Thursday, 24 September 2020

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

…as INTERPOL confirms arrest of suspected international fraudster

  • Launches manhunt for accomplices in alleged trans-border fraud

Precious Igbonwelundu and Gbenga Bada/ The Nation

Plans are underway by the International Police (INTERPOL) Nigeria to extradite Instagram celebrity Raymond Igbalodely a.k.a. Hushpuppi from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Nigeria to face alleged multiple fraud charges, The Nation learnt on Friday.

The INTERPOL is also on the trail of other accomplices in the alleged fraud who are resident in Nigeria to bring them to justice.

Commissioner of Police (CP) INTERPOL, Garba Umar disclosed these to The Nation yesterday while confirming the arrest of Igbalodely whose real name is said to be Ramoni Igbalode.

He said: “It is true that Hushpuppi was arrested by the INTERPOL. We are currently working on bringing him to Nigeria to face charges of fraud.

“Some of the offences were committed here in Nigeria and he has to answer for them. He is not alone in it; there are accomplices in the country who we are currently on their trail,” said the CP.

Hushpuppi, known for his reckless display of wealth on social media, was arrested three days ago for allegedly hacking into the United States (US) unemployed database and impersonating citizens qualified for unemployment funds.

He and his accomplices in Nigeria, Dubai and other countries allegedly defrauded the US of over $100 million meant for Native Americans in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nation reports that his arrest came three days after he posted a picture of his newly acquired 2020 Rolls Royce Cullinan worth about N280 million, the latest addition to his fleet of exotic vehicles.

It was alleged that Hushpuppi was arrested alongside two of his friends after weeks of investigation by the US Secret Service, following the alarm raised in May about a crime ring of suspected Nigerians who broke into the personal information of citizens and used factitious unemployment claims to steal hundreds of millions of dollars reserved to help jobless American people.

The syndicate was alleged to have filed in so many names of Americans who were still working to various state unemployment offices and collected money from the system.

They were alleged to have used information stolen from first responders, government personnel and school employees.

The escapades of a suspected fraudster

Ramoni Igbalode may not ring a bell. But the mention of Hushpuppi alerts many about the Nigerian born Instagram celebrity who lives in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. Hushpuppi is virtually synonymous with glamour.

Until Wednesday, June 10, when he was reportedly arrested, he had kept entertaining his 2.3 million followers on Instagram with his luxurious lifestyle. His name echoes glamour and panache as he junkets the globe on private jets, flaunting high-end clothing, watches, and shoes on the social media.

Known for his weakness for luxury and high-end brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, Rolls Royce and Versace, Hushpuppi is a regular face at Dubai’s premier luxury department, Harvey Nichols.

Although he claims to be a real estate developer, according to his bio on Instagram, his high taste for expensive lifestyle has not only endeared him to his 2.3 million followers on Instagram but also celebrities and dignitaries from different walks of life.

From music stars to footballers and Nigerian lawmakers, Hushpuppi’s name resonates across the globe – with roots in Nigeria and Dubai.

Partying with Dino Melaye, Dogara, others

On January 7, 2020, ex-Senator Dino Melaye turned 46 and decided to throw a lavish party for the occasion in Dubai. The guest list had the names of ex-Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, and former APC spokesman, Timi Frank. Also at the party filled with the distinguished guests was no other than Hushpuppi, the Instagram celeb who partied and took pictures with Dogara, Timi Frank, and Dino Melaye.

The lifestyle displayed by Hushpuppi on Instagram drew several Nigerian music stars to him. Touted as a philanthropist, music stars like Olamide and 9ice sang Hushpuppi’s praises with reckless abandon. It is, however, not certain whether these music stars benefitted from Hushpuppi’s largesse.

On November 16, 2014, Hushpuppi was spotted with ‘Kukere’ star, Iyanya. He shared a picture of himself with the singer with the caption, “Out for dinner with Mr. Oreo Iyanya.”

On November 1, 2018, Hushpuppi shared a picture of himself with Wizkid. The two were seen to be hanging out somewhere in Dubai.

Hushpuppi meets Manchester City defender

On March 26, 2019, Hushpuppi shared a picture of himself with Manchester City defender and French international, Benjamin Mendy. Although the nature of the relationship between the Instagram celeb and the footballer could not be established, he captioned the picture, “I wish I can play for Manchester City and be humble and down to earth like my bro Ben Mendy. Thanks for being the most amazing person ever bro.”

