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Friday, July 12, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Thursday morning

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Buhari’s nephew, Daura, flown abroad for treatment – Report

Mamman Daura, a nephew of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was on Wednesday flown abroad for urgent medical treatment, according to a report by SaharaReporters.

The online news platform, reported that Daura, known to be one of the powerful men behind the Buhari Presidency, was flown to the United Kingdom.

“Daura, 79, was said to have been flown in a private jet to the UK on Wednesday after exhibiting respiratory difficulties with symptoms similar to coronavirus since last Friday,” the report read.

Daura made the trip at a time the ban imposed on international flights as one of the ways of curtailing further spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has not been lifted.

The President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, had  also defied the ban and reportedly flown to the United Arab Emirates for treatment.

Efforts to get presidential spokesmen to talk on Daura’s trip on Wednesday evening did not yield any result.

A source in the Presidency, who pleaded anonymity, however, said since Daura was not a government official, it would be wrong to expect any reaction from the government.

“Is he (Daura) a government official? Is that how the Presidency has been speaking officially on the movement of private citizens? I think it will be unfair to expect the Presidency to speak on this,” the source said.

 

ECOWAS suspends Mali, blocks borders, soldier declares self president [Punch]

Following the military coup in Mali, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States will today (Thursday) hold an extraordinary summit on the situation in the country.

This is coming as the ECOWAS suspended Mali and directed member countries to close their borders against the landlocked West African nation.

Recall that soldiers arrested the Malian President, Ibramin Keita; and the country’s Prime Minister on Tuesday.

The President resigned on Wednesday.

According to a statement on Wednesday by ECOWAS Commission titled, ‘Heads of State to hold Extraordinary Summit on the socio-political situation in Mali,’ the summit   would hold virtually through videoconference.

It read, “The Extra-ordinary Summit was convened following the military coup d’etat in the Republic of Mali.

“ECOWAS has strongly condemned the undemocratic change of government as it is against the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.”

Earlier, ECOWAS in a statement said the military action would impact negatively on peace and stability in Mali and in the sub-region.

It reads partly, “ECOWAS Suspends Mali from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies with immediate effect, as per the Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and this, until effective reinstatement of the constitutional order;

“Decides to close all land and air borders, as well as to stop all economical, trade and financial flows and transactions between the ECOWAS Member States and Mali, and encourages all partners to do the same.”

In the same vein, the Federal Government called for the activation of the Economic Community of West African States standby force.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this on his official Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Onyeama’s tweet read, “The Nigerian Government unequivocally condemns the coup d’état that took place in #Mali Monday and demands the immediate and unconditional restoration of constitutional order. We welcome the urgent activation of the #ECOWAS Standby force.”

Meanwhile, The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday ordered the Malian mutineers to release the country’s President, Ibrahim Keita, other detained officials and return to their barracks.

AFP reports that the 15 members of the council, in a statement released on Wednesday before a closed-door security council meeting requested by France and Niger emphasised on the urgent need to restore the rule of law and to move towards the return to constitutional order.

In a fresh development, a Malian army officer, Colonel Assimi Goita, on Wednesday announced himself as the coup leader who overthrew President Ibrahim Keita.

AFP reports that Goita announced his new position after a meeting with top civil servants on Wednesday.

He said, “Let me introduce myself, I am colonel Assimi Goita, chairman of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.”

 

Ethiopian Airlines defies FG, resumes flight to London Friday [Punch]

  • First flight departs Lagos, 11.40am, Friday (from N619, 561); second flight, 4.30pm (from N390,269)
  • No commercial flight has been cleared to lift passengers from Nigeria, Federal Government declares

There were indications on Wednesday that some international airline operators may have been violating the ban on international commercial flights as Ethiopian Airlines indicated that it would fly the Lagos-London route on Friday.

The Federal Government had imposed a ban on both domestic and international flights in March as a measure to contend the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Domestic flights, however, resumed on July 8 while the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, recently announced that international flights would resume from August 29.

However, ahead of the resumption from August 29, Ethiopian Airlines is scheduled to operate a commercial flight from Muritala Mohammed International Airport on Friday, August 21.

Checks by one of our correspondents showed that the airline would operate two commercial flights to London from Lagos on Friday.

As of the time of checking the website of the airline www.ethiopianairlines.com on Wednesday, one of the flights was said to have only seat left.

