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Biden is traveling to battleground Pennsylvania to discuss funding police, crime prevention

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Today, President Biden traveled to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he discussed funding police, his efforts at crime prevention and the bipartisan bill to combat gun violence that he signed into law in June, the first measure in nearly three decades. “When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police. It’s fund the police,” Biden told the crowd.


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Human smuggling, forced labor among allegations in south Georgia federal indictment | USAO-SDGA

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INDICTMENT: USA v. Patricio et al, Operation Blooming Onion: 521cr9.pdf

WAYCROSS, GA:  Two dozen defendants have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges after a transnational, multi-year investigation into a human smuggling and labor trafficking operation that illegally imported Mexican and Central American workers into brutal conditions on South Georgia farms.

The newly unsealed, 54-count indictment in USA v. Patricio et al. details felony charges resulting from Operation Blooming Onion, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. The multi-agency investigation, led by Homeland Security Investigations and other federal agencies, spans at least three years, and the 53-page indictment documents dozens of victims of modern-day slavery while spelling out the illegal acts that brought these exploited workers into the United States and imprisoned them under inhumane conditions as contract agricultural laborers, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“The American dream is a powerful attraction for destitute and desperate people across the globe, and where there is need, there is greed from those who will attempt to exploit these willing workers for their own obscene profits,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Thanks to outstanding work from our law enforcement partners, Operation Blooming Onion frees more than 100 individuals from the shackles of modern-day slavery and will hold accountable those who put them in chains.”

“OCDETF Operation Blooming Onion maximized the expertise of multiple law enforcement agencies and leveraged analytical and coordination support from OCDETF’s International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) to target an international criminal organization engaged in human trafficking and visa fraud,” said OCDETF Director Adam W. Cohen. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s leadership of this multi-agency law enforcement effort positions us to disrupt and dismantle the operations of transnational criminal networks that pose the greatest threat to our communities and to the Nation.”

As described in the indictment, investigators from Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI began investigating the Patricio transnational criminal organization in November 2018. The indictment alleges that in or before 2015, the conspirators and their associates “engaged in mail fraud, international forced labor trafficking, and money laundering, among other crimes,” fraudulently using the H-2A work visa program to smuggle foreign nationals from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras into the United States under the pretext of serving as agricultural workers.

The activities took place within the Southern, Middle, and Northern Districts of Georgia; the Middle District of Florida; the Southern District of Texas; and Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere. The conspirators required the workers to pay unlawful fees for transportation, food, and housing while illegally withholding their travel and identification documents, and subjected the workers “to perform physically demanding work for little or no pay, housing them in crowded, unsanitary, and degrading living conditions, and by threatening them with deportation and violence.”  

Exploitation of the workers included being required to dig onions with their bare hands, paid 20 cents for each bucket harvested, and threatened with guns and violence to keep them in line. The workers were held in cramped, unsanitary quarters and fenced work camps with little or no food, limited plumbing and without safe water. The conspirators are accused of raping, kidnapping and threatening or attempting to kill some of the workers or their families, and in many cases sold or traded the workers to other conspirators. At least two of the workers died as a result of workplace conditions. In the Southern District of Georgia, these activities were alleged to have taken place in the counties of Atkinson, Bacon, Coffee, Tattnall, Toombs and Ware as farmers paid the conspirators to provide contract laborers.    

The conspirators are alleged to have reaped more than $200 million from the illegal scheme, laundering the funds through cash purchases of land, homes, vehicles, and businesses; through cash purchases of cashier’s checks; and by funneling millions of dollars through a casino.

Then, as the continuing investigation into the conspiracy moved forward in late 2019, the indictment alleges that three of the conspirators attempted to intimidate and persuade a witness to lie to a federal grand jury and deny any knowledge of the illegal activities of the Patricio organization.

More than 200 law enforcement officers and federal agents from around the United States convened in the Southern District of Georgia to execute more than 20 federal search warrants at target locations.

