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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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Buhari to present 2023 budget proposal to NASS Friday

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President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2023 Appropriations bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Friday.

The appropriations bill will contain budget proposals for the 2023 fiscal year.

He made this known in a letter to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, which was read out at the start of plenary on Tuesday.

The formal budget presentation is scheduled for 10am

and it will be the last main budget Buhari will be presenting as he will leave office on 29 May 2023 when his second four year term will end.

The Federal Government is already proposing an aggregate expenditure of N19.76 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year with a budget deficit of about N12.41 trillion.

Some key assumptions in the proposal include an estimated oil benchmark of $70, crude oil production put at 1.69mbpd, exchange rate of N435.57/$ and inflation rate at 17.16 per cent.

The Federal Government pegged growth rate at 3.75 per cent because it believes that “Growth is expected to be moderated to 3.30% in 2024 before picking up to 3.46% in 2025.”

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had disclosed that the federal government will borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets to finance the budget deficit in 2023.

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ASUU also corrupt, undermining govt investment – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said a number of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are involved in corrupt practices.

He said the corruption in the universities and other institutions was undermining government’s funding and investment in education.

ASUU has been on strike since February 14 over increase in lecturers’ allowances and salaries as well as improved funding for the universities.

Buhari has appealed to the union to call off the strike but the lecturers have stood their ground.

The President on Tuesday while declaring open the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), said ASUU was no less complicit in the corruption in tertiary education.

He said corruption in the education sector had continued to undermine investments, while critics downplayed funding by focusing only on budgetary allocations, urging a more comprehensive re-evaluation of expenditure.

The President said, “This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and create an unfriendly learning environment for our youths.

“Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.

“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the Federal and State Governments.

“The total education budget for each year is therefore a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed as other financial commitments in their totality.

“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND.

“Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.

“I call on stakeholders to demand accountability in the administration of academic institutions and for unions to interrogate the bloated personnel and recurrent expenditure of their institutions. Let me also implore the Unions to work with the government to put faces and identities to names on the payroll.

“Due to declining resources, the government cannot bear the cost of funding education alone. I task our academics to attract endowments, research and other grants to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education similar to what obtains in other countries.”

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Seven police officers dismissed, 10 others demoted

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The Police Service Commission (PSC), on Tuesday, dismissed seven senior police officers over gross misconduct.

The commission also announced the demotion of 10 other officers through reduction in rank.

These decisions were taken during the continuation of the 15th plenary meeting of the commission.

The meeting is expected to end on Thursday, October 6, 2022, according to a report by The Trust.

Presided over by its acting chairman, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, the meeting considered all the Pending Disciplinary Matters (PDM) before the commission.

The PDMs, which totalled 47, also treated some appeals from dismissed police officers.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the meeting in Abuja, the spokesman for the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, said, the dismissed officers include one CSP, one SP and five ASPs.

He said that one SP was retired in public interest, adding that the commission reduced the ranks of one CSP to SP, three SPs to DSP, and two DSPs to ASPs.

The commission further reduced the ranks of four ASPs to Inspectors.

10 senior police officers, including an ACP, a CSP, a SP and two DSPs were given the punishment of severe reprimand.

Five ASPs were also awarded the punishment of severe reprimand.

Thirteen officers received the punishment of reprimand; two are to receive letters of warning while four officers were exonerated.

Ani quoted Justice Ogunbiyi as saying the commission would henceforth give the desired attention to Pending Disciplinary Matters so that those found guilty are punished immediately while those found not guilty are cleared to continue with their career progression.

Justice Ogunbiyi called on police officers to ensure they operate within established rules and avoid taking laws into their hands.

The commission, she said, would continue to work to sustain a professional police force.

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