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Friday, July 12, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Friday morning

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Community Policing Begins As FG Okays N13bn Take-off Fund [Leadersship]

As part of measures adopted to consolidate the war against insecurity in the country, the federal government yesterday approved N13.3billion for the take-off of community policing initiative across the country.

Accordingly, the National Economic Council (NEC) at its virtual meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo resolved that chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, with two other governors, meet with the secretary to the government of the federation, the minister of Finance and the Inspector General of Police to coordinate the proper utilization of the funding of the initiative.

NEC’s ad-hoc committee on security and policing chaired by Fayemi had made a presentation on its assignment to the council, noting that engagement with key stakeholders on the operationalization of community policing in the country was ongoing.

NEC deliberated extensively on the persistent security situation in the country, especially the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, which it said has remained a delicate challenge.

Governor Fayemi to the council that the committee’s work was ongoing with key stakeholders.

He said the committee would be meeting further as the need arises to update the council on the progress being made to address insecurity and criminality in the country.

Vice President Osinbajo told the council that President Buhari has approved the sum of N13.3billion for the takeoff of community policing in the country.

He said a small team comprising of the NGF chairman, two governors, secretary to the government of the federation, Finance minister and the Inspector General of Police should meet to ensure that the fund is well utilized and report back to council.

 

Release President Keita Now, PMB Tells Mali Soldiers [Leadership]

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja joined ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments in calling for immediate release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, and a return to constitutional order in the country.

Speaking at a virtual ECOWAS Extraordinary Session on the Situation in Mali, the President in a statement by his special adviser media, Femi Adesina noted that removal of the Malian leader could spiral into more crises in the country, with devastating consequences for the West African sub-region.

“Indeed, it saddens me greatly as we meet today to discuss the turn of events in Mali, which commenced on Tuesday this week, where President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, his Prime Minister and senior members of his government were arrested, resulting in the forceful resignation of the President as well as the dissolution of the Parliament,” President Buhari said.

“ECOWAS interventions, through series of efforts by Ministers, the Special Envoy and Chief Mediator and a group of Heads of State of our Organization as well as an Extraordinary Summit did not yield positive results. Today, Mali has not only descended into political chaos, but also socio-economic and security disaster with potential tragic consequences to Mali and the sub-region,” he added.

President Buhari commended the African Union, United Nations and other international bodies for condemning the military coup in Mali, urging them to work with ECOWAS in restoring peace and order in the country by insisting on the supremacy of constitutional provisions.

According to him, “I am pleased that ECOWAS, African Union, UN and others issued strongly worded statements against the action of the Malian military. The events in Mali are great setbacks for regional diplomacy which have grave consequences for the peace and security of West Africa. I am pleased therefore, that this Extraordinary Summit, holding to discuss pathways to the debacle we face today in Mali, is most timely and appropriate.

“We need to isolate series of sanctions-regimes that can create and sustain sufficient pressures on the military to force a return to the status quo. The critical issues for resolution in the Malian crisis had been aptly captured as the four-point pathways to peace. Within that context, and if all parties to the crisis were to abide by those recommendations, the developments now on ground would have been avoided.’’

The President also said that Nigeria would continue to support the decisions of ECOWAS.

“The action of the military in Mali has regrettably hoisted on us as a sub-region, the need to decide the options that will be consistent with the provisions of the Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy, which ECOWAS, AU, and the UN subscribe to. In this context, therefore, Nigeria subscribes to the under-listed recommendations for action by our organisation:

“(a) President Keita and other detainees should be released unconditionally and with immediate effect. (b) Nigeria supports the efforts of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, for wider regional and continental consultations, especially on the possibility of detaching ECOWAS and AU troops with the UN Mission in Mali, to protect state institutions and also act as first layer of defence in the country to help preserve and protect lives and property.”

President Buhari said a politically stable Mali is paramount and crucial to the stability of the sub-region.

