BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
By Abankula/ PM NEWS
Bea Lewis, an Atlanta, Georgia based lady revealed on New Year’s eve that she dated Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.
She also said Aliko went on to break “her heart in 1000 pieces’.
Although she published a selfie of hers and Aliko cheek by jowl, her post was not the typical vindictive post by a scorned woman.
There is no note of hell and fury in her Instagram post. There was no sign of hard feelings.
Rather, Lewis said she learned more from the Nigerian billionaire than from any other person she has ever met.
“Communicating with a billionaire daily makes you see the world different than your humble beginnings in liberty city.
“I became more organized and finally am able to step away from the daily kitchen operations.
“I learned love without strings.
“Give your best without expectations.
“Nothing is forever.
“I realized a half a million dollar restaurant project was a bad investment.
“I purchased two properties.
“I started a consistent fitness regime.
“Obtained a profitable stock portfolio.
“He changed my perspective on work ethic and patience.
“Once my mindset changed the universe gravitated me to people that uplifted me and increased my net worth mentally and financially.
“To 2021 and powerful encounters. #alikodangote #atlantarealestate #amp #HappyNewYear”
By Sumaila Ogbaje/ PM NEWS
Troops of Operation Hadarin Daji have rescued 23 kidnapped victims comprising 18 women and five children in Katsina State.
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, in a statement on Wednesday, said the rescue operation took place on Tuesday at Wurma Village in Kurfi Local Government Area of the state.
Enenche said the troop also recovered 75 rustled livestock during the operation.
He said troops in conjunction with personnel of the Nigeria Police Force swiftly mobilised to the location following credible information on the bandit’s activities in the village.
According to him, the troops engaged the bandits who had kidnapped some locals and rustled some livestock from Kwayawa Village in Safana Local Government Area.
“With superior firepower and support by Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship, the armed bandits were forced to abandon the kidnapped victims.
“Consequently, troops rescued 18 women and five children as well as recovered 75 rustled livestock.
“During the encounter, troops also arrested one informant of the bandits named, Mohammed Saleh along with some arms and ammunition.
“The rescued kidnapped victims have been successfully reunited with their families and the recovered livestock handed over to the owners.
“The arrested bandits’ informant has been handed over to appropriate prosecuting agency for further action,” he said.
By Jennifer Okundia/ PM NEWS
Nigerian crossdresser Bobrisky, real name Idris Okuneye, 28, said he would go for full gender change next year.
In multiple posts on Instagram he mentioned a Dr Philip in “‘Colombia”, who will do the surgery at a cost of $300,000.
He said he had banked the money and was ready to go.
He also said he was not afraid to die, should there be complications from it.
Bobrisky revealed why he changed himself into a woman after being a man for almost 25 years of his life.
The socialite and brand influencer stated that he kept struggling even with a certificate as an accounting graduate from the University of Lagos.
According to Bobrisky, he noticed his female friends were cashing out, so he decided to join them by cross dressing, since he already has some existent female features.
He also started taking feminine body pills and robbing expensive creams, to maintain the lifestyle, which started paying off in cash.
Read his full post:
“Dis message is for you all to read before you judge me. I was formally a man for almost 25yrs, nothing to show for it. I kept struggling even with my certificate as a graduate of accounting in university of Lagos, nothing to still show for it. I saw how all my females friends were cashing out back then. I went home and think about my life. If I join robbery they will end up killing me, secondly I don’t even have that heart to think to that dimension or to even scam people of their sweat . while I was growing I have a little bit of female features in me, so I decide to try what cross dressing look like. Under one yr of cross dressing I started making money . I was still surprise . So I gave my body more time, rubbing expensive creams, smelling good, using more of females body pills and looking out for myself. Boom more money keep coming… men admiring me, women giving me endorsements from right and left. Short story I fit in as a female to a man. God bless all d women around d world many of you love me and accepted me, save me and I will always respect WOMEN”.