Confrontations with Nigerian celebs

From Davido to Eniola Badmus, Kcee, Phyno and Timaya, Hushpuppi has had his fair share of controversies. He had first taken on Davido, claiming that he was richer than the musician. He bragged about his authentic designer wears and shoes, saying many Nigerian celebs wear fake products.

He had also trolled Phyno and Iceprince, saying that since the duo wear fake Patek wristwatches, they should stop complaining when people pirate their music. He also toed the same line in respect of Eniola Badmus and Timaya, who in anger dragged him and dared him to come back to Nigeria.

Between Hushpuppi and Mompha

Hushpuppi is rarely seen with individuals on his Instagram posts. But on December 14, 2015, he shared a picture of himself and Mompha, announcing to his followers that they were both flying to Malaysia on a private jet for some business deals after expending millions on designer shoes, bags, and clothes. However, there are unconfirmed reports that the relationship between the two Instagram celebs has since gone sour.

Interestingly, Hushpuppi was reportedly arrested in Dubai exactly eight months after Mompha was arrested in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged fraudulent activities.

Published in News & Stories

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu eligible to contest the party’s primary scheduled for June 22, 2020.

Ize Iyamu was cleared alongside two other aspirants, Dr. Pius Odubu and Mr. Osaro Obazee.

The party’s screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba announced this on Friday in Abuja.

The screening committee had earlier announced the disqualification of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Matthew Iduoriyekemwe from contesting the primary.

The writing had been on the wall as Obaseki and his predecessor, Oshiomhole, have been at loggerheads over the governor’s second term bid and other issues.

The feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole has polarised the party in Edo State.

However, Ize-Iyamu, endorsed by the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole, now appears to be the man that will lead the party’s interest in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.

Ize-Iyamu is a former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government.

He was the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election.

He was the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

He served as Director-General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation.

He was also the Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.

Published in News & Stories

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu eligible to contest the party’s primary scheduled for June 22, 2020.

Ize Iyamu was cleared alongside two other aspirants, Dr. Pius Odubu and Mr. Osaro Obazee.

The party’s screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba announced this on Friday in Abuja.

The screening committee had earlier announced the disqualification of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Matthew Iduoriyekemwe from contesting the primary.

The writing had been on the wall as Obaseki and his predecessor, Oshiomhole, have been at loggerheads over the governor’s second term bid and other issues.

The feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole has polarised the party in Edo State.

However, Ize-Iyamu, endorsed by the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole, now appears to be the man that will lead the party’s interest in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.

Ize-Iyamu is a former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government.

He was the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election.

He was the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

He served as Director-General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation.

He was also the Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.

Published in News & Stories

By Michael Adeshina/ PM News

The All Progressives Congress has declared the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, ineligible to contest in the July 22 governorship primary election in Edo State.

The screening committee announced the disqualification while presenting its report to the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee in Abuja on Friday.

Apart from Obaseki, two other aspirants were also disqualified.

They are Chris Ogiemwonyi and Mathew Iduoriyekenwen.

Presenting the report, Chairman of the screening panel, Prof. Jonathan Ayuba, explained that Obaseki was disqualified because the committee could not vouch for the authenticity of the Higher School Certificate he claimed but could not produce.

Prof. Ayuba said the document he produced only attested to his attendance.

The seven-man screening committee led by Prof. Jonathan Ayuba said the report is conclusive, adding that all members of the panel signed the report.

Ayuba said the committee was thorough in the process of conducting the exercise, adding that the process was recorded and the unedited recording will be made available to the party.

Reacting to his disqualification, Obaseki urged his supporters and all party members to remain calm.

He said: “We call on all party members and our teeming supporters to remain calm and await further directives, in the light of the announcement of my unjust disqualification to participate in @OfficialAPCNg primary election in Edo State by the screening committee.”

Published in News & Stories

About 1,089 Nigerian asylum seekers who arrived in the Netherlands last year and January this year, have disappeared.

According to a group of investigative journalists, many of the Nigerians fell victim to human traffickers who forced them into prostitution or drug trafficking across the European Union.

