• Why governor won’t resign over health challenge – Olateju
Ondo State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Rasaq Obe, stirred fresh controversy yesterday after telling Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, that he has confirmed the forgery of the signature of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
Governor Akeredolu has been recuperating in Ibadan, Oyo State, since his return from medical vacation.
Supporters of Aiyedatiwa had earlier raised the alarm that Governor Akeredolu’s signature was being forged to siphon money from the state coffers.
Obe, in a letter to Aiyedatiwa dated December 7, 2023, said the situation required immediate action.
In the letter, Obe said, ” It has been confirmed that the signature of Mr. Governor on a certain document has been forged.
“The irregularities in the signature were first observed when a file from my ministry was returned through the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). This is the only file that has been returned so far out of the five files that were sent for Mr. Governor’s approval about two months ago.
“Upon closer inspection, I noticed significant differences between the suspicious signature and handwriting and Mr. Governor’s known signatures and handwriting in the file. Concerned about the gravity of the situation, I decided to seek a forensic review before disclosing my discovery. I sent the suspicious signature, handwriting samples, and copies of the old regular signatures to forensic experts, who have now confirmed that the suspicious signature and handwriting were indeed forged.
“Despite the inherent risks involved, I have chosen to fulfill the obligations of my office by reporting this alarming development to you as the highest-ranking member of the State Executive Council after Mr. Governor. I firmly believe that this is the course of action our esteemed leader, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON, would take in such a situation.
“Considering the possibility that such forgery may be widespread, this heads-up is of utmost importance to the government and people of Ondo State. I have attached a copy of the forensic report and relevant pages from the file for your reference.
“I urge you to treat this matter with the urgency it deserves and take appropriate actions to address the situation. It is crucial that we restore the integrity of our processes and ensure that such a disturbing development is swiftly punctuated.”
Obe confirmed to reporters that he wrote the letter but declined to give further details.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Ondo State, Ms Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, has explained why the governor will not resign his position
The commissioner, in an interview on Arise TV yesterday, explained that the governor was not incapacitated, and so there was no need for him to resign.
She stated that the governor still performs all his duties and that the only thing he wasn’t doing at the moment was attending social events like weddings. She explained that the governor had been attending to memos and in touch with the cabinet members.
When asked further why Akeredolu, a senior advocate of Nigeria, hasn’t considered resigning from office, the same way he, as the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association, called on the then President Umaru Yar’Adua to resign on account of his health, the commissioner insisted that the governor wasn’t incapacitated and didn’t have to resign.
She noted, “The governor is not incapacitated, I still maintain that. He would have easily done the needful. The governor still gives approvals. No issue, other than the heightened political issues.”
Speaking further on why the State Executive Council hasn’t in line with Section 189 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) declared the governor as incapable, she said the governor wasn’t incapacitated and the executive council had no such plan.
“Unless the governor is incapacitated, there is no reason to evaluate his health,” she added.
When asked why he had remained in Ibadan if truly he wasn’t incapacitated, the commissioner explained, “The governor is still recuperating having gone through a very bad illness. I can’t come here and lie – I know Nigerians are watching – that the governor can run and play tennis. That is not true.
“The governor is still recuperating. His psychomotor, affective and cognitive skills are still intact, but he’s not as strong as he was in the past.”
Asked about the nature of the governor’s illness, Ademola-Olateju stated, “It’s not a very good illness, I think it’s a somatic problem (related to the body, especially as distinct from the mind). He has lost some weight, and he once told us that after 40, nobody is well.”
In spite of the commissioner’s claim that the governor is not incapacitated, a civil society group, Ondo State Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (OSCOCSO) has issued a two-week ultimatum to the Ondo State House of Assembly to declare Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa as Acting Governor or face mass protest.
It also invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate allegations of theft and funds mismanagement in the state.
The OSCOCSO said its ultimatum was due to a constitutional crisis in the state following the governor’s prolonged absence from office due to ill health.
Executive Director, Life and Peace Development Organization (LAGDO) Franklyn Oloniju, who spoke at a joint press briefing in Akure, said it was alarming that the Ondo Assembly failed to activate relevant constitutional provisions to appoint Aiyedatiwa as Acting Governor even after the peace move facilitated by President Bola Tinubu.
Oloniju said the Ondo Assembly’s inaction was a dereliction of duty and a violation of Section 190 of Nigeria’s constitution (as amended).
He stated that the Governor’s prolonged absence has created a vacuum in the leadership of the state, leaving the government rudderless and unable to effectively address the pressing issues facing the people of Ondo State.
According to him, “The failure of the House of Assembly to act promptly has exacerbated this crisis and is causing unnecessary hardship and uncertainty for the people of Ondo State.
“We call on the Ondo State House of Assembly to immediately redress this lacuna and own up to its constitutional duty by designating the Deputy Governor as Acting Governor. This is essential to restore normalcy, ensure continuity of governance, and protect the interests of the people of Ondo State.
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has called on African leaders to create quality jobs for their teeming unemployed youths, to stem the trend of brain drain bedevilling the continent.
Adesina said in Abuja on Friday at the Second Veritas University Digital Innovations Exhibition and 12th Convocation Lecture, that Nigeria was losing its best brains to Japa syndrome.
The former Minister of Agriculture, who spoke on the convocation lecture theme: ” Africa, It’s Your Time”, tasked Nigeria to turn its huge youth demography into an asset and not a liability.
The former Minister of Agriculture who was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree by the institution, announced that Nigeria had been listed among 10 other African countries to benefit from the Bank’s $20 billion Desert-to-Power initiative.