Bobrisky wrote: If she didn’t die during her sex change, trust me I won’t die. God forbid if I did no problem, I’m happy I did wat makes me happy. Period !!!!!. Have always loved to be a woman from child birth. Now that I have plenty money , let my wish come to pass. Colombia here I come. Doctor Philip is about to give some wet pu***sy” he wrote.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday 23 December, arraigned two brothers, Okwuchukwu Olisaebuka Eze and Nnadozie Onyeka Eze for stealing N1.5billion from billionaire Arthur Eze.
Charged with the two accused were their companies.
While Olisaebuka and Berlus Resources Ltd were docked on a 14-count charge, Onyeka and DYM Integrated Service Limited were slammed with a 17 counts.
The EFCC did not state whether Olisaebuka and Onyeka are blood relations of Arthur Eze.
The two men and their companies were docked today before Justice Binta Mohammed of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja on two separate charges.
Olisaebuka, who was an administrative officer with Prince Arthur Eze, is alleged to have stolen and converted to personal use the sum of N804,360,216 and $3,309,359.
Count 3 of his charge reads; “That you Eze Olisaebuka Okwuchukwu, between 26th September, 2017 to 30th October, 2020, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, while being employed in the capacity of an administrative officer of Prince Arthur Eze, committed theft of an aggregate sum of N319,709,807 in the possession of your employer, Prince Arthur Eze, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 289 of the Penal Code Cap 532 LFN (ABUJA) 1990 and punishable under the same section”.
The defendants pleaded “not guilty”.
In view of the plea, the prosecution counsel, Samuel Chime, asked the court for a date for commencement of trial.
However, defence counsel, Anthony Okpalah, informed the court that an application for bail has been filed before the court and has also been served on the prosecution.
He therefore asked that the court grant the defendants bail on Liberal terms.
The prosecution counsel did not object.
He however reminded the court of the huge amount involved in the case and that the court should be judicious in giving the bail terms, stating that the prosecution is only interested in the defendants attending their trial at all times.
Justice Mohammed, after studying the application and the accompanying affidavit, granted Olisaebuka bail in the sum of N10 million.
Olisaebuka will also provide one surety in like sum, who must be a civil servant on Grade Level 14 with copy of last promotion letter submitted.
Also, he must be resident in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The case was adjourned till January 26, 2021 for commencement of trial.
Also, the case of theft brought against Eze Nnadozie Onyeka and DYM Intergrated Services Ltd, was adjourned till January 26, 2021 for commencement of trial, after the court admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N20 million
Onyeka was also asked to produce two sureties, who must be civil servants of not less than Grade Level 14.
By Muhaimin Olowoporoku/ PM NEWS
A 38-year-old real estate agent, Afeez Mojeed, has dragged Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari before the Lagos State Judicial Panel over allegation of extortion, brutality.
Mojeed, in his petition, claimed that officers of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, under the leadership of Kyari, brutalised and forced him to transfer various amount of money to two persons at different times.
He said his ordeal began on 18 October 2014.
He testified that on that night, four police officers in mufti stormed his Ajah residence, beat him and his wife, ransacked his house, took his wristwatch, phone, ATM card, cheque book, N280,000 and shop documents, among other items.
Mojeed said he was later whisked to the Lagos Police Command headquarters in Ikeja where the beating continued for three hours before he was eventually put in a cell.
He claimed that the police officers asked him to give them the password of his phone and his ATM pin the next day, but he gave them wrong numbers.
He added that the police later showed him one Edward Obinna who claimed he (Mojeed) had defrauded him of N97 million.
He said Obinna claimed he paid the money into his company’s account.
Mojeed claimed that when he challenged Obinna to show him his bank statement as evidence, Obinna later said he paid into the account of one Yusuf Olatunji Balogun, his cousin.
The complainant further revealed in his petition that after Obinna left the police station that night, he was tortured again for giving the police officers wrong ATM PIN.
He added that he was tortured until he gave the police officers the right PIN number of his ATM card.
Three days after, on the 22nd of October 2014, Afeez said under the supervision of Abba Kyari, the then OC SARS, he signed two cheques of N150,000.00 each payable to a faceless person named Nurudeen Alabi.
