Niger Delta

NDDC Audit: Deputy Speaker urges Buhari to prosecute offenders

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Deputy Speaker of the Cross River House of Assembly, Mr Joseph Bassey has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for ordering a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2001 to 2019.


Bassey, who spoke in an interview with Nigeria News Agency on Friday in Calabar, urged the president not to relent in prosecuting the offenders after the audit exercise.

He lamented the poor state of rural development in the South South region, adding that some few individuals had looted what was supposed to bring collective development to the people.

According to him, the Calabar-Itu-Akwa Ibom Federal Highway is in need of urgent intervention from the Federal Government.

“From the time past, we have had Chairmen and Managing Directors of NDDC from Cross River and Akwa Ibom states and the volume of budgets have been high.

“It is sad that the only road that connects the two sister states is still in a state of decay years after years because some few individuals have taken what belongs to the people.

“I strongly commend Mr President for ordering the audit of the commission. Also, I want to commend the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, for standing firm to that.

“However, I am soliciting for the immediate intervention of the Calabar-Itu road because as we speak, a journey from Calabar to Akwa Ibom that ordinarily should be for an hour is now five hours.

“The establishment of the Commission was to make life meaningful for the people of South South. But some individuals who lack conscience have looted the resources for their personal benefit,” he said.

Bassey alleged that the South South region has the worst road network in the country due to the greed of few individuals, adding that the culprits should be sent to jail after the audit.

“This is not time for PDP or APC, this is above party affiliation because both politicians and non politicians pass on that road.

“The economy of both states has been affected by this very particular road. I want to urge the President to start the audit immediately.

“I pity the common man on the street. As a politician, I feel very guilty passing through that road because you cannot drive for a minute without falling into a major ditch.

“I don’t think anybody who has been in NDDC and was given resources to do that road should be forgiven because most of them are flying around and building houses with the funds,” he said.

He urged South South indigenes to support Akpabio in his drive to ensure speedy development in the region, adding that all forms of distraction towards him should be discouraged.

He suggested that when the funds are recovered from the audit, the focus should also be on immediate rehabilitation of roads in the South South, especially the Calabar-Itu road.


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Edited by Ismail Abdulaziz

https://nnn.ng/nddc-audit-deputy-speaker-urges-buhari-to-prosecute-offenders/

Education

StudyFree to help 8 Nigerian students continue studies abroad

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An Edtech startup, StudyFree, says it has finalised plans to assist eight scholars of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who were denied scholarship funding to continue their studies abroad.


The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of StudyFree, Dasha Kroshkina, made this known in a statement signed by Mr Raymond Osheku, Country Manager of StudyFree, in Lagos on Thursday.

“StudyFree is an international Edtech startup founded in 2018 to help students to study abroad for free with the help of grants and scholarships through an online platform,’’ Kroshkina said

She said that the platform had established an initiative that would assist Nigerian students to find programmes with scholarships.

“StudyFree has established an initiative to help eight NDDC scholars to continue their path abroad.

“For those successful students who did not receive the funding from NDDC, StudyFree has provided them access to its platform to help them find programmes with scholarships abroad.

“It also facilitates their access to relevant information that will assist to prepare them for the application processes,” the founder said.

Kroshkina also said that there was a huge gap between ambitious African students who were ready for success and what the continent could offer.

The founder said her experience growing up in Russia was similar to the average Nigerian student, who hoped for a better education, but was restrained from studying abroad due to limited finances.

“Thus, I founded my startup ‘StudyFree’ to assist ambitious and goal-seeking students to realise their dreams- study abroad for free with the help of grants and scholarships.

Kroshkina said she combined her international expertise and entrepreneurial thinking to launch the platform that offered programmes from Bachelor’s Degree to PhD around the globe.

“When StudyFree became the Seedstar winner, our team focussed on the developing markets.

“However, among other developing regions, our choice fell on Nigeria as we found out that this country is rich with talented youths.

“Our goal is to help students who don’t have opportunities to study abroad, but who possess strong motivation and aspiration,” she said.

Kroshkina said that StudyFree had been holding interviews for over 150 Nigerian students who had zeal to study unlike other countries where students considered studying abroad as an opportunity to move.

