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Showing posts with label Punch Newspapers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Punch Newspapers. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Niger, Italian firm to build N8bn houses

Enyioha Opara, Minna

DETERMINED to reduce accommodation problems in Niger State, the state government on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an Italian firm, Italworks Nigeria Limited, for the construction of 1,000 housing units in the state.

The project, which is valued at N8bn ($25m), already has more than 3,000 off takers bidding for the purchase of the 1,000 units of the two and three-bedroommed detached bungalows to be constructed.

The arrangement is under Public Private Partnership scheme and the government is expected to provide 91 hectares of residential land along the Minna-Abuja Expressway in Paikoro Local Government Area, while Italworks Nigeria Limited is to fund the project.

The Managing Director of the Italian firm, Gaetano Crisa, said the project, which would commence by July this year, would create employment opportunities for thousands of youths in the state and enhance business activities at the state’s building material market.

Crisa, who also disclosed that his company had executed 10 projects successfully in Nigeria, added that it would bring in Italian engineers and architects to ensure the construction of quality and affordable houses in record time as speficied in the MoU.

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Court remands American for alleged $565,000 green card fraud

Oluwatosin Omojuyigbe

The Lagos State High Court in Ikeja on Thursday ordered the remand of an American national, Marco Ramirez, in Kirikiri prison for allegedly defrauding three Nigerians of $565,000.

Antonio, who held himself out as the Managing Director of three companies – USA Now Plc, Eagleford Instalodge Group and USA Now Energy Capital Group – pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of obtaining money by false pretences brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

 According to the EFCC prosecutor, V.O. Aigboje, Ramirez committed the offence between February and August 2013.

 Ramirez was accused of collecting $10,000 from one Olukayode Sodimu under the pretext that the money was meant to facilitate an American green card with the US Immigration Services.

 The American national was further accused of fraudulently obtaining $10,000 from one Abubakar Umar through a fictitious investment programme in the US in order for the latter to be eligible for a US green card.

 The anti-graft agency also accused Ramirez of collecting $545,000 from one Ambassador Godson Echejue, under the pretext that the money was meant for investing in his company, Eagle Ford Limited, in order to facilitate the procurement of a US green card.

 Shortly after the defendant’s arraignment, the EFCC prosecutor prayed the court to remand him in the prison custody, pending trial.

 Antonio’s counsel, Mr. Chukwudi Maduka, however, pleaded with the court to remand his client in the EFCC custody.

 Maduka said he had only just received the charge and that he needed time to file a bail application.

He informed the court that already his client had been on an administrative bail, granted him by the EFCC in Abuja.

But the EFCC prosecutor objected to the prayer to remand Antonio in the custody of the EFCC, stating that there was no more space in the commission’s detention facility.

 In a short ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Josephine Oyefeso, ordered that Antonio should be remanded in Kirikiri prison and adjourned the matter till July 3 for the hearing of the defendant’s bail application.

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Etisalat, lenders disagree over $1.2bn loan repayment

Akinpelu Dada and Ozioma Ubabukoh

The controversies surrounding Etisalat Nigeria’s indebtedness to a consortium of 13 banks deepened on Thursday with the telecoms firm insisting that it had repaid about 42 per cent of the $1.2bn loan, while some of the banks involved in the transaction maintained that it had “only paid $58.9m.”

Sources privy to the series of meetings between Etisalat and the banks, said that the $58.9m was just 10 per cent of the total sum owed the consortium by the telecommunications company.

However, Etisalat Nigeria said in a statement by its Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Ibrahim Dikko, “Contrary to the widely reported misrepresentations about Etisalat Nigeria’s debt obligation to the consortium of 13 banks, it has become pertinent to set the records straight. Prior to this time, Etisalat had in fact consistently and conscientiously met up with its payment obligations.

“As of today, we can categorically state that the outstanding loan sum to the consortium stands at $227m and N113bn, a total of about $574m if the naira portion is converted to US dollars. This, in essence, means almost half of the original loan of $1.2bn has been repaid. Etisalat continued to service the loan up until February 2017, when discussions with the banks regarding the repayment restructuring commenced.”

One of the bank officials said, “Etisalat has over $600m debt due to creditors, distributors and vendors like Huawei Technologies and IHS.

“Rather than map out a plan to pay the 90 per cent that is remaining of its debt to the consortium of banks, it asked the banks to stand still and write it off as a bad debt after it paid $58.9m.”

However, Dikko told one of our correspondents that the firm had paid about $574m, which was known to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the regulator of the telecoms industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission, adding, “That’s the figure we have in our books and which we reported to the regulators.”

However, the bank officials dismissed reports that the lenders had taken over the running of Etisalat operations.

One of the sources explained, “That can’t be true, because there is no legal takeover, neither has there been any operational takeover.

“For you to legally take over a company, you have to go through the courts and the Corporate Affairs Commission; and for you to take over operationally, there has to be a change of management structure. But none of these has happened.

“The banks, at the last meeting with the Etisalat management, made it clear that they were not interested in taking over Etisalat and they would never be interested. What they want is nothing but their money in full and the full interest charges.”

The officials also stated that the banks had been fair to the telecoms company by making the payment plan flexible.

“They reduced the debt burden by between 20 and 30 per cent. The banks also agreed that they would ask for discounted rate on the interest rate by six per cent, to cushion the effect. They banks also asked them to pay over an eight-year period,” the source added.

Dikko also denied reports that the management of Etisalat Nigeria was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission following a petition to “the Federal Government asking that Etisalat be investigated” on how the funds from the syndicated loans were utilised.

He stated, “Etisalat wishes to categorically affirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that the reports are patently false and most unfortunate considering the damage such misleading information can have not only on our business, but indeed on the telecommunications industry and the country as a whole.

“Concerned parties have access to our books and do not require an investigation into how the loan sum was utilised. All of the infrastructure investment and services for which the loan was secured were paid through our banks and these are verifiable.

“It will be recalled that the $1.2bn loan, a medium-term seven-year facility, was obtained by Etisalat Nigeria for the purpose of expanding its network and improving the quality of service on its network. The economic downturn of 2015 and sharp devaluations of the naira negatively impacted on the dollar-denominated loan by driving up the loan value, thus prompting Etisalat to request a loan restructuring from the consortium of banks.”

 

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Julius Berger eyes oil, power deals in Nigeria

’Femi Asu with agency report

Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, the largest construction company in Nigeria by market value, plans to acquire oil assets and expand into the power industry as it seeks to diversify its business and stay competitive after the country’s worst economic slump in decades.

