A pack of cigarettes could cost you more than $40 from today as the new year marks the next price rise as part of an annual tax-driven increase introduced in the 2016 budget.

This compared to costing nearly $38 in average for a pack of 25 cigarettes from March 2018 according to Stats NZ.

Tobacco products experienced a 7.7 percent increase in price in 2018/19 but is expected to rise by around 11 percent from today.

Increasing the cost annually is all part of the Government's mission to have less than five per cent of New Zealanders smoking by 2025.

According to the National Health Survey, one in eight Kiwis still smoke daily but the number is decreasing.

However, Māori, a Hāpai Te Hauora said in a statement that despite the proportion of smokers dropping significantly, the number of Māori smokers is reducing far less rapidly than Pākehā smokers.

They say positive effects of the tax hikes appear to be disproportionately in favour to the more privileged groups.

"Put simply there are far, far fewer dairies that supply cigarettes in Remuera, Auckland’s wealthiest suburb, than in Manurewa, its least wealthy suburb, and that pattern is nationwide," says Mihi Blair, spokesperson for the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service.

Australian research suggests when tax increases are first introduced is when lower income smokers first quit but are more likely to relapse.

Blair believes the Government needs to redistribute the tax from tobacco sales more effectively instead of punishing low income smokers.

The Taxpayers Union spokesperson, Jordan Williams called the hikes a 'raid on the wallets of Māori,' says the Government should be helping fund smokeless alternatives like vaping.

"If the Government made it easier for smokeless products like vapes and heated tobacco to be marketed, current smokers may be more likely to shift over, improving health outcomes and reducing the burden of tobacco excise on themselves and their families.
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2-3 minutes

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has stated that no level of intimidation or negative propaganda will make him change the declaration that Rivers is a Christian State.

He said that God in his infinite mercy has continued to show compassion to the state, despite the machinations of the wicked.

Wike, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Engr Chukwuemeka Woke spoke at the Special Annual Thanksgiving Service by the Apara Committee of Friends at the St Silas Anglican Church, Eneka.

He said: “Let me say that the governor will not change his decision no matter the level of intimidation, criticism about his declaration that Rivers State is a Christian state.

“The reason is very simple. As a son and governor of Rivers State, he has the right and the authority to declare that the governor has seen God’s goodness, mercy and compassion. So, there are no alternatives to the declaration.

“That is why he will continue to worship God and declare Rivers, a Christian state.”

He assured that his administration would continue to invest in the security of lives and property.

“You will agree with me that the level of insecurity has reduced to the minimum level, even in this festive period.The God Almighty has given us peace and we will continue to live in peace,” he said.

He appealed to those in areas where the administration was constructing three Flyover to bear with the Administration as the hardship would be over in 16 months.

He said: “I want to appeal to us that whatever inconveniences that we are suffering is for a temporal moment. In the next 16 months, all the inconveniences you are passing through will be a thing of the past.”

In a sermon, Chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board, Venerable Fyneface Akah said the Christmas Season was a time for Thanksgiving to God for his blessings.

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DUBAI/BEIRUT/TOKYO: Ousted Nissan Motor Co boss, Carlos Ghosn, fled Japan because he “feared for his life and was depressed,” exclusive sources have told Arab News Japan.

Sources confirmed Ghosn was smuggled out of Japan on a non-commercial flight – probably a cargo plane to Lebanon via Turkey.

Japanese immigration officials also confirmed they had no official record of him leaving the country through any of Japan’s official exit points.

And Japanese government officials have said they intend to ask Lebanon to return Ghosn who continues to deny the allegations laid against him.

Ghosn arrived at Rafic Hariri Airport in Beirut, on a private plane, using his French passport and a Lebanese ID, which made him eligible for an immediate visa on arrival, contrary to earlier reports suggesting he used a fake passport.

His name was not flagged in the system as he is not on any Interpol list, and the Lebanese General Security only realized it was him after he had left the private terminal.

Close family members told Arab News Japan he was with them in Lebanon, claiming Ghosn “feared for his life.”

They said he was “depressed after this ordeal” and wanted to return to “normal life.”

They also denied he met with the president of Lebanon as was reported in some media and confirmed neither the Lebanese Foreign Ministry nor the Japanese Embassy in Lebanon were aware of his plan to leave Japan.

Earlier Tuesday Ghosn’s lawyers told reporters they were holding his three passports, adding that he could not have used any of them to escape Japan, adding that his client’s actions were “inexcusable.”

The lawyer’s comments came as Ghosn confirmed he had fled to Lebanon, saying he would not be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system.

Ghosn said in a statement on Monday that he had left Japan for Lebanon to escape “political persecution,” adding: “I am now in Lebanon.”

He said he “will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.”

The system is “in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold,” according to the statement.

“I have not fled justice,” he continued. “I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”

“I can now finally communicate freely with the media and look forward to starting next week,” the statement added.

News about Ghosn, who faces house arrest in Japan amid ongoing legal action over alleged corruption during his tenure, broke on Monday at 11 pm [Beirut time].

An aide of Ghosn told Lebanese media that Ghosn was no longer under house arrest in Japan and has arrived in his native country.

The overthrown boss of the Renault-Nissan had been awaiting trial in Japan in April amid house arrest following several months in detention.

No official confirmation could be obtained from the Lebanese Internal Security Forces on Ghosn’s arrival at Beirut International Airport at midnight.

Requesting anonymity, an airport source told Arab News Japan that Ghosn arrived on a private jet that is believed to have flown in from Turkey. “He did arrive, but I cannot say when,” the source said without divulging further details.

The Lebanese foreign ministry said it was not aware of the circumstances surrounding Ghosn's entry into the country. However, the General Security Directorate said the tycoon entered Lebanon legally and than no legal measures will be taken against him.

French junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Tuesday she was “very surprised” by news that Carlos Ghosn had left Japan and flown to Lebanon, adding she had heard of it via the media.

Pannier-Runacher also told France Inter radio that, regarding Ghosn, no-one was above the law but Ghosn would be able to get French consular support as a French citizen.

Ghosn, once celebrated for his turnaround of the ailing car companies, has suffered one of the decade’s most dramatic corporate falls from grace. He was arrested in Japan in November 2018 under four charges of financial misconduct, which he denies.

After the news of his arrival in Beirut, social media users tweeted that Ghosn could be named a minister in the new cabinet that is currently being formed by Dr Hassan Diab following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri resigned amid ongoing protests over political corruption and deteriorating economic situation.
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2-3 minutes

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the people of South East geographical region that more good things will soon come to the zone.

The President promised that his administration was committed to developing the region and bringing dividends of democracy to the Igbo dominated are.

Buhari stated this yesterday at Obiohia Uzoakoli in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State during the commissioning and handing over of the first phase of gully erosion control and rehabilitation of the Agbozu, Umueze Amaba and Methodist Church Compound road projects, where he also debunked allegations of Southeast marginalisation.

Buhari was represented by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah.

Buhari vowed that the current administration would never relegate the Southeast in the scheme of things.

