Buhari under fire over 'astronomic' fuel subsidy bill

President Muhammadu Buhari / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

It's only September but Nigerians are already dreading Christmas. For years, the holiday season has been marred by paralysing fuel shortages, grinding business to a halt.

"Every December, I guarantee you, fuel scarcity will happen," said a barber in the prosperous Ikoyi district in Lagos, the country's commercial hub.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

When he became president in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari appointed himself oil minister and vowed to end the shortages, the result of an inefficient and graft-riddled fuel subsidy scheme.

But raising the price of fuel at the pump turned out to be politically explosive so he agreed to compromise.

Instead, he cut out the fuel marketers, effectively making the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) the sole importer of fuel.

Supporters say the strategy is fortifying the country against future shortages but opponents believe it makes the NNPC more opaque and susceptible to graft.

The subsidy bill has spiked and as February elections approach, questions are being asked about the government's management of oil sales and earnings.

"Dramatically is not quite the word, it's astronomically rising," said Cheta Nwanze, research head at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based advisory firm. "It's dangerously unsustainable.

"The NNPC is seen as a piggy bank for whoever occupies the presidency. We were promised more transparency in the operations of the NNPC and that has not been delivered.

"Now it's all in little black books."

'No oversight'
The fuel subsidy scheme has been described as a sprawling web of patronage and mismanagement, a microcosm of the dysfunction in modern Nigeria.

Despite being Africa's largest oil producer, churning out some two million barrels a day, OPEC member Nigeria doesn't have fully working refineries and actually imports the bulk of its fuel.

The fuel is sold at a subsidised rate of around 145 naira ($0.40, 0.34 euros) per litre -- half the price in neighbouring Benin.

Cheap fuel may keep voters happy but marketers have previously overcharged the state for fuel, then turned around to sell the cut-rate petrol at a profit to neighbouring countries.

Marketers have stopped fuel imports when the government owed them outstanding subsidy payments, causing shortages that bring the country to a standstill.

Under Buhari's new configuration, the NNPC imports the bulk of the petrol then absorbs the subsidy into its operational costs as "under recovery". Critics say that is problematic.

"The NNPC is not subject to any form of direct oversight," said Abel Akeni from BudgIT, a civil society group focusing on transparency.

"There is a real concern that the money could be redirected. There is no breakdown of who is receiving what amount. One thing we are certain of is something is not right."

According to the latest NNPC data obtained by AFP, in April the company paid $215 million in under-recovery -- nearly five times as much as the $46 million six months earlier in November.

The numbers appear to be climbing higher. In May, the under-recovery amount hit $245 million.

That approaches an estimate floated by junior oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who reportedly said in April that Nigeria was spending $321 million monthly -- or $3.9 billion annually -- on subsidy payments.

He later denied making the remark.

The bill is beginning to rival that spent during the so-called subsidy scam during former President Goodluck Jonathan's tenure five years ago, when the subsidy payments came to $5 billion, the NNPC reported in a January 2018 presentation to the Senate.

Increased scrutiny
NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu did not answer repeated requests for comment.

The company has said the sudden increase is a result of increasing its petrol importation, higher oil prices and fuel smuggling.

But many aren't convinced. In June, the former finance minister Kemi Adeosun said remittances from the NNPC to the national treasury were "unacceptable".

Political opponents are more direct.

Lawmakers said in July there was an "urgent need" to investigate the NNPC shortfall, saying it was "likely as a result of some individuals not doing what they are supposed to".

They have reason to be suspicious.

In 2014, for example, the then-central bank governor Lamido Sanusi alleged the NNPC had failed to remit $20 billion in oil revenue over an 18-month period in the years before.

The previous government disputed the figure and Sanusi was suspended from his post in what was seen as a politically motivated decision.

A long-term solution to the subsidy sinkhole would be to introduce a more flexible pricing system, said Nigerian economist Nonso Obikili.

That would mean the price at the pump isn't subject to fluctuations in the global price of crude and make it immune from government manipulation.

"But that's where the government struggles," said Obikili. "There's too many vested interests."


Nigeria Air to cost nation N180b yearly

Nigeria Air. Photo PM News Nigeria


•Over N1b Already Spent On Business Plan, Design,London Launch

Except for its indefinite suspension last Wednesday, the national carrier, Nigeria Air, was to cost Nigeria at least N180b yearly for the next 10 years, operators have said.
 
Local airlines operators, who are privy to the actual business design, as well as, the cost implications said the financial commitment, weaved into the five per cent equity, was mandatory to keep the airline up and running.Even though the Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika did not give reasons for the suspension of the airline, which he earlier said would takeoff on December 24, 2018, The Guardian’s investigation showed that the development was not unconnected with investors’ apathy, ownership structure and funding issues.
 
It was further learnt that the huge financial request forced the last Federal Executive Council (FEC) to drop Nigeria Air off the priority list, since it was not budgeted for anywhere.While the operators described the indefinite suspension of the launch as a step in the right direction, sources hinted that over a billion naira had been sunk into the business case design, work by the transaction advisory team in the last two years, and unveiling of the logo in London recently.

