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UK says no to Biafra, backs united Nigeria 

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria Paul Arkwright has stated the United Kingdom is behind one and indivisible Nigeria.
Arkwright made this affirmation at a public lecture titled “‎Brexit: Lessons, Challenges and Opportunities for Nigeria”, at the Federal University, Lokoja, on Thursday.
Speaking on the position of Britain on the groups pushing to break from Nigeria, the envoy ‎ said the UK remained firm in its support for one Nigeria.
He noted that the unity of Nigeria should not be negotiable, stressing that the country will be better under one umbrella.
“The strength of Nigeria is not in her money or oil but her greatest asset remains her well-endowed and resourceful people,” Arkwright said.
He said Britain would support Nigeria in the areas of education and business development.
He said, “We will strive to increase our market by encouraging more investments in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency had revealed that the British Government will give the Federal Government information about Nigerians who own property in that country next year.

Paucity of funds delaying pension arrears payment – FG

The Federal Government admitted, on Thursday, that it had been unable to offset mounting pension liabilities because of funding challenges.

The development has left the government with huge arrears of unpaid pensions on all platforms, including the Contributory Pension Scheme.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, and the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the government’s predicament when they appeared before the House of Representatives in Abuja to brief members on measures to address the plight of pensioners.

The House had, on Thursday, last week, summoned Udoma and Adeosun after the members of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners sought the intervention of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to ask the government to pay pension arrears in excess of N459bn.

Udoma, who was the first to speak, said though the government gave pension payment top priority, it was constrained by funding challenges.

He explained how the government battled with a recurring problem of the huge gap between pension requirements and the actual funds appropriated for pension payment.

The minister said while N93bn was required to offset liabilities in 2014, only N30bn was provided in the budget.

In 2015, the requirement was N98bn, but Udoma stated that only N60bn was appropriated.

He added that the story was not different in 2016 when N91bn was required to offset pension liabilities, but only N60bn was provided in the budget.

The minister informed members that President Muhammadu Buhari was worried over the plight of pensioners and had set up a committee with a mandate to reconcile all the figures and report back to him for necessary action.

He added, “The committee is headed by the finance minister; it is to reconcile all the numbers to see how additional adjustments can be made to the 2017 budget.

“We don’t have the money and the truth is that we have to look for some creative ways to raise money after the reconciliation has been done.”

Adeosun, who merely repeated Udoma’s presentation when she spoke, tried to exonerate the Buhari administration from blame.

“The fact is a whole lot of this is inherited. We will like to say that you give us time to sort out this issue. It has consistently been the issue of under-appropriation,” she added.

Adeosun recalled how the government released N42bn on Wednesday to clear the 2014 arrears of pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme.

Adeosun also addressed the trauma faced by pensioners during verification, explaining that officials of the Sharon Ikeazor-led Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate now visited pensioners in their homes to take their data.

Speaking after the ministers rounded off their speeches, Dogara said he actually met with Buhari following the encounter with the retirees for both sides to seek solutions to their plight.

Dogara said, “Mr. President gave his word and he directed the finance minister to raise a committee. The House will not accept any excuse that leaves pension funds hanging.

“Wherever we got money from to bail out the states when they could not pay salaries, that is where we will go to get money to pay our pensioners.”

FG declares meningitis vaccination free 

The Federal Government on Friday said vaccination for meningitis is free throughout the country and asked Nigerians not to pay for it.

The Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, in a statement on Friday advised Nigerians to report any health centre or health worker who extorts money for the on-going meningitis immunisation to the nearest law enforcement agency.

He said the attention of the agency had been drawn to a report of sharp practices by some health workers and Civil Society Organisations extorting money unsuspecting and desperate citizens.

He added that some health workers were alleged to have extorted money and other forms of incentives from members of the public before being vaccinated against Cerebro Spinal Meningitis.

Shuaib said that the vaccination against CSM, like other vaccination in the National Immunization schedule, is free by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The Federal Government had spent billions of Naira to procure, store, maintain and distribute such vaccines to all parts of the country.

“Under no circumstances should any health worker demand for money from members of the public for such services,’’ he warned.

According to him, the vaccines’ preventable diseases are covered free-of-charge under the National Immunisation schedule which includes Bacillus Calmette Guerin – (BCG), Poliomyelitis and Hepatitis B.

Others are Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus toxoid -(Pentavelent vaccines), Haemophilus influenza type B, Pneumococcal vaccines, Inactivated Polio virus vaccines, Measles, Yellow Fever and of course, Meningitis vaccines.

Following the outbreak of meningitis in some parts of the country, the federal government had made available 500,000 doses of meningitis vaccines.

The government is still expecting the delivery of additional 823,000 doses to curtail the outbreak.

Residents of Kubwa, FCT-Abuja, have alleged that they were being charged N500 by vaccinators per person before receiving the CSM vaccine.

Some residents said that they did not understand the rationale behind the fee, when the federal government had announced that the immunisation was free.

(NAN)

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Naval commander’s death: Officers reject suicide theory

The late Rear Adm. Daniel Ikoli, the Fleet Commander, Western Naval Command, Lagos, who was found dead at his Apapa residence on April 5, did not kill himself, contrary to some media reports.

