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A Colombian mother is being accused of staging her own toddler son’s kidnapping along with several accomplices in order to get ransom money from the boy’s father.

On Sunday evening, November 12th, the news of a young boy kidnapped in Caribe Verde, south of Barranquilla, Colombia, started spreading like wildfire. The 2-year-old had apparently been snatched right out of the arms of his helpless mother as she was walking on the street. Two helmet-wearing assailants approached the woman on motorcycles, intimidated her, and then rode away with her child. When police arrived on the scene, they started questioning the woman about what had gone down, and locating the minor became the biggest priority. It didn’t take long before someone reported the presence of a child fitting the kidnapping victim’s description in a Caribe Verde apartment. A police team burst into the apartment, only instead of masked assailants, they found the boy in the care of a friend of his mother.

Around midnight, a woman called the police to report that her 17-year-old son had come home with a boy that fit the victim’s description. Upon questioning the youth, officers learned that he was a friend of the boy’s mother and that she had asked him to take care of the boy for a few days, as she attempted to extort 60 million pesos ($14,700) out of the boy’s father.

It’s unclear whether the boy’s parents were still together at the time of the staged kidnapping, or whether the woman got to ask the father for a ransom. Colombian media reports that the 2-year-old is currently in his father’s care, while the mother awaits her charges in jail.


Oddity Central

Nigeria has finished 144th position in the 2023 safest countries in the world ranking.The yearly Global Peace Index ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.

In the latest report, Nigeria sank one step from 143rd position recorded in 2022, though two steps higher than 146th recorded in 2021. Several African countries are adjudged more peaceful than Nigeria. They are: Mauritius, finishing in 23rd position globally; Sierra Leone 47th; Ghana 51st; Senegal 52nd; Madagascar 55th; Namibia 56th; The Gambia 59th; Zambia 63rd; Liberia 70th; Malawi 74th; Tunisia 81st and Equatorial Guinea 82nd.

Others are: Angola and Morocco 84th; Guinea Bissau 87th; Rwanda 88th; Cote d’Ivoire 90th; Tanzania 91st; Gabon 93rd; Algeria 96th; Togo 103rd; Eswatini 109th; Benin 110th; Lesotho 111th; Djibouti 112th; Republic of Congo 113th; Mauritania 114th; Kenya 117th; Mozambique 118th; Egypt 121st; Zimbabwe and Uganda 124th; Guinea 127th; Burundi 128th; South Africa 130th; Eritrea 133rd; Libya 137th; Niger 138th; Cameroon 139th, and Chad in 142nd position.

The study – called the Global Peace Index and produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace – covers 99.7 per cent of the population and measures ‘societal safety and security, domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation’.

Overall, the report concludes that Iceland is the safest country overall – though its publication preceded the current volcanic activity – followed by Denmark (second), Ireland (third) and New Zealand (fourth).

America ranks 131st yet again, just behind South Africa (130th) and Haiti (129th).
Afghanistan (163rd) is deemed the least peaceful country in the world for the eighth consecutive year, followed by Yemen (162nd), Syria (161st), South Sudan (160th) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (159th).

The report authors say: “The war in Ukraine had a significant impact on global peacefulness, with Ukraine and Russia having the largest and fifth largest deteriorations in peacefulness respectively. Haiti, Mali, and Israel were the other countries with the largest deteriorations (note that the study also preceded the current conflict in Israel).”

Europe is the most peaceful region in the world, according to the study, and is home to seven of 10 ten most peaceful countries. The other three most peaceful countries are in the Asia Pacific region. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remained the world’s least peaceful region, the report concludes. It is home to four of the 10 least peaceful countries.

“There are only two countries in the North American region, with Canada (11th) recording a 2.9 per cent increase in peacefulness, and the U.S experiencing a slight fall in peacefulness, with its overall score deteriorating by 0.38 per cent. There is a considerable disparity in peacefulness between the two countries.”

The report revealed that one reason is a feeling of safety in Canada, stating: “Less than 20 per cent of Canadians report that they do not feel safe walking alone at night in their city or neighbourhood.”

One reason for America’s lowly ranking is the murder rate, with the report stating: “The United States recorded the fourth largest overall increase in its homicide rate, which is now above six per 100,000 people and more than six times higher than most Western European countries.”


The Guardian

Friday, 24 November 2023 04:47

Markets await OPEC+ oil production decision

Brent crude futures rose in early Asian trade on Friday, reversing losses in the previous session as traders speculated on whether OPEC+ would come to an agreement on further production cuts.

Brent crude futures gained 29 cents, or 0.4%, to $81.71 at 0213 GMT, after settling down 0.7% in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slid 38 cents, or 0.5%, to $76.72, from its Wednesday close. There was no settlement for WTI on Thursday as it was a U.S. public holiday.

Both contracts are on track to mark their first weekly rise in five, supported by expectations that OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia, could reduce supply to balance the markets into 2024.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together known as OPEC+, surprised the market with an announcement on Wednesday that it would postpone a ministerial meeting by four days to Nov. 30, after producers struggled to come to a consensus on production levels.