According to the Chairman of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison, setting up an airline requires huge capital investment and that explains why national carriers are no long fashionable around the world. Meggison said it was in this light that AON continued to call for a rethink, especially given the tough economic situation in the country and the fact that “it is a moribund idea”
 
Meggison said: “Setting up of National Carrier will cost Nigeria at least N1.08t ($3b). A single Boeing 777 as of today costs about N115.2b ($320m).“Is it wise and should it be our priority as a nation to take $3b from our coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of five years it will take to establish a national carrier?
 
Also, bear in mind that the national carrier will need an additional cash injection of N180bn ($500m) subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat, while about 97 per cent of the 200 million Nigerian masses today are grappling for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, electricity, water, education and good roads,” he said.

Sharing AON’s view that owning a national airline because of national pride is out of vogue because it is capital intensive is Chief Executive Officer of Topbrass Aviation Services, Capt. Roland Iyayi. Iyayi said:  “Just recently, the South African government had to inject $2m into the South African Airways, but how many times will a government be bailing out a national airline? There was a time Alitalia was bailed out by the Italian government, and when it found out that it was no longer tenable, it turned to privatisation.
 
“I am a businessman. If I have already lost $5m and I see that my continued exposure to the same enterprise would amount to $100m loss, I would choose, which of the two options is cheaper for me. And that will be $5. Meaning that no matter how much the government has expended now, it will be pittance to what it will lose in the long term. For me, I would stop now instead of doing something that is not sustainable.”

The Federal Government in July unveiled the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, at the Farnborough International Public Airshow in London. As contained in the Outline Business Case (OBC) approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and disclosed to the public, the airline is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project, with 95 per cent share pushed to investors while the government will own the rest.To get the new national carrier start off, the government will be injecting N3.168b ($8.8m) as the startup capital. It was learnt that the N3.2b is part-payment for the government’s five per cent equity in the investment, whose takeoff fund in the next three years of operation has been put at N108b ($300m).
 


Peaceful conduct, impressive voter turnout hallmark Osun guber poll

INEC National Commissioner Festus Okoye Esq inspecting some Polling Unit in Ede South Local Government of Osun State.#OsunDecides2018. Photo/Twitter/inecnigeria


• Foreign, Local Observers Commend INEC
• Five Arrested For Alleged Vote-Buying
• APC, PDP In Early Lead

There was impressive turnout of voters in yesterday’s Osun State governorship election, for which a total of 48 candidates gunned for the state’s top job.
But unlike the show of shame, which took place in Ekiti State barely two months ago, yesterday’s exercise has been adjudged a far better contest by voters, as well as, local and foreign observer groups that monitored the poll.

The foreign observers led by the European Union and local motoring groups also commended the exercise, describing it as largely peaceful and without calls for any emergency.This tacit endorsement of the efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and others involved in the exercise, was also reflected a number of interim reports released by civil society groups.

However, INEC’s efforts and that of security agencies notwithstanding, they both failed to curb incidence of vote-buying. While five persons were arrested by the police for alleged vote-buying, the exercise witnessed a few skirmishes here and there. There were also cases of malfunctioning of card readers in some polling units and cases of missing names on INEC register.

In the course of the poll, the police nabbed an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a compiled list of names and significant amount of money at Ward 11, Unit 14 of Osogbo Local Council. He was arrested alongside another individual simply identified as AY. Two other suspects were reportedly arrested at Iwo, by an election monitoring group, and they were handed over to the police for necessary action. Also, in Iragbiji, Headquarters of Boripe Local Council, the treasurer of All Progressives Congress (APC) was allegedly arrested for attempting to induce voters with money.

At Ilare Ward 4 in Ilodo, Ile Ife, an APC chieftain was arrested for allegedly holding out N300, 000 to induce voters. Another party chieftain in Iwo was allegedly arrested with the sum of N600, 000, which was confirmed by the Resident Electoral Officer, Mr. Segun Agbaje. Agbaje said, “It is true that two individuals were arrested for vote buying in Iwo. This was confirmed by the report of our field officers in that area.”

Agbaje, however, did not disclose the party the suspects belong to, but said the commission was awaiting full details.Voters in the state trooped out to polling precinct as early as 8am for accreditation, cast their votes, and wait to ascertain the results of the exercise in their units.
    
At Ikirun and Iragbaji in Osun Central, officials of INEC were at their various stations as early as 7:30 am with necessary voting materials for the exercise, while accreditation commenced at 8am.Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, and his wife Kafayat arrived his polling boot at Polo Ward 1, Unit 2 Iragbiji, at exactly 10:08 am.While expressing confidence that he would carry the day, Oyetola described the exercise as peaceful, and commended INEC and security agents for a job well done.

His counterpart from the PDP, Ademola Adeleke, who also spoke shortly after the election said, “so far so good, the election kicked off ‪at 8am‬ and it has been peaceful and that is what we have been preaching, including the international community.“In Nigeria, we want free and fair election and Osun State would be a reference point for free and fair election, and I can assure you that once it is free and fair, I Senator Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke would emerge victorious. I am very confident that I would win the election.
 