The European journalism collective said of the 2,461 Nigerians seeking asylum in the Netherlands in 2019, 961 cannot be located.

Another 128 Nigerians who arrived in January of this year also disappeared, according to an investigation by the journalist group Lost in Europe.

Reacting to the investigative group’s findings, Shamir Ceuleers of the Dutch Centre Against Human and Child Trafficking says the results are not surprising because they follow a pattern that has been going on for years.

The non-governmental organization said more has to be done to protect the Nigerian men and women who fall victim to human traffickers in the Netherlands.

“The Dutch police should create a specific West African human trafficking unit, which invests in knowledge and expertise and is well connected to the West African community that we have here in the Netherlands.

“And by using this and creating this expertise, the Dutch police would be well equipped to prosecute these trafficking rings,” it said.

Young people from Nigeria are lured with promises of a better life in Europe.

After arriving in the European Union, often by crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat, they are forced to work in prostitution or other forms of forced labor.

It is a profitable business for the traffickers, as each person has to pay off a debt up to $50,000.

It is believed that such trafficking is not just a Dutch problem, but that the criminal organizations behind such illegal practices are active across Western Europe.

The Dutch national prosecutor for human trafficking and people smuggling, Warner ten Kate, said more international cooperation is needed to prevent human trafficking.

“Within Europe, it’s essential to work together and to exchange experiences but also exchange data of the missing children and women and men.

“So if they disappear and pop up somewhere in conditions considered human trafficking, they can easily be identified.

“I think that’s really essential, and to give them the protection they need,” he said.

A Europe-wide police investigation on missing Nigerian women in 2006 led to arrests across Europe and Nigeria.

Despite that, the trafficking has not stopped or discouraged Nigerians from migrating.

The International Organization for Migration says the increase has been significant, from 1,500 arrivals of Nigerian women in 2014 to 11,000 in 2016.

The IOM worries that up to 80 percent are potential victims of trafficking.

Flavio Di Giacomo of the IOM warns that data shows it’s not only Nigerians who are being trafficked into Europe from West Africa.

“We have also seen, even last year, an increase of women victims of trafficking, coming from Ivory Coast, which is quite new, and many coming from Tunisia. This is a different kind of exploitation because it’s not only sexual exploitation but also work exploitation and domestic exploitation.

Ivorian girls were exploited to Tunisia, and then re-trafficked in Italy,” he said.

Members of the Dutch parliament questioned the government’s approach to missing people this week.

Earlier this year it was reported by Lost in Europe that at least 25 pregnant West African women had disappeared from asylum centers in the Netherlands.

Their disappearance raised serious concerns about potential baby trafficking and illegal adoption.

Originally reported by Voice of America

Published in Business and Economy

By President Muhammadu Buhari

National broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari on democracy day, June 12th 2020

