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Letter from Africa: The Nigerian who composed hymns from a leper colony

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In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes about the Nigerian man who composed some 200 hymns, despite having leprosy.
Nigeria’s most famous victim of leprosy was fatally injured in a motor accident 40 years ago, and a ceremony is being held to mark the anniversary of the music composer’s death.
Born in 1905, Ikoli Harcourt Whyte was diagnosed with leprosy as a teenager, at a time when there was no effective cure for the dreaded disease which usually leads to deformity of the hands and feet.
People suffering from leprosy were often isolated or driven away from their communities. Whyte channelled his experience of suffering and stigmatisation into music, and went on to compose more than 200 inspirational hymns.
“He wrote with the stubs of his thumb and index finger,” said 77-year-old Achinivu Kanu Achinivu, a professor of music who was a friend and protégé of Whyte.
“He wrote very slowly. It took him a whole day or more to write one page of music.”
Presentational grey line
Who was Ikoli Harcourt Whyte?
Born in Abonnema, Rivers State of Nigeria in 1905
Diagnosed with leprosy in 1919
Inmate at the Uzuakoli Leprosy Colony in south-eastern Nigeria from 1932, despite being cured in 1945
Composed over 200 hymns, mostly in the Igbo language
Set up a choir made up of people living with leprosy, who toured Nigeria
His choir sang for British dignitaries who visited colonial Nigeria
Included Ikoli (a traditional name) in his birth name, so as to not be mistaken for a foreigner
Died in a motor accident in 1977.
Whyte’s talent for music was developed at the Uzuakoli Leprosy Centre in what is now Abia State in south-eastern Nigeria, where he spent the last 45 years of his life.
Before then, he had been receiving treatment at a hospital in Port Harcourt, capital city of his home state of Rivers in the Niger Delta, which had a thriving leprosy ward.
When residents of Port Harcourt, known as the Garden City, agitated for the removal of the lepers in their midst, Whyte led the other patients to resist attempts by local authorities to evacuate them forcefully, insisting that they be provided with an alternative location instead.
Cured, but still in the colony
His persistent activism partly led to the intervention of Methodist missionaries, who then established the Uzuakoli Leprosy Centre in 1932, with Whyte and his fellow patients as some of the first set of inmates.
“The work at Uzuakoli was hugely significant,” said John Manton, Irish historian and anthropologist of medicine.
“It was the place where the dosage of dapsone for treating of leprosy was standardised in the early 1950s, and the first clinical trials of clofazimine took place there in the early 1960s – these are two of the drugs that are used as part of multi-drug therapy for leprosy today.”
It was also in Uzuakoli that Whyte met British missionary and medical doctor, Thomas Frank Davey, a music lover and a pianist – an association that became the catalyst for his music career.
“Dr Davey taught him everything he knew about music, that he acquired by studying the Methodist hymn book,” said Mr Achinivu.
During trips to surrounding and remote villages to treat leprosy patients, Dr Davey recorded the traditional music of the people.
He then encouraged Whyte to develop his own personal style by listening to and composing songs that sounded more like those tunes, rather than the ones in the Methodist hymn book.
Even after Whyte was eventually declared cured of leprosy in 1949, he chose to remain at the Uzuakoli centre, where he formed a choir made up of other patients.
His first wife, who also had leprosy, had abandoned him there a few years earlier after she was cured, leaving him with their two children.
Aura of hope
Soon, books of Whyte’s hymns were being sold in different churches across the region, and choirs from around Nigeria were visiting the leprosy centre to listen to and learn from him.
Tales abound of the reach and impact of his music, most of which was written in his local Igbo language and focused on hope in spite of trials and tribulations.
“In the evenings, people from all walks of life came and he would teach them the music which God had shown him in dreams,” said Enyeama Okoroafor. Now in his 70s, Mr Okoroafor is currently the oldest resident at the Uzuakoli centre, having been diagnosed with leprosy as a child and abandoned by his family.
“At the time, because of his fame, we regarded him as the most senior person here and gave him that honour and respect. Because of what he was doing, he moved with many important men.”
The decision to change the name of the chapel at the leprosy centre from Colony Chapel to Chapel of Hope was inspired by the aura that pervaded the hall whenever Whyte and the choir rendered his music.
“He didn’t want instruments with his music so that they wouldn’t overshadow the message,” said 85-year-old Godwin Harcourt, Whyte’s oldest child.
“From his songs, you could get solace, advice, things that would awaken your hope in God.”
Godwin grew up in the leper colony with his father, although living in separate quarters, and became a school teacher.
