Nigerian Super Model and Dancer - Amanda Igwe

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Lady Gaga

The controversial Lady Gaga continues to be a rich material for the press and tabloids. After her constant change of appearances and looks, she decided take the famous sexy Marlilyn Monroe as her muse in fashion.

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Labour May Shun FG’s PIB Special Taskforce

Senator Udo Udoma Udo By Chineme Okafor Nigeria’s organised labour movement has said that it may not participate in deliberations by the Federal Government’s constituted special taskforce on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The labour movement, which is represented on the Senator Udo Udoma Udo Special PIB Taskforce, which was recently inaugurated by Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke via the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele, stated that it was widely consulting with concerned civil society organisations (CSOs) to determine its acceptance of the invitation. Esele specifically told journalists in Abuja that he had not declined the invitation yet but has not equally attended any of the meetings of the taskforce, adding that he was yet to meet with members of specialised CSOs in the petroleum sector to verify his participation and contribution in the taskforce. He spoke at the 2012 Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) National Conference in Abuja as a discussant on various issues bothering on the administration of revenues and operations in Nigeria’s extractive industries. “I have not said that I will not serve on the taskforce but that I am going to have a meeting with the CSOs that are specialised in the oil and gas sectors because the biggest problem we have in this country is that we have so many CSOs without areas of specialisation unlike other parts of the world. “So, what I want to do is that I know CSOs over the years that are passionate about the PIB and I am going to have to meet with them and whatever they come up with is what I am going to do. So many people are divided about my attendance and acceptance of the invitation even those that do not understand the concepts of the PIB, so I will talk with those who are competent and passionate about that bill to determine what will be my next line action,” he said. The TUC helmsman disclosed that a meeting with the relevant CSOs had been scheduled. According to him, “These CSOs were the ones that called me when the announcement of my invitation was made and insisted that we must meet before I accept it, they equally want me to accept it but would want that we meet first and we will meet next week.” When asked what his contribution will likely be if he eventually accepts the invitation to participate in the taskforce towards the passage of the PIB, Esele noted: “What I do know is that there are about three versions of the bill and there is a technical committee trying to harmonise the bill but I am going to take a look at the bill to know which one is the original through the study of the OGIC report and then with my experience at the last board of NEITI. “So we are going to take the NEITI angle, the CSOs angle and make sure that Nigerians are beneficial in the passage of the bill if eventually I decide to serve on the taskforce.” Alison-Madueke had recently inaugurated a special taskforce to see through the accelerated passage of the PIB by the National Assembly. Esele is expected to serve on the taskforce that is headed by Udoma. Fundamentally, the PIB will re-write Nigeria’s decades-old relationship with its foreign oil partners, altering everything from the fiscal framework for offshore oil projects to the huge involvement of indigenous firms in the sector, thus, giving Nigeria and Nigerians the hope of a transparently home-grown and managed oil and gas sector.

Bonga Spill: Shell Explains Delay in Release of Forensic Report

SPDC MD, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu By Omon-Julius Onabu The Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu has explained the delay in the release of the final report on the forensic examination of the samples of the ‘third party’ oil spill, which was reported 90 kilometres east of Bonga oil field. Fielding questions from journalists in Warri after media over-fly of the contentious spill sites along the Niger-Delta coastline at the weekend, Sunmonu stated that scientific analysis and independent clarification on the samples from the ‘mysterious oil’ found on the Niger Delta coastline in Delta and Bayelsa states involved several stakeholders and recognised environment regulators that constituted the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) team to the area. He said since a “consolidated approach” was being adopted in the matter, the final report would only be made public after the results from the various examination destinations across the globe, including Europe and America, have been received and appropriately harmonised. The JIV comprised the Shell, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency (NOSDRA), representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), international regulators as well as the relevant ministries in Delta and Bayelsa States. Sunmonu however expressed delight that the Shell clean-up initiative prompted by the Bonga Field spill last December “has reached its crucial stage”, saying he was delighted that the efforts had been remarkably successful considering the encouraging feedback so far received from the communities along the shoreline. The Shell boss stressed that his company embarked on the clean-up of the ‘Third Party Spill’, which he said was discovered about five days after the Bonga Field leak on 20 December, 2011, in line with its responsible policy. “That policy entails ensuring safety of human lives and property vis-à-vis protection of the ecological resources in the company’s area of operation and, in cases of emergency, clean-up of the environment concluded before worrying about the cause or apportioning blame,” he said. THISDAY gathered that some coastal communities particularly in Delta and Bayelsa states had demanded that Shell accepted responsibility for the oil spill that occurred along the coastal lines. However, some communities in Bayelsa State are alleged to have refused to allow Shell or its assigned contractors any access to their communities. The communities involved, and which fall within the Oloibiri, Ogbeintu and Agge clean-up areas have given five conditions before the clean-up of their area could be permitted. The demands, it was learnt, include Shell’s acceptance of responsibility for the said third party spill; the supply of relief materials by Shell; the provision of adequate compensation; and, the engagement of only people from the respective communities as contractors in the clean-up operation. But Sunmonu however said it was erroneous for anybody to regard the decision and active move by Shell to clean-up the spill as an indication that the company has admitted responsibility for the spill. “For us at Shell, safety is paramount; we put safety first in everything thing we do”, Sunmonu pointed out. “Once the third party spill was discovered, Shell’s immediate reaction was to activate our 24-hour Emergency Response Team – comprising our Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Warri offices – and commence the clean-up operation with the support of several relevant local and international groups and agencies; notwithstanding the fact that satellite images clearly showed the new oil was in water approximately 100 kilometres away from Bonga,” he explained. He noted that the clean-up of the entire leak from Bonga was practically completed through the aggressive local, national and international efforts duly mobilised before the discovery of the mysterious spill. On gas flaring, Sunmonu said Shell has committed billions of dollars towards the acquisition of the necessary associated gas -gathering equipment, which is aimed at ensuring that the flaring of gas is scaled down and eventually stopped. “The goal of putting an end to gas-flare, other than necessary operational flare, could not come earlier because as it was disrupted by acts of sabotage against Shell facilities allegedly carried out by militants. The SPDC JV has already invested some $2 billion in associated gas gathering (AGG) facilities, which helped reduce flaring significantly between 2002 and 2010. Militant activity and funding issues brought many projects to a halt; but the SPDC JV is now investing more than $3 billion in completing these projects, repairing damaged equipment and building new AGG facilities,” he added. In a related development, the company has reported “remarkable success” in its efforts to divide the numerous coastline communities into 24 cells and appointed local contractors to clean-up the adjoining shoreline. Corporate Media Relations Manager of Shell, Mr. Tony Okonedo, said most of the communities or cells have officially written to the company expressing their appreciation for the gesture in cleaning up their respective portions of the shoreline, which also involves the engagement of their own people.

China Nigeria: Infrastructure Tops Agenda as Trade Hits $10 bn

Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga By Crusoe Osagie The Deputy Consul -General of China to Nigeria, Qui Jian has said that the current volume of trade between the two countries totalled $10 billion. He was optimistic that the figure will improve in the months ahead. Jian who gave the hint in an exclusive chat with THISDAY in Lagos last weekend, stressed that with the two countries currently experiencing relative economic boom in this period when most nations of the world are going through economic recession, the potential of increasing business volumes between both nations was very feasible. The Chinese envoy explained that with a relatively wide gap between Nigeria and China in the area of infrastructure, there was a major opportunity in the two nations for investment in the development of infrastructure in Nigeria to meet global standards and expectations. According to him, “I can say the trade volume between the two countries is more than $10 billion. And we would want to still do more because we need each other to grow. We are open to not just Nigeria but other African countries as well, because most of them are under-developed so there is a need to invest in them in order to bring about progress and development, we need progress and we need improvement, this leaves us with plenty room to actually do more.” The Chinese ambassador stressed China’s interest in Nigeria’s infrastructure development, saying “you know china is very good at building infrastructure, if you look at china, you will see the advancement in the area of constructing highways, buildings and other infrastructure. In just ten years china became the number one highway builder in the world, Chinese companies are very good in the building of these infrastructure.” “And President Jonathan is very committed to providing infrastructure for Nigerians in the areas of education, roads, medical facilities and communications. These are areas of possible cooperation for Nigeria and China in which I can see a good future,” he added. Highlighting the sections where Nigerian businesses can benefit from the Chinese market he said the areas of manufactured products and machines were sections that Nigerian businesses were exploiting. “I believe it is in the area of manufactured products, a lot of Nigerian people go to china every year just for trade, which is a very good sign for our bi-lateral trade progress. China also produces a lot of products specially customised for the Nigerian market, which is a good thing because it serves the needs of the people better and in a specific way too. “Every quality is dependent on how much energy or money that is spent on it. In china goods are sometimes customized to meet the taste of different consumption levels. If you are willing to pay a high price then you can expect a high end product that will be suited to your taste because it will require the use of expensive raw materials for its production. There are also goods which are produced as substitutes for these high end products by using different raw materials which will not be as expensive as the ones used in the production of the high end goods,” the envoy stressed. The major difference in our products, lie in the durability of these products and not in the quality because the high end products are actually made from raw materials that guarantee durability and are more expensive, while in terms of functionality, you will see that all products are made to function efficiently.

