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The Federal Government, under the administration of President Bola Tinubu, disbursed a total sum of N14.77bn for the repair and maintenance of the presidential air fleet in 11 months.

The payments, made in 11 tranches between 16th July 2023 and 25th May 2024, were processed through the State House headquarters transit account labelled, ‘Presidential Air Fleet Transit Funds’.

This new development comes amidst plans by the National Assembly to approve the purchase of two new aircraft, after it was discovered that the President’s 19-year-old Boeing 737 and some of the other aircraft in the fleet, were dysfunctional.

The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence listed the purchase in its technical subcommittee report, which may cost over $623.4m or N918.7bn, according to experts’ estimates.

“The committee is of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of technical/operational inadequacy of the Presidential Air Fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircraft as recommended. This will also prove to be most cost-efficient in the long run, aside from the added advantage of providing a suitable, comfortable and safe carrier befitting of the status and responsibilities of the offices of the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the report read in part.

In recent times, there has been serious contention about the state of the air fleet despite enormous government resources spent on it during past administrations.

The Presidency currently maintains a fleet of six aircraft, namely a Boeing 737, a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7Xs, and a Challenger CL605; as well as six helicopters— two Agusta 139s and four Agusta 189s.

Buhari’s government spent N62.47bn for the operation and maintenance of PAF during his eight-year tenure. Though Buhari promised to reduce the size of the fleet as part of his pledge to cut the cost of governance, checks reveal that his regime failed to live up to this promise.

In the 2016 budget, N3.65bn was allocated for the PAF, but this rose to N4.37bn in the 2017 fiscal year. In 2018 and 2019, the allocation almost doubled, amounting to N7.26bn and N7.30bn respectively. Closer observation showed a slight drop by N503.75m in 2020, when N6.79bn was budgeted for the fleet. The allocation surged to N12.55bn and N12.48bn in the 2021 and 2022 fiscal budgets respectively, before the N8.07bn allocation in 2023.

Meanwhile, checks by our correspondent using GovSpend, a civic tech platform that tracks and analyses the Federal Government’s spending, showed that Tinubu approved the disbursement of N14.77bn within one year of assuming office. The amount is separate from expenses incurred during foreign and local trips by the President, Vice-President and other officials.

N1.52bn was approved in July 2023 for maintenance, and was followed by a payment of N3.1bn in August. The next tranche was paid in November 2023 with a disbursement of N1.26bn. The government also paid N2.54bn in March 2024, N6.35bn in April 2024 and N1.27bn last month.

Defending the need for a new aircraft, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the purchase of another aircraft was a necessity. He added that the proposal was a “basic thing any sane government will do”, because it cannot toy with the President’s welfare.

“Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the Vice-President of Malawi, and President of Iran? Let him tell us. This is a basic thing any sane government will do. You can’t toy with the President’s welfare,” he said.

Opposition tackle APC

Meanwhile, the leaderships of the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party have tackled the Federal Government over its plan to secure two new planes for the PAF.

The disagreement comes barely three days after the Presidency criticised Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, for his objection to the demand for new aircraft.

Obi described the move as unfortunate, saying it was coming at a time when Nigerians were grappling with economic hardship caused by the Federal Government’s policies.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH, the National Publicity Secretary of LP, Obiora Ifoh, maintained that Nigeria could not afford to be seen lavishing scarce resources on ‘luxury’ at a time when the masses were experiencing untold hardship.

He said, “I think that the office of the President needs a ‘functional’ aircraft. But, as of the last count, we are aware that there are more than 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet.

“What any responsible government should do is refurbish them. One or two manufacturers, such as Boeing or whoever built the aircraft, could service them and return them to Nigeria.

“Is this not the same presidential fleet that is used to carry the children of the president, vice president, their wives and their cronies around? We see them everywhere.

“It is a misplaced priority for this government to think of taking loans again, despite the billions of dollars in debt that we have found ourselves in. A new presidential jet is a luxury.”

Opposition making noise – APC

In its reaction, the APC stated that the opposition was making a noise.

While not dismissing the current hardship in the country, the National Vice-Chairman (South-East) of the party, Ijeoma Arodiogbu, argued that the safety of the President was paramount.

Among other things, Arodiogbu cited the death of the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi; the country’s foreign minister and other top government functionaries, who recently died in a helicopter crash as enough reason not to allow any Nigerian, let alone the president, to travel in faulty aircraft.

He said, “We appreciate the concerns of the opposition about the hardship in the country, which is also real. But, I believe the administration is doing its best to ameliorate the pains of the Nigerian people. With that said, no country will compromise the safety of its president. You can see that in recent times, there have been plane crashes that killed a couple of world leaders.

“The prime minister of Iran also died in an old helicopter. People had attributed a lot of conspiracy theories on how he possibly died. Some blamed Israel. But, the truth remains that the aircraft was a very old one. I guess it was bought or made in the 1970s, and due to their peculiar problems, they were unable to buy a new aircraft.

“Recently, Malawi’s vice president’s aircraft also crashed. I wonder why we want to compromise the safety of our president. If our pilots and aeronautic engineers have said those planes are old and unsafe for whatever reason, we can’t expect our president to be trekking to the places he needs to go.

“It is still a sacrifice the country has to make for the safety of our President if we love him. But again, it is the job of the opposition to criticise anything done by the administration, and make it look insensitive and unpopular. Peter Obi, for one, is doing it very strongly, airing his voice on every issue, whether it’s worthy or not, to rouse the sentiments of Nigerians against the president or the APC administration in the country today.”

NNPP slams FG

Also reacting, the New Nigeria People’s Party did not share the sentiment of the APC government, which it claimed has been toying with the emotions of Nigerians.

Speaking in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the spokesman for the NNPP, Ladipo Johnson, said the timing for buying new aircraft was wrong.

“Whatever it is, the timing is not good. This is coming at a time when Nigerians are facing challenges. It seems like this government has not cut its costs in any way, hence they have to tighten their belts. People are not happy over the removal of fuel subsidy, the hike in electricity tariffs, and food inflation.”

Aviation experts disagree

In his submission, the President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokeoma, said though it was expedient for the president to have functioning aircraft for his trips, there should be moderation in the financial budget to maintain the presidential fleet.

“If you spend that kind of money, there should be value for it. Yes, the president should have aircraft that are in good condition, as he needs to travel here and there. But, we should also consider the fact that times are hard for Nigerians, as everybody is complaining now. So, whatever has to be used and whatever money has to be appropriated for such things have to be duly deployed, so that it doesn’t look like wastage. This means everybody should be accountable. We all know that the times are not good. And, this should reflect in anything we do as a country,” Nwokeoma told Sunday PUNCH.

However, another aviation expert, John Ojikutu John, backed the Federal Government, stating that the funds to be spent were not much.

He said, “The money (for the repair) is nothing. It is about $14m when converted to dollars. At that level, they cannot spend anything less than $2m on each one if they have about five to seven aircraft.

“I don’t know how many aircraft there are. But, I am looking at five aircraft minimum, and they will spend about $2m on each of them.”

 

Punch

The details of the judgement of the Federal High Court of Thursday have confirmed that the court nullified the reappointment of Lamido Sanusi as Emir of Kano but refused to rule on the validity of the Kano Emirate Council (Repeal) Law, 2024.

