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    Mbah Tightens Grip on Enugu’s Security.

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    A massive deployment of security agents is one striking feature as you come into Enugu State these days. As you enter the state capital, you are sure to see armoured personnel carriers and battle-ready security agents dotting every nook and cranny of the Coal City, while the military and police security teams patrol the streets.
    But if you spend a day or two, you are likely to see the Nigerian Air Force jets and surveillance helicopters hover overhead from time to time.
    Last week, the government mobilised earth-moving machines to the notorious Agu Udene forest at Akpawfu community in Nkanu East Local Government (LGA) of the state, which until now housed the training and operational camps of the supposed ‘unknown gunmen’ and criminals carrying out nefarious crimes in and around the state. Although the thick forest has been previously raided by the military with some success, the criminals still subsisted, necessitating the bulldozing of the forest.
    According to the Council Chairman, Hon. Okechukwu Edeh, the area will now serve agricultural purposes with future potentials for tourism.
    Recently also, the administration cleared the New Artisan shanties, which many had complained harboured criminal elements in the Enugu capital city. Past efforts to clear it were met with stiff opposition. An attempt to execute a court order to clear the shanties in April 2021 resulted in a violent clash between the security agents and the hoodlums.
    But not anymore, for as they now say in Enugu, “Mbah no dey laugh”, meaning that the Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, brooks no nonsense, as he is taking the battle to the criminal elements.
    Only a few weeks ago, the state police command published pictures of four recovered bodies of sit-at-home enforcers, who met their waterloo in the hands of the security operatives.
    Likewise, a few days ago, security operatives stormed the hideout of gunmen at Imufu community in Igbo-Eze North LGA where they neutralised three gunmen, while others escaped with bullet wounds.

    The grim past

    Before now, it was common to read about serial attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices, police stations, and security checkpoints in Enugu State.
    Around 3:45pm on Saturday, February 12, 2022, gunmen suspected to be operating from the infamous Agu Udene Akpawfu forest attacked a combined security checkpoint at Obeagu Uno along the Amechi Awkunanaw – Agbani road in Enugu South Local Government Area, leaving an unspecified number dead.
    Likewise, gunmen operating in two Lexus SUVs and Toyota Sienna stormed the same checkpoint on Tuesday, September 28, in an attack that reportedly left two security personnel dead.
    On Sunday, October 9, 2022, gunmen stormed the Inyi Police Divisional Headquarters in Oji River LGA of the state in two vehicles, opening fire on the facility, and killing an officer and a resident. These are but a few instances.
    The city centre was not also spared, as gunmen also attacked and killed civilians and burnt vehicles at motor parks like the Old Park and New Market in the heart of the capital city.
    But, perhaps the incident that shook Enugu to its marrows the most was the February 22, 2023 separate attacks on the campaign trails of the Labour Party (LP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and All Progressives Congress (APC) in Awkunanaw area of the state capital. LP senatorial candidate, the late Oyibo Chukwu, his personal assistant, and a bus driver in the campaign organisation of PDP’s candidate for Enugu North/Enugu South Federal Constituency, Hon. Ofor Chukwuegbo, were not only fatally shot, but also roasted in their vehicles.
    The security concerns were also such that the streets around the Government House, Enugu, were cordoned off.
    Meanwhile, although kidnapping subsided during the 2023 general elections due to the cash crunch occasioned by the new naira note policy, gunmen soon mobilised into the bushes as things began to normalise and people could raise ransoms. There was a reported spike in kidnapping incidents, especially along the Opi-Nsukka road and the Ozalla Four Corners – Udi road.