According to authoritative sources at the command, Ikoli may have been assassinated as he had no cause to kill himself.

“Ikoli has been penciled down by the President as the next Chief of Naval Staff; he recently earned a special promotion to his present rank from Commodore.
“He was on the panel probing arms deal which also affects the Armed Forces, including the Navy.

“Ikoli was a disciplined, gentle, straightforward and honest man, who had no regard for protocol. It is nothing but a murder case,’’ a source told the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.

The source also said that because of his performance as the Commander, NNS Beecroft, he was loved by all officers and the junior ones.

He said:“Ikoli transformed the place by introducing smart I.D. cards and increasing special duty allowance from N4, 000 to N12, 000.

“Everybody is aware that he was an introvert, but he made sure that things worked properly and he had respect for all and zero tolerance for corruption.

“He really complimented President Buhari on his anti-corruption war and I think that was why he was appointed to serve on the arms deal probe panel.

“His elevation as the next Chief of Naval Staff would have been announced if not for the president’s trip to London for medical checkup.’’

Another officer, who said he worked with him, also told NAN that the late Ikoli was an easy going man who did not believe in bothering people.

“At the close of work, he usually allows his aides to go home and stay with their families.

“In most cases, he will be the one to open the gate of his residence for visitors using a remote control.

“The officer would not have killed himself; it is pure case of assassination.

“There is a mystery surrounding his death; for instance, the two ambulances they brought to take him to the mortuary refused to move.

“It was when they brought his service car and transferred the body into it that they were able to take his corpse to the morgue,’’ he said.

(NAN)

Immigrations boss says passport booklets now available 

The Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Ser­vice, NIS, Muhammad Babandede, has said that the Service now has stan­dard passport booklets in sufficient quantity for is­suance, and has therefore directed Passport Con­trol Officers to clear the backlog of all outstand­ing applications.
A statement by NIS Public Relations Officer, Sunday James, says the CG has appealed to the general public to bear with the Service and has also called on applicants who applied and paid for the 64-Page Stan­dard Passport Booklet to contact the Centres where they made the applications for process­ing of their applications, adding that the 32 page backlogs will be cleared next week.
“All passport appli­cants who applied and paid for the 64-Page Standard Passport Book­let are advised to contact the Centers where they made the applications for processing of their applications, 32 page backlogs will be cleared next week”, the statement stated.
In the same vein the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) has directed the immediate do­mestication of the production of the passport booklets in the country.
The CG appeals to all those who have had difficulty in getting their passport applications to kindly bear with the Service as, according to him, efforts have been concluded to attend to all other pending applications in all Processing Centers.

BREAKING NEWS: FIFA reports $369m loss

World football’s governing body FIFA on Friday announced a record $369 million loss for 2016 as it paid for the fallout from multiple scandals and bad investments.

FIFA blamed accounting changes as well as the cost of investigating the scandals for the loss but also warned that it expected a higher loss of $489 million for 2017 and admitted that it has had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from its reserves in the past year.

North Korea ‘hacking Nigerian banks’ to fund its nuclear project

Nigeria has been listed among 18 countries where North Korean hackers have allegedly been attacking banks to get funds for sponsoring nuclear programme.

Cyber security firm Kaspersky disclosed this in a new report, said this could be regarded as the biggest bank heists in history.

The finding comes after more than a year-long investigation into the activity of Lazarus, a hacking group allegedly responsible for the theft of $81 million in US currency from the Central Bank of Bangladesh last year.

The suggestion that North Korea could have been behind the attack, or at least involved, has added to concerns that the Hermit Kingdom is becoming more bold it its cyber attacks against global financial institutions.

And the massive amounts of stolen money North Korea pilfers is likely being spent on advancing its development of nuclear weapons, two international security experts told CNN.

“This is all for their nuclear weapons and missile programs. They need this money for building and researching more ballistic missiles,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow for Foundation for Defense of Democracies who specialises in North Korea.

The US has long been suspicious of the ties the Moscow-based company has to Russia but on the surface Kaspersky Lab is one of the world’s leading cybersecurity and antivirus firms.

The company’s report — which it presented this week at a cybersecurity conference in the Caribbean — claims it found evidence of the same hacking operation launching attacks on financial institutions in Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Uruguay.

When Sony got hacked in 2014 as the company was preparing to release a Hollywood comedy satirising North Korea’s leader, the resulting FBI investigation pointed the finger at North Korea with clues reportedly leading to the Lazarus hackers.

A year earlier, the networks of three South Korean banks and its two largest broadcasters were hacked and blame was also placed on the country’s antagonistic neighbour to the north.

According to security experts, North Korea has focused its known cybercrimes almost entirely on financial institutions in recent years.

Kaspersky Lab implicated the country in the heist of the Bangladesh Central Bank by uncovering a momentary connection with a rare IP address emanating from North Korea.

“The first connections made on the day of configuration were coming from a few VPN/proxy servers indicating a testing period for the C&C (command and control) server; however, there was one short connection on that day which was coming from a very rare IP address range in North Korea,” the report said.