The exercise was also peaceful at Ojude Ororuwo, Iragbiji, where voters were out for accreditation at 8am. At Ward 4, Unit 4, Alamisi Market in Ikirun, the exercise was also adjudged peaceful.At Ataoja D Ward 4, Unit 001, Osogbo, the Polling Officer (PO) Azeez Adebukola, told The Guardian around 8.26am that the card reader given to one of the three polling units was not working and he had complained to INEC officials.At Orisumbare Village (Ede South Ward 5, Polling Unit 1) the PO Odejide Damilare, also complained that the card reader failed to recognise the PVC.

The same scenario played out at Gidigbo Ward 2, Post Office, in Iwo where, 62-year-old Ashiru Lamidi, engaged the PO in an argument after the card readers rejected his PVC. Lamidi lamented that since obtaining his PVC in 2014, he has been voting without hassles, wondering why his PVC was now being rejected. He also promised to reject any attempt to disenfranchise him.

At Polling Unit 3, AUD Primary School, Isale Oba 1, Osogbo, over 80 eligible voters could not cast their votes because their names were missing on the INEC register despite the fact that they had their PVCs.A mild protest by them was dispersed by operatives of the Directorate of Security Services (DSS), who equally advised them to channel their grievances to INEC officials in Osogbo. Some of the protesters include, Adidawura Hammed, Oladimeji Tawakalitu, Okanlawon Munirat Ajoke, Ismail Adijat Abiodun, Onifade Opeyemi Temitope, Ojugbele Remilekun, and Salimon Toyin Anike, among others.

At units 008, 001 and 004 in Akarabata, in Ile-Ife, card readers also failed to work, while at Urban Day Area of Ife Unit 5, these devices were also malfunctioning. However, the EU Ambassador, Ketil Kartson, in summarising his observation of the poll, remarked that election process and execution has improved in the country compared to what it used to be in the past.
 
According to him, “There was no case of violence. Officials of the commission were also on ground early with necessary materials.”In similar vein Chairperson of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Mrs. Abiola Akiode also commended the exercise.But the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, is of the view that vote-buying negatively affected poll, even though he commended stakeholders for managing the situation to a bearable level, as reflected in the peaceful exercise.

According to the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), who voted at Oba’s Compound, Ward 3, Unit 1 at 10.35am, “By and large we are inching gradually to a convenient point in our polity. Everybody involved in this election should be commended ranging from INEC officials, security agents, the electorate, politicians and others.”

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in partnership with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), which deployed 180 trained and accredited observers for the election, in its “Preliminary Report Of The 2018 Governorship Election In Osun State,” said, “CDD-PTCIJ observer reports indicate that election materials arrived in most polling units on time; the accreditation and voting process commenced with minimal hitches to the voting process.”

It added: “Although some voters experienced slight challenges while passing through the card reader accreditation process, CDD-PTCIJ observers reported that the card reader issues were not widespread enough, as to affect the ability of citizens to exercise their franchise.  The voter turnout is impressive compared to previous off-cycle elections. We are hopeful it may be at par with the 53 per cent turnout recorded in the last 2014 governorship election of the state.”

The group added that the ban of the use of mobile phones and other recording devices in voting cubicles by INEC “largely thwarted blatant vote buying. In most of the polling units where we observed the ongoing election, voters willingly complied with the policy, and in a case of such attempt to violate the policy, law enforcement agents and INEC officials saw to its enforcement. The Nigerian Police tweeted the arrest of two votes buyers.” CLEEN Foundation, a civil society group, in a statement in Abuja, by the its Executive Director, Dr. Benson Olugbuo, said some police officers abandoned their polling units frequently, while vote- buying was recorded in some polling units.

The group said in places like Isokan LGA, there were a few incidences of police officers abandoning the polling unit frequently in places such as Iremo Ward 2 Ife Central LGA, adding that the alleged cases of vote buying were recorded at polling units 1 ward 3 of Atakunmosa West LGA, Ward 8 Unit 2 Irewole LGA, Egbedore LGA ward 2 unit 2, Iremo ward 2 Ife Central LGA, and Ifedayo LGA Oke Afin Polling Unit 7.

The statement added that some of the policemen deployed seem not have understood INEC’s directive “on the ban of the use of phones/cameras at the voting cubicle.“There were cases of police officers arresting and hindering the electorate and journalists from observing the elections, using their mobile and video devices, Iwo LGA and Odo Otin LGA Ward 14 are pointer cases.“In Oriade LGA, we also observed a few cases of police officer on patrol bearing arms around the polling units. This runs contrary to the code of conduct of police officers on electoral duty. On the whole, the election can be adjudged violence free.”


Peace is attainable despite threat, says Osinbajo

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said peace is attainable in the country if more pragmatic steps could be adopted. Osinbajo, speaking at a lecture organised by the Lagos State Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC) to mark the 2018 International Day of Peace, said alternative dispute resolution enhances peace.

The Vice President, represented by, the Rule of Law Advisor, Office of the Vice President, Akingbolahan Adeniran commended CMC for enhancing peaceful living in Lagos, saying his office cherished peaceful resolution of conflict.

Lagos Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, said this year’s International Peace Day event coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the UN which aimed to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace and respect for human rights.

According to the commissioner, the existence of peace in any society was germane to democracy and a panacea to socio-economic development.Director, Lagos CMC, Omotola Rotimi said peace was very important if any society or nation was going to move forward, stressing the need for peace in the homes, schools, communities, among others.