The judgement specifically said “every step taken by the defendants in pursuance to the Kano State Emirate Council (Repeal) Law, 2024 are hereby annulled and set aside.

The said law repealed the Kano State Emirate Council Law 2019, which created four new emirates of Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye in addition to the Kano Emirate.

Governor Abba Yusuf signed the new law on 23 May and removed all the five emirs appointed under the old law, including Aminu Ado-Bayero of Kano.

A day later, the governor reinstated Sanusi as the sole emir of the state.

But that was before a title holder in Kano emirate, Aminu Dan’agundi, filed a suit at the Federal High Court to challenge the new law.

Dan’agundi also applied to the court to restrain the Kano State Government; the State House of Assembly and its speaker; the Attorney-General of the state; the Commissioner of Police, the Inspector-General of Police; Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps; and the State Security Service (SSS) from implementing the law until his case has been determined.

On 23 May, the judge, Abdullahi Liman, granted the application and ordered the state government and the other parties involved to stop the implementation of the new emirate law pending the hearing of the substantive case.

However, the five emir’s have been stripped of their roles, including Ado-Bayero who has relocated to the mini palace in Kano and defied the directives of the state government and state high court that he should cease parading himself as the emir.

When the federal court next heard the matter on 20 June, the judge chided the governor for reinstating Sanusi, saying the action was in disrespect of his court’s order for a freeze of actions on the new law.

The judge said despite being served with the court order, the state government went ahead to appoint Sanusi as the 16 Emir of Kano on 24 May.

“Every step taken by the defendants in pursuance to the Kano State Emirate Council (Repeal) Law, 2024 is hereby annulled and set aside.

“That, however, this order doesn’t affect the validity of the Kano State Emirate Council (Repeal) Law, 2024 which is the subject of the substantive suit.

“That the order sought by the plaintiff, which extends to the validity of the Kano Emirate Council (Repeal) Law, 2024 which is the subject matter of the substantive suit, is hereby refused.

“That the earlier order directing parties to maintain status quo ante still stands,” the judge said in the certified true copy of the ruling released on Friday.

However, the state government has said the emir was reinstated four days before it was served with the court order on 27 May and has interpreted the status quo to mean the state of events before the court granted the interim judgement.

But Mamman Yusufari, a senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), insisted that the ruling of the court on Thursday invalidated Sanusi’s reinstatement.

Yusufari, a professor of law, said on a radio programme, ‘Rigar Kaya’ anchored by Yakubu Musa-Fagge, that the ruling also voided all actions taken by the governor, including the signing of the new emirate council law.

“The governor appointed Sanusi after the court order. The court gave the order on 23 May and the governor reappointed Sanusi on 24 May,” Yusufari said.

He said the governor was aware of the court order because he protested against the order being served virtually, stating that the judge, Liman, issued it from the United States of America.

“The judge described the governor’s action as disrespectful and cannot be tolerated in a country with law and order because nobody is above the law. In the eyes of the law, the appointment of Sanusi didn’t exist because it was conducted in disregard to the law of the land.

“The judge was silent on the validity or otherwise of the Kano Emirate Council (Repeal) Law 2024 but said all other action taken by the governor before the court order is null and void, which includes the signing of the law by the governor, meaning that the Kano Emirate Council (Repeal) Law 2024, is still a bill, not a law.

“With this, all the five Kano emirate councils are still in force because there is no law in place that removed them. The appointment of Sanusi as the 16th Emir of Kano is illegal, with this, all parties in the crisis are maintaining the status quo as directed by the court.

“The substantive case will continue at the high court if the appeal court rules on the jurisdiction suit in favour of the applicant, but if it ruled against, the case will definitely reach the Supreme Court because I doubt if any of the contenders will surrender at the appeal court,” Yusufari stated on the radio programme.

Meanwhile, Liman has transferred the case to another judge, Simon Amobeda, due to his elevation to the Court of Appeal.

On Friday, Amobeda halted the hearing of the substantive suit following an appeal by the state government challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain chieftaincy matters.

 

PT

 

Uwem Udokwere, a retired brigadier general, has been killed in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Udokwere was said to have been killed by armed robbers in an estate on Saturday morning.

Josephine Adeh, spokesperson of the federal capital territory (FCT) police command, in a statement, said Benneth Igweh, the commission of police, has ordered immediate investigation into the incident.

“In response to the tragic and unprecedented attack at Sunshine homes estate by armed robbers, resulting in the untimely demise of one Brigadier General Uwem Harold Udokwere (rtd.) on June 22, 2024, at approximately 03:00 a.m, the Commissioner of Police, FCT, Benneth C. Igweh, has promptly ordered a thorough and discreet investigation into the circumstances surrounding this regrettable event,” the command spokesperson said.

“Expressing profound condolences to the bereaved family, Igweh, assures the family and the public of swift justice, with every effort in conduit to ensure the perpetrators of the atrocious act are apprehended and brought to justice.

“Furthermore, the commissioner of police reaffirms the unflinching commitment of the command to amplify the security landscape of the nation’s capital, by continually adapting strategies to effectively combat evolving criminal activities.

“Updates on this matter will be provided in due course.”

 

The Cable

Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza, enclave's government media office says

At least 42 people were killed in Israeli attacks on districts of Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, the director of the Hamas-run government media office said.

One Israeli strike on houses in Al-Shati, one of the Gaza Strip's eight historic refugee camps, killed 24 people, Ismail Al-Thawabta told Reuters. Another 18 Palestinians were killed in a strike on houses in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood.

The Israeli military released a brief statement saying: "A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City."

It said more details would be released soon.

Hamas did not comment on the Israeli claim to have hit its military infrastructure. It said in a statement the attacks targeted the civilian population and vowed in a statement "the occupation and its Nazi leaders will pay the price for their violations against our people."

Footage obtained by Reuters showed dozens of Palestinians rushing out to search for victims amid the destroyed houses. The footage showed wrecked homes, blasted walls, and debris and dust filling the street in Shati refugee camp.

Israel's ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, of whom 101 were killed in the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

More than eight months into the war, Israel's advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza's southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

Residents said Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into western and northern Rafah areas in recent days. On Saturday Israeli forces bombed several areas from air and the ground, forcing many families living in areas described as humanitarian-designated zones to leave northwards.

The Israeli military said forces continued "precise, intelligence-based" targeted operations in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen and dismantling military infrastructure.

On Friday, the Gaza health ministry said at least 25 Palestinians were killed in Mawasi in western Rafah and 50 wounded. Palestinians said a tank shell hit a tent housing displaced families.

The Israeli military said that the incident was under review. "An initial inquiry conducted suggests that there is no indication that a strike was carried out by the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi," it said.

 

Reuters

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Has Russia just dropped a deadly new 3,000kg glide bomb in Ukraine?

The multistorey building stands alone just off a main road. The houses around it are completely destroyed, razed to the ground by relentless Russian shelling, and the dirt road is scarred by shrapnel. All that can be heard is the sound of a bomb being dropped, followed seconds later by a mighty explosion.

The bomb smashes into the ground 10 metres from the building, opening up a huge crater before a swelling fireball engulfs the entire three floors. When the smoke eventually dissipates, the footage shows the building’s whole roof has been ripped off.

