Two enormous explosions rocked the Lebanese capital’s port on Tuesday, killing and wounding dozens of people, shaking buildings and sending huge plumes of smoke billowing into the Beirut sky.
Video footage of the second blast showed an enormous orange fireball that dwarfed nearby buildings and sent a devastating tornado-like shockwave ripping through the city.
“We heard an explosion, then we saw the mushroom,” said one resident who witnessed the second, deafening explosion from her balcony in the city’s Mansourieh district.
“The force of the blast threw us backwards into the apartment,” she said.
Lebanese media carried images of people trapped under rubble, many bloodied, after the massive blasts, the cause of which was not immediately known.
A soldier at the port, who asked not to be named, told AFP: “It’s a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead.”
The official National News Agency confirmed deaths in the blast, without citing a number.
The explosions “caused dozens of injuries,” a security source said.
The AFP correspondent said every shop in the Hamra commercial district had sustained damage, with entire storefronts destroyed, windows shattered and many cars wrecked.
Injured people were walking in the street, while outside the Clemenceau Medical Centre, dozens of wounded people, many covered in blood, were rushing to be admitted to the centre, including children.
Destroyed cars had been abandoned in the street with their airbags inflated.
A huge cloud of black smoke was engulfing the entire port area, as helicopters flew to dump water on the burning buildings.
The port zone was cordoned off by the security forces, allowing access only to a string of ambulances, fire trucks and people whose relatives were working inside the devastated area, while others were screaming to be let through.
A huge blaze was burning at the port, where ambulances were rushing away the wounded, their sirens wailing.
The blasts were heard as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.
Benjamin Strick, who works with investigations website Bellingcat, said on Twitter that the explosions appeared to have been centred on a 130 metre (420 foot) grey warehouse alongside a dock inside the port zone.
Video stills showed a intense blazing fireball rising higher than a line of towering storage silos, with a subsequent cloud towering into the sky.
‘Like an earthquake’
“Buildings are shaking,” tweeted one resident, while another wrote: “An enormous, deafening explosion just engulfed Beirut. Heard it from miles away.”
Online footage from a Lebanese newspaper office showed blown out windows, scattered furniture and demolished interior panelling.
The explosions hit Lebanon as it suffers its worst economic crisis in decades which has left nearly half of the population in poverty.
The country’s economy has collapsed in recent months, with the local currency plummeting against the dollar, businesses closing en masse and poverty soaring at the same alarming rate as unemployment.
The country’s worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has sparked months of street demonstrations against the government.
The explosions also come as Lebanon awaits a UN tribunal’s verdict Friday on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, killed in a huge truck bomb attack.
Four alleged members of the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah are on trial in absentia at a court in the Netherlands over the huge Beirut bombing that killed Sunni billionaire Hariri and 21 other people.
A woman in the city centre Tuesday told AFP: “It felt like an earthquake … I felt it was bigger than the explosion in the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005”.
Tensions have also been high with neighbouring Israel, after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by up to five Hezbollah gunmen, a claim denied by the Lebanon-based and Iran-backed group.
ShopRite Nigeria on Monday denied reports making the rounds that it intends to close shop in Nigeria.
Reach.ng reports that social media had been awash with reports that one of Africa’s largest retailers company announced the formal process to stop all its operation in Nigeria.
Shoprite Holdings Limited was reported to have made the announcement on Monday in its operational and voluntary trading update for the year ended on June 28, 2020.
The multi-national retail group, which announced a 6.4 per cent increase (R156.9billion) in total sales of merchandise for the outgoing year despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, announced that it decided to stop all its Nigeria operation.
But in a telephone conversation with Vanguard, the Country Director for Chastex Consult, Ini Archibong, said Shoprite is not leaving Nigeria.
He said: “We have only just opened to Nigerian investors which we have also been talking to just before now. We are not leaving, who leaves over a $30billion investment and close shop? It doesn’t sound right.
We have only just given this opportunity to Nigeria investors to come in and also help drive our expansion plan in Nigeria. So we are not leaving.
“I have tried to say this as too many people as I can. There should be no panic at all and all of that. There is no truth in that report.”
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The Kano state Executive Council has approved the establishment of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Computer Based Testing Centres (CBTCs) in the five Emirates Councils as zonal offices and 44 Local Government Areas in the state.
The commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammadu Garba stated this on Sunday while addressing newsmen on the outcome of the council’s weekly meeting held at the Africa House, Government House, Kano.
