Africa urgently needs a single market to fight poverty- Buhari

Ebun Francis || Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called for the speedy establishment of a single-unified market in Africa to increase trade, create more jobs, and reduce poverty on the continent.

President Buhari made the call while addressing African leaders at the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

He was briefing the leaders on Nigeria’s position in favour of the report on the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and related issues presented by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.

“It is Nigeria’s position that as African leaders and principal architects of our union, we must now speed up action to conclude the negotiations and establish the CFTA,” President Buhari said in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

Noting that the continent has missed the timeline set by the African Union (AU) in January 2012 to establish the CFTA in 2017, he was optimistic that African leaders still had the opportunity to set it up by March 2018.

“In a rapidly changing global economy, with much uncertainty, we believe that the establishment of a CFTA would provide Africa with tremendous opportunity to achieve significant growth driven by intra-African trade,” the President said in justifying Nigeria’s vote for the CFTA.

According to him, while the stakes in setting up CFTA are no doubt very high, the benefits are wide-ranging and significant.

“The primary objective is economic namely, for trade in goods and services on the continent”, President Buhari said.

“A single, unified market would lead to a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement amongst African Union Member States. If we integrate Africa’s market for trade in goods and services, we will not only double intra-African trade, but also negotiate with other regions or continents on trade matters,” he added.

The President further argued that if Africa increases its trade, the people would grow faster, create more jobs, and reduce poverty.

He reiterated that Africa would be more integrated, united and prosperous with the CFTA.

“CFTA will carry significant welfare gains associated with increased production, consumption and revenue. It will generate more economic growth, enhance efficiency and support enterprise and innovation,” said President Buhari.

He then urged his colleagues at the summit to also look beyond the economic benefits of the CFTA, stressing that it would “be another step in uniting Africa and consolidating the architecture of the African Union.”

In his words, the Nigerian leader stated: “The establishment of the CFTA is also the first step for the African Union in the implementation of “Agenda 2063” for the socio-economic transformation of the continent, as well as being a building block in the achievement of the goals of the 1991 Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community.”

He further commended President Issoufou on his role as the “AU Champion for the CFTA”.

President Buhari described his Nigerien counterpart as a leader whose work “has significantly advanced our goal to conclude and launch the CFTA.”

With agency report

Adeosun suspends SEC DG, two others

Ebun Francis || The minister of finance, Kemi Aseosun has suspended Mounir Gwarzo, director-general of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to Adeosun, Gwarzo’s suspension is to allow an unhindered investigation into allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him.

Also suspended with him are, Abdulsalam Naif Habu, head of media division, and Anastastia Omozele Braimoh, head of legal department.

Gwarzo’s suspension followed allegation that he allegedly got a severance package of N104 million shortly after he was named DG in 2015.

Patricia Deworitshe in a statement on behalf of the Minister said the ministry of finance has set up an administrative panel to investigate the matter.

“The suspension is in line with the public service rules (PSRs) 03405 and 03406,” the statement read.

“She has directed the suspended SEC director-general to immediately hand over to the most senior officer at the commission, pending the conclusion of investigation by the API.”

Trump warns ‘fire and fury’ if North Korea threatens U.S., Pyongyang weighs Guam strike

President Donald Trump warned North Korea on Tuesday it would face “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States, prompting the nuclear-armed nation to say it was considering firing missiles at Guam, a U.S.-held Pacific island.

As tensions escalated, Pyongyang said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, site of a U.S. military base. A North Korean military spokesman, in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency, said the plan would be put into practice once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea said it could carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of a U.S. provocation.

Washington has warned it is ready to use force if need be to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions.

The consequences of any U.S. strike would potentially be catastrophic not only for North Koreans but also South Korea, Japan and the thousands of U.S. military personnel within range of any North Korean retaliatory strikes.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump told reporters at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its continued missile tests, that could slash the reclusive country’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

North Korea has made no secret of plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs.

