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Nigeria ranks 85 on Global Happiness Report

As the world marks the International Day of Happiness, Nigeria is ranked 85 out of 156 countries and second in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is according to the annual Global Happiness Policy Report produced by the Global Happiness Council, which was released on Wednesday.
It was edited by John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, et al.

Nigeria’s ranking is an improvement from its 91 position ranking in 2018.

Finland came first as the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands.

The world’s least happy country is South Sudan followed by Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Yemen, Malawi, Syria, Botswana and Haiti.

The report ranks countries on six key variables that support wellbeing: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

This is the seventh World Happiness Report; the first was released in April 2012 in support of a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”.

The report presented the available global data on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness.

It showed that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably, and validly assessed by a variety of subjective wellbeing measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.”

This year, the focus was on happiness and community: how happiness has been changing over the past dozen years, and how information technology, governance and social norms influence communities.

The report showed that the annual data for Finland have continued their modest, but steady upward trend since 2014.

So that dropping 2015 and adding 2018 boosts the average score, thereby putting Finland significantly ahead of other countries in the top 10.

Denmark and Norway have also increased their average scores.

The United States came in the 19th place, dropping one spot since last year and a total of five spots since 2017.

On the whole, Helliwell said: “What stands out about the happiest and most well connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things.

“After the 2011 earthquake and now the terrorist attack in Christchurch, with high social capital, where people are connected, people rally and help each other and (in after the earthquake) rebuild immediately,’’ he said.

Nigeria remains Africa’s biggest economy — at CBN rate

Nigeria has maintained its top spot as Africa’s biggest economy, ahead of South Africa and Egypt — but this is only when its gross domestic product (GDP) is calculated at N305/$1.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria’s GDP stands at $397.47 billion at the end of 2018, while South Africa could only muster $376.68 billion as Egypt was estimated to weigh only $249 billion.

However, Renaissance Capital, a leading emerging and frontier markets investment bank, says South Africa is actually Africa’s biggest economy — if Nigeria’s exchange rate realities are factored into the calculation of the nation’s GDP.

According to RenCap, GDP calculations using the purchasing power parity (PPP) of N362 per dollar brings Nigeria’s GDP to $357 billion — effectively shaving about $40 billion off the country’s GDP.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, have insisted on the current exchange rate regime as the best option for Nigeria at this time when oil prices are below $100.

SOUTH AFRICA AS AFRICA’S BIGGEST ECONOMY?

Charlie Robertson, the global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, made this known on Tuesday while explaining a slowdown in South Africa’s economy in 2018.

“South Africa GDP slowed from 1.4% to 0.8%, but that was still big enough to make it Africa’s biggest economy in 2018 at market exchange rates,” he said.

“We prefer market exchange rates because PPP dollars (which put Nigeria top) don’t buy you a Toyota. Or an oil refinery for that matter.”

Charlie Robertson@RencapMan

South Africa GDP slowed from 1.4% to 0.8%, but that was still big enough to make it Africa’s biggest economy in 2018 at market exchange rates. We prefer market exchange rates because PPP dollars (which put Nigeria top) don’t buy you a Toyota. Or an oil refinery for that matter

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RenCap, one of the leading frontier market analyst in the world, forecast Nigeria the biggest economy in Africa in 2017, with a GDP of $395 billion at CBN rate of N304 per dollar, and $327 billion at the market rate of N367 to the greenback.

Charlie Robertson@RencapMan

How do Africa’s economies rank right now? We don’t really know but there is a good argument that SA is first, Kenya again beats Ethiopia

82 people are talking about this

Charlie Robertson@RencapMan

Africa’s economies ranked by size. Nigeria 1st, Egypt 2nd and SA in 3rd place. Size relative to India/California helps explain news coverage

102 people are talking about this

In a note to investors, RenCap said early March that for Nigeria’s GDP to grow faster than its population, oil prices will have to double or the country will have to diversify the economy and pursue industrialisation.

“To diversify the economy, Nigeria must accelerate the rise of adult literacy, aiming for at least 80% as soon as possible,” RenCap said.

“To ensure the north is not left behind, Nigeria will need to enact an adult education campaign, similar in scale and impact to that pursued by South Korea in the 1950s.”

The research and insight firm added that 100 percent adult literacy also will not fix the problem if the country does not fix electricity.

“Even 100% adult literacy will not allow an escape from poverty if there is no reliable supply of electricity to power a factory or office computer,” it said.

How stranded Nigerian was sold for $30,000 in Russia

Two Nigerians have been arrested and charged with human trafficking after striking a deal to sell Blessing Obuson, a teenager from Edo state, for two million rubles (around $30,000).

According to her lawyer, the suspects agreed to sell off Obuson to a police officer who posed as a client.

Obuson, one of the Nigerians stranded in Russia after the World Cup, has also narrated how she was forced into prostitution.

An estimated 1,863 Nigerians who came to Russia last year for the FIFA World Cup are still on the loose in the country, more than two months after their Fan IDs expired.

