Italy inaugurates a sleek new bridge in Genoa on Monday, though relatives of the 43 people killed when the old viaduct collapsed say the pomp and ceremony risk overshadowing the tragedy.
Jets trailing the colours of the Italian flag will roar overhead as the national anthem plays, almost two years to the day the Morandi highway gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of cars and several trucks onto railway tracks below.
President Sergio Mattarella will be the first to officially cross the new bridge, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who gave it a curved, gleaming underbelly evoking the hull of a ship in tribute to Genoa’s maritime history.
The names of the victims will be read aloud — though many of their loved ones will not be present.
“We won’t be at the inauguration, we don’t want the tragedy to be transformed into a carnival,” said Egle Possetti, whose sister died in the August 14, 2018 disaster along with her husband and their two children.
“You can have this sort of big party if you knock down the bridge because it’s old, you build a new one, and no one’s died.”
The Morandi bridge had been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance, and its collapse threw the spotlight on Italy’s creaking infrastructure.
The tragedy also ended the longstanding concession of highway maintenance by a company majority-owned by the powerful Benetton family.
The new high-tech structure will have four maintenance robots running along its length to spot weathering or erosion, as well as a special dehumidification system to limit corrosion.
It is expected to open to traffic on Tuesday or Wednesday.
– ‘An atrocious sight’ –
Architect Piano, a Genoa native whose building designs include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, has described his new creation as a “child born of tragedy”.
“It was horrific. I remember the sounds, the smells, terrible things,” said Silvano Ruffoni, one of the first paramedics on the scene when, at just after 11:30 am, some 250 metres (820 feet) of the vast concrete structure crumbled into the void.
“We were met by such an atrocious sight. The bridge was gone. We were thunderstruck,” he said in an interview with the local daily Il Secolo XIX last week.
The new viaduct, he said, was “a sign of rebirth”.
But Possetti, who is a spokeswoman for a victims’ relatives group, said she would “never cross that bridge”.
“How could you be there and not think of everything that happened, and that destroyed your family,” she told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
The Morandi was hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, but an investigation into the disaster found it was neglected.
Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy’s motorway network, has been accused of failing to maintain it properly, amid allegations of falsified safety reports and in-house pressure to slash maintenance costs.
Atlantia, the parent group of Autostrade, is controlled by the wealthy Benetton family, which finally bowed to pressure last month to relinquish control of its besmirched toll-road operator, which will be nationalised.
Autostrade is under investigation, along with several transport ministry officials, for culpable homicide.
The preliminary probe is due to wind up in October, before a trial begins early next year, Possetti said.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to publish the details of loans that have been obtained by his administration since May 29, 2015.
In a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP also sought the details of the interest rate on such loans, the total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by the government, and details of the projects on which the loans have been spent.
It made the request in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 filed before the court in the nation’s capital.
Also joined as respondents include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha.
However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
The National Assembly had approved a loan of N850 billion and another $22.79 billion loan requested by the President for government projects and others.
Stolen Loans? In its reaction, SERAP sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”
It also asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians if he would instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.”
The group believes the opacity in the spending of loans will continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.
It, however, stressed that transparency would ensure that the loans were not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that such loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.
“This suit is permitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.
“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name, but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape, or form,” the group said.
It explained that the suit followed its FoI request dated May 30, 2020 and addressed to the President in which it raised concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay such loans.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read,
The massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.
SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.
Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by the government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, and reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.
SERAP is seeking an order to direct and compel President Buhari to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific conditions of repayment of the loans.
Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.
The Nigeria Government has signed on to the Open Government Partnership [OGP], and the country is a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has hiked the toll rate of pre-paid users accessing the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, by 300 per cent. The one-off yearly renewal that erstwhile cost N10, 000 per private vehicle, now costs N40, 000.
Meanwhile, the authority has paid workers on grade level eight and above half salary for the month of July, raising speculations that the management may have slashed salary of senior workers by 50 per cent.
The workers, who got paid some days ago, received half of their monthly salary, while the junior workers got their full remuneration. The authority, which caters for about 10000 workforce nationwide, has been cash-strapped since COVID-19 restricted both local and international commercial flights, with attendant revenue loss.
Operators at the airport and other regular users of the Lagos access toll plaza found that a section of the tolling has increased, while the regular pay-as-you-go booth rates remain the same.
A visit to Room 501 at the international terminal of the airport confirmed the development. An official of FAAN, saddled with the processing, Mrs. Musa, said N40, 000 was the new flat rate per vehicle, coupled with official letter of request from the company and details of the beneficiary vehicle.
“All I can tell you is, that is the rate now,” she said. Recall that a coalition of unions – Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) – on February 4, 2020 took over the toll plaza, citing the expiration of Integrated Intelligent Imaging West Africa Limited’s (I-Cube) five-year contract since February 2019.