“This was another artefact pointing at a possible origin of the Lazarus group or at least some of its members.”

But in the murky world of cyber crime, it can often be all but impossible to determine exactly who is responsible for a given attack.

The North Korean government has reportedly denied allegations of the hack.

Kaspersky Lab itself has said that despite the evidence of the North Korean IP address, that “is not enough proof to provide definitive attribution given that the connection session could have been a false flag operation.”

PDP crisis festers as Sheriff snubs Jonathan, governors

 

Efforts to find a political solution to the festering leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday suffered a major setback.
Court-backed National Chairman Ali Modu Sheriff stormed out of a peace meeting convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
At the meeting, which was chaired by Dr. Jonathan, were four of the party’s governors.
Also there were the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin and other notable chieftains.
Sheriff, who came into the Yar ‘Adua Centre, Abuja venue of the meeting long after Jonathan, the governors and other party chiefs had taken their seats, stormed out of the meeting at 4:25 pm.
He disagreed with Jonathan on the meeting, saying he (Sheriff) remained the most senior member of the PDP and, as such, a meeting of that nature ought to have been convened by him.
Visibly agitated Sheriff was more piqued by Jonathan’s refusal to allow him address the meeting in his capacity as the National Chairman.
According to him, the meeting was at variance with the recommendations made by a reconciliation committee headed by Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson.
Speaking with reporters shortly after he quit the meeting with his team, Sheriff said he would not be party to any arrangement that seemed to deviate from the recommendation of the Dickson committee.
His words: “We were here for PDP stakeholders meeting and the PDP has only one national chairman, which is Ali Modu-Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under whatever arrangement that I will not open the session as national chairman. Today, I am the most senior member of this party.
“I think Governor Dickson made a proposal for reconciliation. And we have accepted. Some people want to deviate from this programme, to bring agenda which was not part of it.
“And as national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office when Dickson brought the report is the only thing that we have agreed at this moment. And I will not be party for anybody using me to do another programme. I’m not going to be part of it.”
Asked if he had not disrespected Jonathan by storming out of the meeting, Sheriff said he respected the former president but that respect must be reciprocal. According to him, Jonathan should not have called the meeting without consulting him.
Said he: “Well, I respect him but calling for the meeting. He is a former president. But as of today, I am the most senior member of the party.
“Therefore, if I respect him, the respect must be reciprocated. You can’t call me for a meeting of PDP and say I cannot address the meeting as national chairman of the party.”
Asked on the way forward, Sheriff said he was sticking with the Dickson recommendation, which proposed a national convention under his watch.
“As the National Chairman, we move on. We have a programme initiated by Dickson. And we are continuing with that. Anything outside that, I am not a party to it,” he said.
In his opening address, Jonathan said he had been working with key party stakeholders back stage and that the meeting was his first major political outing since he left office about two years ago.
He acknowledged the crisis that has plagued the party for almost two years, saying the development was not new in democracies the world over, including the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (U.S.).
Jonathan said: “I will like to point out that every election cycle throws up a challenge as well as opportunities for a political party; a test to re-evaluate its performance, and an opportunity to reform its processes and programmes towards rediscovering itself to become even more appealing to the electorate in its next outing.
“It is obvious that some of our people see this development as not only disappointing but discouraging for our great party. Although I can understand this sense of loss, I always prefer to align myself with those who choose to see it differently, given the positive impact our conduct and disposition has had in deepening our democracy.
“All over the world, political parties lose elections, not because they have entirely failed, but because, in most cases, the people who gave them power in the first place, have decided to hand it over to another party, in order to experience a different kind of leadership.
“In Africa and other emerging democracies, the challenge has always been with the disposition of the party in power to allow the people the opportunity to freely exercise this right.
“This obviously is the area where we have excelled. The fact that we allowed this process to take place peacefully, and freely handed over power to the opposition did not only lift the profile of our party, but also elevated our country to the status of one of the world’s stable and reliable democracies.
“For this gesture alone, the whole world has continued to applaud our party and its leaders as icons of democracy on the continent.
“We were able to achieve this because our government really reformed the electoral and political process, by giving the electoral bodies their true independence which subsequently opened up the political space for free and fair elections.
“We may have had shortcomings while in power, but we also recorded significant achievements and great milestones. Through purposeful leadership, we reformed our institutions, rebuilt the nation’s confidence, regained international goodwill and rekindled hope in our people.”
The former president encouraged the gathering not to despair over loss of power and enjoined them to make sacrifices by putting the interest of the PDP above their personal interests.
Describing the PDP as a leading light in constitutional democracy, Jonathan said the party cannot be allowed to continue to drift, adding that the gathering was designed to stem the drift.
He urged the stakeholders to bury their differences, to ensure a quick resolution of the leadership problems in the party, stressing that there is no sacrifice too big to make.
Jonathan said a 40-member committee would be set up to finetune decisions taken at the meeting with a view to resolving all outstanding issues.
He continued: “As politicians, with the zeal to lead our people, we must aspire to higher offices or identify the people we believe have leadership qualities and encourage them to aspire to those positions. But one thing is very clear: you cannot, as the polity is configured today, be elected into a higher office on the platform of a weak party.
“We must all, therefore, work to rebuild the PDP and strengthen the party in line with the vision of our founding fathers, and the mission to continue to provide for the good of the people of our great country, valuable leadership in a stable democracy rooted in the rule of law.
“We have to remind ourselves that the prolongation of the crisis in our party may have cost us so much in election fortunes, in recent time. The loss of Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections is still fresh in our memory. It goes without saying that we cannot afford to have a repeat of that in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states.
“It is high time we buried the hatchet, suppressed our ego and prepared to make sacrifices in the interest of our party and, in deed the country.
“Our ambitions therefore must come second, otherwise we will only be building castles on quick sand. We must realise that, as they say, everybody is nobody without a platform. So, why destroy the platform?
“I urge our teeming members to remain steadfast and continue to believe in the PDP. As I said earlier, it is true that we suffered a setback in 2015, but the fact remains that the PDP is still the largest party in our dear country.
“There is no doubt that the PDP will emerge from this moment of trial to regain its position as the greatest party on our continent.”
At the meeting were Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba). Deputy Governors of Gombe and Ebonyi states were also there.
Others at the meeting were the chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Prince Uche Secondus, Olisa Metuh, among others.

