Category Archives: Economic Today

Just in: Number of unemployed Chileans surge.

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Unemployment in Chile has reached a new record high of 13.1 percent, the national statistics institute said Friday.

Unemployment rose by 5.6 percentage points in the rolling May-July quarter compared to the same period in 2019.

The statistics institute said it was the highest figure since 2010 when the body changed its calculation method.

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That means that more than a million people are out of work, leaving 8.1 million employed after the loss of 1.8 million jobs over the last year.

However, the unemployment figure doesn’t take into account the 760,000 people that took advantage of a government initiative launched in March to protect jobs affected by the coronavirus pandemic by allowing the temporary suspension of contracts and access to unemployment insurance.

The institute said that taking into consideration those unemployed, those on the government scheme, and those not looking for work but able to, then the number of people out of employment rises to 30 percent of the potential workforce.

Truck drivers protest by cutting off highway 5 in Pillanlelbun, Temuco, Chile on August 27, 2020.
MARIO QUILODRAN / AFP

“These are the most severe figures… that we’ve had in the history of our country,” said Labor Minister Maria Jose Zaldivar.

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The institute said that of those still employed, a third have reported a drop in their income.

“The numbers speak for themselves and show why this has to be the priority,” said Finance Minister Ignacio Briones, while asking Congress to approve laws that would reactivate the economy by creating jobs.

Chile is one of the worst-affected countries in Latin America by the coronavirus, with 400,000 cases and close to 15,000 deaths.

The Central Bank expects the economy to shrink by 7.5 percent in 2020.


#Newsworthy…

Nigeria capital inflows drop in Q2 of 2020 – NBS

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The total value of capital importation into Nigeria dropped to $1.29 billion in the second quarter of 2020 from the $5.854 billion reported in the first quarter of 2020, latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.

The NBS in its Q2 2020 Nigerian Capital Importation report released on Friday, the decrease by 77.88% was largely contributed by the Covid-19 pandemic and measures imposed globally to contain the spread of the virus.

According to the report, portfolio investment which had always performed well in previous quarters fell to the second-largest amount of importation by type, declining by 29.76% to $385.32 million.

“The total value of capital importation into Nigeria stood at $1,294.94m in the second quarter of 2020. This represents a decrease of -77.88% compared to Q1 2020 and -78.60% in Q2 2019.

“The largest amount of capital importation by type was received through Other investment, which accounted for 58.77% ($761.03m) of total capital imported, followed by Portfolio Investment, which accounted for 29.76% ($385.32m) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which accounted for 11.47% ($148.59m) of total capital imported in Q2 2020.”

As contained in the report, United Kingdom retained the top source of capital investment in Nigeria in the review quarter, with $428.83 million, accounting for 33.12% of the total capital inflow in Q2 2020.

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“By Destination of Investment, Lagos state emerged as the top destination of capital investment in Nigeria in Q2 2020 with $1,130.49m. This accounted for 87.30% of the total capital inflow in Q2 2020.

“By Bank, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited emerged at the top of capital investment in Nigeria in Q2 2020 with $425.21m. This accounted for 32.84% of the total capital inflow in Q2 2020,” the report stated.

Covid-19 Impact
The country’s Foreign Direct Investment in the quarter stood at $148.59 million, it’s quarterly lowest in about 3 years, largely due to the ravaging impact of the Covid-19, which saw lots of investors play a wait-and-see game at the initial stage of the outbreak this year.

Although the figures in Q1 was at $214.25 million, the Q2 remittance shows the effect of the global economic lockdown in the country.

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A 2020 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ranked Nigeria third host economy for FDI in Africa, behind Egypt and Ethiopia, with remittances totaled to $3.3 billion in 2019.

The Federal Government has embarked on a few reforms in policies including the ease of doing business, Companies and Allied Matters Act, and a host of others.

In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to come up with modalities to reduce the bottlenecks and constraints in running a business by local and foreign investors in the country.

Part of the result was seen in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 index, where Nigeria ranked 131, moving up 15 places from its 2018 spot, tagged as one of the most improved economies in the world.


#Newsworthy…

Delta Gov, Okowa identifies two factors as bane of growth in Nigeria.

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Delta Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has identified rising insecurity, poor power supply as the bane of industrialisation and economic growth in Nigeria.

The governor stated this on at an interdenominational thanksgiving service to mark the 29th anniversary of the creation of Delta at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter (Anglican Communion), Bishops Court, Asaba.

