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Battle for Another Day

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Aminu, challenges Ibrahim's ownership of Newswatch
Aminu, challenges Ibrahim's ownership of Newswatch

A Lagos Federal High Court denies two external directors of Newswatch Communications Limited the order to stop the publication of Newswatch newspapers, but promises to give their case accelerated hearing

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT IS a battle for another day for Jibril Aminu and Nuhu Aruwa, both external directors of Newswatch Communications Limited who recently lost their initial bid to stop the publication of Newswatch Newspapers. Though the court did not grant them the relief they sought, it, however, ordered an accelerated hearing of the case to begin on February 11, and be concluded within one month.

Jimoh Ibrahim, celebrating with his staff after the court judgment
Jimoh Ibrahim, celebrating with his staff after the court judgment

Delivering judgment on the motion brought by the two aggrieved shareholders, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, said he did not grant the injunction because the plaintiffs failed to show special grounds that entitled them to the order. He, however, said the court would proceed with the hearing of the substantive suit. “I have no doubt that the applicants will be adequately compensated by damages if they eventually win their substantive case. I, therefore, turn down the interlocutory prayers of the applicants. Instead, I will accord the case an accelerated hearing. Accordingly, this matter must be heard and determined within one month,” Buba said.

For Aminu and Aruwa, this is partly good news because the accelerated hearing on the substantive suit would, among other things, enable them to effectively challenge Ibrahim’s ownership of Newswatch Communications Limited. Sources close to Aminu and Aruwa said the judge tried to please both parties by the judgment so that he would not appear to be bias.

For Ibrahim and his staff at Newswatch, it was celebration galore as they all danced to the verdict which, to them, was a prelude to a bigger victory.  Ibrahim commended the judge for his refusal to grant both the ex-parte and interlocutory injunctions: “The justice of a matter like this cannot be hanged on probability. The seller of Newswatch knows what they are selling and the implication of signing a letter of retirement after collecting their full benefits,” he said, adding: “With judges like Buba, there is hope for the judiciary, business and the common man.”

Ray Ekpu, oiling his gun for the battle ahead
Ray Ekpu, oiling his gun for the battle ahead

Aminu and Aruwa’s petition challenging Ibrahim’s ownership of Newswatch is the second legal case since Ibrahim rested the magazine on August 6, 2012.  He (Ibrahim) instituted the first legal action in a Lagos High Court against Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed, Dan Agbese and Soji Akinrinade, all directors of Newswatch. In the suit, which is in anticipation that they would challenge his unilateral closure of the magazine, he asked and got an injunction from Justice Okon Abang, stopping the directors from declaring a trade dispute against him.

With the hands of Ekpu and others tied, Aminu and Aruwa preceded to the Federal High Court, to set aside, among others, the share purchase agreement on the basis of which Ibrahim assumed majority shareholding in the company. Joined as defendants in the matter, are, Newswatch Communications Limited, Global Media Mirror Limited, Ibrahim, Newswatch Newspapers Limited and the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.

Fertiliser Self Sufficiency: Indorama to the Rescue

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Manish Mundra
Manish Mundra

African Development Bank approves $100 million loan to Indorama Eleme Fertiliser and Chemicals Limited for the building of a gas-urea fertiliser plant in Port Harcourt

|  By Maureen Chigbo   |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

FERTILISER production in Nigeria received a boost in January this year with the African, Development Bank, AfDB’s approval of a $100 million loan for the Indoroma Eleme Fertiliser and Chemicals Limited, IEFCL. The Board of Directors of the AfDB approved the loan to enable IEFCL to build and operate a gas to urea fertiliser plant located in Port Harcourt. The plant will serve markets in Benin, Brazil, Ghana, India, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The plant will start production in 2015, and will allow Nigeria, which relies heavily (80 per cent) on imported fertilier, to progressively become self-sufficient and a major exporter. Ultimately, the project will act as a catalyst to support job creation in the area in addition to striving towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the areas of food sufficiency and a cleaner environment.

Realnews learnt that President Goodluck Jonathan will soon be at the IEFCL premises to flag of the project. Already, the IEFCL is working hard to complete all the environment impact assessmnent fora which involves meeting with different communities to explain how the project will impact on them and carry them along. “We are clearing the land, getting all our international partners, tying up contracts for the supply of feedstock,” an official of IEFCL told Realnews.

The IEFCL plant, located in the existing Eleme industrial complex, will produce urea to be sold in export and domestic markets. Other project components will include an 84-kilometre pipeline and a multipurpose jetty and terminal infrastructure at Onne Port, 16 km from the project site. The complex is expected to be among the most competitive production sites given the low feedstock price and economies of scale. Indorama Eleme Fertiliser & Chemicals Limited is the borrower and project company. It is owned by Eleme and Indorama. Eleme is Africa’s second largest polyolefin producer and has a majority market share of polyethylene and polypropylene in Nigeria. It also exports to nearby countries.

With this project, the AfDB also promotes small and medium enterprise linkages through the distribution supply chain for the domestic market. The project will create 3,854 jobs of which 3500 are direct and 348 indirect local positions during construction and operation. Moreover, the IEFCL project will generate revenues for host communities, Rivers State Government and Eleme employees as well as the federal government of Nigeria from dividends, taxes and foreign exchange savings through import substitution.

The AfDB approval of the loan for Indorama Eleme Fertiliser and Chemical Limited is in keeping with the realisation that agriculture in Nigeria is a dominant sector that engages about 70 percent of the population and provides more than 75 percent of non-oil foreign exchange earnings with the largest share of about 41.84 percent of overall GDP in 2009 (IEFCL Market Survey, 2010). The agricultural sector contributes significantly to rural employment and food security.

At the moment, the majority of the population dependent on agriculture currently lives below poverty line due to very poor land yields. Provision of fertilisers at affordable prices will help to get higher yields to meet the demands of the growing population as well as uplift a large part of the population out of poverty. The project will also help to reach the objectives of the federal gas revolution programme by providing the necessary infrastructures for natural gas-based industries.

A document on the fertiliser project obtained by Realnews stated that the project does not have negative health impacts on host communities around EPCL complex. According to the IEFCL, the population increment by the host communities will be managed in a proper manner to safeguard the health of the people from possible exposure to infective/transmissible diseases. During the operational phase, the IEFCL will dispose of EPCL residential facilities inside the complex for all employees. Also an acceptable increase of vehicular traffic is expected and will be adequately managed in order to minimise possible socio-economic impacts and potential and associated hazards.

“There are no socio-economic activities that are going to be negatively affected by the project and the installation of new units will not interfere with cultural/social elements present in the study of the area. The initiative will not modify the existing microclimatic conditions of the site considering also the expected increment of aqueous vapour emissions in atmosphere from cooling towers,” the document said. Concerning CO2 emissions, IEFCL said: “it is worth noticing that the project will use natural gas as raw material, energy resource that it is currently unused and that would be flared as alternative with CO2 emissions already associated”.

Proposed Indorama Fertilizer Plant
Proposed Indorama Fertilizer Plant

This major Olefins Plant (Eleme Petrochemical complex) situated on a site approximately 9km2 is located some 15 km north-east of Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State. Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited is the current management of Eleme Petrochemicals Company Ltd, EPCL, having taken over the management/ ownership of the company from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, in 2006. The EPCL is the parent company of Indorama Eleme Fertiliser and Chemicals Ltd proponent of the proposed fertiliser plant. The existing complex is made up of four major process facilities, namely: Olefins, Butene, Polyethylene and Polypropylene plants. Related utilities units are made up of Power, Water, Air plants and off-site facilities for intermediate product storage, effluent treatment, waste management etc. The existing facilities are self-sufficient in terms of power which is presently generated by gas turbines.  The proposed nitrogenous fertiliser project is planned to be set up within the existing Eleme Petrochemicals Complex. The complex will consist of Ammonia / Urea trains with a total capacity of 2,300 metric tons per day, MTPD, of ammonia and 4,000 MTPD of granulated urea. The final product (urea) will be stored in new warehouses to be constructed within the IEPL Complex with approximately 60-70 percent of the product transported by road to the jetty for the export market. The remaining 30-40 percent of urea produced will be bagged in 50 kg bags for onward distribution in the domestic market.

The Project entails the  construction of a 84 km pipeline from the gas supplier’s processing facilities to the plant (the pipeline) for supply of the feedstock gas that will run adjacent to two existing pipelines within an existing right of way, RoW.

The third and last component though not part of the AfDB transaction, will be the construction of a multipurpose jetty inclusive of material handling facility (jetty) located 16 kms from the site within the operational Onne Federal Ocean Terminal Zone. Due to the difference in activities, impacts and locality of the three components, their environment and social studies have been separated also because they don’t fall in the same category as per national legislation.

The natural gas feedstock pipelinewill be 84 km long and 35 cm in diameter. It will connect the gas supplier (Nigerian Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli (Agip) Pipeline Company (NAOC) from Obrikom (OBOB) within the Ogba-Egbema Local Government Area, LGA, and will cross two further LGAs before terminating at Eleme LGA. All the four LGAs are within RiversState of Nigeria. The pipeline will run within a right of way, RoW, managed by the NAOC which has been in existence since 1992. The RoW is 15 m wide and is currently utilised by two other pipelines with sufficient space for a third pipeline.  

The jetty will be situated approximately 16 km south-east of the fertiliser complex within the operational Onne Federal Ocean Terminal, FOT, Zone. The multipurpose jetty will have a section for handling urea loading to vessels capable of handling 30-35,000 MT DWT; and another for containerised and break bulk cargo vessels capable of handling 6-8,000 MT DWT. The total cargo envisaged to be handled at the jetty will be one Million MT of urea per annum and other cargoes (such as containerized loads, pipes and dry chemicals) are anticipated to be approximately 400,000 MT per annum.

 In 2011, Manish Mundra, managing director of IEPL, announced the plan for the fertiliser project. The total investment package is worth about 1.8 billion US dollars (N275 billion Naira). Then, it was said that production would commence in the next three or four years.  It should be recalled that the Indorama Group, in 2006, invested $400 million dollars to acquire and resuscitate the moribund Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited, which has now become one of the best success stories of privatisation in Nigeria.

The Indorama Group revamped the IEPL, which was a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Within three months, it concluded and extensive turn-around maintenance, TAM, of the company and re-started production of polyethylene and polypropylene, which had hitherto been imported into the country by manufacturers of plastics products. In October 2010, Indorama-IEPL won the Presidential Award for Exports, organised by the Nigerian Export Promotions Council, NEPC.   The company has paid more than N11 billion to the government in taxes such as value added tax, VAT, customs duty, with-holding taxes, and pay-as-you earn, PAYEE. It has also paid, to date, a dividend of over N23 billion to its shareholders including the NNPC, the Rivers State government, and the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, which holds shares on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria.

Indorama said that it has helped Nigeria to save more than one billion dollars in foreign exchange through import substitution and has turned Nigeria into a net exporter of petrochemicals products and contributed 10 percent of Nigeria’s total non-oil exports.

Battle of Eagles and Stallions

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Keshi Celebrating against Mali
Keshi Celebrating against Mali

Super Eagles of Nigeria fights to win the Africa Cup of Nations championship for a third time in history but the Stallions of Burkina Faso, a debutant finalist is also eyeing the cup in this year’s final scheduled for February 10, in South Africa

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THEY were not the favourites when the African Cup of Nations, Afcon, started on January 19, but the final match will be between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Stallions of Burkina Faso, February 10. In this year’s final match, Nigeria will be seeking to win the cup for a third time, while Burkina Faso is debuting as the finalist for the first time since the beginning of the continental tournament and also expects to emerge the champion.

Super Eagles Celebrating their win over Mali
Super Eagles Celebrating their win over Mali

The Super Eagles earned its ticket to the final by thrashing the Eagles of Mali 4-1 in the semi-final, while the Stallions reached their first final after beating favourites Black Stars of Ghana 3-2 on penalties. It was a pulsating semi-final match, which ended 1-1 after extra time. The feat of the Super Eagles brings it back to the continental showpiece final after 13 years. Nigeria’s national team last featured in an Afcon final in 2000 when it lost to Cameroon in Lagos. Many football analysts claimed that the Nigerian match against Mali was the most impressive and comprehensive performance of the Super Eagles in the tournament so far.

Sunday Oliseh, former Super Eagles captain, said the performance of the Nigerian team against Mali was an indication that local coaches were the best for African countries. He praised Stephen Keshi, the coach of the team, and the home-based Super Eagles players for shrugging off all the pressures and prejudices and emerging victorious against the determined Malian team.

Some analysts said the Super Eagles was beginning to display again the type of football that made them one of the powerhouses in African football over the previous decade. Others believe that Nigerian culture was back and that Nigerians should give credit to Keshi, pray and have faith in the current Super Eagles to win the title.

After the semi-final match, Keshi dedicated the victory to all Nigerians. He said Nigeria deserved to play in the final of Afcon after a long absence at the final of the continental football fiesta. “I, on behalf of the entire team, dedicate the victory to all Nigerians. Nigeria has missed playing in the final of the Nations Cup since the Ghana/Nigeria 2000 Nations Cup. For so long, the best we have played in the tournament is in the third place. My job is to put a smile on the faces of all Nigerians,” he said.

Keshi is now one step away from becoming the second man in the history of the tournament to win the Afcon cup as a player and a coach. The only person, who has achieved that feat was Egyptian Mahmoud El-Gohary, who won it in 1959 and 1998.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of the West African States, ECOWAS, has congratulated the region’s national teams for their sterling performances at the continental tournament in South Africa. A goodwill message signed by Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of ECOWAS commission, said the region was happy to have seven out of its eight representatives in the quarter-finals of the championship.

Ouedraogo said: “Teams ECOWAS bear eloquent testimony to the region’s reputation as the powerhouse of African football. The community and its more than 300 million citizens are solidly behind them. More importantly, they should ensure that the coveted continental trophy comes to the region by the end of the tournament on 10 February, 2013.”

As the continent awaits the ultimate winner of the most coveted trophy in Africa, football lovers are rooting for a good match to end the three-week tournament. Before the final match, Ghana and Mali will slug it out in the third place match.

Birthdays

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Sarah Sosan
Sarah Sosan

Sarah Adebisi Sosan, educationist and former deputy governor of Lagos State, 57, February 11. Born in Lagos, she was educated at Unity Assembly Primary School, Apapa, and Awori-Ajeromi Secondary School, Agboju, Lagos. She was at the Lagos State College of Education, now Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, for her National Certificate in Education, NCE, before she proceeded to the University of Lagos, Akoka for her Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Education. She was employed by the Lagos State Post-Primary Teaching Service Commission in 1999, before she was appointed deputy governor to Babatunde Raji Fashola in 2007.

Anogwi Anyanwu
Anogwi Anyanwu

Anogwi Anyanwu, chartered accountant, banker, community leader and executive director in-charge of operations and information technology, Mainstreet Bank, 53, February 7. He was educated at Community Secondary School, Amuzi Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State, 1980; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1984; Federal University of Technology, Owerri, 1990. He is a fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria. He was chief inspector, Ecobank Nigeria PLC; chief inspector, Citizens International Bank Limited; regional head, South-East, Spring Bank PLC; executive director, South-East and South-South, Spring Bank PLC; chairman, Sprout Books Limited. He is director, Sunstone BDC Limited; Teresann Limited, and national president, Mbaise People’s Congress, MPC. He is the traditional title holder of Ona aka Nguru Uboma Ahiase, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State.

Dapo Aderinola, journalist and administrator, 68, February 9. Born in Ipele, Owo Division, Ondo State, he was educated  at St Stephen’s School, Ipele, Owo, 1955-1960; Imade College, Owo, Ondo State, 1961-1965; International Institute of Journalism, Budapest, Hungary, 1986-1987. Aderinola was appointed general duty reporter, Daily Times, 1971-1974; labour correspondent, Daily Times, 1974-1975; chief of crime bureau, Daily Times, 1976-1978; regional editor, Daily Times, 1978-1980; press secretary  to Oyo State governor, 1980-1983; news editor, The Guardian on Sunday, 1983-1984; managing  editor, West Africa magazine, 1984-1987; associate editor, The Punch, 1987-1989; editor, Daily Times, 1989-1992;  editor, Sunday Times, 1992-1993; editor, Daily Times, 1994-1996; general manager, Times Publication Division, 1996-1997. He was chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists,   NUJ, Lagos State Council, 1985-1989. He is also a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE; associate member, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, and International Press Institute, IPI.

Olusegun Agagu
Olusegun Agagu

Olusegun Agagu, geologist, administrator, 65, February 16. Born in Okitipupa, Ondo State, he was educated at  St. Luke’s Primary School, Okitipupa, 1954-1957; Ebenezer African Church School,  Oke-Ado, Ibadan, 1958; Baptist Primary School, Kano, 1959; Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan, 1961-1967; University of  Ibadan, 1968-1971; University of Texas,  USA,1973-1974. He was appointed a geologist, Gulf Oil Company, Lagos, 1971-1972; research scientist, Bureau of Economic Geologists, Houston, Texas, 1974-1975; senior lecturer, University of Ibadan, 1981-1988; deputy governor, Ondo State, 1992-1993; minister of aviation, 1999-2000, and later minister for power and steel. He was elected governor of Ondo State, 2003-2009.