It says its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a legitimate means of defense against perceived U.S. hostility. It has long accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions by conducting military drills.

Osinbajo urges Igbos to Shun violence, hate speeches

Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo continued his interaction with leaders of the various regional groups in the country on Wednesday with a meeting with Igbo leaders where he urged them not to engage in a-tit-for-tat amid hates speeches raging across the country.

Addressing the meeting with Governors from the South East and other leaders, Prof Osinbajo said the need for the gathering has become “very urgent and crucial’’ because of the current loud voices of hate speeches and divisive comments resonating across the country, stressing that the situation required urgent attention from all concerned.

He, therefore, urged them to always speak out against hate speeches and comments capable of polarizing the country along ethnic, sectional and religious lines as this was not the time to hide under any ethnic or religious platform to support comments that divide rather than unite us as a nation.

Prof. Osinbajo said, “violence pays no one.”

“Violence and war are not going to do anyone any good. Wars today hardly end. No one who has seen the face of wars even on television who wish it for anyone.

“We should not tolerate hate speeches or divisive comments.’’

He reiterated the Federal Government’s resolve to deal with any trouble maker who threaten the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.

“There is no doubt on the resolve of government to allow anyone get away with hate speeches and divisive words.

“Our emotion should not be allowed to run wide so as to threaten the existence of anyone anywhere in Nigeria.

“We will do everything within our power to protect the lives of every citizen anywhere and in any part of the country.’’

He thanked the leaders for their prompt response to the consultative meeting.

Those who attended the meeting included the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Gov. Willy Obiano of Anambra and Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo.

Others included Chief of staff to the president Abba Kyari, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, NSA, chief of defence staff, service chiefs, Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and ministers.

Former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Senator Eyinaya Abaribe, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Catholic Awka Bishop Okoye, Igwebike Onah Catholic archbishop of Nssuka, Senator Joy Emordi, Prof. Viola Nwuleri also attended the meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting by the Acting President is a continuation of the national dialogue he began on Tuesday with leaders of thought from the North following calls for secession by youth from different ethnic groups in the country.

Osinbajo seeks Senate approval for $1.5bn loan

Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Acting President has asked the Senate to approve a loan of $1.5bn which is part of the 2016-2018 borrowing plan of the federal government for capital projects.

The loan will be used for projects in ten states-  Kaduna, Ogun, Ebonyi, Abia, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Enugu, Plateau, and Ondo.

Osinbajo’s request was contained in a letter he sent to the upper and lower house and read on the floor of the Senate by Saraki on Tuesday.

Part of the letter read, “You may wish to know that the request for the separation of the state’s projects from the list became imperative in view of the state current economic realities in the country and the pressing needs of these States to provide infrastructural and social amenities for their citizens.”

“The total loans for the states being presented for special consideration and approval is US$ 1,492,400,000.00 as listed in paragraph in 1 above.”

A breakdown of the loan request shows that Kaduna is seeking $350 million (World Bank), Ogun, $350 million (World Bank), Ebonyi, $70 million (AfDB) and Abia, $100 million (AfDB).

Also, Katsina intends borrowing $110 million (Islamic Development Bank), Jigawa, $32.4 million (Islamic Development Bank), Ebonyi, $80 million (Islamic Development Bank) and Kano, $200 million.

Enugu, Kano, Plateau, and Ondo are together seeking a sum of N200 million from French Development Agency.

A’Ibom lead other states with N34.8bn from FAAC allocation in 1/2

The first quarter 2017 federation account allocation committee, FAAC, report shows that the federal and state governments shared a total of N1.4 trillion.

Akwa Ibom received N34.8bn, the highest allocation while Osun state got the least, N1.7bn.

The breakdown is contained in the monthly FAAC report.

Obtained by NAN on Sunday, the report indicates that the federal government, states, and LGAs shared N1.4 trillion from the account, being the revenue generated in the first quarter of 2017.

