Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saraki Receives Buhari’s Ministerial List

The Senate president, Bukola Saraki has confirmed that he has received the ministerial list from President Muhammadu Buhari. The list has now been officially submitted to the Senate.The list was conveyed by chief of staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari and Sen. Ita Inang, the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly matters (Senate). Recall that Buhari had promised to submit the list by the end of September.The list was sent after the Nigerian Senate ended plenary for September 30.

Not long ago, AIDS, TB and malaria looked unstoppable. Today, we’ve saved 17 million lives.Bill Gates

Not long ago, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria looked unstoppable. In many countries, AIDS devastated an entire generation, leaving countless orphans and shattered communities. Malaria killed young children and pregnant women unable to protect themselves from mosquitoes or to access the right medicine. Tuberculosis unfairly afflicted the poor, as it had for millennia. Partners in global health came together, to fight back. By working together, by pooling resources and expertise, and by involving people affected by the diseases, civil society, the private sector and governments, we have made progress way beyond what seemed possible. Today, the Global Fund issued a Results Report, showing that health investments made through the Global Fund have saved 17 million lives, expanding opportunity and achieving greater social justice for families and communities worldwide. Even better, the report shows that advances in science and innovative solutions are accelerating progress at an ever faster-rate, getting us on track to reach 22 million lives saved by the end of next year. But it's no time to celebrate. We are only halfway there. Tremendous challenges in global health still await us. Adolescent girls are contracting HIV at a terrible rate in southern Africa. TB/HIV co-infection is on the rise, as is multidrug-resistant TB. Gains made against malaria could be lost if we don't expand prevention and treatment programs. We have to concentrate on several key areas, including focus on adolescent girls and women, advancing human rights, and building resilient and sustainable systems for health. Many more lives are still at risk. We must seize the momentum, embrace ambition and move faster to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics. Let's remember that is has been a magnificent display of the human spirit that has gotten us so far. The greatest reward for this collective achievement lies not in the massive number -- 17 million -- but in the impact every life saved has for a loved one, family, friend, community and nation. A life saved from AIDS is a mother who can raise her daughter and teach her about staying safe from HIV. A life saved from TB is a father who can return to work and earn a living to support his family. A life saved from malaria is a child who thrives beyond her fifth birthday and becomes a doctor, or perhaps the next President of Liberia. The achievements of the Global Fund partnership are the results of determination to make our world better and more just, with contributions by governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by HIV, TB and malaria. The people whose lives have been saved owe their thanks most of all to the partners on the ground, who do the hard work of preventing and treating and caring for those affected by these diseases. As world leaders gather this week to formulate Sustainable Development Goals, as building blocks for improving the lives of billions of people, the achievements of global health can serve as a model for what can be achieved when communities come together and aim for common goals, like a world free from the burden on AIDS, TB, and malaria.

Adeyeye Emerges Senate Chief Whip

A member of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, representing Osun Central constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress has been made the new Senate chief whip of the 8th Nigerian Senate. Adeyeye was nominated for the position by the Senate South-west caucus. This was made known when the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki read out a letter from the South West APC caucus at the plenary session on Wednesday, September 30. The Senate president had skipped reading the ministerial list which was submitted to the hallowed chambers as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari. However, when Senator Godswill Akpabio who represents Akwa Ibom Northwest senatorial district demanded to know the reason why the Senate president had skipped reading the ministerial list, Senator Bala N’Allah replied that they still had enough time during the day to announce the list. The Senate had resumed from a six-week summer recess on Tuesday, September 29. During the session, the senators in a motion‎ by David Umaru promised their loyalty to Saraki in the face of his trial. According to Umaru, “the senate remains solidly behind Saraki and other principal officers of the upper chamber”. The senator said the senate will not bow to forces outside the senate who were trying to use propaganda to rubbish the leadership. Seconding the motion, Ahmed Sani Yerima (Zamfara) said: “If anybody thinks that he can influence the senate from the outside, he should go and sleep.” Saraki put the motion to a voice vote to which the “ayes” carried the day. However, some anti-Saraki senators had protested the vote of confidence passed on the Senate president. Senator Babajide Omoworare, the senate chairman of the commmittee on business and rules dissociated himself from the stamp of confidence passed on Saraki.

PDP senators kick as Buhari fails to submit list of ministers

PRESIDENT Muhammed Buhari failed to meet up with his earlier promise of submitting list of nominees to the Senate before the end of September. The president had assured that the list containing the nominees into ministerial offices would be submitted to the Red Chamber latest by September 30,for onward screening and possible confirmation. But the Senate President, Bukola Saraki,who announces correspondences from the president at the beginning of plenary,before the consideration of any other items in the day’s business, could not announce any letter from the President during Tuesday’s session, indicating that there was no such list at his disposal. The development prompted the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senators, through the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, to seek clarification. Akpabio, PDP, Akwa Ibom North West, raised a point of order, under matter of urgent importance, to find out why the Senate President had not announced the president’s letter containing ministerial nominees. Akpabio,who noted that the nation’s newspapers in the last couple of weeks, have been awashed with stories of ministerial appointments by the president, asked the Senate President why he received the list from President Buhari and was hiding it from his colleagues. As Saraki attempted to answer Akpabio’s question, Deputy Senate Leader, Ibn Bala Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South, raised another point of order, where he explained that the day was still young, saying since the day’s session ends by 12:30pm, there was still the hope that the president would transmit the list of ministerial nominees to the Upper Chamber before the close of the session. He also said since the day ends by 12 midnight, there was still hope that the list could come before the time. But the Senate President, who was thrown the question, could not provide answer, as he over-ruled Senator Akpabio, asking that the next item in the day’s agenda be introduced.

Tompolo’s pipeline security contract still intact – NIMASA DG

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has debunked reports that President Muhammadu Buhari has terminated the federal government’s pipeline security deal with Global West Vessels Specialists Limited (GWVSL), a company said to belong to former Niger-Delta war-lord, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo). But in a sharp clarification, the Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Haruna Jauro, on Tuesday, during a courtesy visit to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, at Naval Headquarters, Abuja, refuted reports reports that the maritime security deal was terminated, pointing that it did not in any way encroach on the constitutional duties of the Nigerian Navy to protect the nation’s maritime coast. Jauro, while fielding questions from journalists, stated that the agreement between the NIMASA and Global West does not overlaps the statutory responsibilities of the Nigerian Navy. He was emphatic that the contract with Global West was not an attempt by the agency to hijack the functions of the Navy. He said: “It does not. Yes, it does not because the Navy is one of its kind and no one is willing to go there and take anything from them. “What Global West is doing is just to help NIMASA to look a the issue of that takes place in the waters, to push them back and I think we have done our best with them. So far the level of piracy has reduced in the Lagos area. “We don’t have much reports of them again and they have been pushed towards the Delta area and we have been following them. And I think Global West has been instrumental to that so far. It (the contract) is supposed to be for ten years. It has run for three years.” The NIMASA DG further explained that the contract with Tompolo’s firm was designed for a 10-year period, disclosing however, that the deal had been running for three years, of the 10-year period covered by the contractual agreement. According to Jauro, the firm which was mandated to provide platform to NIMASA to fight the scourge of piracy in the nation’s territorial waters, “have been able to reduce drastically, the scourge of piracy in the Lagos area.” In a related development, Isichie Osangbi, Deputy Director of Public relations for NIMASA, has denied receiving any directive from the presidency to discontinue payment to Global West Vessel Specialists Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL) for the provision of platforms for security of the nation’s waterways, which is owned by the ex-militant leader. “NIMASA is a government agency and would always implement government policy or reform in the maritime sector and not to be seen doing the opposite. Also, as a government agency, NIMASA ought to be in the know if there was any such directive or change in policy, since the alleged directive, according to those peddling the rumour, was meant for the agency to put an end to all payments to Global West Vessel. “I tell you with due sense of responsibility that there is no such directive. If there is, nothing would have stopped NIMASA from informing members of the public or issuing statement to that effect,” he said.