He said that industrialisation of Nigeria was one good strategy to grow the nation’s economy, but observed that “challenges are actually so much that in the world today when you talk about our nation Nigeria, it’s like there is a question mark that follows and tends to limit the investing public from coming to us.

“The challenges of insecurity which is very key and very importantly, challenges of power failure which is also very significant limit industrialization.

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“But, we must put our trust in God and allow Him to lead us because His wisdom is greater than the wisdom of the world.”

Governor Okowa acknowledged the benefits of a new state and said that Asaba and the entire state would have been less-developed than it is today if the state had not been created.

Brighter Days Ahead

He thanked religious leaders for their prayers for the state and the people, saying “brighter days surely lie ahead of our people’’.

The governor recalled that “29 years ago, this state was created out of the former Bendel State; we all rejoiced and we still rejoice till date. The Lord has done great things for us as a state and as a people in the past 29 years.

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“I recall that even with the creation of the state and the joy, there were challenges that came with it. But 29 years later, we have realised that staying together we are able to develop our state, ourselves and our families, and to God be the glory.

“It is important that we continue to stay together because we have achieved reasonable peace and unity.

“When I recall at the creation of Delta state how Asaba was and what it is today, we can definitely say that we have had lots of changes and as a nation we have had our challenges and today, we have more challenges than we ever had and we cannot wish ourselves away from the Nigerian nation because we are part and parcel of the Nigerian nation.”

“Challenges of the time, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have suppressed economies of the world. The nation is troubled and Delta State being part of the nation, is also troubled and I believe that there is only one way we can distinguish ourselves in a nation that is challenged as we found ourselves.’’

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‘Move On’

In his sermon entitled “Break camp and move on”, Archbishop of Bendel Province, The Most Rev’d Cyril Odutemu, said that Delta had achieved a lot from creation, but called for serious efforts in the industrialisation of the state.

“We have crossed the hurdles of tribal crisis and we are moving to the promise-land even though we are yet to arrive where we should be.

“We must break camp in the industrialisation of Delta State and in doing so, we must see every Deltan as brother and sister for the sake of our dear state,” he stated.

The thanksgiving service featured prayer sessions for the nation and the State as well as for all those in the position of authority.


#Newsworthy…

Emmanuel Udom makes move to establish petroleum depot in A/Ibom.

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Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel has made a case for the establishment of a petroleum depot in the state to boost his administration’s efforts to open up the state’s economy and provide employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in the South-South state.

The governor made the call when the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and members of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) visited him at the Government House in Uyo.

He said it is regrettable that the state, which is home to about 25 percent of the petroleum and gas deposits in Nigeria, does not have any petroleum depot.

Drawing the Minister’s attention to the fact that Akwa Ibom is strategically positioned in the Gulf of Guinea, Governor Emmanuel said by virtue of its location and the abundant human and natural resources embedded in its landscape, the state would be an investor’s heaven if the right policies are in place.

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He urged the Federal government to partner with the state to harness its rich natural potentials for the benefit of the people.

Governor Emmanuel also advocated for the unbundling of the oil and gas sector to increase job opportunities and the rapid growth of the country’s economy.

The delegation is in Uyo for a strategic retreat by stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.

Describing the choice of Uyo for the strategic retreat as significant, the governor explained that with the developments at the Victor Attah International Airport, the 21-storey smart building, excellent security, a good network of roads and other infrastructure, the state has been repositioned for a strategic role as a logistic centre of the oil and gas sector.

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“The new terminal building we are currently constructing has the most latest technology and intelligence facilities and when completed, will rank the best seen anywhere in West Africa,” he said.

Harping on the need for the partnership for modular refineries, Governor Emmanuel opined that, “modular refineries or petrochemicals should be totally liberated from whatever could be the bottlenecks to create more job opportunities and stimulate a whole lot of economic activities.”

He appealed to the Petroleum Resources management team to look into the vast untapped opportunities in the oil and gas sector with a view to unbundling it for job and wealth creation.

Earlier, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva had said that Akwa Ibom was chosen as the venue for the retreat because of the peaceful environment and rich cultural heritage of the people.

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Sylva, who described Akwa Ibom as his second home, being an inlaw of the state, commended the Governor and his people for the peace and developments so far recorded.

He said the federal government was committed to revamping the refineries in the country and assured that work on the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery would commence very soon.