I-Cube had earlier collected N10, 000 for renewal and N15, 000 for new applicants, remitting N68m to FAAN every month. With FAAN directly collecting toll at the plaza, the unions lately pegged the monthly earnings of the facility at N100.
FAAN earlier raised Passenger Service Charge (PSC) by 100 per cent. The management, in a memo, notified airlines that effective August 1, 2020, PSC rate would increase from N1000 to N2000 for domestic flight passengers and from the former $50 to $100 for international travellers. With the prospect of rise in revenue, some FAAN workers were surprised last Wednesday to receive 50 per cent of their salaries for July without prior notice.
The FAAN management had in May hinted on the plan to half salary, as part of measures of coping with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary General of ANAP, Abdulrazak Saidu, said the development was brought to their notice Wednesday night by affected staff. Saidu noted that staff on grade levels 1-7 received their full salaries, adding that the management had promised to pay others the 50 per cent balance next week. He, however, said they were displeased, as the management did not notify them of the plan before going ahead to execute it, adding that with the public holidays, there was nothing the unions could do than to wait till work resumes. Saidu said: “Besides the economic constraints of the pandemic, FAAN management was insolvent, due to “the huge overhead of over N3b monthly for payment of salaries of staff and retirees.
“The bill was jacked up last year with the employment of over 700 people into the aviation security and fire departments, as directed by the Ministry of Aviation. The FAAN work force was getting close to over 8,000-plus, which includes the current staff of about 5,000 and retirees, pensioners of over 4,000. The workers are so angry and asking why must FAAN be different? NAMA and NCAA have paid.”
The General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, said they were still in shock over the current action, as their members were agitated. He explained that FAAN management should have informed their branch chairmen about the decision, rather than pay before informing them.
“Last night, the information we heard was that they paid half salary because they didn’t want to delay payment, so that some people would have money for Salah and that they will pay the balance by Tuesday next week. That was the information that came from the Director of Finance.
“But they didn’t inform us earlier about it. I don’t just understand them. They were struggling to complete the money but it didn’t work, so they decided to pay 50 per cent. They should have informed us to avert misunderstanding. As I speak to you, because this information has not gone round, all FAAN branches nationwide are mobilising for shutdown next week. That is what would have happened because of lack of information,” Aba said.
The oil-rich United Arab Emirates on Saturday announced the startup of its Barakah nuclear power plant, scoring another first for the Arab world.
The announcement, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, comes hot on the heels of the UAE’s launch of the Arab world’s first probe to Mars.
“UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up,” tweeted Hamad Alkaabi, the country’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation,” he tweeted in English, along with a photograph of technicians raising their arms in celebration.
The UAE premier and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted that work at Barakah had “succeeded in loading nuclear fuel packages, carrying out comprehensive tests and successfully completing the operation”.
“Congratulations on realising this historic achievement in the energy sector & marking this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the green light for the first of the plant’s four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.
The plant on the Gulf coast west of Abu Dhabi had been due to go online in late 2017 but faced a number of delays that officials attributed to safety and regulatory requirements.
The Nawah Energy Company said at the time that Unit 1 would begin commercial operations after a “series of tests” leading to the start-up process.
During the process, the unit would be synchronised with the power grid and the first electricity produced.
The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.
Barakah, which means “blessing” in Arabic, is a regional first — Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the project has yet to materialise.
Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.
When fully operational, its four reactors have the capacity to generate 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25 percent of the nation’s needs. The remaining three reactors are almost ready for operation.
As well as generating competitively priced electricity, the UAE also hopes the nuclear plant will elevate its status as a key regional player, building on its success as a hub for tourism, banking and services.
The fourth largest crude producer in the OPEC cartel, the country was built on oil and sits on a huge, recently discovered gas field.
Nevertheless, it is spending billions to develop enough renewable energy to cover half of its needs by 2050.
“This is part of the UAE’s drive to diversify its energy economy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and project its image as a regional leader in science and technology,” a Gulf analyst told AFP.
No enrichment On July 20, the first Arab space mission to Mars, an unmanned probe dubbed “Hope”, blasted off from Japan on a mission to reveal more about the atmosphere of the Red Planet.
The Barakah plant, on the coast facing Iran across the Gulf, stands just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Saudi border and closer to Qatar’s capital Doha than to Abu Dhabi.
Amid a tense confrontation between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear programme, the UAE has said it will not be developing a uranium enrichment programme or nuclear reprocessing technologies.
Qatar, the target of a boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others since June 2017, last year said the Barakah plant poses a “flagrant threat to regional peace and environment”.
The UAE has repeatedly said its nuclear ambitions are for “peaceful purposes” and moved to dispel any concerns over safety.
It says it has welcomed more than 40 international reviews and inspection missions.
