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Archaeologists find ‘missing link’ in history of Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

In reality, archaeologists have revealed, Fountains Abbey near Ripon was as busy, noisy and industrialised as anywhere in 12th- and 13th-century Britain.

It is Britain’s biggest and most famous monastic ruin and one that conjures up bucolic images of peace, reflection and very little noise apart, perhaps, from the occasional waft of Gregorian chanting.

The National Trust has announced the discovery of the foundations of a medieval tannery at the abbey, part of a world heritage site. Experts were astonished.

“This really is a wonderful discovery, it is very important,” said Mark Newman, a trust archaeologist. Fountains is probably the most investigated Cistercian abbey in Britain, “so when you discover a major building on this scale, that was completely unknown … you don’t get many of those in a career.”

Newman said many assumed there was nothing more to be discovered about Fountains but one puzzle had always been what a long, bowling alley-type extension, close to the River Skell, was used for.

Ground-penetrating radar has made discoveries of previously unknown monastic buildings, including one 16 metres wide and 32 metres long. They have lined pits and tanks around them. These and the close proximity to water have led to the firm conclusion that it is the remains of a tannery, a place for producing materials for clothing, belts, bedding and book bindings.

It is the scale of the tannery and how close it is to the monks that has further surprised archaeologists. “A tannery of this size, spanning such a large area of the site, reveals an operation on an industrial scale,” said Newman.

A medieval tannery was a horrible place. Animal skins and hides would first have hooves and horns removed before they were washed to remove dung, dirt and blood. Fat, hair and flesh were then removed, usually by being submerged into a lime or urine solution and being scraped with knives.

Newman said the noise, activity and stench of tanneries had led to an assumption it would be sited much further away from monks and their worship. “We see now that the tannery was much closer and a far cry from the idea of a quiet, tranquil abbey community,” he said.

Newman said people would have been astonished at the number of people who lived and worked so industriously at Fountains, with Cistercian monks being “the first ones to apply themselves to these industrial scales of living and managing the landscape”.

He said the findings also showed the importance of lay brothers at the site. Lay brothers were not literate, like the monks, and were often recruited to do the more physical jobs. That left monks more time to study, pray and worship.

The lay brothers, considered “separate but equal” to monks, were provided with weatherproof animal skin capes for outdoor work and slept under sheepskins. “Fountains recruited hundreds of lay brothers in its early decades, all of whom needed to be equipped this way,” said Newman. “This tannery provided the means for that.”

He said though he was taken aback by the scale of the operations that had been discovered, it all made sense. The monks at Fountains were, by necessity, “pioneering farmers and land managers on an industrial scale”.

The radar research was carried out with partners including the University of Bradford. Chris Gaffney, a professor of archaeological sciences, said the technology provided “stunning, unexpected and intriguing glimpses” into life at the abbey.

The trust said it was the largest tannery discovered at a monastic site in Britain and was being seen as a kind of “missing link” in the history of the abbey, which operated from the early 12th century to 1539 and the dissolution of the monasteries.

“It is so easy with a place like Fountains to think this is exactly as the monks saw it,” said Newman. “What we are finding is that there is a whole unrecognised history.”

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NDLEA destroys 304,436kg, 40, 042 litres of illicit drugs seized in Lagos, Ogun

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on Tuesday 16th April 2024 destroyed a total of 304,436kg kilograms and 40,042 litres of illicit substances seized from parts of Lagos and Ogun states.

Speaking at a brief ceremony where the seized drugs were publicly destroyed in Badagry Lagos, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) said the open destruction of the seized illicit drugs followed court orders, even as he called for more public support for ongoing efforts by NDLEA and other stakeholders to curb the menace of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in Nigeria.

“Though a routine exercise and an established process of removing dangerous substances from our society, the public destruction of confiscated illicit drugs is usually conducted at the end of their related cases in court”, the NDLEA boss stated adding that the exhibits being destroyed were of mixed types, “which include illicit drugs in solid and liquid states as well as in various classes such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and tramadol, among others.”

He said the drugs were seized by NDLEA operatives across different formations of the Agency in Lagos and Ogun states from January 2022 till date especially at the Lagos seaports, airports, and land borders.

“To be destroyed here today on the order of the court are solid drugs, weighing 304,436.055kg and 40, 042. 621 litres of liquid drugs. The sheer volume of the drug haul speaks volumes about the extent of the nefarious activities of the drug underworld.”

He expressed appreciation to traditional rulers, heads of security agencies, the clergy, members of NGOs and CSOs as well as other stakeholders who witnessed the ceremony.

“The destruction of these seizures complies with the NDLEA Act, which mandates the Agency to destroy all drug exhibits after prosecution. We want to say that your presence here is a testament to this important occasion. To this end, we appreciate all stakeholders and members of the public for witnessing this exercise”, he added.

He seized the opportunity to acknowledge the support of the Agency’s local and international partners, “especially the American Drug Enforcement Administration (US-DEA); United Kingdom NCA, Border Force; the Germans, the French; Indian NCB, among others who had worked with us on a number of busts. Similarly, we appreciate the Nigerian military and other law enforcement agencies such as the Customs; Immigration; Police; Civil Defence; FRSC; NFIU,NAFDAC and others that have been supporting our efforts to rid Nigeria of illicit drugs.”
While assuring that NDLEA will not relent in its effort to end the drug scourge in the country, Marwa called for more public support for the activities of the Agency. “The safety of our society is the responsibility of every one of us. Every citizen shall be fulfilling his or her civic duty by assisting the Agency’s War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign to clean up our communities and cities. Together, we can make this country secure”, he added.