He said he was taken to Eco Bank to transfer N15 million which he has in a fixed deposit account to to the same Obina that same day.
However, the account officer on suspicion of how he appeared disapproved the transaction.
He said the police took him to another Diamond Bank branch to transfer N41 million to Obinna.
The petitioner said he was again tortured at the station and taken out in the midnight with other detainees to unload three corpses from a Hilux bus.
Mojeed said he was threatened that he would be wasted like the corpses if he did not comply at the bank the following day.
The next day, he said he was taken to the Diamond Bank and on the way, the police officers with him branched at a boutique, bought him a new cloth, and cleaned him up.
He testified that at the bank, he transferred the sum of N41 million to Mr. Obina who drove behind them on the way to the bank.
He stated that he was returned to the police station and tortured again before being forced to sign an undertaking that he willingly transferred the money to Mr. Obinna.
Mojeed said on the 24th of October 2014, he was again taken to an unknown Zenith Bank branch, where he transferred N800,000 to the same Obinna and still forced to sign another cheque of N150,000 to one Mr. Nurudeen Alabi.
The petitioner said the police later called his wife and asked her to terminate the representation of his lawyer.
He added that after 14 days in custody, he was arraigned before a magistrate who granted him bail that same day.
He claimed that after he was released, he went for treatment at the General Hospital, Ajegunle because one of his ears was emitting pus.
Hearing of the petition was adjourned till 19 January, 2021.
This was after Mojeed’s counsel counsel, Kabir Akingbolu, applied for an adjournment so he could tender documents to prove the allegations of his client before the panel.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has frowned at the flouting of its policy mandating International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) to pay Diaspora remittances to beneficiaries in dollars.
In a statement on Wednesday, the apex bank said few operators continue to pay remittances in local currency, contrary to regulatory directive. It has therefore, issued a new directive authorising Switches and Processors to immediately cease all local currency transfers in respect of foreign currency remittances through IMTOs.
It also directed that all Mobile Money Operators should immediately disable wallets from receipt of funds from IMTOs.
The bank directed Payment Service Providers to stop integrating their systems with IMTOs and avoid must prevent remittances with other legitimate transactions.
According to the CBN, all IMTOs are required to immediately disclose to beneficiaries that they exercise discretion to receive transfer in foreign currency cash or directly into their domiciliary accounts.
The apex bank has also instituted a central reporting portal for all foreign remittances to be managed by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), which is under development to improve visibility of foreign remittances flow.
“All licensed institutions are required to comply with the new guidelines as contraventions will attract stiff regulatory sanction including revocation of license,” the CBN said.
The bank restated its commitment to promoting transparency in the administration of diaspora remittances into the country, vowing to enforce policies that will stabilise and deepen the local foreign exchange (forex) market.
Also yesterday, the apex bank warned the general public to beware of two firms – Azimo and Transfer Wise – that operate as IMTOs, saying the two firms are not licensed to carry out the business.
It said: “Our attention has been drawn to the activities of Messrs. Azimo and Messrs. Transfer Wise, both of which are purportedly transacting business, albeit un-authorised, as International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs).
“The CBN wishes to notify the general public that neither Messrs. Azimo nor Messrs. Transfer Wise is licensed by the CBN to operate as an IMTO.
“The public is therefore advised to beware of the activities of Messrs. Azimo and Messrs. Transfer Wise and desist from patronising the companies forthwith,” adding that “anyone who patronies the unregistered companies, does so at his or her own risk.”
A group of former senators, House of Representatives members and other politicians across the Southwest geo-political zone has urged the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to contest as president in the 2023 election.
They spoke on Tuesday at the unveiling of the group’s logo in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The group is christened South West Agenda (SWAGA) and led by Senator Dayo Adeyeye.
It comprises politicians including the immediate former Oyo State Deputy Governor Alake Adeyemo, Senator Adesoji Akanbi and former members of House of Representatives, including Bosun Oladele and Rotimi Makinde.
Membership of the group spreads across the six states in the Southwest.