Ex-Enugu governor, Chime, defects to APC

Indications emerged on Friday that a former governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, has commenced moves to defect to the All Progressives Congress.

Chime served as the governor of Enugu State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 2007 to 2015.
The former governor has made few public appearances since he handed over to his successor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, also of the PDP, but it was learnt that he has now decided to follow the footsteps of prominent Enugu politicians by moving to the APC.

Chime’s move to the APC was disclosed by the spokesman of the APC in the South-East, Mr Hyacinth Ngwu, in a post on his Facebook page, late on Thursday night.

“Breaking News: Today, His Excellency Barr. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, immediate past governor of Enugu State, joins APC”, Ngwu wrote on his timeline.

Ngwu went ahead to defend Chime’s move to the APC, after some Facebook users, who commented on the post, insinuated that Chime’s defection was informed by a desire to escape prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The former governor had been linked to the N23bn campaign fund money involving former Petroleum Resources minister, Mrs Dieziani Alison-Madueke.

Defending Chime’s defection to the APC, Ngwu, again posted on his timeline, “I wonder how some of the opposite politicians talk. If their member is questioned by EFCC or ICPC or invited by the Police, they will shout to the heavens, ‘victimisation, oppression of political opponents’.

“But when the same person defects to (APC), a better party with vision for Nigeria, they roar that the same defected to avoid interrogation by EFCC, ICPC or the Police. Haba, which way my people?”

However, when contacted by our correspondent on Friday, Ngwu gave indications that Chime has yet to finalise his defection to the APC.

But he noted that the former governor had reached out to the party and that consultations are ongoing on the matter.

Ngwu said an official statement would be issued on the defection when Chime completes the formalities involved in the switch to the APC.

“He has started discussions with us, whenever he is going to declare, I will let you know.

“Consultations are still going on,” he told our correspondent on the telephone.

Sources in Chime’s camp suggested on Friday that the former governor intends to seek the realisation of his ambition to go to the Senate on the platform of the APC in 2019.

The development will pitch him against Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, for the ticket to represent Enugu West Senatorial Zone in the National Assembly.

Chime had nursed hopes of proceeding to the Senate at the expiration of his tenure as governor in 2015, but his moves to unseat Ekweremadu failed.

In what was then seen as a face-saving move, Chime had to withdraw from the Senatorial race after it became apparent that Ekweremadu has an upper hand in the contest.

It is believed that the move to the APC would set the stage for another political war between the former governor and the Deputy Senate President in 2019.

But, in the same vein, there were insinuations in Enugu on Friday that the former governor was moving to the APC in order to ‘escape’ prosecution by the EFCC.

Allegations that Chime had received N450m out of the N23bn disbursed by Dieziani Alison-Madueke is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the EFCC.

The anti-graft agency had already quizzed Chime over the matter.

Also, some Enugu State Government officials, who also served during Chime’s administration, were arrested by the EFCC in connection with the investigations.

The officials are Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief Charles Egumgbe, who was the chairman of the PDP campaign office in the state during the 2015 polls, Commissioner for Tourism, Rita Mba, who served as the Secretary, and Chief Ikeje Asogwa, Chairman of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board, who was PDP state chairman during the 2015 polls.

Corrupt traditional rulers could lose titles, Buhari warns

 

President Muhammadu Buhari Friday said any traditional chieftaincy title holder caught indulging in corrupt practices should be stripped off of his traditional title.

The President said this at Wukari Local Government Council of Taraba state on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Aku-Uka of Wukari, Dr Shekarau Angyu, He noted that the traditional “institution must be in the vanguard of the anti-corruption crusade.”

Buhari who spoke through his Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung said his administration will not condone monarch treading the path of corruption.
Noting that the traditional institution has vital roles to play in the growth of the country, the idea of well-placed persons bribing their ways to acquired traditional titles, he said must as well be discouraged, as that, according to him will halt corrupt practices.
The President praised the Aku-Uka who is the chairman, council of chief in Taraba State and asked people to join hands with his administration to wipe out corruption from the country.