“I and the team went to River State to look at the Port Harcourt refinery; we have promised this country that we will rehabilitate at least one of these refineries within the shortest possible time.

“We visited the Port Harcourt refinery because the programme rehabilitation is about to begin and we hope that work on Port Harcourt refinery will start first quarter next year,” he added.


#Newsworthy…

Lagos govt plans to welcome 2021 with ‘iconic office projects’

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Amid the economic recession and dwindling financial resources occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lagos State government says it is determined to reduce the cost of governance.

The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also pledged that his administration would promote inter-communication among agencies through the provision of sustainable office infrastructure for its workforce.

He made the pledge on Friday during an unscheduled visit to two iconic structures in the state – the Lagos Revenue House and Multi-Agency Building in Alausa, Ikeja.

Governor Sanwo-Olu visited the Lagos Revenue House (formerly Elephant House) building comprising four wings of seven floors, plus a wing of eight floors and a multi-storey structure of three blocks on a total area of site of 2.01 hectares dubbed the Multi-Agency Building.

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The visit was aimed at ensuring prompt completion of the projects to scale down the incidental costs of premises rentals and accommodate most parastatals of the state within the vicinity of the state’s secretariat.

In his remarks, the governor observed the need to accommodate the phased delivery of the projects so as to meet the delivery of wings A and C by December 2020.

He urged the contractors to accelerate delivery of the project so as to avoid cost overrun and ensure early completion of the projects.

Governor Sanwo-Olu was accompanied on the visit by his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat; Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola; his Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Aramide Oduyoye; and Commissioner for Budget, Samuel Egube, among other top government officials.


#Newsworthy…

Top Story: Britain’s govt debt surpasses £2tr

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British government debt has exceeded £2.0 trillion for the first time following large state borrowing as the coronavirus pandemic pushed the UK economy deep into recession, official data showed Friday.

At the end of July, total accumulated debt hit £2.004 trillion ($2.61 trillion, 2.2 trillion euros), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

The debt increased by £227.6 billion compared with July 2019.

“This crisis has put the public finances under significant strain as we have seen a hit to our economy and taken action to support millions of jobs, businesses and livelihoods,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a separate statement.

“Without that support things would have been far worse.”

UK borrowing last month alone was estimated at £26.7 billion, the ONS said.

#Newsworthy…

News+: Dollar weakens, European stock adjust gains.

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European stock markets rose Tuesday, extending the previous session’s gains after a record-lead from Wall Street tech stocks but confidence was kept in check by ongoing China-US tensions and lack of movement on a new US stimulus, analyst said.

Technology firms continued to lead a rally in New York overnight, sending the Nasdaq to yet another all-time high, while the S&P 500 closed just short of a record finish as frustrated investors wait for Democrats and Republicans to hammer out a much-needed virus financial support package.

Asia’s main stock indices steadied Tuesday, while the dollar slid versus its main rivals and oil prices dipped.

“The dollar continues to fall with investors expecting the Fed to maintain its expansionary monetary policy for a long time owing to concerns the persistence of COVID-19 will weigh on economic recovery,” noted Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst with ThinkMarkets.

“The greenback is also suppressed because of the lack of haven demand for the reserve currency, with investors evidently favouring foreign currencies, gold and bitcoin,” he added.

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The American stimulus stand-off is one of a number of issues nagging markets, with China-US tensions continuing to sour and coronavirus fallout in full view.

UK retailer Marks and Spencer on Tuesday announced 7,000 job cuts. In the US, Walmart reported surging e-commerce sales.

– Trade, stimulus tensions –

Washington-Beijing unrest meanwhile took a new twist, with the US expanding sanctions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to further limit its access to computer chips and other US-made products.

While there are concerns raised tensions between the US and China could affect the superpowers’ recently signed trade pact, such fears have been played down by both sides.

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“For the moment, the fact the… trade deal remains in place, and will do while the two sides choose not to hold their six-month review that was to have taken place last weekend, is seen as overriding the building evidence of a technology cold war now under way,” said National Australia Bank’s Ray Attrill.

Analysts said there was not too much concern on markets about possible tax hikes if Joe Biden beats President Donald Trump in the race for the White House.

The Democratic Convention kicked off Monday and “the theme should be that Biden will be good for the economy,” said Edward Moya at OANDA.

“Wall Street seems convinced that Biden’s tax policy will not kill the stock market… a Biden presidency could offer greater certainty and stability for the economy,” Moya added.

