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VON takes over building seized from ex-defense chief accused of corruption

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, handed over the property to the Director-General of VON, Osita Okechukwu.

The building is located at UDA Crescent, off Aminu Kano Cresent, near Globacom Communications office in Wuse 2, Abuja.

The event had in attendance the spokesperson of the anti-graft agency, Tony Orilade, and Mr Okechukwu among others.

Mr Badeh served as the 18th Chief of Air Staff and the 15th Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria.

He died from gunshot injuries he sustained after his vehicle was attacked by unknown gunmen along Abuja-Keffi road on December 18, 2018.

At the time of his death, he was being prosecuted for an alleged N3.9 billion fraud he committed as the defence chief under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in March presided over by Okon Abang ordered the forfeiture of all properties belonging to the late Air Marshal to the federal government through the EFCC.

The judge also ordered that the Corporate Affairs Commission should be notified of the ruling.

We’ll only deploy officers who undergo forensic psychological test —NSCDC

The Imo State Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Raji Ibrahim, has said that officers and men of the corps will be deployed to duties based on their psychological competence.

This, he said on Wednesday at Owerri, during the opening ceremony of a three-day sensitization programme on forensic psychological test organised by that national headquarters of the corps.

He said that the essence of the programme was to ensure that officers and men deployed to duties conduct their duties in the most civilised ways.

He said, “The essence of the test is to ensure that we don’t deploy mad men on the road and in the society to handle the affairs of the corps.

“With this test, we shall find out officers and men that are in a good state of mind, who can defend the defenseless and protect lives and property of the people.

“This test will immeasurably help to know the psychological state of each and every officer and men of the corps.”

Ibrahim further expressed that the test was not to witch-hunt corps operatives, but to put them on a rightful perspective to carry out their duties.

The test, which was conducted in batches (starting from the top ranking officers) and declared open by the Commandant, would be certificated at the end for those who partook in it.

In his speech, the representative of NSCDC Behavioral Forensic Department National Headquarters, Abuja, Mr. Ezenma Nnadozie, stated that the exercise was not to downsize officers and men of the corps but to improve on their working abilities.

“This is to test the psychological efficiency of our men as initiated by the Corps Commandant General, Abdullahi Gana.

“It is to improve the professional conduct of officers and men of the corps, especially in the area of deployment,” he added.

He regretted that most officers had conducted the affairs of the corps without regard for the aims and objectives of the corps.

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US confers Religious Freedom Award on Plateau imam who saved 200 Christians from insurgents

Eighty-three year-old Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who hid 200 Christians from suspected bandits in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State has been announced as one of the recipients of the 2019 US International Religious Freedom Award.

This was made known in a statement on the US Department of State website on Tuesday.

Abdullahi would be receiving the award along with others from Cyprus, Sudan, Brazil and Iraq.

Part of the statement read, ” Imam Abdullai selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention.On June 23, 2018, ethnic Fulani herdsmen, who are predominantly Muslim, launched coordinated attacks on 10 villages in Barkin Ladi, killing hundreds of ethnic Berom farmers, who are predominantly Christian.

As Imam Abdullahi was finishing midday prayers, he and his congregation heard gunshots and went outside to see members of the town’s Christian community fleeing.Instinctively, the Imam ushered 262 Christians into the mosque and his home next to the mosque.The Imam then went outside to confront the gunmen and he refused to allow them to enter, pleading with them to spare the Christians inside, even offering to sacrifice his life for theirs.Although the gunmen killed 84 people in Nghar village that day, Imam Abdullahi’s actions saved the lives of hundreds more.”

Abdullahi was born in Bauchi State around 1936 and has lived in Nghar for 60 years.

“Imam Abdullahi’s courage in the face of imminent danger and his history of outreach across religious divides demonstrates his lifelong commitment to promoting interfaith understanding and peace,” the statement added.

 

I felt ridiculed contesting against ‘dancer’ Adeleke, says Oyetola

Gboyega Oyetola, governor of Osun state, says he felt ridiculed contesting against Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in last year’s governorship election in the state.

