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Nigeria, Morocco deepen bilateral ties, sign agreements on Regional Gas Pipeline, Fertiliser Production, Mining

Nigeria and Kingdom of Morocco, on Monday, affirmed their will to create South-South cooperation model.
To this end, the two countries welcomed the significant progress made in various areas of cooperation, such as agriculture, fertiliser production, energy infrastructure and mining.

The two countries made their position known in a joint communique issued at the end of the two-day official visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Morocco which ended on Monday.

The communique said King Mohammed VI and President Buhari had noted with satisfaction the milestones achieved and underscored their commitment to the agreement signed on the Regional Gas Pipeline.

The pipeline will connect Nigeria’s gas resources, those of some West African countries and Morocco, even to Europe, thereby fostering integration and development of countries in the West African region.

The two Heads of State also noted progress made in other areas of the bilateral cooperation, as evidenced by the Agreement between OCP of Morocco and the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria to invest in Fertiliser Production.

They noted that already, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between OCP and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority on the establishment of a Basic Chemicals Platform, specifically to develop a significant Ammonia Production Plant, had been signed.

“On the basis of their exemplary cooperation, the two Heads of State agreed to develop a partnership in the field of agriculture, particularly through the signing of Cooperation Agreement on vocational training and technical supervision,” the two leaders  said.
On regional and international issues of mutual interest and concern, King Mohammed VI and Buhari confirmed their willingness to consult and coordinate the positions of the two countries in regional and international organizations, including the African Union.

President Buhari and King Mohammed in royal motorcade

Buhari congratulated the King on Morocco’s election to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU).
He also congratulated him on the successful completion of his mandate as African Leader on Migration Issues.
He further noted that this had culminated in the presentation of the African Agenda for Migration and the creation of the African Observatory on Migration.

Buhari also paid tribute to the personal commitment of King Mohammed VI to sustainable development in Africa.
On his part, King Mohammed VI congratulated Buhari for his leadership in the regional initiative against terrorism in the Lake Chad region.
He also lauded his efforts in the fight against corruption and his role as the African Union anti-corruption champion.
The two Heads of State, in the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, according to the communique, underscored their commitment to moderation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, as taught by Islam.
The two leaders also expressed deep concerns about violent extremism, terrorism and the persistence of security threats in Africa.
They affirmed their resolve to strengthen cooperation in efforts to combat radicalization in Africa and beyond.
”The visit reinforces the positive bilateral relationship between Morocco and Nigeria since the Royal Visit to Abuja in Dec. 2016.

”At the end of the working visit, President Buhari, on behalf of his delegation, expressed his deep appreciation for the warm reception and hospitality of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the Government and the brotherly people of Morocco,” the communique said.
The gas resource development agreement was earlier signed by the Group General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr Farouq Garba, and Mrs Amina Benkhadra, Director-General of the National Office of Hydrocarbon and Mines.

The 5,660 km long Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP) will reduce gas flaring in Nigeria, encourage diversification of energy resources and cut down poverty through the creation of more job opportunities.
The NMGP will further encourage utilisation of gas in the sub-region for cooking, and discourage desertification.
The agreement to establish Ammonia Production Plant was signed by the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Authority, Mr Uche Orji, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Office of the Management of Phosphate in Morocco, Mr Mostafa Terrab.
Similarly, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and his Moroccan counterpart, Mr Aziz Akhannouch, signed a cooperation agreement on vocational training and technical supervision of agricultural workers.
The agreement is expected to enhance local skills on better management of agricultural outfits in Nigeria.

Anglican Church in disarray as members accuse Nigerian bishop of embezzling N260m, election manipulation

Some aggrieved members of the Lagos Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have filed three applications before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court seeking, among other things, a relief for the judge handling the suit, Mojisola Olatoregun, to recuse herself from the case.

Another relief by the plaintiffs is a prayer to join one Abimbola Bode-Thomas, one of the concerned elders of the Lagos Diocese, as a plaintiff while Adebola Ayodeji Ojofeitimi, a reverend and the Provost of the Lagos Diocese, who played a pivotal role in the installation and enthronement of bishops, be made a defendant in the suit.

This is to enable them to be bound by the court’s decision, the members said.

The plaintiffs are also urging the court to restrain the defendants and their agents from taking any step to enthrone Humphrey Olumakaiye as the new Bishop of Lagos Diocese pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

The plaintiffs, who identified themselves as prominent financial members and elders of the church, are suing for themselves and on behalf of concerned members of the Lagos Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

They include Fola Osibo, Modupe Alakija, Oluyomi Finnih, Femi Adeniyi-William, Layi Ajayi-Bembe, Laide Sasegbon, Modupe Sagoe, Ade Abisogun, Bukola Meadows, and Molara Otuyelu.

