Sunday, 21 January 2018
Items filtered by date: August 2017

Three female suicide bombers have carried out an attack that has killed at least 27 people in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

Dozens were injured when the women blew themselves up outside a refugee camp near Maiduguri in Borno state - a stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

There has been an upsurge in violence in the city in recent months.

Boko Haram has been fighting to set up an Islamic state since 2009.

A report published by US anti-terrorist researchers last week said it is the first insurgency in history to use more women suicide bombers than men.

Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight the jihadists, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the first bomber blew herself up near the camp, triggering panic.

"People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties," he said.

Last year, Nigeria's government said that Boko Haram had been defeated.

But correspondents say that the army is failing to stop the attacks, and people have continued to flee their homes in Borno State and poured into camps.

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Published in News & Stories

ABOUT six persons were said to have been feared dead when pro-President Muhammadu Buhari attacked a group known as Our Mumu Don Do led by Charles Oputa, popularly referred to as Charley Boy.

The incident, according to an eyewitness, happened when Charley Boy was about leading other protesters with various placards to Wuse Market in Abuja, on Tuesday, as continuation of their protest calling President Buhari to either resume and continue from where he stopped or resign if his health condition could not cope anymore.

It will be recalled that the protesters under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Organisation began their protest penultimate Monday in Abuja, against the long vacation of President Buhari in London hospital.

Investigations by the Tribune Online however revealed that their decision to stage a protest inside the market, on Tuesday, was rebuffed vehemently by pro-Buhari who had earlier warned the former to go back to Unity Fountain, Maitaima to continue their protest.

Eyewitnesses further stated that one of the executive members of the Wuse Market Association came out to persuade Charley Boy and other protesters to leave with a view to allowing peace to reign, having realised that the youths within the market have been mobilising themselves.

According to one of the witnesses, “the chairman of the market came out to persuade him to go but he insisted that he will protest inside the market and as they were arguing, the pro-Buhari descended on him and his members, destroying his BMW sport car with woods and stones.”

Conflicting reports however said about six persons were feared dead from both parties, while others said four people were killed as different weapons were freely used before the arrival of combined security operatives.

Unformed report further said Charley Boy and four others who sustained serious injuries have been rushed to undisclosed hospital for medical attention.

The market has since been closed down to forestall escalation of the civil unrest.

Published in Business and Economy

Lecturers action unnecessary, says Presidency

The Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Tuesday presented different views on a parley involving both parties over the strike by university teachers.

While the Federal Government said significant steps were taken at the meeting towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU, the President of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said it was a “mere consultation.”

He said, “We have not yet had a formal meeting (with government); we are still making consultation. Don’t worry; I will get back to you when there is information. But there is no information for now.”

But the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday said the Minister of Labour and Employment,  Senator Chris Ngige, led government to the meeting on behalf of the government.

He said the meeting held took significant steps towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU.

Olowookere said the meeting agreed on the forensic audit of N30bn earlier given to ASUU in 2010 and further agreed on monthly remittances to ASUU while the audit lasts.

He said, “The Minister hence wishes to assure members of ASUU, and indeed all Nigerians that government is already at work   to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the resolve of the present administration to cast any form of disruption of universities’ academic calendar into the dustbin of history.  The meeting continues on Thursday August 17, 2017.”

ASUU strike unnecessary, says Presidency

The Presidency on Tuesday described the industrial action declared by ASUU on Monday as “totally unnecessary.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.

Shehu said the union leaders were aware of the fact that the Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited the agreements based on which the industrial action was declared.

He said they were also aware that the Federal Government had set up a committee on the matter.

The presidential spokesman regretted that while the union leaders were expected to sit down and negotiate with the committee, they resorted to a strike.

He gave an indication that the government might not be able to meet the huge financial obligation the striking university teachers were asking for since the N850bn debt was more than the total allocation to the Ministry of Education in the 2017 Budget which he put at N369bn.

Shehu said, “Governments enter into agreements that they can pay for. Ability to pay is a key requirement in going into agreements.

“Since President Buhari assumed office, he has sent words out there in form of a warning to all government institutions that they should not go into negotiations and agreements that they cannot pay for; but get clearance.

“I understand that they are talking about debts owed their members to the tune of N850bn. If I am correct, the entire appropriation for the Ministry of Education for this year is N369bn. So where do they want us to get the money from?

“We have inherited these agreements and we are not running away from them. Government has set up a committee led by (Dr Wale) Babalakin. They are already sitting. Why didn’t they sit down and negotiate?

“This strike is totally unnecessary. The issues can be resolved, especially where we have full understanding of where we are coming from. The governments that signed those agreements did not deem it fit to implement because the capacity was not there.

“If they are ready, they can sit down and discuss with the committee that has capable and qualified people as members.”

Shehu said the university teachers opted to go on strike because they expected that all their problems should be solved with a wave of hand.