“Every school I was sent to, I made sure I formed a choir there so I could teach his songs,” he said.
Apart from church services, Whyte’s choir sang for various dignitaries from Britain who visited colonial Nigeria.
Some say that the Queen of England also became aware of his music, and once requested his hymns to be played by the BBC on Christmas Day.
And, during the Nigerian civil war when leaders of the Igbo ethnic group attempted to secede and form a different country called Biafra, Whyte’s songs were popular as a source of courage and hope.
Singing with lepers
“Each time we gathered, the chances were that we would end up with some recording of his,” said Ejike Ago, 73, who fought in the Biafran army.
“It is not only the Biafran soldiers alone. The Christians, each time we gathered had his recordings playing.”
First republic of Biafra was declared by Nigerian military officer Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 1967
He led his mainly ethnic Igbo forces into a deadly three-year civil war that ended in 1970
More than one million people lost their lives, mostly because of hunger
Decades after Biafra uprising was quelled by the military, secessionist groups have attracted the support of many young people
They feel Nigeria’s central government is not investing in the region
But the government says their complaints are not particular to the south-east
The new campaign for Biafra
Why I stopped mispronouncing my Igbo name
How I was banned from speaking Igbo
“He was always going on tour with his choir,” said Whyte’s grandson, Somiari Harcourt, a 50-year-old medical doctor who spent some of his childhood years living with the composer.
“I did not appreciate his music until I became older, then the songs began to make sense. I became amazed that someone could write so much with limited education.”
“I was breaking bounds to go to the leprosy colony to listen to his music, to sing with his choir,” said Mr Achinivu.
“My family were afraid that I would catch leprosy but I still went. I had no fear. The force of music was so strong.”
Whyte was also invited to teach his music in schools. It was while teaching at the nearby Methodist Boys’ High School in Uzuakoli that his and Mr Achinivu’s paths first crossed in the early 1950s.
“The secondary school invited him to teach his songs to the school choir and I was a member, and he discovered that I was talented in music,” Mr Achinivu said. “Whenever he didn’t come, he handed over to me and that was my beginning to conduct choirs.”
Mr Achinivu’s family were horrified when he informed them that he had changed his mind about studying medicine, deciding to study music instead. They refused.
And then, Whyte paid a visit to his family home.
It was rare for the musician to leave the leper colony and pay personal visits, so people ran out to catch a glimpse of him when he arrived, Mr Achinivu recalls.
Whyte declined the eager efforts of Mr Achinivu’s mother to play hostess. He had come for a single purpose.
“He told them: ‘Allow my son, Achinivu, to study the music that he wants to study. Who knows? He may be the one to tell the world about me and my music.'”
That heartfelt statement not only succeeded in persuading Mr Achinivu’s family, it also proved prophetic.
Since 2012, he has occupied the Harcourt Whyte chair in choral music at the University of Port Harcourt.
‘We can’t present lepers to the world’
Four years after Whyte’s death, renowned Nigerian playwright, Ola Rotimi, was commissioned to produce a play for Nigeria’s 21st Independence Day anniversary on 1 October, 1981.
He chose to base it on the life of Whyte and approached Mr Achinivu, who offered him his thesis for all the information he might need.
Mr Rotimi then asked Mr Achinivu to provide the music for the production, titled Hopes of the Living Dead.
The professor assembled a choir that worked hard to learn dozens of Whyte’s songs.
But, when they travelled from south-east Nigeria to the then capital city of Lagos to attend rehearsals a few weeks ahead of the big day, a director at the Nigerian ministry of culture was not impressed with Mr Rotimi’s plans.
“He said that we couldn’t be presenting lepers to the world on Nigeria’s 21st independence anniversary,” Mr Achinivu said.
And the national performance was cancelled.
Hopes of the Living Dead was eventually staged in some school theatres.
“Ikoli Harcourt Whyte had lessons to teach Nigeria,” Mr Achinivu said. “Simplicity, humility, service, courage.”
The management of the Uzuakoli Leprosy Centre hopes that the 40th anniversary of Whyte’s death – taking place on 25 and 26 November at the Chapel of Hope where his grave lies – will revive interest in his life and work and attract more support for their effort to educate the public on leprosy.
The disease is now completely curable, detecting symptoms early prevents deformity, and there is no longer any need to stigmatise or isolate sufferers.
“The man and the centre seem to have been forgotten by people,” said Joshua Okpara, a Methodist priest and project director of the centre.
“It is a story that needs to rise again. We saw the need to revive people’s minds back to his contributions. It is necessary for people to start looking towards his impact and also to help.”

