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Two traffickers excrete 191 pellets of cocaine, heroin at Lagos airport

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Two traffickers excrete 191 pellets of cocaine, heroin at Lagos airport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two suspected drug traffickers arrested by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Lagos State have excreted a total of 191 pellets of heroin and cocaine while under observation.

Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA Headquarters, Abuja, Femi Babafemi, made this known in a statement on Sunday.

Babafemi said the suspects, Chukwudi Destiny and Ezekiel Chibuzo, were arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos.

Four clearing agents were also arrested in connection with 11.550kg of heroin found at the SAHCO import shed by NDLEA operatives.

The drugs were cleverly packed and concealed in corn flakes cartons, the statement indicated.

According to the statement, a sting operation was executed on the address provided by one the suspects and in the process, a Congolese, Kayembe Kamba Mazepy, was arrested.

It reads: “On 10th April 2021, during the outward screening of passengers on Ethiopian airline to Italy, NDLEA operatives at MMIA intercepted and referred one Chukwudi Destiny for scanning and the scan result proved positive to drug ingestion. Consequently, he was placed under excretion observation and in the process, he excreted 92 pellets of Heroin with a total weight of 1.300Kg.

“Also on 12th April 2021, during the inbound examination of consignments on Ethiopian airline cargo flight from South Africa, operatives at SAHCO import shed made a seizure of 11.550kg of Heroin cleverly packed and concealed in corn flakes cartons. Four clearing agents are in custody in connection to the seizure

“According to the Commander, MMIA Command of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Garba, a sting operation was executed on the address provided by one the suspects. In the process, a Congolese, Kayembe Kamba Mazepy was arrested. After his arrest, he mentioned another person who is to receive the parcel from him.

“On the strength of the information, another sting operation was conducted in the early hours of Saturday 17th April, 2021 where the person that came to take delivery was arrested.

“In the same vein, on Friday 16th of April, 2021, another trafficker, Ezekiel Chibuzo who arrived Lagos from Brazil on board Qatar airline was also arrested for drug ingestion. He has so far excreted 99 wraps of Cocaine. This is just as

officers at export shed of the airport have seized 822.950kg of khat leaves heading to UK and US.”

Buhari salutes ‘outstanding officer’ Musiliu Smith at 75

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Smith

Buhari salutes ‘outstanding officer’ Musiliu Smith at 75

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has described chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Musiliu Smith, as an outstanding officer, who had served the country with great zeal.

The President’s eulogy to Smith, a former Inspector-General of Police, was on the occasion of his 75th birthday anniversary.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari noted that the responsibility to reform the nation’s police force, to reflect the hopes of all citizens, rests on Smith.

“President Muhammadu Buhari congratulates the Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Musiliu Smith on his 75th birthday.

“President Buhari described the former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and ex-head of the Lagos State Security Council as an outstanding officer who had served Nigeria with great zeal.

“The President notes that as the Chairman of the PSC, Smith bears the tremendous responsibility of modernizing our police force in a way that reflects the hopes and aspirations of the citizens and wishes him the very best in carrying out the task,” the statement reads.

Why Shell, Chevron, other oil majors are leaving Nigeria

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Fresh insights as to why the oil majors are gradually scaling down their operations and planning their exit from the country has been unraveled.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that among the oil majors, including Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and Eni, are cutting billions in spending after taking hits to their profits, thus shifting money to renewable fuels and focusing only on the most cost-effective markets.

Checks by The Nation further revealed that the country was able to attract only $3 billion, or 4%, out of the $70 billion committed on new projects in Africa between 2015 and 2019, a development experts say, does not bode well for economy which relies on oil receipts to survive.

Nigeria’s loss has been the gains of other African countries such as Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, where some of the IOCs have made major investments in recent years.

In Sao Tome & Principe for instance, is now being heavily courted by oil companies from far and near. Notably, a consortium of US firms, including Chevron Texaco and ExxonMobil where among the first to secure oil license along with a Norwegian company, EER, which netted over $70million with many other prospects.

Confirming this development, Delta State Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Onogba Christian, while fielding question from our correspondent on the sidelines of the “Stakeholders Forum on The Environment” facilitated by the Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD) Port Harcourt chapter, said oil majors like Shell, Chevron and others may have been compelled by the present socioeconomic realities that has made the current operating environment bad for their business to plan their exit from the country.

Specifically, he said: “The first ominous signs that presented itself was the deliberate efforts by the international oil companies (IOCs) to relocate their headquarters outside the Niger Delta region. When that happened few years back, it was a bad signal.

“Of course, you cannot lay all the blame on the IOCs entirely because no businessman wants to invest in an area where insecurity is a big issue. The problem really has to do with the issue third party interference, poor legislation among other factors which are genuine reasons to affect investment decisions, he stressed.

To address this issue, the government, he maintained, must ensure that there is an enabling environment for business to thrive. “I’m convinced that once there is a level of assurance that their investments can be guaranteed many of these oil managers that have exited the country will come back,” Christain assured.

Echoing similar sentiments, Chief Prof. Jasper Jumbo, Chairman/CEO, Niger Delta Projects Consortium Limited, said, “Nobody wants to do business in an environment of chaos. Once peaceful co-existence is a challenge no business can survive under such a circumstance.”

International energy companies working in Nigeria are worried that proposals in the country’s long-delayed oil industry law will deter investment in new offshore projects.

In a joint presentation, the OPTS urged lawmakers to remove a proposed hydrocarbon tax as producers will still be subject to companies income tax.

“Our review of the Petroleum Industry Bill shows that deepwater provisions do not provide a favorable environment for future investments and for the launching of new projects,” Mike Sangster, managing director of Total SE’s Nigeria unit, told lawmakers at a hearing in Abuja, the capital recently.

To boost new investment, the proposed law should grant deepwater oil projects full royalty relief for the first five years of production or a graduated royalty program, said Sangster, speaking on behalf of the Oil Producers Trade Section, a group of 30 producers including Total, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Eni SpA, which he chairs.

The bill — legislation that’s two decades in the making — will streamline how Nigeria’s energy assets are operated and funded. First presented in parliament in 2008, progress in passing the bill was held up by political wrangling and objections from international oil companies that say the government is demanding an excessive increase in revenues.

The persistent failure to pass the bill “has been a major drag” on the oil and gas sector, Ahmad Lawan, president of Nigeria’s Senate, said last January as he opened two days of public hearings on the proposed legislation. The delays have harmed the country’s ability to “attract both local and foreign capital” at a time of greater competition with other resource-rich nations, he said.

(The Nation)

N60bn: APC Govs attack on Obaseki partisan – PDP Govs

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N60bn: APC Govs attack on Obaseki partisan – PDP Govs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have deplored the media attack on Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki by their counterparts in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The APC governors had, at the weekend, joined the fray sparked by Obaseki’s recent assertion that the country was so broke the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had to print about N60 billion to augment the shortfall in revenue allocation to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory for the month of March.

A statement on Saturday, simply attributed to the Progressive Governors Forum, as an umbrella body for Governors elected on the platform of the APC, castigated Obaseki, saying the Edo Governor’s assertion “does not reflect the true position of things”.

The APC Governors’ statement had, among other things, offered excuses on behalf of the Federal Government and the CBN for the economy, while carpeting Obasaki, who was elected on the platform of the PDP.

“Besides, there’s nothing exceptional in this current review of economic orthodoxy,” the APC Governors said, in apparent endorsement of the printing of the N60 billion currency stated by Governor Obaseki.

“Yes, there are periods when the country experiences significant fiscal shocks in federation revenues.

“However, these shocks are offset by other savings serviced from the federation account, including distributions from the domestic excess crude proceeds and the foreign excess crude savings account.

“These payments started since 2008 when the country first experienced fiscal shocks from the fallouts of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009,” the APC Governors had added.

Replying in a statement on Sunday by the Director General of the PDP Governors Forum, Cyril Maduabum, urged the APC
-led Federal Government to plug financial leakages in the system.

The Governors of the main opposition party also charged the APC administration to curb wasteful expenditure of billions of on projects that can be executed by the private sector and save a lot of money in the process.

They further urged the administration to rely less on ways and means by the CBN in addressing monetary issues, saying that such measures exert undue pressure on the Naira, with high rate of inflation as some of the consequences.

The statement by Maduabum said: “Inflation in Nigeria is currently at 18.2 %, the highest in recent years. We should all be concerned about how to find ways of stemming the tide.

“The PDP Governors Forum is alarmed at the partisan slant patriotic advice to the Federal Government by His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, on its monetary policies has assumed.

“It is unhelpful for the Progressive Governors Forum to join the fray in the manner it did by its recent statement attacking the bona fides of Governor Obaseki who merely warned the monetary authorities about the danger of uncontrolled use of Ways and Means, that is, the printing of Naira, to support government’s expenditure.

“Governor Obaseki has a background in economics and finance and is a very responsible Governor who talks in a measured way

“His advice, which by the way has been corroborated by none other than the Governor of the CBN himself, and the international ratings agency FITCH, should be heeded rather than being crucified for sounding a note of caution.

“No doubt the Federal Government has been supporting the states in the area of agriculture, budget, refund of Federal Government executed projects by state and a few other areas of intervention”.

The PDP Governors slammed the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele for sounding “vindictive and vengeful” with his call to State Governments to pay back loans so far given to them by the Federal Government, in reaction to the revelation by Obaseki.

“Is the CBN trying to be vindictive and vengeful by recalling its loans to the states because of informed advice by a governor? It is unfortunate that governance has plummeted to this level.

“The Federal Government should plug financial leakages in the system and curb wasteful expenditure of billions of Naira on projects that can be executed by the private sector and save a lot of money in the process.

“They should rely less on Ways and Means by the CBN, which brings pressure on the Naira with its inflationary consequences. Inflation in Nigeria is currently at 18.2 %, the highest in recent years. We should all be concerned to find ways of stemming the tide.

“We are all involved in the urgent task of rescuing the economy of Nigeria and nobody should indeed play the ostrich”.  (The Nation)

PDP suspends Kwankwaso over disruption of zonal congress

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Kwankwaso

PDP suspends Kwankwaso over disruption of zonal congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has suspended a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, for his alleged involvement in the disruption of the party’s recent North-west zonal congress in Kaduna State.

The state executive committee of the PDP said it took the decision to suspend Mr Kwankwaso for three months at its meeting held on April 15.

This newspaper reported how the zonal congress penultimate Saturday was disrupted by violent party members.

The event ended abruptly after the supporters of the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, clashed with those of Mr Kwankwaso.

The rival supporters destroyed the ballot boxes before voting in the election of party officials could start, forcing observers and other officials to flee the scene.

The main subject of the dispute was the position of zonal National Vice Chair, where the factions in Kano of Mr Kwankwaso and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, presented different candidates.