Fellow Nigerians,

  1. The 2020 celebration of Democracy Day marks 21 years of uninterrupted civil administration in our dear country. This day provides us an opportunity to reflect on our journey as a nation, our achievements and struggles.
  2. It is a day to honour our founding fathers who toiled to establish our republic and every Nigerian who has worked tirelessly to sustain it.
  3. We are celebrating this year’s Democracy Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic which afflicts our nation and the whole world.
  4. It is indeed a very difficult time for everyone especially those who have lost loved ones to the virus and those whose sources of livelihood have been severely constrained by the stringent measures we introduced at every level of government to contain the virus and save lives.
  5. The dedication of our health and other essential services staff towards containing this virus is a testament of our courage and resilience as a people and as a great nation, and I use this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your service to the nation.
  6. Sustaining our democracy thus far has been a collective struggle, and I congratulate all Nigerians and particularly leaders of our democratic institutions on their resilience and determination to ensure that Nigeria remains a shining example of democracy.
  7. In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day.
  8. We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success.
  9. On the economic front, our objectives have remained to stabilize the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance.
  10. We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  11. Every single economy in the world has suffered a decline. Ours has been relatively moderate.
  12. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments.
  13. Agriculture remains the key to our economic diversification strategy. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme continues to deliver significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizers to our farmers. This initiative has also revived 31 blending plants and created a significant number of direct and indirect jobs across the value chain.
  14. Government is also revamping the cotton, textile and garment sector via a CBN Textile Revival Intervention Fund that would considerably reduce foreign exchange spent on cotton and other textile imports.
  15. Through the food security initiative, we are promoting “Grow What We Eat” and “Eat What We Grow”. I am also delighted that more and more Nigerians are taking advantage of the opportunities in the agriculture and agri-business sector. I assure you that government will continue to support the Agriculture sector through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and similar schemes.
  16. To protect our farming investments, we have deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in our para-military agencies.
  17. We are also integrating rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads.
  18. Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million.
  19. Africa presents a huge opportunity for our export base diversification and we are developing our strategy to grow intra-Africa trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
  20. Nigeria has risen by 25 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking from 146th to 131st and is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries.
  21. This development is due to the Visa on Arrival policy, consistent promotion of initiatives that expand facilities available to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, robust electronic registration and payment system, seamless processing of business registration and reduction of cost of registering business by 50%. We are confident that on-going efforts would result in further improvement of this rating.
  22. We remain committed to expanding our mining sector. To this end, I have directed the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and a Public-Private Sector financing.
  23. With foreign and domestic investments and the participation of Small Scale Miners, we are harnessing the supply value chain in gold production.
  24. We would also be launching a fully digitized mineral rights management platform for quick processing of mineral rights application, digitization of records and plugging revenue leakages.
  25. The Power Sector remains very critical to meeting our industrial development aspirations and we are tackling the challenges that still exist in the delivery of power through different strategies.
  26. We are executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme including the:
  27. Alaoji to Onitsha, Delta Power Station to Benin and Kaduna to Kano;
  28. 330kv DC 62km line between Birnin Kebbi and Kamba;
  29. Lagos/Ogun Transmission Infrastructure Project;
  30. Abuja Transmission Ring Scheme; and
  31. Northern Corridor Transmission Project.
  32. Our agreement with Siemens will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve our electricity needs.
  33. On transportation, another critical sector to improving our economic competitiveness, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure.
  34. Through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%.
  35. The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. On the 2nd Niger Bridge, piling work has been completed and the approach roads are being constructed. 48% of work on this bridge has been achieved. We have constructed 102km of the 376km Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road, representing 38%, and the 42.9km Obajana – Kabba Road is 87.03% complete.
  36. Furthermore, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency has completed routine maintenance on over 4,000km of federal roads out of the 5,000km targeted.
  37. We are extending and upgrading our railway network too. We are introducing more locomotives, coaches and wagons for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line. The Central Ajaokuta – Itakpe – Warri Line has been completed and is being extended from Itakpe to Abuja on one end and from Warri Town to Warri Port on the other.
  38. The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line is 90% completed and would be extended to the Lagos Port which would help address the long-standing grid-lock at the Apapa port.
  39. The Kano – Maradi Single Track Standard Gauge Railway, Coastal Railway Project and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Standard Gauge Railway, with its associated branch lines running through the South Eastern and Gombe States, industrial park and Bonny Deep Sea Port are all ready for concessioning.
