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March 25, 2021

Ebonyi Commissioner warns Gov’s aides against penalising teachers outside civil service rules


BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI                    

THE Ebonyi State Commissioner for Education, Onyebuchi Chima, has called for the implementation of civil service rules in handling the affairs of teachers in the state.

The commissioner, who condemned incessant penalties to teachers in the state, insisted that if a teacher must be punished, the action must be in accordance with civil service rules.

He frowned at the situation where he said Special Assistants of the Governor on Schools Monitoring went about embarrassing and sacking teachers in the schools.

The Commissioner made his position known during a meeting of Education stakeholders on the issue of 

Social Media Publications, at his office, in Abakaliki.

Chima said the social media was awash with stories that a particular state official had sacked five teachers, adding that the affected teachers were responding on social media platforms, causing embarrassment to the state and its education sector.

He maintained that teachers were professionals like their counterparts in the medical sector, among other professions, noting that their negative actions should be referred to their supervising ministry for sactions, if found wanting.

The Commissioner emphasised that due process ought to be followed in the treatment of teachers according to Civil Service rules.

Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Private Schools, Mrs. Chinyelu Udoku and Princess Francisca Okeke, supported Chima’s decision to stop any form of ill treatment of teachers in their places of duty.

Special Assistant to the Governor on Primary Schools, Uche Achi-Okpaga, also advised those monitoring Education workers to always approach the Ministry of Education when anomalies were discovered, noting that the incident of sacking teachers happened in error.

Recall that two principals were recently demoted and one sacked for alleged negligence and extortion by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Okechukwu Nwapku.


Forex: Nigeria still using managed-float regime, says CBN


BY AGENCY REPORTER                    

NIGERIA has not changed its foreign exchange policies from a managed float to a flexible regime, Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said Tuesday.

A report concluding that the country has adopted a flexible foreign-exchange rate based on comments by Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed is wrong, according to the Governor.

Africa’s largest crude producer now uses the more flexible Nafex rate for all official transactions, abandoning the 379 naira to the dollar fixed rate the central bank still has on its website, Ahmed said Tuesday.

Nigeria’s 2021 budget was prepared based on the central bank’s fixed rate.

“The country is deemed not to be practising a multiple currency regime as long as rates varies or ranges around a band that is not more than 2% below the nominal market rate,” Emefiele said.

“In our case, the nominal market rate is Nafex. If the minister says that the rate for monetization is anchored or benchmarked on Nafex, the minister has not talked about a flexible exchange rate,” he added.

The apex bank said it ceased interventions in the investors and exporters window since January, though it continues to monitor the market to determine whether or not to intervene.

It is also working with the government and the finance ministry to achieve a stable foreign-exchange regime, Emefiele said.

Payments to states in the country will be based on the Nafex rate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said at a Chatham House forum in London on Tuesday.

“We have been at a managed exchange rate regime. We are moving closer and closer to unifying the exchange rate,” Osinbajo said.




Virginia becomes first state in US south to abolish death penalty


BY AGENCY REPORTER                    

VIRGINIA has become the first state in the United States South to stop executions after the state’s Governor, Ralph Northam, signed a piece of legislation to abolish the death penalty.

The Democratic governor signed the death penalty repeal into law during a ceremony outside the Greensville Correctional Centre in Jarratt, Virginia, after touring the prison’s execution chamber, where 102 people have been executed since its opening in 1991.

In February, both chambers of Congress voted in favour of scrapping capital punishment.

Virginia joins 22 of the country’s other 50 states that have abolished the death penalty.

“Over our 400-year history, Virginia has executed more people than any other state.

“The death penalty system is fundamentally flawed it is inequitable, ineffective, and it has no place in this Commonwealth or this country.

“Virginia has come within days of executing innocent people, and Black defendants have been disproportionately sentenced to death.

“Abolishing this inhumane practice is the moral thing to do,’’ the governor said.

Virginia has executed over 1,300 people in its history, with the most recent execution carried out in 2017.

The death penalty is on the decline in the U.S., in part due to changing public opinion, as well as the increasing difficulties in obtaining the necessary substances for lethal injections.

The imposition of the death penalty also usually leads to protracted and costly litigation.

In 2020, a total of 17 people were executed in the U.S. by five states and the Federal Government, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.

– dpa/NAN


My Vaccination Story



IT wasn’t planned. I was seeing off my neighbour and friend on Thursday evening when one of the officers of our estate residents’ association called out to me.

He was in knickers and shirtsleeves, with his right hand clutching his left shoulder. “I’ve just been vaccinated,” he said. “Would you like me to put your name forward for it tomorrow?”

After what I have seen in the last one year – COVID-19 related deaths first becoming statistics, and then statistics becoming people, and people having faces, and faces becoming friends and relatives – news of the discovery of vaccines was a huge relief.

But vaccines, like many good things, are made abroad, while rumours and myths about them are manufactured locally.

Nigeria was expecting a consignment of about five million doses – one for every 40 citizens. With one of Africa’s highest infection and death rates at the height of the pandemic, no one was exactly sure how five million doses could work.

One evening when I brought up the subject at home, with the enthusiasm of someone who had just discovered a magic formula, I noticed a pregnant look on my wife’s face. She suggested I asked the children what they think about vaccines before I decide on whether or not to take the shot when they became available.

That made sense. Since the youngest of them is 21, I fully expected a robust conversation. But what I got on that conference call with two of them, obviously speaking for other family members, was more than robust: it was premeditated, full-blown vaccine rebellion.

The chemical engineer, often the spokesperson, asked me what I knew about the vaccines already in circulation. This was in January. While a privileged few had either gone to Dubai to have it or, like the Governor’s wife, Ebele Obiano, chased it all the way down to Houston, Texas, for designer sessions, the bulk of us were just following the news.

What do I know about the vaccines? I know they don’t offer 100 percent protection from Coronavirus infection and that they have been developed and are being deployed at a historically record speed. Initial data also suggested that with good hygiene and social protocols, vaccination could reduce the spread of the virus.

My interlocutor laughed. Though conceding that science had done a great job of getting the vaccine out in record time, she said safety and efficacy may have been compromised on the altar of expediency and desperation.

She said she was not sure that enough samples had been taken or time given to analyse the outcomes from the different population demographics before the vaccine rollout. She dived into the global vaccine politics between US and European pharma giants, and that between the west and China. Caution, Dad.

And then she asked the mother of all questions: is there any evidence so far that a single particular vaccination could prevent the different strains popping up at the time or even if it does, where is the data that vaccination could prevent the risk of re-infection? Was I following what was happening in South Africa, for example?

She summed it up by saying that for her, the risk of younger-not-obviously-at-risk persons taking the vaccination and being exposed to the potential negative side effects outweighed any benefits from taking any vaccination whose full after-effects were only just emerging.

I disagreed. Of course, while I conceded that there was still more to learn about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, my point was that on balance, it was better to risk staying alive by getting vaccinated than to risk infection, long-term impairment and possibly death, by abstaining based on groundless fears. And I don’t believe herd immunity is superior to personal responsibility.

After 56 years, health vulnerabilities and underlying conditions tend to increase. But confronting your mortality after that age also brings with it liberation from the fear of death. So, what’s all the fuss about the jab, anyway?

Strangely, throughout the conversation, my wife, otherwise an engaging, strongly-opinionated woman, was silent. We’re both above 50. After months of swallowing more than enough vitamins to float a chemist, immersing ourselves in steaming hot local herbs, and consuming all conceivable spices, I thought that this vaccination was our best chance to put the damn thing behind us once and for all; that we would be champions of vaccination.

What’s more, in the midst of the second wave, my son had an infection scare that put him out of circulation for days and got me ringing up everyone I knew for advice! So, why won’t the family seize the opportunity for vaccination with both hands?

The vaccine finally arrived in Nigeria in March, but the news didn’t lessen my isolation. A friend had shared with me a WhatsApp message about a tabular comparison of the safety, efficacy and unit prices of the four vaccines currently available – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Of the four, Pfizer was rated the most effective with 95 percent trial effectiveness and least side effects. At $20 per vial, it’s also the second most expensive. Moderna was 94 percent, pricier and with virtually the same side effects as Pfizer; while Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, came in at 66.9 percent and 62 percent effectiveness respectively with longer lists of side effects.