“ECOWAS, the AU, and the UN should not stand by, while the situation deteriorates.  Thus far, their strong statements of condemnation are sincerely appreciated and I urge them to continue to walk this route together with us until sanity returns to Mali with the restoration of Civil Administration,’’ he noted.

The Nigerian leader also condoled with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger on the tragic attack his country suffered earlier in August, and commended the chairman of ECOWAS for his continued effort in Mali’s political situation since the results of the parliamentary elections were announced in March.

Among the declarations of the summit were: firmness on the restoration of Constitutional order; release of President Keita and all those arrested; stoppage of economic relations with Mali, with exceptions granted to staple foods, fuel and medication, for the sake of the people; continued engagement with all parties to the crisis, while the Special Envoy appointed to mediate, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, along with Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of ECOWAS Commission, are to visit Mali to convey the decisions of the West African leaders.

 

NNPC, FIRS, Customs Target N43trn Revenue [Leadership]

The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have projected ambitious figures as their post-COVID-19 recovery revenue targets over the next three years totaling a whopping sum of N43trillion.

NNPC projected N5.62trn for 2021, N6.575trn for 2022, and N7.371trn for 2023; FIRS hopes to rake in N4.8trn, 6.9trn and N7.4trn in 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively; while the Customs on its own part targets N1.465trn for 2021, N1.704trn for 2022 and N1.758trn for year 2023 as

revenues.

Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, represented by the Ccorporation’s Chief Finance Officer, Umar Ajiya, FIRS chairman/CEO Muhammed Nami, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), separately made the disclosures

yesterday at the ongoing 5-day interactive session on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) organized by the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.

LEADERSHIP Friday reports that MTEF is annual, rolling three-year expenditure planning. It sets out the medium-term expenditure priorities and hard budget constraints against which sector plans can be developed and adjusted.

The Customs CG Ali said: “In 2021, all things being equal, we should be able to generate a total of N1.465 trillion.

“In 2022, we expect that we should be able to generate N1.704 trillion. Then in 2023, hopefully, we will be able to generate N1.758 trillion,” the Customs CG added.

This is as the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said dwindling revenue fortunes of the Federal Government was a bane to optimum budget implementation.

Lawan, who spoke at the interactive session, also took time to query some of the projections by the revenue-generating agencies.

The Senate President specifically demanded to know how these agencies will achieve their revenue targets against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawan asked the Customs CG Ali, “You have done so well but amount collected so far this year is N604 billion as at July. But at the end of the year how much do you think we would collect?”

The Customs boss responded by saying as at July, 2020, N830billion has been collected, adding that, “my hope is that if the trajectory continues at that level at the end of December we should be able to get about N1.2trillion.”

Lawan pressed further by drawing the attention of the CG to his agency’s revenue projection for 2021 which is N1.465trillion in a COVID-19 era.

Meanwhile, the Joint Senate Committees on Finance and National Planning and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation engaged in a heated debate over the expenditure carried out in the 2020 budget.

The panel at the public hearing on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) insisted that the expenditure of the NNPC must be appropriated before spending.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Solomon Adeola, (APC Lagos West), said there must be check and balancing in the spending of the corporation as monies should not be spent without the budget approval.

Besides, he lamented that the cost of production of oil in Nigeria was the highest in the world at $21pb.

 

Buhari okays community policing take off with N13b [Nation]

…..Governors, SGF, IG, others to meet on modalities

To battle the escalating insecurity, community policing will soon take off across the country, the National Economic Council (NEC) said on Thursday.

The new security plan, which is expected to halt killings, kidnappings, banditry and insurgency in many parts of the country, has got N13 billion cash approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule announced the decisions at the end of NEC’s sixth meeting this year, which was virtual, except for the attendance of a few of the members at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa.

Sule was one of those who attended the meeting at the Villa. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presided.

He said the decision was taken after a report by the adhoc committee on security and policing, headed by Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, was submitted to the Council.

The ad-hoc panel, according to him, met August 4, to review the growing security challenges in the country.

The governors also requested for more funding for states and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to enable them to meet security obligations.

Sule said the meeting received briefings from the NSA, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) and the Department of State Services (DSS).

