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Russia demands surrender in Mariupol as pope laments ‘Easter of war”

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Ukrainian soldiers resisted a Russian ultimatum to lay down arms on Sunday in the pulverised port of Mariupol, which Moscow said its forces had almost completely seized in what would be its biggest prize of the nearly two-month war.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said troops in Mariupol were still fighting despite a Russian demand to surrender by dawn.

“The city still has not fallen,” he told ABC’s “This Week” programme, adding that Ukrainian soldiers continue to control some parts of the southeastern Ukrainian city.

Russia said on Saturday it had control of urban areas, with some Ukrainian fighters remaining in the Azovstal steelworks overlooking the Sea of Azov.

Capturing Mariupol, the main port in the Donbas region, would be a strategic prize for Russia, connecting territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014.

After failing to overcome Ukrainian resistance in the north, the Russian military has refocused its ground offensive on Donbas while maintaining long-distance strikes elsewhere including the capital, Kyiv.

About four million Ukrainians have fled the country, cities have been shattered and thousands have died since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

The economic damage is significant too – Shmyhal said Ukraine’s budget deficit was around $5 billion a month and called for Western governments to provide more financial aid.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter he had discussed ensuring Ukraine’s financial stability and preparations for post-war reconstruction with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

Earlier, he posted on his Telegram account images of destruction he said were akin to the “terrible times” of World War Two.

“The occupiers will be responsible for everything they did in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.

‘CRUEL AND SENSELESS WAR’

Implicitly criticizing Russia, Pope Francis pleaded for an end to the bloodshed and lamented the “Easter of war” during his address in St. Peter’s Square after Mass.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” he said.

Zelenskiy accused Russia on Saturday of “deliberately trying to destroy everyone” in Mariupol and said his government was in touch with the defenders.

The Azovstal steelworks, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants with a maze of rail tracks and blast furnaces, has become a last stand for the outnumbered defenders.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed that their lives will be spared,” Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

It was not known how many soldiers were in the steelworks. Satellite images have shown smoke and fire coming from the area, which is replete with tunnels. Zelenskiy has said killing his troops would put an end to peace efforts.

Russia said Ukraine had lost more than 4,000 soldiers in Mariupol as of Saturday. Kyiv says its total troop losses nationwide so far in the war are less than that, between 2,500 and 3,000. Reuters has not been able to verify either side’s figures.

Russia calls its action a special military operation to demilitarise Ukraine and eradicate what it calls dangerous nationalists. The West and Kyiv accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression.

A representative in Mariupol of the Azov forces – a one-time far-right militia now part of Ukraine’s National Guard whose destruction is among Moscow’s war objectives – said international intervention was needed to help civilians, including children, sheltering at the Azovstal plant.

“There are civilians at Azovstal who are afraid of Russia’s guarantees for their exit,” the Azov representative said in a message to Reuters.

Reuters has not been able to verify if there are significant numbers of civilians at the plant.

There have been on-off negotiations between Ukraine and Russia since the start of the war.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a CBS News interview on Sunday there had not been any recent communications between Russia and Ukraine at a foreign ministry level, and that the situation in Mariupol, which he described as “dire”, could be a “red line” in the path of negotiations.

NATIONWIDE ATTACKS

Elsewhere in Ukraine, there were more reports on Sunday of Russian strikes around major population centres.

Local media reported an explosion in Kyiv, though deputy mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said air defence systems had thwarted Russian attacks. The mayor of Brovary city, close to Kyiv, said a missile attack had damaged infrastructure.

Russia said it had destroyed an ammunition factory near the capital, according to the RIA news agency.

Shelling in Ukraine’s second biggest city, Kharkiv, killed five people and injured 13, Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne reported. A Reuters correspondent in Kharkiv heard multiple explosions in quick succession and saw debris from missiles.

As cleanup operations continued in areas where the Russians have retreated, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman said almost all high-rise buildings in the town of Okhtyrka were unfit for occupation. The State Emergencies Service said 41 bodies had been recovered in the town of Borodyanka.

Most Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Easter next Sunday, but in Bucha, a town north of Kyiv where Ukraine accuses Russia of killing dozens of civilians, some 50 people attended a church service, carrying pussy willow and praying for the dead.

Russia denies targeting civilians and has called images from Bucha fake.

“I just prayed today to stop crying,” said resident Evgeniya Lebedko after the service. “We have survived these horrors and we are constantly crying.”

Despite the desperate situation in Mariupol, Ukraine said it was holding off Russian forces in other parts of the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which before the invasion were already partly controlled by Russian-backed separatists. read more

On Sunday, police in Donetsk region said that over the past 24 hours Russian forces opened fire on 13 settlements under Ukrainian control, killing two civilians.

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BVN, NIN requirement: CBN keeps mum as deadline expires

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has kept mum as the deadline for banks to restrict customers’ accounts without a Bank Verification Number or National Identity Number has expired.