Power: Inadequate Gas Supply Stalls 750mw Olorunsogo Station

Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji By Ejiofor Alike Inadequate supply of gas to fire the turbines for power generation in four units has stalled the operation of the newly-completed Phase 11 of the Olorunsogo Power Station in Ogun State, THISDAY has learnt. The 750megawatts-capacity Phase 11 of the Olorunsogo Power Station is a National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), which is jointly owned by the Federal and state governments. The 335megawatts-capacity Phase 1, which was built by a consortium led by Sepco III Electric Power Construction Corporation of China and an indigenous company, Pacific Energy, is owned by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Niger Delta Power Holding Company, operators of the NIPP projects, Mr. James Olotu told THISDAY at the weekend that four out of the six units of the Phase 11 project had been completed but there was no gas supply to generate 500megawatts from the four gas-fired units. He however noted that the remaining two units would be fired by steam, using two of the gas-fired units to generate the steam. “The station consists of four gas-fired units and two steam-powered units. The steam units will be fired by two gas-fired units. In other words, the steam units are free of charge because they are not going to use gas. But unfortunately, there is no gas to fire the gas units that will also fire the steam units. We can only run one unit at the moment. The four units should have given us 500megawatts,” he said. Olotu said many projects had been completed under the NIPP but there was no gas to fire the machines. Olotu acknowledged that the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was making efforts to complete the pipeline that would supply gas to the Olorunsogo Station by May this year. “The good news is that the NGC is working day and night to complete the new pipeline that will supply gas to Olorunsogo Station. They have assured us that they will complete the project by May this year,” he said. An attempt by the Federal Government to hand over the Phase 1 of the Olorunsogo Station to a consortium led by Sepco III Electric Power Construction Corporation of China and an indigenous company, Pacific Energy in February last year was resisted by PHCN workers. The government’s planned action was in line with its decision to cede its controlling stakes in electricity generation and distribution to private investors under the privatisation programme. The choice of the Chinese firm stemmed from the inability of the Federal Government to repay the loan provided by the Chinese government for the construction of the 335mw-capacity plant. The Chinese government provided the 65 per cent funding for the 335megawatt-capacity Olorunsogo plant and the 335mw-capacity Omotosho Power Station in Okitipupa Local Government area of Ondo State. The loan was provided through the contractors for the projects - Sepco III Electric Power Construction Corporation and China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation - for Olorunsogo and Omotosho plants, respectively.

Investors Stake N128bn on FGN Bonds

Investors have staked N128 billion on 151.3 million units of Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) Bonds in 1,030 deals last week, indicating an increase of 6.2 per cent above the N120.503 billion invested in 134.8 million units in 870 deals the previous week. The most active bond in volume terms was the 10.7 per cent FGN May 2018 (5th FGN Bond 2018 Series 2) with a traded volume of 36.74 million units valued at N29.301 billion in 292 deals.

This was followed by the 5.5 per cent FGN February 2013 (7th FGN Bond 2013 Series 1) with a traded volume of 25.3 million units valued at N23.247 billion in 170 deals. Secondary trading in the FGN bonds at over-the-counter (OTC) market had opened for the year on a low note when investors N55.569 billion invested in 64.25 million units in 239 deals three weeks ago.

However, the value of investment rose the previous week by 116 per cent as investors staked N120.502 billion. Analysts at Dunn Loren Merrified, an investment bank, had said that the volume of trading would have been higher but for the primary monthly auction that took place during the review week.

According to them, traders were speculative of the outcome of the primary auction. During the week, three bonds were offered. A new 10-year bond with a volume N35 billion was issued at an interest rate of 16.39 per cent. The 10.70 May 30, 2018 (N19.76 billion) and 7.00 October 23, 2019 (N18.90 billion ) bonds were re-opened at marginal rates of 16.99 per cent and 16.00 per cent respectively. Whilst the 10.70 May 30, 2018 and 16.39 January 25, 2022 bonds were over-subscribed by 13.4 p cent and 71.2 respectively, the 7.00 October 23, 2019 was however under-subscribed by 22.8 per cent, as only a total of N27.03 billion subscription was received. “In our opinion, this is because investors seized the opportunity to bid more for the new issue, with an interest rate of 16.39 per cent, compared to the reopened bonds’ interest rates of 10.70 per cent and seven per cent respectively. In addition, we are inclined to note that the new 10-year FGN was issued at the highest interest rate ever of any FGN bond of the same maturity.

“The high interest rates on fixed-income instruments were evident on the marginal rate of the reopened and newly issued bonds. Furthermore, an analysis of the outcome of last week’s auction indicates that marginal rates of the 10.70 May 30, 2018 and 7.00 October 23, 2019 bonds increased by 106 and 100 basis points compared with that of December 2011,” Dunn Loren Merrifield said.

Robust Outlook Projected for Banks in 2011

As investors salivate and eagerly wait for corporate earnings announcements by banks for 2011, research analysts at Cordros Capital Limited, a dealing member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), have projected robust outlook for the banking stocks.

In a special report, titled: ‘Full Year 2011 Earnings Expectation,’ obtained by THISDAY, Cordros Capital Limited, which was one of the top firms with highest equities transactions on the NSE in 2011, projected that the banks would end the year with higher profit. They equally noted that giving the higher profit, the banks would also reward shareholders with higher dividends. Specifically, the analysts said First Bank of Nigeria Plc would declare gross earnings of N278.368 billion for the year ended December 31, 2011 and a profit after tax (PAT) of N42.9 billion. Out of the profit, First Bank, Cordros Capital noted, would likely recommend N35.4 billion as dividend. They forecast a return on equity of 15.69 per cent for investors in the bank.

For Zenith Bank Plc, the analysts said the financial institution might end the year with gross earnings of N217.955 billion and profit after tax of N51.631 billion. Shareholder are likely to share N34 billion as dividend, while a return of equity of 15.05 per cent has been envisaged. Commenting on Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Cordros Capital noted that the bank would record gross earnings of N170.141 billion and profit after tax of N50 billion. Dividend to be shared by the shareholders is estimated to be N38.421 billion. The Cordros Capital Limited analysts said that their positive outlook for 2011 earnings in the banking sector was premised on increasing economic prospects for the Nigerian economy, expectation of good earnings buffer with strong interest margins, income diversification strategies of banks, AMCON rescue activities and stronger regulatory oversight.

“Earnings momentum as indicated by third quarter (Q3) 2011 results announcements of banks remains positive. Based on this, we expect banks performance for the FYE 2011 to be in line with previous quarterly results announcement,” they said. According to them, as at Q3 2011, most banks including Access Bank, Ecobank Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, GTBank and Zenith Bank have recorded earnings per share (EPS) value in excess of full year expected EPS for 2011.

“We strongly believe a stable 2011 full year EPS will sustain banks dividend payout. Thus, we opined that dividend yield for 2011 will surpass 2010 . Lower PE ratio also supports likely share price increase. Financial performance for banks in full year estimate in 2011 will be driven by our expectation for improving operating income impacted by higher transaction volume, lower impairment charges and funding costs, greater cost management focus and increase deposit funds combined with strong liquidity indicators,” they said. The analysts added that earnings would be bolstered by the recent increase in oil prices and gains in other liquid assets. “We expect banks’ assets quality to improve considerably following successive declines in banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs) as well as improvement in diversification in loan books. We also expect stronger balance sheet position based on Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON)’s purchases of NPLs of banks,” they declared.