Suspension

The PDP in the suspension letter signed by the party’s secretary in the state, H.A Tsanyawa, who is in Mr Wali’s faction, accused Mr Kwankwaso of thuggery, disrespect to PDP governors and stakeholders, and disrupting a democratic process.

Mr Tsanyawa said the party “received numerous complaints from members of the party over the incident of North-west convention where you (Kwankwaso) allegedly led your supporters into a shameful and embarrassing act of thuggery by disrupting democratic process during PDP north west convention of 10th April, 2021.

“The executive council meeting held on 15th April, 2021 have unanimously resolved to suspend you and your supporters from the party activities for three months in accordance with the provision of section 58 (1) of the PDP constitution, the party wrote suspending Mr Kwankwaso.

Shehu Sagagi, the state chairperson of the party who is loyal to Mr Kwankwaso’s faction, did not respond to calls seeking his position on the suspension letter.

(Premium Times)

Manchester United boss: We can still catch Manchester City in title race

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said Manchester United can still catch rivals Manchester City in this season’s Premier League title race as ‘stranger things have happened’ in football.

United will host Burnley this afternoon 11 points behind City with a game in hand. Win at Old Trafford and the gap is down to eight points with six games left to play.

That was the margin at this stage of the season in 2012 when United held the advantage under Sir Alex Ferguson, only for Roberto Mancini’s City team to pip them on goal difference thanks to Sergio Aguero’s last kick of the season against QPR.

City also had the advantage of a better goal difference and a game against United to drag three of those eight points back.

The chances of Solskjaer’s team overtaking Pep Guardiola’s City feel remote, but their victory at the Etihad last month and the shock win there for 10-man Leeds last weekend has offered just a chink of light.

With a possible 21 points left to play for, Solskjaer knows that anything but seven wins would spell the end of their faint hopes.

And with a trip to Elland Road to play Leeds next Sunday and home matches against Liverpool and Leicester still to come, only a win over Sean Dyche’s men will do.

“Every game is important to Manchester United and we aren’t going to just give points away easily,” said Solskjaer.

“Can we catch City? Stranger things have happened in football. Bigger leads have been given away. Of course, they have been very strong and it’s probably too much to hope for. But as long as we do our job that’s the main thing.

“We have got to win every game in the league. We know that. After that, we can only hope that something happens to City.

“We can’t control what they do. We have to play it one game at a time because we’ve got some difficult matches left ourselves.”

United come into this afternoon’s game on the back of four straight wins since the international break in the league and the Europa League and with a good level of confidence.

Nigeria records 60 new coronavirus infections, no death

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Nigeria records 60 new coronavirus infections, no death

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that the country’s active COVID-19 cases increased by 39, bringing the total number to 7,821.

The NCDC disclosed this on its official Twitter handle on Saturday.

It, however, recorded 60 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 164,207. The active cases are the difference between the total number of newly recorded cases and those discharged after treatment on that day (21 on Saturday).

The agency noted that the newly recorded infections were reported across nine states, with Lagos state leading with 22, Rivers 15, Bayelsa 7 and Kaduna 5 cases.

Others were Ogun 4, Akwa Ibom 3, Osun 2, Kano 1 and Ebonyi 1.

The NCDC said that no death was registered on April 17, while the country’s total fatalities stood at 2,061.

It disclosed that 21 people had successfully been treated and discharged from various isolation centers across the country in the last 24 hours, bringing the recovery number to 154,325.

The agency said the country had also tested 1,838,174 people since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on Feb. 27, 2020.

It noted that a multi-sectoral National Emergency Centre (EOC), activated at Level 3, had continued to coordinate the national response activities in the country.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that more than 100 million people globally have been infected 16 months after the detection of the coronavirus.

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University published on Saturday, the number of global deaths that can be traced to COVID-19 have risen above three million,

”The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has reached 4,408,245 as of Saturday,” the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

It said the death toll from the pandemic stood at 117,378, while 3,951,191 patients across the continent had recovered from the disease.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt are among the African countries with the most cases on the continent, according to the Africa CDC.

It noted that Southern Africa was the most affected region, followed by Northern Africa and Eastern Africa regions, while central Africa was the least cases.

South Africa has recorded 1,564,355 COVID-19 cases, Morocco 504,847, while Tunisia was ranked the third on the continent with 281,777 COVID-19 infections.

Worries As Killings Of Northerners Persist In Imo

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Worries As Killings Of Northerners Persist In Imo

 

 

 

 

 


Following the recent killings of four Northerners in Orlu and three others in Amaka towns of Imo State, northern communities in the areas are living in fear of imminent attacks by proscribed separatist group of Indigenous  People of Biafra, IPOB.

Our reporter gathered that IPOB’s fighters are raiding suburbs and crannies of Owerri, the state capital, targeting suya vendors.

The development has forced some Northerners to flee the place in recent time.

In the latest incident, two suya sellers were reported killed at Atta in Ikeduru Local Government Area of the state.

Our correspondent gathered that the incident happened at about 9 pm on Thursday when three men on a motorbike went to the Suya traders and bought some Suya from them.

However the men after relishing the meat refused to pay. An argument was said to have ensued, but the men instead of paying collected all the day’s sales from the traders and shot them. The victims died instantly.

Confirming the incident, a leader of the Hausa community in Owerri, Alhaji Sani Ahmed Mai Rago, said that his attention was called to the incident and they went and took the corpses and buried them on Friday.

Mai Rago, who is the chairman of produce sellers at Avu Junction, described the incident as unfortunate.

Also speaking on the incident, the leader of the Hausa community in Ama Awusa, Alhaji Auwal Baba Suleiman, sued for peace, adding the rampant killing of innocent traders only add to the already tensed situation in the state.

On his part, Dr. Lawan Yusuf, a Northerner living in Owerri expressed concerns over the spate of killings by people suspected to be IPOB members, adding that the situation  has forced some northerners in the state to leave.

“Wherever they (IPOB) meet a northerner, they would ask if they have visa for entering Biafra. Once you said no, they’d pounce on you with cuttings and if one’s not lucky, he’d just breath his last”, he said.

Talking about protecting the northerners in the state, he said: “With the exception of Hausa area known as Ama-Hausa, there’s been no other area where security personnel were deployed to protect us. The IPOB militants are scared of that area. Honestly, we’re living in fear.”

At least 11 northerners have so far been killed in the state in less than two weeks.

Police Spokesman,  Orlando Ikeokwu, when contacted said he will get back to our correspondent, but as at the time of filing this report, he was yet to do so.

Meanwhile, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Hope Uzodimma on Gender and Vulnerable Persons (Men), Sulaiman Ibrahim Sulaiman said members of the Hausa community in the state were leaving in droves due to the recent killings.

He said that on the contrary, the Hausa community has resolved to pursue peace and live in harmony with their host.

Speaking to our correspondent in an interview in Owerri yesterday, Suleiman described the Orlu incident as isolated and not reflective of the security situation in the entire state.  (Daily Trust)

Yoruba Groups Differ Over Oduduwa Republic

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Yoruba Groups Differ Over Oduduwa Republic

Two Yoruba groups yesterday differed over demand for the creation of Oduduwa Republic from the present Nigerian state.

While some leaders under the banner of the Ilana Omoodua Youth Initiatives, led by a Yoruba leader, Professor Banji Akintoye, insisted on having Oduduwa Republic for the Yoruba nation, another group under the auspice of Yoruba Welfare Group (YWG), disagreed with the position.

The secretary of the Ilana Omooduwa Youth Initiatives, Dr. Akin Adejumo, who represented Professor Banji Akintoye at a Yoruba mega rally held at Mapo, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, yesterday, insisted that the breakup of Nigeria was imminent.

Adejumo said the nation was not working and there was need for Nigerians to go back to the drawing board and take a profitable decision for their people.

But the National President of Yoruba Welfare group (YWG), Comrade Abdulhakeem Adegoke Alawuje, yesterday insisted that those clamouring for Oodua Republic cannot decide for the Yoruba people.

Speaking with our correspondent in Lagos, the group blasted the secession advocates, accusing them of attempting to destroy the peace, love and harmony of Yoruba land.

Alawuje warned them to desist from such advocacy, saying, “We are issuing a last warning to those behind the political agitation to stop all this rubbish in our land. Yoruba land cannot be a testing ground for any form of criminal act.

“YWG is calling all traditional rulers in Yoruba land to call these people to order, because it will not favour all of us to start mobilizing against ourselves in the same region.

France to impose 10-day quarantine on South Africa travellers, others

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France to impose 10-day quarantine on South Africa travellers, others

France will impose a 10-day quarantine on arrivals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa over concerns about variants of the coronavirus, the prime minister’s office announced Saturday.

Although flights from Argentina, Chile and South Africa will not be suspended, all arrivals from those countries will have to submit to the quarantine or face fines.

Flights from Brazil were suspended until at least next Friday because of concern about the P1 variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious than the original strain and can also re-infect those who have had the original virus.

Justifying the decision not to ban flights from the other three countries, Paris said that those variants had not reached the levels observed in Brazil.

The new quarantine measures will be gradually introduced over the coming days until they are fully enforced by next Saturday.

The new measures will also restrict arrivals from the named countries, mainly to French and their families as well as other EU nationals and others who are French residents.

Arrivals from French Guyane and the Antilles will also be subjected to tests before and after their flights, said the statement.

France has recently tightened restrictions in its fight against the third wave of the coronavirus, imposing an overnight curfew, closing non-essential shops and restricting travel inside the country.

(AFP)

125 escapees back in Owerri custodial centre — NCoS

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125 escapees back in Owerri custodial centre — NCoS

No fewer than 125 inmates who escaped from the Owerri custodial centre have voluntarily returned to custody. This is in the wake of the manhunt launched by security agencies for the fugitives who fled the prisons during an attack on the facility by unknown gunmen on April 5.

It was learnt that the Nigerian Correctional Service has been liaising with the Interpol through the Nigeria Police, as well as the Nigerian Immigration Service to re-arrest the inmates.

Over 1,884 awaiting inmates and other dangerous convicts fled the prison during the attack in which several vehicles were torched and buildings vandalised.

About 600 suspects held at the Imo State Police Command headquarters were also released by the gunmen who carried out the attack. The police have kept mum on the status of the investigation into the incident.

But giving an update on Saturday on the efforts to capture the inmates, the NCoS spokesperson, Francis Enobore, a Controller of Corrections, noted that some undisclosed International organisations were reaching out to the service to offer some form of assistance in tracking down the missing inmates.

He explained that some of the returned inmates were brought back by their parents, and family members, saying the fact that their data and picture had been widely published helped in compelling them to return to custody since they knew they could not run forever.