Those indicted in USA v. Patricio et al. and their charges include:

  • Maria Leticia Patricio, 70, of Nichols, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; two counts of Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Daniel Mendoza, 40, of Ruskin, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Nery Rene Carrillo-Najarro, 56, Douglas, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; 14 counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Antonio Chavez Ramos, a/k/a “Tony Chavez,” 38, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; four counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • JC Longoria Castro, 46, Vidalia, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; four counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Victoria Chavez Hernandez, 38, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Enrique Duque Tovar, 36, of Axon, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; nine counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Jose Carmen Duque Tovar, 58, of Axon, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; nine counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Charles Michael King, 31, of Waycross, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Stanley Neal McGauley, 38, of Waycross, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Luis Alberto Martinez, a/k/a “Chino Martinez,” 41, of Tifton, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Delia Ibarra Rojas, 33, of Lyons, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Juana Ibarra Carrillo, 46, of Alma, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Donna Michelle Rojas, a/k/a “Donna Lucio,” 33, of Collins, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Margarita Rojas Cardenas, a/k/a “Maggie Cardenas,” 43, of Reidsville, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Juan Fransisco Alvarez Campos, 42, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Rosalvo Garcia Martinez, a/k/a “Chava Garcia,” 33, of Haines City, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Esther Ibarra Garcia, 63, of Dade City, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Rodolfo Martinez Maciel, 26, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Brett Donavan Bussey, 39, of Tifton, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; four counts of Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Linda Jean Facundo, 36, of Tifton, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Gumara Canela, 34, of Alma, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; 14 counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Daniel Merari Canela Diaz, 24, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and,
  • Carla Yvonne Salinas, 28, of Laredo, Texas, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering.

The charges of Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor, and Forced Labor, each carry statutory penalties of up to life in prison, while the charges of Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, Mail Fraud, Money Laundering Conspiracy, and Tampering with a Witness each carry statutory penalties of up to 20 years in prison. Each of the charges also include substantial financial penalties and periods of supervised release after completion of any prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Operation Blooming Onion also is designated as a Priority Transnational Organized Crime Cases.

Agencies investigating Operation Blooming Onion include Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security; the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and Wage and Hour Division; U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the FBI; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the U.S. Marshals Service, with assistance from the Georgia National Guard; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; the Georgia State Patrol; the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office; the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office; the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office; the Bacon County Sheriff’s Office; and the Tift County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney and Human Trafficking Coordinator Tania D. Groover, and Assistant U.S. Attorney and Criminal Division Deputy Chief E. Greg Gilluly Jr., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier A. Cunningham, Section Chief of the Asset Recovery Unit.

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.  The information you provide will be reviewed by the National Hotline and forwarded to specialized law enforcement and/or service providers where appropriate. 


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Hack puts Latin American security agencies on edge

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — A massive trove of emails from Mexico’s Defense Department is among electronic communications taken by a group of hackers from military and police agencies across several Latin American countries, Mexico’s president confirmed Friday.

The acknowledgement by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador comes after Chile’s government said last week that emails had been taken from its Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Mexican president spoke at his daily news conference following a local media report that the hack revealed previously unknown details about a health scare he had in January.

López Obrador downplayed the hack, saying that “there’s nothing that isn’t known.” He said the intrusion apparently occurred during a change of Defense Department systems.

But Chile was so concerned by the breach to its own systems that it called its defense minister back from the United States last week where she was attending the United Nations General Assembly with President Gabriel Boric.

The 10 terabytes of data taken by the group also include emails from the militaries in El Salvador, Peru and Colombia, as well as El Salvador’s National Police. The Mexico portion of the data appeared to be the largest.

A group of anonymous, self-described social justice warriors who call themselves Guacamaya say they use hacking to expose injustice and corruption in defense of Indigenous peoples. Hackers using the same name previously hacked and released the emails of a mining company long accused of human rights and environmental abuses in Guatemala.

In a statement accompanying the most recent action, the group complained of the plundering of Latin America, which it refers to as Abya Yala, by colonizers and the continuing extractivist goals of the “Global North.”

The group issued a 1,400-word comunique saying that the militaries and police of Latin American countries, often with extensive training by the United States, are used by governments “to keep their inhabitants prisoner.”

“The police minimize the risk that the people exercise their honorable right to protest, to destroy the system that oppresses them,” the group wrote.

The group said it would make the documents available to journalists, but so far only a tiny portion has been reported — in part, perhaps, because of the sheer quantity of the data.

In an email exchange, the hackers said that their review of the Mexico emails so far indicated that much of the information was already publicly available and they doubted there were “explosive” emails — possibly because more sensitive communications were better protected.

