Improved Infrastructure Is Key To Realising Benefits Of AfCFTA – MAN

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, has urged the federal government to make them industry-friendly by getting its policies right.

MAN had stated that the only guarantee for a competitive intra-African trade is a clement enviroment and this can attract needed investment.

MAN President, Mr Mansur Ahmed, while speaking at the 2020 edition of the MAN reporter of the year award recently in Lagos urged the government to show readiness in addressing the supply side constraints of lack of infrastructure, to enjoy the gains of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Mansur, said policies and regulations should be lenient for businesses and seen as a way of assisting them to grow, to enhance competitiveness and boost the economy.

He said that competitiveness, without the provision of infrastructure such as good road networks and electricity, not only within African countries but also across the borders cannot be achieved.

“As the association remains at the forefront for setting the pace for engagement with other African manufacturers, the Nigerian government must also lead by example in ensuring that policies are industry-friendly, as this is the only guarantee for a competitive intra-African trade.

“Modern industry competitiveness depends to a great extent on provision of adequate and efficient infrastructure.

“There is also the aspect of provision of soft infrastructure – like visa, tariffs, and foreign exchange – that will help ease up the process of carrying out business transactions between countries,’’ he said.

According to him, transportation is vital to enhancing competitiveness in trade.

“For instance, due to poor infrastructure, it will cost a business owner in Nigeria more to transport goods from Lagos to Kano than it will cost a Chinese business owner to transport the same goods from China to Lagos.

“We must address all these issues since the AfCFTA is not just about trade in goods, but also trade in services,” he said.

The MAN President said that electricity was a vital input for any manufacturing process, as it constitutes up to 40 per cent of the cost of production.

He explained that increasing the tariff of this core input would have drastic negative effect on the Gross National Product (GNP), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), disposable income, consumption, employment, among other economic factors.

According to him, the uneven pricing of this commodity across distribution companies (DisCos), if not corrected, will lead to uneven development in certain parts of the country as the percentage increase in tariff differs.

“A reduction in electricity tariff for industrial purpose is more ideal, but even if it cannot be reduced, it should not be increased.

“Any increase on the tariff will reinforce the already high- cost manufacturing environment and further depress productivity in the sector.

“Our appeal is that government, being a major stakeholder in the electricity industry, should concentrate on developing processes and polices to attract significant investment.

“This will encourage large scale generation and significant improvement in transmission and distribution.

“It is also important for government to ensure adequate and appropriate consultations with stakeholders in the private sector on such decisions with far-reaching implications,” he said.

The MAN President also disclosed that he had been confirmed substantive Chairman of the Pan African Manufacturers Association (PAMA).

The PAMA is the umbrella body of manufacturers in Africa.

It is aimed at bringing African manufacturers together to jointly engage governments of the African continent to create a conducive and enabling environment for local businesses to thrive.

LASG Enjoins Residents To Access free HIV Testing Services

The Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Aids Control Agency (LSACA), Dr Monsurat Adeleke has called on all residents of Lagos State, especially Adolescents and Young Persons (AYP) between the ages of 15-24 years to access free HIV Testing Services (HTS) so that they can determine their HIV status.

Dr. Adeleke gave the charge at an outreach sensitisation targeting the AYP at the Ikeja City Mall and environs in view of the prevailing valentine celebration, noting that that Ikeja has the second-highest prevalence (3.1%) amongst adolescents and adults between 15-64 years, according to the local 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey.

She added that inline with the second pillar of the Lagos State Government T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda, the Agency has mapped out an effective intervention strategy for reducing the HIV incidence in the State through “Behavioral Change Communication” amongst other approaches aimed at the Adolescent Youth Population (AYP) as one of the key focus groups for evidence-based intervention activity.

In her words, “Lagos State government intends to focus on individuals having access to HIV testing services in order to ensure that everyone knows their HIV status. There is a need to encourage Lagosians to take appropriate measures such as lifestyle modification and behaviour change amongst others in order to minimise the risk of transmitting HIV and moving closer to controlling and ending the epidemic”.

The highlight of the outreach include counselling of adolescents and young persons, particularly girls on essential facts about HIV. Many people were also screened for HIV using either the oral self-test kit where samples were collected through mouth swabs or the routine HIV test kit utilising blood samples.