‘FDI Grew by 12% in 2011’

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, has revealed that the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria grew by 12 per cent from $6.1 billion in 2010 to $6.8 billion at the end of 2011. Rewane stated this in his monthly economic news and views for February 2012, presented at the Lagos Business School (LBS)’s executive breakfast meeting titled ‘Fuel Subsidy Saga’, a copy of which was e-mailed to THISDAY.

He maintained that the sustained high oil prices, increased oil production, growth of non-oil sector, completion of the crucial reform and co-ordination between fiscal and monetary policy, would be the key factors to propel the growth of the economy this year. According to him, global FDI inflow grew by 17 per cent in 2011 to over $1.5 trillion, surpassing the pre-crisis average. He explained that Nigeria purchases 15.6 per cent of its imports from China.

“The shift in sub-Saharan African (SSA) trade provides some insulation against falling demand in advanced markets. 50 per cent of SSA trade is now conducted with emerging markets, 25 per cent of African trade is with China, India and Brazil. Nigerian non-oil exports represent 3 per cent of total exports,” he explained. Commenting on global issues that would impact the domestic economy, Rewane pointed out that with oil at $112 per barrel, Nigeria’s export and fiscal revenues were very strong, adding that production of 2.02 million barrels per day was below the budget of 2.48 barrels per day. “The 2012 budget is benchmarked at $70 per barrel with the Senate pushing on $75 per barrel, global production increased by 1.7 per cent in 2011 and will be in a surplus in 2012. Libyan production will be back to normal in 2012; that is 1.6 million barrels per day,” he said.

But he averred that the naira and other currencies in Africa would come under increasing pressure this year, arguing that the recession in the euro zone would reduce aid and Diaspora flows. He said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s cash-less Lagos policy, “will accelerate transaction settlement and payment time, reduce transaction costs, drastically reduce risk of loss, increase velocity of circulation and purchasing power, improving the paper trail and cutting back on money laundering and corruption.”

According to Rewane, “the liquidation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) remains an important step towards the deregulation of the sector. This follows the adoption of the multi-year tariff order for effective energy pricing, 11 distribution and six generation companies to be sold by second half of 2012. A new tariff regime will be implemented in February by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).”

Non-teaching varsity workers issue strike notice over retirement age

THE expectation that the suspension of strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will return normalcy to the varsity system may have been a mirage after all.

Reason: The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) is set to down tools by the end of this month, if the Federal Government does not remove the contentious ‘35 years service’ clause in the amendment to the Universities (miscellaneous provisions) Act 1993. According to a communique issued at the end of the deliberations of its National Executive Council in Abuja, SSANU resolved that it may embark on an industrial action if by February 29th, if President Goodluck Jonathan refuses to accent to the amended Act.

The communique read in part: “NEC-In-session commended the Federal Government for the amendment of the Universities (miscellaneous provisions) Act 1993 by the National Assembly.

However, NEC-In-session discovered with dismay the non-abrogation of the ’35 years service’ clause in the Act as amended and consequently demands that the Federal Government should initiate moves to immediately remove the clause from the bill and to ensure that the harmonised bill was accented to by President Goodluck Jonathan not later than February 29th, 2012; or the unions would be forced to proceed on an indefinite strike without further communication or notice to government.”

While paying tributes to government for deciding to spend N100 billion on federal universities on an yearly basis for four years, SSANU called on government to appoint only Nigerians with impeccable characters as members of the proposed Federal Government budget monitoring committee when constituted. SSANU also said that N900 added to each of its members’ salaries, courtesy of the recently signed new minimum wage Act, should be regularised in strict accordance with the terms of FGN/SSANU agreement reached in 2009.

It added: “SSANU-In-session appreciates the award of the additional N900 to the minimum wage to SSANU members. However, NEC-In-session observed that the award does not conform to the terms of the FGN/SSANU agreement of 2009 and consequently demands that the Federal Government should urgently produce a salary table that reflects the N900 to the minimum wage in line with SSANU salary scale structure in the 2009 agreement”.

SSANU mandated its Joint Action Committee with Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) to aggressively pursue the resolutions reached with the Federal Government and the unions on the outstanding agreements to its logical conclusions.

Govt loses N37b to import waivers

The Federal Government lost N37.2 billion to waivers granted to importers of raw materials in 2011, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said yesterday.

Deputy Comptroller-General of NCS in-charge of Human Resources, Garuba Makarfi disclosed this while defending the agency’s 2012 budget before the Senate Committee on Finance.

He said the NSC proposed to spend N1.24 billion to fuel generators and refreshment for its men and officers this year. Makarfi however, said no waiver has been granted this year in line with Federal government’s directives. "We lost seven per cent of our collection to export expansion grant, which is non-negotiable. This amounted to about N37.2 billion. "The grant was given to export oriented companies and local manufacturers, to export raw materials, but instead, these local manufacturers sold their certificates to dealers who then used them to import cars into the country," Makarfi said.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Bassey Otu decried the huge loss. He said that the Senate would ensure that waivers are only granted to critical areas of the economy where it is necessary. "We frown seriously about waivers. We want waivers to go to where it is extremely necessary," Otu stated. Makarfi told the Committee that of the N76.06 billion proposed budget for the NCS this year,  N20.2 billion is for overhead and recurrent expenditures out which N500 million will be used to fuel generators, N40 million for refreshment and meals, N150 million for sea boat fuel, N400 million for welfare packages, N500 million for motor vehicle fuel and N150 million for aircraft fuel cost.

He added that the Customs would also spend N180 million on water supply, out of N12.8 billion capital budget and N500 million for security votes targeted at stopping smuggling across the nation’s border. Makarfi said the NCS generated over N900 billion as revenue for the Federal Government last year. The committee commended the NCS for the huge leap in revenue accruable to the federal government, assuring that they will put in place necessary legal frameworks to enhance the work of the service. "We commend you for all the good works and to assure you that the Senate will address all structural and legal frameworks to make the Service more efficient. "We support the reorganisation of the Service, we want you to tackle irregular e-payment and reduce leakages in your payment systems." Otu stated.

Access Bank completes acquisition of Intercontinental

Access Bank Plc has announced the completion of its acquisition of Intercontinental Bank as the two financial institutions merged into a single entity.

This comes after all the relevant regulatory, judicial and shareholder approvals have been granted. According to a statement from Access Bank which was made available to Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, upon gazetting, Intercontinental Bank stands dissolved without being wound up and all its assets and liabilities are now vested in Access Bank Plc.

Speaking on the merger, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank Plc said: “The conclusion of this transaction is a significant step forward for the Nigerian banking sector; it has preserved thousands of Nigerian jobs, protected the savings of millions of Nigerian citizens and laid the foundation for the creation of a truly great African bank. It brings together the proven prudential management of Access Bank and the extensive geographical footprint of Intercontinental Bank, with one of the largest networks of branches and ATMs.”

“Our speed of integration proves that we have an excellent team that can perform under pressure. We are now focused on building a truly sustainable Nigeria bank that works for its customers, shareholders and the communities where we operate; a bank which is poised to be Africa's most respected bank,” the Access Bank boss also said. Similarly, the merger was said to have repositioned the Nigerian banking sector on the African continent as the combined entity had the potential of ranking among Africa's top 10 banks according to The Banker magazine's review of top African banks in its current edition. The new entity will have a customer base of 5.7 million, 309 branches, an Asset Base of N2, 018,018,714,000, combined with a Capital Adequacy ratio of 18.55per cent and a Liquidity Ratio of 76per cent.

Speaking further Mr Aig-Imoukhuede, said, “All our people have worked hard to deliver this successful integration and the speed and efficiency with which it has been accomplished is testament to the quality of our management team. Importantly, our customers have experienced minimal disruption and we would like to express our sincere appreciation to them for enabling this successful combination.”