Lagos state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu represented by Chairman, Badagry West Local Government, Mr. Olusegun Onilude expressed satisfaction with the efforts of NDLEA to tackle the scourge of illicit drugs in the country.

“Almost all crimes and criminalities are fueled by illicit drugs, so the Lagos state government appreciates NDLEA and its leadership in their resolute fight against illicit drugs.

“The volume of illicit drugs being destroyed here today speak volume and every right-thinking person should be worried”, he stated.

He also thanked the Agency for taking the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) social advocacy campaign to schools and communities across Lagos State. “No doubt, NDLEA is working, and the state will continue to collaborate with the Agency and its leadership”, he assured.

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NSA receives 22 abducted students, staff of Zamfara varsity

The National Security Adviser, NSA, Nuhu Ribadu, on Monday, April 15, 2024, received 22 abducted students and staff of Federal University, Gusau in Zamfara, who were rescued after 207 days in captivity.

The victims, comprising 15 students and seven workers of the university, were abducted from the university in September 2023.

According to the NSA, the rescue operation was coordinated by the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, NCTC, on Sunday

Mr Ribadu who received the rescued victims on Monday in Abuja, urged them not to allow their experience to break them, but should rather make them stronger.

The NSA also thanked the parents of the rescued victims for their patience and understanding during the period and commended security agencies for their tireless work and sacrifices.

“On behalf of the President, I thank all those involved in the successful rescue of the victims without losing anyone of them or paying any ransom,” he said.

“This is yet again a success story in our efforts to free all those being unlawfully held in captivity.

“We have so far released over a thousand of such victims without noise and with complete respect to their privacy and safety.

“This occasion marks a final juncture in a series of rescues we have undertaken in the last few months, to free victims of recent cases of mass abductions.

“Going forward, we are strengthening law enforcement and security measures to prevent these abductions, and strengthen physical security across vulnerable communities,” he said.

Earlier, the National Coordinator, NCTC, Maj.-Gen. Adamu Laka recalled that those rescued were abducted from the school on Sept. 22, 2023, at about 0230hrs

Mr Laka said bandits armed with various weapons attacked three off-campus students’ hostels at Sabon Gida in Gusau and kidnapped a number of female students alongside some male artisans

Others, he said, were a private security guard and a protocol officer of the university.

He added that the bandits ransacked the hostels, and carted away foodstuffs, mobile phones, laptops, ATM cards, cash and other valuables.

According to him, the abductees were subsequently herded on motorcycles and foot to a location through a town in the Tsafe local government area of Zamfara.

“Search and rescue was conducted by a combined team of law enforcement agencies and the abductees were subsequently released in three batches, after 207 days in captivity,” he said.

“The first batch was rescued on March 15 while the second batch was rescued on April 12 and the last batch was rescued on April 14.

“All the abductees were profiled at NCTC while the ONSA Medical Team examined them and administered minor treatments on the bruises sustained by 3 of the abductees.

“Four of them were diagnosed with malaria and are being treated. None of the females was molested and all the females tested negative for pregnancy test,” he added.

One of the rescued victims, Hafsat Ibrahim, thanked God and the government for ensuring their safe return after 207 days in captivity.

Representative of the Zamfara government, Ibrahim Anka, commended the efforts of the NSA in coordinating the military and security operations that ensured the safe rescue of the victims.

Anka also commended the Federal Government for the efforts and recent positive improvement in security in the state.

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President Tinubu declares April 7, National Police day

President Bola Tinubu has declared April 7 as National Police Day.

Tinubu, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, made this known on Monday night during the maiden edition of the Nigeria Police Awards and Commendations ceremony held in the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

The president identified a complete overhaul of institutional mentality and memory of police officers as fundamental in his administration’s ongoing bid to transform the force into a modern, professional and accountable institution.

According to Tinubu, his administration had initiated wide-ranging reforms to revitalize the nation’s police force since assuming office in 2023.

He, therefore, stressed the need to engage men and women of the force in training and capacity-building to equip them with the expertise required to carry out the arduous task of modern policing.

He also disclosed that the Federal Government had approved the first week of April as police week and the last day of the week as the National Police Day.

“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in our tradition of honouring the Police Force in the life of this great nation, we have approved the adoption of the first week of April as Police Week.

“Furthermore, the last day of the week, April 7th, is hereby declared National Police Day in Nigeria.

“Tonight, I must remind you that we don’t see you as just the shields of the nation, we don’t see you as robots.

“This is why we are here; we are here to humanise you.

“At a time in Nigeria’s history, when the nation’s security architecture is being stretched beyond elastic limits, the citizens have been able to endure in the face of security threats as well as attacks on their lives and livelihoods due to the commitment of the police.

“Your exemplary valour doesn’t only represent the pinnacle of patriotism that binds us but also instils confidence that brighter days lie just beyond the horizon,” he said.

The president listed part of the comprehensive reforms by his administration to rejuvenate the police force to include investment in training and capacity-building.

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