Appointed

Oyewole Tomori
Oyewole Tomori

Oyewole Tomori, a professor of virology as president, Nigerian Academy of Science. Tomori who took over from Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, was the pioneer vice-chancellor, Redeemers University, KM 44, Lagos-Ibadan road Ogun State. Tomori had served as the regional virologist and laboratory coordinator, World Health Organisation, WHO, Africa region. He has received several awards, both local and international. One of such awards was the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology Merit Award for Excellence in medical research.

Compiled by Augustine Adah 

— Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

A Day to Love

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Love Birds
Love Birds

Individuals and corporate organisations unfold their plans for this year’s Valentine-Day celebration

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE aroma of love is once again in the air. On Thursday, February 14, the world will commemorate St. Valentine’s Day. Just like other parts of the world, Nigerians are also anxiously waiting for the day of love. Amos Ojo, a civil servant, said that St. Valentine’s day means a lot to him because it is a great opportunity to express his feelings to his loved ones. Ojo has been a regular visitor to the less privileged homes on every St. Valentine’s Day where he donates gift items for the up-keep of those in need. To Ojo, the less privileged home is the best place to express love on St. Valentine’s day to enable the people there feel that someone cares.

Ayodele and Peace, excited about valentine
Ayodele and Peace, excited about valentine

To Ayodele Olorunfemi, who got married to his heart throb less than a year ago, the 2013 St. Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity for him to appreciate his wife with a wonderful gift. Olorunfemi said that he would have the best of time with his wife because this is the first St. Valentine’s Day both of them would be having together after their marriage. “My plan is to get back from work on time and spend enough time with her,” he said. To Peace, his wife, February 14, is the day for the expression of love. She believes that the expression of love should be an everyday affair not limited to St. Valentine’s Day.

Joyce Amos, a student, has been looking forward to St. Valentine’s Day with her loved ones. As usual, every St. Valentine’s Day, Amos visits the Lagos bar beach with loved ones. “In the last four years, I have always spent most of my time at the bar beach which has been great fun,” she said.

Apart from individuals preparing to mark valentine, companies and the hospitality industries have been advertising and enticing people to come patronise their special valentine products. A popular TV series “Nnenna and friends” have been advertising and urging youth and families to join them at the National Theater for a special entertainment programme.

Gift shops are also making brisk sales. One text message sent by EGOLE reads: “Cupid has drawn back his bow, direct his arrow straight to your lover’s heart with fantastic valentine packages on www.egoleshopping.com

Saint Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine is observed on February 14, every year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although most countries do not declare it a work free day.  St. Valentine’s Day began as a celebration of Christian saints named Valentinus. Saint Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and ministering to Christians. During his imprisonment, St. Valentine healed the daughter of Asterius, his jailer. Before his execution, St. Valentine wrote a letter titled “from your Valentine as a farewell to the lady he healed.

Saint Valentine’s Day has been made an official feast day in the Anglican Communion as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day on July 6, and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter, Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna.

Should Local Government Be Given Autonomy?

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Grace Ali
Grace Ali
Austine Okechukwu
Austine Okechukwu

THE issue of local government autonomy has been a controversial topic in Nigeria since the commencement of the process of amending the 1999 constitution by the National Assembly. The governors’ forum is stoutly opposed to any move to grant autonomy to local governments insisting that they are an integral part of state governments. Beyond that Nigerians are divided on the issue. While some say it is going to speed up development in the country, others believe it will worsen the corruption in the country. Below are the views of some Nigerians on the issue.

Grace Ali, Teacher: The issue of autonomy is not the problem. Corruption is our biggest challenge. Giving local governments autonomy without eliminating corruption will not bring about the desired development. So let us leave the issue of autonomy and fight corruption.

Idris Abdul
Idris Abdul

Austine Okechukwu, Pastor: Yes. It is better for them to have autonomy in order to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. I strongly believe that their autonomy will bring about even development in the country. It will bring government nearer to the people in the rural areas.

Ayodele Olorunfemi
Ayodele Olorunfemi

Idris Abdul, Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Lokoja, Kogi State: Local government autonomy is not negotiable. The autonomy will end the illegality perpetuated by state governors. For example, in Kogi state, the tenure of local government chairmen expired since 2010 but the governor has postponed elections into local government councils for three consecutive times. He has appointed liaison officer 1 and 2 for each of the 21 local government councils contrary to the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

Ayodele Olorunfemi, Travel Consultant: I don’t support it. The people we have at the local government level are crooks and uneducated. These people don’t even know what local government is all about. If they are not monitored, they will do worse.

Christopher Okoro
Christopher Okoro

Christopher Okoro, Politician: No. First of all, we have to ask ourselves this question. Do we need local government autonomy in this country? The answer is no because those in authorities in the local governments are products of the state governors. If you give them autonomy, it will be a continuation of the corruption going on in the local government system. They will misuse it as they are doing to the allocations given to them by state governments.

Basil Okagu
Basil Okagu

Basil Okagu, Teacher: Yes. Our local governments need autonomy. To me, if giving local governments autonomy will be the only thing this administration can achieve, I believe people will be happy with it.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Celebrating 100 Years of Unity

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Jonathan
Jonathan

Nigeria flags off a series of events to celebrate 100 years of its unity as a nation

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Obasanjo
Obasanjo

NIGERIA has rolled out the drums to celebrate its union as a nation. The celebration, which will last for two years, was flagged off with a dinner attended by President Goodluck Jonathan and some former presidents and heads of state at the State House, Abuja, on February 4. In attendance were Muhammadu Buhari, former head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), ex-Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, and Shehu Shagari.

From the speeches made at the dinner, it was obvious that the past Nigerian leaders are all passionate about the need to maintain the unity of the country as well as tackling the challenges it has faced in the last 100 years. To the past leaders, the challenges which include inadequate infrastructures, socio-economic cum religious problems and insecurity should not stop the commemoration of the centenary. According to them, the centenary is an opportunity to renew the citizens’ trust in the country, be more committed to it and drive the nation to greatness just as it was envisaged by the founding fathers. Abubakar, in his speech, said that the centenary commemoration should be a time to rebrand, rejuvenate and pursue the true ideals for Nigeria.

The 24-month-long commemoration is packed with activities that would be hosted by t

Buhari
Buhari

he different historical towns and cities in the country. In the outline for the project, there are specific events and activities for each month. According to a statement on the activities for the celebration, “Nigeria is a beautiful mosaic with a national identity defined by its history and contemporary culture. The arts are fundamental to our existence drawing out the nation’s soul for the world to see. Our commitment to transform Nigeria will be strengthened by a new understanding of our history, the visions of our founding fathers, our collective achievements and the promise of the nation of our dreams.”

According to the organisers, there will be arts expos, literary festivals, essay competitions for students of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, a photo exhibition from many personal archives, carnivals, film festivals, staging of the landmark plays of the country, telling stories of the country through captivating poetry among others.

Some of the culture and arts projects include the 100 years of Nigerian theatre, centenary concerts in Lagos, Abuja, London, United States, centenary music competition, comedy night, and centenary international fashion shows in Lagos, Abuja, London and the US, all in the month of July.

The month of November dubbed the month of heritage has centenary festivals and carnivals including adopting some of the existing carnivals, then a day of celebration of culture and lifestyle which would be a night of Nigerian traditional dances. There will also be arts and craft exhibitions and competitions, essay competitions — Nigeria in the next 100 years, history photo contest, designed to unearth the many dated photos of Nigeria and its people and locations taken by or in possession of citizens, food fair, celebration of the media and 100 years of Nigerian literature.

Editorial Suite

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THE increasing rate of unemployment, albeit, that of the youth, has been a major source of concern to successive governments in the country. Over the years, governments at various levels have put in place, various measures to tackle the ugly situation. It all started with Operation Feed the Nation initiative of General Olusegun Obasanjo’s adminstration in 1976 to the Green Revolution of Shehu Shagari’s administration in April 1980. There was also the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI, and National Directorate of Employment, NDE, introduced by General Ibrahim Babaginda’s administration in 1986 and 1989, respectively.

During Obasanjo’s second coming to power, he also introduced the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, in 2001, which, among other targets, was aimed at reducing youth unemployment. The latest attempt at solving the problem is the Youth Empowerment with Innovation, YUWIN, established by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

Incidentally, all these efforts have not reduced youth unemployment. As at now, in a country of about 160 million people, official statistics puts the general unemployment situation at 23 percent of which youth unemployment accounts for 40 percent. Quite a frightening statistics! This level of unemployment explains why a large number of youth are involved in crimes and other social ills. It also explains why a number of them resort to odd jobs to make ends meet.

In one of our editorial board meetings, Ishaya Ibrahim, staff writer, drew our attention to the worsening youth unemployment situation and the likely adverse consequences if nothing is done to control it. After an exhaustive deliberation, Ibrahim was assigned to investigate the issue and the various ways the youth try to survive the worrisome unemployment situation in the country. The result of that investigation is captured in this week’s issue of our cover story entitled: Youth Unemployment: Odd Things They Do to Survive. Ibrahim’s story provides food for thought for every right thinking Nigerian and those in decision making positions who can assist in providing employment for the youth. It is a challenge we must take seriously. Happy reading!

Maureen Chigbo 
Editor 
 

— Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

That Life May Go On

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Youths at the venue of the NDLEA recruitment test in Port Harcourt

Nigerian youths adopt various strategies including crime in order to survive the harsh economic environment in the country

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AFTER failing in three attempts to pass the Unified Tertiary and Matriculation Examination, UTME, the qualifying examination for  university admission,  Felix Ugbe, {not his real name}, has changed tactics to make sure he passes this year’s UTME which incidentally, would be his fourth.  To achieve this, Ugbe has located a special centre in Oko, Anambra state, where he was asked to first do all he could to make the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, post him to that centre where he will pay for guaranteed high scores without sweat.

A suspected pick-pocket
A suspected pick-pocket

But one hurdle before Ugbe is how to find an accomplice that will help him execute his plan.  This has been his major preoccupation now. In the last one month, he has been calling and asking friends if any of them knows how the deal is done. As at press time, he has not found any accomplice that would assist him in the plan.

People like Ugbe, are the reason some youths who consider themselves specialists in fixing exam grades for lazy students are still in business.  A number of them who make a living from fixing exam grades are not even afraid or ashamed to say it. For instance, the streets of Lagos are filled with enticing adverts of examination malpractice consultants who promise specific grades for their clients. One of such adverts in Ikeja, Lagos State, reads: “Exams made easy. 7 credits in SSCE and WAEC and 280+ guaranteed at Citadel Academy. 08022974109”.

Another person who is in the same business feels that the best way of getting his own clients is to advertise on the internet telling people to call him: “If you need a special centre where you will write and clear all your papers once and for all call me. It is free of charge, you don’t pay anything to anybody. We are doing this to help students so that they too can help others tomorrow. My brother, don’t blame me, our politicians pass through the same malpractice before they got there. ”

A cart pusher
A cart pusher

Of course, politicians are partly to blame for the level of decay in the educational system which has now given rise to the business of paying for grades.  But the neglect of hard work as a means of achieving success has accounted for many of the unethical practices among young people. Examination racket is just one of the odd things young people do to survive.  Chibueze Ezugwu, guidance and counselor and deputy director of Global Agenda for Total Emancipation, GATE, an HIV awareness outfit, said: “The cause of all these is because youths are looking for an easy way out. Those special centres are still the offshoot of corruption in the system.” According to him, there is collusion between exam authorities and the owners of the special centres because corruption has permeated every system. “The problem is with the parents because they always set standards for their wards. In order to achieve the standard, anything can happen. The same thing goes for those writing external exams. Most of the parents today want their children to make their papers at first sitting and also want them to study medicine, law, engineering and other professional courses. And they will go to any length to make it happen. So it is a vicious circle, everybody is involved – the parents are involved, exam regulators are involved and the students are involved. What makes these centres special is the money people pay to pass exams. These situations have reduced the urge of the students in reading their books”, Ezugwu said.

Apart from exam malpractice, another way young Nigerians, make money to survive is through internet fraud, known as 419 and now popularly referred to as yahoo-yahoo. Many victims of internet frauds have committed suicide after losing all their life savings to the fraudsters. However, since more people are aware of this crime over time, young people involved in internet frauds have now resorted to the use of juju to facilitate the swindling of their targets. The juju-enhanced fraud is called yahoo-plus.

President Goodluck Jonathan promises fresh air for the youths
President Goodluck Jonathan promises fresh air for the youths

A repentant yahoo-yahoo boy, who pleaded anonymity, explained the various strategies used in conning their victims. “The whole thing about yahoo-yahoo is to present false information to victims who could be either Nigerians or foreigners. Mostly, foreigners are the majority of the victims because of their naivety of such falsehood and easily fall for the deceptive game.” he said.  Recounting when his group conned a Swiss with the picture of a sexy and pretty lady, the repentant internet fraudster said the picture was sent to the man’s mail as if the beautiful girl sent it herself, claiming to be a Nigerian ex-beauty queen.

He said the man became interested and established a communication with the supposed beauty queen. Shortly after, the man exchanged phone numbers with the yahoo-yahoo boys believing he was dealing with the supposed beauty queen. Unknown to the Swiss, the fraudsters got a lady to frequently answer his calls for them. After the yahoo-yahoo boys sufficiently aroused the interest of the Swiss for his dream lover, they started requesting for funds to enable the lady arrange for a visa and pay for her flight to meet him in his country. He fell for the trick and transferred money to the fraudsters.  After withdrawing the money, the yahoo-yahoo boys blocked further contact with him.

This trick and many others used by the yahoo-yahoo boys have become known all over the world. This is the reason that the boys have gone spiritual.  “Herbalists are consulted to use their spiritual powers to make foreign and Nigerian victims fall for their antics. The charms come in different forms like rings, concoctions, calabash, amulets and other spiritual articles which demand rituals to be performed after days of interval. In some cases, body parts of children are demanded for the rituals.

Young Nigerians scooping oil from a broken-pipeline
Young Nigerians scooping oil from a broken-pipeline

The repentant fraudster said that the reason many young people take to dangerous means of making money is because it offers them quick wealth. For instance, he said, a number of the yahoo-yahoo boys own houses in Lagos, drive flashy cars, and are admired by their friends and family members because they are rich and can afford to give out cash whenever a request is made to them.

Augustine Bola Adegunloye, a seer, and the Egbeji of Nigeria (leader of Nigeria’s herbalists), admitted that he had prepared charms for many yahoo-yahoo boys in the past and that many were still approaching him for spiritual consultations. Adegunloye stated that young boys are into illicit businesses because they earn a lot of money from it. “When some of them come to see me, they lodge in expensive hotels and lavish a lot of money,” he said, adding “I regretted doing what I did to help them in the past.”

The rising cases of crime as a means of livelihood for the youths are not unconnected with the unemployment problems in the country.  On January 21, this year, the International Labour Organisation, ILO, released its 2012 unemployment report which showed that a total of 197 million people in the world were jobless as at last year, with young people being particularly hard hit. The report also added that unemployment figures will increase this year with the bulk of it coming from sub-Saharan Africa where already, 77 percent of its workers are said to be in what is called “vulnerable employment.”

In Nigeria, the unemployment situation is double digit. According to official statistics, 23 percent of the general population is unemployed while youth unemployment is ranked at 40 percent. There are others who believe that the unemployment situation in Nigeria is worse than that and is so serious that some youths have turned themselves into praise singers for ‘big men’, during occasions just to make some money from them.

Making money by all means
Making money by all means

Such youths keep tabs of what and where ceremonies are taking place and who and who are to attend. In some cases, they even extort money by force from their targets. Praise singing is an age-long practice which is gradually assuming a violent dimension. For instance, in 2005, Lobi Stars and Nasarawa United were tied in a premier league match in Makurdi, Benue State. After the encounter, Daniel Amokachi, chief coach of Nasarawa United, had a nasty experience in the hands of some youths who wanted to extort money from him.  They swarmed around him like bees and wouldn’t let him off until another set of youths intervened and saved him from the crowd. But that was not all. The same youths formed a barricade around his car in a bid to make him part with money. Amokachi had to throw a bunch of N100 notes in the air before they let him go.

Last year, Eldee, Nigeria’s musical maestro, also had a difficult time in the hands of such youths during the fuel subsidy removal protest at Ojota, in January last year. He came to the venue of the protest to show solidarity with the protesters only to be held by some youths who wanted to extort money from him. In the process, one of them forcefully removed his shirt and made away with it while the others insisted on getting N10,000 from him.

Another scene played out at the Ejigbo township stadium in Lagos, during the Lagos edition of STAR TREK. The artiste, who came to perform that night, had to be smuggled out of the stadium in disguise because some youths had mounted a road block at the gate, demanding money from performing artistes before they could be allowed to leave the arena.

Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda
Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda

Many other youths have taken to kidnapping, cultism and oil bunkering as a fast way of earning a living, irrespective of the negative impact of their crimes on the image and economy of the country.  In June last year, Mutiu Sumonu, managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, said Nigeria lost five billion dollars annually to oil theft. Similarly, kidnapping which many youths see as a quick way of making big money, is driving away potential investors from Nigeria thereby worsening unemployment situation in the country.

Another criminal way some young people make a living in Nigeria is by pick-pocketing. Those who are in it have so perfected the business to the extent of removing valuable items from the pockets of unsuspecting members of the public with ease. Their victims, who are usually left stranded after the act has been committed, often wonder how the theft happened without them noticing it.