Adeleke got into politics after the death of Isiaka, his elder brother. He replaced Isiaka as representative of Osun west senatorial district and was referred to as “dancing senator”, especially on social media, because of his skills.

Many videos of Adeleke dancing surfaced on the internet after he joined politics.

Speaking while receiving the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Yemi Farounbi, a professor, Oyetola hinted that Adeleke ought to have been screened out of the race.

He said the lack of control in Nigeria’s electoral system gave his PDP opponent the opportunity to run against him.

“The country’s electoral system is weak, especially regarding the screening of candidates which gave room for somebody like Ademola Adeleke to contest for governorship seat of the state,” he said.

“Sometimes when I sit down and realise that I was actually contesting with Adeleke, who is best at dancing, I felt ridiculed, very ridiculed. It would have been a tragedy for our state if the whole thing had turned the other way round.

“Anybody that is seriously concerned about the development of the state would at least be interested in whoever is going to pilot the affairs of the state.

“One wonders why the country’s electoral laws would have allowed that guy to even contest in the first instance. We don’t have control. Even in the north where we believe they’re disadvantaged in terms of education, they put in the best always. See whoever goes for any political office in the North is always the best of their stuck.”

Farounbi said he visited the governor over his victory at the supreme court. Adeleke lost his bid to unseat Oyetola through the court.

House of reps asks IGP to shut Edo assembly

The House of Representatives has asked Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police, to shut the Edo state house of assembly.

This follows the recommendation of a panel set up to investigate the crisis rocking the state assembly.

A “cold war” between Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and Godwin Obaseki, governor of the state, had split the state lawmakers into two factions.

On June 17, nine pro-Obaseki lawmakers got inaugurated under controversial circumstances but the 15 lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole kicked against it, calling for intervention.

The lower legislative chamber of the national assembly had mandated a 13-man panel headed by Abdulrazak Namdas to probe the crisis and make recommendations.

The panel reported back to the green chamber on Wednesday.

“All members of the Edo state house of assembly, both those who have been inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the House with the view to moving the state forward,” part of the recommendation read.

“The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General (DG), Department of State Service should shut down the Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by Members-elect.”

The panel also recommended that a fresh inauguration be conducted.

The house adopted the recommendations, saying if nothing positive comes out of it, the national assembly shall invoke section 11(4) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to take over the state assembly pending the time the crisis is resolved.

Last week, Obaseki had dared those whom he referred to as “Abuja politicians” to take over the state if they could.

 

Lawan: Delay in appointment of ministers won’t affect 2020 budget

Senate President Ahmad Lawan says the delay in appointment of ministers will not affect the presentation of the 2020 budget.

Lawan spoke with state house correspondents after a meeting with the president on Wednesday.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, was also at the meeting.

The senate president said budgets are usually prepared by civil servants, adding that if the 2020 budget is presented before the senate by September, it will be passed by the first or second week in December.

He said the budget will be ready for presidential assent by January if passed in December.

“I think there is nothing to worry us deeply. The budget itself is normally prepared by civil servants – the permanent secretaries superintend and the directors will work most of the time,” Lawan said.

“I believe that we are still on course and I believe both the executive and the legislature are on the same page on this, we desire and are prepared and determined to pass the budget by the first or second week of December by the grace of God, provided it is presented to us by the end of September.”

He added that other nominations from the president will be treated without delay, starting with the confirmation of the directors of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday.

Buhari asks herdsmen to disregard northern elders advice on leaving the south

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday told herdsmen to disregard the call to vacate the southern part of the country.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) had asked herders to leave the southern part of the country if their safety is no longer guaranteed.

But speaking through Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, the president said no one has the right to ask anyone or group to leave any part of the country.

Questioning the intentions of NEF and “other so- called leaders in delving into issues with unsolicited, ill-intentioned advice”, the president warned those dabbling into issues to score cheap points not to mislead anyone.

He added that his administration is committed to finding a lasting solution to the farmers-herders crisis in “a way that will be acceptable to all”.

