to honour the police invitation of Oct. 5, 2018 in connection with the protest staged by members of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).

Justice Okon Abang gave the order on Thursday while delivering judgment in a fundamental human rights suit filed by the trio alleging intimidation, harassment and threat by the police, NAN reports.

“It is my view that the police invitation to the applicants is still valid and subsisting; The applicants shall respond or report to the police invitation without fail.

It is how the police treats them upon their having honoured the application that would determine whether their fundamental rights was violated not before they honour the invitation,” the judge said.

The judge held that even though the applicants were not on trial, where there were allegations against them, they had an obligation to report to the police upon been invited.

He insisted that the court could not restrain the police from discharging its duties as long as it was done within the confines of the law.

According to the judge, the suit of the applicants lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed with a cost of N50,000 awarded in favour of the police.

The trio had filed an application asking the court to nullify the Oct. 6 and 8, 2018 letters of invitation to them by the Police.

They claimed that the police invitation was an attempt to harass, intimidate and unlawfully detain them.

The senators also asked the court to declare that the act of dispersing their procession with tear gas was a violation of their fundamental rights, and asked the court to award N500 million to them as damages.

The three senators were part of the PDP leaders who led a protest on Oct. 5 2018, asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair elections.

The protest was sequel to the Osun governorship election which was declared to have been won by the All Progressives Congress.

They carried placards which read; “Police is an arm of APC, we demand free and fair elections amongst other inscriptions.”

They were on their way to the Force Headquarters when policemen dispersed them with teargas.

The police stated that the applicants and about 100 hoodlums riotously blocked Shehu Shagari way preventing motorists and other road users going about their lawful duties for several hours.

They further claimed that they forcefully attempted to enter into the Police Headquarters and became totally hostile.

They also said that they rushed violently in an attempt to force their way into the force headquarters to cause damage to police equipment and government property.

The police said they were warned to disperse but they refused and the police had to use the minimal force allowed by law to disperse them.

Great Barrier Reef: Mass decline in ‘coral babies’, scientists say

The number of new corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has plunged by 89% since unprecedented bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, scientists say.

The events, which damaged two-thirds of the world’s largest reef system, are now being blamed for triggering a collapse in coral re-growth last year.

“Dead corals don’t make babies,” said lead author Prof Terry Hughes, from Queensland’s James Cook University.

The scientists blame the problem on rising sea temperatures.

The research, published in journal Nature on Thursday, was carried out by a group of scientists last year.

It measured how many adult corals along the reef had survived following the mass bleaching events, and the number of new corals that had been produced.

“Across the length of the Great Barrier Reef, there was an average 90% decline from historical [1990s] levels of recruitment,” co-author Prof Andrew Baird told the BBC.

The study highlights the link between coral vulnerability and rising sea temperatures resulting from sustained global warming, and recommends increased international action to reduce carbon emissions.

Coral bleaching is caused by rising temperatures and occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae – known as zooxanthellae – that give them colour. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover. But it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die.

‘Nothing left to replenish the reef’

Prof Baird said the “pretty extraordinary” decline was unexpected. It was most likely the reef’s first re-growth problem on a mass scale, he added.

A research tile tracking coral growth in the Great Barrier Reef
Scientists measured the number of coral “babies” in 2018

“Babies can travel over vast distances, and if one reef is knocked out, there are usually plenty of adults in another reef to provide juveniles,” Prof Baird said.

However, the bleaching in 2016 and 2017 affected a 1,500km (900 miles) stretch of the reef.

“Now, the scale of mortality is such that there’s nothing left to replenish the reef,” Prof Baird said.

The study also found that the mix of baby coral species had changed. It found a 93% drop in Acropora, a species which typically dominates a healthy reef and provides habitats for thousands of other species.

The researchers said coral replenishment could recover over the next five to 10 years if there were no future bleaching events.

However, given current estimates, this likelihood was “almost inconceivable”, said Prof Baird.

“We’ve gotten to the point now where local solutions for the reef are almost pointless – the only thing that matters is action on climate change,” Prof Baird said.