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Saturday Suicide Attack: 32 Kill, 84 Injured 84 in Damboa, Borno

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No fewer than 32 persons were killed, while 84 others were injured when six suicide bombers detonated Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs), in Damboa local government area in Borno state on Saturday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that some locals alleged that the deaths arose from a misfiring by the Nigerian Army’s artillery but the army denied the claim.

Malam Buba Shettima, a witness said that two separate bomb blasts occurred in Shuwari and Abbachari, at about 8:30 p.m.

“The whole of Damboa was shaken by the unfortunate incident. We all scampered for safety as the blasts were coming from different directions. There were bodies everywhere.

“We suspected that the many deaths recorded were a result of the military artillery,” he said.

Mohammed Hassan, another local from the area who corroborated the claim, said: “At about 8:30 pm of on Saturday night, an attack suspected to be from an artillery killed 31 innocent people in Damboa Shehuri and Abachari. The attacks came from two separate directions. My house was among some of the houses destroyed,” he said.

Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, denied the claim, saying the killings were caused by suicide attacks and not military artillery.

“There was nothing like an attack from the military artillery. You can see the pictures of six female bombers who detonated their explosives and as a result, 20 persons were killed while others were injured,” he said.

Rogers urged people to disregard the claim that people were killed by the military and not by suicide bombers.

Modu-Zannah Maina, The District Head of Damboa, who described the incident as “shocking and disturbing” said the attack was perpetrated by female suicide bombers.

Maina lamented that a lot of people that were affected were mostly children adding that many victims were injured.

“We are here in this hospital to check our people affected by Saturday’s bomb blasts. So far, the victims have been responding to treatment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Demian Chukwu, the Borno Commissioner of Police, said “On Saturday, at about 2045hrs, an explosion occurred at Abachari area, in the outskirt of Damboa L.G.A. of Borno State.

“At the sound of the explosion, personnel of the Nigeria Police and Members of the civilian JTF mobilised to the scene and discovered twenty dead bodies and 48 injured persons in a suspected terrorist attack.

“The wounded and the dead were evacuated to a hospital while the scene was sanitised by a deployment of police EOD unit.

“Investigation is ongoing to unravel the nature of the attack,” he said.

Hajiya Yabawa Kolo, the Chairperson of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), who also confirmed the incident, said the agency had deployed its personnel to evacuate wounded persons to the hospital for quick medical attention.

“Our team has been deployed to render life-saving support to the victims of the blast. As you can see, they have been tirelessly working with ICRC since morning to evacuate the injured from the airport to the hospital.

“We are all saddened by the unfortunate incident that occurred in Damboa,” said Kolo.
(Source: NAN)

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Nigeria to shut borders over rice smuggling

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The Nigerian Government says it will shut the land border between it and a neigbouring country in a few days time to avoid smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, made the disclosure in Abuja on Monday while speaking with youths in a leadership clinic under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI).
Ogbeh who did not mention the particular country and border, said that shutting the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.
The minister said that a neighbouring country was bent on destroying the economy of the country and discouraging local production of rice, hence the need to shut down the border.
“Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbor of ours is importing more rice than China is importing. “They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy. “I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy.
“You will start seeing all sorts of negative things on the internet. “Let me tell you why we need to shut the border, I grow rice, I was the first Nigerian to mill rice free of stones, if you plant rice in certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials gets into the rice.
“There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, blackish water.
“If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us.
“Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated, welcome to poison,’’ Ogbeh said.
He said that the Federal Government in two years reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million.
The minister said that states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa were doing well in rice production.
“We just have to handwork you to prosperity otherwise, this country will not grow. My wish for you is to have a better time that we had,’’ Ogbeh said.
The President of GOTNI, Dr Linus Okorie, commended the minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youth.
Okorie noted that the leadership clinic was organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principle for life success.
According to him, GOTNI is committed to changing the narratives of poor leadership in Nigeria by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders.
“A lot of young people are asking questions, seeking answers to their questions, wish that they have an experienced person who will hold them by the hands and show them the way to achieve success.
“There are a few people that are readily available to do this; a lot of them are making decisions everyday on the basis of their limited exposure.
“If Nigeria must make progress, if we must consciously build the next generation of leaders then, we must expose these young people to experienced leaders that have gone ahead for a conscious transfer of knowledge and experiences,’’ he said.
Some of the youths who spoke at the meeting called for continuous mentorship from leaders, access to finance and low interest rates to assist them in businesses.
GOTNI is a non-profit youth leadership capital development organisation with a passion to nurture various categories of young people under 40 years of age, into transformational leaders.