He said: “Council resolved that the chair of the NGF (Nigeria Governors’ Forum) with two other governors would meet with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Finance Minister and the Inspector-General of Police to co-ordinate the proper utilisation of the N13 billion funding of community policing in the states.

“State governments have been overwhelmed by insecurity expenditures and there is the need by the federal government to inject more funds to augment expenses by the states, among others.”

“The meeting made several observations and came up with recommendation, that would help government tackle insecurity in the country.”

Community policing is the middle-of-the road proposal by Inspector-General (IG) Mohammed Adam following the cry for State Police as panacea to the security challenge.

The attempt by the Southwest states to a regional police was also blocked, forcing the states to decentralise Operation Amotekun.

The NEC also received reports on the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country; flood disaster risk management for 2020, and compensation payments on federal highway project across the country.

The meeting commended the efforts and commitment of the federal government in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting States’ response capacity through various interventions.

The NCDC report indicates that positive cases have fallen from 19.7% in June to 13.7% this month, while number of states with testing laboratories increased from 2 to 32, including the FCT.

According to the status report presented to the council, “the average tests per day has risen from 500 at the onset of the outbreak to 3,500 today, while the daily laboratory testing capacity increased to 10,000.”

Council also received recommendations from the adhoc committee some of which include: the states and FCT to look for ways of upscaling the communication at the grass-root level/ non-compliance to non-pharmaceutical interventions.

             The need for states and FCT to explore the suggested use of local networks and traditional institutions such as Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) for re-orientation of the people at the grassroots who had continuously lived in denial of the pandemic, thereby displaying nonchalant attitude towards the laid down protocols.

             States and FCT should engage the services of respected community influencers such as the heads of “Area Boys”, market women, and villagers, in disseminating the same message to the grassroots using different modes/media that are common to such people and could easily attract their attention.

Also at the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, gave detailed balances of the various national financial accounts: Excess Crude Account (ECA) Balance as at 18th August 2020 = $72,408,119.44

Stabilization Fund Account

Balance as at 18th August 2020 = N44, 207, 377,110.34

Natural Resources Development Fund Account

Balance as at18th August 2020 = N144, 047, 195, 020.54.

 

Lawmakers, NDDC in row over removal of N10b project [Nation]

The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday accused the two chairmen of the National Assembly committees probing the allegation of financial recklessness and maladministration of tinkering with the budget of the agency.

It accused the chairmen — Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo — of replacing two key agricultural programmers in its 2019 budget with the supply of plastic chairs and desks as well as “ghost training programmes.”

Nwaoboshi and Tunji-Ojo denied the allegations, saying the IMC was peddling falsehood.

The IMC, in a statement by its Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, quoted the NDDC acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, as naming a N10bn rice farming project and a $129.17million Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises scheme as the projects replaced by the chairmen

According to Ojougboh, Nwaoboshi and Tunji-Ojo insisted on the removal of the IMC for refusing to be a part of “ghost training programme.”

He claimed  that the Niger Delta would have been a rice haven  engaging women and youths in the region.

The acting Executive Director said: “We prepared farmers and they were ready. The CBN guaranteed N10 billion support for the project, but when the budget got to the National Assembly, the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC removed the N10billion for the project.

“Because of that action, the wet lands of the Niger Delta that would have been booming with rice farming have been lying fallow.

“This would have created employment for our women and youths. But, the two chairmen of the National Assembly committees preferred the supply of plastic chairs and tables to schools that are non-existent to active and lucrative engagements of the people of the region.

“The IFAD partnership was removed completely and replaced with ghost training programmes, which we refused to be part of. Because of that, they insist that the NDDC IMC should be removed.”

He, however, said the commission was making efforts to reintroduce the N10bn rice farming programme into its 2020 budget to boost agriculture and create jobs for the youth.

Ojougboh, while inspecting the multi-million-naira NDDC rice mill at Elele-Alimini, in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the National Assembly not to distort the NDDC 2020 budget to avoid truncating the agricultural programmes.