The reef – a vast collection of thousands of smaller coral reefs stretching from the northern tip of Queensland to the state’s southern city of Bundaberg – was given World Heritage status in 1981.

The UN says it is the “most biodiverse” of all the World Heritage sites, and of “enormous scientific and intrinsic importance”.

Turkey AK party rulers are bad losers, says election ‘winner’ Imamoglu

Istanbul is currently a city of parallel realities.

In daily press conferences – and on his Twitter biography – Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition CHP party says he’s the new mayor.

Preliminary results from the election board show he won the local election here last weekend by some 25,000 votes.

But across the city the ruling AK Party has put up victory posters, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and candidate Binali Yildirim thanking Istanbul for the win.

The government has challenged the Istanbul results and ordered recounts.

Although it won most votes across Turkey, it lost the capital, Ankara, and Izmir. The AKP is also contesting the CHP victory in Ankara.

President Erdogan, it seems, is not ready to let go of Istanbul – Turkey’s economic powerhouse and his home city, which he himself once ran as mayor.

“It’s not polite behaviour,” Ekrem Imamoglu said of the AK Party posters. “We have the results from the electoral board and we know who is in the lead,” he told me in a BBC interview.

People pass in front of a huge banner with pictures of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Binali Yildirim, candidate of Turkish ruling party Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reading on "Thank you Istanbul" in Istanbul, Turkey, 03 April 2019
AK Party posters have gone up across the city saying “Thank you Istanbul”

The AK Party says invalid votes across polling stations have jeopardised the result, calling it “the biggest stain in Turkish democratic history”.

“Of course I don’t agree,” says Mr Imamoglu.

“Up until yesterday, the government and the ruling party were claiming that Turkey had the most credible voting system and they were giving it the highest praise. One million people were on duty at polling stations that night.

“If there was any suspicious activity, they would record it and make a written report – that’s the official procedure here.

“Now the only explanation I have is that they are making excuses for their failure.”

The challenge by the government has led to allegations of hypocrisy. It denied the opposition the right to challenge the disputed local election result in Ankara in 2014.

And in the 2017 referendum on changing Turkey’s political system to favour President Erdogan, the state-run election board ruled during counting that unstamped ballot papers would be accepted.

Opposition CHP supporters held a rally on Tuesday to celebrate what they are adamant is victory in Istanbul
Opposition CHP supporters held a rally on Tuesday to celebrate what they are adamant is victory in Istanbul

Opposition parties again cried foul – but were quickly shouted down by the government.

The loss of Ankara, Istanbul and several other cities would be a serious blow to Mr Erdogan and could be a turning point after 16 years of his rule.

So is it, I ask Ekrem Imamoglu, the beginning of the end of the president’s hold on power.

“Everything comes to an end,” he replies. “Parties, governments, life itself. Mr Erdogan has finished his 17th year in power. There are problems and things we don’t like – but it’s a political success. Of course there will be an end to it one day.”

The CHP’s apparent success in Istanbul and Ankara has rejuvenated the opposition long written off as moribund and fractured. And it has broken Mr Erdogan’s aura of invincibility.

Is Ekrem Imamoglu, I ask, the next president of Turkey.

“God knows,” he says with a chuckle.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 pilots ‘could not stop nosedive’

A preliminary report into the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane last month says the aircraft nosedived several times before it crashed.

Pilots “repeatedly” followed procedures recommended by Boeing before the crash, according to the first official report into the disaster.

Despite their efforts, pilots “were not able to control the aircraft”, Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said.

Flight ET302 crashed after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing 157 people.

It was the second crash of a Boeing 737 Max aircraft in five months.

Last October, Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed into the sea near Indonesia killing all 189 people on board.

“The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly [that were] provided by the manufacturer but were not able to control the aircraft,” Ms Dagmawit said in a news conference in Addis Ababa.

In a statement, the chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam, said he was “very proud” of the pilots’ “high level of professional performance”.

“It was very unfortunate they could not recover the airplane from the persistence of nosediving,” the airline said in a statement.

The 737 Max family of aircraft was grounded following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, a move affecting more than 300 aircraft.

Investigators have focused their attention on the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – software designed to help prevent the 737 Max from stalling.