There are also young people who either out of genuine interest or trick, make money from travellers at motor parks. As soon as a vehicle is set to depart, a young man will introduce himself as a pastor and then pray for God’s travelling mercy for the passengers. At the end, he will distribute some tracts and ask for free donations to support his evangelical mission. He prays for the donors before moving to another vehicle to do the same.

Street hawkers
Street hawkers

Some other youths who look physically fit, have also turned to begging as a way of earning a living. For this category of Nigerians, who often look neat and speak fluent English, they would accost passersby by and lie that they have either been robbed or have lost their transport fare and needed assistance.

For Ebongabasi Ekpe-Judah, a sociologist and author, the urge of some youths to make quick wealth by any means is linked to the moral decadence in the society. He said the church, which ought to serve as the moral voice of the society, is not doing much in that regard. “Many of them praise people that give high donations and offerings without caring to know the source of such donations,” Ekpe-Judah said. Moreover, he added that prosperity preaching by some pastors without emphasis on the right source of wealth, has lured many youths into illicit ways of getting money. He stated that a particular denomination which he would not mention its name, believes it is a curse to drive an old car. He said for the country to move from the present situation, the church and political leaders must inculcate high moral values in the society. He also suggested that the society should begin to condemn wealth obtained under questionable circumstances.

Hawkers on the highway
Hawkers on the highway

For Ezugwu, corruption is the root cause of incessant quests among youths to make money without hard work. “Corruption has permeated all strata of the society and the recognition of merit and honesty is diminishing every day.  The only way out is for government to start promoting the values of merit and hard work among youths.” he said.

But not all youths break the law in their attempt to earn a living. A number of them still work hard by hawking all manner of items on highways, cleaning windscreens of vehicles or helping in carrying luggage for people. During the rainy season, some get paid by carrying people across flooded areas or washing the feet of people or their shoes which become dirty after wading through mud. For instance, John Oromosele has been selling gala, a popular snack on the Berger point of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. He said he makes a profit of between N1,000 and N1,500 every night, chasing motorists with his gala. “The job is risky but I am used to it. At least, I make some money to take care of myself”, he said.

A typical poster advertising exam fraud
A typical poster advertising exam fraud

There are many young Nigerians who want to work to earn a living by descent means. They expect their leaders to formulate sound policies that would address their unemployment and economic uncertainties. Tackling youth unemployment has been a promise many governments in the past had made without fulfillment or commitment. President Goodluck Jonathan has also promised to tackle the problem. For this reason, he has formulated the Youth Empowerment With Innovation in Nigeria, YOUWIN. The programme is designed to support innovative business plan of young people by making them entrepreneurs. But so far, only 1,200 YOUWIN applicants have benefitted from government monetary grants which, in the estimation of many, is only a little drop in a mighty ocean.

Romancing With Fire Disaster

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Kure
Kure

Operators at Lagos sea ports want the relocation of tank farms from their areas to avert possible fire disasters but owners of the farms insist there is nothing to worry about

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

CONTROVERSY has continued to dog the location of tank farms around the sea ports in Lagos, following the explosion at the MRS jetty, Tin Can Island, Lagos, on January 9. Some operators using the facilities within the location of the tank farms claim that they now work in fear. They fear that Tin Can Island, Apapa, and Ajegunle communities might be wiped out by fire incidents at the tank farms. The tank farms, which stretch from Ibafo to Coconut, and Ibafo areas of Apapa, houses more than 20 petroleum storage facilities.

For a long time, maritime stakeholders have called for the relocation of these tank farms, but the federal government has refused to yield to the request. Two years ago, the senate committee on maritime, led by Zaynab Kure, similarly expressed shock at the closeness of the tank farms to the ports and residential areas during one of their oversight visits. The committee members suggested the relocation of the tank farms to loop in waterside of Ogun State. “As it stands today, tank farms deserve to be relocated to safeguard the life of those who do business and those who live around the area. In the event of an accident, the effect would be too disastrous for the nation,” Kure said.

Tank farm
Tank farm

The position of the senate is shared by Olayiwa Shittu, president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, who has also demanded that the Nigerian government should relocate the tank farms at the Lagos ports to ensure safety of lives and properties.

But the calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Last year, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, threatened to shutdown six major tank farms at the Ibru Jetty, Apapa, Lagos. The authority claimed that the safety level at the tank farms did not meet international safety procedures and regulations, with fear of high risk of explosion or fire outbreak in the facilities. The Ibru Jetty is home to dozens of tank farms where most of the premium motor spirit imported into the country is distributed. According to the NPA, in the event of a fire outbreak at one of the tank farms there could be a major disaster as the firefighting equipment at the jetty was inadequate, to contain the high temperature and pressure of an outbreak.

But Krona Uti, team leader, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, has dismissed the NPA. Uti said that on several occasions, he witnessed responses from the fire fighters of the different tank farms using state-of-art equipment. According to him, citing the tank farms at the ports does not pose any threat to the environment. He explained that it was the responsibility of the DPR to shut down any tank farm that did not meet the minimum safety standards. He insisted that the farms met the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals. “I am impressed by the level of responses I saw at the tank farms. Our men reside at the tank farms and if we discover any deficiency in the petroleum products brought by the operators, we will not allow them to discharge,” Uti said.

Ifeanyi Ubah, managing director, Capital Oil and Gas Limited, whose jetty has been shut down due to an alleged involvement of his company in the fuel subsidy saga, claimed that the NPA, had never inspected their stations in the past 10 years to know the level of preparedness of the farms in terms of emergency. He said that each tank farm is fire proofed, which has made it nearly impossible to have a fire outbreak.

Ubah
Ubah

The large presence of hawkers also poses a great danger to the tank farms. On each visit to the Ibafon axis of Apapa, Lagos, the premises were usually filled with a large number of people who claimed to be agents. Besides, vehicles especially tankers, were parked along the roads, while traders and hawkers operated freely at the premises of the tank farms, thereby becoming security risk. In October 2012, the Lagos State government swooped on hawkers and traders around the tank farm facilities only for them to return a few weeks later. On several occasions, the state government had issued notices to operators around the tank farms and warned them against the security risk of having unarticulated vehicles around the area. Reports said that the state government had, on several occasions, discussed with the relevant stakeholders at the tank farms and the ports on the need to decongest the area. But nothing seems to have been done in that direction as the areas remained congested with people milling around the facilities aimlessly.

According to Sunday Okpithe, operations manager, Fist Deepwater petroleum tank farm, there is the need for tank farm operators to be extra conscious and uphold safety measures because of the volatile environment in which they operate. Emmanuel Akide, national deputy president, Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, said the tank farms were disasters in waiting, and that the January 2013 explosion in the MRS oil jetty was an eye opener for all. “Government should, as a matter of urgency, relocate the tank farms from the ports so that we can have peace and security,” Akide said.

Towards Energy Sufficiency

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Diop (middle), listening to Kappiah (left) with Ejime
Diop (middle), listening to Kappiah (left) with Ejime

In order to exploit the abundant energy resources in the region, ECOWAS has set up a Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Cape Verde

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ECOWAS region is waking up to the realisation that its enormous natural resources could be used to solve their energy and power related problems. The region is rich in various forms of bio-energy, with traditional biomass which could be used as the main source of energy for the poor majority and which accounts for 80 percent of total energy consumed for domestic purposes. It also has enormous hydro-electric potentials, untapped ocean energy resources along the coastal regions and island sites, and a vast solar energy potential.

It is this realisation that made the ECOWAS Commission to set up the Cape Verde-based Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, ECREEE, to find solutions to the enormous energy needs of member states. The centre’s programmes and activities are aimed at maximising and diversifying the region’s largely untapped huge renewable energy potentials

ECREEE staff and ECOWAS visiting delegation
ECREEE staff and ECOWAS visiting delegation

ECREEE’s Perspective from 2013 and beyond is to channel its efforts to capacity building, supporting and collaborating with member states on energy projects and programmes. It will domesticate the international Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Action Plan and Implementation, as well as promote South-South Cooperation with China and India, for technology transfer to the region.

ECREEE was set up with the mission to improve energy security, increase access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services and support the region’s economic and social development in an environmentally benign manner through the promotion and use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in ECOWAS member states. Already, ECREEE’s solar and wind energy project on the outskirts of Praia, is supplying 10 percent of Cape Verde’s energy needs. This may explain the recent commendation ECOWAS gave to ECREEE in trying to meet its objectives.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, congratulated the Cape Verde-based Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for its strides in response to the enormous energy needs of member states. Addressing the staff of the Centre in Praia, January 21, on behalf of the ECOWAS president, Adrienne Diop, commissioner for Human Development and Gender, ECOWAS, described energy as the bedrock of sustainable development, noting that within the short period of its inauguration in 2010, the centre has demonstrated that the region is capable of overcoming its energy challenges.

She thanked the Cape Verde government and development partners, including the Austrain Development Cooperation, the UN Industrial Development Organisation and the Spanish International Development Agency for supporting the regional project. The commissioner encouraged the Centre to partner with her directorate in the conceptualisation and implementation of programmes on energy and gender, given that women and children bore the greatest burden of energy deficiency in the region.

Mahama Kappia, ECREEE executive director, told the ECOWAS delegation about the Centre’s programmes and activities which are aimed at maximising and diversifying the region’s largely untapped huge renewable energy potentials.

The ECOWAS delegation, which included Paul Ejime of the Communications Department, was later conducted on a tour of ECREEE’s solar and wind energy project.  The delegation also visited the construction site of the Centre’s Training Institute.

They also visited the West African Institute, the think-tank on regional integration and social transformation, which is also located in Praia, for a meeting with the staff, including the institute’s newly appointed director-general, Djeneba Traore and Jose Brito, an engineer and chairman of the governing board. After a presentation on the Institutes’s History, Achievements, Challenges and Perspective 2013 – 2016, the leadership identified inadequate funding as the institute’s major constraint.

Responding, Diop on behalf of the president of the commission, said that within its limited resources, ECOWAS would continue to deliver on its mandate to its institutions, member states and citizens. She enjoined the Institute, as a regional think-tank, to provide research-based recommendations and proposals to ECOWAS for the acceleration of socio-economic development and integration of West Africa, adding that the institute should also diversify collaboration and partnership with organisations with similar objectives and with financial institutions for funding.

Killing the Maritime Regulator

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Shittu
Shittu

Starved of funds by federal government, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding is dying gradually

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, is dying. CRFFN, which regulates freight forwarding in the country, is being starved of funds by the federal government. In the last one year, the council has not received any funds from the federal government to enable it implement key programmes and activities that will ensure that the CRFFN delivers on its mandate as enshrined in the Act establishing it.

The dire financial situation of the council has been compounded by its inability to generate the needed funds from the registration and practicing fees from its members because of its face-off with leading freight forwarding associations, especially the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF.

Containers waiting to be cleared at the sea port
Containers waiting to be cleared at the sea port

This has practically paralysed the council’s activities so much that staff salaries have remained unpaid for about three months. Enforcement officers, recruited late last year by the council, are yet to receive any salary. They are being owned salary arrears of three months. With this development, recent moves by the council to arrest the booming practice of unregistered or quack freight forwarders have become impossible.

According to Lanre Oladipo, a freight forwarder, the death of CRFFN would pose great danger to the maritime industry because unregistered and quack freight forwarders would take over the industry which would remove efficiency and a drop in revenues that accrue to the government from maritime operations.

A CRFFN official, who spoke unanimously, said it was unclear why the federal government has refused to fund CRFFN. According to him, only a government who wants to kill the maritime industry would make a move that would jeopardize the operations of CRFFN. “We should learn from where things are being done the right way and stop this retrogressive attitude to issues. Operations of freight forwarding have become highly professional and efficient in other parts of the world, why are we not moving towards professionalising it like other countries which is what CRFFN is set up to do,” he said.

According to Olayiwola Shittu, ANLCA president, the need for reforms of the maritime sector by the federal government of Nigeria for efficiency, improved transparencies, and added value to the economy of the nation led to the establishment of CRFFN in 2007. It is estblaished by Act No. 16 of 2007 and its operation started on April 30, 2007. The council is charged with, amongst other responsibilities, the regulation and control the practice of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria. It is also to promote the highest standards of competence, practice and conduct among members of the freight forwarding profession. All efforts to get the federal ministry of transport to comment on the funding of the council failed.

Doubts About ECOWAS Monetary Union

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ECOWAS Logo
ECOWAS Logo

There are indications that Nigeria may not benefit much from the proposed West African Monetary Zone, which is scheduled to begin in 2020

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE lofty idea of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to have a common currency for the sub-region by 2020 remains suspect. A good number of Nigerian stakeholders are sceptical about its benefits to the country, even as the country leads the campaign for the proposed West Africa Monetary Zone, WAMZ.

Isah Okpe, a senior lecturer, Department of Economics, Benue State University, Makurdi, said that the success of the programme would depend on the political will of every member state towards the monetary union. Okpe asked whether Nigeria economy, which is the largest in the sub-region, would be ready to shoulder the weight of sacrificing its huge potentials for a unified currency. “The benefit is that it would facilitate trade within the region. It would eradicate the bottleneck of changing your local currency to another each time you cross the border to another country. That would also reduce the pressure in terms of demand and supply on local currency,” Okpe said. Beyond that, the university don said it was yet to be seen whether every member state would be willing to cooperate fully to make it a success.

Ayo Teriba, the chief executive officer, Economic Associates, and member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, said that the union, when implemented, would bring a big burden on Nigeria, considering that its economy constitutes about half of the economy of the whole West African sub-region. Teriba said one of the problems to be envisaged is the barrier on movement of goods and services as well as duties being paid for goods.

“There are still barriers on the movement of labour; you cannot just migrate to a neighbouring West African country and get a job easily. There is also no single financial system; a bank in Nigeria cannot do business in another West African country. You have to take these steps before talking about a single currency,” he said.

Apart from that, Teriba is worried that Nigeria gets less than what it offers other ECOWAS nations. “None of them is bringing something to the union. They would just merge and still be dependent on imports from Europe. So, I think Nigeria is better off on its own than joining such a union,” he said.

A senior journalist who wishes anonymity said it would be very difficult to achieve a single currency in West Africa, considering that the Francophone West African countries are solidly tied to the apron strings of the Central Bank of France. “This will make it difficult to get them to join the proposed monetary union,” he said.

According to him, the difficulties faced by the sub-region in the past 13 years to agree on the modalities for the union is enough to show that even the 2020 date might be a mirage. All the analysts agreed that Nigeria would carry the economic burden more than other countries in the region.

However, to fast track the process, there was the Convergence of Council of Finance Ministers and Governors of Central Banks of West Africa in Abuja on Friday, January 18. Speaking at the occasion, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s minister of finance, said that the establishment of a single currency for West Africa would not be achievable merely by an Act, but with the active participation of the monetary authorities and “by market participants in order to make it viable and sustainable.” Okonjo-Iweala said it would be an illusion for anyone to think that the road to the monetary union would be smooth and easy. “The journey has not been smooth, will not always be smooth and there will be periods when our collective will will be tested,” she said.

Besides, she said all the member states would need political will, which is very critical for the implementation of the monetary union, and be committed to their responsibility. The minister said that the recent turbulence in the euro zone should teach the member states that “sustained convergence is the rock on which monetary union is built.”

Second, she said they must be ready to face tough fiscal rules, which are “necessary to lay the ground for a relatively homogenous fiscal zone.” In addition, Okonjo-Iweala said that a permanent funding mechanism contributed to by all members would be needed to enable countries have access to finance, if they cannot source it from the market. And above all, she said all the central banks must understand and accept their limits. Okonjo-Iweala urged member countries to have an abiding faith in the project, look at the future with optimism and never be in a hurry to achieve the results.

Kadre Ouedrago, President of the ECOWAS Commission, commended the effort of the WAMZ member states and promised the commission’s support towards establishing the monetary zone. Ouderago, who was represented by Ahmed Hamid, commissioner of Trade and Free Movement, urged member states to come together to discuss issues that would help to realise the common objective of the union.

At the 24th meeting of the Convergence Council of Ministers and Governors of the West African Monetary Zone, WAMZ, the Roadmap for the ECOWAS Single Currency Programme, was approved and adopted. According to the Roadmap, it was decided that the ECOWAS Monetary Union should be launched in 2020 with the establishment of an ECOWAS Central Bank and the introduction of the common currency. Prior to that time, the WAMZ monetary union would be launched ”on or before” 2015 with the establishment of its Central Bank and the introduction of its common currency. The WAMZ member countries that initiated the monetary union in 2000 are Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, following the Accra Declaration and the Bamako Accord in 2000.

The WAMZ will be following in a similar direction as the European’s Economic and Monetary Union, EMU, where at least 17 countries use the same currency and coins to do business in Eurozone states. The Eurozone began full operation in January 2002.

Showing Brotherly Love

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Vieira receiving cheque from ECOWAS delegation
Vieira receiving cheque from ECOWAS delegation

ECOWAS Commission provides relief materials to 2012 flood victims in Cape Verde

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE ECOWAS Commission is providing succour for the flood victims in countries within the member states. In November last year, the Commission presented a cheque of $382,000 to the federal government of Nigeria to help mitigate the effects of the recent flood disaster which claimed several lives and caused substantial damage to property in parts of the country. The latest recipients of the commission’s benevolence are the flood victims in Cape Verde. ECOWAS, in January, presented a cheque of $190, 000 to the government of the Cape Verde in support of the unprecedented flood disaster, which caused severe losses of property and displacement of people in BoaVista Island in 2012.

