Some of us may carry bitterness into the year 2018 due pettiness. You will complain that person hurt you by spreading false rumours about you and shot invincible arrows into your heart by disappointing you, cheating on you or hurting your feelings. What if the person had spread live bullets at you with gun shots and you survived, will you forgive or try revenge? The first attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II took place on Wednesday, 13 May 1981, in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City. The Pope was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca while he was entering the square. The Pope was struck four times, and suffered severe blood loss. Ağca was apprehended immediately, and later sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court. Following the shooting, Pope John Paul II asked people to “PRAY FOR MY BROTHER [AĞCA] … WHOM I HAVE SINCERELY FORGIVEN.” In 1983, he and Ağca met and spoke privately at Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, where Ağca was being held. The Pope was also in touch with Ağca’s family over the years, meeting his mother in 1987 and his brother, Muezzin Agca, a decade later. Ağca developed a friendship with the pontiff. In early February 2005, during the Pope’s illness, Ağca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well. He was pardoned by Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the Pope’s request and was deported to Turkey in June 2000. Lewis B. Smedes says… “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”.
I was contemplating Christmas and of course the Christmas story came to mind. The verse “there was no room for them in the Inn” (Luke 2:7) particularly struck me. This was the creator of the universe (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2) and there was no place found for Him but in a barn. Our […]
Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops have taken place in cities across the occupied West Bank as anger over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital spilled on to the streets.
The most violent confrontations occurred in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, where Israeli security forces fired teargas and plastic-coated rounds as hundreds of protesters threw stones and set alight barricades.
In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israeland threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire, with one reported to be in a critical condition.
A fresh round of violent protests are expected on Friday at mass demonstrations called to follow Friday prayers.
The confrontations took place as a meeting of the UN security council was called for Friday to discuss Trump’s decision, condemnation of which continues to mount across the Middle East and internationally.
Eight countries on the 15-member council requested the meeting, including the UK, Italy and France, amid claims from Palestine and Turkey that recognition by the US president is in breach of both international law and UN resolutions.
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc had a united position that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state. France said it rejected the “unilateral” US decision while the UK prime minister, Theresa May, and the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, both described Trump’s announcement as “unhelpful”.
The Russian foreign ministry said US recognition risked “dangerous and uncontrollable consequences”.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hailed US recognition of Jerusalem as “historic” and claimed other countries were in contact about following Trump’s lead, but was alone among regional leaders in praising the move.
Saudi Arabia’s royal court called it “unjustified and irresponsible” in a rare rebuke of the US, and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Trump had thrown the Middle East into a “ring of fire”.
Thursday’s confrontations on the West Bank took place during a widely observed general strike that shuttered Palestinian shops and closed schools. The presence of Palestinian police in plain clothes and armed security forces in uniform nearby, however, suggested a degree of control by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
The scale of the protests and level of violence, however, noticeably fell short of similar clashes at the height of the second intifada.
At one large confrontation in Ramallah, a group of three teenage girls, their faces masked with headscarves, told reporters that “Trump could go to hell.”
In Jerusalem’s Old City, where most Palestinian shops were shut, Salah Zuhikeh, 55, told AFP: “By this decision, America became a very small country, like any small country in the world, like Micronesia. America was a great country for us and everyone.”
The US president defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directing the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering,” he said in a short speech at the White House on Wednesday. “My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
It later emerged, in a memo leaked to Reuters news agency, that the US had privately asked Israel to temper its response to the announcemen
The state department document, dated 6 December, stated in talking points for diplomats at the US embassy in Tel Aviv to convey to Israeli officials: “While I recognise that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response.”
It continued: “We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on US facilities and personnel overseas.”
A second state department memo seen by Reuters asked European officials to argue that Trump’s decision did not prejudge the “final status” issue of Jerusalem’s sovereignty, which needed to be resolved in any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
“You are in a key position to influence international reaction to this announcement and we are asking you to amplify the reality that Jerusalem is still a final status issue between Israelis and Palestinians and that the parties must resolve the dimensions of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem during their negotiations,” it said.