He said, “This project is one of the 19 ecological intervention projects for the first quarter of 2018 which was awarded by the Ecological Fund Office Tenders Board in July 2018.

“It is expected to check flooding and gully erosion menace in the community and its environs.

“The age-long problem of gully erosion and flooding in this part of the country cannot be overemphasised.

“I have no doubts in my mind that this administration’s intervention will bring huge relief to this community, which has for a very long time been suppressed by these ecological challenges.

“This project is a testimony to this administration’s promise that no part of the country will suffer any neglect owing to its geographical location or political consideration.

“To further consolidate on the gains of this giant stride, the Federal Government’s execution of projects across the country also demonstrates the sincerity of purpose of the current administration towards entrenching justice, equity and fair play to all and sundry.”

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3-4 minutes

The number of deaths and hospitalizations of vaping-related lung injuries in the nationwide outbreak continues to increase, but the outbreak appears to have slowed down.

One more death has been attributed to e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or EVALI, bringing the national total to 55 deaths in 27 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a statement. More deaths are under investigation.

The total number of EVALI cases reported in all states rose by 55 to 2,561 as of Dec. 27, the CDC said.

The agency said previously that the number of hospitalizations peaked in September.

Deaths have occurred in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Meanwhile, the vaping industry launched a $100,000 ad campaign urging President Donald Trump to abandon a proposed ban on flavored electronic cigarettes with testimonial from voters in swing states who promised they would vote against him in 2020 if he passed the ban.

The president had previously said he supported age restrictions on the sale of vaping products, which went into effect last week.

But new urging to ban flavored vapes from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was posted Monday on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which may bring the flavored vape ban back to the table, Bloomberg reported.

States have enacted their own vaping regulations, including banning flavored nicotine vapes and raising the age to purchase to 21 from 19.

The CDC and FDA have said that the EVALI outbreak has been traced to the use of vitamin E acetate, a new cutting agent introduced in spring of 2019 in illicit THC vapes sold across the country.

Researchers found vitamin E acetate in lung tissue from more than 50 EVALI patients in multiple states, according to an article released last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are still recommending that people not use THC-vapes particularly from "informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online sellers."

Symptoms seen in lung illness patients have included shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other patients exhibited fever, chills and weight loss.

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4 minutes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that there was no longer any reason to be "unilaterally bound" to its commitment to halt nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile tests and warned of a "new strategic weapon" coming soon, state-run media reported Wednesday.

In his remarks, delivered Tuesday at the end of a three-day meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim said that despite two years of "preemptive and crucial measures" of shutting down its nuclear and ICBM tests, the United States has failed to respond in kind.

"[T]he U.S., far from responding . . . with appropriate measures, conducted tens of big and small joint military drills which its president personally promised to stop and threatened the former militarily through the shipment of ultra-modern warfare equipment into South Korea," Kim said, according to the report from the Korean Central News Agency.

He added that the U.S. also imposed further sanctions and stressed that "under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party."

Pyongyang declared a halt to nuclear and ICBM tests in April 2018, a move which led to the historic summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump two months later.

Kim Jong Un also "confirmed that the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future,"the KCNA report said. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

Kim's provocative comments came ahead of an end-of-year deadline that Pyongyang has imposed for Washington to come up with a new proposal in its nuclear negotiations, threatening a "new way" forward if its conditions are not met.

He is expected to deliver a New Year's Day address on Wednesday, an event that many observers will be watching closely for signs of an official policy shift toward a more confrontational stance with the United States and South Korea.

Talks with Washington have been at an impasse since a summit between President Trump and Kim in February in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended abruptly without an agreement. Both sides remain apart on issues such as easing international sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea and on a timetable for proceeding with denuclearization.

The most recent working-level talks were held in October in Sweden, but little progress was made as North Korea accused the United States of coming to the table "empty-handed."

Pyongyang resumed weapons tests throughout the latter half of 2019, launching several short-range ballistic missiles, including its first submarine-launched missile and a version of the highly maneuverable Russian Iskander.

Earlier this month, the North carried out a pair of what it called "crucial" tests at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station,which analysts suggested could be a long-range rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In his comments reported Wednesday, Kim did seem to indicate that the door was still open to resuming negotiations with Washington, which he accused of stalling for time and "double-dealing behavior."

"[T]he scope and depth of bolstering our deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the U.S. future attitude to the DPRK," Kim said.
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2-3 minutes

?I was drunk, angry when I raped 54-year-old woman to death ? arrested Herdsman says

20 year old herdsman, Laolu Isa, has confessed to raping to death a 54 year old woman, Mrs Mary Okereke, in Ebonyi state.

Laolu who was paraded before newsmen at the state police command in Abakaliki, the state capital on Monday December 30th, said he committed the act under the influence of alcohol. According to him, the deceased woman insulted him and that led to a struggle before he was able to overpower her and raped her to her death. The incident happened in Ufuezeraku, Ugwulangwu in Ohaozara local government area on Saturday December 28th.

Speaking to newsmen, Laolu said

” I am Laulo Isa, I am from Nassarawa. I came to work here in Ebonyi. I was seriously drunk and saw a woman in the night walking along the road. I approached her for sex and she started abusing me”

“We started abusing ourselves and I immediately pounced on her and she started struggling with me to free herself. I was seriously drunk at that time. As I was on her, a man who was passing flashed his torchlight on me and I ran away”.

“I don’t know whether I was having sex with her but she was on the ground with me. I did not hit her with any object but is like I had sex with her for one round. We were both on the ground when a man flashed light on me and I ran away”.

“I am not happy with what I did and I want to die. I want to die!, I want to die!! I have never done this type of thing since God created me on this earth. I am begging for forgiveness”

Commenting on his arrest, the state Commissioner of Police, Awotunde Awosola, said Isa would be charged to court soon.

”On December 28, 2019, at about 8:pm, one Laulo Isa a herdsman aged 20 years accosted and waylaid one 54 years old Mary Okereke on Ufuezeraku Ugwulangwu road in Ohaozara local government area. There was a struggle between the two of them but he overpowered the woman and had carnal knowledge of the woman. Unfortunately, the woman lost her life during the incident” he said

Awosola added that the joint efforts of Fulani herdsmen led to the arrest of Isa who fled the scene of the incident, leaving some of his belongings behind.

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2 minutes

Tacha Akide, a former housemate of the Big Brother Naija reality TV show 2019 edition, has terminated her management relationship with ‘BillzVizion’, a label owned by TeeBillz, talent manager.

The controversial TV star took to her social media page on Tuesday to announce her decision to call it quit with TeeBilzz, whose real name is Tunji Balogun.

In the statement, the Port Harcourt-based star said the resolution was mutually agreed upon by the two parties. She also called on the public to respect the move.

“It is pertinent to note that both parties myself and Billz Vision had an amicable resolution on this and appreciate each other for the opportunity of working together. We would, therefore, want the general public to respect our decision herein and take note of the same,” the statement reads in part.