Others may think of AstraZeneca as the redeeming vial of the world’s majority, and Nigeria may be congratulating itself that it’s not too far behind in importing a limited quantity but the fact that AstraZeneca is in the bottom of the pile – the cheapest of the lot and the worst for side effects – seemed to highlight, if not confirm, my daughter’s worst suspicions.

My family already rebelling against vaccination, was hardly in the mood for AstraZeneca. Their suspicions were compounded by anxiety about all that could go wrong in the supply chain from shipment abroad, through many potentially crooked paths, to the point where the jab is taken. How do you even know what you’re getting and if – or when – the next dose will come?

These images flooded my mind on Thursday when my neighbour offered to enroll me for AstraZeneca in the estate. If I had been offered a chance at self-assisted suicide, I would not have felt more conflicted.

“Why are you looking at me like that”, my neighbour asked. “Are you not interested? The medical team will be in the estate again by 8am on Friday. Let me have your name and your wife’s name, too.”

I snapped out of my confusion. “Leave my wife out,” I said. “Put my name down. I will be there at eight in the morning to take the shot.”

That night, my wife convened another family conference. She called the children, one by one, to inform them that I had decided to take the vaccine. The chemical engineer was at her hilarious, even mischievous, best. She asked if I had written my Will and who was my next of kin. She also asked if I had left my bank details and details of any other valuables within reach.

As for herself, she said, even though there was a little more data about the vaccines today than was available in January, the risk of the unknown was still troubling.

We laughed and talked through it again and I went to bed asking myself, what if she’s right? Too bad, too late. My mind was made up. I’ll take the vaccine.

I turned up at the initial vaccination venue in the estate as Number 200 on the list. I learnt that over 80 persons had been vaccinated the previous day and there were no adverse reports. Today, persons of various ages – a good number of them 60 and above – were on the queue. With 199 persons ahead of me, whatever happened, I was in good company.

The venue was later changed but I stuck with the train and after re-numbering came up at 37. After three hours’ wait, I took my jab and went home.

From the moment I walked in, my wife’s eyes were on me. She asked if I felt anything, I said I didn’t, which was true. She fussed that I should immediately use analgesics, but I brushed her suggestion aside. My children called and took turns to pepper and tease me with questions about how I was feeling. I told them I felt nothing, which again, was true.

I have heard of stories of nausea, of dizziness, pains or aches after vaccination, but experienced nothing of the sorts.

I went to bed and slept like a log. I woke up hale and hearty. It’s been one week since, and I’m not growing horns. Three days after I took my shot, when my wife was sure I was alive, she lined up for her shot, too!

Then after she took it, I reminded her that the book says the second shot should come 15 to 22 days after the first shot, but our next appointment is in June, nearly three months after our first shot! I’m not living worried, especially since I’m now even in better company than when I lined up for my dose.

The family’s guinea pig is in excellent company, at last. And yet, it was not planned.




Multi-million naira Juju scam: Fraudster sent to prison in Benin


BY AYO ESAN                    

JUSTICE A .A. Demi-Ajayi of the Federal High Court, sitting in Benin City, Edo State, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, sentenced a man, Ogungbemi Taiwo, to eight months imprisonment for fraud.

Taiwo, who was prosecuted by the Benin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, had in August 2020, defrauded one Alkairu Sani of the sum of N9,225,000, by representing himself as possessing the power of increasing and doubling the said sum through sacrifices and invocation.

The charge reads, “That you Ogungbemi Taiwo on or about the month of August 2018 in Benin, Edo State, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court of Nigeria did with intent to defraud induced one Alkairu Sani to pay the aggregate sum of Nine Million, Two Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand Naira ( N9,225,000) only into Account Number 0041475970 domiciled in United Bank for Africa, belonging to Moradeke Elizabeth Farotimi, by representing yourself as possessing the power of increasing and doubling the said sum through sacrifices and invocation of juju, a pretence you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 2(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006 and punishable under Section 2(C) of the same Act.”

Taiwo pleaded guilty when the charge was read to him.

In view of the plea of the defendant, the prosecution counsel, I.M.Elody, asked the court to convict and sentence him accordingly. However, counsel to the defendant, O.J.Akhere, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy as his client had become remorseful for his actions.

Justice Demi-Ajayi convicted and sentenced Taiwo to Eight months imprisonment commencing from the date of his arrest.


INEC to hold Aba North/South Federal Constituency by-election Saturday


BY AYO ESAN                    

THE Independent National Electoral Commission will conduct the Aba North/South Federal Constituency by-election on March 27.

According to INEC, 498,390 voters are expected to participate in the exercise that is holding a few days after violence marred a House of Assembly by-election in Ekiti State, leading to the suspension of the exercise.

Declaring its readiness for the Aba election, the Commission said it had firmed up its preparations for the election.

INEC said a total of 498,390 registered voters were expected to cast their ballots at 609 polling units, spread across 24 Registration Areas in the two Local Government Areas of the constituency.

The Commission will deploy over 2,970 officials for the election, according to a statement by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.

INEC said, “All the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the election at the two Local Government Areas of the Constituency have been delivered and batched according to the Registration Areas.

“All the ad-hoc staff required for the conduct of the election have been trained awaiting deployment.

“All the sensitive materials have been delivered to the Central Bank in Umuahia, Abia State and will be inspected on Thursday, March 25, 2021, and dispatched to the two Local Government Area offices of the commission.”

The Commission urged all registered voters in the Constituency to come out en masse to exercise their franchise, saying representation was at the heart of democracy “and huge voter turnout enforces and reinforces the mandate given to elected representatives.”

It enjoined voters and stakeholders to remain calm, shun violence and other acts capable of creating fear, anxiety and apprehension in the electoral environment.

INEC reminded the electorate that violent and unwholesome acts undermined the sovereign rights of the people to clean elections and could deprive the constituency of quality representation.

“The Commission is committed to the safety and welfare of its election duty staff and the voters and will strengthen its collaboration with the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in this regard,” it added.


Plan to turn Ibadan Airport to regional transportation hub intact – Makinde


BY AYO ESAN                    

GOVERNOR Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, on Thursday, said plans by his administration to make Ibadan Airport a regional transportation hub were on course.

The governor added that his administration would improve social services and expand infrastructure at the airport to enhance the economic growth of the state.

The governor made this known while receiving the Air Officer Commanding, AOC, Logistics Command, Ikeja, Air Vice Marshal Olaonipekun Makinde, at the Courtesy Room of the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Ibadan.

The governor congratulated Air Vice Marshal Makinde on his appointment as the AOC, Logistics Command, Lagos.

He said, “We want to use this opportunity to send our greetings to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Dayo Amao. We congratulate him on his elevation and wish him well.

“Let me also commiserate with the entire Air Force on the loss of your officers and men in the air accident in Abuja. One of them actually happened to be from Oyo State and we are trying to reach out to the family to give the support required.”

Governor Makinde, who appreciated the Nigerian Air Force, especially the NAF Detachment, Ibadan, for its contribution to the security architecture in the state, said, “They have been very active, even in this trying time of security challenges. They have always been there not only in Oyo State but for the entire country. So, we are grateful for that support.”

Speaking further on the plan of the Oyo State Government for the Ibadan Airport, Makinde said his administration was trying to expand the runway so that bigger aircraft could land at the airport, which, according to him, should be a true alternative to Lagos.

He stated, “We believe that the Airport in Ibadan should serve as a true alternative airport to Lagos if it has the capacity to take the 747 aircraft. So, we have a project that we are incubating right now. We are trying to expand the runway so that bigger aircraft can land in Ibadan.

“We are also looking at Ibadan as actually becoming the hub for regional air transportation. We are trying, even within the shortest possible time, to see if we can have a connection between Ibadan and Port Harcourt.

