There has been an explosion outside Kabul airport in Afghanistan amid efforts to evacuate foreign citizens and diplomats out of the country.
John Kirby, United States Pentagon press secretary, confirmed the incident in a tweet on Thursday.
“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can,” he wrote.
We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.
— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021
A US official was said to have told Reuters that the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber.
The explosion was said to have occurred at Abbey gate, one of the three entrances to the airport.
The Abbey gate had been closed after several countries had asked people to avoid the airport earlier in the day due to a terrorist attack threat.
James Heappey, British armed forces minister, early on Thursday, said there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the airport.
Similarly, Alexander De Croo, Belgium prime minister, said his country had received information from the US and other countries about the “threat of suicide attacks on the mass of people”.
On August 15, Taliban fighters invaded Kabul, and took over power after Ashraf Ghani, the Afghanistan president, fled the country.
Thousands of Afghans had flocked to the airport as they tried to get on evacuation flights in an attempt to flee the country.
The Taliban had pledged not to attack western forces during the evacuation but insisted that the process must be completed by August 31.
Army to engage retired soldiers in insecurity fight – COAS
The Nigerian Army says it will continue to engage the services of its retired personnel in tackling insecurity in the country.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya said at this on Tuesday night at a ”Regimented Dinner ” he organised for the 2021 set of retired officers from its 3 Division, Rukuba, near Jos.
The COAS, who was represented by Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Ali, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the division and Commander Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), thanked the retired personnel for their sacrifices and commitment to duty while in service.
He explained that the expertise of the retired personnel would be needed toward supporting the Nigerian army in its bid to end all forms of insecurity in the nation.
”I wish to assure you that the Nigerian army is grateful for the services you rendered to our father land.
”There are ongoing efforts to engage the services of the retired professionals with the wealth of experiences gathered over the years.
”These experiences are necessary toward tackling all forms of insecurity in our nation, ”he said.
Yahaya added that the dinner was organised to appreciate the retired personnel and their spouses for thier meritorious service to the nation.
The COAS assured the personnel still serving, to put in their best in securing the territorial integrity of the nation and promised to make their welfare top of his priorities.
Also speaking, retired Maj.-Gen. Hasaan Umaru, who was Special Guest at the event, thanked the COAS for introducing the dinner as a welfare package for the retired officers.
He tasked the retired officers to be good ambassadors of the Nigerian army and be ready to support it anytime their services would be needed.
Umaru advised them to contribute to the growth of their immediate communities and the society in general.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that earlier, a buffet was held in honour of retired soldiers at the cantonment.
20 million Nigerians benefitting from our cash transfer – FG
The Federal Government says over two million households in Nigeria are currently benefitting from its conditional cash transfer programme.
The government also said over 20 million persons were indirect beneficiaries of the programme in the two million households.
This came as it began partnership with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC,the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,ICPC and other relevant agencies to probe compliance level of the National Social Investment Programme,NSIP in states of the federation.
The National Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programmes, NSIP, Dr. Umar Bindir, speaking on Tuesday at the stakeholders’ meeting on state compliance check exercise of NSIP in Abuja, said, ”As we speak, we are now advancing cash transfer to two million households, these are houses of not individuals, so if you are approximately putting 10 people per household,you are talking about probably like 20 million or so people that we are handling.”
Bandir said the government was spending between N12 billion to N15 billion monthly.
“When you look at N-Power,we have a bill of possibly between N12 billion to 15 billion every month. And you can estimate that we have 510,000 now ongoing and we have the batch c for 490,000 coming on,so when you multiply the number of the graduates by N30,000 per month, you will get the figure,”he said.
He said government was injecting N12 billion and N14 billion every month into the funds for feeding school children.
He said, “If you look at the school feeding,you will see that we are feeding between nine to ten million children nationwide and each child on a schooling day is fed with N70 per meal,so again,when you do the arithmetic,you get something maybe between N12 billion and N14 billion every month in feeding these children during school every month.
“But the finances injected in summary,into the National Social Investment Programme,the recurrent alone is over N300 billion. That is not enough,that is less than possibly what is required, gauging against the number of poor and vulnerable we have in this country.