“You know that this is a unique administration. It makes bold moves. But it is bold moves that are going to be needed if peace efforts are finally going to be successful.”
Details of the memos emerged as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was due to travel to Jordan on Thursday for talks with King Abdullah II, who has come out strongly against the move.
The United Arab Emirates and Iraq also condemned the decision. In Iraq, a prominent militia backed by Iran, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, said Trump’s decision could be a “legitimate reason” to attack US forces in the country.
Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital dating to antiquity, and its status is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Its eastern side was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of a future independent state.
Maryam’s mom, Maimuna Aliyu now a co-accused in amended charge
A FCT High Court in Jabi has refused the oral application for bail made on behalf of Maryam Sanda and ordered her returned to prisons pending her re-arraignment next Thursday.
Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord: the list probably sounds familiar. You likely memorized it at your Confirmation. But these gifts are more than abstract virtues that you hope will materialize in your life. They are practical tools that God has given you to help you live a Spirit-filled, victorious life. He has placed them in your spiritual tool belt, hoping that you will take them out and learn how to use them.
One thing you’ll discover is that as you take out a tool or try to exercise a spiritual gift, God will come alongside and help you. He will give you the strength to turn from temptation. He will bring to your mind a “word of wisdom” to use when a friend or loved one is anxious and doesn’t know what to do next. He will give you the courage to say no to temptation.
Far from being abstractions, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to be very practical. Try dusting them off and experimenting with different ways you can use them in your everyday life.
Here’s one way: let’s say your child is going through a rebellious or anxious phase in life, and it’s making you feel like tearing your hair out. Take out the tool of understanding. Pray about what life is like for that child right now. Try to anticipate a situation that may be difficult for the two of you and decide ahead of time how to approach it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find the right balance between correction and encouragement. At the end of the day, look back at that situation, and see how God helped you use this gift. Perhaps you surprised your child by connecting in a new way. Perhaps you need to ask your child’s forgiveness for something you said or failed to do. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to build on or work on tomorrow.
The more you practice, the more you’ll find the giver of these good gifts working right with you.
“Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the gifts you have given me. Help me learn how to put them to better use in building your kingdom.”
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Miss Regina Favour Splendour Yakubu was born on the 16th of October, in the year of our Lord 2017 at about 8:00pm at Ira-Ojo Lagos. May God bless her and make her grow in good health of body and mind to be a great vessel for the benefit of her immediate family, community, the Church, the entire humanity and His kingdom. Amen.
Meaning and History of the Name Regina
Saint Regina (Regnia, French: Sainte Reine) (3rd century) was a virgin martyr and saint of the Catholic Church. Regina was born in Autun, France, to a pagan named Clement. Her mother died at her birth and her father repudiated her. She then went to live with a Christian nurse who baptized her. Regina helped out by tending the sheep. She communed with God in prayer and meditated on the lives of the saints. She was betrothed to the proconsul Olybrius, but refused to renounce her faith to marry him, for which she was tortured and was beheaded at Alesia in the diocese of Autun, called Alise-Sainte-Reine after her.
Honored in many Martyrologies, Regina’s feast is celebrated on 7 September or in the Archdiocese of Paderborn on 20 June. In the past, a procession was held in her honor in the town of Dijon. However, her relics were transferred toFlavigny Abbey in 827. The history of the translation of Regina was the subject of a 9th-century account.
There are many places in France named Sainte-Reine after her.
Means “queen” in Latin (or Italian). It was in use as a Christian name from early times, and was borne by a 2nd-century saint. In England it was used during the Middle Ages in honour of the Virgin Mary, and it was later revived in the 19th century. A city in Canada bears this name, in honour of Queen Victoria.
On Sunday, October 29, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna fielded questions on his monthly media chat.
The governor spoke on diverse issues, from early budget preparation, to unqualified teachers and the planned $350 million loan.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Q: Your government has set a pattern for presenting budgets early and getting the budget signed before the year ends. This is new in the history of the state. How do you do it?