The first flight will leave Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport at 11.40 for London Heathrow Airport, with a stopover at Addis Ababa airport. The ET 553 Boeing 787-8 flight will leave Lagos and stop over at Ethiopia, switching to an ET 700 Airbus A350 flight for the remainder of the journey. Its cost was quoted as from N619, 561. The duration was put at 19hrs 20 mins.

The second flight is scheduled to leave Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport for London Heathrow Airport at 16:30 with a stopover at Addis Ababa airport. The ET 509 Boeing 787-8 flight will leave Lagos and stopover at Addis Ababa, switching to an ET 700 Airbus A350 flight for the remainder of the journey. The cost was put at from N390,269 with only one seat left. The duration of the flight is 14hrs 30 mins.

When asked why the airline was running the commercial flight before the reopening of the international flights, Ethiopian Airlines media consultant, Mr Ikechi Uko, said he was not aware of the status of the flights.

He said, “I do not know which website you saw. I do not have a clue. I do not know if they are doing evacuation flights to London.

“I know the Nigerian government hired them to do evacuation flights from America. Nigerian government uses Air Peace and other private airlines. This one, I have no clue.

He added, “The Nigerian government is the one doing evacuation flight and if it is a private company, they will advertise. If you saw one and it is not the government, maybe you find out from the company.

“What I know ET is doing is on behalf of the Nigerian government from America. I have no clue. I know Nigeria has not opened an airport.”

The airline also scheduled to fly from Lagos to London on both August 29 and 31, subject to approval by the Nigerian government.

When contacted, the Director, Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said no commercial flight had been cleared to lift passengers.

He insisted that commercial international flights would only resume operations on August 29 as earlier announced by Sirika.

Odaudu said, “I don’t have the details of that (Ethiopian Airlines) flight, but if it is on August 21, then it is likely to be an evacuation flight. Commercial flights on international routes are to begin August 29.

“All evacuation flights are to end on August 25, but before then there is no commercial flight that is cleared to carry out commercial international operations.”

Sunday PUNCH had on August 2 exclusively reported that some charter airlines had begun offering services to members of the public despite the ban on international flights by the Federal Government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stakeholders, however, had stated that the special/evacuation flight plan of government had been abused.

The Secretary-General, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, and an aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), had stated that there was a need to define what the government meant by special flights.

Ojikutu said, “Evacuation needs to be done by government or an internationally recognised organisation such as the Red Cross, United Nations, who pay for the flight while moving people.”

He added, “But when an individual is now paying for his or her flight, I wonder what kind of evacuation that is, because such individual is now a passenger of that airline he is paying to.”

Meanwhile, the Overseas Security Advisory Council in its August 11 Health Alert said that the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos scheduled two evacuation flights from Lagos to Washington, D.C., via Addis Ababa, on Ethiopian Airline flights.

It set August 13 and 21 as the departure date, discounting its announcement August 9 that all evacuation flights would end August.

 

EFCC begins probe of Akpabio, Pondei [Sun]

  • Suspend minister, dissolve IMC, group tells Buhari

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun investigation into alleged financial misdeed by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei.

A source at EFCC confirmed the development saying the agency in a letter addressed to a group, Foundation for True Freedom and Good Governance,  had given indication of the probe, but decried the leakage of the letter to the public.

The civil society group led by an activist, Deji Adeyanju,  had asked the EFCC to investigate Akpabio and Pondei over allegations of corruption at the NDDC.

“We write to acknowledge the receipt of your petition dated August 3, 2020 in respect of the above subject and to inform you that investigation into the case has commenced. In view of the above, you are kindly requested to attend an interview with the undersigned through the O/C team six on Thursday, August 20, 2020 at EFCC headquarters third floor,” the EFCC said in the letter signed by its Head of Economic Governance Section, Adebayo Adeniyi.

The EFCC source accused  Adeyanju of leaking the letter to the media.

“What he has done is a big problem for us. We don’t usually disclose anything when we are carrying out any investigation. Adeyanju was only invited to give more information. What he has done will likely sabotage our investigation,” he said.

Akpabio and Pondei have been under fire since June over allegation of over N86 billion contract fraud. Both are being investigated by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Pondei fainted while he was being grilled by a House of representatives panel in one of the probe sessions.

Meanwhile, Transparency Advocacy for Development Initiative (TADI) has called on President Buhari to dissolve the board of the Commission (NDDC) and suspend Akpabio.

