U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting Friday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stands out on a long list of his one-on-one talks with world leaders this week because the premier is under fire over a multi-million dollar funding scandal.
Obama could hardly skip a meeting with Najib, who is hosting Obama at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, but it might not be a photo op the White House touts. While the two played golf in Hawaii last year, Najib now faces pressure to explain how 2.6 billion ringgit ($607 million) ended up in his personal bank accounts in 2013, and has cracked down on dissenters while using sedition laws to detain media executives.
Even as the two held a 45-minute meeting and posed for the cameras, Obama showed concern from the start of his three-day trip about what’s been going on in Malaysia. At his first appointment — a town hall event at a university — a relaxed, shirt-sleeved Obama told young leaders from the 10 Asean countries that he’d raise the issue of government transparency and press freedom with Najib.
“I was going to do it anyway, but now that I hear it from you, I’m definitely going to do it,” he told the audience. During the town hall he addressed issues ranging from climate change to inequality, U.S. political gridlock and the recent elections in Myanmar.
In his remarks after meeting Obama, Najib said Malaysia is “taking into account some of” the president’s views. “Malaysia is committed to reforms,” Najib said. “And we are committed to ensuring at the same time there is peace and stability.” The two also discussed Islamic State and terrorism, tensions in the disputed South China Sea and human trafficking.
Obama said the leaders talked about the importance of civil society — in Malaysia and the region more broadly. They discussed “how we can promote those values that will encourage continued development and opportunity and prosperity,” Obama said. “I very much appreciate this conversation.”
Najib has rarely answered questions from the media since the funding scandal broke in July, when the Wall Street Journal reported that about $700 million may have moved through government agencies and state-linked companies to his private accounts. Najib has denied taking money for personal gain.
Opposition lawmakers and some in Najib’s own party have asked questions over the funds, which reached his accounts before the 2013 general election. Najib has acknowledged the money but said it was political donations from the Middle East, an initial conclusion also reached by the anti-corruption commission.
The accounts have since been closed. The receipt of political funds was to meet the needs of the party and the community and wasn’t a new practice, the official Bernama news agency has said, citing Najib.
The scandal has fueled political tensions with Najib firing his deputy in July, while thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the capital in August. The imbroglio has unnerved foreign investors in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, contributing to a sell-off last quarter in Malaysian markets.
Malaysia is one of the 12 nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which has been a key element of Obama’s security and economic rebalance to Asia. The U.S. has also been working with Malaysia on countering terrorism, the importance of which was highlighted by last week’s attacks in Paris and Friday’s hostage-taking in Mali.
“Malaysia like Indonesia are majority Muslim countries that represent tolerance and peace,” Obama said. “Malaysia’s willingness to host a center that uses all the tools of social media with scholars and clerics to counter” extremism is important, he said.
“Malaysia is part of the coalition to fight ISIL and has been particularly helpful on issues like countering the destructive and perverse narrative that’s developed.”
The Southeast Asian nation has arrested dozens of suspects who authorities said were plotting attacks in the country or linked to Islamic State. Some have been arrested upon their return from Syria.
Earlier this week Najib said he was “shocked and sickened” by the murder of Malaysian engineer Bernard Then, who was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Islamic militant group in the southern Philippines. Then was the first Malaysian hostage to be beheaded by the group.
Nigeria Immigration Service Reopens Portal With New Passport Application and Payment Process
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced the reopening of its passport application and payment portal.
The assistant comptroller of immigration, Mr Amos Okpu announced in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
In the statement, Mr Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of the service, said the portal became effective for new applications from 12 midnight on Tuesday.
Babandede further said that the portal would allow eligible applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of passports of their choice.
Mr Muhammad Babandede explained that with the reopening of the portal, a new passport application and payment regime had begun.
The statement in full:
“The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CGI), Muhammad Babandede MFR, has announced the reopening of the Passport application and payment portal effective 8th June 2021 by 12 midnight to allow eligible Passport applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of Passports of their choice.
The Passport portal was closed following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on the 17th of May, 2021to afford the Service the opportunity to clear all backlogs of applications that have piled up across Issuing Centres in the past few months.
With the reopening of the portal, a new Passport application and payment regime have commenced. Under the new Passport regime;
Applications and payments for Passport services shall be made through the Service website www.immigration.gov.ng;
- applicants are expected to visit the portal to apply and upload their support documents for vetting and processing;
- a chat room facility to guide applicants through the application and payment process has been provided on the portal;
- upon successful applications, applicants shall make their online booking interview/enrollment appointment on any day, time and location they consider convenient;
- that the new timeline for Passport production and issuance after a successful enrollment at the selected Issuing Centre shall be six weeks for Fresh applications and three weeks for Re-issue (Renewal applications);
- that no applicant who is yet to make an online application and payment shall be allowed into any of the Passport Issuing Centres for Passport processing;
- applicants will be contacted through email and phone number they provided during application when their Passports are ready;
- a helpline with the number 08021819988 has been provided for feedback mechanism on any challenges.
