massive fire broke out at an illegal pipeline tap in central Mexico on Friday, killing at least 21 people and injuring 71 more, just as the government wages a major crack-down on fuel theft

Scores of locals with jerry cans and buckets had been collecting gasoline that was gushing from a leaking pipeline when an explosion occurred, according to witnesses.

Video taken in the aftermath showed desperate people fleeing the scene, screaming for help, as the enormous fire lit up the night sky in Tlahuelilpan, in Hidalgo state, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Mexico City.

“I went just to see what was happening, and then the explosion happened. I rushed to help people,” said Fernando Garcia, 47. “I had to claw through pieces of people who had already been burned to bits,” he told AFP.

The tragedy comes as the federal government is waging a highly publicized war on fuel theft, a problem that cost Mexico an estimated $3 billion in 2017.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador traveled to the scene in the early hours of Saturday.

“I am deeply saddened by the suffering in Tlahuelilpan caused by the explosion of a pipeline,” the leftist leader earlier wrote on Twitter.

“I call on the whole government to assist people there.”

Federal and state firefighters and ambulances run by state oil company Pemex rushed to help victims with burns and take the wounded to hospitals.

The flood of patients overflowed local clinics and hospitals, said AFP correspondents at the scene.

Security Minister Alfonso said around midnight that the fire had been brought under control.

Pemex said it was also responding to another fire at a botched pipeline tap in the central state of Queretaro, though in that case there were no victims.

Mexico is regularly rocked by deadly explosions at illegal pipeline taps, a dangerous but lucrative business whose players include powerful drug cartels and corrupt Pemex insiders.

Rampant fuel theft

The tragedy comes as anti-corruption crusader Lopez Obrador presses implementation of a controversial fuel theft prevention plan.

The government has shut off key pipelines until they can be fully secured and deployed the army to guard Pemex production facilities.

But the strategy to fight the problem led to severe gasoline and diesel shortages across much of the country, including Mexico City, forcing people to queue for hours — sometimes days — to fill up their vehicles.

The president, who took office on December 1, has vowed to keep up the fight and asked Mexicans to be patient.

At the scene, some locals blamed the shortages for the tragedy.

“A lot of people arrived with their jerry cans, because of the gasoline shortages we’ve had,” said Martin Trejo, 55, who was desperately searching for his son, one of those who had gone to collect the leaking fuel.

Under Lopez Obrador’s crackdown, authorities have opened 1,700 individual investigations for fuel theft and related money laundering.

Tanker trucks are being used to deliver fuel, but experts say there are not nearly enough of them.

Mexico City residents faced a second week of fuel shortages this week, though lines at service stations were shorter than the previous week.

Mexican bank Citibanamex estimated Wednesday that the shortages would cost Latin America’s second-largest economy around $2 billion, “if conditions return to normal in the coming days.”

The roots of the fuel theft problem run deep in Mexico, where the practice — known locally as “huachicoleo,” or moonshining — is big business for some communities.

Lopez Obrador so far retains broad support: 89 percent of Mexicans back his crackdown, and his approval rating has even ticked up slightly, to 76 percent, according to a poll published Monday by newspaper El Financiero.

Below are some more photos from the incident.

The death toll in a coal mine roof collapse in northern China has risen to 21 after rescuers found two more miners dead on Sunday, state media reported

A total of 87 people were working underground in the Shaanxi province mine at the time of the accident on Saturday afternoon, according to official news agency Xinhua, citing local authorities.

Rescuers had been searching for two remaining trapped miners but found them dead Sunday morning, Xinhua reported. Another 66 miners were safely evacuated from the mine.

The cause of the accident at the site, run by privately owned Baiji Mining, is still under investigation.

Private coal mines in China typically take fewer safety precautions than larger state-owned mines.

Information about the accident cannot be disclosed, a driver at the company said who answered Baiji’s registered phone number.

The mine is a small scale operation, he said, declining to give his name.

Deadly mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record despite efforts to improve coal production conditions and crack down on illegal mines.

In December last year, seven miners were killed and three others injured in an accident at a coal mine in China’s southwest.

In October, 21 miners died in eastern Shandong province after pressure inside a mine caused rocks to fracture and break, blocking the tunnel and trapping workers. Only one miner was rescued alive.