Bloomberg quoted the company’s managingadirector, Wolfgang Goetsch, as saying in an interview in Abuja.

The company, which derives two-thirds of its earnings from government contracts, is also considering bidding for business in other countries in the region, such as Ghana, Benin and Ivory Coast, where it has conducted market studies.

Goetsch said, “Within Nigeria, we aim to diversify our business beyond our core competence of civil engineering, looking into power and oil and gas, or to diversify outside the country, but only in our core business.

“We believe with strategic partners that we are more attractive to clients who want to have a whole industrial or power plant.”

Julius Berger, operating in the country since 1965, saw its earnings slide as Nigeria fell into its worst economic slump in a quarter century amid lower oil prices and a shortage of foreign exchange.

Julius Berger was “really hurt” as it struggled to raise funds from the parallel, or street markets, to meet its foreign exchange obligations and was forced to restructure and cut costs, Goetsch said.

“This was very difficult, it still is. It was a struggle to survive. It is now much better, if you look at the statistics. The gap between the central bank rate and the parallel market window is much smaller now and availability is much better,” he stated.

Julius Berger’s 2016 full-year profit of N3bn is more than 60 per cent lower than the annual net income it earned in the three years before the economy suffered contraction in 2015. The stock fell by five per cent to close at N41.52 in Thursday’s trading in Lagos. It has gained eight per cent this year compared with a 23 per cent surge of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Main-Board Index.

The company on June 19 said it had formed a partnership with Petralon Energy to work on oil fields in the Niger Delta. It is currently in talks with about eight power industry investors to build generating plants, Goetsch said without providing details because the negotiations are still confidential.

Negotiations for new projects are now mostly about agreements on the foreign currency component of the contracts, Goetsch said.

“Eighty per cent of the negotiation is just to find an agreement on the currency, which in the past was a minor issue and one of the last points. Now, it’s always the first point because this is a risk that really can kill a company,” he added.

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NASS under attack for slashing, Lagos-Ibadan road, others’ votes

Niyi Odebode, John Ameh, Eniola Akinkuotu, Ifeanyi Onuba

 and Olaleye Aluko

Prominent groups and economic experts have criticised the National Assembly for reducing the budgetary allocations for projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.

The lawmakers reduced the budget for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway from N31bn to N10bn, while the vote for the Second Niger Bridge was cut from N15bn to N10bn.

But as against N115bn budgeted for the federal lawmakers in 2016, the National Assembly hiked its budget to N125bn in 2017.

Condemning the lawmakers, civil rights organisations said the National Assembly, by slashing allocations for the projects and increasing its own votes, had shown that it was selfish.

The News Agency of Nigeria had earlier on Thursday reported that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), had raised the alarm over the insertion of projects outside the purview of his ministry into the 2017 Appropriation Act by the National Assembly.

Fashola said it was unfair to the executive arm for the inclusion of such projects after public hearings on the budget and defence of the fiscal estimates by the ministries.

“What I have in my budget now is primary health care centres, boreholes,” he said at an interactive session with journalists.

“That was the meeting we had with the Acting President and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.

“We were asked to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31bn to N10bn.

“We owe the contractors about N15bn and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.

“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15bn to N10bn  and about N3bn or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget.’’

N’Assembly inserts 100 road projects into budget

Fashola added the federal legislators did not spare the efforts to improve power supply in the country as it also slashed the votes to a few major power projects.

The minister stated, “Everybody is complaining about power supply but they also cut the budget for Mambila power project and the Bodo Bridge that connects the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Station.

“If after we have defended the budget and we have gone and the legislature unilaterally changed the budget, what is the purpose of deliberation?’’

The minister said apart from the 200 uncompleted roads he inherited from the previous administration, the lawmakers added 100 roads.

The minister added, “These roads are not federal roads and some of them do not have designs. How do we award roads that were not designed irrespective of the power you have?

“It is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to legislate on state roads.

“The executive controls all the machinery for collecting taxes and other revenue with relevant data from the ministries of finance, physical planning and the Budget Office and others.

“I am not saying that the legislature cannot contribute to the budget, but I hold the view that it cannot increase the budget because they do not collect the revenue with which to run or implement the budget.”

Fashola, the immediate past Lagos State governor, canvassed interdependence and collaboration among the three arms of government rather than independence to ensure a harmonious relationship.

The minister said without it, the country would be bogged down by the politics of total separation of powers.

“The society benefits more from the power of example and interdependence rather than the example (show) of power; it requires that we show good examples,” he said.

Fashola, however, blamed the electorate for putting pressure on the lawmakers to provide all manner of projects for them.

“There is the need for mass orientation and enlightenment for Nigerians not to expect their elected representatives to provide roads, water, light and execute capital projects, which are the functions of the executive arm,” the former governor stated.

CD, CACOL, SERAP condemn lawmakers

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership  have condemned the National Assembly for slashing allocations for major projects while increasing its own votes.

The CD President, Usman Abdul, said the National Assembly members should investigate the slow pace of the completion of projects rather than starving them of funds.

He stated, “The National Assembly’s attitude towards the budget for the expressway is wrong. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is a road that has been ongoing for a long period.

“You would expect the lawmakers to investigate what has brought the slowness or abandonment of the project. The lawmakers should be concerned with the completion of the project. The reduction of the budget (to the project) is not acceptable.”

The Executive Director of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said, “The lawmakers are known to be selfish in the way they appropriate the national resources. But the minister of works also has not been forthcoming on his projects for the country.  Maybe that was what prompted the lawmakers to pocket a large chunk of the money meant for the project.

“All of us know that the expressway is pivotal to the economy of this country. So, both the National Assembly and the minister have a lot of explanation to provide.”

The Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that it was unfortunate that the legislative arm of government had put its personal interest above that of the nation.

He stated that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which is one of the busiest expressways in Nigeria, should have been given the priority it deserved.

Mumuni added,  “All Nigerians, whether old, young, rich, poor or any tribe, use this road. It is a major road that links the South-West to other parts and they should know that a government that is not doing things to make the citizens happy is not fit to be called a government.

“They can reduce but to add to their own budget is, to me, a terrible thing to do. It is as if what is most important to them is their interest and not the overwhelming interest of the majority of Nigerians, which is bad.”