SERAP Asks FG To Disclose Details Of Abacha Loot Within 7 Seven Days

The Scio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the federal government to “disclose within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of our Freedom of Information requests the exact amount of public funds stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha and details of spending of about $5 billion recovered loot since the return of democracy in 1999.”

SERAP is also asking the federal government to “disclose details of projects executed with the Abacha loot and their locations, details of companies and contractors involved in the execution of any such projects, details of all the agreements on the loot, the roles played by the World Bank and other actors, as well as the implementation status of all projects since 1999.”

In two Freedom of Information requests sent to Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Abukabar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, SERAP said: “We are concerned that substantial part of the estimated $5 billion returned Abacha loot since 1999 may have been diverted, re-stolen or mismanaged, and in any case remain unaccounted for.”

In the FoI requests dated February 14, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the details of projects on which Abacha loot has been spent would allow the public to know the specific projects carried and the areas of the country in which the projects have been implemented as well as the officials that may be responsible for any alleged diversion or mismanagement of the loot.”

According to SERAP: “Getting to the root of the exact amount of the Abacha loot and how the returned funds have been spent is important for the success of the government’s fight against grand corruption and would reassure Nigerians that the government is truly committed to ensuring full accountability for the alleged corruption and mismanagement in the spending of the funds.”

“Any failure or refusal to provide the information requested will be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the FoI Act. The accountability of government to the general public is a hallmark of modern democratic governance, a norm of human rights and a tool to curb corruption.”

The FoI requests read, in part: “If we have not heard from you within 7 days as stated, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the FoI Act to compel you to comply with our request. Access to the details sought would allow Nigerians an opportunity to assess the impacts of any projects carried out with the funds.”

“SERAP is concerned that the allegations of corruption and mismanagement involving the use of Abacha loot may be responsible for the increasing level of grand corruption over the years and the entrenched impunity of perpetrators.”

“Publishing details of spending of Abacha loot by successive administrations would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of Nigeria’s commonwealth.”

“Transparency and accountability enable citizens to have a say about issues such as the spending of returned Abacha loot, that matter to them and a chance to monitor and influence how the funds are spent as well as hold those managing the funds to account in cases of diversion or mismanagement.”

“The government ought to come up with an Abacha loot scoreboard to determine the exact amount stolen and the extent of transparency and accountability of the returned loot since 1999.”

“If there is any indication that any of the recovered Abacha funds have been diverted, re-stolen or mismanaged, for such cases to be immediately referred to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for effective investigation, and prosecution if there is relevant admissible evidence.”

“A scoreboard for the actual amount stolen and the spending of returned loot by each administration since 1999 would encourage more transparency and accountability and ensure that the funds reach the real victims of corruption as well as reduce concerns by Nigerians, the holding states and other partners about the returned loot being diverted, re-stolen or mismanaged.”

“According to our information, a special panel set up on 23 July 1998 by the former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar to probe the late military dictator General Sani Abacha stated that he stole over $5 billion between 1993 and 1998 when he was in power. Much of the stolen public funds have been returned to Nigeria.”

“The report by the panel shows that the government recovered some $635 million, £75 million, DM 30 million and N9 billion as well as several vehicles and properties in Abuja, Lagos and Kano together with 40% interests in West African Refinery in Sierra Leone. Other assets were recovered from the Abacha family and associates.”

“Furthermore, former president Olusegun Obasanjo administration also reportedly recovered over $2 billion of Abacha loot. Mr Obasanjo would seem to confirm this fact when he stated in the second volume of his book titled My Watch that: ‘by the time I left office in May 2007, over $2 billion and £100 million had been recovered from the Abacha family abroad, and N10 billion in cash and properties locally.’”

“Similarly, former president Goodluck Jonathan administration reportedly recovered $226.3 million and €7.5 Million from Liechtenstein. Some £22.5 million was also recovered from the Island of Jersey while $322 million and £5.5 million from the Abacha loot were reportedly returned to the government.”

“The government of president Muhammadu Buhari has also recovered several millions of dollars of Abacha loot since assuming office in May 2015, including $321 million from Switzerland, and $300 million from the US and Jersey.”