"The most likely outcome now appears to be an extension of existing cuts," Tony Sycamore, a Sydney-based market analyst at IG, wrote in a note.

The surprise delay had initially brought Brent futures down by as much as 4% and WTI by as much as 5% in Wednesday's intraday trading.

Trading remained subdued because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.

On the demand side, poor refining margins have led to weaker crude demand from refineries in the U.S., analysts said.

"Fundamentals developments have been bearish with rising U.S. oil inventories," ANZ analysts said in a note.

In China, analysts say oil demand growth could weaken to around 4% in the first half of 2024 from strong post-Covid growth levels in 2023, as the country's property sector crunch weighs on diesel use.

Non-OPEC production growth is set to stay strong with Brazilian state energy firm Petrobras planning to invest $102 billion over the next five years to boost output to 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) by 2028 from 2.8 million boepd in 2024.



Most of the attention to what Ukraine needs in its protracted struggle to free its territory from the invading Russian forces has focused on hardware: tanks, fighter jets, missiles, air-defence batteries, artillery and vast quantities of munitions. But a less discussed weakness lies in electronic warfare (EW); something that Ukraine’s Western supporters have so far shown little interest in tackling.

Russia, says Seth Jones of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington, has for many years placed a “huge focus” on using its military-industrial complex to produce and develop an impressive range of EW capabilities to counter NATO’s highly networked systems. But Ukraine, according to its commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, found itself at the beginning of the war with mainly Soviet-era EW systems. Initially the discrepancy had only limited impact, but as relatively static lines of contact have emerged Russia has been able to position its formidable EW assets where they can have the greatest effect.

Ukraine discovered in March that its Excalibur GPS-guided shells suddenly started going off-target, thanks to Russian jamming. Something similar started happening to the JDAM-ER guided bombs that America had supplied to the Ukrainian air force, while Ukraine’s HIMARS-launched GMLRS long-range rockets also started missing their targets. In some areas, a majority of GMLRS rounds now go astray.

Even more worrying has been the increasing ability of Russian EW to counter the multitudes of cheap unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Ukraine has been using for everything from battlefield reconnaissance and communications to exploding on impact against targets such as tanks or command nodes.

Ukraine has trained an army of some 10,000 drone pilots who are now constantly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with increasingly adept Russian EW operators. The favoured drones are cheap, costing not much more than $1,000 each, and Ukraine is building enormous quantities of them. But losses to Russian EW, which either scrambles their guidance systems or jams their radio-control links with their operators, have at times been running at over 2,000 a week. The smitten drones hover aimlessly until their batteries run out and they fall to the ground.

Neither hardening them against jamming nor investing them with artificial intelligence to fly without a live link to a human operator are feasible options yet, at least for mini-drones. Quantity still wins out over quality, but Russia may have an advantage there too. The skies over the battlefield are now thick with Russian drones. Around Bakhmut, Ukrainian soldiers estimate that Russia is deploying twice the number of assault drones they are able to.

Growing Russian success in the drone war is partly explained by the density of EW systems it is able to field, thanks to those years of investment. A report published in May by Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds of RUSI, a think-tank in London, reckoned the Russians are fielding one major EW system every 10km along the frontline. They think that among many Russian EW systems the truck-mounted Shipovnic-Aero (pictured) is proving especially deadly to Ukrainian drones. The system has a 10km range and can take over control of the drone, while acquiring the co-ordinates of the place from where it is being piloted, with an accuracy of one metre, for transmission to an artillery battery.

Starting from a much lower level of technical and operational skill, Ukraine is struggling to develop home-grown EW capabilities to match those of the Russians. Some progress is being made. The nationwide Pokrova system is being deployed. It can both suppress satellite-based navigation systems, such as Russia’s GLONASS, and spoof them by replacing genuine signals with false ones, making the missile think it is somewhere it is not.

Pokrova should be highly effective against the Iranian-designed Shahed-136 loitering munition, but less so against cruise missiles that rely more on terrain-matching systems, which compare the ground below to a library of stored images rather than being guided all the way in. As well as Pokrova, so-called “Frankenstein” systems, cobbled together with typically Ukrainian ingenuity by combining Soviet systems with more modern technology, are also making an appearance.

But what is missing is much in the way of help from Ukraine’s Western allies when it comes to the EW contest with Russia. Mr Jones says that, as far as America is concerned, that is not likely to change. EW falls into a category of technology transfer restricted by an export-control regime that is rigidly policed by the State Department.

Nico Lange, an expert on Ukraine with the Munich Security Conference, is similarly pessimistic. For one thing, he suspects that NATO’s capabilities may not be as good as Russia’s. Worse, when it comes to the latest systems, he thinks that there is also some reluctance, especially on the part of the Americans, to show Russia its hand because actionable information, for instance on the frequencies and the channel-hopping techniques employed, is likely to be passed on to the Chinese.

Where the West could help directly, says Mr Lange, is to use its long-range surveillance drones for more systematic collection of data on Russian jamming and spoofing techniques and to work with the Ukrainians on developing counters to them. Otherwise, it looks as though Ukraine is fated to have to meet its urgent EW challenge largely on its own.