Dozens of them, who were young women have been forced into prostitution by the traffickers who brought them into the country under the guise of being football fans.

According to a Reuters report, Obuson thought the World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job when she flew into Moscow on a fan ID in June. Instead, she found herself forced to work as a prostitute.

Fan IDs allowed visa-free entry to World Cup supporters with match tickets, but did not confer the right to work.

Despite that, Obuson, 19, said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her two-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria.

Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.

“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?” Obuson said after being freed by anti-slavery activists.

She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she’d only get it back once she’d worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.

Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client who got anti-slavery activists involved.

Her case is not isolated. Reuters met eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work. All said they had endured violence.

“They don’t give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face… It’s like a cage,” said one 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.

In September, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, police said. The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year old Alifat Momoh who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID.

Kenny Kehindo, who works with several Moscow NGOs to help sex trafficking victims, estimates that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.

“Fan ID is a very good thing, but in the hands of the human traffickers it’s just an instrument,” he said, calling for more cooperation between the authorities and anti-trafficking NGOs during major sporting events, including the 2022 Qatar World Cup where a fan ID system is also being considered.

Anti-slavery group Alternativa said its helpline had fielded calls from Nigerian women held in St Petersburg and other World Cup host cities.

While a prosecution has been launched in Obuson’s case, police have been unable to act against suspected traffickers in other cases due to a lack of evidence.

“A lot of girls are still out there,” said Obuson.

Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the ministry of foreign affairs to bring back home the 230 stranded Nigerians in Russia after the World Cup.

A nursing mother and 154 out of the 230 were brought home through Ethiopian Airline flight number ET-ALP that arrived Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja in July.

Saudi King, Emir of Qatar congratulate Buhari…Russia hails transparent elections

 

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election for a new presidential term.

In a telephone conversation with President Buhari on Thursday, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques wished the Nigerian President success and good health in his second term in office.

The Saudi King extended good wishes of steady progress and prosperity to the government and people of Nigeria.

President Buhari expressed appreciation to the King, affirming his readiness to enhance aspects of cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

Also, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani sent a cable of congratulations to President Buhari on his re-election, wishing the Nigerian President success and the Nigerian people further development and progress.

Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin, also sent a congratulatory message, saying:

”I am honoured to extend my congratulations to you personally, Mr President, and the people of Nigeria on the successful conduct of free, transparent and credible Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23, 2019, that will shape the destiny of this nation for the upcoming four years and beyond.”

While describing the elections as yet another substantial step towards further strengthening of Nigerian democracy, the Russian Ambassador wrote: ” It is my conviction that your decisive victory will pave the way for yet stronger and more prosperous Nigeria that you will be able to deliver on the people’s mandate. ”

The Russian Ambassador expressed the hope that the Nigerian President’s second term in office will be associated with further enhancements of bilateral cooperation and closer contacts between the two countries.

UK Minister of State for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, said: ”I offer my congratulations to President Buhari on securing a second term as the Nigerian President. The UK is a long-standing friend and partner of Nigeria and the Nigerian people, and a stable and prosperous Nigeria benefits Africa and the world. ”

French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in its congratulatory message said:

”France congratulates President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election on February 23. It will continue to stand by Nigeria and to provide its full support for the implementation of the country’s priorities, especially economic diversification, job creation, counter terrorism and the fight against corruption.”

President Buhari has also received congratulatory messages from Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

 

Anti-graft war suffers setback as EU adds Nigeria to ‘dirty-money backlist’

The European Union (EU) has added Nigeria to countries on its “dirty money blacklist”.

According to Reuters, the EU said the nations in this category pose a threat because of tax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering.

Also added to the list which was initially 16, are Saudi Arabia, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Libya, Botswana, Ghana, Samoa, the Bahamas and four US territories of American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The other listed countries are Afghanistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

Criteria used to blacklist the countries include low sanctions against money laundering and terrorism financing.

Other criteria were insufficient cooperation with the EU on the matter and lack of transparency over the beneficial owners of companies and trusts

The move has triggered criticism from several EU states worried about their economic relations with the listed states, notably Saudi Arabia.

The list now includes 23 jurisdictions, with Bosnia Herzegovina, Guyana, Laos, Uganda and Vanuatu removed.

The 28 EU states have one month, which can be extended to two, to endorse the list.

Vera Jourova, EU justice commissioner, who proposed the list, was quoted as saying she was confident states would not block it.

She said it was urgent to act on the list because of the “risks spread like wildfire in the banking sector.”

She added the commission would continue monitoring other jurisdictions not yet listed.

IMPLICATIONS

Apart from reputational damage, inclusion on the list complicates financial relations with the EU.

The bloc’s banks would also have to carry out additional checks on payments involving entities from listed jurisdictions.

This comes at a time President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is insisting it has been committed to the fight against corruption and money laundering.

In 2017, the president signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to give room for prosecution of Nigerians who launder public funds to the country.