The US economy collapsed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the April-to-June period, contracting 32.9 percent in the second quarter, the government reported Thursday.
The decline, though slightly less bad than expected, was the worst on record for the world’s largest economy, dating back to 1947.
However, the Commerce Department figures are an annual rate so not comparable to the quarterly contractions reported in other advanced economies.
Compared to the same quarter of 2019, economic activity fell 9.5 percent.
The plunge in GDP was driven largely by the drop in consumer spending, the largest component, which fell 34.6 percent annualized, according to the first estimate for the second quarter.
After a 5.0 percent drop in the first three months of the year, economists had been expecting the damage from COVID-19 to contract activity by 35 percent or more amid the nationwide halt to travel and much business, which caused tens of millions of jobs to be destroyed.
The data show trade also took a huge hit, with exports falling just over 64 percent, and imports down 53.4 percent.
But personal income got a boost of $1.4 trillion in the quarter from the government emergency spending measures that provided payroll funds for businesses and direct unemployment payments to workers.
The annualized data assumes the damage wrought in a single quarter will play out over the entire year, but economists expect a rebound in coming months.
However, the hopeful signs in May and June have given way amid a resurgence of virus cases in July that has forced authorities in some states to reimpose restrictions.
US stocks futures were down a bit less than one percent following the data.
The Kaduna-Abuja train service has resumed passenger operations, nearly four months after services were stopped due to the nationwide lockdown imposed as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The railway opened bookings for passenger services on Wednesday morning with four trains a day connecting Kaduna to Abuja.
Railway health officials at the Rigasa Train station told Channels Television that coaches and the premises have been decontaminated before the resumption of passenger service.
Passengers were also mandated to wash their hands with soap at the entry point, their luggages were decontaminated, while their body temperatures were screened before being allowed to move to the ticket point.
In line with social distancing guidelines, the number of passengers per couch has also been cut down by half while the railway management has made the wearing of face mask and use of hand sanitizers compulsory.
…Bear with us, no better time than now, says Fashola
Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic (PDP), Chief Olabode George, has said that the six months closure of Third Mainland Bridge for maintenance work will create serious economic and social havoc to residents.
George, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, yesterday, decried the sufferings motorists and commuters were subjected to in the last two days since the repairs started.
He, therefore, urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his predecessor, the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to ensure that one side of the bridge is opened and be temporarily converted to a dual carriageway for motorists while the repair work continues on the other side.
In a similar vein, the Publicity Secretary of PDP in Lagos, Mr. Taofik Gani, said while the repair work on the bridge is necessary, he faulted the governor for haphazard preparation, stressing that Sanwo-Olu and his advisers failed to plan ahead of the pains and agony that the closure would inflict on the people.
MEANWHILE, Fashola has described the ongoing repair work on the Third Mainland Bridge and other Federal Government projects in the state as a result of a long time of neglect by successive governments in Nigeria.
He, therefore, appealed to Lagosians to bear the pain, which the sudden closure may have caused, saying that there is no better time to repair the bridge than now.
The minister spoke in Lagos yesterday when he paid an official inspection visit to the on-going repair work on the Third Mainland Bridge to ascertain the status of work done and the impact of the partial closure on traffic movement.
“We hear you all the residents and commuters saying this road has not been done and some roads need attention. What we are doing now is responding essentially to all the issues you have raised. I hear people say ‘why are you doing everything at the same time.’ We wish there is another way,” he said.
He said that the major cause of delay since 2018 was as a result of being sensitive to the plight of motorists seeking a better time.
Earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said about 650 LASTMA personnel had been deployed by his ministry to support FRSC officials on the ground to direct traffic and ensure less congestion.
He said that the state government through the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure had done palliative work to ensure alternative routes are motorable.
The Bayelsa Governor, Douye Diri, has cut the state’s 2020 budget by 24 percent.
The bill, which was N242bn, has been cut to N183bn.
Governor Diri said that the decision was reached following a drop in monthly revenue occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He disclosed this on Tuesday while speaking at a Public Forum to review the 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget in Yenagoa.
He said the anticipated projections of the initial budget had to be re-evaluated to reflect the current realities of the global economic downturn occasioned by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 challenge.
He also noted that the sharp drop in the international price of crude oil from $55 per barrel benchmark to $20 crippled the country’s economy that is largely dependent on proceeds from oil.
According to the governor, all the parameters used in the previous budget, which was presented to the state assembly on April 22, had been overtaken by the effects of the health crisis.
“The 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget was passed with certain assumptions that have been negatively altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The effect of the global lockdown has resulted in low demand for crude oil, which is Nigeria’s major earner. The price of oil dropped to as low as $20 per barrel in some months as against the $55 per barrel benchmark.
“Consequently, there is need to revise the budget to face the existing realities. The proposed budget size is now N183.16billion as against N242.19billion that was in the original budget”, Governor Diri added.