But they said there was evidence of the military closely following political and social movements.

They said those include relatives of 43 students who were kidnapped by local police and allegedly handed over to be killed by a drug gang in 2014 — a case in which some military officers have been accused of involvement — as well as the Zapatista rebel movement that staged a 1994 uprising in southern Mexico and groups opposed to López Obrador’s current effort to build a tourist train around the Yucatan Peninsula.

Rather than seeking monetary benefit or ransom for compromising government information systems through a cyberattack, Guacamaya appears to be more of a “hacktivist” hack-and-leak operation with social justice goals.

López Obrador was responding to a television report by Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola who said among the hacked emails were medical records about the president, including a previously undisclosed emergency air flight to the capital from his ranch in January, when he was suffering serious chest pains and at risk of a heart attack.

Later that month he underwent a heart catheterization, which was made public, but at the time was described as the result of a routine examination. López Obrador suffered a heart attack in 2013 and has high blood pressure.

The 68-year-old president noted at his news conference that he suffers from a number of ailments and undergoes checkups every few months.

__

Bajak reported from Lima, Peru.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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Buhari Marks Last Independence Day As President

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In his last Independence Day speech, President Muhammadu Buhari gave himself a pass mark in his seven years in office so far.

This is just as the president said he is pained by the 7 months old strike by the Academic Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).

In his Independence Day broadcast this morning to mark Nigeria’s 62nd Independence, President Buhari listed the successes recorded by his administration in tackling insecurity and economy.

Buhari also thanked Nigerians who believed in him, propelled and stood by him in his quest to bequeath a country where all citizens have equal opportunities to achieve their lives desires in a peaceful atmosphere.

According to him, “when you elected me, I readily acknowledged that the tasks before me were daunting but surmountable because of the growing national consensus that our chosen route to national development was democracy.

“This democracy was to be anchored on a clear understanding, application and the principles of separation of powers supported by a reformed public service that is more effective.

“I then pledged to Improve the Economy, Tackle Corruption and Fight Insecurity and this was further strengthened by my commitment to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years as the central plank of my second term in 2019.

“To the Glory of God and His Grace as well as the commitment and passion displayed by many Nigerian supporters, we have made appreciable progress in these areas but not yet at our destination.

“Mindful of the task before us, we took some time in settling down and we re-positioned the Economy by providing strategic interventions in core areas at both the Federal and Sub-National levels.

“One of the areas where we have made significant progress is in the eradication of deeply entrenched corruption that permeates all facets of our national development.

“We strengthened the Institutions for tackling corruption and also cultivated international support, which aided the repatriation of huge sums of money illegally kept outside the country.

“The increasing number of prosecutions and convictions, with associated refunds of large sums of money is still ongoing. Furthermore, we would continue to block opportunities that encourage corrupt practices.

President Buhari also called on lecturers to return to the classroom while assuring them to deal with their contending issues within the limits of the scarce resources available.

He said “I must confess that I am very pained by the recurring disruption to our tertiary education system.

“I am using this Independence Day celebration to re-iterate my call for the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the classroom while assuring them to deal with their contending issues within the limits of the scarce resources available.

“This administration has made appreciable progress in redressing these issues that have been lingering for over eleven years.

“The Federal Government will continue to mobilize resources both internationally and nationally towards funding education to ensure that our citizens are well educated and skilled in various vocations in view of the fact that education is a leading determinant of economic growth and employment generation.

Buhari further stated that no matter what gains the country makes, without a good governance system anchored on electing credible leaders on the basis of free, fair, credible and transparent elections, our efforts would not be enough.

He explained, “It is for this reason that I have resolved to bequeath a sustainable democratic culture which will remain lasting. The signing of the Electoral Act 2021 as amended with landmark provisions further assures us of a more transparent and inclusive Electoral Process.

“Having witnessed at close quarters, the pains, anguish and disappointment of being a victim of an unfair electoral process, the pursuit of an electoral system and processes that guarantee election of leaders by citizens remains the guiding light as I prepare to wind down our administration.

“You would all agree that the recent elections in the past two years in some states (notably Anambra, Ekiti and Osun) and a few federal constituencies have shown a high degree of credibility, transparency and freedom of choice with the people’s votes actually counting. This I promise would be improved upon as we move towards the 2023 General Elections.