Politics of fuel subsidy removal

THE clamour for equitable distribution of national resources has been the source of tension in recent years. As the oil-rich Southsouth made legitimate claim to the ownership of the crude oil which is the mainstay of the nation’s economy, agitation for resource control filled the air. Now, there is a shift of emphasis in the oil war. As refineries are down in Nigeria, which is the acclaimed sixth largest producer of oil, importation of refined fuel for domestic use became the only convenient option and priority of top marketers. This is the underlying rationale for subsidy. Civil society groups are of the view that, since government cannot maintain refineries, it should continue to subsidise the commodity. Government objected, saying that there would be no money left for development after subsidy. Besides, facts have emerged that a cabal, or cartel, is profiting from subsidy, to the detriment of the country. Thus, the former House of Representatives member from Edo State, Patrick Obaiyagbon, cried out that, “cabalocracy” had displaced democracy in Nigeria. If subsidy is removed, according Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido and Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the gains would be channeled to development projects. But the argument of labour, which is still fighting the N18,000 minimum wage battle, is that should the already pauperised citizens embrace additional burden and pain, due to government’s ineptitude?

Test of leadership

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown. Many Nigerians believe that it is a testy time for President Goodluck Jonathan, who hurriedly removed subsidy without sparing thoughts for its implications in all ramifications. But there are puzzles: Was the timing right? Was the strategy in order? The reality, many observers believe, is that Nigeria has a President who is still learning the ropes. In learning the ropes, he has leaned more on technocrats bubbling with imperialist economic ideas than on politicians who has a reservoir of considerations for political expediency. The main challenge is how the President can bounce back in public reckoning, after winning or losing the subsidy battle.

Movement of Nigerian People?:

The subsidy war united Nigerians who turned out for the five-day protest. Even, during the ‘June 12’ agitation, the crowd did not exhibit the same elongated resolve and resilience. The lesson of the protest, as noted by Lagos lawyer Femi Falana, is that a wise government will think twice in the future before reeling out draconian policies that inflict pain on the people. Gradually, as Femi, son of Afro-beat king, Fela Kuti, observed, Nigerians are imbibing the culture of resistance to obvious injustice.

Govt, labour and civil society:

Owing to communication gap between government and labour, industrial dispute brewed. Government insisted on fuel subsidy removal. In protest, labour suspended work, paralysing economic and social activities. But civil societies sustained the street protests across the major cities. Government and labour unions understand the intricacies of collective bargaining and compromises. Civil society, which is an interested party, is not part of the talks and dialogue process. Already, there is suspicion between labour and civil society arrowheads coordinating street demonstrations. If after the wheeling and dealings, government and labour, based on new understanding and reality, agree on a pump price above the N65 per litre, will civil society call off street protest, following strike call-off by labour? Protest as image laundering: A lost opportunity can still be regained. House of Representatives members who incurred the wrath of the people when they turned the chamber into a boxing ring bounced back at the Abuja rally. They received acclamation and commendation. Their past alleged desecration of the hallowed chamber, were forgiven.

What motive?

Many have both objective and subjective perception of Pastor Tunde Bakare’s role in the protest. As the Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), he fought for the enthronement of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President and President. Later, he paired with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in a hot contest for presidential power against the President. Bakare’s detractors think that the cleric is more vociferous because he lost his bid for federal power, and as a bad loser, he is an embittered and embattled opposition leader. But many protesters believe that he is on course in fighting what they described as a liberation war to free the country from bad governance.

Wise counsel ignored

Former President Shehu Shagari, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo have advised the President to halt the strike by dancing to the tune of Nigerians, who have opposed the new pump price. They may have spoken against the policy, acting from experience, because, as former Heads of State, they are not indifferent to the power of massive protests. Ignoring these unofficial pieces of advice was tantamount to giving a deaf ear to the counsel of a caucus of the Council of State.

Abia Assembly makes the difference

Abia State House of Assembly is the only state legislature that passed a resolution against the removal of fuel subsidy. Despite the effort of the executive to throw obstacles on its path in this regard, the House sided with the people that elected the lawmakers. Ironically, Abia State Governor Theodore Orji had advised workers to continue work. The protest in the state became, in part, the enforcer of the strike.

National Assembly resolutions:

The House of Representatives took the bull by the horn. The manner of debate on subsidy on Sunday January 8 affirmed its representativeness. The deliberation divided the House into two- pro-subsidy and anti-subsidy legislators. Majority favoured the retention of the old pump price. It was tactical in adopting the final resolution that called on the executive to suspend the policy. The resolution, as weighty as it was, was promptly rejected by the President and his council. Presidential spokesman Dr. Rueben Abati dismissed it as mere advisory. And the President, as imputed by former Justice Minister Chief Richard Akinjide, missed the opportunity of an escape route. Later, the Senate advised that, since the 2012 budget implementation has not started, the new price regime should take off in April. This did not go down well with the protesters, although it expanded the escape route.

Politics versus technocracy

Eminent politician, Akinjide, dissected the tension between politics and technocracy, urging the President not to lean more on technocrats in a period of crisis.

Technocrats, Akinjide who had been in government before attainment of independence in 1960 and who is a chieftain of the PDP said, tend to look at World

Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) first, before giving advice to the President. He however said that a politician considers the imperative of power retention and consolidation in the build up to election and is therefore likely to check the pulse of the people first before advising on any cause of action. Akinjide pointed out that in the United Kingdom and United States, no Head of Government would have the effrontery to turn a blind eye to the resolutions of the Houses of Commons and Lords, and the Congress. His view was that, if experienced politicians were consulted by the President, the crisis could have been averted.

And governors kept mum

Apart from Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole, who is the curator of the subsidy removal in the Governors Forum, other governors kept mum, although it is common knowledge that all of them tacitly supported the new policy which had sparked protest in their state capitals. A source indicated that the National Economic Council was unanimous in backing the withdrawal of subsidy, although the mode, timing and manner of implementing the policy had not been discussed before the federal government gave the public the unpopular and unwanted New Year gift.

A governor told The Nation: “They are just trying to blackmail us. When they say we all backed their policy, they did not explain the context. It is in the public domain that we rejected whimsical deductions from the Federation Account without explanations. They merely attributed such deductions to subsidy. There was no logic to the deductions. So, when we kicked, especially in face of pressures on our state finances by the new minimum wage, they then suggested the removal as the way out. Did they get back to us to say how they would be introducing the measure? Was January 1 the best time to do so? Did they call us immediately the people kicked to decide on what to do?”

Governors had seen the potentials of the policy, especially the upsurge in revenue base. But how can many of them could convince Nigerians that they would be prudent? Underscoring this point, Bakare and Falana stressed that the protest was not only about subsidy, it is also about profligacy in government.

No to military intervention

As tension engulfed the country, politicians and leading protesters cried out in panic, saying that the temporary crisis should not become a license for the military to take over. Bakare, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) leader Olawale Oshun, Falana and Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who urged the soldiers to remain in barrack, knew that the worst civilian regime is better than the most benevolent military administration. Many loathe the idea of returning to the barricades for a renewed fight against the military. Should military strike, politicians would forfeit power and state resources. Demonstrators may even lose their freedom of association, assembly and complaint.

Conference on oil subsidy, national question:

Today in Lagos, eminent Nigerians cutting across the protagonist and antagonists of subsidy, would converged on Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja to discuss the burning issue. It is at the instance of the National Summit Group (NSG) convened by Prof. Pat Utomi and Anthony Uranta. Expected are former Finance Minister Chief Olu Falae, former Akwa Ibom State Governor Victor Attah, Sanusi, Okonjo-Iweala. But is it not going to be another Town Hall meeting?

Is the struggle over now? How would the government handle the new level of sensitization of the people? How has the five-day protest left President Jonathan and his government? Just about eight months earlier, he was a hero, garnering votes from all the six geo-political zones. Today, he is treated by many with disdain. Can he recover from the damage to his popularity? Is the opposition prepared to take him on all the way down to 2015?

What cannot be denied is that in all forms of power struggle, there is underlying politics.

Senate rises to insecurity challenge

The Senate may have realised that these are not ordinary times for the country. Two events that took place in the upper legislative chamber underscore this realisation.

One was the spirited intervention of the Senate in the face-off between the federal government and labour over the controversial withdrawal of subsidy on premium motor spirit. Another was what has been aptly described as “the mother of all motions” by observers - the controversial motion on the “general insecurity in the nation”.

The disposition of the Senate may have been borne out of the appreciation that the country is sitting on the precipice.

The general insecurity motion sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and 72 others did not leave anybody in doubt that the Senate is alarmed by the spate of bombings, killings and destruction of property in some parts of the country.

While some say the motion was a wake-up call for the country to deal decisively with the intimidating onslaught of the Boko Haram sect, others see it as a clarion call on the leadership of the country for immediate move to rescue the country from drifting into contrive anarchy.