“They want all the problems to go with a wave of the hand. They want all the answers to all their problems at a go. There is an avenue that the government has opened for them for dialogue and it is not closed yet,” the presidential spokesman said.

Poly lecturers threaten sympathy strike

The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics on Tuesday said it supported the strike embarked upon by ASUU.

The union in a statement by its Secretary General, Anderson Ezeibe, noted that the strike was aimed at restoring sanity to Nigerian universities and the education sector.

It also urged government to commence the implementation of agreements entered into with ASUP to forestall an impending crisis in polytechnics.

The union lamented that it had become a norm for government to renege on agreements entered into with trade unions, particularly in the education sector.

It said failure of government to implement agreements   frustrated unions and left them with no choice but to go on strike.

The group said that it was concerned about the consequences of the strike on students, parents and society at large.

It urged government to address the issue of shortfall in personnel releases in federal institutions since December 2015, non-payment of salaries in state polytechnics, non-implementation of Needs Assessment report and non-payment of allowances.

“ASUP notes the renewal of hostilities on the country’s university campuses between ASUU and government of Nigeria.

 “While we are in unconditional solidarity with ASUU in this struggle to restore sanity to Nigerian universities, we are calling on the government to commence without further delay the implementation of agreements entered into with ASUP to forestall an impending crisis in the polytechnic sub-sector.”

Published in Headliners
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:22

By Afam Nkemdiche: Our mumu never do!

Nigeria’s comedy industry grows by the day. Comedy, it now seems, is the readiest avenue to stardom in Nigeria; very funny. Every which way one looked in the country they are as likely to behold an unfurling hilarious drama. You do not need to be able to afford a premium ticket to enjoy a good comedy at the Muson Centre in Lagos; or such-like places. Variegated comedy theaters abound in the Nigerian landscape, with high-performing actors and actresses on hand; from our very lawless Motor Parks to our very rowdy market places, through to the hallow chambers of the National Assembly, colourful live comedies are never in want. The “our mumu don do” protesters, otherwise known as “Buhari return or resign” and their opposite group, wittingly or unwittingly, presented the latest evidence of this growing population of comedians in our midst.

Though it’s incompatible with my breeding to speak condescendingly about a supposed patriotic gesture of my fellow citizens, but the warped reasoning of these protesters has compelled me to break with established tradition. Indeed, these groups of protesters have merely confirmed that “our mumu never do.” My reasons are outlined thus:

Muhammadu Buhari, the Daura born, retired two-star army general, incapacitated or not, remains the substantive president of the geographic expression called Nigeria. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, by his own admission, unfailingly takes directives from, just as he unfailingly reports back to his indisposed principal.

Long before he took seriously ill, President Buhari presented Nigerians with the unassailable evidence that he is discharging the nation’s first office at the behest of a select group. The president’s wife, Aisha, and Senate President Bukola Saraki famously confirmed that unacceptable situation. For my part, l couldn’t resist devoting an article on this pages to that realisation – “Buhari belongs to some persons.”

Despite the glaring fact that the unity of Nigeria is severely threatened by centripetal forces across her six geo-political zones, due primarily to her fundamentally flawed political structure, the First Estate of the Realm, in reviewing the extant national Constitution, completely failed to decisively attend to Nigeria’s most pressing contemporary challenge: Administrative Restructuring. Few weeks prior to the commencement of that constitutional review exercise, the Honourable Members of the green chamber surprisingly voted against the Bill on relocation of the International Oil Companies headquarters back to the Niger Delta region. Need l say that that surprise nay-vote at once offended against best global business models and regional sensitivities. (Question: are our elected Representatives verily representing the interests of the electorate; or, our mumu don do?).

Lives and property in Nigeria have never been more threatened as is in present-day Nigeria; Boko Haram insurgents, mindless kidnappers, satanic mass killings (my heart goes out to the victim-families of Ozubulu), armed robbers, militants, separatist agitators, cultists, ritualists, hawkers of human limbs, and such-like dreadful groups now hold sway; and Nigerians continuously contend with the psychological trauma of these threats. Yet, our elected leaders live in cocooned luxury and security at the expense of our common wealth. Our mumu don do?

Year after year Nigerians are called by successive leaderships to make selfless sacrifices for a terribly mismanaged country, but none of these hapless citizens has even an inkling of the dividends of their long-sufferings. Elsewhere, citizens would demand of their leadership a concrete vision of their nation’s ultimate destiny in an exchange for their expected sacrifices. Could any Nigerian predict what the value of the national currency, the naira, will be twelve months hence; nor can anyone say what the unit cost of electricity or the prices of petroleum products will be six months from today.

So, our mumu don do? Only a comedian would answer in the affirmative. But in spite of these major oddities Nigerians somehow still carry on living life as though nothing has gone amiss. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the inimitable Afro Beat legend whose twentieth memorial anniversary was commemorated recently, had waxed a best-selling album to depict the Nigerian state; he named it.