    Battling a hydra headed monster

    Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) singles out security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government. It was therefore not surprising that Governor Mbah declared war on insecurity and targeted the illegal sit-at-home orders, which he identified as the big elephant in the room.
    Rising from the inaugural State Security Council meeting on June 1, the governor announced the state’s ban on Monday sit-at-home, describing it as an evil and a reproach that should be deleted from the consciousness of Enugu and South East people.
    Although the sit-at-home started as a civil disobedience ordered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to protest the continued detention of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, barefaced criminals soon hijacked it, unleashing terror on the people and atrophying the economy and social life. The International Centre for Investigative Report (ICIR) estimated the region’s losses to sit-at-home at $12.215 billion or N5.375 trillion, while Enugu State alone, lost N10 billion every Monday.
    Consequently, Mbah declared: “A time comes in the lives of a people when they must decide whether they genuinely want to move forward or remain stuck with the conditions of their underdevelopment.
    “The creativity and sense of industry of Ndi Igbo are remarkable. Our DNA is wired with commercial and entrepreneurial prowess. Our restless spirit of industry abhors laxity and indolence. The idea behind sitting at home on Monday, the first working and business day of the week, is abominable and antithetical to greatness and the spirit of industry we profess to have inherited from our forebears. This cannot be us. Tufiakwa (God forbid). It does colossal damage to us.
    “For us to build a $30 billion economy from the present $4.4 billion; if we must transit from a public service economy to a private sector-driven one; if indeed we aspire and anticipate an influx of private sector practitioners and investors in Enugu State, we must know that this will not happen where the perception of us is that of unproductive people.
    “We know that our land is a fertile ground for commerce. However, businesses, entrepreneurship and commerce require a vibrant workforce and big markets where they can flourish and make money.
    “To this end, therefore, from Monday June 5, 2023, there will be no observance of any sit-at-home in all nooks and crannies of Enugu State”.
    While expressing the government’s readiness “to engage in dialogue with people, who have genuine grievances towards bringing lasting peace and security to Enugu State”, the governor vowed that government would enforce the ban “with all the powers at its disposal”.

    Rallying the forces

    The administration’s relative success at tackling sit-at-home and insecurity has been attributed to its ability to rally civilian populations, security agencies, and governments across party lines behind his security and economic agenda.
    Mbah was among the first two governors sited at the State House, Abuja, to hold private meetings with President Bola Tinubu.
    Briefing newsmen after meeting with the president recently in Abuja, the Enugu State governor said: “We have expressed a humongous vision to our people. But, of course, the growth level we have proposed is one that is going to be driven by the private sector and the private sector wants the ease of doing business, and one of the core indicators is security and infrastructure. So, we also had that conversation with Mr. President. And finally, we also talked about the release of Nnamdi Kanu”.
    Furthermore, Mbah has either visited or hosted the security high commands to seek support and partnership, among them the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor; the incumbent Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Hassan Abubakar; and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla.
    At the weekend, Mbah played host to the Chief of the Naval Staff where they discussed partnership for the takeoff of a naval base at Ogurugu, a coastal community that served as port for transportation of produce by the likes of John Holt in the colonial days.
    To underline the urgency, the Deputy Governor, Ifeanyi Ossai and Rear Admiral Ogalla undertook an inspection tour of the Ogurugu jetty facilities and waterways same weekend. This, according to Ogalla, would boost the security, economy, and transport in not just Enugu and the South East, but also the North Central.
    Again, besides back channel consultations with critical stakeholders and groups before the ban on sit-at-home, the governor has been able to mobilise the civilian populations behind his security measures.
    Rising from a town hall meeting with the governor on June 10 in Enugu, representatives of professional bodies, financial institutions, labour unions, traditional institutions, student bodies, the Church, civil society organisations (CSOs), market associations, youth and women organisations, town unions, among others, endorsed the ban and government’s security measures.
    With the buy-in, a coalition of CSOs, Enugu youths, and Ohanaeze youths have separately marched the streets of Enugu on various occasions to express support for the government’s security measures and ban on sit-at-home. Likewise, pro-Biafra organisations such as IPOB, Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, among others, have also thrown their weight behind the ban on sit-at-home.
    It is also remarkable that no successful attack has been launched at Enugu a Monday since the ban on sit-at-home. With the improved security, Enugu is coming back to life. Major markets, malls, offices, and government offices now open on Mondays. More importantly, the two-week sit-at-home declared by the Finland-based Simon Ekpa failed woefully in the State.
    Nevertheless, it is not yet Uhuru, a fact Governor Mbah underscored recently when he received the new General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu, Major General Hassan Dada.
    He said: “I want to immediately put on record our profound appreciation and our immense gratitude for the support, dedication, and commitment we have continued to receive from the military, particularly the Army, in our quest to have a peaceful and secure Enugu State. But we cannot at this point rest on our oars. We must remain at our highest alert level”.
    However, while they hope for things to get better as promised by the Governor, what matters to the state’s residents now is that they can now sleep with their two eyes closed.