The founder said: “In recent months, we held more than 150 interviews with Nigerian students. Our team was inspired by their sincere motivation to study.

“It’s worth mentioning that in other countries, students consider education abroad as an opportunity to move.

“Whereas in African regions, students want to accumulate state-of-the-art knowledge and come back to their home country to drive change, develop their regions, and give their experience back to the community.

“When our team hears such inspiring stories of African students, we’re especially glad to make the Nigerian market our major focus.’’

Kroshkina said explained that another great reason why we choose to focus on Nigerian market was the fact that Africa is a fast-developing continent.

“If China and India surprised people with their economic breakthrough, African market holds much potential.

“That is why if we give Nigerian students a chance to gain good education abroad, they will come back to their country with high-quality education and will expand business opportunities in Nigeria, developing the market,” she said.

Kroshkina said that 25 local ambassadors from Nigeria and South Africa were part of the StudyFree team to promote the values of equal, quality and free education and open doors to the world of opportunities for every Nigerian who were eager to fulfill their education dreams.

She said that under the initiative, students’ success rate was 98 per cent.

“Currently, StudyFree has over 25,000 active users and operates in developing markets, such as Russia, Ukraine, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

“StudyFree was accepted for accelerator programmes by Berkeley SkyDeck and TechStars NYC.

“We’re focussed on diverse opportunities, not only for students, but also for the team. Our team is 80 per cent female and operates throughout the world, from Europe to Asia,” she added.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Olagoke Olatoye
Source: NAN

 

https://nnn.ng/studyfree-to-help-8-nigerian-students-continue-studies-abroad/
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Politics

Rep’s C’ttee on NDDC hosts Akpabio in closed-door meeting

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The House of Representatives’ Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), on Tuesday, hosted the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio to a closed-door meeting for over three hours.


The meeting, which held in the office of Mr Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, the Committee Chairman at the National Assembly Complex, began at about 3.30 p.m. and ended at about 7.00 p.m.

Akpabio had earlier visited the acting Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Mr Olatunde Ojo to congratulate him on his appointments.

Speaking to journalists earlier, Akpabio said that he was also at the National Assembly to further boost the cordial relation between the Executive and the Legislature.

“I am here to congratulate the acting CNA for his elevation and, of course, to solicit the continuous cooperation of the National Assembly toward the development of the Niger Delta region,’’ the minister said.

He said that the National Assembly was supposed to resume today but “it had been postponed’’.

He said as soon as the lawmakers resumed, he would come to the National assembly “as part of my effort to support the President’s decision that there must be cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature’’.

“In fact, the president recently set up a tripartite committee made up of the party (APC), the National Assembly and the Executive to ensure oneness because we are running one government and it is important that we remember that in all we do, we want to leave a legacy for Nigeria.

“We cannot do that if all the arms of government are not cooperating.

“So far, I believe that whatever disagreement that could have occurred between my ministry and the National Assembly must have been as a result of mischief.

“And that mischief must be put to rest so that we can work in one accord for the sake of the nation,’’ he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the committee on NDDC had probed the activities of the commission and the involvement of the minister.

The committee’s report on the outcome of the investigation would be submitted to the house for further consideration and recommendations upon resumption.

Edited By: Benson Iziama/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Source: NAN

https://nnn.ng/reps-cttee-on-nddc-hosts-akpabio-in-closed-door-meeting/
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General news

NAPPS designning nose masks for children in nursery classes

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The National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), says that the association is designing nose masks that will be suitable for pupils in nursery classes for easy breathing, as schools prepare for reopening.


Mr Yomi Otubela, National President of the association made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.

Otubela said that the development was necessary as the use of face shield was not sufficient for the protection of children against the COVID-19 virus.

According to him, teachers were also equipped and trained by the representatives of NDDC, to assist the children to keep safe.

“In as much as face shield is not sufficient to combat the spread of the virus, we know that those in the nursery classes could have difficulty in using the nose mask.

“We have spoken to our fashion designers to sew nose masks that can give space between the nose that will allow for easy breathing and in addition to that, also use the face shield.

“So, we are more than ready and the good news to confirm the fact that both private and public schools are ready was the reopening of schools for WAEC examinations by the government,” he said.