Putin gets OK to begin Russian airstrikes in Syria

The upper house of the Russian parliament has given President Vladimir Putin approval to use the Russian air force in Syria, according to state media. "The Federation Council unanimously supported the President's request -- 162 votes in favor of granting permission," Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergey Ivanov said, according to ITAR-Tass. The vote came after a request by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for military assistance in fighting ISIS, Ivanov said. Russian airstrikes in Syria could happen at any time, a U.S. official with knowledge of the latest intelligence told CNN this week. "They could start at any moment," the official said. "They are ready." After several days of Russian familiarization flights, there is no reason they could not begin, the official added. And Russian drones have been collecting potential targeting information in their flights. But the U.S. doesn't know what the Russians have in mind and when they will make a decision on airstrikes. Four Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter jets are now at the Latakia air base in Syria, and more than 600 Russian troops are in place. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed his staff to "open lines of communication with Russia on de-confliction." The timing of these discussions is to be worked out in the coming days. The purpose of the discussions is "to ensure the safety of coalition air crews," he said. Cook added that the two nations have common ground when it comes to fighting ISIS, also known as ISIL, with Carter making clear that "the goal should be to take the fight to ISIL and not to defend the Assad regime."

African leaders target agric business as AGRF opens

More than 500 leaders from over 40 countries are expected to attend the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which opens Wednesday in Lusaka, Zambia, just as AGRA will be releasing its annual Africa Agricultural Status Report. Also expected at the AGRF 2015 are high-level government officials, leaders of pan-African development organizations, representatives of youth and women’s organizations, academic experts, investors and agriculture business innovators. Conveners of this year’s AGRF with the theme “Walking the Talk on Youth and Women: Bringing Inclusive Agricultural Markets to Life” said the rapid rise of urban food markets across sub-Saharan Africa represents an unparalleled opportunity to drive development of African agriculture, and ultimately to engage millions of youth who enter the continent’s labor market each year. “The AGRF can generate huge momentum for policies and programs that support Africa’s famers and African-owned agriculture businesses to capture a bigger stake in the agricultural sector and rising urban markets,” said Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General, Common Market of East and Southern Africa. “Rather than meeting this demand through food imports, Africans need to grow, process, package and market the food consumed in our rapidly growing cities and towns.” During the forum, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) will be releasing its annual Africa Agricultural Status Report, which will be providing a framework for how agriculture can become a viable and lucrative option for Africa’s young entrepreneurs. Speaking on the theme of this year’s AGRF, the conveners said it is ape as it is coming at a time when Africa’s young population is searching for increased employment and meaningful opportunities. “Of the 10 million young Africans who enter the job market every year, only a minority find formal employment. “The African Union in 2014 pointed to the potential for agriculture-related jobs to employ at least 30 percent of African youth. Yet many young Africans are pessimistic about agriculture, because they see too many farmers and agriculture businesses struggling to survive,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA. “The good news is that economic opportunities in agriculture are much bigger than many realize, and with the right kinds of support, Africa’s rapidly growing food sector can become as much as a $1 trillion source of a wide array of financially rewarding opportunities for Africa’s youth, on and off the farm.” AGRF 2015 also comes during the African Union designated “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development.” “Agriculture is the largest employer of women, employing up to 90 percent of women in some African countries,” said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, commissioner for rural economy and agriculture, African Union. “Women anchor rural economies. Yet they farm without secure land rights, remuneration or the machinery and technologies essential to commercial agriculture. Policies and programs that address these gaps and link rural farmers to urban markets can transform livelihoods for smallholder farmers.” The AGRF 2015 will define clear strategies to enable youth and women to engage in agriculture as a business enterprise and generate a triple dividend of improved food security, increased incomes and job creation. It will delve into issues including access to land, finance, energy and inputs, and the development of infrastructure, trade and markets, all with a particular eye toward overcoming challenges and expanding opportunities for women and youth.

Crisis over 1910 land donation by Anambra community to govt

Over 40 hectares of land donated by the people of Umuezeotutu village, Ihiala in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State 115 years ago has started causing disquiet in the area, as the new generation of the villagers are uncomfortable with the decision of their older generation, who they accused of dashing out their commonwealth without recourse to the feeling of those coming behind them. Umuezeotutu village, bounded by Okija in the north, Azia in the east, Umumeri in the west and Mbarapkaka in the south, lies along the Onitsha-Owerri expressway. When the colonial masters came to the area, they found the location suitable for locating government offices and subsequently approached the elders of the community who willingly donated the land to them. But it could not be ascertained how much compensation the then government paid to the people. Virtually all government institutions in the local government area, including the local government headquarters, Magistrate and High Courts, Police, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Health Centre and Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, are located on the controversial land. Following lack of land for their current farming activities, the villagers went into the area and started farming on the undeveloped portions. However, no sooner did this happen, than government bulldozers went in and uprooted the crops on the allegation that the people were encroaching on government land. With many sons and daughters of the village now well educated, they looked into the books and found out that the colonial masters did not pay the community any compensation for acquiring the land. After several deliberations, they began to mount pressure on government, complaining that the acquisition had denied their teeming youths available land spaces to build their own homes in their native community. Besides, they argued that despite the fact that they were denied making use of their land, their people were not given preferential treatment in employment in the institutions located in the area. What particularly irked them was the Anambra State Judiciary’s claim that the large parcel of land belongs to it, asking, what will the judiciary be doing with over 1,000 plots of land in a village that is not close to the state capital? To them, some members of the state Judiciary want to forcefully acquire their land for their personal gains. As part of efforts to mount pressure on the state government to rescind the decision, the aggrieved people of Umuezeotutu recently staged a protest at the site where Judges’ Quarters are currently being constructed and expressed disgust over the manner bulldozers were allegedly deployed to their farms by the contractor handling the construction of the Judges’ building project and destroyed their crops without prior notice to them. Though the people said they were not opposed to government acquisition of any part of their land for development purposes, they, however, insisted that the cause of their anguish was that due process was not followed in the acquisition of their land. “The state government neither consulted our elders on the matter, nor paid any compensation for our economic trees being destroyed. ”Besides, over 40 hectares of land totaling over 1,000 plots, just to accommodate Courts and Judges Quarters and other recreational facilities, are indeed too much,” they said. A youth leader in the area, Mr. Offor Nnajiofor recalled that some time ago, a group of judiciary staff came to the village and said they were looking for their elders. “At the meeting, they showed our people a survey plan that was done in 1975 and said that our forefathers gave them this land in 1910. The local government is on our land, Achala health centre is on our land, Magistrate Courts 1, 2 and 3 are on our land, customary court is on our land,” he said. Mr. Festus Okwundu, aged 89 said: “My father died in 1946. He was farming here. Our anger is that no compensation has been paid to us and nobody has ever called us to a meeting to tell us that government wants to take over our land.” Mary Offodum, a widow aged 60 and Virginia Onyejemeni were among those whose crops were destroyed. Offodum said:”They came and destroyed our farmland and all our crops. I have four children but I am staying with only one now and I don’t know where I am going to get the money to pay her school fees because they have destroyed everything I have in my farm.” On her part, Onyejemeni said: “I am very angry. My cassava farm has been destroyed by the government and up till now, no compensation has been paid to me. They should pay me because I suffered to plant the cassava. They said that it is the Judge that told them to do it, but I don’t believe that any Judge will have the mind to tell them to destroy our farmland like that.” But contrary to the claims by the natives, the state Judiciary insisted that the land in question belongs to it. Deputy Chief Registrar in charge of Planning, Research, Statistics and Stores in the High Court of Anambra State, Mr. Michael Mbanefo said the entire land known as “Ana Court Oduga” was donated to the state Judiciary in 1910 by the then traditional ruler of Ihiala, Oluoha Odimegwu Igwegbe. According to him, the land was donated to the then colonial administration through Captain Dermot O’Conner for establishment of a provincial court, other court complexes and government stations, adding that the entire land was later captured and delineated in a survey plan No. OAC (A015) in 1975. He said that Oluoha, as the custodian of Ihiala customs, tradition and lands, reserved overriding powers over any other clan or person in Ihiala over land in the area. Mbanefo, however, described the allegation by the villagers that they were not given notice before bulldozers were deployed to clear the land for the construction of the Judges’ Quarters as false, saying that before the commencement of clearing of the site, a delegation of the state Judiciary management met with the natives and informed them about the plan to commence the construction of the Judges Quarters in the area. “As I speak, we have not received any list from any of the villagers and we took it that everybody harvested his crops and that nobody’s crops were destroyed,” Mbanefo stated. Besides, he expressed surprise that the natives were complaining against the sitting of the Judiciary in their area, saying that there are communities who even lobby for it to be located in their area because it brings development to their town.