On behalf of Kadre Desire Ouedrago, president of the ECOWAS Commission, Adrienne Diop, commissioner for Human Development and Gender, presented the cheque to Adalberto Vieira, Cape Verde’s vice minister of infrastructure and maritime economy, at a ceremony in Praia, the nation’s capital. She said the symbolic gesture of fraternity is to complement the efforts of the Cape Verde government towards mitigating the suffering of the affected population, adding that the gesture was inspired by the institutions Vision 2020 for transformation from ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.

Flood-damaged bridge in Cape Verde
Flood-damaged bridge in Cape Verde

The commissioner conveyed the sympathy and solidarity of the commission and other community institutions to Cape Verdeans in general, especially the affected families, noting that in spite of its pre-occupation with political and security issues, the commission would not neglect the humanitarian challenges facing community citizens.

She said the challenges were being addressed through various regional instruments, including the protocol on the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. Diop explained that efforts were also redoubled to resolve the political crises and food insecurity in the region, adding that in spite of its limited resources, the commission would continue to support citizens affected by humanitarian disasters.

Responding, Vieira thanked ECOWAS for the donation, which he described as a demonstration of solidarity with Cape Verde. He promised that the money would be utilised to mend the collapsed bridge in Boa Vista and to alleviate the suffering of the affected population, whose losses have been estimated at millions of dollars.

Earlier, Jose Luis Rocha, vice minister, foreign affairs, Cape Verde, reiterated his country’s commitment to the ECOWAS ideal and support for the regional initiatives for the resolution of regional crises, especially that of Mali. He expressed optimism for the consolation of the symbiotic relationship between ECOWAS and Cape Verde, which he described as the smallest and the only Island country in the 15-nation regional economic grouping.

Diop assured the minister that ECOWAS respects and protects the interests and peculiarities of all its member states and would continue to work for peace and stability, economic development and integration of the region.

A Divided House Called CAN

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Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor
Oritsejafor

Crisis deepens in CAN as 19 northern chapters of the Christian body and Abuja team up with the national body against the Catholics’ decision to suspend participation at the centre

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AYO Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, is no stranger to controversy, arising from his style of leadership of CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN. Oritsejafor, whose tenure as president of the PFN, would end in February this year, has created for himself, friends and foes within the Christian community in Nigeria.

The most recent is the revolt of the Catholics against CAN for what the church termed as the “too-close relationship between the association and the federal government.”  An unsigned statement released on behalf of the Catholics, states that CAN under Oritsejafor, is now being run as an arm of government “because they (government) will dictate to us what to do and they will not take our advice seriously, the Catholic Church has decided to withdraw from the activities of CAN at the national level; we are still part of CAN at the state. We made our stand clear in November last year, and by December, the man (Oritsejafor} bought a jet. I don’t know how he got it but the president was there on that day the jet was delivered to him”, the statement said.

The Jet gift to Oritsejafor by members of his church on the occasion of his 40th anniversary as a pastor, has elicited mixed reactions. While some argue that owing to Oritsejafor’s busy schedule, he deserved a jet to facilitate his evangelical mission, others said it was a vulgar display of wealth.

As if the Catholics were testing the waters with the statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, came with another euphemism for the phrase ‘pulled out’. Christopher Ajala, a monsignor and diocesan administrator of the catholic diocese of Abeokuta, said at a news conference that the Catholic Church only ‘suspended’ its activities in CAN but not pulled out. But the underlining reason remained the same: “Because it was too close to the government at the centre”, adding that the body only withdrew temporarily from CAN, which will only last for few weeks,  to allow it sort out some issues with the National christian body but would still maintain its activities at the state level.

Notwithstanding the supposed double speak, Sunny Oibe, public relations officer of CAN, in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, has accused the Catholics of arrogance because they lost the presidency of CAN to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. “There is no need for anybody to lose sleep over the threat by the Catholics to pull out of CAN because without them, CAN will still continue. The constitution of CAN makes provision that the membership of any group that is misbehaving can be terminated or that any group can also terminate its membership. Why is it that when Catholics were in the leadership of CAN, every bloc supported them, but now because power has changed hands, they are threatening to pull out and causing confusion? They have been agitating that the presidency of CAN must come from the South. They are an appendage of the PDP and PDP themselves. They are known for double standards. A man of God should not be double speaking”, Oibe said.

 Yohanna Simon, a reverend and registrar of the Baptist Theological Seminary, Kaduna, agrees. He said the reason the Catholics actually pulled out from the CAN was because they were not at the head of leadership of CAN. “If they are not the ones there, they would threaten to pull out. They are just bringing dirty politics into it”, Simon said.

Similarly, Austine Okechukwu, pastor of The Ambassadors of Christ Ministries, International, Lagos, also argued that the Catholics were simply playing politics with their withdrawal. He said if they felt uncomfortable with the leadership style of Oritsejafor, there were better ways of expressing their grouse instead of pulling out.

But Victor Ochogwu, a catholic and member of Saints Peter and Paul church, Lagos, said the decision of the Catholic Church to pull out from the CAN was apt. “CAN was made for the well-being of Christians but right now, it is being used to serve the interest of politicians and that is wrong”, Ochogwu said.

But the Catholics are not the only ones who have issues with Oritsejafor. The Kaduna State CAN is also not happy with him.  In 2009, Oritsejafor was accused of meddlesomeness in the activities of the CAN, Kaduna State chapter.  He was said to have been desperate in foisting Yerima Danladi, his stooge as the secretary general of the chapter- a move Samuel Kujiyat, the state chairman, rejected. This pitted the two Christian leaders on a collision course, leading to the sidelining of Kaduna State CAN executives by the national body, during national assignments.

 For instance, the Kaduna CAN was left out of the annual prayer breakfast meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on April 14, 2012, which CAN leaders from the 36 states of the federation were expected to attend along with their secretaries.  But the Kaduna State CAN was not invited. Kenny Ashaka, spokesman for Oritsejafor, said had Kujiyat and Joshua Mallam, his secretary general, attended the breakfast prayer, they would have been thrown out from the Villa.

Oritsejafor-led PFN, in 2009, was also locked in controversy with Temitope Balogun Joshua, general overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN; over whether he {Joshua} was really a christian and whether he was qualified to be admitted into the PFN fold.  Said Oritsejafor of Joshua: Jesus did not say by their words you will know them; he said by their fruits you shall know them. If T.B. Joshua can show me his pastor who pastored him before he said he was called into the ministry; if T.B. Joshua can tell me when he got converted and how he got converted, then we would consider him. Anybody who is a Christian is a Christian because he received Jesus Christ at a point”, Oritsejafor had said.

Still a Long Way Off

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Joe Okei-Odumakin
Joe Okei-Odumakin

Nigeria is not doing enough in the implementation of the United Nations, Beijing Conference resolution on affirmative action on Women

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

BARELY 18 years after the United Nations Beijing conference on affirmative action on women, Nigeria is yet to fully implement the agenda of the conference. One of the major items in the platform for action from the conference was to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision making and leadership. It actually recommended that 30 percent of important positions in government should be reserved for women. The conference set a target date of 2005 for full implementation.

But the overall appraisal has put Nigeria below the target. Though the federal government has tried to meet the target, many states are very far behind the goal. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, 13 ministers made the list of President Goodluck Jonathan’s 40- member cabinet. Apart from the large number, many of them pilot sensitive ministries.

Northern Governors Wife
Northern Governors Wife

They include, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, minister of finance, Ruqquayat Rufai, minister of education,  Diezani Allison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, Sarah Ochekpe, minister of water resources and Ama Pepple minister of land and housing. Other female ministers  are Stella Odua Ogiemwoniyi, minister of aviation, Olajumoke Akinjide, minister of state for Federal Capital Territory, Viola Onwuliri, minister of state for foreign affairs, Omobola Johnson, minister of communication and technology, Hadiza Mailafia, minister in-charge of environment, while Zainab Maina and Zainab Kuchi are minister of women affairs and minister of state for Niger Delta, respectively.  Although there has been a significant improvement in the appointment of women as ministers, only few of them are elected into national and state assemblies. For instance, only nine out 109 senators are women, while 27 are in the House of Representatives out of 360 members. Women are also not adequately represented in federal board appointments.

Comparatively, throughout the two-term tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, only nine women were appointed ministers. Late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, who succeeded Obasanjo, did not do better because he appointed only seven women as ministers.  Alhough some women are occupying the position of deputy governor of some states, many of them have not got their fair share of appointments into sensitive  office in many states.

For example, out of the 25 commissioners appointed by Henry Seriake Dickson, governor of Bayelsa State in 2011, only two were women. His counterpart in Benue State, Gabriel Suswan, appointed only three women as commissioners out 16 member cabinet.

The situation in Lagos State isn’t better as only four women made the list of 24 cabinet members in the state. Niger State came close to achieving the goal when Babangida Aliyu, governor of the state, appointed four women in a list of 15 commissioners.  A similar neglect also exists in almost other states.

This is why some women are not satisfied with the way affirmative action on women is being implemented in Nigeria. Joe Okei-Odumakin, president, Women Arise, said   that the slow implementation of affirmative action has marginalised women in the country. She lamented that for more than 50 years after independence, no woman has emerged as president, vice president and state governor. The only woman that assumed that position was Virgy Etiaba, who became a governor  when Peter Obi was impeached as governor of Anambra State.

“So it is glaring that women are marginalised except for a few appointments by Jonathan. Despite our numerical strength, we are grossly under represented,” Odumakin said and urged both federal and state governments to stop the marginalisation of women because of their numerical strength in the country.

Augustina Anusonwa, coordinator, Charity Mother’s Help Ministry, Owerri, Imo State, wants the government to increase the number of women appointments so that they can be adequately represented in the decision making process.  She lamented that for a long time, women were denied the rightful position despite their numerical position. According to Anusonwa, few women that were appointed into sensitive positions in the past had proved that if given opportunity, they would do better. Some of them were Dora Akunyili, former minister of information, Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, and Okonjo- Iweala, minister of finance who also occupied the same position during the administration of Obasanjo.

 The Northern Governor’s Wives Forum, has also raised its voice in support of women affirmative action. At a meeting held in November last year, it solicited for a constitutional backing for the 30 percent affirmation for women in Nigeria. The United Nations Beijing conference believes that women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women and their contribution to national development.

Birthdays

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Pat Utomi
Pat Utomi

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi, political economist, 57, February 6. Born in Kaduna, Kaduna State, he was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, and Indiana University, Bloomington, United States. He was special assistant to Alex Ekwueme, former vice president;  deputy managing director, Volkswagen of  Nigeria; chairman, Patito Communications Limited, and Utomap Holdings Limited; director, Lagos Business School. He was presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, in the April 2007 presidential elections.

Soji Akinrinade
Soji Akinrinade

Olusoji Akinrinade, former editor-in-chief of Newswatch, 62, February 8. Born in Yakoyo, Osun State, he studied in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. He was an assistant features editor, The Punch, from 1980-1981; features editor, The Punch, 1981-1982; deputy editor, The Punch, 1982-1983; assistant editor, Sunday Concord, 1983-1984; associate editor, Newswatch, 1984-1985; senior associate editor, 1986-1987; general editor, 1987-1991. He was appointed executive director, Newswatch in 1991. Before his appointment as editor-in-chief of Newswatch in 2010, he was deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine. Akinrinade is a member of many professional associations such as the Commonwealth Journalists Association, CJA; Society of Professional Journalists; Commonwealth Press Union, CPU, and Journalists’ Association for Minorities, JAM, USA, among others. Akinrinade retired alongside other directors from Newswatch Communications Limited in May 2011. He is one of the directors of MayFive Limited, Lagos.

Adeniyi Adebayo, legal practitioner, businessman and former governor of Ekiti State, 53, February 4. He was educated at the University of Lagos. He is a senior partner, Adebayo, Mohammed, Adewumi and Audu; director, Okitipupa Oil Palm PLC; chairman, Magnificent Interiors Limited. Adebayo, who was the first executive governor of Ekiti State, is also the Asiwaju of Ikogosi in Ekiti State.

Hamidat Doyin Abiola
Hamidat Doyin Abiola

Hamidat Doyinsola Abiola, BA, MA, Ph.D. journalist and administrator, born  February 1,1946, Lagos, married to late Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, in 1982. She was educated at Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos, 1958-1963; University of Ibadan, 1969; University of Wisconsin, USA, 1972, State University of New York, USA, 1975-1979. She was the women’s editor, Daily Sketch, 1969; feature editor, Daily Times of Nigeria Limited, DTN; Lagos; member, editorial board, DTN,   Lagos; editor, National Concord, 1980; managing director and chief executive officer, Concord Press of Nigeria Ltd; Ikeja, since 1985. First Nigerian Essenhower Fellow, 1986; member, NUJ, member Nigerian Guild of Editors; member, African Communication Association. She was the first Nigerian female editor of a National Newspaper.

Victor Nwaugo, lawyer, community leader, and national legal adviser, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, 50, February 6. A native of Umuokpuruka, Umuezegwu, Ihitte Uboma local government area, Imo state, he was educated at Osusu Primary School, Ehime Mbano, 1978; Madona High School, Etti, Imo State, 1978-1980; Community Secondary School, Ikenanzizi, Obowo, 1981-1983; Imo State University, Okigwe, 1985-1989; Nigerian Law School, Lagos, 1990. He was a member, NBA, Aba branch ; committee on review of bills to amend Act establishing INEC  and other acts. He is chairman, committee on fake NBA members, Aba branch. He is also member, National Executive Council, NEC, of NBA.

Ogbonna Onovo
Ogbonna Onovo

Ogbonna Okechhukwu Onovo, former inspector general of police, 60, February 7. Born in Enugu, Enugu State, he was educated at Transport School, Abeokuta, 1960-1966; Izzi  Boys High School, Abakaliki, Ebonyi  State, 1967-1971; Mary Knoll College, Ogoja, Cross-River  State and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, 1973-1976. He was appointed assistant superintendent of police, 1977; commander, Police Mobile Force Squadron, 1980-1984; assistant force secretary, 1986; commissioner of police, Edo State, 1994-1996; commissioner of police, Ogun State, 1997-1998; chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, 1999-2000. He was appointed inspector general of police in 2009 and retired in 2011.

Compiled by Augustine Adah 

— Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

The Scourge of Lassa Fever

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Mastony rat
Mastony rat

Health experts stress the need for public enlightenment campaign on the menace of lassa fever following the report of an outbreak in Benue and Plateau States

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

FOLLOWING the recent outbreak of lassa fever epidemic in Benue and Plateau states, the Lagos State government has warned Lagosians  of the danger of allowing rodents into living homes. Jide Idris, commissioner for health, Lagos State, last week, urged residents of Lagos to maintain a clean environment and avoid contact with rodents that spread the virus. Though the outbreak of the disease has not been reported in the state, Idris stated that the government has the necessary facilities to handle the epidemic in case of its outbreak.

Onyebuchi Chukwu
Onyebuchi Chukwu

The outbreak of the disease has led to the death of three persons including a medical doctor, in Markurdi, capital of Benue State. Similar outbreak in Plateau State led to the death of two persons.  The two cases happened barely 11 months after a similar outbreak of the disease in about 19 states of the federation in which 80 persons were killed. Unlike in the past, the federal government has also acted swiftly to counter any likelihood of an outbreak.

Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said the federal ministry of health, had immediately sent experts from Centre for Disease Control, CDC, Abuja, to Benue State, to investigate the outbreak. The quick response demonstrated by the government was to forestall the spread of the disease to other parts of the country.

Even at that, medical experts are not happy that the federal government has not done enough to sensitise the people about the disease. For example, the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association, NVMA, has expressed its displeasure over the manner the outbreak of the disease was handled in the past. Ganiyu Enahoro, national president, NVMA, accused the committee set up by the federal government of not doing enough to enlighten the people about the epidemic.  The failure has led to people’s ignorance about the disease and the precautionary measures needed to be adopted.

The veterinary expert suggested that the community health workers from the states’ ministry of health and local government councils should to be mandated to go out into the streets and inspect surroundings of living quarters and compel people to clean their environment. Such measures, according to Enahoro, would reduce the menace of rats and rodents. He traced the outbreak of the disease at this time of the year to the activities of farmers who are in the habit of burning bushes in preparation for the farming season.

“The traditional methods of preparing farm lands by bush burning also create a very harsh environment for the rats and other dangerous rodents that are harbingers of Lassa virus. For this reason, the rodents are forced to seek new shelters in living homes and settle in the kitchens,” Enahoro said.

Patients of Lassa Fever receiving treatment
Patients of Lassa Fever receiving treatment

Similarly, Kola Oyedepo, public health administrator, based in Ilorin, Kwara State  said: “Many people heard the name of lassa fever for the time, when the epidemic broke out last year.” He urged the government and health experts in the country to always embark on  public enlightenment campaign among people living in the rural areas. The campaign, he said, should educate them about the virus and how to avoid contact with the specie of rats that transmit the deadly virus to the human body through food and other consumable items.

Lassa fever, an acute viral illness transmitted by mastomy rodents, was discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria. The cause of the illness was found to be Lassa virus, named after the town in Borno State where the first cases originated. In some countries where the disease is endemic, lassa fever is the significant cause of morbidity and mortality.