Nigeria slow… ranks 105th in mobile Internet speed

Nigeria ranked 105th in mobile Internet download speed as of December 2018, down two places from its 103th position in November, the latest data from the Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index showed.

The country’s ranking for fixed broadband speed also dropped by three places; it occupied 106th position globally in December.

The report indicated that Nigeria’s average mobile Internet download speed in December was the highest in the year, recording 11.70 megabits per second.

The Internet speed was lowest at 9.50mbps in March last year.

The index, which compares Internet speed data from around the world on a monthly basis, stated that the global average for mobile Internet download speed for the 125 countries examined in December was 25.08mbps while 9.79mbps was the global average upload speed attained.

In the fixed broadband category, Nigeria’s average download speed dropped from a peak of 10.03mbps in January to 9.63mbps in February.

The global average for fixed broadband download speed for the country was 10.76mbps while it recorded 8.74mbps for the upload speed.

As per the December Speedtest Global Index, Iceland clinched the top position in the mobile broadband category globally with an average download speed of 72.77mbps while Norway came second with 65.88mbps.

Singapore ranked highest for fixed broadband with a 190.94mbps average download and 198.11mbps upload speed.

The Nigerian Communications Commission data indicated that the number of active subscribers to Internet services in the country increased to 111.6 million in December 2018.

This is an indication that the country gained 3,175,465 new Internet users between November and December 2018, recording a three per cent rise in subscribers under the Global System for Mobile communication category.

Fixed wireless network providers, however, lost 87 users, dropping to 9,868 users in December from 9,955 subscribers in December, the NCC statistics stated.

US ambassador warns public officials against illegal directives issued in Buhari’s name

Stuart Symington, US ambassador to Nigeria, has warned public officials not to obey illegal directives issued in the name of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking with journalists on Thursday in Makurdi, Benue state capital, after a meeting with Samuel Ortom, the state governor, the ambassador said any politician whose utterances incite people to violence would be held to account for the crime.

He urged political leaders to ensure free and fair election as the polls draw closer.

Although the ambassador did not mention Buhari’s name, all indications point to the president who has on different occasions reiterated his commitment to free and fair elections.

“If anybody asks you to do something that is not right and says the boss wants you to do it, or the person at the top wants you to do it, don’t believe him; because the person at the top is honestly saying they want to win a fair election. There is a reason not to believe them,” the ambassador said.

“The citizens are responsible to their God, second to their conscience and third to the laws of Nigeria, fourth to the court of public opinion in Nigeria and finally international law and the rest of us.”

25 Katsina based millionaires relocate to Niger Republic over fear of kidnapping

Many Nigerians residing in Katsina State have fled to neighbouring Niger Republic to escape persistent attacks by kidnappers and bandits, .

In addition to evacuating their family members, the Nigerians are also acquiring plots and building houses in Niger Republic’s towns of Maradi and Dan Issa.

This is even as some of them have obtained residence permit, allowing them to stay in the West African country.

Activities of kidnappers heightened recently in Katsina State, with many residents falling victims or being forced to pay large sums of money to secure the release of loved ones.

In December 2018, the state Governor, Aminu Masari, raised alarm that the state was under the siege of kidnappers.

Katsina’s neighbour, Zamfara State, has seen a spike in kidnapping and banditry over the years, with hundreds of lives lost in 2018 alone.

Most of the residents fleeing Katsina State are from Jibia Local Government Area, a community sitting on the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic.

A visit to Jibia and Magama, border towns, by our correspondent showed that most of those who moved to Niger spent the day running businesses in Katsina and only returned to Maradi or Dan Issa to pass the night. All their businesses and social life are based in Nigeria, but their new homes are in Niger.

Some of those interviewed attributed their reasons to the relative safety in the neighbouring country.

It was gathered that more than 25 Nigerian millionaires have moved to Niger. Some live in rented houses while others have built their own houses. Some of the rich men received threats before deciding to relocate.

It was also gathered that individuals in Jibia frequently changed phone numbers as a result of constant harassment from suspected criminals threatening their lives.

Although people were scared to discuss insecurity issues in the towns “for fear of informants” exposing them, the few that agreed to talk  on condition of anonymity said more people would relocate to Niger for safety if the security situation did not improve.

A wealthy individual who also sought anonymity said, “I can tell you about 25 of us are presently living in Niger Republic.

Ex-UK Secretary of State warns investors to be wary of Nigeria

Priti Patel, former Secretary of State for International Development in the United Kingdom (UK), has called on investors to be wary about investing in Nigeria.

In a short op-ed for City A.M., London’s first free daily business newspaper, Patel, a member of the UK parliament, said President Muhammadu Buhari has disrespect for “international law and convention, and court decisions”.

Patel, who visited Nigeria in 2017, alongside Boris Johnson, former UK foreign secretary, shared the experience of two Irish businessmen, who suffered from Buhari’s decision to renege on signed contracts.