She went on to appreciate TeeBillz for what she had achieved so far in the outgoing year 2019, noting such would not have been possible without him.

“Thank you Billz Vision for helping me end my year 2019 on a high,” she wrote.

In October, Tacha had announced TeeBillz, ex-husband of Tiwa Savage, Afrobeats vocalist, as her manager after she was disqualified from the BBNaija house.

Her stay in the house was characterised by controversies notably, her face-off with Mercy Eke, the eventual winner of 2019 edition of the show.
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Trump threatens Iran after protesters storm U.S. embassy in Iraqi capital
4-5 minutes

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Iran will face consequences after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Trump blamed the protests on Iran in a Twitter post, saying it was "orchestrating" them and calling on Iraq to "use its forces" to protect the embassy.

"Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred at any of our facilities," Trump wrote on Twitter. "They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat."

An embassy spokesman told CNN the embassy personnel were secure following an assault by hundreds of protesters who were angered by a series of deadly American airstrikes carried out Sunday against an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group in Iraq and Syria.

Protesters entered the heavily fortified "Green Zone" near the compound after apparently being granted access by Iraqi security forces and gathered at the walls of the embassy itself to denounce the U.S. airstrikes against the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia.

Iraqi counterterrorism forces were deployed to the area and the Pentagon announced additional Marines would be sent to Baghdad in response to the attack.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that he will be immediately deploying about 750 additional troops to the Middle East in response to the attack.

He said in a statement that Trump had authorized him to deploy an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Divison.

"This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today," he said. "The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world."

In a separate statement, he said the Department of Defense was working closely with the State Department to ensure the security of the embassy and its personnel in Baghdad and that they have "taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense."

U.S. officials blamed the militia for the death of a U.S. contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq, late last week.

Social media posts showed protesters breaking the embassy's windows and setting fires outside its walls in a violent display of anger.

Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi urged the protesters to leave, saying any aggression against the embassy is "strictly prohibited by the security forces and will be punished by law with the most severe penalties."

Reports indicated Iraqi security forces used "non-lethal means" to eventually push the protesters back while U.S. Marines arrived from Kuwait and two Apache helicopters fired flares while conducting a flyover of the embassy in a show of force.

As night fell, the protesters said they would attempt to pitch tents as part of an open-ended sit-in, calling on the Iraqi parliament to end U.S. presence and intervention in the country.

Kata'ib Hezbollah is part of a group of mainly Shiite militias backed by Iran and sanctioned by Baghdad called the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units. The PMU said the airstrikes on five sites in western Iraq and eastern Syria killed at least 25 people and wounded 51.

The U.S. actions were criticized by Iraqi and Iranian officials Monday as a dangerous escalation of a volatile situation in Iraq, which has been convulsed by months of mass protests over living conditions and political corruption.

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Monday called the U.S. airstrikes "unacceptable" and considered them "an aggressive action and violation of Iraqi sovereignty."

Abdul-Mahdi released a statement saying he urged U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper not to carry out the strikes shortly before they were launched.

"Bombing PMU bases is a dangerous aggravation which endangers the security of Iraq and the region," he said.

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2-3 minutes

A U.S. spy plane flew over the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, ahead of Kim Jong Un's anticipated New Year's speech.

Aircraft Spot, an aviation tracker, published data of the movements of the RC-135W, or Rivet Joint. According to the tracker, the spy plane flew at an altitude of 31,000 feet near North Korea.

Last week, the site said four U.S. spy planes, including the RC-135S Cobra Ball and RQ-4 Global Hawk, flew in missions over and near the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. military has been deploying reconnaissance planes since late November, when North Korea tested short-range missiles near its border in violation of a 2018 pledge with the South.

Pyongyang has also warned the United States to abide by its unilateral "year-end deadline," a reference to its demands for sanctions relief ahead of more substantive steps toward denuclearization.

Kim has been leading the fifth Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea that commenced on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the meeting entered its fourth full day. Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun published photos from the session showing Kim making dramatic hand gestures, and sometimes frowning.

Kim's body language is raising speculation in the South the regime is on the brink of arriving at a major decision, News 1 reported.

On Tuesday the Rodong said the meeting on Monday lasted seven hours. The country has not held a multi-day marathon plenary session since January 1990 when founder Kim Il Sung was in power, according to South Korean press reports.

North Korea's capital is being described as festive by its propaganda services ahead of Kim Jong Un's New Year speech.

Meari said Tuesday the streets of Pyongyang have been decorated in a "distinctive style" to meet the year 2020.

Public squares will be areas where children can gather to play traditional games and make snowmen, the propaganda service said.

North Koreans also celebrate the Lunar New Year, according to defectors. The holiday is observed on Jan. 25.

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3 minutes

New Year's celebrations around the world began at the stroke of midnight in Australia, followed by Asia as the new year marched across the globe.

Sydney's world-class harbor fireworks display kicked off the global celebrations with its usual impressive display of pyrotechnics after being delayed by 15 minutes due to high winds.

Its organizers were granted an exemption by Australian fire officials who have imposed a total ban on fires in New South Wales because of an unprecedented wave of bushfires which has ravaged the country for days.

Planned fireworks celebrations in many other parts of Australia, however, were canceled due to the ban.

As the night progressed, Asian nations were next on the list of New Year's celebrations.

In Japan, revelers welcomed the first New Year's celebration under the Reiwa imperial era, which started when Emperor Naruhito assumed the throne in May. New Year's is considered the country's most important holiday, and people offered incense and prayers to celebrate the new year, which will include Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Protests interfered with celebrations in Hong Kong, where the government canceled a fireworks display in Victoria Harbour due to security concerns amid pro-democracy demonstrations.

Celebrations in Indonesia were dampened by heavy rains in Jakarta and threats of an active volcano near the Sunda Strait. A tsunami triggered by Anak Krakatau last year killed more than 430 people.

In South Korea, people filled the streets of Seoul for the traditional bell-tolling ceremony and to hang wishes for the new year outside Buddhist temples.

In Britain, around 100,000 people flooded the streets around London's Victora Embankment to watch as some 12,000 fireworks lit up the night's sky from the Thames River as the year ticked over.

The New Year was ushered in by the chimes of the capital city's iconic Big Ben followed by the dramatic display of fireworks cued to music.

In Paris, France, where transport was affected by an ongoing strike, thousands were still able to congregate around the Arc de Triomphe for an elaborate show of music, lights, lasers and fireworks.

As 2019 ticked down, the final seconds of the year were projected on the famed arch and 2020 was born with fireworks erupting above.

Festivities in the United States were to include the televised crystal ball drop in Times Square in New York City at midnight.

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2 minutes ago
Apple is pushing ahead with a lawsuit against Corellium, in what is being labelled as a move to end jailbreaking.

The tech giant began its legal battle in August, claiming the firm profits from "perfect replicas" of iOS.

Apple has now amended its lawsuit, alleging copyright infringement.

Corellium's chief executive responded in an open letter, insisting developers and jailbreakers should be "concerned" by the move.

