Pakistani court grants bail to ailing former president Zardari



A Pakistani court, on Wednesday, granted bail to ailing former president Asif Zardari, who is facing allegations of corruption and money laundering.

Islamabad High Court granted bail to Zardari after examining his medical report.

His lawyer told the court that Zardari had cardiac problems, diabetes and other ailments and needed medical care.

Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, was arrested in June by the anti-graft agency over allegations of corruption and operating fake bank accounts for the purpose of money laundering.

These accounts were allegedly opened between 2013 and 2015.

Bilawal Zardari, the former president’s son and chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) thanked the court for doing justice.

He told reporters that his father was falsely implicated to pressurise the opposition.

Zardari, the PPP’s co-chairman, has spent 11 years in jail in the past over allegations of corruption, but nothing could be proven in courts.

Several opposition leaders, including three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were put behind bars in what the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed was a corruption crackdown.

The opposition says the detentions are politically motivated.

In October, a court suspended the seven-year jail term of ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, weeks later he left for London in an air ambulance for treatment.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Abdulfatah Babatunde

Oil & Gas

NNPC shortlists 78 companies for pipelines rehabilitation bidding



The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has shortlisted 78 companies to bid for the rehabilitation of oil pipelines and deport infrastructure across the country.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that over 300 companies applied through the official portal published in the national dailies on Aug. 7 and only 78 companies met the expiration time of noon on Sept. 18.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Malam Mele Kyari, at the virtual public bid opening for the rehabilitation of the NNPC group downstream critical pipelines and associated depots/terminal infrastructure on Friday in Abuja, said the corporation was committed to transparency.

Kyari said that the process of selection of companies would be transparent and those who would win the bid would undergo a process of Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) system.

He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the corporation to ensure transparency and accountability in all its operations.

He said that this would help the NNPC to deliver its services to all stakeholders efficiently, especially to the ordinary Nigerians, adding that the management of the corporation had aligned to the order.

The GMD said that it was unfortunate that the oil pipelines deteriorated over the years with activities of hoodlums and vandals, forcing its to be underutilised. .

He assured that the technology that would not be compromised by vandals would be deployed by the selected companies for the rehabilitation.

“You know that this project requires huge finances that is why we are adopting BOT, pipelines globally are managed by the private sector. What we are doing today is in line with global best practices.

“The NNPC is challenged because of resources constraints; today, we do not have all the resources required to reform this asset which has become so vulnerable and have lost their values and integrity over the time.

“Some of them are as old as 40 years, they are due for replacement and when you want to do replacement of this scale, we do need a lot of resources, which we don’t have.

“We have decided that we will bring in private partners who will rehabilitate the pipelines, they will fund it, they will operate it with us and ultimately, they will recover their investment from tariff on the pipelines.

“As soon as they recover their costs, earn their margins, they will hand over to the country, that is what we want to do,” he said.

Kyari said that the selected companies would have maximum of two years to deliver on the project, adding that by first quarter of 2021, the names of selected companies would be announced.

In his remarks, Mr Musa Lawal, the representative of the NNPC downstream, said that the corporation operated about 5,120km pipelines across the country.

He said that most of the companies had been inactive due to vandalism and activities of hoodlums on the lines, adding that it had also led to crude oil and revenue loss to the country.

He assured that the process of selection would be transparent as stakeholders were invited as observers to monitor the process.

NNPC as an IETI company will continue to ensure accountability and transparency in line with this; we have virtually invited other partners as observers.

“We have Infrastructure Concession Regulations Commission (ICRC), Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (NEITI), Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), among others as our observers,” he said.

The Director-General of ICRC, Mr Chidi Izuwah commended the corporation for its efforts to adopting proper Public Private Partnership (PPP) in infrastructure rehabilitation in the country.

“This means that things can be done better in the country, we are happy with the show of interest in PPP, ICRC that will ensure that this project is carried out in a credible manner for Nigeria to see its benefits,” he said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Grace Yussuf
Source: NAN
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COVID-19: Ikpeazu inaugurates second molecular diagnostic lab in Abia



Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia on Thursday inaugurated a Molecular and Diagnostic Laboratory in Aba to boost the state government’s efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the event, Ikpeazu expressed delight over the actualisation of the project.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the laboratory was realised through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative between the government and Abia Development Summit (ADS).

He opined that the facility would enhance the people’s access to quality healthcare service.

“I pray that this facility will bring hope, succour and also restore the health of the end users,” Ikpeazu said.

In an address, Prof. Sam Erugo, the Chairman of ADS, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), credited the laboratory to the visionary leadership of Ikpeazu’s administration.

“We are ready to be in partnership with the Abia government to transform the health sector. This is the first phase and a work in progress,” Erugo said.

He expressed the NGO’s desire “to build a state- of- the-art medical facility” in Abia.

He recommended a PPP arrangement that could successfully run the laboratory.

Also, Dr Joe Osuji, the Commissioner for Health, expressed delight over the completion of the laboratory, saying it would quicken government’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Osuji said: “Some months ago, we were sending samples for COVID-19 testing to other states. “From that period, the state government did everything to address the challenge.

