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Subsidy: Nigerians to spend N6.7tn on fuel in 2022, NLC, Senate fault N5,000 palliative

Nigerians to pay additional N3.4tn annually on petroleum consumption

Nigerians will spend about N6.732tn on the purchase of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, within a period of 12 months once the Federal Government stops subsidising the commodity from February next year, investigations have revealed.

This came to the fore on Wednesday as the Nigeria Labour Congress described government’s plan as a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble.

The Senate and economic experts also faulted the Federal Government’s plan to pay N5,000 each to 40 million Nigerians to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, had on Tuesday announced at a World Bank event in Abuja that petrol would sell for between N320 and N340 per litre from February 2022.

The current pump price of petrol at filling stations is between N162 and N165/litre, although the product is mostly sold at the upper N165/litre rate due to recent challenges in the downstream oil sector.

The N165/litre price is basically because the product is being subsidised by the Federal Government through the NNPC.

Going by the latest revelation of the NNPC boss that subsidy on petrol would end in February and the price jerked up to N340/litre, findings showed that Nigerians would spend about N18.7bn daily for the over 55 million litres of petrol consumed each day across the country.

Users of petrol would spend about N561bn for the average of 30 days in a month, while in the 12-month period, consumers would pay about N6.732tn.

In its most recently published monthly operational and financial report, which was for April 2021, the NNPC put the daily petrol consumption in Nigeria at 55.79 million litres.

“To ensure continuous increased PMS supply and effective distribution across the country, a total of 1.67 billion litres of PMS translating to 55.79 million litres per day were supplied for the month in the downstream sector,” the oil firm stated.

Working with 55 million litres daily consumption figure and the current price of N165/litre, consumers of petrol are estimated to be currently paying N9.075bn daily and about N277.25bn monthly.

By increasing the cost of petrol to N340/litre and matching it against the 55 million daily consumption rate, Nigerians would be paying N18.7bn daily for PMS, while their monthly spending would be N561bn.

This means that the annual fuel consumption bill of Nigerians will be in the region of N6.732tn.

From the foregoing, it implies that Nigerians would pay an additional amount of about N283.75bn every month on petrol when the new N340/litre price for PMS comes into effect.

Therefore within a period of 12 months, Nigerians would spend about N3.4tn extra on the  current N3.3tn for the purchase of petrol should the Federal Government halt the subsidy regime.

But the government promised on Tuesday that it had plans to cushion the economic effect of the planned subsidy removal, as it announced plans to replace fuel subsidy with a N5,000 monthly transportation subsidy to the poor.

According to her,  a monthly transport subsidy in the form of cash transfer of N5,000  will be given to between 30  and 40 million Nigerians.

The NNPC, being the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for the past four years, has been subsidising the commodity and has been incurring humongous cost as subsidy.

This development had severely depleted the oil firm’s remittances to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, hence, reducing the monthly allocations to the three tiers of government consistently.

Subsidy removal a tricky issue, it must be well-managed to prevent social backlash — Experts

But experts called on the government to be cautious in handling the removal of fuel subsidy considering the harsh economic climate in Nigeria.

A renowned economist and Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, told one of our correspondents that the government must be tactical in handling the tricky nature of subsidy removal.

He said there was a need to creatively manage the transition from the current pricing regime to a fully deregulated arrangement.

This, he said, was  a tricky issue which could pose a serious challenge to government if not tactically managed.

Yusuf, who is a former director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that if the policy transition was not properly managed, the risk of a social and political backlash could be quite high.

He stated that there was no doubt in the sound economic and business case in favour of fuel subsidy removal, “but the social and political contexts are equally critical.”

He said, “Certainly, the subsidy is not sustainable, which is why there is need to accelerate engagement with the relevant stakeholders to come up with a policy transition strategy that is sustainable, realistic and pragmatic.”

A professor of Economist at the University of Uyo, Prof Leo Ukpong, said removing the fuel subsidy would make life harder for Nigerians as there would be increased inflation.

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However, Ukpong added that removing the fuel subsidy is the right thing to do.

He stated, “Economically, it is the right thing to do. You can’t pay lower than what it costs to produce goods. It would end the corruption. Our problem is not the fuel subsidy, it is the corruption around the subsidy.”

He further described the plan to give Nigerians N5000 as a waste of money, which would not reduce the negative impact of fuel subsidy removal.