Enobore stated, “We have already reached out to the Interpol through the Nigeria Police Force. A lot of other international organisations are getting information from our website. Some organisations called to collect certain information from our website, we are working in synergy with them.

‘’Altogether, we have 125 inmates back in custody as at close of work yesterday (Friday). According to the information I got, most of them are returning by themselves. All their pictures and data have been circulated everywhere, so they know there is no hiding place for them.

‘’Some were brought back by their parents. We have also been reinforcing the message that instead of remaining a fugitive for life, it’s better they come back on their own.’’

The service further said the upgrade of its system enabled it to quickly collate the data and pictures of the inmates, a development Enobore said helped greatly with the manhunt for them, adding that their particulars had also been dispatched to their relations and communities.

Meanwhile, checks by one of our correspondents on Saturday night revealed that the details of the inmates had yet to be uploaded on Interpol’s website.

The Interpol has a section on its website where it lists ‘Wanted Persons’, with the tag ‘Red Notices’, which it said “are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence.

It added, “A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.”

Even though it could not be ascertained whether Interpol had taken up the matter, the number of wanted persons from Nigeria remained at the 18 it was the previous week.

On April 10 when the NCoS said Interpol would be contacted, there were a total of 7,606 public Red Notices in circulation, out of which 18 were from Nigeria. As of 10pm on Saturday, checks by Sunday PUNCH showed that the total number of Red Notices had risen to 7,610 while the ones from Nigeria remained 18. (Punch)

Warri succession crisis: Olu-designate faces legitimacy, legal hurdles

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Warri succession crisis: Olu-designate faces legitimacy, legal hurdles
The Itsekiri nation was engulfed in jubilation when Prince Tsola Emiko, son of the 19thOlu of Warri, was unveiled as the Olu-designate two weeks ago. But there are still concerns over the manner he emerged and the fear that a 41-year-oldcustomary law could cut short his dream – and those of his supporters – of becoming the 21stOlu of the 600-year-old kingdom. SHOLA O’NEIL, South-south Regional Editor, reviews the issues at stake, explaining why the odds are still stacked against the Olu-designate in the face of the 1979 Edict, as well as the tribe’s leaders’effort to avoid an implosion resulting from the myriad of other issues.

On Easter Monday, April 5, 2021, a day that Christians all over the world were regaling in the rising of Jesus Christ, the Itsekiri people converged on their ancestral home of Ode-Itsekiri to receive the news of the transition of Ogiame Ikenwoli. The monarch’s passage occurred since December 2020, despite denials by traditionalists. As it is the norm, the occasion was used to unveil the next Olu.

It was just 2,022 days since September 2015 when they received the news of Ogiame Atuwatse II’s passage. Both the aged and superstitious youths murmured about the manner of the latest royal departure and expressed sadness at the number of Alejefun they had seen in just half a decade. Some of those who spoke to this reporter hinted that the ebura (ancestral spirit) could be telling them something through the recent happenings in the kingdom.

The poignancy of the occasion was mellowed by the high expectation on the announcement of the people’s choice, 37-year-old Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, as the successor to the 20th Ogiame. The young prince holds the hope of the Itsekiri people, and like his uncle before him, he is touted as the god-chosen and one that would catalyse changes in the kingdom.

The event of that sunny Monday was a stark contrast with the September 2015 ceremony when Chief Tesiginweno Yahya Pessu, the Ojomo of Warri Kingdom, surrounded by the full complement of the Warri Traditional Council of Chiefs, broke two earthen pots adorned with red garlands and filled with white chalk (efun) to signify Alejefun (the transition of an Olu).

As the oldest member of the Olu Advisory Council, Ojoye-Isan, Chief Pessu was at the right place at the right time. His role and position in the kingdom was uncontested. Months after the transition of the Ogiame Atuwatse II, he led the kingdom’s search for a new monarch with a dignifying sense of purpose and total support of the Itsekiri people. The outcome of that exercise was mostly calm and unchallenged.

The Easter Monday ceremony was fraught with uncertainty and a scintilla of fear. Prior to the occasion, the kingdom was divided, tense with controversies from the manner of Ogiame Ikenwoli’s passage to the search for his successor. There were clear signals that all was not well in Iwere Land (Warri Kingdom).

The Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, was the conductor. He headed the Olu Advisory Council, even though there is a living Ologbotsere. He and members of the reconstituted OAC unceremoniously went into Ode-Itsekiri on Sunday, rather than wait till Monday morning to make the short boat ride. The move was because of ill-omened police invitations to members of the council.

Although the summons was purportedly based on a petition that the ceremony could cause a breach of the peace, there was fear that the aim was to stymie the chiefs and stop the ceremony. Only Chief Isaac Jemide (Oshodi) and Mene

Brown reported at the state police headquarters Asaba on the fateful day.

It was against this backdrop that a collective sigh of relief spread through the Itsekiri Nation Assembly when Prince Tsola Emiko was presented as the Olu-designate. It was clear that the people were determined to put behind them the ugly incident of nearly four months since rumour broke out that the 20th Olu had joined his ancestors after just five years and eight days on the throne.

For Omoba Tsola Emiko, the Olu-designate of Warri Kingdom, the wait to ascend the revered throne, which his father exited in 2015, has been a long, patient journey. He was bypassed in the 2015 selection process when he was naturally the first in line because his mother is Yoruba. The legal instrument regulating the process -‘DECLARATION MADE UNDER SECTION 8 OF THE TRADITIONAL RULERS AND CHIEFS EDICT STATING THE CUSTOMARY LAW REGULATING SUCCESSION TO THE TITLE OF OLU OF WARRI’ excludes princes not born by Itsekiri or Bini mothers from ascending the throne.

Many wondered then why his father, the 19th Olu, OgiameAtuwatse II, throughout his 28 years reign failed to instigate a review of the Edict, which he knew would knock his first son and heir apparent to the throne out of the contest to succeed him. For eight of those years, an Itsekiri son, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, was the governor, yet the contentious edict stood.

Destiny has smiled on him six years later as he emerged the popular and ‘oracle’s choice’. At the time of this report, he was on the last lap of his quest to assume a role he was born into and groomed for 37 years ago. He enjoys immense support from a broad spectrum of the Itsekiri people, especially the youth, who canvassed, coaxed and coerced others to join the movement. The campaign was everywhere, on the streets of the kingdom and pages of social media. The slogan was folefun (speak out) and it soon became a hash-tag that went beyond selection of a monarch – it signaled a potential revolution against some elements in the kingdom.

The Omoba has commenced his Ideniken- a process where he takes the final tutorials, performs the rituals towards becoming the traditional leader of the Itsekiri nation in body, mind, spirit and soul.  Aoiri Obaigbo, a journalist and author of ‘The Wretched Billionaire’ said the Ideniken is meant for him to “shed his ‘ordinariness’ and ritually transform to a being worthy of the Itsekiri crown.”

Still unclear path to the throne

Omoba Tsola Emiko’s seclusion (Ideniken) is for three lunar months, but the path to the throne remains curvaceous, thorny and may take much longer. In fact, our findings show that in spite of the buzz over the coming installation there are fears that his feet could be as far from the royal stool today as it was six years ago. He faces a cocktail of legal and official acceptability hurdles, which the Itsekiri nation must meander through and come out unscathed.

It will be recalled that The Nation had in its widely acclaimed report titled “TROUBLE IN THE KINGDOM’, predicted that all was not well in the kingdom, and the events of the latest happenings in the kingdom confirms that position.

Congratulatory messages have poured in from everywhere: from President Muhammadu Buhari, APC National leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and leaders from other kingdoms far and wide, including Bini and Yoruba lands. Buhari, who was away in London, United Kingdom, speaking through his media aide, Mr Femi Adesina, acknowledged that all was not well and admonished the Itsekiri people to resolve their internal issues.

Adesina said the President “counsels love and reconciliation after a pulsating race for the throne, noting that peradventure dissensions exists, such should be resolved through due process.”

The State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who holds the final approval (official recognition and staff of office), has maintained a very deafening silence that echoes from Government House Asaba to Ode-Itsekiri and beyond. The Governor told our reporter that he was not in a hurry to offer congratulations, maintaining that contentions around the Omoba’s emergence must be “sorted out”.

Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika in a telephone chat on Tuesday morning, he said: “We are aware of issues on it. There is the Ologbotsere who is supposed to be the one performing some roles… Until those issues are cleared, the state government will continue to sue for peace. The most the government can do is to plead that all concerned should give peace a chance.”

Ifeajika said the governor was watching events closely to ensure that they do not degenerate into a crisis that could threaten lives and property in the area.

The governor’s aide was apparently referring to the face-off between Ginuwa Ruling House and the Ologbotsere. To clear the path to that Monday’s Alejefun and the unveiling of Prince Tsola as the Olu-designate, the Ologbotsere, Chief Ayirimi Emami, was suspended and his office handed to another.

The Ologbotsere courted trouble when he allegedly ‘singlehandedly’ rejected Prince Tsola Emiko as the family’s candidate. Although the decision was collectively taken by the council of chiefs, based on their interpretation of the 1979 Edict, the same instrument that was used to sideline the now Omoba in 2015, the Ologbotsere was accused of pursuing a personal agenda. He told The Nation that he was merely following the Edict and guiding the Itsekiri stool.

Paragraph 5 of the declaration states: “The Oldest man in the Ruling House presents a candidate selected to the Ologbotsere, who in turn presents him to the Olu Advisory Council…”

When Prince Tsola was presented to the Ologbotsere, it was learnt that the Ojoye-Isan met and asked the family to present another candidate. The decision was conveyed to the family by the Ologbotsere, who asked for another candidate, but the Ruling House insisted on Prince Tsola as its sole candidate.

The Olori-Ebi (administrative head) of Ginuwa I Ruling House, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, as was the norm, further sent a letter to the Ologbotsere informing him of their decision as well as directing him to kick start the process towards Alejefun, and ultimately installation of the candidate.

The Ologbotsere publicly tore the letter and returned its shred in an envelope to the House; an action that was widely condemned by the Itsekiri, including those who did not support the emergence of Prince Tsola. Chief Omolubi Newuwumi described Emami’s action as “not mature of his (Ologbotsere’s) position or any civilised and educated person.”

It was however learnt that the rash act was the manifestation of a no-love-lost relationship between the Ologbotsere and some members of the royal family. A source close to Emami accused the family head of treating the former without the respect befitting his position in the kingdom.

In response, the Ruling House held a press conference and announced the suspension of the Ologbotsere and dissolution of the Ojoye-Isan. A new Ojoye-Isan was constituted with the Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe (also Atserunleghe) saddled with the role of Ologbotsere and the task of completing the succession process.

The text of the statement read by Prince Toju Emiko stated: “Chief Ayiri Emami, having exhibited actions and tendencies unbecoming of the position he occupies, and having proven himself unworthy of the Ologbotsere stool, is hereby suspended from Warri Council of Chiefs.”