The Wednesday session in the Senate was emotional, passion sentiments and even anger by the federal lawmakers over the grave danger the country faces in the hands of the Boko Haram sect.

Even “hardliners” were not left out as Ekweremadu articulated the way forward.

Though the unanimous verdict at the end of the over five-hour session was a vehement condemnation of Boko Haram, the warning by Senate President David Mark that the country must not allow history to repeat itself was instructive.

The Senators did not spare the country’s security managers for their abysmal failure to contain the sect’s unrelenting assault on the nation.

Ekweremadu began the debate by drawing the attention of the Senate to the dastardly bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State on Christmas Day, December 25, last year and the bombing spree at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, Jos as well as several churches and the State Security Service office in Damaturu, Yobe State on the same date

The Enugu State-born lawmaker urged the Senate to observe with serious concern recent related episodes of bombing and indiscriminate shootings of worshippers in other parts of the country notably, Gombe, Mubi and Jimeta between January 5 and January 6, 2011, leading to loss of several lives.

The Senate, he continued in his grief-laden voice, should observe that “while violent attacks and bombing of any form is callous and condemnable, the new waves of attacks on innocent and unsuspecting worshippers and places of worship, be it a church or a mosque, is a bizarre affront on our collective cultural and religious values, the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of worship, and an outright offensive against the Almighty God.”

He added that the Christmas Day attack in Madalla was not only a direct onslaught on a place of worship that should otherwise be held sacred, but a “clear and grave assault on Nigerians of South East origin who obviously constituted both the majority of worshippers at the church and “most sadly, the overwhelming majority of both the dead and the wounded as the list of casualties published in some national dailies on December 30, 2011 showed.”

For him, the singular Christmas Day bombing attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church and other places of worship are capable of plunging the nation into ethno-religious crises and further aggravate the present security challenges in the nation.

He submitted that the awareness that the Christmas Day bombing which, in some states, literally consumed entire families and left many orphaned or widowed, has brought untold hardship on victims and their relations.

Ekweremadu did not lose sight of the fact that the sheer number of Senators, who sponsored the motion, over 80 per cent of the 109 Senators, is an indication that the Senate is agreed that the motion is popular.

The judiciary may be seen as the last hope of the common man, but Ekweremadu posited that the Senate has, without prevarication, turned the last hope of Nigerians in the unfolding man’s inhumanity to man.

He may have left the Senators with a moral burden when he concluded that “we are being watched by our constituents and our people the way we will handle this situation.”

The motion was promptly seconded by Senator Dahiru Kuta (Niger East) who lamented that “we have had five deadly bomb attacks in Suleja, Niger State.” But Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North) wondered whether “our” humanity has deserted “us”. “Where is our humanity?” he asked repeatedly saying: “Our humanity is universal; ethnicity and religion are peculiar to us.”

He urged that Senate not to look at the motion “just in the manifest assault on our brothers from the South East but on the basis of our collective humanity.”

He brought constitutional angle of the problem as he told the Senate that the motion dealt with the infractions of Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that spells out the human rights of the average citizen of Nigeria. “The rights of Nigerians have been infracted and taken away,” he lamented.

Known to call a spade by its name, Adetunmbi may have dropped a bombshell when he asked whether Nigerians still had confidence in the security agencies and managers. He said the time might have come for Nigeria to import security.

Senator Uche Chukwumerije (Abia North) took it from Adetunmbi. He told the Senate that the impression all over is that the Nigerian State is no longer able to protect itself.

He urged the Senate to instigate a drastic and immediate overhaul of the security agencies to stem the tide of insecurity sweeping across the country. Chukwumerije recalled that about two years ago, a foreign intelligence agency had predicted that the country might collapse in 2015. The reality of recent events, he said, had given credence to the forecast.

He was categorical that what happened in Mubi, Adamawa State where 19 Igbo people were killed in cold blood, seemed that the attacks had been zeroed down to one ethnic group.

Like some Senators who ended their contributions on a note of warning, Chukwumerije warned that “if Nigeria cannot protect Igbo, we are going to protest to the United Nations to protect us.” Igbo, he insisted, were tired of being offered as sacrificial lambs.

Perhaps Chairman, Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Senator Mohammed Magoro’s call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff for alleged complicity in the Boko Haram saga may stir up some reactions.

Magoro, a former Minister of Internal Affairs told the stunned Senators that Sheriff had been allegedly indicted and identified as a mastermind of the Boko Haram sect.

Sheriff, he added, was said to know much about Boko Haram’ s origin and operations and should therefore be arrested and prosecuted.

Senator Olusola Adeyeye, erudite professor as he is fondly referred to, added a philosophical dimension to the debate.

The Osun Central lawmaker said: “Even when we cry we must retain our capacity to see.” Boko Haram, he said, is not a main stream Islam or even Islam.

Apparently to underscore the severity of the situation, he recalled that when former President Olusegun Obasanjo met with the son of a late leader of Boko Haram, the person he met was promptly killed by the insurgents.

He concluded that “violence is like cancer,” adding: “unless you cut it off, it can only spread.” He called for local involvement to solve the problem, saying:

“Political office holders in areas of violence should be sent home to reach their people whenever violence occurs.”

“When a crime happens in a locality, the indigenes of that locality should speak loudly in a manner that leaves no one in doubt that we must do everything humanly possible to keep this country as one entity,” Adeyeye said.

Senator James Manager (Delta South) expressed surprise that nobody had resigned his appointment for the heinous crime of the Christmas Day.

While Senator Zainab Kure (Niger South) described the Madalla mayhem as totally condemnable, Senator Nenadi Usman catalogued the number of people wantonly killed in her Kaduna South constituency. Like Ekweremadu, Usman prayed the Senate to facilitate payment of adequate compensation to the victims and the bereaved.

Deputy Senate leader, Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central) said that way out was not to dig the effect but the cause of the crisis.

Ningi said it is worrisome that people are disguising and planting bombs in the name of Boko Haram. He specifically referred to what happened in Bayelsa where he said a man was caught disguised as a northerner to bomb a church.

Though he described the Christmas Day attack in Madalla as reprehensible he wondered why the same vehemence with which Nigerians condemned the attack was not deployed to condemn the attack on Moslem celebrants in Jos, Plateau State on Sallah Day.

The Senate President was impressed that at last, Senators had found their voices to condemn the activities of Boko Haram.

He said, “I know that when it comes to the issues of Boko Haram, people have been very scared of sticking out their necks in making comments. But today we have broken that jinx and because we have been able to speak out, I hope that other well-meaning highly placed Nigerians will join us in condemning in its totality, the existence and the operations of Boko Haram in this country.

“Whatever it is, Boko Haram does not portray Nigerians as we are. Nigerians are peace loving people, we love ourselves and we love our neighbours. This idea is absolutely foreign to us and it does not represent us and we hope that it will stop.”

Mark asked state government to rise to the occasion and do the needful. According to him, “all the time people talk as if it is only Federal Government that exists, there are three tiers of government in this country and if a local community can manage their own vigilance and security it will be very helpful.”

Nigeria, he reiterated, had terrorism and insurgency in its hands. “If we don’t handle them properly they will get out of control,” he said, adding: “We must do everything humanly possible; starting with communities, local governments, state level and the federal level to make sure that we nip this in the bud now before it gets out of control.

“We must not allow history to repeat itself. What is happening now is beginning to give an impression of 1966. It must never happen again. No nation can survive two civil wars and we must never allow ourselves to degenerate to that level.”

He revealed that “we all receive threat messages; the northern senators received more sometimes from proper Boko Haram and others from fake Boko Haram. People sent text messages saying if you say this, we are going to kill you. We are going to finish your family. The moment you accept a public office, your security is no more in your hands; it is in the hand of God.

“If they want to kill all of us, 109 Senators here for Nigeria to survive, I am sure that we will offer our lives on a platter of gold for them to kill but that is not going to solve the problem in this country.”

Mark urged those who received text messages to disregard them, saying: “I know that so many of us received these text messages. It has nothing to do with religion because all the clerics of both Christians and Muslims have condemned the acts of these terrorists or people who are their sponsors.

“They are people who are prepared to destabilise this country, but they will not succeed and the only way they will not succeed is when we all play our roles, especially security agents and the ordinary man on the streets.

