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.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised Nigeria to increase excise tax and monetary policy rate in a bid to strengthen the economy.
The global lender said Nigeria needed more ambitious tax policy measures, such as reforming the value-added tax, increasing excise, and rationalising tax incentives.
An excise tax is an indirect tax paid on goods; it is paid by the manufacturer who then passes it on to the customer by including it in the price of the item.
Nigeria’s economy, which slipped into its worst recession in 25 years, exited with a 0.83 GDP growth in 2017.
The monetary policy committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has kept MPR, which determines the interest rate, at 14 percent since 2016 to help the economy combat inflation.
The committee has been unable to meet in 2018 because of the senate’s refusal to confirm appointees for the committee, which cannot form a quorum at present.
“Directors commended the central bank’s tightening bias in 2017, which should continue until inflation is within the single digit target range,” IMF said in Article IV, an annual appraisal of a country’s economy, which was released in Washington on Wednesday.
“They recommended continued strengthening of the monetary policy framework and its transparency, with a number of directors urging consideration of a higher monetary policy rate, asymmetric application of reserve requirements, and no direct central bank financing of the economy.
“A few directors urged confirmation of the appointments of the central bank’s board of directors and members of the monetary policy committee.
“Directors commended the recent foreign exchange measures and recent efforts to strengthen external buffers to mitigate risks from capital flow reversals. They welcomed the authorities’ commitment to unify the exchange rate and urged additional actions to remove remaining restrictions and multiple exchange rate practices.”
The Bretton Wood institution advised the CBN to carry out an asset quality review of the banking sector to determine if banks have made adequate provisions for non-performing loans (NPLs).
The level of NPLs in the banking sector is currently at 14 percent, higher than the five percent recommended by the CBN.
IMF commended the progress in implementing the economic recovery and growth plan, including the start of a convergence in foreign exchange windows, tight monetary policy, improvements in tax administration, and significant strides in improving the business environment.
The U.S. has expressed worry about the heavy indebtedness by African countries a few years after they were relieved of their debts by international financial institutions.
The U.S. Department of State, during a background briefing on the first trip of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa, said such loans were unhelpful to the continent.
Mr. Tillerson would meet with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and also leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya during his travels from Tuesday, March 6 to 13.
To date, debt reduction packages under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative have been approved for 36 countries, 30 of them in Africa, providing 76 billion dollars in debt-service relief over time.
In 2005, to help accelerate progress toward the UN Millennium Development Goals, the HIPC Initiative was supplemented by the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).
Nigeria was one of the countries that benefitted from the debt relief under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. About 12 billion dollars debt was cancelled for Nigeria in a deal that saw the country repay about 18 billion dollars.
The burgeoning debt by the Nigerian government since then especially during the Muhammadu Buhari administration has been of concern to observers. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, however, allayed the fears in an interview on Friday where he said the borrowed sums were judiciously being utilised for massive infrastructural projects across the country.
MDRI allowed for 100 per cent relief on eligible debts by three multilateral institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Fund – for countries completing the HIPC Initiative process.
The department said: “in the Africa region, we are going to have a heart-to-heart discussion with the Chinese. We’ve invited the Chinese to come to Washington to talk about their programmes in Africa.
“And so on the one hand, the unhelpful role is the providing low-interest but really concessionary loans which really indebts the country.
“So for all of us who worked on HIPC – in other words, getting African countries post-colonial period off of debt – to see these countries re-indebted again is not only outrageous but terrible.
“I mean, we spent so much time getting them off of debt, and to see them to go back on debt is just terrible.
“And it goes back to not only corruption in some of these states, but also the ease in which not only China – and you’re talking Russia, Iran, and other countries providing low-interest loans.
“And this is really kind of another forum of impoverishment and poverty, because unlike HIPC, we can’t really kind of repay loans back to banks.
“And so this is going to be a very tough issue to address”.
The U.S. said its relationship with China over Africa was “a very complex one.”
“We have a lot of areas and issues that we’re in conflict, but the issue comes in is that we’re trying to find the areas where we can build some type of support and cooperation that will be to the betterment of Africa.
“But one area that’s not to the betterment is these loan rates, which is terrible. So we’ve looked at countries, and we’re doing data dumping.
