Self Driving Vehicles Approved For Public Road Testing In Beijing

The City of Beijing has released its first temporary license plates for Baidu’s self-driving vehicles for public road testing on Thursday.

According to reports 33 roads have been opened with a total length of 105 kilometres for autonomous car testing outside the Fifth Ring Road and away from densely-populated areas on the outskirts.

Regulations for managing road testing for self-driving vehicles, autonomous vehicles are eligible for public road testing only after they have completed 5,000 kilometres of daily driving in designated closed test fields and passed assessments.

The test vehicles must be equipped with monitoring devices that can monitor driving behaviour, collect vehicle location information and monitor whether a vehicle is in self-driving mode.

Test drivers must have received no less than 50 hours of self-driving training.

Beijing has built its first closed test fields in Haidian District covering about 13 hectares.

The licenses for road testing are valid for 30 days and license holders can apply for renewal after self-driving cars pass assessments.


Zuckerberg Breaks Five Day Silence To Apologize For Breach

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for a “major breach of trust,” while admitting mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.

“I am really sorry that happened,” Zuckerberg said of the scandal involving data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data, If it fails, “we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.” he said in a Wednesday interview on CNN.

His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post , but without saying he was sorry.

Recall that news broke Friday that Cambridge may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections. Cambridge’s clients included Donald Trump’s general-election campaign.

Facebook shares have dropped some 8 percent, lopping about $46 billion off the company’s market value, since the revelations were first published.

In the CNN interview, Zuckerberg offered equivocal and carefully hedged answers to two other questions. He said, for instance, that he would be “happy” to testify before Congress, but only if it was “the right thing to do.” He went on to note that many other Facebook officials might be more appropriate witnesses depending on what Congress wanted to know.

Similarly, the Facebook chief seemed at one point to favor regulation for Facebook and other internet giants — at least the “right” kind of rules, he said, such as ones that require online political ads to disclose who paid for them. In almost the next breath, however, Zuckerberg steered clear of endorsing a bill that would write such rules into federal law, and instead talked up Facebook’s own voluntary efforts on that front.

Even before the scandal broke, Facebook has already taken the most important steps to prevent a recurrence, Zuckerberg said. For example, in 2014, it reduced access outside apps had to user data. However, some of the measures didn’t take effect until a year later, allowing Cambridge to access the data in the intervening months.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that there is more to do.

In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg said it will ban developers who don’t agree to an audit. An app’s developer will no longer have access to data from people who haven’t used that app in three months. Data will also be generally limited to user names, profile photos and email, unless the developer signs a contract with Facebook and gets user approval.

In a separate post, Facebook said it will inform people whose data was misused by apps. Facebook first learned of this breach of privacy more than two years ago, but hadn’t mentioned it publicly until Friday.

The company said it was “building a way” for people to know if their data was accessed by “This Is Your Digital Life,” the psychological-profiling quiz app that researcher Aleksandr Kogan created and paid about 270,000 people to take part in. Cambridge Analytica later obtained information from the app for about 50 million Facebook users, as the app also vacuumed up data on people’s friends — including those who never downloaded the app or gave explicit consent.

Chris Wylie, a Cambridge co-founder who left in 2014, has said one of the firm’s goals was to influence people’s perceptions by injecting content, some misleading or false, all around them. It’s not clear whether Facebook would be able to tell users whether they had seen such content.

Cambridge has shifted the blame to Kogan, which the firm described as a contractor. Kogan described himself as a scapegoat.

Kogan, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have tried to place the blame on him, even though the firm ensured him that everything he did was legal.

“One of the great mistakes I did here was I just didn’t ask enough questions,” he said. “I had never done a commercial project. I didn’t really have any reason to doubt their sincerity. That’s certainly something I strongly regret now.”

He said the firm paid some $800,000 for the work, but it went to participants in the survey.

“My motivation was to get a dataset I could do research on,” he said. “I have never profited from this in any way personally.”