  40. Government continues to make investments in the Aviation sector to position it as a travel and trade hub in West Africa and the wider African continent.
  41. Airport Terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt are being expanded, while the rehabilitation of the Enugu Airport is almost completed. All our airports are being raised to international standards with the provision of necessary equipment, especially navigational aids, to guarantee world class safety standards.
  42. For the first time in over ten years, Nigeria is conducting bidding process for 57 Marginal Oil Fields to increase revenue and increase the participation of Nigerian companies in oil and exploration and production business.
  43. We continue to grow local content in other areas of the oil and gas sector with the disbursement of funds from the $200 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund to indigenous manufacturers and service providers.
  44. With sustained engagement of youths, opinion leaders and other stakeholders, we have restored peace in the Niger Delta Region and maintained our oil production levels.
  45. The Head office of the Niger Delta Development Commission will be commissioned shortly. The Funding of sections I–IV of the East-West Road shall be pursued with a view to completing the project by the end of 2021.
  46. Furthermore, I am determined to ensure that development meant for the people of the Niger Delta get to them so I have authorised a Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
  47. Digital Economy continues to play an important role in our development agenda as we move into the age of Artificial Intelligence.
  48. Since the creation of the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy has been launched. Steps have been taken to achieve a reduction of connectivity cluster gaps from 207 to 114 as well as increase the level of 4G coverage by 30%.
  49. Nigeria remains committed to expanding access to quality education to enhance the productivity of its citizens and would continue to pursue the enforcement of free and compulsory basic education for the first 9 years of schooling.
  50. In pursuit of this, we have launched the Better Education Service Delivery for All in 17 states, established additional 6 Federal Science and Technical Colleges and currently executing a pro-active Teacher Training Plan with all states of the Federation.
  51. In our revision of the operations of specialized education funds and to implement reforms that would optimize their benefits to the sector, we have adopted a Public-Private Sector Partnership for provision of infrastructure and also collaborate with the private sector to create jobs.
  52. Our pursuit of affordable housing for the low and middle-income earners has received a boost with the delivery of 1,200 housing units, provision of 520 service plots with infrastructure through a Public Private Sector partnership and the issuance of 868 mortgages totaling N7.7 Billion. Similarly, Home Renovation Loans totaling N16.2 Billion have been granted to 19,210 people.
  53. To enable sustainable access to safe and sufficient water to meet the social, cultural, environmental and economic development needs of all Nigerians, we continue to expand our water supply, irrigation and dam facilities.
  54. The Completion of Amauzari, Amla Otukpo and other 42 Earth Dams with combined job creation of about 43,354 direct jobs and 71,172 indirect jobs, would provide more support for irrigation agriculture and water supply.
  55. To further institutionalize our effort in this regard, I signed the Executive Order 009 on Ending Open Defecation in Nigeria.
  56. In order to improve our forest cover and in fulfilment of my commitment at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, we have commenced the planting of 25 million trees. This initiative will also contribute to our effort to mitigate the effect of climate change.
  57. In the area of security, we remain unshaken in our resolve to protect our national infrastructure including on-shore and off-shore oil installations, secure our territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
  58. Ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.
  59. All the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.
  60. The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities.
  61. I regret recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions. Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.
  62. I must implore state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the Security Agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas. I send my heartfelt condolences to all the relatives and communities affected.
  63. As part of the strengthening of our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created.
  64. Amongst others, Government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy.
  65. Government has similarly established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund as a public-private sector vehicle for alternative sources of funding security activities.
  66. To reduce security challenges through our external borders especially smuggling of oil products out of the country, inflow of small arms and drugs into the country and equally protect our local manufacturers, we introduced operation “Ex-Swift Response” closing our borders from August 20th 2019, and have considerably succeeded in meeting its objectives as well as improving our national revenue.
  67. Our Government has continued to work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information.
  68. Our Social Investment Programme has continued to be a model to other nations and has engaged 549,500 N-Power beneficiaries, 408,682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and 2,238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme. This is being done in collaboration with the States.
  69. Similarly, “Marketmoni” and “Tradermoni” Programmes have provided affordable loans to small and micro scale enterprises to grow their businesses. Under the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, over 9,963,729 children are being fed to keep them in school and improve their nutritional status.
  70. Fellow Nigerians, the year 2020 has been like none other. In January 2020, the COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The number of global infections has risen from less than 8,000 shared between China and eighteen other countries to over 7million spread over 216 countries and on all continents.
  71. Nigeria recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 27th 2020 and within the first 100 days, I have had cause to address the nation on three occasions within one month, which underscores the gravity of this pandemic.