Earlier, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Mohammed Abubakar, called on Nigerians “to embrace peace and love” adding that “insecurity is the major problem” presently bedevilling the country.

Stressing that “all parts of the country have its share of insecurity, “Nigerians, according to him ” must, therefore, continue to work towards stabilising our country, as both religions [Christianity and Islam] demand that we love one another.”

Malabu scandal latest: Court returns OPL 245 to Shell, ENI

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has reversed its previous ruling which retrieved the control of one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks, OPL 245, from Shell and ENI.
The court had on January 26, issued an order, based on a motion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, retrieving the ownership of the oil block from the multinational companies.
Followong that order, Shell and ENI approached the court with an an application, challenging the ruling.
They contended that the rights of parties to fair hearing was not followed before the ruling was reached.
They prayed the court to reverse the order, and allow the parties address the issue, legally.
Malabu, the company which was given the oil block in controversial circumstance in 1998 had also applied to be a party to the application.

Eni-buildingDelivering the ruling on the various applications regarding the matter, Justice John Tsoho said the ownership of the company should return to Shell and ENI.
The court also refused the application by Malabu to join in the matter.

Source: Premium Times

Nigerian arrested for masturbating in front of women in car park

Policemen have arrested a 22-year-old US based Nigerian who exposed himself to at least three women while masturbating in a parking lot at 55 Lake Boulevard in Redding.

Redding police said Kawan Okoye Gaidowsky admitted he was driving a gray, 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt when he pulled up next to a woman in the Shopko parking lot, pulled out his penis and began to masturbate on Wednesday around 8:42am.

The woman, Ashlee Libolt, reported the car’s description and license plate to police.
According to the Redding Police Department, a police officer checked the car’s records and found it was registered to Gaidowsky. He was feeling extra generous when he was interviewed by police and admitted he did expose himself to Libolt in the parking lot, but also exposed himself to two other female victims who were caught in his exposure spree, police said.

One exposure was last month and the other was not reported, according to Sgt. Les James.

Gaidowsky was arrested for indecent exposure and booked at the Shasta County Jail.

He admitted it wasn’t the first time he’s exposed himself in public, the officers said.

Man electrocuted using iPhone in the bath

A man died when he was electrocuted while charging his iPhone and using it in the bath.

Thirty-two-year-old Richard was discovered by his wife and had such severe burns to his chest, arm and hand that she thought he had been attacked.

He is thought to have used an extension cord running into the bathroom from the hallway then rested the phone on his chest.

When it touched the water, the phone electrocuted him, killing him immediately.

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying: “These (iPhones) seem like innocuous devices but can be as dangerous as a hairdryer in a bathroom.

“They should attach warnings. I intend to write a report later to the makers of the phone.”

His mother said: “I worry so many people, and especially teenagers who can’t be separated from their phones, don’t know how dangerous it is.”

The incident happened in Ealing, West London; and was reported in the SUN.

Fayemi seeks tariff, tax incentives for steel sector

 

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Friday called on state governments to grant tariff and tax incentives to operators in the steel sector, to enhance industrialisation in the country.
Fayemi made the call at a Town Hall meeting organised by his ministry for stakeholders in Abeokuta, Ogun.

The minister noted that such a gesture would encourage private sector participation in the industry and subsequently contribute to the industrialisation agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He also stressed the need for the resuscitation of the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company, for the meaningful development of the steel sector.
“We need to consider local content in steel.

“The Ajaokuta steel company has the capacity to produce 1.5m metric tonnes and can be expanded to 3m metric tonnes annually.

“Today in Nigeria, we consume about 7m metric tonnes annually but we produce about 3m tonnes.

“That means that the remaining 4m metric tonnes are being imported.

“I think we need a combination of tariff and tax incentives in our steel sector.

“We cannot achieve industrialisation unless we conquer steel.” he said.

Fayemi disclosed that officials of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and auditors from state governments engaged in mining, would meet to consider modalities for appropriate percentage for derivation.

The state governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, successive governments in the state neglected the mining sector, in spite of its huge potential.

He called for the employment of modern technologies in carrying out mining activities, to enhance industrialisation in Nigeria.

The commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, commended the Federal Government for the meeting, which according to him. offered the stakeholders an opportunity to exchange ideas.

He added that the programme had become necessary, particularly “at a time when Nigeria is diversifying its economy through the development of solid minerals, as an alternative source of income in the light of dwindling oil fortunes”.

Why naira is appreciating – CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that right policy decision were the reasons for the appreciation of the nair against the dollar in recent weeks.
According to the Acting Director of Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, the naira’s recent appreciation was a result of calculated moves that were based on intelligence reports, as well as the need to effect the right policies at the appropriate time.

Substantiating his claims, he said that when CBN placed $500 million in the market last week, only $370 million was taken, which was the real demand and it also placed another $230 million, while only $221 million was taken.