Jailbreaking is a process by which Apple's operating systems are modified to remove restrictions and give greater control to the user.

It also allows users to install apps that haven't been approved by Apple, and gives the option to customise the interface in various ways.

Corellium specialises in replicating iOS software, which it says allows security researchers to discover bugs within the platform.

However, Apple has accused the firm of encouraging users to sell any flaws they discover to the open market for the highest price.
'Deeply disappointing'

Corellium says Apple's allegations are "deeply disappointing" and a misrepresentation of the jailbreaking community's goals.

"Corellium's conduct plainly infringes Apple's copyrights," the tech giant said in a statement. "It simply copies everything: the code, the graphical user interface, the icons - all of it, in exacting detail.

"This is not a case in which it is questionable or unclear whether the defendant reproduced the rights-owner's works, or more subtly, whether particular portions of the works that the defendant took are ultimately protected by federal copyright law."

Corellium chief executive Amanda Gorton issued a statement on Sunday in response to Apple's latest claims of copyright infringement.

She criticised Apple's targeting of the jailbreaking community, and suggested the company has failed to acknowledge that it has directly benefited from users of its platform in the past.

"Apple is asserting that anyone who provides a tool that allows other people to jailbreak, and anyone who assists in creating such a tool, is violating the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)," said Ms Gorton.

"They have directly benefited from the jailbreak community in a number of ways. Many of the features of iOS originally appeared as jailbreak tweaks and were copied by Apple."

Apple's latest move comes ahead of the company's surprise return to the Las Vegas CES technology conference next month for the first time in decades.

Senior director of privacy Jane Horvath will discuss privacy issues, regulation and consumer demands, marking Apple's first appearance at CES since 1992.

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5-7 minutes
Stories of survival are emerging after intense bushfires swept across Victoria in Australia, destroying at least 43 properties and burning hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, mainly in the state's east.

Seven emergency warnings remain current as 10 out-of-control fires continue to burn, despite improved weather conditions.

The Federal Government has agreed to bring in military aircraft and naval ships at the request of the Victorian Government.

At Sarsfield, north-east of Bairnsdale, local police officer Graham Shenton told ABC Gippsland of his dramatic escape from his property after everything in the valley near his home "just lit up in five minutes".

When a massive ember storm went over the top of his house, he thought the fire had skipped over him, but he was wrong.

Sergeant Shenton, a police officer for 19 years, had a plan to defend his property.

But that plan was useless when at least 15 spot fires began burning on his property.

He said he made the wrong decision, despite knowing the devastation fires could cause.

"But when the water goes off and then the power goes off, and then you've got spot fires starting all around you, you can't do anything about it," he said.

The sky dropped down, it was like fire falling out of the sky and it lit up everything between me and the river, and everything burned Sergeant Shenton

Sergeant Shenton described driving through "8 kilometres of inferno" as he tried to make his way out on local roads "with 30 metres of flames on both sides of me. It was just a very poor decision to stay and I would never stay again. It was just a stupid decision.

"Everything you think you know about fire, when it comes, it just makes its own mind up."
Property looks like 'surface of the moon'

As India and Shaun MacDonell worked frantically to save their family home at Goongerah in north-eastern Victoria they were quickly surrounded by flames.

Shaun described what happened when the fire took off.

"Spot fires were coming from the west, landing to the east [of the house] and then burning back towards us," Shaun said.

"All the fires were going up the top of the hill where the house was."

Shaun and his daughter, India, 19, were reasonably well prepared with pumps, water and an underground fire shelter.

But the fire came as close to the house as it could without destroying it.

They lost other buildings on the 40-hectare property.

After the fire passed, Shaun said his property looked like " the surface of the moon".

But the danger was not over yet.

India said her mum and two younger sisters left their home for nearby Orbost three days before the fire hit.

Now that fire is headed toward Orbost and Shaun can't get there to help.

Yesterday he and his daughter drove 10 kilometres south, clearing trees as they went.

They turned around when there were too many trees to remove.

Now they are isolated on their property, though luckily they still have water and food.
'The sky dropped down'

One man in Mallacoota posted a public message on Facebook asking people to send their addresses so he could check if their properties were still standing.

While many were told their homes had been spared, others were not so lucky.

One house in Mirrabooka Road was reduced to rubble.

Andrew Parker has lived in Mallacoota for 53 years.

He evacuated from his home at 4am because "the skyline was on fire".

At 6.00am there was a bit of daylight, but by 7am it was completely dark again.

"Going into town ... I couldn't see from one side of the street to the other. It was quite mind boggling," he said.

"There's no way out and it's been a rather horrific day."
Australia town like 'darkest night' as bushfire nears

Somehow his house survived but Parker's friend's caravan, which was parked on his property, was destroyed.

His three siblings, who also live in Mallacoota, lost their homes.

"I can't believe it - my next door neighbour's standing on the verandah having a smoke," he said.
Isolated for five days at Club Terrace

Graham Clark lives at Club Terrace, north of the Princes Freeway, between Orbost and Mallacoota.

He said there was total devastation in his town.

He fought with a neighbour to defend against an ember attack, the likes of which he has never seen before despite being a former CFA officer.

"We put the embers out as they hit the ground and we beat them all, thank God," Clark said.

He could not quite believe his home was still standing, such was the devastation of the blaze.

"The fire swept through with incredible intensity and burnt everything in its path," he said.

Despite the immediate crisis being over, Clark will be sitting tight for the next week or so, with the town cut off after huge trees fell down over the road.

The power is out and he cannot travel anywhere to get food.

"So I've got to sit it out for five days. I have water that I can get from a stream," he said.

"But I don't have any food in my cupboards, so you know my neighbour will probably invite me over for a meal at night time with their generator and, you know, you just battle on."


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3-4 minutes

The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Uche Secondus, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have laid landmines that may explode and ground the country in 2020 and warns Nigerians to brace up for the dictatorial regime in the new year.

Prince Secondus said that with the Judiciary caged, the legislature ready and willing to rubber stamp whatever comes from the executive, media and the opposition intimidated, Nigerians should await the fang of a dictator wearing the apparel of a democrat.

He said that with the huge loan demands passing through the National Assembly without scrutiny coupled with the accompanying high taxation bills from the executive, 2020 portends further hard times for Nigerians.

According to the opposition leader, 2020 is going to be tough with the high level of corruption already rated by experts to be worse under this administration as they continue to look away to reported cases of fraud involving high profile members of the regime.

Added to this is the ineptitude that has engulfed the oil sector and various agencies of government as square pegs are put in round holes at the expense of merits.

Reviewing the activities of the past twelve months in the country, Prince Secondus lamented that 2019 remains the worst year for democracy in our land.

He noted that the worst form of vandalization was done to democracy and rule of law in our country in the out going year and blames it on the anti-democratic forces being breed and nurtured by the APC to achieve their one party agenda for the country.

The PDP boss said in a new year message to Nigerians released on Tuesday that the rape done to democracy in 2019 during the February and March general elections set the nation’s democratic journey many years backward and laid foundation for a wobbling 2020 politically and economically.