Reacting to questions, the governor stressed that given his administration’s priority on workers’ welfare, the slashing of the budget would not affect civil servants’ salaries.
“From the revised budget figure, you can see that nothing affected the personnel cost and salaries. There is no intention to reduce workers salaries. We should even be thinking of increasing the salaries once our resources improve”, he further added.
The Presidency on Tuesday said Nigeria exports power to neighbouring countries in order to prevent the damming of water that feeds the nation’s major power plants.
On Monday, a Nigerian newspaper, Punch, had published a report describing how Nigeria has continued to export electricity to other countries on credit while blackouts persist within its borders.
As a response to the report, the Presidency, via a statement signed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu, described the report as “hyperbolic and terribly misleading.”
The Presidency said the newspaper’s credit figures were “far from accurate, out-dated and therefore not reflective of the current reality.”
It also added that over 90 percent of the electricity generated in the country was distributed and consumed by Nigerians.
The Presidency revealed that as of the last review in 2019, the amount of indebtedness to Niger, Benin, and Togo stood at $69 million.
According to it, Niger owes $16 million and Benin, $4 million as of today, adding up to the naira equivalent of about N1.2 billion.
Read the full statement below:
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PUNCH’S INACCURATE REPORTING ON THE SALE OF POWER TO NEIGHBORING NATIONS NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED
It is most disappointing that sensationalism has dominated the thinking and ethos of institutions that citizens look up to with trust, confidence and reliability. Monday edition of the Punch checks all the boxes in terms of an abject failure to honour these time-tested traditions with its news piece: “NIGERIA EXPORTS USD81.48bn ELECTRICITY ON CREDIT AS COUNTRY’S BLACKOUT PERSISTS,” is, to say the least, hyperbolic and terribly misleading.
Apart from the fact that the figure quoted is far from accurate, out-dated and therefore not reflective of the current reality, the overall cost of power generated and sold by Nigeria in the period covered by the report is not anywhere close to what was mentioned by the paper.
The actual cost of electricity generated within the said timeframe (2018-2019) by all the electricity generation companies in Nigeria was about N1.2 trillion ($4 billion).
Over 90% of the electricity generated was distributed and consumed by consumers across the 11 electricity distribution companies in the country.
Power exported to Niger, Benin and Togo based on Multilateral Energy Sales Agreement with the Government of Nigeria is on the basis that they would not dam the waters that feed our major power plants in Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba.
As of the last review in 2019, the amount of indebtedness to all three customers stood at $69 million, subsequent upon which several payments were made to NBET. Much of this has been repaid by the debtor nations.
As of today, Niger owes only USD 16 million and Benin, USD 4 million, adding up to the Naira equivalent of about N1.2bn.
The essence of said bilateral agreements, by which we give them power and they do not build dams on the River Niger means that Nigeria and her brotherly neighbours had avoided the unfolding situation of the Nile River between the sovereign states of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
In the future, we advise the newspaper to seek clarity from the market operator which is the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN. This process of fact-checking only improves your standing in the public arena.
A protest movement that has sprung up in Mali, shaking President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s grip on power, on Tuesday rejected a compromise put forward by regional leaders and insisted that he quit.
In a statement, the so-called June 5 Movement said it “demands the resignation of Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and his regime more than ever,” accusing them of bearing “full responsibility” for Mali’s crisis.
The announcement came a day after heads of the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS stood by Keita and urged him to forge a unity government and resolve an election dispute that has fuelled the protests.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday commenced an inspection tour of the Federal Government’s road projects in Lagos State.
The minister kicked off the inspection at the Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki Expressway reconstruction project, then moved to the Third Mainland Bridge which has been partially shut for repairs.
The bridge was shut on Friday, and will remain shut for the next six months as the repairs continue.
According to the Federal Controller of Works, Olukayode Popoola, a diversion has been created for the contractor handling the repairs to commence work on the outward lane of the island.
Popoola also explained that the inward lane has been left open to enable motorists to ply the road with ease while going about their businesses.
Commuters have, however, already begun to experience increased gridlock on the axis.
In August 2018, the Third Mainland Bridge was shut for a three-day investigative maintenance; an underwater confirmatory test was also carried out in March 2019.
Also in 2019, a viral video indicating an unusual vibration of the bridge raised concerns over the bridge’s safety, but the Federal Government dispelled the rumours insisting that the bridge was structurally fit and poses no danger to users.
Meanwhile, further investigation revealed that the worn-out expansion joints of the cantilever bridge may not be posing an immediate threat to the structure at the time, but consistent use without carrying out the required maintenance work has left the bridge in bad shape.
While doing the inspection, Fashola urged Nigerians to endure the hardship and cooperate with the construction workers.
According to him, there is no better time than now, to begin the reconstruction.
The Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, has signed the revised N107.3billion 2020 budget into law.
Signing the budget on Monday, Governor Yahaya said the downward review of the budget was due to the global economic shocks occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected national and personal incomes.
According to him, despite the downwards review of the budget, the state government ensured that health, education, agriculture and other critical sectors remain the top priorities of the state.
The governor explained that the health sector’s budget, in particular, has been increased as a demonstration of the administration’s resolve to combat the virus and its socio-economic impact on the lives and means of livelihood of the people.
The Federal Government says it is making efforts to review the ban imposed on international flights in the country.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, revealed this on Monday at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja.
He stated that the government was planning to reopen the airports for international flights as soon as possible but would do so at a time considered to be safe.
“Certainly, aviation is the worst hit in this (pandemic). There must be passenger movements, especially international passenger for us to be able to survive… so, we want to open more than you want to open,” the minister said.
He explained, “But this is subject to so many factors and all of the sacrifices the aviation is making is in the interest of the public; in the interest of all of us to stay safe.
“So, therefore, the government will not abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all of us stay safe. We definitely will open. We will open very soon when everything seems to be okay and is safe.”
Sooner Than Later Sirika lamented that the closure of the airports for international fights has seriously affected the aviation sector as employers were struggling to pay salaries.
He noted that effort towards the resumption of international flights was not just the work of the sector but some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) have various roles to play.
The minister explained that the purpose of the delay was to identify the best way to ensure that the people were not exposed to the risk of contracting the disease.
He said, “If it is us, we will open yesterday because when we open, the ministry will make more money, we will be able to carry on our activities, we will pay our salaries and provide the service.
“We know that some people are cut away from their families, they are cut away from their businesses but this is an act of God; so please bear with the situation, we are very responsible people and we will open when it is the right time to open and I am sure it will be sooner than later.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has named train stations along the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri corridors after “deserving Nigerians”, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said.
According to Ogunlesi, the Apapa station was named after Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while the Agege station was conferred on the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
Other personalities conferred with train station names include Lateef Jakande (Agbado station), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola station), and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Papalanto station).’
Earlier in June, the President had approved the naming of the Railway Complex in Agbor – the operational hub of the Itakpe-Warri line – after former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, Buhari conferred the names on the “deserving citizens” because of their contribution to “the progress and development of their respective communities and the nation at large.”
Below is a full list of the Nigerians who were conferred with names of train stations:
The Lagos-Ibadan with extension to the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa railway station
Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Apapa station)
Mobolaji Johnson (Ebute Metta Station)
Babatunde Raji Fashola (Agege station)
Lateef Jakande (Agbado station)
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola station).
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Papalanto station)
Prof. Wole Soyinka (Abeokuta station)
Aremo Segun Osoba(Olodo station)
Chief Ladoka Akintola (Omio-Adio station)
Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Ibadan station)
Chief Alex Ekwueme (Operation Control Centre)
The Itakpe-Ajaokuta/Aladja-Warri Railway
Alhaji Adamu Attah (Itakpe station)
Dr. Olushola Saraki (Ajaokuta station)
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (Itogbo station)
Brigadier General George Innih (Agenebode station)
Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (Uromi station)
Chief Tom Ikimi (Ekehen station)
Brig. Gen. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (rtd) (Igbanke station)
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Agbor Station Complex)
Brigadier General David Ejoor (Abraka station)
Micheal Ibru (Opara station)
Alfred Rewane (Ujevwu station)
Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (Railway Village, Agbor)
Government, in March this year, announced total deregulation of petrol across the country, but Nigerians still pay average of N11.9 billion every month to ensure the uniform price of fuel across the country.
Following forced removal of subsidy in the last four months, a total of N47.7 billion was paid by consumers, in what stakeholders likened to “forcing payment from Nigerians to ensure prices of Coke, Maggi and salt remain the same in all parts of the country.”
The payment was generated through the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) management board, between March and June this year when the Federal Government announced the deregulation of the downstream sector of the nation’s oil industry.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had insisted that the government would no longer subsidise Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), because the sector had been deregulated.
But against what should obtain under a deregulated regime, the Federal Government charged an average N7.51 on every litre of petrol that citizens buy to keep PEF in operation amid criticisms. But contrary to the purpose of the ‘pump price tax,’ per litre cost of the product failed to become uniform. Nigerians who live between 100km to 450km away from depots pay above pump price due to transport cost.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had stated that about 52 million litres of petrol was consumed daily in Nigeria, bringing the figure from March to June to about 6.4 billion litres.
So, while the official pump price of petrol was N121.50 per litre in June, data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the country was unable to keep to uniform price as petrol was sold in Gombe for N139.33; Adamawa, N138.00; and Taraba N135.50.The development defeated the reasons for setting up PEF. NBS disclosed that the products sold lower in states like Kwara (N123.86), Ogun (N124.38) and Oyo (N124.39).