Mega filling stations decry move to shut outlets

The Association of Mega Filling Stations Owners of Nigeria (AMFSON) has condemned moves by the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, to close down over 500 outlets, saying it would resist such moves. Speaking a news conference in Kaduna yesterday, the National Secretary of AMFSON, Comrade Kenneth Nwachukwu, said the allegation by the NNPC that operators of mega stations were piling up debts was unfounded. “The GMD of the NNPC had within the week given a hint at a meeting with energy editors in Lagos that the impending closure of the franchise outlets was as a result of rising debt profile which the parent body could no longer shoulder in the face of its dwindling revenue. If lifting the petroleum products had been on cash and carry basis, there couldn’t have been room for rising debts profile as alleged by the GMD. “The GMD should focus his searchlight on the NNPC staff who may be in the habit of diverting petroleum products to black markets for their own selfish interests. If affiliate outlets are closed down, it could amount to running back the country into underdevelopment’’, he said, adding that the importance of retail outlets could not be overemphasized if healthy economy is to be achieved and sustained. He said the association had made cash deposits for the supply of NNPC products for the past three months without receiving the supply and so cannot be said to be piling up debts. He said any move to shut down the over 500 outlets by the NNPC would send over 10,000 workers back to the labour market, adding that this would be untimely especially now that the federal government is making efforts to create employment.

Dogara calls for caution over Saraki assets saga

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara yesterday said there was the need for caution and meticulous examination of all relevant facts surrounding the ongoing trial of the senate president, Bukola Saraki in the Code of Conduct tribunal over assets declaration. Dogara, who said the common good of the country ought to be put at the front burner, said the senate president had demonstrated that the rule of law supersedes any other position by his appearance before the tribunal last week. He spoke yesterday at the resumption of the 6-week House recess, where he also commended his colleagues for their cautious approach to the senate president’s saga that helped de-escalate the whole issue. “The barometer of the polity has been on the rise of late because of certain developments concerning the arraignment of the President of the Senate. “While commending the President of the Senate for submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in the recognition that no person is above the law, I wish to caution that there is need for great circumspection in times such as this in order to maintain proper focus in pursuit of the common good,” he said. The speaker expressed the House’s full support for the present government’s effort in sanitizing the polity through the war against corruption, impunity and other vices. But as legislators, he added, saddled with constitutional role of making and reforming the law, “we expect that these institutions, which are the creation of these laws, would prove their capacity for fairness, justice and strict adherence to the rule of law in order not to endanger our democracy.” On the reverting to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) ordered by the president by all revenue-generating agencies, the speaker said it was a commendable move to block the problem of “uncontrollable revenue leakages” that became a thorn to the country’s economic prosperity drive.

Crude oil transportation contracts help cut cost – experts

The federal government’s decision to award marine transportation contracts for crude oil movements from terminals to the refineries is not only cost effective but equally in tune with best environmental practices. This was the verdict of oil experts in response to a publication on an online news media, Premium Times, that claimed in its reports that the crude oil transportation contracts awarded under former president Goodluck Jonathan to PPP Fluid Mechanics(PPPFM) and its sister company, Ocean Marine Solutions Ltd(OMS) owned by Captain Hosa Okunbor and Dr. Tunde Ayeni respectively was fraudulent. But industry experts informed that the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria and the state oil firm, the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC) regularly face attacks on their production or transportation assets since an insurgency began in 2006 by armed militants campaigning for increased local share of the oil producing area (or Niger Delta’s) wealth. According to them organized crime groups are drilling into the pipelines — in turn used to transport crude, gas and condensate — to tap oil into barges for local refining or for sale to vessels waiting offshore. About 240,000 barrels per day of crude, close to what spilled in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground off Alaska, leak in the Niger Delta where some of Earth’s most lucrative oil deposits exist. To bypass this daunting security and environmental challenges, the NNPC in December 2010 awarded a contract to PPP Fluid Mechanics (PPPFM) and Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMS) for the transportation of oil by marine vessels from the Escravos terminal to Warri refinery through an international competitive bidding exercise that included 13 other companies. Nigeria’s Warri and Kaduna refineries had been shut for 48 months before the engagement of PPPFM due to a lack of supply of crude oil feed stock. Using the existing pipelines had become uneconomical for the NNPC which spent an average of $121 million to maintain and repair the Escravos to Warri broken crude oil pipeline that had an unusually high and environmentally damaging 40 percent loss of crude oil pumped through it. IOCs had previously borne the brunt of the sabotages but now it was equally beginning to hit the Nigerian economy. Shell’s former CEO, Peter Voser, mentioned in 2013 that the company had “seen a marked escalation in security problems and theft in Nigeria in 2013,” which could lead to a loss of “$12bn for the Nigerian government on an annualised basis”. The Nigerian economy, with more than 170 million people grew at around 7 percent annually, between 2010 and 2014; however energy constraints remain the major hurdle that could hold back future growth. The NNPC says maintaining vital energy supplies was the major reason for the PPPFM contract for transportation of crude oil using marine vessels awarded at a cost of $3.87 per barrel. A separate dedicated surveillance contract for the provision of six security boats was awarded to OMS for an average cost of $1.5 per barrel. Within the delta, about 5,280 oil wells are linked by 7,000 kilometres (2,700 miles) of pipelines. “It is perhaps not well understood by outside observers how diverse and complex the region is. There are about 40 different ethnic groups speaking 250 languages and dialects, living in over 13,000 settlements. According to GTZ estimates based on National Population Commission data, the overall population of the Niger Delta stands at over 30 million people and is expected to exceed 45 million people by 2020,” Ildar Davletshin, an oil and gas analyst at Investment Bank, Renaissance Capital, said in a May 2014 report. Once-rich alluvial soils of the delta are however no longer viable for crops as more than a half-century of oil production and related damage continue to take a toll. The amount of spoiled water has grown with discoveries of cadmium, lead, chromium and nickel in dozens of Delta Rivers above “maximum contaminant levels” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a 2010 study by the Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in the Southern city of Awka. A report in 2011 by the United Nations Environment Programme found measurements of the carcinogen, benzene, in Niger Delta water wells surpassed World Health Organization recommendations. To help reverse some of these damaging environmental issues as well as manage its resources better, the NNPC invited PPPFM and OMS to widen its operations to cover the much larger 210,000 barrels a day Port Harcourt refinery (where pipeline losses are estimated at 70 – 80 percent), with new mandates that included offshore sea protection, offshore compulsory terminal pilotage, and dedicated security surveillance. The enlarged contract was undertaken at a cost of $5.68 per barrel, according to data from the NNPC. Checks show that the transportation contracts with PPPFM and OMS are favourable when compared to North America, where crude oil is mostly transported by pipelines or rail. Across North America (USA and Canada) it costs as high as $21 per barrel of oil on rail, compared to $7 via pipeline, according to data from Platts, an American based provider of energy and metals information. From 2011 to 2015 a total of 65.59 million barrels of crude oil have been delivered to Nigeria’s refineries by PPPFM and OMS. Nigeria is estimated to have saved up to $3.2 billion from the PPPFM/OMS intervention, based on a calculation of between 40 and 80 percent loss, if the crude oil was pumped through the pipelines. The cost savings from a lack of environmental degradation are probably ten times more. Analysts admit that the oil transport deal are complex because it addresses both the security and the transportation risks but that it helped to halt huge losses that Nigeria had suffered as a result of pipeline vandalisation and the huge drop in production and crude oil supplies to the refinery. “This complexity may well explain the ignorance of those who have been writing to suggest that the deal was favoured by the past administration,” said one oil industry operator. Many informed sources said that the domestic crude oil transportation deal was purely a business transaction involving a sovereign state corporation and private sector operators who had the capacity to deliver on the deal. “I can tell you that both PPPFM and OMS took calculated business risk. They could easily have gotten their fingers burnt because at the time they entered the transactions not many were willing to touch it. “It is sad that the crude oil transportation contract that has benefitted the nation immensely is now being misinterpreted, misrepresented and described as fraudulent by people who are acting on ignorance and bringing the names of the company promoters, Captain Hosa Okunbor and Dr. Tunde Ayeni to disrepute” another analyst said.