The president noted that in as much as the country was able to tackle the Ebola crisis, the Coronavirus would also be a thing of the past.

Otubela, however, said most private schools would not face the challenge of observing physical distancing due to their population.

“We have faced this before during the period of Ebola crisis and we were able to contain it.

“For this COVID-19, once we are able to put the protocols to combat the virus in place, children can resume school.

“The Federal and State Governments have come up with safe reopening guidelines; all our members have been equipped with safe public guideline documents to put their school in place.

“The major thing there is the fact that children should wash their hands on arrival at school and they should avoid putting their hands in the mouth and nose and also to ensure that there is a physical distancing among children.

“Teachers are also equipped and trained by the representatives of NDDC, who had exposed them to what they need to do as a teacher,’’ he said.

Otubela added that schools with large population would have to stagger the resumption of children, saying that while some would resume in the morning, spend three hours, others would resume in the afternoon and spend three hours.

He, therefore, explained that the schools had prepared isolation centres for unforeseen cases after resumption.

Otubela pledged the readiness of teachers and school owners to comply with safety protocols and COVID-19 related guidelines to reduce the chance of infection.

Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Felix Ajide
Source: NAN

 

 

 

https://nnn.ng/napps-designning-nose-masks-for-children-in-nursery-classes/
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Features

Buhari’s address at Ministerial Performance Review Retreat

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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE FIRST YEAR MINISTERIAL PERFROMANCE REVIEW RETREAT

STATE HOUSE CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA

7TH SEPTEMBER, 2020,

 

 

PROTOCOLS

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat. We are meeting a time that mankind is struggling to overcome the economic and social crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life as we knew it. The consequences of the pandemic will no doubt influence our deliberations at this gathering, especially as we will have to adjust our policy approaches and methods of working going forward.

2.      I stressed at last year’s Retreat that the Nigerian people expect dedication and commitment by all of us in implementing policies, programmes and projects to improve the quality of their lives and set Nigeria on the path of prosperity. I also reiterated the resolve of this Administration to set the stage for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. Even today, these remain our overriding objectives.

 

3.    The priorities we set for ourselves were around nine inter-related and inter-connected areas, which are: stabilizing the economy; achieving agriculture and food security; attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products; improving transportation and other infrastructure; driving industrialization with a special focus on SMEs; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; enhancing social inclusion by scaling up social investments; as well as building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and strengthen national security.

4.      In the course of the past year, Ministers have rendered reports to the Federal Executive Council on their activities and outputs related to the achievement of these objectives. Some of the notable achievements include:

i.  Economic recovery prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. The economy recovered from a recession and we witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 0.8% in 2017 to 2.2% in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ii.   Implementation of a Willing Buyer, Willing Seller Policy for the power sector, has opened up opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to homes and industries. We are also executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in the transmission and distribution of a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023.

iii.  On transportation, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure. The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. These include the 11.9 km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and 375 km Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Expressway. At the same time, we are actively extending and upgrading our railway networks, as well as our airports which are being raised to international standard with the provision of necessary equipment, to guarantee world class safety standard.

iv.                                         The Government has continued to support the Agricultural sector, the key to diversification of our economy, through schemes such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme.

v. The work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has resulted in Nigeria moving up 39 places on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking since 2015 and Nigeria is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries. We are confident that the on-going ease of doing business reforms would result in further improvement of this rating.

vi.  Nigeria’s Law Enforcement Agencies have significantly scaled up their footprint across the country. As part of the efforts towards strengthening our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created. Amongst others, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment, expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen States of the Federation, and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force. We have also approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the Community Policing initiative across the country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at boosting security nationwide[1] .

vii.  Efforts are also being made to empower the youth and provide for  poor and vulnerable groups by enhancing investments in our Social Investment Programmes.

5.      These accomplishments are a testament to the fact that all hands are on deck in establishing a solid foundation for even greater successes in future.

6.      Distinguished participants, when we met one year ago, little did we know that the world would be in a serious economic, social and health crisis that had left even the major economies in disarray, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Just as in other jurisdictions, the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria has experienced a severe shock.  Nearly 55,000 of our people have been infected with the virus while we have recorded 1,054 deaths by 4th September. The economy contracted by -6.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year; normal schooling has been disrupted; businesses are struggling and in certain instances completely closed; many people have lost their jobs and earning a living has been difficult. It has been a trying time for all of us and particularly for those in the informal sector who make their living from daily earnings.