He said it became necessary to increase the number of CBTCs, to prevent a situation where candidates have to be sent to neighboring states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Jigawa and Katsina for JAMB exams.
Garba also revealed that during its sitting, the council approved the establishment of the State Council on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to fast track the spread of ICT skills to the grassroots.
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The Niger State Police Command has confirmed the death of seven ladies from generator fumes at Rijau town, in Rijau Local Government Area of the northern state.
Reach.ng reports that the seven ladies were reported to have died inside a beauty salon.
The Niger State Commissioner of Police, Adamu Usman told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Minna on Saturday, that one Alhaji Mohammed Bello, the district Head of Rijau reported the incident at Rijau, Divisional police office.
CP Usman said on July 31 at about 08:15 hours one Alhaji Mohammed Bello, reported the discovery of seven bodies inside Afrash Beauty Saloon located along Bawa Rijau road.
His words: ”Preliminary investigation revealed that the ladies slept with the generator on inside the shop.
“We have successfully removed the seven corpses to General Hospital Tunga Magaji for autopsy, while the case is under investigation,”Usman said. The Niger Commissioner of Police advised residents to always adopt proactive measures while using generators to avoid unnecessary loss of lives and property.
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A Magistrate Court in Zuba, Abuja, has struck out the assault case instituted against Senator Elisha Abbo (PDP-Adamawa North) by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Reach.ng reports that Senator Abbo was caught in a viral video assaulting a woman, Osimibibra Warmate.
The lawmaker had in a televised press conference apologised to the victim.
But in court documents obtained by The Punch, the Magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah upheld a no-case submission filed by Abbo, adding that the police failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the lawmaker assaulted Warmate on May 11, 2019.
The two witnesses that testified against Abbo were Warmate – who was the nominal complainant – and a police officer, ASP Mary Daniel, who investigated the matter.
In her testimony, Warmate said she had gone to visit a friend, Kemi, at Pleasure Chest Sex Toy Shop, Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja on May 11, 2019 when the lawmaker walked in with three women.
She said suddenly, one of the women that accompanied Abbo started vomiting and later fainted.
Warmate said when she left the shop, she received a frantic call from Kemi asking her to come to her aid as the lawmaker had accused her of putting something in the shop’s air conditioner system that caused one of his female companions to vomit and was threatening to get her arrested.
The victim said when she returned to the shop and was cleaning up the vomit, two men, one of whom was a policeman in uniform, barged into the shop.
She said Abbo told them to arrest Kemi for insulting him but Kemi began pleading and then picked up her phone to tell her father that she was being arrested.
Warmate added, “As one of the men moved to take the phone, I begged him and said it was her father that she was talking to. Then the defendant (Abbo) pounced on me, punched me on my face and in the eye. He slapped me several times and asked me why I interfered.
“He said he would make me a scapegoat for interfering and asked the two men to arrest me. The defendant (Abbo) pulled me by the hair and pushed me downstairs and to a car. I called my mother and I was being arrested.
While in the car, the people on the premises told the defendant (Abbo) that he needed to report to the police on the premises before he could leave but the defendant (Abbo) refused and the security guards in the plaza had to lock the gate.”
Warmate said her mother was able to intervene and after much pleading, she was let go by Abbo.
The victim said she began to feel severe pains in her body due to the beating and she went to a private hospital, Mega Eyesight, and also reported the matter to the police.
Under cross-examination, Warmate admitted that she was not a nursing mother at the time of the incident as widely reported.
She also stated that she was not the one who recorded the video of the incident but obtained it from the owner of the shop where the incident occurred.
Warmate also stated that the video presented as evidence was an abridged version of everything that transpired on the day of the incident.
The second witness, who is a police officer, told the court that she took statements from the victim, the senator and two others who witnessed the incident including Alaba Udeme, the mother of the victim.
The policewoman said because the shop where the incident took place remained close, she could not access the CCTV and had to rely on a disc given to her by the victim.
The video of the incident, a separate video of Abbo’s public apology and a report signed by one Dr. Amobrose Ibegbule, who treated the victim, were tendered as evidence.
However, when the prosecution rested its case, Abbo did not open his defence but filed a no-case submission, asking the court to dismiss the charges preferred against him.
In his ruling, the magistrate Ilelah said, “The evidence and exhibits tendered do not disclose a prima facie case of the alleged crime of criminal force and assault against the defendant (Abbo).