The Senate may have started on a good note, but Nigerians expect more from the lawmakers. Nigerians expect positive results. After all, is it not said that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Subsidy: Rep tasks Mark, Tambuwal

The leadership of the National Assembly has been admonished not to take any position that is opposed to the collective wish of Nigerians on the controversial removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government.

The warning came yesterday from Hon. Abayomi Dauda Kako-Are, a member of the House of Representatives who represents Mushin 1 Federal Constituency on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Lagos State, while addressing reporters in Lagos.

He said: “Nigerians have spoken loud enough that it is N65 per litre and nothing more. I suppose we are running a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore, as elected representatives of the Nigerian people, it will be risky and unpatriotic for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to betray the people by shifting grounds on this matter. This is why the leaderships of both legislative chambers must remain resolute with the people who will bear the brunt of whatever action they take on the matter.”

Speaking further, Kako-Are said: “The House of Representatives held an emergency meeting on Sunday to find a solution to the matter. Like the Senate, it eventually came up with the motion that the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration must revert to N65 per litre in line with the demands of Nigerians who elected them. I’m not comfortable with the statement credited to the Senate President David Mark that both sides have shifted grounds.

“I’m doubly sure that if the National Assembly can stand firm on the motion, it will be difficult for the government to stick to the controversial hike in the product’s prices. The leadership of the National Assembly must work with the labour and indeed, Nigerians to ensure that the fuel pump price is back to N65. And I advise my colleagues on the negotiation table not to compromise the wish of Nigerians.”

Asking President Jonathan not to give the fight against subsidy removal by Nigerians an ethnic colouration, the lawmaker also expressed dissatisfaction over the comparison being drawn between Nigeria and countries like the UK and the US regarding the pump prices of fuel. “It makes no sense because there is no basis for comparing us with those countries. Over there, what we are suffering here is already in place for people to enjoy. Education and health are well subsidised; there are good roads and impressive security. There are welfare packages for both the aged and the unemployed. With that, they can afford to buy fuel at a high cost and still enjoy good living,” he said.

‘People must be focus of governance’


Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) House of Representatives member Hakeem Abiodun Muniru (Osodi/Isolo Constituency 11) spoke with reporters in Lagos on critical national issues. EMMANUEL OLADESU was there.

What is the National Assembly doing about the increasing spate of bombing in the country?

It is outright inhuman for anybody to go into any public gathering, or a spiritual gathering in this festive period, in this celebration mood and throw up bombs, killing innocent children. You threw people into mourning, making children fatherless and women as widows. There is outright condemnation for the perpetrators of this act. I want to believe that when we talk of Boko Haram, they are just using the name to popularise this criminal act. It is condemnable and it is unbecoming of anybody in a society to go and throw bombs where people are. We are talking of human lives. At the end of the day, we have counted over 30 lives that were lost on the spot. The ones in Damaturu, we don’t know the figures. The one in Jos, we don’t know. It is outright condemnation.

The National Assembly will take a decisive stance. The security chiefs are not doing their best. There is nobody that is expected to do their jobs. The buck stops on their tables. Mr. President and his security chiefs are not doing enough to tame the tide of this bombing. It is becoming a culture. How can somebody say ‘I will come and bomb this place today’ and yet he will come and succeed in bombing it? And nobody is doing anything about it. It looks as if we are in a failed state. It’s as if the Federal Government does not have the capacity. The responsibility of any government is protection of lives and properties of the citizenry. And we are not seeing it in this instance.

Is government not losing grip on the system?

It’s as if we are losing grip of this system. it’s as if we are losing grip of these challenges. It’s like the challenges are surmounting us; it’s like we cannot surmount the challenges and it is disheartening. If we live in a normal society, it is either somebody is throwing in the towel or we are seeing them arresting somebody or we are seeing them do something. This window dressing of taking somebody to the court and saying they have arrested somebody is nonsense. If you arrest a spokesman, he should have the information. Then, go and tell the whole world where they are and where they are going to bomb next. But this kind of arrests being made is different from arresting perpetrators of this heinous crime and that is what we are saying that the leadership of Nigeria , the executive must take up its responsibility. The primary aim of a government is to protect lives. That is why we have subjected our sovereignty to one man that we have voted for.

Why did you ask people to vote for you? The voters as citizens of Nigeria have the right to be protected. The thing had come gradually to Suleja, it’s in Abuja . It is spreading now. It has started in Delta. Before we know it, it will be everywhere and we keep on saying it. After (Oodua Peoples Congress) OPC came up, Egbesu Boys started. After that, Bakassi Boys started, then the militant groups in Niger Delta and thereafter, Boko Haram started.Tomorrow again, somebody will start its own too. What is the solution?

We are saying we must take decisive action against this move. If there is need for us to sit down and convene a Sovereign National Conference to look at our challenges - are we doing the right thing? We cannot say because we want to protect the entity called Nigeria , we should then fail in our responsibility to address the main issue which is the protection of lives and property. We are saying that there is the need for the president to wake up from slumber. The issues of deregulation and fuel subsidy are secondary issues when it comes to the issue of security. It is only when you have a safe society, that you can say that you ought to deregulate or remove fuel subsidy. These are not primary issues. The challenges of security are rising and there is the need to address them.

As a result of the rising spate of insecurity in the North, there are now insinuations that Nigeria may disintegrate. What is your reaction to this?

If the security operatives cannot walk up to us and tell us that they can stem this tide; if I want to go to Maiduguri today; if I want to go to Damaturu today and I know that my life is not safe, I will rather not go there. There are a thousand and one (National Youth Service Corps) members who have refused to go to such places because they are not prepared to go and die there. There are people who will tell you that they will rather not go to Bauchi, even if you ‘ll give them job offers worth millions of naira. They won’t go there. So what are we talking about? That is why the President has to sit up and face these challenges. Top of the priority in our mind now is the issue of security. Every Nigerian must be protected because it is all our right.

Now that the budget has come before the National Assembly, what is the House going to do about oil subsidy that has just been removed.

Mr. president is the chief executive of the nation. He should come and tell us why we as the National Assembly or why I as a member of the ACN which has taken a stance against subsidy support it? How do you want to convince me? Nobody is saying removal or no removal is the issue. If you remove, what is the benefit for the people? Are we going to improvise our people just because some people don’t have money again? They have been removing this subsidy and we don’t see anything. The only time they removed subsidy and we saw a bit of its effects was during the Petroleum Trust Fund ( PTF) days. Every other ones, like the removals done in the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when they would remove N1.00, N2.00, N20.00, N10.00, what did we gain? The roads are not there, healthcare is not there. There is no security and you are removing subsidy again. It is from fry pan to fire.

We are not part of it and I can tell you that the leadership of the National Assembly and House of Representatives to be precise is not compromising on this issue of subsidy because for now, that is the only thing that is giving Nigerians relief. We gave them a condition. If you want to remove subsidy, go and put infrastructure in place. Let us see what you are going to use the money for. Don’t just tell us you are going to remove subsidy when we don’t even know what we want to use the money for.

How we sustained power stability, by CEO

The management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), one of the 18 successor companies from the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), has expressed satisfaction for being able to sustain stability in the transmission network despite increase in power generation.

TCN Chief Executive Officer, Akinwunmi Bada, explained how the company has been able to deliver power to all parts of the country, despite the considerable increase in the quantum of electricity generation.

The countrylast week achieved a record 4,420.3 megawatts (MW) generation, an increase of about 200mw from the 4242MW it attained last year and the transmission facilities were able to wheel it to various parts of the country.

In a statement issued at the weekend, Bada, an engineer, recalled that when 3,800MW was produced for the first time in Nigeria’s history in August 2010, “the entire system collapsed within minutes because the transmission infrastructure was too weak to wheel or evacuate this quantum of power.”

Bada said Nigeria now experiences system stability, unlike in the past when there used to be about four system failures every month. “Many of the historical problems we inherited on assumption of office in the middle of last year are being tackled by TCN General Managers, among others, who are now getting greater funds,” he noted. The TCN chief observed that the addition of some 150MV power transformers to the national grid across the country “has massively increased the grid’s capability.” He also said the TCN’s maintenance system has been bolstered by the creation of a technical services department comprising highly trained and efficient engineers and technical staff members.

