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‘Fake First Lady’ arrested after gaining access to presidential complex

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A woman, who the secret service accuse of using various false identities to gain access to Nigeria’s presidential complex to run business scams, has been arrested.

The secret service said Amina Mohammed initially posed as Kogi state’s first lady to gain entry to the presidential villa in the capital, Abuja.

She then allegedly invited people to the villa making them believe it was at the invitation of the president’s wife.

At a press briefing about the arrest, Ms Mohammed shouted: “It is a lie.”

Peter Afunanya, a spokesman for Nigeria’s domestic spy agency, known as the Department of State Security, told reporters the scandal took place while First Lady Aisha Buhari was out of the country in November 2017.

Wealthy businessman Alexander Chika Okafor, invited to the presidential villa by Mohammed, accused her of defrauding him of 150 million naira (Sh42,421,188) over a property deal in the main city, Lagos, the secret service spokesman said.

Mohammed “took advantage of the fact that personalities such as first ladies, ministers and certain categories of officials are not taken through rigorous protocols and security checks at the villa posts”, Mr Afunanya said.

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Kenya struggles to give life to futuristic Konza city

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Labourers milled around an unfinished eight-storey building in an expansive field in Konza dotted with zebra and antelope – the only visible sign of progress in a decade-old plan to make Kenya into Africa’s leading technology hub by 2030.

Grandiose plans, red tape and a lack of funding have left Konza Technopolis – the $14.5 billion new city to be built some 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Nairobi – way behind schedule on its goal of having 20,000 people on site by 2020.

“It has taken too long and I think people have moved on,” said tech entrepreneur Josiah Mugambi, founder of Alba.one, a Nairobi-based software company, who was initially excited by the government’s ambitious project.

Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, Konza aims to become a smart city – using tech to manage water and electricity efficiently and reduce commuting time – and a solution to the rapid, unplanned urbanisation which has plagued existing cities.

About 40 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people live in towns and cities and the World Bank predicts the urban population will double over the next 25 years, adding pressure to already stretched infrastructure.

Konza’s dream is to become a top business process outsourcing hub by 2030, with on-site universities training locals to feed into a 200,000-strong tech-savvy workforce providing IT support and call centre services remotely.

But the first building has yet to be completed on the 5,000-acre former cattle ranch, three years after breaking ground, and business has shifted its focus to other African countries, like Rwanda, with competing visions to become modern tech hubs.

“Nobody can wait that long for a city to be built. For a tech entrepreneur, they think about where their startup will be two to three years down the line,” said Mugambi.

Other smart cities planned across Africa include Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic City near Lagos that will house 250,000 people on land reclaimed from the sea, Ghana’s Hope City and an Ethiopian city styled as the real Wakanda after the film “Black Panther”.

Bringing such utopian schemes to life is no easy task for African governments that are struggling to provide adequate roads, power, water and security to their existing cities.

“Upgrading infrastructure in places like Kibera (slum) in Nairobi to provide water and a better sewerage system is equally as important as building a new city such as Konza,” said Abdu Muwonge, a senior urban specialist with the World Bank in Kenya.

Some critics say Konza was ill-conceived from the start.

“The vision is wrong; the vision is too big,” said Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent financial analyst.

“This is miles from anywhere. There are not leveraging the existing infrastructure … It is assuming that you can bring in academia, you can bring in venture capital, you can bring in corporates.”

The first serious hurdle arose in 2012 when the National Land Commission (NLC), which manages public land, introduced a cumbersome land acquisition procedure, said Bitange Ndemo, who led a team that conceived Konza Technopolis in 2008.

“The NLC was saying we should follow the processes of acquiring public land, which would take years to complete,” Ndemo, now an associate professor of business at the University of Nairobi, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The delays caused at least one deal with a German university to fall through, he said, as the process was much slower than the old one where investors signed deals directly with government ministries which took care of land leases.

To resolve this, the government transferred ownership of the site to the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), set up in 2012 to co-ordinate development of the new city, which now allocates land to investors on 50-year renewable leases.

Financing has also proven a major issue.

In its strategic plan, the government promised to fund 10 percent of Konza, laying the infrastructure, while the private sector would come in with the rest of the money to build universities, offices, housing and hotels.

But the government was slow to contribute its share and has yet to pass a law to create KoTDA as a legal entity which would make it easier to sign contracts with external lenders, said Lawrence Esho, one of Konza’s project planners until 2013.

“They are way behind schedule partly because the government took time to give Konza money,” he said, adding that no money came in until 2013.

“This stopped any work from starting at the site and investors may have developed cold feet as they waited.”