He said, “Giving Nigerians N5000 monthly is a waste of money. It would not help alleviate the negative impact of removing the fuel subsidy.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company, Bismarck Rewane, on his part, said that while the removal of the fuel subsidy would lead to lesser consumption due to increasing prices, the government would have extra funds to trigger economic growth.

Rewane, however, questioned the process and essence of the distribution of the N5,000 transport palliative to 40 million Nigerians, which would likely cost about N2.4tn in one year – an amount that is N600 billion short of the N3tn for fuel subsidy.

He said, “N5000 times 40 million is about N200bn a month. It is N2.4tn in one year. This means that the government wants to save N3tn to spend N2.4tn. Now, who are the 40 million people? For instance, I buy petrol but I am not among those who will get N5,000 a month. So, who are those 40 million to get this money? And how will it be disbursed?”

A professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo and the Chairman of the Foundation for Economic Research and Training, Prof Akpan Ekpo, said the government needed to provide a form of mechanism that would help reduce the effect on the poor.

He said, “There should be a gradual phased-out removal of the fuel subsidy. The removal will make all prices go up. There would be structural inflation because the economy depends on oil and the whole structure of the economy would be affected by the removal of the subsidy.”

Fuel subsidy putting pressure on govt revenue, its removal becoming unavoidable – LCCI

The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Chinyere Almona said that the removal of subsidy was becoming more unavoidable looking at the pressure it placed on government revenue.

She said the chamber had always advocated the need to have a fully deregulated oil and gas sector in Nigeria with cost-reflective pricing for the oil products. Spending up to N250bn monthly on fuel subsidy at a time when the debt to revenue ratio was above 73 per cent, according to her, was not economical.

She said that an immediate implication of removing the subsidy would be the increase in transport and logistics which would translate into higher costs for goods and services, rising inflation, increased poverty from diminishing purchasing power, and a likely rise in the unemployment rate.

“However, with more money freed for other purposes, the government should be able to spend more on utilities to cushion the effects of the removal. With cost-reflective pricing, smuggling of the products to neighbouring countries will reduce due to reduced margins.”

Almona also raised a concern about the plan of the Federal Government to disburse N5,000 to 40 million poor Nigerians.

She said, “On the proposed N5,000 to be given to some people, we always wonder how the selection is made and from what database or register. What is the guarantee that the money will end up with the right people needing the intervention? One of the biggest problems with our social investment programmes is that we do not have a systematic methodology on how beneficiaries are selected.”

Cost of doing business will increase, fuel-induced inflation inevitable – MAN

The Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir in a statement said, “Regardless of the arguments back and forth on the issue, PMS remains a commercial product. It is therefore not insulated from the laws of demand and supply.

“From an economic point of view, and that is the area I am comfortable to talk about, it should not come as a surprise. The rise in the price of crude oil should signal the inevitable increase in the landing cost of PMS in the country. You have oil marketers importing the fuel with the need to recover their costs and make a profit. Taken together, it is inevitable that the pump price of PMS will increase.

He however, said fuel-induced inflation might arise. “The increase in the cost of transportation – and the multiplier effect on other costs – that will accompany the more than 100 per cent increase will erode the disposable income of the average Nigerian.”

He said it would also increase the cost of doing business for manufacturers and small business owners.

On his part,  the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, described as illogical the planned payment of N5,000 palliative after the removal of petrol subsidy.

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Ajaero, however, told The PUNCH that the matter would be discussed by the NLC at a larger meeting.

NLC rejects subsidy removal, says it’s a foolish gamble

Also, the congress in a statement on Wednesday by its President, Ayuba Wabba,  rejected the planned fuel subsidy removal.

It said the government’s  thoughts on the move was cloudy, describing it as a ‘penny wise pound foolish gamble.’

The congress described the move as a recipe for aggravated hyper-inflation.

In a statement titled, ‘Nigerian workers refuse to take the bait,” the congress said, “The contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.

“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for.”

Wabba said the discussion between the Federal Government and the World Bank is a monologue, adding that the NLC would continue to insist on its rejection of deregulation based on import-driven model.

The NLC President said it was difficult to convince Nigerian workers why the country is the only nation among the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that could not produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products.

He added, “We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on import-driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.

“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira which currently goes for N560 to US dollars in the parallel market. Thus, any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples to mangoes.”

“We wish to warn that the bait by government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effect of astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.

“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy. Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering

“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble. It is clear that the palliative offered by government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.”

