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Five killed in Myanmar protests as junta cracks down on online critics

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Myanmar security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protests on Saturday killing five people, a protester and media said, as the military reinforced its bid to end dissent with arrest warrants for online critics and internet blocks.

Despite the killing of more than 550 people by the security forces since the Feb. 1 coup, protesters are coming out every day, often in smaller groups in smaller towns, to voice opposition to the reimposition of military rule.

Security forces in the central town of Monywa fired on a crowd killing thee people, the Myanmar Now news service said, while one man was shot and killed in another central town, Bago, and one in Thaton to the south, the Bago Weekly Journal online news portal reported.

“They started firing non-stop with both stun grenade and live rounds,” the protester in Monywa, who asked not to be named, told Reuters via a messaging app. “People backed off and quickly put up … barriers, but a bullet hit a person in front of me in the head. He died on the spot.”

Police and a spokesman for the junta did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group said earlier on Saturday the security forces had killed 550 people, 46 of them children, since the military overthrew an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The demonstrations that drew tens of thousands of people in the early days of defiance in big cities have largely stopped with opponents of the coup adopting “guerrilla rallies” – small, quick shows of defiance before security forces can respond.

People also gather at night for candle-lit vigils.

The authorities are waging a campaign to control information. They had shut down mobile data and on Friday ordered internet providers to cut wireless broadband, depriving most customers of access, though some messages and pictures were still being posted and shared on social media.

Authorities issued warrants for 18 celebrities, including social media influencers and two journalists, under a law against material intended to cause a member of the armed forces to mutiny or disregard their duty, state media reported late on Friday.

All of them are known to oppose military rule. The charge can carry a prison term of three years.

Actress Paing Phyoe Thu said she would not be cowed.

“Whether a warrant has been issued or not, as long as I’m alive I’ll oppose the military dictatorship who are bullying and killing people. The revolution must prevail,” she said on Facebook.

Paing Phyoe Thu regularly attended rallies in the main city of Yangon in the weeks after the coup. Her whereabouts were not immediately known.

SILENCING THE VOICES?

State broadcaster MRTV announced the warrants for the 18 with screenshots and links to their Facebook profiles.

While the military has banned platforms like Facebook, it has continued to use social media to track critics and promote its message.

MRTV maintains a YouTube channel and shares links to its broadcasts on Twitter, both of which are officially banned.

The United States condemned the internet shutdown.

“We hope this won’t silence the voices of the people,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told a briefing.

The coup has rekindled old wars with autonomy-seeking ethnic minority forces in the north and the east.

Myanmar’s oldest insurgent group, the Karen National Union (KNU), has seen the first military air strikes on its forces in more than 20 years, after it announced its support for the pro-democracy movement.

The KNU said more than 12,000 villagers had fled their homes because of the air strikes. It called for an international embargo on arms sales to the military.

“Their inhuman actions against unarmed civilians have caused the death of many people including children and students,” the group said in a statement.

Media has reported that about 20 people were killed in air strikes in KNU territory in recent days, including nearly a dozen at a gold mine run by the group.

The KNU signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012 to end their 60-year insurgency.

Fighting has also flared in the north between the army and ethnic Kachin insurgents. The turmoil has sent several thousand refugees fleeing into Thailand and India.

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IPOB: There’ll be one-month lockdown in south-east if FG fails to bring Kanu to court

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The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) says the south-east region will go on a one-month lockdown, if the federal government fails to bring Nnamdi Kanu, its leader, to court on October 21.

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On July 26, Binta Nyako, judge of the federal high court, Abuja, adjourned the trial of Kanu till October 21, owing to the failure of the federal government to produce him in court.

In June, Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and extradited to Nigeria to face trial. He was remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) after he was re-arraigned before the judge.

On August 9, the proscribed group announced the enforcement of a lockdown every Monday until Kanu is released but later suspended the directive, a few days later.

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Reacting, IPOB, in a statement, by Emma Powerful, its spokesperson, alleged that the federal government has perfected plans not to bring Kanu to court on the next adjourned date.