This, Russian military bloggers are claiming, is the first test of a 3000kg glide bomb, otherwise known as the Fab-3000, a modified munition that is packed with nearly a tonne and a half of explosives. Earlier versions of these explosives, which are Soviet-era munitions retrofitted with fixed wings and GPS navigation systems that extend their range beyond the reach of Ukrainian anti-air defences, appeared earlier this year. These were the Fab-500s and the Fab-1500s.

This building is located on the eastern side of Lyptsi, a small village just behind the front line in the northeast Ukrainian region of Kharkiv.

Kharkiv has been under relentless ground and aerial assault since thousands of Vladimir Putin’s forces pushed over the border from Russia in mid-May. Having moved several miles towards the region’s namesake capital, home to around 1.3 million civilians, Ukraine’s forces have managed to halt the attack about two miles north of Lyptsi. It is about 20 miles from Kharkiv.

This alleged new model threatens to worsen an already dire situation facing not only Ukraine’s soldiers but the millions of civilians living within range of these glide bombs.

Since their introduction, they have killed hundreds, even perhaps thousands, of Ukrainians. Aid workers in Kharkiv city say the explosives have even rendered bomb shelters irrelevant.

“If a glide bomb hits then you’ve just got no hope,” says Ada Wordsworth, who runs a charity rebuilding homes in the wider Kharkiv region. “The destruction is so massive. It’s a weird kind of psychological torture [to face them].”

The footage posted by the Kremlin-approved Russian military blogger Fighter Bomber, believed to be in the Russian air force, purports to show a new version of the glide bombs that is twice as heavy as its predecessor, and twice as destructive.

“This is an excellent result even for a guided munition,” Fighter Bomber wrote alongside the video, before claiming that fragments of the bomb “retain their destructive power at a range of 1,240 metres”.

He added: “Here there is one bomb but you can throw 10 of them [at once].”

In March, footage showed Russia’s then defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, touring a weapons manufacturing plant located around 250 miles east of Moscow, where production of a new Fab-3000 M-54 was announced.

Ukrainian officials say they have noted the latest video, but that fragments of the weapon – which would be used to identify it – have not yet reached investigators. “All we can say for sure at the moment is that such objects have not yet been submitted to us for examination,” Natalia Nestor, deputy director of the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, the investigative arm of Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice said. She added that if confirmed, this would be the first piece of evidence of the Fab-3000.

The Institute for the Study of War, which monitors Russia’s invasion, is taking the footage as proof of the use of the bombs. “The fact that Russian forces have figured out how to launch FAB-3000s is a significant development,” the Washington-based think tank wrote in its latest daily update, citing the video posted by Fighter Bomber. “It will increase the destructive potential of Russia’s ongoing glide bomb attacks against Ukrainian forces and infrastructure.”

Other analysts have been more circumspect in their assessments, choosing to wait for confirmation from the ground before determining whether this marks a new weapon. In either case, the level of destruction the video shows has had people in Ukraine calling for more to be done to deal with glide bombs.

“If this is not a FREAKING MASSIVE WAKE UP CALL for finally doing everything possible and impossible to find a solution to the notorious [glide bomb] problem, I don’t know what is,” Illia Ponomarenko, Ukraine’s most followed journalist, wrote on Twitter/X.

The problem of glide bombs is “notorious” because they are extremely difficult to shoot down. The bombs’ navigation modifications mean they can be fired well beyond the range of Ukrainian air defences from deep within Russia territory.

The most effective way to stop the missiles is to shoot down the fighter jets carrying them, either in the air or while they are stationed at a base. But up until last month, Ukraine’s Western allies had barred Kyiv from using their missiles to strike over the border, meaning that fighter jets could launch these glide bombs without fear of being hit within Russia itself.

The Pentagon said on Friday that Ukraine's military is now allowed to use longer-range missiles provided by the US to strike targets inside Russia across more than just the front lines near Kharkiv, if Kyiv is acting in self defence, opening the way for Ukraine to halt the glide problem at the source.

But Ukraine’s leaders have been clear that US-made F-16 fighter jets are also crucial for its fight against the glide bomb threat. The first batch of F-16s, from around 80 promised by several European countries, is expected to arrive in Ukraine this summer, and they will allow Kyiv to go toe to toe with Russian fighter jets while in the air.

“Against these [glide bombs], even air defence systems are not so useful,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to president Volodymyr Zelensky, last month. “Only F-16s will work.”

** Russia launches 'massive' attack on Ukrainian power grid

Ukrainian energy facilities have come under a massive attack from Russia, in the latest onslaught targeting the country's power grid, officials say.

It is the eighth time Russia has launched an attack on energy infrastructure facilities in the past three months, Ukraine’s energy ministry said.

Air defence systems shot down 12 of 16 missiles and all 13 drones launched by Russia at several regions through the night, the Ukrainian air force said.

Later on Saturday officials in Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine said three people were killed and at least 18 injured by Russian guided bombs, with at least four explosions heard in the city.

“This is one more terrorist attack, a precise attack on civilian infrastructure. There is nothing of military interest in this district," Kharkiv's regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov said.

The overnight attacks on infrastructure wounded two energy workers in the central Zaporizhzhia region, and damaged equipment in the western city of Lviv, officials said.

In the south-western region of Ivano-Frankivsk, the authorities also reported damage to houses and a kindergarten.

Russia has renewed its campaign of strikes on Ukrainian energy targets over spring and early summer, causing frequent blackouts across the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said Moscow had destroyed half of his country’s electricity-generating capacity since it began pummelling its energy facilities in late March.

On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities said seven employees were wounded and energy infrastructure, including a power station, had been damaged in a major overnight attack.

Ukraine is buying energy from the European Union, however, this is not enough to make up the deficit.

This means that most days involve a planned nationwide blackout to protect critical infrastructure such a hospitals and military facilities.

"We urgently need to close our skies or Ukraine faces a serious crisis this winter," the chief executive DTEK, of one of Ukraine's largest private energy companies, Maxim Timchenko said.

"My plea to allies is to help us defend our energy system and rebuild in time.”

Zelensky has repeatedly called on Ukraine's allies to send more air defence systems. He has specifically requested seven sophisticated air defence systems called Patriots from the US.

Ivan Fedorov, Zaporizhzhia's governor, echoed Zelensky's message on Saturday morning in a message posted to Telegram.

"We can say for sure: the enemy will not stop. Ukraine needs air defence systems." he said.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that Washington would put Ukraine at the top of the queue for Patriot deliveries, ahead of other countries that have ordered them.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians hiding from draft officers — NYT

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian men have gone into hiding as they avoid conscription for fear of dying in the conflict involving "bloody trench warfare," The New York Times reported on Friday.

While it is not clear how many men are hiding from authorities, in big cities like Kiev and Lvov, social media groups alerting members to mobilization include tens of thousands of people, the newspaper wrote.

Ukrainian men expressed fear of dying in the conflict, the NYT continued. According to the newspaper, Kiev has been sending troops without "sufficient training" to the front to replace combat losses.

Military analysts agree that a lack of adequate training makes it difficult for Kiev to hold its lines, the newspaper concluded.