He noted that the power project was conceived to develop 10 GW of solar power, being the largest solar zone in the world when completed.
He listed other countries to benefit from the initiative as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Eritrea, and Senegal.
He also announced AfDB’s adoption of the Veritas University as a Centre of Excellence for Computer Coding for Employment.
“What Africa lacks is not money. What Africa lacks is lack of bankable ideas. Remember, money will always follow great ideas,” he said.
“As you join the workforce, technology and Artificial Intelligence will play a big role in your lives and in your enterprises.
“I expect to see many of you provide creative solutions to many of our challenges through analytics and data aggregation. There are huge opportunities in smart and digital economies of the future.
“All this matter to me personally because I do not want to see the continued exodus of young people who risk their lives to dangerously cross land and sea to go to Europe at all cost.
“The fastest way for Nigeria to dramatically expand the wealth of its economy, create jobs and provide decent work opportunity for its youth is to implement bold, effort-oriented, industrial manufacturing actions.
“This will rapidly expand foreign exchange earnings, boost income per capita and provide quality and well-paying jobs for millions of its young people,” he added.
Adesina charged the youth, both in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, to dream again while urging Africa to make us of the largest reserves of cobalt, lithium, diamonds, cocoa, nickel, copper, platinum and uranium in the world.
According to him, those resources could boast of 65 per cent of the world’s arable land and the largest deposit of solar potentials but has not materialised into wealth for the continent.
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Hyacinth Ichoku, revealed that the institution’s undergraduate enrollment had increased from 1,200 in 2018 to over 6,000.
Also, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of the institution, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah urged the graduating students to be good ambassadors of the institution.
Kukah, in a bid to give back to the institution, announced a donation of N3 million to three students who demonstrated their ideas to the gathering.
A Federal High Court sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, has granted stringent bail conditions to three persons who were arrested for UTME registration impersonation examination malpractice.
Timilehin Akinwale, Olayinka Mustapha and Peter Okereke, were arrested on February 15th, 2023 at Aina Awaw International College, Ilu Abo, which was a CBT centre for Jamb registration and examination.
They were arraigned and remanded to prison custody in May, 2023.
At the resumed hearing of the case Thursday, Justice T.O Adegoke, granted bail to the defendants to the sum of N1m each and sureties who must have a company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) and do business within Akure metropolis.
Justice Adegoke ruled that the sureties must show evidence of tax clearance for the past three years and must deposit the original copies of their company registration certificates with the Registrar of the Court while the sum of one million by each of the defendants must be deposited in the account to be provided by the Court Registrar.
The sureties and each of the defendants, according to the Judge must write an undertaking that the defendants would attend their trial till the conclusion of the case.
Prosecuting Counsel, M. I. Osimen, called a witness, Oyegun Gabriel, the Technical Officer, who detected the suspicious registration transactions.
Oyegun gave evidence and tendered his the JAMB registration printout in respect of the 2nd defendant.
He explained to the court how the defendants were arrested at the Aina Awwal CBT Centre, Akure, for impersonation.
Oyegun almost informed the court that the defendants gave a written statement at the office of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC), Akure Command.
Relatives of the defendants said they were afraid that the defendants might spend the Christmas and New Year in prison custody saying the bail conditions would be difficult to meet.
- Food prices tripled, traders expect further rise, fear low patronage
- Many cancel, adjust travel plans for Christmas as transport fares keep rising
Many families risk celebrating the approaching Christmas and New Year in hardship due to the hike in the prices of goods and services, and are devising life-changing ways to cut costs, findings by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.
Several families told our correspondents that life had become tougher for them as a result of the economic hardship in the country occasioned by the rising inflation of goods and services following the removal of subsidy on petrol.
As a result, many of the people who spoke to Saturday PUNCH said the Yuletide season would be low-keyed, adding that they might not make the usual trips to their hometowns as a result of the high cost of transportation and rising inflation.
According to official data, 63 per cent of Nigerians or 133 million people are currently living in multidimensional poverty.
A recent United Nations report stated that over 40 million households in the country were poor.
Nigerians from different walks of life, who spoke to our correspondents, revealed that they had resorted to borrowing, selling some of their valuables and adopting other cost-cutting measures as a result of the drastic increase in the cost of living.
Several experts have opined that if nothing is done to arrest the drift, millions of Nigerians will fall below the poverty line.
The National Bureau of Statistics in its Customer Price Index for October revealed that the headline inflation rate increased to 27.33 per cent relative to the September rate of 26.72 per cent.
This indicates that the country is facing its worst cost of living crisis in about 20 years.
Food prices soar
The prices of many staple foods like rice and beans have almost tripled, according to a survey conducted by Sunday PUNCH.
Our correspondents who visited markets across Lagos and Ogun states report that a bag of rice now sells for around N55,000 as opposed to N48,000 in October.
A frozen food seller in Mowe, Ogun State, who identified herself simply as Mrs Makinde, disclosed that the prices of frozen fish, chicken and turkey had more than doubled in the last two months.
Many traders also anticipated that the prices would rise further before the peak of the festive season.
Makinde said, “I sold a bottle of palm oil on Thursday for N1,200. As of Friday, it had increased to N1,400. Before the end of next week, it may get to N1,800, or even N2,000 because the producers may go on break.
“As for rice, I was able to buy a bag for N48,000 a few weeks ago. As of yesterday (Thursday), when I reached out to my supplier, he said it was now N55,000 for the long grain and N52,000 for the short grain.”
Another trader, Mr Opeyemi Debo, said a carton of tomato paste that was sold for around N2,500 in November was now selling for N5,500.