“The prosecution’s case centred on the oral evidence of PW1 (Warmate) and the two discs contained a CCTV footage of the incident and alleged video clip of an apology from the defendant (Abbo).”
He said the medical report of Mega Sight Eye Clinic did not disclose in detail what happened to the victim and Dr. Ambrose Ibegbule who wrote the report was not called as a witness.
The court said the video of the press conference showing Senator Abbo apologising was not tantamount to an admission of guilt as it wasn’t a confessional statement.
Ilelah said the testimony of the victim was “so weak because the allegation has not been substantiated in any material particular.”
The court said the police did not do a proper investigation as it relied solely on the statement of the victim.
The magistrate stated, “The IPO (Investigating Police Officer) did not investigate this case at all or she just charged the defendant to court via the F.I.R (First Information Report) without due care and attention. In fact, she has succeeded in creating a doubt in the mind of this court during cross-examination and the Supreme Court held that where there is a doubt in a criminal trial, such doubt should be resolved in favour of the defendant.”
He said the court would rely on the law and not logic or media reports because he who alleges must prove.
“The defendant is hereby discharged under Section 303(3)(c) and (d) of the ACJA 2015,” the magistrate said.
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The Deputy National Chairman on Communication and Publicity for the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Campaign Council in Edo State, Patrick Obahiagbon, has reacted to the visit by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains to the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.
Obahiagbon who was interviewed on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday said the visit does not translate to the revered monarch endorsing the PDP candidate and incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki for the September 19 governorship election in the state.
When asked if the APC candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu has the blessing of the royal father, Obahiagbon neither confirmed nor refuted the question.
He replied saying: The Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin is a neural traditional king. The Oba does not endorse anybody. The Oba prays for all his subjects.
“If you watch his prayers very meticulously, he would say that “may the candidate that would bring freedom, may the candidate that will bring economic prosperity to my kingdom have the blessing of the great architect of the universe.
“So we cannot situate or locate the visit of PDP to His Royal Majesty to be an endorsement. In any case, the APC is yet to carry out its campaign. When we do that, we will equally visit His Majesty,” he said.
READ ALSO: Sex Toy Shop Scandal: Court Dismisses Suit Against Senator Abbo
Obahiagbon also reacted to the endorsement of some religious leaders to Governor Obaseki today, saying that the action does not pose a threat to Ize-Iyamu in the polls.
The APC chieftain explained that going by the endorsements his party’s candidate has received so fair, Ize Iyamu is confident of victory in the governorship election.
Speaking further, Obahiagbon berated Governor Obaseki over the resignation of seven councillors in his ward in Oredo Local Government of the state.
He said the councillors’ decision to declare their support for Ize-Iyamu speaks volumes as the election draws nearer.
A Magistrate Court in Zuba on the outskirts of Abuja has dismissed the case of assault instituted by the Nigeria Police Force against the lawmaker representing Adamawa-North, Senator Elisha Abbo.
Although there is a viral video showing Senator Abbo assaulting a woman, Osimibibra Warmate; and a televised press conference in which the lawmaker apologised to the victim, the court dismissed the suit for lack of diligent prosecution by the police.
The Magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, who upheld a no-case submission filed by Senator Abbo, said the police failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the lawmaker indeed assaulted Osimibibra Warmate on May 11, 2019.
During the trial, two witnesses testified against Senator Abbo and they are Warmate who was the nominal complainant and a police officer, ASP Mary Daniel, who investigated the matter.
In her testimony, Warmate said she had gone to visit a friend, Kemi at Pleasure Chest Sex Toy Shop, Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja on May 11, 2019, when the lawmaker walked in with three women.
She said suddenly, one of the women that accompanied Abbo started vomiting and later fainted.
READ ALSO: Sex Toy Shop Assault: Court Grants Senator Abbo N5million Bail
Warmate said when she left the shop, she received a frantic call from the owner of the shop asking her to come to her aid as the lawmaker had accused her of fouling the shop’s air conditioning system that caused one of his female companions to vomit and was threatening to get her arrested.
The victim said when she returned to the shop and was cleaning up the vomit, two men, one of whom was a policeman in uniform, barged into the shop, assaulted them on the orders of Senator Elisha Abbo.
Court Grants Senator Abbo Bail
The court had on July 8, 2020, granted bail to Senator Abbo in the sum of N5million.
The Senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District was granted bail by a Senior Magistrate Abdullahi Ilellah.
This was after the lawmaker was arraigned by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police at Zuba Magistrate Court, Abuja.
