Fuel tanker went in flames near Ecobank head office

Fire yesterday swept through the head office of Ecobank Nigeria Ltd on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The incident, which occurred around 8:30am, triggered the firm alarm, forcing workers and customers to flee.

The fire started from diesel tanker that was discharging its content at the bank’s fuel dump. The dump and many shops close to the bank were destroyed.

It took the combined efforts of firemen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), United Bank for Africa (UBA), Julius Berger, Lagos State and Federal Fire Services to prevent the inferno from spreading to adjoining buildings and parked vehicles.

Officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and police cordoned off the area; the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) diverted traffic.

A witness, Mr Malachy Okoli, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondents, that the fire started when the tanker was discharging diesel at the dump.

Okoli said staffers of other banks used their extinguishers to contain the fire before the arrival of fire fighters.

Some youths were seen scooping diesel from the gutter.

Federal Fire Service Lagos Command Deputy Commanding Officer Ganiyu Olayiwola said the bank alerted the command around 8.55am.

“We quickly alerted our people and we were able to contain the fire, the first thing we did was to evacuate all the personnel and secure the area so that we would be able to perform our work effectively,” Olayiwola said.

LASEMA Director of Operations Femi Giwa said: “At about 8.55 am, we got a distress call at the Lagos State command and control centre concerning an inferno within the Ecobank head office.

“We activated our response and mobilised our responder to the scene.”

He said the agency’s officials discovered that a tanker with 33,000 litres of diesel caught fire while transloading, adding “we need to appreciate the Lagos State Fire Service, the Federal Fire Service and LASEMA Response Unit, the Ecobank Fire unit, UBA fire unit, Julius Berger and others for their efforts.

“We were able to contain the inferno within the generator area where they have the tank and the building, as I speak to you is in good condition and the adjoining buildings were not affected. Personnel and as occupants within the building are evacuated within the muster point. We recorded no injury, no death and as I speak to you we are at the dampening stage.”

An Ecobank official, Tunde Dawodu, said the fire started at about 8.40 am, when a tanker that came to supply diesel apparently caught fire.

Dawodu said: “Immediately we activated the emergency protocol and all staff were evacuated from the building even though it did not affect the main building.

“We decided to fight it with fire gadgets that we had and we reached out to the fire departments, the state, the federal, LASEMA and some other corporate organisations. As you can see it is just the tanker and one of our generators that were affected, it did not affect the building, the personnel or our operations.”

LASEMA General Manager Adesina Tiamiyu said: “We received a distress call at about 8:54am that there was fire outbreak. The agency mobilised to the incident scene immediately.

“Upon arrival at the scene of incident, it was discovered that a 33,000-litre tanker laden with diesel caught fire while trans-loading its content around the generator house. The immediate cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained. However, investigation is being conducted to ascertain the actual cause of the inferno. No casualty was recorded. The inferno was completely brought under control. The main structure within the bank premises was also not affected.”

Lagos State Fire Service Acting Director Musibau Rasaki said they got the information about the incident from the command and complaint centre at 8:55am.

He said they quickly responded with two fire stations.

Rasaki said: “We were the first fire station to get to the scene; others came and joined us shortly in less than five minutes. We deployed four trucks to the scene; two from Ibeju-Lekki and another two from Alausa and I was there to monitor the scene.

“No neighbouring property was affected by the fire except for the tanker, the generator house and the transformer. The report that some properties were damaged is not true. No casualty was recorded; with the effort of all of us, the fire was put under control within a short time and I can confirm that as I speak with you everything has been cleared before I left the scene; what is left is just those on standby. LASEMA officials are also on standby in case of any emergency. The fire is totally out. It took us over one hour before we put out the fire.”

Benue State House Assembly under locks

Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere flay alleged impeachment bid
•Benue Assembly shut, says governor’s aide

THE Presidency has denied the allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari was behind moves by some Benue State lawmakers to unseat Governor Samuel Ortom.

A statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Buhari would never be part of any unconstitutional act.

He said: “Even while attending the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)/Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Summit in Togo, strident attempts were being made to drag the President into the unfolding drama between the executive and the legislature in Benue State.

“Statements have been issued by different interest groups, insinuating that the President may have a hand in the development in Benue.

“This is paranoia at its worst, coming from people who have wittingly positioned themselves against the clean-up of the country, and the way we do things. They prefer business as usual.