KoTDA’s chief executive, John Tanui, said the government has committed to invest more than 80 billion shillings ($780 million).

“When I say committed does not mean we have absorbed. Our absorption is less than 10 percent of that figure,” he said, without elaborating.

The government has stepped up funding since last year, said Abraham Odeng, deputy secretary at Kenya’s Information Communications and Technology ministry, without giving figures.

Odeng pointed to a 40 billion shilling contract signed in 2017 with an Italian firm to build roads, water and sewerage infrastructure by 2021, funded by the Italian government.

“That is a concessional loan, which is a long-term loan that the Kenyan government will pay,” he said.

But Kenya’s growing reliance on loans is causing jitters, with the International Monetary Fund warning of an increased risk of default this year.

Cities cannot be financed through central government but the absence of international firms points to a lack of investor confidence in the project, said the World Bank’s Muwonge.

“Getting Konza city off the ground will require that we pull in private capital with concessions for them to deliver certain kinds of infrastructure for which the government may not have resources,” he said.

“The issue is eliminating the challenges for the private sector to come and do business.”

Five local investors, including Nairobi-based software developer Craft Silicon and the state-run Kenya Electricity Transmission Company, are expected to build offices, residential buildings and hotels by 2020, KoTDA head Tanui said.

But critics say it is not enough.

“What (investors) have allocated so far is still a drop in the ocean,” said Ndemo, the former government technocrat.

And international interest is shifting elsewhere.

Rwanda – widely regarded as the least corrupt country in East Africa – launched its Kigali Innovation City in 2015, designed to host 50,000 people in universities and tech companies on a 70-hectare site outside the capital.

The $2 billion plan, due for completion by 2020, is seven times cheaper than Konza.

“All these other (cities) have better proximity, have better density and have better collaborative feedback loops,” said financial analyst Satchu. “We are now at a serious disadvantage vis-a-vis these other countries.”

Reuters

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PHOTOS: See comedian Anne Kansiime’s new love 11 months after divorce

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Ugandan comedian Anne Kansiime has found new love, 11 months after her marriage to Gerald Ojok crumbled.

Kansiime seems to have recovered from the heartbreak and is now head over heels in love with Ugandan singer Skylanta.

On Sunday, Kanssime took to her social media to introduce her new catch to the public, sharing intimate pictures as they locked lips.

Kansiime  and Skylanta

Kansiime captioned the picture in Nyankore dialect; “Rukundo Egumeho na akantukangye lazima.” (May this feeling of love reign)

A visit to Skylanta social media pages confirms the two are indeed madly in love. The little known, skinny musician has shared several picture of themselves spending time together.

Kansiime  and Skylanta

Kansiime was married to Ojok for four years until mid-last year when the marriage hit rock bottom. The cause of their split remains unclear.

The comedienne later confirmed to her fans about the divorce in a live Facebook question and answer session.

Ugandan media speculated that the split might have been caused by their financial status, with Ojok feeling emasculated by Kansiime’s financial muscle.

Other reports claimed that there was so much pressure on Ojok to have a baby with Kansiime, yet the comedienne wanted to focus on stabilising her career.

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Clean sweep for Kenya at Singapore Marathon

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Kenyans on Sunday monopolised both men’s and women’s podium positions at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon where more than 50,000 participants took part. 

Kenyans not only swept the podium elite race categories at the Marathon but did an unprecedented 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17 clean sweep in the men’s race.

Joshua Kipkorir clocked 2 hours 12 minutes and 12 seconds to win the race ahead of compatriots Felix Kirwa and Andrew Kimtai who came in second (2:13:42)and third (2:14:29) respectively.

Cosmas Matolo Muteti crossed the finish line fourth in 2:15:42 to lead Gilbert Yegon and Kibet Collins to top five  sweep before Dominic Ruto, Paul Matheka and Benson Kinutai closed in on the 10 extraordinary sweep.

“This is my first time here. I like the course, it’s very nice. I have no problems with the heat,” the 24 year old Kipkorir said.


Priscah Cherono wins the women’s category with a time of 2:32:12. Photo courtesy -ST PHOTO

In the women’s category, 38 year-old Priscah Cherono was the first to push past the tape, clocking 2:32:12 with Stella Barsosio (2:33:23) and Jane Jelagat (2:35:38) taking the silver and bronze medals.

Chernono said after her victory, “Yesterday was so hot, but today the conditions were good. I am so happy I won the race. I came to this race and I prepared myself, so now I’m dreaming”.

Kipkorir and Cherono will pocket US$50,000 (Sh5.1million) each.

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