A breakdown of the allocation shows that Abia got N8.42bn, Adamawa, N7.8 bn; Anambra, N8.7bn; Bauchi, N7.9bn; Bayelsa, N22.97bn; Benue, N8.16bn; Borno, N9.74bn and Cross River, N4.28bn.

Also, Delta got N21.5bn; Ebonyi, N7.56bn; Edo, N6.5bn; Ekiti, N4.97bn; Enugu, N7.86bn; Gombe, N6.35bn; Imo, N7.92bn; Jigawa, N9.66bn; Kaduna, N10.56bn and Kano, N14.02 billion.

Katsina’s share was N10.05bn; Kebbi, N8.37bn; Kogi, N8.28bn; Kwara, N6.9bn; Lagos, 19.03bn; Nassarawa, N7.41bn while Niger got N9 billion.

Similarly, Ogun got N4.98; Ondo, N10.22bn; Oyo, N8.bn; Plateau, N5.7bn; Rivers, N26.8bn; Sokoto, N9.07bn; Taraba, N6.9bn; Yobe, N8.33bn and Zamfara, N5.91 billion.

The FAAC report further shows that the revenue shared in January between the three parties was N430.16 billion. FG got N168bn, N114.28bn for states and N85.4bn for LGAs.

In February, there was an increase as the allocation was N514bn with FG took N200.6bn; states, N128.4bn while the LGAs got N96.52bn.

However, in March, revenue generation dipped to N466.9bn in which the FG got N180.5bn, states got N116.5bn while LGAs got N87.5bn.

The allocation was done using the revenue sharing formula of 52.68 percent for federal government, 26.72 percent for the states and 20.60 per cent is for the local governments.

The key agencies that remit funds into the federation account are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

The report also showed that before distribution, state liabilities were deducted including “an external debt of N8.73bn, contractual obligations of N30.15bn and other deductions amounting to N50.23bn”.

Again, Buhari absent at FEC meeting

For the third time in a row President Mohammadu Buhari, Wednesday missed the Federal Executive Council meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting was chaired by Vice- President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Many expected President Buhari to chair Wednesday’s meeting given that he was in the office on Tuesday for the first time in about two weeks.

The Presidency is yet to explain the reason for President Buhari’s absence at the meeting.

Details to follow…

MTN Nigerian explains why it sacked 280 staff

Nigeria Telecommunication giant, MTN on Tuesday gave reasons why the company sack over two hundred of its workforce last Friday.

The majority of those affected in the shakeup were pioneer staff who joined the organisation in 2001 when the company began operation in Nigeria.

Explaining the rationale for the lay off of the affected staff, MTN spokesperson, Funso Aina, said the disengagement was part of an ongoing business transformation drive towards sustained growth, to facilitate the firm’s continued role as a partner for progress and socio-economic development in Nigeria.

According to him, “MTN is a diverse community of committed change agents, brought together in pursuit of a common goal – driving growth and transformation by sharing our technology. Our people are our greatest asset, each individual’s knowledge, experience and ideas contribute to our continued growth and improvement. As such, ensuring a healthy and highly motivated workforce is a priority for us”.

Aina further said that given the above scenario, the company decided to implement a Voluntary Severance Scheme, VSS, designed to balance individual employee needs with business exigencies of the company.

The scheme, he explained, was based on feedback from employees, following consultation with elected employee representatives.

Besides, he said the scheme provided a financial incentive and opportunity for employees, who had worked with MTN Nigeria for over five years, to pursue other career interests and personal ambitions full-time, while increasing opportunities for professionals with a fresh perspective to join.

Although about 200 permanent staff of the company voluntarily took up the VSS offered by MTN management, to enable them move on to face other challenges, the services of about 80 others, made up of those casual and contract workers, were dispensed of by management.

Mr. Aina said both categories of the affected workers, who received their letters last Friday, were given the same severance package in accordance with the number of years of service.

‘The successful conclusion of the VSS exercise last week makes it possible for MTN to tailor the competence and experience base of its workforce to meet technology shifts and future business needs,” he said.