“President Buhari will never be part of any unconstitutional act, and any attempt to link him with the inglorious past, when minority number of lawmakers impeached governors, will not stick.

According to Adesina, they only preach separation of powers and true federalism whenever it suits them and also calling on the President to interfere brazenly in affairs at state level.

But, a group, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has called on the President to rein in the police.

The group alleged that the role of the police in Monday’s impeachment plans against Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom was tantamount to causing anarchy.

Speaking to reporters in Abuja on the crisis, MBF President Dr. Pogu Bitrus said the police took side with the eight legislators with the intention of removing the governor through the backdoor.

Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, described the development in which eight legislators purportedly suspended 15 of their colleagues and served an impeachment notice on Ortom as ridiculous.

Afenifere said such scenario should not be allowed in any part of Nigeria.

Security operatives have shut down the Benu State House of Assembly.

The Assembly has been the theatre of clashes between two groups of lawmakers.

Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters Col. Paul Hembe (retd) and the Clerk of the House, Dr. Torese Agena, told reporters in Makurdi, the state capital, yesterday that before shutting the complex, securitymen chased officials out of their ofices.

The security adviser added that when he contacted Commissioner of Police, Bensan Gwana, he told him he was attending the Inspector General conference.

Senate President Bukola Saraki defects to PDP

Mixed reactions yesterday trailed the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While many chieftains acknowledged that the ruling party has lost a big fish to the opposition, others said his exit will not affect the chances of the APC in next year’s presidential election.

The defection was not beyond expectation. Thus, the Kwara State chapter was not caught unawares. Anticipating Saraki’s game plan, President Muhammadu Buhar’s loyalists have put up an alternative leadership structure to fill the void expected to be created by the mass defection. In fact, some top leaders even objected to the aspiration of his loyalist, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, to continue as the party’s national publicity secretary during the national convention, based on the feeling that Saraki’s supporters were biding their time in the APC.

In a twinkle of an eye, Kwara instantly became a PDP state yesterday. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, two senators representing the state, commissioners and special advisers, members of the Houses of Assembly and Representatives and other prominent members of the Saraki Dynasty heeded the defection call at the blow of the whistle by the Senate President. In next year’s poll, Saraki will still wax strong as the kingmaker in the Northcentral state. The President will have to work harder to make an in-road into the new PDP stronghold.

Saraki’s defection may motivate more aggrieved chieftains to strategically follow suit. PDP is the beneficiary platform. Will co-travelers, including House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, follow his footsteps? Will Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal also call it quits with the party? Will Saraki’s sibling, Senator Gbemisola, also defect?

While in APC, Saraki’s political territory, which he inherited from his illustrious father, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, was not threatened by external forces. He called the shots. According to observers, there is no additional personal gain that will accrue to the Kwara kingpin in the PDP more than what has accrued to his group in the APC. Having returned to his natural habitat, the Senate President will seek to play a dominant role in reshaping and repositioning the PDP at the state and federal levels as he joins the coordinators of the 2019 battle at the federal level.

Will Saraki step aside as Senate President? Not likely. Can the APC muster efforts to mobilise its senators in the Upper Chamber to shove him aside? It will be a herculean task. The clash of pro-Saraki and anti-Saraki forces in the Senate may provoke a transcient parliamentary crisis and tension, which will fizzle out when gladiators are neck-deep in nomination battles in their parties.

Saraki has returned to a party that is facing a major challenge. No fewer than seven gladiators are struggling for the PDP presidential ticket. Consensus is ruled out. The platform is warming up for the primary. The contenders are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwanbo, former Kano, Kaduna and JIgawa Governors Rabiu Kwakwanso, Ibrahim Shekarau, Ahmed Makarfi and Sule Lamido, and former Minister Taminu Turaki. Tambuwal is also said to be eyeing the ticket. Who will Saraki support?

There was jubilation in the PDP, following the defection. PDP leaders described it as a setback to President Buhari’s re-election bid. But, APC leaders exuded confidence, saying there was no cause for alarm. To them, the defection is good radiance to bad rubbish.

Will Saraki’s defection affect the APC’s calculations for 2019? Time will tell.

President Buhari is now ECOWAS Chairman

President Muhammadu Buhari was yesterday elected the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Buhari’s election was one of the highpoints of the 53rd Session of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held in Lome, the Togolese capital.

A statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted rge President in his acceptance remarks as saying he did not offer himself for the post, “but you refused to take my no for an answer.”