 7.      It has not been any easier for Governments, Federal and State alike. As a result of the poor fortunes of the oil sector, our revenues and foreign exchange earnings have fallen drastically. Our revenues have fallen by almost 60%. Yet we have had to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects. We acted to mitigate the effect of the economic slowdown by adopting an Economic Sustainability Plan but we have also had to take some difficult decisions to stop unsustainable practices that were weighing the economy down.

8.      The N2.3 Trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP),  consists of fiscal, monetary and sectoral measures to enhance local production, support businesses, retain and create jobs and provide succour to Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable.  In addition to improving the health sector, the ESP lays emphasis on labour-intensive interventions in agriculture, light manufacturing, housing, and facilities management. It also complements on-going major infrastructural projects in power, road and rail by prioritising the building of rural roads, information and telecommunications technologies as well as providing solar power to homes which were not hitherto connected to the National Grid.

9.      Alongside interventions in these critical areas, including agriculture and food security, affordable housing, technology, health, and providing jobs for youths and women post-COVID; the ESP will also provide different avenues whereby Government will support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to enable them respond to the economic challenges of COVID-19.

This includes safeguarding about 300,000 jobs in 100,000 MSMEs by guaranteeing off-take of priority products; and Survival Fund to support vulnerable SMEs in designated vulnerable sectors in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguarding jobs from the shock of COVID-19.

10.    Under the ESP MSMEs component, both the Survival Fund (Payroll support), and the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme, GoS, are to impact about 1.7 million individuals within a three to five months timeline. Also, 45 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be female owned; and 5 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be dedicated to special needs business owners.[2] 

 11.     In addition, under the Survival Fund (payroll support) scheme; 250,000 new business names are to be registered at a discounted rate of N6,000 by the CAC, but this will be free for the MSMEs; while 330,000 transport workers and artisans will get one-time grants of N30,000 each.

 12.    Following an MOU to be signed by BOI and the FG, the total beneficiaries for Survival Fund Scheme tracks are about 33,000 beneficiaries per State; with a minimum payroll support at N30,000 and maximum support is N50,000.

 13.   The COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a severe downturn in the funds available to finance our budget and has severely hampered our capacity to ..one of the steps we took at the beginning of the crisis in March when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown, was the deregulation of  the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) such that the benefit of lower prices at that time  was passed to consumers.

This was welcome by all and sundry. The effect of deregulation though is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices. This means quite regrettably that as oil prices recover we would see some increases in PMS prices.  This is what has happened now. When global prices rose, it meant that the price of petrol locally will go up.

 14.    There are several negative consequences if Government should even attaempt to go back to the   business of fixing or subsidizing PMS prices.  First of all, it would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime . Today we have  60% less revenues, we just  cannot afford the cost.

The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this administration. Nigerians no longer have to endure long queues just to buy petrol, often at highly inflated prices. Also, as I hinted earlier, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services.[3]   We now simply have no choice.

Nevertheless, I want to assure our compatriots that Government is extremely mindful of the pains that higher prices mean at this time, and we do not take the sacrifices that all Nigerians have to make for granted.

We will continue to seek ways and means of cushioning pains especially for the most vulnerable in our midst. We will also remain alert to our responsibilities to ensure that marketers do not exploit citizens by   raising pump price arbitrarily .

This is the role that government must now play through the PPPRA. This explains why the PPPRA made the announcement a few days ago setting the range of price that must not be exceeded by marketers. The advantage we now have is that anyone can bring in petroleum products and compete with marketers, that way the price of petrol will be keep coming down.

 15.    The recent service based  tariff adjustment by the Discos  has also been a source of concern for many of us. Let me say frankly that like many Nigerians I have been very unhappy about the quality of service given by the Discos, but there are many constraints including poor transmission capacity and distribution capacity.

I have already signed off on the first phase of the Siemens project to address many of these issues. Because of the problems with the privatization exercise government has had to keep supporting the largely privatized electricity industry .