SERAP therefore urged the Federal Government to:

1. Disclose the exact amounts stolen by Abacha, and the total amounts of the recovered loot and all agreements since the return of democracy in 1999;

2. Disclose details of the projects executed with the funds, locations of any such projects and the names of companies and contractors that carried out the projects;

3. Disclose details of specific roles played by the World Bank and other partners in the execution of any projects funded with Abacha loot since 1999;

4. Refer any allegations of corruption involving the execution of projects with Abacha loot to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation;

5. Ensure that anyone involved in alleged corruption in projects executed with Abacha loot is brought to justice if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the exact amount stolen and spending of returned Abacha loot and related details.”

Nigerian Military Blasts Amnesty International over Report on BHTs/ISWAP

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has confirmed that troops deployed to fight terrorism in the North East (NE)  do not attack or raze down villages, communities or settlements, rather they launch offensive on terrorists camps, enclaves and hide outs.

This they maintained in a statement issued by Brigadier General , Onyema   Nwachukwu , Acting Director Defence Information, to counter yet another falsified report by Amnesty International (AI) targeting the Nigerian Military and deliberately supporting the callous acts of terrorism perpetuated by Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) and Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).

According to the statement,” this inglorious campaign is contained in a recent report alleging employment of unlawful tactics of razing down villages and unlawful detention of locals by troops. This is line with the AI’s usual mannerism and tenacious efforts aimed at disparaging the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN).”

The Defence Headquarters wishes to state unambiguously that the allegations  is nothing but a betrayal of its lack of in-depth knowledge of the goings-on in the North East (NE) theatre of operation.
It is expedient to state that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole who are conducting Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Operations in the NE do not employ arson as an operational tactic.
 It is a well-known fact, going by the modus operandi of BHTs, that they, have more often than not engaged in the atrocious acts of looting and burning of villages, as well as destroying infrastructures.
It therefore, beats one’s imagination that AI is attributing these atrocities to AFN troops who are legitimately defending the country guided by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct.

AI must understand the fact that Nigeria is at war against terrorism in the NE and that the troops have a constitutional mandate to protect lives and property, even if it means conducting an evacuation to save and secure lives of civilians in the conflict.

Protecting civilians by evacuating them from the line of fire during combat is not a violation of the international law of conflict or a war crime.
 It is rather a commendable effort by the troops to prevent collateral damage during combat. Our troops should therefore be commended for making deliberate efforts to evacuate civilians in order to protect their lives and property.

It is also crucial to point out, that troops deployed to fight terrorism in the NE do not attack or raze down villages, communities or settlements, rather they launch offensive on terrorists camps, enclaves and hide outs.

Based on actionable intelligence, persons who provide logistics and other forms of support to the terrorists are arrested and subjected to thorough investigation by a combined team of professionals drawn from the intelligence community of the Armed Forces and other security agencies. Anyone not found culpable is not held in custody for further investigations.

AI must therefore put an end to its reckless distortion of facts in its desperate bid to satisfy its puppeteers by undermining Nigeria’s Military campaign against terrorism in the NE.

We urge members of the public to please discountenance AI’s report, as it is not a true and realistic reflection of troops’ counter terrorism operation in the NE.
2020 : Ikeja Electric targets N170 billion revenue

Ikeja Electric (IE) Plc says it is targeting total revenue of N170 billion in 2020 with the implementation of the increment in various classes of electricity tariffs.

The electricity Distribution Company (Disco) says it intends to create a new tariff class called Bilateral for customers it had signed the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) under a willing-buyer-willing-seller arrangement.

The company gave the projection in its Addendum Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) and Application for Extraordinary Tariff Review of Multi-Year Tariff Order – 2015 signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Anthony Youdeowei.

A copy of the document, which was addressed to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), was obtained by newsmen  in Lagos.

The report said the objective of the extraordinary review was to ensure that IE adjusts its tariff in line with the commission’s directive that the current average allowed a Disco tariff shall be grossed-up by 50 percent from April 1.

According to the report, this is in order to meet the tariff shortfall funding target for 2020 by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

It said: The creation of the Bilateral tariff class is aimed at providing an efficient and reliable service to customers under the tariff class because cost-reflective tariffs are required to cover the cost at service delivery.