But, Nwaoboshi said the allegation showed  that the IMC has “exhausted all the lies in their bag.”

He said: “First of all, the NDDC’s budget for 2019 was not prepared by the present IMC. It was inherited by the  Joi Nunieh-led IMC.

“So, this IMC has no input in the 2019 budget of the commission. The person who defended the budget was Joi Nunieh.

“It was not defended by the present IMC and so, they don’t understand what was contained in that budget.

“They said that the 2019 budget was given to them on the 19th of April 2020 and so, they were not able to implement it. So, if the contract was awarded for non-existing schools, who awarded it?

“They have no lies again to tell. They have now exhausted all the lies in their bag.

“If the money they claimed was meant for agriculture was used to award contract for chairs and desks for non-existing schools, they should be arrested and held responsible for it.

“If at all they awarded the contract, they should be arrested for fraudulently awarding contract and fraudulently paying for it.

“This is the fraud and corruption we have been talking about in the NDDC and this is a sign that they have diverted the money again.”

Also, Tunji-Ojo said the latest allegation was nothing, but pure blackmail and mudslinging to divert the attention of Nigerians from the issues on the ground.

He said: “I had said this before and I am repeating it.  No project was removed from the 2019 proposed budget. The Executive Director, Project, is obviously a confused human being who thinks he can thrive on blackmail against truth.

“Like Comrade Oshiomhole said ‘you don’t wrestle with pigs’ If he thinks the best way to collaborate and work is through falsehood and blackmail, that is up to him.”

 

CAMA is war against churches, says CAN [Nation]

  • NASFAT welcomes law

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Thursday rejected the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, saying it is “unacceptable, ungodly and a declaration of war on the church.”

The association also described the law as: “a time bomb’’ whose explosion would not only ”snuff life out of the church’’ but rank it (church) as “a secular institution under secular control.”

The Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society of Nigeria (NASFAT) however welcomed the law but with a proviso: the spiritual roles of mosques and churches should not be tampered with.

CAN, in a statement on Thursday by Bayo Oladeji, special assistant (Media and Communications) to its President, Rev Samson Ayokunle, therefore called on the government to steer clear off church matters because it lacked the technical expertise to handle things of the spirit.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 7 signed into law, the Companies and Allied Matters bill. The new law replaces the 1990 CAMA.

CAN specifically criticised Section 839 (1) and (2) of the law as “satanic.” The section empowers the supervising minister: “to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint interim managers to run its affairs for some given reasons.”

Presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, Dr. David Oyedepo, had last Sunday kicked against the law and called  on the Federal Government to expunge the section.

The statement titled: ‘Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) rejects CAMA Completely,’ reads in part: “The leadership of CAN rejects outrightly, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 that was assented to by the President  recently.

“The law, to say the least, is unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible, and an ill-wind that blows no one any good. It is a time bomb waiting to explode.

“We recall that during the first term of the President, there was a public hearing conducted by the National Assembly on the Non- Governmental Organisations Bill tagged ‘Bill for an Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Non-Governmental Organizations Regulatory Commission For The Supervision, Co-ordination And Monitoring Of Non-Governmental Organisations’ which was attended by CAN and many NGOs.

“At the public hearing, the bill that sought to bring the religious organisations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was totally rejected because it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control.

“We thought it was all over until we heard of the CAMA that was assented to by the President, making the rejected bill a law.

“The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) &(2) which empowers the commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint   interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons.

“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found, yet we completely reject the idea of bringing the church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government.

“The church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations.  This is why we are calling on the Federal Government to stop the implementation of the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.”

Asking the President   to “urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment,” it stated that “Nigeria should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between   religious institutions and the government.”

It argued that “in Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and of course, their life.”

CAN then went on to ask:

“How can the government sack the trustee of a church which it contributed no dime to establish?

“How can a secular and political minister be the final authority on the affairs and management of another institution which is not political? For example, how can a non-Christian head of a  government ministry be the one to determine the running of the church?