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– Key figures around 1145 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 6,142.33 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.8 percent at 13,029.71

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 4,993.03

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 3,327.82

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 23,051.08 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 25,367.38 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,451.09 (close)

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 27,844.91 (close Monday)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1903 from $1.1876 at 2050 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.56 yen from 105.99 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3164 from $1.3107

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.39 pence from 90.58 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.6 percent at $42.65 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $45.22 per barrel


#Newsworthy…

Nigeria suffers highest inflation rate in 2 years – NBS

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Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose to 12.82 per cent year-on-year in July, indicating an increase of 0.26% from the figure recorded in June.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed this in its Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Inflation report for last month, published on Monday.

It is the highest so far reported in the country in the last 27 months, as the prices of food and medical supplies continue to surge amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The CPI measures the average change over time in prices of goods and services consumed by people for day-to-day living i.e it measures the inflation rate. Source: NBS

According to it, increases were recorded in all Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) divisions that yielded the headline index.

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The latest data from the agency indicates that the headline index increased by 1.25 per cent from the 1.21 per cent recorded the previous month, on a month-on-month basis.

“The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the twelve months period ending July 2020 over the average of the CPI for the previous twelve months period was 12.05 percent, representing a 0.15 percent point increase from 11.90 percent recorded in June 2020,” the report said.

Similarly, food inflation rose to 15.48 per cent compared to 15.18 per cent recorded in June, as a result of increases in the prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fruits, oils and fats.

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Meanwhile, the urban inflation rate increased to 13.40 per cent year-on-year from 13.18 per cent recorded in June 2020, while the rural inflation increased to 12.28 percent in July from 11.99 per cent in the previous month.

On a month-on-month basis, the NBS disclosed that the urban index rose by 1.27 per cent in July 2020, up by 0.04 per cent from 1.23 per cent recorded in June 2020, just as the rural index also increased by 1.23 per cent in July 2020, up by 0.04 per cent from the figure recorded in June (1.19 per cent).

“The corresponding twelve-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index was 12.66 per cent in July 2020.

“This is higher than 12.50 per cent reported in June 2020, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in July 2020 is 11.49 per cent compared to 11.36 per cent recorded in June 2020,” the report added.


#Newsworthy…

N12.658t: Nigerian govt makes provision for 2021 budget

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The Federal Government hopes to have a budget expenditure framework projected at N12.658 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year.

This is contained in the latest Economic Outlook by the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.

The document, signed by the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Ahmed Zainab, indicated that the figure represented a 17.2 per cent increase of the revised N10.8 trillion 2020 budget.

The aggregate revenue available for the budget for next year is projected at N7.498 trillion while the aggregate expenditure level is projected to be N12.658 trillion.

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On the other hand, the aggregate expenditure is made up of Statutory Transfers of N481.41 billion, Debt Service of N3.124 trillion, and Sinking Fund of N220 billion.

Recurrent (non-debt) expenditure is also put at N5.746 trillion and Capital expenditure (exclusive of capital in Statutory Transfers) has N3.086 trillion.

Of the capital expenditure, the Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) Capital is N1.485 trillion.

Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Ahmed Zainab

The ministry explained that the projections were in accordance with the government’s 2021-2023 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

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It added that the key parameters for the 2021-23 fiscal framework were set in line with the global and domestic economic outlook.

Meanwhile, the Statutory Transfers of N481.41 billion consist of allocations to the National Judicial Council (NJC), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), National Assembly (NASS), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Public Complaints Commission (PCC), North East Development Commission (NEDC) and Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

These arms of government and agencies, the ministry said, are expected to apply the funds transferred strictly to accomplish the purposes for which they are intended.

All beneficiaries of statutory transfers were also required to provide the BOF periodic reports of the allocation and expenditure of the funds received, in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (2007).

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“The N3.124 trillion in respect of Debt Service is made up of N2.183 trillion for Domestic Debt, and N940.89 billion for Foreign Debt. Additionally, N220 billion is provisioned for the Sinking Fund to retire maturing loans,” the outlook read.

It noted that the aggregate sum of N3.086 trillion, which excludes capital component of statutory transfers, has been set aside for six sundry critical capital expenditures.

They include N1.485 trillion for MDAS’ capital expenditure, N234.19 billion for Capital Supplementation, and N337.06 billion for Grants and donor-funded projects.

Others are N20 billion for Special Intervention Programme, N4335.59 billion for GOEs, and N674.11 billion for Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral Project-tied loans.