“We are talking to Air Peace and they should be starting an operational flight from Ibadan to Abuja in the next two weeks. And Ibadan to Port Harcourt should commence once we have finalised the discussion that we are having with them.”

He added, “It means that with all these activities, we are bringing to the state and the Ibadan Airport, we will need more cooperation and collaboration with the Nigerian Air Force.

“I discussed with the Chief of Air Staff when he visited me here. We talked about the Air Force Base here in Ibadan and our House of Representatives member, Hon. Abass Agboworin, who is the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, is making efforts to bring some of these projects into fruition.

“One thing that we will surely want to have is more presence of the Nigerian Air Force here in Ibadan. And as a government, we are ready and willing to make that happen.”



Despite rejection by council chairmen, NUJ insists Aregbesola merits award


BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO                    

NOTWITHSTANDING the reservations by some critical stakeholders in the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the South-West over the proposed investiture of the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, as the Grand Patron of the union in the zone, the union has said the award will hold as planned.

The Zonal Secretary of NUJ, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, said in Ilesa on Thursday that the National Secretariat and President of the union, Chris Isiguozo, were in support of the programme, because Aregbesola merits it.

But the six chairmen of the Union in the zone had reportedly rejected the decision to make Aregbesola the Grand Patron. Also, some civil society organisations had expressed reservations over the proposed investiture, calling on the leadership of NUJ in the zone to tread with caution.

An NGO, Advocacy for Media Rights, had described the proposed investiture as perceptional error on the part of the union, insisting that the personality of Aregbesola in the public gauge deserves nothing of such recognition.

This was contained in a press statement signed by the National Coordinator of the organization, Tolu Fatukasi.

Meanwhile, Gbolagunte argued that none of the six-state NUJ councils in the South-West had withdrawn from the programme as reported.

He said, I will like to state that the programme has not been put on hold as being rumoured. None of the six councils, that is, Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun, which make up the South-West zone, has written to my office to officially inform the zone of their withdrawal from the event.

“The zone chose Aregbesola for the investiture and award. Before he was chosen; his name was presented to the Chairmen and Secretaries of the councils that make up the South-West zone. They all approved that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola be made the Grand Patron of the zone and also receive an Award of Excellence.

“The National Secretariat and President are aware of the programme and they have not given us the order to stop the programme.”

Explaining why the former governor of the State of Osun was chosen, Gbolagunte said his accessibility to journalists; establishment of three media houses, among others, were reasons the councils in the zone unanimously agreed to bestow him with the honours.

He added, “The criteria used in choosing Aregbesola then was his performance in office and secondly, he owns three media organisations. Two of them were established long before he became a governor. Journalists are working in all of these places and are being paid by him.

“When he was the governor in Osun, Aregbesola set up the Bureau of Communication and Strategy where he also employed journalists to work there. He also gave one bus to the Osun State Council of NUJ and another bus to the NUJ Correspondent Chapel.

“In addition to that, he was accessible to journalists; he held an interactive programme where journalists and other members of the public asked questions uncensored regularly. Even right now as the minister, he is accessible to journalists.”

Recall that the union at its zonal meeting of 12th March 2021, had agreed to put the proposed Investiture on hold following the leadership crisis in the zone which had been referred to the National Executive Council of the Union.

According to the information, those who were to be honoured alongside Aregbesola included Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Makama, among others. But the union agreed to postpone the award ceremony pending the resolution of NEC on the issue and other sundry issues within the zone.

But against this decision, a flier suddenly surfaced on social media, purportedly endorsed by Bamigbola Gbolagunte, the Zonal Secretary of the zone, saying the event had been slated for tomorrow, 26th March 2021, at the NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, the capital of Oyo State.

While scores of political associates of the former Osun State Governor have been celebrating the proposed investiture on different social media platforms, the six states that constitute the zonal wing of the union in the South West have unanimously distanced themselves from such event.

It is not clear if the event will still hold with the reported opposition of Oyo State Council to the Investiture. It was learnt that the Iyaganku NUJ Press Centre which was earlier scheduled as the venue was not approved and had equally directed its members not to participate in the event.

It was learnt that the six state chairmen had resolved not to attend the award and recognise the Investiture if the Vice President and the Zonal Secretary insisted to proceed with the award.

An associate of the Interior Minister, however, hinted that the venue of the proposed event had been changed from NUJ Press Centre in Ibadan to Premier Hotel located in the metropolis.



Man suffers memory lapse after Police torture, demands N7m compensation


BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO                    

A petitioner, Elusanmi Kolawole, on Thursday, narrated how he had been suffering memory lapse since he was severely tortured by the Police.

Kolawole said he had been spending N15,000 monthly on medication as prescribed by his doctor to cure the internal injuries he sustained after being brutalised.

Kolawole who claimed to have been defrauded of his car by a police officer, told the Osun Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Human Rights Violations and Related Extra Judicial Killings, that he was beaten to a pulp before his car was taken away to an unknown destination.

The petitioner demanded for a sum of N7million compensation to assuage the adverse effects of the incident.

While being cross-examined by the respondent’s counsel, Kolawole said he had been suffering memory lapse due to the degrees of injury he sustained from the police assaults.

Narrating how he was allegedly duped by the Police, the petitioner recalled that one Superintendent Ayuba, a police officer serving in Ogun State then bundled him out of his house in Osogbo and tortured him from Osogbo to Ilesa.

Kolawole who had approached the panel to seek justice, accused the officer of complicity, fraud and stealing by trick.

According to him, the alleged police officer accused him of buying a stolen vehicle, a claim which he said he refuted when he gave the officers the documents of the car.

He said, “It is unfortunate that I have been turned to what I am today. As you can see, I have been suffering from memory loss due to the incident of police brutality which I was a victim of.

“What actually happened was that I was in my house that fateful day when I saw about five fully-armed police officers who had come to arrest me. I was beaten mercilessly and forced into the vehicle.

“I was hit repeatedly on the head with different harmful weapons they took along and I was taken to Ilesa, the residence of the person that I sold the vehicle to.

“The injuries I sustained particularly on the head have been disturbing me till now to the extent that I hardly remember past occurrences. The ugly incident had caused a lot of damage to the extent that I spent N15,000 every month to buy drugs.”

The chairman of the Panel, Justice Akin Oladimeji (retd) adjourned the case to March 26, 2021, for further hearing.



You are opportunists, liabilities to Osun, Amotekun Commander lambasts Oyetola’s CoS, SA


BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO                    

THE Osun State Commander of Amotekun, Amitolu Shittu, has lambasted the Chief of Staff to Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Charles Akinola, and the Governor’s Special Adviser on Security, Mrs. Abiodun Ige, describing them as opportunists.

While Shittu called Akinola an opportunist and liability, the Amotekun Chief described Ige, a former Police Commissoner in the state, as politically deficit.

Amitolu punched the duo in a lengthy statement posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday.

The Point gathered that Shittu’s outburst might not be unconnected with the forthcoming 2022 Governorship election in the state and the rift between Governor Oyetola and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.

Amitolu specified that Oyetola, while he was the CoS to former governor Rauf Aregbesola, performed well and was never a political liability to Osun.

“However, these cannot be said about some hangers-on and opportunists at the corridors of power, who are reaping where they did not sow,” he said.

He added, “Record cannot lie. Charles Akindiji Akinola has no political relevance in Osun. This is a man who failed when he headed O’REAP as Director-General and has nothing to write home about as his account of stewardship at O’REAP.

“Politics is beyond grammatical expression and America phonetics because politics itself is local and grassrooted.

“If Governor Oyetola, like the hangers on, attaches importance to being self-centred, the government he is leading would have become unpopular, just like the wish of Charles Akinola.”

The Amotekun Commander said, today, as a responsible appointee of the Governor, Akinola should have borrowed a leaf from the present SSG, Wole Oyebamiji, “who, in his wisdom, has popularised the government of Oyetola the more, in his Egbedore Local Government, through various empowerment programmes, including the provision of solar street light for his people.”