“Some – a lot of countries in Southern Africa and parts of the east and west-!are having anywhere from 50 per cent to in one case 200 per cent of GDP debt.
“And 80 per cent and 50 per cent are probably Chinese loans, and that’s really not acceptable, and that’s an area that we really need to address and focus on,” the U.S. stressed.
It, however, said it was not in any way “countering China” as far as Africa was concerned but was more concerned about resolving tensions and problems in Africa.
“How can we make China much more supportive of the overall development of Africa?
“Because what we don’t want to see is – let’s say, for instance, Congo, which is very rich in resources – where you see Russia, China, North Korea, Iran taking out resources, yet the Congolese don’t receive very much in benefits.”
CNN has published a report of how Nima Elbagir, one of its correspondents, went undercover in order to have a first-hand experience of migrants who risk their lives to Europe through the desert.
The report titled, ‘Don’t struggle if you’re raped’, gives a chilling account of the activities of human traffickers in Edo state.
The reporter started the journey from Edo to Kano but pulled out before getting to the destination. The report showed that the plight of over 5,000 Nigerians repatriated from Libya after being sold into slavery, has not discouraged those interested in embarking on the risky journey.
Below is the report:
In a lurid pink hotel room in Edo State, southern Nigeria, a trafficker is arranging to smuggle us across the continent to Libya — and ultimately Europe.
Fluorescent lights flicker intermittently inside the hotel, which doubles as a brothel and serves as the headquarters of tonight’s operation.
We are posing as would-be migrants attempting to reach Italy with the help of our “pusherman” — one of an army of brokers who work alongside smugglers on the Nigerian end of the migrant route from Africa to Europe.
Edo State is Nigeria’s trafficking hub and one of Africa’s largest departure points. Each year, tens of thousands of migrants are illegally smuggled from here. They’re refugees fleeing conflict or economic migrants in search of better opportunities in Europe, most having sold everything they own to finance the journey.
But as CNN revealed in an exclusive report last year, they often never get beyond Libya.
When they arrive, they’re told by smugglers they will need to pay thousands of dollars more to continue their journey across the Mediterranean.
When the migrants fail to pay, they are held in grim living conditions, deprived of food, abused by their captors, and sold aslaborers in slave auctions.
The ‘VIP’ package Three months later we wanted to see whether that outrage had translated into action. CNN producer Leposo and I went undercover as two wealthy women paying for the “VIP” travel package from Nigeria to Europe, which includes a smuggler who will meet us in the northern city of Kano and escort us across the border into Libya.
We gave scant detail about our situation, saying only that we hoped to reach Italy and then travel from there to London. The smugglers were mostly interested in ourmoney, and asked few questions.
In reality, our plan was to secure a deal, set off from Auchi in the north of Edo State, and then quit the journey as soon as we were safely out of the sight of smugglers.
Setting up the deal was incredibly easy. Hassan, another CNN producer, worked undercover to negotiate a deal with the pusherman in Ekpoma, also in Edo State.
Hassan negotiated 500,000 Nigerian nairafor each of us, roughly $1,400.
The money was due on our arrival in Libya. Hassan was the guarantor of our journey and would be held accountable if we became frightened and backed out of the deal.
He was told by the pusherman that the price to smuggle women is higher than for, say, small boys, because women’s journeys are “even more difficult — they are molested there (in Libya).”
As part of our “VIP” travel package, we were offered condoms for the journey. The pusherman later expressed dismay that I hadn’t packed any myself.
Elbagir, CNN correspondent and ‘Pusherman’
“We give you contraception,” he told me. “You need men in Libya to be kind to you. They will have things you want. Do you understand?”
When I said “yes,” he laughed.
“Of course, you understand,” he continued. “You don’t get something for nothing in this life. You’re lucky, the men sometimes wait six months before they’re put on the boat to Europe.”
“Women though — if they’re like you — sometimes you can be put on a boat the very next day.”
He has a warning for me: “Listen, don’t struggle if you’re raped.”
Sexual abuse on the migrant route
Migrants rescued from the Mediterranean
Women and children routinely face sexual violence, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy, according to a 2017 UNICEF report.
