Senate Passes 2018 Budget For 2nd Reading, Suspends Plenary For 2 Weeks

The Senate has raised the oil benchmark for the 2018 budget from the $45 per barrel as proposed by the Federal Government to $47.

The Senate took the decision at the plenary on Tuesday, after the consideration and adoption of the report by its Joint Committee on Finance, Appropriations, and National Planning and Economic Affairs on the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The Senate also passed the 2018 Appropriation Bill for second reading.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative action.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly however adjourned plenary to December 19, 2017, to allow the standing committees to hold budget defence sessions for federal ministries, departments and agencies.

Google Deploys 10,000 Staff To Police YouTube

Google is to deploy a staff of 10,000 to hunt down extremist content on its YouTube platform following recent criticism, the video-sharing site’s chief executive told Britain’s Daily Telegraph Tuesday.

Susan Wojcicki admitted in the broadsheet that “bad actors” had used the website to “mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has put pressure on internet giants to root out online radical material following a spate of terror attacks, while YouTube last week pulled 150,000 videos of children after lewd comments about them were posted by viewers.

Wojcicki claimed that her company had developed “computer-learning” technology to identify extremist videos, and that it could also be used to identify content that risked children’s safety.

“We will continue the growth of our teams, with the goal of bringing the total number of people across Google working to address content that might violate our policies to over 10,000 in 2018.”

Last week’s move to take down suspect content came after a British newspaper reported that ads for big-name brands were displayed alongside videos of children or teens which, while innocent on their own, drew viewer comments that seemed paedophilic in nature.

Media reports indicate the situation made advertisers skittish, with some halting YouTube advertising.

AFP

Facebook Launches Chat App For Children

Facebook on Monday unveiled a version of its Messenger application for children, aimed at enabling kids under 12 to connect with others under parental supervision.

Messenger Kids is being rolled out for Apple iOS mobile devices in the United States on a test basis as a standalone video chat and messaging app.

Product manager Loren Cheng said the social network leader is offering Messenger Kids because “there’s a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”

Facebook said that the new app, with no ads or in-app purchases, is aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds. It enables parents to control the contact list and does not allow children to connect with anyone their parent does not approve.

The social media giant added it designed the app because many children are going online without safeguards.

“Many of us at Facebook are parents ourselves, and it seems we weren’t alone when we realized that our kids were getting online earlier and earlier,” a Facebook statement said.

It cited a study showing that 93 percent of 6- to 12-year-olds in the US have access to tablets or smartphones, and two-thirds have a smartphone or tablet of their own.

“We want to help ensure the experiences our kids have when using technology are positive, safer, and age-appropriate, and we believe teaching kids how to use technology in positive ways will bring better experiences later as they grow,” the company said.

Facebook’s rules require that children be at least 13 to create an account, but many are believed to get around the restrictions.

Cheng said Facebook conducted its own research and worked with “over a dozen expert advisors” in building the app.

She added that data from children would not be used for ad profiles and that the application would be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

“We’ve worked extensively with parents and families to shape Messenger Kids and we’re looking forward to learning and listening as more children and families start to use the iOS preview,” Cheng said.

AFP

NNPC Denies Planning Fuel Price Hike

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has once again emphasised that there is no plan to increase the prices of petroleum products both at the ex-depot level and pump price ahead of the forthcoming yuletide.

The NNPC in a release said the ex-depot petrol price of N133.38 per litre and the pump price of N143/N145 per litre have not changed noting that the Corporation has enough stock of fuel to ensure seamless supply and distribution of products across the country.

While enjoining motorists and other users of petroleum products to disregard rumours of an impending fuel price hike in some online news platforms, the NNPC said it has the full commitment of all downstream stakeholders including petroleum marketers and industry unions to cooperate in achieving zero fuel scarcity this season and beyond.

The NNPC enjoined motorists not to engage in panic buying or indulge in the dangerous practice of stocking petroleum products in jerry cans at home.

The Corporation noted that its downstream subsidiary companies namely the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) and NNPC Retail Limited are fully geared up to ensure that motorists enjoy uninterrupted access to petrol throughout the nation.

Abdul Zubair Is New SEC Acting DG

The Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, on Monday reassured the investing public of continued stability of the Nigerian capital market following last week’s suspension of its Director General, Mounir Gwarzo.

The Commission gave the assurance while announcing the appointment of Abdul Zubair as acting Director General.