“The use of military in the election matters and the intimidation and harassment of democratic institutions that was climaxed in the burning to death Mrs Salome Acheju Abu in Kogi state last November continues to raise concern over citizens right to vote under this regime.”

Prince Secondus noted in a statement from his media office signed and made available by Ike Abonyi that in the out going year, the APC administration dragged down the country and many are no longer proud to hold the national passport.

He, however, urged Nigerians to refuse to be deterred by the impunity and provocative attitude of the ruling APC whose agenda is to run a despotic regime disregarding the rule of law and tenets of democracy.

The National Chairman appealed to all critical stakeholders in the nation’s democracy particularly the media and civil society groups to remain alert to their responsibilities and hold APC administration accountable in 2020 as its curious open visa policy has dubious political undertone.

While wishing Nigerians a prosperous 2020, Prince Secondus charged members and leaders of PDP to put all hands on deck in the new year as the task ahead is enormous but surmountable with God on the side of the just.
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8-10 minutes

Few hours from now, 2019 will be over. The year has been very eventful, full of intrigues, suspense and debacles. Being a political year made it more exciting as several heavyweights in the political arena were deflated and rendered useless.

There were many debacles in 2019. Some bigwigs aspiring for greatness suddenly met their Waterloo. They become the biggest losers of the outgoing year. These are:

I. Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar appears to be the biggest loser of 2019. Atiku, who was one of those instrumental for the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, suddenly quit the All Progressives Congress, APC, and returned to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where he launched his presidential ambition to unseat the incumbent, Buhari. He was so sure of winning, especially when the masses were disenchanted with the Buhari’s government. The APC’s campaign slogan hammered on Atiku’s ‘corruptness’ to persuade Nigerians not to vote him. The former Vice President was dubbed not being able to travel to US, but somehow, he did go to the US to the consternation of all.

The election was held on 23 February, 2019. Buhari was re-elected for a second time after defeating Atiku. Buhari won by polling 15,191,847 of the total votes cast while Atiku gained 11,262,978 votes, an astonishing victory margin of 3,928,869 votes. Atiku rejected the outcome of the election and challenged Buhari at the Presidential Election Tribunal. Atiku’s hope was hinged on a so called ‘INEC server’, which electoral results were transmitted, declaring him winner. He was embarrassed at the Tribunal as his star witness said he had never seen the server, but was told of its existence. The tribunal struck out all of Atiku’s appeal and declared Buhari duly elected. The five-man panel of the tribunal, chaired by Justice Mohammed Garba unanimously agreed that Buhari was duly elected.

Not satisfied, Atiku approached the Supreme Court for redress. On October 30, the Supreme Court dismissed appeal challenging Buhari’s victory at the Feb.23 general election. Delivery judgment, Justice Tanko Mohammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) led other six justices to unanimously dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.

“We have examined all the briefs and exhibits for over two weeks and we have agreed that there is no merit in this appeal. The appeal is hereby dismissed and reasons for our decision would be given on a date to be announced,” Mohammad held.

The Supreme Court’s judgment sealed Atiku’s fate, capping a horrendous 2019 for him. He is by far the biggest loser of 2019.

2. Bukola Saraki

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki certainly had a bad year. He was soaring before the February 23 general election. He had in the previous year led a ‘rebel’ group out of the APC to the PDP. He was dubbed the king of Kwara politics and had remained invincible. From the pinnacle of success, he was brought low in 2019 as he lost election to retain his seat in the Senate from Kwara Central on the platform of PDP. Saraki lost to Dr. Oloriegbe of the APC. Oloriegbe polled a total of 123,808 votes to defeat the Senate President who scored 68,994 votes in the four local governments of Kwara Central Senatorial District.

Before the election, Lai Mohammed and others had ridden on the ‘Otoge’ mantra to root Saraki out of relevance in Kwara politics. For the first time in decades, the influence of Saraki’s dynasty was eroded in Kwara State. PDP lost everything to the APC. It was a clean sweep that swept Saraki out of Kwara politics. He is still reeling from his loss and has not fully recovered from the reality of the debacle.

3. Dino Melaye

For Dino Melaye, erstwhile Senator, representing Kogi West Senatorial District at the National Assembly, 2019 is a year that will linger in his memory. It is a year where almost all things failed to work for him, in fact, he met several Waterloos and debacles and crowns a calamitous year, as he was dumped out of the Senate.

He had begun 2019 on a promising note, winning the Senatorial election that made him eligible for a second term in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. But since then, things began to degenerate for him. Despite his social media prowess and his garrulousness, he could not salvage anything for himself in 2019.

The lawmaker, having won a return to the Senate later lost the position. The Election Tribunal in Lokoja, Kogi State, nullified Melaye’s election on August 23, 2019. The tribunal ordered a fresh election to be conducted in the senatorial district. Melaye’s closest rival, Smart Adeyemi of the APC, had challenged his victory at the tribunal.

With his debacle at the PDP Kogi governorship primary election, Melaye’s only hope was to ensure that his seat at the senate did not slip. He had to win the Appeal to remain relevant. But the sad news came on October 11, 2019, when the Appeal Court affirmed the decision of the Kogi Election Petition Tribunal nullifying his election.

The court ordered the conduct of a fresh election in the zone. Melaye was dragged to the tribunal by Adeyemi. In the now annulled election, Melaye polled 85,395 votes, while Adeyemi scored 66,902 votes. But Adeyemi challenged Melaye’s victory on three grounds of irregularities, over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act. In a split judgment, the tribunal annulled the election and ordered another election in the senatorial district.

In the re-run election held on November 16, 2019, Adeyemi was leading with a convincing over 20,000 votes when the election was declared inconclusive and a supplementary election fixed for November 30. At the end of the election, Melaye’s fate was sealed.

The Returning Officer of the election, Professor Olajide Lawal, said Adeyemi, who represented the district from 2007-2015, polled 88,373 votes to beat Senator Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 62,133 votes. His supposed political wife had thrashed him convincingly, even though he rubbished the election over alleged electoral malpractice and vowed to challenged the outcome in court.

4. Shehu Sani

Senator Shehu Sani was another big loser in 2019. The former senator, who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District under the APC, suddenly defected to Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, after series of running battle with the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai. Sani sought re-election to the senate under PRP, but he was soundly defeated.

Malam Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election with 355,242 votes in the Feb. 23 general elections, while his closest rival, Lawal Adamu of the PDP scored 195,497 votes. Sani scored 70,613 votes to come third. He approached the election tribunal and lost.

5. Akinwunmi Ambode

Former Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode will never forget 2019. Having lost out in a bid to get a second term ticket, he was taunted to be named minister by President Buhari. His followers were jubilating and preparing for the next level in Abuja.

All of a sudden, Buhari omitted his name. He fell prey to high level politics. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was used to hound him.

6. Orji Kalu

Senator Orji Kalu began 2019 on a promising note, he won the senatorial election for Abia North Senatorial District and was even sworn in a senator. His world caved in when the Federal High Court sitting Lagos on 5 December, 2019 found him guilty of N7.56bn fraud.