Joined as defendants in the suit are the Registered Trustees of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); The Lagos Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); and Reverends Nicholas Okoh; Adebola Ademowo; Humphrey Olumakaiye; Michael Fape.

The case was initially assigned to Chuka Obiozor, a professor and judge at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, but later re-assigned to Ms Olatoregun.

However, the defendants wrote a letter to Ms Olatoregun asking her to recuse herself on the ground that she is a communicant and a devoted member of the church.

At the last hearing, the judge, in open court, transferred the case file to another judge, Rilwan Aikawa, of the same Lagos Division.

The case has now been adjourned till June 21 for hearing.

The Genesis

After the election to choose the next Bishop of the Lagos Diocese by the church, ten members who were dissatisfied with the process dragged the Trustees of the Church and five others before the federal court in Lagos.

In addition to claiming that the election was manipulated, the aggrieved members alleged that one of the Trustees of the church and the current Bishop of Lagos Diocese, Adebola Ademowo, should be ordered to refund N260 million he allegedly collected from the Diocese and used for his personal purpose.

In a statement of claim accompanied by statement on oath of plaintiffs, it was alleged that as Mr Ademowo’s tenure as bishop began to wind down, the Trustees of the church commenced steps towards the election of a new bishop, and Messrs Olumakaiye and Fape were nominated for the position.

Mr Finnih averred that contrary to the established principles contained in the constitution of the church which stipulates that elections are to be conducted by secret ballot, the outgoing bishop, Mr Ademowo, began campaigning for the election of Mr Olumakaiye and took various steps to influence Mr Okoh, the Primate of the Church, and other bishops who were required to vote.

These steps, the plaintiff said, included approval of the publication of photographs of Messrs Ademowo and Olumakaiye in the church’s calendar wherein the latter was described as the ‘godson’ and successor of Mr Ademowo; the distribution of cash gifts to the bishops who were to vote; as well as the exercise of undue influence on Mr Okoh.

In complaint, some of the plaintiffs, Messrs Osibo and Ajayi-Bembe, as well as another financial member of the church, Bamidele Onafeko, wrote a petition to Mr Okoh highlighting the breaches of the church’s constitution but did not receive any response.

Mr Olumakaiye was later elected as the church’s new bishop.

After the election, the plantiffs wrote another letter to Mr Okoh complaining about the irregularities that marred the electoral process.

This time, the church responded through its Episcopal Secretary and Registrar who wrote on Mr Okoh’s behalf urging the plaintiffs to desist from making such allegations.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs wrote another letter to Mr Okoh reiterating their complaints and also stating the various acts of financial impropriety allegedly committed by Mr Ademowo in office.

The allegations include causing division and hatred among members, receipt of funds from the Diocesan Board for his personal use and the placing of his family members in strategic positions.

In their letter, the plaintiffs expressed their concern that Mr Olumakaiye being Mr Ademowo’s “godson” would cover up the said acts committed by the Bishop while in office.

In his reply, Mr Okoh told the plaintiffs their letter had been forwarded to Mr Ademowo for his reaction.

In his response to the Primate, Mr Ademowo admitted the receipt of N200 million and N60 million for the construction of his personal residence and the purchase of a car respectively.

The Registrar of the Church then wrote a letter to the plaintiffs on behalf of Mr Okoh stating that their complaints as regard the financial impropriety would be referred to the Diocesan Board of Lagos Diocese and that the Dean of the Church would constitute an independent committee to consider the allegations of pre-electoral malpractices against Messrs Ademowo and Olumakaiye.

The plaintiffs averred that Mr Okoh is one of the appointors of the Dean of the Church of Nigeria, and a committee set up by him to investigate the manipulation of electoral process in which the Primate himself is implicated cannot be said to be independent or impartial.

The plaintiffs averred further that the Diocesan Board of Lagos Diocese, to which the allegations of Mr Ademowo’s financial impropriety were referred, was the body that released the sums admitted to have been received by the former bishop and, therefore, cannot possibly be relied upon to give an impartial decision on their complaints.

The plaintiffs then contended that Mr Okoh breached his fiduciary duty by failing to countenance the allegation of pre-electoral breaches made by them, and failing to prevent the conduct of the election, despite having been notified of the actions of Messrs Ademowo and Olumakaiye.