The SERAP director explained that it was not too late to make some adjustments since the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, had said during the signing of the budget that the executive arm of government and legislature had agreed to reinstate several proposals altered in the budget by the National Assembly.

Also, some finance and economic experts said the reduction of allocations to key capital projects by the National Assembly in the 2017 budget might affect the plan of the Federal Government to reduce the level of infrastructure deficit in the country.

The Registrar, Chartered Institute of Finance and Control of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Eohoi, stated that the reduction in allocations by National Assembly might affect budget performance.

He said, “On the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the National Assembly should work with the executive to ensure that the road is completed on schedule.

“While we do not expect government to budget huge funds to it because it is on concession, there is a need to ensure that the percentage of government funding is released to ensure the completion of the road.”

A developmental economist, Odilim Enwagbara, in his reaction, said while it was within the powers of the National Assembly to alter projects contained in the budget,  the executive should seek creative ways of raising funds to finance  projects.

He said with the huge infrastructure deficit currently facing the country, it had become clear that budgetary allocations to capital projects would not achieve the desired impact.

He recommended public-private partnership, concession and privatisation of these projects by the government to the private sector to enable the projects to be completed on time.

He said, “I am suggesting we privatise all those roads, get major investors from China, Europe and other countries to buy off these roads, build them and toll them for 30 to 35 years.”

When contacted, the House expressed surprise that the minister was still making comments on the budget, “a duly-passed Act that carries the signature of the Acting President.”

Its spokesman, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, told The PUNCH that there were limited options for the budget other than for the executive to implement it.

Namdas said on Thursday,  “Are these commentaries still necessary after an Appropriation Bill has been signed into law?

“We have since gone past talking. We should be talking about implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act.

“The budget is now a law and it has to be implemented.”

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N381bn NHIS fund: Beneficiaries storm House, disagree on service

John Ameh, Abuja

There was confusion at the National Assembly on Thursday when beneficiaries of the National Health Insurance Scheme disagreed among themselves over whom to blame for the poor healthcare services provided to them by operators of the scheme.

While some the beneficiaries, otherwise known as enrollees, asserted that the Health Maintenance Organisations acted promptly by paying for services, other enrollees protested and disagreed with the assertion.

The House of Representatives Committee on Health Services is investigating the “Compliance Rate of HMOs to the NHIS Contributions and Utilisation of Funds by Healthcare Providers and Inhuman Treatment of Enrollees.”

The committee is chaired by an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Imo State, Mr. Chike Okafor.

The Federal Government has spent over N381bn on the insurance scheme since 2005 through deductions from the salaries of civil servants registered under it.

However, many Nigerians had petitioned the House to complain about non-delivery of services by HMOs and service providers.

The committee had disclosed that “over 450” petitions were lodged at the House by the complaints.

Only on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; the Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Yusuf Usman; and the HMOs had traded words over the poor services and the need to account for the N381bn the scheme had gulped since inception in 2005.

Thursday was the day to hear the views of the enrollees on the implementation of the scheme.

However, drama started when some enrollees took sides with the HMOs, while many others opposed them, accusing their fellow beneficiaries of not telling the truth.

There was confusion at the session as lawmakers watched the unfolding disagreement in disbelief.

One of the enrollees taking sides with the HMOs, Mr. Olalekan Oluleti, told lawmakers that the health system could have crashed but for the intervention of the HMOs during critical moments.

He argued that whenever government hospitals went on strike, the HMOs would intervene by quickly referring enrollees to private hospitals for treatment.

Oluleti, who gave the name of his HMO as ‘Idea,’ recalled how the organisation acted promptly to rescue a pregnant woman in labour when resident doctors were on strike at the National Hospital, Abuja.

“The problem of the health sector is not just about HMOs. It is systemic, which has to be addressed holistically,” he stated.

But, as Oluleti spoke, other enrollees shouted at him to get down from the rostrum.

“Shut up and get down; you are not speaking the truth! Where do you work?

“Lies! What you are saying are lies,” they shouted.

One visibly agitated woman, Mrs. Fatimah Abdulkadir-Omowunmi, rose from her seat and made to approach Oluleti to force him to step down from the rostrum.

As members intervened to stop her, more enrollees shouted, calling on the members to allow Abdulkadir-Omowunmi to address the session.

When she spoke, Abdulkadir-Omowunmi, a nurse, debunked the claims of Oluleti, saying that she too was registered under the same ‘Idea’ HMO.

She recounted how she almost lost her sick son after she put several calls to the HMO and there was no response.

“I ended up treating my child by myself. Why all these HMOs everywhere? Every hospital that you visit, they keep telling you, HMO, HMO; why must it be so?,” she stated.

The committee abruptly stopped taking submissions from the enrollees in a bid to bring the mounting tension among them under control.

When the committee asked the HMOs to make their final submission, their representative, Dr. Lekan Ewenla, said the organisations were “victims of blackmail.”

“All that is happening here today is an attempt to blackmail the HMOs. Seventy per cent of the N381bn or whatever billions being quoted here went to the hospitals, the healthcare providers,” Ewenla insisted.

However, the Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Yusuf Usman, made more allegations, accusing the HMOs of collecting N60bn in the last 12 years as “administrative fees alone.”

Usman also insisted that he would no longer release funds to the HMOs three months ahead, but monthly, so that he could monitor their compliance status on payments to healthcare providers.

The committee chairman, Okafor, interjected to say, “If the law says three months, and now you are saying one month, it is an offence. You will go to jail.”

As the session ended, the executive secretary made to shake hands with some representatives of the HMOs, but they turned him down. They were still in rage, accusing Usman of blackmailing them.

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Court refuses to dismiss $1.6bn fraud charges against Omokore, others

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday rejected an application seeking an order dismissing the $1.6bn fraud charges instituted against Jide Omokore, an ally of a former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and others.

In a bench ruling delivered shortly after hearing the application on Thursday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba also specifically refused to strike out an additional proof of evidence exhibiting the statement made to the EFCC by an additional proposed prosecution witness on June 7, 2017.

The application filed by the fifth defendant in the case, Abiye Membere, was anchored on the contention that the act of the EFCC obtaining a witness’ statement about one year into the trial and when two prosecution witnesses had concluded their testimonies, constituted an abuse of court processes.

The case was commenced in July 2016.

In his ruling, Justice Dimgba held that an alleged violation of the Federal High Court’s Practice Direction on Criminal Matters as argued by Membere’s lawyer, could not rob the court of its jurisdiction to hear a criminal case.