Signs and symptoms of lassa fever typically occur one to three weeks after the patient comes in contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria [protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. There are also associated, neurological problems which include hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis.

The primary transmission of the Lassa virus from its host to humans can be prevented by avoiding contact with mastomy rodents, especially in the areas where outbreaks occur. Putting food away in rodent-proof containers and keeping the home clean help to discourage rodents from entering homes. Using these rodents as a food is not recommended. Trapping in and around homes can help reduce rodent populations.

However, the wide distribution of mastomy rodents in Africa, makes complete control of this rodent reservoir impossible. Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been used with success in lassa fever patients. It has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness.

Eleven Years of Evangelism

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Eyefia, the EBS president and his family
Eyefia, the EBS president and his family

Egalitarian Biblical Society celebrates its 11th anniversary, giving glory to God for its continuous victory

|  Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00

IT WAS time for stocktaking and celebration for Egalitarian Biblical Society, Isolo, Lagos, which celebrated its 11th anniversary on January 19. William Eyefia, president of the society, said the anniversary had afforded the society the opportunity to reflect on its activities.

Eyefia said God has given the society and its members victory and that the victory has remained a reminder to the members of their humble beginning. “It is our policy to encourage people to look back with a view to moving forward. The concept of this victory came to one man in 1999. He was quick to design a programme to mark such an event. He sold the idea to many people and today we live to tell the story of victory celebrated,” he said.

Eyefia added that the celebration of the society’s victory called for vigilance. “Our victory in the past and victory today is no guarantee of victory tomorrow. We cannot afford to lower our guard against the enemies. We should be fervent in our prayers, circumspect in our work, and faithful in our service to God and humanity.”

Emmanuel Howard, an apostle, who presented the keynote address, congratulated the society for its vision and continuous work in the vineyard of God. He advised the society not to relent in its good work that has given it victory in the past 11 years. Egalitarian biblical society is a registered society with the Baptist Church. The society is into evangelism and helping the less-privileged in the society. It is also assisting some orphanage homes like the SOS Orphanage Home, Isolo, Lagos, by providing for its upkeep. The society also used the celebration to launch a book written by a member titled “Just like Yesterday.”

Members of the society cutting the Cake
Members of the society cutting the Cake
President of the Society with the special Guests
President of the Society with the special Guests
William Eyefia, President of the Society
William Eyefia, President of the Society
Members of the High Table
Members of the High Table

A Corps Member With a Difference

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Ejime (right), with NYSC Officials
Ejime (right), with NYSC Officials

Raphael Ejime, a youth corps member, makes the National Youths Service Corps proud by donating books and desks to the school where he does his primary assignment

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Oluvbo Iweze
Oluvbo Iweze

RAPHAEL Chukwuka Ejime, a member of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, currently serving at Gbagada Girls’ Junior Secondary School, Gbagada, Lagos State, believes that educating the Nigerian child is the collective responsibility of everyone. Instead of being an armchair critic of the falling standard of education and appalling facilities in the schools, he has decided to support the system by contributing his quota.

On January 23, Ejime donated exercise books and 10 classroom desks to Gbagada Girls’ Junior Secondary School, Lagos, as part of his community development service. Some senior officials of the NYSC, the media representatives and the school authorities witnessed the donation. Ejime was grateful to all those who helped him in one way or the other in making the project realisable. “I thank all those who supported me financially and morally and mostly the school authorities and my students for their support,” he said.

Commenting on the effort of Ejime, Oluvbo Iweze, principal of the school, said the donation would help in reducing the burden the students are facing in their respective classes. She also praised the corps member for his contribution to the school. “It is a thing of joy when we have compassionate and committed young people who are willing to give up themselves and make sacrifices in life. I resumed here as the new principal this term and one of the things handed over to me by the former principal had to do with the activities of this corps member. I was told that even last year he had an art and craft exhibition which was publicised by the print and broadcast media. And here we are again with this gentleman who sees a little gap in the system and has decided to contribute his own quota,” she said.

Ejime with the Students
Ejime with the Students

Iweze said this was the first time this kind of gesture would come to the school under her administration. She said that the former principal had recommended the corps member to her in a letter in which Ejime had been described as “a go-getter, a hard worker, a focused gentleman and I think I’m quite pleased with what I’m seeing here today.”

Besides, Iweze called on other corps members in the school to emulate Ejime and always impact on the lives of people around them. She also called on corporate organisations and other well-meaning Nigerians to see education as a corporate effort in which everybody should be involved in order to improve its standard in the country.

Adenire Adeyemi, NYSC Lagos State Coordinator, represented by Ajayi Ige, an officer of the corps, also described Ejime as an exceptional corps member. “This is the second time you are bringing us to this school, you have, indeed, proved that you are a true ambassador of the NYSC and I wish you the best in all your future endeavours, Adeyemi said.

A Tournament of Surprises

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Victor Moses Celebrating
Victor Moses Celebrating

Some tournament favourites crash out at the group stage as the on-going African Cup of Nations move to the knockout stage

|  Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE on-going African Cup of Nations, Afcon, is full of surprises with some of the favourites exiting the competition at the group stage. Defending champions, Zambia and Morocco, one of the tournament’s favourites were bundled out of the tournament after playing the three group matches without recording any win. Cape Verde Islands, one of the tournament’s debutants, surprised the football world by qualifying for the quarter finals ahead of Morocco and Angola in group A. The team beat Angola 2-1 in their last group match to advance to the next stage with South Africa, the host nation.

Super Eagles Celebrating their winning goal
Super Eagles Celebrating their winning goal

It was a shocking night for the Zambians that their dream of a second Afcon title had ended so soon. It had been 21 years since a defending champion had failed to progress beyond the group stages. In 1992, Algeria failed to qualify for the quarter finals stage after winning the title two years earlier.

However, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have all qualified for the quarter finals that will start on February 2. Burkina Faso, led group C on goal difference after finishing on the same points with Nigeria. This means that Nigeria will play Cote d’Ivoire which leads group D on February 3.

The Super Eagles struggled throughout the last group match with Ethiopia to stamp their authority in the encounter until Moses produced some of his tricks to win two penalties which he converted to goals. He was voted man of the match. He also showed Nigerian fans the creativity that has been lacking in the team.

Football analysts in the country believe that despite the win over Ethiopia, the team is not dominant as expected and it must do better in the next game which would be against one of the tournament’s favourites. They urge the coach to work on his tactics and not to depend on penalties to win matches.

Super Eagles Team
Super Eagles Team

There was palpable fear that John Obi Mikel and Fegor Ogude would miss the quarter finals match after receiving two yellow cards each at the group stages. Emmanuel Maradas Confederation of African Football, CAF official, said Mikel is likely to miss the quarter finals match due to suspension from the yellow cards he received. “If it was just one yellow card, I’m sure he wouldn’t be suspended, but with two, I’m not very sure,” he said. But CAF, after its executive meeting on January 30, said Mikel will play the quarter final match.

Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles coach, has declared that there is nothing special about Cote d’Ivoire, his next opponent in the competition. “I don’t know why you guys are worried about Cote d’Ivoire because I’m not worried about them. It’s going to be 11 versus 11 and we’re looking forward to the game,” Keshi said.

Besides, CAF has confirmed the suspension Gehad Grisha, one of its referee in the on-going championship after considering the complaint against the referee by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. The Egyptian referee who officiated in the Zambia versus Nigeria match on January 25, was suspended following the controversial penalty he awarded to Zambia against Nigeria.

Does Nigeria Need More states?

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Anita Okoduwa
Anita Okoduwa
David Anari
David Anari

FOR a very long time now, the demand for creation of more states in the country has been generating a lot of controversy. Many ethnic groups and tribes clamour for state creation to enable them develop their areas better. Nigerians are divided on the issue, some people say it is going to speed up development while others believe it will worsen the economic problems of the country. Below are the views of some Nigerians on the debate on state creation.

Victor Ochogwu
Victor Ochogwu

Victor Ochogwu, Accountant: I strongly support state creation because that is the only way to resolve the problem of marginalisation in the country and bring about faster development.

David Anari, Petty Trader in Ketu, Lagos: I don’t think that state creation can solve our problems in the country. The existing ones have not been able to solve our problems, how are we sure if we create new ones, it would solve the peoples’ problem. Look at me, I don’t have money to rent a shop and the government said we should not display our items along the road. But the government has failed to provide an alternative market for people like me.

Simon Okechukwu
Simon Okechukwu

Simon Okechukwu, Politician: Yes, Nigeria needs more states now. So many tribes are clamouring for state creation because of marginalisation. But most importantly, people of the South Eastern zone need one more state in order to be at par with other geo-political zones in the country with six states each. I believe we are the oldest people among those clamouring for state creation.

Yetunde Kilanse
Yetunde Kilanse

Yetunde Kilanse, Student: We don’t need state creation now. If you visit all the 36 states we have in Nigeria, you will find out that there is not much development in recent times, so why add more to the underperformed ones?

Anita Okoduwa, Student: For me, no. We don’t need more states because the existing ones lack basic infrastructures and development models.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Controversy over Chime’s True Health

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Gov. Sullivan Chime
Gov. Sullivan Chime

Despite his good works and the visit of his colleagues to psyche him up in a London hospital where he is receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, the Save Enugu Group remains unconvinced about the state of health of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ALTHOUGH Sullivan Chime, governor of Enugu State, is in hospital bed in London, his work still speaks for him at home. This is what the National Good Governance Team, which was in Enugu State, recently has discovered. The team visited Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, the dualised Enugu – Abakaliki expressway, the second Nnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, and several on-going projects.

 Sunday Onyebuchi, acting governor of the state, who led the inspection team to the project sites, said there was nothing to hide, but to show what the Chime administration had been doing to transform the state. He also urged the federal government to sustain the good governance tour to promote accountability among elected governors.

“I believe the good governance tour programme is a good one which I think should be sustained periodically. In its own way, it will make the governors of the states to know that there is a forum where they need to give an account to the people. We believe by the time we listen to you, we will be able to learn how we are doing and what we are not doing and how we can improve on what we are doing,” Onyebuchi said.

Labaran Maku inspecting a prokect at ESUT Teaching Hospital
Labaran Maku inspecting a prokect at ESUT Teaching Hospital

Labaran Maku, minister of information and leader of the team, said the tour was not a partisan exercise but a federal government programme meant for all the political parties to rub minds on how to improve on the nation’s democracy. “This tour is not about any particular political party. It is a tour made up of all the media houses here; they are not politicians. All the media houses in Nigeria are represented in this programme. The journalists are not politicians; they are media people. Even the civil society groups are all here. So they are not representing any political party. It is a media national programme that will assess our political progress frankly and sincerely,” Maku said.

But the visit of the team and the showcasing of Chime’s achievements have not calmed the agitation of the people to know the whereabouts of their governor. Save Enugu Group has given Eugene Odo, speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, a seven-day ultimatum to prove that Chime actually wrote a letter to the House.

In the letter dated January 28, the group threatened to go to court if the House failed to produce the letter. “We hereby formally demand that you make available to us a Certified True Copy, CTC, of the said letter which you claim was addressed to you by Governor Chime before he proceeded on vacation. Take further notice that should you not make available to us the CTC of the said letter seven days from the receipt of this notice, we shall be left with no other option but to seek remedies from an appropriate High Court to compel you to do so,” the group said in its letter.

The Save Enugu Group is also not convinced about the picture of the visit three state governors paid to Chime at a London hospital released to the press. It described the picture as fake and a classic replay of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s song, “government magic.” According to the group, the picture was a quick response by the state government to meet the two-week deadline given to it to reveal the location and health status of the governor. The group said: “Some of the governors shown on that picture could not have been in London on that day unless they have the gift of bi-location. Secondly, and more seriously, if governor Chime is as fit as shown, what is he still doing away from his duty post for over four months? We choose to believe that our hard working governor is not that irresponsible,” the group stated.

On its part, the state government has described the   efforts of SEG to create doubts over the authenticity of the picture as sad. Chukwudi Achife, the chief press secretary to the governor, dismissed the claims made by the group that the picture was fake, saying that it was “another desperate and futile effort to deceive the public.”

He said though the government ordinarily would not trade words with anyone, it was appalled by the group’s regrettable effort to impugn the integrity of the governors who had appeared with Chime in the picture. The controversial picture showed Chime in company of Rotimi Amaechi, Gabriel Suswan and Godswill Akpabio, governors of Rivers, Benue and Akwa Ibom states.

Partial Victory Against Shell

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Castelein
Castelein

A Dutch District Court orders Shell Petroleum Development Company to pay damages to a Nigerian farmer whose farmland was destroyed by oil spills

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Plantiffs in court
Plantiffs in court

THERE may be no end to the legal battle to force Royal Dutch Shell to take responsibility for its damages to the Niger-Delta environment. Friends of the Earth, an environmental rights group, and the four Nigerian farmers that sued the oil giant, are set to appeal the judgment delivered on Wednesday, January 30, by a Dutch court. Geert Ritsema, spokesperson, Friends of the Earth, said that his group was not satisfied with the court judgment and would seek redress from a higher court.

The court dismissed four of the five claims filed against Royal Dutch Shell, the parent company of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in Nigeria. In the claims, the plaintiffs sought compensation from the oil giant for the pollution of farmlands and destruction of the means of livelihood of the Niger-Delta people in the oil spills which occurred between 2004 and 2007. However, the court ordered SPDC, the Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian affiliates to pay damages to Friday Akpan, a Nigerian farmer, for the destruction of his farm during the oil spill.

The court ruled that the four oil spills at Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo between 2004 and 2007, which have been the subject of litigation, were caused by sabotage and not by negligence of SPDC. But in the case of Ikot Ada Udo, the court ruled that SPDC could have prevented the sabotage by plugging the well earlier enough to prevent the sabotage.

Oil spill in Oloibiri
Oil spill in Oloibiri

A Civil Court in The Hague, said that the Royal Dutch Shell was partially responsible for the pollutions as a result of the oil spills in the Ikot Ada Udo because it should have prevented the sabotage at that facility.  As a result, the judges ordered the SPDC to pay an unspecified amount as compensation to 52-year-old Akpan for breach of duty which made it easy for saboteurs to open an oil well head that leaked on to his land. “Shell Nigeria should and could have prevented this sabotage in an easy way. This is why the district court has sentenced Shell Nigeria to pay damages to the Nigerian plaintiff,” the judges said.

The legal battle has been on since 2008 in the Netherlands, where Shell has its global headquarters. The suit sought reparations for loss of income from a contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta. This judgment is the first time a Dutch court has held a multinational’s foreign subsidiary liable for environmental damage and ordered it to pay damages. The court might not have given SPDC a total victory but its management seems impressed with the outcome of the case. Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director and country chair, SPDC, said that his company welcomed the verdicts that all spill cases were caused by criminal activities and assured Nigerians that his company would pay the compensation as ordered by the court.

Allard Castelein, Royal Dutch Shell’s vice-president for the environment, also promised to abide by the court’s rulings and assured that it was ready to negotiate the amount of damages with the farmer. He, however, discouraged the plaintiff from appealing the judgment as that would postpone the further negotiation that could address the issue. “It was not an operational failure. The leak was the consequence of sabotage,” Castelein said.

Sunmonu
Sunmonu

Akpan, a father of 12 children, whose 47 fishing ponds were destroyed by the oil spill, expressed happiness with the judgment as the compensation would enable him settle debts incurred as a result of the destruction of the farm.  “I am not surprised at the decision because there was divine intervention in the court. The spill damaged 47 fishing ponds, killed all the fish and rendered the ponds useless. I had borrowed the money from the agriculture loans board and had no way to pay it back,” he said.

Foot in the Door

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Kadré Quédraogo

Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of ECOWAS Commission, inaugurates the West African Capital Markets Integration Council, a step towards the emergence of a West African Common Investment Market

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

EFFORT towards creating a West African Common Investment Market, ECIM, got a boost recently when Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of ECOWAS Commission, inaugurated the West African Capital Markets Integration Council, WACMIC. WACMIC is the apex governing organ for integrating the region’s capital markets, and one of the pillars for the creation of the West African Common Investment Market.

The council is to harmonise the regulatory environment for the issuance and trading of long-term financial securities across the region as well as the development of a common platform for cross-border quotation, listing and trading of such securities in the regional market.

Mr. Hamid Ahmed, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Industry, Customs and Free Movement
Mr. Hamid Ahmed, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Industry, Customs and Free Movement

The Council, which comprises the directors-general and chief executives of the region’s Securities and Exchange Commissions, SECs, and Stock Exchanges, was inaugurated during a courtesy call on the President by the members. The President, who was represented at the inauguration in Abuja, on  January 18, by Hamid Ahmed, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Industry, Customs and Free Movement, applauded the WACMIC initiative, which is the brainchild of industry stakeholders, and pledged the support of the commission for the council to enable it realise its objectives.

He emphasised the importance of integrating the regional capital markets in savings mobilisation, resource allocation, capital formation and fostering a more efficient and resilient stock markets across the region. The President also challenged the WACMIC to fast-track the integration process to enable the capital market play its role of real sector development in the regional economy.

Members of the Council used the opportunity of the Charter signature ceremony held as part of the inauguration, to reaffirm their commitment to the project and hailed the impending harmonisation of regulations and integration of existing trading platforms into a regional bourse as a milestone in capital market integration in the region.