The Senate also faulted plans by the  N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians as transportation expenses.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senators Solomon Adeola, told journalists on Wednesday that there was no provision for N5,000 for the said monthly stipend for 40 million  Nigerians, in the 2022 budget  currently  before the National Assembly.

He said the executive would have to bring the proposal to the parliament for approval before it could start its implementation.

He said there is no way the executive would take a unilateral decision on a programme that would gulp N2.4tn without getting the approval of the parliament

He also queried the criteria that the executive would use to determine the beneficiaries of the transportation  allowance.

Health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union also cautioned the Federal Government over the proposed increase in fuel prices.

 The spokesperson for JOHESU,  Olumide Akintayo in an interview with one of our correspondents advised the Federal Government to look for other alternatives to solve the issues surrounding the fuel subsidy.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that with zero remittance from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to the federation, the Federal Government can no longer sustain petroleum subsidy costs which are currently about N250bn monthly.

Ahmed disclosed this while briefing State House Correspondents on Wednesday after the week’s Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President, Major General MuhammaduBuhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

By Sunday Aborisade, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Okechukwu Nnodim, Amarachi Orjiude, Sami Olatunji, Dayo Adenubi, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Stephen Angbulu and Solomon Odeniyi

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33 guns, other items recovered as NSCDC raids criminal hideout in Imo

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps has recovered 33 foreign-made, semi-automatic guns and 15 gun cleaning kits from a criminal hideout in Imo.

The NSCDC Commandant in Imo, Michael Ogar, disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Owerri on Thursday.

Ogar listed the items to include; 26 double-barrel guns, five pump actions, two sniper rifles, and 15 sets of gun cleaning kits.

The commandant said that his officers, acting on credible intelligence on the location of criminals, were able to lay ambush for a few days before invading the hideout and recovering the items.

He noted that although the location of the weapons was different from the criminals’ area of operation, the Command was closely collaborating with other security agencies to track them down, as no arrests have been made so far.

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Ogar also said that investigation was ongoing to unravel the suppliers of the weapons with a view to arresting and prosecuting them.

He assured Imo residents and indigenes intending to return home for the yuletide of the Command’s commitment to a hitch-free celebration.

“Acting on a reliable tip-off, we laid ambush and after a few days, we were able to recover these items somewhere around Owerri that we cannot disclose now as a result of the ongoing investigation.

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“Illicit possession of firearms is directly related to criminality and that is why we are investigating so as to unravel the suppliers of these items.

“We remain committed to ensuring a hitch-free celebration this yuletide and we assure Imo sons and daughters who will be returning that Imo is safe,’’ he said.

He called on residents to help the Command overcome the challenge of access to information by providing it with necessary information on the movement and activities of criminals.

(NAN)

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Despite surge, South Africa sees mild symptoms in Omicron patients

Omicron is fueling a steep surge in infections in South Africa but relatively few people are being hospitalised, experts said Thursday, as patients so far reported mild symptoms.

The country recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday, mostly in the epicentre Gauteng, the province home to the biggest city Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

That’s five times as many cases as were reported just one week ago, when South African scientists alerted the world to the new variant.

Three-quarters of new cases in South Africa are now Omicron.

But deaths and hospitalisations so far are rising at a much lower rate.

Experts caution that there is still much to learn, but credit vaccinations with preventing more cases of severe illness.

“There is an increase in Covid-19 admissions, but not to the point we have seen” in previous outbreaks, said Mary Kawonga, a doctor who heads a provincial Covid advisory council.

“Hospitalisations are increasing by a much lower rate than the cases and at much lower rate than we saw in the third wave,” she told a news conference.

That’s partly because many of the infected people are young, and younger people have generally shown milder symptoms throughout the pandemic.

While only about one in four South Africans are fully vaccinated, the rates are higher among older people who are mostly prone to suffer serious illness if they become infected.

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“We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country,” said Anne von Gottberg, an expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“We believe that vaccines will still however protect against severe disease,” she added.

But so far, many cases only suffer a headache or runny nose — and sometimes nothing at all.

– Mild symptoms –

Jessica Willmore, 38, developed a sore throat and a cough on Thursday.

The following day she had a headache, was fatigued and lost her appetite.

By the end of the weekend, she “felt washed out”, had a runny nose and stomach cramps, although her appetite was back.

The only reason she took a Covid test was because she was due to attend a family member’s 40th birthday party this week. They’d planned to top it off with a safari to the Kruger National Park.

Two weeks back, her nine-year-old daughter returned from school with a sore throat and runny nose, but the symptoms cleared overnight.