It warned that CAMA amounted to an “invitation of trouble that the government does not have power to manage”.

CAN consequently advised the  government to  “focus on the provision of  better health , food, education, adequate security, employment, etcetera” instead of turning itself into “a busy body in a matter that does not belong to it.”

The association added:  “The government does not have the technical expertise to run the church of God because of its spiritual nature.

“If the government is bent on imposing a law on us which the entire church in Nigeria is against, then, they have declared war on Christianity and the agenda to destroy the church which we have spoken against before now is coming to the open more clearly.

“If you cannot give us good amenities of life, we would not allow you to take away our liberty to worship our maker.

“Are we not running a democracy which is a government of the people by the people and for the people? Is this not gradually becoming a dictatorship?”

Also, the  National Publicity Secretary of NASFAT, Mr. Hakeem Yusuf, said  he does not believe that the government intention was to regulate churches and mosques.

He however kicked against the section of the law that allows the Registrar-General to appoint trustees for religious organisations .

Yusuf argued that people would only suspect foul play if the desire of the government “is to get their own cut from the house of God.”

Yusuf, who spoke with The Nation said: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not as if they’re regulating mosques, because the mosques and churches are still in charge of the spiritual aspect. But when it comes to the financial aspect of it, I don’t see anything wrong in being regulated. If we are true to the divinity, nobody should be afraid of being checked.

“But I won’t support excesses. If the intention of the law is for government to get their own cut from the house of God, that is when people can be suspecting some foul play but if the intention is for transparency and effective management of resources, I don’t see anything wrong in that.

“But it  is not duty of the government to nominate board of trustees members for any religious group  If that happens, it’s an automatic takeover. It is not the government that will nominate me to the board to manage the house of God.”

 

3 foreign arms syndicate supplying weapons to bandits nabbed [Sun]

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said soldiers on internal security operations in Sokoto State have arrested three foreigners, who are supplying arms and ammunition to bandits and other criminal groups operating in the North West.

The soldiers from Operation Sahel Sanity deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB), Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State were said to have intercepted the syndicate during an undercover operation.

Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, who made this known at a media briefing, profiled the suspects as Nigeriens. He said the suspects were arrested with arms at Dantudu in Mailailai District of Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State. He listed the weapons found on them included six AK-47 rifles, three AK-47 rifle magazines and 2,415 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition carefully concealed in various parts of their operational vehicle.

He said the suspects are currently in military custody undergoing preliminary investigation after which they would be handed over to the relevant prosecuting agency.

The coordinator, while noting that some of the security challenges bedeviling the country has external influences, called on the public to be vigilant of their surrounding and report any strange movement to the security agencies.

He said: “It, therefore, goes to show that some of the security challenges in the country have external influence. The suspects are currently in custody undergoing preliminary investigation before being handed over to the prosecuting agency.”

Enenche said troops at the various theatres of operations have continued to decimate terrorist groups and deny them of having unhindered access to carry out attack.

 

CAMA: FG on warpath with Christians, claims CAN [Sun]

  • Insists Act ungodly, reprehensible

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has accused the Federal Government of hiding under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA) recently assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari to stifle the church.

CAN insisted that the law was unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible and an ill-wind that blows no one no good. It also described sections 839 (1) &(2) which empowers a certain Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association as satanic and must be expunged.

CAN President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle Olasupo, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, said: “If government insist on imposing the law, which the entire church in Nigeria has outrightly rejected, then, they have declared war on Christian faith.

He alleged that the aforementioned sections of the law was deliberately or secretly inserted as plot by the government to strengthen its destructive agenda against the Church.

The CAN president added: “The agenda is becoming open and clearer. If government cannot give the people good amenities of life as required by the constitution, then they should not bother to take away the liberty to worship.

“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found, we completely reject the idea of bringing the Church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under the control of government.

“The Church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations. Federal government should, therefore, stop forthwith, implementation of the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.”

CAN president recalled that few years ago, there was public hearing conducted by the National Assembly on the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) bill tagged Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the NGO regulatory commission for the supervision, coordination and monitoring of NGOs, which was attended by CAN and many NGOs.