He said that with forex reserves now at near $30 billion, the apex bank had decided to do the intervention as it is more comfortable, unlike the level it was before now, which didn’t allow the bank to feel comfortable enough to do a kind of intervention needed when required.
“The CBN has done a lot of intelligence on the markets and we came to the realisation that much of what was driving the demand in the bureaux de change and the parallel market was mere bubble and speculation.
“We reasoned that since there was pressure on those two segments from people seeking personal travel allowance, medicals and tuition if we successfully address that bit, the pressure would come down. We intervened in the market and the market reacted positively and the naira started gaining strength,” he said.

El-Rufai writes Buhari, says APC must wake up … nation in danger of collapse

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has told President Muhammadu Buhari how bad the nation was faring under his watch, how the president’s policies, actions and in-actions have contributed to the nation’s woes, and what could be done to steer Nigeria back to greatness.
El-Rufai sent the 30-page memo, published by Sahara Reporters on Thursday, to Mr. Buhari in September 2016.
In the memo, he touched several areas, ranging from the ailing economy, the dynamics of the nation’s politics, lack of coercion within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the poor relationship between the president and the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, and other party leaders, including the APC governors.
He said the President was yet to have control over the party structures and blamed the situation partly on the people who were advising the president.
He said many of the party leaders – like Tinubu, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Musa Kwankwaso – were feeling aggrieved that they were most often not consulted by the president or by those that the president assigned such duties to.
“This may not be your intention or outlook, but that is how it appears to those that watch from afar,” El-Rufai said.
“This situation is compounded by the fact that some officials around you seem to believe and may have persuaded you that current APC State Governors must have no say and must also be totally excluded from political consultations, key appointments and decision-making at the federal level.
“These politically-naive ‘advisers’ fail to realise that it is the current and former state governors that may, as members of NEC of the APC, serve as an alternative locus of power to check the excesses of the currently lopsided and perhaps ambivalent NWC.
“Alienating the governors so clearly and deliberately ensures that you have near-zero support of the party structure at both national and state levels.”
El-Rufai said Buhari’s closest aides like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and the president’s Chief of Staff weren’t fit to manage the president’s politics.
“The SGF is not only inexperienced in public service but is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors.
“The Chief of staff is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaign and elections.”
The governor also wrote on the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s corruption trial and the frosty relationship between Buhari and the senate.
He told the president that the federal civil servants across the country were so used to the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) and the PDP way of doing things, so much so that their loyalty was to the opposition party, because of the several years of the PDP’s administration in the country.
“Mr. President, there is a perception that our government has been captured by a shadowy public service/PDP cabal such that we have won elections but the country is still run largely by these elements that are hostile to you and to us all.
“There is a strong perception that your inner circle or kitchen cabinet is incapable, unproductive and sectional. The quality and the undue concentration of key appointments to the North-East and exclusion of South-East are mentioned as evidence of this.
There is a perception that your ministers, some of whom are competent and willing to make real contributions, have no clear mandate, instructions and access to you. Ministers are constitutional creations Mr. President and it is an aberration that they are expected to report to the Chief of Staff on policy matters.
“Mr. President, there is an emerging view in the media that you are neither leading the party nor the administration and those neither elected nor accountable appear to be in charge, and therefore the country is adrift.”
El-Rufai, a well-known political ally of the President, said bluntly in the memo that the APC administration under Mr. Buhari has failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians who voted the party into power.
“In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting BH insurgency and corruption,” El-Rufai said, adding that the general feelings among the party supporters today was that the government wasn’t doing well.
On the economic front, El-Rufai acknowledged that Buhari inherited a bad situation, but said that the administration, having been in power for more than a year now, could not, therefore, continue to blame the previous administration for the hardship in the country.
“We were elected precisely because Nigerians knew that the previous administration was mismanaging resources and engaged in unprecedented waste and corruption.
“We must, therefore, identify the roots of our enduring economic under-performance as a nation, and present a medium-term national plan and strategy to turn things around.”
El-Rufai provided the president with detailed and insightful analysis of the nation’s economy and offered suggestions on what could be done to put the nation back on the pathway to prosperity.
For instance, he said that Nigeria was currently producing less electricity than the city of Dubai, and that the power sector reform that was started in 2000, earlier than the reforms in the telecoms sector, was now in serious crisis and nearly at the point of total collapse.
On the state of the transport sector, he told the president, “Inter-state (Federal) roads are generally in a state of disrepair. The national rail system is still the colonial narrow gauge constructed by the British for the extraction of needed raw materials rather than for the encouragement of intra-national trade and connectivity.
“The dual track, standard gauge national railway system initiated by the Obasanjo administration in 2006 has been partly abandoned in favour of piecemeal implementation of sections rather than the integrated programme.
“There is significant potential in the development of inland waterways but there has been no serious effort at seeing the dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue to completion.
“The aviation sector is largely private and mostly insolvent. Virtually all the major airlines are beholden to AMCON, and their services are poor, unreliable and expensive.”
He advised the president to, among other things, appoint for himself a “high profile” economic adviser, as well as set up a two-level economic team – one at a political level to be chaired by the Vice President, and another at a technical level consisting of the heads of key economic agencies “to do the more detailed technical analysis and present options for decision and action”.
El-Rufai said, “The President must communicate actively and directly with the Nigerian public about his vision – the government’s plans, strategy and roadmap to take the country out of the current, dire economic situation.
“We need a five-year national development strategy and plan urgently.”
The Kaduna state governor said he was inspired to write the memo to the president because of Buhari’s contribution to his rise in politics and that his political future was tied to the performance of the president.
El-Rufai described the president as the “only hope” for Nigeria, and urged him to run for re-election in 2019.
“You have to run again in 2019 if your objectives of national restoration, economic progress and social justice are to be attained in the medium and long term.
“You must, therefore, succeed for the good of all of us – individually and collectively, and particularly those of us that have benefitted so clearly from your political ascendance,” El-Rufai told the president.