He was granted bail in the sum of N5million and the sureties must have verifiable addresses within the Federal Capital Territory.
Protesters Storm NASS, Demand Prosecution Of Senator Abbo
The viral video of the Senator Abbo assaulting the lady at the shop was widely criticised by Nigerians on social media.
The situation led to a protest by some Protesters who stormed the National Assembly complex in Abuja demanding the prosecution of the senator.
The protesters including popular activist Aisha Yesufu said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker, must be prosecuted alongside his police orderlies.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions, condemning the act of assault and demanding justice.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, noted that the Ministry of Justice currently has bills before the National Assembly to provide a legislative framework for digital currency.
Malami stated this while declaring open a capacity building workshop and interactive session with Judiciary Correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to the minister, the bills before the National Assembly include; electronic transaction, electronic evidence act, digital management act and electronic banking act.
He further stated that the bill will further build on the success of the stamp duty act which according to him has increased stamp duty revenue from “a mere total of N22 billion over the years to N66 billion within the last six months of the amendment of the act.”
The AGF noted that “There are several other acts to regulate emerging digital financial sub-sector of the economy.”
“The expected bills will prepare Nigeria for emerging realities relating to digital cash, bitcoin and e-currency.”
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No fewer than two yet-to-be-identified persons were killed after cooking gas exploded at a shop on Afariogun Street, adjacent the Faith City Hospital, in the Ajao area of Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial city.
Reach.ng understands that cooking gas explosion in Ajao estate started from a shop used in refilling gas and in the process, affected no fewer than nine shops in the area. A yet-to-be-identified victim was said to have been rescued by emergency responders and taken to the hospital for treatment.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, who confirmed the incident, said the fire had been extinguished, adding that two bodies were recovered from the scene of the incident.
His words, “The agency received distress calls and upon arrival at the incident scene, it was discovered that there was an explosion at Afariogun Street, Ajao Estate.
“Investigations revealed that the explosion originated from a shop occupied by a gas refilling business. A total of nine shops were affected by the inferno.
“The fire has been extinguished by the combined efforts of LRU fire and Lagos State Fire Service. Two bodies were retrieved within the debris, recovery and retrieval ongoing.”
Similarly, Margaret Adeseye, the Acting General-Manager, Lagos State Fire Service, when contacted, said: “There was an explosion, we have two presumed dead and one victim was taken to the hospital.
“According to the information gathered when my men got to the scene of the incident, an explosion from a shop selling gas led to the fire outbreak. Also, six shops collapsed due to the incident.”
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Saturday he has tested negative for the new coronavirus more than two weeks after being diagnosed on July 7, attributing his recovery to an unproven malaria drug.
“RT-PCR for Sars-Cov 2: negative. Good morning everyone,” the 65-year-old tweeted, along with a photo of himself smiling and holding a packet of hydroxychloroquine, whose effectiveness against COVID-19 has not been demonstrated in clinical trials.
He did not say when he took the latest test.
Later, local media reported that he took a motorcycle ride through Brasilia and visited some shops, with small crowds gathering around him.
“I didn’t feel anything, not even in the beginning. If I hadn’t taken the test, I wouldn’t have known I had the virus,” he told them, according to videos played in the media.
The president, who has routinely downplayed the virus he calls a “little flu” but which is currently ravaging his country, spent nearly 20 days self-isolating at his official residence in the capital Brasilia, the Alvorada Palace.
During that time he underwent at least three more virus tests, all positive.
Three polls released this week showed the leader dubbed a “Tropical Trump” would win re-election in 2022, despite his controversial handling of the virus crisis.
The pandemic has exploded in Brazil, the country with the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in the world except the United States.
The Latin American powerhouse has registered nearly 2.3 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 84,000 deaths, and the numbers have continued to rise rapidly.
But Bolsonaro is a fierce critic of stay-at-home measures, arguing the economic pain they result in is worse than the virus itself.
The president has appeared to continue flouting virus precautions even after his diagnosis.
On Thursday he was seen going for a spin on his motorcycle and chatting maskless with a team of groundskeepers outside the presidential palace.
The same day he admitted in a live Facebook video that he was feeling “a bit wretched at being imprisoned here.”
Bolsonaro also continued greeting supporters from quarantine, separated by a narrow reflecting pond but maskless.
And he was spotted in the palace gardens feeding — and occasionally getting bitten by — rheas, a large South American bird related to the emu.