He said, “A bucket of powdered pepper now sells for N4,500 from N2,500. A carton of stockfish (panla) now sells for N24,000 from around N15,000, which it sold for last month.
“A bucketful measure of egusi (melon), which sold for around N4,000 last month, now goes for N5,500. A bucket of onion, which used to be N3,000, is now N7,000.
“A carton of chicken now ranges between N32,000 and N34,000 as opposed to N22,000, which it sold for in September and October.
“Turkey now sells for N55,000 for a carton as opposed to N35,000 in October.
“Chicken wings now sell for N35,000 a carton. Five litres of palm oil now sells for N5,000 from around N25,000 in October.
“A paint bucket of yellow garri is now N2,000 as opposed to N800 two months ago. A carton of gizzard is now between N38,500 and N42,000, and I can tell you that it will increase. As for rice, it may sell for N60,000 before Christmas.”
A Lagos-based trader, Mrs Ilerioluwa Bamisaye, expressed concern that the increase in the prices of foodstuffs might reduce patronage during the festive period.
According to her, as food prices soar, many families may not be able to afford to celebrate the festive season as they should.
Bamisaye said “I doubt people will come out to buy much this year because the prices of items have tripled. A pack of spaghetti we were selling between N7,000 and N8,000 is now N13,000. Rice is now food for the rich. A bag of beans is now N120,000; whereas before now, it was N70,000. Customers are always asking us for cheaper protein alternatives like shawa (herring fish) and eggs, as well as ponmo (cow hide).”
Another trader in the Ibafo Market, Ogun State, Mrs Opeyemi Jude, who sells wholesale, lamented that the Yuletide season was not reflected in her sales.
“It doesn’t even seem as if we are preparing for Christmas. Around this time last year, many people were coming to buy bags of food items. We all know what is happening now. We only appeal to the government to put the economy in shape so that people will celebrate the season with joy. It is so disturbing that the amount you buy today will be different from what you will get for tomorrow,” she said.
On her part, another trader, Opeyemi Adediran, noted that a portion of tomatoes sold before at N100 was now selling for N500, while pepper increased to N200 from N50 for a portion of five balls.
A fish seller, Mrs Titilayo Oloyode, stated that the mackerel fish (Titus), which sold for N700 last year, was now selling for N1,400 each.
“A carton of Titus fish has increased from N7,000 around April to N57,000, while Kote fish (horse mackerel) now sells for N38,500 per carton instead of N9,000 before subsidy removal. Twenty kilograms of Alaska fish sold for N4,500 before, but currently sells for N26,000,” she noted.
Speaking on the increase in the prices of food items, a foodstuffs seller in Lagos, Mrs Oluwatosin Olanrewaju, explained that a bag of potatoes, which sold for between N2,500 and N3,000 about six months ago, currently sells for N8,000.
According to her, a medium-sized tuber of yam now sells for between N1,000 and N1,500 instead of between N500 and N700 earlier in the year, noting that the increase in prices of commodities had led to a reduction in patronage.
She also stated that transportation fare from the North to Lagos had increased from N1,500 per bag to N5,000.
Olanrewajusaid, “I don’t have many people patronising me like before because of the bad economy. I should have gone to buy more goods last week, but you can see that I still have many tubers of yam, which I bought four days ago. If it was last year, they would have finished in two days. People are now opting for potato instead of yam because it is cheaper.”
Another trader, Happiness Bitrus, explained that local and foreign rice (small grain), which sold for N1,500 and N2,000 per plastic measure before, currently sells for N3,800 and N4,500, respectively.
She added that a bag of foreign rice (small and big), which sold for N33,000 and N40,000 earlier in the year, now sells for between N47,000 and N55,000, respectively.
A big bag of beans (drum variety) currently sells for between N110,000 and N115,000, while a small bag sells for N52,000. Before the removal of petrol subsidy, the item was sold between N35,000 and N40,000.
On her part, a tomato and pepper trader, Rachael Adebalogun, said, “The rising prices are not our fault because a bag of pepper before was between N10,000 and N15,000, but it is now sold for N50,000.
“A basket of tomatoes is now N15,000 but it was N8,000 before, while the small bag and the big bag sold for N15,000, but now it is between N70,000 and N80,000. A bag of onions that we bought for N20,000 and N30,000 before is currently sold for between N130,000 and N230,000. The government should pity us. Customers are complaining and they always lament when they come here.”
Families cut costs
A mother of five, Madam Uka Osondu, said her family had dumped chicken and turkey from their meals since July.
“We now eat ponmo, Shawa and Kote fish. We eat eggs sometimes but not all the time. We eat more of jollof rice and not rice and stew because we have found out that it is cheaper. This Christmas is not looking like Christmas at all. My children have been complaining but there is nothing we can do about the situation,” she said.
For a young lady based in Ogun State, Favour Aliu, the economic hardship has forced her to reduce her daily meal consumption level from thrice to once.
Lamenting the situation, she said, “When I take N10,000 to the market before, it would afford me rice, beans and some packs of spaghetti, with ingredients to cook them.
“But now, that amount can barely afford two paint buckets of rice. I now take garri in the afternoon.
“As for the aspect of cooking gas, it has compounded my woes. I will soon start using firewood if the price does not reduce because I cannot afford to buy a kilogram of gas for N1,500.
“I can’t even use an electric cooker because there is no stable electricity. My prayer is for God to help us. It has become so difficult. The government should do something to calm the rising inflation and general hardship in the country.”
A mother-of-two, Mrs Omotolani Odeyale, said her family had stopped stocking foodstuffs, adding that she now purchases items in bits whenever the need arises because of the cost of the items.