These actions triggered a chain of events that have now pushed the kingdom even closer to the precipice.

The Itsekiri nation has been a divided house for years, the influence of oil wealth and quest for patronages from oil companies and control of the commonwealth of the people by key players who are also very visible in this issue had created a very delicate balance that is now being threatened by the latest debacle. Some players behind the scene are believed to be aligning with sides that guarantee their interests and align with their bias

Supporters of the Ologbotsere question the Ruling House’s power to unseat him and replace him in the process, while others query the power of the Ologbotsere and Ojoye-Isanto to disqualify a candidate chosen by the House.

The Olu designate and dilemma of 1979 edict

Okotie-Eboh, who signed the statement to sack the Ologbotsere, dismissed the 1979 Edict relied upon by Emami and the OAC. He described the simple, one-page document as one “hurriedly put together by a handful of leaders to meet the exigencies of that time”, hinting that the document has outlived its usefulness.

His position was greeted by thunderous applauses by backers of the Olu-designate, while others commended the Olori-Ebi for invoking the ‘doctrine of necessity’ – an ‘illegal’ action taken to prevent a greater harm or prevent injustice. Okotie-Eboh is being hailed as the messiah whose action has unshackled the tribe from the grip of the Ologbotesere.

The Iyatsere, who was appointed as acting head of the OAC, unsurprisingly agreed with the family. In a statement made available to The Nation last week, he said: “I, as the Iyatsere, I am the original Prime Minister of the Warri Kingdom.”

While downplaying the influence of the Ologbotsere, Chief Amatserunleghe explained that from 1480 when the kingdom was founded to 1760, “there was nothing like Ologbotsere in Warri Kingdom… After the first Ologbotsere in 1760 there was no Ologbotsere till 1951. Then we have others like Ayiri who came in 2017.”

He said: “Contrary to Ayiri’s claim, the Itsekiri nation is happy and supported the emergence of the Olu-designate. Chief Ayiri is allowing the material of the world to cloud his possible sense of value judgment.”

The Edict and legal experts disagree. Our findings revealed that the ‘hurriedly-put-together’ document is the only known legal instrument guiding the selection of an Olu, and its perceived flouting could create credibility and legal challenges for the 21st Olu of Warri.

Our findings showed that the document, in spite of the Iyatsere’s assertion, confers enormous power on the Ologbotsere in all processes from the selection to the crowning of an Olu. The Edict, which our reporter obtained in 2015, is replete with roles that only the Ologbotsere must perform and contains phrases like “the Ologbotsere summons….” “…in the opinion of the Ologbotsere”.

The Olu Advisory Council (Ojoye-Isan), which is recognised in the Edict, consists of “the Ologbotsere, Iyatsere, the Uwangue, the Ojomo, Oshodi and two Ojoyes (titled noblemen) whose presence in the opinion of the Ologbotsere is essential”.

Paragraph 7 of the Edict is unambiguous that it is the responsibility of the Ologbotsere to present the new Olu: “After the approval of the candidate by the Olu Advisory Council and the oracles, the Ologbotsere summons at his residence meeting of the Ojoyes (noblemen) and there he announces the passing away of the demised Olu and appointment of a successor who then is presented to the Ojoyes by the Ologbotsere.”

The Nation recalls that the Ologbotsere title was highly contested in 2017 when Olu Ikenwoli decided to fill the vacant position in the Olu Advisory Council. Very prominent Itsekiri leaders, including Chief Oma Eyewuoma, openly indicated their interests.

Critics of Ogiame Atuwatse II’s 28 years without the highest ranking member of the OAC believe it was meant to avoid conflict and whittle the powers of the council. Although Mr Amorighoye Sunny Mene, Scribe of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, told our reporter that the Ologbotsere, contrary to popular belief, is not the Prime Minster, other sources told our reporter that the title grew in significance and influence when Chief Ogbemi Rewane held it, during which time the edict was drafted.

“The Ologbotsere of that era, Chief Ogbemi Rewane, elder brother of the industrialist and NADECO Chieftain, Chief Alfred Rewani, was a very influential man and he remains one of the most powerful Ologbotseres in our history. So, it is not impossible that men like that could have influenced the edict and given tremendous powers to the title,” one of those opposed to the powers of the Ologbotsere said.

It was against this fear of the tremendous power an Ologbotsere wields that there was a loud outcry when Chief Emami was announced as the Ologbotsere in October 2017, just five years after he became a member of the traditional council. His rise to the position was astronomical -five years after he was conferred with Ajuwaoyiboyemi on 28th April 2012 (two days after his 37th birthday). Some Itsekiri leaders believed that he was inexperienced and unprepared for the responsibilities and challenges of the stool.

Those who fought, in vain, to stop the conferment of the title on Emami in 2017 are now unanimous in support for the Ruling House’s decision to suspend the Ologbotsere, in a move that is seen as part of a bigger plan for his deposition and expulsion from the council of chiefs.

“Some of the people involved in this crisis are biased. The battle is beyond who sits on the throne of the Olu but about interests and influence.

“We are one of the richest in the Niger Delta region with hundreds of communities like Ugborodo, Abiteye, Otumara and others hosting multi-billion dollar oil and gas installations. The $9 billion EGTL and Chevron Nigeria Limited tank farm is located in Ugborodo and a few of the key players in the power play are long time friends and adversaries whose sides have hardly changed,” a Sapele-based Itsekiri youth said on condition that he would not be named.

“There are also other external forces, which are reportedly sponsoring a faction for both economic and other strategic reasons. “Some much money is involved in everything you see happening today. Who is funding them? Who are pumping out the money and what are their interests?”

Tsola Emiko illegal omoba—Prince Bernard, Jemide

Expectedly, Ologbotsere Emami is contesting his suspension and the Easter Monday event at Ode-Itsekiri. He told our reporter on the telephone that Okotie-Eboh and the ruling house “are joking,” adding that whatever action on the succession taken without him is bound to fall flat in the face of legal scrutiny.

A number of princes and sons of Olu Erejuwa II, including Prince Benjamin Emiko, Jaiye, and those of Ikenwoli, Oyowoli and Omatsuli, side with the Ologbotsere. Prince Bernard Emiko told our reporter that the processes leading to the emergence of Omoba Tsola Emiko were illegal.

“It (unveiling of Prince Tsola) is an illegal process that will come to nothing,” he said in an SMS response to our inquiry.

Benjamin had earlier called for an independent, transparent process in the selection process, insisting that the consultation of the oracle must be done in the open to convince all aspirant to the throne of its sincerity.

Chief Isaac Jemide, the Oshodi, and one of the oldest members of the Ojoye-Isan, also cautioned against perceived illegality of the Ruling House’s action. He particularly faulted the suspension of the Ologbotsere.

The lawyer and former Chair of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought opined that the ruling house cannot give what it does not have, buttressing its point with the Latin phrase “Nemodat quod non habet.

Similarly, an aged Itsekiri community leader from Ubeji said the position of an Ologbotsere “is not one that can be given and taken at will. We have had occasions where the Olu and Ologbotsere do not agree – they do not have to always agree – but that does not mean that the Ologbotsere can be removed.”

Chiefs Thomas Ereyitomi (National Assembly member representing Warri Federal Constituency), Francis Omatseyi, and Newuwumi, Hon Michael Diden, a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly, Prince Akoma Dudu, and his son Mode, are also among opponents of not necessarily the emergence of the Omoba but how he was chosen.

Speaking with newsmen on the crisis for the first time on Sunday, April 11, 2021, Prof Itse Sagay, carefully skirted the issue: “Certainly, he (Tsola) is the choice of the people and he is to be congratulated. My hope is that there will be a peaceful resolution which will fully confirm his emergence as Olu-elect of Warri.”

Unlike Chiefs Jemide and Sagay, our investigations showed, other Itsekiri leaders who opposed the House’s action are unwilling to swim against the tide of popular opinion in the kingdom, but remain apprehensive on the sideline.

Our reporter was privy to a telephone exchange between one of the known opponents and a very highly placed political office holder in the present administration in the state. The political office holder was heard saying he supports the use of the edict but that ‘position’ makes it difficult (for him) to speak out about the anomaly”.

Peace shuttles on full throttle

A usually reliable source said the ILOT is working round the clock to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis. “Everybody knows that a prolonged legal tussle will do nobody nogood, and certainly not the kingdom. So the way out is to look for an amicable resolution that is acceptable to all parties.”

The ILOT, our finding shows, has covered a lot of ground in frantic meeting with all stakeholders at the home of Chief Jemide. A source said the group understood “that this is a dangerous situation and the Ologbotsere is an integral part of it.”

Even though the Ologbotsere told our reporter that he was holding consultations but is not against the Omoba. “My point is that they must follow the due process,” he said.

Chief Otimeyin Adams countered, saying Prince Tsola’s election followed due process and urged Chief Emami and others to accept the offer of peace by the Ruling House.

“The chiefs followed due process. Everything was strictly followed and in line with what the Itsekiris want and not what one man’s view,” he said.

On Article 4 of the Edict, Adams said it contradicts the Nigerian Constitution. “The Nigerian constitution says nobody should be disqualified as a result of his birth, religion, or where he comes from.”

At the time of this report on Thursday, several high-powered stakeholders’ meetings were ongoing, not only in Warri, but outside the state, including Benin City and the Southwest, from where the Olori Gladys Durorike Atuwatse, the Omoba’s mother, hails.

The Ooni of Ife was very unequivocal in his determination to have the issues resolved – in favour of the Omoba. The Ologbotsere has also met with the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II. Even though what was discussed at the Thursday meeting in Benin was not revealed, it was believed to be part of efforts to resolve the impasse.

On Wednesday, ILOT held a meeting with Ayiri at the home of Chief Jemide, where discussions were said to be robust and fruitful. “The Ologbotsere is like a bull in a china shop. He has to be handled with care so that you do not end up destroying everything in the shop while trying to tie it down,” one of the peace advocates said of their effort.

Nevertheless, The Nation gathered that one of the sticking points in the search for peace is the role for the Ologbotsere. It was gathered that Chief Emami would demand for a restoration of his duties as a condition for peace. Conversely, the ruling house is said to be unwilling to make the concession, especially on crowning the new Olu, as was done by Ologbotsere O.N Rewane in 1986.

The crowning of Ikenwoli was done by Pa Ajofotan Oparokun in 2015, as there was no Ologbotsere at that time. It was learnt that Prince Okotie-Eboh and the ruling house would rather have a similar arrangement than bring back Chief Emami to the process.

Despite all the knotty issues, ILOT Chairman, Chief Edward Ekpoko, expressed confidence that the ethnic group would get past them and come out stronger.  He said the group was working assiduously behind the scene and urged all external interests to allow the group resolve its issues.