“All citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there.

“In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.

“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether north, south, east or west. They have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements.

“The polarising role of the Northern Elders Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points has for long been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity.

“They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders.

“The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria- one that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.”

Couple falls from ninth floor during lovemaking

A couple, who was making love on the windowsill of a ninth-floor apartment fell leaving the woman dead, while her partner, who survived returned to the party, that was reportedly holding in the said apartment.

It was reported that the incident happened on July 5 at a block of flats in St Petersburg, Russia.

According to Daily Mail, the 30-year-old woman landed head-first on the asphalt and died instantly, while the man survived after his fall was broken by her body and nearby bushes.

Witnesses told local media that the partially clothed man then got up and went back to rejoin the party.

Witnesses said they saw a television thrown from the window of the flat, after which the woman and her 29-year-old lover plunged to the ground below.

Police were called, and when they arrived the revellers allegedly threw a mop out of the windows at them.

Drug kingpin El Chapo sentenced to life in prison

Once one of the world’s most powerful and notorious criminals, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was jailed for life Wednesday — the mandatory sentence for a host of crimes spanning a quarter-century.

Guzman, the 62-year-old former co-leader of Mexico’s mighty Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in February in US federal court on a variety of charges, including trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana to the United States.

The much-anticipated sentencing hearing in a New York courtroom caps a dramatic legal saga and saw Guzman deliver what will likely be his final public words before he is taken to a supermax federal prison in Colorado for the rest of his days.

“Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where they will never hear my name, I take this opportunity to tell them: there was no justice here,” he said, wearing a grey suit, lilac shirt, purple tie and publicly sporting his moustache for the first time stateside.

READ ALSO: Couple falls from ninth floor during lovemaking

The charges, which also include money laundering and weapons-related offences, carried a mandatory life sentence.

US Federal Judge Brian Cogan tacked a symbolic 30 years on the sentence and ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture — an amount based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel’s drug sales in the United States.

So far, US authorities have not recovered a dime.

– ‘Great torture’ –

In the courtroom in Brooklyn, Guzman said prayers from his supporters had given him “strength to endure this great torture,” which he said has been “one of the most inhuman that I have ever experienced… a lack of respect for my human dignity.”

When entering and prior to leaving the room, he touched his heart and blew a kiss to his wife Emma Coronel, who wore a black and white suit and was perhaps seeing her husband for the last time.

Complaining bitterly that he was unable to hug his twin daughters, who did not attend the hearing, Guzman said that “the United States is no better than any other corrupt country that you do not respect.”

– ‘Overwhelming evil’ –

Guzman — whose moniker “El Chapo” translates to “Shorty” — is considered to be the most influential drug lord since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, who was killed in a police shootout in 1993.

 

During the epic three-month trial in New York, jurors heard evidence from 56 government witnesses, with many describing in exacting detail the cartel boss beating, shooting and even burying alive those who got in his way, including informants and rival gang members.

Prosecutors won their request to tack on a symbolic extra 30 years in prison for the use of firearms in his business, portraying Guzman as “ruthless and bloodthirsty.”

Cogan said he imposed the additional sentence because the “overwhelming evil is so severe.”

A Colombian woman who prosecutors say survived a hit ordered by the kingpin tearfully read a statement in court Wednesday, saying Guzman had caused her psychological damage.

“I am a miracle of God because Mr. Guzman tried to kill me,” she said. “I paid a high price — I lost my family, my friends, I became a shadow without a name.”

“I had everything and I lost everything, even my identity.”

– ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ –

Guzman launched his career working in the cannabis fields of his home state of Sinaloa. Now, he is likely to live for the rest of his life at the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” — the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

Current inmates include convicted “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, the British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is awaiting execution.

Since his extradition from Mexico in 2017, Guzman has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security prison in Lower Manhattan.

He repeatedly complained about the conditions of his detention via his attorneys — notably that his windowless cell is constantly lit.

Speaking to AFP prior to the proceedings, Guzman’s lawyer William Purpura said: “I think he is in a good state of mind right now.”