While bridging cost hovers between N6 and N10, the monthly pricing template released by Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), dated June 30, showed that Nigerians were charged N7.51 as additional cost from the core variables that determined how much should be paid on a litre of petrol.
CREATED by Decree 9 of 1975 and amended by Decree 32 of 1989, the fund was charged with the primary responsibility of reimbursing petroleum marketing companies for any losses suffered by them, solely and exclusively, as a result of sale of petroleum products at uniform prices throughout the nation.
As justified by the then government, bridging of transportation cost was introduced as a temporary measure, when turnaround maintenance (TAM) of the nation’s refineries was to be conducted. However, the scheme remained for decades as the state of the refineries has worsened.
PEF has stated that, while the initial projection was to have maximum of 10 per cent of total petroleum products bridged, while the remaining portion would be pumped through pipelines, the transportation scheme has consistently increased to about 40 per cent.
Besides, with poor state of refineries and ports in the Southeast and South-south, PEF wrote on its website that products were bridged from Lagos to the areas to address availability problems from the refineries in Port Harcourt and Warri.
Like other obsolete laws in the sector, fresh agitations have greeted the scheme, since government embarked on deregulation as marketers of the product and other stakeholders have insisted that the fund is a drainpipe and not needed in a market expected to survive on realities.
Coming at a time when labour unions are also warming up for showdown should the price of the product continue to increase, some industry players noted that removing the bridging cost would not only reduce the pump but allow investment into the different regions of the country.
A lawyer, Ameh Madaki, who specialises in energy matters, sees the scheme as a wasteful subsidy that achieves absolutely nothing for the downstream sector.
“Whatever informed its setting up originally is no longer relevant to the dictates of today’s economics and it deserves to be scrapped or merged with the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which itself needs to be restructured and re-engineered for greater relevance and efficiency,” Madaki said.
He said PEF would remain a corrupt drainpipe with no value to the Nigerian economy, arguing that since nobody paid transporters of food products to bridge the prices of food items for them to remain stable throughout the country, doing such for petrol remained senseless.
Former President, Nigerian Association for Energy Economists (NAEE), Prof. Wunmi Iledare, stated that the country could not pretend to deregulate and set the price at the same time, nor keep an equalisation agency.
“This is what we refer to as transfer payment syndrome. The way out is complex but doable.”Another expert with the Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform (FOSTER), Michael Faniran, says the much-talked about deregulation was not holistic
“We are still operating a semi-deregulated market but even at that, the current banded pricing regime allows marketers to sell at different prices at different geographical areas based on their cost.
UNDER the new deregulation policy, PPPRA, central bank of Nigeria (CBN), NNPC, Budget Office, Federal Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Finance would determine the prices of petroleum products.
According to a document exclusively obtained in the presidency yesterday, the Federal Government said under the new guidelines for the deregulation of the downstream sector in its bid to incentivize the sector, it has set up a Price Review Committee (PRC), whose duty is to meet once a month to review prevailing price of petrol for each month.
The PRC began work in early April this year after the Federal Government pronounced the commencement of deregulation of the downstream sector on March 19, 2020. Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu said “the agency no longer fixes prices but rather provides a guiding price band within which the operators are expected to operate. This takes into account prevailing market conditions by monitoring petroleum products prices daily, using the average price of the previous month and other components like foreign exchange rates to determine prices for the following month, while ensuring reasonable returns to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
But the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), yesterday, said crisis was looming in the sub sector over pressure on government to scrap the PEF.The IPMAN position was contained in a statement issued, in Jos the Pleateu State capital, by its National Secretary Alhaji Danladi Garba Pasali.
Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing his administration of failing to tackle insecurity and attempting to sweep allegations of corruption under the carpet.
The National Chairman of the Party, Mr Uche Secondus, made the call at a news briefing in the nation’s capital Abuja on Friday.
At the briefing, titled Nigeria on a free fall as corruption, insecurity engulfs our nation,’ Mr Secondus said rising insecurity in the country across the country has exposed the poor leadership in the military and ruling class.
He said, “What we are witnessing in our country today is a total collapse of the nation, the country is on a ventilator gasping for air, under such circumstance. President Buhari should do the honourable thing required of an elder statesman in situations like this, throw in the towel and save the country from ruins.”
Read the full statement by Mr Secondus below:
Being Address of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus at a media briefing on the state of the Nation at the PDP National Secretariat, Wadata, House, Abuja. On July 24, 2020.
“Nigeria in a free fall, as corruption, insecurity engulfs the Nation”
Preamble. Gentlemen of the press, I have had to call you again to discuss the frightening developments in our country. As an opposition party, the PDP has screamed endlessly to high heavens but it’s becoming very clear to all that the ears we are targeting are deaf as nothing on ground shows that there is a government in this country. No attempt is being made from any corner to stem the freighting tide in our land. No effort is being made from any angle to halt the on-going free fall being witnessed in all fronts in the country. Nigerians have become helpless and have come to accept and live like citizens of nations without leader and with no direction. Where do we start looking at the state of the nation when all segments of governance have collapsed.