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    Traditional Ruler Extols Cultural Fiesta In London

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    Traditional Ruler Extols Cultural Fiesta In London

    The Chancellor, Federal Universi­ty, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State and Chairman, Imo State Council of Elders, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, has urged all sons and daughters of Igboland living abroad to remain steadfast in supporting develop­ment at home.

    He also urged them to uphold the culture of the Igbo.

    Eze Ilomuanya, who is the Obi of Obinugwu in Imo State, made the call at the 9th Igbo Festival of Arts and Culture, which was held at Enfield, London on July 14.

    The 2024 edition of the festival attracted a large number of par­ticipants and guests, among them many non-Igbo and foreigners.

    The Igbo Festival of Arts and Culture is an independent cultur­al exposition that is held in Lon­don every year.

    Eze Ilomuanya, was elated at the tireless effort which the or­ganisers of the event led by Mazi Obi Okoli, put into “Elevate Igbo culture to international promi­nence”.

    He commended the festival which he said had been “helping in no small measure” to encour­age the younger generation to em­brace the values and tradition of the Igbo.

    The traditional ruler advocated for more “unity and understand­ing among our people”, assuring the Igbo abroad that the incidents of insecurity at home, which arose not too long ago is being combated, to ensure that Igbo people abroad are not hindered from periodically bringing back their families and children, es­pecially at festive periods, in an atmosphere of peace and security.

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    Lagos woos more for tourism, culture

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    Lagos woos more for tourism, culture

    Once again, Lagos is extending its excellence in commerce to tourism and culture with a nine-day festival expected to woo thousands of locals and visitors alike to the city later in the year.

    The state, through its Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture, is collaborating with the QDance Center to host Afropolis Lagos 2024.

    The maiden edition of the nine-day festival will take place from October 26 to November 3, 2024 at the J.K Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, Onikan, and its environ.

    Speaking on the import of the festival at a recent Town Hall Meeting, Toke Benson-Awoyinka, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture, said that the event, which seeks to celebrate creativity and innovation, is aimed at transforming Lagos into a vibrant hub of artistic and technological excellence.

    “The essence of Afropolis lies in its ability to bring together a diverse array of creative minds. Imagine the vibrant fusion of traditional and modern expressions that will be on display, from indigenous crafts to cutting-edge digital art.

    “This melting pot of ideas and talents promises to be an unforgettable experience for both participants and attendees,” the commissioner said.

    Explaining the choice of J.K Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History as the venue for the festival, she highlighted the historical significance of Onikan, which has long been a cultural hub, and hosting Afropolis here would be a fitting tribute to its legacy.

    “The J.Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, in particular, stands as a beacon of our rich heritage and offers the perfect backdrop for this celebration,” she said.

    The essence of Afropolis festival, according to the commissioner, lies in its ability to bring together a diverse array of creative minds.

    “Imagine the vibrant fusion of traditional and modern expressions that will be on display, from indigenous crafts to cutting-edge digital art. This melting pot of ideas and talents promises to be an unforgettable experience for both participants and attendees,” she assured.

    On his part, Qudus Onikeku, head of the QDance Center, explained that Afropolis would showcase the whole gamut of creativity as well as transform Onikan’s main street and JK Randle Road, into a lively arts and tech assemblage.

