- France Decides Today
The French go to the polls today to decide who – between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marie Le Pen – would be the next president of the Western European nation and one of the most powerful countries in the world. In the latest polls released on Friday, Macron holds a 20 point lead over Le Pen and is widely expected to emerge winner.
If successful today, Macron, at 39, would become the youngest president in the history of France and the nation’s youngest leader since Napoleon. He has led a remarkable campaign, defying the traditional mainstream parties courtesy of his En Marche! movement. For many, however, the campaign has become less about backing Macron and instead about voting against Le Pen, the National Front candidate.
French President François Hollande, Republican candidate François Fillon and the Socialist Party’s Benoit Hamon have come together to back Macron, claiming a Le Pen presidency would be disastrous for France.
However, in an incident reminiscent of last year’s presidential elections in the United States, French presidential candidate Macron has been the victim of a massive and coordinated hacking operation, according to his campaign team.
Macron slammed the attack as a last-ditch attempt to undermine him before today’s election. Two polls released on Friday, before polling restrictions went into effect, suggested he still held a 20-point lead.
The hacked files were released less than 48 hours before today’s final round of the presidential election and a few hours before the election campaign period officially closed with its restrictions on campaigning, reporting and polling. These restrictions are aimed at preventing last-minute scandals from emerging and influencing the election’s outcome.
.Around 14.5 gigabytes of emails, personal and business documents were posted to the text-sharing site Pastebin through links to more than 70,000 files, a CNN look at the data shows. Officials from Macron’s En Marche! party said in a statement that the perpetrators of the hack had mixed fake documents with authentic ones “to create confusion and misinformation.”
“The leak happened in the last hours of the campaign. This operation is clearly meant to undermine democracy, just like what happened in the US during the last presidential campaign,” the statement read.
US intelligence officials have said Russia meddled in last November’s elections, and Congress is investigating the allegations. Russia has denied any interference.
En Marche! said that some of the files circulating were obtained several weeks ago after personal and professional email accounts were hacked.
It was not clear who was behind the document dump, but the hack targeting Macron’s campaign used methods similar to the suspected Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee last year in the US, according to a report issued in April by cybersecurity researchers. Donald Trump won the election after information from Hillary Clinton’s campaign was released before the vote.
When asked whether Russia was involved in the Macron email hack, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “These, like other similar accusations, are based on nothing and are pure slander.”
Russian officials have vehemently denied interfering in elections and have said they have no preferred candidate in the French vote.
Macron’s party chief, Richard Ferrand, accused Russia of trying to influence the election by spreading “fake news” about the candidate through its state-controlled media while reporting more favorably on Le Pen.
Le Pen’s anti-Europe and anti-NATO stance are perfectly aligned with Russian interests, and she has consistently called for closer ties with President Vladimir Putin. She has also expressed a desire to roll back European Union sanctions on Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which she has described as “unfair and silly.”
It is a stance that contrasts markedly with Macron, a pro-EU, pro-integration candidate who has said he would keep sanctions on Russia in place, if not add to them.
No matter what happens in today’s election, voters will be making history. Neither of the two candidates represent the two parties — the center-left Socialists and center-right Republicans — that have traditionally dominated French politics. The parties, discredited by incompetence and scandal, have instead been overtaken by one formerly fringe party and one entirely new one.
But in a certain sense, the dynamic speaks to broader divisions with France itself — and within the rest of Europe. After decades of rising immigration rates and devolving sovereignty to the EU, combined with the more immediate shocks of the Great Recession and the refugee crisis, some French voters have come to question the basic premises of their political system. The choice is between France continuing to push for an open, connected Europe that it helped build or to shut its door to immigration and Europe.
Voters who prefer the latter answer have their champion in Le Pen. And Macron, a centrist former investment banker, is a near-perfect distillation of the pro-Europe consensus.
The roughly 20 points margin of victory which the polls say Macron holds is a much higher margin than what was predicted before the surprise Brexit and Trump victories. Even if Le Pen over-performs significantly, she would still have to climb a daunting hill to make up the difference.
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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