According to China’s National Coal Mine Safety Administration, the country saw 375 coal mining related deaths in 2017, down 28.7 percent year-on-year.

But despite improvements, “the situation of coal mine safety production is still grim,” the bureau said in a statement following a coal mine safety conference last January.

AFP

How We Spent Funds For Military Operations’, Buratai Replies SERAP, EiE, BudgIT

Chief of Army Staff of Nigeria, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has responded to the joint Freedom of Information request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT requesting him to use his “good offices and leadership position to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.

This development was disclosed today in a statement on behalf of the civil society groups by SERAP senior legal adviser Bamisope Adeyanju.

According to her, “the bulky photographic and textual documentation with a cover letter dated 24 December 2018 was delivered to SERAP’s office last Friday by a military officer at around 11:40am.”

The letter with reference number AHQDCMA/G4/100/4 and signed on Mr Buratai’s behalf by Brigadier-General S.B. Kumapayi read in part: “The Nigerian Army (NA) has in recent time come under unrelenting public scrutiny by both private individuals and Non-governmental organizations over issues of appropriation of funds. The most recent being a call from your organization for the Nigerian Army to explain how funds appropriated for the NA under the administration of the Chief of Army Staff were utilized.”

“In view of the above, I am directed to forward the above-mentioned document to your office for your perusal and retention. Please accept the esteemed regards and assurance of the Chief of Army Staff.”

Bamisope Adeyanju, on behalf of the civil society groups, said: “This is a joint FOI request involving EiE and BudgIT and not just SERAP. Therefore, our groups will carefully study the letter and documentation by Mr Buratai to see if details of the information provided meet the requirements of our request and then promptly respond to him, as appropriate.”

“While we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request, especially at a time when high-ranking government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola continue to exhibit blatant disregard for FOI requests by refusing to even acknowledge several of such requests.”

“The National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by at least honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

According to SERAP, “a quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects reportedly implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show certain projects the Nigerian Army said it carried out with budgeted funds, include: places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; trainings and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as provision of welfare for soldiers.”

It would be recalled that SERAP, EiE and BudgIT had in a joint FOI request asked Mr Buratai to use his good offices and leadership position to “urgently provide information on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 budget implementation reports of the Nigerian Army, including the amounts released (financial implications) and expended in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 for the various operations the Army carried out.”

The groups also urged Mr Buratai to furnish them with “the amounts released (financial implications) and expended in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 for: Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Safe Haven, Operation Python Dance, Operation Ruwan Wuta, Operation Delta Safe, Operation Mesa, Operation Harbin Kunama, Operation Awatse, Operation Tsera Teku and Operation Crocodile Smile.”

The FOI request sent December 2018 and signed by Bamisope Adeyanju of SERAP, Seun Akinyemi of EiE and Atiku Samuel of BudgIT, read in part: “Transparency of the budget process and its implementation is an essential condition to achieve good governance. The reports, if provided and published, will shed light on military spending and put to rest once and for all the perceived lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of military budgets, which has been a subject of intense public debate and concern.”

“If the requested information is not provided within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, our organizations shall take all appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”

“Several billions of naira allocated to the military to defend the country and protect its people have neither contributed to improving the ability of Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram and other armed groups nor provided the much-needed security especially for Nigerians in the North-east of the country.”

“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, would serve the national interest, public welfare, public interest and peace, human rights, good governance, transparency and accountability.”

“By virtue of Section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, we are entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on 2015, 2016 and 2017 budget implementation reports of the Nigerian Army, and the amounts released (financial implications) and expended in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 for the various operations listed, which have yielded no tangible result.”

“Also, by virtue of Section 4(a) of the FOI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received

Source channels

There are fears that many people have lost their lives after a petroleum tanker burst into flames at the Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River state

Channels Television gathered that some of the residents were scooping fuel from a fallen petroleum tanker when the explosion occurred.

The tanker laden with PMS was reportedly heading outside the state capital when it suddenly lost balance towards the Federal Housing Estate along the Odukpani axis of the highway and fell off.

Dozens were said to have rushed down to scoop the spilled product which later resulted in an explosion leaving many burnt beyond recognition.