Investigations revealed Mr. Gwarzo may have come under official hammer over his alleged refusal to call off the forensic audit the Commission ordered into the messy financial records of the embattled indigenous oil company, Oando PLC.

Mr. Gwarzo was directed by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to proceed on compulsory suspension to allow an unimpeded investigation into several allegations of financial impropriety leveled against him.

Specifically, he was accused of pocketing about N104.85 million as severance package while still in service, apart from his involvement in the award of contracts to companies, including Medusa Investment Limited, in which he was alleged to be a director.

He was suspended along with two other top management staff of the Commission, Abdulsalam Naif Habu, Head of Media Division, and Anastasia Braimoh, Head of Legal Department, for their alleged involvement in various financial improprieties contrary to Public Service Rules, PSRs, 03405 and 03406.

Following Mr. Gwarzo’s suspension, the Federal Government on Monday named Mr. Zubair as his successor with immediate effect, albeit in an acting capacity.

Until his appointment, Mr. Zubair was the Director in charge of External Relations in the Commission.

In the statement announcing his appointment, SEC management said despite fears of a possible disruption in the operation of the capital market, investors should rest assured of continue stability.

“SEC Nigeria wishes to assure the investing public and all stakeholders, local and international, of its commitment to ensuring an uninterrupted and orderly operation of the market and the regulation thereof.

The Commission is poised to continue sustaining the all-time high level of investor confidence,” the statement said.

“We will not allow recent developments to disrupt the regulatory effectiveness and efficiency of the Commission as the statutory regulator of the capital market and by extension, the smooth running of the market,” it added.

The Commission said while it awaits the outcome of the assignment of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the Minister of Finance to investigate allegation of financial impropriety against the suspended DG and other officials, it would not allow the operational independence of the Commission to be compromised.

The SEC management said the resolve to uphold the integrity of its regulatory mandate was strictly in line with the objectives and principles of securities regulations as set out by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Also, the Commission said it would, without let or hindrance, continue to remain faithful to its
developmental mandates as enunciated in the Investments and Securities Act, ISA.

While assuring of market efficiency, accountability and transparency, SEC said it would proceed with all regulatory matters currently before it with all sense of objectivity and fairness, with the best interest of investors at the core of all considerations.

Apart from promptly making public its decisions on matters before it, the Commission said it would maintain capital market role in economic stability and growth, and would not abandon its regulatory and developmental responsibilities.

The acting SEC DG is an alumnus of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, where he received the Bachelor of Science, B.Sc. degree in Economics; Master of Business Administration, MBA, Master of Science, M.Sc. and PhD in Business Administration.

Mr. Zubair holds post graduate diplomas, PGDs (Mathematics & Computer Science) and Education from other universities.

He has over 25 years’ cognate experience in the financial industry and the academia, with his career traversing banking, private and public service and the academia.

Prior to joining SEC Nigeria, Mr. Zubair served on the board of Intercity Bank Plc, Nigeria and Minna Pharmaceutical and Surgical Company Limited.

He was also Group Managing Director, Niger State Trust Fund and NST Finance Limited as well as a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administrators and Marketing Academy of Nigeria.

He is also a member of the Institute of Management Consultants, a certified Commodity Broker and Certified member of Pension Institute of Nigeria.

Mr. Zubair attended several local and international courses at middle, executive and top management levels. He is married with children and has been contributing to academic journals worldwide.

Think Before You Tweet, Obama Advises

The immediate former president of the United States of America, Mr Barack Obama has warned leaders to think before tweeting, saying that the social media tools such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are leading to “snap judgments to complex issues”.

At a symposium in India on Friday, Obama said “I think it’s important to be mindful of both the power of these tools but also its limits. What I would say is Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, all these various platforms are extraordinarily powerful tools, and those tools can be used for good and they tools can be used for ill…

“Don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Your mother and father knew better. Listen to them. Don’t do things like that. Think before you speak, think before you tweet.”

Obama was more direct in criticising Trump’s threat to leave the 2015 Paris climate accord on slashing global carbon emissions.

“It is an agreement that — even though we have a little bit of a pause in American leadership — is giving our children a fighting chance,” he said.

Trump has threatened several times to withdraw from the Paris accord saying it is crippling US business. He has called for the agreement to be renegotiated.

On what he thinks of the Trump Administration, Obama said ” The thing I love about America and I suspect the thing you love about India is just this cacophony of life and it throws up all kinds of variety,” Obama said in response to one attempt to force a comment on Trump.