“Our total bilateral energy procured is currently 200MW. However, bilateral sales in this application are only the portion of the bilateral energy that has been contracted with customers on a willing-buyer-willing-seller arrangement.”

The report said the collected energy sales based on the 50 percent tariff increase in MYTO was 3,955 GWh, while that of bilateral sales was 161 GWh.

“The expected MYTO 2020 and bilateral revenue requirement are N162 billion and N8 billion respectively, to give a total revenue requirement of N170 billion.

“The 50 percent tariff increase is expected to raise the average tariffs from the current level of N27.30 per kilowatt to N40.95 per kilowatt.

“The addition of the bilateral sales revenue requirement further increases the average tariffs to N41.31 per kilowatt in 2020 which is projected to rise to N44.24 in 2024.”

Prosecution Of Sowore By Buhari Waste Of Time —Prof Soyinka

Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has described the prosecution of Omoyele Sowore as a waste of time and the nation’s resources.

Soyinka, who spoke during an interview session with Plus TV Africa, also slammed Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, saying he had committed a lot of blunders in his administration.

Speaking on the ongoing prosecution of Sowore by the government for calling for a peaceful protest, he lamented that the government was wasting the nation’s resources to prosecute the case.

He also condemned the bail conditions Sowore was admitted to, which includes his confinement to Abuja even though Sowore had no place of residence in that city.

He said, “I don’t understand why this young man is being barricaded in one city that is not his own with very stringent bail conditions and the whole exercise, this is punitive and petulant.

“The case is time-wasting and person-wasting and also wasting the time of lawyers who could be attending to far more serious cases.

“Definitely, time-wasting and wasting of public expenses and attention on serious issues.”

Soyinka, who was at the court to witness the trial last week, berated the prosecuting team for displaying lack of readiness to get done with the matter.

He added, “The prosecution was obviously not prepared to move on after this long adjournment and to see the fireworks they have in their stock but we didn’t, I can’t understand this nonsense.”

Soyinka described Buhari as one, who wakes up late to happenings in the country.

Falana Says Presidency Has No Power To Stop Peaceful Protests

Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said that the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest by aggrieved Nigerians who are calling for the replacement of the service chiefs.

Mr Falana, while responding to a statement credited to a presidential spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu, on Sunday, said Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the Federal Government.

The senior lawyer quoted Mr Shehu: “The Presidency wishes to caution a section of the political class against misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions.

“This has become necessary in view of received reports that about 2, 000 men and women have been hired to demonstrate against Nigeria’s service chiefs on Monday.”

He, however, cautioned that the Nigeria Police Force should not harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.

“The authorities of the Nigeria Police Force are urged not to harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.

“Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the federal government without official fiat the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.

“In fact, the right to assemble and protest peaceful was won by the Nigerian people in the case of All Nigerian People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police (2008) 12 WRN 65,” he stated.

Mr Falana noted that leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had in 2014, held a protest against insecurity.

“It was in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression that APC leaders including General Mohammadu Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, Dr Sylvester Onu and Mr Rotimi Amaechi had participated in the protest held at Abuja on November 20, 2014, against insecurity under the erstwhile Jonathan administration.”

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Katsina Killings : No One Has Right To Take Laws Into His hands — Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned latest rounds of attacks and killings between bandits and residents in Damkal and Tsanwa villages in Batsari local government area of Katsina state.

He warned that no one has the right to take laws into their hands and if local communities catch bandits, they should be handed over to law enforcement authorities.

“No one in the country has a right to take laws into his hands by the way of self-help or revenge. Local communities that catch bandits should hand over the suspects to law enforcement authorities instead of meting out capital punishment, leading to a cycle of revenge and counter revenge.”

 

Bandits on Friday evening carried out separate attacks on both villages, killing 30, mostly elderly women and children.

In a statement on Sunday, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari stated that killing people in the name of revenge is not acceptable.

President Buhari urged community leaders and the local authorities to continue their efforts in partnership with law enforcement agencies that bring the surrender of bandits, leading to peace between farmers and herders.

“The authorities must be allowed to investigate and deal with any breach that occurs. There is no place for violence in a decent society,” said the President.

He prayed that God will comfort families that have lost loved ones in the attacks and repose the souls of the victims.