The Economist

Qatar says Gaza cease-fire will begin Friday morning, with aid to follow 'as soon as possible'

A four-day cease-fire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas was set to begin Friday morning, Qatar said after a daylong delay extended the agony for those hoping for some relief from the deal, which is to bring the release of dozens of hostages held by militants and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The diplomatic breakthrough promised some relief for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment, as well as families in Israel fearful for the fate of their loved ones taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

The cease-fire was originally set to begin Thursday morning, but it appeared to hit a snag the night before when Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, announced a one-day delay without providing a reason.

On Thursday, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari announced the cease-fire will start at 7 a.m. local time Friday (5 a.m. GMT).

He said the two sides had exchanged lists of those to be released, and the first group of 13 women and children held by Hamas would be freed Friday afternoon. He did not say how many Palestinian prisoners would be freed, but officials have said three would be freed for every hostage.

Increased aid for Palestinians will start to enter Gaza “as soon as possible,” al-Ansari said. The hope is that the “momentum” from this deal will lead to an “end to this violence,” he told reporters.


Israeli airstrikes continued Thursday. In the afternoon, a strike leveled a residential building in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. At least 12 people were killed, according to officials at nearby Al-Aqsa Hospital.

One resident, Hosni Moharib, said his wife and several children were killed and other relatives remained buried under the rubble.

“It exploded on the house, striking the babies and young children. Everyone in the house, they are all dead,” he said, bursting into tears.

The Israeli bombardment, now in its seventh week, has killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which resumed its detailed count of casualties in Gaza from the war. The ministry had stopped publishing casualty counts since Nov. 11, saying it had lost the ability to do so because of the health system’s collapse in the north.

The new numbers were not fully broken down, but women and minors have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead. The figures do not include updated numbers from hospitals in the north. The ministry says some 6,000 people have been reported missing, feared buried under rubble.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and militants in its death tolls. Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, without presenting evidence for its count.


The truce agreement raised hopes of eventually winding down the war, which has leveled vast swaths of Gaza, fueled a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East.

Air-raid sirens sounded across northern Israel on Thursday as Hezbollah said it fired 48 Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon. The barrage came after an Israeli strike killed five Hezbollah fighters, including the son of the head of the group’s parliamentary bloc.

The Israeli military said it was striking the sources of the launches. Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war in 2006, have repeatedly traded fire across the border since the war in Gaza broke out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the war after the truce expires to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, end its 16-year rule in Gaza and return all the estimated 240 captives held in Gaza by Hamas and other groups.

“We will continue it until we achieve all our goals,” Netanyahu said, adding that he had delivered the same message in a phone call to U.S. President Joe Biden. Washington has provided extensive military and diplomatic support to Israel since the start of the war.

In Gaza’s city of Khan Younis, Palestinians welcomed the respite of the upcoming cease-fire but said four days would do little to relieve the humanitarian disaster caused by the war.

“God willing, it becomes a total cease-fire,” said Jihan Qanan. “People have had houses brought down on their heads, they’ve been expelled ... There’s no homes, no money, no possessions. The whole world is wrecked.”


The Israeli military said combat operations would continue until it was ordered to hold fire, and chief spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said troops would remain in place during the truce. Israeli forces hold much of northern Gaza, where they say they have dismantled tunnels and much of Hamas’ infrastructure there.

The military said it has surrounded the Jabaliya refugee camp and called on any residents inside to evacuate Thursday. The military has said it is pursuing Hamas fighters in Jabaliya, a dense urban district adjacent to Gaza City that has been heavily bombarded for weeks.

The military said Thursday it detained the director of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, Mohammed Abu Selmia, for questioning over his involvement in what it called “extensive” Hamas activities in the hospital. Gaza’s Health Ministry condemned Abu Selmia’s arrest and called on international bodies to intervene.

A day earlier, Israel showed a tunnel and rooms that military officials said were a major Hamas hideout beneath Shifa. Hamas and hospital staff deny Israeli allegations that Shifa was used as a militant command center. Hagari said Israel has mapped out Shifa Hospital and plans to destroy all “terror infrastructure” it has found.

Ahmed El-Mokhallalati, a plastic surgeon working at Shifa, said 150 patients are still there, with only two doctors, a nurse and three volunteer workers to care for them. “My colleagues and I are unable to continue providing treatment to patients,” El-Mokhallalati said on X.

Israel has threatened to extend its invasion to southern Gaza, where most of the territory’s population is now located. More than 1 million people, including hundreds of thousands who fled the north, have crammed into overflowing U.N.-run shelters with dwindling food, water and basic supplies.

For Hamas, the cease-fire would provide an opportunity to regroup after weeks of apparently heavy losses. Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, who is believed to be alive and in hiding in Gaza, is likely to claim the release of Palestinian prisoners as a major achievement and declare victory if the war ends.


Under the truce deal, 50 hostages are supposed to be freed in stages, in exchange for the release of what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners. Women and children would be released first, and Israel said the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

The return of hostages could lift spirits in Israel, where their plight has gripped the country. Families of the hostages have staged mass demonstrations to pressure the government to bring them home. Netanyahu’s office said it notified the families of hostages listed for release Friday.