  72. There is no doubt that this pandemic has affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems. It has also brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones. Like many Nigerians, I feel the grief and pain not only as your President but also as someone who has lost a close member of my staff and some relatives and friends.
  73. In order to have a robust National response, I approved a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to provide guidance and leadership in tackling the pandemic nationwide.
  74. State Governments also constituted their own COVID-19 Task Forces. Complementing this was the establishment of a National Emergency Operations Centre responsible for providing technical and professional guidance in the National Response.
  75. The overall objective of the PTF COVID-19 is to ensure that the pandemic does not overwhelm our health systems, while ensuring that we maintain an effective Case Management System to help in containing the spread of the virus.
  76. The impact of the pandemic has disrupted our economic system and to ensure its functioning while still addressing the spread, the Federal Government put in place a number of various non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.
  77. As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.
  78. I receive regular briefing from the PTF on COVID-19. I note that the National Response relies on Science, Data and Experience in taking decisions. This informed my approval for the ease of lock down phase to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.
  79. I am confident that the steps being taken by the PTF would result in flattening the COVID-19 curve. I, therefore, implore all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols. There is hope for us all if we take individual and collective responsibility.
  80. Government is determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public health care system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.
  81. Already, we have begun to look inward and I charge our inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19.
  82. Government has continued to implement accountability and transparent policies through the Open Government Partnership and the transparency portal on financial transactions. Similarly, we have strengthened auditing and accountability mechanisms so as to ensure that rules and regulations are followed strictly.
  83. Anti-Corruption Agencies have secured more than 1,400 convictions and also recovered funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.
  84. The Public Service of Nigeria remains the bedrock for the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in the country. This accounts for why it continues to evolve especially as new socio-economic challenges emerge for Government to address.
  85. I will continue to give all the necessary support for the on-going reforms designed to return discipline, integrity and patriotism as the hallmark of the public service.
  86. In the face of dwindling resources and rising cost of governance, I have authorized that the White Paper on the Rationalisation of Government Parastatals and Agencies be reviewed for implementation.
  87. Our youth population remains a source of strength in achieving development objectives. In this regard, we would continue to concentrate in developing their skills, providing them with opportunities to express their entrepreneurial, research and industrial capacities as well as ample opportunity to take leadership positions in the service of the nation.
  88. The commitment of this Administration to the well-being of people living with disabilities remains unwavering. Government recognises their contributions to development. I have directed that all relevant Government agencies pay special attention to the peculiarities of persons with disabilities in the formulation and implementation of their policies and programmes, and where suitable their employment.
  89. Nigerian women remain a particular treasure to this nation and for this reason this Administration has continued to give them a place of pride in the affairs of our country.
  90. I salute your courage, enterprise and resilience as well as your contributions to national development. I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation. I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice.
  91. Government continues to recognize and harness the power of the media for positive development. The reforms of the broadcast and advertising industries including digital switch over and continuous engagement through town hall meetings remain central to accurate and credible information dissemination.
  92. Our culture provides the basis for our existence as a people and a nation. In preserving iconic aspects of our national culture, this government has been pursuing the recovery of artefacts removed from Nigeria, promoting heritage sites and festivals and working towards designating some of our heritage sites as UNESCO World Heritage Centres.
  93. This administration is focused on ensuring that Nigeria would always be governed by the Rule of Law and I would do my utmost to uphold the constitution and protect the lives and property of all Nigerians.
  94. Government has initiated a number of policies and programmes designed to promote the legal rights of Nigerians, facilitate the institutionalization of a responsive legal system, provide support to all constituted bodies in implementing their mandates and improve our custodial system of justice.
  95. The National Assembly has been an important partner in our quest to sustain our democracy and achieve our development objectives.
  96. I therefore greatly thank the leadership and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for their invaluable support at all times.
  97. I will also like to convey our deep appreciation to members of the Press for your doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood.
  98. I must admit that the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect. But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for the society especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price.
  99. We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech, fake news and other unethical professional conduct.
  100. Fellow Nigerians, as we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, let us remember that, notwithstanding our aspirations, humanity and indeed democracy is under the threat of COVID-19. Nigeria has survived many crises before and came out stronger. I am confident that by God’s grace we shall overcome this one and emerge stronger and more purposeful
Published in News & Stories