THE FULL OP-ED IS REPRODUCED BELOW:

When the Nigerian finance minister visited London last week, she and her officials came to advertise Nigeria as a country that is open for business.

The minister, Zainab Ahmed, came to promote Nigeria’s $2.8bn Eurobond sale, which follows on from the Nigerian government’s oversubscribed $1bn Eurobonds sale in February 2017.

I am a supporter of economic investmentinto developing countries – open markets and capitalism have paved the way for poverty reduction around the world.

Many nations in Africa, including Nigeria, have benefited from investment over the years, and Nigeria’s Eurobonds could bring relief to its ongoing economic woes.

Over the last decade, the amount of UK foreign direct investment into Africa has more than doubled from £20.8bn to £42.5bn. This is good news.

However, as with all investments, investors should know of the corrosive effect of corruption, as well as the lack of transparency and associated difficulties of doing business in certain countries.

In Nigeria, the unhappy experience of the firm founded by two Irishmen, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), is a case inpoint, and demonstrates the risk that businesses will face in Nigeria.

In 2010, P&ID signed a 20-year contract with the Nigerian government to create a new natural gas development refinery, but the project fell through after the Nigerian government reneged on its contractual commitments. Upon taking office, President Buhari promptly cancelled a compensation settlement, and has done his level best to pretend Nigeria’s obligations to P&ID do not exist.

Since Buhari reneged on this deal, P&ID has undertaken legal efforts to affirm a tribunal award, first decided in London. It also made several attempts in court to force the Nigerian government to respect its obligations.

The most recent court decision at a London tribunal confirmed that the Nigerian government owes P&ID almost $9bn for the initial breach of contract, loss of income, additional costs, and interest accrued after five years of non-payment.

However, the Nigerian government has continued to flout international law and convention, and it refuses to respect the various court decisions.

Investors must consider this long-runningscandal and weigh this obstinance against Nigeria’s mishandled economic potential.

Let us not forget that Nigeria is the only member of OPEC that is dependent upon petrol imports to keep the country going. Nigeria is ranked 145th in the world for its ease of doing business, which demonstrates the risks of investment into Nigeria.

Despite the President’s public anti-corruption platform, Transparency International has not seen any reduction in corruption since Buhari took office. In fact, the precise opposite has happened, with Nigeria falling 12 places between the 2016 and 2017 rankings.

President Buhari currently faces serious allegations, which include staging show trials of opponents of a regime that is accused of corruption and graft, while simultaneously shielding his own party members and inner circle.

We should all welcome international efforts to attract international investment into developing economies. However, to do this successfully Nigeria must seriously tackle corruption, rather than use it as a smokescreen. It must honour its obligations to companies like P&ID. Until then, investors inevitably will be very wary of investing in Nigeria.

Nigeria will be world’s 2nd largest rice importer in 2019

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has projected that Nigeria will be the world second largest rice buyer in 2019.

China is predicted to be the world’s largest buyer.

“On an annual basis, consumption and residual use is projected higher in 2018/19 in Angola, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam,” the department said in its latest Rice Outlook released on Tuesday.

“China and Nigeria are projected to remain the largest rice importing countries in 2019, followed by the EU, Cote d’Ivoire, and Iran.

“Nigeria and Egypt are projected to account for the bulk of the 2019 import increase. Imports in 2019 are also projected to be larger than a year earlier for Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, EU, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Mali, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

“Global rice consumption (including a residual component) in 2018/19 is projected at a record 488.4 million tons, down 0.1 million tons from the previous forecast but up more than 1 percent from a year earlier.”

Audu Ogbeh, the minister of agriculture and rural development,  had earlier warned that the country may experience rice shortage if appropriate measures are not taken to replant after the recent flood.

States like Jigawa, Kebbi, Anambra and Kogi had experienced floods that resulted in farming losses.

The Buhari-led administration had said it would end dependence on imported rice and the Central Bank of Nigeria supported the move by restricting forex for rice importation and the Anchor Borrowers Programme.

1,110 dead as cholera ravages 29 states in Nigeria – NCDC

Nigeria has recorded 1,110 deaths this year from cholera outbreaks in 29 states across Nigeria as the disease claims more lives in more parts of the country.

The death figure this year is several times higher than the 84 recorded within the corresponding period in 2017, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed in its weekly epidemiological report.

The report for week 43 showed that 48,686 suspected cholera cases were recorded between weeks 1 and 43 of 2018, with 829 laboratory confirmed from 239 local government areas in the 29 states.

In 2017, cholera outbreaks within weeks 1 to 43 recorded 3642 suspected cases and 84 deaths from 70 local government areas in 19 states.

Eight states most hit in the current outbreaks are Adamawa, Borno, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara, Bauchi Kano and Gombe.

In week 43 alone, 454 suspected cases with two laboratory confirmed and 30 deaths (CFR, 6.6 per cent) were reported from 29 local governments in the eight states.