Falae: Police not privy to ransom payment, says IG

The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, said yesterday that the police authorities were not privy to the fact that the family of former Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, who was freed by his kidnappers at Owo, Ondo State last week, paid ransom, saying such payment amounted to encouraging crime. The IGP also advised families who might find themselves in such situation in the future to desist from paying ransom since it was not a guarantee that the victim would come out alive. In a statement issued directly by his office, titled ‘RE-RANSOM PAYMENT BY FAMILY OF CHIEF OLU FALAE’ IGP Arase said: “The office of the Inspector General of Police has been inundated with enquiries on claims by Chief Olu Falae and his family that a ransom was paid to his abductors following the kidnapping incident involving him on September 21 and 24, 2015. ”As a law enforcement agency guided by the rule of law and professional ethics, we do not under any circumstances encourage the payment of ransom to kidnappers or other criminals as it is tantamount to rewarding crime and motivating other criminals to follow that part. ”As such, the police was not in any way privy to any arrangement that would have led to payment of ransom by the elder statesman or his family. For the respected Chief to declare that he paid a ransom is therefore demotivating news. ”Our approach was a professional response to what we saw as a crime against a respected national personality known to embrace peace and who has dedicated his valuable life to selfless service of our nation. ”The Police under the leadership of the Inspector General of Police deployed our unique intelligence and operational capabilities, including Police helicopters on aerial surveillance. ”Our intelligence and operational teams comprising Intelligence response teams (Special Anti-Kidnapping Unit), Conventional and Mobile Policemen were deployed for rescue operation. ”They followed the path from the point of kidnap at his farm at Ilodo, along Igbatoro road in Akure, and trailed the hoodlums through bushes to Owo in Ondo State. In the process, we were able to identify the major actors and currently, high level Police activities are being emplaced to apprehend and bring them to justice. ”As professionals, it is our conviction that the unprecedented massive deployment of Police resources and men to support search and rescue operation put pressure on the criminals to release the elder statesman. ”This is much so, that history has shown that even when ransom is proven to have been paid, the life or safe return of a kidnap victim may not be guaranteed. The primary interest of the Police in this instance and granted the circumstance of this incident was the safe rescue of Chief Olu Falae which was achieved. ”Whatever the family did as regards the payment of ransom was outside the knowledge and consent of the Police and at this point, we wish to advise that in future that families who fall victims of such acts should rather work closely with the police component of the rescue initiatives so that we can achieve the primary purpose of rescuing the victim alive instead of wittingly or unwittingly giving the impression of encouraging criminal activity by rewarding criminals with payment of ransom.” ”In this instance, having confirmed that ransom was paid to the abductors, the police will be interested in widening their investigative scope with a view to exploring the lead further with a view to knowing how the ransom was paid and to whom such payment was made. ”If the payment was perfected through bank transactions, the police has the capacity to track such transactions and will be liaising with the bank to enable us trace the cash and apprehend the perpetrators. This could be an added lead that could strengthen on-going post kidnapping efforts of the police. ”The Inspector General of Police wishes to reassure Nigerians to strengthening and enhancing the safety and security of its citizens while counting on Nigerians to continue to support and work in strong synergy with the police towards the achievement of our statutory mandate.”

Buhari appoints petroleum minister, to name other ministers today Wednesday

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday named Nigeria’s petroleum minister. And that is himself. Mr. Buhari said he would personally head the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the new cabinet. Addressing some select reporters in New York on yesterday, after addressing a Global Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, the President said: “I will remain Minister of Petroleum. “I will appoint a minister of State for Petroleum”. According to him, this step is being taken as part of efforts to sanitise Nigeria’s oil industry, which is said to be plagued by corruption, massive fraud, and crude oil theft. Mr. Buhari restated his determination to sanitise Nigeria’s oil industry and free it from corruption and shady deals. He said that the first step in this direction had already been taken with the appointment of a new management for the NNPC and its subsequent reorganisation. The President said the prosecution of those who misappropriated NNPC’s revenue under past administrations would soon commence. On Corruption, he pledged that the federal government will fight corruption to the core, because it has been identified as the root of all problems hindering Nigeria from moving forward as a nation. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for most part of his tenure, was also the minister of petroleum. Mr. Buhari had promised to name his cabinet before the end of September. Since today is the last day of the month, the President is widely expected to forward names of his minister to the National Assembly today. Names forwarded to the National Assembly would be screened and approved by the Senate before they are sworn in. Already, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has indicated that the screening of the ministers would be thorough and comprehensive. Mr. Saraki gave the hint while welcoming senators to plenary in Abuja after a long recess. He said that screening of the nominees would be in-depth to ensure that only competent and qualified individuals only occupied the positions. “As we await the list of ministerial nominees this week, we are prepared to treat the screening with dispatch but with thoroughness,” the Senate President said. “I believe the presence of ministers will create the space for greater policy engagement with the executive arm of government. “I want to urge you all my colleagues to ensure that what is uppermost in our minds as we begin the constitutional task of screening of ministerial nominees is the overall interest of our country.” He added, “Once the list is submitted, let us ensure that we treat it with dispatch and thoroughness. We must not be held down by unnecessary politicking. “The enormity of our national challenges at this time does not give room for pettiness or politics of vendetta.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nigeria to reach 6,000 megawatts by March 2016 – Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said the Federal Government had plans to distribute 6,000 megawatts of electricity in the country by the first quarter of 2016. According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, Mr. Osinbajo stated this at Kaleta in the Republic of Guinea, at the inauguration of a 240 MW hydro-power plant. The event, at which Mr. Osinbajo represented President Muhammadu Buhari, was part of the activities marking Guinea’s 57th Independence anniversary taking place on October 2. The vice president commended the vision of the Guinean president, Alpha Conde, noting that the inauguration of the power plant was a “monumental accomplishment” in a short time. “It shows what can be done with commitment and vision,” he noted. The 240 MW hydro-power plant in Kaleta was built to serve mainly the people of Conakry, the nation’s capital. The statement noted that the event was witnessed by the presidents of Congo and Niger, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Mohamadou Issoufou, respectively. It added that there were also representatives from the governments of China, France and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

UN counters Nigeria, says country properly invited to missed Boko Haram meeting

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (UNOCHA), has told PREMIUM TIMES that Nigeria was officially informed and properly invited to a high-level event in New York where the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin was discussed. This is contrary to the claims by the Nigerian presidency that the country was neither informed nor invited to the meeting where Nigeria’s neighbours and key humanitarian agencies brainstormed on how to tackle the refugee crisis caused by the conflict. The event was organised by UN Under-Secretary-General, Stephen O’Brien, but Nigeria, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, was absent. Reuters news agency reported last week that U.S. and European Union diplomats were disappointed that Nigeria was not represented at the meeting. The news of the absence of the Nigerian delegation at the meeting attracted condemnation back home with many blaming it on the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint ministers. They argued that a competent minister of foreign affairs would have ensured that the country was represented at the meeting where such an important issue was discussed.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Obama ‘prepared to work’ with Russia, Iran on Syria

President Barack Obama declared Monday that the United States does not want a new Cold War over the Ukraine conflict and is prepared to work with Russia and Iran on the Syrian crisis. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said of Syria, addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was due to address the assembly later and has urged world powers to back Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in his battle against the Islamic State group. Obama argued it would be wrong to support a “tyrant” like Assad, but that Washington was ready to work with anyone ready to take on the jihadist threat, even Moscow and traditional US foe Tehran. And he insisted that the sanctions Western powers imposed on Moscow in the wake of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine were meant to protect Kiev’s sovereignty not trigger conflict with Moscow. “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” he said. “If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today. “That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners impose on Russia. It is not a desire to return to a Cold War,” Obama ended.