“I think he’s had enough of being here and the way he’s been housed,” Purpura said.

“And I think he’s looking forward to the move to where he’s going to go, and looking forward to his appeal.”

Another attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, said that “Joaquin’s conviction and incarceration for drug trafficking will change nothing in the so-called war on drugs.”

New York’s special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan acknowledged that taking El Chapo out of the equation did not diminish the Sinaloa cartel’s influence.

“We believe that’s the one that supplies most of the drugs coming into the US,” she told AFP.

 

Senate confirms Tanko as CJN

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The red chamber had, on arrival of Muhammad into the chamber, gone into a closed session to set the template for the screening.

Muhammad, who arrived at the Senate at around 10:10am, was ushered into the chamber around 11:13am. He was accompanied to the red chamber by top judiciary officers in the country.

The CJN answered questions on corruption, administration of criminal justice and the poor funding of the judiciary

Muhammad has been acting CJN since January 25 when the then CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was suspended from office over alleged corrupt practices.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, last Thursday, forwarded to the Senate a letter requesting the confirmation of Muhammad as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The President, in the letter of request, said the nomination was sequel to recommendation made to that effect by the National Judicial Council.

The letter, titled, ‘Appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria,’ reads: “In accordance with Section 231 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which gives the President the power to appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the Senate, I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honorable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“It is my hope that this request will receive the usual expeditious consideration of the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In making the confirmation expeditiously, the Senate listed it on its order paper on Tuesday, upon which it resolved to carry out the screening at the committee of the whole on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 (today) .

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said all the relevant credentials of the acting CJN have been distributed to all the senators for required perusal.

He said, “Distinguished colleagues, please study the documents already distributed in preparation for screening and possible confirmation of Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as Chief Justice of Nigeria,” he said.

We’ve obtained CCTV footage from hotel where insurance director was killed, says S’ African envoy

Bobby Moroe, South Africa’s acting high commissioner to Nigeria, says authorities are now investigating the death of Elizabeth Ndubisi-Chukwu, deputy director-general of Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN).

Ndubuisi-Chukwu had been scheduled to return to Nigeria on June 12 after attending the African Insurance Organisation (AIO) conference in Johannesburg.

However, her corpse was found in a room in Emperor Palace Hotel where she had lodged for the conference.

While Ndubuisi-Chukwu was initially believed to have died in her sleep, an autopsy report from South Africa’s department of home affairs showed that she died of “unnatural causes consistent with strangulation”.

Speaking on Tuesday during a meeting with Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), and Chiedu Ndubisi, sibling of the late insurance director, at the South African High Commission in Abuja, Moroe said video footage has been obtained from the hotel to help the investigation.

“The reports we received on Sunday, in the evening, is that investigation has been opened in Johannesburg and the matter is under investigation and it has been prioritised,” he said.

“The South African police services are working very closely with the workers and management of Emperor Palace, the hotel that Mrs. Chukwu untimely lost her life. Video footage has been obtained and it is being studied. We are waiting for the authorities to give us an update.

“You will also appreciate that we are constrained at this point to speculate or to provide as much information as possible because the matter is still under investigation.

“We wouldn’t want to put the horse before the cart because we think this is a very sensitive case. We need to treat with the greatest of respect. We are talking about the loss of human life.”

Wizkid’s manager, babymama accuses singer of domestic violence

Ayo Balogun aka Wizkid’s manager and the mother of his third child, Jada Pollock has accused him allegedly of domestic violence.

Pollock made the allegations on Wednesday when she announced their split. She alleged that the singer hit her multiple times during the relationship.

She wrote on Instagram @_jada.p, “From today, Ayo and I will no longer work together. I have been in an abusive relationship with him for years. Covering up for him time and time again and I am tired.

“Wiz continuously puts his hands on me, leaves me with bruises that I cover up from the world, including my friends and family.

“It often feels like we are at war in the same house. I have done all I can to keep this all together but from today, I let go.