The software reacts when sensors in the nose of the aircraft show the jet is climbing at too steep an angle, which can cause a plane to stall.

Graphic: How the MCAS system works

Boeing has been working on an upgrade of the MCAS software since the Lion Air crash in October.

It has said the system can be disabled – allowing pilots to regain control if there appears to be a problem.

But the latest comments from Ethiopian officials suggest that pilots could not regain control, despite following procedures recommended by Boeing.

The preliminary report from Ethiopian authorities did not attribute blame for the crash and did not give detailed analysis of the flight.

But it did suggest that Boeing review the aircraft control system and said aviation authorities should confirm the problem had been solved before allowing the 737 Max back into the air.

Brexit: Angela Merkel to meet Leo Varadkar in Dublin

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel will arrive in Dublin on Thursday for talks with the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) about the Brexit deadlock.

It comes just days after Leo Varadkar held discussions with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Parliament is still no closer to passing a Brexit deal, with the UK scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April.

On Wednesday, the EU said the date was “the ultimate deadline” for approving the withdrawal agreement.

It has been rejected by MPs in Parliament three times, with DUP MPs voting against it – while independent unionist MP for North Down, Lady Hermon, voted in favour.

Leo Varadkar
Angela Merkel is “a strong and unwavering ally of Ireland”, says Leo Varadkar

Speaking ahead of Mrs Merkel’s visit to Dublin, the taoiseach said she was “a strong and unwavering ally of Ireland”.

“This is also an opportunity to consider other issues on the EU’s agenda and reflect on how Ireland and Germany can strengthen further the already excellent relations between our two countries,” he added.

Ahead of their meeting, the taoiseach and chancellor will also participate in a discussion with people from Northern Ireland and the border area about the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on their livelihoods.

Mr Varadkar said it was “important” to hear the voices of people who lived and worked along the Irish border.

On Tuesday, President Macron said the EU would not be hostage to a “political crisis” in the UK.

It is five years since the German chancellor was last in Dublin and although the Angela Merkel era is in its twilight she remains the most powerful politician in the EU.

Both she and Leo Varadkar are among the EU leaders who most want to avoid the UK crashing out without a deal.

She has been, as the taoiseach said an “unwavering ally”, and most supportive of the Northern Ireland peace process.

But she will also politely ask questions of him about how Dublin intends to protect the European single market if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar has admitted there are difficulties in protecting both the single market and the Good Friday peace agreement while preventing a hard Irish border.

Brexit: Police warn MPs and campaigners not to inflame tensions

Politicians and campaigners should take care not to “inflame” tensions in the UK caused by Brexit, a senior police chief has warned.

Chairman of the National Police Chief Council (NPCC), Martin Hewitt, said people should think carefully to avoid inciting others to violence.

Police have 10,000 officers ready to deploy at 24 hours’ notice as part of possible no-deal Brexit preparations.

However, police chiefs said the measures were only a precaution.

Mr Hewitt said the NPCC was preparing for the “worst case scenario” and was not predicting major problems.

Chief Constable Charlie Hall, the NPCC lead for operations, also said there was no intelligence to suggest there would be a rise in crime or disorder because of Brexit, although forces were “prepared to respond to any issues that may arise”.

The warnings follow increased concern about intimidation of MPs.

Mr Hewitt said the UK was in “an incredibly febrile atmosphere” as a result of the debate over leaving the EU and there was a lot of “angry talk” on social media.

He said: “I think there is a responsibility on those individuals that have a platform and have a voice to communicate in a way that is temperate and is not in any way going to inflame people’s views.”

Officers in charge of policing Parliament said they had seen an increase in abuse aimed at politicians and several MPs have requested increased security.

Anna Soubry: “This is astonishing. This is what has happened to our country”

Commons Speaker John Bercow condemned the behaviour of protesters as a “type of fascism” after Remain-supporting MP Anna Soubry was verbally abused at Westminster, while one pro-Brexit MP took to wearing a body camera on his way in and out of Parliament.

Only a small number of crimes have been linked directly to Brexit, police said, with about half being malicious communications, while the rest included verbal abuse, harassment and offences committed during protests.