Hamas said 200 trucks a day will enter Gaza carrying aid. Qatar said the aid will include fuel, but has given no details on quantities.

Israel cut off all imports at the start of the war, except for a trickle of food, water and medical supplies allowed in from Egypt. The lack of fuel has caused a territory-wide blackout, leaving homes and hospitals reliant on faltering generators.

Israel’s Justice Ministry published a list of 300 prisoners eligible to be released, mainly teenagers detained over the past year for rock-throwing and other minor offenses.

The war erupted when several thousand Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking scores of hostages, including babies, women and older adults, as well as soldiers, for whom Hamas is expected to demand a large number of high-profile prisoners.




Unrelenting Russian attacks on Avdiivka, shelling kills four in south, Ukraine says

Ukrainian forces staved off unrelenting Russian attacks on the devastated eastern Ukraine city of Avdiivka on Thursday, a senior official said, and Russian shelling killed four people on the war's southern front in Kherson region.

With little movement along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front line, Moscow has been focused since mid-October on capturing Avdiivka, a town noted for its vast coking plant and proximity to the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka's military administration, said Russian forces had unleashed "the fiercest" attacks on the devastated town, where fewer than 1,400 of 32,000 pre-war residents remain.

"Basically, nothing has changed. Everything is very tough. As regards the city, there is an average number of eight to 16 to 18 air attacks per day. Sometimes 30. We don't have time to count them," Barabash told Channel 24 television.

"I am pleased the defence line has been holding for a month and a half. It has not been breached, no matter what they say."

He said 102 residents, a "certain record", had been evacuated in the past week along the lone road out of the town.

The town is protected by fortifications erected after it was briefly seized by Russian-financed separatists in 2014.

Russian accounts of the fighting rarely mention Avdiivka. On Thursday, the Russian Defence Ministry said its forces had struck Ukrainian units further south in Donetsk region.

Reuters could not verify reports from either side.


Ukrainian officials have noted Russian attempts to advance in Ukraine's northeast near Kupansk, a town seized by Russian forces in the days after the February 2022 invasion but retaken by Ukrainian troops about a year ago.

Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets, interviewed by the Espreso TV news outlet, quoted commanders as saying Russian forces were bearing down on Senkyvka village, with the aim of pushing Ukrainian forces back to the Oskil River.

Overnight temperatures of minus 13 Celsius (9 Fahrenheit), had frozen the ground, easing the advance for Russian vehicles.

Russian forces have focused on the east since failing in their initial attempt to advance on Kyiv. They hold a little less than 20% of Ukrainian territory.

In southern Kherson region, prosecutors said Russian forces had shelled the town of Beryslav, killing a man on a bicycle. In a separate shelling incident targeting several settlements, two men and a woman were killed, they said.

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Russian troops abandoned Kherson and the western bank of the Dnipro River late last year, but now regularly shell those areas from positions on the eastern bank.

Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive in June and have made marginal gains in the east and south. Kyiv last week said troops had established a bridgehead on the Dnipro's east bank, but Russian officials dispute this.



Russian forces wipe out Ukrainian ammo depot, signal center at airfield near Khmelnitsky

Russian forces destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot and a signal center at an airfield in the Khmelnitsky Region over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Thursday.

"An air-launched ammunition depot and a signal center were destroyed at an airfield in the Khmelnitsky Region," the ministry said in a statement.

Russian forces repulse Ukrainian attack in Kupyansk area over past day

Russian forces repulsed a Ukrainian army attack in the Kupyansk area, destroying roughly 50 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Kupyansk direction, units of the western battlegroup conducted active operations with the support of aircraft and artillery fire and repulsed an attack by assault groups of the Ukrainian army’s 14th mechanized brigade near the settlement of Olshana in the Kharkov Region. In addition, they inflicted damage by firepower on units of the Ukrainian army’s 32nd and 57th mechanized brigades near the settlements of Sinkovka and Timkovka in the Kharkov Region," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in the Kupyansk direction over the past 24 hours amounted to 50 personnel, 2 armored combat vehicles and 3 pickup trucks, it said.

"In counter-battery fire, a Polish-made Krab self-propelled artillery gun, a US-manufactured M777 artillery system, a D-20 howitzer and two Gvozdika motorized artillery systems were destroyed," the ministry reported.

Russian forces repel Ukrainian attack in Krasny Liman area over past day

Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian army attack in the Krasny Liman area, eliminating roughly 95 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Krasny Liman direction, an attack by assault groups of the Ukrainian National Guard’s 5th brigade was repelled by well-coordinated operations of units from the battlegroup Center, army aircraft strikes and artillery fire near the settlement of Grigorovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in the Krasny Liman direction over the past 24 hours amounted to "as many as 95 personnel, three armored combat vehicles and four motor vehicles," it specified.

In counter-battery fire, Russian forces destroyed a US-made M109 Paladin artillery system, a Polish-manufactured Krab self-propelled artillery gun and a French-made Caesar howitzer, the ministry reported.