70th UNGA: World leaders agree to close the gender equality gaps

Eighty world leaders have made concrete commitments and firm pledges to overcome gender equality gaps at a historic event co-hosted by UN Women and the People’s Republic of China, at an event titled, “Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action.” In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon directly addressed the assembled world leaders, saying: “As Heads of State and Government you have the power and the responsibility to ensure that gender equality is—and remains—a national priority.” He continued to outline three areas for action: “First, I urge you to create and energetically implement coherent gender equality policies. Second, provide significant financing for gender equality so that commitments become reality. And third, monitor progress so that all governments will hold themselves and each other accountable for the pledges made here today.” Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China who opened the event said there is still a long way to go in achieving gender equality saying that the international community should reaffirm the spirit of the Beijing Conference with renewed commitment and pledge greater efforts to promote gender equality and women’s all-around development. President Xi Jinping announced that to support women’s development worldwide and the work of UN Women, China will contribute USD 10 million for the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the realization of the related goals in the post-2015 development agenda. President Xi further said China will support women and girls in other developing countries by providing health care, vocational training, financing for education and other assistance. UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasised that as the highest leaders in the land are taking personal responsibility for their commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women, the world looks up to them to lead the game-changing actions that secure and sustain implementation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that making new commitments with Sustainable Development Goal 5 are good but action is better saying, “while actions announced will vary, they are expected to align behind a common message: The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without gender equality”. Angela Merkel added that if countries act immediately to translate the goals into action, and close many remaining gaps in implementing the land

2015 NYSC President’s Award: Why 71 out of 222 corps members were disqualified – DG

The Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Johnson Olawumi, Monday, revealed that 71 out of 222 corps members shortlisted for the forthcoming NYSC President’s Award were automatically disqualified, because they sought concessional positing. Olawumi, who made the revelation at the opening ceremony of the 2015 President’s NYSC Honours Award National Selection Committee meeting in Abuja, noted that to qualify, corps members must distinguished him or herself in the four cardinal areas of NYSC operational programme. “To win a President’s NYSC Honours Award, corps members must distinguish him or herself in the four cardinal areas of NYSC operation namely; Orientation programme, Primary assignment, Community Development Service (CDS) and the winding up programme. “For the selection process to be transparent, there are criteria but there also people that can be disqualified, even if they have made tangible contribution. “These are people who sought for concessional deployment to state of their choice, these are people who sought for relocation to change from one place to the other, these are people who served in their own state of origin, these are people who used their personal money or sought money from their family members to carry out project, and people who have disciplinary case, even if they do well, they will not be considered, because they have falling short of the selection criteria,” he said. However, Olawumi explained that married women or those who sought for concessional posting based on health and granted by the scheme would be considered for the award, if they meet the requirements. “Women policy gives concession to married women, and NYSC will not be an exception,” the DG who was represented by the Director of Corps Welfare and Inspectorate, Mr Michael Ahile clarified. On this year award, Olawumi disclosed that “222 corps members have been brought forward for consideration, and out of this numbers, we have checked our computer system and we have discovered that 71 of them got concessional deployment. So, those one is automatically knocked out.” NYSC Boss therefore charged the 13-man committee on transparency as they carry out their assignment, adding that the scheme had never doubts their “ability to approach the task with high sense of patriotism, transparency, responsibility and diligence. “Though we have never experienced any case of undue interference, I feel obliged to implore you to shun whatever form of overture that could arise anywhere to interfere with your assignment.” Responding the Chairman of the committee, Dr Kevin Ihenetu promised to justify the confidence repose in them by the scheme. “We know that the task ahead of us is not an easy one. We promise to handle it with utmost sense of diligence and patriotism and come up with a result that would gladden the hearts of all and thereby justify the confidence reposed in us,” he said.

Child Right Protection: We need proper enforcement of laws – Group

The Love to the World Initiative has advocated for strong laws and enforcement as one of tools to curb violence against women and children in the society. The Chief Executive Officer of the group, Mrs Josephine Anumbor also stressed the need for intensive education on the gravity of the violence, which includes; Rape, Child marriage, battering, child labour, to address the trend that is now becoming a norm for some people. Anumbor stated this in a press conference on the launching of a movie on the plight of girl child titled; ‘Searching’, coming up in November, in Abuja. According to her, ‘Searching’ (the movie) would properly educate people particularly parents or guardians on some forms of violence like child marriage, child labour, rape among others and their subsequent consequences on a child in particular and the society at large. She said; “I think there have been existing laws, many of them. So, there is need for stricter laws and implementation to deter people from engaging in this violent crime in the society. “But aside that, there is need for a lot of enlightenment because if you have a headache and you do not find out why that headache is there and you keep on taking drugs, then, you have to continue taking the drugs for it. “So, there should be more enlightenment on this issue, so that the people who engage in this can actually see what is wrong with what they do, and change their minds, because if you think the same way about anything, you we always do the same thing.” Anumbor maintained that “It a psychological problem and it is only counseling and this kind of movie can help them (perpetrators) to see and change their minds. “For instance, if you have a bad habit, may be small children masturbating and you get addicted to it, over the time, you have no control of it, you will just fill like doing it, no matter how finding somebody to touch. So the best thing to do is to deal with that addiction.” Speaking on reasons for embarking on the movie, shot in Kaduna and Abuja, Anumbor explained that the initiative was designed “to enlighten, counsel, uplift and encourage the downcast and less privileged in the society. “We are primarily concerned with the actualization of peace in Nigeria which will ultimately bring about development. We believe that a nation cannot succeed in its quest to becoming a formidable habitation for its citizenry and visitors without the building blocks of love, care, peace and unity. “We know that the change we seek is possible only if we are ready to pay the price. At Love to the World, we do not wait for people, institutions or government to change the world; we effect changes one step at a time within our sphere of influence. “We achieve this through our music, talk shows, dramas, re-orientation programs, seminars, trainings etc. In the past we have collaborated with the National Orientation Agency, Kaduna State government, Delta State government etc. and have also carried out outreaches to both Niger and Lapai flood victims.”

Counter-insurgency: We were not referring to Borno elders group, Army insists

The Nigeria Army on Monday maintained that its warning to saboteurs of the ongoing operations in the North-East was not directed to the Borno Elders of Thought (BELT), a socio-political group. The Acting Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in a telephone interview in Abuja that the warning was misrepresented by a section of the media. He said that the Army command was explicitly clear on the matter and did not mention the names of any individual or group in the statement. According to Usman, the warning became necessary following series of malicious comments made in the social media about the ongoing operations. “I can categorically tell you that the Nigerian Army has credible information that certain individuals and groups are making efforts to undermine and discredit the renewed fight against Boko Haram. “Their comments in the social media are indicative of this fact and there is no doubt as to what their motives are. “ Of course, they are not happy with our successes because they are benefitting, one way or the other, from the crisis. “These people know themselves; we certainly were not referring to the Borno elders as contained in some of the media reports. “ So, it is wrong for anybody to now infer that we accused the Borno elders of undermining our efforts. “This is wrong, I will continue to state as I have stated in our previous releases that, we enjoy the support of the elders and those who are interested in peace, so the reports are false.’’ Usman insisted that the Army would not spare anyone that was bent on frustrating the efforts of security agencies in the war against Boko Haram. He said that the Army would act in accordance with the relevant laws, if those involved in the alleged sabotage refused to desist from the act. “Like I have said, we have warned and the next thing is to act in accordance with the laws, if they don’t stop. “The anti-terrorism act is there and the punishment for anyone found culpable of acts of terrorism will be made to bear the consequences. “Therefore, it is not a question of what are we going to do, anybody that is associated with terrorism or related acts and is found guilty will face the law.’’ He solicited for the continued support of the public to meet the timeline given by President Muhammadu Buhari to end Boko haram and restore peace to the North East. NAN recalls that the Army command had alerted the public about some individuals and groups, whose activities, it said, was inimical to the military operation in the North East.