The group said its “peaceful resolution” towards the trial of Kanu should not be misconstrued as weakness, while stressing that there will be one month lockdown in the south-east, if the federal government fails to bring Kanu to court.

“The attention of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) ably led by our great prophet and liberator of our time, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has been drawn to the plot by Nigeria government and DSS in Abuja not to produce our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to court on 21st October 2021, the date he is due to appear in court to start his case,” the statement reads.

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“The federal government of Nigeria has again perfected plans not to bringing him to court on that day. Their wicked plan is to perpetually keep him behind bars without trial to see if they can demoralise him and Biafrans but they are late.

“If the federal government refuses to bring him to court in his next court appearance on October 21, 2021, the entire Biafra land will be on total lock down for one month. The federal government will know that they cannot take us for granted any more. Our peaceful disposition as a people should not be misconstrued as weakness.

“Their plan is to suppress agitation and force everyone into submission but Biafrans won’t succumb to their intimidation.”

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Reps summon Sunday Dare over athletes’ disqualification at Tokyo Olympics

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The house of representatives has summoned Sunday Dare, minister of youth and sports development, over the disqualification of 10 athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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The lower chamber passed the resolution during plenary session on Wednesday following the adoption of a motion sponsored by Lawrence Ayeni, lawmaker from Osun state.

The minister is to brief the lawmakers on the level of Nigeria’s compliance with extant regulations set by the International Association of
Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

TheCable had reported how the AIU disqualified 10 Nigerian track and field athletes for failing to comply with the out-of-competition testing (OCT) requirement.

AIU said Nigeria is among countries deemed to have the highest doping risk, and the athletes were expected to undergo “at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event”.

Leading the debate on the motion on Wednesday, Ayeni said Nigeria was disqualified despite the “huge funds” available to the sports ministry and preparation made by the athletes.

“Nigeria delegation to the Olympic Games fared well in terms of performance, thereby raising the country’s rating the comity of nations,” he said.

“Concerned that despite the huge funds being made available yearly for the regulatory agencies in the sports sector, adequate efforts have not been made to get Nigeria into the category where they would be deemed to have made significant improvements in anti-doping tests.”

The motion was unanimously adopted after it was put to a voice vote by Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house.

While mandating its committee on sports to investigate the cause of the “failed doping test to forestall future occurrence,” the green chamber asked the ministry of sports to put measures in place to “ensure compliance with extant regulations at both local and international competitions”.

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Senate passes MTEF, retains $57 per barrel as oil benchmark

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The senate on Wednesday passed the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF), retaining the oil benchmark for the 2022 budget at $57 per barrel.

The upper legislative chamber also put the daily crude oil production at 1.88 million barrels per day and the exchange rate of N410 to a dollar.

The aforementioned assumptions, which the 2022 budget will be predicated on, were proposed by the federal executive council (FEC).

The upper legislative chamber did not make any adjustments to the assumptions of FEC chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Before the senators passed the document, Solomon Olamilekan, chairman of the finance committee, while presenting a report, said there should be a continuous review of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to ensure that all revenues are remitted to the federation account.

The Lagos west senator said this would curtail “frivolous” deductions and diversion of funds by miniseries, departments and agencies (MDA).

“That the daily crude oil production of 1.88mbpd, 2.23mbpd, and 2.22mbpd for 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively, be approved, in view of average 1.93mbpd over the past three years and the fact that a very conservative oil output benchmark has been adopted for the medium term in order to ensure greater budget realism,” he said.

“That the benchmark oil price of $57 per barrel should be approved because of the clear evidence of wide consultations with key stakeholders. and the age long fiscal strategy of addressing the oil price shocks by the adoption of a higher than forecast oil price benchmark for fiscal projections over the medium term.

“That the exchange rate of N410.15 to a dollar proposed by the executive for 2022-2024 be approved.”

The senate also approved the projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 4.20 percent and projected inflation rate of 13 percent.

At the international market, Brent oil price climbed by 1.4 percent to $75.44 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 1.6 percent to $71.65 a barrel over tight supply as demand improves.

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