These are Adamawa 106, Bauchi 5, Borno 197, Gombe 7, Kano 4, Katsina 22, Yobe 76 and Zamfara 37.

This is also significantly higher than was recorded in 2017. In 2017, 108 suspected cases and three deaths were reported from six local governments in four states during the same period.

The situation report from Yobe as reported by Reliefweb shows that suspected cholera cases were 1,777 with 61 associated deaths.

In the state, 584 cases were reported in Gulani LGA, 485 in Gujba LGA and 460 in Damaturu LGA. Fune LGA reported 181 cases, while 67 cases were reported in Potiskum LGA.

Out of 112 samples collected and tested using cholera RDTs, 97 (86.6 per cent) were positive and 15 (14 per cent) negative. Again, nine (47 per cent) out of 19 samples cultured were positive for Vibrio Cholerae. However, when the nine positive samples were taken to national reference laboratory for quality checks and further analysis samples, Vibrio Cholerae O1 (Inaba) serotype was isolated in four of the samples.

In Borno State, the situation report as at November 9 showed suspected cholera cases stand at 5,897 with 73 associated deaths.

The breakdown is 2291 in Jere, 1,409 in MMC, 340 in Magumeri, 34 in Kaga, 165 in Konduga, 136 in Chibok, 11 in Shani, 42 in Damboa, 1052 in Ngala, 91 in Askira-Uba, 161 in Kwaya-Kusar, 56 in Bama, 57 in Dikwa and 52 in Guzamala LGAs.

No additional case was reported from Magumeri, Konduga, Ngala, Askira/Uba, Kaga, Chibok, Dikwa, Shani, Damboa, Kwaya-Kusar and Bama LGAs.

Most of the towns affected in the Northeast states are ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency which started in 2009.

Though cholera outbreak is not new in Nigeria, record shows the outbreak this year is on the high side.

According to AFP, the Norwegian Refugee Council said most of the people affected in the Northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe were affected by the ongoing insurgency in the area.

The Boko Haram violence has forced tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in crowded camps with many of them affected by the fast spreading cholera outbreak.

“One of the major causes of the outbreak is the congestion in the camps that makes it difficult to provide adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services,” said Janet Cherono, the NRC’s programme manager in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

“The rainy season has also worsened the conditions. If more land is not urgently provided for camp decongestion and construction of health and sanitation facilities, Nigeria is steering towards yet another cholera outbreak in 2019.”

In response to the ongoing outbreak, NCDC said it has activated a national emergency operation centre for cholera at level 2.

“Rapid response team has also been deployed to respond to recent cluster of cases in Kano, Bauchi, Plateau, Zamfara, Adamawa and Kastina”.

The agency, however, said there has been a decline in number of new cases reported.

Nigeria’s foreign reserves fall by $2.2bn in Oct — biggest monthly drop since 2015

Defending the naira has become more expensive as Nigeria’s foreign reserves declined by $2.2 billion in October 2018 alone — the largest monthly drop since 2015.

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has shown that the reserves shed $2,243,157,059 in October, moving from $44,305,099,104 on the last working day of September to $42,061,942,045 as at October 30, 2018.

The country’s foreign reserves, which saw a remarkable surge in 2018, following improved oil prices, and hitting $47.8 billion in June, has begun to take a downward turn due to shocks from the US market.

On September 26, 2018, the US Federal Reserve decided to lift its benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of two percent to 2.25 percent.

This has made the biggest economy in the world more attractive to investors, who have since started voting their monies out of emerging markets like Nigeria, causing potential currency fluctuations and depreciation.

To avoid depreciation of the naira, the CBN has decided to continuously intervene in the foreign exchange market to keep the naira stable at 360 to 364 to the greenback.

Explaining this in Bali, Indonesia, at the just concluded World Bank and IMF meetings, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor said the bank will save the naira rather than build more reserves.

“You can only build reserve buffers if you want to hold on to the reserves while allowing your currency to go and wherever it goes is something else,” Emefiele had said.

“It is a choice we have to make and at this time, the choice for Nigeria is to maintain a stable exchange rate so that businesses can plan and we don’t create problems in the banking system.”

President Muhammadu Buhari has shown immense interest in defending the naira against external and internal forces, and has continuously rejected the devaluation of the naira.

Foreign reserves fall by $2.1bn in one month as CBN maintains naira defence

Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves have declined by $2.15 billion in the last 30 days, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) position itself in defence of the naira.

Since the United States Federal Reserves raised interest rates on September 26, 2018, the Nigerian reserves have dropped by $1,541,891,539, as investors continue voting their monies out of the Nigerian economy.

The reserves moved from $44,458,822,331 on September 26, 2018 to $42,916,930,792 as at October 16, 2018.

In a statement issued by the American central bank in September, the Fed decided to lift the benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of two percent to 2.25 percent.

Explaining the effects of this on the Nigerian economy and reserves, Isaac Okorafor, spokesperson of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said the fall in reserves is due to a hike in interest rates by US Federal Reserve and the CBN’s interventions in the forex market.