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Air Namibia set to launch Windhoek-Lagos-Accra route

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Air Namibia is gearing up to launch the Windhoek-Lagos-Accra route, commencing on 29 June 2018.
This new route will provide a direct connection between Namibia and West African countries. This new service operates four times a week (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday from Windhoek) providing a smooth and convenient connections inbound and outbound to the airline’s regional flights, connecting West Africa via Windhoek to and from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda, Harare, Lusaka, Vic Falls, Gaborone Walvis Bay, Durban and beyond.
The routing will be Windhoek-Lagos-Accra, and the return will be Accra- Lagos-Windhoek. The operation will further transport passengers and cargo on the Lagos-Accra-Lagos leg, utilizing the fifth freedom traffic rights granted by the Ghanaian and Nigerian Governments, as contained in the existing Bilateral Air Service Agreements.
Air Namibia anticipates closing a gap in the market by competitively connecting Southern Africa to West Africa within less than 6 hours.
“This much needed service gives our passengers a better alternative travel option, reducing travel times between Namibia and West Africa by more than 60%. We are happy to introduce our Award Winning Service in this market and we are already receiving positive feedback on the launch of this new route,” said Mandi Samson, AirNamibia’s Acting Managing Director. She continued: “The operation fits within our existing capacity in terms of aircraft and crew, improving the utilization rates of these resources while increasing revenue generating opportunities. Especially as it means we are entering Africa’s largest regional air travel market.”
Air Namibia recently appointed APG Network as sales representatives in both Nigeria and Ghana to provide full sales and marketing services, as well as call centre and customer care services on behalf of Air Namibia in the two countries.
Juanita Klassen, Air Namibia’s Manager for GSA and Offline Markets at the time said: “We are happy for having established this relationship with the APG Network, as we can use their extensive experience in the field of aviation as a key global player in the airline distribution environment, offering outsourced services such as passenger sales and marketing, reservations, Air Namibia can benefit and is positioned to make its West Africa operations a success.”
The move by Air Namibia to breathe new life into these two new routes is welcomed by both the Ghanaian and Nigeria communities. Former High Commissioner of Ghana to Namibia and Botswana, Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah had the following to say: “Namibia is a great
Air Namibia will service this new route with the Airbus A319, offering a seat configuration of 16 Business Class and 96 Economy Class seats and offer two tons of cargo space.
Air Namibia brings to West Africa, its Award Winning Service, which is recognized by many and having won the “Feather Awards” as the best Regional Airline of Southern Africa more than 10 times over the past 15 years. The airline also scooped second place as Africa’s best regional airline in 2016 and 2017 by Skytrax Airline Awards.
The airline operates a fleet carefully selected to meet performance dependability and comfort. All its 10 aircraft (2 x Airbus A330-200, 4 x Airbus A319-100, 4 x Embraer ERJ 135) provide immense comfort offered by the generous legroom and modern interiors.

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Day of the African Child: Osodieme makes Case for Children with Special needs