By Paul Iyoghojie/ PM NEWS

Police in Lagos have charged the Ketu Branch Manager of Access Bank Plc, Mr Nwaru Jerry Nnamdi, with pilfering N14m meant for the bank’s ATM.

Nwaru, 34, was alleged to have stolen the money while refilling the ATM vaults.

His employer, the Access Bank, reported the theft at the Ikoyi Division of Nigeria Police Force, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the station, CSP Tijani Mustapha N`abba, subsequently directed his men led by Inspector Afolayan Babashola to arrest the suspect.

Combo photos of Nwaru Jerry Nnamdi: Facebook

The police arraigned Nwaru before the Igbosere Chief Magistrate`s Court on Thursday on a four-count charge of conspiracy, fraud and stealing.

However, the presiding Magistrate , Mrs K.O Doja Ojo, declined to entertain the matter on the ground that the charge did not fall into the category of the emergency cases approved for the court to handle.

Doja Ojo directed the police to return the suspect to the station and bring him back after COVID 19 crisis for proper arraignment.

According to police, nemesis, caught up with the suspect when forensic auditors from the bank`s headquarters audited the account books of the branch.

The auditors discovered that the suspect stole N14m between May and December 2019 through false accounting.

Published in Headliners

By Abankula/ PM News

President Muhammadu Buhari addressed Nigerians on 12 June the Democracy Day. It was his third national broadcast since his administration designated the day as a public day. He spoke on various achievements of his administration. P.M.News hereby gives nine key highlights of the achievements and plans:

Grow what you eat, eat what you grow

President Buhari believes agriculture remains the key to Nigeria’s economic diversification strategy.

And he is focused on making the sector the pillar of Nigeria’s economy.

In his broadcast, he says that the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme will continue to deliver significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizers to Nigerian farmers.

Government is also revamping the cotton, textile and garment sector via a CBN Textile Revival Intervention Fund that would considerably reduce foreign exchange spent on cotton and other textile imports.

Through the food security initiative, the Buhari administration is promoting “Grow What We Eat” and “Eat What We Grow”.

Ajaokuta steel plant

Buhari delivered one sentence on this embarrassing project waiting for completion since 1976.

He said his government has directed the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and a Public-Private Sector financing.

What he did not repeat was that the Russian government is working with the Africa Import and Export Bank, to pool funds in excess of $1.4bn to revive the steel plant designed and built by the Russian Steel Company, TyazhpromExport.

Buhari brokered the new deal with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during his visit to Russia in October 2019.

Power sector

Again just like steel, the Power Sector remains a mirage for Nigerians.

Buhari says in the broadcast that his government is executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme. Some of the projects under execution are the Alaoji to Onitsha, Delta Power Station to Benin and Kaduna to Kano; the 330kv DC 62km line between Birnin Kebbi and Kamba; the Lagos/Ogun Transmission Infrastructure Project; the Abuja Transmission Ring Scheme; and Northern Corridor Transmission Project.

Then Buhari speaks on the Siemens angle: the agreement with the German conglomerate is that it will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve Nigeria’s electricity needs.

Roads, Rail, water transport

Buhari certainly wants to be remembered that his administration revamped and developed Nigeria’s infrastructure.

He says his government is growing the stock and quality of Nigeria’s roads, rail, air and water transport infrastructure.

“Through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%.

The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well.

On the 2nd Niger Bridge, piling work has been completed and the approach roads are being constructed. 48% of work on this bridge has been achieved.

“We have constructed 102km of the 376km Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road, representing 38%, and the 42.9km Obajana – Kabba Road is 87.03% complete.

“We are extending and upgrading our railway network too. We are introducing more locomotives, coaches and wagons for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line.

“The Central Ajaokuta – Itakpe – Warri Line has been completed and is being extended from Itakpe to Abuja on one end and from Warri Town to Warri Port on the other.

“The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line is 90% completed and would be extended to the Lagos Port which would help address the long-standing grid-lock at the Apapa port.

“The Kano – Maradi Single Track Standard Gauge Railway, Coastal Railway Project and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Standard Gauge Railway, with its associated branch lines running through the South Eastern and Gombe States, industrial park and Bonny Deep Sea Port are all ready for concessioning.

First Bidding for marginal oil fields

Buhari, as Nigeria’s oil minister was thrilled to announce that for the first time in over ten years, Nigeria is conducting bidding process for 57 Marginal Oil Fields to increase revenue and increase the participation of Nigerian companies in oil and exploration and production business.

“We continue to grow local content in other areas of the oil and gas sector with the disbursement of funds from the $200 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund to indigenous manufacturers and service providers.

Insurgency and Banditry

President Buhari promised to enthrone security in Nigeria five years ago. But insurgency has not ended, what with the killing of 81 villagers in Gubio LG of Borno this week. Banditry, kidnapping, other forms of criminality are rising across the nation.

Buhari says the security issues are being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.

He reiterated again that all the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.