Another Ogun resident, a mother of four, Mrs Iyabo Wasiu, said, “Everything has worsened. I didn’t believe it would be this bad. Did you know that I took garri with water yesterday night when I realised that the money with me would not be enough for what I planned to do today? I had no other option.
“I use a sachet of tomatoes twice whenever I cook rice. I only cook soup on weekends to cut costs. On weekdays, I don’t even cook most times because of the cost of gas.”
A housewife, who wanted to be identified only as Mrs Sholape, said she had to borrow from money lenders to be able to augment the monthly feeding money she gets from her husband.
“Before now, my family’s monthly upkeep money was N15,000 and it was more than enough to feed me, my husband and three kids, but now it can barely feed us once every day for two weeks.
A pastor of the Celestial Church of Christ, Trinity Model Parish in Ota, Ogun State, Daniel Omonokhua, said the general increase in prices of items in the country was not favourable.
“The general increase in the prices of fuel and other commodities is not so favourable. The church most times makes use of generators because of the inadequacies of the public power supply. This is to say that, the amounts we spend on fuel and servicing the generators have doubled, so we watch the time and do not overrun the generators,” he said.
Transport fares increase
Our correspondents, who visited bus terminals in Jibowu, Yaba, Ojota, Berger and Lekki, all in Lagos State, observed that the fares to many destinations had increased by nearly 100 per cent.
A passenger at a park in Yaba, Mrs Chiwendu Osu, who was heading for Enugu, said she was shocked when told that the fare was N19,000.
“The fare was N8000 in March. I travelled in May and it was N11,000. How can I pay N19,000 now?” she queried.
The atmosphere at the Jibowu bus terminus on Thursday morning was not as bubbly as it used to be.
One of our correspondents gathered from the different operators that the fares to various destinations would change in the days leading to Christmas.
For most transport companies at Jibowu, the average fare to the East hovers between N20,000 and N28,000
At the Peace Mass Transit bus terminal, the fares to various destinations were posted on a wall.
Several passengers told Saturday PUNCH that the bus fares had nearly tripled to what it was last Christmas.
A frequent traveller, Mr George Asamota, who claimed to have travelled to Port Harcourt in March, said the fare from Lagos was around N17,000.
“Now, it will cost me nothing less than N25,000 to travel from Lagos to Port Harcourt, and this will change as the festive season draws nearer.”
A ticket vendor at the Peace bus terminal, who refused to give his name, noted that the fares would change next week, adding that travellers could pre-book tickets.
“The earliest time anyone can buy a ticket for any trip is three days ahead of the trip,” the source added.
At the God is Good Motors, reservations can only be made a day before the trip.
Saturday PUNCH observed from its website that the fare to Port Harcourt was N19,000.
The fare from Lagos to Osun was fixed at N8,000. From Lagos to Kwara, the fare was fixed at N11,000. All these, according to the management of the firm, are expected to change soon.
As a result of the hike in transport fares, many residents of urban centres told our correspondents that they would not be making any trips home for the festive season.
For instance, a Lagos resident, Mr Emeka Ifeakachi, said he would rather send money to his immediate family members in Rivers State rather than travel to Port Harcourt.
He said, “My father struggles with ill health and the last time I travelled home to see him was during the 2021 Christmas and New Year, and I spent a total of N20,000 on transportation.
“Now, I will be spending like N40,000. I don’t think that will be a smart decision to make. I would rather send them money so that they can buy medicine for my father.”
Another Lagos resident, Chibueze Ugochukwu, said his family would not travel to his hometown, Mbieri, in Imo State, due to the hike in fuel price and his difficult economic situation.
He stated, “Normally, in our culture when you are going to your town or village at the end of the year, there must be something significant about your life that you will showcase to let people realise that you are making progress and that you have achieved in the year.
“But this year, things have gone from bad to worse. Since the middle of the year, it has been hard to keep up and I can’t point to anything significant that has been added to my life, so what is the essence of going to the village for assorted meetings and church harvests? Is it to show them that I am still where I used to be?”
On his part, a data analyst who resides in Abuja, Seun Adesipe, noted that he would travel during the festive season but this would cost more.
“I will come down to Lagos by flight to meet my parents and siblings and that is only because it’s our family tradition. I have not seen them for months and the Yuletide season is usually one where we get to see and celebrate together, but to be sincere, it will be a huge financial sacrifice this time,” he stated.
An Ibadan, Oyo State-based man, Mr Emmanuel Adekunle, said he had the intention of travelling with his family to his hometown in Ondo State for the festive period, but had to change the plans due to the increase in the pump price of petrol.
He said, “I usually travel with my family for the New Year festivity every year but we can’t do that now because we all know what the petrol price is saying now. Instead, I will send money to my people at home and manage myself and my family in Ibadan.”
Another Lagos resident, Mr Ife Adeniran said, “We had plans to travel to our hometown in Osun State, but when we considered the transportation cost, we decided to cancel it.”
All plans to travel home to Anambra for the Okparas this Christmas have long been cancelled.
The Lagos-based real estate developer, Mr Chukwudi Okpara, said due to the insecurity in the eastern region and the high inflation rate, it did not make sense to travel home this Christmas season.
No Christmas clothes
Christmas wear, especially for children, is a regular feature of the festive season. However, this year, there are indications that many parents will not be buying any for their kids.
A father of four, Mr Joseph Temitayo, said he had long cancelled plans to buy clothes for his kids.
“I already explained to them that they would have to choose between food and clothes. I cannot afford to buy clothes and still buy food with this crippling inflation,” he said.