Delta alleges project abandonment by NDDC, DESOPADEC

THE people of Uzere, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, have decried the spate of alleged abandonment of projects in the community by Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Speaking with newsmen, President General of the community, Mr. Columbus Oguname, lamented that Uzere, as the second community where oil was discovered in Nigeria, was being neglected by the federal and the state governments. Reiterating that the interventionist agencies were set up for the development of oil producing communities, he alleged that the projects being executed in the community by the commissions were awarded in such a way that they could not be completed. He said: “We have pockets of projects from NDDC and DESOPADEC and they are all done in such a way that they cannot be completed. It is either the government will not mobilize or they will mobilize in such a way that the projects cannot be completed.”

Polio is Gone From Nigeria, WHO Says

Nigeria has been declared free of transmission of polio, leaving just two countries in the world where the virus is still regularly spreading: Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's a big step towards the eradication of a disease that paralyzes children for life and that's easy to prevent with a vaccine that costs just a few cents. The World Health Organization announcement means that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, which was the last country in Africa with regular, ongoing transmission of the virus. "Nigeria has brought the world one major step closer to achieving this goal and it's critical that we seize this opportunity to end polio for good and ensure future generations of children are free from this devastating disease." Vaccine workers battled mistrust and rumors, and worked around attacks by the militant group Boko Haram, to get kids vaccinated against the paralyzing virus, said John Vertefeuille, polio incident manager for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "They would just go out day after day and make sure they were getting vaccine into kids," Vertefeuille told NBC News. It'll be two more years before Africa is declared polio-free. The virus can lurk in the body and it can go unreported in rural areas, so it takes a few years to be certain the virus isn't popping up anywhere. But it is not being actively transmitted, WHO said. "The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free. We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world," said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan. WHO is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes national governments, the non-profit Rotary International, the CDC, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They've been pushing hard to eliminate polio, which infects only humans so it could be eliminated by vaccinated, as smallpox was in 1979. Just 41 cases of polio have been reported globally, compared to 200 cases this time last year. "As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide," the Global Polio Eradication Initiative said in a statement. "Since then, a concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers have resulted in Nigeria successfully stopping polio. More than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of five years, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralyzing disease." War and unrest is the biggest barrier to vaccination. Rumors and fears about the vaccine also interfere. Nigerian workers had to fight rumors that the vaccine was deliberately formulated to make Muslims sterile, and one successful approach was getting a vaccine that was manufactured in Indonesia, a Muslim country. Attacks by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group that is fighting Nigeria's government, added to the complications.

U.S. Admits Syrian Rebels Gave Trucks, Ammo to Al Qaeda-Linked Group

U.S. military officials acknowledged Friday that Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. turned over weapons and equipment to a group affiliated with al Qaeda earlier this week. The acknowledgement came from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, which had earlier denied reports that the transaction between the New Syrian Forces and the Al Nusra Front had occurred. The material was handed over in exchange for safe passage in an area under the terror group's control, officials said. "Today the NSF unit contacted coalition representatives and informed us that on Sept. 21-22 they gave six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected Al Nusra Front intermediary," Col. Patrick Ryder, U.S. Central Command spokesperson, said in a statement Friday. Ryder called the development "very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines." Earlier this week, the Al Nusra Front posted on Twitter claims that rebels had handed over all their weapons upon re-entering Syria. Central Command said it analyzed a photo that accompanied the post and determined the claim to be false. A Pentagon spokesman said it dismissed that Tweet because the Al Nusra Front contained a "repurposed old photo." The New Syrian Forces had said they still had control of all their weapons and equipment. On Friday, the New Syrian Forces backed off that claim, officials said. "In light of this new information, we wanted to ensure the public was informed as quickly as possible about the facts as we know them at this time," Ryder said. "We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response."

Pope: Workers Have 'Human Right' to Refuse Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Pope Francis appeared to weigh in on the side of anti-gay-marriage clerk Kim Davis, saying government workers have a "human right" to refuse to carry out a duty if they have a "conscientious objection." While returning from his visit to the U.S., the pontiff told reporters aboard the papal plane Monday that anyone who prevents others from exercising their religious freedom is denying them a human right. His comments are likely to be seized upon by backers of Kentucky-based Davis, whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling — has turned into her into a folk hero among some on the religious right. The pontiff was asked: "Do you … support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example when issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" He did not refer specifically to Davis in his reply, saying: "I can't have in mind all the cases that can exist about conscientious objection … but yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right." Francis added: "Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, 'this right that has merit, this one does not.'" Asked if this principle applied to government officials carrying out their duties, he replied: "It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right." Francis' remarks were translated by pool reporters aboard the plane, and were not an official translation. The pope also said he understands the anger of people abused by clergy, saying: "I pray for them." He spoke after meeting with some victims of Catholic Church abuse in Philadelphia Sunday on the final day of his visit to the United States. The pontiff prayed with and blessed three women and two men, according to a statement from the Vatican, in a meeting that lasted about 30 minutes. On his flight back to the Vatican, Francis was asked about victims and relatives who do not forgive the church for the crimes of priests. "I met a woman who told me 'when my mother found out that I had been abused, she became blasphemous, she lost her faith and she died an atheist,'" the pope said. "I understand that woman. I understand her." He added: "I pray for them. And I don't judge them." Francis also spoke about the issue of women priests, firmly ruling out any idea of the Catholic church following the Anglican example. "As for women priests, that cannot be done," he said, explaining that the issue had already been examined in "long, long intense discussions" by Pope John Paul II. "Not because women don't have the capacity. Look, in the church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman. It is 'la' [female] church, not 'il' [masculine] church. The church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests." He added: "I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that's true.

