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Biden, Trump in last-minute campaign round swing states

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A record 90 million Americans have voted early in the 2020 US presidential election, the latest statistics have shown, as President Donald Trump of Republican Party and his Democratic rival Joe Biden campaign across the country to sway the few remaining undecided voters.

The high number of early voters, about 65 per cent of the total turnout in 2016, is a reflection of the intense interest in the contest, with two days left for the campaign.

Biden was in Michigan and Trump in Pennsylvania, states that could be key to winning the White House in Tuesday final poll.

Mr Biden, joined by ex-President Barack Obama, said the US was “done with the chaos” of the Trump administration.

But Trump said there would be a “great red wave” of Republican victories.

Biden has a solid lead in the polls, but his advantage is narrower in swing states that could decide the election.

About 55 million of those that have voted did so by post, setting the country on course for its biggest voter turnout in over a century.

Concerns about exposure to the coronavirus at busy Election Day voting places on Tuesday have also pushed up the numbers of people voting by mail or at early in-person polling sites.

Mr Biden and Mr Obama campaigned at a drive-in event in Flint, Michigan, before heading to Detroit where they were joined by singer Stevie Wonder. Mr Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016.

At the event, Stevie Wonder changed the lyrics to his song Superstition to praise Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.

In his first appearance on the campaign trail with his former vice-president, Mr Obama compared Mr Biden’s character favourably with Mr Trump’s.

“It used to be that being a man meant taking care of other people… not looking for credit but trying to live right,” he said.

“When you elect Joe, that’s what you’ll see reflected from the White House.”

Taking the stage, Mr Biden tore into his opponent, saying it was time for him to “pack his bags and go home”.

“We’re done with the chaos, the tweets, the anger, the failure, the refusal to take any responsibility,” he added.

Mr Biden’s campaign events have generally been small, as the candidate keeps rigorously to social distancing rules.

Not so for Mr Trump, who held a series of four rallies in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

At the first, in Newtown, he appeared on stage serenaded by chants of “Four more years!” and told the state where the US independence movement began centuries ago that “three days from now this is the state that will save the American dream”.

He also joked about his recent brush with coronavirus, which also infected First Lady Melania Trump.

“At least those rumours that we don’t live together proved to be false,” he said.

After a rally of several hundred people – relatively small for him – the president flew to Reading, where thousands greeted him on the tarmac.

Mr Trump is planning another 10 rallies over the final two days of the campaign.

His campaign has five events in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida on Sunday, and then five more on election eve in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Opinion polls show Trump trailing former Vice President Biden nationally, but with a closer contest in the most competitive States that will decide the election. Voters say the coronavirus is their top concern.

Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that mail-in ballots are susceptible to fraud and has more recently argued that only the results available on election night should count. In a flurry of legal motions, his campaign has sought to restrict absentee balloting.

“I don’t care how hard Donald Trump tries. There’s nothing — let me say that again — there’s nothing that he can do to stop the people of this nation from voting in overwhelming numbers and taking back this democracy,” Biden said at a rally in Flint, Michigan.

At a small, in-person rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Trump mocked his opponent for his criticism of the administration’s record of fighting COVID-19, which has killed more people in the United States than in any other country.

“I watched Joe Biden speak yesterday. All he talks about is COVID, COVID. He’s got nothing else to say. COVID, COVID,” Trump told the crowd, some of whom did not wear masks.

He said the United States was “just weeks away” from mass distribution of a safe vaccine against COVID-19, which is pushing hospitals to capacity and killing up to 1,000 people in the United States each day. Trump gave no details to back up his remarks about an imminent vaccine.

Sources: BBC News, thehindubusinessline.com

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400 suspected Boko Haram, bandits’ sponsors arrested

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Security agents have arrested about 400 businessmen for allegedly funding operations of Boko Haram and bandits in the country.

Daily Trust reported that the businessmen were arrested in an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have approved the operation in 2020.

The newspaper reported that an initial list of 957 suspects comprising bureau de change (BDC) operators, gold miners and sellers, and other businessmen is being acted upon.