Russian forces also inflicted damage by firepower on the Ukrainian army in the area of the Serebryansky forestry, it said.

Russian forces repulse two Ukrainian attacks in Donetsk area over past day

Russian forces repulsed two Ukrainian army attacks in the Donetsk area over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Donetsk direction, units of the southern battlegroup in interaction with aircraft and artillery repulsed two attacks by assault groups of the Ukrainian army’s 5th assault brigade near the settlement of Kleshcheyevka in the Donetsk People’s Republic. In addition, they inflicted damage on manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian army’s 22nd, 24th and 93rd mechanized brigades near the settlements of Razdolovka, Kurdyumovka and Vasyukovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in the Donetsk direction over the past 24 hours amounted to 280 personnel killed and wounded, 3 tanks, an infantry fighting vehicle and 4 pickup trucks, it said.

"In counter-battery fire, a Msta-B howitzer, a Giatsint field gun and three D-30 howitzers were destroyed," the ministry reported.

Russian forces strike two Ukrainian army brigades in south Donetsk area over past day

Russian forces inflicted damage on two Ukrainian army brigades in the south Donetsk area, eliminating roughly 140 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the south Donetsk direction, units of the battlegroup East in interaction with army aircraft and artillery inflicted damage by firepower on the personnel and equipment of the Ukrainian army’s 79th air assault brigade near the settlement of Novomikhailovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic and 102nd territorial defense brigade near the settlement of Priyutnoye in the Zaporozhye Region," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in the south Donetsk direction over the past 24 hours amounted to 140 personnel, 3 armored personnel carriers and 4 motor vehicles, it said.

"In counter-battery fire, the following targets were destroyed: a US-made M777 artillery system and a Gvozdika motorized artillery gun," the ministry reported.



It’s not only the poor that are mad, if you get my drift. Even folks who once thought of themselves as middle class, that is, neither wealthy nor poor, are in maddening distress. They can hardly believe how life has come to be what it is today. Perhaps the most frequently asked question is: how did we get here?

My mother used to pray that things should never be difficult for her and for those who could help in a time of need. Now, both the needy and the helper are in distress.

When you have to think twice to buy a loaf of bread; to choose between a baby’s milk and the whole family sleeping hungry; when you have to agonise before showing even basic charity to otherwise hardworking folks who have fallen on hard times, then you know there’s very serious trouble.

Inflation is about 27 percent, with food, energy and transportation costs being the most affected. In a country that imports virtually everything, relying mostly on oil exports for its foreign earnings, the over 50 percent depreciation of the currency in the black market in six months has worsened price levels. Everyone uses the fallen currency as excuse to charge more or hedge.

Deeply rooted

Our misery predates the presidency of Bola Tinubu. We had barely recovered from Covid-19 and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on the global supply chain when it turned out that perhaps the more difficult problem was within.

As the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, said rather bluntly – I hope not at a high, post-dated political price – last week, Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari was broke. Yet, in spite of being technically insolvent, for every 100 naira we managed to earn, we paid 73.5k on debt-servicing.

Still, we were borrowing to pay the country’s N77trillion projected debt as of May 2023, with each Nigerian now owing 385k. Thanks, of course, to the inexhaustible patience of the Chinese creditors who, at some point, seemed ready and willing to lend us even their treasury to keep us borrowing.

All of the anger for the current distress may not be targeted at Tinubu, though he has been widely criticised for hastily announcing fundamental changes without thinking through how to manage the fallouts. Nor is it fair to blame it all on Buhari who wept to take office but after succeeding abandoned his government to hijackers for the most part.

Troubled world

The high cost of living is, believe it or not, currently a major problem worldwide. According to a World Bank food inflation hot spots cited by Bloomberg, “Domestic food prices remain high with people in Venezuela, Lebanon, Argentina, Nigeria and Egypt particularly hard hit…In real terms, food price inflation exceeded overall inflation in more than three quarters of 170 countries where figures were available.”

Ghanaians have spent more time on the streets than in their homes protesting the high cost of living and calling for the resignation of President Nana Akufo-Addo. Earlier this month in Malawi, dollar shortages forced the government to devalue that country’s currency by 44 percent. It’s a tough world out there.

But that’s not why the poor and their newer cousins from Nigeria’s impoverished middle class are mad. They are not mad because they believe that Tinubu is the cause of all their problems, that Buhari’s government was taken hostage or because they think Nigeria should have suddenly become a paradise of sorts.

They’re mad because in a number of serious countries also facing hard times, politicians appear to be making honest efforts to solve problems. But our politicians, enabled by different branches of the elite, appear not to care. The promise to make life bearable only a few months ago has been met with daylight robbery.

Echoes of the past

Let me start with the states. If you think that the palliatives’ scandal three years ago (when hungry and angry protesters broke down warehouses only to find them stuffed with rotten supplies) was the height of official callousness by states, you would be mistaken.

Since protesters have learnt to attack warehouses to help themselves to food supplies, state governors have also learnt to secure palliatives where protesters cannot reach. You will recall, for example, that a few months ago, the Federal Government approved N5billion to states to mitigate the effects of runaway food and energy inflation. The money was supposed to ease the pain of the poorest of the poor.