But hate crimes remain higher than before the 2016 EU referendum.

In 2017-18, there were 94,098 hate crimes recorded, a 17% rise that is thought to have also been fuelled by the terror attacks in London and Manchester.

After warnings of disruptions at the border and to food supply chains if the UK leaves without a deal, police said they had plans to deal with incidents such as problems on the roads, major protests or even rioting and looting.

They said they would be able to deploy 1,000 officers at an hour’s notice, or more than 10,000 drawn from across England and Wales within 24 hours – more than were used in the 2011 London riots.

Specialised teams such as dog handlers, armed police and search-trained officers would be available, while 1,000 officers have received extra training so they could be deployed to Northern Ireland.

But Mr Hall said he has warned those in charge of supply chains for food, fuel and other essentials to make their own preparations as officers will only be used “if absolutely necessary”.

Brexit: DUP hold out prospect of customs union

The DUP has held out the prospect of supporting a customs union as talks continue between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to break the Brexit deadlock.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson made the suggestion to BBC NI on Wednesday evening.

It came as the Tory and Labour leaders agreed a “programme of work” to try to find a way forward to put to MPs.

Earlier, the DUP called the prime minister’s handling of the overall Brexit negotiations “lamentable”.

Late on Wednesday, MPs voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Sir Jeffrey said his party would have preferred a form of Brexit that enables the UK to negotiate new trade agreements with other countries.

“That’s part of the reason for Brexit and maybe a customs union might be a temporary staging post towards that objective,” he told BBC Newsline.

“We will wait to see what the prime minister brings before Parliament but we are very clear, we want a Brexit that delivers for all of the United Kingdom and that keeps the United Kingdom together – that is our objective.”

The DUP MP earlier told BBC Radio Ulster that regardless of what emerges in the coming days, the DUP’s stance on the union was “un-persuadable” and they remained in an “influential position” because of the government’s fragile working majority in Parliament.

MPs have been debating legislation which would require Mrs May to seek an extension to Article 50 and give the Commons the power to approve or amend whatever was agreed.

Analysis: Emmanuel, BBC NI political correspondent

Supporting one union to secure another. Might this be the new DUP tactic?

First, Nigel Dodds said he would rather remain in the EU than risk the union.

Now the party whip is saying a customs union “could be a temporary staging post” to the “preferred form of Brexit”.

On the same day, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox suggested he, too, could live with a customs union if it helped deliver Brexit.

For the DUP, it’s about preserving the union first, delivering Brexit second.

But supporting a customs union in the political declaration, which is not legally binding, may just be a negotiating tactic.

And as a “staging post” it may disappear when Theresa May’s replacement takes over the negotiation.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said it was an “article of faith” that the UK must leave the EU to honour the referendum result.

He told the BBC a customs union was “not desirable” but if that was the only way of leaving the EU, he would take it.

The comments come a day after Mrs May said that she will ask the EU for a further extension to Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn: “I recognise that she has made a move… I recognise my responsibility”

It is understood that each party has appointed a negotiating team, and they are meeting before a full day of discussions on Thursday.

Mr Corbyn had said he was “very happy” to meet Mrs May, and would ensure plans for a customs union and protection of workers’ rights were on the table.

The DUP has supported the government in a confidence-and-supply pact since June 2017, after a snap general election.

But it is at odds with the prime minister and her Brexit deal, because of the Irish border backstop in the withdrawal agreement.

The party opposes the plan because if it took effect, it would lead to trade differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which the DUP said poses a risk to the integrity of the union.

Brexit: DUP hold out prospect of customs union
The DUP: Partners in government

The UK is still scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April, unless the EU agrees to another extension.

But it is likely to demand that the UK takes part in European elections, which are due to take place on 23 May.

However, Mrs May said she wanted any further extension to be “as short as possible” – before 22 May so the UK does not have to take part in the elections.

Both the UK and EU have continued preparations for a no deal, in the event that a breakthrough cannot be reached in time.

Brexit: MPs back delay bill by one vote

MPs have voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move, which the Commons passed in one day.