#Newsworthy…

China loan: Reps argues dirty with Amaechi

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A heated argument ensued on Monday between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols, Nicholas Ossai.

The committee is investigating the $500billion loan agreement between Nigeria and China for the Federal Government’s rail projects.

While the public hearing was ongoing, Amaechi said Nigeria was very unlikely to get the remaining loans from China because of the investigations being carried out by the House.

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He accused the Committee of pursuing a political agenda, alleging that Ossai had approached him on the South-South Rail Project.

Following the increasing rise in Amaechi’s tone, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, stormed the venue of the hearing and called for a 30-minute break.

The minister was later discharged and asked to reappear before the lawmakers on Tuesday at 12 noon.

This is the second time the Minister would be summoned before the Committee over the foreign loan meant for railway projects.

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On July 29, he appealed to the National Assembly to halt its probe of the 500 million dollars loan from the Chinese government.

Amaechi warned that the loan which is meant for the completion of the Federal Government’s rail projects may be truncated by the Chinese government if it suspects that there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislature.

He also argued that constant probing or investigation may suggest that an arm of the government does not agree with the loan and may cause the Chinese government to withdraw it.

Amaechi noted that while the lawmakers have the powers to conduct such a probe, he begged them to do so after Nigeria has obtained the loan to prevent the proposed projects from suffering a setback.


#Newsworthy…

Adegbite: Gold is most smuggled from Nigeria

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The Minister of Mines and Steel, Olamilekan Adegbite, has disclosed that gold is the most struggled mineral out of the country.

He said because gold has immediate value, most people have ventured into smuggling it.

The Minister revealed this on Monday during his appearance on Media TV (known to Noble Reporters Media).

“The people who smuggle these minerals out of Nigeria, take it through our borders, so part of our proposals is to strengthen the relationship between our ministry and the Ministry of Finance who supervises the Nigerian Customs Service.

“We have caught a few people trying to smuggle out gold because of its immediate value, it is the most smuggled mineral out of Nigeria”.

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The minister, who linked part of the illegal mining and smuggling to Chinese personnel who come into the country as construction workers, emphasised the need for synergy between security agencies, especially from the Immigration Service and Customs.

“We are working also with the Ministry of Interior because most of these Chinese people that do illegal mining come into Nigeria through immigration. They have some sort of stay or work permit.

“They come in another guise and they find themselves in mining. So we are working with the Ministry of Interior, Immigration to make sure that there is a monitoring mechanism in place,” he stressed.

He further noted that his ministry is taking a multisectoral approach which has been approved by the ministry’s council.

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“We are forming synergy with all these agencies so that we minimise all the loss from illegal smuggling,” he said

The minister noted the importance of collaboration with these agencies to curb smuggling.

On the issue of Ajaokuta producing 2.2 million tonnes of liquid steel per annum, the minister said that the project is yet to commence.

He explained that President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier met with the Russian Government at the Russian African Summit where he appealed for some expatriates to come and help with the project.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Lagos govt extends work hours of markets

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The Lagos State government has extended the hours of operations of both food markets and non-food markets across the state.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr Gboyega Akosile, said the decision was to further enhance trade and commerce and mitigate the hardship of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the governor’s spokesman, markets have been permitted to open by 8am and close at 6pm.

He explained that the announcement was made in a statement by the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs in the state, Dr Wale Ahmed.

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Dr Ahmed, he said, emphasised that the alternate days of operations remain in force.

Food markets in Lagos are to open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, while non-food markets open will open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

He urged all traders to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols for their safety and that of the residents at large.

At a stakeholders’ meeting held in Alausa, Ikeja recently, the commissioner had issued new guidelines for the reopening of markets and shopping malls in the state.

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He explained that this was part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus, following Governor Sanwo-Olu’s announcement of the gradual easing of the lockdown in the state.

Dr Ahmed had said all markets and stores in the various local governments and local council development areas across the metropolis would be allowed to open from 9am to 3pm on selected days.

He stressed that everyone attending the markets and stores would be mandated to observe precautionary measures such as physical distancing and high levels of personal and respiratory hygiene.

The commissioner had stated that malls would also be allowed to open with the proviso that stores would maintain a 60 per cent occupancy capacity at any point in time.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: How climate change could attract fresh epidemics

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Long-dormant viruses brought back to life; the resurgence of deadly and disfiguring smallpox; a dengue or zika “season” in Europe.