Ekpoko’s position and antecedents of some of the leaders involved reinforced confidence that the issues would be resolved as “a family affair”, but the cost and extent which some of the dramatic personae could go could get clearer in the weeks ahead.

The conundrum of missing crown

If ILOT and other peace advocates manage to resolve the logjam, they still have to unravel the puzzle surrounding two missing crowns. The epaulets have been an ever-present feature of the throne since the 17th Century when the 7th Olu, Ogiame Atuwatse, received it as a parting gift from Portugal where he studied from 1600-1611 before returning home with a Portuguese wife, and became the first graduate in sub-Saharan Africa.

The whereabouts of the coveted pair of crowns, comprising the King’s that is made of diamond and the queen’s (hewn from silver), remain unknown. Our reporter learnt that the search for the crown is being handled at the Zone 5 Command of the Nigerian Police Force in Benin City, Edo State.

The mystery of how the crowns were whisked out of the Aghofen (palace) in the Warri metropolis has remained unsolved nearly one month after the invasion of the palace. But security operatives hinted our reporter that the disappearance could be part of the intrigues over the emergence of a new Olu in the Kingdom.

“The crowns are too heavy to be stolen. It has a cultural, spiritual and heritage connotations. Anyone who steals it would invite a curse to themselves. We believe that they would be found eventually,” an Itsekiri leader said.

(The Nation)

Prioritise road construction allocation – Fashola tells Senate

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Prioritise road construction allocation - Fashola tells Senate

The Minister of Works and Housing,  Babatunde Fashola,  has said cases of road projects abandonment by contractors across the country may linger unless federal lawmakers adopt a new budgeting process that would discourage allocating meagre funds for projects in the nation’s annual budget.

Fashola stated this when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on Thursday over the Ife-Ifewara Road which was rehabilitated by the Redeemed Christian Church of God at a cost of N188m following its abandonment by  a contractor, Messrs Cartil Construction Nigeria Limited.

He also hinted that his ministry had started taking steps, based on legal advice, to publish a blacklist of erring contractors.

Sunday Punch had last week exclusively reported that meagre sums were allocated to multi-billion naira projects in the current fiscal year.

A copy of the 2021 budget of the Federal Ministry of Works obtained by our correspondent in Abuja shows that the ministry allocated a series of funds to the 711 roads and bridges projects totalling N276, 243, 984, 521:23, to be sourced from the Capital Development Fund.

A critical study of the budget revealed that the money voted to the various highway and bridge projects were meagre and could not make much impact on the affected infrastructure.

For instance, the ministry voted N24.8m for the emergency repairs of the Ibadan -Ife dual carriageway.

It also voted for additional N200m for the dualisation of the Ibadan -Ife -Ilesha Road.

The FMW & H also planned to spend a meagre N100m on the rehabilitation,  construction and expansion of the Lagos – Ibadan dual carriageway this year.

However, Fashola confessed before the senators on Thursday that the idea of allocating funds to projects already awarded annually was delaying early completion of road projects.

He said, “The reality today is that once a contractor looked at the budget and discovered that it was only N50m that was allocated to him, he would just keep his equipment idle and wait.

“This speaks to a larger matter that the Senate could look into, perhaps it would lead you to do a proper budgeting for our roads.”

Fashola advocated an arrangement whereby lists of approved road projects would be listed in the budget without indicating any amount meant for its execution.

The Minister said, “I have advocated fund budgeting. If we are going to spend for instance N10 on all roads in Nigeria, we would list all the roads without putting any amount against any of the roads for the contractors handling them to see.

“We need to create competition by ensuring that the first contractor who completed his project, gets paid. That was what we did way back in Lagos.

“Once contractors see that a certain amount of money was put on his road project, and know that the money was not capable of doing anything on the road, he will stop work.

“Those are matters of public good that can come out of your recommendations to be tabled at plenary and perhaps into law making.”

He said there could be instances where  contractors  perform poorly due to poor releases made to them but that the Ministry could just issue a warning letter.

He said, “Sometimes, our legal department advises against taking legal actions against contractors because of certain defence they could come up with against the ministry.

“There are some cases we settle by arbitration. It is not as if we are not doing anything about defaulting contractors.

“In some cases, contractors sue us. Part of our defence or counter claims is to say the value of naira when the contract was awarded has changed.

“There are so many other considerations. One of the legacies of the fact was that there were years when existing projects had zero budget. One of the things that has changed is that it no longer happens.”

He, nevertheless, said that his ministry has started a list of contractors who abandoned projects awarded to them.

He said, “The legal department of the ministry is currently in the process of commencing legal actions against the contractors who are in breach of agreement and these are matters often not reported.

“This is something that I particularly had been at the forefront of filing claims against contractors who failed to keep their own end of the bargain and also trying to recover whatever has been paid for work not done.

“In some cases, I’m even looking at claiming compensation for time value of money, that is, what we should have done with the amount about 10 years ago that the funds were released to the non-performing contractor.”

He added, “However, the difficulty in that area is often that we discovered that there could be no budgetary provisions for the project at that time.

“I just want to let members of the public know that we are not just sitting down without taking action against contractors who haven’t kept their own side of the bargain.

“We are compiling a list of contractors that we will publish a blacklist but there has to be justification proceeding to that level based on legal advice.” (Punch)

Vehicle knocks groom dead on wedding day in Nasarawa

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Vehicle knocks groom dead on wedding day in Nasarawa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gay atmosphere was turned into a mournful one in Ikyangedu community, Keana Local Government Area, Nasarawa State last Saturday as a would be groom was knocked dead by a Toyota Hilux van two hours to his wedding.

The would be bride, Miss Rosemary Hudu, an entrepreneur, has been inconsolable over the tragic incident as she battles to come to terms with the reality of the death of her heartthrob less than two hours before going to the altar for their marital vows.

Rosemary and her would-be husband, John Abugu, appeared to have everything under wraps until tragedy struck as Abugu was returning from the drycleaner’s shop where he had gone with his friend on a motorcycle to collect the suit he would wear for the wedding scheduled to hold at the Baptist Church in the community.

Needless to say that the families had printed the invitation cards for friends and loved ones with a plan to lavishly entertain them with drinks and food that had almost being made ready the previous night.

Indeed, many of the guests from distant locations had arrived a day or two to the ceremony and everyone was in gay mood. Few hours to the ceremony, however, tragedy struck and turned the joy of wedding into ashes in their mouths.

Less than two hours before the commencement of the wedding ceremony, Abugu decided to use his motorcycle to pick up his wedding suit at the shop of a nearby drycleaner only to be knocked down by a vehicle. He was said to have sustained minor injuries and was rushed to the hospital where he died in the course of treatment.

Speaking to our correspondent, the late Abugu’s friend, Mr Julius Abugu, who was with him on the bike at the time the accident occurred, recalled that he and the late groom had gone to pick his wedding suit at the dry cleaner at about 8.30 am on the fateful day as the wedding was scheduled for 10 am.

According to Julius, while they were trying to cross the road, Abugu did not look properly before entering the road and was knocked down by a Toyota Hilux van. He said the injuries Abugu sustained were on his forehead but he appeared to have mostly internal ones.

He attributed Abugu’s inability to sight the Hilux van to the dizziness that might have resulted from the pressure of running around to see that things were in order for the wedding.

Things were said to have taken a turn for the worse when Abugu started vomiting uncontrollably at the hospital.

Julius said: “I can’t really explain how the whole event turned out that way. John (Abugu) was full of life and we were together going up and down to see that the arrangement was in order.

“He was so happy that he was going to get married the next day. He was busy the previous day receiving his friends who were coming from long distances.

“We went to see the drycleaner the previous day, but because there was no light, he could not iron the suit. But he assured that once there was light in the night, he would do it for us to pick it up early in the morning the next day, and that was what we did.

“When he wanted to go to the dry cleaner, I insisted that I would ride the motorcycle but he said I shouldn’t worry, that he would ride.

“He was actually telling me about one of his friends whom he was expecting that morning to use his car to convey them to the church for the wedding and after the wedding.

“Due to the excitement in him, he didn’t look at both sides of the road before entering the highway where the Hilux hit the two of us.

“We both sustained injuries but he was more affected, and we were rushed to the hospital immediately.

“Even at the hospital, we were being treated together. But a few minutes later, his situation worsened as he was bleeding from his ears, eyes and nose, and he suddenly died.”

Julius described his late friend as a committed young man who was very accommodating.

Our correspondent gathered that when the news of Abugu’s death broke in the church where many guests were already seated, it changed the mood of everybody and the pastor immediately called off the wedding.

Speaking to our correspondent, the father of the bride, Mr Patrick Hudu, said: “We do not want this. We did not pray for this. It is not our desire. It is not our expectations.

“I was with my son-in-law yesterday (penultimate Friday) and he was full of life. If anyone had told me the wedding would not hold, I would not believe it. But God has done it.

“We are human, we are flesh, so we are not going to see it the way you see it, Lord. We are going to see it the way you see it Lord, we are going to be pained and we are actually pained, but God knows better.”

Our correspondent made efforts to speak to the bride who was in tears, and she said:

“I prefer to die too so that we will be buried together, I can’t believe my husband is gone in such an embarrassing manner, just two hours to our wedding. I can’t say anything, but wherever he is, I will be there with him.”

All efforts to speak with the groom’s relations failed as they appeared to be confused.

One of his relations identified simply as Mr Mathew told our correspondent that “what I will likely never forget is the immense pain, the insurmountable fear, the all consuming grief, the indescribable confusion, and mostly the leaviness that came with the realization that Mr John in whose honour we are all gathered here to celebrate his marriage is truly gone forever and there isn’t anything anybody can do.

“It is sad that he is not able to achieve his dream of getting married.”  (The Nation)

Ignore the pessimism: COVID vaccines are quietly prevailing

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Ignore the pessimism: COVID vaccines are quietly prevailing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can be quite easy, reading the press, to believe that the pandemic will never end. Even when good news about vaccines started to arrive in the autumn, this grim narrative managed to harden. In the past month, you could read “five reasons that herd immunity is probably impossible”, even with mass vaccination; breathless reports about yet-uncharacterised but potentially ruinous variants, such as the “double mutant” variant in India, or two concerning variants potentially swapping mutations and teaming up in a “nightmare scenario” in California; get ready, some analysts said, for the “permanent pandemic”.

Among many people I know, a sort of low-grade doom has set in. They think the vaccines are a mere sliver of hope, only holding back the virus for a short time before being worn down by a rush of ever-cleverer variants that will slosh around us, perhaps forever. Things might briefly get better, they believe, but only by a little, and even that is tenuous.