As Nigerians begin the transition process to another democratically elected government, President Buhari implored all aspirants to conduct issues-based campaigns devoid of hate speeches as well as other negative and divisive tendencies.

“I also want to express my wish that we see more female and youth participation in the forth-coming electoral cycle. I am sure that our teeming and energetic youths now realise that violence generally mar elections and so should desist from being used by politicians for this purpose,” he said.

Buhari said that in the past few years the country has witnessed and overcome a good number of challenges that would ordinarily have destroyed our Nation.

He, however, said the indefatigable spirit of the Nigerian people has ensured that we overcome our challenges.

“It is in this spirit that I call on all of us to individually and collectively bring to the fore in dealing with all our development issues.

“I was called to serve, along with my team, I saw an opportunity to create a better Nigeria which we have done with the support of Nigerians. Almighty God and the good people of Nigeria supported us in laying a solid foundation for the Nigeria of our dreams,” he added .

 

IBB, Governors, Atiku, Tinubu, Others Count Gains

As Nigeria marks its 62nd independence anniversary today, political leaders in the country have maintained the country has achieved some remarkable milestones, the economic and security challenges notwithstanding.

This is even as former Nigerian leaders, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), called on Nigerians to reflect on the sacrifices of the nation’s founding fathers to work for peace and unity of the country as they celebrate this year’s independence anniversary.

Babangida specifically urged younger Nigerians to look for knowledge about the country for a well-informed perspective on the past to be able to appreciate the roles played by the founding fathers of the nation.

“Younger generation must read more about the country to find out what happened in the past and how we came about as a country, what happened, what roles various people played and came together. That is where one of you was talking about history. Once you know the history of the country very well and the efforts of our founding fathers, then you have a roadmap you have to follow,” he said.

He said notwithstanding the challenges, Nigeria remains one united country, urging the people to be optimistic and confident, even as he prayed for a more prosperous country.

Also speaking on the country’s independence, Abdulsalami Abubakar said; “I want to wish Nigerians happy 62nd anniversary and I pray that we have peaceful campaigns in the election, it would help the nation that the contestants if they feel the election is free fair would accept the result and concede defeat. I wish us peace, may God continue to bless Nigeria, protect us and help us in nation building.”

Niger State governor and chairman of North Central States Governors Forum (NCSGF), Abubakar Sani Bello, called on Nigerians to continue to support the present administration in bringing positive change for the collective good of the people.

The governor, who said the government’s resolve for a peaceful and united Nigeria is unwavering, appealed to Nigerians to maintain a positive outlook and encourage the present leadership in the country to bring about the much-needed transformation and development.

Bello said with the kick-off of the electioneering campaigns ahead of the 2023 general election, Nigerians must remain focused and patriotic in contributing to the sustenance of the country’s democracy.

He expressed optimism that at 62 and despite the glaring challenges, Nigeria still maintains the unending potential to become a great nation and that with the collective determination of the people, Nigeria would surely become a prosperous country.

Also, Gombe State governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, said in spite of all the challenges confronting Nigeria, there is so much to celebrate, including the fact that Nigerians are still together as an entity and are hopeful that the lofty height of greatness is still within the country’s reach to accomplish”.

In a message to mark the 62nd Independence of Nigeria and the 26th anniversary of the creation of Gombe State, Governor Inuwa urged the citizenry not to despair, but to keep hope alive in the quest to build a prosperous state and nation “as envisioned by our founding fathers”.

In the message released by director-general, Press Affairs, Government House Gombe, Ismaila Uba Misilli, the governor said though Nigeria is passing through tough times occasioned by insecurity, the socio-economic effect of the war in Ukraine among others, the challenges confronting the nation are not insurmountable.

He urged the people of Gombe and Nigerians in general to rekindle their hopes and renew their commitment and love for the country.

While calling on the people to see the greatness and prospects of Gombe state and the country as a motivating factor, the governor urged said, “As the country celebrates its 62nd independence anniversary, all hands must be on deck to foster unity, peace, security and understanding regardless of our differences.

“In spite of all the challenges facing the country right now, there is so much to celebrate, particularly the fact that we are still together as an entity and hopeful that the lofty height of greatness we covet is still within our reach to accomplish”.