“Suffering and smiling.” And not too long ago, an international poll concluded that Nigerians were among the happiest people on Earth. True, Nigerians continue to smile in spite of their spine-breaking sufferings because of institutionalised social-conditioning by the country’s self-seeking and steeply selfish leadership class. The latter, keenly minded of its conspicuous self-centeredness (cathedral-like official residences; countless number of luxury vehicles; long list of security details; globe-trotting on chartered flights, e.t.c.) aggressively exploits the opium of tribe and religion to pitch the masses against themselves. It does this to benumb their senses; tribe and religion never fail to have their narcotic-like effects on the multitude. And because nature created humans to think individually the multitude never could think through the maze; this is why the masses are so easy to manipulate. The multitude is sheepish (a euphemism for mumu); why else do you think politicians love campaign rallies? It is far too easy to persuade the multitude than the individual. Thusly, the decisions and actions of the multitude are largely determined by those it looks up to, be they religious bigots, tribal jingoists, self-seeking politicians, or purveyors of truths. The quality of a people’s leadership is therefore predicated on their degree of sheepishness. (When the people are ready, the mystic appears) History bears this out.

Therefore, the most urgent task for the Nigerian masses for the present is to rid themselves of their decades of social-conditioning, and begin to listen to the voices of selfless thinkers or true philosophers. Nigeria has her fair share of this tribe of persons; and these have been prodding the citizenry to eschew tribe and religion from its electoral culture. But thus far this has been to no avail because our mumu never do. Buhari’s resumption of office or resignation from it would not change Nigeria’s unfortunate narrative. The existing leadership class or its entrenched mind-set is what needs substituting. Only one vector can make this happen: a less sheepish electorate. So, the our mumu don do protesters had better look away from the convalescing septuagenarian in the Queen’s country, revert to their drawing board, and diligently focus on the extensive work that needs to be done on the multitude…

• Nkemdiche, a consulting engineer lives in Abuja.

Published in Parliament
Any close watcher of events in the country in recent times would know that the country is passing through a very trying period. Never in the history of Nigeria has it faced this kind of troubles. The troubles are multifaceted. Over and above every other thing is the battle for the soul of Nigeria. The centrifugal forces from different sectors of Nigeria want to rip it apart. It looks like a joke. But never before has the country been so threatened to such an extent. Not even during the civil war.

The events of the Nigeria civil war were one directional. It was a section of the country contending against the whole, which made it fail. That was child’s play compared to what is happening at present. The country is facing multi-faceted problems from several directions. Each problem is potentially dangerous. The spate of agitations and quit notices being issued from right, left and centre are frightening.

At the last count, no less than five quit notices have been issues across Nigeria. The coalition of Arewa youths started it all when it issued an ultimatum to the Igbo resident in the north to leave their region or be forced out from October 1, 2017. That immediately sent jitters across the country and re-ignited the unending ethnic tension bedeviling Nigeria. Each ethnic group appeared to have been awakened from slumber.

As if that was being expected, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) readily welcomed the Kaduna declaration and saw it as oil that would lubricate the wheel of their march towards Biafra. IPOB called on all Igbo in the north to return en masse without wasting time. It also ordered northerners living in the South-East to vacate.

Almost immediately, a coalition of Niger Delta militants, in a sharp reaction, rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and ordered all northerners to vacate the oil-rich region. The militants threatened to attack all oil wells owned by northerners in the Niger Delta before October 1. They also threatened to declare the Niger Delta Republic. The group demanded for the return of all oil blocks given to none indigenes of the Niger Delta.

A group called the Middle Belt Renaissance Forum, made up of youths from all the states in the Middle Belt, after its crucial meeting in Abuja, declared that all herdsmen must vacate the Middle Belt by October 1. It declared that the Middle Belt is not in any way part of the Northern agitation for the Igbo to vacate. The Forum charged the North to stop using the Middle Belt to achieve its selfish political and economic aims as was the case in the past.

As if it wants to ensure that it was not left in the cold, a group of Yoruba nationalists had, after a meeting in Lagos, declared Oduduwa republic, which it said is seceding from the entity called Nigeria. Although, it did not issue quit notice against anybody, it slammed Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB, MASSOB, and the Arewa Consultative Forum for disrespecting the Yoruba nation for too long!

The Yoruba, to me, has been the only placating force holding Nigeria together after the other regions appeared to be set for a show down. That the Yoruba has now joined in this fray shows how serious the situation has become. As it were, virtually every section of the country wants to pull out of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, October 1, which normally, is used to commemorate Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule, has now become the new date set for the sharing of Nigeria to its component parts. What an irony of situation! Can Nigeria survive October 1, 2017? Would there be independence celebration this year? What is the government doing about these divisive forces? Is anything being done to assuage the situation? What is the way out?

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the other day, captured the terrifying situation when he said that Nigeria is sleep walking to national disaster and yet the present leadership of the country seems to be indifferent. Anyaoku spoke at a lecture he delivered in commemoration of the 98th birthday of Chief Akintola Williams, the renowned accountant.