“You can support someone as much as you can but at some point, you have to value yourself. I can’t raise my son in this kind of unhealthy environment,” Pollock said.

Wizkid’s relationship with Pollock began on professional terms before the arrival of their child causing rifts between the mothers of his children.

In May 2018, the relationship between the mothers of Wizkid’s second and third children reached an all time low.

They were both caught up in a social media rift after Pollock praised the father of her child for being such an amazing father.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Pollock is an entertainment veteran also known as Jada Styles.

She is the head of her consulting business firm she shared with African football star Didier Drogba.

She is responsible for the branding of many affluent and prominent football players.

The daily star and West London Living once referred to her as a highly acclaimed image guru.

 

$652m needed to reactivate, complete Ajaokuta steel plant -Audit

An audit conducted by Nigerian and Ukrainian experts showed that a total of $652m is required to reactivate and complete the Ajaokuta steel plant, an audit report has revealed.

According to the information sourced from the company’s website in Abuja on Monday, the audit was conducted in April 2018 by Nigerian engineers, technicians, and other professionals as well as two Ukrainian experts in steel plant,

According to the audit, the controversial plant, which was started in the 1970s, had reached 95.7 per cent completion.

On its portal, the company said that the audit report was presented to a former Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr Bawa Bwari, by the Sole Administrator of the company, Mr Sumaila Abdul-Akaba.

It did not state when the report was presented to Bwari. However, Bwari took charge of the ministry (till May 29 when the first tenure of President Buhari ended) following the departure of a former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who had gone to contest the governorship election in Ekiti State in 2018.

The company said, “The technical audit report on Ajaokuta Steel Plant, which ascertained that the plant is 95.7 per cent erection ready has been submitted. Reactivation and completion requirement stands at $652m.

“The internal technical audit, which was conducted on the facilities of the steel plant between February and April 2018 was an updated version of the last technical evaluation done in the year 2010 by M/S Reprom Nigeria Limited.”

Abdul-Akaba was quoted as saying, “The 2018, technical audit of the Ajaokuta steel plant was undertaken fully by Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited engineers, technicians and other professionals.

“This is in line with the policy of the present Federal Government on the utilisation of maximum local content possible in the execution of sundry public works in the country.

“The Ajaokuta steel plant had been under the care of professionals over the years, some of who even partook in the construction and erection. It was therefore an opportunity to know hidden details which no outside contractor could get.

“It also afforded the company the opportunity to assemble raw information on the plants and equipment which can form the basis for future assessments and decisions if need be. This advantage was not there in the previous exercises that were wholly carried out by foreign contractors.”

The sole administrator also explained that some specialists assigned by the president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers as well as two experts in steel plant from Ukraine were involved in the audit, which produced a report presented in four parts. Part two of the report was said to be in 10 volumes.

The House of Representatives had in 2018 resisted the proposal of the government to sell Ajaokuta to private-sector investors. They asked the government to complete the plant rather than sell it to investors. The lawmakers also passed a vote of no confidence on Fayemi and Bwari for failing to appear during its probe hearing on the steel plant.

Kogi surveyor-gen arraigned for illegal demolition

The Kogi State Surveyor-General, Michael Abolarinwa,   was  arraigned on  Tuesday for allegedly demolishing a house  belonging to a  trader, Razaq Mayowa,  and subsequently reallocating the said land to a serving  General.

In his petition  to the police, Mayowa claimed that his  bungalow, located at Zango Daji, Lokoja, valued at over N200m, was illegally demolished on March 3, 2018 by Abolarinwa  and one Mustapha Saliu.

He alleged that the land was later sold to one Maj General James Ataguba of  323 Artillery Regiment, Owena Barracks, Akure, who he claimed used one  Capt Farota to lead armed soldiers to beat him to a pulp for daring to ask why his house was being demolished.

The petitioner said a  few weeks after the demolition,  he saw  bricklayers erecting a new structure on his land under the supervision of armed soldiers.

He  said after complaining at the  Police Headquarters, Lokoja,  he  approached   court  to  restrain the general  from working on   the land, but without success, as  he was told that  the demolition was  carried out by  the  Kogi State Government.