He explained that investors who had left the world’s biggest economy for emerging markets like Nigeria, Brazil, China, due to low-interest rates are returning to the US, following the increase in rates.

“You can see that the reversal of capital flows which is eating most economies and bringing about depreciation in their currency,” Okorafor had said.

Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, also explained in Bali, Indonesia, that in order to avoid depreciation in the Nigerian currency, the bank would have to defend the naira, via interventions in the foreign exchange market.

“You can only build reserve buffers if you want to hold on to the reserves while allowing your currency to go and wherever it goes is something else,”Emefiele had said.

“It is a choice we have to make and at this time, the choice for Nigeria is to maintain a stable exchange rate so that businesses can plan and we don’t create problems in the banking system.”

As at Tuesday, October 16, Nigeria’s foreign reserves stood at $42,916,930,792.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear time and again that his government will do all in its capacity to defend the naira from further depreciation.

BREAKING: Nigeria thrash Libya 4-0

Odion Ighalo scored a hattrick for Nigeria as they trounced visiting Libya national team 4-0 in an African Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.

The match was played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital.

Ighalo, who plies his trade with Chinese club Changchun Yatai, grabbed the first goal from the penalty spot after a blunder from Libya goalkeeper in the second minute.

At the 58th minute, Arsenal’s midfielder Alex Iwobi delivered a lovely weighted pass to Ighalo who maintained his composure to dibble the goalkeeper and score his second goal for Nigeria. He completed his hattrick 10 minutes later after latching onto a cross from Ahmed Musa and in the ensuing scramble played the ball past Libyan defenders and the keeper.

Executive order: Nigerians now to pay tax on foreign assets

President Muhammadu Buhari has signed an executive order mandating Nigerian taxpayers to declare and pay tax on their offshore assets.

Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, announced this in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the statement, asset owners have a 12-month window grace to declare and pay tax on their assets, under the new executive order number eight, tagged Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS).

Shehu said the order took effect from October 8, when the president signed it.

According to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offences related to offshore assets, among others.

“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”

The statement read: “By this order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and incomes are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntary those assets and pay taxes on them. When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits.

“In accordance with the new order, the Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectible subject to the fulfillment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.

“To avoid the abuse of this process, the Federal Government makes clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities, and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country and have not been charged with any crimes including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.

“In signing the order, President Buhari noted that under the Nigerian law, every citizen has the duty to declare his or her income and assets and pay taxes on them but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.

“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence, long delays in courts, among several other reasons.

“President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularization of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the Federal Government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland.”

IMF says Nigeria’s economy doing poorly, cuts growth projection

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut the growth projections made for Nigeria saying the country’s economy is doing poorly.

Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, deputy director at IMF’s research department made this known on Tuesday while addressing journalists at the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group in Bali, Indonesia.

He said the aggregate growth rate of Africa is being held down by its three largest economies.

The IMF economist identified the three economies as Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.

“The aggregate growth rate for the continent is held down by the fact that the three largest economies are not performing up to their full potential,” he said.

“Nigeria’s growth, 1.9 percent this year; 2.3 next year. South Africa, only 0.8 percent this year. Angola, contracting by 0.1 percent this year. So the aggregate — over three percent this year, close to four percent next year — is despite the largest economies in the continent doing poorly.

“The continent could do much better once these economies are on a more solid footing, particularly South Africa and Nigeria because they are really large and affect a number of countries in their neighbourhood.”

In the World Economic Outlook report released in July, the Bretton Wood institution had projected that Nigeria’s economy would grow by 2.1 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent in 2019.

In the October edition of the report, IMF cut the growth projections for 2018 to 1.9 percent.

“In Nigeria and Angola, tighter monetary policy and moderation in food price increases contributed to tapering inflation. In Nigeria, inflation is projected to fall to 12.4 percent in 2018, from 16.5 percent in 2017, and to rise to 13.5 percent in 2019,” the report read.

The World Bank recently cut its growth projections for Nigeria by 0.2% citing reduction in oil production levels, and contraction in the agricultural sector, following the herder-farmer crisis.

 

Nigerian students shine at world robotics competition

Nigerian teenagers, who flew the country’s flag at the 2018 First Global Robotic Olympiad (GRO) in Mexico, won two bronze medals at the competition involving 187 countries.

The Nigerian team won the medals in the Outstanding Support and International Journey categories.

There were 20 categories of awards at the event which ended on Sunday.

The competition began on August 13.

The challenge was on Energy Impact. Competitors were to solve problems related to energy with the use of robotics.

Remi Willoughby, national coordinator of the GRO, told NAN on telephone from Mexico that there were 193 teams from 187 countries at the competition.

Willoughby described Nigeria’s victory as an attestation that the Nigeria child was making progress in science technology engineering and mathematics.

The five teenagers, aged from 15 years to 17 years, are from secondary schools in Lagos.