But that, really, is not the case. The leadership cannot be said to be sleep walking, for that will mean they are unconscious of what is happening. Whatever is happening, including the leadership lackadaisical response is done in full consciousness. The leadership is not sleeping. Whatever it is doing is deliberate; in full consciousness and with all the senses very much awake. The absence of President Buhari has complicated the problem.

Just the other day, for instance, the National Assembly (NASS), threw out a bill on the devolution of power to the states, which would have served as panacea to the agitations to the chagrin of Nigerians. Nigerians had placed hope that passage of the bill could reduce tension in the country.

The issue of restructuring, which has gained currency across the country, could have been pushed forward if the devolution of power bill had been passed. But that seems to have failed, thereby, exposing the country to avoidable imminent danger. The rejection of the bill by the NASS confirmed what I had written in this column that the lawmakers are paying lip service to restructuring. The opportunity came for them to show patriotism and love for the country but they blew it and are now helpless.

For now, I can’t imagine what the NASS could do to save the country; they are averse to implementing the 2014 National Conference Report and have missed a golden opportunity to save the country. Why couldn’t the NASS make history as change agent that pulled the country out of the cesspit? Why have these peoples’ representatives refused to do the will of the people but pursue their own selfish agenda?

It needs to be stressed that miss-governance is at the root of all the agitations. Leadership failure is absolutely Nigeria’s main problem. It is worrisome that amid the tension in the land, the political leadership is acting as if all is well. By neglecting the situation, no critical effort is being made to deal with the situation.

Although, while at no time, since the war broke out in 1967, has there been absolute peace in Nigeria, a situation where every section of the country wants to break out is unprecedented. That is why there ought to be crisis emergency meetings going on in government circles to deal with the problem and save the country.

 
Published in Parliament

I refer to Chidi Anselm Odinkalu’s opinion piece titled, “Nigeria’s toxic NGO Regulation Bill” in The Guardian of July 27, 2017. His fears on a draconian bill from the federal parliament (House) to monitor the activities of non-governmental organisations are in order. Thanks to civil society, Nigerians are vibrant, and demand accountability from governments which have led to the ushering in of a degree of open governance.

Thanks to foreign aid, the AIDS scourge around the world has reduced tremendously. And unlike in times past, more people now have access to antiretroviral treatment than was previously possible. And deaths have reduced to a noticeable level. Currently, we do not look at AIDS patients with the woe-begone-thee outlook of before, thanks to enlightenment campaigns, so also is the reduction in the level of tuberculosis, malaria, improved education for girls, as well as improved agricultural practices etc. But are non-governmental organisations in Nigeria truly equipped to carry out the mission for which these aids are meant?
Do we really have the system in place, the political institutions built over time to sustain the works of non-governmental organisations in words and in deeds?

Can our people and government take actions on critical issues without reverting to donors? I am looking at taking ownership of the process. How is our level of diplomacy and engagement with open society? Maybe this is where a bill as proposed is needed. I have sat down to think about this. Just recently, I needed sponsorship for a programme to help young children. I wrote many letters to non-governmental organisations in-country. Only one sent a negative reply. Even then, they told me that their external donors determine projects they must fund locally. The outfit in question deals with issues that hover around children, I plan saving children. You wonder why they couldn’t take the lead to inform their donors about my plans but settled for the easy way out. 

In contrast, one U.S. foundation stationed in the United States to which I sent a letter – promptly replied within days. It regretted not being able to assist but gave me customised web links to download resource materials to help develop content for the proposed, programme. I can’t forget my trip to the British Council, of course supervised by Nigerians. I went there to see if I could get resource persons for a TV show on education. They were excited. They made me apply formally. This was in August 2016. As I write this essay, no-one has deemed it fit to reply, even though I had a meeting with a Nigerian manager in charge of education (even when I sent text messages giving gentle reminders) neither did they give me a resource person even when I told them the date I planned to go on air. I wonder what might have happened had I ventured there to ask for sponsorship. What then drives that British organisation to development? Or how do they support developmental progress when formal letters are received, acknowledged but statuses of applications never communicated to applicants.

Do we need to harp on recruitment into NGOs in Nigeria? Due to the need to staff top decision making positions with Nigerians, merit in many places has been thrown away and we have settled for nepotism. To get a job in many NGO outfit in Nigeria, you may need to be connected or come from a particular geographical location in Nigeria. I remember being interviewed for a position at The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2010 in Port Harcourt. Seven years later, not one person bothered to inform me why I failed the test and oral interview. I submitted efforts for two days. Silence means I failed right? No issue with failing though. Great men have failed at some things in earlier days. But courtesy demands I am informed, isn’t it? NGOs in Nigeria are proto-type of our civil service.

