Huge fire at Dubai luxury hotel

A huge fire ripped through a luxury Dubai hotel Thursday night as people gathered to watch New Year’s Eve celebrations, injuring at least 16 people, authorities said.

Dubai’s government media office tweeted that a “fire has been reported in the Address Downtown hotel. Authorities are currently on-site to address the incident swiftly and safely”.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

The 63-storey building, which is close to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, was engulfed in flames across several floors as sirens wailed and helicopters hovered overhead, witnesses said.

Dubai’s police chief said all the hotel’s residents had been evacuated from the scene of the blaze, which had still not been extinguished some two hours after it broke out.

“All the residents are out,” General Khamis Matar al-Mzeima said.

“Until the fire is put out, we will not have information on what caused it,” he added.

“At least 14 people have been slightly injured, along with one medium injury, and a heart attack case registered due to people pushing” amid the smoke, the media office tweeted.

Witness Raphael Slama told AFP the fire started at around 9:30pm (1730 GMT) and rapidly spread upwards across dozens of floors.

The government tweeted that the fire erupted on the 20th floor and affected only the outer facade of the building.

“Four firefighting teams have been deployed” to fight the blaze, it added.

Authorities said earlier Thursday that they had deployed thousands of security personnel to ensure visitors and residents could enjoy the New Year’s festivities safely.

The emirate had promised a “spectacular” fireworks display that was set to kick-off at midnight from the Burj Khalifa before spreading to various locations across the city.

A spokeswoman for the government said the planned festivities would go ahead despite the fire.

“New Year’s celebrations will proceed according to schedule,” Mona al-Marri was quoted by Al-Arabiya as saying, before confirming on her Twitter account.

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Buhari Reiterates Commitment To ‘Change’ In New Year Message

The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in a message to Nigerians ahead of the New Year, gave the assurance that he was totally committed to fulfilling the promises made to Nigerians during his political campaigns.

President Buhari said that his administration had focused on laying the right foundation for the change Nigerians voted for during March 28 historic presidential election.

In the message that came a day before the New Year, the President said that 2016 would be a year for the continuation of the change his political party had promised.

“Still Totally Committed”

He said: “I am aware that Nigerians have experienced a number of significant hardships over the past months.

“Living in the State House has not alienated me from your daily sufferings.

“I am aware of the lengthy queues at fuel stations and of the difficulties businesses have faced in acquiring foreign exchange.

“These challenges are only temporary; we are working to make things better.

“When I presented myself to you as a presidential candidate and asked you to vote for me, I wanted to be a leader who keeps his promises.

“I wanted to be a leader who restores the people’s hope in those elected to serve them. I wanted to be a leader who initiates positive and enduring CHANGE.

“I am still totally committed to being that kind of leader. Unforeseen circumstances and other distractions notwithstanding, I shall still do my utmost best to keep every promise I made to Nigerians during my election campaign”.

According to him, Nigerians will in due course begin to enjoy the fruits of the ongoing work.

Boko Haram Insurgency

He stressed that the effective and efficient implementation of our 2016 budget proposals would address many of the socio-economic issues that were of concern to Nigerians.

“One area in which Nigerians, especially those in the northeast, have already begun to experience major CHANGE is in the war on terror.

“I commend our Armed Forces for significantly curtailing the insurgency which has ravaged the northeast of Nigeria over the past few years.

“However, there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of security.

“Our Armed Forces will maintain, consolidate and build on their successes in the war against Boko Haram and violent extremism,” President Buhari stated.

He reiterated that his administration would not consider the matter concluded until the terrorists had been completely routed and normalcy restored to all parts of the country that had been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

On the war on corruption that the current administration had heightened, the President said the crackdown would continue vigorously.

“Determination To Succeed”

He sought the support of the judiciary in fight.

“I urge the courts to support our efforts and help in the recovery of stolen funds by speedily concluding trials and showing that impunity no longer has a place in our country.

“There is much work to do in other areas as well and I have charged all my ministers and other appointees to ensure that Nigerians experience positive changes in their lives in 2016,” the President stressed.

On the economy of the oil-rich nation, President Buhari emphasised the need to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil.

“We must diversify our economy. And we must do all we can to promote job creation.