“There are political trends in America that I don’t agree with and abide by but I recognise as part of a running thread in American life.”

Russia, China Building Weapons To Target US Satellites–General

A senior US general said Saturday that countries like Russia and China are actively building weapons that can target space-based US military assets like satellites.

“They’ve been building weapons, testing weapons, building weapons to operate from the earth in space, jamming weapons, laser weapons, and they have not kept it secret,” Gen. John Hyten, the head of US Strategic Command, told an audience at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

“They’re building those capabilities to challenge the United States of America, to challenge our allies, and to change the balance of power in the world,” added Hyten, who oversees all US military operations in space. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Russia and China saw how the US military made successful use of satellites during military operations like the 1991 Gulf War and now seek ways to deny the US the ability to use satellites in future conflicts, Hyten said.

One critical space-based asset are satellites that warn US military planners about the launch of enemy missiles.

“Every missile that comes off the planet is seen first by one of our overhead missile warning capabilities,” Hyten said, adding that the satellites are “not easy to defend.”

Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke alongside Hyten about the threats to US satellites.

“Most folks aren’t thinking about the fact that our first way of detecting a launch by North Korea, so that we can turn our radars to start tracking it and start aiming our interceptors to be able to get it in time, is a satellite up there waiting for that heat signature,” said Rogers, a vocal advocate of creating a separate US military Space Corps.

“We can not let that satellite be dazzled for 10 or 15 minutes, it would be too late,” he added.

Hyten advocated for making satellites more defensible, but he acknowledged that there are currently no rules of engagement when it comes to military conflict in space, adding that international norms are needed.

Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, said the US needs to embrace a new policy and make it clear that if command and control or warning satellites are targeted, the US “would consider that to be a hostile act” and respond.

“It’s probably time as a country that we start to talk about this,” Wilson said.

CNN

#OsunMSMEClininc: Osinbajo, Aregbesola Reassure Commitment To Human, Capital Developments…As FG Set To Empowers 20,000 People In Osun

‎The Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to eradicating poverty, hunger, unemployment and other related vices in the country.

The Vice President while launching the Nationwide Small and Medium Enterprise Clinic (MSME) and the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) in Osogbo stated that‎ 20,000 people would benefit from the initiative in Osun.
‎‎
The MSME is a Federal Government’s Empowerment Initiative under the office of the Vice President initiated to support Small and Medium Enterprises in the country.

Osinbajo stated that the scheme was initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari in a bid to support small businesses and enterprises by providing the people soft interest free loans to run their businesses.

He said the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari having seen the SME as the powerful economic drive decided to take the bull by the horn to empower the sector as part of efforts to stimulate and re-energize the economy.

Osinbajo expressed confidence in the administration of President Buhari, saying “I have confidence in the fact that our President will take Nigeria and Nigerians to greater heights.

According to him, we are here in Osun to launch another milestone achievement of the present administration in the country in fulfillment of our electoral’s promises to the people of Nigeria.

“The Nationwide Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) and Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP)‎ are enterprise intervention programmes of Mr. President to empower the small businesses in the country.

“This scheme was initiated to provide interest free loans to those who are into small businesses so as to empower them and as well stimulate our economy.

“To us, this scheme remains the engine of the economy and as a serious government, we have keyed into it to ensure that our people are empowered and taken out of the abject poverty and hunger.

“We have made arrangement to empower 50, 000 people ‎in Osun under this scheme so as to further strengthen the people’s commitment to businesses and as well encourage those who are into SME.

“We are bent on our commitment to continue to deliver on our electoral promises as our government is determined to judiciously utilize the nation’s ‎resources for the betterment of our people”, Osnbajo added.

While commending the people of Osun for being enterprising and productive, the Vice President  said, “I have seen in the people of this state the zeal to economic productivity and prosperity”.

“My visit to this state has made me to see how resourceful the people of this state are. I have seen that Osun is one of the engine of agro-allied economy in Nigeria as this could be easily identified in the zeal of our people to economic growth and development.‎

‎He lauded Governor Rauf Aregbesola for bringing to his people the much needed dividends of democracy through his numerous human and capital infrastructural developments.

“My visit has made me to see some of the good works of this administration particularly on roads, schools, security among others”, Osinbajo emphasized.

Speaking earlier, Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola charged whoever is ready to work and earn a living to key into the laudable programme.