However despite such dark talk, and the potential difficulties along the way of vaccine rollout, I still remain optimistic. Since about the midway point of last year I have believed that extremely potent vaccines are going to end the pandemic. They’ll do so by either driving the disease down to near-extinction, or so constraining its force and spread that it becomes a manageable concern, like measles or mumps. I actually think this will happen fairly soon, as long as we get everyone – the whole world, not just the rich – vaccinated.

The scientific case for optimism is straightforward. The vaccines we have are beyond very good, they’re among the most effective ever created. They appear to be potent in real-life situations, and results so far show that protection is long-lasting. Crucially, new results in the US show that the mRNA vaccines used there effectively prevented coronavirus infections – not just serious symptoms – in results similar to those previously reported by a UK-based study. And another study in the UK suggested that vaccinated groups were less likely to spread coronavirus infection overall. This is exactly what we need to choke out the pandemic: vaccines that don’t just protect, but actually halt the virus infecting people and spreading.

When it comes to variants, it is clear that some are more infectious, and some are more deadly. But their interaction with vaccines isn’t yet clear. Some lab-based results show that certain viral mutations may make some immune responses less potent. And one study suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine might be less potent against the South African variant. But the majority of scientists believe that vaccines have so far held the line, and will continue to do so. If variants continue to make small advances, vaccines can be updated. A doomsday strain may be possible, but exceedingly hard to predict. Evolution isn’t an on-demand miracle worker for viral supremacy; even over decades most viruses don’t escape vaccine protection.

The stories suggesting a dismal and dangerous future aren’t wrong, per se. There is clearly a long way to go in ending the pandemic. A few pieces are sensationalistic (some scientists have taken to calling the rolling panics accompanying each new mutation “scariants” or “mutant porn”), but most are good-faith reporting of what experts say, or attempts to tune public discourse away from naive false hopes (most articles) or, more rarely, away from miserable and abject doom (this article).

What they do, in aggregate, is try to describe the future in a time of incredible uncertainty. And, as a rule, we’re quite bad at dealing with uncertainty. During the pandemic the public sphere sometimes appears to be in the middle of a full-blown epistemic crisis over this, with wildly different claims about what “the science” portends. The truth is that the science we see now is itself uncertain. It’s not a process of years-long studies that provide near-definitive answers. We’re all mucking about behind the scientific curtain, looking at science as it’s being done; at inferences and hypotheses; incomplete and ongoing studies. Often, what is parsed publicly these days as “science” is just informed guesses by experts.

This can pile up and become paralysing. Especially since the pandemic itself exploded our horizon for negative possibilities. It seems like each day there are a thousand new paths the future might take, and no way to know how solid each might actually be. Even more, as each piece of good news comes freighted with new caveats and doomsday scenarios, it can feel like things are nearly as uncertain now as they were at the beginning of the crisis. Like everything we know could suddenly and radically shift, the same way it did last March.

That isn’t the case. There are two massive and opposing fronts of uncertainty facing us. We don’t yet know for certain if vaccines will effectively halt transmission. On this, we have some indication that it looks good, and conclusive answers are coming. And we don’t know what (terrible) variants might yet emerge. But even though that unknown seems massive, variants aren’t some immunological antimatter destined to suddenly and totally vaporise the vaccines.

Seen this way, the possibilities don’t look so grim. Early in the pandemic we had nothing, the timeline for vaccines and whether they would work was uncertain, the outside chance was that they would take years, or they would fail. The horizon was the virus, and just how bad it could get. Now the vaccines are the horizon, and it is the virus that has only the outside chance to delay or disrupt our path there.

*This article was first published in www.theguardian.com

FG suspends Adeboye’s helicopter from flying

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FG suspends Adeboye’s helicopter from flying


…RCCG leader forced to fly Oyedepo’s aircraft

The Federal Government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has grounded a private chopper belonging to Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Lagos Airport, investigations by Sunday  PUNCH, has revealed.

It was learnt that the aircraft, AgustaWestland AW139 chopper, with registration number 5N-EAA, was suspended from flying over two weeks ago, following the expiration of some of its papers and spare parts.

The suspension, officials said, would also allow the regulator to conduct vital safety checks on its safety-critical components, especially some spare parts that are due for replacement.

Adeboye had, last Saturday during a special meeting with all ordained ministers of the mission at the RCCG, Region 21, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, called for drastic action against corrupt practices in all facets of Nigeria.

The RCCG leader, who flew a chopper to the venue, said he arrived late for the meeting because someone had requested a bribe from him to fly his chopper.

He said he had decided to embark on the trip via his chopper to avoid a possible gridlock on the busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The 79-year-old mathematician-turned-preacher said, “I don’t give excuses because I have discovered long ago that only failures give excuses. But you must pray for Nigeria.

“Something must be done about corruption in this nation. All I can say is that I am this late because somebody wanted a bribe. And you know if you are expecting a bribe from me, you have to wait forever.

“But the devil has failed. And the devil will continue to fail. I decided to come by helicopter so that there won’t be a traffic jam that would tie me down on the expressway because I know what the devil could do.

“Then, I ran into something else. But by the grace of God, we are here.”

Although Sunday PUNCH could not ascertain who requested the alleged bribe from the revered servant of God, investigations by the paper revealed that the cleric’s chopper was suspended from flying by the regulatory authority over safety issues.

Multiple aviation sources confirmed that Adeboye could not fly his chopper with registration number 5N-EAA to the Ibadan programme but had to fly another aircraft reportedly belonging to Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel).

A top official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, who is close to the operations of the two choppers belonging to the servants of God, said, “The team relating directly with Daddy G.O. should have told the man of God otyn time that his chopper had not been cleared by the NCAA and, as such, it couldn’t go on the Ibadan trip. They shouldn’t have waited till the last minute. The NCAA (aviation regulatory agency) that we have now is different from what it used to be. There is a new man in charge who always insists that things must be done properly as far as the safety of lives is concerned. The church’s protocol team should have told him that the NCAA has not cleared the aircraft and it may not clear it within a short time because certain procedure must be followed. As such, an alternative arrangement should have been made.”

The NAMA official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, further said, “On that last Saturday morning, when it later became obvious that the jet was not cleared to fly, they had to make an alternative arrangement with Bishop Oyedepo’s chopper. They had to quickly begin that process by filing the flight plan, etc. It was Bishop’s aircraft that Pastor Adeboye later flew to the event. He could not use his own.”

A top official of Omni-Blu Aviation, the airline operating the chopper for Adeboye, confirmed the development.

The official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said a letter from Italy-based Leonardo, the manufacturer of Adeboye’s AW 139 helicopter, requesting the NCAA to grant a time extension on some spare parts that are due for replacement came late.

The spare parts due for replacement have been ordered from the manufacturer but they have yet to be shipped into Nigeria because they are usually produced on demand, according to Omni-Blu Aviation.

As such, the NCAA could not immediately grant the requested extension. Instead, the regulatory agency requested that comprehensive safety checks be conducted on the aircraft in line with standard aviation safety practice.

He said, “The NCAA that we have now is different from what it used to be. It always insists on standard. We don’t want any disappointing situation for anybody, especially for a globally reputed servant of God like Daddy G.O. It appears the man of God was not properly briefed. But we thank God an alternative arrangement was made to rescue the situation. Safety is first and paramount. No life is worth toying with, how much more that of a servant of God like Daddy G.O. As an airline, we won’t compromise safety no matter the pressure.’’

The Omni-Blu official denied knowledge of any bribe request, either by the airline or aviation officials.

He, however, said it was not impossible that some people might have cashed in on the situation to demand a bribe.

“You know some people don’t fear God no matter what. They can even go to the extent of asking a servant of God for a bribe. So, it is not impossible. But on our part, I am not aware of such.”

As it stands, it is uncertain when Adeboye’s chopper will be allowed to fly.

However, findings revealed that NCAA had directed maintenance and safety checks to be conducted on the aircraft.

As such, the operator has secured a date for this at Aero’s maintenance hangar.

When contacted for comments, the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, confirmed that the regulatory agency had suspended flights on the aircraft for safety reasons.

According to him, the NCAA does not often deal directly with individuals or owners of aircraft but the operator.

In this case, he said the NCAA only had business with the operator of the aircraft, Omni-Blu Aviation.

Nuhu said, “There are safety-related issues that must be resolved before the aircraft will be approved for resumption of flights. Safety is the paramount consideration in all approvals given by the NCAA. No matter what, we must not sacrifice safety for flights; that is the whole idea.”

When contacted, the spokesperson for RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the matter was being resolved already.

On the bribery allegation, he said the church would not want to take issue with the aviation authorities on the matter.

Olubiyi said, “We will not want to take issue with the aviation authorities but I can assure you that an amicable solution is being found to the issue.”  (Punch)

2023: North or South? East or West?

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2023: North or South? East or West?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here we go again: in 2023, whose turn? In Nigeria, nothing excites us like politics. If you want to get our attention, don’t waste your time writing about quality of life, potable water, sanitation, maternal health or out-of-school children. There are more important things that excite us: political intrigues, permutations, elections, all that. I am in the news business and I know what I am talking about. Publish a story that says 63 million Nigerians do not have access to clean water and nobody will touch it. Speculate on who is likely to be fielded as the APC presidential candidate and it will catch fire immediately. That is how we are wired: more excited over sensation, less over substance.

2023: North or South? East or West? The hottest topic in town now is what region will produce the next president. Between 1999 and 2023, northerners would have ruled for 11 years and southerners for 13 years. It has gone south-north-south-north since the dawn of this democracy. The street permutation would be that south should be the next. However, there is no legal binding on it. President Muhammadu Buhari, in particular, has never shown any appetite for power rotation. He contested every presidential election between 2003 and 2019, no matter the region that felt it was its turn. If we are to use this as a yardstick, we can say he cannot be bothered what region produces his successor.

Many southerners typically assume that power would return to the region after Buhari’s exit. That is just one leg of the argument. If it is coming to the south, what zone? That is another leg. The south-west is staking a claim. Many will argue that the south-west should give way to other zones in the southern region having produced a president for eight years (1999-2007) and VP for another eight years (2015-2023, all things being equal). South-west’s counter claim, nevertheless, would be that the zone is where APC, the ruling party, is most popular in the south and it should be allowed to reap the reward of its political alliance. Whatever, many south-westerners are warming up anyway.

The south-south is also making a strong claim, having done only one term before. It is the zone where the nation’s oil revenue is derived. Dr Goodluck Jonathan accidentally became president in 2010 after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Despite strong opposition from the north over power rotation, Jonathan defied the agitation and made a successful bid in 2011, defeating Buhari. But Jonathan did not do a second term as he lost to Buhari in 2015. He did the unthinkable by conceding the election while results were still being announced, although many of his supporters were embittered and felt he was “chased” out of office because he was a southern minority.