Insecurity. Nothing establishes the fact that there is no governance in the country more than the worsening state of insecurity. Having exhausted their propaganda of winning the war on terrorism only in their press releases, as reality endowed on all, both the military and political leaders are now helpless and confused. What the Nigerian Senate did on Tuesday when it asked the service chiefs to resign was to show to the World that there is no executive arm of government in place. Having few months back advised the executive to sack the service chiefs for having outlived their relevance and re-engineer the military for the emerging challenges, and having watched the security situation in the country grow from worse to worse, the legislators have limited option but to do what they did at least to show the people they represent that they are sensitive to their plights. Not even during the three-year brutal civil war did we witness as much as over 300 soldiers absconding their duties and pouring abuses on their commander. Only poor leadership from the military and the polity can drag down morale of soldiers to such a pitiable level. The Presidency rising immediately to challenge the Senate shows also the level of confusion in the system.
Corruption. Since transparency International said few years ago that the worst corruption was going-on in Nigeria under this regime, the situation has continued to worsen. It has now become a bazar with no pretense about it with all critical agencies of government including the anti-graft body themselves grossly engulfed in it.
The nation’s economy is walking to depression because we are least in recession and it’s being fast-tracked by the widening scope of corruption involving operatives at the high places.
The free for all corruption going on all over the place leaves us with the impression that the country is dying and there has been a scramble for what one can get out of it before the final demise.
It’s very disheartening that as the looting and the re-looting of the nation’s resources are going on under the watch of the acclaimed anti-corruption President no serious reactions is coming from government that prides itself to be fighting corruption.
Rather than confront the already exposed corruption cases, the government deliberately takes cautious steps to play it down with a view to protecting their members who are neck-deep in the growing sleaze.
“After providence decided to expose the massive fraud going on in the nation’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the last five years, rather than bring it to the fore, the Presidency in the great cover-up decided to take the investigation including the interrogation of suspects to Aso Rock Villa behind camera where all the exposed issues are kept away from the public glare.
We are aware that after the massive fraud exposition involving critical members of the administration, subtle moves are on behind the scene to free culprits and save the face of the government at the expense of the nation.
This has been the case since this administration came in 2015 disguising as an anti-corruption regime while in reality looting the country dry.
“After their double speak on fuel subsidy and prizing, they have recorded the highest amount of subsidy in the petroleum sector while running the show in utmost secrecy with the President presiding as both the President and the Petroleum Minister.
As we speak, the big corruption cover-up is on-going in critical sectors, the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, the Maritime Sector, the Customs, the Federal inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Nigeria Social Insurance a Trust Fund, NSITF, North East Development Commission, NNPC crude Oil sale to China, etc.
Nothing brings out the exact character of President Buhari’s administration to corruption than the on-going free for all fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, where the so-called forensic auditors sent in by the President to unearth a fraud are themselves becoming visible accomplice to the crime. The Senate has already indicted the Interim Management Committee, IMC, and the supervising Minister Senator Godswill Akpabio. A commission set up to helping the suffering people of Niger Delta has become a bank for APCmembers.
Fraud at a glance.
100mb crude oil sales to China by Sahara energy as reported over 2.5b dollars
Over N1.3 trillion spent between 2015 and 2019 with N4.923b of NDDC spent outside the budget.
NSITF N3.4b fraud
The growing fresh fuel Subsidy fraud
Unaccounted for N100b for North East commission.
Not to talk of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in the name of covid-19 palliatives
Fraudulent acquisition of banks, telecom companies amounting to billions of dollars by cabals in this administration.
Efcc blockage of N100b tax laundering petition involving a high profile person in APC
Gentlemen of the press, the state of our nation today requires that all hands must be on deck especially you media practitioners who should not relent in holding public officers accountable.
Nigerians should not be distracted by the drama playing out at the various fraud case hearings whether in Aso Villa with Ibrahim Magu or at the National Assembly with two Ministers Akpabio and Chris Ngige, entertaining Nigerians, they are designs to remove public attention to the real issue. In this country under the watch of President Buhari and his APC, we have found ourselves in the environment as the French economist, Federico Bastiat said that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it” .This regime has found a code for corruption and they now glorify it and make fun of it.
Finally, gentlemen of the press what we are witnessing in our country today is a total collapse of the nation, the country is on ventilator gasping for air, under such circumstance, President Buhari should do the honourable thing required of an elder statesman in situations like this, THROW IN THE TOWEL because Nigeria is on and save the country from ruins. Thanks for your attention and God bless.