“Our challenges are many but our determination to succeed is strong and unshaken.

“So too is our confidence in God,” he said, wishing Nigerians a very Happy New Year.

Abia Election: Appeal Court Declares Alex Otti Of APGA Winner

An Appeal Court has declared the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, Mr Alex Otti, the winner of the Abia State Governorship election.

The court in its ruling on Thursday ordered the swearing in of Mr Otti, as governor of Abia State and asked Mr Okezie Ikpeazu to vacate the office.

Mr Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party was declared winner of the election held in April by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Details to come…

Media chat: Buhari is a tyrant – PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party alleged on Thursday that President Muhammadu Buhari’s responses at the Wednesday Presidential Media Chat were not only embarrassing but also further exposed his undemocratic character as an unrepentant tyrant who has no regard for the rule of law and the self-worth of Nigerian citizens.

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh in Abuja, also said the President confirmed his alleged partisanship in the much-vaunted war against corruption by openly absolving his ministers and party members of corrupt practices.

Metuh said the President’s attitude showed his true colours as unrepentant dictator.

He also said it was wrong for the President to have condemned those undergoing trial for alleged corruption.

He said, “Whilst we restate our respect for the person and office of the President, we note that President Buhari bared his true colours to the world as an unrepentant tyrant.

“Today, the world is no longer in doubt as to who is behind the prevailing recklessness, abuse of rights of citizens and outright flouting of judicial pronouncements by security agencies.

“A situation where the President openly pronounced persons facing trial guilty and sanctioned their continued incarceration despite being granted bail by the courts, presents a dangerous fascist practice obtainable only in totalitarian societies like Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, Idi Amin’s Uganda and General Than Shwe’s Burma.

“This extremely shocking dictatorial tendency being brazenly exhibited by the President in total disdain for our laws and judicial institutions portends great danger for our democracy and constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the people, and should be resisted by the citizens before it festers.

“The scorn for the principle of separation of powers, especially the independence of the legislature, is further manifested in the declared craving to regulate the funding and running of the National Assembly, a matter constitutionally vested outside the jurisdiction of the executive.

“We are most uncomfortable about his attempt at trying to whip up public sentiments against an independent arm of government, especially the one vested with the constitutional power of appropriation.”

Metuh added that with the pronouncements by the President, it might be necessary to suspend the application of the Constitution and allow the President to operate as maximum ruler for four years after which the nation can return to a democracy.

According to him, “On the issue of the Chibok girls, President Buhari’s embarrassing declaration of seeking information on the whereabouts and state of the girls betrays an obvious insincerity which is in total conflict with his campaign promises in that regard.

“Thus by this declaration, our dear President has accepted failure on this issue and should therefore apologise to Nigerians for all the insults, abuse and aspersions cast on the past administration by himself and the leadership of his political party.”

On the issue of devaluation of the naira, Metuh said it was obvious that there was a conflict between the budget speech wherein the president stated that the government was assessing the foreign exchange rate with a view to attracting foreign investments and his categorical pronouncement during the media chat that the naira would not be devalued.

He said it was obvious that the president obviously “does not understand the currency that applies in the devaluation of the naira,”

He added that Nigerians were shocked by the President’s labeling them as ‘very difficult lot’ while responding to questions on the strategy to be adopted in implementing his promised N5,000 social welfare package.

He said, “This unhealthy portrayal of the citizens by the very father of the nation, who has remained unrelenting in de-marketing his country through unguarded statements, is indeed a great disservice to Nigeria and its international image.

“Consequently, we reject this negative labeling of our citizens and reiterate our confidence in them, especially the millions who remain honest, hardworking and credible.

“Finally, Nigerians must take copious note of the fact that the President gave no inspiring answers to questions pertaining to his campaign promises, the fight against insurgency and rescue of the Chibok girls, the poor state of the naira, sudden plunging of the economy under his watch, and the gradual loss of democratic rights and freedom.”

Buhari signs 2015 budget implementation extension into law

President Muhammadu Buhari, has appended his signature to an Act of the National Assembly which authorised the executive to extend the implementation of the Capital vote component in the 2015 budget beyond December 31, 2015.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, confirmed the development in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Thursday.