How we are keying into the RMF mandate – Pastor Adebiyi, Provincial Coordinator

Pastor Femi Adebiyi, Assistant Pastor, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Lagos Province 49 of the RCCG, is also the Coordinator of the Redeemer’s Men Fellowship(RMF) in the Province. Adebiyi speaks on the RMF mandate. Who is a member of the Redeemer’s Men Fellowship of the RCCG and what are the objectives? Every married man in the RCCG is a member. But just recently, we were told that men in the age bracket of 70 years and below are entitled to the Fellowship membership as long as they are married. The primary objective is to create a rallying point for the spiritual growth of men in the church. Women have social clubs. Men have social clubs. But when you look at the church, women are more fused, they are more bonded, they relate better. That is not so for men. So we have had what we called Blessed Men; we have had Fountain Heads; we have had Excellent Men as the Fellowships for men before. But what the General Overseer of the RCCG is saying now is to let us have a Fellowship of men under a new name, RMF, who are also members of those old Fellowships but now reprogrammed and refocused to achieve the purpose of spiritual growth and the spread of evangelism. Under the new arrangement, the emphasis is on pastors in the church coming strongly into the felloship. The reason the Blessed Women’s Fellowship thrives in the church is because the pastors wives are their leaders. The setting is that in every Parish, every Zone, every Province, there is a women leader who works with the pastor–in-charge’s wife. Of course, the pastor- in-charge’s wife provides the direcdtion and drives the vision as provided by the church. So the success of the women’s Fellowship derives from the fact that it has part leadership in the pastor’s wife. But what you had in the men’s Fellowship was that the pastors stood aloof. They didn’t associate and identify with the men’s Fellowship. But the thrust of the new dispensation is that all pastors who are married are expected to be active members. So its like new blood is being injected into the Redeemer’s Men Fellowship. You said the group’s membership is restricted to married men 70 years and below. It thus means Elders are excluded. There was this seeming, I don’t want to call it rivalry, misconception. When we had the Fountain Heads, some Elders who are men beleved they had no business with them. So we had this dichotomy. But the clear definition now is that if you are 70 and below, you are a member of the Redeemer’s Men Fellowship. The message is that before you are an Elder, you are a man, married. And, therefore, your allegiance, your commitment to the men’s group is also of necessity. So, we expect that the old rivalry, the old dichotomy, the old misconception is gone. Even if you look at the Blessed Women’s Fellowship, Elders who are women are active members. But it was not the case with men who believed ‘we are Elders, we are not Fountain Heads’. I understand the reason Elders who are men don’t want to belong to the RMF is because of the financial commitment. The commitment is double-paying to the Elders Fellowship and the RMF. What are you doing to take the message to the various churches and convince the Elders that being part of the RMF is of necessity? Under the new regime, we have the Chairman and executives of the RMF at the national level. There is a similar level of officials at the regional level. Under this new arrangement, the good fortune is that there is a structure; we have the Chairman and the Coordinator at the national level for the group who are pastors. There is a similar structure at all levels – Regions, Provinces, Zones, Areas, Parishes. Apart from the Chairman and the Coordinator, there is a President and his executives at all levels. So, in Lagos Province 49, we have the Chairman and the Coordinator as well as the President and his exco. The Chairman is the Provincial Pastor, while I am the Coordinator. From among the men, there is a President and his executives. The people carry the message to the grassroots. In our Province, for instance, the President and his cabinet have been visiting the Zones and Areas under our jurisdiction, taking the message to them, and encouraging them to carry out the new vision. As we have the Provincial Board, so we have the Zonal Board,the Area Board, the Parish Board. The driver of the downscaling of the information is the leadership of the RMF at the various levels. We understand the G.O. is actively involved in this new vision.To what extent is he involved? The G.O. is the driver of the new vision. He is the chief driver, the chief visioner of the RMF. He inspired the change. The current Chairman of the Board at the national level is a Regional Pastor. The current Coordinator at the national level is also a pastor. At Province 49, the Chairman is the PP while I am the Coordinator. So, at every level, we have strong leadership. So, how is Lagos Province 49 keying into the RMF vision? As soon as the new vision unfolded, we told the Pastors-in-Charge of the Zones to identify men who will constritute the Provincial Board. They did and we constituted the Board. We are among the early movers of the RMF vision in Lagos. Our Provincial Board has gone ahead to inaugurate seven out of the nine Zonal Boards and visited the Zones as well. I have assurances that the remaining two Zonal Boards will be inaugurated shortly.

Lunar Eclipse: Nothing to fear, just watch – Scientist

An official of National Space Research and Development Agency(NASDRA) has advised Nigerians not to panic over the lunar eclipse which occurred on Monday morning. Dr Benjamin Ayetunji, NASRDA Chief Scientific Officer (Engineering and Space Systems), gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. Ayetunji explained that the lunar eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when the earth comes in between the sun and the moon and the earth cast its shadow on the moon. He said that lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s shadow blocks the sunlight, which otherwise reflects off the moon. He said there was no myth attached to lunar eclipse which is just an astronomical event and urged Nigerians to just “watch and appreciate science’’. “There is no myth attached to lunar eclipse, it will even shock you to know that it happens every month when there is full moon depending on the location. “ So, for example, as we are observing it here on Monday Sept.28, at that same time some locations on earth will be on the day side of the earth. `Because of that they will not see the moon talk less of observing the eclipse, that’s just the simple explanation why we do not see it every time. “In a layman’s explanation, let us assume you are standing in front of a light source; of course your shadow will be behind you; now if there is any person behind you, your shadow will be on that person. “Simply put, that’s what happens in lunar eclipse; it occurs because the earth comes in-between the sun and the moon so the earth casts its shadow on the moon thereby covering the moon. “So what you see as the lunar eclipse is the shadow of the earth on the moon and it appears reddish that’s why it’s called `the blood moon,`’ he said.. Ayetunji said that the frequent occurrence of the eclipse had nothing to do with global warming or anything falling out of place as alleged by most Nigerians but because of its periodicity. He said the simple explanation of its occurrence “is that in science we know that the earth goes round the sun but the axis of the earth is not as we see it in diagram as being flat’’. Ayetunji said the earth is inclined at an angle relative to the moon and because of that there might come a time when it would begin to happen frequently. He said lunar eclipse had no side effect as was the case with the solar eclipse and people could view it directly. “The reason we advise people not to view the solar eclipse directly is because ordinarily because of the luminosity of the sun you can’t look at the sun with your naked eye. “But when solar eclipse occurs you may be tempted to view it directly because you think it’s dark but that sun brightness is still there and can piece your cornea. “In the case of the lunar eclipse you look at the moon always and it does nothing to your eyes so when the eclipse occurs you are still free to look at it there is no side effect to that, ‘’he said.

Mina stampede: 54 Nigerians confirmed dead

Fifty-four Nigerians have been confirmed to have died during Thursday’s stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia NAN reports. The confirmation was given by Alhaji Abdullahi Mukhtar, Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on Monday at a news conference in Makkah. He said the deceased were from Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Cross Rivers, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Sokoto, Yobe, Taraba, and Zamfara. The chairman also said that out of the injured 61 pilgrims, 16 were transported by Private Tour Operators and the remaining 45 by state Pilgrims’ Welfare Agencies. He said the commission was still investigating to ascertain the number and condition of some pilgrims who have gone missing after the incident. MuKhtar said the commission had set up three committees to condole with the families of the deceased, arrange befitting burial for the deceased and to collate information from eye witnesses.

O’tega most qualified to be mnister from Delta – ONOKPASA

All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftain in Delta State, Jesutega Onokpasa, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Delta APC gubernatorial candidate, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor as the Minister from Delta. Addressing newsmen in Warri, yesterday, Onokpasa, who described Emerhor as a gentleman of “inestimable insight and exceptional goodwill” also, asserted that it was Emerhor who first championed the cause of change in Delta and brought diehard Buhari supporters into the APC in the state, including my humble self.’” Insisting that Emerhor, having never held any post in government before is therefore a true technocrat without any blemish, Onokpasa opined that Emerhor “is most qualified to be a minister according to any standard of measurement.” He said: “I implore Mr. President not to abandon the few of us who bravely stood to be counted on his side, sticking out our necks for the APC and indeed risking our lives for his candidacy in the Niger Delta. All through the struggle, our one and only true motivator, mobiliser, inspirer and undisputed leader was O’tega who made us realize that as genuine Nigerian patriots, opposing former President Jonathan and supporting Buhari is not inconsistent with our status as true Niger Deltans.”

Senator Saraki has no moral right to preside over the Senate

The Coalition of Northern Youths Association CNYA has stated that with the the current crisis bedevilling the Senate President which culminated in his arraignment at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last week, he is no longer morally fit to occupy the office if the president and should step down for a more qualified Senator to preside over the affairs of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. At the end of its meeting in Kaduna at the weekend, the group noted that it has resolved to mobilise its members and senators to rally round Senator Barnabas Gemade to become the next Senate President in view of the corruption charges involving the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki. The statement signed by the national coordinator of the group, Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed stated that the current crisis bedevilling the Senate President with his eventual arraignment at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last week has raised a moral issues about his fitness to preside. According to the group “we strongly believe that Senator Saraki has no moral right to preside over the affairs of the Senate based on the allegations levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau, and he cannot be facing trial and at the same time presiding over the affairs of the Senate. As such the best option left for him now, if he has conscience is to resign honourably and pave way for a new leadership in the senate’. The group pointed out that the whole world is watching Nigeria over the Sarakigate, “hence we call on the Senate President to do the needful by resigning without delay” It added added that in order not to create a leadership vacuum in the Senate and allow the opposition party, the PDP to capitalise on this, “we appeal to the previous contenders for the seat of Senate President such as Senators Ahmed Lawan and George Akume to jettison their ambition and support Senator Barnabas Gemade to become the next Senate President. ‘This is the only way out of the quagmire, considering the fact that Senator Gemade has all it takes to superintend over the Senate’. Justifying it’s choice of Senator Gemade, the group said it believed that Senator Gemade is going to entrench peace, unity and legislative decorum in the senate. “We make bold to state that as a former minister, former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP and a two term Senator now in his third term, he has the capacity to steer the ship of the senate and forge unity among the senators from both the All Progressive Congress APC and the Peoples Democratic Party PDP”. They called on the National Executives of the All Progressive Congress APC to see reason with their position and commence serious consultations among party stakeholders to ensure that the exit of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President will not spell doom for the party. ‘We call on all APC Senators to throw away any toga of loyalty to any person and go for the best candidate which to us at this particular point in time is Senator Barnabas Gemade’ the group said.