He added: “I am truly humbled and I pledge to serve and work with all of you to deliver on peace, security, good governance and socio-economic development” of the sub-region, and take our organisation to greater heights.”

President Buhari also commended his predecessor and President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe for successfully hosting two important meetings of the Joint Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and ECOWAS as well as the 53rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS.

The Chairman was presented with the Emblem of ECOWAS while the next meeting was fixed for December 21 in Abuja.

Saudi’s King Salman swaps extravagant foreign holiday for staycation at futuristic resort

When the economy struggled during David Cameron’s premiership, he and his family would eschew foreign holidays and staycation in Cornwall instead.

Today, with global oil prices falling, even the King of Saudi Arabia is opting for a local break.

Known for his extravagant summer holidays in Morocco and the French Riviera, 82-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz a-Saud has opted this year to spend the summer in Neom, the futuristic mega city Saudi is building from scratch in the country’s remote northwest.

Plummeting oil prices have hit the world’s biggest oil exporter, and King Salman’s son Crown Prince Mohammed believes the only way for the kingdom to survive it is to diversify their economy.

The “city” of Neom, which will cost $500 billion (£380bn) to build and has already been dubbed the region’s answer to Silicon Valley, will stretch across 10,230 square miles – making it 20 times the size of London.

The plan is it to create jobs in the tech sector, as well as build up a tourist resort along the under-developed Red Sea coastline. The kingdom has predicted it will draw investments worth £380billion from its vast Public Investment Fund, as well as local and international investors.
Saudi King Salman, left, walks with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, right, at the monarch’s vacation home in Tangiers, Morocco.
Saudi King Salman, left, walks with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, right, at the monarch’s vacation home in Tangiers, Morocco. Credit: AP

Some analysts say the new city may be decades off, if it opens at all, warning that many countries have tried and failed to build their own Silicon Valleys.

The relatively low-key local holiday will come as a surprise to many, after last year’s jaunt to Morocco, when he took an entourage of 1,000 to his beach palace in Tangier. More than 900 hotel rooms were reserved for the occasion.

In 2015, shortly after his ascension to the throne, locals on the French Riviera were angered when parts of a public beach were closed for members of King Salman’s vacation party.

In contrast, the king arrived at Neom earlier this week and was pictured holding a cabinet meeting in the new city, which is still off-limits to the public.

The king “has arrived in NEOM, where he will spend some time in rest and recreation”, the official Saudi Press Agency said in a brief statement.

It was unclear where he would stay in the still unfinished area. According to Reuters, the government had asked local construction companies to build five palaces for the king, crown prince and other senior royals, on the Red Sea coast.

Plans shows opulent buildings with modern and traditional Moroccan-style architecture featuring Islamic designs and colourful ceramic tiles. The complex of palaces is set to include helipads, a marina and a golf course.

Neom is not the only way the royal family is trying to raise money. Prince Mohammed is estimated to have seized up to $800 billion in cash and assets from members of the royal family and prominent business figures accused of corruption and detained for weeks at the Ritz Carlton hotel.

The biggest victim of the shakedown was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi’s richest businessman and investor in the likes of Apple and Twitter.

Passengers escape death as AeroMexico plane crashes in Durango, Mexico

Dozens of people were injured on Tuesday when an AeroMexico plane with 101 people on board crashed just after takeoff in Mexico’s state of Durango, but authorities said nobody died in the accident.

Video footage showed emergency crews on the scene as smoke poured from the largely intact Embraer E190.

Jose Rosas Aispuro, Durango state governor, said on Twitter: “It is confirmed that there were no deaths in the flight crash AM2431.”

He said the plane was hit by a gust of wind, causing it to lose speed. Its leg wing hit the ground, he said, but the aircraft skidded to halt in a horizontal position, enabling passengers to escape.

Some 99 passengers and four crew members were aboard, according to the Mexican transport minister, of which 49 had to be taken to hospital.
Rescue workers and firefighters reach the site of the crash
Rescue workers and firefighters reach the site of the crash Credit: Civil Defence Office of Durango via AP

Jackeline Flores, a passenger, told reporters the plane came down in heavy rain. She and her daughter escaped from a hole in the fuselage as the aircraft filled up with smoke and flames, she said.

“A little girl who left the plane was crying because her legs were burned,” she said.

Ms Flores said her passport and documents burned in the fire.

“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” she added.