“Nearly half the women and children interviewed had experienced sexual abuse during migration — often multiple times and in multiple locations,” said the report, which compiled testimony from 122 migrants. The attorney general of Edo State, Yinka Omorogbe, is leading a taskforce that was set up last August to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.
“We are actively involved in investigationand have commenced several prosecutions,” she told CNN in a written statement. “Like I have said, we have just started. We are awaiting a state anti-trafficking law which will further strengthen us. We have a destination and we’ll get there.”
“Trafficking in Edo is neither solely about economic issues nor underdevelopment, but has deep cultural roots that must be exposed, examined and pulled out.” Meeting the pusherman
Within one day of Hassan securing a deal, we met the pusherman at the hotel to embark on the first stage of the journey.
Floral curtains adorned the room’s barred windows, and not much was explained to us by the traffickers. Very quickly we were taken to the local bus depot in Auchi, where the pusherman flagged down a bustraveling north to Kano.
Public transport offers good cover for smugglers in Nigeria. It’s far more difficult for authorities to keep tabs on buses running through their usual routes, laden with people and legitimate goods, then it is to chase down vehicles specially used by the traffickers.
We squeezed down the aisles of the busy overnight bus before the doors were locked shut from the outside as a safety precaution against potential hijackers.
Once out of sight of the smugglers, we disembarked on the outskirts of the city, where Hassan was waiting for us. We were relieved to see him.
Had we kept going — as our traffickers intended — we would have arrived in Kano 14 hours later. From there, the plan was that a member of the smuggling network would have put us on a second bus destined for Agadez in Niger.
From Agadez we would have traveled to Sabha in southern Libya — a place where survivors of the slave trade have previously told CNN they were marched off the bus at gunpoint, later to be sold at auction.
Luckily for us, none of that is our future. For others, it is a horror they cannot escape. And as our rapid quest from contacting a pusherman, to negotiating a deal, and setting off on a bus towards Libya showed, it is a still a journey all too easy to make.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, says Thailand has accused Nigeria of being responsible for the collapse of its seven rice mills following the drastic fall in rice importation from the country.
The minister made this known at a meeting of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and leadership of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ogbeh said Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria made the “accusation’’ when he visited him in February.
According to the minister, the ambassador lamented that the collapse of the rice mills has increased the unemployment rate in his country from 1.2 per cent to four per cent.
“Just like two weeks ago, the Ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really dealt with them.
“But I asked what did we do wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 per cent, it has gone up to four per cent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 per cent on rice alone.
“So, Mr President we thank you for the support and we thank all the agencies and those of you in the private sector for your resilience,’’ he said.
The minister, however, alerted the nation on what he described as alarming smuggling of fake fertilizer and rice along the western borders of the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to take drastic measures to check the trend as all previous diplomatic measures had failed to address the menace.
“But one last request Mr President, we have to take one strong measure against our neighbour to the West. The smuggling is really compromising our capacity on our result.
“Too much rice, too much fake fertilizer is still coming across the borders into this country in spite of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we have with them they are not listening.
“Maybe if the Federal Government take one tough action, they will come and renegotiate the terms because good neighbourliness means reciprocity.
“We can’t be allowing them to survive at our own expense and I believe that we will do something about it,’’ he said.
Ogbeh appealed to FEPSAN to adjust their blending formula using little more micro nutrients for some crops like cocoa, cashew, plantain, banana and others that would soon be revived by his ministry.
The minister noted that the agricultural sector had created millions of jobs for Nigerians in the last two years.
He said: “People may say what they like about jobs. Recently I heard that we lost four million jobs. Nobody has calculated the millions and millions of jobs created on the farms.
“So, this programme as it grows can only make us stronger.
“As soon as more dams and lakes are put in place, you begin to sell fertilizer all year round and not wait for the rainy season alone.’’
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Nigerians are getting poorer and that “coherent and comprehensive” economic reforms are urgently needed in the country.
The gross domestic product report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Tuesday showed that the economy recorded a growth of 0.83 percent in 2017.
The Bretton Wood institution said it expects the government to “muddle through” in the medium term, and any progress could also be threatened if elections next year consume political energy and resources.