The judge held that the jurisdiction to hear a criminal case was donated to the court by the statute prescribing the offences on which the defendants were being tried and not the practice direction.

He said by virtue of the provisions of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, the court had been conferred with the jurisdiction to hear the case which involved offences of advance free fraud and money laundering preferred against the defendants.

He also held that Section 379(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, cited by the applicant, allowed the prosecution to file an additional proof evidence at any stage of the trial.

He added that the law did not limit the prosecution to specific types of additional evidence either documentary or oral that could be filed in court in the course of the trial.

He held that to interpret the laws “as construed” by the defendant would violate the said Section 379(2) of the ACJA and would create a “judicial clog” in the procedure of prosecution established by the law.

He added that the remedy available to the defendants was not to ask for the dismissal of the charges but to request more time to enable him to study the newly-filed document.

“I’m of the view that this application is not deserving to be granted and it is accordingly dismissed,” the judge ruled.

Apart from Omokore and Membere, other defendants in the case are Victor Briggs and David Mbanefo.

Two of Omokore’s companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, are also part of the defendants.

The EFCC is prosecuting the defendants on nine counts of criminal diversion of about $1.6bn alleged to be part of proceeds of the sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.

Part of the offences were said to be contrary to Section 1 (1) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.

Arguing the application on Thursday, Membere’s lawyer, Mr. Folabi Kuti, prayed for an order dismissing the charges and setting aside the proceedings.

He asked the court to, in the alternative, strike out the additional proof of evidence dated June 9, 2017 containing a witness’ statement dated June 7, 2017, filed by the prosecution.

He argued that the act of the prosecution constituted an abuse of court process and negated the principle of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

In response, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), argued that the application was “based on a false premise.”

After dismissing the application, Justice Dimgba fixed July 5 for continuation of trial.

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Amaechi’s wife didn’t extort money from us – Ex-Rivers LG bosses

Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt

FORMER local government chairmen and commissioners in Rivers State during the administration of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, have faulted a statement credited to Governor Nyesom Wike that the wife of the ex-governor extorted money from them.

The former chairmen and commissioners said in a statement signed by the former chairman of Asari-Toru LGA, Mr. Ojukaye Amachree, and ex-Commissioner for Sports, Mr. Fred Igwe, that at no time were they coerced or intimidated to pay any money to the former governor’s wife, Dame Judith Amaechi.

 Wike had stated that former commissioners and council chairmen were forced to pay N2m and N3m respectively to Amaechi’s wife during the immediate past governor’s administration.

But the ex-council bosses and former commissioners said, “Nyesom Wike, since his assumption to office, appears to have a major agendum, which is to tarnish the sterling reputation of former governor, Amaechi; his erstwhile benefactor.

“He is bereft of ideas and unprepared for the task of governing a heterogeneous state like Rivers. We want to state that no (former) council chairman either individually or as a group of chairmen or state commissioners were told, coerced, intimidated or persuaded to pay any money to the wife of the former governor. And no money was given to her.

“On several occasions, Wike, hiding under the subterfuge of his office as an intermediary between the then governor and other elected or appointed public officials, made financial demands and extorted money from council chairmen, including arm-twisting them to award contracts to him.

 “It is on record that several LGA projects then, including the new secretariat of Port Harcourt City Council and Etche Council, were done by Wike.  Council chairmen and state officials were forced to contribute several millions of naira to Wike under the pretext of fighting his legal battle with the EFCC when he was arrested and tried for corruption.

“For the most flimsy excuses Wike placed hefty levies on council chairmen. Failure to pay is usually met with stiff sanctions,” the statement read.

They, however, warned the governor against perpetrating mischief against Amaechi’s wife and urge him to tender an “unreserved” apology to the wife of the former governor immediately or be ready to face the consequences.

Reacting, the state Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, insisted that the then council chairmen, commissioners and House of Assembly members were forced to contribute financially to the pet project of Amaechi’s wife known as Empowerment Support Initiative.

He said, “Ojukaye is a person who should not be taken seriously. Rivers are aware of what happened with the ESI pet project. Former chairman of Obio/Akpor, Timothy Nsirim, was sacked from office because he insisted that he would not contribute the LG money to ESI project.”

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Nigeria’s woes caused by political leaders — NLC, TUC

Olaleye Aluko, Abuja

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria have said the hardship and woes in the country should be blamed on the ruling political elite, rather than on federalism.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, who said this during a joint press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, condemned the threats and counter-threats from the northern and southern regions, saying Nigeria could not afford another civil war.

The labour unions warned Nigerian workers, pensioners and peasants not to allow ‘a few desperate persons use them as cannon fodders’ to achieve selfish interests.

The unions’ presidents said the issues under contention would be resolved through good governance and a sustained fight against corruption.

The NLC boss said, “Our common enemy, whom we must all resolve to face, remains the corrupt political class, who, instead, of utilising our wealth, choose to loot for themselves and for their children. We, as labour unions, are determined to stop our elite from throwing our nation into another avoidable civil war.

“By no imagination should anyone blame the escalating injustice, poor living conditions; inability of states to pay salaries, massive unemployment and other lows on the structure of our federation.

“You have been witnesses to the degeneration of the national conversation into threats and counter-threats; of pulling down the federation by desperate forces, all of which were conveyed in vile language.

“Those fanning the embers of disunity need to be schooled in the realities of war. We appeal to all parts of Nigeria not to fall cheaply for war as a solution to our self-inflicted crisis. Let us, therefore, not allow them to use the poor Nigerian workers, pensioners and peasants as cannon fodders for their selfish interests.”

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Youths mobilise constituents to recall Ondo federal lawmaker

Peter Dada, Akure

Youths in Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency of Ondo State have begun to mobilise the people of the constituency to start the process of recalling the lawmaker representing the constituency at the House of Representatives, Mr. Bolarinwa Bamidele.

The youths, under the auspices of the Idanre/Ifedore Youth Coalition, alleged that the lawmaker had not made any positive impact in the federal constituency, adding that he had allegedly abandoned the constituency for a long time.

Addressing journalists in Akure on Thursday, the coordinator of the group, Mr. Adeyemi Alabi, alleged that Bamidele had absconded from the federal constituency.

The group also alleged that the lawmakers had not sponsored a single bill on the floor of the lower chamber of the National Assembly since he had been elected to represent the people.

Alabi further alleged that the lawmaker had refused to empower the people of the constituency like the other members of the House of Representatives in the state had done.