The charter provides for the harmonisation of operational rules and regulations and member states’ stock exchanges into an integrated stock market.  Two technical committees set up for quotation, listing and membership, and depository, trading, clearing and settlement, have since commenced the harmonisation of the various aspects of capital market operations and regulations in the region. Members of the committees were drawn from the Securities and Exchange Commissions, the Stock Exchanges, depositories, clearing and settlement institutions, market operators, Association of Stock-broking Houses, the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, and WAMI.

Members of the Council promised to commit resources and personnel towards the realisation of the goal and urged the ECOWAS Commission to provide leadership support to help them discharge their responsibilities while recognising the important role of the West Africa Monetary Institute, WAMI, in ensuring that the milestone is attained.

The process for integrating the region’s capital market started in 2010 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, MOU, by the Stock Exchanges and the regulatory authorities in the region to deepen cooperation, promote mutual assistance, and facilitate the exchange of information and consultation between and among countries.

This is in conformity with the broad objectives of the International Organisation of Securities Commission, IOSCO, and World Federation of Exchanges, WFE. The Abuja ceremony was attended by directors-general of SECs in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and UEMOA and CEOs of Stock Exchanges in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the BRVM, (the single market of eight Francophone West African countries).

Editorial Suite

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OVER the years, Nigerians have witnessed a lot of haze over the Turn-Around Maintenance, TAM, of the government-owned refineries in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt. It has been particularly difficult for Nigerians to unravel just what exactly is keeping the refineries from working. This is moreso when they have heard of the huge amount of money periodically budgeted for the TAM without the refineries functioning at optimal capacity. The problem of the refineries took centre stage in January 2012, during the fuel subsidy removal protests. The protesters had, among other things demanded for the privatisation of the refineries and for the government to hands off their management. Consequently, one of the measures the federal government took to assuage the feelings of the masses was to set up a National Refineries Special Task Force chaired by Kalu Idika Kalu, former minister of finance, to come up with recommendations on how to ensure self-sufficiency of petroleum products in Nigeria within a strong framework in the shortest possible time.

The committee’s terms of reference included among others,  to, without prejudice to the on-going programme of rehabilitation and turn-around maintenance of the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna Refineries, and the building of greenfield Refineries,  conduct a high level assessment of the existing refineries, review all past reports and assessments and produce a diagnostic report complete with a change journey map; review the operations of the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna Refineries, with a view to improving efficiency and commercial viability. The committee was to also work with a world-class firm to audit the finances of the refineries and produce audited accounts over the past two years ending on December 31, 2011. The taskforce was also mandated to design a template for key production/management-critical performance indicators to be tracked on a periodic basis for ministerial review; design an automated information work bench, to monitor the performance of the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries on an online basis;  review all licenses issued for new refineries in Nigeria and assess their operational, technical, and financial readiness; seek new ideas and design financial models across the value chain for the building of adequate capacity for meeting local demand for petroleum production; design a blueprint for public & private partnerships, PPP, to build small, medium to large-scale greenfield refineries across Nigeria. Moreover, it should design investment models and a road map to self-sufficiency in local production of petroleum products in Nigeria, as well as produce a report, complete with timelines and milestones within the next 60 working days.

Suffice it to say that the task-force submitted its report since November last year and it must be lying prostrate in one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s shelves giving the impression that not much is expected from the outcome of the report. However, one of the committee’s recommendations is that the refineries should be privatised. But the federal government is not doing that. Instead, it is pumping another money into TAM of the refineries without resolving the germane issues that had rendered the refineries ineffective even when their TAM was done in the past. This is why the editorial board of the Realnews decided to examine some of these issues which have rendered our refineries inefficient in our cover story this week entitled Maintenance of Refineries: Endless Drain of Public Funds. It was anchored by Pita Ochai, who is fast becoming our in-house authority on economic issues. Enjoy it.

Maureen Chigbo
Editor

 
 
—Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

The Law Landlords and Tenants Don’t Obey

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Fashola
Fashola

The new Lagos State Tenancy Law is observed more in the breach by landlords and tenants

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

MANY tenants in Lagos State, heaved a sigh of relief when, in August 2011, Governor Babatunde Fashola, signed into law a bill meant to regulate rights and obligations of tenants and landlords  in the state under a tenancy agreement. They must have thought that the new law would protect them from the activities of Shylock landlords in the state. But barely 18 months after the law came into effect, many landlords are yet to obey some of its provisions. For instance, many new tenants are still made to pay two years’ rent advance contrary to the provision of the new law.

Christian Ojonugba, had been residing in Ikorodu, Lagos State, before he decided to relocate very close to his office at Yaba last month.  But he got the surprise of his life when the property agent that helped him to get a one room apartment at N5, 000 per month asked him for two years  rent advance. In addition, he was asked to pay N100, 000 for agreement and commission. When he demanded to know why the landlord was collecting rent advance of two years contrary to the new tenancy law in State, he was advised to go and meet the governor to give him government accommodation, if he was not satisfied with their terms of payment.

Wale Onabanjo, a truck driver living at Odogunyan, Ikorodu, also had a bitter experience with the landlady of the house he had lived for three years. Trouble started for Onabanjo when the landlady demanded for a rent advance of one year, three months to the expiration of the one he  had paid earlier. When Onabanjo requested for more time from the landlady to enable him source for money even though the earlier payment had not expired the woman was infuriated. Thereafter, he was given a three-month quit notice. When he refused to quit after the expiration of the notice, a military police was invited to eject him from the house.

On advance rent, section 4 subsection 3 of the  tenancy law states; “It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a new or would be tenant rent in excess of one [1] year in respect of any premises.” The law also specifies punishment for any tenant that pays or any landlord that receives rent in excess of what is prescribed by the law. Number five of Advance Rent states: “ Any person who receives or pays rent in excess of what is prescribed in this section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira  or to three  months imprisonment”.

Apart from collecting rent advance payment contrary to the provision of the law, some landlords are in the habit of increasing the rent arbitrarily. This normally happens in a densely populated area where there is high demand for residential accommodation. For example, a three-bed room flat that cost about N350, 000 –N400, 000 in Ikosi, Ketu, in less than a year ago, is now between N500, 000 and N600, 000. The amount excludes agreement and commission which range  between N100, 000 and  N150, 000.

But Babajide Shittu, a member of Odogunyan Landlords’ Association, said the decision to collect one or two years’ rent advance was  for individual landlord to make. He decried the attitude of some tenants which is capable of frustrating the workability of the new law. According to Shittu, some tenants do not want to pay their rents as and when due thereby provoking landlords to take unpalatable decisions. He cited a case of a tenant in his apartment who refused to pay his rent for about six months despite the intervention of Citizens Mediation Centre, CMC, as an example. “No landlord wants to create trouble for his tenants but when you are pushed to the wall, you would react accordingly,” Shittu said.

Nonetheless, Ben Ude, managing partner, Ekejiuba Chamber, Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, has commended the Lagos State government for considering the interest of tenants in the new law. But he explained that the law would be difficult to implement because the number of prospective tenants in Lagos, are more than the available accommodation. Under such a situation, he said, no law can  properly regulate the tenancy agreement because the forces of demand and supply would come into play. To solve the lingering conflict between landlords and tenants, Ude suggested a massive building of low cost houses for residents.

The Lagos tenancy law imposes some obligations on landlords. These include, keeping the premises insured against loss or damage, not seizing, any item or property of the tenant or preventing, interfering with the tenant’s access to his personal property, and to effect repairs and maintain the external and common parts of the premises. Some of the tenants obligations include, payment of rents at the right time and in the manner stated, keeping the premises in good and tenantable repair, reasonable wear and tear excepted, and notifying the landlord where structural or substantial damage has occurred to any part of the premises as soon as practicable.

On Their Reverse Gear

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Gbenga Adebayo
Gbenga Adebayo

The rapid increase in demand for GSM lines adversely affects the subscriber base of the Code Division Multiple Access operators

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE rapid growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria, is yet to permeate the Code Division Multiple Access, CDMA, otherwise known as digital cellular technology phones. While the demand for active telephone lines in the Global System for Mobile Communication, GSM, has been on a sharp increase, that of CDMA has been on the decline. According to the subscriber data of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the total active subscriber base at the end of October 2012 was 109.4 million. The figure shows a 2.1 million increase of active telephone subscriptions from September to October 2012. As at September 2012, the active total subscriber base was 107.3 million.

Newly introduced CDMA phones
Newly introduced CDMA phones

An analysis of the data shows that the growth in the subscriber base was only experienced in the GSM sector. According to the statistics, while the GSM operators, including MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat increased their combined subscriptions from 103.6 million in September to 105.9 million in October 2012, the CDMA operators such as Visafone, Starcomms, Multi-Links, and Zoom Mobile experienced a decline in their subscriber base from 3.2 million in September to 3.1 million in October 2012.  Like the trend in the CDMA operations, the subscription base of wired and wireless networks also declined from 474,345 lines to 454,644 within the same period.

The poor performance of CDMA operators in the industry has raised the fear that their GSM counterparts could wipe them out of the Nigerian market in the nearest future. In June last year, when three of the CDMA operators started merger talks, subscribers of the network were relieved that there was hope of survival of the none-GSM operators. Consequently, Starcomms, Multi-Links and MTS Wireless, had agreed to merge to become more competitive in the industry. But the merger is yet to yield any fruitful result.  Currently, the CDMA operator that has the highest subscriber base in the country is Visafone with about two million lines, whereas, the lowest subscriber base GSM network is Etisalat with about 14 million active lines. Etisalat came into the Nigerian market about three years ago.

A mobile phone user
A mobile phone user

Grace Hammed, an operator of business centre, said that she had used a CDMA line for three years before she abandoned it for a GSM line. Her reason was that the CDMA line later became expensive to use especially when calling GSM lines. “When you make on-line calls to a CDMA, it is actually cheaper than GSM, and an off network call with CDMA to GSM is very expensive. The issue is that I don’t have much CDMA contacts; so I spend more in making calls to my GSM contacts. That is the reason I dropped my CDMA line for a GSM line,” she said.

For Adikwu Musa, a trader, the poor telecom services of the CDMA made him to stop using his CDMA line two years ago. To him, the evidence of call drops and the inability to connect to calls happen more in CDMA networks than in GSM. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, attributed the dwindling nature of CDMA to the high cost of doing business in the country. To him, each of the operators spend millions of Naira on security of facilities, power generation, and pay multiple taxes to different levels of government in the country. “The total money spent on power and other infrastructures can be used in network expansion for the operators,” he said.

Another Wasteful Venture

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The Port Harcourt refinery

The federal government has earmarked $1.6 billion for turn-around-maintenance of the three government-owned refineries but many Nigerians see the allocation as reckless and misdirected

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IF there is anything that Nigerians wish that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, should accomplish quickly without much ado, it is getting the refineries to function optimally. This will help to limit the importation of petroleum products and fuel subsidy paid to importers. The three government-owned refineries in the country have not been able to function at full capacity for a myriad of reasons. They include corruption, vandalisation of pipelines, and the inability of the federal government to budget funds for the Turn Around Maintenance, TAM, which is supposed to be done every two years.

Even when the government makes such budget available, corrupt NNPC officials connive with other government officials and contractors to divert the fund. Consequently, when the TAM of the refineries are eventually done years after they are due, it is done haphazardly and in a most inefficient manner because all the equipment that have corroded over the years are not replaced in an effective way by contractors who know little or nothing about how the refineries were built in the first place.

Allison-Madueke
Allison-Madueke

This is why the country welcomed the idea espoused last year by Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, when she said that the original builders will be engaged to do the TAM of refineries. But Nigerians are worried about the whopping sum allocated for the exercise after the Kalu Idika Kalu Presidential Committee which investigated the problems of the refineries recommended their outright privatisation. Most people are not convinced that the N251 billion ($1.6 billion) budget for the TAM will revamp the refineries to the extent that they will start meetinglocal demand for petroleum products in the nearest future. They base their argument on previous experiences where nothing much came out of the previous TAM of the refineries. Successive governments had sunk billions of naira in the TAM of the refineries without achieving much. There was the recent case of $17 million siphoned by the late President Umaru Yar Adua’s family, which was meant for the TAM of the Kaduna refinery.

This notwithstanding, every other successive governments in the country has had its share of the juicy TAM contracts, most of them in a dubious manner. In 1997, the government of General Sani Abacha, awarded a $215 million contract for the TAM of the Kaduna refinery. The administration of Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998 set aside $92 million for the refineries without achieving any result. Between 1999 and 2003, during the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was estimated that between $254 million and $400.4 million was wasted on the TAM of the refineries and repairs of vandalised pipelines. In 2007, the TAM contract for Kaduna alone cost about $24 million in cash and materials worth $30 million, bringing the total to about $54 million. To most analysts, the amount of money wasted so far would have solved the problem of fuel importation by investing in new refineries.

The fear of Nigerians is that the government might have embarked on another of such wasteful projects. “Nothing will come out of it, except opening up another avenue for graft. That the original firms which built the refineries have been contracted by the ministry for the purpose, as repeatedly emphasised by Alison-Madueke, is immaterial. It is more like an old wife’s tale,” said Manger Maduka, a petroleum engineer, adding that the experience since 1999, with hundreds of millions of dollars appropriated yearly for TAM but without results, is enough to establish the futility of further cash injections.

Another reason the refineries are not working effectively even when the TAM of the refineries are completed is pipeline vandalisation. Austen Oniwon, former group managing director of the NNPC, described pipeline vandalism as a “big threat to the comprehensive capacity utilisation of the nation’s refineries.” Pipeline vandalism has also hampered efficient distribution of petroleum products. In December 2011, the Port Harcourt Refinery was shut down because the pipeline supplying crude to it was severely vandalised. According to Oniwon, “if the pipelines are made to work, the bridging cost of N5.80 will not be borne by Nigerians and will go a long way in revamping the Pipeline Product Marketing Company, PPMC, depots across the country”. At a time Warri refinery was down because the chanomi creek pipeline was also vandalised. The government has also spent huge amounts of money in protecting the pipeline using the repentant militants in the Niger-Delta, but that has not stopped the vandalisation of the refineries.

Last year, amidst the allegation that the federal government was losing N700 billion annually in projected revenue through the Kaduna refinery as well as N12 billion on remuneration of staff who were idle because the refinery was not functioning, the late Levi Ajuonuma, former group general manager, Public Affairs Division, NNPC, said it was not true that the refinery was idle because it was operating at 60 percent installed production capacity amid artificially induced challenge of pipeline vandalism.

Idika Kalu
Idika Kalu

It should be noted that the Kaduna Refinery was privatised during the twilight of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and sold to Blue Star Consortium at about $720 million. But late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua succumbed to popular demand of the workers and revoked the sale. Maybe, if the sale had remained, the refinery would have been better off for it.

Part of the problems of the refineries could also be attributed to internal sabotage from officials who stand to benefit from the inefficiency of the refineries. The recent N251 billion ($1.6 billion) budget for the TAM, of refineries have not raised the hope of meeting local demands from the refineries in the nearest future. Nigerians fear that the plan by the government to spend such a huge chunk of money in a TAM would be another fruitless step like other previous projects. While the government has failed to build new refineries, the existing four have been sink holes to the resources of the federal government.

Infact every successive administration has sunk millions of dollars in a TAM that never revived the four refineries. The four of them hardly operate above the average of their installed capacity. The new TAM which is expected to commence in the first quarter of this year, will be completed by October 2014. According to the schedule of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the TAM will commence with the refinery in Port Harcourt, before the first quarter of the year. The Warri refinery will be next after Port Harcourt, followed by that of Kaduna.

According to Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum, the TAM is to improve the capacity of the refineries to meet local demands. She said that TAM of the refineries should be done every two years. The TAM of the Port Harcourt refinery was last done in 2000, while that of the Kaduna refinery was in 2008. The governments plan is to increase the local refining capacity of the three refineries being managed by NNPC to 90 per cent of their installed capacity by 2014. The four refineries in the country including the one managed by Indorama Petrochemicals, Port Harcourt, have a total production capacity of 445,000 barrels per day, bpd, but they are currently running at about 60 percent capacity.

The TAM of the Port Harcourt refinery was scheduled to have been done earlier. JGC, the original builder of the refinery, stopped its officials from coming for the upgrade and maintenance of the refinery after a negative travel advisory from the government of Japan. But now, JGC is ready to move its official to Nigeria to start work in the refinery.

According to the NNPC, final touches were being put on the bid process for the TAM. Single bids are expected for the repairs because only the original builders of each of the refineries have been commissioned to carry out the TAM unlike in the past where any company can bid for the maintenance of the refineries.

The present move to make the refineries work may not be unconnected with pressures mounted on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, in January 2012. For six days, Nigerians took over the streets in the major towns of the country demanding for a re-structuring of the petroleum sector of the economy. The protests were caused by an increase in fuel price from N65 to N141 a litre. After six days of protest, the federal government pledged to embark on a total overhaul of the petroleum industry to enable it function efficiently and also reduce the current dependence on imported petroleum products. The refineries, when operating at installed capacity, would produce between 18 million and 22 million litres of the 35 million litres consumed daily in the country.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Some Nigerians do not see the rationale behind spending such a large amount of money for TAM of the refineries. Adegbe Oloja, an energy economist and Samuel Udoh, a legal practitioner, are some of the people who see the budget for TAM as wasteful. While Udoh described the action as scandalous, Oloja said it would be wasteful for the government to spend such a huge amount of money on TAM when new refineries could be built with that amount of money.  “The refineries should have been sold and the money used to build modern ones. Why should we spend so much in the TAM of refineries whose facilities and technology have gone obsolete?” he asked.