A single mother in Rivers State, Ere Alamina, said she told her two young sons that they would not be wearing new clothes this Yuletide.
“They almost drowned me with their tears, but I have to handle only the things that are important, and food is number one on that list,” she said.
Some economic experts have noted that the inflation rate in the country will continue to rise if the government continues to implement policies that are inimical to growth, adding that most of these policies so far reeled out by the Federal Government were ill-timed.
They also noted that inflation would affect the Yuletide, as many Nigerian families might not be able to celebrate as they should.
A developmental economist and tax expert, Mr Ade Dayo, said the ever-rising inflation was an effect of combined economic woes.
He stated, “Nigeria barely produces anything that can be exported. We rely wholly on imports, even for things that we can produce. The environment for small businesses and other entrepreneurs is not conducive. Many businesses have closed down as a result. There is no respite.
“When these things are added to the confusion in the forex market where $1 is over N1,000, it is obvious why the prices of goods and services will continue to rise.”
He advised the government to set up a policy implementation team that would look at, not just the textbook advantages of policies, but fashion out ways to make sure that Nigerians did not suffer because of one ill-implemented economic policy or the other.
Another economic expert and development researcher, Dr Musa Usman, said the government should declare a state of emergency on the economy.
He added that Nigerians were suffering in the face of the already battered economy left by the immediate past administration and some of the policies of the incumbent.
Usman said, “For every policy that a government makes, there is a ripple effect. This effect could be positive or negative, or a mix of both. The ability of a government to manage this effect is what makes it a thinking one.
“The Federal Government must show leadership in the way that it runs the affairs of the state. The economy cannot be this bad and we have such a bloated system. Food inflation is nearing 30 per cent. This is something that used to be in single digits in the past. When it hit 15 per cent, everyone thought it was too bad. Now, it has almost hit 30.
“In a country where the minimum wage is N30,000 and there are over 133 multi-dimensionally poor people and over 40 million poor households, how are they expected to cope with the new prices of food, transport, fees and other basics? This is a recipe for disaster. By the time it gets to the festive season, a paint bucket of rice may sell for N5,000 if the government does not pull its weight and get the country out of the doldrums.”
He also criticised the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr Wale Edun, who he quoted to have said many investors were not ready to bring Foreign Direct Investment to Nigeria.
“If the economy is friendly and attractive, investors will flood in. We don’t want to be hearing about the problems and challenges all the time. Nigerians need to know what the government is doing to make the economy liveable for its citizens. That is the primary responsibility of the government,” he added.
A professor of Economics at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sheriffdeen Tella, urged the Federal Government to prioritise food production to reduce inflation.
He said, “Since the reports from the NBS identified the domestic factors as cost of production and food, it is apparent that food production must be a priority, while efficiency in power production with cost reduction is imperative.
“The CBN must continue to work on strengthening the exchange rate to be able to reduce the cost of imports of raw materials for industries.”
On his part, a professor of Financial Economics and Dean, School of Business and Entrepreneurship, American University of Nigeria, Leo Ukpong, enjoined the government to prioritise infrastructure development to tackle the impact of high inflation.
According to him, the current inflation is driven by several factors, of which the primary ones are shortage of fuel, and shortage of foodstuffs due to insecurity in the agricultural belt of our country.
He added that the high cost of importation which demeaned indigenous production, the depreciation of the naira, the high cost of borrowing faced by businesses, and bad economic policies had continued to worsen the country’s situation.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, today alerted banks and Nigerians to beware of counterfeit bank notes, especially higher denominations now spent in food markets and other commercial hubs in the country.
According to Apex Bank, it is an offense punishable by imprisonment for any person to falsify, make, or counterfeit any bank note or coin issued by the CBN.
CBN disclosed this in a statement signed by its Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mrs. Sidi Ali, Hakama.
CBN said, “The attention of the CBN has been drawn to the circulation of counterfeit banknotes, especially higher denominations, by some individuals for transactions in food markets and other commercial centres across major cities in the country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 20(4) of the CBN Act (2007), as amended, states that it shall be an offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years for any person to falsify, make, or counterfeit any bank note or coin issued by the Bank which is legal tender in Nigeria.
“The CBN is in constant collaboration with relevant security and financial agencies to confiscate fake Naira banknotes, arrest and prosecute counterfeiters.
“Meanwhile, all Deposit Money Banks, Financial Houses and Bureau de Change and the general public are enjoined to be more vigilant and take all necessary precautionary measures to curtail the acceptance and distribution of counterfeit notes.
“Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to embrace alternative modes of payment, e-channels, for day-to-day transactions to mitigate the risk of spreading counterfeit banknotes.”
The Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) has called on Nigerians and philanthropists to render financial support to Amaechi Muonagor, the ace actor who was recently diagnosed with kidney disease, diabetes and stroke.
In a recent Instagram post, Emeka Rollas, AGN national president, shared a photo of the ailing actor alongside some other colleagues while appealing for aid.
He said that though the AGN had approved some money from the guild’s trust fund, more financial assistance would still be needed.
“Few days ago I led few of my colleagues and one of our National Patrons, High Chief Ejiamatu Nwokeabia to check on Amechi Muonagor,” he wrote.
“He is in high spirit as witnessed by the people who accompanied me.
“I have approved some money to be sent to his account from the AGN TRUST FUND which may obviously not be enough due to his records with the Guild HMO & Insurance policy.
“I, therefore, use this medium to appeal to young actors to sign up for the AGN HMO and Insurance programmes.
“All fans and well wishers of Amechi Muonagor should join hands with other philantropic Nigerians to support him in this dire time of need.”