Ukraine announced a general mobilization in February 2022, which it has extended periodically ever since, with the country’s authorities doing their utmost to prevent men of conscription age from dodging the draft, including a ban on male residents of Ukraine from leaving the country. On May 18, a law tightening mobilization rules came into force in Ukraine, allowing hundreds of thousands more Ukrainians to be called up into the army.

** Ukraine lost Canadian armored combat vehicle Senator for the first time

 For the first time since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported the loss of the Canadian armored combat vehicle Senator by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

"Units of the West group of forces occupied more advantageous positions, defeated the personnel and equipment of the 58th motorized infantry brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the 102nd, 123rd ground defense brigades and the 21st brigade of the National Guard in the areas of the settlements of Varvarovka, Novoivanovka in the Zaporozhye region, Prechistovka and Neskuchnoye in the Donetsk People's Republic. Enemy losses reached over 140 servicemen and one Canadian-made Senator armored fighting vehicle," the ministry said.

At the same time, the Russian military destroyed warehouses for storing unmanned boats and aircraft-type UAVs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. "Operational-tactical aviation, unmanned aerial vehicles, missile forces, and artillery of groupings of troops of the Russian Armed Forces destroyed warehouses for storing unmanned boats and aircraft-type UAVs, and defeated concentrations of enemy forces and military equipment in 127 regions," the ministry said.

Units of Russia’s South battlegroup have also improved the situation along the frontline over the past 24 hours. "Units of the Southern Group of Forces improved the situation along the front line and defeated the manpower and equipment of the 143rd Infantry, 30th, 54th, 93rd Mechanized, 79th Air Assault Brigades of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the areas of the settlements of Chasov Yar, Kleshcheevka, Andreevka, Kalinino, Grigorovka, Krasnogorovka, Razdolovka, and Verkhnekamenskoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the ministry said.

 

Independent/BBC/Tass

Nigerians have indeed suffered tremendously in the last one year. Not strictly the hunger tugging at our bellies. That pestilence of hunger was brilliantly conveyed by the whammy soundbite, “Ebi npa wa o” as Lagos Island people’s response to the president’s fleet of gleaming SUVs last year. As an aside, permit the pun, I think that national soundbite deserves a Grammy. Lacerating words from those who rule us even rub salt on our hunger injury. They make Christians race for their bibles to read the famous and incredulous story of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor. Some young men had helped Rehoboam design a Manifesto themed on how to effectively govern Israel. Perhaps, it was 80-paged, too? Or probably christened “Renewed Hope” as well? Whereas his father-predecessor inflicted heavy yoke on the people, counseled the young men in the Manifesto, Rehoboam’s administration should add to the yoke. So, Rehoboam’s Manifesto had the catchphrase, “whereas my father scourged you with whips, I will scourge you with scorpions.” In a language devoid of political sentiment, it looks like the transition from Muhammadu Buhari to where we are now has a Rehoboamic flavour.

I was not old enough to cognize what happened during the Nigerian civil war so, pardon my comparative shortcoming. Were Nigerian lives this miserable during the war? Many have, in the last one year, died of Rehoboam scorpion stings. Many are in the sanatorium. Many depressed compatriots are looking vacantly into the sky and muttering lullabies to God-knows-who. Many husbands have lost their economic manhood. The sick who could not afford spiking drug costs are now at conference table with their Creator. The president and his kitchen crew have become Eddy Iroh’s Toads of (our) War. They grow “big fat stomachs,” apologies to Fela Kuti. N21 billion just renovated the Vice president’s palace. Our First Lady got billions of Naira voted for her kitchen so that tomatoes and pepper can be plenty on the shelf.

Last Tuesday, our president cavalierly dismissed our sufferings. What the hell are we howling about? “You are not the only ones suffering!” he admonished the Ebi npa wa orchestra. Though it was from a statement issued by spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale, I imagine our president fluffing the arms of his agbada proudly and majestically like Mother Eagle. If you dissemble the president’s words properly, they are almost akin to Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette’s famous statement during the French revolution. French people were starving. “Let them eat cake,” the Queen had said, totally removed from the pangs of the people’s hunger. With hunger decking the bellies of the French, the Queen was literally asking the people the impossibility of making a gangan drum with the hide of an elephant. The president was comfortable comparing malaises and not wellness. Seyitan Atigarin of Arise 

television yesterday provided a perfect anecdotal explanation of the president’s infelicity. Aso Rock’s gaffe can be compared to the words of a gym instructor. To an obese person looking up to him for conquest of fat, the instructor asked the obese to look at the sea of the obese like him in the gym for inspiration. Shouldn’t he exemplify hope by citing those who had conquered their fat?

Our Rehoboam experience bonds very well with the submission of a content creator who I recently stumbled on, on the YouTube. He is Tomiwa Adio of Agogo Ede Multimedia concept. While trying to correct what he called mis-usages of Yoruba aphorism, Adio unknowingly told us about our Rehoboam world. The wise-saying which he claimed we mis-use is in the form of a fable. For ages, Yoruba had always said, “Af’agò k’éyin àparò, ohun ojú wá l’ojúú rí” – the one who packs the eggs of the bird called pheasant (aparo) inside a local cage deserves no pity. They only got their due recompense. The pheasant is a very alert bird. It moves about with fear of running into a human trap. To avoid human irritancy, pheasants build their nests safely from any human environment. Any slight suspicion of adversary’s presence, the pheasant flies away. In Adio’s clarification, the Af’agò k’éyin àparò, ohun ojú wá l’ojúú rí” aphorism was a misuse of language. The right usage, he said, was “the one who lurks in wait to catch a pheasant, in order to pick its eggs” (agè’gùn k’éyin àparò) “deserves the aftermath”. In the process of lurking in wait for the pheasant to leave its nest where the eggs are laid, a number of inconveniences come their way. So, the one who lurks to kill the àparò and harvest its eggs not only needs patience, they must know that they could suffer the bite of the giant ant, (Tanpépé) the wasp, (agbón) or bee (oyin’s) sting. They must suffer the recompense in silence. So, did Nigerians lurk this long to pick the eggs of a pheasant?

You do not need to slide the panes of your window to see tears, pain and anguish all over Nigeria. Sufferings are our ever-present guests. They sit at table with us, in company of their compatriot of tomfoolery in high and low places. But, don’t our elders say if the deity, the Orisa, cannot remedy a situation, it should not worsen it? When system henchmen ask why we make these issues daily refrain, we tell them that our case is synonymous with that of a poor man whose fowl was stolen by a rich man (èdá t’ó gb’ádìye òtòsì) and who, by that very fact, has courted to himself, not only the ire of the poor but a global amplification of the poor man’s fate (ó gbelé t’aláròyé). The whole world must hear of the inequity.