Some states said they bought basic foodstuffs, especially grains, for residents. What we saw on the streets, however, were videos of whole communities holding up super-small plastic bags of rice or beans, barely enough for meals for two families.

And that’s in a country where Abia, a state thought to have one of the most conservative governors by most accounts, spent N223million on food in three months; and Lagos is struggling to explain how N440million would be used to buy a special VIP jeep. But these tales of obscene spending, among many, are only a small part of the ingenuity of governors who have found creative ways of managing palliatives.

Dollar game

Multiple sources told me, confidentially, that what a number of state governors did after 36 of them received N2billion each, as the first tranche of the N5billion palliatives fund from Abuja, was to raid the black market. They converted significant portions of what they received into dollars, giving palliatives engineering a new currency.

On June 1, three days after Tinubu took office the naira traded at N734.67/$ in the parallel market. A few weeks after the federal government released palliatives to states, the naira recorded its worst slide on October 26 at N1272.62/$, the sharpest drop in value in six months.

That’s why the poor are mad. But that’s not all. They’re also mad that the evidence of politicians asking them to tighten their belts is hardly seen at the centre, long notorious for its obesity. How can federal legislators justify the purchase of SUVs costing at least N160million each on the ground that the expense is for necessity, and not to indulge their vanity?

How can they argue, openly and brazenly, that the legislature has a right to compete with the executive arm in the race for profligacy? It’s the sort of argument that turns the stomach. Some legislators even remind you that they can actually afford these luxury cars. What’s the big deal?

A fool’s ride

The big deal, as you may have seen from a trending video of a tanker buried in what is supposed to be the Nsukka/9th Mile Ngwo Expressway in Enugu State, in a long train of other marooned trucks, is that there are, in fact, no roads on which these luxury toys may be driven. Yet, it would seem that one more toy in the legislators’ garage to be used mainly inside Abuja’s central business district is not a bad idea, after all. That’s why the poor are mad.

They’re mad that at a time like this, the Federal Government is proposing a supplementary budget of N2.18trillion from which N13.5billion would be spent on renovation or construction of new buildings and offices for the Presidency; N4billion on a presidential yacht; and some more billions on vehicles.

All of this after an earlier federal appropriation of N21.83trillion which, like Hadi Sirika’s Nigeria Air, appears to have vanished into thin air. And yet the insanity of the political elite only scratches the surface of our misery.

If you, unlike those in 19th century France in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables,are neither mad nor moved to any redeeming action by our current situation, you should ask yourself: why?

** Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP

Let’s talk about the necessary evil in our academic lives — exams. 

Exams have been around forever, dating back to the time of ancient Chinese imperial examinations

Fast forward to now, and we still have to study for exams. And we get it — exams suck. 

Don’t worry, though. We’ve been through these before and survived.

We’ve got you covered with some effective yet easy ways to study for exams, all of which are tried and tested by the writers of Study International. 

But before we get into it, let’s take a look at the backstory of how exams came to exist. 

A history of competitive exams

The history of competitive exams began in China.

It was the first country to come up with the concept of examinations during the Sui Dynasty in 605 AD, holding the title of organising the first exam in the world. 

Back then, the Chinese government required all civil servants who wished to be employed to sit for the exam, or the imperial examination, as the Chinese called it. 

While China did invent the idea of examination, various sources have stated that the person who introduced the idea of exams into education is American-German professor Henry Fischel. 

However, there seems to be no proper evidence or historical background detailing that Henry did, in fact, come up with the idea. 

Instead, evidence shows that countries all over the world have slowly incorporated the concept of examination into their education system. 

In medieval Europe, for example, universities slowly began holding oral exams for students to test their knowledge of religious texts and philosophy. 

They simply needed to figure out who had the brains.

A few centuries later, the world would discover many have the smarts, leading to exams getting tougher and tougher.

The easiest and toughest exams in the world

Exams have gone through so many changes over the millennia, becoming a necessity in the education system, especially now that there are more students, everyone is brighter and competition is tougher. 

In fact, China requires students in their third and final year of high school to sit for the Gaokao (pronounced gow know) exam — one of the hardest exams in the world — to enter an undergraduate programme at its prestigious first-tier and second-tier universities.

Also known as the National College Entrance Examination, it lasts nine hours over a stressful period of two to three days.

Less than 0.25% of test takers achieve the qualifying score for admission to some of China’s most elite colleges, according to Erudera

That’s because the questions in the Gaokao exam are designed to be challenging — they go beyond simple memorisation and require a deep understanding of the subject matter. 

What about the easiest exam in the world, you wonder? 

We’re sorry to break it to you, but no one exam is particularly easy, as that just beats the purpose of having it in the first place. 

Recently, however, a bunch of 15 and 16-year-old GCSE students claimed that their Physical Education (PE) exam paper left them feeling “like world-class footballers,” according to MyLondon

One teacher even took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the paper, saying: “The Edexcel GCSE PE paper 1 was by far the easiest paper I have seen in all my years teaching and examining! #PE #gcse #gcsepe #edutwitter.”