“We don’t know if it is Omicron or not,” said Willmore.

Donovan Rothner, 42, was asymptomatic until he took a pre-surgery test which turned out positive.

“If it wasn’t for that procedure, I wouldn’t even know that I have that virus, and that would put a lot of people at risk,” said Rothner.

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A 44-year-old advertising practitioner had to get tested after her eight-year-old daughter suddenly developed a high fever, followed by another of her daughters.

Then it was her turn, a slightly scratchy throat, accompanied by dizziness.

“Then I knew I had it,” she said. But the vaccinated mother is relieved that the symptoms are “incredibly mild, like a head cold. I have all my sense of smell, my taste.”

– Rush for tests –

Omicron fears have created a rush on clinics and laboratories.

On Thursday, dozens of people lined up under the midday sun outside shipping containers converted into specimen collection sites in front of a private hospital in Johannesburg’s lofty suburb of Sandton.

Others sat on the pavement waiting their turn.

“The numbers are growing this week,” said a nurse collecting samples.

Many people queueing said they had no symptoms but had been in contact with people that later tested positive.

Darienne Hallas, a data scientist, 40, sought a test after work colleagues were diagnosed with Covid and she became “extremely tired” in recent days.

“I don’t feel very stressed because I have had people (around me) recently that tested positive. They didn’t feel as bad” as feared.

Omicron “doesn’t sound as bad on the lungs,” she said.

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Suicidal man holding shotgun to his throat forces UN building lockdown

Officers with the New York Police Department are in an armed standoff with the man wielding a shotgun outside the United Nations building, police reported.

The man is seen on video pacing outside building in Tudor City, along the East River. The incident was reported at 10:39 am at the bus stop at the intersection of E 42nd Street and 1st Ave.

The white man assumed to be in his 60s has grey hair and is wearing blue jeans, a light blue shirt under a red sweater and tan jacket. He is seen holding the barrel of the shotgun to his head, according to Dailymail.

Police were heard saying: ‘Put down the gun. There are better ways to get your message out.’

Officers had their guns trained on him as they issued their warnings and attempted to negotiate with him. The man is reportedly threatening to harm himself. A black bag, red megaphone, glasses, a water bottle, several jackets and several small unidentified object were splayed out on the sidewalk behind him.

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NYPD released a statement assuring citizens that: ‘There is currently NO THREAT to the public.’

Video from the scene shows the man pacing back and forth as he holds the barrel of the gun to his chin.

He is seen holding up a red folder and appears to be talking to someone out of the shot. He shakes his head before standing up and walking towards the direction he was speaking holding the shotgun and the red folder.

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NYPD confirmed that they are attempting to establish communication with the armed man but did not report any comments he has made.

Two law enforcement officials say the man was seen muttering to himself and also has what appears to be a bag with him, CNN reported.

The bomb squad has responded to the scene were a heavy police presence has been seen.

NYPD issued a traffic advisory around 11am warning citizens to avoid the area emergency vehicles were expected to surround the area. Traffic along FDR Drive has been affected.

An estimated two dozen emergency vehicles have responded to the scene.

Helicopters were heard flying over the area and a city bus has been used to block traffic uptown.

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COVID-19: US announces second case of Omicron variant

Health authorities in the midwestern US state of Minnesota announced Thursday they had found another case of the Omicron variant on American soil, this time in a man with no known recent international travel history.

Like the first identified US case in California, the patient was vaccinated, and had mild symptoms from which he has now recovered.

He returned to the Minneapolis area from an anime convention in New York City, held November 19-21, before developing symptoms on November 22 and getting tested two days later.

“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said in a statement, hailing his state’s genomic sequencing and virus testing efforts.

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The fact that the man had not recently come back from another country signals that the variant is circulating inside the United States, which epidemiologists had expected, despite Washington’s decision to ban entry to travelers from several southern African nations.  

The case was made public a day after the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) announced the first confirmed US case, a fully vaccinated traveler who had recently returned from South Africa and was recovering from mild symptoms.

US health authorities are urging everyone above the age of five to get vaccinated, and to get boosted once they are eligible. 

Scientists hope lab testing will soon reveal the extent to which Omicron evades the protective action of vaccines, but expect they will remain at least partially effective, especially against severe disease. 

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Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that past experience had shown boosters were a good idea because they raise the number of overall antibodies in a person’s immune system, some of which will remain effective at stopping new variants.

