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Delayed inquests into deaths of Stephen Port’s victims open

inquests

Delayed inquests into deaths of Stephen Port’s victims open

The delayed inquests into the deaths of four young men who were victims of the serial killer Stephen Port open on Tuesday, as the lawyer for their families said the hearings marked a key step in their “quest for accountability”.

Anthony Walgate, a 23-year-old fashion student from Hull, Gabriel Kovari, 22, originally from Slovakia, Daniel Whitworth, 21, a chef from Kent, and Jack Taylor, 25, a warehouse supervisor from Dagenham, east London, were killed between June 2014 and September 2015.

Port, now 46, was found guilty of their murders and sentenced to a whole-life order in November 2016 at the Old Bailey in London. His trial heard that the former chef drugged and raped the men before dumping their bodies near his flat in Barking, east London.

The inquests are being held at Barking town hall, just yards from where they were each given fatal overdoses of the date rape drug GHB by Port. Their families have campaigned for answers as to why Port was not stopped sooner.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, the families’ lawyer, Neil Hudgell, said: “It has been seven years and three months since Anthony Walgate was murdered; seven years and one month since Gabriel Kovari was murdered; just over seven years since Daniel Whitworth was murdered; and just over six years since Jack Taylor was murdered.

“Their families have felt every single day of their absence. They have waited with great patience and conducted themselves with real dignity. Yet they’ve always wondered about whether there would have been a different outcome if the police had investigated Port properly and taken their concerns seriously, and if their boys hadn’t been gay. For them, the inquests mark a key step in their quest for accountability.”

On Friday, Sarah Munro, assistant coroner for the east London area, told jurors to focus on the evidence in court as they were sworn in.

She said: “On Tuesday … we will commence hearing inquests into the deaths of four young men who were murdered by a man called Stephen Port in 2014 and 2015. They were killed by him with overdoses of a date rape drug called GHB and their bodies were discarded by him yards from where we are sitting now.”

The inquests, which were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are expected to last between eight and 10 weeks.

Sentencing Port in 2016, Mr Justice Openshaw said: “The murders were committed as part of a persistent course of conduct of the defendant.”

The Metropolitan police said it was offering every support to the families, and had been assisting the coroner for some months in providing all statements and information required to aid the jury “in thoroughly examining what happened.”

In a statement, Commander Jon Savell, head of profession for investigations at the force, said: “At the time of Port’s conviction, we apologised to the victims’ families and Daniel Whitworth’s partner for how we initially responded to the deaths, and I would like to apologise again.

“It is extremely important to us that members of the LGBT+ communities trust the police and feel confident they are being provided with the best possible service. We welcome the help and support of our independent advisors and a whole range of community partners to help us achieve this.”

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Gov. Fintiri approves N10,000 monthly allowance for corps members in the state

Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, has announced a monthly payment of N10,000 for all corps members serving in the state.

Fintiri stated this while declaring open the 2024 batch ‘A’ stream 1 orientation programme for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, deployed to Adamawa in Damare, Girei Local Government Area of the state.

Represented by deputy governor, Professor Kaletapwa Farauta, Fintiri said the payment was to cushion the effects of inflation currently being experienced in the country.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you will reciprocate this gesture by being diligent, disciplined, hardworking and committed to your various places of primary assignments for the betterment of your host communities,” he said.

Fintiri said that Adamawa remained a home away from home for corps members serving in the state.

“More so, as corps members, you are automatically bonafide indigenes of Adamawa.

“This is a privileged status conferred on you by me as the number one resident and executive governor of the state.

“I always regard you as our strategic partners in the execution of our people oriented policies and programmes, particularly on education, healthcare, agriculture and rural development,” he said.

In his address, Mr Jingi Denis, Coordinator of the NYSC in Adamawa, described the approval of N10,000 monthly allowance for corps members as first of its kind in the state and lauded Fintiri for his practical support.

He encouraged the corps members to comply strictly with all camp rules and regulations, and be obedient to the corps officials.

He said they would apply appropriate sanctions on recalcitrant corps members in line with the provisions of the NYSC Bye-Laws.

“The oath of allegiance, which you have just taken today is solemn.