DAILY POST recalls that CBN, in a notice on December 1 last year, signed by the Director of Payments System Management Department, Chibuzo Efobi and Director of Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Haruna Mustapha, asked banks to restrict tier-1 accounts or wallets without NIN or BVN.

“For all existing Tier-1 accounts/wallets without BVN or NIN: Effective immediately, any unfunded account/wallet shall be placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ until the new process is satisfied.

“Effective March 1, 2024, all funded accounts or wallets shall be placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’, and no further transactions will be permitted. The BVN or NIN attached to and/or associated with all accounts/wallets must be electronically revalidated by January 31, 2024”, the statement partly reads.

However, CBN acting spokesperson, Hakama Sidi has yet to respond to calls from DAILY POST on Friday over the fate of banks’ customers without NIN or BVN.

Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with DAILY POST, the President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr Uju Ogubunka, appealed to CBN for a deadline extension.

According to him, though many accounts have NIN or BVN, there are still many without the requirement.

“At this point, the best thing for CBN to do is extend the deadline for bank customers to have their NIN or BVN”, he told DAILY POST.

A source who preferred anonymity in a tier-1 bank told DAILY POST that no customer account had been restricted owing to the NIN or BVN requirement.

“At the moment, no customers’ accounts have been restricted. Customers in the last three days have trooped in to update their account”, he said.

DAILY POST reported that bank customers were in a last-minute rush to meet the NIN and BVN requirement deadlines as they besieged their respective banks.

CREDIT: DAILY POST

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Gov Mbah signs New Enugu City, ENSIEC bills into law

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On Friday, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State officially approved the New Enugu City Development Agency Bill, the Enugu State Geographical Information System Service Bill, and the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIC) Amendment Bill, turning them into law. The signing ceremony, witnessed by Enugu State House of Assembly Speaker Uchenna Ugwu at the Government House in Enugu, marked significant steps in the state’s governance.

Governor Mbah clarified the purposes of these laws during the signing event. He highlighted that the New Enugu City Development Agency Law grants administrative authority to oversee the development of a new city master plan, aimed at accommodating both present and future generations. The Enugu State Geographical Information System Service Law, on the other hand, focuses on automating and digitizing processes for service delivery, beginning with land-related matters.

Regarding the ENSIEC Amendment Law, Governor Mbah noted its alignment with constitutional amendments concerning electoral bodies, ensuring compliance with the evolving legal framework.

Explaining the rationale behind the New Enugu City Development Agency, Mbah emphasized the government’s forward-thinking approach to governance, addressing the need for urban expansion to accommodate the growing population. He underscored the significance of having a master plan for future generations to prevent urban congestion.

Furthermore, Mbah elaborated on the Enugu State Geographical Information System Service, emphasizing its role in fulfilling the administration’s promise to streamline land administration processes and provide efficient services. He highlighted the agency’s mandate to manage property information systems and facilitate digital platforms for accessing services and making payments.

Governor Mbah expressed gratitude to the State House of Assembly for their support and swift passage of these executive bills, acknowledging the importance of collaboration in driving the state’s development agenda forward. He emphasized that progress and success hinge on the collective efforts of all stakeholders, including the legislature.

In conclusion, Governor Mbah affirmed his administration’s commitment to fulfilling its promises and leveraging legislative support to enhance governance and service delivery in Enugu State.

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Tinubu’s presidency not by chance – Shettima

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Vice President Kashim Shettima asserts that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s rise to the presidency is not coincidental but a divine blessing due to the sincerity of his character. Shettima made these remarks during a courtesy visit by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) delegation at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.

“The path leading to Tinubu’s presidency wasn’t accidental. He is known for his consistent sacrifices for the nation’s welfare. His success is viewed as a divine reward for his genuine intentions,” Shettima stated.

He stressed the importance of leaders fostering unity, highlighting Tinubu’s significant role in offering an alternative political platform within Nigeria’s system.

“Tinubu has made sacrifices and facilitated unity. He provided a haven for those facing political persecution and offered an alternative platform when others struggled for recognition,” Shettima elaborated.

Shettima urged Nigerians to be patient with Tinubu’s leadership, emphasizing that his presidency is not a coincidence but a deliberate journey towards national success.

He also charged the newly appointed NCPC Board to demonstrate unwavering commitment to their duties and reminded them of the importance of religious dedication in addressing national challenges.

“All of you were selected based on your religious commitment. We cannot overlook the issues within our system. It’s essential for all of us to strive for positive change to achieve the Nigeria we envision,” he concluded.

Previously, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, the Executive Secretary of NCPC, expressed gratitude to President Tinubu for the opportunity to serve on the board and praised Vice President Shettima’s outstanding leadership, citing his support for the Church and peace efforts in Borno State.

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