Also in attendance yesterday were former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji; his Ogun State counterpart, Suraj Adekunbi and Senator Abu Ibrahim (Kastina South) who was represented by Dr. Aliyu Zakari-Diya.
The National Coordinator, Northern Region Support Tinubu for 2023, Hamman Dikko, was also there. They urged Tinubu to contest.
The group started the campaign on Monday with visits to the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji and Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III during which they conveyed its agenda to the leading monarchs.
The group said members came together to actualise the agenda for the Southwest to produce the next President in 2023.
It has Senator Adesoji Akanbi as Vice Chairman and Bosun Oladele as Secretary.
Other members include Otunba Abayomi Ogunnusi. Mrs. Kafilat Ogbara, Oyetunde Ojo, Deji Jakande and Mr Ifedayo Abegunde (aka Abena), Senators Musiliu Obanikoro and Adeseye Ogunlewe.
Asiwaju Tinubu, who is a former governor of Lagos State, led the formation of the APC and emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as APC presidential candidate in 2014.
Adeyeye told the two monarchs that SWAGA was aimed at ensuring that an electable political leader from the Southwest gets the necessary support to succeed President Buhari in 2023.
He noted that Asiwaju Tinubu possesses all the qualities and experiences needed to lead Nigeria as the next President.
Besides, Adeyeye revealed that there was an agreement among APC leaders during the 2015 election that presidential power would rotate to the South after President Buhari’s eight-year tenure.
He said: “We are here for politics; politics has started. We, the Yoruba, believe that it is our right to produce the next President. It has been an agreement that presidential power will rotate from North to South. May God preserve President Buhari. After his tenure, power will shift to the South. Yoruba will be part of the contest. We want the best candidate to become the presidential candidate. As the media adviser to the late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, I know what Yoruba want. Except a thoroughbred Yoruba person becomes President, we can’t get it. We saw that we have a very capable hand in Asiwaju Tinubu. He is so capable. I’ve tried a bit in Nigerian politics. No one else has a bigger political stature than Asiwaju Tinubu in Nigeria today. He has not told us he would contest. We, as true Yoruba sons and daughters, just decided to embark on this to ensure that we push forward a good candidate. He is sellable all over Nigeria.
“We are having our inaugural meeting on Tuesday in Ibadan. Ibadan is the political headquarters of the Yoruba. All the Yoruba are represented in Ibadan. Hence, we chose Ibadan.
As Yoruba children, we have come to seek your blessings for the meeting and the agenda.”
Adeyeye said SWAGA would continue to consult elders and traditional rulers in the region.
Oba Adetunji hailed members of the group for taking the bold step to advance the interest of the Yoruba.
The frontline monarch said it was not out of place for people to press for their rights in Nigeria.
He said the Yoruba played key roles in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence and development, adding that they deserve top roles in government, particularly those eminently qualified Yoruba compatriots.
Oba Adetunji said his door was open to all political parties and assured the roup of open arms.
The Olubadan stressed that members of the group were free to visit him at any time.
He blessed their agenda thereafter.
At Alaafin’s palace in Oyo, Adeyeye told Oba Adeyemi that all regions wanted the presidential slot, but having had an agreement, written or unwritten, there should be no alteration.
He said: “We have a joker that others don’t have. That is Asiwaju. He has no peer in Nigeria today. That’s why we are confident that the Yoruba will produce the next President. Asiwaju Tinubu is not only qualified, he offered good governance in Lagos. Prior to that, he was an active member of defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). After Abiola, the next eminently qualified candidate we have is Asiwaju Tinubu.”
Expressing belief in SWAGA’s mission, Oba Adeyemi recalled the leading roles the Yoruba have been playing in Nigeria’s development.
He said it was right for the Yoruba to aspire to be President, adding that it was a noble cause for all Yoruba to consider.
The frontline monarch noted that for Nigeria to make progress, the country must practise true federalism.
Oba Adeyemi added: “We must have true federalism. If we don’t run true federalism, it will be difficult to move forward. The Yoruba have been at the forefront of exploits and development efforts of Nigeria, but there has been no sincerity in Nigerian politics.