“At the public hearing, the bill that sought to bring the religious organisations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was totally rejected because it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control.

“We thought the matter was over until we heard of CAMA that was recently assented to by the president, thus making the rejected bill a law. The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law empowers a certain Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons.”

He, thus, called on President Buhari to urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment, insisting that Nigeria should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between the religious institutions and the government as being the case.

 

Sustain sufficient pressure against Mali junta, Buhari urges ECOWAS, AU, UN [Sun]

President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) to sustain sufficient pressures on the Malian military to force a return to constitutional governance.

Buhari stated this while speaking at a virtual ECOWAS Extraordinary Session on the Situation in Mali in Abuja, yesterday.

He described the military intervention as setback for regional diplomacy.

The president also joined ECOWAS Heads of State and governments in calling for the immediate release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and a return to constitutional order in the country.

“I am pleased that ECOWAS, EU, UN and France issued strongly worded statements against the action of the Malian military. The events in Mali are great setbacks for regional diplomacy which have grave consequences for peace and security of West Africa. I am pleased therefore, that this Extraordinary Summit, holding to discuss pathways to the debacle we face today in Mali, is most timely and appropriate.

“The closure of borders already called for by ECOWAS should be our first line of action. We need to isolate series of sanctions-regimes that can create and sustain sufficient pressures on the military to force a return to constitutional governance. The critical issues for resolution in the Malian crisis had been aptly captured as the four-point pathways to peace. Within that context, and if all parties to the crisis were to abide by those recommendations, the developments now on ground would have been avoided.

“ECOWAS, the AU, and the UN should not stand by, while the situation deteriorates. Thus far, their strong statements of condemnation are sincerely appreciated and I urge them to continue to walk this route together with us until sanity returns to Mali with the restoration of Civil Administration,” he noted.

The president said he was sad by the development, insisting that the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, his prime minister and senior members of his government which resulted in the forceful resignation of the president as well as the dissolution of the parliament are illegal and stand condemned.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Buhari promised that Nigeria would continue to support the decisions of ECOWAS.

“The action of the military in Mali has regrettably foisted on us as a sub-region, the need to decide the options that will be consistent with the provisions of the Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy, which ECOWAS, AU, and the UN subscribe to.”

 

FG reciprocates, bans EU flights from Nigeria [Punch]

Nigeria will enforce the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations into the country as it opens its airspace, the Federal Government said on Thursday.

According to the government, what this means is that only airlines from countries that allow flights from Nigeria will be allowed to fly into and out of Nigeria.

It specifically stated that airlines from the European Union would not be allowed into Nigeria as the EU had recently banned flights and visitors from Nigeria.

On July 2, 2020, The PUNCH reported that the Council of the European Union had opened its borders to 15 countries, excluding Nigeria.

According to information obtained from the EU website at the time, Nigeria was still not a part of the countries from where visitors were allowed into Europe.

Speaking at Thursday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Nigeria’s position was informed by the ban placed by some countries on flights from Nigeria.

The minister, who was represented by the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Musa Nuhu, argued that the decision was taken in the interest of Nigerians.

He said, “On the list of countries (that are banned), we are working on the comprehensive list, but the main one that came up is when the EU opened their borders effective 1st July, Nigeria was among the list of 54 countries that were not allowed to enter the EU.

“To my understanding, as the situation changes, they are going to look at the list and change it. But so far, we don’t have any contrary information to that first one that Nigeria is banned from going to the EU.

“So, as we open our airspace, we are going to apply the issue of reciprocity to those (EU) countries.”

Sirika also stated that airlines would be informed on arrangements that had been put in place to ensure that the resumption of flights were hitch-free.

He stated that for now, only a few flights per day would be permitted, adding that they would operate as test runs of the protocols put in place to ensure the safe return to international operations.

The protocols, according to him, would be made public in due course.

Sirika also stated that inbound international passengers would be limited to 1,280.