El-Rufai: Thank you for this question. It is important to impose a sense of order in the budgeting process. That enables the government to make proper choices in spending decisions, and to have a proper window for implementing our pro-people programmes. So, we decided that our budget year must run from January to December, just like the Gregorian calendar.
By God’s grace, we have been able to prepare, present and sign each of our budgets before the new year begins. This is made possible by several factors. One is the hard work of the members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly who have been very diligent in examining, discussing and passing the budget. When they were considering the 2017 Budget in 2016, they even slashed it by N1 billion. Another factor that helps is the regular budget retreats that our state executive council holds every quarter. That way we know how the budget is performing and we are able to make adjustments. Then our Planning and Budget Commission issues the call circular early and our MDAs respond promptly. It is all team work.
Q: Why is the 2018 budget described as the Budget of Consolidation?
El-Rufai: No state government has published as many tenders for capital projects like Kaduna State. That is because we are committed to open, competitive bidding. We have started so many projects in sectors like Education, Health, Roads, Water Resources, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development. We have not had the resources to push some of them as strongly as we would wish. But we have had the courage and the vision to start them.
Therefore, we have decided that priority will be given to completing these multiple projects, to consolidate on the practical things we are doing to make change real for our people. There are schools renovated, hospitals being rehabilitated, built and equipped, roads being constructed, mining communities being given infrastructure, water works being rehabilitated or retrofitted.
Q: In your 2018 budget speech, you said your administration will be prioritizing the completion of projects. What are these projects?
El-Rufai: As I said in response to your previous question, we have to complete the equipping of 255 Primary Health Centres and 23 secondary health facilities. Across the state, we are renovating our secondary schools. Some, like Queen Amina and Government College, Kaduna, have been completed. Many more and ongoing across the state. For instance, as at mid-2017, there were 443km of township roads and 16 intercity roads with a distance of 414.8km at various stages of completion. In addition, 17 rural feeder roads with distance of 172 km are being constructed. There are many schools being rebuilt, hospitals being upgraded and equipped, water works being refitted, rehabilitation centres being fixed. We are very proud to have initiated these projects in the interest of our people. And we have been clearheaded enough to take on inherited projects that we consider feasible and viable!
Q: KADRA seems to have replaced KAPWA. What is KADRA’s job?
El-Rufai: KADRA is the Kaduna State Roads Agency. As their name implies, KADRA has responsibility for our roads. We are confident that it will do well. The agency has an energetic leader, and we have high expectations that KADRA will help to deliver and maintain decent roads across the state. As you can see, they have started filling potholes and grading roads. They would and must do a lot in this dry season.
Q: When will payment for the previous drainage works start? Will there be fresh drainage works?
El-Rufai: As I said at the budget town hall meetings, payments will be made on certified drainage works. And KADRA will initiate new drainage works when and where necessary.
Q: The World Bank loan issue has been generating so much controversy. But Senator Kabir Gaya has now assured that the Senate will approve it. Is the matter now settled?
El-Rufai: Thank you for this question. On 20 June 2017, the World Bank announced that it has decided to provide a budget support facility of $350m to Kaduna State. The Bank did not just wake up to this. Let me tell you how it started. During the general election campaign in 2014 and early 2015, my colleagues and I campaigned about the poor state of our schools. We said many schools did not have roofs, doors, windows, water and toilets, and we promised to fix it.
Once we won the elections, the things we had complained about became our responsibility to correct. But as prepared as we were with our Transition Committee report, we still got a few shocks when we took office. In our first week, we took briefings from all MDAs in the state. That is when the then chairman of SUBEB told us that at least 50% of our school children sit on floors because there was no school furniture.
We declared a state of emergency in education and started to fix schools and buy furniture. After fixing almost 10% of our over 4200 primary schools, we realised we would need a lot of money to fix everything and to actually build new schools that can have enough classrooms, staff rooms and other facilities. So, we compiled the pictures of our schools into an album, and I took it to Abuja and showed it to the Minister of Finance to explain the level of investment we would require. Then I shared the photos with our development partners, including the World Bank. That is how the conversation that led to the loan started.