FG saves 72% cost in deep offshore rig-rate — NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has successfully renegotiated the cost of its deep offshore rig-rate downwards by about 71.7 per cent.
The Group Managing Director of the corporation, Maikanti Baru, said Nigeria was saved the huge burden of the cost of operation in the difficult terrain from the previous charge of about $580,000 to about $164,000 per day.
Mr. Baru, who was speaking in Lagos at the 14th Annual Aret Adams Memorial Lecture, said similarly, the NNPC achieved a 35 per cent downward review of rig rates per day for both swamp and land operations in its portfolios.
A rig rate is a major cost component incurred by an exploration and production company in carrying out drilling operations for oil and gas in deep offshore, shallow offshore, swamp, land areas or basins.

Mr. Baru, who was represented on the occasion by the Chief Operating Officer, Gas & Power, Saidu Mohammed, said these reductions were also effected in NNPC’s unit technical cost, UTC, over the period.

The various reductions, he said, served as incentive for investors to grow reserves, increase profitability and improve return on investment, apart from boosting government revenue and improving government’s commitment to developmental projects across the country.

“I am proud to announce that our UTC has significantly dropped from above $70 per barrel in 2014, to about $27 per barrel, as at year end 2016,” Mr. Baru said. “Indeed, NNPC is committed to further drive down the UTC.”

With a savings of about $43 per barrel per day, this translates to a cost reduction of about N31.4 billion on crude oil production every year.

The NNPC GMD, whose lecture was titled: “Find More, Produce More” at the one-day event, solicited the support of all industry players to achieve the goals and aspirations of the country in the oil and gas industry.

He said there was an urgent need to link the industry with other sectors of the Nigerian economy, pointing out that although the increased oil production involved the cost factor and the commodity price, the NNPC had produced oil within the year with much efficiency.

“Price may not be readily under our control at the moment, but we need to manage cost of production within the Industry. Within the period, we took over the reign of leadership in the Corporation, we have been able to drive down cost to a very commendable level,” Mr. Baru said.

To achieve government’s aspiration of 40 billion barrels of crude oil reserves and a production of four million barrels per day by 2020, the GMD explained that the country needed an incremental production of at least one billion barrels in reserves year-on-year till 2020.

He said at a minimum, the country requires about half a million barrels in incremental production capacity per day within the same timeframe to realize the target.

“Considering our quest for revenue generation as a nation, it is a given that we need to increase our exploration efforts in order to sustain our reserve base and grow production,” he noted.

He charged industry players to invest in exploration activities, especially now that crude oil price was low “so that when the tide turns, all we would need to do is to turn on the taps.”

Mr. Baru said NNPC would continue to make investments geared towards increasing the national hydrocarbon reserves and daily crude oil and gas production, adding that the Corporation was committed to propelling power, industrial and agricultural sectors through an adequate provision of gas-to-power and sustainable feedstock to fertilizer and petrochemical industries.

Chairman of the occasion and former Minister of State for Petroleum, Odein Ajumogobia, said there was no better time to discuss increased oil production capacity than now.

Chairman of the Aret Adams Foundation, Egbert Imomoh, said Nigeria should position itself for the future by finding more oil and producing more of the commodity to earn more revenue for the country.

This year’s Aret Adams Annual Lecture Series, which was the 14th, seeking to immortalize the ideals of Godwin Aret Adams who was the former GMD of NNPC, and one-time Adviser on Petroleum Resources to the Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar between 2008 and 2009. Adams died 15 years ago.

OPEC, non-OPEC countries cut output to boost prices

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, and non-OPEC countries have implemented 86 per cent of agreed output cuts, the producers said on Friday in Vienna.
The producers noted that there was still room for improvement in oil prices, commending OPEC and other oil production countries.
OPEC and a group of 14 other exporters, including Russia, decided late last year to take a total of 1.76 million barrels per day (bpd) off the market to boost oil prices.
The implementation committee of the involved countries said it was satisfied with the progress made so far, but it “urged all parties to press on towards full and timely conformity,’’ the committee said in a statement.
While OPEC has agreed to shoulder 1.2 million bpd of the cut starting in January, the non-OPEC countries pledged to reduce their output by 558,000 bpd.
As OPEC reported earlier this month that its own members had cut even more than required, January’s figure suggested that the other involved countries have not yet done their part.
As a result of the output cut decision, oil prices have stabilised above $50 per barrel in recent weeks.
Oil-producing countries took action late last year as low prices not only hurt their revenues, but also caused oil companies to cut investments into production fields.