How hard or easy an exam is, ultimately, boils down to how prepared you are for it. And some ways are more effective than others.

Study for exams: The secret to doing well

Before getting into our top tips to study for exams, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the practices you’ve been incorporating into your study routine. 

One of them is putting in more hours of study. Trust us, this alone won’t get you far.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the quality, not the quantity. 

Your brain needs breaks to process info, and having marathon study sessions, fueled by sugar and caffeine, will not help you retain your study materials.

In fact, it will end up backfiring instead. 

Think about it. Have you ever gone through a six-hour study session only to learn that you could not remember a single thing you studied? 

That’s just crushing.

The quantity of time and material you work through is less important than the quality of your study habits. 

By focusing on quality, you will naturally learn the content.

Smart exam hacks: 10 fast, effective ways to study for exams

Now, let’s get down to business with 10 exam hacks that have been tried and tested by the team at Study International, which includes several law graduates who passed some of the world’s notoriously difficult exams (in one try!).

1. Active recall

Many of us struggle to remember our study materials, despite having just read them. 

An effective way to combat this problem is by using the active recall method. 

Scientifically proven, active recall is a study method where you actively engage with the material you are trying to learn rather than passively reviewing it.

One popular method for active recall is using flashcards. 

Write a question on one side of the card and the answer on the other. 

As you go through your study session, quiz yourself by looking at the question side and trying to recall the answer before checking.

It’s essentially like your brain’s workout routine! 

Other forms of active recalling you can try out include self-quizzing, concept mapping, active reading and teaching your peers what you’ve just studied.

2. Mind mapping

Struggling to connect the dots? Then try connecting them visually.

Mind mapping has been a popular, science-backed method to study for exams, and for good reasons: 

  • It helps you remember and recall information
  • It helps you learn new concepts
  • It makes it easier to understand and process complex and heavy information
  • It’s a fun way of learning
  • It boosts productivity
  • It boosts creativity 

So, go ahead and doodle your way to success!

3. Rewriting everything 

Rewriting your notes is a tried and tested method by this writer — it’s scientifically proven to help too!

All you essentially need to do is rewrite your notes, giving your mind another chance to consume information and process it, rather than just glancing through the material.

Make sure, however, that you’re not writing too fast, as this will cause you to simply copy and paste your notes without actually grasping any information. 

The key is to read through your notes and see if you can summarise the information into bite-sized statements or sentences. This way, you’re also actively engaging your brain in remembering your study materials.

4. Practice past papers

Working on past papers helps you not only know what to expect in your exams but also sharpens your skills and recall what you’ve been learning in class. 

The best part is it familiarises you with what the upcoming exam, especially its structure, will be like. Even if the questions are different, you’ll not be thrown off guard in the exam hall because you’ve experienced this before.

As you work on an exam paper, make sure to also time yourself, as this will help you gauge how long you will need to complete the exam. 

5. Load yourself up on chicken essence

Can’t recall your study materials at all? Consuming chicken essence might just do the trick. 

A household staple for many families, especially those in Southeast Asia, chicken essence is a liquid nutritional supplement made using selected extracts from high-quality chicken.

It’s been proven to help improve short-term memory for those who are under a lot of stress, as reported by the National Library of Medicine

While chicken essence is typically consumed by students during exam periods, it works just the same if you drink it during a study session, as it helps to improve your focus and concentration. 

Chicken essence can be easily found in pharmacies and supermarkets. In case you need alternatives, there are other brain-boosting foods you can eat, too, like walnuts, dark chocolate, avocados, fish, dates and kale. 

They’re really good stuff for the brain. 

6. Record yourself 

If you’re often easily distracted, try listening to replays of your lectures, Then, try to record yourself giving the lecture as if you’re the lecturer. 

By forcing yourself to do this, you’re taking charge of your learning. When you give lecturers instead of consuming them, you’ll remember much more.

7. Form study groups 

Don’t underestimate the benefits of studying in groups — it can do wonders and, overall, boost your progress. 

That’s because you’ll be busy explaining concepts to others, as well as engaging in discussions that can deepen your understanding and provide different perspectives on the material. 

Take this opportunity to quiz each other too.

But of course, you should form a study group with like-minded peers. Doing otherwise will just result in an unproductive and futile study group session. 

8. Use mnemonics 

Another tried and tested method of studying for exams, mnemonic devices or acronyms work great in helping you remember lists or sequences. 

Turning information into a memorable phrase, acronym, or even your favourite song can make it easier to recall them during the exam. 

For example, if you want to memorise the first five elements on the chemistry periodic table: hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, try remembering the first alphabet of each — HHLBB.

HHLBB can also be remembered as Helen Hunt Loves Betty Boop.

9. Stay hydrated and sleep well 

There’s a good reason why your Apple Watch keeps reminding you to drink water. 

Most of us don’t drink enough water — and this refers to just plain water, with no added sugar, colouring or additives.

When we’re not hydrated properly, we can feel fatigue and dizziness. Our mood shifts, out thinking is muddled, we can’t pay attention and our memory is poor.