Experts underscore benefits of E-commerce

Nigerians have been urged to embrace e-commerce for commercial activities, as it is critical to giving businesses global visibility. The leader of MAGELLAN International in Nigeria, Stephen Ekoh, and Dr. Ben Iyere, while speaking at the National Magellan Business Invasion in Lagos, stated that e-commerce is one of the most dominant industries in the world today.

Ekoh said it was time to identify with MAGELLAN to live above the Nigerian economy.Iyere stressed that financial freedom is MAGELLAN’s primary offering, with one of its programmes, Lifestyle Point, affording participants access to fund, even after death.He allayed fears of rampant fraud in e-commerce, saying: “The Internet is like the society, where you have the good and the bad. Fraud is not only on the Internet; it is everywhere.”


Supreme court rules on ALSCON ownership

alscon


• As Nigeria Loses $16.55bn
After years of legal battle and frustration, the Federal Court of Appeal, Abuja, will on September 27, 2018, give judgment on the authentic ownership of Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON). Same court had earlier fixed judgment for June 27, 2018, but adjourned to September 27.

This judgment is expected to end years of frustration over unpaid salaries/allowances of over N2.3bn and further loss of lives of former workers, billions of naira as revenue, asset stripping and dishonesty on the part of government and stakeholders in ALSCON.Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment was delivered on July 6, 2012 in Case No. SC. 12/2008.

In the ruling, the court issued “an Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) … from inviting any further bid for the sale and acquisition of ALSCON in violation of the contract with BFI Group.” The court also barred BPE from “negotiating to sell, selling, transferring or otherwise handing over ALSCON to any person or persons in violation of the contract between it and BFI Group.”

BFI Group instituted an enforcement-hearing at the Federal High Court of Abuja and the then justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu-Kafarati, who currently serves as Supreme Court judge, issued an order, dated September 30, 2014, ordering BPE to fully enforce the Supreme Court’s judgment of July 6, 2012.

Justice Abdu-Kafarati further asked BPE to “forthwith take full control and possession of ALSCON from anybody, including UC RUSAL et al. and prepare same for hand over/transfer to BFI Group.”

But these orders were not obeyed, as UC RUSAL in a separate action filed a case on October 20, 2014, at the Federal High Court, Uyo, asking the court to intervene and restrain BPE from executing the Supreme Court and Federal High Court orders.

On November 10, 2016, that was 21 days later, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her ruling, dismissed UC RUSAL’s claim, describing its continued questioning of the Supreme Court’s decision as not only “unimaginable”, but an act of a “busy body…From where I sit (and) stand, the above judgment of the Supreme Court is clear and unequivocal and leaves no room for speculation”.

Similarly, Justice Yahaya of the Court of Appeal, Abuja on had on January 23, 2018, questioned the behaviour and intent of the appellant, UC Rusal, saying its “interested only in obtaining the Order of Injunction….and calculated attempt to waste time of the court and to continue to frustrate a specific and clear order of the Supreme Court to execute its judgment.”

She went ahead to quash all injunctions that constituted a restraint to the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling on ALSCON.The Chief Coordinator, South South, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mr. Friday Udoh had on September 13, 2018 petitioned the President of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, seeking justice and the way forward on the ALSCON case.


Afelokhai cautiously optimistic as Enyimba confront Rayon Sports

[FILE] Enyimba during a training


There is the tendency for a home team to see a drawn away game as an already concluded tie, even when the second and decisive leg has not been played. In some cases, though, the home team has lived to regret not paying much attention to its preparation for the return leg when the damage had already been done.

That is the fate Enyimba goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai, does not want his team to suffer in the CAF Confederation Cup tie against Rayon Sports of Rwanda today. He told cafonline.com during the week that although Enyimba got a good result against Rayon Sports in Kigali last week, the deal is not yet done. He wants everybody, including players and management, to get ready for a Rayon Sports team that would throw everything at them because they have nothing to lose.

Afelokhai, who has been a revelation in this year’s CAF Confederation Cup, supplanting Super Eagles’ star, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Black Stars’ Fatau Daoudu as Enyimba’s number one goalkeeper, added: “My dream is to win, at least, a continental cup with Enyimba. I’ll do my best to be part of history and win the Confederation Cup.

“We had a good match in Kigali against Rayon Sports and the result was okay; but we must overcome Rayon Sports in Aba so that we can qualify for the semi-finals.”Afelokhai, who revealed that he is motivated by Enyimba’s size and achievements in Africa, said: “I want to be remembered here at Enyimba as one of the club’s great goalkeepers. I also want to emulate my hero, Vincent Enyeama.

The performance of the goalkeeper, who stands out with his size 45 boots, has raised questions over the criteria adopted in choosing national team goalkeepers. But, he is not worried by his continued neglect by the Super Eagles. Rather, he is bothered by today’s game against Rayon Sports, saying all hands must be on deck to see Enyimba through.

“We know the second leg encounter will not be easy against Rayon Sports but we are going to do our best to ensure we qualify for the semi-finals. Of course, I will do my best with all my heart and we know all that is at stake.