How Nigeria’s Abdulmatallab became a terrorist

The New York Times, through a Freedom of Information Act request, has obtained documents containing detailed accounts of how slain Al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, mentored a Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underpants, on a flight from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Detroit, United States, on Christmas Day in 2009.
Abdulmutallab, referred to as the “underwear bomber” by the U.S. media, is the son of the chairman of Jaiz Bank Limited, Umaru Abdulmutallab. In 2012, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a defiant guilty plea.

The 200-page redacted documents, which contained information obtained from Mr. Abdulmutallab through extensive interviews, was released to the newspaper after two years of legal struggle.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had kept the account a secret and rejected a request made by an author of a 2015 book on the life of Mr. al-Awlaki, an American-born Islamic cleric, forcing the New York Times to sue to obtain the documents.

In a series of interviews with the FBI, Mr. Abdulmutallab, a wealthy 23-year-old who studied engineering at the University College, London, revealed his journey towards radicalisation and how he sought out Mr. al-Awlaki, who mentored him into becoming a suicide bomber.

Abdulmutallab told an FBI agent about how he first encountered the Al-Qaeda leader through a recorded lecture he bought from an Islamic store in the United Kingdom in 2005. He became enamored by his teachings.

After a trip to the United Arab Emirates in 2009, he said he felt “God was guiding him to jihad”. He travelled to Yemen to meet Mr. al-Awkali, who then had fully embraced violence and was a rising Al Qaeda leader.

From then, Mr. al-Awkali transcended from being his religious hero into his tutor on how to become a jihadist. Mr. Abdulmutallab told agents that the cleric did not only oversee his training in Yemen, but also conceived the plot leading to the failed bomb attack.

According to the report, Abdulmutallab, in series of interviews, described every person he remembered meeting from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen branch of the terrorist group is known.

He also provided agents with a vivid description of the layout of training camps, Mr. al-Awlaki’s house and many other Qaeda buildings. According to the New York Times, his descriptions were so precise that they may have aided the U.S.in its drone campaign in Yemen.

He said Mr. al-Awlaki, who was called “sheikh” out of respect, introduced him to other Al Qaeda trainers and bomb makers. The American, Mr. Abdulmutallab told the FBI, taught him how to prepare a martydom video, advising him to “keep it short and reference the Quran”.

Mr. al-Awkali told Mr. Abdulmutallab to hide his trail by first travelling from Yemen to an African country before booking a flight on which he planned to detonate the bomb.

Mr. Abdulmutallab flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam before joining Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit.

He said the choice of the date for the attack had no special significance and was mainly dictated by ticket prices and flight schedules.

Before he departed, Mr. al-Awlaki sent him a final reminder: “Wait until you are in the U.S., then bring the plane down.”

He said he followed the progress of the flight on the seat-back screen. He waited until he approached the U.S. border and went to the plane’s bathroom to make final preparations for the attack.

He thought of detonating the bomb in the bathroom but wanted to be certain that he was doing so over U.S. soil, so he returned to his seat to check the map for a final time before igniting the explosives.

The bomb did not explode but let out a flame. As he tried to get his burning pants off, passengers pounced on him. One passenger punched him and a crew member threatened to throw him out of the plane.

South Africa’s Zuma condemns violence against Nigerians, others

President Jacob Zuma has condemned acts of violence by South Africans against foreigners, his office said on Friday.
Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from citizens and getting involved in crime.
Citizens in Pretoria are set to march against foreigners on Friday and domestic media are reporting vandalism and acts of violence in the Atteridgeville area west of the capital.
At least 20 stores in Pretoria owned by foreigners were looted on Tuesday, but police could not confirm that the attacks had deliberately targeted foreigners.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively.
“It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers.
“The threats and counter-threats on social media must stop,” Mr. Zuma said in a statement.
The Nigerian government on Thursday urged the South African government to put in place measures to end the incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country.
Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba-Ibrahim, gave the task in Abuja during a second summon to the High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, on the issue.
The Ministry had on Monday, summoned the South Africa High Commissioner over the matter.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Nigerian buildings, properties and places of worship worth millions of dollars were destroyed on Feb. 5 and 18.
“The Federal Government strongly urges the South African government to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and foreigners living and working in South Africa.
“Furthermore, the federal government urges the South African Government to bring perpetrators of these deplorable acts of violence to justice.
“The ministry continues to urge Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm and law abiding, and be vigilant at the same time.’’
“The Federal Government of Nigeria will strenuously work towards the protection of Nigerians everywhere, including in South Africa,” she added.
However, the minister said that no Nigerian lost their lives in the attacks contrary to reports in some media.
According to her, the reports that mentioned the killing of Nigerians in the xenophobic attacks are unsubstantiated.
“The ministry has not received the report of any death of Nigerian in the latest incidents of attacks against foreigners.
“The Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria is in constant touch with the Nigerian Union in South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of South Africa, as well as the South African police.
“All these agencies have confirmed that no Nigerian life was lost in the recent incident,” she said.
(Reuters/NAN)