A statement by its Executive Director, Yomi David, said the suspension, dissolution and reconstitution of a new board would entrench transparency and accountability in the agency.

“The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has been suffering immense neglect, and even the East-West road in the Niger Delta region has been abandoned by the ministry. We, therefore, call on the President to suspend the minister and the entire Interim Management Committee of NDDC for gross misconduct, mismanagement, fraud and corruption and to constitute a proper NDDC Board, as well as removing NDDC from the supervision of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.This is in order to reposition the Commission to carry out the mandate of meaningful development of the Niger Delta Region and ensure a lasting peace in the region,”he said.

 

Magu: Drama as operatives whisk lawyer away [Sun]

There was drama, yesterday, at the venue of the ongoing hearing on alleged abuse of Office and Mismanagement of Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020 by the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

A human rights lawyer, Mr. Victor Giwa and another unnamed female lawyer were reportedly whisked away by security agents while testifying before the Justice Ayo Salami Panel at the Presidential Villa.

Sources  said Giwa was expected to testify against Magu, but made a U-turn when he was asked to confirm that the embattled for anti-graft chief allegedly offered him a bribe of N75 million.

Giwa was still testifying when he was reportedly whisked away to unknown destination. As at press time, the whereabouts of Giwa was unknown.

Before appearing before the panel, Giwa had told Daily Sun that he was being compelled to testify against Magu by some unnamed persons, but added that he turned down the offer.

He added that he had to write to the panel to explain the situation and deny any claim that he was being used to nail the embattled suspended acting chairman of the anti-graft Commission.

Magu has been under fire since early July, when he was compelled to appear before the investigative panel. He was initially detained, before he was released days after his purported arrest.

Magu is being accused of siphoning funds and assets recovered from financial proceeds and using his ‘boys’ to obtain bribes from suspects.

Meanwhile, a businessman has reportedly played a tape recording before the Justice Salami-led panel on how some operatives of EFCC popularly called ‘Magu boys’ demanded a N75 million bribe to be paid into different accounts.

The businessman, Mr. Donald Wokoma of Damijay Integrated Services Limited, had allegedly tendered an affidavit in support of a petition he wrote against ‘Magu Boys’ for extortion before unfreezing his account.

 

Chinese loans: Reps to grill Malami, Ahmed Tuesday [Sun]

The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties. Agreements and Protocol is to grill the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF),  Abubakar Malami,  next Tuesday,  over issues relating to loan agreements signed between Nigeria and other countries.

The committee,  which is investigating $400 million loan secured by the government from China,  had raised concerns over some clauses which allegedy affects the sovereignty of the country,  if the government defaults in repaying the loans.

The panel had adjourned proceeding for one week on Tuesday,  saying  the AGF and Minister of Finance,  Zaniab Ahmed,  must be present  before it continued with its investigative hearing.

Daily Sun gathered that Malami and Ahmed would  be responding to queries on the review and implementation programme of all existing bilateral loan agreements between Nigeria and Chinese Export-Import Bank, and other loans sourced from China to finance the Lagos-Ibadan rail line and other projects.

The letters summoning the two ministers, which was dated August 18, and signed by the chairman of the committee,  Ossai Nicholas Ossai requested them to ensure they are present at the committee hearing next Tuesday.

Malami ‘s letter with  reference no: NASS/9HR/CT.102/04 requested him to furnish the committee “official documents of the Power of attorney for signing the loans as prescribed in appendix 3 of the loan agreements, certified  official copies of the legal opinion given on all facilities as prescribed in appendix 6 of the loans agreements.”

Besides,  the AGF is expected  to provide  official documents of the power of attorney for the appointment of the borrowers process agent on all loan agreements as prescribed in appendix 7 as well as official confirmation letter by the appointed borrowers’ process agents pres ribed in appendix 8 of the loan agreements.

While Ahmed is to provide “All certified official documents of conditions precedent for each drawdown after the first drawdown as required in appendix 2 of the loan agreements.”

“Official documents of the power of attorney for signing the loans  as prescribed in appendix 3 of the loan agreements.

“Official documents of power of Attorney for drawdowns as prescribed in appendix 4 of the loan agreements.

 

UN, AU, U.S., ECOWAS, others reject Mali coup [Nation]

  • President detained after resignation •’Soldiers must restore order’ •West African leaders meet today

THERE were calls from across the globe on Wednesday on promoters of the military putsch in Mali to restore constitutional order.