However, after investigations, the petitioner said he discovered that the state government did not authorise the demolition neither did it have any knowledge of the  exercise.

Mayowa urged the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Burutai, to investigate the incident  and  caution  the  general.

When the case was  brought for mention before Magistrate’s Court II, Lokoja, on Tuesday,  Abolarinwa,  who was in the dock along with  Saliu,  pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The Chief Magistrate, S. A. Ibrahim, who admitted the surveyor-general to a bail of N50,000 and a surety of like sum, adjourned the case till August 5 for hearing.

External debt rises by $15.3bn under Buhari

The nation’s external debt stock rose by 148 per cent in almost four years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, data from the Debt Management Office showed.

The external debt soared to $25.61bn on March 31, 2019 from $10.32bn on June 30, 2015, according to the DMO.

Eurobonds worth $10.87bn accounted for the largest chunk of the external debt, as it rose by 625 per cent from $1.5bn on June 30, 2015.

The debt owed to the World Bank rose to $8.90bn from $6.19bn in the period under review.

China, through its Export-Import Bank of China, is the third biggest lender to Nigeria with a loan of $2.55bn as of March 31, 2019, up from $1.39bn as of June 30, 2015.

Other lenders are African Development Bank ($1.25bn), African Development Fund ($834.18m), Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa ($5.88m), Export Development Fund ($59.15m), Islamic Development Bank (15.51m) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development ($176.19m).

Bilateral debts from France (Agence Française de Développement), Japan (Japan International Cooperation Agency), India Exim Banking of India and Germany (KfW) stood at $366.07m, $74.63m, $26.46m and $171.79m, respectively.

Financial and economic experts, who spoke with our correspondent in separate interviews, described the $15.3bn increase in the nation’s external debt as a cause for worry.

A former Director- General, West African Institute of Financial and Economic Management, Prof Akpan Ekpo, said the country’s debt profile had been increasing at an alarming rate.

He said, “The increase in external debt is something to worry about even though we have not exceeded the threshold and that was because we rebased our GDP. But what should worry us more is our debt servicing, which is increasing at a rate that is not comfortable. We should be cautious how we borrow, and let us know what we are borrowing for.

“I am not in support of Eurobond because it’s commercial and it has a higher rate. The World Bank and the ADB loans are flexible; if you cannot pay, you can renegotiate and the rates are lower. The multilateral institutions are better than Eurobonds because they will give you a long period of repayment. But we have to be very careful with the Chinese loans because the Chinese are very shrewd negotiators.”

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr Bismarck Rewane, said, “Part of our external reserves is borrowed money. We have borrowed but let us see the projects that the borrowings have been used to accomplish. But if they cannot show us the completed projects, then we have a problem.”

The DMO said last month that the Federal Government would borrow $2.7bn from foreign sources this year, adding that it planned to first access cheaper funding from multilateral and bilateral lenders while any balance would be raised from commercial sources, which might include securities issuance such as Eurobonds in the international capital market.

“As long as it is to finance projects, it is a good decision. But if it is to finance consumption, then we are in trouble,” Rewane said.

The nation’s external reserves stood at $45.109bn as of July 15, 2019, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, who also raised concern over the significant increase in the external debt, said the government should be cautious about further borrowing.

US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

The US said it suspects Iran has seized an oil tanker that drifted into Iranian waters as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz.

Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah, which is based in the UAE, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday.

The incident is the latest involving shipping in the region where tensions between Iran and the US have escalated in recent months. Iran has been accused of planting mines on several tankers as Washington ramps up economic and military pressure on the regime over its nuclear program and aggressive foreign policy in the region.

Iran also threatened to retaliate against shipping after British forces this month helped seize an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar as it attempted to deliver oil to Syria.

A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it. He said the US “has suspicions” Iran seized the vessel.

“Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That’s a possibility,” the official said. “But the longer there is a period of no contact … it’s going to be a concern.”

The Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker, traveled from a port near Dubai through the Strait of Hormuz toward Fujairah on the UAE’s east coast. After 11 p.m. Saturday something happened to the vessel, according to tracking data.

Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told AP that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE.

“That is a red flag,” Raja said.

An Emirati official told Al Arabiya that the oil tanker is not owned or operated by the UAE and has not sent a distress call.

“We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the official said.

The ship’s registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told AP it had sold the ship to another company.

Iranian officials have not said anything publicly about the ship.

Minister resigns in luxury dinners scandal

A senior French cabinet minister resigned on Tuesday after reports accused him of extravagant spending, including on luxury dinners, but lashed out at what he termed a “media lynching.”

Environment Minister Francois de Rugy has been under unrelenting pressure for a week after the Mediapart website accused him of hosting friends to opulent meals, complete with lobster and vintage wines, while he was speaker of parliament.

“The attacks and media lynching targeting my family forces me to take the necessary step back,” said de Rugy, who also held the post of minister of state which made him the number two in government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

“The effort required to defend my name means that I am not able to serenely and efficiently carry out my mission. I presented my resignation to the prime minister this morning,” he added.

Luxury dinner items

Rugy lashed out at Mediapart, which has repeatedly published stories that have rattled the French elite since it was established in 2008.

He said he had filed a legal complaint against the left-wing publication for “defamation”, accusing it of a desire “to harm, smear and destroy.”

President Emmanuel Macron, in his first reaction to the revelations, on Monday said he had asked Philippe for “full clarity” as he took decisions not “based on revelations but facts”.

Macron, who is keen to promote his green credentials, has struggled to find a long-term occupant for the environment ministry.

De Rugy last year succeeded Macron’s first appointment to the job, Nicolas Hulot, a celebrity environmentalist who quit after saying that his cabinet colleagues were doing too little to tackle climate change.

NNPC, Shell to grow Nigeria’s oil reserves

The Management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its age-long partner, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), on Tuesday expressed resolve to grow existing business relationship aimed at increasing the nation’s crude oil reserves.

Welcoming the high level Shell delegation led by the Vice-President of Shell Nigeria and Gabon, Peter Costello, to the NNPC Towers, Abuja, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, acknowledged the fact that Shell was its oldest and biggest partner in upstream operations and would continue to enhance the relationship for the benefit of the industry.

He said that NNPC would work with Shell to expedite action on some crucial deepwater projects and create enabling environment to entrench the ideals of transparency and enduring governance framework for the industry.

Speaking earlier on behalf of the Shell delegation, Osagie Okunbor, Managing Director of SPDC and Chairman of Shell Companies in Nigeria, congratulated the NNPC GMD on his appointment while expressing confidence in his ability to steer the industry to enviable height.

Okunbor said Shell was in sync with Kyari’s vision and growth trajectory for the industry as laid out in his blueprint.

He noted with interest the push towards renewed transparency and openness, stating that the essence of the visit was to “underline our unflinching support for you and your team”.

40 immigration officers, others graduate from Unilag’s Chinese institute

A total of 40 officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) were among the 552 students of the Confucius Institute of the University of Lagos(Unilag) who were awarded certificates for proficiency in Chinese Language on Tuesday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the officers had undergone the course alongside 24 staff of the university and other members of the public.

NAN also reports that 24 out of the graduating students were awarded scholarship to further their studies in Chinese language.

The Controller of Immigration, Lagos Zone, Helen Onwuzulike, told NAN on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony that interactions between NIS and other countries had increased significantly, adding that this explained the need to learn major foreign languages.

“We are having a lot of bilateral agreements with these countries and in a bid to further strengthen the ties, we decided to create an avenue whereby our men can learn other foreign languages.

“Right now, our officers are being sent on language courses as this has become imperative because of the current global trend in immigration. This is aimed at enhancing our duties, especially with the influx of foreigners into our country.

“Currently, we are wooing a lot of foreigners to Nigeria for investment purposes and so it is part of our ease-of-doing-business arrangements such that when visitors come into the country, they feel welcomed.