We believe the God that has brought us to this point will help us qualify for the semifinals.” Rayon Sports’ 40-member delegation arrived in Nigeria on Thursday aboard an RwandAir. The delegation includes 19 players, the technical staff, members of the club’s executive committee, four journalists and select fans.

Lack of accountability, poor leadership, hindering Kebbi—Elders

Top retired civil servants in Kebbi State under the aegis of Kebbi Development Forum (KDF), yesterday, attributed the state’s underdevelopment to poor leadership induced by lack of accountability from successive governments.

The group’s Secretary-General, Usman Abubakar, said challenges confronting the state are aggravated by lack of strong opposition and elites’ complacency, cynicism, docility and failure to provide leadership to their communities.

He argued that the decay cannot be blamed on the present administration alone, though lack of vision, focus, sincerity of purpose, reckless spending of public funds and wanton disregard for due process have further aggravated the rot in the administration of governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.

He said: “In area where the state has comparative advantage like agriculture and had received over N17bn from the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), it has not fared better. If 40 per cent of this amount were channeled to genuine farmers with good management, huge positive impact would have been made. Yet, a false picture of agricultural transformation is being made,” he observed.


Bello to end illegal parking of trucks

Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello has vowed to take serious action against illegal parking of heavy-duty trucks on highways in the state.Bello said this while on empathy visit to Maje, where an inferno destroyed about eight houses, 40 shops, one car, a motorcycle and four persons sustained various degrees of burns.

Represented by his deputy, Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, he said all the victims would be treated at the Suleja General Hospital courtesy of the state government.
The Chairman, Suleja Local Government and the desk officer of the state emergency management agency in Suleja, explained to the governor that the inferno was from an illegally parked truck, which spilled all its petroleum content after it overturned.

Bello vowed that any heavy-duty truck caught going against the laws would be made to face full wrath of the law.The governor warned youths in the state to desist from jungle justice, as the loss recorded would have been minimal, but for the stoning of fire fighters by angry youths in the area.


Buhari departs for New York to attend UN general assembly 

President Muhammadu Buhari will today depart for New York to participate in the 73rd Session of United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA73), which officially opened on September 18, 2018.

The theme for this year’s session is: “Making the United Nations relevant to all People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

The highpoint of Buhari’s participation will be his address on Tuesday to the General Assembly on the opening day of the debate. The President’s presentation of Nigeria’s National Statement is expected to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to international peace and security; sustainable socio-economic development; disarmament and de-nuclearisation; youth and women empowerment; climate change; rule of law and human rights, among others.

He is also expected to canvass international support for the fight against corruption; the return of illicit assets; counter-terrorism and insurgency, among others.

A statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, yesterday, said the President and his wife, Aisha, will also attend a welcome reception hosted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and his spouse, for Heads of State and Governments and their spouses.The Nigerian delegation is expected to attend the Mandela Peace Summit, which is a high-level meeting on Global Peace in honour of the centenary birth of the late South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela.


Delta: Kachikwu donates relief materials to flood victims

Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, over the weekend donated one million naira, 50 bags of rice and other food items to internally displaced persons, at the Berger Yard temporary shelter, in Asaba.

He said the gesture is his little way of identifying with flood victims in his state, being the highest political office holder and leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.He said he was in the state on a fact-finding mission on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to see how government can activate support mechanism for flood victims.

“This is basically my personal contribution. From this visit, the Federal Government will know what the needs are and further support them,” he said.He said: “What I found here is that people are residing in shanties. They will need to be resettled. But in the interim, we have to ensure that those in the IDP camps are well catered for, in terms of feeding, water and medical.”


Lagos sues for peace over hijab controversy

Lagos State government, yesterday, appealed to stakeholders in the contentious issue of wearing Hijab in public schools to maintain peace, law and order while the Supreme Court ruling on the matter is being awaited.

Speaking on the refusal of entry of five students of Isolo Senior Secondary School on September 18, 2018, Deputy Governor, Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule said the government was working assiduously to resolve the matter.
 
She said in the interim, the principal of the school has been redeployed to douse tension and allow for thorough investigation into the matter.Adebule urged the public to be patient with government in dealing with the matter, as according to her, “it is important for the general public to know that there is Public Service Rule, which must be adhered to strictly in dealing with public servants in the event that they are found culpable of any charges.”

The Deputy Governor acknowledged letters addressed to her by Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria and Muslim Forum of Isolo over the issue and assured that their grievances were being looked into.


Ortom says anti-open grazing law stays

Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom./ AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

• As Group Vows To Oppose Aspirants Seeking Its Repeal

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has said threats to his life would not deter him from standing firm in defence of his people.He re-affirmed that the state’s anti-open grazing law has come to stay, just as he vowed to continue resisting attempts from outside forces to repeal the law.He spoke on Friday at the maiden public lecture organised by the Conference of Benue Journalists (CBJ) with the theme: “The Effects of Herdsmen and Farmers Crises on Food Security in Nigeria” in Abuja.

Ortom has also expressed confidence in winning the forthcoming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary election in the state.The governor, who gave the assurance, yesterday, in Makurdi after his return from the party’s successful screening in Abuja, said he would emerge victorious in 2019 election.
While lamenting the plight of people in various Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) in the state, Ortom wondered why a certain section of the country would want to forcefully impose their values on other people in a secular society like Nigeria.