Reuters reports that the IMF said that although the outlook for growth has improved, the climate still remained challenging.
“Comprehensive and coherent economic policies remain urgent and must not be delayed by approaching elections and recovering oil prices,” IMF said in its annual Article IV review of Nigeria’s economy.
“Higher oil prices would support a recovery in 2018 but a ‘muddle-through’ outlook is projected for the medium term under current policies, with fiscal dominance and structural constraints leading to continuing falls in real GDP per capita.
“Further delays in policy action — including because of pre-election pressures — can only make the inevitable adjustment more difficult and costlier.”
The lender reteirated that Nigeria needs to simplify its complex foreign exchange system.
“Moving towards a unified exchange rate should be pursued as soon as possible. (IMF) staff does not support the exchange measures that have given rise to the exchange restrictions and multiple currency practices.”
It also said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should stop its intervention activities in the foreign exchange market.
The CBN has been injecting money into the forex market to ease the pressure on the naira.
The United States Treasury Department has added one organisation in Nigeria and other six organisations in Africa and Asia to its sanctions list for global terrorism.
Two individuals — including Abu Musab Al-Barnawi of Nigeria and Mahad Moalim of Somalia — were also added to the list for their connection to the Islamic States, the US Treasury said on Tuesday.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said on its website that at the group level, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Somalia, Nigeria and Tunisia were on the list.
“The additions include ISIS-Bangladesh, ISIS-Egypt, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Somalia, ISIS-West Africa, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, also known as ISIS-Tunisia, and the Philippines-based Maute Group, also known as Islamic State of Lanao,” Reuters quoted the OFAC to have said.
The US State Department said in a separate statement that, including the latest additions, it had designated 40 Islamic State leaders and operatives dating back to 2011 under an order aimed at denying them access to the US financial system.
“These designations are part of a larger comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS that, in coordination with the 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has made significant progress toward that goal,” the statement said, using a common abbreviation for Islamic State.
This effort “is destroying ISIS in its safe havens, denying its ability to recruit foreign terrorist fighters, stifling its financial resources, negating the false propaganda it disseminates over the internet and social media, and helping to stabilize liberated areas in Iraq and Syria so the displaced can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives,” the statement added.
Islamic State fighters were driven last year from all the population centers they occupied in both Syria and Iraq, but Washington still considers them a threat, capable of carrying out an insurgency and plotting attacks elsewhere.
On February 9 this year, the OFAC took action targeting ISIS’s global facilitation network by designating three individuals and three entities as Specially Designated Global Terrorists pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
These actions are part of a continued whole-of-government effort to identify and expose individuals and entities that provide support to ISIS and advance the violent terrorist group’s operational activity. As a result of today’s designations, all property and interests in property of these persons subject to the US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
“The Administration is committed to defeating ISIS wherever it operates, denigrating its illicit revenue streams, and pursuing all financial conduits,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker .
The Irish ambassador to Nigeria, Sean Hoy, has said Europe used laws limiting open grazing in addressing farmers and migratory herders conflict.
The ambassador was speaking at a panel discussion titled “sharing lessons from Northern Ireland peace process” organised by Embassy of Ireland, Abuja and Mambayya House, Bayero University, Kano, on Friday.
He said although the conflict is not new, it is now taking a new face.
“In Nigeria it is a history old conflict between pastoralists and certain people. While this is not a new story it is one that becomes more important in a country like Nigeria faced with a combination of mass population growth and the impact of climate change and possibly over grazing which makes the historical land use balance that suited both sides less feasible.
“We have dealt with this problem all over the world. In Europe, we have brought in laws to limit free grazing as it was essential to secure peace,” he said.
Mr. Hoy advocated for “access to education, listening to youth, provision of decent jobs, equal distribution of wealth and tolerance” as a key to sustainable peace.
“The objective was to share our experience not to tell Nigerians what to do. From discussion I believe many ideas are coming out. The importance of education, the importance of listening to young people, because young people can be radicalised if they were not educated. And this is a real risk to the stability as it was in Northern Ireland 20 years ago.
“We have to give people dignity of decent job, the chance for economy to grow. If you have more redistribution of wealth, more equality and respect for everybody’s view, then you will find much more stable environment. And in that environment peace will hold it together,” he added.