“For instance, when you find an immigration officer at the arrival point at the airport speaking your language, the visitor automatically feels at ease, safe and welcomed. So, it is part of what we are doing currently to train our officers,” she said.

According to the NIS chief, the development is not only in the immigration regulation and duties but rather to expose the officers to global trends and proficiency in foreign languages.

She added that many of the officers were currently undertaking proficiency courses in not only the Chinese language, but also German, French and Spanish languages as part of bilateral agreements.

“Having to train our officers for proficiency in various foreign languages will further increase the number of foreigners wanting to come in to invest, thereby improving our revenue base as a country because if I go to a country and feel welcomed, I will always want to come back.

“Again, it could also help us to track crime. Being proficient in other languages goes a long way in being on the alert about any foreign aggressor or those with criminal intent,” she said.

She added that NIS had, in 2018, trained 40 of the officers, noting that this was going to be a continuous exercise.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Management Services, Prof. Folashade Ogunsola, said that the university would continue to make its students globally competitive through its various programmes.

According to her, the vision of the university is to ensure that students and other members of the public who participate in its programmes have an edge over others and become trail blazers in their respective fields of endeavour.

She further added that the proficiency language course would, among other benefits, take not just the students to the next level, but the country at large and as well as boost the country’s economy.

“Efforts are in place to ensure that our Confucius Institute remains a reference point among universities in the country and the public at large,” she said.

She also said that the occasion was to mark the 10th anniversary of the institute.

“It has remained opened to not just students of this university but the general public.

“There are indeed a lot of opportunities for persons to travel to China through these programmes and collaborations and so, I must say we are truly happy with this development,” Ogunsola said.

The Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, Mrs Yong Jng Wang, also told NAN that the scholarship awardees would depart for China in September.

“I feel very happy with what is happening here today. The winners of scholarship will be going to many different Chinese universities this September. They will be representing this institute and the entire Nigeria.

“They will learn about the Chinese people, their culture and their language. It is our hope that when they come back to Nigeria, they will also be able to use what they have learnt to contribute their quota to the development of this country.

“It is also our hope that the rate of enrolment into this institute will continue to grow with each passing year.

“We feel very happy to see and know that our culture and language are being accepted and embraced here.

”There is no gainsaying therefore that the bilateral relation between Nigeria and China is getting stronger and more fruitful,” she said.

A don, Prof. Chimdi Maduagwu, explained that the duration of the scholarship was categorised into between six months and four years.

“The shortest period for the scholarship is six months. Others will be going for four years, that is, for Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and others for their Master degree which will span between two and three years,” he said.

Lawan appoints SA Media, Deputy Chief of Staff

The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has approved the appointments of Karage Mamman and Ola Awoniyi as his Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Adviser on Media, respectively.

This was contained in a statement issued on Tuesday by the Special Assistant to the president of the Senate on Media and Publicity, Mohammed Isa.

Other appointments approved by Lawan, according to the statement, were that of Abubakar Sidiq Usman as Special Assistant on New Media; Kabir Adamu as Special Adviser on Security and Intellegence, and Muhammad Mukhtar Yawale as Special Adviser on Health.

All the appointments are with immediate effect.

The 58-year-old Awonyi, according to the statement, is a graduate of University of Ibadan where he obtained a B.Sc in Psychology and holds Masters in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (MLC),and Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy (MIAD), both from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.

He also obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism from International Institute of Journalism, Abuja in 1997.

He worked with Nigerian Tribune for over a decade before he joined the services of Agence France-Press (AFP), where he is the Head of Abuja office.

The new Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Karage, according to the statement, is a graduate of University of Sokoto where he obtained Bachelor of Arts (Education).

He retired as Director in Federal Ministry of Education in 2018.

On his part, Usman, popularly know as Abu Sidiq, according to the statement, graduated from Federal University of Technology, Minna, where he obtained both his first and second degrees.

A reknown blogger, Abu Sidiq, was the Head of Social Media Unit of the Field Operations Directorate of All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2019 general elections.