The bill is due to be considered by the Lords later and will need its approval to become law, but it is the EU which decides whether to grant an extension.

It comes as talks between Conservative and Labour teams to end the Brexit deadlock are set to continue.

Discussions between the two leaders on Wednesday were described as “constructive” but were criticised by MPs in both parties.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4 Today he was “very strongly against” a public vote and he would not want to see a long extension to the Brexit process.

‘Constitutional outrage’

Ms Cooper’s attempts to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312.

The draft legislation by the former Labour minister would force the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process beyond 12 April and would give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay.

Tory Brexiteers expressed frustration at the unusual process of a backbench bill clearing all stages in the Commons in a matter of hours, rather than months.

Mark Francois said: “It’s difficult to argue that you’ve had an extremely considered debate when you’ve rammed the bill through the House of Commons in barely four hours. That is not a considered debate, that is a constitutional outrage.”

Chart showing the results of the Commons Brexit delay vote

The government’s attempt to limit the bill’s powers resulted in a 180-vote defeat – the second biggest defeat for a government in modern times.

Responding to the Commons vote, the government said the bill would place a “severe constraint” on its ability to negotiate an extension to the Brexit deadline before 12 April, the date the UK is due to exit.

‘Useful but inconclusive’

It comes as talks between government negotiators and Labour are set to continue throughout Thursday after Mrs May and Mr Corbyn agreed a “programme of work”.

A No 10 spokesman said on Wednesday that both parties showed “flexibility” and “a commitment to bring the… uncertainty to a close”.

Mr Corbyn said the meeting was “useful, but inconclusive”, adding there had not been “as much change as [he] had expected” in the PM’s position.

The prime minister wants to agree a policy with the Labour leader for MPs to vote on before 10 April – when the EU will hold an emergency summit on Brexit.

But if they cannot reach a consensus, she has pledged to allow MPs to vote on a number of options, including the deal she has negotiated with the EU, which has already been rejected twice by MPs.

In either event, Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a further short extension to Brexit in the hope of getting an agreement passed by Parliament before 22 May, so that the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

Corbyn: May meeting “useful but inconclusive”

The cross-party talks have provoked strong criticism from MPs in both parties, with two ministers resigning on Wednesday.

Chris Heaton-Harris quit on Wednesday afternoon, claiming his job at the Department for Exiting the European Union had become “irrelevant” if the government is not prepared to leave without a deal.

Wales Minister Nigel Adams also resigned, saying the government was at risk of failing to deliver “the Brexit people voted for”.

Reports in papers including the Sun suggest as many as 15 more – including several cabinet ministers – could follow if Mrs May strayed too far from previous commitments.


Among her “red lines” was leaving the EU’s customs union, which allows goods to move between member states without undergoing checks or being subject to tariff payments.

Labour wants a new permanent customs union with the EU, while Northern Ireland’s  Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government – indicated on Wednesday that it could support the idea.

In an interview on ITV’s Peston programme, Mr Hammond said that – while the Conservative manifesto had pledged to leave the EU customs union – “some kind of customs arrangement” was always going to be part of the future structure.

Asked about a public vote to confirm approval of the final Brexit deal, Mr Hammond said: “Many people will disagree with it. I’m not sure there’s a majority in Parliament for it, but it’s a perfectly credible proposition and it deserves to be tested in Parliament.”

Second referendum

Mr Corbyn is coming under pressure from senior colleagues in his party to make a further referendum a condition of signing up to any agreement.

Demanding the shadow cabinet hold a vote on the issue, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said not backing a confirmatory vote would be a “breach” of the policy agreed by party members at its last conference.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, told Peston that Labour members would “find it unforgiveable” for “us to sign off on Theresa May’s deal without a concession that involves the people”.

However, party chairman Ian Lavery is reported to have warned against the idea, arguing that it could split the party.

European leaders will continue deciding how to respond to Brexit, with Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin later.

The UK has until 12 April to propose a plan to the EU – which must be accepted by the bloc – or it will leave without a deal on that date.

Brexit: EU agrees three-month visa waiver for Britons

The European Union has agreed in principle that British citizens visiting the EU for short periods after Brexit will not need a visa.