Mr. Hoy noted that, one advantage in Nigeria is that everyone identifies himself as Nigerian, as there is nobody here who does not share national identity.
“I believe Nigerians are peaceful and majority of people live in peace, very tolerant of the views of each other. You have many positive things, and in many ways you are starting in much better place than we were in Northern Ireland. We were much more divided.
“The main success story is what you see in your children. I have three children that are all adults now, they have much better life and much more peaceful life than I had. And I have much more peaceful life than the time of my father,” he said.
In his address, representative of Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Sagiru Abbas, said the meeting was to see how other societies have tackled problems similar to that of Nigeria.
He said the university decided to invite the irish Ambassador to share some of their experience as they have encountered challenges similar to that of Nigeria.
“Their own experiences regarding peaceful coexistence as a nation. Nigeria is experiencing a lot of crisis all over the country such as farmers-herdsmen crisis, Boko Haram, Niger Delta crisis, issues of kidnapping and so many other things,” he said.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has described Nigeria as a country with unquantifiable passion and love for football, and where football is more than a religion.
“I was told that in Nigeria football is passion, but it is a lie because it is more than that. In Nigeria I was told that football is love, but it is a lie it is more than that.
“In Nigeria, I was told that football is a religion, but it is a lie. It is more than that. In Nigeria, football is life,” he said in Lagos on Monday.
Infantino spoke at the maiden edition of the AITEO-NFF Awards, which was organised by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and bankrolled by oil giants AITEO Group.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the event held at the Eko Hotels and Suites saw Chelsea FC winger Victor Moses winning the “Player of the Year” award.
Speaking also at the event, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, pledged his administration’s continued support to football and sports in general.
“We will continue to give our unrelenting support to football and sports in general, I want to assure the President of FIFA that whenever he is coming back, Lagos will be considered to host a FIFA tournament,’’ he said.
In his address, the Deputy Managing Director of AITEO Group, Francis Peters, said the oil conglomerate was happy to be part of football history in Nigeria in good times.
NFF president Amaju Pinnick, on his part, said the awards night was to celebrate Nigerian legends for their contributions to the development of football in the country.
He also said football administration was a journey and not a destination, adding “therefore, there must be a conscious effort to minimise errors for fear of losing the opportunity.
“In Nigeria, football is a way of life and everybody is a coach. So, we need to be very careful. Football teaches us ethics and how to live a normal life,” Pinnick said.
NAN reports that Moses got the award and recognition for his stellar performances for the national team, the Super Eagles, en route their qualification for Russia 2018.
He was an integral part of the side during the historic qualification matches where he played in four of the six matches scoring three goals in the process.
Moses also helped his Chelsea side reclaim the English Premier League title in the 2016/2017 season where he featured in 40 games.
The 27-year old also got CAF’s recognition by being among the nominees for CAF’s Player of the Year award eventually won by Egypt’s Mohamed Salah.
To win the AITEO-NFF award, he beat competition from Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi and Lobi Stars’ Anthony Okpotu.
NAN reports that other winners at the awards include Rasheedat Ajibade who claimed the “Player of the Year (Women)’’ award and Ikouwon Udoh who emerged “Young Player of the Year (Women)’’.
Ann Chiejine won the “Coach of the Year (Women)’’ award, while MFM FC’s midfielder Sikiru Olatunbosun took the “Goal of the Year’’ award.
Remo Stars FC won the Fair Play award, while the “Coach of the Year (Men)’’ award went to Kennedy Boboye, coach of 2017/2018 NPFL champions Plateau United FC of Jos.
Channels Television won the “Developmental Award”.
The “All-Time Legendary Awards” went to Chiejine, Christian Chukwu, Uche Okechukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Felix Owolabi, Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Segun Odegbami, Adokie Amaesimaka, Mercy Udoh and Thompson Usiyen.
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed an executive order prohibiting issuance of visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria.
The executive order, signed on Monday in Abuja, is “to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components”.
“The executive order is expected to promote the application of science, technology and innovation towards achieving the nation’s development goals across all sectors of the economy,” Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, announced in a statement.
The executive order is the fifth signed by this administration.