The United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, otherwise called COP28, currently going on in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, opened with the historic launch of the Loss and Damage Fund on Thursday, December 3. The operationalization of the fund on the first day of the summit demonstrated the commitment of the world leaders to the resolution reached last year at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The talks at this year’s climate summit focused on finance and trade, two key issues that can engender the much-needed action on climate change and energy transition.
On the eve of the summit, there emerged a heart-warming piece of news: Nigerian Tariye Gbadegesin was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Climate Investment Fund. The fund based in Washington DC is one of the world’s biggest innovative financing platforms. Tariye replaces Portuguese Mafalda Duarte who is now at the head of the Green Climate Fund based in South Korea. Though the Harvard Business School graduate is also partly a US citizen, Tariye’s appointment speaks to the widely acknowledged innumerable talents that abound among the Nigerian-Americans.
This appointment is relevant and useful in the context of Nigeria and Africa. This is the first time, a person of an African bloodline, a woman with direct Nigeria linkage would emerge the head of an organisation that is often accused of pandering to the climate financing needs of American and Asian countries to the detriment of African nations. So her appointment is a fine appointment for Nigeria and indeed for Africa, and it’s reasonable to expect it will benefit the continent.
Following the launch of the fund, high-income countries started making pledges in solidarity, with about $1 billion pledged so far. Africa stands to benefit from the account, but the continent must now push for efficient deployment of the fund for the purpose of the vulnerable African communities.
Nigeria’s participation at COP28 helped to properly position her to benefit from the fund. This fund, as I see it, is a mechanism for support and securing justice over the climate crisis. Interestingly, the endowment fund is consistent with President Bola Tinubu’s persistent clamour for climate justice. The Nigerian President has always argued that the developed world needs to understand the predicament of the developing countries, particularly Africa who contribute the least to carbon emissions but suffer the most, and are now being asked to give up their major source of livelihood in the name of climate change. He said Nigeria and Africa need understanding and support for energy transition. While expressing support for climate change, President Tinubu would argue that asking Africa and a country like Nigeria to forgo hydrocarbon – her major source of foreign exchange earnings – is like asking “a church rat not to eat the Holy Communion,” and that Nigeria and Africa urgently require investments in alternative energy to be able to fully and effectively transition.
In plenary and sideline meetings, President Tinubu promoted this position and demanded at every turn during his participation at the Dubai climate summit. For instance, speaking on a panel on Africa Green Industrialization hosted by UAE President, who is also COP28 President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Nigerian Leader said Africa must not become a victim of the disruptions that come with climate mitigation measures, while also stating that risk management is vital for Africa’s full and swift transition to cleaner energy.
COP28 was eventful for President Tinubu. The summit particularly presented an array of investment and partnership opportunities for the various sectors affected by climate change. Nigeria is already reaping the benefits of its participation.
Information Minister Mohammed Idris has already highlighted some of these gains. These gains are worth restating, however, in this piece.
One, Nigeria and Germany signed a performance agreement on the implementation of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) to improve Nigeria’s electricity supply. The Managing Director and CEO of FGN Power Company, Mr. Kenny Anuwe, and Siemens Energy’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Ms. Nadja Haakansson, signed the agreement on the sidelines of the summit, in the presence of President Tinubu and Chancellor Scholz.
Two. President Tinubu hosted a high-level meeting with stakeholders and investors on the Nigeria Carbon Market and the Electric Buses Rollout Programme. He unveiled the Nigeria Carbon Market Activation Plan, co-chaired by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), Dr. Dahiru Salisu.
Three, on the subsisting issue of restoration of Emirates Airline flights, among other matters, the President also met the President of UAE to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Among other important meetings President Tinubu held with several leaders and multilateral partners in Dubai was the one with British King Charles, a well-known strident climate change advocate. King Charles had always expressed his desire to meet Tinubu who he said he was not opportuned to meet during his visits to Nigeria when the President was governor of Lagos. COP28 provided that opportunity.
Also, heads of several MDAs engaged with and forged useful agreements with their counterparts in UAE. For instance, the NNPC sealed two deals to commercialise the country’s Liquefied Natural Gas for domestic and international markets in order to ensure Nigeria earns the much-needed revenue from its abundant gas assets.
Also, after signing a strategic partnership agreement between themselves on research and development projects aimed at enhancing the quality, reliability and affordability of rural electrification solutions, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) on December 8 in Dubai signed an MOU with Shenzhen Technology Development Company of China, through its subsidiary, Lemi Renewable Energy Limited. This agreement is targeted at the development and establishment of a $150million Lithium Battery Manufacturing and Processing Factory in Nigeria.
These are the important things that came out of the conference, as opposed to the controversy over Nigeria’s representation, which was stoked by some who ought to know better, but for their mischief. This is quite unhelpful. A conference of the magnitude of COP28 will attract many delegates, government officials and non-state actors alike, because of the significance of the issues involved. There were delegates including business leaders, development partners, climate activists, representatives of climate-impacted communities, members of other NGOs related to the environment, academics, journalists, and others at the conference. That they all registered under the name of the country does not mean the government sponsored them. Some of the delegates who registered under Nigeria’s name even operate outside the country and they sponsored themselves.
Importantly, the Minister of Information has put a lie to the figure bandied around as the number of Nigeria’s delegation when he provided the breakdown of the total 422 delegates. The delegation from Nigeria is a far cry from the figure bandied about. The more than 90,000 total participants and delegates from over 150 countries at this year’s summit, the highest in the history of the climate conferences thus far, are an indication of the importance of the summit. To further lend credence to the seriousness of the summit, as some government delegates were leaving for their respective countries on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the end of the plenary sessions, some delegates were just arriving Dubai Expo City venue of the summit for the technical and negotiation sessions, ending on Tuesday, December 12. Indeed, as it has been previously pointed out, COP28 was not a jamboree; it was a serious business.
Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the world’s first medicine based on CRISPR gene-editing technology, a groundbreaking treatment for sickle cell disease that delivers a potential cure for people born with the chronic and life-shortening blood disorder.
The new medicine, called Casgevy, is made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics. Its authorization is a scientific triumph for the technology that can efficiently and precisely repair DNA mutations — ushering in a new era of genetic medicines for inherited diseases.
In a clinical trial, Casgevy was shown to eliminate recurrent episodes of debilitating pain caused by sickle cell, which afflicts approximately 100,000 people in the U.S., a vast majority of whom are Black. The therapy, whose scientific name is exa-cel, is described as a potential cure because the genetic fix enabled by CRISPR is designed to last a lifetime, although confirmation will require years of follow-up.
The FDA decision comes three weeks after regulators in the U.K. were the first to clear the drug. Approval in the European Union is expected next year. The FDA is also expected to rule on exa-cel as a
“I’m skeptical that this will open the floodgates, as some people are predicting,” said Akshay Sharma, a physician who treats children with sickle cell at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Casgevy has the potential to be a “transformative therapy,” Sharma added, but “I would expect physicians and patients to be nervous and hesitant” until its long-term efficacy and safety are better defined.
Sickle cell disease is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for the production of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. The mutation causes red blood cells to become misshapen. Under a microscope, they look like crescents or sickles, which gives the disease its name. When sickled red cells clump together, they clog blood vessels, robbing tissues of oxygen and causing bouts, or “crises,” of extreme pain, hospitalizations, organ damage, stroke, and early death.
Physicians who treat people with sickle cell today prescribe a number of medicines that can reduce the frequency of pain crises, increase hemoglobin levels, or ameliorate symptoms, but none targets the underlying genetic cause of the disease. Stem cell transplants can be curative, but the procedure requires patients to have a donor with matched immune cells, which occurs infrequently.
This is what makes Casgevy different. It edits a patient’s own blood stem cells to produce high levels of fetal hemoglobin — the healthy, oxygen-carrying form of the protein that is produced during fetal development but normally shuts down soon after birth. Researchers had previously identified a certain genetic mutation that causes fetal hemoglobin to persist into adulthood. When this happens to people with sickle cell, their disease is mild and outcomes are greatly improved.
Casgevy uses the CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme to mimic this protective genetic mutation. It makes a cut at a specific spot in a gene called BCL11A. The edit, in turn, disables a DNA brake on the production of fetal hemoglobin.
Bluebird’s gene therapy works through another route, delivering, with the help of a virus, a copy of a gene into patients’ cells that enables them to produce healthy hemoglobin. In a clinical trial, 28 out of 32 patients lived free of pain crises during the study period after receiving Lyfgenia.
The clinical trial conducted by Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics that supported Casgevy’s approval enrolled 30 people with sickle cell, aged 12 to 35, who were, on average, experiencing four severe pain episodes per year and just under three hospitalizations per year.
Within three months of receiving a single Casgevy infusion, all of the study participants began producing protective levels of fetal hemoglobin. All but one of the participants achieved the main goal of the study — freedom from severe pain episodes for at least one year following treatment. Twenty-eight participants remained free of pain episodes for an average of 22 months. The first person treated with Casgevy in the clinical trial, a woman named Victoria Gray, has now gone more than four years without a severe pain episode.
The FDA recently held a meeting with outside experts about Casgevy, which focused on “off-target” editing — that is, any potential inadvertent changes the medicine may make in patients’ cells — underscoring how scientists and regulators are adapting to this new class of genetic medicines. On Friday, the FDA said the treatment’s label will include a caution about the “potential” risk of off-target edits.
“Genome editing is something special and it may redefine the paradigm of medicine over the next 30-40 years,” said CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Samarth Kulkarni. “Exa-cel’s approval represents the start of it. “We can fundamentally alter the genes that cause disease to create a functional, lifelong solution with a single administration. That’s a new paradigm, and it’s only powered by genome editing.”
CRISPR Therapeutics was founded in 2013 soon after Charpentier and Doudna published their seminal CRISPR paper. Work on what is now Casgevy started in earnest two years later, with Vertex on board as a partner and investor. The first clinical trial involving patients with sickle cell began in 2019.
Casgevy is often described as a one-time treatment, but that convenience underrepresents the arduous and lengthy steps required before it’s administered. Patients first have their blood stem cells removed through a process called apheresis; the cells are then shipped off to a company-run manufacturing lab where they are edited. While cells are prepared, patients must undergo a preparatory treatment with a chemotherapy drug to remove any native stem cells that might remain in their bone marrow.
This “conditioning” step is crucial because it provides space in the bone marrow for the functional, CRISPR-edited cells to engraft and grow. But the chemotherapy drug used, called busulfan, wipes out germ-fighting immune cells and can cause serious side effects, including infertility — a particularly troublesome risk factor for people who wish to have children.
The actual injection of Casgevy is quick, but patients must remain in the hospital for weeks until their immune system recovers and the risk of serious infection abates.
Vertex estimates about 25,000 people in the U.S. and Europe might be good candidates for Casgevy — consisting mostly of people with more severe disease who are willing to undergo the arduous procedure and accept the risks.