He said only this number would be allowed to fly into the Lagos and Abuja airports once international flights resume on August 29, 2020.

 

Chinese loan probe, others stalled as Reps suspend panels’ sittings [Punch]

  • Don’t compromise investigations, CSO warns N’Assembly members
  • We’ll continue probes after resumption —NDDC committee chair, others
  • I’m not aware of suspension of committees activities, says loan panel chair

The House of Representatives has suspended activities of its standing and ad hoc committees, including panels investigating finances of the Federal Government.

The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, who made the announcement, in a notice dated August 19, 2020, with reference number NASS/9.HR/OLDR/ADM/VOL.1/0031, said it was a decision by the leadership of the House.

One of the major groups affected by the suspension is the Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements investigating external loans and commercial agreements between Nigeria and other countries, especially China.

The activities of the committee generated controversy nationwide as the Federal Government on  Monday admitted the loan agreement with China contains sovereignty clause,  which gives the Asian country the permission to seize a facility if Nigeria defaults in the payment of the loan.

The committee Chairman, Nicholas Ossai, had said the clause was not only ambiguous, but also dangerous.

He vowed to go ahead with the probe and ensure the renegotiation of the controversial loan agreement.

But the probe was stalled on Thursday with the suspension of activities of House committees.

Ado-Doguwa’s memo sighted by  one of our correspondents on Thursday was titled, ‘Notice of suspension of activities, meetings, public hearings and all engagements of the standing and ad hoc committees.’

The notice read, “The leadership of the House of Representatives has recently met and resolved that, henceforth, all activities of standing and ad hoc committees be put on hold while the House is on its annual recess.

“Accordingly, all standing and ad hoc committee chairmen are, hereby, directed to suspend with immediate effect, all committee meetings, public hearings and other engagements until the House resumes from its annual recess.

“The Clerk of the House should also ensure strict compliance to this circular by all committee clerks and other relevant staffs (sic) of the House of Representatives.”

The National Assembly is scheduled to resume plenary on September 15, 2020, after a two-month annual recess.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives had resolved to continue work at the committee level during the break.

The suspension notice came two days after a drama at the hearing by the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, probing  Nigeria’s external loans.

The Chairman of the committee,  Ossai, had had a heated argument with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, over the manner the probe was being conducted.

Before the altercation, Amaechi had warned that the lawmakers’ insistence on the investigation could make China to stop the loan.

At Monday’s public hearing,  the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, walked in and called for a break.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Wednesday how the probe had polarised members of the committee.

I am not aware of suspension of committees activities —Ossai

When contacted on the telephone on Thursday, Ossai said he was not aware of the suspension notice. “I’m not aware,” he said.

When asked if it meant that his committee’s probe would continue, the lawmaker said, “Until I authenticate what you are saying now and I find out; I won’t be able to make a necessary decision now as you are telling me. By tomorrow (Friday), I’m going to find out whether it is all according to what you have said.”

When told that the notice must have been sent to lawmakers, Ossai said, “I don’t have it.”

The committee had on Tuesday suspended its hearing and adjourned till Tuesday. It  asked the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to appear before it on Tuesday next week to shed light on the controversial clauses concerning Nigeria’s sovereignty.

Besides the investigation into loan agreements, also affected by the suspension   is the ongoing probe of the $11bn withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account for the implementation of the failed National Integrated Power projects.

Another probe is by an ad hoc committee of the House on the increment of tariffs by digital television service providers, especially DSTV.

We will continue NDDC probe after NASS resumption –Chairman

The House is also investigating the alleged illegal spending and mismanagement of N81.5bn by the Niger Delta Development Commission. The  NDDC committee has interrogated the Interim Management Committee and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

The Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Mr Olujunmi Tunji-Ojo, told one of  our correspondents on Thursday, that activities would be delayed till National Assembly’s resumption.

Also, Chairman of the ad hoc committee investigating tank farms, Mr Sergius Ogun, said the exercise would continue after resumption.