The former Abia State Governor was found guilty alongside two others, which are his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He appealed the judgment, but still in prison pending the appeal. His last move to get a post bail to allow him get out of prison to attend to his ailing health was rejected. It was a bad year for Kalu. The EFCC had also gone to mark his properties in a bid to take them over.

Note: There are still many others which were not captured and you may know.
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5-6 minutes

Some bills introduced at the senate in 2019 got Nigerians talking. Many questioned the rationale for introducing these bills at a time the country needs legislation to confront its teething problems. The introduction of some of these bills raised the speculation that the senate was willing to do the bidding of President Muhammadu Buhari at any cost — even to the detriment of citizens.

Although Senate President Ahmad Lawan repeatedly said the national assembly would work for the good of citizens, he also said the current assembly would not fail the president. His seeming allegiance to the president has fueled the speculation that senate under his leadership is a rubber stamp of the executive.

Here are some of the ”controversial bills” at the senate in 2019.


The senate came under harsh criticism when the ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019’ was introduced in November.

Sabi Abdullahi

The bill sponsored by Sabi Abdullahi, deputy chief whip of the senate, seeks a death penalty for any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.

It also said a crime is committed when: “A person publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria” among others.”

Some Nigerians say the proposed legislation is an attempt to stifle free speech and prevent freedom of expression.


The bill entitled ‘protection from internet falsehood and manipulations bill, 2019’ is sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger east.
Mohammed Sani

The bill sparked off outrage when it was introduced in November. Musa, its sponsor, said the country needed the law to protect its “fragile unity”.

“It is not to stop people from going into the internet to do whatever they feel legitimately is okay to do but what we felt is wrong is for you to use the medium to document information that you know is false, just because you want to achieve your desirable interest,” Musa said.

The bill proposes a fine of N150,000 or three years’ imprisonment for any offender. The proposed law also provides for a fine of between N5 million and N10 million on any telecommunication organisation that fails to prevent the spread of false information.

The bill scaled second reading at the senate on November 20 despite calls that it should be dropped.

Like the hate speech bill, the social media legislation was first introduced in the previous senate by Bala Na’Allah, then deputy majority leader, but it was abandoned after a public outrage.

Many worry that the hate speech and social media bills could be weaponised against opposition.


On December 11, a bill seeking to allocate 20 percent of the country’s annual budget to constituency projects passed second reading at the senate. Since the introduction of constituency projects, there have been allegations that lawmakers embezzled funds for the projects.

Recently, Buhari said N1 trillion has been spent on constituency projects in the past 10 years but that there is nothing to show for it.

Stella Oduah, while leading a debate on the constituency projects bill, said it would “ensure that all the controversy surrounding the issue is cleared”.

“Any funding under this act shall be for a complete project or a defined phase of the project and may include land and buildings,” Oduah said.

“Constituency projects shall constitute 20 percent of our annual budget by ensuring that certain portions nation’s of the annual budget be set aside for rural development.”


The bill introduced by the executive became controversial with the way it was handled. The bill seeking to amend seven existing laws — value added tax (VAT), petroleum profit tax, capital gains tax, stamp duties, customs and excise, personal income tax and companies income tax — is aimed at increasing the country’s revenue.

Ahmed said luxury tax would increase Nigeria’s tax revenue

When the bill was to be read the second time, the senators passed it without knowing its particulars — and despite protest from other senators.

Some senators wondered how they could pass a bill without seeing its details, but Lawan insisted that debate on the proposed legislation would go on, and it was eventually passed.

culled: TheCable
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2-3 minutes

A lawsuit accusing actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault was dismissed Monday, months after the anonymous massage therapist who filed it died.

"Contrary to some news reports, Mr. Spacey paid no money to 'settle' the lawsuit," Spacey's attorney Jennifer L. Keller told The Los Angeles Times. "The plaintiff's estate simply decided to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be [refiled] and we agreed to the dismissal."

Monday's action comes after the the plaintiff's son successfully petitioned a probate court in November to become special administrator, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

The plaintiff, identified in court records as "John Doe," had accused Spacey of forcing him to grab the actor's genitals twice during a massage at a private Malibu residence in 2016. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in 2018 and allowed to continued in May after Spacey objected that the plaintiff's identity was concealed. In September, Spacey's legal team filed a notice of the plaintiff's death.

Court documents filed Monday said attorneys for the special administrator and Spacey "stipulate and agree to the dismissal with prejudice of this action, including all claims stated against all parties, with each party to bear his or its own attorneys' fees and costs."

In October, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said Spacey wouldn't face criminal charges in the case.

In July, prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped a different case against Spacey in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a teen busboy in a Nantucket bar in 2016.

Monday's news comes days after another accuser, author Ari Behn, the ex-husband of Norway's Princess Martha Louise, died by suicide.

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2-3 minutes

Idaho authorities said they fear for the lives of a sister and brother who have been missing since September, and the mother and her new husband have refused to cooperate with the investigation.

The disappearance of Tylee Ryan, 17 and Joshua Vallow, 7, is being investigated by the Rexburg police with assistance from the FBI. They were last seen in Rexburg on Sept. 23. Their mother, Lori Vallow, and her current husband, Chad Daybell, have not helped in the search, police said.

"We have taken every step available to us, including executing multiple search warrants, interviewing multiple sources and running down every lead we have found," Rexburg police said in a statement while asking help from the public.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Vallow's last two husbands have died since 2018 and Daybell is under investigation in the recent death of his last wife, Tammy Daybell. Authorities initially believed she died in October from natural causes, but now are re-examining the case as suspicious.

"We strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee's lives are in danger," Rexburg police said. "We are aware that in the weeks after Tammy Daybell's death, Lori Vallow-Daybell and Chad Daybell told witnesses that Lori's daughter had died a year before the death of her father, which is untrue. Around that same time, Chad told another witness that Lori had no minor children."

Police said the couple has not been charged in the case, and that investigators' first priority is to find the missing children.

"We know that the children are not with Lori and Chad Daybell, and we also have information indicating that Lori either knows the location of the children or what has happened to them," police said. "Despite having this knowledge, she has refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter.

"We publicly call on Lori Vallow-Daybell and Chad Daybell to do the right thing and come forward with the information they have about the location and welfare of Joshua and Tylee."
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2 minutes

U.S. consumer confidence took a slight dip in December due to decreasing expectations of job prospects and other economic factors, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

The economic think tank's consumer confidence index fell from 126.8 in November to 126.5 in December, coming in below expectations and representing a marginal loss.

The index uses a baseline of 100 as where confidence stood in 1985.

While consumers expressed greater confidence about their present situation, they felt less confident about the near future, the researchers found.

"Consumer confidence declined marginally in December, following a slight improvement in November," said Lynn Franco of the Conference Board.

"While consumers' assessment of current conditions improved, their expectations declined, driven primarily by a softening in their short-term outlook regarding jobs and financial prospects.