Lack of sleep can also result in a decrease in concentration as you sit for your exam. 

If you want to ace your exams, manage your time well to ensure that you can get enough sleep, as it is essential for memory consolidation and cognitive function. 

In fact, Professor David Cresswell, a professor in psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, conducted a study that revealed that poor sleep can result in bad grades

“These college students are going to class with a ton of sleep debt, and they’re having trouble staying focused and learning in college classrooms. 

“Those things can really harm your ability to really engage with the material,” he said. 

 10. Practice mindful review

This is an obvious exam hack, but we can’t stress it enough. 

Many of us still overlook this method because we view mistakes as failures, hence, chucking them aside. Out of sight, out of mind, right? 

Reviewing past mistakes with mindfulness helps you understand why you made them and how to avoid similar errors in the future.

Every time you receive your scores and marked sheets from your lecturers, make sure to review each mistake carefully. 

Learning from your mistakes will really help boost those grades! 


Study International

There was confusion in Kano State on Tuesday with the emergence of a Certified True Copy of the Court of Appeal judgment on the state gvernorship election.

While the widely reported verdict of the court last Friday indicated that the appelate court upheld the decision of the petition tribunal sacking Governor Abba Yusuf, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Haruna Isa-Dederi, argued that CTC of the judgment showed that Yusuf’s Victory at the poll was affirmed by the appeal court.

Isa-Dederi disclosed this while addressing a press conference Tuesday night.

He said  as indicated in the written judgment, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the Kano Election Petition Tribunal for lacking in merit.

“The evidence contained on page 67 of the the copy of the Appeal Court judgment released on Tuesday and signed by Registrar, Jameel Ibrahim Umar, appellate court upheld the victory of Abba Kabiru Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party  as duly elected Governor of Kano,” he said.

The three-member panel of the appeal court, on Friday, November 17, 2023, had dismissed the appeal filed by the governor  on the basis of his membership status.

The appellate court subsequently affirmed Nasiru  Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the March 25, 2023 governorship poll in the state.

Dederi noted that page 67 of the certified true copy of the judgment clearly indicated that the tribunal’s ruling that sacked the governor was set aside.

The commissioner insisted that contrary to what the justices read to the public in the courtroom on November 17, the written evidence has vindicated Yusuf as legitimate governor of the state.

Our correspondent obtained a copy of the CTC and noticed what appears to be a mix up in the conclusions.

According to the CTC, in his lead judgment, Moore Adumein,  wrote, “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the first respondent and against the appellant.”

Having been earlier sacked by the state governorship election petition tribunal, the governor who approached the Court of Appeal seeking to upturn the tribunal’s judgment is the appellant before the appellate court.

All Progressives Congress, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the NNPP are the first, second  and third respondents respectively.

According to the CTC, Adumein continued, “In the circumstances, I resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant and against the first respondent.

“Therefore, I find no merit in this appeal which is liable to be and is hereby dismissed.

The judgment of the tribunal in Petition No.: EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023 between: AL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) v. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & 2 ORS. delivered on the 20th day of September, 2023 is hereby set aside.

“N1,000,000.00 (one million naira only) is hereby awarded as costs in favour of the appellant and against the 1st respondent.”

In resolving all issues in favour of the appellant (Yusuf), it means the Court of Appeal granted the governor’s appeal to quash his sacking by the tribunal.

But in concluding that he found no merit in the appeal while dismissing it also means that he upheld the decision of the tribunal sacking the governor.

The mix up in the judgment became more pronounced with the judge’s final declaration that the judgment of the tribunal delivered on September 25 sacking the governor is set aside while awarding N1m in favour of the governor and against the first respondent (APC).

The two other justices of the appeal court , Bitrus Sanga and Lateef Ganiyu, agreed with the lead judgment.



Protesters on Wednesday trooped out on the streets of Kano over the judgment which sacked Governor Abba Yusuf.

The police tried hard to disperse the protesters who chanted: “We Want Justice.”

The lower court had declared 165,663 votes of Yusuf, who contested under the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), invalid on the grounds that they were not signed or stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Last week, an Appeal Court panel had upheld the verdict of the tribunal led by Oluyemi Akintan Osadebay which sacked Yusuf on September 20, 2023.

The governor’s votes were then reduced to 853,939 while those of Nasir Ganuwa, his All Progressives Congress (APC) rival, remained at 890,705.

The appellate court subsequently affirmed Gawuna as winner of March 25th, 2023 Governorship poll in Kano.

Governor Yusuf had asked his lawyers to file an appeal at the Supreme Court. However, when the Certified True Copies of the judgment was released, page 67 of the document indicated that the tribunal’s ruling that sacked Governor Yusuf was set aside.

In the lead judgment delivered by Moore Adumein, the judge held in one of the concluding paragraphs on Page 68 that “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the 1st respondent and against the appellant.” 

The issue had triggered confusion, with the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and APC claiming victory.

Amid the confusion, some youths stormed the streets, saying there were attempts to rob Governor Yusuf of the mandate freely given to him.

Police succeeded in dispersing some of the protesters with teargas but others were adamant.


Daily Trust

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