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating.

David Carroll, a professor at Parsons School of Design in New York who sued Cambridge Analytica in the U.K., said he was not satisfied with Zuckerberg’s response, but acknowledged that “this is just the beginning.”

He said it was “insane” that Facebook had yet to take legal action against Cambridge parent SCL Group over the inappropriate data use. Carroll himself sued Cambridge Friday to recover data on him that the firm had obtained.

Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a U.K. parliamentary committee Wednesday that the company was vigilant about its network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data.

He said personal data including email addresses and in some cases private messages was allowed to leave Facebook servers with no real controls on how the data was used after that.

“The real challenge here is that Facebook was allowing developers to access the data of people who hadn’t explicitly authorized that,” he said, adding that the company had “lost sight” of what developers did with the data.


Senate, Reps To Pass 2018 Budget On April 24

The National Assembly has fixed April 24th as the day it will pass the 2018 budget.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on this position.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has just made the announcement in plenary.

He said the budget would be laid on April 19 and passed on April 24.

Rice Farming: 35- Man Committee Elected For Anchor Borrowers Programme

The Rice Farmers Association at Sandamu Local Governmemt Area chapter, Katsina AState has inaugurated a 35-man committee to monitor the utilisation and implementation of the Anchor Borrowers Programme in the area.

Alhaji Unman Nalado, the Chairman of the association, announced this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Sandamu on Tuesday. Nalado explained that the committee consisted of two sub committees at Local Government and polling units cluster levels.

He said that the local government committee comprised 25 members, including traditional rulers, the district heads and the ward heads to ensure close monitoring and implementation.

The chairman added that the polling unit cluster commttee comprised 10 persons mandated to report any act of diversion of the agricultural implements given to the registered farmers.

According to him, 670 farmers received the agricultural implement which includes bags of fertilizers, herbicides, seedlings, sprayers and water pumping machines.

Nalado noted that the number of the hectare registered against the name of an individual farmer determined the quantity of the implements to be provided to him which would be repaid with bags of paddy rice after one year.

He called on the farmers to make judicious use of the implements, to generate employment and boost food security

No fewer than 431 farmers in Sandamu benefited from the programme in 2017.


Self Driving Uber Kills Woman In Arizona

A self driving Uber has killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona, marking the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.  This might become a major issue because the self-driving technology was developed to reduce road accidents and deaths.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are currently going on in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

The so-called robot cars, when fully developed by companies including Uber, Alphabet Inc and General Motors Co, are expected to drastically cut down on motor vehicle fatalities and create billion-dollar businesses. But Monday’s accident underscored the possible challenges ahead for the promising technology as the cars confront real-world situations involving real people. U.S. lawmakers have been debating legislation that would speed introduction of self-driving cars.

“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” said Democratic Senator Edward Markey, a member of the transportation committee, in a statement.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle outside the crosswalk on a four-lane road in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe about 10 p.m. MST Sunday (0400 GMT Monday) when she was struck by the Uber vehicle traveling at about 40 miles per hour (65 km per hour), police said. The Volvo XC90 SUV was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel.  Herzberg later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said.

The pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk. As soon as she walked into the lane of traffic she was struck,”Tempe Police Sergeant Ronald Elcock told reporters at a news conference. He said he did not yet know how close Herzberg was to the vehicle when she stepped into the lane.  Elcock said he believed Herzberg may have been homeless.

The San Francisco Chronicle late Monday reported that Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said that from viewing videos taken from the vehicle “it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.” (  Moir told the Chronicle, “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” but she did not rule out that charges could be filed against the operator in the Uber vehicle, the paper reported.