He said the programme will empower about 20,000 beneficiaries in total starting with 10,000 beneficiaries who will get a none interest loan of at least 50,000 each.

According to Aregbesola, “for those of us who are ready to work and earn money, this is an opportunity for you. I advise you to key into the this programme and do something good for yourself.

“We are happy about this because it will go a long way in alleviating the sufferings of people and assist in our efforts to banish hunger and poverty.

Aregbesola, I and the APC Owe Our Lives To The Man On The Streets – Osinbajo

By Toba Adedeji and Sodiq Yusuf

Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has said he, the Governor of the State of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the Whole APC conglomerate owe the common man on the streets much more as they are committed to making life more meaningful for the people.

Osinbajo stated this in Osogbo on Thursday where he officially flagged off the #OsunMSMEClinics for Small Medium Scale Business Owners in the state.

He said the party and its political office holders are deeply committed to restoring prosperity to the nation coupled with the displacement of looters to add more value to the citizenry.

Osinbajo also reiterated the desire of the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive especially in giving opportunities to financially handicapped individuals in starting up Small Scale Businesses.

He said “SME’s are the growth of any nation. There are great potientials that are available. Anybody that wants to do small business in the state will be empowered to do his/her business. This country belongs to everyone of us and this country will be well if we are all committed to making sure that small businesses thrive.

“We are confident that in making sure that if we do not spend anyhow, if we have a government where people can be positively impacted on, we are assured that things will go on well. The State is working actively with us so that you can get all what you need to get established. I believe that we can all work together to make Nigeria strong economically.”

The Vice President also commended Governor Aregbesola for transforming the State of Osun saying the laudable projects embarked on by the present administration has positively impacted on the lives of the common man.

Osinbajo stressed that “I have seen the schools, bridges, roads here in Osun and I can say is that I am happy that we have in here a man like Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. All of us in the APC know that we are indebted to the man on the streets and we will work to ensure that the poorest man gets the best of the best.”

“This is a very special state, we have here the pride of the black man, we are Omoluabi’s here, we are not thieves, we work here, we don’t steal and we will do well if we are gainfully employed, we will all have the opportunity to feed ourselves and live a good life.”

Governor Aregbesola in his remarks said his administration has embarked on various programmes to banish unemployment saying the MSME loans will add value to the efforts.

He said over 14,000 beneficiaries will benefit from the scheme.

His words “Some will get N50,000, others will get N500,000 while some are to get N1,000,000. This will help to support Osun Micro Credit Agency, O’BOPS and other interventions we have made to improve our citizen’s lives.”

More than 3,000 Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Owners in the State of Osun are to get N50,000 under the Federal Government/Osun MSME Programme.

 

The programme already on in 9 states of the federation is to also give about 200 specially selected small business owners the sum of N500,000 to explore their businesses.

 

There Are Abundant Opportunities For Those Ready To Work In Osun – Aregbesola

By Nofisat Adeoye
Governor, State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, has stated that there are abundant opportunities in various sectors in the state for those ready to work.
Ogbeni Aregbesola said this at the flag off of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, #OsunMSMEClinics, a programme designed to empower small business owners in the state done by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
This is even as the State government in collaboration with the Federal Government empowered 20,000 small scale entrepreneurs in the state with the sum of N50,000 each.
Aregbesola also assured the people of the state to expect more from his government in the remaining one year of his administration.

FEC Approves N1.5bn For Advertising

The Federal Executive Council ( FEC ) on Wednesday approved N1.5 billion for advertising campaign for nine months in radio, television, online and newspapers.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, briefed State House correspondents at the end of FEC meeting in Abuja.

She was with the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, at the briefing.

She said: “I presented a memo on the voluntary Asset Declaration Bill for approval of N1.5b to cover advertising campaign for nine months, for radio, television, online and newspapers including center spread.”

The minister said she also briefed FEC, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on the progress made by the government under the tax amnesty.

She added: “And it has been very well received. We have people who are ready to declare and pay. We sent out over 500 letters under the first batch, but there are thousands of Nigerians being targeted but the first 500 letters have gone out.

“We have started to get responses back and many people are asking for time to pay. Most of the governors have agreed to give more time for people to make arrangements for payments. This is indeed a very good news for Nigeria as it will help reduce over reliance on oil. It will improve our tax revenue so that whether oil prices are high or low, we will be able to provide basic services for our people.

“Very high net worth people are now being brought into the tax revenue profile. We hope to exceed the target that has been set.”