A source told the newspaper that about 400 persons were arrested in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara.

Names of the BDC operators arrested were given as Baba Usaini, Abubakar Yellow (Amfani), Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida), Ibrahim Shani, Auwal Fagge, and Muhammad Lawan Sani, a gold dealer.

Those arrested are reportedly being kept in military and the DSS facilities in Abuja and other places.

“Because this is economic warfare against the insurgents and other militant groups, the president, when approving the operation directed that the NFIU take the lead as the country’s financial intelligence powerhouse,” Daily Trust quoted a source to have said.

The source added that “with the presidential approval, a task team was composed of personally selected senior officers who were deployed under the DIA to carry out the special assignment”.

“The main person coordinating the funding ring for Boko Haram is in our custody, he and his closest ally in the business,” he said.

Another source was quoted to have said about 19 BDCs owned by persons with “direct connection with Boko Haram” were uncovered, while over N300 billion was found to have been used in funding terrorism.

Apart from one person in Borno and another in Zaria, Kaduna state, the source said over N50 billion were traced in funding to the armed groups.

“A number of those arrested have divulged vital information including operational details of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. But they are being kept to aid further arrests,” the source was quoted to have said.

Family members of those arrested, the newspaper reported, have been calling on the government for their release.

In 2020, six Nigerians were also jailed in the United Arab Emirates for allegedly funding Boko Haram.

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Former Ondo deputy governor agrees to return vehicles

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Former Ondo Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi has finally agreed to return the two vehicles in his possession to the Ondo State Government.

The state government last week said it would embarrass Agboola if he failed to return the four vehicles.

But Agboola, who said he had only two vehicles, insisted they were part of his benefits.

The state government also petitioned the Ondo State Police Command to help recover the vehicles.

In a statement on Sunday, the former deputy governor said he was not the problem of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration.

Agboola stated it was in the interest of everybody that Governor Akeredolu demonstrated good governance, transparent policy making and effective change.

He said it was unfortunate some members of the inner circle of Akeredolu have prioritised harassing him on a number of issues most especially the return of vehicles

Agboola said he hoped “these petty interactions would have ceased after the recent inauguration.

“To be clear – if the return of these two vehicles will make the administration focus more on the avalanche of pressing needs, challenges and predicaments facing the state most especially insecurity, the absence of governance and unpaid salaries across the entirety the Ondo public sector – then I’m ready to make the sacrifice and return the two vehicles which they so desperately need.

“I am not the problem of the present administration. I have moved on.”

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Pensioners demand payment of N35bn arrears

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Nigeria pensioners who retired from the electricity sector have urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to come to their aide in order to resolve the lingering issue of their owed N35billion pension arrears.

The pensioners under the aegis of Electricity Sector Retiree Welfare Association (ESREWA), led by its  President, Elder Benjamin Amako, asked President Buhari to save countless dying pensioners whose fate are tied to the delayed payment of their pension arrears.

Rising from its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, Amako said every Nigerian, including President Buhari, knows the pathetic situation of pensioners in the country.

Amako said: “First we thank God that Mr President returned from his medical trip healthier, stronger and successfully. The news of his return gave us pensioners so much joy because we know  he will not sit quiet and watch more pensioners lose their lives because of humanly inaction. So far, his administration has ensured that pensioners gets their rights and this arrears we are asking for is our right.

“Interestingly, President Buhari had already directed that this same arrears (N35billion) be paid to us, but for over five years ago he issued the directive, the relevant authorities who it is their responsibilities to ensure we get this arrears for our dying members seems to be working contrarily.

“So for the past five years, these arrears have always been part of the National Budget under Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) budget and accordingly transferred to Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). But sadly, we have not been paid a dime even as I speak, for reasons that are totally and obviously human making.

“So we are pleading with President Buhari, the SGF, Minister of Finance, Chairman Senate Committee on Power, Accountant General of the Federation, PTAD and other relevant authorities to save our lives by paying us this money without further delay.”

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