Underscoring the importance attached to the twin celebration, Governor Inuwa said, “For us in Gombe State, it is a double celebration: we are marking the 62nd independence as a nation and the 26th year anniversary of the creation of our drear state”.

He reassured that under his leadership, Gombe state will continue to wax stronger in all facets of human endeavours, vowing to keep initiating people-oriented policies and programmes that will better the lots of the people and the state.

On their part, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; his All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party counterparts, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Peter Obi, said with a common dream, Nigeria’s challenges will be surmounted.

He stated this while congratulating Nigerians on the celebration of its 62nd Independence Day anniversary assuring that the nation will rise again.

The former vice president in a statement by his media office in Abuja said the celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day is an event that should reawaken our consciousness towards the consolidation of unity amongst the diverse people of the country.

The PDP presidential candidate said Nigeria had come a long way after independence 62 years ago passing through different phases of challenges, noting however, that “the democracy that we have is the requisite antidote to the current challenges that we face.”

The Wazirin Adamawa noted: “Though Nigeria is beset with challenges that range from inadequacies of our economic plans to cover a large percentage of our people who live below the poverty line; to security skirmishes that daily threaten the safety of lives and property of Nigerians, the root cause of these problem is traceable to the increasing lack of unity amongst us.”

He, however, assured: “One people and under the canopy of one country sharing in one future, we will surmount our challenges and enthrone the Nigeria of our dreams. And as we go into the general elections next year, Atiku Abubakar urged all Nigerians to give the issue of building national unity primary attention.”

On his part, Tinubu said the path Nigerians have walked has not always been an easy or smooth one, adding however that even though it is a road hewn by their own hands, ingenuity and aspirations, they have been able to brave the storm.

Downplaying political events in the country, he said he would not speak about politics but patriotism, adding that the time for politics will come soon enough.

He thanked President Buhari for their patriotic efforts in the service of the nation.

He urged Nigerians to commit themselves to Nigeria’s unity as well as their collective improvement.

“In unity, we must see each other as brothers and sisters regardless of our ethnic, religious or regional diversity. In seeking national improvement, we must join hands in growing the economy, creating jobs, feeding the hungry, educating our youth, caring for the sick and protecting our people and their way of life from evil and misguided foes who seek to destroy all that is good,” he noted.

Stressing the significance of the independence anniversary, the APC standard bearer said, “In this complex time, it is easy to forget the struggles of those who came before us – those Nigerian founders and nationalists who devoted themselves to making the dream of an independent and proud Nigeria a reality.

“But we must not forget. We commemorate this day so that our nation shall forever hold in remembrance those who won our nation’s independence. There is no way we can repay them for their patriotism except to remember them and strive to match their love of country and their sacrifice for it.  Some gave not only their best years but their very lives so that Nigeria can be born. Their labour shall never be in vain!

“Indeed, we have come a long way from 1960 when we gained independence. We have walked far since then. Still, the best of our national journey lies before and not behind us. Since 1999, our country has experienced 23 years of uninterrupted democracy.”

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party said many Nigerians are already tired and frustrated with the leadership failure that has continued to burden the country for many years.

According to him, the coming election presents a ray of hope to the people for a New Nigeria, if things are done correctly.

In his Independence Day Message to Nigerians, Obi expressed regret that at 62, Nigeria has nothing to celebrate, adding that rather, it continues to struggle under the weight of corruption, bad governance, insecurity, worsening economy, abuse of office and all manner of ills.

He lamented that each new day in Nigeria, instead of heralding progress and development, the people, already weakened by poverty and hardship, are further burdened by new forms of societal malady.

“After 62 years of independence, we are still experiencing constant collapse of our national grid, as many as seven times in a single year; our universities have been shut for eight months; our inflation rate is at an all-time high, as more than half of the population are battling extreme poverty; insecurity and violence are occurring at an alarming rate; oil theft is carried on with impunity and in all fronts – the nation bleeds,” Obi said.

He noted that any further slip into retrogression would make the nation uninhabitable for the people, even as he said many Nigerians are looking forward to the 2023 elections because it presents them an opportunity to put an end to the leadership failures of the past and usher in a new and productive Nigeria.

Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachukwu, said the 62nd anniversary calls for the remembrance of the fallen heroes and those who are in the field defending the nation.

Kachikwu who said he will never gather a paid crowd said, “For over a decade our nation has been at war and more often than not we forget the heroic sacrifices made daily by our men and women in uniform.