The “Tempe Police Department does not determine fault in vehicular collisions,” the department said in a statement late Monday, in reply to questions from Reuters about the chief’s comments. “Ultimately the investigation will be submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review and any potential charges.”  Tempe authorities and federal officials are still investigating the incident. Canada’s transportation ministry in Ontario, where Uber conducts testing, also said it was reviewing the accident.  Volvo, the Swedish car brand owned by China’s Geely, said the software controlling the car in the crash was not its own.  Video footage will aid the ongoing investigation, and the case would be submitted to the district attorney, Elcock said.

“Our investigators have that information, and they will be using that in their investigation as well as the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as part of their investigation,” said Elcock. “They are going to attempt to try to find who was possibly at fault and how we can better be safe, whether it’s pedestrians or whether it’s the vehicle itself.”


FRC: Lagos, Osun, Cross River’s Debts Exceed Revenues By Over 480%

The debt status of most states of the federation exceeds 50 percent of their annual revenues. For 18 states, the debt profiles exceed their gross and net revenues by more than 200 per cent. Lagos, Osun and Cross River states record over 480 per cent debt to gross revenue.

The Fiscal Responsibility Commission, which stated this in its 2016 Annual Report obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Monday, said the development was contrary to the guidelines of the Debt Management Office on debt sustainability.

According to the guidelines, the debt status of each state should not exceed 50 per cent of the statutory revenue in the previous 12 months.

The report stated, “In the light of the DMO’s guidelines on the Debt Management Framework, specifically, sections 222 to 273 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007 pertaining to debt sustainability, according to the guidelines, the debt to income ratio of states should not exceed 50 per cent of the statutory revenue for the preceding 12 months.”

However, an analysis presented in the FRC report showed that most states flouted the directive. In fact, the debt status of many states exceeded the debt to revenue ratio by more than 100 per cent. The analysis was based on the debt profile of the states as of December 31, 2016.

The states with the highest debt to gross revenue ratios were Lagos (670.42 per cent), Osun (539.25 per cent), Cross River (486.49 per cent), Plateau (342.01 per cent), Oyo (339.56 per cent), Ekiti (339.34 per cent), Ogun (329.47 per cent), Kaduna (297.26 per cent) and Imo (292.82 per cent).

Others were Edo (270.8 per cent), Adamawa (261.96 per cent), Delta (259.63 per cent), Bauchi (250.75 per cent), Nasarawa (250.36 per cent), Kogi (221.92 per cent), Enugu (207.49 per cent), Zamfara (204.91 per cent), and Kano (202.61 per cent).

The debt to net revenue ratio of the states puts some of the states in even more precarious situations. The debt to net revenue of Lagos, for instance, is 930.96 per cent, while that of Cross River is 940.64 per cent.

The only states whose debt did not exceed the 50 per cent ratio by more than 100 per cent are Anambra, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and the Federal Capital Territory.

The debt to revenue ratio is very important in debt analysis as it can give an indication of the capacity of the debtor to service and repay the debt.

However, the FRC noted that it should not be concluded that a state had over-borrowed because its debt to revenue ratio was more than 50 per cent.

The report stated, “It should be noted that the fact that some states exceeded the threshold of 50 per cent of their total revenue is not an indication that they over-borrowed as the debt limits of the governments in the federation are yet to be set.

“Furthermore, only total revenue is used for the foregoing analysis as comprehensive data on the states’ Internally Generated Revenue were not available. In any case, the IGR on the average is not more than eight per cent of the states’ total revenue except for Lagos State. In essence, the non-inclusion of the IGR may not distort the result of the analysis.

“Therefore, there is a need for each of these states to work towards bringing their respective consolidated debts within the 50 per cent threshold of their total revenue in order to guarantee a general public debt sustainability in the country.”

N1tn Debt Will Lead To Plants Shutdown – Gencos

Electricity generation companies have said they have no plans to disrupt power supply in the country but their refusal to remit payment for gas due to the non-payment of the debt owed them will lead to the shutdown of power plants.

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, last week claimed that the Gencos were planning to disrupt the supply of electricity in the country.