An example is the rude and unnecessary debate on whether our president should purchase a jet to add to his harem, pardon me, fleet of ten jets. This is coming at a time when “ebi ńpa wá” has become a national ringtone and Nigerians can’t see tomatoes and pepper on their dining table. We can however see a presidential “bùgá” and “bragging right”. Then, presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, came up with a widely-adjudged common error of reasoning. In a reaction to criticisms against the purchase of presidential jet by this government, Onanuga demanded if critics wanted the president to die in flight like Malawian Vice President, Saulos Chilima and Ebrahim Risi, president of Iran. Let us not dwell on the flavor of indecorum and gloating at the dead noticeable in the statement. Known as “emotive bullying” or “emotional gangsterism,” that presidential statement was an argumentative reasoning that sought to appeal to consequence. In Symbolic Logic, Onanuga’s argument is identified by a Latin word called argumentum ad consequentiam. In such argument to consequence, the one arguing creates an atmosphere of pity. They base the truth or falsity of their argument on whether the premise leads to pleasant or unpleasant consequences, waylaying their opponent by appealing to the consequences of the action of accepting or rejecting their line of argument.

Nigeria’s case is like that of the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss, something I have elsewhere referred to as a multidimensional malaise. This was what late Babatunde Olatunji couched to arrive at the title of his 1978 Yoruba novel, Egbìrìn Òtè. Are you following the tomfoolery going on in Rivers and Kano States? In both, you can see the hands of the Leviathan. It is obvious that year 2027 is high on the calculations of decisions being taken on the two states. If human casualties litter the streets of Port-Harcourt and Kano, so be it. A president who desires peace in Rivers knows what to do. A major irreverent piece in a faggot, which the Yoruba call “Igi wórókó,” which is upturning the peace of the earthen space, (àà) is right inside the president’s trousers (sòkòtò) in Abuja. So, why pretending to be going to Sokoto to find it? If Nigeria’s No 1 Citizen desires peace in Rivers and Kano this moment, it will happen in a twinkle of an eye. All he needs do is agree that 2027 belongs to God and not to any human, no matter their buga. In Rivers, he only needs to pour cold water on this Rivers hot faggot that took residency with him right there in Abuja and remove it from the fire. Kano has a Siamese portent with Kaduna. The president only needs to allow that impish irritant he is afraid would snatch the race baton from him in 2027, who he is hounding in Kaduna through a remote control, stew in his own broth. The belief that the Kano emirate, friendly to the imp, will help him in 2027 may not necessarily follow.    

One of the multidimensional malaises happened in Zamfara state last week. Governor Dauda Lawal flagged off the construction of an airport. This is in a state where the number of out-of-school children rivals a migrating colony of bats. N62 billion of state funds was the sacrificial lamb, oil and cowries propitiated to this god of elite appetite. On the list of the malaises of last week, too, was the appointment of 85-year old Bisi Akande as Chairman, Governing Council of our own UI. Akande, we are told, does not even have a university degree. Don’t our elders say gold should be given only to he who knows its worth? Four persons on the Council membership list are said to be immediate family members/political fawners who hail from Akande’s homestead in Ila-Orangun.

I am sorry for digressing this considerably. Today is clearly no day for all those malaises, the peculiar messes in high and low places. It is certainly not an epistle on the sting or bite of Tanpépé, agbón and oyin which we have stoically endured in the last one year. As I write this, I am listening to Odolaye Aremu’s elegy to S. L. Akintola and Adegoke Adelabu. Both had died in the First Republic. While Akintola was killed in the military coup of January, 1966, Adelabu died in a fatal automobile accident on March 25, 1958. He was aged 43. The unfortunate death happened in a place called Mile 51 on Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, near Shagamu, today’s Ogun State. In the company of a Syrian businessman, Adelabu’s car had hit an oncoming vehicle.

“Soldiers are killing people (àwon sójà ńpàà’yàn); the number of the dead is innumerable (èmí t’ó bó ò l’óñka),” the arguably one of the greatest musicians to have come from Ilorin, Kwara State, sings. It was a musical reminiscence on the aftermath of Adelabu’s car accident. This petrel of Ibadan politics’ supporters had claimed his death was spiritual assassination, leading to a deadly protest. Over 500 people were arrested by the police and 102 others charged to court. Odolaye’s most profound quip in that track and my takeaway in the midst of this Nigerian peculiar mess is, a tear-provoking happening that stupefies deserves to be confronted with laughter. It is same I canvass today. Odolaye sang it as “Òrò t’ó bá j’ekún lo, èrín làá fií rín”.

Each time I try to make sense of the various existential challenges Nigeria battles, I have, countless times, had recourse to Can Themba. Born in Marabastad, near Pretoria, South Africa, Themba was one of the most poignant South African writers whose works were done in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. An investigative journalist as well, Themba worked with the defunct Drum magazine. His famous award-winning short story entitled The Suit supplies answers to my worry on Nigeria’s uncountable malaises. It tames my wandering wonder. The story is about Philemon, a middle-class lawyer. He had an adulterous wife called Matilda and both of them lived in Sophiatown. Devoted as Philemon was to Matilda, the latter was always fond of turning his home into a tryst immediately he leaves for his office. On this particular day, Philemon was told of the escapade of his wife again. Rather than his wont of leaving for home late in the evening, Philemon went home midday. As the lawyers say, he caught his wife in flagrante with the lover. In the melee that ensued, the lover scampered out of the window but forgot his suit.

To effectively deal with Matilda, Philemon then concocted a strange and bizarre punishment for her. This was a routine he spelt out where Matilda had to behave to the suit which he hung on the shelf as a honored guest. This involved treating it with utmost respect, feeding it, providing ample entertainment for the suit and taking a walk with it, while discussing with it as an animate object. In conceptualizing the punishment, Philemon reckoned that this treatment would serve as a bitter and constant reminder to Matilda about her adultery. Remorseful, psychologically beaten and humiliated, Matilda eventually died of shame of her adulterous escapades. The treatment our Aso Rock tormentors and their predecessors inflict upon us is similar to Philemon’s. Were we at any time adulterous as a people? Is this their way of dealing with us?

 

Ojude Oba, Durbar and Musawa’s African Grammy

Last Tuesday’s cultural display of the Ijebu people of Ogun State in their yearly Ojude Oba festival caught the eyes of the world. Translated as Festival of the King’s Courtyard, it has over the years been one of the most glamorous cultural and spiritual festivals held in Nigeria for over a century now. Many people have queried the rich sartorial depth and affluence of the Ijebu in the midst of Nigeria’s national ferment. Among Yoruba festivals, the glitz and colours associated with this festival place it outside the ranks of any cultural festival in Nigeria. Usually held to coincide with the Islamic Eid-l-adha ceremony, the festival holds on its third day.

Oral historical accounts put the emergence of the festival to Kuku Oduyingbo, who later became Balogun of Ijebu, and or Imam Tunwatoba. Either or both, having recently converted to Islam, gathered friends, families, and well-wishers in homage to then Awujale, Oba Fidipote, who reigned around 1885. It was to appreciate him for the opportunity he gave them to practice Islam without hindrance. Ever since, thanks to Mike Adenuga’s Globacom which heavily funds the festival, Ojude Oba has transformed from being a Sallah homage into a cultural melting point for the Ijebu.