Those mounting pressure on the military include the Federal Government; United Nations (UN); European Union (EU); African Union (AU) Commission and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

They condemned the military action and demanded the immediate and unconditional restoration of constitutional order.

Nigeria and the other bodies called for the release of several high-ranking officials, including President Ibrahim Keita, who has resigned from office, and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.

ECOWAS specifically announced the immediate suspension of Bamako from all its decision-making bodies.

Keita and his cabinet were toppled on Tuesday by a military junta, forcing the resignation of the government and dissolution of parliament, hours after the mutinous soldiers detained him at gunpoint.

The coup plunged the country, which is already facing a jihadist insurgency and mass protests, deeper into crisis.

Mali has been battling the fall out of its 2018 election that gave President Kaita his second term.

The soldiers, who staged the coup, yesterday unfolded plans to form a civilian transitional government that will organise fresh elections.

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, who tweeted from his verified handle yesterday, said the Federal Government called for the urgent activation of the ECOWAS standby force over the Mali political crisis.

Onyeama said: “The Nigerian Government unequivocally condemns the coup d’état that took place in Mali yesterday and demands the immediate and unconditional restoration of constitutional order.

“We welcome the urgent activation of the ECOWAS Standby Force.”

Following Nigeria’s pace, ECOWAS said it decided to close its member states’ borders with Mali, suspend the country from its decision-making bodies “with immediate effect” and temporarily interrupt financial flows between its other 14 members and the Malian capital, Bamako.

A statement conveying the regional body’s stance, issued yesterday by the community’s Directorate of Communications, indicated that the suspension was in line with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

It vowed that the suspension would remain in place until effective constitutional order is reinstated in the country.

The sub-regional body said it had also closed land and air borders, stopped all economic, trade, and financial flows and transactions between ECOWAS member states and the country, urging all partners to do the same.

The statement reads: “Following its statement published on August 18, reporting on an on-going mutiny within the Malian Armed Forces, ECOWAS has noted with great concern the seizure of power by Malian military putschists.

”This seizure of power intervenes within a difficult socio-political context.

“Indeed, ECOWAS recalls that a mediation process has been on-going during the past two months, with a view to finding a solution to this crisis.

“Following this power grab by Malian military putschists, which is likely to have a negative impact on peace and stability in Mali and in sub-region, ECOWAS utterly condemns the overthrowing of President Kéita’s democratically elected government.”

It said the regional body “categorically denies any kind of legitimacy to the putschists and demands the immediate reinstatement of constitutional order.

             Reminds the military of their accountability for the safety and security of President Kéita and officials arrested.

             Demands the immediate release of President Keita and all officials arrested.

             Suspends Mali from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies with immediate effect, as per the Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and this, until effective reinstatement of the constitutional order.

             Decides to close all land and air borders, as well as to stop all economical, trade and financial flows and transactions between ECOWAS member states and Mali, and encourages all partners to do the same.

             Requests the immediate activation of the ECOWAS Standby Force, and demands the immediate implementation of sanctions against all putschists as well as their partners and collaborators.”

It added: “In a bid to salvage the situation, the ECOWAS body has decided to dispatch a high-level delegation to ensure the country’s immediate return to constitutional order.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres criticised the military mutiny in Mali and called for the restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in the country.

Gueterres reacted to the development in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Stephane Dujarric, in New York.

The statement said: “The Secretary-General is following with deep concern the unfolding developments in Mali, including the military mutiny which culminated in the arrest of President Keita and members of his Government in Bamako.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns these actions and calls for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali.

“To this end, he demands the immediate and unconditional release of President Keita and members of his cabinet.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his calls for a negotiated solution and peaceful resolution of their differences”.

The UN chief also expressed his full support for efforts by the AU and the ECOWAS to resolves the crisis.

He urged all stakeholders, particularly the defence and security forces, to exercise maximum restraint and uphold the human rights and individual freedoms of all Malians.

The Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) will hold an Extraordinary Summit on the Mali situation today.

The Directorate of Communications of the ECOWAS Commission said yesterday that the summit, which would hold virtually through video conference.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, former Prime Minister of Chad and Chairperson of the African Union Commission, also demanded the immediate release of Keita and Cisse.

In a tweet on his personal Twitter handle, Mahamat urged the people to stop the violent takeover of government and respect the country’s constitution.