“They wage war so that we may have peace. Our troops have defended other nations, maintained the peace in far flung lands and today have the task of defending our land.

“The second group are the Nigerian masses who are suffering in silence. They stay silent so that we may have peace. They suffer untold hardships as our economy gets worse, as job opportunities disappear, as our security situation worsens and as food prices escalate.”

Also, former president of the Senate, David Mark, urged Nigerians to leverage on the 2023 general elections to elect credible leaders that would get the country out of the woods.

Mark in a goodwill message to Nigerians to commemorate the 62 years of independence noted the myriads of socio-economic and political challenges facing the nation but expressed optimism that “the problems are surmountable if we work together”.

For him, the 2023 elections presents another opportunity to take stock of the journey so far with a view to righting the wrongs of the past through the ballot boxes”.

He urged all Nigerians of voting age to participate in the electoral process believing that with the improved electioneering arrangement, votes will count and results reflect the wishes of the people.

Former governor of Enugu State and Senator representing Enugu East in the Senate, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, said inclusiveness, Justice, equity and fairness are the needed ingredients for peace, unity and progress of Nigeria.

Nnamani, in a goodwill message to Nigerians to mark the nation’s 62nd Independence anniversary, urged leaders at all levels to make the citizens the centre of all their programmes and policies.

He said peace and unity is the product of justice, fairness and equity.

As campaigns for the 2023 general elections gathers momentum, he urged public office seekers to put the unity and peace of Nigeria above personal ambitions.

Former Senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said the future looks very bright for the country despite the present situation.

Saraki in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, called on Nigerians to use the anniversary to reflect on the past achievements of the country, particularly the contributions of the founding fathers towards achieving independence and building a united country.

He added that like a part of the national anthem stated, the present generation of Nigeria should ensure that the labour of the past heroes is not in vain as everybody should work to realise the lofty heights the founding fathers envisaged for the country.

“Nigeria remains a country which possesses all the necessary factors for achieving greatness. What is important is for the present generation, both the leaders and the followers, to work for the unity of the country and place the country first before their interests.

“We have all we need for our country to be a global leader and to adequately provide for the welfare of the citizenry. However, we need everybody to be determined to work towards the realization of the nation’s manifest destiny as envisaged by our founding fathers and even the rest of the world,” he stated.

The PDP congratulated Nigerians, urging them not to lose hope in the country as the misrule of the vicious, corrupt and anti-people All Progressives Congress (APC) would soon come to an end.

The party however regretted that Nigerians are celebrating yet another independence anniversary under palpable bondage and harrowing stranglehold of the suppressive, coldhearted, insensitive and inhumane APC which relishes in inflicting pain and anguish on the citizens.

It said, “In the last seven years the APC has foisted and supervised a reign of terror and subjected Nigerians to the worst form of suppression that have turned a once cheerful and prosperous nation into the poverty capital and the third worst governed country of the world.

“In the last seven years, the APC has balkanized and dislocated the unity of our country, promoted mutual distrust among the once happy and harmonious people; created a mass of internally displaced persons; the worst since the Civil War in our country.

“Since 2015, when the corrupt and treasury-looting APC, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) fraudulently crept into our nation’s political landscape, Nigerians have witnessed life-discounting experiences with hyper-inflation, escalated unemployment, collapse of the nation’s currency and economic meltdown arising from poor and uncoordinated fiscal and economic policies of the APC administration.”

IGP Deploys Officers, Assures Of Security

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, has directed the deployment of adequate personnel to provide protection for citizens, critical national infrastructures and ensure the success of all activities lined up for the country’s 62nd independence anniversary scheduled for today.

Force PRO, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the deployment is to prevent any untoward situation throughout the period of the celebration and beyond all over the country.

He said the IGP also directed strategic police managers comprising assistant inspectors general of police and commissioners of police in all the zonal and state commands and the FCT to ensure high visibility and confidence boosting patrols around the venues of the celebrations, residential areas and other public places to prevent infiltration by hostile elements and ensure a peaceful celebration.

Baba enjoined citizens to cooperate unflinchingly with officers of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, for improved security management at various public gatherings during the Independence celebration.

He urged all citizens to imbibe the spirit of tolerance amongst each other which is vital in a multi-cultural society like Nigeria.


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