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Presidential Election: Nigeria’s Supreme Court dismisses opposition challenges

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Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s Supreme Court refused Thursday to void the recent election of President Bola Tinubu and dismissed the political opposition’s challenges, which argued that the vote was flawed and that Tinubu was not qualified to seek or hold the presidency.

The court held in a majority ruling that the grounds of the challenges were “devoid of merits,” ending a dispute that had put Africa’s most populous country on the edge after the February election. An appeals court in Nigeria also rejected the petitions last month.

Two other candidates in the election separately challenged Tinubu’s win, alleging that he failed to meet the minimum educational qualification to run, did not secure the required number of votes and that the country’s election commission did not follow its own provisions in collating and announcing the election results.

During a televised hearing in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, the Supreme Court dismissed the challenges from the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi in their entirety, affirming the position of the election tribunal that Tinubu’s victory followed the due process.

“It is my view that there is no merit in this appeal,” Justice Inyang Okoro, who read the ruling of the seven-member court panel, said of Abubakar’s petition. A similar ruling was subsequently issued in Obi’s case.

The court also refused to admit new evidence that Abubakar’s lawyers said proved their allegations that Tinubu tendered forged academic credentials from an American university.

The court said the issue of the alleged forgery was not reflected as one of the grounds of the original petition within the time frame provided by the Nigerian Constitution.

“Facts and documents which were not pleaded in the petition have no place in deciding the dispute between the parties,” Okoro said.

The Peoples Democratic Party, Nigeria’s main opposition party, said it was “alarmed, disappointed and gravely concerned” by the court’s finding, arguing it was inconsistent with Nigerian law.

Tinubu, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, lauded the ruling. “The court has done justice to all issues put up for consideration in the petitions on the merits of the law, without fear or favor,” the president said.

While millions of Nigerians followed the question of the president’s academic credentials as the major highlight of the case before the Supreme Court, Thursday’s ruling did not come as a surprise to many because no presidential election in Nigeria has ever been annulled by a court.

Some have said the conditions stipulated in Nigeria’s laws make it difficult to prove irregularities, and some questioned the independence of the judiciary.

Tinubu’s election was largely described by observers as an improvement from the 2019 election. But the observers also said the delays in uploading and announcing the election results could have left room for ballot tampering.

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BREAKING: Rescuers locate crash site of helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi

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The crash site of the helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has been located, Iranian state news agency IRNA and semi-official news outlet ISNA reported on Monday.

The helicopter crashed in a remote part of the country on Sunday.

As president of Iran, Raisi is the second most powerful individual in the Islamic Republic’s political structure after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He became president in a historically uncompetitive election in 2021, and he has overseen a period of intensified repression of dissent in a nation convulsed by youth-led protests against religious clerical rule.

The crash comes at a fraught moment in the Middle East, with war raging in Gaza and weeks after Iran launched a drone-and-missile attack on Israel in response to a deadly strike on its diplomatic compound in Damascus.

As the sun rose Monday, Raisi and the others on board remained missing more than 12 hours after the likely crash, with Turkish drone footage suggesting the helicopter went down in the mountains. Rescuers rushed to the site.

The incident comes as Iran under Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month and has enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Iran has also faced years of mass protests against its Shiite theocracy over an ailing economy and women’s rights — making the moment that much more sensitive for Tehran and the future of the country as the Israel-Hamas war inflames the wider Middle East.

Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said what it called a “hard landing” happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. Later, state TV put it farther east near the village of Uzi, but details remained contradictory.

Traveling with Raisi were Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. One local government official used the word “crash,” but others referred to either a “hard landing” or an “incident.”

Neither IRNA nor state TV offered any information on Raisi’s condition in the hours afterward.

Early Monday morning, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be wreckage of helicopter.” The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

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‘I’ll bring my plane… I plan on keeping it for another four years’ – Biden on second debate with Trump

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President Biden and former President Trump agreed to hold a second debate Sept. 10 hosted by ABC News.

The two candidates had already accepted an invitation earlier Wednesday to attend a CNN debate on June 27, and both confirmed later in the day on social media that they plan to attend the ABC debate in September.

“I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th,” Biden posted on the social platform X. “Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

Biden, of course, is referring to the presidential jet, Air Force One.

“It is my great honor to accept the CNN Debate against Crooked Joe Biden, the WORST PRESIDENT in the History of the United States and a true Threat to Democracy, on June 27th,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Likewise, I accept the ABC News Debate against Crooked Joe on September 10th.”

It marked a whirlwind few hours that started with Biden’s campaign publicly proposing two deabtes in June and September and ended with both candidates agreeing to a date and host.

ABC News had planned to host a GOP primary debate in New Hampshire, but it was canceled after Trump and Nikki Haley said they would not attend. Martha Raddatz of ABC co-moderated one of the 2016 presidential debates; the network did not host a debate in 2020.

The candidates have chosen to go around the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization that has arranged the showdowns dating back to 1988.

Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon suggested working with outlets that hosted GOP primary debates in 2016 and Democratic primary debates in 2020 to avoid any perceptions of bias.

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Nigerian officials probe plan to marry off scores of female orphans

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Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs says it is investigating a plan by a lawmaker in central Niger state to marry off some 100 female orphans of unknown ages later this month.

Speaker of the Niger State Assembly Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji announced the mass wedding last week but called off the ceremony following widespread outrage.

Minister of Women Affairs Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, speaking to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, condemned the plans.

Kennedy-Ohanenye said she had petitioned the police and filed a lawsuit to stop the marriages pending an investigation to ascertain the age of the orphans and whether they consented to the marriages.

“This is totally unacceptable by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and by the government” of Nigeria, she said.

Last week, Sarkin-Daji announced his support for the mass wedding of the orphans, whose relatives were killed during attacks by armed bandits. He said it was part of his support to his constituents following an appeal for wedding funding by local traditional and religious leaders.

The mass wedding had been scheduled for May 24.

“That support I intend to give for the marriage of those orphans, I’m withdrawing it,” he said. “The parents can have the support [money], if they wish, let them go ahead and marry them off. As it is right now, I’m not threatened by the action of the minister.”

Despite national laws prohibiting it, forced or arranged marriage is a common phenomenon in Nigeria, especially among rural communities in the predominantly Muslim north, where religious and cultural norms such as polygamy favor the practice.

Poor families often use forced marriage to ease financial pressure, and the European Union Agency for Asylum says girls who refuse could face repercussions such as neglect, ostracism, physical assault and rape.

Raquel Kasham Daniel escaped being married off as a teenager when her father died and now runs a nonprofit helping children, especially less-privileged girls, get a formal education for free.

She said the ability of women to avoid forced marriage in Nigeria depends on their income and education.

“I was 16 when I lost my dad and I was almost married off, but then I ran away from home. And that gave me the opportunity to complete my education, and now I have a better life,” Daniel said.

“So, the reason why I prioritize education is to make sure that other girls have access to quality schooling so that it will help them make informed decisions about their lives. Education not only increases our awareness as girls about our rights but also enhances our prospects for higher income earning,” she said.

Thirty percent of girls in Nigeria are married before they turn 18, according to Girls Not Brides, a global network of more than 1,400 civil society groups working to end child marriage.

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