“The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities”, he says.

He then apologised for the recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice”, he promised..

COVID-19 and national response

Expectedly Buhari devoted a considerable part of his address on the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a phenomenon that has disrupted the entire world this year.

“Fellow Nigerians, the year 2020 has been like none other”, Buhari says.

“In January 2020, the COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The number of global infections has risen from less than 80,000 shared between China and eighteen other countries to over 7 million spread over 216 countries and on all continents.

“Nigeria recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 27th 2020 and within the first 100 days, I have had cause to address the nation on three occasions within one month, which underscores the gravity of this pandemic.

“There is no doubt that this pandemic has affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems. It has also brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones. Like many Nigerians, I feel the grief and pain not only as your President but also as someone who has lost a close member of my staff and some relatives and friends.

“The impact of the pandemic has disrupted our economic system and to ensure its functioning while still addressing the spread, the Federal Government put in place a number of various non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.

“As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.

“I am confident that the steps being taken by the PTF would result in flattening the COVID-19 curve. I, therefore, implore all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols. There is hope for us all if we take individual and collective responsibility.

“Government is determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public health care system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.

“Already, we have begun to look inward and I charge our inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19”, he says.

Anti-corruption moves

Government has continued to implement accountability and transparent policies through the Open Government Partnership and the transparency portal on financial transactions.

“Similarly, we have strengthened auditing and accountability mechanisms so as to ensure that rules and regulations are followed strictly.

“Anti-Corruption Agencies have secured more than 1,400 convictions and also recovered funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects”.

Cost of governance

The Public Service of Nigeria remains the bedrock for the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in the country. This accounts for why it continues to evolve especially as new socio-economic challenges emerge for Government to address.

In the face of dwindling resources and rising cost of governance, I have authorised that the White Paper on the Rationalisation of Government Parastatals and Agencies be reviewed for implementation.

Published in Business and Economy
Thursday, 11 June 2020 21:14

Buhari addresses the nation tomorrow

By Michael Adeshina/ PM NEWS

President Muhammadu Buhari will address the nation tomorrow, Friday, to commemorate Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

The time scheduled for the national broadcast is 7am.

Bashir Ahmad, Personal Assistant on New Media to the president disclosed this at about 6 pm on Thursday.

He said: “To commemorate Nigeria’s Democracy Day, President Muhammadu Buhari will broadcast to the nation on Friday, June 12, 2020, at 7 am. Television and radio stations enjoined to hook up to network services of the NTA and FRCN.”

Published in Headliners

By Ismaila Chafe/ PM News

Three PDP states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River were the greatest beneficiaries of the refund of N148billion approved by President Muhammamdu Buhari on Wednesday.

The money was previously spent by the states and two APC states to repair Federal roads in their domains.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Buhari approved the refund.

Rivers state got the lion share of N78.9 billion. Bayelsa got N38 billion, while Cross River got N18billion.

Ondo received N7.8 billion and Osun N2.5 billion.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, revealed the refunds in a briefing on the outcome of the third virtual meeting of the FEC, held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mohammed said the approval of the refund followed a memo presented by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

“You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads.

“This prompted Mr President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed these projects were actually constructed, were they completed, in line with the federal government standards.

“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the minister of works and housing, but also had Ministers of Education, Transportation, Finance, Minister of State for Works, DG BPP and Permanent Secretary Cabinet Office as members.

“At the end of that exercise, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.

“But the claims of five other states Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation.

“So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order, that is why the BPP is on the committee.

“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85, Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.

“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge is to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyovers bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”

Mohammed said the committees confirmed the roads and the bridges, that not only were they completed, they were in substantial good form, adding that some of the bridges and roads were built about 10 years ago.

He, however, disclosed that “there is a caveat, as the federal government will pay the states but however, henceforth, if any state takes on federal government road, it will not be paid, they will not get any refund.

“Even if you want to pay from your own pocket, you will still need the permission of the federal government and it will be supervised by the federal ministry of works and housing.”

According to him, the modalities of refund are being worked out and payment will be made over a period of time.

Mohammed said 31 states were earlier paid the sum of over N550 billion as refund for the reconstruction of federal roads in their respective states.

Published in Business and Economy
Page 7 of 126

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