“The initial patients will be motivated because they’ve been following, they’re interested, and they believe the benefits outweigh the risks and the current challenges,” said David Altshuler, Vertex’s chief scientific officer. “But I think the other thing that will happen is a sort of community aspect, where patients will be watching other patients in their care centers and in their community. Over time, that will build confidence and trust.”
Both regulators in the U.K. and the FDA approved Casgevy for people as young as 12.
“We’ve heard consistently from physicians that they are interested in treating patients who are younger,” said Stuart Arbuckle, Vertex’s chief operating officer. “The disease has taken hold less, and so these patients have fewer complications and more of a lifetime of benefit to gain. And they tend to be able to schedule this procedure into their life a bit easier than a working adult. They also tend to do really well versus older people.”
Sharma, the sickle cell expert at St. Jude’s, intends to take a more cautious approach.
“As long as we don’t have evidence of long-term safety, I would be hesitant to expose young children to this therapy, which is still so novel,” he said. “I think the ideal patient is an adult who has severe disease not controlled by currently available treatments.”
Hsu, the University of Illinois physician, has already started speaking to his patients about undergoing treatment with Casgevy. Patients with more severe sickle cell disease “who have seen how bad it can be, especially as they grow older” are likely to be the first to seek out treatment, he said.
He’s also counseled some adolescent patients who expressed initial interest in Casgevy but have since decided to wait because the medicines they take today to control their disease are working. “These are younger people whose organs are in good enough shape that they could go through this, and their disease severity is high enough that they would be eligible.”
Vertex, which is running point on Casgevy’s commercial launch, has said previously that it expects a slow uptake, given the complexity of treatment and the need to sort out reimbursement and access.
Lyfgenia’s approval came with a black box warning about the possibility that patients who receive the therapy might later develop blood cancer and should be monitored for that risk. Two patients in trials of the drug died of blood cancers, and studies concluded that the cancers were caused by the chemotherapy conditioning regimen for the treatment, not Lyfgenia itself.
Forty eight hours after being summoned by the Senate, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, has now appeared before the joint committee on appropriations.
The Senate had issued a 24-hour ultimatum on Wednesday to the NNPCL boss after an observations that he had in previous occasions, shunned summons by the Senate to appear before its ad-committee probing over 11 trillion naira expenditure on turn around maintenance of refineries in the country between 2010 and 2023.
Responding to questions by the senate committee on appropriations on the potential drop in pump price of petroleum owing to the expected functionality of refineries, Kyari clarified his comment after he was interrogated again. He explained that it might be possible to have a reduction, but it is not the main objective of the refineries.
He buttressed that maintaining the energy security target has fostered the confidence that in 2024, Nigeria will become a net exporter of petroleum products.
The NNPCL boss affirmed that no subsidy is charged to the federation, adding that the NNPC has contributed 4.45 trillion naira as direct revenue into the federation in a combination of taxes, royalties and dividends and paid 406 billion naira as dividend to Federal Government’s account from July 2023.
According to him, Nigeria does not have credible data for PMS consumption in the country because of the absence of the instrument to measure.
The Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, had on Wednesday, directed Kyari to appear before the committee in 24 hours.
Olamilekan, who asked Kyari to appear in company of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), warned that failure to appear undermines the legislature and sabotages the process.
They are required to present the list of all individual companies operating with OML licenses in Nigeria as well as total production output approved on a daily basis.
The lawmaker expressed concerns that some of the revenues required to drive the 2024 budget was attributed to the NNPCL, which according to him, was owned by the Federal Government and responsible to it, and by extension the three arms of government.
The Nigerian Navy has arrested 17 people said to be engaged in the illegal siphoning of crude oil in Ondo State.
Navy spokesperson, Commodore Adedotun Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, disclosed this in a statement, saying the suspects were nabbed at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Igbokoda in the early hours of Thursday.
Also intercepted by the naval authorities was a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 Lagos.
“The vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest and was caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State,” he stated.
“The apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
“Notably, as the anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of FOB IGBOKODA approached MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, the 2 x boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality.”
The naval spokesman stated that on arrival at the scene, it was discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the wellhead.
Consequently, upon further search and interrogation, Ayo-Vaughan said it was further discovered that the vessel had onboard 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality.
Noting that the vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest, the naval spokesman said it had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
He noted that the arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS shows the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
“All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment.
“While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Nigerian Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well-meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities, especially in the coastal communities for necessary action,” Ayo-Vaughan said.
See the full statement below:
CRUDE OIL THEFT: NIGERIAN NAVY ARRESTS MOTOR TANKER VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS FOR CRUDE OIL THEFT
- The Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, (FOB) IGBOKODA in Ondo on Wednesday 6 December 2023 at about 10:00pm detected and arrested in the early hours of Thursday 7 December 2023 at about 3.00am, a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS. The vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest was caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. The apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
- Notably, as the anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of FOB IGBOKODA approached MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, the 2 x boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality. Accordingly, on arrival at the scene, it was discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the well head. Consequently, upon further search and interrogation, it was further discovered that the vessel had onboard 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality. The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest she had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
- The arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS attests to the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain. All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment. While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well – meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities especially in the coastal communities to the Nigerian Navy for necessary action.
- Furthermore, it is believed that Tantita Security Service (TSS) is involved in these illegalities because Awoye riverine area which is close to the place of arrest is covered by TSS. Again, it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that TSS began to raise false alarm, totally unfounded and indeed mischievous. Nonetheless, the Nigerian Navy remains resolute in the pursuit of her constitutional mandate for the protection of Nigeria’s Maritime Environment for national economic development and prosperity.
- You are please kindly requested to disseminate this information.
AO AYO-VAUGHAN Commodore
Director of Information