The Ojude Oba goes beyond the glamour of the participants’ dressing, or the equestrian display. Today, it speaks directly to the cultural, religious, social, and military significance of its yearly celebration. It is attended by over a million people. Apart from the visual niceties it brings, it also speaks to the importance of group association as the bedrock of development. You can see this in the gathering and parade of age grade societies called Regberegbe. Established in the 18th century, the age grade societies are known collectively as Wompari. The aim is to bring about amity among groups and ultimately, development into Ijebu land. Wompari is further broken into Egbe Gbobaniyi comprising male and female (1962-1964); Egbe Bobagunte male and female (1956-1958); Akile of Ijebu (1959-1961); Mafowoku, Egbe Arobayo male and female; Egbe Jagunmolu (1965-1967), Egbe Bobakeye, and Egbe Bobagbimo. Most of the Wompari are top industry barons, successful captains of industry and A-List professionals.

What Nigeria advertises to the world in Ojude Oba is cultural elegance and communal cohesion. It does same in the Argungu Fishing festival where showpieces are made of the hugest fish catches. Also in the mode of the Ojude Oba is the Durbar festival, an ancient traditional annual Hausa cultural, religious and equestrian festival which began in the 14th century. Native to northern Nigerian original ancient emirates of Kano, Katsina, Gombe and Akko, it is also celebrated in Sokoto, Zazzau, Bauchi and Bida. It rekindles Hausa’s ancient horsemen preoccupation in the Sahara and Sahel. Like the Ojude Oba, it is also a homage to the Emir and signposted by a colourfully mounted parade of the king’s retinue of horsemen. Musicians and artillerymen also add vibes to the festival.

Over the years, Nigerian creatives have also begun a renaissance to jumpstart the country’s creativity, especially in music. From African traditional music of Dan Maraya in Jos, Ogene songs of Oliver Decoque and Igbo highlife, a contemporary musical genre that combines highlife and Igbo traditional music, lifted into stardom by Stephen Osita Osadebe, to the Yoruba Sakara, Juju and Apala music, Nigeria has evolved into gaining recognition on the global stage. Today, our boys advertise their craft on global audience stage and harvest audiences in the realm of millions. Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Rema, Asake, and many others are doing Nigeria proud in that regard. Blends of Afro beats and hip-hop parade artists like Plantashun Boiz, Def 'O' Clan, Remedies, Trybesmen with world class producers like OJB Jezreel. While they ply their trade at the global stage, these music wizards have also pushed our entertainment industry into becoming a major contributor to the Nigerian economy. Indeed, Nigeria’s entertainment industry is ranked “second-best entertainment and media consumer market” globally with the American music industry being the clear leader.

So, it becomes bothersome when news streaked in that the Nigerian government, represented by Hannatu Musawa, the Minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, is entering into partnership with the American Grammy Awards to establish an African version of the Grammy Award. In a Global Music Industry Growth by Region rating, while Latin America had 21.5%, Asia 12.8%, Europe 6.2%, US/CAN 4.2%, MENA 19.8%, Sub-Saharan Africa had a whopping 28.8%. So why subordinate the master to his apprentice? The question to ask is, will this Africanization of the Grammy bring any good the way of Nigeria or her music industry? The answer is no. The idea is at best imperialist. There can be no two Grammy Awards. The original, which America monopolizes, has a high, if not total dosage of American music flavor. It prides itself as “the music industry’s highest honour” whereas our globally acclaimed musicians from Africa seldom crack its nut. It is why Nigerian superstars hardly win the Grammy. To have dross of Grammy in Africa as Musawa is contemplating is to accept the superiority and then inferiorize our own globally-sought music stars.

As a music enthusiast, I am convinced that what the Minister should be doing by now is to partner existing continental music award platforms which will strengthen and not overshadow them. African music awards institutions like South African Music Awards, (SAMA) Trace Awards, Headies, Ghana Music Awards (GMA), Soundcity MVP Awards, AFRIMA and such like will promote the continent’s music rather than this neo-colonial idea being toyed with by Musawa. She should also devise ways of revving the strides made by Ojude Oba, Durbar, Argungu and allied festivals into making those crafts recognized by the whole world. I hope the minister is listening?

Sunday, 23 June 2024 04:42

Help is on the way! - Taiwo Akinola

My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth ~ Psalms 121:2.

Introduction:

Your exemption from limitations and from hopeless crises in life is a function of the light of God that is at work in you.

Since the fall of man, it has become completely impossible to live in this world or reign in life all alone without the help of God (Romans 5:17). Surviving wholesomely in our present estate certainly calls for help from a Source beyond ourselves.

The Apostle Paul posits in this regard that the entire creature is in pangs, with joint groans and travails as in birth-pains, to be delivered from the curse of the fall (Romans 8:18-23).

This is the manifest reality in which man finds himself on earth today, and every age has experienced the repetition of the same. However, the story changes for the individuals, families or nations that encounter the help of God (2 Chronicles 26:15).

Occasionally, supernatural help may be preceded by a general atmosphere of uncertainties and palpable fear. However, such conditions don’t last forever, and they cannot obliterate the possibility of divine help once the mercy of God is still in the equation.

For instance, the nation Nigeria is presently experiencing a time of political quagmire, economic instability and escalating security challenges, with attendant fear of danger, both perceived and imaginary. Albeit, it’s never too late for God to help the helpless! Hence, I boldly declare: help is on the way!

I do not know how or when, but help shall soon and surely become very manifest in our national life, in our walk with God, even through the valley of the shadow of death, in our health, finances as well as in our marriages and homes.

Meanwhile, the Lord God Himself shall be fully involved, and I believe He is saying to His people in the midst of these complicated perplexities: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God .... yea, I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10).

Understanding the Subject of Supernatural Help

To ‘help’ means to contribute to fixing a need, or to aid the accomplishment of a proposed plan. Help connotes a sense of bringing ease, succor or relieve to someone in sad straits.

Put plainly, the world is too intricate for any human being to be without supernatural help. No man can survive here without the help of God, so attempting to live without divine assistance is like leaving the doors open for something tragic to happen.

God is the Real Initiator of true help, and whatever help any man can offer or has ever experienced is as near to nothing when compared with what God has in stock for His covenant children. He helps us with a view to preserving the dignity of His Word and getting us to the place of our appointed destiny (Deuteronomy 33:26-29).

The Gospel of Amazing Help!

Jesus Christ, in one of His missionary trips with His disciples, encountered ten lepers somewhere in the border between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-19).

At first, the lepers kept their distance to avoid, (in their own view), “rendering” Jesus and His disciples “unclean” (Leviticus 13:46). In other words, they saw themselves as being unworthy at Jesus’ presence. Nevertheless, in that pathetic estate, they stood up and cried out for divine help: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”.

Succinctly, this was like a cry from men who have no right to expect anything, yet are asking for everything. Hence, their cry was ill-fated from the onset, yet it produced one of Jesus’ most amazing miracles of supernatural assistance.

Note here that there were no pronouncements that the ten were cleansed, no loud voice like “Lazarus, come forth” – only Jesus’ simple command that they go and show themselves to the priests, and that was it. Yet, they discovered on their way that they had been completely healed!

Now, out of the ten lepers, one returned, giving thanks for this gift of mercy received, and it was unto this “thankful one” that Jesus said: “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole”.

Whole? Wonderful! It was indeed an amazing wonder that a leper would be restored wholly to his original state, without loss of fingers or skin color as the case may be.

The one who came to give thanks, and was made whole, was a Samaritan, which implies that the other nine were Jewish. What a wonder of supernatural election! The one person, who should not have gotten it, did; the other nine who should have it, didn’t.