He stated, “To say that Charles is a political liability is an understatement. Of a fact, he is a terrible political liability and masteric in the game of busy body and arrogant in character.

“Charles Akinola and Mrs Abiodun Ige, the so-called SA security, are birds of a feather. Abiodun Ige is using the name of Jesus Christ to deceive people and claiming to be holy, knowing full well that deep inside her, she is not fit to be the personality she is portraying.

“Abiodun Ige is a pathological liar, pretender and backbiter. Above all, she is politically deficit. She is another liability to our government and instead of her to face the reality, she is busy looking for Amitolu Shittu’s downfall (which will never come to reality) to cover her inadequacy, deficiency, incompetency and lack of direction. She is self-centred and too greedy.

“Instead of her to concentrate on how our state would be secured, in terms of lives and property of the populace, she is busy fabricating lies and engaging in evil scheming. What a political liability bereft of competency.”

“From West to East and the Central (with the highest electoral figures in our state) Governor Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola will by HIS grace, WIN again and again,” he declared.

Meanwhile, all efforts to get the reaction of Akinola have been abortive, as he refused to pick calls from our correspondent. Ige’s telephone line was not also connecting when our correspondent put calls across to her on Thursday.



Four civil servants arrested for stealing streetlight diesel in Ebonyi


BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI                    

FOUR staff of the Ebonyi State Ministry of Power have been arrested for allegedly stealing diesel meant for powering streetlights across the state.

Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, who disclosed this while briefing journalists on the outcome of the State’s Executive Council meeting held at the EXCO chambers, old Government House, Abakaliki, said a disciplinary committee had been set up to try, dismiss and prosecute the suspects.

Orji added that the owner of the house where the suspects allegedly kept the stolen diesel would pay a compulsory N5million punitive fine or the house would be sealed by government to serve as deterrent to others.

He said, “EXCO received a sad report of the four staff of the Ministry of Power and their cronies that connived to steal several quantities of diesel meant to power the street light. EXCO resolved that a disciplinary committee be set up to try, dismiss and prosecute the persons involved accordingly.

“EXCO also resolved that the owner of the house used in perpetrating this state sabotage shall be made to pay N5m as a punitive measure or the house be sealed. This is intended to serve as a deterrent to others.”

The Information Commissioner added that the State government had banned the collection of revenue by cash, henceforth, in the state, in order to curb revenue leakages, noting that anybody found doing so would be arrested and prosecuted and would be made to pay 200 per cent of the revenue sought to be paid.

He said, “A report of revenue leakages was taken. The EXCO considered a report and resolved that with effect from the 24th day of March 2021, it shall be an offence in Ebonyi State for anybody to make payment in respect of IGR by cash. So, there will be no payment by cash in respect of any form of IGR in Ebonyi State.

“We have a law on this, but by administrative means, we are going to enforce that law. That is intendment of this resolution of EXCO. And anybody who does that henceforth, shall pay 200 per cent of the value of the revenue sought to be paid and shall be prosecuted accordingly.”

Orji said the State Executive Council observed with dismay the rising spate of fake land documents in the state, and other activities of unscrupulous elements and would constitute a committee by April, 2021, to handle the processes of land documents revalidation in the state.

He noted, “The State Executive Council deliberated on the issue of revalidation of Certificate of Occupancy in all lands in Ebonyi State, and a report was received on the rising spate of fake land documents in Ebonyi State, which many a time, they would take it to the banks to receive facility and it would be turned down.

“EXCO also observed with dismay, that some people who served as land officials in the past still sign and backdate land documents for unsuspecting members of the public. EXCO noted that the revalidation of Certificate of Occupancy and land documents in the state would put a permanent stop to this ugly situation, and that this measure will also resolve the issue of two persons laying claim to one land document.

“EXCO therefore, resolved that the state government constitutes a committee in April 2021 to handle the processes of land documents revalidation.”

On the issue of the collapse of the perimeter fence of the new stadium, the Commissioner also disclosed that a committee had been set up to verify the cause of the collapse, to be Chaired by Engr. Mohammed Idris, and was given seven working days to submit their report.

The Committee’s terms of reference, according to Orji, are to verify total work done, total work yet to be done, level and value of the fence that collapsed and the reason for the collapse.

“EXCO also made some financial approvals. One, is for the construction of parking lots at the airport. They are approved in three phases. Phase one is the sum of N949,340,000. The second phase is N950,000000, and third phase which is the procurement of the lifts and the escalators is at the sum of N643,000000,” the Commissioner said.



Inflation: We’ll make life difficult for those hoarding commodities – Emefiele


BY VICTORIA ONU, ABUJA                    

THE Central Bank of Nigeria has said that Nigerians have no reason to panic over rising food prices as there are adequate arrangements to end food scarcity in the country.

The regulator also issued warnings to hoarders and smugglers whose activities are triggering the rising food prices.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said this on Wednesday during the launch of 13 rice pyramids with a cumulative of 200,000 bags of 50kg rice under the Anchor Borrowers Progamme in Gombe State.

He said the apex bank would make life difficult for those hoarding commodities because they want to take advantage of the prevailing scarcity.

The comment comes amid rising inflation in the country which has hit 17.33 per cent in February 2021.

The country’s inflation is primarily driven by the rising food prices currently at 21.79 per cent in February.

But with the bank’s efforts to drive down prices using monetary policy tools and injections in the Agric sector, Emefiele believes that prices of food, especially rice, will crash.

The apex bank boss said, “I therefore say there is no reason for anybody to panic that food prices are high. We know they are already coming down, we will make life difficult for those who feel that they want to hoard commodities because they want to take advantage of scarcities.

“We will be cultivating almost one million hectares during the dry season luckily the dry season has brought up two seasons for rice, so we will not have rice scarcity again.

“For those who think they can continue to smuggle rice into the country, we are sending a warning signal to you that you should desist from smuggling. Smuggling undermines the progress of the economic plan.”

Emefiele said the activities of both hoarders and smugglers were frustrating the Economic Sustainability Plan of the government.

Apart from their activities, Emefiele also decried the challenges faced by farmers who are unable to farm due to insurgency and banditry as another issue with the plan.

He, however, reiterated CBN’s commitment to finance one million hectares of rice farms over the dry season.

According to the governor, the CBN will continue to ensure integration of farmers in the country’s economic plan.

He revealed that the FG had been able to attract huge private sector investments in the areas of rice mills, adding that the total capacity of the Integrated Rice Mill, which had doubled over the last five years.

“That is the reason I said we are now improving in food sufficiency. This symbolic event reinforces the massive potential in Nigeria agriculture and encourages more private sector investment in the agricultural value chain,” he added.

As motivation to farmers, Emefiele said the CBN would provide five million homes with electricity using solar panels.

He said, “Under this programme, any farmer under our Anchor Borrowers Programme is eligible to get a solar home system that will provide electricity to power their essential home appliances.

“Repayment of the electricity consumed under this solar home system being provided to our farmers under our Anchor Borrowers Programme can be repaid using the produce from the farm just like today.”



NIJ appoints Kalesanwo as first female Registrar


BY FOLASHADE KEHINDE                    

THE Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, has appointed Mrs Patricia Kalesanwo as its first female Registrar since the establishment of the institution in 1971.

The Olusegun Osoba-led Governing Council of the NIJ, Nigeria’s premier monotechnic, confirmed the appointment of Kalesanwo at the Council meeting, held on March 17, 2021, in Lagos.

This was disclosed in a statement, on Thursday, by the Provost, NIJ, Gbenga Adefaye.

Kalesanwo, who holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education (Communication Arts) from the University of Ibadan, was the Students Affairs Officer of the Institute for over a decade.

She worked at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria before joining the NIJ.

Kalesanwo has attended many courses on Journalism within and outside the country.



Hijab: Stop putting fingers in other people’s eyes, Oyedepo warns Muslims, Kwara Govt


BY FOLASHADE KEHINDE                    

FOUNDER of the Living Faith Church, popularly known as Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, has advised Muslims to leave mission schools in Kwara State and look for hijab-wearing schools for their children.