Alabi said, “We are, indeed, unfortunate in Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency; Bamidele has absconded from this area. His constituency office is non-functional. We can’t access our representative; he has not been home for a long time now.”

However, one of the aides of the federal lawmaker, Mr. Odeyemi Richard, who spoke on his behalf, said the allegations were not true. He explained that the federal legislator had done well for the people of the constituency.

He said, “We in Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency are not complaining, no lawmaker in Ondo has achieved what my boss had achieved in our federal constituency in the last two years. We have nine federal lawmakers at the lower chamber and none of them has achieved what my boss had achieved in the last two years.”

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Biafra: Consult Obasanjo, Gowon, Bode George advises Osinbajo

Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja

A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, has advised acting President Yemi Osinbajo to invite former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, and other elder statesmen to an emergency meeting over the increasing secessionist agitations.

George said this in a statement on Thursday.

While commending Osinbajo for his recent meetings with some Igbo and northern politicians, George advised the acting President to also invite other personalities actively involved in Nigeria’s Civil War like a former Minister of Defence, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), and others.

George, who is a former military governor of the old Ondo State, said the ethnic tension in the country was becoming dangerous, adding that the matter should not be treated with kid gloves.

He said, “The current consultations that our government has embarked upon across the tribal divide are laudable and exemplary. But the government should do more. It should widen the consultation efforts by inviting formidable elders and statesmen who were active participants and managers of our nation during the dark drama of our civil war.

“The chastening voices of General Yakubu Gowon, General Obasanjo, General T.Y. Danjuma, General Alani Akinrinade, General Alabi Isama, General Haruna, General Babangida, General Abdulsalami, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Governor Achike Udenwa, Col. Iheanacho (retd.), Rear- Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, and many others on both sides of the divide at that time, will go a long way in tempering the flight of fancy of the intemperate agitators who have never heard a gunshot in anger.

“The experiences of these statesmen and builders of our nation should be more than enough to caution those who are presently preaching the politics of division.”

The PDP chieftain, who argued that no nation has ever survived two civil wars, urged the secessionist elements to embrace unity and added that the greatest nations in the world were the most diverse.

He said Nigeria should follow the example of Lagos State which had embraced diversity such that everyone had a sense of belonging in the state.

George added, “Here in my home state and my native root of Lagos, there is no ethnic group in Nigeria that is not represented from Isale Eko to the most distant outreach of Badagry. Lagos is the Nigerian giant melting pot where everyone is given equal opportunities to realise his ambition.

“There is no discrimination or bigotry here. Everyone is welcome with open arms to contribute to the centrality of our commercial vision. As a trading post and the commercial nerve of our nation, the progress of Lagos with over N26bn monthly Internally Generated Revenue is a collective contribution of everyone who calls Lagos home.”

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Reps give OAU ultimatum over procurement Act

Femi Makinde, Osogbo

The Federal House of Representatives has expressed worry about the low level of compliance of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and other public universities in the country with the Public Procurement Act.

The Chairman, House Committee on Public Procurement, Wole Oke, said this in an interview with journalists in Ile-Ife on Wednesday after he led the members of the committee to check the level of compliance of the OAU management with the Act.

Although the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, was not present, he was represented by the Chairman, Committee of Deans, Prof Adeagbo Amusan; who was in company with the registrar, Dotun Awoyemi; and the bursar, Mrs. Ronke Akeredolu, as well as some directors.

Oke described the act as a tool which could assist all anti-corruption agencies in the country to effectively check corruption, saying a violation of the law was the easiest way to the prison.

The lawmaker said the committee was at the OAU to check its procurement records between 2011 and 2016 but said the university did not provide all the documents.

Oke said, “What we are planning to achieve is to bring this law to the front burner. The shortest way to the prison is by violating this act; ignorance is not a defence in the law.

“We are educating MDAs that this law exists. To be frank, the level of compliance with the Act by the universities is very low. One of our colleagues, whom we wrote this law together, Bala Ngilari, fell victim of this act. Some of our leaders also suffered in the hands of this Act.

“We are educating them not to fall victim of this law; Section 20, subsection (1) stated that a chief senior officer should manage the activities and Section 58, subsection (5) clearly states the sanctions if anybody violates the Act.

“The law also mandates procurement entities to make their procurement plans ahead of time because procurement plans dovetail into budgets.

“We do not have all the documents we need to check here now and we are given the university till July 6 to make them available.”

The lawmaker said the level of compliance of government ministries with the Act was much better than the compliance of universities and departments and agencies.

He stated that the committee had spent the last two years educating the public about the existence of the Act, saying the next two years would be used for enforcement.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, had earlier lauded Oke and his colleagues for establishing the Public Procurement Institute inside the OAU.

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INEC writes to Melaye, begins recall process July 3

Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission says it has formally notified Senator Dino Melaye of the demand by the people of his constituency to recall him from the Senate.

It said that the decision to inform Melaye was taken at its meeting held in Abuja on Thursday, where the petition submitted by voters in the Kogi-West senatorial district was considered.

The commission also said that it would issue a notice to the petitioners and Melaye on July 3, on when it would begin the verification of the signatures of those who signed the notice.

A National Commissioner of INEC, Madam Mohammed Haruna, disclosed the commission’s decision in a statement issued in Abuja.

Aggrieved voters from Melaye’s constituency were at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday where they presented their petition on their demand for the recall of the senator.

Haruna said, “INEC has held its regular weekly meeting today and considered the petition submitted by registered voters from the Kogi-West senatorial district to kick-start the process of recalling Senator Dino Melaye.

“In accordance with INEC’s guidelines for the recall of members of the National Assembly, the commission has finally acknowledged the receipt of the petition to the petitioners’ representatives and has conveyed a letter notifying Senator Dino Melaye of our receipt of the petition.

“The next step is to verify that the petitioners are registered voters in the Kogi-West senatorial district.

“INEC will on July 3, 2017 issue a public notice stating dates, time, location and other details for the verification of the exercise.”

Kogi-West, which Melaye represents in the Senate, has seven local government areas.

Signatures and petitions from each of the local government area were packaged in seven bags, which were tagged according to the names of the local governments, and submitted to the commission.

The local government areas and the percentage of the voters who signed the recall petition showed that Yagba-West had the highest number of voters asking Melaye to return home from the Senate.