The high point here is: you may feel undeserving of God’s mercy, and, indeed, our nation may be truly unworthy of God’s intervention, yet our story can still shock the world. When God helps you by mercy, your story can daze all those who have, hitherto, predicted that hope is lost!

The Amazing Christ, Our Stay Amidst the Storm!

As we think about Jesus’ life and work, we stand amazed in every way. We all stand amazed to know that He defeated the forces of evil everywhere He went in His earthly ministry. In Him, our present help in times of need is secured.

Jesus Christ is the “Actual Authority of the Universe”, ruling in our world today. This is why there is always that element of supernatural assistance that is inexplicable to the natural mind for those who embrace a supernatural walk with Him.

The myriads of accounts in the New Testament illustrate this with vividness. In Mark 6:47-51, we read an account of a fearful event. The wind was fierce, and the disciples of Jesus had long rowed against it with greatest anxiety and trepidation, but the Lord finally came to them, walking on the water, in the ‘fourth watch’ of the night!

What a refreshing source of faith and encouragement to know that His delay is not tantamount to a denial. When trials go on for a long time, we should not assume that God does not hear our prayers, or that He does not care. Perhaps we have not yet reached the ‘fourth watch’.

Jesus Christ operated solely in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14, 18-21; Acts 10:38). We too can tap into His marvelous help in the midst of trials, by giving quality attention to pleasing the Father always, and dwelling in the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:1-13).

Friends and brethren, cheer up, help is on the way! The same God that helped David out of his troubles, and made him great will not forget you (1 Chronicles 12:22). Only keep in mind that nothing can truly replace God in this needy world.

In conclusion, be strong in faith, hopeful and highly expectant. Expect springs of astonishing moments in your life. Even in the midst of insurmountable security challenges and backdrops of fear, you can still experience the wonders of His matchless help.

Keep holding on to God’s promises, even in the midst of a barrage of scary news, and help will surely come, in Jesus Name. Welcome to your marvelous hour of supernatural help. Happy Sunday!

____________________

Bishop Taiwo Akinola,

Rhema Christian Church,

Otta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Connect with Bishop Akinola via these channels:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bishopakinola

SMS/WhatsApp: +234 802 318 4987

The managing director had a liking for Fred, to the great annoyance of Joe, his main rival for promotion. Joe was convinced that Fred was no better at the job than him. He tried his level best to impress the boss but to no avail. So, he opted for a new strategy. 

He would set a trap for Fred, confident that he would slip up sooner than later. He did not have to wait for long. Fred fell into the trap hook, line, and sinker. Joe quickly and gleefully brought the matter to the attention of the boss. The dye was cast. He knew that Fred would be given the sack.

Kingdom Dynamics

But he was in for a surprise. The boss tried Fred under the perfect law of liberty, found him guilty, and convicted him. But then he also tried Joe for tripping up Fred. He tried him under the Law of Moses, also found him guilty and convicted him. But why try them under different laws? 

The Law of Moses is a law of judgment. Because Joe showed no mercy to Fred in tripping him up and reporting him, he could receive no mercy. Therefore, Joe is given the sack. Jesus says: “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7).

But the law of liberty is a law of mercy. It does not lead to condemnation but to exoneration. Accordingly, Fred was sentenced to mercy, whereby he was not only absolved from the offense but was also enrolled for training that would ensure that he would not be able to commit another offense in the future. Since he was thereby now deemed to be a model worker, he was promoted. In Fred’s case, mercy triumphed over judgment.

These are not the ways of man; these are the ways of God. These are kingdom dynamics.

Caught Red-handed

Once, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They wanted to know whether he would contradict the Law of Moses, which states that the adulterous should be stoned to death.

There was no question that the woman was guilty. She was caught red-handed, in the very act. Neither did she argue or attempt to defend herself. She pleaded “guilty as charged.” And yet, Jesus did not allow her to be condemned. Instead, he challenged her accusers: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And the Bible records a dramatic turnaround:

“Those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8:9-11).

The case of the woman caught in adultery deserves scrutiny, not least because it was a major threat to Jesus’ ministry. It was an attack launched from the pit of hell. Had Jesus condemned the woman, his earthly ministry would have ended. Had he condemned the woman, he would have had to, by the same token, condemn all men: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). 

That would have short-circuited the whole plan of salvation. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Instead of being the Saviour of the world, Jesus would have become another accuser of the brethren.

Grace of God

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22). Because of the plan of salvation, God is not only just; he is also the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus Christ. This makes God paradoxically a God of the sinner, as opposed to a God of the righteous. 

Jesus was at pains to explain this to the self-righteous Pharisees: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17).

Indeed, according to the dynamics of the kingdom of God, the competition is not between sin and judgment, but between sin and grace. So, Paul says: “The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20).

The more the sin, the more the grace of God. Moreover, the redemptive power of grace has given us much more than sin ever took away. Thank God Adam sinned; for while sin robbed us of silver, grace gave us gold.  While sin killed the body of the flesh: grace gave us the body of the Spirit. While sin consigned us to dust, grace lifted us up in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

No Condemnation

Be careful, therefore, not to forfeit the grace of God. Jesus told the story of the contrite publican whom the self-righteous Pharisee despised at the hour of prayer in the temple: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14).

Once you judge a man, you have arrogated yourself to be God. Once you judge a man, you cease to be justified. Once you judge, you will be judged. Man often justifies the righteous but God will only justify sinners. 

Since the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death, Paul says: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1-2). Then, it naturally follows that those who are in Christ should not condemn others. It makes no difference if you are right; know it would be wrong. 

Once you judge a man, you are casting stones, which automatically qualifies you for condemnation in the court of God: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” (James 2:13).

Let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus contradicted every prescription of common sense. He knew that Peter would betray him and yet continued to walk closely with him. He knew that Judas was a thief, and yet he kept him as his treasurer. He knew that we were sinners, and yet he died for us. And now the Bible says to us: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5).

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).

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On a warm Thursday afternoon in May, the ululation, drumming and singing of a choir of two-dozen women can be heard across Gan Gora, a village so small it barely appears on the Nigerian map.

“We are happy you arrived safely,” they sing in Hausa welcoming the visitors to the community branch of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), hidden in the hilly Zangon Kataf, an area of half a million residents in the state of Kaduna.

A congregation of about 100 women dance and sway alongside the choir, including Rifkatu Dauda Kigbu, 53, their spiritual adviser, hobbling on a fractured knee, a crutch in her left hand.

This is a weekly meeting of zumunta mata(Hausa for “fellowship of married women”), a clan that has banded together for almost a century, sisters in times of surplus and of scarcity. Their visitors are zumunta mata members of an ECWA, one of Nigeria’s largest churches, in Gonin Gora, a suburb of Kaduna city.

The first zumunta mata was formed in 1930 after a woman almost died during childbirth in Miango, a town more than 50 miles away in what is now the neighbouring Plateau state. Women in the ECWA Christian church contributed to buy a bicycle so future patients could be ferried to the nearest medical facility. It began a fellowship that now has millions of members in northern Nigeria, across a multitude of denominations both Christian and Muslim.

For years, outsiders have primarily known the zumunta mata for their colourful abayas, singing, which has garnered millions of YouTube views, and provision of spiritual guidance to young women and mothers.