They are four females and a male.

They are Anjolaoluwa Olowokere from Lagoon School; Iroaganachi Udodirim, Queens College; Samuel Mbah, Osezele Comprehensive Senior Secondary School; Tochukwu Anyigbo, Lagoon School; and Daberechi Onyeacholem, Greensprings School Lekki.

At a press conference in Lagos to announce the competition, Faisal Jarmakani, managing director, Aramex and Doculand Nigeria, sponsors of the team, had said that the teenagers were building the foundation blocks for a technology-advanced Nigeria.

“Without any doubts, we will soon join other countries of the world where science and technology have become the backbone of economic development,” he said.

In July, three Nigerian students won gold for proper documentation of processes on engineering note at the 2018 World Adolescent Robotic Competition in China.

The students – Tawakalitu Giwa, Oluwaseun Omotayo and Ayomide Adetunji – also won the “Rajaa Cherkaoui El Moursli’ Award for Courageous Achievement at the event organised by the China Association of Science and Technology.

The challenge was on Water Problem.

Illegal Migration: EU must start in Nigeria 

 

By Ajibike Onajin

The world’s attention has been focused on the European Union as it struggles to cope with a growing migrant crisis that has overwhelmed key members, redefined internal politics and posed a real threat to EU cohesion. A recent YouGov poll* showed ‘immigration’ and ‘terrorism’ to be consistently the top two issues for voters in virtually all EU states.

Member States have been unanimous in realising that finding enduring solutions to this quagmire cannot be delayed given the continuing exodus from Africa to southern European borders. Whilst many of the migrants have originated from Syria and Afghanistan due to the ongoing wars in that region, hundreds of thousands of people more have also streamed in from Sub-Saharan Africa including Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia.

Political unrest, economic instability and general deprivation have driven sub Saharan migrants who arrive in Libya through tortuous desert routes before facing an even more dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean in flimsy, overcrowded vessels to Europe. In recent years, Nigeria has topped the list of African migrants to Europe.

Indeed, data released by the International Organization for Migration shows that at the end of December 2016, out of 387,739 arrivals to Europe that almost half,173,000, were from Nigeria. The consequences of all this is that EU nations are now caught between living up to their well espoused principles, which guarantee humane treatment of refugees, especially those fleeing persecution and wars, and avoiding the increased pressure on resources as well as risk of antagonizing voters, who are now increasingly leaning towards nationalist, right wing politics.

Disagreements have also broken out amongst EU members over how to take and share responsibility for the growing numbers of migrants which leaders are trying to resolve. Some of the proposals being put forward include “controlled” migrant processing centers outside of Europe, with North Africa earmarked as a staging post to thwart activities of people-smugglers ferrying migrants from sub-Saharan Africa through Libya across the Mediterranean into Europe.

However, what would work better in my view is solid EU interventions in migrants’ countries of origin to ensure better conditions and reduce peoples propensity to emigrate. Nigeria of course should be the starting point since it is obvious that if the flow of migrants from that country alone is reduced, the net migration to Europe at least from the West African region would also abate significantly and alleviate the EU current headaches. As it is, Nigeria is experiencing its worst economic performance in decades under the ‘baba go-slow’ Buhari administration which has shed 10 million jobs in just 3 years and with many people, even if they have a job, being unable to feed their families as the prices of staples have shot up.

The feeling in the country is that Buhari has to go, but it is clear that he will do everything in his power to keep his hand on the reins of power and as the incumbent, has many advantages which perhaps his predecessor were less willing to adopt. Every day we hear reports that underage voters are issued with Permanent Voter Cards in the north of the country and foreigners from Niger, enticed to sign up so they can vote in February 2019. The EU can help ensure free and fair elections by bringing their Election Observation Mission into Nigeria now to oversee the work of the Independent National Election Commission to ensure it is genuinely living up to the first word in its name.

The EU can also identify and support an alternative leadership, which I believe can only be delivered by the only candidate that can successfully challenge President Buhari in next year’s general elections. That candidate is Atiku Abubakar, a man who brings to the table years of experience as an administrator, businessman and astute politician with a wide network of friends and associates from across the country. Indeed, his economic agenda points the way forward for the future of Nigeria where citizens would be proud to stay and build by taking advantage of new opportunities in the economic space.

Atiku’s agenda includes bold new measures to tackle the power crisis -the biggest drag on Nigeria economy – including development of multiple green field mini-grid transmission systems and bringing private sector entities to participle in the network.   He also plans full diversification of energy sources to include, wide, solar, hydro, nuclear and natural gas.

The former vice-president is also looking to address the perennial problems of northern Nigeria, such as access to education,which has bred extreme poverty, youth unemployment, social unrest, insurgency and terrorism as well as rebuilding the economy in the region. He also has a stimulus plan to facilitate growth in critical sectors such as agriculture and small and medium enterprises, while special funds are being envisioned to support innovation, skills development and job creation in the non-oil sector by positioning Nigeria as the key outsourcing centre in Africa.