The breakdown, as shown in the petition is: Yagba-West, 55.7 per cent; Lokoja, 54.8 per cent; Kogi, 52.77 per cent; Yagba-East, 52 per cent; Ijumu (Melaye’s local government), 51.8 per cent; Mopa/Moro, 50.4 per cent and Kabba/Bunu, 46.7 per cent.

A prominent member of the All Progressives Congress in Ijumu, Mr  Cornelius Olowo, who led the delegation, had insisted that the constituents were not satisfied with the quality of Melaye’s representation.

He had said, “We want Senator Melaye back because of poor representation, he is also not accessible to us, he is unreachable and has no constituency projects.

“Apart from the fact that he has never called any town hall meeting, there has been a major gap between the senator and the people he claims to represent.”

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Abuja, Lagos listed among 60 world’s most expensive cities

Lagos and Abuja ranked 29th and 59th respectively as the most expensive cities to live in a 2017 global cost of living survey.

The 23rd Cost of Living Survey carried out by Mercer, the world’s largest human resource consulting firm, found that African, Asian, and European cities dominated the 2017 list of the most expensive locations for working abroad.

According to the survey, Lagos ranked 13th while Abuja ranked 20th in 2016.

The capital city of Angola, Luanda, however, ranked first globally, moving up from second place and taking over from Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive city.

The survey attributed the cost of goods and security as factors that determined the cost of living in Luanda.

Other African cities that ranked high reflected high living costs and prices of goods for expatriate employees.

They include Victoria, Seychelles in the 14th position, N’djamena, Chad in the 16th position and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo ranked 18th.

The least expensive African cities include Gaborone, Botswana in the 196th position; Cape Town, South Africa ranking 199th and Blantyre, Malawi ranking 205th.

Windhoek, Namibia ranked 206 while Tunis, Tunisia ranked 209 and was found to be the least expensive country globally.

In Europe, three cities remained in the top 10 list of the most expensive cities for expatriates, which included Zurich, Geneva, and Bern which ranked fourth, seventh and 10th respectively.

Moscow ranked 14th and London ranked 30th position and the German cities of Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin dropped significantly ranking 98, 117 and 120 respectively.

Ms Nathalie Constantin-M├ętral, a principal at Mercer responsible for compiling the survey ranking, explained that the majority of Chinese cities fell in the ranking due to the weakening of the Chinese yuan against the U.S. dollar.

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Nigeria to overtake US population by 2050 – UN

The UN says Nigeria is set to overtake the US in population by 2050.

It says Nigeria and eight other countries will account for half of the world’s population growth from 7.6 billion in 2017 to 9.8 billion in 2050. The UN, in a projection, named India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Uganda and Indonesia, as the nine countries.

The UN said that in spite of fertility levels declining in nearly all the regions in the world, the group of 47 least-developed countries had a relatively high level of fertility at 4.3 births per woman in 2010 to 2015.

The world body added that in Africa, populations in 26 countries are projected to expand to at least double their current sizes.

The report added, “From 2017 to 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia (ordered by their expected contribution to total growth).

“The new projections include some notable findings at the country level. For example, in roughly seven years, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China. Currently, the population of China is approximately 1.41 billion compared with 1.34 billion in India. In 2024, both countries are expected to have roughly 1.44 billion people.

“Thereafter, India’s population is projected to continue growing for several decades to around 1.5 billion in 2030 and approaching 1.66 billion in 2050, while the population of China is expected to remain stable until the 2030s, after which it may begin a slow decline.

“Among the 10 largest countries of the world, one is in Africa (Nigeria), five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan), two are in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico), one is in Northern America (United States of America), and one is in Europe (Russian Federation).

Amongst these, Nigeria’s population, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly.

“Consequently, the population of Nigeria is projected to surpass that of the United States shortly before 2050, at which point it would become the third largest country in the world. In 2050, the populations in six of the 10 largest countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and United States of America (in alphabetical order).”

Meanwhile, Europe’s population is predicted to continue ageing with the percentage of people aged 60 or older rising from 25 per cent in 2017 to 35 per cent in 2050.

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Diezani fund: Court remands Akinjide in EFCC custody

Olufemi Atoyebi, Ibadan

A Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan has ordered that a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State, Olanrewaju Otiti, be remanded in the custody of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission over the sum of N650m that they allegedly collected to fund the PDP campaign for the 2015 presidential election in the state.

The court also ordered the EFCC to produce another defendant in the case, Senator Ayoade Adeseun.

The EFCC is arraigning Akinjide and the other suspects for allegedly collecting the sum from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The charge sheet with number FHC/IB/26c/2017 accused the defendants of conspiring to take possession of the N650m unlawfully.

It also accused them of committing an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundry Act, 2012 punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the Act.

The charge sheet read, “That you Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Adeseun and Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, on or about March 26, 2015, in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired among yourselves to directly take possession of N650m which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section (18) of the Money Laundering Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.”

Akinjide and Otiti, however, pleaded not guilty to the 12 counts against them. The EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the former FCT minister had agreed with the anti-graft commission to enter a plea bargain and to be remanded in the EFCC custody instead of Agodi Prison.

Before the pleas of the defendants were taken, Akinjide’s counsel, Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), and Adeseun’s counsel, Michael Lana, staged a walk out on Justice Joyce Abdul-Malik when she refused to hear a pre-arraignment application which Ayorinde had wanted to move before the charge could be read to the defendants.

The EFCC counsel said, “I wish to inform the court that the first defendant (Akinjide) has given an indication to enter a plea bargain with the prosecution. I want the court to hold that negotiation has already commenced. And in the event that the application is not granted, we will be asking that the defendant be remanded in the custody of the commission to give room for discussion.”

Otiti’s counsel, Adeniyi Isola, who aligned with the agreement, moved the application for bail for his client. Subsequently, the presiding judge ordered that the defendants be remanded in EFCC custody and adjourned the case till September 12, 2017.

She also adjourned hearing on the bail application for Otiti till July 6, 2017.

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Judicial commission probing Fayemi begins sitting

Kamarudeen Ogundele, Ado Ekiti

 The Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by the Ekiti State Government to look into the finances of the state between 2010 and 2014 has commenced sitting in Ado Ekiti.

Speaking during its inaugural sitting on Thursday, the Chairman of the JCE, Justice Bamidele Oyewole (retd.) highlighted the terms of reference of the commission to include ascertaining the actual amount that accrued to the state as statutory allocations from the Federation Account.

He said the commission would also consider all relevant financial transactions of the state during the period under review.