The south-east has the strongest claim, having not produced a No 1 or No 2 since 1999. In fact, the zone has not produced an elected president since Independence, even though the Igbo are one of the three biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria (the others being Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba). Ordinarily, therefore, if it is going to be the turn of the south in 2023 amid the “equity” talk, there should be no argument on where power should go. But there is this impression that based on the activities and rhetoric of IPOB and other groups, the Igbo would genuinely rather not be part of Nigeria. More so, APC, the ruling party, is least loved in the zone — where PDP has always won convincingly.

Where do I stand in all of this? Perhaps it bears repeating that I believe in equity as much as I believe in merit and justice. In simple English, I believe in power rotation. Still, there are circumstances that may affect the north-south arrangement — as we saw with the death of Yar’Adua in 2010. Those were extraordinary circumstances. Jonathan was blamed for not respecting the rotation principle of the PDP when he ran in 2011 instead of allowing the north keep power. I still would not blame him. In the absence of any compelling law, things were complicated. For one, I don’t know anyone else who would have the constitutional right to succeed the president and let it go just like that.

There was a moral argument too — that even if the constitution did not disqualify Jonathan from running, he should still have been a gentleman and stuck to his party’s “zoning” arrangement. But I would also think that any northerner who took over from him in 2011 would not do one term only. No president would have an opportunity of a second term and throw it away, except it is Dr Nelson Mandela. We are yet to get over the political bitterness caused by the consequences of Yar’Adua’s death. The bad blood generated by Jonatan’s decision to contest still runs deep. We saw how the 2015 election season went and how the poison is very much in the system till this moment.

Unfortunately, the Yar’Adua situation has still not been adequately addressed. The starting point for us as a polity is to answer the question: do we really want to rotate presidential power? We need to reach a consensus on this. If the answer is yes, we need to create the certainty that power would rotate. That can only be guaranteed through the constitution. It cannot be left to individual parties to decide — because the parties are also in a competition and are trying to outdo each other. PDP and APC are carefully quiet on where their presidential tickets would go in 2023. Nobody wants to take the risk of zoning to one region while the other picks another region. A case of who blinks first?

If there had been legal certainty in 2011, Jonathan would not have been able to run. Rotation was a PDP, not a constitutional, arrangement. If we can enshrine it in the constitution, that can reduce the perennial tension over equity. Dr Alex Ekwueme, former vice-president, came up with an elaborate proposal to take care of our complex political configuration at the 1995 constitutional conference. He proposed a six-zone structure and a single presidential term. Power would rotate between the north and the south, and also within the geo-political zones in each region. Every zone’s turn would be guaranteed. No arguments. FIFA has achieved that with World Cup hosting among the continents.

Ekwueme, a sagacious political thinker, also proposed six vice-presidents, each representing a zone. If, for any reason, the president does not serve her full term (maybe because of resignation, impeachment or death), the VP from the zone will replace her, complete the term and power will move to the next region and zone at the next election. This means a lot. A northerner would have finished Yar’Adua’s term and the bad blood would have been avoided. The high tension over Buhari’s ill health in 2017 would also have been avoided. As things stand today, any attempt to impeach a president will fail because of the geo-political sensitivity: the VP will become president.

If I recall correctly, Ekwueme also proposed a sunset clause. Power rotation would not be forever. When presidency has gone round all the zones, it would be thrown open. By his own calculations, Nigeria would have grown politically and outgrown rotation by then. I am not saying his proposal would solve all our political problems. That is not the point. In fact, it is not as if our sub-identities are settled. Of the six zones, only the south-east is close to homogeneity in ethnicity and religion — the two biggest identifiers in Nigeria. The rest of us are far from homogenous. I admit that rotation does not solve all problems but we need some wisdom to manage our peculiar complexities.

If I were in a room where these decisions are made, I would raise up my hand and suggest that we should strongly reconsider and adopt the Ekwueme proposals as we amend the constitution. In fact, I would further suggest that we should consider a similar arrangement at the state level so that every senatorial district can be accommodated and no district can lord it over the other as it currently obtains in many states. I really admire what Delta state, and a few others, have been able to do in this regard. Many of those campaigning for power and equity at the centre are actually oppressing the minorities in their own states. But in Nigeria, we have to heap all blame on Abuja.

For clarity, I would say again that I believe in merit as much as I believe in equity. I do not believe that merit and equity are mutually exclusive. There is no state in Nigeria that does not have educated, experienced and competent people who can be president. Take that from me. In fact, if you challenge me, I can give you a shortlist of five solid presidential materials from every state of the federation. I do not subscribe to the notion that only a part of Nigeria can produce competent leaders. Inasmuch as our governors have not turned their states to paradise, nobody has the moral right to say one ethnic group or geo-political zone has all the competence. That is my view.

To my mind, federal character and power rotation are instruments of accommodation in a multi-ethnic polity so that nobody is left out in the cold. In a society where there is mutual suspicion, where there are fears of domination and marginalisation, where there is a fierce competition for power, I will keep arguing that it is in the interest of our peace and progress to have an accommodating political arrangement so that all the people will feel that they belong. Attaining political stability is very critical to the development of Nigeria. We can only have peace and progress if we get the political atmosphere right. As things stand, we are too bitterly divided to think straight.


AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…


GHANA VS NIGERIA

Twitter’s decision to locate its Africa headquarters in Ghana has generated a lot of debate. Some Nigerians are celebrating it, partly in the belief that it is an indictment on the Buhari administration. To be fair, Ghana has been beating Nigeria to many things long before Buhari came to power. Who still remembers that President Barack Obama visited Ghana and shunned Nigeria in 2013 and people said it was because the Jonathan administration was corrupt? In all, Ghana is more stable and orderly than Nigeria. If we are wise, then, we should start asking ourselves the hard questions on how Nigeria can reform and become a more hospitable environment to business. Introspection.

PANTS DOWN?

Alhaji Isa Ali Pantami, minister of communication and digital economy, has been in the news since it was reported that he was on the US watchlist over alleged links to terrorists. The report has now been retracted with apology, but old tapes are emerging tending to prove that Pantami used to be sympathetic to terror groups. He has denied the allegations and argued, instead, that he was opposed to their murderous ideology. It shouldn’t be a crime that Pantami is an Islamic cleric. There are pastors in government, right? However, while I admit that people change their opinions as they grow older and wiser, we need to be assured that Pantami does not support terrorism. Imperative.

PRINTER’S DEVIL

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state caused some sensation when he alleged that N60 billion was printed to augment March allocations. Nigeria is in dire financial straits because of COVID and low oil production. Under such situations, central banks can “print money” for governments via “ways and means advances” (which are loans, as explained by the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele). My little understanding of FAAC is that it only shares federally collected revenues as reported by NNPC, FIRS and Customs, etc. These are clearly itemised. So, did FAAC list “printed money” as revenue? It appears Obaseki, a financial expert, goofed but has gone too far to correct himself. Puzzling.

IN MEMORIAM

Exactly one year yesterday, Mallam Abba Kyari, the ex-chief of staff to President Buhari and probably the most hated human being in Nigeria, died after contracting COVID. Although he was said to have tested negative after treatment, he did not survive the complications because of underlying conditions. If the dead could talk, he would probably be thanking God that he escaped many things that would have been blamed on him, such as the removal of Mallam Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman, Mrs Aisha Buhari’s prolonged stay in Dubai and the “printing of N60 billion”. Kyari was certainly not perfect but he unquestionably put in a decent shift in his service to fatherland. Life.

*Written By Simon Kolawole

Cement Price soar in South East

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Cement Price soar in South East

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prices of cement has increased by 67 per cent in the South East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, the News Agency of Nigeria is reporting.

A market survey conducted by NAN at various wholesale and retail shops in the zone shows that the price of the product has increased almost by double when compared to the price in 2020.

A cement dealer at Kenyetta Market in Enugu, the Enugu State capital, Ifeanyi Amadi, said the increase in the product’s price started last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increase in dollar exchange.

Amadi noted that a trailer load of Dangote Cement with 600 bags initially sold at N1.5 million in 2020, but is now N2.3 million in the first quarter of 2021.

“The prices change on daily basis, so as we are talking now, I cannot guarantee the prices it will be sold tomorrow,” he said.

Another retailer at Uwani, Samuel Uwakwe, said he was surprised at the rate of prices of the product in the country.

According to him, a bag of Dangote Cement is sold at N3,900, Unicem for N3,700, Bua Cement for N3,700 and Kogi Super Cement at N3,600.

Uwakwe lamented that few individuals were given opportunity to supply the product and pleaded with suppliers to reduce the prices and make it available for the citizens.

He maintained that the prices would likely crash during raining season.

A Block Industry Owner, Albert Okechukwu, noted that increase in the price of the product affected his business as he still sold six-inch and nine-inch block at N170 and N180 respectively.

Okechukwu said: “This is the same price we sold last year and it is same till date because we cannot change price in order to retain our customers but most block industries have reduced quality of their blocks.”

A site Engineer, Emma Ugwuoke, said he wanted to start a building in the village when the price was N2,800 last year, but was waiting to see if it would come down.

Ugwuoke said: “When I went back next time, I was told it was N3,000 and to my greatest surprise, they sell N3,900 and N4,000 now in my village.

“There is nothing one can do than to buy it like that.

“I want government to do something urgently about it because it is frustrating buying cement at that price.”

In Abia State, a cross-section of residents of Umuahia, the state capital, also decried the high price of cement, which ranges from N4,000 to N4,100 per 50kg bag.

Those who spoke to NAN said the price hike had further dashed the hope of many Nigerians, wishing to own their personal homes.

A businessman, Victor Ugwu, said he had to suspend his building project because of the “unfortunate development”.

Ugwu said: “I have stopped my project for now.

“I cannot afford to continue with the current price of the commodity.

“The economy is very bad so I hope to wait until there is a drop in the price.

“I think the hike can be attributed to the monopoly being enjoyed by the cement producers in the country.

“Unfortunately, there may not be any respite until that monopoly is broken.”

However, a cement dealer, James Ogbonna, said the problem had nothing to do with the manufacturers of the commodity.

Rather, Ogbonna blamed the price hike on the activities of “shylock distributors” of cement.

He said the hike had affected his business adversely, adding that cement patronage had been at the lowest ebb, since the price hike.

He said: “In the first and second week of March, we sold a bag for N3,200, but within the third week we started selling at N3,500.

“By the end of March, the price moved up to N4,000 and now, we sell between N4,000 and N4100, depending on the brand.”

Another dealer, Godwin Okafor, said his sales had dropped drastically as a result of the hike.

Okafor said: “We have a lot of challenges in this cement business now.

“When we make deposit and order for the goods, it takes about one month before we get delivery.”

It is a similar situation in Awka in Anambra State as stakeholders decry the situation.