“We need a leader who understands Nigeria very well and able to offer purposeful leadership.
I think your agenda is well thought out. I believe in your mission. In this journey, don’t entertain any fear, no matter the situation. You will attain your goal.”
By Agency Reporters/ PM NEWS
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday won the state-by-state Electoral College vote that formally confirmed his victory in the 3 November election and ended Donald Trump’s floundering campaign to steal it.
California, the most populous state, delivered its 55 electoral votes to Biden on Monday afternoon, officially putting the former vice president over the 270 votes needed to secure the White House.
Based on November’s results, Biden earned 306 Electoral College votes to the Republican Trump’s 232.
Earlier in the day, electors in several major battleground states where Trump has unsuccessfully sought to reverse the outcome – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – also voted for Biden, who is set to take office on Jan. 20 alongside running mate Kamala Harris.
Traditionally a formality, the Electoral College vote – set for Monday by federal law – assumed outsized significance because of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.
Biden planned a prime-time address at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday (0030 GMT on Tuesday) to mark the occasion and call on Americans to “turn the page” on the Trump era.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” he was expected to say, according to excerpts released by his transition team. “And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic — or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.”
Anthony Joshua said he wants to unify all four world heavyweight boxing titles in an all-British clash with Tyson Fury after a dominant ninth round knockout of Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday.
In front of 1,000 fans, with attendance limited due to coronavirus restrictions, Joshua ensured there was no repeat of a shock defeat in his first clash with Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 as the 39-year-old Pulev was swotted aside.
Attention will now turn to the possibility of a much-anticipated clash with WBC champion Fury in 2021.
“I’m up for anything. Who wants to see Anthony Joshua box Tyson Fury in 2021?” Joshua asked the crowd to a chorus of cheers.
“I started this game in 2013 and I’ve been chasing the belts ever since.
“Whoever has got the belt, I would love to compete with them. If that is Tyson Fury then let it be Tyson Fury.”
Pulev had lost just once previously in his career to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, but was outclassed by Joshua, who could have had victory wrapped up within three rounds.
Twice Pulev was given a count by the referee in round three after he was left flailing on the ropes by an explosive burst of punches from Joshua.
The IBF, WBA and WBO world champion then surprisingly took his foot off the accelerator to allow Pulev to hang in the fight.
But in round nine three uppercuts in quick succession put Pulev back on the canvas and this time he did not get back up in time as Joshua took his career record to 24-1.
An agreement in principle for Joshua and WBC champion Fury to finally go head-to-head has been in place since earlier this year.
“Starting from tomorrow, we make the Tyson Fury fight straight away. It’s the only fight to be made in boxing. It is the biggest fight in British boxing history,” said Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
“I know he (Joshua) wants it. He is the best heavyweight in the world, I promise you. He’ll break him down, he’ll knock him out.”
Fury also confirmed he wants the fight with a post on social media shortly after Joshua’s win.
“I want the fight, I want the fight next,” said Fury, who has not been in the ring since beating Deontay Wilder in February.
“I’ll knock him out inside three rounds.”
However, Fury could be contractually obliged to fight Wilder for a third time before taking on Joshua.
After the first bout was controversially declared a draw, Wilder activated a rematch clause following Fury’s victory in the second fight.
A third clash between the two was postponed earlier this year due to coronavirus.
By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Abuja/ GUARDIAN.NG
•Regrets Buhari’s refusal to address N’Assembly on insecurity
The decision on which geopolitical zone to run for the 2023 presidency on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot be taken now, its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, stated yesterday.
Briefing newsmen yesterday in Abuja on the activities of the party’s leadership in the last three years, Secondus explained that a committee had been set up in that respect.
According to him, the panel, led by Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, has been mandated to investigate why the party lost the 2019 election and make recommendations.
His words: “I know you (media) are interested in zoning, but our party has a clear method of doing things. After the general election, we set up a panel to appraise our performance and make necessary recommendations.
“The Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, is heading the committee, and they are still working. We must study our last outing before looking ahead. We can’t be talking of zoning when we have not appraised how we fared in the last election.”