Our love for clannishness is not only affecting the decisions of donors in Nigeria but is also eroding the importance of NGOs in Nigeria. I remember how I campaigned to get a job in a USAID-funded NGO in 2009 in Port Harcourt but the top managers told me the available position was reserved for an indigene of the state even when no-one had applied for it. We fork out nativist agenda in growth agencies. I am not judging these NGOs. But we need to feel their presence in Nigeria and appreciate their unbridled interest and resourcefulness in addressing issues that have bedeviled our society. If truly we want to evolve as a people or develop as a nation, these issues must be squarely faced.

What do NGOs teach us here? And how effective are they to the Nigerian society? President Donald Trump plans to cut down drastically on U.S. foreign aids around the world. Experts have warned that it would harm U.S. national security. The Trump administration is also proposing cuts in U.S. funds to the United Nations. The president reasons, that the U.S. carries the burden of the world alone to a large-degree, with no gratitude from many countries that can’t survive without her foreign aids. Nigeria needs to begin to discharge her own burden – without being nursed, fraternally.

• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.

Published in Parliament

Presidency rejects claim that PDP left healthy economy

The Presidency yesterday dismissed former President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim on the state of the economy at the end of his administration in May 2015.

Jonathan said at the weekend that he handed over a healthy economy to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“We tamed inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, and drove the economy to become the largest in Africa”, the ex-president explained.

But the Presidency disagreed, saying the economy President Buhari inherited had crumbled.

In a statement titled “Your Excellency Dr Jonathan, this is the economy you left behind, in case you have forgotten”,  the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “With due respects to the former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, these are the facts about the economy you left behind, in case you have forgotten.

“I hope this will help to erase the wrong statement credited to you at your party, the PDP Convention at the Eagle Square last weekend that you handed to President Buhari a robustly healthy economy.

“To the same extent, this should also help to erase yet another false statement by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, the Caretaker Chairman of the party, to the effect that under the previous administration there was money but now things are very hard.

“Let me start by reasserting an obvious statement, which is that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was handed an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement and corruption.

“It is understandable that Dr Jonathon kept his comments short, because a cursory look at any sector clearly indicated that he and his government presided over the most monumental and tragic economic mismanagement recorded in our national history.

“The oil sector boomed under his tenure, with oil prices as high as US$ 120 and peace in the Niger Delta. Nigeria earned unprecedented dollar revenues. Sadly,that is where the story turns sour. There is nothing to show for the revenues earned, no major capital project was completed,  neither power generation, road development, rail nor agriculture benefited from the windfall earnings. Rather the administration presided over  the diversion of oil revenues on such a massive scale that even without the protection now accorded to Whistle blowers, the   then Central Bank Governor blew not only a whistle but a trumpet.

“He was hurriedly shown the door. Meanwhile, the acquisition by public officers and their cohorts of private jets, luxury yachts and the accumulation of expensive property portfolios world-wide continued unabated. Indeed the President once celebrated having the largest number of private jets, whilst our youth languished without jobs, our fields stood idle and our factories began the lay-off of workers.

“Government simply reticulated oil revenue  through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and  salaries. This was done rather than investing in what would grow the economy. Economies grow due to capital investment in assets like seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing. Nigeria cannot record a single major infrastructural project in the last 10 years. In short the money was mismanaged.”

“Such was the looting that even the goose that was laying the golden egg was being systematically starved. The direct contractual  costs of oil produced , in the form of cash calls, remained unpaid.  The incoming, President Buhari’s welcome from the oil majors included  demand for US$6Bn owed by Nigeria for oil that had already been sold or stolen,” he said.

Shehu recalled that at the inception of the Buhari administration, 21 States were unable to meet their salary bills and the spectre of workers arrears had begun.

“The PDP solution was the raid of the Ecological Fund and it selectively granted N2Bn each to the PDP states.  It was only aggressive borrowing by the Ministry of Finance under Dr  Okonjo- Iweala that prevented Federal Government from also owing salaries. The economic wisdom of borrowing to pay recurrent bills  is a questionable one, particularly as those paid would have included over 45,000 that have subsequently been removed by the Buhari-led administration as ghost workers.

“It also included the lavish costs of chartering private jets, first class travel   and other wasteful acts that have been eliminated under this administration.

“To compound the problem, the government was borrowing heavily and owed contractors, and international oil companies. When this government took over we had accumulated debt back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt forgiveness.

“All these factors  were building up to Nigeria heading for a major crisis if the price of oil fell. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock.

“The oil shock should and could have been foreseen.  When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, crisis started, it was clear that the United States of America wanted to cut off funds to terror groups by crashing the price of oil. When America granted permission for exploration of oil on land (Shale), the warning signs were evident, but these were ignored by Nigeria’s economic managers,” Shehu said

The spokesman added: “In summary, Nigeria earned a lot of money when oil prices were high but there is nothing to show for it. Now oil prices have fallen we are suffering.