Speaking on the probe of the DSTV and other digital television service providers, the Chairman of the committee, Mr Unyime Idem, in a text message to one of our correspondents, said, “Now that the leadership has suspended all committee’s activities, we don’t have a choice but  to wait until when we resume.”

Reverse suspension of probes, SERAP tells House

Commenting on the suspension, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said it was not in the best interest of the public for the National Assembly to stop the probe into the Chinese loans.

SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Nigerians have the right to know the exact details about all Chinese loans, including conditions of repayment, spending details; the specific projects and their locations on which the loans are spent or proposed to be spent, and whether the loans are in fact necessary in the first place.

“Transparency in the details of all Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.”

Don’t compromise probe, CSO warns lawmakers

On its part, the Co-Convener, Centre for Liberty, Raphael Adebayo, cautioned the lawmakers against compromising the probe which he said was about the future of the country.

Adebayo, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Nigerians were waiting for the committee to continue with the probe after their recess, noting that “since the National Assembly is officially on recess, I think it is okay to give them the benefit of the doubt. It is not up to a month for them to resume, so I think Nigerians can wait.”

He stated further, “But the most important thing is they must not compromise the probe. They must remember that the onus is on them, that is, the committee in charge of the probe, to make sure that the collective interest of Nigerians is fought for and protected.”

 

Worker’s headless body found on company premises [Punch]

The family of Kingsley Obot, a member of staff of Ellan Star Marine, has demanded investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death on the premises of the company.

The deceased’s family urged the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, to take over the investigation from the Woji Police Division, where the case was being handled.

The demands were contained in a letter titled, ‘Gruesome Murder of Kingsley Okon Obot by Ellan Star Marine Company, Agbaraja Bridge, Woji, in the Obio/Akpor LGA’ and dated June 1, 2020.

The letter, signed by the family’s lawyer, Paulinus Idio, said the deceased’s headless corpse was found on the premises of the company on May 5, 2020.

The family said the victim worked with the company for about two months before he was allegedly beheaded on its premises during working hours and thrown into the sea.

Kingsley last spoke with his wife on the telephone on May 5, 2020.

His younger brother, Donald, who visited the company, was reportedly informed that he went out to drink and never came back.

“About 30 minutes after Mr. Donald Obot left the company premises, one Boco, a staffer of the same company, called Donald that the sea wave just washed up a corpse and that he should come and see if it was his brother’s body. Donald rushed back and identified his headless brother.

“Subsequently, with the threat of the SARS officers, they later brought Kingsley’s head within the company’s yard. The said body was taken with the head to a mortuary in Eleme the same day the brother visited the company, which was on May 29, 2020 and also found out that a certain chemical was used on the victim’s body for speedy decomposition,” the letter read in part.

The family alleged that the company had been threatening the life of the worker who found the corpse, adding that many other workers had died mysteriously on the premises.

Boco, however, said his life was not under threat.

The letter further read, “Our client reported the case at the Woji Police Division and seven suspects were arrested, but they were all released the same day wherein our client alleged compromise, as the IPO (Investigating Police Officer) was constantly calling him to settle with the company and allow the case to die naturally.

“We are not confident with the operation of the Woji Police Division and we are most fervently calling on you to take over the matter and arrest the perpetrators and investigate the case of murder and conspiracy to cover up.”

A spokesman for Ellen Star Marine, Peter Williams, however, denied allegations that many other persons had died on the company’s premises.

Williams said the deceased was believed to have been drunk on the day of the incident and had fallen into the water.

He said the family demanded N150m from the firm, which he said the company could not afford.

Williams said, “He was a ship officer of the company. From what we learnt, he fell into the water during the COVID-19 lockdown and many, who had seen him earlier, assumed that he might have gone home. No one knew that he had fallen into the water until one day when a barge was pulled out.

“The guys who usually worked with him were invited by the police. They were released and we discussed a settlement. The family demanded N150m and we said it was not done that way. We offered N500,000 and then N1.5m, but the family rejected it.”

The Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, said he was not aware of the case, but promised to find out and call back.

He had yet to do so as of Press time.

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