He said, ”We are beginning to see the multiply effects, people who have gotten credit and are now hiring one or more people, therefore,the employment generation is improving. The graduates,some of them are exiting and establishing their businesses.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, speaking at the event, said government had begun partnership with relevant agencies in carrying out the compliance check of the implementation guidelines “of all our programmes and to develop a standard and effective compliance check structure for the various NSIP assignments.”
The Permanent Secretary,who was represented by the Director, Special Needs, Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, explained that,”Our primary goal is to meet the needs of the people who need a helping hand from Government to restore hope, provide support and succor, as well as an enabling environment for recovery, rehabilitation and social inclusion, while ensuring their human dignity is upheld at all times.”
The creation of the ministry,he explained, “was necessitated by the compelling need to harmonize, synergize, institutionalize, as well as provide coordination of all government’s humanitarian and social interventions.
“This is in line with the vision of Mr. President to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
“The National Social Investment Programme, a social investment initiative aimed at tackling poverty across the country was launched, targeting “the poorest of the poor and the socially excluded members of the society.”
Speaking more on the event, he said, ”The activities of the Mmnistry constantly impact on the well-being of the indigent citizens and contributes to the socio-economic development of the country and in order for the ministry to effectively provide the desired and much needed coordination and leadership it was conceived to provide, it must have an effective and consistent means of appraising its activities.”
Sani-Gwarzo said since inception, the ministry had so far “achieved a lot in the area of the provision and effective coordination of humanitarian interventions in keeping with our mandate. “
“We have also been able to provide coordination through cooperation and partnerships with relevant government MDA’s, development partners, UN agencies and other strategic partners.
“This is all in a bid to ensure sustained and expanded social protection programmes, prompt emergency response services, and appropriately targeted humanitarian interventions,”he said.
Noting that,“The National Social Investment Programme,NSIP is the biggest social protection and poverty eradication programme ever put in place by any government in Nigeria and one of the biggest in Africa”,he explained that:”it was established by President Buhari in 2016 to address immediate and long-term socio-economic imbalances and inequalities, alleviate poverty, and stimulate accelerated economic growth.”
Hajj: 5 Days To Deadline, Less Than Half Of Nigerian Pilgrims Airlifted
Few days to the commencement of this year’s hajj, there are fears that thousands of Nigerian pilgrims may miss the exercise, Daily Trust can report.
As of the time of filing this report, less than half of the 43,000 pilgrims from Nigeria had been airlifted.
According to the figure from NAHCON, 19,764 pilgrims have been airlifted from 23 states and the Armed Forces. Kano and Kaduna State which have the highest number of pilgrims still have many of them awaiting airlift.
As of yesterday, 1,593 out of 2,491 Kaduna pilgrims had been airlifted; while in Kano, only 399 pilgrims of the 2,229 slots given to the state had been airlifted.
The Saudi authorities had said all pilgrims must arrive by July 3 at 23:59 pm.
About 3,000 pilgrims of licensed tour operators, who made deposits to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Treasury Single Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, but whose accounts in Saudi Arabia were yet to be credited to enable them process their accommodation in Makkah and Madinah and pay for other services, may miss this year’s hajj.
Amidst this, NAHCON said the offer for additional slots promised Nigeria by the Saudi Arabia could no longer be actualised.
Some hajj operators told Daily Trust that after paying about N1.3m for onward transfer to Saudi Arabia service providers, they were yet to receive payment in their virtual accounts in Saudi Arabia.
Of the 43,008 slots given to Nigeria by Saudi Arabia, 9,032 were allocated to licensed tour operators under the aegis of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria.
From the figure, 50 seats were given to 176 prequalified operators who were required to pay N1.3m on each pilgrim for onward transfer to service providers (Muasassah) in Saudi Arabia.
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The fund covers some components of the hajj fare, including hotel accommodation, feeding in Muna, Arafa and local transportation.
One of the affected tour operators said each of the tour operators remitted about N55m amounting to over N10bn.