Asked if overtures were being made to former President Goodluck Jonathan following the clamour for Igbo presidency, Secondus stated: “I believe that whoever that is interested in 2023, including the former President, can run because the PDP is a party for all.”
He insisted: “I stand by my position that the Governor Mohammed-led committee is still working. They are coming out with a report on why we lost and by the time they finish, we will make a decision that would not just be for the National Working Committee (NWC), but for the entire party.”
The PDP chair pointed out that “the state of the nation today is such that politics or anything concerning 2023 should take the backstage.”
He argued that “Nigeria is in a comatose state today, and that should be our concern now.”
Secondus lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari reneged on his promise to address the National Assembly yesterday on pervasive insecurity.
“This back and front from the President on the vital issue as security that is overwhelming our nation underscores our position as an opposition party that nobody is in charge, and that this is a broken government,” he added.
The national chairman further said: “Disregarding the nation’s parliament is disregarding Nigerian people because they are representatives of the people. The truth which is worrisome is that the President either does not know what is happening or does know what to do, otherwise he should not be afraid to face the people.”
Ade Adesomoju, Abuja/ PUNCHNG.COM
Faisal Maina, who is the son of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Taskforce Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, has been arrested.
This came barely one week after Maina who had jumped bail in his ongoing N2bn money laundering trial at the Federal Court in Abuja was arrested in the Republic of Niger and brought back to the court.
Faisal who is being prosecuted in a separate three-count money laundering case at the same court, had jumped bail and stopped attending trial which had though continued in his absence.
Justice Okon Abang of November 24, 2020, revoked the bail granted him and ordered his arrest.
The judge also ordered the fleeing defendant’s surety, who is a member of the House of Representatives representing Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency, Umar Dan-Galadima, to appear in court.
But at the resumed hearing in the case on Thursday, surety’s lawyer, Mr. M. E. Sheriff, urged the court to suspend the hearing of the forfeiture proceedings on the grounds that he got information that Faisal had been arrested.
“My lord, I was reliably informed that the Defendant had been arrested. He was arrested last night and he is in custody,” the lawyer said.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Faruk Abdullah, confirmed the development but said the defendant had not been handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Ghanaian President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been re-elected for a second four-year term, the electoral Commission announced on Wednesday.
He polled 6,730,413 votes, representing 51.595 percent of the total valid votes cast.
His rival, John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) got 6,214,889 votes representing 47.36 per cent.
Akufo-Addo ran on the platform of the New Patriotic Party.
Compared with 2016, Akufo-Addo got one million votes more this year, but in percentage terms, he got less.
In 2016, he got 5,716,026, representing 53.85 percent of the total votes cast. His rival, Mahama got 4,713,277, votes, representing 44.4%.
It means Mahama’s party gained more this year than in 2016, a performance that reflected in the number of seats won in parliament.
Turnout of voters this year was 13, 434,574 representing 79 per cent of the 17 million registered voters.
After putting Ghanaians on tenterhooks since 5pm on Tuesday, the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa finally pronounced the winner.
She described the elections as “incident free” and “peaceful, although police said five persons died.”
While Akufo-Addo beat Mahama by about 500,000 votes, his party was locked in a nail-biting finish to secure a majority in parliament.
With two seats left to be declared, the NPP secured 137 seats out of 275 seats, while NDC got 135 seats. An independent got one seat.
The Federal Government has reduced the pump price of premium motor spirit (petrol) from N168 per litre to N162.44 per litre effective from December 14, 2020.
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige announced this while addressing reporters at the end of a meeting with labour leaders, which began at 9 p.m on Monday and ended at 1:30 a.m on Tuesday.
The product currently sells at N168, following the decision of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to increase the ex-depot price of petrol from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 in November.
The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold by the PPMC to marketers at the depots.
The minister said a technical committee had been set up by the larger house to ensure price stability across the industry.
He said: “Our discussion was fruitful. The NNPC, which is the major importer and marketer of petroleum products, and customers, have agreed that there will be a reduction of the pump price of PMS and that the price cut will get us about N5 per litre. That the price cut will take effect from next Monday, a week from today.