Israel Solano Mejia, director of the city’s civil defence agency, told Foro TV that the plane “made it off the ground, but fell nose-first” just a few hundred yards from the end of the runway.

“The nose took the hit. The most seriously injured is the pilot,”he said. However, he added, “the majority of passengers left (the plane) under their own power”.

Video footage showed a plume of black smoke rising into the air as emergency services raced to the scene.
Rescue workers carry a survivor away from the wreckage
Rescue workers carry a survivor away from the wreckage Credit: Red Cross Durango via AP

Local media said witnesses described seeing survivors walk away from the wreckage.

An internet site on the aviation industry says the Embraer 190 airliner that crashed Tuesday in northern Mexico was about a decade old.

The web site Planespotters.net says the Brazilian-made medium-range jet had seen service with two other airlines before joining the Aeromexico fleet.

Rivals claim victory amid Zimbabwean election delays

Zimbabwe’s government has warned candidates could be jailed for prematurely announcing election results after Nelson Chamisa’s opposition MDC Alliance claimed to have won the general election and suggested it would call supporters on to the streets if the official result favoured Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president.

Mr Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and preacher, said he was “winning resoundingly” as counting got under way and called on the country’s electoral commission to “perform their constitutional duty to officially announce the people’s election results”.

But Zimbabwe’s electoral authorities had announced the results from just seven parliamentary constituencies by Tuesday evening, and made no comment on the outcome of the presidential race.

Zimbabwean law forbids anyone other than the electoral commission from announcing results.

“As a government we have noted with concern the actions and conduct of some political party leaders… who are openly declaring that they will announce results irrespective of provisions of the law,” said Obert Mpofu, the home affairs minister, at a media briefing in Harare.

“I am sure no one wants to provoke the wrath of the law and risk being sent to jail.” Electoral officials and the country’s main observer organisation reported an unprecedented 80 per cent turnout in Zimbabwe’s first presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections since Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in November. Zimbabwean law says official results must be released within five days of the poll.

If no candidate in the presidential race wins more than 50 per cent of the vote there will be a run-off on Sept 8.

Justice Priscilla Chigumba, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), said Tuesday evening that Zanu PF had won seven seats in the 210-member parliament and the MDC Alliance one.

She said the presidential result would not be released until returns from more than 10,000 polling station had been collated. But the delay drew allegations of fraud from the MDC, which insisted it already had proof from polling station observers that it had won the election and accused officials of delaying publication in order to falsify the vote.
Zimbabweans check the results posted outside a polling station in Bulawayo
Zimbabweans check the results posted outside a polling station in Bulawayo Credit: Jerome Delay/ AP

“We have been pushing ZEC to announce the results. The results are posted outside of polling stations. We have collected those results,” said Tendai Biti, a former MDC finance minister who ousted the Zanu PF incumbent in Harare East on Monday.

Asked whether the opposition would attempt to challenge the result with peaceful protests, he said: “Constitutionally it is the right of every Zimbabwean to come out on to the streets.”

The election commission said it had seen no evidence of cheating and that it was operating strictly within the law.

A senior Zanu PF member who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr Mnangagwa had clearly secured the presidency and that the ruling party would maintain a parliamentary majority.

But he conceded that Mr Chamisa appeared to have done “better than we had hoped” and that it was unclear whether Zanu PF would achieve its goal of a two-thirds majority, which would allow it to amend the constitution.
Emmerson Mnangagwa attends a rally in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 28, 2018
Emmerson Mnangagwa attends a rally in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 28, 2018 Credit: Barcroft Images

There were no disturbances reported in Harare last night. However, a large crowd of MDC supporters gathered outside the opposition headquarters to celebrate “victory” while riot police equipped with water cannons were seen patrolling in city centre.

Meanwhile, Mr Biti accused Gen Constantino Chiwenga, the vice president and mastermind of the coup that ousted Mr Mugabe, of ordering the assassination of Mr Chamisa and himself. George Charamba, the spokesman for Mr Mnangagwa, called the allegation “bizarre.”

The vote has been seen as a key test of Mr Mnangagwa’s willingness to break with the violence and corruption of Mr Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

Foreign diplomats have told the Zimbabwean government that it may be readmitted to the Commonwealth and could see relief from US sanctions that currently prevent IMF loans if the election passes off peacefully and without cheating.

However, whoever wins the vote will inherit a crisis-ridden economy with an unemployment rate of up to 90 per cent and a critical shortage of hard currency.