Obama blasts Trump over coronavirus

Former president Barack Obama has launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it an “absolute chaotic disaster”.

In a leaked web call Friday night with former members of his administration, first obtained by Yahoo News, Obama urges former staffers to join him in rallying behind Joe Biden as he prepares to take on Trump in the November presidential election.

“What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy – that has become a stronger impulse in American life,” Obama said.

“It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset – of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ – when that mindset is operationalised in our government.”

Godfathers pressurise FG to free Chinese arrested for illegal mining

The Federal Government has refused to bow to pressure to free the Chinese and others arrested for illegal mining in Zamfara and Osun states last month, vowing to prosecute the suspects.

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said the government would meet with the Chinese government over the illegal activities of their nationals in Nigeria.

He described the illegal gold mining in the country by the Chinese nationals as economic sabotage.

Two Chinese were arrested for illegal mining in Zamfara, despite a subsisting ban on mining activities in the state by the Federal Government.

The ban followed the alleged links between illegal mining and banditry, which has led to the loss of hundreds of lives and destruction of property in the state.

Twenty-seven people, including  17 Chinese,  Senegalese, Burkinabes and  Nigerians were arrested for illegal mining in Osun.

Adegbite, who spoke to journalists at the  Abuja headquarters of the MMSD on Friday, said the Federal Government would no longer tolerate illegal mining.

A steady rise in the value of gold due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on currencies has been linked to the recent spike in illegal gold mining and the Federal Government, which is grappling with challenges arising from the decline in oil price, is determined to capitalise on the country’s gold deposits to shore up its revenue.

The minister, who claimed the illegal miners were working for “Nigerians in high positions of authority”, said they had decided to adopt diplomatic and legal measures towards addressing the illegal mining by foreigners in the country.

He said, “The Chinese are the main culprits in the illegal mining activities and we are going to meet with the Chinese Embassy.

“We are going to present all the facts to them so that it will not appear as if we are targeting them unfairly.

“Taking gold out of Nigeria illegally is economic sabotage because if you look at the quantum, the value is huge.”

According to him,  the influential Nigerians he refused to name have been mounting pressure on the government to free the illegal miners.

But he said the suspects would be prosecuted.

Adegbite said the ministry had finalised plans to take over the prosecution of all persons arrested for illegal mining.

Adegbite said the government was not worried about any moves by the illegal miners’ backers to scuttle the planned prosecution.

He said, “These godfathers were operating with impunity before, but they are now scared because the arrested illegal miners are naming names but they (godfathers) are denying.

“The law is on our side and we must prosecute these people to serve as a deterrent.”

The minister said some state government officials,  heads of security agencies, and traditional rulers, were involved in illegal mining.

“There is a particular situation where soldiers in a particular cantonment are aiding illegal miners,” he said.

The minister said the Chief Justice of Nigeria had advised that state chief judges should designate special courts for the prosecution of offences relating to illegal mining.

However, he said the illegal miners arrested in Zamfara and Osun would be tried at the Federal High Court.

He said the Federal Government would discuss with the  United Arab Emirates to check the source of Nigerian gold smuggled to Dubai.

Dubai is the major destination of most of the gold smuggled out of Nigeria.

Adegbite said, “We will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get the Dubai authorities to ensure that any gold that is coming from Nigeria is certified.

“Right now they don’t ask for Export Certificate so we want them to start asking for export certificates. If they don’t see the certificate or if they notice that the certificate is not genuine, they confiscate the gold and repatriate it to us.”

To encourage the UAE to help track smuggled Nigerian gold, Adegbite said the government had considered an arrangement whereby the UAE would keep a fraction of the confiscated gold and return the greater portion to Nigeria.

The minister said the  UAE could keep 30 per cent of confiscated gold, with  70 per cent handed to Nigeria.

He said, “We need to work with our neighbours, and we need to educate the  Customs and Immigration people so that gold is not taken out of our borders for pittance.”

Egypt’s el-Sisi expands powers, citing coronavirus pandemic

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has approved amendments to the country’s state of emergency that grant him and security agencies additional powers, which the government says are needed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The changes on Saturday were condemned by a prominent rights group, which said Cairo has used the public health crisis to “expand, not reform, Egypt’s abusive Emergency Law”.

The new amendments allow the president to take measures to contain the virus, such as suspending classes at schools and universities and quarantining those returning from abroad.

But they also include expanded powers to ban public and private meetings, protests, celebrations and other forms of assembly.

The government has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since 2013, when el-Sisi led a military coup that deposed his democratically-elected predecessor, President Mohamed Morsi, of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The amendments also allow military prosecutors to investigate incidents when army officers are tasked with law enforcement or when the president orders it.

The country’s chief civilian prosecutor would have the final say on whether to bring matters to trial. 

The amended law would also allow the president to postpone taxes and utility payments as well as provide economic support for affected sectors.

Parliament, which is packed with el-Sisi supporters, approved the measure last month.

Unauthorised protests have been banned for years in Egypt, which has been under a state of emergency since April 2017. The government extended it late last month for another three months.

The law was originally passed to give the president broader powers for counterterror measures and fighting drug trafficking.

The government said the amendments were needed to address a legal “vacuum” revealed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt, with a population of 100 million, has reported nearly 8,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 503 related deaths.