“A committee that has members of labour, NNPC, PPRA, Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Finance, the unions – P Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to stand in. This time, they will be appraising the market forces and every other thing that will make for stability in the industry.
“They have to liaise with all the marketers to make sure that the cap is always maintained. In the course of maintaining the cap, some people will even sell below this price of N162.44, if they cut other internal arrangements, like collage.
“This committee will report back to the main committee on January 25, 2021.”
Ngige explained that the price reduction was not meant to suspend deregulation because it did not affect the price of crude oil but in areas where the NNPC, as the main importer, had agreed that it could cut costs, such as freight and demurrage.
The minister said the new price slash was a product of a joint committee of the NNPC and labour representatives, which looked into how to cut costs.
On electricity tariff, Ngige said both sides agreed to wait till January 25 to enable the special committee dealing with complaints to conclude its deliberations.
“The Electricity Committee is still at work. We have gone down and there is a price now. They are now touring the DisCos. They have been all over the country. They have been in Lagos, Ibadan; they are supposed to be in Kano now. Two members of the committee have taken ill; so, they couldn’t continue. But they will also continue after the Yuletide and then report back again on January 25.
“Same goes for the palliatives. The palliatives have been rolled on. Everybody’s hands must be on deck. We want to see that people start getting the effect of the palliatives.
“For the workers: the palliatives concerning the urban poor. We are going to engage and enroll a lot of urban city workers. We will give them some stipends every month for the next 12 months as part of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT),” he added.
By Wole Oyebade/ GUARDIAN.NG
• Economy ticket hits N75, 000; N121, 000
• $200m fund stuck
• ‘Blame govt, not airlines’
One of the most expensive pricing regimes in local airfares may be upon the aviation industry, as ticket rates have more than doubled in a week.
The spike, which operators blamed on an exchange rate that hit N500 to $1 at the black market last week, has seen an average one-hour economy class seat of N33, 000 rise to N75, 000 over the counter of some airlines. Its average return trip variant also climbed to N121, 000 from about N60, 000 a week ago.
Stakeholders are unanimous it was one of the highest price leaps in years, warning that the last has not been seen since airlines only deployed the spike to cover basic costs, and not to make profit.
Similarly, foreign airlines have also been caught in the forex tangle, as over $200 million of accumulated ticket fares sold in the last couple of weeks have lately been stuck in Nigeria due to constraints at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Aviation stakeholders, however, said unless the Federal Government bailed out the local industry and avail a special forex window for local and foreign operators, airfares might continue to spike and become unbearable for the travelling public in the festive season. In the interim, they have advised travellers to make their travel bookings ahead of time to get fairer deal.
The Guardian monitoring of fares at the weekend showed a slightly varying price range across the airlines and routes. On the average, all routes, subject to availability, were sold for between N55, 000 and N75, 000 Economy Class one-way tickets. Return tickets for the same class averaged N120, 000. The one-way Business Class of N58, 000 was sold for an average of N100, 000, where available.
For instance, an Azman Air Lagos-Kano Economy flight ticket that used to sell for N30, 000 went for N55, 000. The same airline sold Lagos-Abuja 10 a.m. flight yesterday for N85, 000. Dana Air’s Lagos-Abuja Economy Class was sold for N56, 000, compared to N29, 000 average rates in the past. For today’s flights, all the Lagos-Abuja morning flights had been fully booked as at Saturday, except for Arik Air that was just resuming operations after shutdown by the unions. Arik sold for N53, 000 yesterday.
A travel agent, Akin Ogunnubi, said indications of fare hike had been palpable in the last two weeks, but only went haywire last Thursday, when aviation unions picketed Arik Air.
“Arik has the second highest traffic after Air Peace. Picketing such an airline means serious disruption across the network. On Thursday and Friday, people searched for tickets at all costs. So, today’s flights that used to go for about N40, 000 on the counter went to N50, 000, N60, 000 and N70, 000; yet travellers were still seeking desperately. I think this is bound to happen, where airlines have reduced their itineraries because of the COVID-19 effects. We have limited flights for a lot of business travellers,” Ogunnubi said.