The influential pastor described as a nasty development, a situation in Kwara where Muslims were asking students in Christian schools to wear hijab and the Church was resisting it.

Oyedepo was reacting to the lingering controversy over the wearing of hijab in grant-aided schools in Ilorin, which had led to continuous confrontation between the Christian and Muslim communities.

The Kwara State Government had shut 10 schools in February over the crisis, but reopened them on Monday, giving reasons why Muslim female students should be allowed to wear hijab in the affected schools.

There was, however, a clash between the Muslims and Christians, especially at Baptist Secondary School, Surulere; and Cherubim and Seraphim College, Sabo-Oke in Ilorin, when students wearing hijab were not allowed to enter the schools’ premises.

Reacting in a viral video seen by The Point, Oyedepo said, “It is such a nasty development in Kwara State where Muslims are asking their students in our schools to wear Hijab, and the church said no.

“I have never seen a place in my life where a tenant will be decreeing for the landlord…We have never shown the world the other side of God. God is not a toy. Our God is a consuming fire. Let us show them the consuming fire of God. They need to know.”

“Leave the schools for the owners, go to your schools. Is there any fight? Stop putting fingers in the eyes of others,” he added.

He warned that the church was a time-bomb, noting that “when God turns his back on anybody or any system, that system is grounded.”

“My advice is: leave the schools for the owners, find your own schools, men and women can wear hijab there. Stop putting your fingers in the eyes of others when they are not blind,” Oyedepo declared.



CBN disburses N1.487trn to boost food supply in Nigeria


BY BANYO TEMITAYO                    

THE Central Bank of Nigeria has disbursed N1.487trillion under its various agricultural programmes, aimed at improving food supply in the country.

Out of this figure, N686.59 billion was disbursed under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) and ₦601.75 billion under the Anchor Borrowers Programmes (ABP) to 3,038,649 farmers to support food supply and dampen inflationary pressures.

This was disclosed by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in the Communique 135 of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

He said, “The Committee noted that the Bank has disbursed funds under its various agricultural interventions towards improving food supply in Nigeira. The Committee noted the disbursement of ₦107.60 billion to 548,109 farmers cultivating 703,619 hectares of land between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 to boost dry season output in support of agricultural value chain development.

“Total disbursements as at end-February 2021 amounted to ₦1.487 trillion under the various agricultural programmes, of which N686.59 billion was disbursed under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) and ₦601.75 billion under the Anchor Borrowers Programmes (ABP) to 3,038,649 farmers to support food supply and dampen inflationary pressures.

“Under the Targeted Credit Facility, the Bank has disbursed N218.16 billion to 475,376 beneficiaries, of which 34 per cent of beneficiaries are SMEs. Under AGSMEIS, N111.62 billion has been disbursed to 28,961 beneficiaries, 70 per cent of which are in the agricultural sector. Under the Creative Industry Financing Initiatives mainly targeted at youths, N3.19 billion has been disbursed to 341 beneficiaries, of which 53 per cent is to the movie industry.”

The MPC also said the market capitalisation of listed equities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange fell by 1.11 per cent to N20.82trillion on February 26, 2021, from N21.06 trillion on December 31, 2020.

The N240billion decline was attributed largely to investor sell-off, which continued to cause price depreciation of large and medium capitalised stocks.

The CBN Governor said, “The Committee noted the weak performance in the equities market despite the recent increased patronage by domestic investors.

“The All-Share Index (ASI) and Market Capitalisation (MC) continued to decline due to portfolio switching from equities to fixed income securities, reflecting the perception of improved yields at the long end of the yield curve.”

He stated, “All-Share Index (ASI) decreased by 1.17 per cent to 39,799.89 points on February 26, 2021 from 40,270.72 on December 31, 2020. Similarly, Market Capitalization (MC) fell by 1.11 per cent to N20.82 trillion on February 26, 2021 from N21.06 trillion on December 31, 2020.

“This was attributed largely to investor sell-off, which continued to cause price depreciation of large and medium capitalized stocks.”



Fake military officer bags 8 years for impersonation, harassing, defrauding unsuspecting victims


BY AYO ESAN                    

JUSTICE Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court, sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, sentenced one Henry Mfon Asuquo, a military impostor, to eight years imprisonment on a two-count charge of impersonation and cybercrime brought against him by the Uyo Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Asuquo’s journey to jail started on January 3, 2019, when operatives of the Commission arrested him at Ayara Street, Nungu Uko in Ibesikpo Local Government Area of the State, following a petition by one Itoro Tom.

Tom alleged in her petition that Asuquo swapped her Subscriber Identification Module, SIM card, and fraudulently withdrew N700,000 from her account domiciled at a new generation bank.

Investigation into the matter revealed that the convict paraded himself as a military officer and in that capacity, he was going about intimidating and defrauding unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned money.

A search executed on his apartment upon arrest led to the recovery of military uniforms, boots and bullet proof jackets.

In the course of interrogation, he admitted to the crime and refunded the sum of N100,000 to the petitioner.

He was subsequently arraigned on March 27, 2019, on a two-count charge bordering on fraud, impersonation and cybercrime, to which he pleaded “not guilty”.

In the course of trial, counsel to the EFCC, Adebayo Soares, presented two witnesses; Tom Itoro Edet (PW1- the complainant) and Suleiman Abba (PW2 – an operative of the Commission).

Some of the exhibits tendered and admitted in evidence included: military kits containing several military shirts and trousers, Techno Spark 3 phone belonging to the convict and correspondences from the Nigeria Army and First City Monument Bank.

However, the trial took a new turn on March 5, 2021 when the defence counsel, Dennis Adiaka informed the court of the convict’s intention to change his plea. The application was granted and Asuquo pleaded “guilty” to the charge against him. The court, thereafter found him guilty and adjourned his sentencing till Wednesday.

In her judgment, Justice Okeke sentenced Asuquo to four years imprisonment on each of the two counts preferred against him to run concurrently without the option of fine.

The judge also ordered the convict to pay his victim a sum of N600,000 as restitution before he could be released from prison. In addition, the court ordered the forfeiture of the items used in the commission of the crime, which were recovered from the convict at the point of arrest to the Federal Government.

In a similar fashion, Justice Okeke also convicted and sentenced one Vincent Harrison Chukwuemeka, a serial Facebook hacker, to one year imprisonment without option of fine, for impersonation and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N407,000.

It was alleged that Chukwuemeka falsely presented himself as Lisa, while claiming to be a representative of Facebook and WhatsApp from the United States of America, through the African Head Office.

Under that guise, he allegedly defrauded one Felicity Felix Ekpezu of the said sum, as he (Chukwuemeka) deceived her (Ekpezu) to believe that she had won $971 and an Iphone 6S, to which she needed to pay N407, 000 to redeem.

Chukwuemeka was arraigned on a one-count charge bordering on impersonation and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N407, 000

He initially pleaded “not guilty” to the charge, but in the course of trial changed his plea to guilty and refunded his victim the money he fraudulently collected from him.

The court at the resumed sitting on Wednesday, sentenced him to one year imprisonment beginning from the date of his arrest without option of fine.



NNPC records ₦24.19bn trading surplus in December ― Report


BY AGENCY REPORTER                    

THE Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation says it recorded an increase of ₦24.19billion trading surplus in December 2020, compared to the ₦13.43billion surplus recorded in November of the same year.

The Corporation disclosed this in its Monthly Financial and Operation Report (MFOR) for the Month of December 2020, released in Abuja, on Thursday.

It said that the amount represented 80.12 per cent trading surplus.

Trading surplus or trading deficit is derived after deduction of the expenditure profile from the revenue in the period under review.

The report also revealed that the operating revenue of the NNPC Group in December 2020, as compared to November 2020, increased by 33.44 per cent or N137.00billion to stand at N546.65billion.

“Similarly, expenditure for the month increased by 27.54 per cent or N112.81billion to stand at N522.47billion.

“The December 2020 expenditure as a proportion of revenue is 0.96 as against 0.97 in November 2020,’’ it said.