He said: “I stand on the path of truth in the defence of my people, who elected me. As long as I am alive, I will continue to defend my people and the unity of this country.

Meanwhile, three major socio-cultural organisations in Benue State comprising Mzough -U- Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omni Igede, have vowed to oppose any aspirant s with the intention to repeal the state’s anti-open grazing law.

Consequent to this, the groups have asked all candidates aspiring for political offices to sign undertaking that they would not tamper with the ranching law, if elected.

The groups led by President General, Mzough-U-Tiv, Edward Ujege, said: "We believe in the law and stand by it. Anybody that does not believe in it is working against the state. We commend the state assembly, Gov. Samuel Ortom, Gabriel Suswam and other stakeholders for their commitment to the law."

Ortom said: “Over 200 people, who would have been in school are currently at home, while about 500, 000 IDPs are scattered across various camps in the state. Some died while running away from death and I remember very well that when the Sharia Law was enacted in Zamfara State, Benue indigenes that were not comfortable with the law relocated to their state. How can we achieve development in the midst of lawlessness?”

The impact of the bill, according to the governor, was being felt as over 200 herdsmen have been arrested out of which 49 were convicted.Earlier in his presentation, a Professor of Archeology at Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Zacharys Anger Gundu, said Fulani herdsmen were the biggest destabilising factor in Nigeria.

He linked the killings to an international agenda, with Nigeria being strategically targeted for invasion and occupation.Blaming past leaders of the state over failure to address the problems at the initial stage, Gundu urged people of the state to resist moves by desperate politicians and enemies of the state to impose a governorship candidate on them.


Abuja chambers prepares for 2018 trade fair

The Director-General, Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Tonia Shoyele has revealed that over 1,500 exhibitors and one million visitors would participate in the 2018 Abuja International Trade Fair.

She said not less than 3,000 exhibitors and 20 million visitors had participated in trade fairs organised by the chambers in the last 12 years. Shoyele said given this high level of acceptance and interest, the 2018 trade fair slated for September 26 to October 7, 2018 in Abuja, would once again provide a platform for sharing of trade, investment and market opportunities, information that would assist buyers, sellers, investors and countries to foster business relationships.

She stated that the trade fair is an established multi-sectorial trade event that has grown in scope and strength, as one of the biggest trade platforms for international and domestic exhibitors aimed at promoting new products lines, access new markets, build new business relationship and showcase new products.

She explained that the theme for the 2018 fair: “Enhancing SMES in Agribusiness through Innovative Technology” was apt, as it is in line with government’s diversification plans through agriculture.


Customs intercepts contraband worth N126.8m

Nigeria Customs Service


Officials of Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) Zone B have made a total of 71 seizures of contraband goods with a duty of N126.8m in the months of August and September, 2018.

The Deputy Comptroller of Customs (DCC) and National Coordinator of the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) Strike Force, Alhaji Abdullahi Dahiru Kirawa disclosed that official raids of men of Customs Service led to the seizures.

Addressing journalists in Kaduna, yesterday, shortly after inspection of the seizures, Alhaji Kirawa gave the breakdown of the seizures to include 3,983 bags of 50kg assorted rice, 393 jerry cans of 25 litres of vegetable oil and 456 bales of second hand clothing.

Other items included 70 bags of 50kg sugar, 50 cartons of spaghetti and 49 various types of vehicles suspected to have been smuggled through land borders popularly called tokunbo and brand new ones.

According to him, the strike force was set up with the mandate to ensure effective suppression of smuggling, facilitation of trade and increase in revenue generation, as well as collection through enhanced, well stepped up and coordinated enforcement duties by patrolling the nooks and crannies of the country.

He said: “We advise the trading public to conduct their businesses within ambit of the law, as the renewed vigour of the Strike Force officers and men will not relent in its efforts by ensuring that die hard smugglers are arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.”When asked what would happen to the seized goods, he said most of the goods, particularly food items and clothing would be taken to IDP camps, while others like the vehicles, if not cleared within a stipulated period, would be auctioned according to laid down procedures.


Kumuyi, Utomi say youths can turn around Nigeria’s challenges


The General Superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Folorunsho Kumuyi and Professor Pat Utomi have told youths to recognise that they are the country’s future with the ability to turn around its challenges.

They spoke, yesterday, at a youth programme themed: “The Gathering of Unstoppable Achievers” held at the Deeper Life Bible Church, International Headquarters, Gbagada, Lagos.

The cleric told youths that when there is life, there is hope, especially when there is that unflinching desire to move forward, hope becomes certain.He underscored the importance of planning and team spirit, aside relying on God.

Kumuyi said the choice of the theme was premised on the fact that the impressionable minds of young people are potentials waiting to be discovered and unleashed for greatness.

“It is unfortunate that many youths are engaged in damning activities that are sure to destroy their potentials and stop them from reaching and achieving their God-given goals,” he said.

Utomi, who was the guest speaker, told the youths to recognise that they have the ability to overcome challenges. He drew participants’ attention to the importance of entrepreneurship and good leadership to personal and national development.

“As 21st century youth, you can make Nigeria rise again, but this can only be achieved, when we have true leaders who know how to address people’s pains,” he said.