"While the economy hasn't shown signs of further weakening, there is little to suggest that growth, and in particular consumer spending, will gain momentum in early 2020," she added.

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17-21 minutes

Year 2019 was a very eventful year for Nigeria as a country. It was a year the country experienced unforgettable events among which shook it to its very foundations. Some of the events are here brought back to readers’ memory:

1. Vice President Osinbajo’s copter crash: What would have been a day of national mourning, by sheer providence, turned into a moment of excitement, singing, dancing and praising of God by Nigerians when the number two citizen in the country, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo survived an air crash for the second time. Osinbajo and few of his aides were on election campaign visit to Kogi State on February 3 when his helicopter crash-landed in Kabba. Undeterred, the VP who was unhurt alongside his aides, continued the campaign trail for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The first incident was in June 2017 when he went to Gwagawalada Area Council, Abuja FCT to attend graduation of 40 senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service. The chopper he was traveling in crash-landed shortly after take-off. He was unhurt. These two similar events earned him the sobriquet “Ojabo koku” (One who fell from up without dying) among his Yoruba kinsmen.

2. 2019 General Elections: The elections were held across the country between February 23 and March 16, with the presidential being expectedly the most acrimonious. As a matter of fact, the kind of gang up against the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari overtly staged by various categories of people mostly from the opposition camp, some former leaders, religious leaders mostly from the Christendom, and corrupt politicians who were choking under his anti-corruption crusades had never been witnessed in the chequered history of Nigeria.

It started with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, leading a revolt against the government, as he had done to every government that has ruled Nigeria, except his own. Other disgruntled elements who could not wait to see Buhari’s back, for various reasons, seized the opportunity to join the wagon kick-started by the former President. Even the main opposition party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whose image, had in the past been ruined by Obasanjo, in his desperation to clinch the position of number one citizen, swallowed all the bitter pills Obasanjo had rammed down his throat and went back to his traducer like a prodigal son, giving effect to the saying: ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Obasanjo also reciprocated by going back to his own vomit, asking Nigerians to vote for the same man he had warned the people to steer clear of. Primordial sentiments capable of destabilizing the country such as ethnicity and religion were employed by the opposition camp as tools of campaign. It got to a point that fear that the country was going to break up was palpable.

In the end, Mr. Buhari triumphed as he defeated his closest rival Atiku Abubakar with a wide margin of almost 4 million votes. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won 15,191,847 votes, while Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) got 11,262,978 votes.

The legal tussle and razzmatazz that followed the results’ announcement got finally settled by judgment of the apex court on October 30 which affirmed Buhari’s victory.

3. EFCC’s onslaught against Yahoo boys: An aspect where the country’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made record achievement to the relief and excitement of majority of Nigerians aside catching some hitherto untouchable big thieves such as former governors and making them to cool off in jail, was busting of the most lethal industry of fraud- the cybercrime called ‘yahoo yahoo’. Multitude of the yahoo boys, who on daily basis wrecked life out of hardworking citizens and foreigners alike, were rounded up this year and made to face the music.

The cases were too many that the year 2019 can correctly be dubbed ‘yahoo gangs bursting year’, because hardly would a weak pass without at least a gang being busted by operatives of the EFCC. Few of the major arrests published at various times in the year are here catalogued:

– March 26 six suspected yahoo boys were arrested in Ibadan, Oyo State, when operatives of the EFCC raided their hideout at the Kolapo Ishola Estate, Akobo area of the ancient city. Items recovered from the suspects include five different models of exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones.

– In May, the United States arrested 16 suspected internet fraudsters in several US cities, Canada and South Africa, majority of whom are Nigerians.

– On Wednesday 3 April, the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC arrested 11 suspected ‘Yahoo-Yahoo Boys’. Six of them were arrested at 2nd Pipeline, Ologunerun, Ibadan, while the other five were picked up at a location in Ijebu-Remo, Ogun State. Same day, the Oyo State special security outfit, Operation Burst, paraded two suspected yahoo boys after a woman jumped from a two-storey building in Ibadan, Oyo State to escape from Yahoo Boys who wanted to use her for ritual.

– On April 19, Police rescued a woman captured by Yahoo Boys for ritual in Asaba, Delta State.

– On April 25, Ibadan zonal office of the EFCC arrested 32 Yahoo Boys. Items recovered from them include six exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones, several documents containing false pretences and fetish objects.

– On May 1, South-east Zonal Office of the EFCC arrested 37 suspects in Owerri, the Imo State capital. The arrest followed a raid on some targeted residences in Okwu Urata, Aladinma and Egbu areas. Items including 25 exotic cars of different brands such as Mercedez-Benz, Lexus, Toyota and expensive mobile phones and laptop computers were recovered.

– On May 8, fifteen suspects between the ages of 18 and 30 were nabbed by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the EFCC in a late-evening raid on Blue Chip Hotels, Rumuigbo in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Many laptop computers and phones were recovered from them.

– On May 17, The Abuja Zonal office of EFCC arrested ten suspects. 2 exotic cars 6 laptops, 10 smart phones and 1 international passport were recovered from them.

– On June 20, operatives of the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC arrested 31 suspects made up of 27 males and 4 females from their hideouts in Osogbo, the Osun State capital. Exotic cars of different brands, laptop computers and phones were also recovered from them.

– On July 10, thirty suspects aged between 18 and 27 were arrested when the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided some mansions in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital. Eight exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones and several documents suspected to contain information used to access their victims were seized from them.

– On Sept.3, the Benin Zonal Office of the EFCC said it arrested no fewer than 133 internet fraud suspects in eight months through its ‘Operation Re-wire’. The biggest of the arrested suspects was a woman, who allegedly worked in collaboration with foreign counterparts. She was said to have amassed a princely N656million through the illicit trade. Her arrest was made possible with the collaboration of FBI.

– On Sept. 9, Operatives of the EFCC Abuja and Ilorin Zonal Offices arrested 13 suspects in separate operations. As usual, exotic cars and other items were recovered.

– On Sept. 26 and 27, the EFCC arrested no fewer than 53 suspects in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu. Cars of different brands, laptop computers, phones and charms were recovered from them.

– On 14 October, a staggering figure of 94 suspects were arrested when operatives of the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided a night club notorious for hosting parties for suspected internet fraudsters in Osogbo. 19 exotic cars, laptops, scores of sophisticated mobile phones and other items were recovered from them.

– On Friday, Nov. 15, seven yahoo boys were sentenced to various jail terms by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court Enugu, Southeastern Nigeria.

– On December 4, again the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided a Lagos hotel believed to be a hideout for internet fraudsters and arrested a suspected internet fraud kingpin, Rasaq Balogun, and 26 others. Balogun’s illicit activities dominated intelligence gathered from previously arrested ‘police spies’ during a raid on their Abeokuta base. According to findings, Balogun harboured an army of young men recruited to carry out financial frauds through the use of internet.