“What could they have done differently? They could have begun doing the very things that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing so painfully now:

“Fight corruption, sanitise the huge salary bill  by eliminating payroll fraud, reduce wasteful expenses like first class travel and private jets, encourage state governments to reform their spending and build savings or investments, Increase spending on capital projects, especially on infrastructure needed to make Nigerian businesses competitive, and create jobs, block the leakages that allowed government revenues to be siphoned into private hands, Focus on key sectors  ( apart from oil) that can create jobs and or  generate revenue, such as agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.”

“If these things had been done when the oil price was as high as US$120 per barrel, Nigeria would not be in the current predicament.”

In Shehu’s view, Nigeria would not have been suffering, if we had cash reserves, power, or a rail system, or good roads, or good housing. “But we don’t have money and we don’t have the projects either.

“Now that the oil has fallen below those levels, it is very difficult to do what is needed but they must be done to save Nigeria. There is no other way if we want to be honest,” he said, adding:

“If PDP were still in power they would have continued deceiving people, by borrowing to fund stealing and wastage and the problem would have simply been postponed for future generations to face.

“One of former President Jonathon’s specific boasts is that dollar under him was N180 compared to today.  With such a line of  argument, it is clear why we are where we are. With oil prices as high as $120, the average inflow of dollars each month was high, making it easy to support cheap dollars. However with oil price plummeting as low as $28, the fundamental laws of supply and demand dictate that the currency would need to adjust, since oil was the sole export.  It is instructive to note that virtually every major oil exporter has witnessed currency adjustments with the fall in oil price.

“The Buhari administration has taken a long term strategic view of supporting a stable naira on both the supply and demand sides. President Buhari has driven Import substitution to reduce demand for dollars to buy things we can produce, thereby creating thousands of rural jobs in rice and other staples. In addition, there is a credible plan to diversify our revenue sources away from oil, with focus on export crops as well as solid minerals, with the release of US$100m fund to develop solid mineral extraction.

“President Muhammdu Buhari has a  positive and prosperous vision for Nigeria. A nation in which  the natural talent and hard work  of the people is  being supported by an enabling environment of  infrastructural development  and policy reforms that will develop a firm future for our nation.  Nigerians are looking forward and the PDP’s lurking in the economic rear view mirror only underscores the resolve of Nigerians, that as far as the economy is concerned it is ‘never again’” Shehu said.

Published in Headliners
 

There was drama at the Edo State House of Assembly on Monday when the Speaker of the House, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, was impeached, following an impeachment notice signed by 16 out of the 24 members of the assembly.

Okonoboh was replaced with Mr. Kabiru Adjoto, while Mr. Victor Edoror emerged as his deputy.

The new leadership of the House said Okonoboh; his deputy, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie; and the House Major Leader, Mr. Foly Ogedengbe, were suspended for three months.

Since its inauguration in June 2015, the Edo State House of Assembly has been led by no fewer than four speakers.

But Ogedengbe rejected the impeachment, describing it as illegal, contending that the House did not form a quorum.

“An illegal impeachment was moved today by a group of 11 people parading themselves to be 16. But they did not have that number.

“The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly has made a pronouncement on those persons and they stand suspended; so, shall it be,” he added.

When asked if the development was related to an impeachment scare in May, Ogedengbe said, “Yes. Yes, it is.”

The House had only reconvened after 26 days of break for oversight functions when the incident occurred.

It was gathered that at the resumption of plenary on Monday, a member, Emmanuel Agbaje, read a letter on the floor of the House, passing a vote of no confidence in Okonoboh as the Speaker.

The member representing Etsako West II, Mr. Sylvanus Eruaga, was said to have, thereafter, asked Okonoboh to vacate the exalted seat of the Speaker, a development that was said to have led to a free-for-all among some of the lawmakers in the chambers.

Okonoboh was, however, said to have left the seat after much pressure, paving the way for Eruaga to sit as the Speaker pro tempore.

 Efforts by another member of the House, Magnus Igbas, to prevent the removal of Okonoboh was vehemently resisted by some of his colleagues, who descended on him.

It was also learnt that Adjoto was later elected as the new Speaker, after he was nominated by Eruaga.

Staff members of the Assembly were locked out while the impeachment proceedings lasted.

There was also a heavy presence of security operatives with several police Hilux vans around the premises, so as to prevent further breakdown of law and order.

Addressing journalists, Adjoto said that the decision to effect a change in the leadership of the House became necessary following the alleged incompetence of Okonoboh.

The new Speaker accused his predecessor of desecrating the state parliament by running the House as a private affair.

But Okonoboh declined comments on the matter as he was led by his aides and security details into a waiting vehicle that sped off immediately at about 11.56am.

However, Adjoto explained, “But we discovered that for selfish reasons, the ex-Speaker would adjourn proceedings in the House, either because his wife was marking her birthday or his son was graduating from the Covenant University or the son is going to the NYSC camp and he wants to throw a party for his son. Between June and July, we have worked for just three weeks; he adjourned the House for more than six weeks.