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Wife of Governor of Anambra State and Founder of Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFE) has made case for greater care and attention to indigent children especially those with special needs.
Osodieme made the plea in her message on the occasion of the commemoration of International Day of the African Child on 16th June 2018.
A statement signed on her behalf by Chief Media Officer, Emeka Ozumba, Osodieme observed that the Day’s theme: “Leave no child behind in African Development,” reminds everyone that every child needs support, proper nurturing and education to grow through life.
Her words;
“Children are God’s precious gift of love to mankind. It behooves on us to nurture, shield, and educate every child to live to his/her full potential by ensuring that no child is left behind in the scheme of human development.“
Osodieme called for inclusiveness that will ensure that no child is left behind, stressing that in this era of pervasive hunger and privation there is the tendency to ignore the plight of others especially indigent children with special needs. She urged parents not to abdicate responsibility and the teachers, to use their talents to identify and harness the unique gift of every child no matter how challenging.
Drawing inspiration from the classic song, “Greatest Love of All” by American singer, Late Whitney Houston, Osodieme belted the chorus; “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…! She emphasized that adults owe it as a duty to protect the children whose laughter, according to the song, “remind us how we used to be,” stressing that “there is a child in every one of us.”
Furthermore, Osodieme expressed appreciation with the state government commitment to the protection and welfare of children which she noted is apparent in steadfast implementation of child-friendly programmes by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Women Affairs. Osodieme also assured that her NGO, CAFÉ will sustain collaboration with the Ministry especially in the area child welfare programmes by supporting maternal and child healthcare, immunization and social education for the development of sound mind and body that would lead to the realization of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of every Anambra child.

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Prediction: Croatia 3-1 Nigeria

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Croatia and Nigeria will look to gain maximum points from their encounter in Group D to set the tone for the rest of the World Cup campaign.
Croatia come into the World Cup on the back of a rather mediocre qualifying campaign, wherein they had to endure going through the second phase – the knockout phase of the qualifiers. While they did make quick work of Greece in order to secure their place among the 31 other teams in Russia, they would be hoping for much improved showings at the main event.

Nigeria, on the other hand, cruised through their qualification group in the African region. The Super Eagles had actually gone unbeaten in the entire campaign, but had to accept defeat in their last group stage match for fielding an ineligible player. Still, Nigeria look in good shape coming into a tricky Group D at the World Cup.

Nigeria are likely to miss the services of Leon Balogun in defence. And while the nation does have other options in Balogun’s position, losing a key player like Balogun for their first match could really have an impact on their defensive shape and chemistry at the back.
Croatia, on the other hand, will come into the match knowing well enough that a result is needed against Nigeria to boost their hopes of qualifying to the knockout phase. Their preparation matches might not have been ideal, but the quality they possess should be enough to fight off the threat posed by the Super Eagles.

 Tactics

Leon Balogun is not at a 100% and could have to sit this one out. In case he does, Troost-Ekong will likely be partnered by Kenneth Omeruo. Idowu and Elderson should take up the positions on either flank.
Wilfred Ndidi is reported to have recovered in time to start the game against Croatia. The energetic midfielder will partner John Obi Mikel at the base of the 4-2-3-1. The front four is also massively stacked for Nigeria.
Kelechi Iheanacho should start upfront for Nigeria. But, the three behind the Leicester City striker should keep rotating positions between themselves, making them an even bigger threat with their interchangeability.
To start things off, Alex Iwobi should command a more central role, with Victor Moses on his preferred position on the right. Ahmed Musa will be looking to tear things up with his pace on the left.
Nigeria’s wide attack presents a very diverse proposition. While Musa uses pace to get past opponents, Moses and Iwobi are tricky customers who often use their flair and even cute passes to leave defenders lying in their wake.
One of the biggest gambles will be to hand 19-year-old Francis Uzoho a start in goal, something the reports have been hinting towards.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Uzoho; Idowu, Omeruo, Troost-Ekong, Elderson; Mikel, Ndidi; Moses, Iwobi, Musa; Iheanacho.

Key Stats

1. This will be Croatia’s second-ever meeting with an African nation, with their previous encounter being a 2-0 win over Cameroon in 2014.
2. Croatia have lost their opening game at the World Cup on three successive occasions.
3. Nigeria have won just one of their last 12 games at the World Cup.
4. Nigeria have the youngest squad at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with an average age of 25 years and 336 days.
5. Nigeria come into their opening tie, having not recorded a win in their last four international matches.

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World Cup 2018: Day Three Schedule and How to Watch Croatia vs. Nigeria

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Day three of the World Cup is upon us and the day’s headlining match involves  Croatia—who of all the countries at the World Cup play a high press system —take on Nigeria in what could be a decisive match between the two sides expected to battle for second in Group D.


Group D favourites Argentina, though, look vulnerable, and before we get to Croatia we’ll see if Iceland can frustrate Lionel Messi in what could be his final World Cup appearance.
Group C has two games to watch on Saturday, too, with France taking on Australia to kick things off in a battle between one of the favourites and a side that had a worse AFC qualification run than Saudi Arabia—who were unceremoniously hammered on Thursday by a very average Russia. Peru against the country that should finish second in the group, Denmark, rounds out the day’s slate.