Putin heads for UN showdown with Obama over Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin squared up for a titanic clash Monday with his US rival Barack Obama at the United Nations as the Kremlin leader pushes for a new coalition against the Islamic State. Putin and Obama are due to make competing speeches before the UN General Assembly in New York, and will come face-to-face for their first official meeting in over two years at a time of high tension. In the runup to the showdown, Putin — isolated by the West over the crisis in Ukraine — has dramatically thrust himself back into the spotlight with a lightning push on the 4.5-year conflict in Syria. Moscow has put Washington on the back foot by dispatching troops and aircraft to the war-torn country and pushing reluctant world leaders to admit its long-standing ally Bashar al-Assad could cling to power. The Kremlin strongman called in an interview ahead of the UN summit for “a common platform for collective action” against Islamic State jihadists that would supercede a US-led coalition and involve Assad’s forces. On the ground, Russia seems to have already started putting the pieces together by agreeing with Iraq, Syria and Iran that their officers will work together in Baghdad to share intelligence on IS. – ‘Long way to go’ – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that despite the sharp disagreements, he saw that Moscow and Washington shared a “desire to work together” on Syria after a meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry on Sunday. But the US has expressed deep concern over Russia’s maneuvering in Syria and insists Obama will not let Putin off the hook over Ukraine after he shattered ties with the West by seizing the Crimea peninsula and allegedly fueling a separatist conflict. “We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” a senior State Department official said.

Rift Over Senate Presidency: APC Postpones Meeting Till Saturday

The choice of Nigeria’s next Senate president may be creating a rift in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as a meeting scheduled for today between members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the party’s newly elected legislators was postponed till Saturday. The meeting, which was scheduled to decide on a single candidate for the position of Senate President, was to hold today at the International Conference Center in Abuja. In a meeting a day ago with members of the party’s NWC, President Muhammad Buhari had signaled his preference for Senator Ahmed Lawan. Several sources at the meeting disclosed that Mr. Buhari said he was tipping Senator Lawan because of his experience and integrity. Mr. Lawan hails from Nigeria’s violence-ravaged northeast zone. His presumed main rival is former Governor Bukola Saraki. President Buhari had asked party leaders to present one candidate as a way of projecting a united front. However, SaharaReporters earlier reported that APC’s national chairman, Odigie Oyegun, was pushing for a primary to enable party members to choose between Saraki and Lawan. Some APC sources disclosed that Mr. Oyegun supports former Governor Saraki’s bid to emerge as the new Senate president. Several supporters of Mr. Saraki told SaharaReporters that they suspect the abrupt cancellation of today’s meeting was a deliberate ploy by party leaders to enable the Lawan group to recruit more senators to their side. Mr. Saraki and his backers are reportedly insisting that today’s meeting proceed as planned. “We are convinced that Distinguished Senator Saraki has a majority of support in the APC. And he will also draw support from PDP senators,” an ally of Mr. Saraki told SaharaReporters on condition of anonymity. The PDP is not presenting a candidate for the Senate presidency. An APC leader told SaharaReporters that the National Assembly’s plenary session, slated for today, had made it impossible for the party’s meeting to hold as planned. “That’s why we changed the date to Saturday,” he said. The Senate is expected to convene and elect a president on Saturday.

Nigeria’s UN Mission Embarrasses President Buhari

Nigeria’s notorious Permanent Mission to the United Nations, lead by Ambassador Joy Ogwu, has reportedly mismanaged President Buhari’s official schedule resulting in several missed opportunities and embarrassing moments for the President and his official delegation. Early Saturday, Reuters news agency reported that Nigeria had no official representation at a High Level Meeting on insecurity and displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin region. Nigeria was the only major player not present during the meeting, which was organized by the United Nations Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien, which resulted in international diplomats to say they were disappointed in Nigeria’s conduct. A Nigerian official speaking on the condition of anonymity with a SaharaReporters correspondent on Saturday said that “at the very least the National Security Adviser should have been present at the meeting.” The NSA Major General (Rtd) Monguno is attached to President Buhari’s official delegation. The Cable reported today that President Buhari “was also prevented from meeting with Pope Francis because he was not properly briefed by the Nigerian UN mission staff.” The Cable report continued saying, “the Pope delivered a speech at the general assembly on Friday at 10am. Not only was Buhari made to come in late to the meeting because of untidy arrangements, he also took a wrong gate rather than the one reserved for presidents and heads of state. He was subsequently prevented from seeing the pope by security operatives because of his late arrival.” SaharaReporters spoke with a high level member of President Buhari’s official delegation, who asked that we not use their name, who told our correspondent “the President did have problems with accreditation before the Pope’s speech.” He added “the protocol officers were not adequately briefed.” SaharaReporters has since learned that protocol and accreditation is the responsibility of Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. SaharaReporters obtained the official schedule of President Buhari and members of his delegation which did not have the High Level meeting between the Lake Chad Basin regional officials and the top UN Aid Chief Mr. O’Brien. This same high-level source confirmed to our SaharaReporters correspondent that it was Ambassador Ogwu’s office who developed the schedule and it was her office that chose not to place that High Level meeting on it. This source told SaharaReporters by phone that “if I had to say it, many members of the [official Nigeria] delegation are not happy. Could things have been better organized? Yes.” SaharaReporters has also spoke with other members of the delegation who place these blunders on the shoulders of the Nigerian Mission to the UN and Ambassador Joy Ogwu for not adequately briefing the President or coordinating his visit. This diplomatic debacle seems to be the latest in a series confronting President Buhari and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In July of this year, during President Buhari’s Official State Visit to the United States, hundreds of Nigerians were locked out of their embassy during a public forum—many of whom had official invitations from the embassy. The embarrassing events taking place this weekend at the United Nations comes two weeks after President Buhari announced major shake-ups in the management of foreign missions throughout the world. SaharaReporters tried repeatedly to contact Ambassador Joy Ogwu and her office however our calls and texts were not immediately answered.

20 feared dead in fresh Borno village attack

No fewer than 20 people were killed, while several others were injured as members of Boko Haram terrorists’ sect, Saturday night, invaded Malari and other communities in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State. However, Borno State Police Commissioner, Mr. Opadokun Aderemi, said in a text message to Vanguard that only nine people were killed, while 10 others were seriously injured. Malari village is South-East of, and about 35 kilometres drive from Maiduguri, the state capital, and had suffered series of deadly attacks in the recent past. A resident of the area, Mustapha Abubakar, who fled to Maiduguri, said the insurgents, who came on motorcycles and Toyota Hilux vehicles on Saturday night, shot at anybody they came across. He said: “We fled into the bush and after they left, we returned to pick some of our belongings. I counted 20 corpses; some were slaughtered, while others had gunshot wounds. The corpses were all over the streets of the village. “Government has to do something, otherwise they will continue to kill innocent citizens. Every surrounding village, which are not far from Maiduguri, had been taken over by the insurgents, as most of them are residing around the area.” Confirming the attack, the Police Commissioner, Mr. Opadokun Aderemi, said: “Today, September 27, at about 2a.m., suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked Malari village, Konduga Local Government Area. “Nine persons were reported killed, while 10 were injured. The village is not far from Alau Dam that supplies water to Maiduguri and its environs. “The injured are being treated at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospi-tal. Security is already beefed up to forestall a recurrence, as investigation progresses.”