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Gov Abiodun Suspends Aide Arrested In US over Alleged Fraud

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Ogun Governor Dapo Abiodun has suspended his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Special Duties, Abidemi Rufai, following his arrest in New York by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over alleged involvement in $350m unemployment benefits fraud in respect of COVID – 19 pandemic.

Reacting through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, Abiodun said the news of his aide’s involvement in fraud is disturbing.

According to him: “We received the very disturbing news of the arrest of one of the governor’s political appointees, Mr. Abidemi Rufai in New York over alleged unemployment benefits and fraud in the United States, this morning.

“While the Governor cannot be held responsible for the actions of a full grown adult, especially outside the jurisdiction of Ogun and Nigeria, he has since suspended the suspect from office to enable him to answer the charges leveled against him.

“The Governor wishes to condemn any act capable of undermining his determination to institute an open, transparent, accountable and morally upright behaviour in the State and in governance.

“Gov. Abiodun remains committed to his agenda of building our future together and will not condone criminals either in his government or the state in general.”

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Nigeria and UAE Reach Agreement on Visa Access for Nigerians

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The Nigerian Federal Government announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to facilitate visa access for Nigerian citizens.

This announcement came following the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Bola Tinubu.

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, made the announcement while briefing journalists after the FEC meeting.

He highlighted the importance of this agreement in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the UAE, and in fostering greater economic and cultural exchange.

“After extensive negotiations, we are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with the UAE that will enable Nigerians to access UAE visas,” Idris stated.

“This development is a testament to the commitment of President Tinubu’s administration to improving the mobility and opportunities for Nigerian citizens globally.”

The agreement is expected to streamline the visa application process, making it easier for Nigerians to travel to the UAE for business, tourism, and other purposes. This move comes as a relief to many Nigerians who have faced difficulties in obtaining UAE visas in recent times.

In addition to the visa agreement, the FEC also directed the Ministry of Budget to propose amendments to the 2024 budget.

This directive aims to address emerging fiscal challenges and align the budget with current economic realities.

Idris further announced that President Tinubu will meet with labor leaders on Thursday to finalize discussions on the new minimum wage.

This meeting is part of ongoing efforts to ensure fair wages for Nigerian workers without triggering inflationary pressures.

“The President is committed to delivering a minimum wage that is both fair and sustainable. After thorough consultations, the proposed figures will be submitted to the National Assembly,” Idris explained.

The FEC’s deliberations on the wage increase focused on balancing the need for higher wages with the potential impact on the economy.

“We are determined to provide wages that improve the standard of living for Nigerians while maintaining economic stability,” Idris added.

This week’s FEC meeting also discussed various national issues, including infrastructure development, security, and public service reforms.

The council reiterated its commitment to pursuing policies that promote growth and improve the welfare of all Nigerians.

The agreement with the UAE and the forthcoming minimum wage proposal are seen as significant steps in President Tinubu’s broader agenda to enhance Nigeria’s international standing and address domestic economic challenges.

As the government moves forward with these initiatives, citizens and stakeholders are hopeful for positive outcomes that will benefit the nation.

In the coming days, further details of the UAE visa agreement and the new minimum wage proposal are expected to be disclosed, providing more clarity on the government’s plans and their implications for Nigerians.

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Spain Triumphs in Euro 2024 Final, Defeats England with Last-Minute Winner

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Spain clinched their fourth European Championship title with a thrilling 2-1 victory over England, thanks to a last-minute goal from Mikel Oyarzabal.

The dramatic finale at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Sunday saw Spain’s dominance throughout the tournament crowned with a well-deserved win, while England suffered their second consecutive final defeat.

The match began cautiously, with Spain controlling 65% of possession in the first half but failing to capitalize on their dominance.

England’s Phil Foden had the only shot on target, reflecting a tense and tightly contested opening period.

The breakthrough came just two minutes into the second half when teenager Lamine Yamal, who had been effectively contained in the first half, found space down the right wing.

His precise cross met Nico Williams, who slotted the ball past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, giving Spain a 1-0 lead.