Godwin Ogli, head of theatre arts at the Federal University, Lokoja, has been researching the group in Plateau state and says the original motive was to “provide a space for women to learn more about the word of God” and to be “an outreach arm of the church” to bring more women in.

That role expanded as Nigeria’s economy has stuttered and pastoralist violence has intensified across Kaduna and Plateau, and throughout the Sahel.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project estimates that at least 2,600 people were killed by conflict in Nigeria in 2021. Villagers and local researchers say the casualty count is higher, as some incidents in Zangon Kataf, one of the hotspots, were undocumented.

Tensions over land have led to conflict between nomadic herdsmen and Indigenous farming communities. The herdsmen, mostly Fulani Muslims, have said they are acting in self-defence, stemming from rustling and killing of their cows and kinsmen. The farmers, who are mostly Christian, say they are protecting themselves from ethnic cleansing and land grabbing rooted in British colonial excesses.

Analysts say the climate crisis and overpopulation have exacerbated religious and ethnic differences between neighbours who coexisted peacefully for decades. “The relationship is [now] sour,” says Stella Amako, a local politician and elected chapter head of the visitors from Kaduna.

Conversely the bond within zumunta mata has strengthened. The fellowship is the first responder during crises. They have sleepovers, cook, offer small cash gifts and when necessary, bathe new babies or bodies of the dearly departed. When gifts come from NGOs, distribution is managed by the mama zumunta, who is elected every three years for a maximum of two tenures.

“We are even currently handling two cases of women on the brink of divorce,” says Amako.

While WhatsApp groups have become an important self-help tool in some parts of the global south, in Gan Gora even £5 (10,000 naira) smartphones are a luxury. So women attend meetings in person to listen to gospel lessons and give testimonies.

After the dancing, Kigbu advises the women in a brief lesson. “Any woman with dignity is respected. Her husband is blessed because of her and always boasts about her. Her good habits are contagious,” she says, her crutch resting next to her bible on the table.

Outside, her husband, Rev Luka Kasai Kigbu, shakes hands with local pastors who have come to thank the women for helping them out on a recent farming day. The couple are still recovering from a car jacking by the region’s marauding herdsman that led to Kigbu’s knee injury. They had been returning from a visit to family in a neighbouring state when they were attacked. The reverend managed to escape but the bandits dragged Kigbu out of the car and fractured her right knee. Eventually she was released, and is grateful, despite her injuries.

“I have to give thanks for every situation,” she says.

The women are proud of their support system. Mary Bawa, 68, joined as a new bride in 1976. “What gives me peace of mind and joy is knowing Christ and [having] these people around me,” she says.

A widowed mother of seven, Bawa passes on to young widows what she knows about farming soya beans to make tofu to trade.

One is Magdalene Israel, 32. Halfway into recanting how her husband and mother-in-law were killed on the same day, caught up in a firefight between herdsmen and farmers in September 2022, she stops to bend her head and weep.

She escaped from their farm that day by running non-stop to the next village, bullets whizzing past her ear. “I was just screaming holy ghost fire,” says the mother of three.

“Life has not been easy but zumunta mata and God Almighty have been behind me,” says Israel, who is praying for the ability to let go of her abiding anger and forgive the killers.

For now, conflict has paused and Gan Gora is a picture of serenity. In front of the church, the long tarred road connecting the community to others is flanked on either side by mango, neem and baobab trees and small fields of maize.

Multiple checkpoints dotting the road are held by young soldiers in khaki sitting on sandbags. It is a departure from the scarce government presence for years in an area where people remember other violent episodes, including a 1992 communal clash and a 2011 election crisis that both left hundreds dead.

The checkpoints were introduced after an army general from the region, Christopher Musa, was appointed a service chief last year. A barracks is being built to reinforce security around the hills. At state level, the new governor, Uba Sani, is seen as less divisive than his predecessor, Nasir El-Rufai, who proscribed a community association in Zangon Kataf for being an “unlawful group”.

Still, some are afraid to return to fields and villages.

In the relatively safer Gonin Gora suburb of Kaduna, the women enjoy regular sessions like learning how to make homemade liquid detergents to help cushion their households from the effects of Nigeria’s cost-of-living crisis. The choir rehearses songs about subjects such as forgiveness and heaven.

“They look out for one another, supporting one another, sometimes financially or emotionally, psychologically … this goes beyond the church,” says Ogli.

One such session helped Grace Friday, 33, with the art of food presentation that her husband now loves. Afterwards, he overheard her chatting with a friend about a forthcoming wedding as he ate and later told Israel he would buy her an outfit to the ceremony, to show his appreciation for the benefits the fellowship had brought to his family. She was overjoyed.

Eunice Shola, a 47-year-old civil servant who runs the cooperative union’s low-interest loan system, says the fellowship has helped her to try public speaking.

“When I started this, I couldn’t even stand and pray in the presence of two or three people … but this fellowship has really built my self-confidence,” she says.

Those in the city remember their sisters in the countryside. For the past 13 years Lucy Stephen, 48, has led Gonin Gora’s 57-woman choir, whose music helps members to show solidarity with their Zangon Kataf sisters and “build their faith”.

One song references the cry of a prophet in the Bible’s book of Habakkuk. “Oh Lord, how long must I call for help?” the first verse goes. “There is pathos everywhere.”

 

The Guardian, UK

A 3,300-year-old ancient sunken ship dating back to the Bronze Age has been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea at a depth where time has "frozen," the Israel Antiquities Authorityannounced Thursday. 

The agency, which describes the find as the "first and oldest wrecked shipdiscovered to date in the deep sea in the eastern Mediterranean," says it was first spotted last year about 56 miles off Israel’s coastline by Energean, a natural gas company that was conducting a survey in the area. 

"The ship appears to have been eroded as a result of a distress it got into in a sea storm, or perhaps in the event of an encounter with pirates -- a phenomenon known from the Late Bronze Age," Yaakov Sharavit, the director of the IAA’s Unit of Marine Archaeology, said in a statement. 

"This is a world-class, historical-altering discovery," Sharavit was also quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying. "This find reveals to us as never before the ancient mariners’ navigational skills – capable of traversing the Mediterranean Sea without a line of sight of any coast." 

The ship’s remnants were found more than a mile below the surface at a depth "where time was frozen in the moment of disaster" and has been untouched by humans or currents that affect shipwrecks found in shallower waters, according to Sharavit. The IAA says it sank sometime between 1400 and 1300 B.C. 

Sharavit says only two other Bronze Age shipwrecks have been discovered throughout history, both near Turkey. 

Energean Environmental Team Leader Karnit Bachartan said the ship was found during the survey by an "advanced underwater robot." 

"We identified an unusual sight of what seemed to be a large cluster of jugs resting on the ground," she said.  

"Upon reviewing the site and mapping using the robot, it was clear that this was a shipwreck about 12 to 14 meters long, carrying hundreds of jugs that only some of them could be seen on the surface," she added. 

The rest of the ship appears to be buried deep in mud on the seafloor, researchers say. 

The IAA says two of the jugs were later pulled from the depths to be examined for research purposes. 

It added that the jugs are believed to have held oil, wine and other agricultural products. 

 

Fox News

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