The plaintiffs also averred that Mr Ademowo breached his fiduciary duties to the plaintiffs and members of Lagos Diocese in influencing the outcome of the election to the office of Bishop of Lagos Diocese, and various acts of financial impropriety committed by him

Consequently, the plaintiffs sought a declaration of the court compelling Mr Ademowo to immediately refund to the church the ₦260 million with interest at the rate of 22 per cent per annum from March 1 until full and final liquidation.

They also sought an order directing the conduct of fresh election for the position of Bishop of the Lagos Diocese.

In a notice of preliminary objection filed by four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Bambo Adesanya, Babatunde Ajibade, Wale Olawoyin and Adeniyi Adegbomire, on behalf of Mr Ademowo, they contended that the issues raised in the plaintiffs’ action are not justifiable in a court of law.

According to them, the issues belong to the domestic terrain of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion as enshrined in the constitution and canon of the Church of Nigeria and the constitution of the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Lagos Anglican communion.

They stated further that, even if the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs’ action, the court should in this case, decline jurisdiction as the plaintiffs have not exhausted the remedies provided by the constitution of the Church of Nigeria and the Diocese of Lagos before filing the action.

The lawyers further argued that it is the High Court of Lagos State that has the jurisdiction to entertain the action, adding that the plaintiffs had no legal right to institute the suit.

They, therefore, urged the court to dismiss or strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.

In another objection filed on behalf of The Registered Trustees of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican communion) Lagos Diocese by Olumide Sofowora, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the church argued that there was no meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion or the Diocesan Synod of Lagos Diocese where the plaintiffs were given the authority to institute any suit on their behalf of the concerned members of the House of Laity of the Church of Nigeria in respect of all their allegations and claims in this suit.

Why FG didn’t sign Africa free trade treaty – Osinbajo

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria did not sign the African free continental trade agreement (AfCTA) because the federal government wanted to satisfy the private sector.

Speaking on Thursday at the FT Nigeria Summit, the vice-president said the private sector was not happy with the specifics of the agreement.

He said: “With the free trade agreement, you know Nigeria is an important market. There are some states waiting to tap into that big Nigerian market.

“Nigeria has one of the most vibrant private sectors and many felt as we went into the process that sufficient consultations hadn’t been done.

“Manufacturers association in particular and several others felt that we shouldn’t go into it without further consultations and they wanted to know exactly what the specifics would be in terms of negotiations that will follow the signing of the framework.

“It was the president’s opinion that it would be much wiser to suspend the signing until such a time when all these engagements were done to the satisfaction of the private sector.

“We work very closely with the private sector and we felt that it would be wrong not to satisfy that particular sector and the complaints that they had.”

At the 2018 African Union summit, 44 African countries signed the agreement which is the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.

Catholics protest killings of priests [PHOTOS]

Catholic faithful on Tuesday in Uyo protested the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshipers recently in Benue. 

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “No weapon fashioned against Christians shall prosper”; “Say no to terrorism in places of worship”; “Christians lives matter”; “live and lets live”; “human lives are sacred”, among others.

Bishop of Uyo Diocese, Rev. Dr John Ayah, said that Catholics would not take up arms against Fulani herdsmen in the face of recent attacks against worshipers and priests.

Ayah said that they would continue to depend on security agencies of government for the protection of their members, especially during church programmes.

“The killings have become too many. The church is `arm less’ so, we will continue to depend on security provided by government.

“If the government provides sufficient security, then there will be no point carrying guns around to protect Christians. We are do not have arms, our arms are our prayers and our rosaries.

“So we are telling governments to wake up to their responsibilities of providing adequate security to the citizens.’’

The bishop said that the killings by herdsmen had become unbearable and had continued to portray lack of adequate security by the Federal Government.

In his remark, the Vicar General in charge of administration for the Diocese, Rev. Fr Donatus Udoette said that government’s responsibility was to provide adequate security for its citizens.

Udoette said that as Christians, Catholics would not take up arms but would depend on prayers.

He, however, called on the Federal Government to rise up to the challenge of protecting citizens from the menace of herdsmen.

 

FG orders Ebola screening at Nigeria’s borders

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has directed the federal ministry of health to step up surveillance at all entry points in the country to prevent the return of Ebola.

Briefing journalists at the end of the council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday, Isaac Adewole, minister of health, said FEC ordered that steps to be taken to keep the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from coming to Nigeria.

Adewole said that part of the new measures to be taken include screening passengers coming into the country, while stating that that the government is determined to keep the country safe.