The report also indicated that the 80.12 per cent increase was mainly due to the significant rise in the profit of NNPC’s Upstream entity, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) amid improved market fundamentals and strong global demand for crude oil.

Other contributory factors to the robust trading surplus recorded in the month under review, it said, included the improved performance by the Nigerian Gas Marketing Company (NGMC) and the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC).

Others are the National Engineering and Technical Company (NETCO) and Duke Oil Incorporated which recorded noticeable gains in their operations.

In the Downstream, the report noted that 2.26billion litres of white products were sold and distributed by PPMC in the month under review.

This, it said, compared to 1.72billion litres distributed in the month of November.

A breakdown indicated that the products comprised 2.254billion litres of petrol, translating to 72.72million litres/day, 11.40 million litres of Automotive Gas Oil (diesel) and 0.48 million litres of kerosene.

“Total sale of white products for the period of December 2019 to December 2020 stood at 18.456billion litres and petrol accounted for 18.325billion litres or 99.29 per cent.

“In monetary terms, the volume translates to a value of ₦288.77billion recorded on the sale of white products by PPMC in the month of December 2020, compared to ₦226.08 billion sales in November.

“Total revenues generated from the sales of white products for the period December 2019 to December 2020 stood at ₦2.217triilion, where petrol contributed about 99.09per cent of the total sales with a value of ₦2.197trillion,” it added.

On the oil Pipelines, it said that 43 pipeline points were vandalised in the month under review, representing about 18.60 per cent increase from the 35 points recorded in November.

“Mosimi Area accounted for 56 per cent of the vandalised points while Kaduna Area and Port Harcourt accounted for the remaining 33 per cent and 12 per cent respectively,” it said.

In the Gas Sector, it said that natural gas production in December stood at 213.34Billion Cubic Feet (BCF), translating into an average daily production of 6,881.83million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscfd).

According to the report, the daily average natural gas supply to power plants increased by 3.52 per cent to 816 mmscfd, equivalent to power generation of 3,445MW.

“Out of the 208.61BCF of gas supplied in December, a total of 146.72BCF was commercialised; consisting of 42.90BCF and 103.82BCF for the domestic and export market respectively,” it said.

This, it noted, translated into a total supply of 1,383.93mmscfd of gas to the domestic market and 3,349.00mmscfd of gas supplied to the export market for the month, NAN reports.

The report said that it implied that 70.33per cent of the average daily gas produced was commercialised while the balance of 29.67 per cent was re-injected, used as upstream fuel gas or flared.

It added that Gas flare rate was 6.80 per cent for the month under review (i.e. 457.25 mmscfd) compared to average gas flare rate of 7.15 per cent (i.e. 538.59 mmscfd) for the period December 2019 to December 2020.



Fraud Alert: Don’t become a victim, we’re not issuing new type of work Visa, US warns Nigerians


BY FOLASHADE KEHINDE                    

THE United States Embassy in Nigeria, on Thursday, warned Nigerians not to fall victim to scammers claiming that the US was offering a new type of work Visa for Nigerian citizens between 40 and 55 years.

In a statement on its Twitter handle, titled, “Fraud Alert”, the Embassy alerted Nigerians to the “fake press release” being circulated by the scammers.

The US warned that it was the same old trick, but with “fresh packaging”.

The statement read, “Scammers and fraudsters are circulating a fake ‘press release’ claiming to offer a new type of work visa to Nigerian citizens aged 40-55. It’s the same old scam, but in fresh packaging – don’t become a victim!

“If you have questions about whether visa information is legitimate, please refer only to official sources:,, and”



FG spends over N100bn in Aviation sector in five years – Sirika


BY BANYO TEMITAYO                    

THE Federal Government says it has invested over N100 billion in the aviation sector in the last five years.

The expenditure, according to Government, covered funds for airport equipment, staff training and emolument from 2015 till date.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in Abuja, during the 8th Edition of the Aviation Workers Week, on Thursday.

The programme had the theme, “The challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in the Nigerian Aviation industry: The path to recovery.”

Represented by the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mohammed Abdullahi, Sirika reiterated that the aviation sector was key to global security and must get adequate attention.

“The Federal Government deployed resources to equipping state governments through various interventions.

“From 2015 till date, the Federal Government has deployed over N100 billion to develop the aviation sector,” the minister noted.



Woman beats co-wife to death, sets her ablaze in Niger


BY RIMI ALIU                    

THE Police in Niger State have arrested a woman, identified as Amina Aliyu, for allegedly killing her co-wife.

The suspect, 24, had allegedly attacked the victim, Fatima, who was newly married to their husband, in her house, in the Sauka Kahuta area of Minna, the state capital.

It was learnt that the incident happened about two months after Fatima got married to their husband, Aliyu Abdullahi.

The suspect was said to have stormed Fatima’s house and beaten her to death with a pestle.

She then set her body ablaze, locked the lifeless body up in the house and fled.

Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Wasiu Abiodun, confirmed that the suspect hit the deceased with a pestle, which led to her death.

He said their husband, Abdullahi, had told the Police that he found his new wife’s lifeless body, with burns, in her living room, when he returned home from work on Tuesday.


Alleged money laundering: FG tenders $1m hard currency, others in trial of retired Air Chief

BY AGENCY REPORTER                    

THE Federal Government, on Thursday, tendered before the Federal High Court, Abuja, different currencies of dollars stashed in three bags as evidence in the money laundering charge against Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (retd).

Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Magaji Labaran, tendered the bags of money before Justice Inyang Ekwo while leading the only witness in the case, Stephen Olatubosun, in evidence.

Mohammed (1st defendant) and his company, Easy Jet Integrated Service Ltd (2nd defendant), are being charged with three counts bordering on money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and possession of classified documents without lawful authority.

The retired air officer and his company are alleged to have received the sum of one million, thirty thousand American Dollars ($1,030,000) in cash from Worldwide Consortium PTY Ltd, as payment for freight services on 19th June, 2016, contrary to the Money Laundering Act 2011 (as Amended).

Justice Ekwo had, on Wednesday, ordered that the currencies be counted with a counting machine at the office of the Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation) in the presence of all the parties to ascertain the total amount before they were tendered at the court.

At the resumed trial on Thursday, the AGF lawyer told the court that the parties in the case had complied with the court order.

“My lord, we have done the needful at the office of the Chief Deputy Registrar (Litigation). The currencies were counted and are in three bags labelled Bag A, Bag B and Bag C,” Labaran said.

Also, lawyer to the defendants, Hassan Liman, SAN, confirmed that all the parties were duly represented during the counting of the currencies.

The prosecution witness, Olatubosun, a staff of the the Department of State Security Service (DSS), identified the three bags of money when he was being led in evidence by Labaran.

“There are three bags; two black and one brown. They are labelled as Bag A, Bag B and Bag C respectively with the currencies sum attached to them,” he responded.

The witness, giving the breakdown of the sum in each bags, said Bag A contained 529, 400 dollars and Bag B had 499, 800 dollars.

Olatubosun said Bag C contained different currencies of dollars including naira notes.



March 01, 2021

Students’ abduction, banditry may involve least suspected people, institutions – Lukman, PGF DG



DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Salihu Moh. Lukman, has said that an important determinant of return to peaceful coexistence and moving Nigeria forward under the leadership of the All Progressives Congress is dependent on the capacity to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

Indicating that poverty was a major reason for the worsening insecurity in the country, he said the Government must address the disturbing issue of high levels of poverty in Nigeria “beyond the narrow prism of politics”.

While noting that criminal activities of banditry and abduction of innocent school children were emerging to be very lucrative economic activities in the country, he said these activities were now a sophisticated business network that might involve people and institutions that are least suspected.

Lukman said this just as he called for the creation of State Police in view of the existential threats in the country, which he said was destroying the educational sector.

The DG, who spoke in a statement issued on Monday, noted that the North East had been ravaged by Boko Haram for more than 10 years, adding that the problems of banditry and kidnappings were gradually taking over the North West and North Central.