    Highlighting programmes of the nine-day event, Onikeku said Afropolis would feature among other things, pop up fashion stores, arts and craft market, live performances, street arts, street food, street vendors, music concerts, DJsets, master classes, meetings and networking.

    “The rest are talks and round tables, gaming, innovation, exhibition, children playground and urban culture display,” he said.

    According to him, Afropolis will also see a range of smaller break-outs as well as highly interactive sessions and master classes focused on topics across creative sectors.

    “It is projected that Afropolis will attract more than 1,000 creatives and exhibitors from Arica and the diaspora.

    “We also expect more than 20,000 visitors, buyers and delegates from Africa, the diaspora and the rest of the world.

    “It provides a platform for young talents to showcase their ideas, and stimulate economic growth for local vendors, artisans and global African creatives to showcase their product or services.

    “It will position Lagos as a hub for technology, creativity and innovation by leveraging the festival to showcase African advancements in art, tech, gaming, design, fashion and other creative fields,” Onikeku said.

    The nine-day festival will culminate in a curated marketplace over the weekend, where participants will showcase their local and international innovations and works.

    From a partner’s perspective, Blessing Azubike, senior programmes manager, CC Hub, one of the partners in the festival, expressed excitement being on the project, saying that her outfit is passionate about anything co-creation, which is what it is on board to do.

    “We will be serving on the technology component of the gathering,” she noted.

    Ajibade Adewale, group head, partnerships, Wema Bank, assured revellers of safety with their finances in the course of business transactions during Afropolis carnival.

    “We will ensure your transaction is taken care of digitally, we are also there to guarantee that your money is safe with CC Hub because we are partnering with them as well,” Adewale said.

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    China, Nigeria Commit to Promotion of Tourism, Cultural Exchange

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    China, Nigeria Commit to Promotion of Tourism, Cultural Exchange

    The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Abuja has reiterated its commitment to promote tourism and cultural exchange with Nigeria within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in order to enhance the two countries’ bilateral relations.

    The Embassy made the pledge at the weekend during a Seminar on “Promoting Culture and Tourism Exchange in BRI Cooperation”, jointly hosted by the Chinese Embassy, China Alumni Association of Nigeria and University of Abuja.

    Cultural Counselor of the Chinese Embassy, Mr. Li Xuda said that the embassy has always regarded promoting people-to-people ties between China and Nigeria highly because cultural and tourism exchange plays a special and important role in societal progress and national development.

    Li also added that the joint construction of BRI takes “Five Cooperation Priorities” as the main content: Policy Coordination, Facilities Connectivity, Unimpeded Trade, Financial Integration and People-to-People Bond.

    He said: “The people-to-people bond, one of the five cooperation priorities of the BRI, goes beyond culture and tourism exchange and seeks to build common understanding out of respect for countries and regions in its big family.

    “Both China and Nigeria are cultural giants with fabulous ancient civilization and rich tourism resources.
    “Since six years ago, China and Nigeria became close partners in jointly building BRI, which made our bilateral exchange even more in-depth and practical.

    “I firmly believe that our culture and tourism will be further promoted in the new stage of high-quality joint construction of BRI and some of our cultural gaps and exchange barriers will be bridged.”

    On his part, the Executive Secretary/CEO , National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Otunba Biodun Ajiboye, expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for their continuous support in developing Nigeria’s culture and tourism sector.

    He noted that Nigeria has a large wealth of natural and cultural attractions ranging from stunning landscapes of its national parks to the historic landmarks and vibrant cities that tell the story of the nation.

    He said: “We must therefore leverage the BRI to enhance our tourism infrastructure, promote sustainable tourism practices, and create unique cultural experiences for visitors.

    “By doing so, we can attract more tourists, generate revenue, and create jobs while preserving and celebrating our cultural heritage.

    “We will work closely with our Chinese counterparts to develop joint projects, exchange programmes and collaborative initiatives that have mutual benefits for both countries.”

    The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in more than 150 countries and international organisations.

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