To Oloja, what former President Obasanjo did would have been best for this country: sell them off and invest the money in building one or two modern refineries. Because after this TAM, the management of the refineries will still not be as efficient compared to organisations managed by the private sector. He explained that if the government channels its resources into building one or two modern refineries, what they would be producing would be enough for the country to consume and may even leave some for export and that will permanently put an end to fuel import and subsidy.

Oloja does not believe that the October 2014 target date is achievable going by the contract terms with the companies that would carry out the TAM. “I understand that there is a clause which states that the contract will be on turnaround and operate for some time before handing over. During the period of operation by the contractors, any incident of vandalism on the infrastructure will be repaired by them, and not the government; this may be an issue in delaying the process,” he said.

Another reason that might delay the TAM which the government failed to consider is the availability of the materials for the maintenance work. According to Oloja, the materials needed for the maintenance of the refineries have to be manufactured abroad according to specification, and then shipped to Nigeria before being transported to site. All these processes take time and may delay the completion of the project.

Nonetheless, the federal government was applauded in June 2012, when it announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with a consortium of American investors, and Vulcan Petroleum Resources, for the building of six high-tech modular refineries at a cost of N697.5 billion. The six high-tech refineries would have a total of 180,000 barrels per day installed capacity. At that time, the modular refineries were believed to be a better option to the endless repairs of existing refineries. Under the agreement, two of the modular refineries ought to be completed within one year, each with a capacity to refine 30,000 bpd. But none of these refineries has materialised months after the announcement by the government.

The much-awaited Greenfield Refineries billed for Lagos, Bayelsa and Kogi States, also scheduled to come on stream by 2017 may not be realisable. Up till now, construction works have not started on the sites of the three refineries. This is because, the NNPC is yet to secure approval of the federal government to commence work on the refineries. The NNPC and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, CSCEC, Limited had in 2010 signed an MoU for the joint sourcing of funds for the construction of the three new refineries and a petrochemical plant in Nigeria under a $28.5 billion deal. The project would have increased Nigeria’s refining capacity to more than one million barrels per day bpd from the current 445,000 bpd capacity and stem the flood of importation of refined products into the country.

Despite this, Alison-Madueke is now of the opinion that the N251 billion TAM of the old refineries is the ultimate solution to the recurring problem of scarcity of petroleum products in the country.

Obasanjo
Obasanjo

Apart from the fact that previous TAM of the existing refineries in the country did not yield the expected results, in spite of the huge capital sunk into them, the ministry of petroleum has also not convinced Nigerians that the current plan will make any difference. In the past, such repairs ended up creating a cartel of fuel importers, who feasted on the money voted for the exercise. This has resulted in loss of confidence of many Nigerians in the ability of the NNPC to keep the refineries in good shape to meet its installed production capacity. Udoh said Nigerians have been fooled too many times under the guise of maintenance of refineries. He also fears that the planned repair may be a smokescreen by government to complete the removal of subsidy on petroleum products, which it failed to actualise in January 2012 due to the nationwide strike that trailed partial withdrawal of the subsidy.

Udoh’s position may not be unfounded because Labaran Maku, minister of information, had hinted late last year that the repair of the old refineries and the establishment of three additional ones in Bayelsa, Lagos and Kogi states, would be part of the measures to address the lingering problems in the production and supply of petroleum products across the country, and possibly a prelude to a total deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector.

The skepticism over the TAM got a boost from the recommendations of Kalu Idika Kalu National Refineries Special Task Force, report which exposed the depth of corruption in the Nigerian oil and gas sector. The report, like such previous ones, revealed the dismal state of Nigeria’s four government-owned refineries, thus depicting how colossal funds spent on their TAM have gone down the drain. The report claimed that Nigeria had the third largest refining capacity on the continent with its  445,000 barrels per day installed capacity, but had 18 per cent capacity utilisation and efficiency, compared to South Africa with a capacity of 540,000bd and capacity utilisation of 85 per cent and Egypt with 774,900bd capacity and 81 per cent efficiency level.

The Kalu committee further revealed that of the 42 oil refineries operating in Africa, the three in Nigeria recorded the worst performance in terms of efficiency and capacity utilisation. By NNPC’s admission, the combined average refining capacity utilisation for 2010 was 21.53 per cent as against 10.90 per cent in the previous year. The figure for 2008 was 24.11 per cent, which is 51.34 per cent more than that of 2007. Even the marginal improvement in capacity utilisation was achieved at a huge cost.

Another question yet to be answered by the government and the NNPC is: “Why is it that oil firms operating in the country run oil refineries elsewhere and refuse to do so in Nigeria?” Singapore, with its total oil-refining capacity of 1.3 million bpd, is a major oil refining and trading hub in the region, but has no oil deposit. India imports 70 per cent of its crude oil requirements, mostly from the Middle East. However, the country is not only self-sufficient when it comes to refining the crude oil but is also able to export refined petroleum products.

This may not be why some people want the private sector to operate the refineries and has even argued that government should hands off the building of new refineries or the repair of existing ones. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance, had suggested that private companies issued licences to build their refineries should be encouraged to do so. The Kalu committee recommended that the existing refineries should be sold within 18 months but the government has failed to implement that recommendation.

Perhaps, this is why Abraham Daudu, a petroleum marketer, said that all over the world, refineries are changing hands on a regular basis and the Nigerian government should learn from what is happening in other parts of the world. British Petroleum just recently sold its Texas City Refinery in the US to Marathon Petroleum Corporation for $2.5 billion. In April 2012, Delta Airlines started negotiation to buy Phillips Refinery in Philadelphia, US. The Phillips Refinery has a capacity of 185,000 bbl/day and worth $180 million. Delta Airlines will further spend $100 million to resuscitate the refinery. Daudu is of the view that the buyers of the Nigeria’s obsolete refineries should inject their private funds into the TAM. “This grand fraud must end.  The proposed $1.6 billion TAM for the refineries is uncalled-for and should be dropped. Billions of dollars earmarked for renovating refineries have vanished over the years.  This $1.6 billion is also up for grabs. Nigerians have had enough of the federal government’s insincerity and intrigues on the refineries,” he said.

Guilty as Charged

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Henry Okah
Henry Okah

A South African court finds Henry Okah, leader of MEND, guilty of a 13-count charge of acts of terrorism in Nigeria

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

HENRY Okah, the 48-year-old, believed to be the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has become the first person convicted for acts of terrorism allegedly carried out by MEND. A South African court found him guilty of 13-count charges bordering on terrorism. He would be sentenced on January 31.

But Okah has said he is a victim of political intrigues and that he had never been a leader of MEND but just its sympathiser. However, one fact that has remained incontrovertible is that MEND has claimed responsibilities for many attacks from 2006 to 2009 on oil companies which included sabotage, guerilla warfare and kidnapping of foreign oil workers. For the crime which Okah was convicted, that is, the bombing carried out around Eagles Square on October 1, 2010, during the anniversary of Nigeria’s 50th independence, MEND had claimed responsibility for it.

Festus Keyamo
Festus Keyamo

But one man who believes that the judgment of the South African court is a political manipulation is Festus Keyamo, a Lagos-based lawyer. In a statement shortly after the ruling, he said the decision of the South African court was a political appeasement to Nigeria.  Keyamo, who is also defending Charles Okah, younger brother to Okah, for similar charges in Nigeria, said he has been actively involved in coordinating the trials both in South Africa and in Nigeria.

According to him, the fundamental flaw in the trial is that Henry Okah was not given adequate facilities and the opportunity to defend himself. “This is because after the prosecution closed its case in South Africa, the defence attorneys and my Chambers here in Abuja, tried frantically to summon the witnesses of Henry Okah who are based here in Nigeria to testify on his behalf. These witnesses include some government officials. In this regard, we wrote to the attorney-general of the federation, who replied and directed that Henry’s counsel in South Africa apply to the court there for an order to secure the legal assistance of the attorney-general of Nigeria. This was only two weeks ago”, he said

He argued that without giving Okah’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives of the attorney general, AG, the South African court foreclosed his opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him. “This is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing and an obvious attempt by the South African authorities to please Nigeria at all cost. That is why the judgment is nothing but political”, Keyamo said.

The perceived politicisation of Okah’s trial gained impetus in October 2010, shortly after the bomb explosion in Abuja.  Then, Okah had told Aljazeera network that he was arrested because he refused to play ball with the presidency when it told him to tell MEND to retract a statement claiming responsibility for the deadly attacks in Abuja. “On Saturday morning, just a day after the attack, a very close associate of President Jonathan called me and explained to me that there had been a bombing in Nigeria and that President Jonathan wanted me to reach out to the group, MEND, and get them to retract the earlier statement they had issued claiming the attacks. They wanted to blame the attacks on northerners who are trying to fight against him (Jonathan) to come back as president and if this was done, I was not going to have any problems with the South African government. I declined to do this and a few hours later, I was arrested. It was based on their belief that I was going to do that that Jonathan issued a statement saying that MEND did not carry out the attack”, Okah said.

But the South African court said Okah was guilty of the 13 terrorism charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and bombings on October 1 2010. The judge said:  “I have come to the conclusion that the state had proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” Judge Nels Claassen said.

On January 25, this year, Edmund Ebiware was also convicted for the October 1 bombing. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a federal high court in Abuja presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole. Ebiware was found guilty of complicity in the bombing which killed 12 Nigerians.

President Jonathan has hailed the judgment from Geneva, Switzerland, where he was attending a world economic summit last week. He said: “Only yesterday {January 21}, one of our brothers, Henry Okah, was jailed in South Africa. If somebody commits a crime, we will make sure we get him even if it takes one month or 10 years”, the president said.

Why Nigeria Joins Mali Operations

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Nigerian troops

Nigeria’s military joins international forces to rout Islamist terrorists, restore peace in Mali and return democracy to the crisis-ridden country

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THEIR mission is not impossible. But Nigerian troops who are being deployed in Northern Mali to participate in the United Nations approved operations, are embattled on two fronts. First, they are in the crisis-ridden West African nation to uproot the Islamist rebels that have captured the North and threatening to overrun the entire country.

Second, the troops are also there to dislodge the Boko Haram sect, a Muslim fundamentalist group, which has been terrorising Nigeria for over three years. For the Nigerian military, getting rid of the Boko Haram sect that has its base in Northern Mali, where it recruits, train and gets arms, is more fundamental because of its link with al-Qaeda, the main international terrorist group.

In an interview with Reuters’ news agency in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, January 22, President Goodluck Jonathan said that Nigeria had a direct interest in the crisis in Mali, because of links between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda’s northern African wing. “We believe that if we stabilise Northern Mali, not just Nigeria but other countries that are facing threats will be stabilised,” Jonathan said in the interview.

He, however, promised that the Nigerian troops on the peace mission in Mali would not leave until democracy returns to the crisis-ridden country. “We cannot pull out until we have solved the problem. I cannot tell you when we will solve the problem, but Nigeria is totally committed and we remain committed until the crisis is resolved. Until democratically elected people take over the government of Mali, we will not pull back,” Jonathan was quoted as saying.

Lieutenant General Azubike Ihejirika, Nigerian chief of army staff, alerted the country on Thursday, January 17, that Mali-trained terrorists had infiltrated the country. If there was any doubt that this was untrue, the reality dawned on Saturday, January 19, when a military detachment heading for deployment in Mali was on the firing line of a splinter group of Boko Haram. Two of the Nigerian soldiers were killed and five others seriously injured. The soldiers from a military unit in Ibadan, Oyo State, South West Nigeria, were on the way to the town of Kachia in northern Kaduna State where they were to prepare for deployment to Mali, when the attackers struck near the city of Okene in Kogi State.

The following day, an Islamist group called Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, JAMBS, or Vanguard for the Aid of Muslims in Black Africa, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to Nigeria’s participation in the military intervention in Mali. JAMBS, which splintered from Boko Haram in June 2012, is believed to have close ties with Islamist groups in North Africa and Mali. The group, in a statement signed by Abu Usamatal Ansary, its leader, asked Nigerian troops to be prepared and ready to face “difficulties from JAMBS any where anytime…” The group also vowed to intensify its attacks on Nigeria and other African nations that might send troops to the troubled country.

The first batch of Nigerian troops arrived in Mali Sunday, January 20, as part of ECOWAS military intervention in Mali codenamed Africa International Support Mission to Mali, AFISMA. Nigeria is contributing 1,200 troops to a 5,500-strong African-led mission in Mali to rout Islamist groups from the north.

This time of the year is extremely cold in Northern Mali, with the sahara wind reaching its peak. This may not be a challenge for Nigerian troops in Mali since combat operations require a lot of physical effort which would regularly keep their body warm. Sources say in addition to combat, the troops would be deployed to man border posts to seal off all exit points for the rebels.

A source close to Mali said the Islamists were skilled in marksmanship and were always trigger happy when they hold weapons. “They are precise in what they do and before and after any operation, they would say their prayers,” the source said. Nigerian troops are also asked to be mindful of JAMIS’ threat that it would be on the lookout for them.

Apart from JAMBS, what appears to be more worrisome for the African troops going into the campaign is the fact that the Islamists, who are being funded by Muslim radicals in the Middle East, have access to caches of sophisticated weapons. They have also benefited from the caches of arms brought into the country by the Tuaregs who fought along with the late Muammar Gaddafi’s troops before his death. In fact, the Tuaregs had been with the late Libyan leader since early 1990s when droughts ravaged their northern enclave and destroyed their herds, thereby leaving them without any means of livelihood. The central government was said to have cared less for them.

Until last year, Mali’s  government itself was a model of an African democracy, since the Malians removed a dictatorial government in 1992. But the democratic success story ended in March last year when a group of young soldiers led by an army captain seized control of the government. Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo said the military was dissatisfied with the attitude of President Amadou Toumani Touré’s government to the rebellion in the North where the Islamists with the support of the Tuaregs had taken over and declared an independent country called Azawad.

The Tuaregs had returned home after the death of Gaddafi to found the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, MNLA, which they used to dislodge the Malian army. But the Islamists, who joined the Tuaregs to prosecute the conflict, had money and were well-horned in strategy which they used to turn against the Tuaregs and routed them. The Islamists also started destroying historic Islamic shrines and, the famous ancient libraries of Timbuktu.

Armed with sophisticated weapons and well-trained soldiers, the Islamists were on the march to Bamako, the capital of the country located in the south, when the French intervened and took the case to the UN for international backing. Intelligence reports revealed that the Islamists with the support of al-Qaeda, had plan to destabilise seven African countries including Algeria, Niger and Nigeria.

Cement War by Another Name

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Dangote
Dangote

Dangote Group shuts down Benue Cement Company, Gboko, citing glut in the cement market but its competitors dismiss the claim insisting the decision is political

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IN the last five years, the cement sub-sector of the economy has been one of the areas Nigeria has attained self-sufficiency in production capacity. While other industries were closing shops due to harsh operating environment, more cement manufacturing industries like the Obajana, and WAPCO cement industries came on stream with millions of metric tonnes of cement and clinkers added to local production. But the recent closure of the Benue Cement Company, BCC, Gboko, Benue state, owned by the Dangote Cement PLC, has raised fears of uncertainty in the cement sub sector of the economy.

Ibeto
Ibeto

The plant has shut down about two months ago. But Nigerians are skeptical about the exact reason that led to the closure. The Dangote group had attributed the problem to glut, its attendant low demand for cement and its inability to compete with the low-priced imported cement. Its competitors dismissed the reason given for the closure and insist that the plant was shut down to allow for Turn Around Maintenance, TAM.

Anthony Chiejina, group head, Corporate Communications, Dangote Group, said that the BCC was closed after inventory in the company increased to 950,000 metric tonnes of cement and clinkers. He refuted the claim by competitors that the plant was closed for TAM. Joseph Makoju, special adviser to Aliko Dangote, president of Dangote Group, and chairman of cement manufacturers’ association of Nigeria, confirmed the glut which he explained, resulted from excess supply of the product in the market. His worry is that more than a month after the plant’s shutdown to reduce local production and erase the glut, the inventory has not depleted much due to persistent low demand.

According to Makoju, the cement industry has been grappling with product glut amid skyrocketing cost of production and increased importation. “While the Dangote Group had reduced local production that might overcome the glut, importation of the product is yet to be reduced. Not just that, the product is also witnessing low demand in the country,” he said.

He disclosed that the production figure for the first 11 months of 2012 showed increased local production level with supply surpassing demand. Total supply of cement to the market at the end of November, according to him, when compared to the same period last year, shows an increase of 11.4 per cent which is the highest ever.

A random market survey in Lagos shows that the retail price of cement has remained unchanged in spite of the glut in the market. In most of the retail cement markets in Lagos the average price per 50kg bag is still between N1,600 and N1,750. Michael Uzochukwu, a cement retailer, said if the claim of glut was to be based on the simple demand and supply factor, many people would have expected the price to have at least reverted to N1,200, the price at which the major building material was sold about two years ago. During a period of scarcity in the past, the price of 50 kg bag of cement rose to N2, 600.