“Our experience with variants such as the Delta variant, is that even though the vaccine isn’t specifically targeted to the Delta variant, when you get a high enough level of an immune response, you get spillover protection,” he said.

AFP

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2023: I will not impose my successor on Rivers, says Wike

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, on Thursday, said he would not impose any governorship aspirant of his choice on the people of Rivers come 2023.

Wike gave the assurance in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, in Port Harcourt.

He assured that the leadership of the party would meet to decide who to support at the appropriate time.

Wike, however, said that he is obliged to ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party wins the 2023 governorship election in Rivers.

“One mistake I will not make is to impose somebody. From my experience as a student of history, reality has shown that it is difficult for you to say Joseph is the man I can trust.

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”Until you give somebody power and money, that is only when you will know whether that person is trustworthy or not,” he said.

Wike stated that God would not allow someone who will destroy all the remarkable progress the state had made over the years to be the next governor.

”God will ensure that it is only someone who is courageous, firm and ready to protect the interest of Rivers that will succeed me.

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“Rivers is a state that so many people have interest in. It is a state that you have to put your feet on the ground. It is a state that you have to annoy a lot of Nigerians and a lot of Nigerians will hate you.

“But what is important is for you to know is what is good for your people and stand for your people. Do not allow personal interest to sway you against the interest of your people,” Wike stated.

(NAN)

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Buhari mourns former Senate President, Wayas

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has sent his condolences to the family of former Senate President, Joseph Wayas, 80, on the passing of the legislator, whose influence and contributions to Nigeria’s democracy remain indelible.

Buhari’s condolence message is contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, titled ‘President Buhari mourns former Senate President, Joseph Wayas.’

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According to Adesina, the President notes the sacrifices of Wayas, who started taking up leadership responsibilities at an early age, turning a Senate President at 38, and remaining vibrant and dynamic in mentoring leaders long after he retired from politics.

Buhari, therefore, joined the National Assembly, Government and people of Cross River State, his friends and associates in mourning the loss, believing his legacies will be approximated for posterity.

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He prayed that his soul would find rest with the Lord.

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Pictorial: PDP national leaders in closed-door meeting at Orji Kalu’s Abuja residence

National leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party on Thursday visited the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, at his residence in Abuja.

The Orji Uzor Kalu Media Team shared photos of the closed-door meeting with The PUNCH.

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See photos below:

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Gombe farmers decry low budgetary allocation, say food crisis looms

The Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria, Gombe State chapter, has said the state is on the cusp of a food crisis because of the challenges of COVID-19 and poor budgetary allocation to agriculture.

The group made this disclosure on Thursday, during a media briefing on the findings of an analysis on the 2022 proposed budget, organised by Hope Foundation for the Lonely with support from ActionAid Nigeria.

Speaking on behalf of SWOFON, acting Chairman, Budget Committee, Yahaya Atiku, lauded the Gombe State Government for allocating N40m to the group, while urging for its timely release.

He noted that in the past, funds allocated for SWOFON were not released, adding that analyses of previous budgets showed that performance had been very poor in terms of release.

The statement partly read, “We deem it fit to comment on the budgetary allocation proposed to Agriculture in the State. This became very necessary, as a result of the current situation of looming food crisis in the State and in Nigeria due to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic that has nearly crippled all sectors of the economy.

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“Agriculture is the major occupation of the people of Gombe and forms the main part of its economy. There are many farm products from Gombe State notably; rice, groundnut, maize, sorghum and cowpea.

“Nigeria is a signatory to and is recommitted to providing at least 10% of its annual Budget to Agriculture in the 2014 Malabo Declaration and as such upholding the commitment especially as the country is facing insecurity and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Governor, Yahaya Inuwa, had presented 154.6BN to the State Assembly with Agriculture getting less than 2.48 per cent less from the Malabo declaration.

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SWOFON noted that with the foregoing it would be a tall order to eliminate hunger by 2025.

Atiku said, “Based on the findings and observations from this analysis, one of serious note is that, the monetary allocation to the Agricultural Sector has decreased for the period 2021 to 2022.

“To reduce poverty by half and to end hunger by 2025 Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, commitment would be a feat very difficult to accomplish.”

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Six civil servants, humanitarian workers, others abducted in Borno

Six civil servants, fifteen others including an unspecified number of humanitarian workers have been kidnapped at different locations in a day at Damboa, Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists.

The terrorists belonging to the late Shekau faction have been operating in that axis for over two years but recently, they have intensified their activities in an effort to recruit more members after the surrender of thousands of them to the Nigerian government.