Restructuring will favour North, says Bafarawa

Former governor of Sokoto State and presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, has said he is happy about the clamour for restructuring because it will favour the north.

A statement from the Media and Publicity Directorate of the Bafarawa Campaign Organisation disclosed that the former governor said this while on a tour of the Southwest, where he felt touched by endorsements from party’s leaders and stakeholders.

Restructuring, he said, is about improvement in education, healthcare, infrastructural development and more, which the north needs more than the south. He, therefore, promised to set up a committee within three months to review reports of past conferences for a blueprint on how to restructure the country. Bafarawa said he was confident Afenifere will ensure that the right leader emerges from the ongoing jostle for presidency.

In Ondo State, the former governor was excited by the reception accorded him at the residence of a prominent Yoruba leader and leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti in Akure. Bafarawa told Fasoranti and other Afenifere leaders that he came to seek their prayer, advice and blessing. He promised to embark on damage control in the areas of economy, security, education, health and infrastructure development, among others, where the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government has not fared well.


Poor emergency response cause of high deaths

 • Launches Mobile Platform To Aid Quick Response
A group, Doctors on Call Health Support Initiative, has said the high rate of death in the country is due to the poor emergency response system in place. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group, Dr. Adejobi Adeloye said lack of quick intervention and lackadaisical attitude of eyewitnesses during emergency cases reduce the chances of survival of victims of attacks and accidents.
 
The group said it decided to launch a mobile application, ‘Amba’ to facilitate quick response to emergency cases in the country. Adeloye said the application would function as a fast and effective emergency and non-emergency solution for the average African.
 
He said:  “Emergency usually strikes without notice. We don’t want a situation whereby people don’t know what to do and can’t get access to emergency vehicle. Our application works with a mobile platform technology. It will send the details of the ambulance driver and within seconds you receive a phone call and the person will be with you in minutes.”


WIMBIZ holds Abuja summit

Nigeria’s leading women’s forum, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), will hold a one-day summit on Thursday, September 27 at the Shehu Musa Yar’dua Centre in Abuja.

With ‘Success Stories: Having what it takes,’ as theme, the summit is a follow up to the 2016 Abuja Super Round Table and would feature some of Africa’s leading women in business who will share their success secrets.

Speakers at the event include: CBN Deputy Governor, Mrs. Aishah Ahmad; Head of Service, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita; ,Chief Loretta Aniagolu; and Dr. Mario Mandara.


Pochettino hails Spurs' mental strength to halt losing streak

Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane scores from the penalty spot for the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on September 22, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP


Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino praised the mentality of his side to grind out a much-needed 2-1 win in sodden conditions at Brighton on Saturday to halt a run of three straight defeats.

Harry Kane ended a five-game goal drought from the penalty spot and Erik Lamela doubled Tottenham's lead before Anthony Knockaert pulled a late goal back for Brighton.

"The players were suffering a lot. The pressure was high, they wanted to deliver a result for the fans, for themselves, and for us (the coaching staff)," said Pochettino, after the first three-game losing run since he took charge in 2014.

"I think the spirit we showed today was the spirit I wanted to see in the other games.

"I'm so happy with the attitude, the spirit. Then we know very well we have great quality, great players, and we can play amazing football."

Victory moves Spurs back up to fifth in the Premier League, still six points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

Like many of his team-mates, England captain Kane has looked jaded from his heroics in winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup in recent weeks.

But he remains deadly from the spot as he hammered home his third goal of the season.

"Today was about mentality, getting around the pitch, pressing high and harder and I think we did that," said Kane.

"We could have put it to bed and won 3-0 or 4-0 but it's good to get back to winning ways. The gaffer will be pleased and we can build on this."

Pochettino had left Kieran Tripper and Toby Alderweireld at home for Tuesday's 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan in the Champions League, but both were recalled among five changes from the side that lost at the San Siro and had a big impact.

Alderweireld's powerful header from Trippier's corner was brilliantly saved by Mat Ryan early on.

Despite Tottenham's dominance in possession, the Australian international goalkeeper wasn't forced into another save until Spurs took the lead three minutes before half-time.

Referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot when Glenn Murray jumped with his arm above his head to block Trippier's free-kick and Kane sent Ryan the wrong way from the spot.

- Sucker punch -
Spurs threw away a lead late on in losing at Watford and Inter in their previous three games, though, and could easily have been made to pay once more.

Brighton had a goal ruled out for offside, strong claims for a penalty of their own waived away, and missed a huge chance when Knockaert fired straight at Paulo Gazzaniga with just Spurs' third-choice 'keeper to beat.

"Anthony's best chance was at 1-0. If we score that and it's 1-1, absolutely it's a different result because we get the momentum," said Brighton boss Chris Hughton.

"When you press you leave yourself vulnerable, as we did for their second goal."

Just as Brighton were threatening to level, Spurs hit them with the sucker punch of a well-worked second goal.

Lamela finished off a fine team move that also involved Lucas Moura and Danny Rose for his fourth goal in his last four Premier League games.

Kane could even have added to his tally as three times Ryan repelled fiercely driven shots from Spurs' talisman in the closing stages.

But Knockaert set up a grandstand finish with the sort of finish he should have produced earlier by firing into the far corner in stoppage time.