The World Bank has scrutinised Kaduna State and they are convinced we meet their standards. We have healthy Fitch ratings B” Credit Rating with Stable Outlook. (In November 2016, Fitch Ratings assigned Kaduna State a long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of “B” and a National long-term rating of A+ (nga) with stable outlooks).
The World Bank checked our laws, our accounts and our performance, they are convinced we merit their support.
Our commissioners have appeared before the relevant committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and presented detailed explanations for the rationale and the purposes of the loan. Our delegates were commended for the quality of their presentations. Nobody in those committees of the National Assembly can honestly claim not to be aware of the justification and the purpose of the loan.
So, we are grateful for the assurance Senator Kabiru Gaya gave us that the Senate will approve the federal government’s borrowing plan so that we can begin to access this very low-interest loan. The World Bank facility is critical to achieving our governance objectives in the short to medium term.
Q: Your government has issued notices to recruit 25,000 teachers to replace the 22,000 teachers that failed the competency test. How is the administration going to avoid the mistake of the past in employing new teachers?
El-Rufai: Unqualified teachers entered the system because the recruitment of teachers was politicised. The local government council chairmen and other senior politicians and bureaucrats saw teaching as a dumping ground for their thugs, supporters and other unqualified persons.
Teachers were employed at local government level without adherence to standards. In many instances, no examinations or interviews were conducted to assess the quality of recruits. Political patronage, nepotism and corruption became the yardstick, thus giving unqualified persons a way in. Teaching jobs were given as patronage to those connected to politicians and bureaucrats.
The Kaduna State Executive Council has approved the recruitment of 25,000 primary school teachers. Recruitment notices have already been advertised by the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). This time around, there would be standardised tests for the recruits and a further training programme before the new teachers take over the classrooms. No unqualified person will scale through. And we will vet certificates very closely and very often. The future of our children is so important that we will not take chances. We will be vigilant in ensuring that only good people teach in our public schools.
Q: Commentators across the country have praised your decision to sack and replace the 22,000 teachers that did not meet the grade. But some people in Kaduna said that you promised sometime in the past that government will not sack anyone but will train those that need training and place the ones that those not need training in other places? What can you say on this?
El-Rufai: Many people don’t realise that the June 2017 competency test was administered to measure the impact of several training and retraining efforts by ESSPIN and the Teacher Development Programme. Teacher training is about improving the capacity of a teacher to impart knowledge. What the competency test showed is that many of the teachers do not have the knowledge, so how can they impart what they do not have? Are they saying we should send primary school teachers back to Primary Four? If you have knowledge but are deficient in teaching skills, we can train you to acquire the skills of a teacher. But when there is no knowledge, what is there to teach?
In 2012, the previous government gave all primary school teachers a five-year grace to acquire NCE. That expired this year, but many teachers still don’t have it.
Q: The Nigerian Union of Teachers has threatened to strike over the matter of the failing teachers. How will your government respond?
El-Rufai: Everybody knows that we will not be deterred in doing what is right for the future of our children. This is not about politics, or people making a public show of opposing what they know to be right. Shouldn’t everybody be embarrassed by the test results. Where is the sense of shame? I hear some people say the pass mark for teachers in a Primary Four exam should be 60%; the same people say the state government has no right to test the competence of its employees. One evidence of the crisis in our society is that a union whose members failed a Primary 4 examination thinks it can create problems over the issue rather than be a part of the solution.
We are not people that bow to threats. We will respond appropriately. What will be point of the threatened strike? To force us to violate our oath of office and knowingly retain as teachers those that are not qualified? That will not happen!
We will recruit as many qualified teachers as we can find. We will not keep unqualified teachers on our payroll.
Q: There is a perception that the Kaduna State House of Assembly is dragging its feet on passing the laws to make the local government election possible. The local government election was even postponed after SIECOM had announced a date. Are the honourable members scared of elections?