Sources within the security architecture confirmed the attack to The PUNCH on Thursday while the state Commissioner for Works, Yerima Saleh confirmed the abduction of six of his staff along Chibok-Damboa Road.

“It is very pathetic to inform you that six of my staff, mostly drivers, were kidnapped near Wovi Village while on duty along Damboa-Chibok Road. Likewise, three of our trucks including one of our Hilux operational vehicles were snatched away

“We have informed relevant security agencies with a view to intensifying efforts to rescue the victims unhurt,” Yerima Saleh stated.

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According to the commissioner, the six members of staff of the ministry of works were kidnapped while supervising the construction of the 45km Chibok-Damboa Road.

Also confirming the abduction of fifteen other persons including some humanitarian workers in Damboa, a soldier said the terrorists mounted a checkpoint along Damboa-Adamawa Road on Wednesday while dressed in a military uniform.

“The insurgents were dressed in military uniform and mounted a checkpoint around Gumsuru Village along Damboa-Adamawa Road.

“They stopped many vehicles heading to Adamawa, abducted all the passengers who were mostly youths and the drivers of the two buses. We later discovered that among those kidnapped were NGO staff who were in one of the buses. The affected persons are fifteen in number but two of them were later released by the terrorists after taking them into Sambisa Forest,” the soldier noted.

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“They have been terrorising and abducting people from that axis for over two years now. The Shekau faction is the one that has been terrorising Damboa, Chibok and Askira towns.

“They have camps in Wajiroko in Damboa Local Government Area and have been collecting taxes from motorists and passengers ever since without any hindrance,” he added.

Ms Yasmine of the forum of international non-governmental organisations in Borno said she heard about the abduction of the humanitarian workers on Wednesday but she could not ascertain which of the NGOs they are working for as the identities of the abducted workers are yet to be ascertained.

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An unusual traffic jam on Sagamu-Lagos Expressway  

Ehi Braimah

It was a Sunday afternoon trip to Abeokuta. Ordinarily, Sundays are not very busy days and on a “normal” day, it takes about one hour and a few minutes to arrive Abeokuta from Lagos. Remi Bello, the District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, and his entourage hit the road last Sunday for his official visit to the Rotary Club of Obantoko in Abeokuta. As District Secretary, I was part of the team.

The District Governor is required to visit every club in our District comprising Lagos and Ogun states with 131 Rotary clubs – and still counting. Nigeria has four Districts with the following numerical identities: 9110, 9125, 9141 and 9142. In the whole of Africa, which forms Zone 22, there are 17 Districts. But in District 9150, which hosted the 3rd All Africa Rotary Institute in Cameroon from August 24-28, 2021, there are 10 countries!

You can see that Nigeria is blessed in so many ways and it shows in Rotary. Nigeria alone has four Districts out of the 17 Districts in Africa due to our numerical advantage. As we continue to drive membership growth of Rotary in Nigeria, more Districts will be created.

By 4.50 pm, it was time to head back to Lagos. My driver suggested we should avoid the Sagamu-Lagos Expressway because of the long line of cars we saw when we were inbound Abeokuta. I discussed this option with our District Governor who was in his own car and we agreed to use the expressway through the Sagamu interchange back to Lagos. It turned out to be a costly mistake.

There was chaos on the expressway that was completely enveloped by darkness. There were no street lights. Apparently, the Federal Government had announced traffic diversion on that route effective that same Sunday for six days to enable Julius Berger, one of the contractors working on the project, to lay asphalt between Arepo and Warewa, a distance of one and half kilometres. But most people were unaware of the announcement.

The Federal Government is keen to complete the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project by next year, because it was a promise made by the Buhari regime. There was clearly the need to increase the pace of work but it has come with the hefty price of sitting for long hours in the traffic.

No one could rule out the threat of hit-and-grab criminals who operate in slow moving traffic, harassing innocent people for cash, mobile phones and other valuables.

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The effect of the diversion was pain, anger, frustration and lamentation by motorists and commuters. The drivers were impatient but it was understandable. From private cars to commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks, it was a struggle for every available space, sometimes only in inches. About six lanes were formed with a lot of “James Bond” driving on full display in a desperate bid to out-manoeuvre each other.

I travelled with the District media officer, Elizabeth and photographer, Afeez, and we sat patiently for seven hours in the horrendous traffic jam to get to Lagos. Most of the time, traffic was at a standstill. When movement resumed, it was at a snail’s pace.