He said: “This department, which is highly mobile, gives prompt advice to field maintenance personnel,” he added and praised the work of the “renewed monitoring and evaluation unit, which keeps all of us on our toes through the critical evaluation and analysis of our daily transmission reports. “We all meet everyday at 9am to evaluate the reports of the previous day which we call the national broadcast. Once there is a fault, we contact the general manager of the station in the part of the country where the fault occurred, and the monitoring and evaluation unit follows up swiftly to find out really what is on the ground.” He also said more people have been assigned to the critical 330KV lines, assuring that when the rainy season sets in later in the year, there would not be system failures arising out of trees falling on or touching transmission lines. “Not to be forgotten as a critical success factor is the frequency support received from power generating stations at Egbin, Ughelli and Kainji, which we call spinning reserve. Spinning reserve, which currently stands at 260MW, is to system stability what the shock absorber is to a car,” he added.

Bada noted that all these achievements would not have been made without the bold vision, dynamism and commitment of the Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji, whose rich experience in the power sector as an entrepreneur, as well as a manager of men and materials is well recognised.

Activists urge CBN to release documents on alleged corruption

ACivil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It urged him to “use your good offices to provide documents on the systemic corruption in the subsidy system to enable our organisation to petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order for suspected perpetrators of corruption in the system to be effectively brought to justice”.

In the petition dated January 15, 2012 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said: “We welcome your recent publicly expressed position that those involved in the fuel subsidy scam to the detriment of millions of Nigerians should be arrested and prosecuted by the appropriate authorities. “This request is made to obtain the necessary documents for us to swiftly send a petition to the EFCC to achieve the objectives, which you have articulated for many years, that is, to bring about the effective prosecution of suspected perpetrators of the subsidy scam.

“If the problems in the fuel subsidy system are not fully and urgently addressed and suspected perpetrators not prosecuted. This will continue to have a devastating effect on investment in the oil and gas sector while also discouraging the building of refineries, thus making Nigeria perpetual importer on petrol.” The organisation also expressed concern “that while N250 billion was allocated for fuel ‘subsidy in 2011, by the end of October 2011, over N1.3 trillion had been spent. We have information to the effect that the subsidy claim rose to 1.5 trillion by December 2011.”

“Having found that no supplementary appropriation was submitted to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan, we would be grateful for information on who authorised the release of N1.26 trillion, which was paid by the CBN under your management,” the organisation said.

It added: “We agree with you that this raises serious suspicion of corruption in the fuel subsidy system. We believe that this situation is a major contributory factor for the situation of extreme poverty in the country, which in itself is a violation of human dignity, inhibiting the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.”

Investors stake N90.8b on FGN bonds in one week

DESPITE the nationwide protest over the removal of fuel subsidy, the Over-The-Counter (OTC) market for FGN Bonds last week, recorded a turnover of 96 million units worth N90.8 billion in 218 deals.

FGN Bonds had within three trading days in the previous week attained a total of 10.91 million units valued at N10.9 billion exchanged in 23 deals.

The most active bond last week, when measured by turnover volume was the seventh FGN Bond 2013 Series 1 with a traded volume of 38.14 million units valued at N37.7 billion in 21 deals. This was followed by the eighth FGN Bond 2014 Series 1 with a traded volume of 26.1 million units valued at N26.1 billion in 19 deals. Also, 14 of the available 27 FGN Bonds were traded last week, same as during the preceding week.

Though trading activities were last week “skeletal” due to the nationwide strike declared by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Civil Society Groups, the equities sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) recorded a turnover of 308.803 million shares, worth N3.64 billion in 1,217 deals was recorded last week in contrast to a total of 1.05 billion shares valued at N5.5 billion exchanged in the previous week in 10,037 deals.

The Financial Services sector accounted for 280.02 million shares valued at N1.66 billion traded in 741 deals. The banking sub-sector of the Financial Services sector maintained its position as the most active during the week when measured by turnover volume with 273.32 million shares worth N1.653 billion exchanged by investors in 695 deals.

Volume in the Banking sub-sector was lifted by activity in the shares of Diamond Bank Plc, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated and Zenith Bank Plc. Trading in the shares of the three banks accounted for 187 million shares, representing 68.41per cent, 66.8per cent and 60.55 per cent of the turnover recorded by the sub-sector, sector and total turnover for the week, respectively.

The Food Products sub-sector of the Consumer Goods sector, boosted by activity in the shares of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, followed on the week’s activity chart with a sub-sector turnover of 13.52 million shares valued at N99.052 million traded in 62 deals. The Consumer Goods sector accounted for 22.94 million shares valued at N1.812 billion traded in 287 deals.

On the price movement chart, the NSE All-Share Index appreciated by 115.67 points or 0.6 per cent to close on Friday at 20,840.97, while the market capitalisation of the 186 First -Tier equities increased to N6.567 trillion.

Also, the NSE-30 Index appreciated by 2.96 points or 0.3 per cent to close at 935.45. In the previous week, the NSE-ASI depreciated by 0.02 per cent while the NSE-30 Index appreciated by 0.9per cent.

One of the four sectorial indices appreciated last week compared with two that appreciated during the preceding week. The NSE Consumer Goods Index (Formerly the NSE Food/Beverage Index) appreciated by 2.60 points or 0.2 per cent to close at 1,715.50.

However, according to the NSE, the NSE Banking Index depreciated by 3.01 points or 1.1 per cent to close at 268.42.

The NSE Oil/Gas Index depreciated by 1.89 points or 0.8 per cent to close at 228.34 and the NSE Insurance Index depreciated by 0.10 points or 0.1 per cent to close at 128.57.

Fourteen equities appreciated in price during the week, lower than the thirty of the preceding week. As in the preceding week, Dangote Cement Plc led on the gainers’ table with a gain of N3.51 or 3.1 per cent to close at N116.51 per share, while Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc followed with a gain of N1.00 or 1.6 per cent to close at N64.00 per share.

On the other hand, thirteen stocks depreciated in price, lower than the twenty-five of the preceding week. Guinness Nigeria Plc led on the price losers’ table, dropping by N2.56 or (1.1 per cent) to close at N235.00 per share, while Oando Plc followed with a loss of N0.71 or (3.3per cent) to close at N21.00 per share.

Ezekwesili Quits World Bank

Vice-President for Africa, World Bank, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, has resigned from the Bretton Woods institution, after five years of meritorious service. Her resignation takes effect from the first week of May.

The World Bank President, Mr. Robert Zoelick, who made this known in a letter made available to THISDAY, said Ezekwesili would be back to Nigeria after “five years of important and successful service to the bank and Africa”.

Zoelick said he had to delay the exit of Ezekwesili, who was a two-time minister when former President Olusegun Obasanjo held sway, by one year, to enable her implement the new strategy, “Africa’s Future and World Bank support to It,“ that “she did so much to develop”.

“Ezekwesili will be succeeded by Makhtar Diop, a Senegalese national, who has been the Country Director for Brazil since 2009. Diop is expected to resume on May 5. Zoelick gave no reason for her resignation but extolled her virtue.

According to him, “Under Oby’s leadership, our Africa team employed innovation, knowledge, partnership and financial services to strengthen results across Africa and to improve the prospects for Africa’s economic performance.

“Her close attention to the needs of our clients, engagement with African leadership and with regional institutions -- such as the African Union, EAC and ECOWAS - as well as with the UN and other partners, has helped us to leverage our effectiveness across Africa.

“Oby has done excellent work mobilising private sector engagement and better connecting Africa’s development to that of other regions, particularly through South-South partnerships.”

Zoelick added: “Oby has built a strong team across the range of the Bank’s work: infrastructure and human development; agricultural production and productivity; private sector development; economic reforms to overcome poverty; and governance and accountability.

“Reflecting her experience and background, Oby has been a relentless campaigner for transparency and against corruption. She has also led in the use of ICT for Development; in supporting social accountability mechanisms through civil society engagement; and in promoting innovative approaches to regional integration.

“The new Bank strategy for Africa and its implementation plan, both developed under Oby’s leadership, offer a strong legacy. I also appreciate Oby’s close work with IFC and MIGA, underscoring the interconnectivity across the World Bank Group to achieve better and more far-reaching impact.”

The World Bank President wished Ezekwesili “all the best in her future endeavours working with civil society, in which she will help to strengthen public sector capacity, and work especially with young people and women”.

“I am especially appreciative of her committed and devoted service - including the years spent away from her family,” he added.

Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria: Be ready to pay 50% more for drugs

Twenty-four hours to the commencement of the planned nationwide strike to protest the recent removal of fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan, pharmacists under the auspices of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, have told Nigerians to expect a 50 per cent rise in the cost of basic drugs in the country.

National President of the PSN, Mr Azubuike Okwor, who stated this, weekend, in Lagos also regretted that the hike in costs of basic drugs in the weeks ahead was inevitable if the decision to remove the subsidy was not reversed.

Okwor added that the development would provide another window of opportunity for faking of genuine medicines as many Nigerians would go for cheaper and affordable drugs.

His words: “After thorough evaluation of the possible impact of the subsidy removal on the pharmaceutical sector, we predict at least a 50 per cent hike in the cost of basic drugs in Nigeria in the weeks ahead if the subsidy removal is not reversed.” Okwor traced the cost to increases in running costs for machinery and equipment, vehicles and overall logistic plan related to professional handling of drugs by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailer.

Further regretting that the timing of the subsidy withdrawal has also left a sizeable number of Nigerians stranded as they are unable to pay the new fares after a long holiday said: “We also see more agitations for wage increases by various cadres of personnel in the sector who would be genuinely seeking to cushion the distress that this policy will foist on them.”

Confirming that PSN will be joining other Nigerians to protest the recent withdrawal of fuel subsidy, the PSN President noted: “As part of the multiplier effect of this unpopular government decision, the citizenry has been subjected to unprecedented hardship in all sectors including transportation where the increases on local and intercity travels have increased to between 100 per cent to 200 per cent.”

LCCI Lists Effects of Fuel Subsidy Removal

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has listed some of the adverse effects of the Federal Government’s recent policy to deregulate the nation’s downstream oil sector.

LCCI, in a statement, said the policy has led to fresh inflationary pressures resulting from sharp increases in transportation cost, high inflationary expectations across all sectors of the economy, and a devastating impact on the psyche of the common people as the new policy poses a serious risk to their survival.

LCCI said the policy would also lead to the sharp increases in operating costs of micro and small enterprises, many of which rely on small electricity generators powered by petrol.

LCCI said, if well implemented however, it is expected that the policy would benefit the economy and the citizens, in the medium to long term leading to an increased private investment in the downstream oil sector with a corresponding impact on the creation of quality jobs.

Other benefits, the body said, include reduction in the pressures on foreign reserves, a huge chunk of which is currently being used to fund fuel importation and a better fiscal space to ensure macroeconomic stability with a resultant positive effect on the economy.

The Chamber noted that options available to the government in the current circumstances are limited but stressed that in light of the prevalent poverty and high rate of unemployment in the country, government needs to demonstrate its sensitivity and concern to the plight of the ordinary Nigerians by focusing urgently on the acceleration of the delivery of palliatives to cushion the adverse outcomes of the subsidy removal.

LCCI said in order to provide the moral basis to demand sacrifices from citizens, the political leadership and bureaucrats should demonstrate visible fiscal prudence.

“The governance structure should be more cost-effective and corruption must be more effectively tackled saying that government must sustain the momentum of dialogue and enlightenment to stabilise the polity and ensure accountability and transparency in the use of the savings from this policy decision for the benefit of the people as promised.

LCCI urged stakeholders to cooperate with the Subsidy Reinvestment Board to make this happen.

“The promise made by government on this matter is a covenant that should be respected. Government must fast track the turnaround maintenance of the refineries and encourage the building of new ones to reduce dependence on importation of refined products and protect the economy from the volatility of global oil prices,” it said.

According to the body, government must ensure an effective regulatory framework to protect the citizens from exploitation by petroleum products marketers and ensure quality assurance and accelerate implementation of power sector improvement programmes to reduce reliance on petroleum products as principal sources of energy in the economy.

“LCCI wishes to appeal to all Nigerians to ensure that all forms of agitations protests against this policy are conducted in the most peaceful manner. In the same vein, we urge the law enforcement agencies to manage the current situation with utmost professionalism to avoid the escalation of the current crisis.

“The collapse of law and order will not serve any useful purpose. If anything, it would worsen the predicament of all, including the common people of this country,” the chamber added.

On the March against Sub-standard Tyres

Recently, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), in collaboration with other monitoring agencies in the country, took to the street, campaigning against the use of sub-standard tyres, in order to avoid auto accident and stay alive and healthy; Yemi Akinsuyi writes

An 18-seater Coaster bus took off around 6am from the popular Utako area of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with the hope of getting to Lagos towards the evening of the same day. Just few kilometres to Okene, Kogi State, one of the tyres in the front of the vehicles suddenly shifted and the vehicle somersaulted severally and the four tyres were already facing the sky.

Unfortunately, about 12, out of the passengers that left Abuja that fateful morning, met their untimely death; while others, who sustained several degrees of injury, were rushed to the hospital.

After serious examination of the vehicle, it was found out that the tyres were not only ‘fairly used’ ones, they were not supposed to be used to travel long distance journey.

Vital Campaign

The Standard Organisation of Nigeria has been on the campaign against the usage of such tyres for some times now, but it seemed despite all their efforts, some vehicle owners still prefer such for the mere reason that they are cheaper than the standard ones.

The campaign, which took place in middle of December, could not have come at a better time as the roads were busy with throngs of people travelling for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Little wonder then the organisation collaborated with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and National Automotive Council (NAC).

Substandard Warning

Speaking after the long walk against substandard tyres in Abuja, the Director General, SON, Joseph Odumodu said fairly used tyres don’t have standard, and therefore should not be used at all by anybody.

Explaining further, he said: “This walk against sub-standard tyres at this particular time is so that the throngs of people travelling for the yuletide would know and should demand for the right tyres to use for the vehicles they would enter. Our people should learn to desist from penny wise, pound foolish attitude.

“They would tell you that fairly-used tyres are cheaper than the standardized ones. But I want to tell you that normal standardised tyres are valuable for just four years, thereafter should be discarded because it could cause accident.

“Talking of fairly-used tyres, does anyone know when they were manufactured and how long they have been used? It is very risky to buy such tyres in the name of being cheap. Ask anyone who has been purchasing fairly-used tyres and if he is sincere, will tell you that they don’t last at all. Some would only carry the vehicles for one week before it would start showing sign of weakness.

“We don’t want fairly-used tyres at all in Nigeria. In fact, this country is not a dumping ground for dead traps in the disguised name of fairly-used tyres. Anyone caught selling it will have himself to blame, as the long hands of the law will catch up with him and justice will take its full course”, Odumodu warned.

Potential Impact

This year’s campaign tagged, ‘Zero tolerance for sub-standard tyre’, according to the SON boss, is to be carried out in every local government area of all the 36 states of the federation for full sensitisation on the adverse effect sub-standard tyres have on the nation’s economy as well as human lives.

As the campaign is rigorous against fairly-used tyres, so also it is on-going against fake and sub-standard new ones. This particular campaign has been directed to importers of tyres across the country. Although they have been formed into an association so that they could be properly monitored, some of them, according to Odumodu, still pass through unauthorised avenues to import them so as to save cost.

Although some vehicle owners have been accused of patronising these unscrupulous importers because of the lower rate, the bulk of the blame is being put on the importers.

“If these so-called importers don’t bring into the country these sub-standard tyres, where will the people get them from? That is why we are launching war against them and anyone caught in the act will be made to face the music.

“We are spreading our tentacles to shops and sale centres across the country and even if it is only one that is found in any shop, the owner of the shop or the attendant will answer query for it. We will not only permanently lock the shop, we will prosecute the owner”, the SON boss stated.

Public Enlightenment

While the enforcement is on-going, the leadership of SON found it pertinent to educate, inform, and enlighten members of the public so that none of them would say he is not aware of the fight against sub-standard tyres.

“This walk is not for bodily exercise, otherwise we would have all gone to gymnasium, but it is to educate our people on the danger of patronising sub-standard tyres as it could lead to auto accident where lives might be lost.

“Information is very crucial at this particular period of the year as many people will be travelling for Christmas and New Year festival. Our people should look out for the vehicles’ tyres before gambling with their lives and that of their loved ones in the name of I want to celebrate Christmas in the village.

“Everybody must be enlightened on the benefits of buying standardized tyres as they not only last long, at least four years, thereby cutting cost, they are safe to use. We will not rest on our oars until the country is rid of sub-standard tyres”, Odumodu said.