Majority of the victims are said to have sustained third-degree injuries and are currently at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.

As of the time of filing this report, the number of casualties recorded could not be ascertained.

Attempts are being made to reach relevant authorities to get a clearer insight into the unfortunate incident.

Below are some more photos from the scene, some pictures have been purposely left out because of their graphic nature.

More details later coming up with the update soon by ((Lagmen Net News))

Source channels.

The 63 Brigade of the Nigerian Army has been inaugurated in Asaba with Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa stating that sharing of information among security agencies is very vital to addressing security challenges in the country

The governor who spoke at the inauguration ceremony opined that the country will be more secured when proactive measures are taken with the aid of the timely sharing of information by security agencies.

He said, “I congratulate the Nigerian Army for setting up the 63 Brigade; Delta State is a peaceful state, but, we welcome actions that will consolidate on the existing peace.”

“Sharing of information among security agencies will have a lot of impact on checking security challenges in the country; security agencies have done a lot for us to have peace and secure oil facilities in our state, but, I must appreciate the roles played by our traditional rulers and stakeholders who also, assisted us in achieving peace,” Governor Okowa said.

He continued, “with the coming of the 63 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, we will have more men to secure our state, we will continue to assist in whatever ways we can for you to carry out your functions,”

The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai represented by the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham said the establishment of the 63 Brigade was necessary for the continual protection of the nation’s interest stating that Operation Python Dance III will take place in the state.

He commended the Delta State Government for providing temporary takeoff for the Brigade

Source channels

wanted Boko Haram terrorist has been arrested by gallant troops of 7 Division Garrison

The army spokesman said Abubakar was found hiding in a room in possession of 2 military Ballistic helmets, a pair of military desert boot, a fragment jacket, a Jersey pull over, military backpack, camouflage design shorts, 2 voters identification cards, National identification card, amulets, camouflage T-shirts and military jungle hat.

“He has since been moved out of the area for further interrogation,” the statement read in parts.

The Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division, who is also the Commander, Sector 1 of Operation LAFIYA DOLE had visited the troops and conveyed the Theatre Commander, Operation LAFIYA DOLE’s commendation to them for the painstaking efforts and professionalism

Source channels

The Nigerian Army says it has neutralised an attack in Toto Local Government area of Nasarawa state after it ran into an ambush by Bassa militiamen

Commander of operation whirl stroke, Major General Adeyemi Yekini revealed this in Lafia during the display of 45 assorted weapons and 701 ammunition recovered during the operation.

“We have recovered a lot of weapons, ammunition and even arrested suspects in the last eight months.

“Two days ago, our force ran into an ambush by suspected Bassa militia in Ugya, Toto Local Government Area but we thank God nobody died.

“We were able to clear the ambush and even inflicted injuries/casualties on the militia.

“We began operation and we discovered the Bassa suspected militia camp at Zwere in Toto.

“We were able to recover 45 assorted weapons and 701 assorted ammunition which include 39 locally made rifles, 2 G3 rifles, 3 locally-made pistols, 1 SMG, 5 G3 rifle magazines and 4 revolver cartridge holders

“Others are 9 mm pistol links, 100, special rounds, NATO rounds, military uniforms, handsets, charms among others,” he said.

The Nigeria Army is optimistic that this will downgrade the activities of the militiamen and restore normalcy in Toto Local Government Area of the state

Source channels

Carlos Ghosn will on Tuesday appear in public to give his side of the story for the first time since the auto tycoon’s shock arrest in Japan stunned the world

The 64-year-old former Nissan boss will attend a hearing at the Tokyo District Court where the judge will explain the reasons for his continued detention on suspicion of financial misconduct.

The hearing, requested by Ghosn himself, is likely to be short and relatively procedural — probably lasting less than an hour, explained Japanese lawyer Yasuyuki Takai.

The judge will give brief and “not very detailed” reasons for Ghosn’s continued detention and the businessman is then in theory allowed to “say what he wants until the judge asks him to stop”.

“This hearing will have no bearing on the rest of the case. There’s no chance that Ghosn’s release will be ordered tomorrow,” Takai told AFP.