How to Watch Croatia vs. Nigeria:

ITV 1 (UK) | Fox Sports 1/Telemundo (USA) | Optus Sport (Australia) | CTV (Canada) | Sony ESPN (India) | Astro FIFA World Cup (Malaysia) | SuperSport 3 (Nigeria) | Singtel FIFA World Cup (Singapore) | SuperSport 3 (South Africa)

 

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Meghan Markle Describes Prince Harry As ‘The Best Husband Ever’

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Wearing a Givenchy oat-coloured cape dress for her first solo engagement with the Queen yesterday morning, Meghan Markle looked confident and poised as she held her own with Her Royal Highness.
During her visit to the North of England, the Duchess of Sussex greeted onlookers who took the time to share their well wishes for the newlyweds, and shared several jokes with the Queen.
The outing also gave Meghan the first opportunity to gush about her new husband.
Royal fan Sharon Briscoe reportedly asked her Meghan how she was enjoying her new life in the UK.
‘It is wonderful,’ Meghan told her, according to People. ‘I’m really enjoying it.’

Meghan Says Harry Is ‘The Best Husband Ever’

Briscoe reportedly told the Duchess to give her love to Harry and to look after him, to which the royal replied: ‘I will do. That means an awful lot to us. He’s the best husband ever.’

The Duchess and the Queen enjoyed several adorable moments during the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. At one point, the royals could be seen being ushered towards a waiting car after their arrival via Royal Train at Runcorn station.

Meghan Markle

As they approach the car doors, Prince Harry’s wife appeared to be confused about whether to step inside the car ahead of the Queen. After asking the advisers about royal protocol in the situation, she eventually turned to the Queen and said: ’What’s your preference?’. It’s thought that the monarch replied: ‘You go first.’
We can’t wait to hear what Prince Harry has to say about his new bride.

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Sultan declares Friday 2018 Eid-el-fitr day

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The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, has declared Friday, June 15, 2018, as the day to mark the Eid-el-Fitr, and the end of Ramadan fast.
The Sultan announced the sighting of the new moon of the month Shawwal in a broadcast in Sokoto on Thursday.
The Islamic month of Shawwal comes after the 29 or 30 days of the month of Ramadan when Muslims across the world observe a month-long fasting.
Abubakar said that the new moon was sighted in parts of Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Borno, Jigawa, Nassarawa, Plateau and Sokoto States among others.
He said:” In accordance with Islamic law, we have the honour and pleasure to announce that today, Thursday, the 29th day of Ramadan,1439 AH, which is equivalent to June 14, 2018, has marked the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the new month of Shawwal.
“Reliable reports of moon sighting were received from Muslim leaders and religious organisations across the country, which were duly verified and authenticated by us, states and the National Moon Sighting Committee.
“Consequent upon this, tomorrow, Friday, the 15th day of June 2018 becomes the first day of Shawwal,1439 AH and is therefore declared the Sallah day for 2018 Eid-el-Fitr.”
The Sultan urged the Muslim Ummah to sustain fervent prayers for the nation led by Muhammadu Buhari, other leaders, as well as for sustainable peace and unity in Nigeria and beyond.
The Sultan also urged Nigerians to continue to live in peace irrespective of religious, ethnic and cultural differences.

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Gov. Dickson Inaugurates Bayelsa Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

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Governor Seriake Dickson has approved the sum of five hundred million naira grant for Bayelsa state young interested entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

The Bayelsa state governor made the announcement at the official inauguration of the state young entrepreneurs network in government house, Yenagoa, he charged the youths to take their destiny into their hands and be active players in the nation’s economy.
Apart from investing in education, infrastructure and human capacity building, governor Dickson says he is also interested in changing the narrative of youth in Bayelsa state.
The Bayelsa state chief executive demonstrated this when he inaugurated the young entrepreneurs network with the sole aim of identifying and developing young interested entrepreneurs.
Members of the Bayelsa state young entrepreneurs are excited that with such a kind gesture from the governor, they are poised to achieve greater heights for themselves and the state.
Youths are perceived as the building blocks of every developing nation who could achieve much when given the necessary tools.