He said, “With all these sad reality of our existential threats in the country, which is destroying our educational sector, we are debating whether we should have state police or not. Anybody debating whether or not to have state police is simply part of the problem. How many private securities are guarding our homes?

“With all that is happening to our schools, isn’t it a case that requires the establishment of armed police station in each school to guarantee the safety of our children? Can this be provided by the Nigeria Police as it is constituted today? Isn’t this a challenge requiring emergency response?

“How can the lives of school children be so threatened, and we are busy debating politics? Our leaders in APC must wake up and stop all the hesitation around consideration of the APC True Federalism Report.

“Why was the Committee set up in the first place if our leaders knew that they are not committed to resolving problems that question what we have today? Isn’t it common knowledge that no problem can be solved by replicating exactly what may have created the problem?”

He added, “Being members of APC with all the commitment to contribute to the successes of the party, we need to tell ourselves the hard truth, which is that an important determinant of return to peaceful coexistence and moving Nigeria forward under the leadership of our party is dependent on the capacity of our governments to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

“Therefore, we need to engage the disturbing issue of high levels of poverty in Nigeria beyond the narrow prism of politics. Outside the simplistic strategy of promoting our political choices, it is equally important that we wake up to the reality that high levels of poverty have produced really unimaginable existential threats both for citizens and for the nation.

“Daily, lives are being lost, individual liberties and freedoms are under permanent threats, property and livelihoods are being destroyed. Every Nigerian today lives with the fear of one form of threat or the other. The North East has been ravaged by Boko Haram for more than 10 years. The problems of banditry and kidnappings are gradually taking over the North West and North Central.”

He said stakeholders might delude themselves “into all the debate based on the reckless consideration of amnesty and divisive ethnic and religious propaganda”, but added that “the reality is that criminal activities of banditry, kidnappings and abduction of innocent school children are emerging to be very lucrative economic activities in the country.”

He said, “It is now a sophisticated business network with frontend that may involve people and institutions that are least suspected.

“For instance, how is it possible that tens and hundreds of people would be abducted without any trace? Wouldn’t they pass through towns, villages, and communities? Along the routes they passed, wouldn’t there be police and security posts/stations, traditional and religious leaders that could confirm suspicious movements?

“As Nigerians and especially those of us who are members of APC, we must work hard to push our leaders to combine military and security strategy with successful implementation of ambitious national initiatives to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

“Our loyalty to our leaders must, as necessity, include getting our leaders to succeed in lifting Nigerians out of poverty. That is perhaps the only insurance cover that can support us to begin to move towards peaceful coexistence in the country.”

Lukman added, “So long as we have Nigerians living in conditions of extreme poverty, crime rates, including banditry, kidnapping and abduction of innocent school children will remain high. Reducing this challenge to issues of enforcement of law and order alone will be insufficient.

“The factory that produces bandits, kidnappers, abductors and insurgents is the very condition that holds more than 100 million Nigerians below the poverty line.”



Made-in-Nigeria helicopter: Presidency directs FIRS to remit NASENI’s statutory cash

AS part of steps to boost Science and Technology development in the country, the Presidency has directed the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, to remit the statutor deductions accruable to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI.

The agency may soon get one to two per cent of the Federation Account as contained in its establishment law.

The directive followed the upholding of the decision of the Governing Board of NASENI, which is headed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the chairman.

The directive has also been communicated to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

In the NASENI Establishment Act 2004, FIRS is statutorily expected to deduct and remit to it a quarter per cent of the levy on turnover of firms earning over N100million and above.

Although NASENI was established in 1992, the law guiding its funding has not been complied with by successive governments.

But in January, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to ensure total compliance with NASENI Act. Buhari has also approved the placement of NASENI directly under the supervision of the Presidency instead of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to a letter from the Presidency, signed by the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the FIRS has been directed to remit the deducted levy on turnover as approved by Buhari.

The letter said, “I write to inform you that on 24th January 2021, Mr. President approved the prayers of the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) on the funding of NASENI activities.

“In accordance with the NASENI Establishment Act, one of the prayers of the EVC relates to the funding of the agency via a levy on income or turnover of commercial companies and firms with turnover of N4million (later increased to N100million) by the NASENI Governing Board) at the rate of a quarter per cent( 1/4 %) of turnover.

“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to act on the implementation of this provision of the NASENI Act as soon as possible.”

It was learnt that the presidential directive was informed by seven key projects (inventions) being under-taking by NASENI with funding as a major hindrance.

One of the key projects is a Made-In-Nigeria helicopter which Buhari has mandated NASENI to produce.

Others are: establishment of First Made-In- Nigeria Transformer Plant and High Voltage Testing Laboratory to be located in Okene. Kogi State; first Made-In-Nigeria Plant for the manufacturing of Silica which is the major materials needed for local manufacturing of solar panels to resolve alternative/Renewable Energy supply for the nation; and funding of the plant for First Made-In-Nigeria Smart Prepaid Energy Meter, SPEM, which is already patented, before transferring them to private sector entrepreneurs as stipulated by its mandate.

Also included are establishment of Zonal (Six geo-political Zones) Agricultural Machinery & Equipment Development Institutes which had already been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari; completion of work on First Made-in-Nigeria E-Voting solutions designed and produced by Nigerian Engineers in NASENI; and completion of work on Reverse Engineering process of 5 Kilowatt small Hydro Kinetic Turbine.

A document, which explained how the decision to implement NASENI Act was taken by the President, read, “The President is the chairman of the Governing Board of NASENI. But the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna, in his memo to the Governing Board on December 30, 2020, requested the implementations of the Statutory funding of the agency as provided for in NASENI Act to finance its projects and activities.

“While reflecting on the state of Nigeria’s response so far on the COVID-19 pandemic during a virtual meeting at the Presidential Villa on January 26th, 2021, the President observed that Nigeria’s continued reliance on solutions from other countries was a revelation of the research and development gap in the nation.

“He, in addition, therefore directed NASENI to scale up its responses to the pandemic in order to find appropriate solutions to prevent the further spread and treatment of the virus.

“Sitting as the Chair of the Board, the President stressed that for NASENI to succeed, it must be empowered through adequate provision of financial, human and material resources and allowed to exercise independence to forge partnerships.’’



Auto crash claims 9 lives, injures 41 in Kano


THE Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has confirmed the death of nine persons in a motor accident at Kunar Dumawa, in Dambatta Local Government Area of Kano State on Sunday.

FRSC Sector Commander, Zubairu Mato, while confirming the accident in a statement issued on Sunday, said that 41 others were injured in the Sunday evening accident.

“We received a call at about 4:10 p.m. on Sunday.

“On receiving the information, we quickly dispatched our personnel and vehicle to the scene of the incident for the rescue of the victims at about 4:17 p.m. as well as clearing the obstructions,” Mato said.

He said that the crash occurred as a result of the loss of control due to brake failure.

According to him, the accident involved three vehicles, a truck with registration number XA 111 SNN; a Volkswagen Golf 3 with registration number DAL 515 ZX; and a Mercedes Benz without registration number.

“The victims who lost their lives are three males, six females, while the remaining 41 victims sustained serious injures,” he said.

The road safety boss said that the victims were evacuated to Dambatta General Hospital where the doctor on duty confirmed nine dead.

The 41 other victims, he said, were currently receiving treatment at the hospital.



Refinery: Dangote prepares young Nigerian engineers to take over management at completion


THE Management of Dangote Oil Refinery is preparing young Nigerian graduates to take over the management of its 650,000 barrels per day single train refinery when it becomes operational in 2022.

Already, the company has trained several Nigerian engineers in some of the world’s biggest refineries in India and other parts of the world to gain first-hand experience on how to manage a refinery of this magnitude.

The President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, who made this disclosure on Saturday during the tour of the Dangote Refinery by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, affirmed that the country is blessed with great talents that are capable of running a refinery of this size, if given the necessary encouragement.

According to him, the outbreak of Coronavirus in 2020, which forced many expatriates out of the Construction site made it possible for the company to identify great talents that exist within Nigeria.