According to him, the commission also has the mandate to investigate the allegations of fraud, diversion and conversion of funds related to the Universal Basic Education Commission.

He stressed that the commission would find out the exact amount received on behalf of the state under the scheme and how it was expended.

Oyewole added that the commission was, in addition, authorised to verify the amounts obtained as loans by government within the period and how the funds were utilised.

Members of the commission are Mrs Bolanle Wale-Awe, Chief Magistrate Idowu Ayenimo, a representative of labour unions, Oladele Blessing; Mrs Adesola Oluremi, Mr Vincent Omodara, Sunday Bamise and State Director of Public Prosecution, Gbemiga Adaramola (Secretary).

The commission has three months to conclude its assignment.

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When slavemasters are in power

Fola Ojo

According to a popular Bible story, once upon a time, King Pharaoh of Egypt played host to a people from a far land. One of the foreigners was the second in command. Overtime, the visitors grew in strength and number. Egyptians hated and despised the growth. They later made the settlers and dwellers to toil and build bricks without straws. They chained their visitors’ minds and walked around with a master-slave swagger. But in the historical account I read in the Good Book, no single Egyptian was a beneficiary of the inhumanity of slavery. It is an abominable experience to be a slave in your own country.

At least, 120 million Nigerians are in slavery. Are they chained to some visible concrete pillars; or trammelled in physical cages? No! Their destinies are manacled and shackled to some invisible poles natural eyes cannot see. But citizens of an affluent nation like Nigeria have no business with torturous thralldom in their own home. The inhumanity was, and still is, shoved upon them by more privileged Nigerians in power.

Challenges Nigeria faces today are innumerable as stars of the skies. Her problems are lodged in her present pestered and pelleted economy. They are with her pilfering politicians in power. They are visible in some of her poaching judges sitting in judgment over other men. They are in her environment where safety and security of citizens are like raw gold hard to mine. And lately, Nigeria’s problem has shown up in growing ethnic groups’ desiderata to grow apart into homogenous tribal tents from where seekers hope to flourish separately. The desire to stand alone is mostly driven by awkward and tormenting feelings the aggrieved Nigerians have. They believe that they are slaves in their own country. And they are sick of it.

Cherished old Nigeria where I grew up has withered off into the pit of pity before our eyes. A new era of error across the landscape has unfolded. The hungry and helpless are increasing in number as Nigeria continues to cart in huge sums of money annually from crude oil and other sources. Less than 10,000 Nigerians are sitting pretty on goldmine and humongous wealth. And many hapless others are dying from hunger and disease!

According to a report by the international poverty alleviation body, Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (otherwise known as OXFAM), the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men which totals $29.9bn, could end extreme poverty in the nation. The report reads: “The five richest men in Nigeria could bring nearly all Nigerians out of extreme poverty for one year”. OXFAM also reports that the richest Nigerian man will take 42 years to spend all ofhis wealth at N1m per day. And in one day, the richest Nigerian man can earn from his wealth 8,000 times more than what the poorest 10 per cent of Nigerians spend on average in one year for their basic consumption. This is a devouring world. The rich fella preys on the poor; the able poor preys on the disabled peon; and those who are weak and feeble become easy prey for the strong and mighty.

Within the first 10 months of 2015, Nigeria earned N3.27tn from the oil and gas sector. The non-oil sector brought home N2.577tn. In 2016, Nigeria raked in N7tn from oil export alone. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s staggering earned income does not reflect in the lives of 12 million unemployed youths roaming the streets of our urban cities and villages. Hunger and poverty have bred different kinds of ravaging false spirits among them. Our young people now do what they would not ordinarily do if they had means.

Nigeria’s affluence also does not reflect in its deplorable and decaying infrastructure; and we see no signs of affluence in our sickening hospitals that make sick patients sicker when they seek medical attention. The money the country hauls in shows not in our schools where Fulani herdsmen’s cows and venomous reptiles struggle for classroom seats with humans. Nigeria’s vast wealth is only evident in legislative quarters in Abuja; and in governors’ mansions scattered across Nigerian states. They only show in paraded long motorcades of bulletproof Prado jeeps, stretch armoured limousines; and customised armoured Bentleys purchased with the people’s money by men trusted with power.

The unemployment rate in Nigeria is around 15 per cent. It was 10.4 in 2015. The number of the unemployed now is 11.549 million. The Buhari/Osinbajo administration, we acknowledge, may be doing its best to alleviate the situation through its many budding welfare programmes, but whatever it is doing, and intends to do, will be a drop-in-the-bucket even over the next five years without significant changes. There are stifling and obstructive men in and out of government whose gods are their bellies. Many they are especially in our National Assembly. Corruption will not allow any good welfare programme to breathe. Those who were privileged to rule over many years have sold Nigerians to slavery. After bouts of many illnesses, Nigeria is not yet in the recovery room. She is in the emergency ward on the ventilator battling for life. And not even one of the very many emergency doctors on government duty today is sure how long the artificial breathing machine will retain its lubricating oil.

So, what do we do now? Whatever rough roads Nigeria is travelling today can be smoothened out with time, commonsense; and a change in strategy.

For every slavery situation, there is a team of deliverers. Yes; we have men spread all manner of endeavours. They are in the elite Avant Garde, and are from all ethnic groups. Some have served; some are still serving; and many are in business.

At the turn of every election, different kinds of human beings show their faces promising to be better than the fellows they want to unseat. They cast their opponents as bad; but offer no sensible plan to get the country out of squalour. But when Nigerians allow them to toast the champagne of victory secured through manipulations and thuggery after elections, their dogs go back to the vomits of cluelessness and corruption. We are already hearing their voices.

Nigerians should pick the brains of those seeking power to determine their knowledge base and what they offer the people. Where there is no vision, the people are destroyed. Nigerians should ask them what kind of nation they envisage building 50 years from now; do many of them know? Are they not just scheming only about winning an election and wining on private jets thereafter? Are they not only concerned about the next oil well to be acquired; the next arms contract; and the next stacks of money to be stolen and hidden behind walls and cemeteries?

Capacity Theory tutors us that people are entrusted with that which they have the capacity to handle. Who are Nigerians entrusting with power? Are they men and women with the capacity, ability, and knowledge to handle what will positively impact the society through governance? If you trust slave masters with power; slavery continues to celebrate endless birthdays. Nigerians must get it right! I hope they do.