“Today (Monday) is August 14, and we are just resuming. Then, the House is expected to adjourn again next week for another four weeks for the normal holiday. Is that a normal parliament? All of us came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’

“The institution deserves to be protected above the interest of an individual. The ex-Speaker’s wife, like I said earlier, has turned herself into the 25th member of the House of Assembly to the extent that anything we discussed at the executive session, the wife would hear and start calling our wives to tell them what was discussed.

“The wife uses the Speaker’s convoy as if she is Mr. Speaker and at random. The other day, the wife and the son took the convoy to the NYSC camp. When the soldiers and policemen there saw that it was coming, they all stood, hoping that they would see Mr. Speaker, only to see the wife and the son coming out of the vehicle. That is desecration of the parliament.”

Adjoto, who also accused Okonoboh of flouting due process by allegedly awarding contracts to himself, noted that the three-month suspension of the affected members would subsist to enable a committee chaired by Edoror to investigate their conduct.

He added, “Mr. Speaker is not supposed to be a contractor at all. But we discovered that he awards contracts to himself without due process. We have cautioned him several times but he refused to listen to our advice.

 “He just came back from the United States of America where he claimed he visited eight states. He was telling us, joyfully, how he toured America, whereas, he shut down the House. We are not supposed to go on holidays, but because you were going to America to have a party for your son that graduated, you shut down the House, stopping us from working for Edo people.”

Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has held a peace meeting with warring members of the state House of Assembly over Okonoboh’s impeachment.

Present at the closed-door meeting, which was held at the state secretariat of the All Progressives Congress on Airport Road in Benin, were the Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; the state Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua; and other chieftains of the party.

Although Obaseki did not grant any interview after the meeting which lasted for about two hours and ended at about 5.35pm, the state chairman of the APC told journalists that consultations were still ongoing.

Ojezua said that deliberations on what transpired at the House of Assembly were still on, adding that the resolution would be made public at the appropriate time.

“Let me just say that we have started talking and hope that we can resolve the issue very soon,” he stated.

 When asked if the change of leadership in the House of Assembly would remain, the APC Chairman said, “I said we are discussing. When we resolve, we will make a statement. When we finish, we will address the press.”

Published in Headliners

Cristiano Ronaldo has been banned for five matches after pushing referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea during Real Madrid's 3-1 Spanish Super Cup first-leg win at Barcelona on Sunday.

Ronaldo's 24 minutes as a substitute at the Camp Nou saw him score a superb goal, pick up a booking for removing his shirt during the celebration, and then quickly receive a second yellow after De Burgos Bengoetxea ruled the Portugal captain had dived to try to win a penalty.

Ronaldo reacted to being sent off by pushing De Burgos Bengoetxea. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) banned Ronaldo for one match for drawing the red card and the other four for pushing the official.

That was just one major talking point on a night that also saw Gerard Pique's own goal put Madrid ahead, Lionel Messi equalise with a controversial penalty won by Luis Suarez and Marco Asensio score a screamer to put his side fully in control ahead of Wednesday's second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ronaldo has also been fined €3,805 for his actions, while Madrid were fined €1,750.

Ronaldo is set to miss the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona as well as Madrid's four opening La Liga games against Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia, Levante and Real Sociedad.

His next domestic appearance will come at home to Real Betis in La Liga in the midweek round of fixtures of Sept. 20, although he will be eligible to play in Real Madrid's Champions League group stage opener a week before and the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy friendly against Fiorentina on Aug. 23.

The RFEF says Madrid have 10 days to lodge an appeal with its appeals committee, while adding in its report that the club attempted to get the offence downgraded from a push to a minor "disregard" for the referee.

The official match report sent to the RFEF from the Camp Nou included Ronaldo's push in the "other incidents" section.

"Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro -- having been shown the red card, the player pushed me slightly in a sign of his disagreement," the Basque official wrote.

The RFEF's disciplinary code appears clear that the punishment for such behaviour, even if only "slightly violent," is an extra suspension of four to 12 games.

"Pulling, pushing or shaking, or a general attitude towards the match officials which, even if only slightly violent, without confirming an aggressive attitude on their part, will be punished with a suspension of four to 12 games," says the code's article 96.

At the postmatch news conference, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said the second yellow was "a bit too much" and hoped Ronaldo could still be cleared to play in Wednesday's second leg.

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos told Telecinco after the final whistle that he believed Ronaldo had not dived, and therefore the club would be able to appeal the decision.

"I was far away," Ramos said. "But I believe Cristiano lost his balance and did not fake anything. We can appeal, as it leaves us without a very important player, with 10 minutes left. [The referee] should have thought about it a bit more."

Ramos also said that De Burgos Bengoetxea had erred in earlier awarding a penalty when Suarez fell to the ground dramatically, having been challenged inside the box by Madrid keeper Keylor Navas.

"There is a lot of tension in these type of games," he said. "For me it was not a penalty. I don't believe the referee blew the whistle if he did not see anything; he must have seen it clearly. But for me there was nothing."