Ibeto-Cement under construction
Ibeto-Cement under construction

However, James Salako, the executive secretary, Cement Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, expressed a contrary opinion. To him, the price of cement has crashed significantly, and would still come down. He agreed that there was a glut in the market, which, he noted, was a great disincentive to local manufacturers.“It is the height of the dry season and demand is supposed to be higher, but that has not been the case. I must say that it had taken manufacturers a lot of sacrifice to stay within the current price bracket in the past four years,” he said. According to him, cement manufacturers have been making presentations to the federal government that they want some form of protection especially against importation but the government has refused to consider their request.

Bismark Rewane, chief executive, Financial Derivatives, expressed worry that government was yet to stop importation of cement despite the increased local production. He expressed concern over the situation and asked for concerted efforts to save the local manufacturers.

However, Ben Aghazu, executive director, Ibeto Cement Company Limited, has dismissed the claim of cement glut in the market. He described the claim as the tactics of monopolists who will do anything and go to any length to choke out competitors in order to dominate the market. He also dismissed the closure of the BCC on account of glut, describing it as dishonest and false. According to him, “time and unfolding events will show that Dangote Group is being economical with the truth. We have it on good authority that the Dangote plant in Gboko, BCC, is programmed to shut down for a TAM only and will resume production when the maintenance has been completed.”

Aghazu described glut as an economic phenomenon that results when a market is excessively supplied with a particular product and the first evidence of such a situation is the drastic reduction in the price of the product and this has not been the case of cement which is still more expensive in Nigeria, than in any other nation in the world.

On the allegation that importation of cement was responsible for the glut, Realnews learnt that the federal government and Ibeto Cement Company had to entered a consent judgment at the Federal High Court, Abuja in 2010, to settle a dispute stopping the company from importing cement into the country. Ibeto Cement Company Limited is currently the only authorised importer of bulk cement in the country. Explaining how the consent judgment came about, Aghazu said that the federal government had issued a guarantee to the company that its proposed cement bagging plant in Bundu Ama, near Port Harcourt, should operate for a minimum period of 10 years from commissioning so as to meet the strict funding requirements of the lending institutions. The federal government had also encouraged the company with appropriate incentives such as reduced duty on imported equipment and waiver of Value Added Tax, VAT.

Rewane
Rewane

The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 shut down the Ibeto factory in Port Harcourt. It alleged that Ibeto cement did not comply with an existing policy which stated that unless an importer owns a cement milling plant, he cannot engage in the business of bagging bulk cement. It was alleged that Ibeto had no milling plant at the time Obasanjo took the action, but now that its milling plant is about to be completed. Perhaps, this may be one of the reasons the federal government agreed to settle out of court with Ibeto. According to Ibeto cement company, after various appeals to the federal government failed, the company went to court in 2006, to seek justice and the dispute was finally settled out of court after extensive negotiations involving all relevant federal ministries and MDAs.

“In the judgment order, the federal government acknowledged that the Ibeto Cement Company Bagging Plant was unjustifiably closed down. The government also acknowledged the enormous losses suffered by Ibeto Cement Company from the unjustified closure from 2005 to October 2007.” Part of the judgment order states that Ibeto Cement Company Limited should be allowed to import 1.5 million tonnes of bulk cement per annum for the period October 1, 2007, through 30 September, 2017, in line with the government guarantee.

Following that judgment, Ibeto Group is allowed to imports 1.5 million tonnes of cement annually, which is less than five per cent of the annual cement supply to the Nigerian market.  “We do not believe that the federal government should be misled into doing this because doing so will go against the spirit of the out-of-court settlement agreement between the federal government and Ibeto Cement, especially since Ibeto Cement, as stated, is currently the sole importer of cement,” Aghazu said.

The company also alleged that: “in order to position its proposed cement plant to be built in the South-South zone to operate monopolistically, the Dangote group is also trying to get the federal government to ban the importation of clinkers or in the alternative, drastically increase the duties and taxes on clinker imports so as to rattle and destabilise a cement manufacturer in that area and thus complete its strategic monopolistic domination of the Nigerian cement market. We believe that the Dangote Group has positioned its factory to dominate the South-East cement market and to ensure that no other cement manufacturing company operates in the south east zone.”

A report published in 2006 shows that Dangote holds 81 percent of the Nigerian sugar market, 40 percent of the cement market; 33 percent of flour; 54 percent of pasta and 72 percent of salt. The latest figure indicates that the Dangote Group still maintains the first position in each of these commodities. It is now controlling about 93 percent of the sugar market, 86 percent of cement, 73 percent of flour, 74 percent of pasta and 89 percent of salt.

While the Gboko plant remains shut down, about 920 workers are currently out of jobs. Jeremiah Marcus, head of human assets management and administration, BCC PLC, Gboko plant, said that the workers were placed on compulsory leave until the plant resumes production again. Marcus said 890 Nigerians and 30 expatriates were affected by the shutdown. More than 1500 people who are involved in providing different services to the company were also affected by the shutdown.

The Truth About Oil Discovery

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Aliyu Wamakko, Sokoto State governor
Aliyu Wamakko

The Department of Petroleum Resources is unhappy with Kwara and Sokoto states for making false claims that there is crude oil in their domains

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, has refuted claims by Sokoto and Kwara State governments that crude oil has been found in their domains. Belema Osibodu, DPR’s deputy director, public affairs, made the refutal in an e-mail sent to Realnews in reaction to the magazine’s story titled: The Politics of Oil Deposits.

“With regard to the purported crude oil find at Oran-Orin in Kwara State, DPR officials visited the site for an on-the-spot assessment and investigation, last year. They collected soil and water samples from the vicinity. Following laboratory analyses, the results showed that the sample was NOT crude oil. There was therefore no crude oil discovery in the State,” Osibodu said. The DPR’s find apparently runs counter to the claim of the state government that oil exists in commercial quantity in the state.

Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara State governor
Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara State governor

In August 2011, the media was awash with the news that the Kwara State government had discovered crude oil deposits in the state. According to the report credited to Muideen Akorede, senior special assistant to the governor on media and communications, the said discovery was in Ara Orin in Irepodun local government area of the state. But late Levi Ajuonuma, the then group general manager, group public affairs of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was quick to react to such claim. He advised the state government to hold its breadth until the corporation verified the claim since petroleum resources belong to the entire federation.

Osibodu also said the DPR carried out an independent investigation to know the veracity of Sokoto government’s claim about oil discovery in the state. “Our findings show that no exploration activity took place, neither is there any currently taking place in the area. Also, there has not been any drilling activity or any record of drilling approval given by the DPR. There was also no well test carried out to establish any discovery. There is therefore no evidence of hydrocarbon extrusion in the area or any discovery of crude oil in Sokoto State,” she said.

Again, as in the case of Kwara State, Sokoto State is still insisting that it has oil. In fact, Governor Aliyu Wamakko has said a team of scientists he commissioned to explore oil in the state had confirmed the existence of crude oil deposits in commercial quantity. The governor said in August last year that the state would make a presentation to the federal government on how to exploit the crude oil that has been discovered in commercial quantity in the state.

“After having made the discovery, we are going to make a formal presentation to the federal government to commence the process or allow us to continue. Once we make the formal presentation to the federal government and there is fund, then we will talk to you in details on what is and how it is,” he said. Wamakko said the onus was now on the federal government to act appropriately.

Osibodu has, however, urged state governors to always verify their claims first before going public. She said it was no use trying to be counted as oil producing states without facts to substantiate it.

The New Face of Ibadan

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Staff of Oyo State Waste Management Authority
Staff of Oyo State Waste Management Authority

Abiola Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State, has put in place a policy designed to move Ibadan from the dirtiest to the cleanest city in Nigeria

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IBADAN, the capital of Oyo State, used to be the dirtiest city in Nigeria where refuse were dumped indiscriminately by residents. The indiscriminate dumping of waste by the residents had led to the blockage of several drainages in the town. That is why Ibadan is prone to flooding during rainy seasons. For instance, between 2011 and 2012, more than 150 people lost their lives as a result of floods of unimaginable proportions.

But the present administration under Governor Abiola Ajimobi has evolved a policy to make the city one of the cleanest in the country.  Between 2011 and last year, more waste disposal vehicles were procured by the state government to evacuate refuse from every part of the town to dump sites. To effectively manage the waste, the government has established an agency known as Oyo State Solid Waste Management Authority. With the establishment of the agency, a  facelift has been given to Ibadan town. Adebisi Adesina, chairman, Oyo State Solid Waste Management Authority, said, in addition, the street cleaning initiative embarked upon by the agency had been remodeled.

“More refuse bins have been taken to major routes to curtail indiscriminate dumping of refuse,” Adesina said.  The new approach has increased the volume of evacuated wastes from 15,000 metric tonnes in December 2011, to 37,784.57 metric tonnes in March 2012. Mohammed Ibrahim, residing at Iwo road, Ibadan, said the present administration’s effort at making Ibadan one of the cleanest towns has started yielding result. “If you come to Ibadan about three years ago and now, you would notice the difference,” Ibrahim said.

Abiola Ajimobi
Abiola Ajimobi

Ibadan is also a busy town, with a population of about 1.3 million people, according to the 2006 population census figure. A lot of business activities thrive in the city. It is a major center for trade in cassava, cocoa, cotton, timber, rubber, and palm oil. The main industries in the area are involved in  processing agricultural products; tobacco processing and cigarette manufacturing, flour-milling, leather-work and furniture-making. There are also an abundance of clay and kaolin deposits and aquamarine activities in its environs. Besides, there are several cattle ranches, a dairy farm as well as a commercial abattoir in Ibadan. The usual gridlock in the town always provides an opportunity for young men and women to hawk different kinds of wares along the major roads especially from the tollgate to Iwo road junction.

Several tertiary and post primary institutions exist in the city. For example, the first university to be set up in Nigeria was the University of Ibadan.  It was established as a college of the University of London in 1948, and later converted into an autonomous university in 1962. It has the distinction of being one of the premier educational institutions in Africa.  The Polytechnic, Ibadan, is also located in the city. There are also numerous public and private primary and secondary schools located in the city. Other noteworthy tertiary institutions in the city include the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital, also known as University College Hospital, UCH, which is the first teaching hospital in Nigeria; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, NISER,  the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, the Nigerian Horticultural Research Institute, NIHORT, and the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, IAR&T,  and the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria.

The cost of living in Ibadan is relatively cheap compared with other major cities like Lagos and Abuja. It is in Ibadan, especially in Mapo area, that one can still rent a one room apartment for as low as N500 a month. The town is also known for its relative peace apart from the recent crisis in the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, which has threatened the peace of the city. The lingering crisis between supporters of Lamidi Mukaila, aka, auxillary, and Lateef Akinsola, aka, Tokyo, has led to the death of innocent people in the town.

The means of transport in the town include taxis, mini buses, private and commercial cars and motor cycles. All fares are negotiable. To boost the transport system in the state, Alao Akala, former governor of the state, revived the state moribund Trans City Company in 2008, when he bought 55 brand new buses to boost its fleet.

The city is surrounded by four rivers with many tributaries. They are, Ona River in the North and West; Ogbere River towards the East; Ogunpa River flowing through the city and Kudeti River in the Central part of the metropolis. Ibadan has a tropical wet and dry climate with a lengthy wet season and relatively constant temperatures throughout the course of the year. Ibadan’s wet season runs from March through October. November to February forms the city’s dry season, during which Ibadan experiences the typical West African harmattan. The mean total rainfall in Ibadan is 1420.06 mm, falling in approximately 109 days. There are two  months of peak rainfall in June and September.

Walking a Tight Rope

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Super Eagles in Action
Super Eagles in Action

Nigeria’s Super Eagles stand the risk of not reaching the quarter final stage because they have bungled the match with  Zambia and after throwing away their lead in the first match against Burkina Faso

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Stephen Keshi
Stephen Keshi

THE on-going African cup of nations in South Africa has started to produce the likely teams that would qualify for the quarter final stage. In the games played so far, South Africa, the host nation, is on course after winning its second group match against Angola. It is now leading group A with four points. A draw against Morocco will give it qualification to the quarter final stage. Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Tunisia, all started their group matches on a brighter note, winning their first matches. Ghana has also stepped up their chances after winning Mali.

However, countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Morocco and the DR Congo have to win their next group matches in order to qualify for the quarter final. In group C, Nigeria and Zambia have two points, Ethiopia has one while  Burkina Faso is leading the group with four points after their second matches.  This means that Nigeria must win its match against Ethiopia on Tuesday, January 29, to have any hope of advancing to the next stage. A draw will put the nation in a precarious position.

Soccer analysts have already started touting the match between Nigeria and Zambia as the final before the final for the Nigerian Super Eagles. But they are also optimistic that the nation’s team will qualify for the quarter final. The Super Eagles played an entertaining game in their return to the continental showpiece but missed a couple of great chances that would have put them on the driving seat in their first group match. Playing a compact football of 4-4-2 formation, the team has so far showed class and quality. Stephen Keshi, coach of the team, has appealed to Nigerians to be patient and promised that the team would deliver.

Emenike celebrating his goal against Burkina Faso
Emenike celebrating his goal against Burkina Faso

But many football lovers in the country are still sceptical of the Eagles’ defence. They said if the defence did not firm up, it would be difficult when it faces strong oppositions like Ghana, the DR Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Tunisia at the advanced stages of the competition. The red card given to Efe Ambrose, Nigerian defender, in the match against Burkina Faso exposed the quality of its defence.

On the other hand, the Burkina Faso players lacked the creativity to break the Nigerian defence until Alain Traore, a striker, capitalised on a slip by Godfrey Oboabona, a defender, in the fourth minute of stoppage time to level scores.

After the game, Keshi congratulated his players. To him, it was not a bad game. “I’m very proud of the boys; they did everything that I wanted them to do. In the last 25 days, it is the fourth game we played together as a team because we are building, I would let everything die down tonight, let them sleep off and tomorrow I will pick it up if I have to go in the middle of the night, I will do that. This game is gone and I will prepare them for the game against Zambia,” Keshi said. The outcome of the next game will determine whether Keshi will still be proud of his boys.

Exit of Mother-of-All

3
Late Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo
Late Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo

Prominent Nigerians from all walks of life grace the funeral of Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo, a fashion designer, in Umuoji, Anambra State

|  Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

SHE was a creative icon whose works cut across many aspects of human life. Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo, 76, former staff of the defunct Chase Manhattan Merchant Bank and the proprietor of COONITA gift shoppe, died on December 3, 2012 ,and was buried on January 12, in Umuoji in Idemili North local government area of Anambra State. She was survived by her three children, Emeka, Ifeyinwa and Chukwuma, and many other relations.

Chigbo also worked with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC as a part-time broadcaster on the popular Shakey Shakey and Alao television reality shows. Her desire for fashion and design led her to Enugu where she established COONITA gift shoppe and Yasmine Couture, an outfit that brought fame.

Besides, her passion for fashion and design took her to places like Greece, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia where she traded on jewelleries, handbags, shoes and household accessories. Her fashion outfit, Yasmine Couture, was recognised far and wide. She was known for her creative designs, her attention to details, the quality of her products, perfection, and her sense of elegance. In fact, she won a creativity award for her designs and creations.

Chigbo, fondly called Mama Uwa, (Mother -of-all) by her admirers, attended Holy Rosary Convent School, Enugu and Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos. After her secondary school education, Ifeyinwa proceeded to the University College Hospital, Ibadan, where she studied nursing. She also earned a certificate in secretarial studies from Pitmans College in Holborn, London.

Prominent Nigerians that attended the burial includes Virginia Etiaba, former governor of Anambra State, Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Group, Fola Adeola, former managing director of Guarantee Trust Bank, GTB, Margaret Obi, wife of Anambra State governor and Pius Muoghalu, former director of finance and supply, National Youths Service Corps, NYSC.

Nuclear family of Late Ifeyinwa Chigbo at the burial praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased
Nuclear family of Late Ifeyinwa Chigbo at the burial praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo praying for the deceased
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo praying for the deceased
MIC Lagos pall bearers carrying the remains of Late Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo
MIC Lagos pall bearers carrying the remains of Late Ifeyinwa Comfort Chigbo
Asue consoling his wife, Ify Ighodalo, daughter of the deceased
Asue consoling his wife, Ify Ighodalo, daughter of the deceased
Oyebode Jide Coker with other mourners at the burial
Oyebode Jide Coker with other mourners at the burial
R-L: Sarah Okagbue, Olojede, Fola Adeola and other mourners
R-L: Sarah Okagbue, Olojede, Fola Adeola and other mourners
Beatrice Kolade and Yinka Ikenze, best friends of the deceased
Beatrice Kolade and Yinka Ikenze, best friends of the deceased
Christopher Kolade (middle), former chairman of Cadbury and the deceased's son
Christopher Kolade (middle), former chairman of Cadbury and the deceased’s son
Chukwuma Chigbo, second son of the deceased
Chukwuma Chigbo, second son of the deceased
Dangote and the Chigbo kinsmen
Dangote and the Chigbo kinsmen
Janine and Emeka Chigbo
Janine and Emeka Chigbo
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo at the burial ceremony
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo at the burial ceremony
Dele Olojede, publisher, NEXT newspaper
Dele Olojede, publisher, NEXT newspaper
Gbenga Oyebode, chairman, Access Bank, at the burial
Gbenga Oyebode, chairman, Access Bank, at the burial
Dangote, president, Dangote Group
Dangote, president, Dangote Group

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