He said: “Of course, of great concern to the federal executive council is the outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo. As you might be aware, over the last one month, DRC recorded 19 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever and lost 16 of the cases.

“But, what is also particularly important was that, on Monday, blood samples were drawn from five patients in the DRC, particularly in a particular district in DRC, two of the five cases, Ebola was actually confirmed. FEC has now directed the federal ministry of help to step up emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders, so that we can actually keep Nigerians safe.

“What we will do is to set up an emergency operation center which will be chaired by Dr. Babasanya, who actually led our efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014. Not only that, we will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from DRC and neighbouring countries. We will also ensure we step up all activities screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unawares.

“Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some team to DRC as part of building capacity for managing the outbreak. We want to assure Nigerians that the federal government is concerned about the outbreak and will do everything possible to keep the country safe.”

Nigeria experienced an Ebola outbreak in 2014, leading to the deaths of eight persons — most notably Stella Adedavoh, a medical doctor.

FG mulls extra year of studies for graduates before NYSC

Nigeria is considering a major policy change to its tertiary education that would see graduates go for an extra year of studies.

The Minister of State for Education, Anthony Anwukah, disclosed this on Tuesday at a two-day retreat for governing councils of federal universities in Abuja.

The retreat, held under the theme ‘Elements of Statutory Governance, Procurement and Financial Accounting in Nigerian Universities,’ is to address the challenges of the education sector.

Mr Anwukah said this was being considered because many university graduates were not good enough to be employed by industries.

He said the proposal was similar to the extra year currently being undertaken by law and medical students.

“Law students attend Law School for one year before going for NYSC and medical students go for one year Housemanship before they are allowed to practice fully, so it will be necessary for other courses to also go through this process,” Mr Anwukah said.

“The Lagos Business School can also serve as a one year after-school training,” he added.

Mr Anwukah said the university system has let Nigeria down in the country’s quest for industrial development. He said the universities have failed to produce graduates that meet the needs of the industries.

“The universities are producing products that are not matching the needs of the industries. I urged the Committee of Pro-chancellors and Committee of Vice-Chancellor to end the decline in the standard of education,” he said.

He lamented that the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) system has failed in the universities.

SIWES, established in 1974 by the Nigerian government, is a programme of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF). It is designed to give Nigerian students studying occupationally –related courses in higher institutions the experience that would supplement their theoretical learning.

But according to the minister, “the project is not working” and remains a major problem for the university system.

Ayo Banjo, the Chairman of the Governing Board of Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), said the university system must be well-funded before it can achieve high ranking and fulfill its mandate.

“There must be inflow of internally-generated revenue. Pro-chancellors need to think of business that can generate income internally for the revenue of the universities. Unlike pure water and bread, universities should venture into agriculture and real estate”, he said.

He said the governing councils must ensure that best practices are followed in accountability of resources.

According to him, the first university in Nigeria will be 70 years this year, so the university system in the country can still be regarded to be in its infancy.

He said Nigerian universities, except the private ones, have no meaningful academic calendar, although he noted that there are strenuous effort by the universities to appear on global ranking.

The Executive Secretary of NUC, Abubakar Rasheed, said the major problems in universities can be traced to bad governance.

“The retreat is coming at a time when NUC is embarking on reforming universities in Nigeria,” he said.

Ibrahim Njodi, the Vice-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri and representative of Committee of Vice-chancellors, said the retreat will examine a better way for policy implementation.

“We must say the education sector has been experiencing issues but this government means well for the sector,” he said.

The NUC was established to promote quality higher education in Nigeria.

Number of Nigerian doctors working in the UK ‘doubles’

The number of Nigerian doctors working in the UK has been sharply increasing, according to research by fact-checking organisation Africa Check.

Last year, the number of Nigerian doctors registered with the UK General Medical Council nearly doubled, an increase of 89%.

“In 2016, a total of 245 doctors registered in the UK. The number sharply rose to 439 last year, taking the number of doctors to 5,060,” Africa Check said.

So far this year, on average 12 Nigerian doctors were being registered every week, bringing the total number to 5,250 on 28 April 2018, the fact-checking body said.

The first year for which data was listed – 2006 – showed 2,692 Nigerian doctors registered.

The BBC’s Stephanie Hegarty in Lagos says it is not clear yet why the numbers have risen so rapidly.

Brain drain of this kind is a huge challenge for health systems in Africa, she says.