These could be disaster movie storylines, but they are also serious and increasingly plausible scenarios of epidemics unleashed by global warming, scientists say.

The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe and claimed over 760,000 lives so far almost certainly came from a wild bat, highlighting the danger of humanity’s constant encroachment on the planet’s dwindling wild spaces.

But the expanding ecological footprint of our species could trigger epidemics in other ways too.

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Climate change — already wreaking havoc with one degree Celsius of warming — is also emerging as a driver of infectious disease, whether by expanding the footprint of malaria- and dengue-carrying mosquitos, or defrosting prehistoric pathogens from the Siberian permafrost.

– ‘Ignorance is our enemy’ –

“In my darkest moments, I see a really horrible future for Homo sapiens because we are an animal, and when we extend our borders things will happen to us,” said Birgitta Evengard, a researcher in clinical microbiology at Umea University in Sweden.

“Our biggest enemy is our own ignorance,” she added. “Nature is full of microorganisms.”

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Think of permafrost, a climate change time bomb spread across Russia, Canada and Alaska that contains three times the carbon that has been emitted since the start of industrialisation.

Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at under two degrees Celsius, the cornerstone goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the permafrost area will decrease by a quarter by 2100, according to the UN’s climate science panel, the IPCC.

And then there are the permafrost’s hidden treasures.

“Microorganisms can survive in frozen space for a long, long time,” said Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

– An Anthrax comeback? –

As ground thaws, once-frozen soil particles, organic material and microorganisms that had been locked away for millennia are carried toward the surface by water flows, he explained.

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“That’s how thawing can spread these microorganisms into present day environments.”

There are already examples of ancient, long-frozen bugs coming to life.

“When you put a seed into soil that is then frozen for thousands of years, nothing happens,” said Jean-Michel Claverie, an emeritus professor of genomics at the School of Medicine of Aix-Marseille University in France.

“But when you warm the earth, the seed will be able to germinate,” he added. “That is similar to what happens with a virus.”

Claverie’s lab has successfully revived Siberian viruses that are at least 30,000 years old.

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These reanimated bugs only attack amoebas, but tens of thousands of years ago there were certainly others that aimed higher up the food chain.

“Neanderthals, mammoths, woolly rhinos all got sick, and many died,” said Claverie. “Some of the viruses that caused their sicknesses are probably still in the soil.”

The number of bacteria and viruses lurking in the permafrost is incalculable, but the more important question is how dangerous they are.

And here, scientists disagree.

“Anthrax shows that bacteria can be resting in permafrost for hundreds of years and be revived,” said Evengard.

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In 2016, a child in Siberia died from the disease, which had disappeared from the region at least 75 years earlier.

– Two-million-year-old pathogens –

This case has been attributed to the thawing of a long-buried carcass, but some experts counter that the animal remains in question may have been in shallow dirt and thus subject to periodic thawing.

Other pathogens — such as smallpox or the influenza strain that killed tens of millions in 1917 and 1918 — may also be present in the sub-Arctic region.

But they “have probably been inactivated”, Romanovsky concluded in a study published earlier this year.

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For Claverie, however, the return of smallpox — officially declared eradicated 50 years ago — cannot be excluded. 18th- and 19th-century victims of the disease “buried in cemetaries in Siberia are totally preserved by the cold,” he noted.

In the unlikely event of a local epidemic, a vaccine is available.

The real danger, he added, lies in deeper strata where unknown pathogens that have not seen daylight for two million years or more may be exposed by global warming.

If there were no hosts for the bugs to infect there would not be a problem, but climate change — indirectly — has intervened here as well.

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“With the industrial exploitation of the Arctic, all the risk factors are there — pathogens and the people to carry them,” Claverie said.

The revival of ancient bacteria or viruses remains speculative, but climate change has already boosted the spread of diseases that kill about half a million people every year: malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika.

“Mosquitoes moving their range north are now able to overwinter in some temperate regions,” said Jeanne Fair, deputy group leader for biosecurity and public health at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“They also have longer breeding periods.”

– ‘Climate change aperitif’ –

Native to southeast Asia, the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) — which carries dengue and chikungunya — arrived in southern Europe in the first decade of this century and has been moving rapidly north ever since, to Paris and beyond.

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Meanwhile, another dengue-bearing mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has also appeared in Europe. Whichever species may be the culprit, the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has registered 40 cases of local transmission of dengue between 2010 and 2019.