So far to keep the industry going we have spent almost 1.7 trillion, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls. We do not have the resources at this point to continue in this way and it will be grossly irresponsible to borrow to subsidize a generation and distribution which are both privatized.

But we also have a duty to ensure that the large majority of those who cannot afford to pay cost reflective tariffs are protected from increases. NERC the industry regulator therefore approved that tariff adjustments had to be made but only on the basis of guaranteed improvement in service.

Under this new arrangement only customers who are guaranteed a minimum of 12 hours of power and above can have their tariffs adjusted. Those who get less than 12 hours supply, or the Band D and E Customers MUST be maintained on lifeline tariffs, meaning that they will experience no increase.

Government has also taken notice of the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing.  Accordingly, a mass metering program is being undertaken to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians, largely driven by preferred procurement from local manufacturers – creating thousands of jobs in the process.

NERC has also committed  to strictly enforcing  the capping regulation which will ensure that unmetered customers are not charged beyond the metered customers in their neighbourhood.

 17.    In addressing the power problems we must not forget that most Nigerians are not even connected to electricity at all. So as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, we are providing Solar home systems to  5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months.

We have already begun the process of providing financing support through the CBN for manufacturers and retailers of Off Grid Solar Home Systems and Mini-Grids who are to provide the systems . The Five million systems under the ESP’s Solar Power Strategy will produce 250,000  jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation [4] This means that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system.

 18.    The support to Solar Home System manufacturers and the bulk procurement of local meters will create over 300,000 local jobs while ensuring that we set Nigeria on a path to full electrification. The tariff review is not about the increase, which will only affect the top electricity consumers, but establishing a system which will definitely lead to improved service for all at a fair and reasonable price. [5]

 19.    There has been some concern expressed about the timing of these two necessary adjustments.  It is important to stress that it is a mere coincidence in the sense that the deregulation of PMS prices happened quite some time ago, it was announced on 18 March 2020 and the price moderation that took place at the beginning of this month was just part of the on-going monthly adjustments to global crude oil prices.

Similarly, the review of service-based electricity tariffs was scheduled to start at the beginning of July but was put on hold to enable further studies and proper arrangements to be made.  This government is not insensitive to the current economic difficulties our people  are going through and the very tough economic situation we face as a nation, and we certainly will not inflict hardship on our people.

But we are convinced that if we stay focused on our plans brighter more prosperous days will come soon.  Ministers and senior officials must accordingly ensure the vigorous and prompt implementation of the ESP programmes, which will give succour to Nigerians.

 20.   In this regard, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has created credit facilities (of up to N100B) for the Healthcare (N100 Billion) and Manufacturing (N1 Trillion) sectors. From January, 2020 to date, over N191.87B has already been disbursed for 76 real sectors projects under the N1TRN Real Sector Scheme; while 34 Healthcare projects have been funded to a tune of N37.159B under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility.

The facilities are meant to address some of the infrastructural gap in the healthcare and manufacturing sector as a fall out to the COVID-19 pandemic and to facilitate the attainment of the Governors 5-year strategic plan.[6]

21.    Distinguished participants, to address our current economic challenges, and consolidate on our achievements over the past year, this retreat has been designed to:

                    Review the performance of each Minister in delivering the priority mandates, including programmes and projects assigned to them upon their appointment in 2019;

                    Identify key impediments to implementation; and

                    Re-strategize on how to accelerate delivery of results, given the current economic situation.

22.    The retreat would also provide the opportunity to effectively evaluate the activities of the Ministries over the last twelve months with regard to the delivery of our agenda and promise to Nigerians.

23.    The Ministers are urged to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in the priority areas. I have also directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to intensify efforts at deepening the work of the Delivery Unit under his coordination towards ensuring effective delivery of Government Policies, Programmes and Projects in the coming years. It is also my expectation that progress on performance of the implementation of the 9 priority areas will be reported on a regular basis.

24.    In closing, I encourage optimal participation and contribution by all participants, while observing all the necessary safety protocols and compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

25.    On this note, it is my pleasure to formally declare this Retreat open. I look forward to a very fruitful session and stimulating exchange of views.

26.    Thank you.

27.    God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

https://nnn.ng/buharis-address-at-ministerial-performance-review-retreat/

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