He said: “I strongly condemn any attempt at anti-constitutional change and call on the mutineers to cease all use of violence and respect for republican institutions.

“I call on #CEDEAO (ECOWAS), the United Nations and the entire international community to effectively combine their efforts to oppose any use of force to end the political crisis in Africa.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States calls on all political and military actors to work toward a restoration of constitutional government.”

Pompeo said Washington strongly condemned the mutiny and called on all political and military actors to work towards restoration of constitutional government.

“We urge all stakeholders in Mali to engage in peaceful dialogue, to respect Malians’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and to reject violence,” he added.

However, the soldiers who staged the coup leading to the resignation of President Keita and his government, said, they plan to form a civilian transitional government that will organise fresh elections.

In a statement broadcast on state-owned television early yesterday, a spokesman for the mutineers calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People said they had decided to act to prevent Mali from falling further into chaos.

The committee spokesman, Col. Ismael Wague, invited Mali’s civil society and political movements to join them to create conditions for a political transition that would lead to elections.

“Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people, who are in charge of its destiny,’’ he said.

The mutinous soldiers announced the creation of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) to lead a political transition toward general elections.

Col. Wague, in a statement read on national television, said: “We are not keen on power, but on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise elections within a reasonable time-frame to allow Mali to equip itself with strong institutions that are capable of managing our daily lives.

“In order to prevent the country from sinking, we, the patriotic forces gathered together in the CNSP, have decided to take our responsibilities to ensure the continuity of the state and public services,” Wague said.

The spokesperson also announced a series of decisions coming into force yesterday until further notice, including the closure of all air and land borders, and a 9am to 5am curfew.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said this at a news conference yesterday that “China is closely monitoring the situation in Mali. We are opposed to power transition via the use of military force or any other unlawful methods.”

Beijing calls upon the Malian conflict parties to “consider the country’s root interests, solve the disagreements via dialogue, restore order as soon as possible and ensure stability and unity of the nation.”

The spokesman also expressed China’s support for efforts of the regional and international organisations, particularly the AU and the ECOWAS, in promoting the peace process in Mali.

Former Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament Senator Ike Ekweremadu also condemned the military coup in Mali.

The senator noted that Mali was strategic in the war against insurgency, adding that political instability in the West African nation portended dire consequences for West Africa and the Sahel region.

 

Killings persist in Southern Kaduna [Nation]

  • ACF, Pope’s envoy urge end to insecurity

A VILLAGE head, his aged mother and a pastor are among 11 persons killed in another round of attacks in Southern Kaduna since the beginning of this week, the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), said on Tuesday.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has called for an end to killings in the country which it likened to the security challenges in the country during the 1967-1970 civil war.

Also on Wednesday, the Representative of the Pope in Nigeria, (Papal Nuncio), Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, lamented what he called “too much violence in Nigeria.”

SOKAPU spokesman Luka Binniyat in a statement alleged that the killings took place in the last three days in Zangon Kataf,  Kajuru and Kachia Local Government Councils.

He added that some persons were injured and many houses burnt.

Binniyat gave the names of the slain village head as Dan’azumi Musa(67) and his mother Kande Musa (97).

The cleric, Pastor Adalchi Usman  of ECWA Church, according to him, was killed on Sunday at  Unguwan /Madaki, Maro  in Kajuru LGA.

The SOKAPU  spokesman  said: “On  16th August, 2020 in Bugai village in Kachia LGA was attacked by armed   militia. The village Head, Dan’azumi Musa, 67 was killed.  His siblings, Aniya Musa (60), his very aged mother, Kande Musa (97) and sister Angelina Irmiya (45) were killed. Four members of a family wiped out.

“On the 17th of August,   Bulus Joseph (48) who a father of nine  was murdered gruesomely on his farm at Sabon Gida Idon along Kaduna – Kachia road, in Kajuru LGA, by armed   militia.

“He stood up to the killers so that his wife and three children could escape, which they did. But he paid the price with his life.

“Then on Tuesday, August 18, armed militia again invaded Unguwan Gankon village in   Zangon Kataf LGA and killed two persons and burnt seven houses.

“Though troops arrived a bit late after the killers escaped, their prompt response is very commendable as it in at variance with what happened in the past.”

Kadun State Police Command spokesman, Muhammad Jalige, promised to call back. He did not as it last night.