Nigeria went through a recession in 2016 and a 10-day doctor’s strike over unpaid wages in September 2017 was no doubt a push factor, but most of these medics would have left before that point, she adds

FG worried as ICC steps up investigations against Nigeria

The Federal Government is worried that the International Criminal Court is unrelenting in pursuing eight cases against Nigeria, says the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubabakar Malami (SAN).

He said this on Thursday while playing host to the newly elected President of the ICC, Prof. Chile Osuji, at his office in Abuja.

Malami said the ICC had “escalated” eight potential cases against Nigeria from “the initial preliminary examination to preliminary investigation”.

Six of the cases were said to be against Boko Haram and two against the military.

He said the stepping up of the investigation against Nigeria was worrisome because the government had demonstrated its willingness and ability to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone that committed any offence that fell within the Rome statute of the ICC.

Malami said, “Presently, the ICC has escalated the eight potential cases against Nigeria – six against the Boko Haram and two against the military – from the initial preliminary examination to preliminary investigation.

“This is worrisome, as Nigeria has demonstrated beyond doubt, and in absolute cooperation with the ICC, that it is willing and able and, as a matter of fact, it is indeed arresting, investigating and prosecuting anyone that commits any offence that falls within the Rome Statute of the ICC.

“The above being the case, Nigeria views the escalation of the eight potential cases as uncalled for in the circumstance.”

He assured the ICC president that Nigeria being “a country that believes in the operation of the rule of law, fundamental freedom and the need to fight impunity in all ramifications” the escalation of the eight potential cases “would not deter us from further expressing and demonstrating support to the ICC.”

Responding, Osuji commended Nigeria for its support to the ICC and assured that the court would continue to work against injustice and abuse of powers in its area of jurisdiction.

Control your population, UK envoy warns Nigeria

Paul Arkwright, UK high commissioner to Nigeria, says Nigeria’s population could be a disaster if it is not checked.

Arkwright said this on Tuesday at an event organised by the African Peace Building Network of the Social Science Research Council and African Leadership Centre of the Kings College London in Abuja.

Arkwright said Nigeria’s demography should be taken seriously because, at the end of the century, the country’s population could be about N900 million.

He said at that point, many Nigerians would not have electricity, jobs, or education.

“The biggest threat for Nigeria is around the demographic. Everyone talks about the demographic dividend and I firmly believe that is a possibility but there is a scenario of a demographic disaster,” Arkwright said.

“And that is a scenario where a large number of young people, young children even more than currently are out of school. It is a scenario where girls do not get the education they deserve.

“It is a scenario where the current birth rate continues at six to seven children per woman.

“And that is a scenario where there are not 450 million Nigerians by 2050 but 900 million Nigerians by the end of the century who may not have enough to eat and may not have power or jobs and if peace building is looking into the future, the long term, I think this issue of demography should be looked at.”

He said the UK is working to ensure good governance in Nigeria.

“Some of the areas we are focusing on here in Nigeria are around good governance, around anti-corruption, economic prosperity and how do we improve the business environment. They are around insecurity,” Arkwright said.

“The UK has trained over 25,000 Nigerian troops in fighting Boko Haram in the north-east.

“The UK is working with France and the US to provide intelligence so that Boko Haram does not succeed. We are encouraging British companies to invest in Nigeria because ultimately, the UK will continue to strongly support Nigeria.”

He urged experts on peace-building should to ensure that demography is looked into in the bid to proffer solutions to the challenges associated with it.

U.S. Secretary of State,Tillerson, visits Nigeria Monday

The U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, will arrive in Abuja on Monday for his first official visit to Nigeria.

A Press Advisory from the U.S. Embassy said Mr. Tillerson would hold talks with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

“When he arrives, Tillerson will become the highest ranking official in the Trump Administration to visit Nigeria.

“The secretary is expected to hold a press conference at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday by 11.45 a.m

“Tillerson is expected to be joined in the press availability by Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama,” the embassy stated.

Mr. Tillerson has been on a week-long tour of Africa.

He has visited the Horn of Africa just days after he announced a new 533 million dollars aid package for Africa out of which 128 million dollars was earmarked for Nigeria and countries of the Lake Chad region.

When Mr. Tillerson meets Buhari, both men are expected to discuss counter terrorism efforts and humanitarian issues in Nigeria’s North-east and the Lake Chad basin.

He is also expected to discuss how to advance peace and security, promote good governance, and spur mutually beneficial trade and investment with the president

During his trip, he is expected also to meet with U.S. Embassy personnel and participate in events related to U.S. government-supported activities.