Dangote stated, “One thing that gladdens my heart is the young Nigerians we have trained to take over the operation of the Dangote Refinery. These young Nigerians are the ones that are going to run the refinery when it becomes operational.

“We want a situation whereby the operation of the refinery will be the sole responsibility of Nigerian graduates. We can start the process by bringing in team leaders to keep giving them that training they require to run a world class refinery.

“However, we will ensure that Nigerian engineers, welders and others are the ones running the refinery. We have created that capacity, human capacity, equipment capacity and every other thing to ensure the successful operation of the refinery by Nigerian engineers.”

Speaking also after the tour of the refinery, the CBN Governor said that arrangement was being made to enable the Dangote Refinery sell refined crude to Nigeria in naira when it commences production.

The CBN governor noted that the $15 billion projects being constructed by the Dangote Group would save Nigeria from expending about 41 per cent of its foreign exchange on importation of petroleum products.

Emefiele said, ”Based on agreement and discussions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the oil companies, the Dangote Refinery can buy its crude in naira, refine it, and produce it for Nigerians’ use in naira.

“That is the element where foreign exchange saved for the country becomes very clear.

“We are also very optimistic that by refining this product here in Nigeria, all those costs associated with either demurrage from import, costs associated with freight will be totally eliminated.

“This will make the price of our petroleum products cheaper in naira. If we are lucky that what the refinery produces is more than we need locally, you will see Nigerian businessmen buying small vessels to take them to our West African neighbours to sell to them in naira.”

“This will increase our volume in naira and help to push it into the Economic Community of West African States as a currency,” Emefiele added.

He expressed optimism that the refinery would be completed by the first quarter of 2022, adding that this would put an end to the issue of petrol subsidy in the country.

“I am saying that by this time next year, our cost of import of petroleum products for petrochemicals or fertiliser will be saved, which will save Nigeria’s reserve. It will help us so that we can begin to focus on more important items that we cannot produce in Nigeria today,” Emefiele said.

He said the CBN had given a N100 billion intervention to the projects, adding that the apex bank was ready to support Nigerian businesses set up to uplift the country economically.

Dangote said that the fertiliser and petrochemicals plants were capable of generating 2.5 billion dollars annually while the refinery would serve Nigeria and other countries across the world.

Dangote thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN governor for their support toward the completion of the projects.

“I will like to thank the President personally for helping us and assisting us in making sure that we are now back on track,” he said.



Hopes for WTO momentum as Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala takes charge


NGOZI Okonjo-Iweala takes over the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday amid hopes that she will spur the beleaguered body into addressing its towering challenges, including the pandemic-fuelled global economic crisis.

“The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralysed and moribund,” the first woman and first African to ever lead the global trade body told AFP a day after her nomination last month.

The 66-year-old Nigerian former finance minister takes the helm after the WTO was left adrift for seven months following the sudden departure of Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo last August, a year ahead of schedule.

Following a lengthy selection process, development economist Okonjo-Iweala, who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was finally anointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.

From an initial eight candidates, she was the clear favourite among the last two standing in November. However, her appointment was delayed by former US president Donald Trump blocking her nomination.

The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.

– In at the deep end –

She is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of WTO’s General Council.

Delegates are expected to agree that the organisation’s next ministerial conference, which had been scheduled for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.

The question remains whether the new WTO chief, considered a strong-willed trailblazer, will be able to mould the organisation in her image before then.

While some observers voice hope that Okonjo-Iweala will inject much-needed energy, others stress she has little wiggle room to make dramatic change, given that WTO decisions are made by member states — and only when they can reach consensus.

One of her first tasks will be to nominate four new deputy directors to help recharge the organisation’s negotiating mechanisms.

Okonjo-Iweala has said that one of her main objectives is to push long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line in time for the ministerial conference, but with negotiations dragging on, that could be a tough sell.

And in the midst of a global economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, she has plenty of other challenges on her plate.

Okonjo-Iweala has voiced concern about growing protectionism and nationalism during the coronavirus crisis and insists trade barriers must be lowered to help the world recover.

– Vaccines IP wrangle –

Among the issues to be discussed Monday is a controversial push for the WTO to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.

Dozens of nations say this would help boost production and access and would rein in the pandemic sooner, but the notion has been fiercely rejected by pharmaceutical giants and the countries that host them.

Okonjo-Iweala chaired the Gavi vaccine alliance before running for the WTO and has made tackling the pandemic another of her priorities.

In a likely bid to avoid a row on day one, Ngozi has called for flexibility, encouraging voluntary licencing agreements, such as the one agreed between AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India, whereby the SII factory manufactures the pharmaceutical giant’s Covid-19 vaccines.

The Ottawa Group, which brings together the EU and 12 countries including Brazil, Canada and Switzerland, will meanwhile demand that countries commit not to hinder the flow of medical goods during the pandemic, and remove customs duties on those considered essential.

Another daunting challenge facing the new director-general will be following through on her vow to breathe life back into the appeals branch of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

The Appellate Body, sometimes called the supreme court of world trade, ground to a halt in December 2019 after years of relentless US opposition.

The United States, along with European countries and Canada, want an overhaul at the WTO, believing it has not responded correctly to the trade distortions caused by China.




Trump targets disloyal Republicans, hints at 2024 presidential run


FORMER United States President Donald Trump hinted on Sunday at a possible presidential run in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Trump vowed to help Republicans try to regain majorities – lost during his presidency – in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 congressional elections and dangled himself as a possibility for president in 2024.

“With your help, we will take back the House, we will win the Senate and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who will that be?” he said, smiling. “Who, who, who will that be, I wonder.”

Trump’s weeks away from Washington do not appear to have dimmed his anger at Republicans who voted to impeach or convict in a failed congressional effort to hold him responsible for inciting a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

He singled out several such Republicans by name, like Senators Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey and House lawmakers Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and suggested he would support candidates who opposed them in Republican primaries.

“Get rid of ‘em all,” he thundered.

Trump repeated lies he has told about his Nov. 3 presidential election loss to Biden, and offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office.

“They just lost the White House,” the Republican former president said after criticizing Biden’s handling of border security. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

Trump and his allies spent two months denying his election defeat, and claiming without evidence it was the result of widespread voter fraud, before his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 seeking to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s win.

A civil war has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, like Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump base.

Trump declared the Republican Party united behind him, with opposition coming only from “a handful of Washington, D.C., political hacks.” When he mentioned McConnell’s name, the crowd booed.


He said he had no plans to try to launch a third party, an idea he has discussed with advisers in the past couple of months.

“We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party,” he said.

In a straw poll, 55% of CPAC conference participants said they would vote for Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating race. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second at 21%.

Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43%, and other potential Republican candidates had single digits.

But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question on the poll asked whether Trump should run again in 2024, with 68% saying he should and 32% opposed or having no opinion.

Still, Trump fervor at the four-day CPAC event was so strong that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declared it “T-PAC” and participants rolled out a golden statue of the former president.

Trump’s flirtation with another run could freeze the Republican field for 2024 as other potential candidates try to decide whether they will have to compete against him. Many of those 2024 possible candidates spoke during the CPAC event.

The Biden White House dismissed Trump’s speech.

“While the GOP casts about for a path forward, President Biden is going to remain laser-focused on crushing the virus, re-opening schools, and getting Americans back to work,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said after the speech.

An hour into his 90-minute speech, Trump dove deeply into his unfounded claims of election fraud, going against the advice of confidants who believe he needs to look to the future.

“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged,” Trump said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”

“You won! You won!” the crowd shouted. Trump’s campaign and his supporters brought dozens of failed lawsuits trying to overturn the results of the election, which Biden won by more than 7 million votes. The fraud claims were repeatedly rejected by state and federal officials.

In the short term, Trump is making plans to set up a super PAC political organization to support candidates who mirror his policies, an adviser said.

He sought to position himself as the lead critic of the new president, including on immigration and security along the U.S. border with Mexico, and the slow reopening of schools closed due to the pandemic.

“Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” Trump said.

Recent Gallup polls have given Biden a job approval rating well past 50%. Trump never achieved above 49%.