The more I remembered the suggestion by my driver to beat the traffic, the more I felt guilty. Instead of seven hours, the journey would have lasted less than two hours if we had passed through Ijebu-Ode.

We were stuck in Mowe for one hour. I asked Afeez to step out of the car at around 6.30 pm to take shots of the bumper-to-bumper traffic scene. At this time, we were not even sure when we would arrive Lagos.

Emotions began to run high due to the fact that no one could be in control of the situation. Even if a chopper was available, there was no place for it to land in the pitch dark neighbourhood.

On the sidewalk, commuters who disembarked from commercial vehicles trekked long distances: men, women and children opted to find their way home from the nasty traffic experience that would be etched on their minds forever.

But it appears we are forgetting something. Everyone was heading to Lagos — the city, like New York, that never sleeps and bursting at the seams — for different reasons. Lagos has its attractions which include high enterprise growth, sprawling real estate and access to opportunities. Lagos is home to everyone.

Vehicles that ran out of petrol and could no longer continue also became part of the problem and added to the back story. Others broke down from rising engine temperatures while some drove against the traffic, making life even more difficult for other motorists.

The entire stretch on the expressway from Mowe, Ibafo, Magboro all the way down to the Long Bridge and the surrounding communities are major conurbations of Ogun State extending into Lagos. There are so many people who live in Mowe, Magboro and Arepo areas but work in Lagos. On a daily basis, they commute to and fro these communities.

The population density in Lagos is perhaps one of the highest in Africa and the rising cost of a decent accommodation has resulted in developers building low income estates in the area. It is evident the residents are used to traffic jams on the highway but what happened last Sunday must have shocked them, too.

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Motorists and commuters were helpless and traffic enforcement officers were missing in action. They were clearly overwhelmed with the unbearable traffic gridlock and they were not around for duty.

But the good thing was that miscreants who usually rob in traffic could not carry out their nefarious activities on that day. The explanation is simple: since the vehicles were largely at a standstill, the occupants of all the vehicles on the road were capable of forming a “formidable army” to repel any attack. It would have been a game of numbers.

Thankfully, to the best of my knowledge, there were no violent incidents in spite of the anxious moments until we arrived at Ojodu-Berger a few minutes to midnight. Even at this late hour, there were several vehicles dropping off passengers at the bus terminal.

It turned out to be a huge relief for vehicles that were running low on petrol to drive into filling stations that were still open to top up. For example, the Total Filling Station at Ojota was still open for business at about midnight.

For those who had appointments to keep, the logjam was a huge disappointment. I was also looking forward to arriving Lagos early enough to see the Super Sunday English Premier League game between hosts Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. I missed it but I monitored the match online.

For the next few days, construction works will continue on the highway and the slow moving traffic and the inconvenience will not go away.

Overall, it was a frustrating experience, affecting one’s capacity to think straight apart from being drained physically. Medical practitioners tell us not to sit for too long so that blood flow in our veins is not restrained, but on that day, we sat for seven hours nonstop. The driver stepped out a few times and the photographer once.

But you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. Can you?

Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times

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I admire your strength, Britney Spears’ fiance, Sam, celebrates singer on 40th birthday

American superstar singer, Britney Spears, turned 40 on Thursday and her 27-year-old fiancé, Sam Aghari penned an emotional message to celebrate the singer.

Aghari, who is an actor, took to his verified Instagram page to share loved-up photos of himself and the singer.

He stated that he admired Spears’ strength, adding that her smile lit up his world.

The actor wrote, “I call you Lioness because I admire your relentless strength. I’m inspired by your beautiful heart. I celebrate your smile that lights up my world. Everyday is your birthday my queen. Happy 1st birthday to my wife.”

It is pertinent to note that this is Spears’ first birthday after finally being freed from a 13-year conservatorship.

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Spears’ and Asghari got engaged in September while the singer was in the middle of a conservatorship battle.

The singer had posted a video on her verified Instagram account that sent fans into a frenzy as she showed off her engagement ring.

Spears and Asghari, who have been together for about five years, were seen in the video laughing and smiling as she posed with the ring.

The duo first met in 2016 when Asghari co-starred with Spears in the video to her single, “Slumber Party.”

Fans of American superstar singer, Britney Spears, have urged her to ensure she signs a pre-nuptial agreement with her fiancée, Sam Asghari.