Enang explained that his clarification became necessary in view of the fact that legislators, institutions and other concerned agencies had been contacting him to know the true status of the Act, which was forwarded to Buhari last week.

He said, “Further to several enquires and calls by legislators, institutions et al on the subject, we deem it appropriate to issue this release.

“His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has assented to the 2015 appropriation amendment Act passed by the National Assembly on December 22, 2015, (extending the 2015 financial year to March 31st in respect of capital projects)”

The Act to amended the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation Act specifically authorised the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, N556.9bn meant for Capital Expenditure in the 2015 budget to enable the appropriate government agencies carry out massive infrastructural projects during the dry season.

The Senate had last on week Tuesday, amended the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation Act to enable the Executive arm of government, implement the N557bn Capital expenditure component in the 2015 Budget up to March next year.

The amendment was perfected at plenary shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari, presented the 2016 budget estimates to the joint session of the National Assembly.

Saraki,had explained that the essence of the ammendments was to allow the executive arm of government carry out execution of capital projects during the dry season pending the approval of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

Taraba Election: APC’s Alhassan Loses At Appeal Court

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Taraba State governorship election, Aisha Alhassan, has lost her bid to become the only female governor in Nigeria.

In the ruling of an Appeal Court on Thursday, the Abdul Aboki-led five-man panel said that the Peoples Democratic Party’s decision to choose Darius Ishaku as its candidate was accepted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja ruled that Alhassan had no locus standi to question the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

INEC had in April announced PDP’s Ishaku as winner of the election defeating APC’S Alhassan.

The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja had declared on November 7 that Alhassan was the duly elected governor, saying Ishaku did not emerge candidate of the PDP in a proper primary election.

But at the appeal hearing, Mr Aboki admitted the testimony of the INEC officer, who testified that the PDP primaries violated sections 85 and 87 of the electoral law, he maintained the APC had no locus standi on the matter.

Wife pleads for mercy as Dasuki is re-arrested

Former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki’s health is bad, his wife has said, pleading for his freedom.

Mrs Dasuki created a scene at the headquarters of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) on Tuesday night when she begged top officials of the agency not to allow her husband die in custody.

She and other relations had waited patiently for Dasuki to meet the last peg of his bail conditions, a surety with about N250million property.

But immediately Dasuki was released at the prison, he was re-arrested by the DSS.

After several hours of trying to locate her husband, she returned to the DSS office and demanded for him or in the alternative, she should be locked up with him.

She reportedly said: “Nigerians should help me beg the Federal Government, the DSS and other agencies to release my husband who did his best to serve this nation. He is ill, he needs medical attention, he is not pretending. I implore the DSS not to allow him to die in custody.

“I saw my husband and I felt dejected. He is not just well. Nigerians should assist him to get a reprieve. We(myself, the children and relations) are all destabilised. We don’t know what is happening because three courts have granted him bail. Why are they after him? Let those concerned respect the court by releasing my husband.

“There is no way my husband will run away from the country under any guise. They should please follow the rule of law and uphold his right to bail.”

A source said Dasuki’s wife was allowed to see her husband.

“We have followed the rule of law , the ex-NSA is in safe custody. He was once in DSS custody and he was never maltreated and he had access to medicare,” the source said.

A judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Peter Affen last Wednesday banned the EFCC from re-arresting Dasuki, ex-Minister Bashir Yuguda, former Director of Finance at the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) Shuaibu Salisu, Sagir Attahiru and former Governor Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa.

The order of the court followed the granting of the application for bail by counsel to the defendants, including Peter Akper (SAN); Ahmed Raji (SAN); Dr. J. O. Olatoke (SAN); H.O. Afolabi (SAN) and A.U Mustapha.

As at press time, all the accused persons were perfecting their bail conditions.

Those whose bail terms have been approved are Salisu; Bafarawa, ex-NNPC Executive Director Aminu Babakusa and others.

DSS operatives refused to allow Dasuki  to go home on bail even after he had perfected his bail consitions.

Counsel to Dasuki  Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN)confirmed to PRNigeria that the former NSA had met all the bail conditions given by Justice Affem but regretted that the court order was not obeyed by the DSS.

Raji who perfected the bail condition of his client disclosed that the actions of the security agents was an affront to the rule of law.