DEVASTATING effects of the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, the recent spike in naira-to-dollar rate has also exposed local airlines to more financial needs. Except workers’ salaries and ticket sales, everything else in aviation is denominated in dollars.
Chief operation officer of one of the local carriers said the major worry was the high cost of maintenance. A C-check, which is required every 18 months, now costs an average of $2 million per commercial aircraft.
“You do the maths. At N500 to $1, a C-check is now N1 billion; just for one aircraft! And that is one component of other obligations. So, if you have N33, 000 tickets now selling for N70, 000, you cannot really blame the airlines, but the economy and its handlers. All the airlines that are lucky to have a couple of planes in operation have reduced their frequencies and routes just to be able to cut losses. Since the government has refused to help us, we have to spread the cost across the traffic available. We feel for our customers, but survival is paramount,” he said.
Former commandant of the Lagos Airport and aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said airlines might, for once, be charging the right fares that are commensurate with economic realities.
Ojikutu recalled that from the 1990s to date, exchange rates had spiked several times without airlines changing ticket fares. He said it was no surprise that the airlines continued to struggle, owing service providers and regulatory agencies deductions of five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) and Passenger Services Charge (PSC), just to stay afloat.
“Rather than these airlines applying or charging appropriate fares for their flights, they target public money to make up for losses. They cannot be charging $100 (N3, 800/N4, 000) when exchange rate was N40/$ in 1990, and still be charging less than N40, 000 today when dollar is N500/$.
“It does not make economic sense today when all aircraft parts and even fuel is imported as against the local availability in the 80s/90s. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) can regulate but there is no problem with the increase if dollar sells for N500. Airfare to places of one hour flight distance can and should not be less than $100 or N50, 000.”
BY the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, airfare pricing has been deregulated, and subject to the estimates of the operating carrier. The caveat, however, is that a carrier that may so wish to change rates should intimate the Directorate of Air Transport Regulation (DATR) of the NCAA with a cost analysis of the new pricing. As at yesterday, there is no confirmation of airlines intimidating NCAA of the new pricing regime.
Travel specialist and Chairman of the Airlines Joint Passenger Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Bankole Bernard, said it was most disappointing that the industry was fast becoming lawless, with no form of engagement between the operators and regulators.
He observed that the entire sector still had low patronage of about 30 per cent, causing airlines to run at a loss. This has been made worse by the fact that the exchange rate has lately gone up from N380 to N490/$, with airlines pushed to the black market to source for dollars to meet aviation obligations.
“We all know that aviation is essential service and central to commerce. How come no one has deemed it fit to engage the airline operators and push their case before the CBN to give them a special FX window? That is what I find strange in this matter. This is a very difficult time for all and I shudder to imagine where we all will be by the next quarter,” Bernard said.
He added that forex scarcity was already affecting foreign airlines with as much as $200 million already stuck in Nigeria. He said the implication might be foreign airlines selling tickets in dollars, both for the inability to repatriate funds and likelihood of naira devaluation.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East (AME), Muhammed Albakri, recently disclosed that Nigeria and other African countries had blocked funds totalled at $516 million.
The main cause of the blocked fund is the inaccessibility to foreign exchange by operators as the countries’ economies suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most countries are struggling economically with its attendant effect on the global airline industry.
Industry analyst and member of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Olumide Ohunayo, said no one could really blame the airlines for the spike, but the government that refused bailout to the airlines when it mattered the most.
Ohunayo said there was a need to create a special FX window for the scheduled operators alone, coupled with the swift roll out of pandemic stimulus for the operators to reduce pressure on liquidity.
“It is unfortunate that both airlines and consumers have all found selves in this difficult situation. Passengers should begin to plan ahead to get seats and good fares. If they have to travel, they should do the bookings ahead of time given that this is the festive season and fares will naturally jack up. Air travel is still better than road. Passengers should bear with the industry,” Ohunayo said.