“This led to the building of a molecular laboratory in Amachara and because of the ingenuity of a group of Abia people, the state has a new molecular laboratory in Aba.

“I am happy that from now onward, the Abia people will no longer send their samples outside the state for testing.”

Earlier, Mr Fred Ogwo, the acting Transition Committee Chairman of Aba South Local Government Area, described the molecular laboratory as a laudable project.

Ogwo said that the facility would help to curb medical tourism and also address issues arising from poor diagnosis.

He said that the laboratory further demonstrated state government’s committment to the transformation of the health sector in Abia.

In a remark, Chief Chris Igwe, an industrialist, commended the state government for its support and contributions toward the actualisation of the project.

Igwe urged Abia stakeholders to join hands with the governamt to transform the state.

Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Sam Oditah
Source: NAN
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LASG plans fair to drive MSME development 



The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives (MCIC), Lagos, on Thursday unveiled plans to host an exclusive fair aimed at driving the growth and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state.

Dr Lola Akande, Commissioner, MCIC, spoke of the plan at a news conference to herald the official commissioning of the MSMEs Fashion Shared Facility, also known as the Eko MSMEs Fashion Hub-1.

The theme of the fair, the 5th edition and first to be held during a pandemic, is  “Survival strategies to beat the odds”.

Akande said that the state, in acknowledging the role of MSMEs in economic growth, would give entrepreneurs stalls free of charge to showcase their products and improve profitability.

She, however, said that the shared fashion facility, equipped with state-of-the-art machinery to afford MSMEs in the fashion space the opportunity to utilise it, would cost N2500.

“It is our hope that the facility would enhance productivity and apparel quality that can compete favourably with their counterparts around the world, thereby promoting the Made-in-Lagos brand.

“In so doing, skilled and semi-skilled fashion designers who ordinarily would be thwarted by prohibitive start-up expenses are availed the privilege of access to these industrial machines.

“All these, for a token, would ultimately create jobs, boost trade and commerce, improve income and increase the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a corollary,” the commissioner said.

Akande said that Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was an integral element of the expected economic recovery and development of the state.

She said that PPP was the 5th pillar of the current administration’s THEMES agenda in the state, aimed at making Lagos a 21st century economy.

The commissioner said that the fashion hub, scheduled to hold on Sept. 18, would be commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo via zoom teleconference.

She said that the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, would cut the tape at the venue in line with COVID-19 protocols of social distancing.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Lagos MSME fair is scheduled to hold from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, at Blue Roof, LTV 8.

Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle
Source: NAN
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ICRC debunks rumours on Kainji Dam collapse



The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has confirmed that the integrity of Kainji Dam is “intact and that the facility is operating flawlessly”.

The confirmation is contained in a statement signed by Mr Chidi Izuwah, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, ICRC on Tuesday, in Abuja. 

Izuwah said that the attention of ICRC was drawn “to very dangerous fake news circulating about Kainji Dam”.

“As part of the Power Sector reforms Kainji Hydro-power Facilities were concession-ed to Mainstream Energy Solutions. 

“Mainstream’s responsibility include safe custody of the entire dam structure and appurtenances.

“The ICRC, being the statutory agency responsible for pre and post contract regulation of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and concessions, has continued regular technical and other compliance monitoring of the Kainji Concession.

“The ICRC wants to confirm that the integrity of Kainji Dam is intact and the facility is operating flawlessly and injecting lowest cost power to the national grid,” he said.

Izuwah said ICRC conducted a compliance monitoring visit before the COVID-19 pandemic on the dam and all aspects were inspected and tested. 

“We thoroughly inspected the Dam Crest, Reservoir, Embankment Rip Rap, Dam Toe, Toe Drain, Piezometers, Spillway, Stilling Basin, Power House etc.

“Furthermore Kainji has one of the most sophisticated real time inflow prediction and reservoir basin management systems. 

“This computer based system, with feeder monitors on the upstream and downstream stretches, is designed to ensure world class hydraulics flow management for dam, upstream and downstream safety management.”

The director-general further explained what an embankment collapse of the dam meant and its implications for the nation.

“Kainji Dam impounds over 16 billion litres of water. Embankment collapse means the dam structure is breached leading to loss of containment of the impounded water. 

“Embankment collapse will result in what is called a dam break wave. 

“Most empirical hydraulic models will show that everything probably some decent distance on both banks of the niger from kainji dam location to the sea will be washed away. 

“A dam break wave is very similar to a Tsunami wave but is not of seismic origin.”

He added that an embankment collapse of the dam would “probably be the biggest disaster to hit Nigeria”.

Izuwah further assured Nigerians that Kainji was safe and advised them to ignore the fake news on the dam. 

“We advised all Nigerians to please kindly check the status of our PPP and concession projects on the ICRC disclosure portal or directly with the Commission.”

Edited By: Ali Baba-Inuwa
Source: NAN
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