The Comptroller General, Muhammad Babandede MFR wishes to use this medium to call on Nigerians and indeed Passport applicants to avoid patronizing touts as the entire process has been made seamless for effective and efficient service delivery. He warned Passport racketeers to desist from acts capable of undermining the reform efforts to avoid very strict sanctions.
Signed AMOS OKPU MNIPR
ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER OF IMMIGRATION
SERVICE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER
For: COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF IMMIGRATION 8TH JUNE, 2021″
INEC To Publish The List Of New Polling Units Next Week
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to publish a comprehensive list of its new polling units across the nation next week.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja.
Yakubu was speaking at the formal handing over of a new state of the art fire truck, deployed to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja by the Federal Fire Service (FFS).
He said that details of the locations of its registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration for resumption of nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) would be made available in the second week of May.
He expressed appreciation of the commission to the FFS and all security agencies for the demonstration of their support to protecting INEC facilities
He said that the support was coming on the eve of the resumption of the CVR nationwide in the next three weeks.
“We earlier assured Nigerians that we shall conclude work on the expansion of voter access to polling units and make the new polling units available to citizens ahead of the CVR exercise.
“I am glad to report that we have accomplished this task for the first time in 25 years.
“A comprehensive list of the new polling units will be published next week.
“Similarly, details of the locations of the registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration will also be made available after a series of regular consultative meetings with stakeholders next week,” Yakubu said.
He said that as a member of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) FFS had been as concerned as other security agencies about the recent attacks on our offices across the country.
“This is particularly so because out of the 42 attacks on our facilities nationwide, 18 incidents resulted from arson and three more by a combination of arson and vandalisation.”
Yakubu recalled that concerned by those incidents, the commission convened an emergency meeting of ICCES last week of April, where the security agencies renewed their determination to collaborate more with the commission.
According to him, they pledged to assist the commission address the challenge beyond the routine protection of INEC assets and the security of its officials, voters, observers, the media, candidates and their agents during elections.
“On its part, the Federal Fire Service offered to deploy an additional state-of-the-art fire engine to the INEC headquarters to complement the two existing trucks.
“At the same time, it directed its state offices to take additional protective measures around other INEC facilities nationwide.
“Today’s inauguration of the new fire engine is another affirmation of the support to the commission from the FFS whose personnel, already deployed permanently to the commission
“The personnel will continue to operate and maintain the fire engines and other firefighting equipment installed by INEC,” Yakubu said.
Speaking earlier, the Controller-General (CG) of FFS, Alhaji Liman Ibrahim said the deployment of the firefighting truck was premised on recent fire attacks on INEC offices in different parts of the country.
Ibrahim, represented by the Assistant Controller-General of the service, Mr Samson Karebo, said the deployed truck would serve as fire cover for the premises of INEC headquarters and the entire Maitama vicinity of Abuja.
“The FFS is taking this step as a proactive measure to protect our critical infrastructure and help to protect our economy by forming synergy with all stakeholders in protecting our environments.
“Our center is focused on bringing firefighting operations to every part of the country as part of our statutory duties by having a presence in virtually every state in Nigeria
“The FFS will very soon be moving into all senatorial headquarters in the country. That is how we want to operate for now so that we can touch every corner of this country,” Ibrahim said.
He called for the cooperation of all for the service to better serve the nation by not molesting FFS staff in the line of duty.
In his remarks, the National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, who is also Co-Chair of ICCES, described the deployment of the truck as a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to sustain Nigeria’s democracy and address insecurity.
Monguno said that the gesture also symbolised commitment to a clear affirmation of Buhari toward protecting institutions of government, toward securing their property, toward fighting acts of irresponsibility, vandalisation and outright criminality.
“The President is determined as much as he can within the confines of legality to suppress any kind of criminality and destruction of public property.
“This is something that he is determined to do regardless of whatever the challenges are.
“He will apply all the resources in his disposal in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to ensure the wider Nigerian society is safe, stable and is allowed to carry out its legitimate undertaking, free from any act of insecurity,” he said
Monguno urged all other security agencies not to relent in ensuring that they continued to protect lives and property.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba pledged commitment to security agencies to work with INEC and protect INEC’s facilities, citizens’ life and property.
Also at the occasion was the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Director of Joint Services, Mr Peter Obodo; as well as the representative of Director-General, Directorate of State Services, Tony Adikweruka.
Recovered Assets: Ad-hoch Committee Gives Emefiele, Others 72 Hours Ultimatum
The House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, investigating recovered assets, has given the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, 72 hours to appear before it.
The committee also issued same ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, and the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh.
The summon was issued on Monday, after Mr Emefiele and the others failed to appear before the committee.
The government officials had sent representatives, but the committee chairman, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), said they failed to forward letters to that effect.
He said allowing representatives without a proper letter of introduction would be akin to allowing “impersonators.”
“You are indirectly insulting the House of Representatives. You are undermining the House of Representatives,” an angry Mr Adeogun said.
Moving a motion to give the agencies 72hours to appear before the committee, Ibrahim Isiaka (APC, Ogun), said the agencies created by Acts of the parliament “should not be undermining the parliament”.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the committee.
Mr Isiaka suggested that the House should shut down its activities if the agencies fail to appear before them.
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