Her engagement came days after Britney Spears’ fight to end her court-ordered conservatorship took an unexpected turn on Tuesday when her father and the conservator of her estate, Jamie Spears, filed a petition to end the arrangement.

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The elder Spears has served as conservator of his daughter’s estate since it was established in 2009. He was also the conservator of her person, overseeing her health and medical issues until he stepped aside in 2019.

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Pastor kidnaps Catholic priest, begs God for forgiveness

The operatives of the Imo state police command have arrested one pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba, 35, and others for kidnapping a Catholic priest, Fidelis Ekemgba.

Parading the suspects and others, the state Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussaini, said that the suspects held the priest for over seven days and made to pay a ransom of N5 million to them.

The CP, who disclosed that the syndicate was a deadly one, disclosed that the pastor was arrested in Lagos following intelligence gathering by men of the anti-kidnapping unit of the command.

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He disclosed that the priest, 45, in charge of St. Peters Catholic parish in Umunohu Amakaohia in the Ihitte/Uboma Local Government Area of the state, was double-crossed and whisked away by his abductors.

Commending his men for an excellent job, the CP said that he would continue to make the state uncomfortable for criminals.

Speaking to Journalists, Anoloba, said that he got N1.5m from the ransom the priest paid them.

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He said, “I am a pastor with Apostolic Church of Christ in Lagos. I got N1.5 million from the kidnap of the priest. I never knew I will be arrested. I regret my actions because I am now a disgrace to the body of Christ and my family.”

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Why we haven’t named sponsors of terrorism – Malami

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has stated the reasons why the government is holding off on naming sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria.

Malami, who spoke during an interview with Channels TV on Wednesday evening, said the government was not reluctant in naming the sponsors of terrorism but was only taking its time.

This is despite calls from different quarters for the President, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to publish the names of the sponsors.

Malami stated, “One thing that I think you need to take into consideration is that investigation is still ongoing and the fact that a lot of arrests were made.

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“With the fact that judicial orders for the detention of those that have been arrested have been obtained, it is indeed out of place to conclude that nothing is being heard on the matter.

“Work is in progress. It will continue to be in progress and certainly we will do the needful at the right time.”

The AGF, while noting that the names include those of locally and internationally recognised individuals, said arrests have been made and that the government is not resting on its oars.

“The fact remains that we have ever been working. There is no dull moment as far as the process is concerned. So, what I am saying in essence is that it is work in progress. Arrests were made, judicial orders were obtained and, indeed, we will do the needful,” Malami said.

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The minister also vowed that “no one will be spared as far as we are concerned as a government.”

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Second Republic Senate President, Wayas, dies, Ayade mourns

The Second Republic Senate President, Dr Joseph Wayas is dead.

Wayas died in the early hours of Tuesday in a London hospital.

Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade has lamented the passing of Wayas, describing his death as a monumental loss to Cross River State in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

In a press statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, Ayade said Dr Wayas left indelible footprints on the sands of time.

“As a state, Cross River is in pains as we mourn the passing of our illustrious son. He was a rare gem. Dr Wayas’ demise is indeed a monumental loss to our dear state and Nigeria,” Ayade said in the statement.

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The governor also said, “As Senate President, Dr Wayas contributed to the deepening of Nigeria’s democratic ethos through his robust and vibrant leadership of the upper legislative chamber.

“And since his retirement from active politics, the former Senate President had been playing a fatherly and stabilising role in the politics and affairs of our state.”

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He condoled with Dr Wayas’ family and assured them that his demise is a collective loss and the pains a shared one.

“We are with you in this moment of grief. We have you in our hearts and prayers,” he assured the family of the deceased.

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We’ll walk for peace with you —LASU students to Sanwo-Olu

Students of the Lagos State University have said they will embark on the Walk of Peace proposed by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

President of the Student Union Government, LASU, Comrade Oladipupo Uthman Badmus, said this when the governor visited the school on Thursday.

Sanwo-Olu who inaugurated a new Students’ Arcade at the school was welcomed by the SUG President, Speaker of the Students Union Representatives, Rt. Hon. Mustapha Adejuwon, and hundreds of students.

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The students who commended Sanwo-Olu’s giant strides in the state, especially in the education sector, said they would embark on the walk with the governor for peace and prosperity of the state.

The Walk of Peace which, according to Sanwo-Olu, will “herald the healing of the land,” will likely have in attendance some notable members and activists of the EndSARS campaign.

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The Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu and Commander of Rapid Response Squad, CSP Yinka Egbeyemi, will also embark on the walk.

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