Knockaert had one final chance to snatch a point, but placed his shot too close to Gazzaniga as Pochettino blew a big sigh of relief at the full-time whistle.

Salah back in the goals as Liverpool ease past Southampton

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) vies with Southampton's Spanish midfielder Oriol Romeu during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 22, 2018. Paul ELLIS / AFP


Liverpool stormed back to the top of the Premier League with 3-0 victory over Southampton with Mohamed Salah back among the goals at Anfield.

Liverpool have now won their first six league games for the first time since 1990, the same year they last won the title. The victory meant the Reds overtook Chelsea, who play on Sunday, and remained two points ahead of champions Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp's men scored all their goals before half-time as Wesley Hoedt turned Xherdan Shaqiri's deflected shot into his own net before Joel Matip's soaring header and Salah's tap in just before the break sealed the points early on.

However, victory may yet have come at some cost, with Shaqiri replaced at half-time and Virgil van Dijk walking off with an injury 10 minutes into the second period against his former club.

Liverpool's momentum continues to build after victory against top four rivals Spurs at Wembley last weekend and a thrilling late 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday in the Champions League.

The strength in depth now on offer to Klopp was shown in midweek as Daniel Sturridge scored on his first start of the season.

This time it was Shaqiri's chance to shine on his first start since his summer arrival from Stoke.

The Swiss international took just 10 minutes to make an impact, although he was helped by some good fortune as he broke the deadlock.

Sadio Mane's clever pass inside the full-back saw Shaqiri cut inside Cedric Soares and take a shot, which deflected off Shane Long and cannoned over the line via the helpless Hoedt.

Southampton were almost gifted an equaliser straight away from Matip's sloppy pass, but Van Dijk was strong enough to see off Long, while Jannik Vestergaard's header from a corner was just wide.

Klopp had been forced to defend Salah's form in the lead up to the game as the Egyptian has failed to match the performances of his stunning 44-goal campaign last season in recent weeks.

However, Salah was heavily involved before Liverpool's second. His lovely turn and switch of passes with Roberto Firmino, restored to the starting line-up after his late heroics as a substitute against PSG ended with Salah through on goal, only to be denied by Soares' last ditch tackle.

From the resultant corner, Matip, making his first start of the season, soared high to direct a header past the goalkeeper and give the home side a two-goal cushion on 20 minutes.

Salah came close again with a sublime back heel which just drifted past the post.

But his wait for a goal after a three-game drought was soon over when Shaqiri's wonderful 25 yard free-kick hit the crossbar and Salah grabbed his third goal of the season as it sat up invitingly on the line.

With Chelsea and City to come in their next two league games and a Champions League visit to Napoli in between, Liverpool understandably took their foot off the gas in the second-half.

And the sight of Van Dijk hobbling off with a rib injury will be a concern for Klopp ahead of such a demanding run of games.So far, though, Klopp's men have passed every test they have faced this season to raise hopes a first title in 29 years could be coming to Anfield come May.

Political office not replacement for national service - NYSC replies Adebayo Shittu

Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu. The Ministry of Communications was quoted as making a statement issued by Mrs Pauline Sule, deputy director<br />


The National Youth Service Corps has clarified the claims by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, that holding political office compensated for his refusal to participate in the compulsory national service.

An online news platform Premium Times last Thursday alleged that the minister failed to go for the mandatory one year service.

Shittu, however, holds that his election into the Oyo State House of Assembly immediately after graduation in 1979 replaced the mandatory service.

However, the scheme's spokesperson, Adenike Adeyemi said Friday in Abuja, that the minister’s claim that holding an elective office suffices for the obligatory national service is incorrect.

She said, “Serving in the National (or state) Assembly is not one of them (conditions for exemption from national service)."

She stated that only four categories of Nigerians from the national service.

Those exempted are those who graduated after their 30th birthday, those who served in the military or the police for at least nine months as well as staff of intelligence agencies.

Those conferred with national honours before graduation are also exempted from the scheme.

The NYSC spokesperson said the provisions of the Act are clear, and that individuals such as Shittu who became a lawmaker at the age of 26 are not exempted.

“You have read the Act and you can see the circumstances where someone is exempted, you analyse it if he [Shittu] was exempted duly or there is a reason why he should have served. But the Act is very straightforward on the grounds for not coming up to serve.

“If you are a graduate locally trained or foreign trained, as long as you graduate before the age of 30, you are expected to serve. Whether foreign or locally trained, the law is the same. Our youths should be rightly guided that if you were able to complete your studies and as of the date of graduation, you are under 30, you are eligible to serve,” the NYSC spokesperson said.

Adeyemi insisted that the NYSC law gives no preferential treatment to Nigerians other than those exempted by Section 2 of the Act.

“The NYSC was set up to mobilise all eligible Nigerian youths. The Act does not talk about VIPs or children of VIPs. Anyone who is a Nigerian youth, who has a first degree and under the age of 30 must serve, the issue of VIPs or their children does not apply," she said.

“However, if there is any reason why a corps member needs a concession, the corps member applies and concession is given, for example, for marital reasons and on health grounds. Everyone is treated the same and where concessions are to be given, it is treated. So, VIPs or children of VIPs do not come into the Act and we do not look at that,” she said.