Madrid left-back Marcelo told the club's official website that the red card was "bizarre" while acknowledging that referees make mistakes.

"Cristiano being sent off was bizarre, but sometimes that can happen," the Brazil international said. "Referees can make mistakes, along with the things they get right."

Ex-Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, now popular among fans and pundits for his regular defence of his former club, tweeted after Ronaldo's sending off: "They are laughing in our face. Lamentable."

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 00:01

Banks remove $1.2b 9Mobile debt from books

The 12 banks involved in the $1.2 billion 9Mobile loan are setting aside a large part of the debt from their books ahead of the December 31 end-date for the fiscal year.

The mobile company took the loan four years ago from a consortium of banks. It failed to repay the loan due to a currency crisis and the economic recession.

In the deal are: Zenith Bank, GTBank, First Bank, United Bank for Africa, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, First City Monument Bank, Stanbic IBTC and Union Bank.

Zenith Bank yesterday announced that it had made a provision on 30 per cent of its loan to 9Mobile, the country’s fourth largest telecoms group formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria.

The bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Amangbo, said: “We have taken about 30 per cent … as a provision, which we believe is very prudent as the company is undergoing restructuring … to prepare for a new investor.”

Zenith Bank is the largest lender to 9Mobile, one source familiar with the matter disclosed. The bank has declined to disclose its exposure to the telecoms group. The Tier-1 lender had last week reported a pre-tax profit of N92.18 billion for its half year against N53.91 billion a year ago.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) in July saved Etisalat Nigeria from collapse, stopping the company from going into receivership. But the telecom giant witnessed a board, management and name change.

Former Keystone Bank Executive Director Richard Obire said many other banks were likely to provide for certain percentage of the loans, depending on their profitability positions.

He said Zenith Bank, being a highly profitable bank, was thinking that it might not be able to recover the full money. “Zenith may be considering that when it gets down to negotiation with 9Mobile, it may end up giving about 30 per cent of the debt. The debtor may ask for more restructuring and loan forgiveness,” Obire said.

According to him, some banks are conservative and may want to stay within the five per cent regulatory non-performing loan threshold while some may want to exceed the limit. “Banks that are making more money are more likely to provide for their loans than those with less profitability,” he said.

Obire said by exceeding the 10 per cent peg for sub-standard loans to go for 30 per cent provision, Zenith Bank was indirectly saying that although the loan was not doubtful, but it was more than sub-standard. “If the bank does 30 per cent provision on the loan in 2017, it may do 50 per cent in 2018 while considering the variables surrounding the loans,” he said.

Head Treasuries at Ecobank Nigeria Olakunle Ezun said it is expected that the banks will provide for the loan, which he described as a bad debt. “For now, 9Mobile loan is like a non-performing loan for the banks. I understand that the banks are trying to restructure the loan. If they succeed, it will become a performing loan; otherwise it will have to be provided for in their books,” he said.

He said more banks may provide for the loan by year-end, but such a decision will be determined by the boards and their interpretation of the future of 9Mobile.

According to CBN Prudential Guidelines, banks are expected to review  their  credit  portfolio  continuously  (at  least once  in a  quarter)  with  a  view  to recognising  any deterioration in  credit quality. Such reviews should systematically and realistically classify banks’ credit exposures based on the perceived risks of default.

To facilitate comparability of banks’ classification of their credit portfolios, the guidelines said assessment  of  risk  of  default  should  be  based  on  criteria,  which  should include,  but  are  not  limited  to,  repayment  performance,  borrower’s repayment  capacity  on  the  basis  of  current  financial  condition  and  net realisable value of collateral.

The CBN prudential guidelines stipulate that a credit facility should be deemed as non-performing when interest or principal is due and unpaid for 90 days or more;   interest  payments  equal  to  90  days  interest  or  more  have been capitalized, rescheduled or rolled over into a new loan.

The guideline said a loan can be substandard, doubtful or lost. A loan is subs-standard when unpaid principal and/or interest remain outstanding for more than 90 days but less than 180 days. Credit facilities which display well defined weaknesses  which  could  affect  the  ability  of  borrowers  to repay,  such  as  inadequate  cash  flow  to  service  debt, undercapitalisation or insufficient working capital, absence of adequate financial information or collateral documentation, among others, are said to be sub-standard.

According to the CBN guidelines,  a loan is classified as doubtful when unpaid principal and/or interest remain outstanding for at least 180 days but less than 360 days and in  addition  to  the weaknesses  associated  with  sub-standard  credit  facilities reflect that full repayment of the debt is not certain or that realisable collateral values will be insufficient to cover bank’s exposure.

A loan is classified as lost when unpaid principal and/or interest remain outstanding for 360 days or more and in  addition  to  the weaknesses  associated  with  doubtful  credit  facilities,  are considered  uncollectible  and  are  of  such  little  value  that continuation  as  a  bankable  asset  is  unrealistic.

Published in Business and Economy
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