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How entrepreneurs can leverage support channels

Babatunde Fajimi

Entrepreneurs should invest in themselves and be prepared to find the right information to leverage on support channels capable of translating their dream business ideas into reality. This is the path to credible start-up initiative and sustainable enterprise growth.

Shoulders of giants

The road to self employment is lonely and risky. Entrepreneurs do not have to walk alone given available support channels in the entrepreneurial ecosystem today.

The social, institutional and professional support channels represent shoulders of giants that entrepreneurs can leverage on to birth their dream business ideas. They are open source information resources entrepreneurs can access to strengthen their motivation for self employment.

It was John of Salisbury, the 12th century theologian and author who wrote in Latin in 1159 that “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they do, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

Isaac Newton, an English physicist and inventor was renowned for his revolutionary discoveries in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy. He also wrote to his rival and fellow scientist, Robert Hooke in 1676 that “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Greatness is never achieved alone in life and certainly not in self employment. No single small business or large conglomerate attains success by sheer self efforts. Businesses thrive when they exploit opportunities in the ecosystem. Hardworking entrepreneurs take it a level higher by redefining the support channels and creating their own success story. These are innovators and empire builders.

Aliko Dangote has been celebrated in different quarters as an innovator and empire builder entrepreneur. He has achieved this phenomenal success not with his own self efforts alone but by personal ingenuity and unorthodox leveraging on different levels of support channels within and outside his reach.

Forbes Africa recognised him as the richest entrepreneur in Africa. His diverse business interests span socio-economic landscape across Africa. Dangote founded his small business with loan he obtained from his uncle in 1981 but has grown to become a household name because he leverages on social, institutional and professional support channels.

Start-ups can get funds

The Dangote’s story is a model for small business start-ups. The problem with critics of the Dangote start-up narratives is that they do not realise that it is easier to access funds for businesses now than it was three or four decades ago.

These critics struggle to create new narratives but remain stunted in growth when they reach the limits of their self efforts. They cannot reinvent the wheel. Entrepreneurs should find information about how giants attain greatness. They should work their ways to the shoulders of giants to become successful or greater in their pursuits.

Raising funds for start-ups remains a challenge to small businesses. Individuals who cannot raise funds to start their dream businesses are not likely to become entrepreneurs. The litmus test of becoming an entrepreneur is the ability to know how and where to raise the seed capital to fund a dream business idea.

When there is a bankable business idea and the entrepreneur is able to convince the investors, money will find its way into the start-up or going concern. There are many avenues to raise capital to fund dream business ideas.

The Bank of Industry is one of such avenues. It is a development finance institution that gives credible small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to investment capital at single-digit interest rate.

Bank of Industry has Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund for graduates and National Youth Service Corps members who have sound business ideas. There are Cottage Agro Processing Fund for small and medium agro processors, Nolly Funds for the Nollywood industry and Fashion Funds for designers among other services. The institution also equips customers with competences to manage their businesses.

Other sources of capital for start-ups include Tony Elumelu Funds instituted and managed by Tony Elumelu Foundation to empower 1,000 entrepreneurs across Africa annually. The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund has N25bn to support small and medium-sized enterprises for residents with credible business ideas.

Oxfam, an international confederation of charitable organisations focused on global poverty alleviation recently disbursed €100m through Nextzon to high-impact small and medium-sized enterprises in Nigeria.

Personal qualities are needed

There are numerous non-profit organisations, foundations, high-networth individuals and people willing to help dream business ideas become reality. Finding them is a major challenge to small businesses.

The entrepreneurs should not have problems getting support for their dream business ideas. But they have to work on themselves before this can happen. They have to become credible and come forward with bankable business ideas to attract funds and other necessary assistance from the different levels of support channels available for small businesses to thrive.

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FG to consider special intervention funds for NAPTIP in 2018 budget

The Minister Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, says the Federal Government is considering providing special intervention funds for victims of human trafficking in the 2018 budget.

Udoma said this when he received the Director-General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Ms Julie Donli, on Thursday in Abuja.

The minister said the visit was timely as the ministry had begun the preparation for the 2018 budget and the ministry would consider the request of the agency in providing special intervention funds for it.

“We can now reflect some of your requirements in the 2018 budget, but I think you should work closely with your supervising ministry,(Ministry of Justice).

“You need to work with your ministry to get your needs included in the budget when submitting to the Budget Office,’’ he said.

Udoma, however, assured the agency of the ministry’s support to address its challenges.

The minister said the priority of the administration was to invest in Nigerians, adding that it is the reason the government inaugurated the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

“Investing in our people is not just Nigerians here, it is for Nigerians everywhere because we have a responsibility for the welfare of every Nigerian.’’

He commended the agency for living up to its responsibility in addressing issues of trafficking in the country.

Earlier, Donli spoke on the challenges hindering the agency to perform its mandate effectively.

“Our challenges are enormous; our funding is inadequate for this kind of job we are expected to do.

“The envelope system cannot work for us. We need to be classified as a proper security agency because our job is similar to that of EFCC.

“ There is no absolute difference between the EFCC and NAPTIP in terms of operations and job description,’’ she said.

According to her, NAPTIP has nine zonal commands in the 36 states of the federation and it requires a lot of funding.

Donli expressed worry over the state of the agency’s operational vehicles, adding that they were donated to the agency by donor agencies over 10 years.

“There was Presidential order in 2014 to sort it out and over N309 million was approved and it was supposed to spread over the 2015 and 2016 budget.

“We have not really had our own vehicles, the ones we have are old and rickety and our officials are using their own vehicles to work.’’

Besides, the director-general decried the lack of funds in rehabilitating and repatriation of victims as well as prosecuting those involved in the act.

“There is need to provide special intervention funds for us to facilitate the rescue and repatriation of traffickers victims from various parts of the world, especially Africa.

“We have no fewer than 5,000 victims awaiting rescue from Mali alone; every day we get people coming from Libya, Spain, Italy; every day they come in their hundreds and we are at a dilemma.

“Coming to prosecution, we ought to have more cases of conviction.

“Right now, we can only boost of 323 cases, over the years, we have rescued 10,685 victims, we cannot prosecute them,’’ she lamented.

She solicited the support of all stakeholders in achieving the mandate of NAPTIP.

“Also, we encourage people to report cases of human trafficking just to help us trace assets of traffickers as well.

“The law gives us the power to trace and seize the assets of traffickers through the court for the benefit of the victims of trafficking,’’ Donli said.

(NAN)



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