Kenechukwu Okoye, a cement dealer along Zik Avenue, Awka, said before the #EndSARS protest in 2020, a 50kg bag of cement was sold at N2,500.

“Shortly after the #EndSARS, the price rose to N3,000 and from there to the present price of N4,000 and N4,100, we are selling today,” he said.

Okoye said though the distributors initially blamed the problem on difficulties encountered by the hauling firm transporting the product, the situation had come to stay.

In Owerri, the Imo State capital, price of cement is between N3,850 and N4300, depending on the brand.

At the Building Materials Market in Naze, Owerri North Local Government Area, Dangote and BUA cement are sold at N4,000 per bag, while UNICEM is sold for N3,900.

Okechukwu Okonya, a seller, said the cost could be attributed to high cost of transportation as a result of fuel price.

Okonya also said major dealers sometimes hoard the product in their warehouses to create artificial scarcity.

Another trader, Marcel Iwu, agreed that although there had been hoarding by major dealers, manufacturers had also complained of increased cost of raw materials.

Iwu added that the prices could go higher or reduce at any given time, noting that even if prices fall, traders would want to sell off their old stock at higher rates.

NAN reports that in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, prices of almost all building materials have gone up.

The prices of cement, rods of various sizes, corrugated roofing sheets and other building materials and accessories, according to NAN findings, have been on the increase since January.

The price of Dangote and Bua, which sold at N2,500 earlier in November and December 2020, now sold between N4000 and N4500.

Similarly, Unicem Cement, which also sold at N2,300 within the same period, had also gone up to N4,000 and N4,300.

John Okoh, a cement dealer at Kpiri-Kpiri market, in an interview with NAN attributed the development to lack of price control mechanism and high rate of exchange rate of the Naira against the dollar.

Okoh said: “The development is indeed affecting sales and business because many builders have put a stop to their building and other construction projects because they cannot cope with the present high cost of the product.”

Another resident, Clement Igbo, who owns a block moulding industry, said the high cost of cement was hampering production, adding that he no longer produced maximally due to lack of buyers.

Igbo said: “A bag of Dangote Cement, which is one of the best products for our business, is selling for N4,500 and it is difficult to buy at this prevailing price and make enough production.

“We sell six inch and nine-inch block before this price increase at N150 and N200, but now 6 inch-block is sold at N220, while the 9 inch sells for between N250 and N300.

“Many block industries in the town have closed down production while some have compromised standard which pose great dangers to the building industry.”

Igbo expressed fears that the high cost of cement, which had led to improper ‘mixture’ of concretes for building purpose, might affect quality and standard of buildings.

Jerry Onwe, an economic activist ,urged the Federal and States Governments to revive moribund cement factories across the states to meet the increasing demands of cement consumption in Nigeria.

He noted that the quest for mass housing for poor Nigerians would remain elusive if urgent steps were not taken to address the high cost of building materials in Nigeria.

One said: “In a nation where an average worker earns N30,000 monthly as take-home wage, how can such a person afford a house of his own in view of the prevailing price of building materials?

“We have reached a cross road as far as the issue of building materials is concerned and this is a time for government to intervene and bring the situation under control.

“The Nkalagu Cement Factory in Ebonyi is capable of supply the cement needs of the entire South-East if properly revived.”

NAN.

Security alert in Southeast, South- south over fresh IPOB threat

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Security alert in Southeast, South- south over fresh IPOB threat
It was gathered that the weapons seized during the violent attacks were being amassed in preparation for an imminent declaration of separation from Nigeria by IPOB and its Cameroonian ally.

One of the sources said the collaboration between IPOB and its ally explained the increase in attacks against security agents in the Akwa Ibom and Cross River State axis, especially in  Bakassi area, which serves as an access to the southern part of Cameroon on water.

It was gathered that the reason for the increased attacks along these areas was to whittle down security presence on the Nigerian side to enable IPOB move arms and allow its fighters travel more freely.

The intelligence community projects an increase in the spate of attacks in both geo-political zones.

The sources revealed that within the past week, about 100 members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the combatant wing of IPOB, had moved to Cameroon to acquire training in arms handling.

A second batch, it was gathered, is getting ready to be dispatched soon also.

Another source said the narrative of Fulani herdsmen attacks in the Southeast was invented  to distract attention from the real situation in the zone.

The source dismissed allegation by IPOB that the Department of State Security (DSS) was plotting to attack banks and blame it on its members as untrue, ridiculous, childish and illogical.

Spokesman of IPOB, Emma Powerful, had said the plot was meant to tarnish the image of the group’s militant wing, Eastern Security Network (ESN), before the world.

On Thursday, IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu said the ESN had no plans to attack banks in the Southeast.

He denied the claim that the money to be realised from the operation would be used to purchase arms. He said they (IPOB) did not need the money as they could produce their own arms.

Shortly after the denial, a bank was attacked in Abagana in Anambra State by unknown gunmen, who hoisted Biafra flags.

Sources said the group’s mode of operation is to raise false alarm and carry out such attacks in a bid to blackmail security agencies.

“It is not true and it cannot be true. So what they have done is that hours after they issued that alarm, they attacked a bank in Abagana, Dunukofia LGA, Anambra State,” one of the sources said.

Continuing, the source said: “If they are peaceful as they try to portray themselves, why the need for weapons?

“You claim you are non-violent, yet you admit you are making weapons. What are the weapons for?

“Their main aim in all these attacks is to get secession, working with a group fighting for Ambazonia Republic in the Republic of Cameroon.

“The narrative of the Fulani herdsmen is meant to serve as a distraction from the major issue. What is actually happening is a secessionist fight that is building. The Fulani issue is just a fringe issue.

“You can see the recent upsurge in the attacks against security agents in the South East and along the Cross River State and Akwa Ibom axis. This is the reason they are attacking checkpoints in the Southeast so that stop and search would no longer be effective.

“They want to dismantle the security apparatus in the Southeast and South-south so they can have a leeway to transfer arms in the area between themselves. The waterways of Cross River and Akwa Ibom and the closeness to ‘Ambazonia’ make it strategic for them.

“There is no responsible government that would stand idle and not do anything while dissident groups build and try to subvert peace. They have already set up training camps in Delta and parts of Imo State.

“They are attacking security agents and collecting their weapons. They are doing this to amass weapons. They cannot get arms outside the country. They cannot import arms.

“Protocols are being tightened, so they’re now attacking as many security agents as they can. Their aim is to mow down as many security agents as they can. They want to move their arms. They are also trying to get arms from other external affiliates.

“They are still planning a bigger fight against constituted authority and against the sovereignty of the country. They feel they need a strong armoury to drive their success, which is why they are sourcing for arms.

“As I said, they are working with other secessionist groups especially ‘Ambozonia’ and they do exchange in terms of training and arms. They want to clear all the security hurdles along the internal superhighway to Cameroon, especially along the Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu axis.

“The highway from Lagos goes through Edo and Delta States and connects Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and then Cross River into Cameroon.

“What they want is that once they dismantle the security agents, they would be free to operate. Attacking banks is to get money, create fear, destabilize the economy, stamp their authority as a subversive and insurgent group.

“All these sum up the reason they have the terrorism tag. The aim is to achieve political gain which in this case is secession and having their own republic.

“They try to show their authority by confronting principal officers of government. Then they seize arms and seek to command spheres of influence, and command the loyalty of the local population. They consistently attack government infrastructure to create the impression that the government looks weak and so the populace would see the government as weak.

“In a bid to drive this agenda, they adopt fake news, hate speech, propaganda, disinformation and misinformation to create narratives that suit their political plans and whip up sentiments.

“They sell the impression that the Southeast is full of Hausa Fulani security agents who are sent to protect the herdsmen. Most of their reasons are puerile. The root cause of all these problems is the struggle for secession, but they would advance reasons such as nepotism, marginalization, etc.”

(The Nation)

Bandits issue death threats to 29 abducted Kaduna students

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Bandits issue death threats to 29 abducted Kaduna students

Bandits yesterday threatened to kill the remaining 29 abducted students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna, still in their custody, following the refusal of the Kaduna State Government to meet their demand of N300 million ransom.

Of the 39 abducted from the school on March 11, 10 were freed early this month following what sources said was payment of ransom by some parents.

The Kaduna State Government insists that it would not negotiate with the bandits, while the parents are begging Governor Nasir El-rufai to negotiate with the outlaws.

At a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, the spokesman of the parents, Friday Sanni confirmed receiving threats via telephone from the bandits to kill the remaining 29 abductees who have now spent 37 days in the dungeon of the criminals.

“We are calling on Nigerians, non-governmental organisations, charity organisations and donors to come to our aid in donating to rescue our children. We don’t know what is happening to them.

“The bandits have threatened to kill our children if we play with them. The other time, they said they will marry the female and kill the men and that a time will come when even if we bring the money, the money will not be useful.”

He said since government claimed security agents rescued the two batches of 10 students earlier released, they should do something about the remaining students.

Sanni added: “The government has said any parent who negotiates with the bandits will be prosecuted but most of the parents are already arrested emotionally, our children today are faced with AK 47 guns on them. The faith of our children is what we don’t know; they have spent 36 days without clothing, food, clean drinking water or bathing.”

He said the parents would continue to find a way of reaching out to the bandits.

Sanni said: “We will continue to protest, no matter the number of security forces. The highest is death and we are ready to sacrifice that for our children who have promising futures.”

Sources among the parents said the bandits were earlier given N17 million for the release of all the 39 students following negotiations, “but after they collected the money, they changed their mind, saying it was too small and decided to release only 10 of the students.”

The source said negotiations with the bandits by parents were still going on.

In a statement after the briefing by the parents, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said government would not succumb to “emotional blackmail” regarding the fate of the abducted students.

“The Governor will continue to work hard until banditry is contained, without succumbing to emotional blackmail and gradual politicisation of the unfortunate situation,” Aruwan said.

The Commissioner denied reports that Governor El-Rufai threatened to prosecute parents of the abductees for negotiating with the bandits.

The governor had vowed that he would not negotiate nor pay ransom to bandits and that anyone that negotiates with bandits on behalf of the state government would be arrested and prosecuted.

Aruwan clarified, saying: “Contrary to the mischief in some sections of the media, the bond between the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai and the parents of the abducted students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, and other citizens in captivity, is deep empathy amidst spirited efforts to secure them.

“The governor will continue to work hard until banditry is contained. Some section of the media has been reporting purported threat by the governor to prosecute parents of the abducted students, which is simply false and deeply mischievous.

“The government statement in question was a warning to “impostors who have been presenting themselves as government-appointed emissaries to negotiate with bandits across the state and has nothing to do with the parents or relatives of the abducted students or any other person in captivity.”

He said the state government would not join issues with the parents “whose pain is understandable, and with whom we share the common goal of the return of all the abducted students.”