“I implore you to always find time to meditate over its spirit and letters, and be guided by same throughout the service year and beyond,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 1,336 corps members were registered and the oath of allegiance was administered by Justice Helen Hamman-Joda of the Adamawa High Court.

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Over 100 houses submerged as flood traps Lagos residents

Hundreds of residents in Lagos were on Tuesday trapped after the early morning rain leaving scores of houses and cars submerged with occupants fleeing their homes for fear of drowning.

Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Fire Services, police and other stakeholders, rushed to the scene to prevent a stampede as the residents were already panicking.

It was learnt that the affected communities included Oke Ishagun, Isale Aboru, Ikola, Olubodun Majiyagbe-Ajayi, Makinde Street, Olokowo Street and Adeola Street.

Some of the affected areas were said to have been flooded after the rainfall on Sunday and the water was yet to dry up before Tuesday’s rain compounded the situation.

It was gathered that residents of ayobo axis were worse hit as a result of the volume of water channelled through the Marwa bridge which became flooded after the rain.

The bridge was constructed by then Military Administrator, Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) to take water from only 15 canals.

At the moment, information gathered revealed that the channel was receiving water from over 60 canals, thus overstretching its capacity by four times.

Residents lamented that the bridge was taking in more water than it was originally contracted to absorb, urging the government to upgrade the place so that it would accommodate more water thereby reducing the flood situation.

The over-flooded river ran into nearby business centres, destroying wares such as caskets, gates, doors, furniture, bricks and destroyed houses.

Confirming the incident, the Lagos Office Coordinator of NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, said that 151 houses were affected by the flood, adding that there was no loss of lives or injury.

He said the emergency workers were able to hold the bridge and also organize the people for ease of evacuation, noting that while some of them were successfully moved from their submerged homes, others were still there, against advice.

Farinloye said 23 houses were affected at Oke Ishagun, 35 at Isale Aboru, 29 at Ikola, 15 at  Olubodun Majiyagbe-Ajayi, 12 at Makinde, 16 at Olokowo and 21 houses at Adeola.

He urged residents to prepare for the rainy season, noting that the incidents of Sunday and yesterday should serve as a pointer for what to expect this year.

“It is important to imbibe the culture of disaster risk reduction strategies in all spheres of our societal endeavours. We must begin adhering to safety measures against flood disasters.

“Thanks be to God that no life was lost and no one was injured. What we witnessed the most was the disruption of the normal lives of the people.

“NEMA is working with the appropriate state MDAs in amelioration of observations and findings from today’s incident and the state has promised to make sure no stone is unturned to make the state safer.

“The Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Mustapha Habib Ahmed, hereby appeals to Nigerians to start clearing their drainages of dirt and desilt them. Community Development Associations should live up to their responsibilities in coordinating the activities of neighbourhoods toward safer environments,

“Local Government Authorities must not spare the rods against corporate organisations blocking the drainages while people must be prosecuted for blockage of drainages, dumping of refuse in drainages as envisaged in environmental laws to save the society.

“The Director General expressed his support of the Lagos State Government’s bold decision after the 2023 rainy season by pulling down drainage obstructing structures across various parts of the state”.

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After notice of disconnection, Tinubu orders payment of Aso Villa’s outstanding electricity bill

President Bola Tinubu has directed immediate payment of the electricity bill utilised by the State House to Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).

Recall that on Monday, the AEDC threatened to disconnect the electricity supply in the State House, the Central Bank and EFCC office, amongst 83 other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over debt of N47.1billion.

The disco gave the MDAs ten days to comply and defray their debts or risk blackout from February 28, 2024.

In a statement on Tuesday, the presidential Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga said the President’s directive followed the reconciliation of accounts between the State House Management and AEDC.

The Presidency faulted AEDC’s near N1 billion claim, saying the Presidential Villa’s outstanding bill stood at N342,352,217.46.

“Contrary to the AEDC’s initial claim of N923 million debt in a paid advertorial in newspapers, the State House’s outstanding bill is N342,352,217.46, according to a letter by the management of AEDC to the State House Permanent Secretary, dated 14th February  2024.

“Having reconciled the position to the satisfaction of both parties, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, has given assurance that the debt would be paid to AEDC before the end of this week.

“Following the example of the Presidency, the Chief of Staff also urged other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to reconcile their accounts with AEDC and pay their electricity bills”, the statement said.

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