“An increase in mean temperature could result in seasonal dengue transmission in southern Europe if A. aegypti infected with virus were to be established,” according to the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

As for malaria — a disease that once blighted southern Europe and the southern United States and for which an effective treatment exists — the risk of exposure depends in large part on social-economic conditions.

More than five billion people could be living in malaria-affected regions by 2050 if climate change continues unabated, but strong economic growth and social development could reduce that number to less than two billion, according to a study cited by the IPCC.

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“Recent experience in southern Europe demonstrates how rapidly the disease may reappear if health services falter,” the IPCC said in 2013, alluding to a resurgence of cases in Greece in 2008.

In Africa — which saw 228 million cases of malaria in 2018, 94 percent of the world’s total — the disease vector is moving into new regions, notably the high-altitude plains of Ethiopia and Kenya.

For the moment, the signals for communicable tropical diseases “are worrying in terms of expanding vectors, not necessarily transmission,” said Cyril Caminade, an epidemiologist working on climate change at the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.

“That said, we’re only tasting the aperitif of climate change so far,” he added.


#Newsworthy…

Borrowing, for Infrastructure purpose, not bad – Lai Mohammed.

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Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, spoke to reporters on August 15, 2020, during an inspection of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project.

Minister of Information and Culture on Saturday said there is nothing bad in borrowing for infrastructure.

Mohammed made the remarks during an inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project.

“We didn’t borrow money for services,” he said. “We didn’t borrow money for overhead expenditure. We borrowed money for capital projects – rail, road, bridges, power, general infrastructure.

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“There is nothing bad in borrowing, provided that borrowing is invested in infrastructure, especially when it will create jobs, create an enabling environment for the economy.”

The Minister added that he was impressed with the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.

“I am very excited,” he said. “When I got into the train this morning, it was as clean and modern as any coach anywhere in the world.

“I was also quite impressed with the passion of the Honourable Minister (of Transportation). You can see that every point in time, he is pushing the contractors, saying ‘look, I can’t wait till October, I will come back in four weeks’ time,’ because we want to be able to deliver this kind of infrastructure to Nigerians.”


#Newsworthy…

China loan: Amaechi pleads National Assembly not to halt agreement process

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The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday appealed to the National Assembly to halt its questioning of Nigeria’s loan agreement with China.

Mr Amaechi said questions from the National Assembly is likely to deter China from extending credit to the country, especially the $5.3bn required for the Ibadan-Kano railway.

He made the remarks during an inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project which is being primarily financed by Chinese banks.

“They are not investigating corruption in construction,” Mr Amaechi said. “We want the National Assembly to allow us to get the loan for Ibadan to Kano, which is about $5.3bn.

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“If you are telling the man who lent you money you don’t like the way he lent you, he won’t lend you any further.

“For this one (Lagos-Ibadan rail project), we have $1.6bn for which we are contributing about $200 and $300 million. But don’t forget, they have not finished paying, they can stop at any time.”

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi speaks to a Chinese construction official during an inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project on August 15, 2020. (Noble Reporters Media //)

The House of Representatives had raised an alarm about the nature of loans received from China which, it said, puts the country’s sovereignty into question in the case of a re-payment default.

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However, Mr Amaechi has insisted the loans, which are primarily spent on capital projects built by Chinese companies, will benefit the country.

Touring Lagos-Ibadan Railway
On his Saturday inspection tour, Amaechi was accompanied by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and top management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

According to a correspondent, the inspection started from the mega station in Ebute Metta to Apapa in Lagos and moved all the way to Ibadan, Oyo state.

The ministers inspected the construction of all boarding stations and yards along the route.

Mr Amaechi expressed satisfaction at the pace of work, despite the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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However, he did not specify when the project will be completed. “Let’s hope by January, this thing will be ready,” he said.

Mr. Amaechi said the Ibadan-Kano rail project is being delayed by the expected approval by the national assembly to acquire a loan for its execution.

On his part, the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said monies borrowed from China are being utilised judiciously for capital projects.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, said skeletal operations are likely to commence from Yaba to Ibadan in September.


#Newsworthy…

Construction: Rivers State govt signs MoU with Julius Berger

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The Rivers State Government is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with construction giant, Julius Berger.

The signing is ongoing at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

In attendance are Governor Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Paulinus Nsirim, other officials of the state government, the Managing Director, Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Lars Richter among others.

… more to come


#Newsworthy…