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FEC approves N185bn for 14 roads nationwide

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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in Abuja approved N185.2billion for the rehabilitation, repairs and reconstruction of 14 roads across the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said this when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the Council’s meeting held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa.
Adesina, who briefed the correspondents alongside the Ministers of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole and his Industry, Trade and Investment counterpart Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, said the road projects were located in Yobe, Adamawa, Benue, Kwara, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Enugu, Borno, Anambra and Sokoto states.
He listed the road projects to include Gwoza – Damboa – Goniri – Ngamdu Road in Yobe/Borno States at the cost of N34.608 billion; Mayo Belwa – Jada – Ganye – Torngo Road in Adamawa at the rate of N22.699billion and Ado – Ifaki – Otun – Kwara State border in Ekiti State at the rate of N6 billion.
He said that Makurdi bridge in Benue would be repaired at the cost of N4.617 billion; Ihugi – Korinya -Wuse -Ankor in Benue at N15.641 billion and Gbagi – Apa – Owode in Badagry Lagos State at N4.366 billion.
Others are the construction of Ijebu Igbo – Ita Egba Owonowen in Ogun and Oyo States which would cost N9.833 billion while N7.506billion would be spent on dualisation of Jattu – Fugar – Agenebode in Edo Phase II by Mothercat.
He said the Makurdi – Gboko – Wannune – Yander Section 1 in Benue would be reconstructed at the cost of N18.669 billion; Old – Enugu – Port Harcourt Road at Agbogugu – Abia border Spur would cost N13.933 billion.
Adesina said that N6.249billion would be spent on rehabilitation of Umulungbe – Umoka road; Amokwu – Ikedimkpe – Egede – Opeyi Awhum Road in Enugu State at N21.729 billion and rehabilitation of Nkwu Inyi – Akpugoeze in Anambra at N2.595 billion.
He revealed that N4.354billion would be expended on reconstruction of Sabon Birnin – Tsululu – Kuya – Maradi Junction road in Sokoto state.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Adewole, on h is part disclosed that the Council approved the Draft on Food Safety and Quality Bill as well as the Food Safety Institutional Reform Working Document.
According to him, it is expected that with the formal approval of the two documents the nation may witness reduction in the incident of food borne illnesses through many preventive control measures that is contained in the bill.
He said it would also help to support the achievements of sustainable effective food trade that would boost the nation’s economy as well as help to strengthen institutional capacity for food safety and quality already contained in the bill.
“The relevance of the bill could actually be appreciated when one considers some happenings in the past when food export from Nigeria was banned in Europe.
“We believe that what is required is for us to strengthen institutional framework that will enable various agencies of government to work together,’’ he added.
He said part of the institutional framework in the bill was to set up Food Safety Council to be chaired by the Vice-President, as well as an Inter-Ministerial Committee that would handle food management and food safety in the country.
The minister disclosed that the Council also approved a draft National Tobacco Control Regulation, which would be forwarded to the National Assembly for legislative approval.
He said that draft bill when approved by the National Assembly would enable his ministry to implement the regulation on National Tobacco Act.
“Under this administration we have recorded several successes with respect to tobacco anti-control. Precisely early last month Mr President approved increase in Tobacco taxes as well as alcohol.
“And then on the May 23, government approved the framework to control illegal trade in tobacco products in Nigeria. And today, the regulation that will really enable us implement the National Tobacco Control Act was approved.
“The framework contains some sections that has to do with general provisions of regulations like licensing, approvals, who does what, penalties and so on and so forth. And more importantly to also enable us work closely with the state.
“We believe that once this is approved by National Assembly we will start seeing a lot of changes, effective ban on smoke areas in the country and also you will notice different warning labels on tobacco product in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah disclosed that the Council approved the award of contract for construction of the phase II and the completion of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Multi-purpose conference centre in Abuja.
According to him, the project will cost N6,540,385,908 billion inclusive of VAT.
He said: “The importance of this is that the ITF is one of the most important agencies of government when it comes to vocational training and skills acquisition and Abuja is a very important centre of training for ITF.
“It has training facility that can train 319 people per session. With this investment in this building, it can increase that capacity to about 1,200 per session. So it is a fairly big facility.
“Some of the areas of interest we want to increase training include the automotive skills sector, ICT, Tiling, plasters of Paris (POP), plumbing, GSM wielding and fabrication, refrigeration and so on.
“All these strategies are attempt to implement the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and to diversify the economy in a way that we can bring more and more of our people to have the skills that are needed to go to work.’’

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