Spain enjoyed a period of sustained pressure following the goal, with Dani Olmo, Alvaro Morata, and Williams all coming close to extending their lead.

England’s previously solid defense appeared to be losing its shape under the relentless Spanish attacks.

In response, England manager Gareth Southgate made strategic substitutions, bringing on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer.

The changes paid off when Jude Bellingham set up Palmer, who curled a low shot from 20 meters out into the net in the 73rd minute, leveling the score and igniting hope among the English fans.

The match seemed destined for extra time until a lapse in England’s defense allowed Spain to strike again. Marc Cucurella, left unmarked on the left flank, delivered a cross into the box.

Oyarzabal, who had come on as a substitute, stretched to poke the ball home, securing Spain’s victory four minutes from the end.

The final moments of the game saw frantic action, with Spain’s goalkeeper Unai Simon making a crucial save from a Declan Rice header, and Dani Olmo clearing a follow-up effort off the line. Despite England’s late surge, Spain held firm to secure the 2-1 win.

Spain manager Luis de la Fuente expressed his pride in his team after the match. “I couldn’t be happier. This confirms what we are. For me, they are the best in the world,” he said.

England, who had fought back from a goal down for the fourth consecutive match in the tournament, were left to rue missed opportunities and defensive lapses.

Southgate, who has led England to two Euro finals and a World Cup semi-final during his tenure, acknowledged the team’s effort but conceded Spain’s superiority.

“The players have got to take enormous credit for getting us to the point they did. They fought and represented the shirt with pride. But I think Spain were the best team in the tournament and they deserved to win,” Southgate said.

Spain’s victory adds a fourth European Championship title to their collection, following wins in 1964, 2008, and 2012.

As only the third team in the last nine Euros to win the trophy without a penalty shootout, Spain’s triumph cements their place as one of the dominant forces in European football.

Meanwhile, England’s wait for a major tournament victory continues, extending their “30 years of hurt” since their 1966 World Cup win to at least double that number.

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Nigerians Paid $1.26 Billion in Bribes Last Year, Survey Shows

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A recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed the extent of bribery in Nigeria with citizens paying an estimated N721 billion or $1.26 billion in cash bribes in 2023.

The report highlights a significant discrepancy between rural and urban areas, with rural residents bearing a higher burden of bribe payments.

According to the NBS report, “The frequency of bribery is, on average, higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In 2023, bribe-payers living in urban areas paid on average 4.5 bribes, while those living in rural areas paid on average 5.8 bribes.”

This extensive bribery, amounting to 0.35% of Nigeria’s GDP, shows the persistent challenge of corruption in Africa’s most populous nation.

Despite various government pledges to combat corruption, public officials continue to demand and receive bribes to perform their duties, affecting the delivery of essential public services.

The survey, conducted between October and November, indicates that the estimated number of bribes exchanged decreased from 117 million in 2019 to 87 million in 2023.

This decline appears to be linked to reduced interactions with public officials, which dropped from 63% of the population in 2019 to 53% in 2023.

Bribery was most prevalent among prosecutors, land registry officers, and customs and immigration officials, with judges and magistrates receiving the largest kick-backs.

Despite anti-corruption promises by successive governments, public officials have developed a reputation for converting public funds for personal use and demanding gratifications for performing their functions.

The NBS report also notes a growing resistance to bribery among Nigerians, with 23% refusing to pay bribes when demanded.

This defiance is partly fueled by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by currency reforms and the partial removal of a gasoline subsidy, which has heightened economic hardship.

The survey participants ranked corruption fourth on their list of priorities, behind economic hardship, insecurity, and unemployment.

Interestingly, bribe payments in the private sector more than doubled in 2023, though public-sector corruption remains dominant in the West African nation.

The data reveals that less than a third of Nigerians believe the government is effective in fighting corruption, a stark decline from more than half in 2019 during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.

Buhari, first elected in 2015 on promises to end corruption, left office with the nation still grappling with pervasive bribery and corruption.

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