4. Shiite Protest: On Monday July 22, a protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shiite in the Nigeria’s capital of Abuja turned violent when the demonstrators clashed with security agents. Government vehicles including those owned by the emergency management agency were burnt by the aggrieved protesters. Many lives both of the Shi’ites, police officers and a young reporter undergoing the mandatory one year service under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, Precious Owolabi, were lost. Among the police officers who lost their lives in the violence was a deputy commissioner of police. It was alleged that the group threw petrol bombs as part of the protest. As a result, on the following Tuesday, the Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mohammed Adamu ordered 24-hour surveillance on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs.

The Monday incident followed a similar protest two weeks before when two Shiites were killed and two police officers injured at the National Assembly complex in Abuja. The Shiites were demanding release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, who have been in detention since their arrest by Nigerian soldiers for alleged murder in December 2015. During the arrest, his house was raided by soldiers and hundreds of his followers, including three of his sons were killed.

5. Obinwanne Okeke: The most shocking of the cases of internet frauds was that of the 32-year old billionaire Obinwanne Okeke, Chairman, Invictus Group, who prior to his arrest by the FBI, had been celebrated by the world as a role model to African youths. He made the cover of Forbes Africa magazine in 2016 and was listed as one of Africa’s Under 30s Most Promising Entrepreneurs. In December 2018, he was a guest speaker at TEDxYaba 2018, speaking on “the DNA of the Nigerian entrepreneur”. His recommendation was considered very inspiring even to the most laid-back youth. Hear him: “The success of a business is largely dependent on you as the owner. If there is any part of you that appears to be a limitation, don’t let it hold you back. Take deliberate steps to develop yourself to match your weakness, growth is continuous. Associate with people that will inspire you and are ready to support you. Develop these traits in the right proportion. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. Go for it. Start Something Today!”

Therefore, it was an embarrassed world that received the shocking news on August 16 of his arrest by the FBI. He was discovered to have fleeced companies in US and UK of hundreds of millions of dollars through wire frauds.

6. Xenophobic attacks: The world was jolted in September when xenophobic attacks erupted again in South Africa with many nationals of African countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Gambia, etc lynched and their properties and businesses destroyed. The outraged world roundly condemned the acts of bestiality visited by South Africans on their fellow Africans. The unabated attacks on foreigners most of whom were Nigerians led to reprisal attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria. Such investments as the popular supermarket, Shoprite and the communication giant MTN Nigeria closed shop for days during the disturbance. Nigeria evacuated its stranded nationals from the hot land with assistance of Air peace Airline. It took strong messages and actions from notable leaders in the world and visit by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari for the madness to stop. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa apologized to Nigeria.

7. ‘#RevolutionNow’ and Sowore’s arrest: Omoyele Sowore, activist, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 election and publisher of Shahara Reporters, an online news publication known for its investigative activities, was arrested along with a colleague, Olawale Bakare, on August 3 ahead of a planned nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow and charged with conspiracy to commit treason. Sowore had previously led a demonstration where he called for a revolution in the country.

The video clip of the protest and his address went viral. The drama of his arrest; the granting of a bail with very stiff conditions; and the disobedience to court order by government months after meeting his bail conditions brought public opprobrium both from home and abroad on the Buhari administration. The outcry, especially from the international community, pressured the government to toe the line of reasoning by ordering his release from detention. He was therefore released on December 24, 2019 alongside former National Security Adviser, Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki who had been in detention since December 2015 over an alleged laundering of $2.1billion money meant for arms purchase during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

8. Sex-for-grades: The menace was very rampant in 2019. Very many cases were recorded in the year. The biggest incident being an undercover investigation carried out, for more than a year, by the BBC on some randy university lecturers in Nigeria and Ghana. Its video, at conclusion of the investigation, was released on the BBC Africa Eye on Monday October 7. The video revealed a senior lecturer known as Dr Boniface Igbeneghu from the faculty of Arts, a former sub – dean in the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the head of a local Foursquare Gospel Church harassing a female student sexually, promising good grades in return. Boniface was caught on camera telling his victim to ”Switch off the light, lock the door and I’ll kiss you for one minute”.

Several students had alleged that they had been harassed by Dr Boniface, which made BBC send an undercover journalist to him, posing as a 17-year old secondary school graduate seeking admission, a trick he fell flat for. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Foursquare Gospel Church subsequently suspended him. Another lecturer of the university caught in the documentary was Samuel Oladipo, a lecturer in the department of economics. He was also suspended.

Taiwo Oloyede, Principal Assistant Registrar, communication unit of UNILAG on Wednesday 9 October confirmed that the university’s panel headed by Ayodele Atsenuwa, a professor and dean of the faculty of law, had suspended the two randy lecturers. The University of Ghana also suspended two of its own indicted by the famous documentary. The two lecturers are Professor Ransford Gyampo and Dr Paul Kwame Butakor.

Again on Wednesday November 13, Vice Chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, Prof. Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, disclosed that a lecturer had been dismissed, while 10 others were suspended over the allegation of demanding cash or sex for grades from desperate students in the university. He made the disclosure when the Rivers State House of Assembly committee on Education led by Christian Ahiakwo visited the institution as part oversight function. These incessant cases have led the National Assembly to propose an Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill aimed at deterring and punishing offenders. The bill sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege seeks to jail a lecturer for up to two years if he or she winks at or touches a student in an inappropriate way. In the case of sex with minors, even if the student consents to it or lures the lecturer into it, the lecturer is liable.

9. President Buhari’s phantom marriage: On October 11, the news spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria like wild fire in harmattan that the Nigeria’s number one citizen who was less than 4 years away from age 80 had decided to marry one of his younger ministers, Sadiya Farouq, as second wife. A wedding invitation card with photograph of the President and that of the 45-year old Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development standing by each other accompanied the fake news published by some mischief makers on social media.

Absence of immediate denial from both the number one family and the concerned woman helped to keep flame the rumour blazing across the country. It took days before Nigerians realize it was a hoax.

10. Anthony Joshua: On Saturday December 7 the Nigerian-born British boxer Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua ended major events of 2019 on a happy note for Nigeria when he became a two-time world heavyweight champion following his victory over the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr in a tense rematch in Diriyah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He had lost the belt to Ruiz in June. He outclassed Ruiz to score a unanimous points victory to regain his IBF, WBA and WBO titles in emphatic fashion. He dominated the match from the onset. Dubbed the “Clash on the Dunes”, the eagerly anticipated rematch marked the first time a world heavyweight title fight has ever been staged in Saudi Arabia. It was clearly a classic win.

The 2012 Olympic champion revealed he had adapted his style after June’s loss to Ruiz for the first time in his career. It was a moment of excitement for all Nigerians both at home and abroad with President Muhammadu Buhari leading the pack of notable figures who showered encomiums on the awesome pugilist. Joshua is a British boxer with Nigerian roots. His both parents are from Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria. He visited Nigeria in July and spent weeks before returning to the UK. He was born on 15 October 1989, and has, since the sweet victory, been ranked as the world’s best active heavyweight by BoxRec.
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