South Africa’s central bank on Thursday cut its key interest rate for the fifth time this year in a bid to breathe life into the coronavirus-stricken economy.
Along with other central banks around the world to aggressively lower borrowing costs in a bid to soften economic blow from COVID-19, the South African Reserve Bank cut its repurchase or “repo” rate by 0.25 percentage points to a record low of 3.5 percent.
Already this year, the bank had previously cut the rate by a total 2.75 percentage points to provide relief to indebted consumers as the negative effects from the coronavirus pandemic make themselves felt.
President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, but began loosening some of the restrictions in June to allow for economic activity to resume.
But the country’s economy was already in tatters before the onset of the pandemic, with credit ratings agencies downgrading South Africa’s sovereign debt.
Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago warned that even as the lockdown is relaxed in coming months, investment, exports and imports are expected to decline sharply across the year as a whole.
Job losses and unemployment, already at record highs of above 30 percent, are also expected to climb further.
The central bank also downgraded its growth estimate for the second quarter and said it expected gross domestic product to contract by 7.3 percent in 2020, instead of the 7.0 percent forecast in May.
“The deepest contractions are expected in the second quarter of 2020, with gradual recoveries in the third and fourth quarters of the year,” Kganyago said.
The rate decision comes at a time when consumer inflation is at a 15-year low at 2.1 percent.
Since January, the rand has depreciated by 15.2 percent against the dollar, the governor said.
The Senate ad hoc committee investigating financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday said the agency had spent N1.3 trillion within four years, with some of the spending unlawful.
The committee revealed the figure during the presentation of its investigative report before the Senate days after the acting NDDC Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped at a public hearing.
In the report read by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the NDDC spent the N1.3 trillion between 2015 and May 31, 2019.
Many of the expenses, Adetunmbu said, were extra-budgetary.
He added that the Committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.
He said the committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.
The investigation further revealed that the NDDC paid 4.9 billion Naira to staff for numerous allowances including COVID-19 relief, tour duty allowances, overseas travel, and international scholarships.
Curiously, the payment for overseas travel and scholarship was during the lockdown and cessation of flights abroad.
The committee also observed that the ministry of Niger delta is culpable if negligent supervision of the NDDC.
It further noted that the performance of the interim management committee IMC is a major issue as the record of the IMC has not shown any record of prudence and it should be dissolved.
The committee also raised an alarm over the forensic audit called for by President Buhari, stating that it is at a rudimentary level with the recruitment of the auditors still underway even after eight months.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has charged the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to engage relevant stakeholders with a view to reforming Nigeria’s Electoral Process.
Lawan gave the charge in his remark after referring the confirmation of the nomination of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu for an appointment as a Resident Electoral Commissioner to the INEC Committee.
According to Lawan, the reform of the country’s electoral process by the National Assembly must be carried out with a view to meeting the expectations of Nigerians.
“We must ensure that we work so hard and assiduously on the electoral reforms.
“This is one way of ensuring that we collect all the different submissions from different stakeholders.
“Our Committee on INEC together with major stakeholders should start working on this as quickly as possible, to ensure that we are able to meet the expectations of Nigerians regarding electoral reforms,” Lawan said.
The Senate President also gave the Committee four weeks to submit its report on the appointment of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu as a Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a similar vein, Senator Lawan, on Tuesday, urged the Executive arm of Government to work on the estimates for the 2021 budget to ensure its timely presentation to the National Assembly by the end of September this year.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after referring President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper request to the Senate Committees on Finance; and National Planning for further legislative work.
The Senate President while charging both Committees to engage the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on the MTEF/FSP request, stressed the need for the panel to lend its support where necessary to Revenue Generating Agencies towards meeting expected revenue targets.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, urged the Executive arm of Government to work on the estimates for the 2021 budget to ensure its timely presentation to the National Assembly by the end of September this year.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after referring President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper request to the Senate Committees on Finance; and National Planning for further legislative work.
The Senate President while charging both Committees to engage the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on the MTEF/FSP request, stressed the need for the panel to lend its support where necessary to Revenue Generating Agencies towards meeting expected revenue targets.
The Committees were given four weeks to report back to the Senate.
“The request of Mr. President C-in-C is referred to the two committees, Senate Committees on Finance; Budget and National Planning, with Finance as the lead Committee.
“This Senate is giving the Committee four weeks within which to work very closely with the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, and particularly engagement with the revenue-generating agencies where we are expecting them to meet their targets.
“We need to ensure that they have all the support that they require from the National Assembly, particularly the Senate to meet their targets.
“Meanwhile, the executive should continue to work on the preparations for the 2021 budget, and by this, we are also equally committed to ensuring that we receive the budget estimates at the end of September and that we are able to consider the budget and get it passed before the end of December to repeat what we did for budget 2020,” Lawan said.