The ACF Chairman Chief Audu Ogbe lamented the worsening insecurity in the country. The former minister of agriculture said:  “We have not faced this challenge before: Killings day and night. At no time has life been so tough except during the civil war,”

He spoke at the maiden meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of ACF in Kaduna.

Ogbeh, in a statement by the ACF National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, said it was a thing of concern to the ACF that the North which has about 78 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass should be  faced with such magnitude of insecurity..

Ogbe attributed the development  to unemployment, poverty and alienation of the youths by successive governments.

He challenged the federal and state governments as well as religious, ethnic, traditional and political leaders in the North to take practical steps to arrest the challenges.

The statement by Yawe said: “Because of the existing tensions and crises leading to a general sense of insecurity, destruction of property and killings in the North, religious, ethnic, traditional and political leaders  should be cautious in their utterances and should refrain from making wild and inflammatory utterances that will aggravate the situation.

“Federal and state governments must take urgent steps to arrest the deteriorating security situation in northern Nigeria which has led to insurgency, terrorism, banditry, ethnic and religious disturbances all over the north.”

“The government, particularly state governments of the northern region should pay adequate attention to agriculture which offers more opportunities for diversification and the development of a more sustainable economy for the north and the country.

“School enrollments have remained low in the northern region. State governors of the North should take urgent steps to enhance enrolments and eradicate the rampant incidence of street begging which is very unhealthy for the overall development of the North.

“Unemployment has become a big menace to the northern region. State governors are advised to design employment schemes for our teeming youths who have become frustrated and pose an additional threat to the security of the North and the country.

“State governors are also advised to key into programmes of the federal government designed to offer employment to the youth and alleviate poverty.”

It also called on the northern states to take  advantage of the N75 billion loan to farmers in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).

Ogbe clarified that the ACF was  neither an ethnic group nor a political party but an organisation with over 300 tribes working for peace and stability in the North.

In Ede, Osun State, the Papal Nuncio lamented that “there’s too much violence in Nigeria and the law seems not to be enforced.”

He questioned what the government was doing to ensure the safety of lives and property of all citizens.

Speaking to reporters on the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Church St.Kizito Pastoral Centre, he admonished the government to ensure that everybody respected the law and lives   of others.

He said: “The killings are not only in Southern Kaduna, but the whole Northern region.. Although Southern Kaduna is an area where Christians and Catholics are in bigger number, it is important to note that many Muslims are killed in the other parts of the North like Maiduguri where Boko Haram bombs many mosques.

‘We should not be particular that only Christians are being  killed, Muslims are also victims.

“What is the state doing to ensure the security of lives and properties of the people? This is the mission of the state and we have to stop to put away the problems in terms of the antagonism between Christians and the Muslims.

 

MTEF: Senate threatens zero budget for CBN, NPA, NCC, NIMASA, others [Nation]

  • To probe alleged revenue blocking by NIS

The Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, yesterday threatened not to approve the budgets of Federal Government’s agencies whose  heads refuse to appear before the panel to defend their proposals in the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP), after being duly invited.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola made the threat while presiding at the beginning of a five-day stakeholders’ interactive session on the 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP, in Abuja.

Among agencies mentioned by Adeola were Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), NIMASA, FIRS and NLNG.

“All agencies that are supposed to appear today that are not here must appear tomorrow unfailingly led by the heads of the respective agencies.

This Committee will not attend to any Head of an agency by proxy. It should also be put on record that if they refuse to appear to defend the briefs that we have from the Executive, we will not hesitate to ensure that such defaulting agencies have zero budgets for next year.

“It is a must for heads of agencies to appear because this document was put together by the executive and we need all the heads of agencies to come and defend what is before us.

“So, any Head of agency that fails to appear should as well know that for 2021 – 2023, there will be no budget,” Adeola said.

Meanwhile, the committee also vowed to probe the alleged blocking of Federal Government’s revenue by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

It said it would also investigate the hike in the cost of obtaining residents’permit by immigrants from $350 to $2,000 within a short time.

It was learnt that most immigrants engage in contract (arrangee) marriages with their Nigerian spouses to evade the high fee for residents’ permits.

A member of the panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, had alleged that officials of the NIS are frustrating the consultants saddled with  generating revenue for the Federal Government while the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CG/NIS), Mohammed Babandede, was making his presentation.