He said when NAHCON eventually credited their account, 61 tour operators did not get alert, noting that without the money, visa processing and other arrangements cannot be carried out.
“As I’m talking to you, they’re still meeting, a lot of us have not been credited and the airports in Madinah and Makkah will be closed this week.
“Two of our members collapsed as a result of this; while others were hospitalized as a result of high blood pressure and fear of running into debt because most operators are already missing their flights because we booked scheduled flights and when we want to change the flight we pay as much as N200,000 on one person,” he said.
A meeting was ongoing as of press time yesterday; while an official of NAHCON said the issue of the remittance was being resolved.
Intending pilgrims protest in Kano
Many intending pilgrims yesterday protested in Kano over the non-allocation of seats to them despite having completed their payments.
They were at the head office of Jaiz Bank which processed their payment through the Hajj Savings Scheme and the office of the Kano State Pilgrims Board.
The protesters, numbering 284, said they were shocked to find out that after completing their payment, no seat was reserved for them, noting that some of them started the saving scheme in 2019.
The leader of the protesters, Hassan Zakari, alleged that the state pilgrims’ board had not been forthcoming with them.
Sources told Daily Trust that names of aggrieved intending pilgrims had been sent to the state pilgrims’ board and had been documented without any allocation to them this year because of the limited slots allocated to them.
Fatima Abdullahi of Tamburawa area of Dawakin Kudu Local Government, said she was told to return her bag and uniform Monday evening.
Reacting, the Executive Secretary of Kano Pilgrim’s Board, Mohammad Abba Dambatta, said the board was doing all it could to resolve the problem, noting that there was no allocation this year for those on savings’ scheme, especially those from Jaiz Bank.
“We received a total of 2,229 allocation and we have about 2,500 intending pilgrims under the hajj savings scheme which is more than the total allocation given to us,” he said.
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‘NAHCON’s request for additional slots turned down’
NAHCON has confirmed that its request for additional slots from Saudi Arabia had been turned down.
Its spokesperson, Fatima Sanda Usara, in a statement, said NAHCON’s Commissioner of Operations, Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa led a delegation to actualize the offer, but it was eventually turned down by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
She said the request to have some of the officials above 65 years to travel because of their experience in hajj operation was also not granted.
According to her, Nigeria’s hajj industry is left with its initial allocation of 43,008.
She said NAHCON solicited the understanding of those aggrieved.
“Indeed, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, the NAHCON Chairman and other NAHCON management members, did their best to make sure that slots were distributed equitably. It was however clear right from the start that not everyone who is qualified would make it to this year’s Hajj due to the relatively low number of allocated slots.”
She said the “commission is aware of the agitation from all its publics, to wit, the states pilgrims welfare boards, subscribers through the Hajj Savings Scheme, Private Tour Operators, including its own staff as well. NAHCON management is consoled because it did not ostracize any group in the distribution of available hajj seats, but of course, not all would be successful, because the commission was working within the boundaries of what was available,” the statement added.
With the development, many tour operators, who were initially granted about 80 to 100 slots, would be left with a shortfall despite making arrangements with some airlines and service providers in Saudi Arabia.
A hajj stakeholder, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “Many of the operators who have booked with airlines are going to run into huge losses because the slots allocated to the tour operators have been significantly reduced while they have made payment for some services.”
Managing Director, Al-Qibla International Services, Abdulfatah Abdulmojeed, said the development came with a great cost to the operators in terms of accommodation and flights booked which would not be refunded.
He said: “It has happened and NAHCON also tried its best. What one would have expected is that rather than give allocation in anticipation, they’d have given the actual number.”
CSO seeks probe of hajj seat racketeering
Meanwhile, Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society organisation that monitors hajj and umrah activities, has urged NAHCON and anti-corruption agencies to probe the widespread allegations of hajj 2002 BTA fraud and seats racketeering across the country.
In a statement, it said it received numerous complaints from intending pilgrims that some officials across the states’ boards colluded with others outside the hajj industry to sell seats to “desperate intending pilgrims who are ready to purchase such seats at any price.”
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