The Big 5: FG cautions U.S. against endorsing Atiku; Nigerian Army, Rivers Government clash over discovery of alleged militia camp | Other top stories

These are the stories you should be monitoring today:

The Federal Government on Thursday told the United States to be cautious in granting visa to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, so as not to create the impression that he is being endorsed for the 2019 election.

Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, who stated the government’s position at an interactive session with media executives in Abuja, said that the federal government was aware that Atiku has engaged the services of some lobbyists to persuade the U.S. to issue visa to him, noting however that the U.S. has the prerogative of granting a visa to anyone who applies.

“Our position is that if the former VP already has a US visa, we have no problem about it. What we warn the US Government against is not to give the impression that it is endorsing one particular candidate over the other. That is what is going to happen if, for instance the former VP is granted a visa,” he said.

Reacting to the development, spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan in a telephone chat with The Nation on Thursday, dismissed the comment as a “lazy talk,” stressing that “Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the APC cannot dictate to America who to allow into their country. It is not in the place of Lai Mohammed to tell America who to admit and who not to admit into their country.”

“America is a sovereign country and they reserve the right on who to admit into their country. This is part of the government’s misplaced priority. It’s all lazy talk,” Ologbondiyan added.

Meanwhile, the PDP Presidential flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar, has expressed confidence that beyond all reasonable doubts, his party will triumph in the 2019 elections, judging from the momentum the party had gathered through its transparent primaries and the people working together.

Speaking during the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Thursday in Abuja, he urged the leadership of the party to build on the momentum from its National Convention and the just concluded primaries, adding that he was ready to face President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in an election debate.

“We have built up so much momentum after the Port Harcourt convention, it is now time for us to pick up the momentum again until we land in Aso Villa,” he added.

The Nigerian Army says it has discovered an illegal militia training camp inside a community in Rivers, with a manhunt underway to apprehend operators and sponsors of the camp.

Spokesman of the 6 Division, Col. Aminu Iliyasu who revealed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Port Harcourt, said that the illegal camp was discovered by troops, who were on routine surveillance of the NYSC Orientation Camp in Nonwa Gbam, Tai Local Government Area of the state, adding that soldiers had taken over the camp and the trainees have been removed from the camp.

“The troops on routine surveillance discovered the illegal militia training camp in the area. We met over 100 recruits undergoing military type of training inside the camp,” he said.

The Rivers government has however reacted to the development, as it accused the troops of disrupting the recruitment of personnel into the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, while advising the military against dabbling into what it called “partisan politics.”

Information and Communications Commissioner, Emma Okah, who spoke on behalf of the state government said the Nigeria Army acted wrongly at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari has clamoured for community policing methods to support over-stretched conventional security agencies as canvassed by him through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate in February, adding that the involvement of military in politics could derail the 2019 elections in the state.

“Lagos State has the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps; Kwara State has Operation Harmony and Kano State has Neighbourhood Watch (Vigilante Group). Other states like Imo, Enugu, Edo etc have security support agencies which are the equivalent of the Rivers State’s Agency. So, where did Rivers State go wrong?” Okah asked.

And stories from around the world:

Chinese media on Friday hit back at a U.S. academic report which urged the United States to engage in “tit-for-tat” retaliation to counter what it said was China’s widening campaign for influence which threatened to undermine democratic values. (Reuters)

G20 powers open two days of summit talks in crisis-hit Argentina on Friday after a stormy buildup dominated by US President Donald Trump’s consensus-bucking crusade to realign world trade.(AFP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to raise the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the situation in Yemen with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Argentina. (Al Jazeera)

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday she was focussed on persuading lawmakers to back her Brexit deal at a vote in parliament on Dec. 11 rather than preparing a plan B. (Reuters)

For the first time in more than a decade, a train has travelled from South Korea across the heavily guarded border into North Korea. (BBC)

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