El-Rufai: We in the Executive branch have fully supported SIECOM with the resources it needs to organise local government elections using the electronic voting machines. That is why SIECOM was able to announce the dates for the elections. SIECOM then postponed the elections after the House of Assembly said the enabling laws had not been passed. We urge our legislators to pass these laws so that we can have local government elections promptly. We here are ready for elections.
Q: When you came in to office, you reduced ministries from 19 to 13 and you now have 14. You also reduced commissioners from 24 to 15. We learnt that you have extended this cost-cutting to local governments. What is the position?
El-Rufai: This government is committed to reducing waste, eliminating fraud and cutting costs wherever we can. We believe that most of the resources of government must be devoted to serving the needs of ordinary people, building schools, hospitals, roads and delivering other public goods.
You cannot do this except you reduce the cost of running government. We started from the Executive branch. We inherited 19 ministries, but now we have only 14. The previous government had 24 commissioners, but we have only 15. We have fewer special advisers and special assistants than the government before us.
Next, we verified state civil servants. We gave each ministry what its maximum establishment can be and signed an Executive Order to effect this. Surplus staff above the establishment of each Ministry have been posted to the office of the Head of Service pending subsequent steps in our public service reform and renewal programme.
We have now moved to the local government level. Remember that we reduced districts from 390 to 77, so that our local government councils will have fewer district heads and staff to pay and have more money for development.
Part of the reason why many local governments are broke is that they are overstaffed. The admin department of Zaria local government has 300 staff. For what? This overstaffing is why many of the local government councils cannot pay salaries without the support of the state government.
So, we have prescribed personnel figures for all the 23 local government councils in Kaduna state. Direct council staff will now be less than 7000 in total. This excludes teachers under SUBEB and primary health centre staff who have been moved to the State Primary Health Care Development Agency.
I have signed an Executive Order directing the Administrators of the 23 local government councils to comply with the prescribed personnel levels.
Q: The Kaduna State APC Caucus and Executive Committee met this week and backed all your decisions regarding teachers and the World Bank loan. How is the party maintaining its unity?
El-Rufai: The APC in Kaduna State is united around its manifesto. Its leadership does not view power as an excuse for a bazaar focused on sharing offices among politicians. The reason for being in politics is to influence policies and programmes, not to share appointments. 1.1 million persons voted for the APC in the governorship election. We must serve this people, and that is what we are doing.
Some people joined the APC late in 2014 and in 2015 because they knew we would win, and they thought that after winning it will be business as usual. They are unhappy and disappointed that it is not business as usual.
The APC in Kaduna State will stay together to deliver concrete change for our people.
Q: KADFAMA, KADGIS, KASUPDA, Water Corporation, SUBEB, Ministry of Works, Pension Bureau and KSMC are all recruiting new staff. Where are you getting the resources for fresh recruitments?
El-Rufai: These agencies need additional personnel to serve our people better. We must find the resources by reducing waste, raising more IGR and encouraging investments.
We are proud of our record as a job-creating government. We will create as many direct jobs as are necessary for our MDAs to work well, inject youth and be more efficient in achieving results. But all the direct jobs will be smaller than what the private sector can create.
That is why we are pursuing multiple initiatives to attract private sector investments. Apart from the successes already recorded in agriculture through Olam, Sunseed, Vicampro and others, we are bringing Mahindra to assemble tractors. Peugeot France is also coming to build a brand new factory in Kaduna to assemble cars. They have already cleared the site in Chikun Local Government Area. We are guided by the need to find jobs, jobs and more jobs for our teaming youth.
Q: How is the state doing with IGR this year? In the budget speech, you mentioned the N100 annual development levy payable by every adult. How would this be collected?
El-Rufai: In 2016, Kaduna State raised a record N23 billion as IGR. We hope to do better in 2017. I urge our people to pay their Land Use Charge and Ground Rent.
The law of this state requires every adult to pay an annual N100 development levy. This is a small sum that helps to grow a sense of civic responsibility. We believe that every adult resident can afford to pay N100 every year and insist on accountability.