The three-month visa waiver would apply whether or not there is a Brexit deal.

However it would be conditional on the UK granting the same rights to EU citizens in return.

The legislation containing the offer had been delayed over its description of Gibraltar as a “colony”.

The European Parliament says it has now reached a deal on the law with EU states, which faces a final vote on Thursday.

agreed draft describing Gibraltar as a “colony of the British Crown” was approved a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, after the British MEP piloting its passage through the assembly was replaced.

Labour’s Claude Moraes had said the description was “opportunistic” and “unnecessary”.

He said he had been looking for a compromise over replacing the description but had been forced out of the role after “bullying” from EU states.

The new legislation would come into effect immediately following a no-deal Brexit, or after the planned transition period if there is a deal.

It would allow trips to the EU and four countries in the passport-free Schengen area for up to three months within any six-month period.

It would mean the UK would join a list of around 60 countries whose nationals do not require a visa for short stays in the EU.

However Britons will still need to pay €7 (£6.30) every three years to travel to EU countries, because of a new security system for Schengen zone countries.

The EU had planned to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) before the UK decided to leave the EU.

The row over the description of Gibraltar flared up earlier this year, when the UK’s ambassador to the EU objected to its inclusion in a draft.

At the time a UK government spokesperson said: “Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe it in this way.

“Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK.”

Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, but Spain has continued to press its claim for sovereignty – which is rejected by both the UK and the residents of Gibraltar itself.

In December, the United Nations called on Spain and Britain to find a “definitive solution” to their long-running dispute.

Pakistan Asma Aziz: Wife who had ‘head shaved for refusing to dance’

A Pakistani woman has publicly accused her husband of beating her and shaving her head for refusing to dance for him and his friends, in a case that has raised new concerns about women’s safety in the country.

Asma Aziz, from Lahore, made headlines when she published a shocking video on social media showing her shaven head and bruised face.

Her husband, Mian Faisal, and a servant are both in police custody. Mr Faisal has denied torture.

However, the case has prompted calls for more to be done to protect women from domestic violence.

In a tweet, Amnesty International said “systemic change” was necessary.

In her video posted on 26 March, an emotional Ms Aziz alleged that two days earlier she was tortured after refusing to dance in front of her husband’s friends who were at their house in Lahore’s upmarket Defence Housing Authority (DHA) district.

“He took my clothes off in front of his servants. The servants held me as he shaved my hair off and burned it. My clothes were bloody. I was bound by a pipe and hung from the fan. He threatened to hang me naked,” she said.

She said she went to the police to file a complaint but they procrastinated – the police deny the allegation, saying that immediately after Ms Aziz’s visit to the police station a team was dispatched to her residence but it was found locked and the DHA management prevented them from entering the premises.

Police acted only after the video came to the notice of Deputy Minister for Interior, Sheheryar Afridi, who ordered officers to register a complaint.

Mr Faisal and the servant, Rashid Ali, were arrested the following day. A preliminary medical report found multiple bruises, swelling and redness on Ms Aziz’s arms, cheeks and around her left eye.

Ms Aziz’s lawyers later pleaded that the case be tried under the stricter anti-terrorism law instead of the usual criminal procedure.

In papers filed to the Lahore police on Wednesday, the lawyers argued that the case had caused “wider restlessness and anxiety in society”.

Mr Faisal told the police last week that his wife had started cutting her hair under the influence of drugs, and that he, having also taken drugs, only helped her finish the job.

The case caused a furore on social media, with many voicing their anger at domestic violence in Pakistan.

Pakistani actress and singer Sanam Saeed was among those who spoke out in defence of Ms Aziz.

Women’s rights in socially conservative Pakistan has been a contentious topic of debate for years.

The UN’s Gender Inequality Index in 2016 puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries based on its poor record on women’s health, education, political empowerment and economic status.

Violence against women and girls remains a serious issue. Activists say official statistics do not reveal the extent of the problem – many cases go unreported.

Women’s Day marches last month brought complaints from some conservative groups. Some of the protest organisers said they received death and rape threats on social media.