But Ghosn’s case has shown the ability to surprise from the moment prosecutors stormed the tycoon’s private jet at a Tokyo airport on November 19, with the twists and turns gripping Japan and the business world.

Ghosn faces a host of allegations of financial impropriety.

Prosecutors have formally charged him over suspicions he under-declared some five billion yen ($44 million) from his salary in documents to investors over five fiscal years from 2010 — apparently to avoid accusations he was paid too much.

Authorities also suspect he continued this scheme over the next three tax years, seeking to defer another four billion yen of his salary until after retirement.

A third, more complex, accusation is that he sought to shift personal foreign exchange losses onto Nissan’s books and then paid a business contact from Saudi Arabia some $14.7 million — supposedly from company funds — who allegedly stumped up collateral for him.

– ‘Vigorous defence’ –

Ghosn has not been formally charged over the latter two allegations and is preparing to defend himself “vigorously” in court, according to his son Anthony in an interview with French weekly Journal du Dimanche.

“For the first time, he will be able to explain all the charges against him and give his version and I think everyone will be quite surprised to hear his version of the story,” the 24-year-old was quoted as saying.

Anthony, who has not spoken to his father, said he would be released if he signed a confession.

He can “tell the prosecutor that he is contesting the charges or instead he could confess and be released. For seven weeks, his decision has been quite clear,” he said.

“The paradox is that the confession he has been asked to sign is written only in Japanese,” adding that his father does not understand it.

Anthony said his father would appear “in prisoner’s uniform and in handcuffs” but Takai said Ghosn would be able to “wear what he wants but will be handcuffed until he enters the hearing room.”

The high-profile Ghosn case has thrown the spotlight on the Japanese legal system, which has been criticised in some quarters for the practice of extending custody periods for suspects without formal charges being pressed.

On December 31, the court again extended his detention until January 11, at which point prosecutors could rearrest him to question him over other allegations or could free him on bail.

– ‘Family the priority’ –

Ghosn is a legendary figure in the auto industry and is credited with turning around a struggling Nissan — also giving him a high profile rare for foreign executives in Japan.

He forged an unlikely three-way alliance between Mitsubishi Motors, Renault and Nissan that now outsells any other rival group.

But his arrest has laid bare divisions in the tie-up. Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors promptly removed him as chairman whereas the French firm has kept him on while he fights the allegations.

In an interview with AFP on the eve of the hearing, current Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa however insisted: “I don’t think it’s in danger at all.”

Anthony painted a picture of a devoted family man for whom “money is only a way to help those he loves, not an end in itself”.

“He takes his role as a father even more seriously than his role as head of a major company. For him, family is always the priority

Source channels

Suspected smugglers have killed a customs officer and injured one other personnel during an encounter in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital

The incident was said to have occurred while the security operatives were on routine patrol in an attempt to secure smuggled rice into the state where eight vehicles loaded with bags of rice were intercepted.

Confirming the incident to reporters on Monday, Ogun Area Controller of Customs, Mr Michael Agbara, explained that the suspects had regrouped before attacking the security operatives.

“One of my gallant officers, Hamish Sani, lost his life in active service. One other member of the team had equally machete cut on the chest. That is exactly what happened,” he said.

Mr Agbara added that the deceased has been buried while the injured had been taken to a hospital for treatment.

He condemned the attack on the security operatives and revealed that two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

The Customs controller described the attack on the officers as “a heinous crime”, adding that the culprits would not go unpunished.

He, thereafter, asked other personnel of Customs not to be discouraged by the incident but see it as more reason why smugglers and other criminal elements must not be spared.

“They cannot go away with it. We will pursue them and bring them to justice, and I think that is the only time the spirit of the dead will rest,” Agbara said.

Source channels

Three people died Saturday in a fire in an apartment block in northeastern Spain and at least 16 others were injured, including a baby boy who is critical, firefighters said

The cause of the blaze in Badalona was as yet unknown as was the identity and ages of the three victims, a spokeswoman for firefighters in the region of Catalonia told AFP.

Among the injured are a baby boy, who is critical, and two adults in serious condition, the firefighting department said on its Twitter feed.

The blaze had been extinguished by late morning, leaving the 10-storey building streaked with large black marks

AFP