Akinyelure said: “There are many sources of revenue that are being blocked by the Immigration Service that reduces the capacity of the consultants to deliver on their mandate.”

He urged the panel to demand for copies of the agreements signed by the Federal Government with the various consultants to enable their review by the various stakeholders.

He lamented that the revenue being generated by the NIS is less than 20 per cent of their capacity.

“We have over 10 million immigrants in this country, but we have less than 20 per cent that are captured.’’

“A lot of immigrants are in this country without being registered because the action of the immigration officials frustrated the consultants.

“They (immigration officials) are collecting over $5,000 through the backdoor but what is given to government is about $2,000.

“We need to invite the minister of interior and the consultants so we can take a look at this critically. We will generate more revenue from the Immigration if all loopholes are blocked.”

Also in her intervention, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani) (Adamawa Central), lamented that the sudden spike in the cost of collecting resident’s permits from $350 to $2,000 within a short space of time is affecting businesses owned by immigrants and Nigerian entrepreneurs that employ immigrants in the country.

Ahmed said: “Those people that are being given the residents’ permit earn their money in Naira.

“The meaning is that a dollar today is at the official rate of about N380 and if one needs to renew his or her residents’ permit which is annually, you now do N380 times $2,000 which is a huge sum of money.

“Yes, there is a ratio for the sharing formula, but I want to believe that this company are the ones determining the rate of this payment.

“I want to believe that the government of Nigeria is not part of it because the government has always been soliciting and emphasizing that we should encourage investments.

“I think this is not good for the revenue generation of the country. If we are looking at boosting the economy and promoting business investment in this country, this is really not good. I want to suggest that this Committee to look into this issue because there is no where you start something at 350 and within a short period you are now jumping to 2,000 without any explanation.

“That is why you see most of these expatriates folding up their businesses and leaving the country, because you cannot earn in Naira and be compelled to pay for resident permit in dollars. The expatriates are suffering the people employing the expatriates are suffering.”

In his response, Babandede denied that officials of the Service are frustrating consultants engaged by the Federal Government to help it generate revenue.

However, he insisted that such acts of frustration are justified if they exists as the consultants are presently a drain on the resources that are supposed to accrue to the Federal Government.

He also agreed with Senator Ahmed that the cost of residents’ permits is on the high side adding that he has written to the Minister of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who are already looking into gt he issue.

Babandede said: “Immigration officers are not blocking CONTEC but if they are blocking CONTEC, it is a good idea because it is not a good company for Nigeria.

“Nobody should defend CONTEC as a company that is doing business in Nigeria. This is a company that took us to court.

“This is a company that wanted to seize our property, including our Mission House and NNPC building.

“They took us to an arbitration court in the United Kingdom where we were asked to pay N10billion and then why should we defend this company.

“As far as we are concerned, this company has no value for Nigeria. What they are doing is a job the NIS can do better.

“The company increased the permit rate to $2, 000 and reviewed the sharing formula downward but the arrangement still favours them. Fifty-five per cent of the $2, 000 is higher than the 72 per cent of the $1, 000 they were collecting before.

“We have already petitioned the EFCC to explain our disapproval of the arbitrary fee hike. However the Ministry of the Justice is doing something about it because there is no justification for the increment.

He added: “If migrants are forced to pay $2,000 for residents’ permits they will be engaging in crime to raise the money.

“Let me tell, that evidence has emerged that a lot a fake or arranged marriages are now being contracted between immigrants and Nigerians just to evade the payment of the high residents’ permit fee because if you marry a Nigerian you will not pay the $2,000.

“What we are saying is that the increase did not add value to Nigeria but it is rather discouraging investment and leading to increase in criminal activities.”

Senator Gershon Bassey, noted that there appears to be a clear dispute between the NIS and the consultants that should be properly investigated.

“We need to come back in September to carry out a full blown investigation into this matter and resolve it,” Bassey said.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos East), said the panel would investigate the matter after passage of the MTEF and FSP.

Adeola said: “What Senator Akinyelure has informed this Committee about, knowing fully well that his Committee is also working on this issue, from the information we gathered, there is need for us to do a very elaborate investigation on all of these in a bid for us to get more revenue for the country because that is what is germane to us as a Committee.

“But because we are working on a tight schedule, we will take as many information as we can take today (Wednesday) and maybe after the consideration of the MTEF, the Committee can now come in form of a proper investigation of the revenue sources of the Nigerian Immigration Service.”

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