What this indicates is that leaders with a clear idea of how to get Nigeria out of her current situation, foster socio-economic growth and development are not in short supply but a flawed electoral system, dodgy census figures, misuse of state resources and the sundry peculiarities of the Nigerian system conspire to perpetuate the status quo. The EU must bring its weight to bear in facilitating a free, fair and credible poll, as well as ensuring that it is not compromised in the conduct of the election.

Ajibike Onajin writes from London

Nigeria has a subsisting Debt Management Strategy – DMO

The Debt Management Office (DMO) on Wednesday refuted a report published by a national daily that the country had no debt management strategy.

The Director-General of DMO, Ms. Patience Oniha, in a statement issued by the Office, disclosed that Nigeria has a subsisting debt management strategy.

“Contrary to the publication on the front page of the newspaper of July 4, 2018, Nigeria has a duly approved Debt Management Strategy.

“The Debt Management Strategy was approved by the Federal Executive Council in June 2016 and has an expiry date of December 2019. The document is available on https://www.dmo.gov.ng/publications/other-publications/debt-management-strategy,” Oniha said.

She advised the public to disregard the media report, adding that the Federal Government was implementing the nation’s debt management strategy in full.

Oniha said, “The publication is absolutely false and the claim that they obtained a confirmation from the Director-General of the Debt Management Office to the effect that the DMO was ‘working on it’ is also very wrong.

“The enquiry by the Newspaper was on the DMO’s Strategic Plan (an institutional plan) and not the Public Debt Management Strategy. This action amounts to deception and manipulation of information.

“There is a difference between the Debt Management Strategy and the DMO’s Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is a statement of the institution’s Goals and Objectives as well as, the activities that will enable their achievements.

“It covers issues such as Human Resources, Technology, and Market Development amongst others. This contrasts very sharply with the Public Debt Management Strategy which is entirely about the strategies for managing the public debt to ensure that borrowing is prudent and the public debt is sustainable.”

The DMO Director-General disclosed that a new Strategic Plan that would deliver a new, robust and all-encompassing strategy was at its final stage of preparation.

According to her, a robust Strategic Plan became necessary due to developments in the macro-economy, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the need to come up with creative ways to fund the Government in the face of lower Revenues.

The old pattern for preparing a Strategic Plan, she added, would have been grossly inadequate.

She said further that a new Strategic Plan for the DMO had to be prepared in a holistic manner to incorporate these developments and expectations.

Nigeria, France sign $475m agreements on social amenities, reforestation

Nigeria and France on Tuesday in Abuja signed three agreements worth $475 million on social amenities and reforestation.

The agreements cover Urban Mobility Improvement Programme of Lagos State, sustainable water supply in Kano city and reforestation in Ogun State.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron witnessed the signing of the agreements during their bilateral talks held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Lagos agreement involved a letter of intent for the financing of urban mobility improvement project through a loan of $200 million.
The urban mobility project will involve development of eight priority bus corridors connected to the Lagos mass transit network.

In Ogun State, a French firm in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority is to mobilise from investors about $200 million for land reclamation to correct the massive degradation of arable land being witnessed in the state.

Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who spoke to State House correspondents on the signed agreement, said the project aimed to reforest 108,000 hectares of depleting forest in Ogun.

Amosun, therefore, hailed the signing of the agreement, describing it as very vital to not only addressing climate change challenges and recreating the forest, but also providing employment to the people of the state, among other benefits.
France, through its foreign development agency, Whence Francaise de Development (AFD), will also extend a credit facility of $75 million towards improving water supply in Kano city.
The concessional loan is expected to help Kano State Government ensure more residents of the city have access to drinking water while improving the financial viability of the state water board to increase its revenues.
Addressing newsmen after the signing of the agreements, Buhari and Macron, who addressed a joint press conference at the forecourt of the presidential villa, expressed the readiness of their countries to continue to promote socio-economic interests for the general good of both countries.

The two presidents pledged to increase the cooperation between Nigeria and France in tackling security challenges occasioned by Boko Haram and ISIS jihadists in Nigeria and the Sahel region of Africa.
Macron said he was more concerned about how African governments organised themselves to effectively tackle the challenges posed by terrorists on the continent.

He said: “The main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations.
“So what we want to do is that we will intervene and maintain our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism, especially in Mali and in the region.
“What is important to me is how the different African governments organise themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people and especially, jihadism. That is why I do promote the G5/Sahel Initiatives.
“As far as we are organised, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon is also very important, it is Boko Haram. I think first we have to increase the operations and the pressure against these jihadists.
“We can fix the situation in the coming months and obviously France will remain present in Africa for as long as they want it.’’

On his part, Buhari thanked French government for its support and assistance to Nigeria’s efforts in combating insurgency and violent extremism in the country and the Sahel region.
He said already Nigeria had cultivated the culture of friendship with all its neighbours with a view to ensuring security and political stability in the region.