“Let me say very clearly to all operators that I get reports of many of the clandestine meetings that some of them (Gencos) are holding with a view to disrupting the supply for political capital,” he said at the 25th Monthly Power Sector Meeting in Uyo.

The Executive Secretary, Association of Power Generation Companies, Dr. Joy Ogaji, told our correspondent in a telephone interview on Monday, “We are in the business of power generation. So, don’t you think we cannot disrupt our business? We have not issued any such threat that we are going to shut down power.

“But it is natural that when we are not being paid, we don’t have money to buy gas to generate power and we cannot pay salaries. So, automatically, the power plants will shut down even without us wanting to shut them down. We have not issued any notice that we are shutting down, but the natural occurrence will happen.”

Asked when the “natural occurrence” could happen, she said, “It is completely out of our control.

“The Nigeria Gas Processing and Transportation Company Limited, which supplies gas to some power plants, has given ultimatum to all the generation companies that use gas, that if they don’t make their contracts effective by paying 100 per cent, they will stop giving us gas. So, if you ask me how soon, it is as soon as the NGPTC is ready to shut off gas to us.”

About 80 per cent of the electricity generated in the country is from gas-fired power plants, with hydro plants contributing the rest.

“We are owed about N1tn by the (electricity) market. About half of it is owed to gas companies, because it is as we are paid that we pay them (gas suppliers). And in some cases, we even took loans to pay some of them because if you don’t pay, you don’t get gas,” Ogaji added.

The government-owned Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc buys electricity in bulk from the Gencos and sell to the distribution companies, which then supply it to the consumers.

According to Ogaji, the NBET was established with the mandate that it would pay the Gencos 100 per cent.

She said, “But it has not paid the Gencos 100 per cent. What the NBET has kept telling us is that Discos are not paying, and Discos say that consumers are not paying.

“From the beginning in 2013 till now, Gencos have not pushed the government like this; we have been enduring, taking loans. But now, even the banks are not giving us loans to buy gas and generate. So, we are in a conundrum.”

She added that the association had already, through several letters, informed all the leaders of the sector, including the minister and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, about the challenges facing the Gencos.

The PUNCH had two weeks ago reported that some Gencos had dragged the government before the Federal High Court in Abuja over what they termed discriminatory practices against their interests and those of gas suppliers.

The firms also accused the Federal Government of conferring preferential treatment on Azura Power West Africa Limited and Accugas Limited at their own expense.

We Have Delivered Road Projects As Promised– Buhari

The current administration has fulfilled the promise it made in May 2015 as regarding road infrastructural development President Muhammadu Buhari declared on Monday.

Buhari, however, stated that the government would not stop working on the country’s road network and stated that his administration has increased the country’s budgetary commitment for capital projects from 15 per cent to a minimum of 30 per cent.

He made all these known in Abuja at a one-day public enlightenment forum on developments in the road sector.

The forum was organised by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.

The President, whose speech was read by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, noted that the critical place of the road sector in Nigeria’s historical evolution and national life could not be overemphasised.

Buhari said, “Presently, the haulage of industrial goods and raw materials, agricultural produce, petroleum products, power plant components and many other equipment are carried about using the nation’s road network. It was this realisation that underscored our promise of change in May 2015 with infrastructure as a priority. This we have fulfilled by policy and action.

“It is on record that this administration has raised our annual budgetary commitment for capital projects from 15 per cent to a minimum of 30 per cent and committed to a fiscal stimulus targeted at infrastructure. The result is a revival of construction activity on highway projects nationwide.

“From 2015 to date, my administration has constructed and rehabilitated several hundred kilometres of interstate federal roads and bridges to ease the movement of persons, goods and services.”

The President, however, stated that in order to take advantage of the full benefits of ongoing projects and get value for investments, users of the facilities must change their ways.

Buhari said, “As the head of this government, I’ve signed up for that change. I recently ratified the ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Heavy Goods Vehicles, Weights and Dimensions that are permitted to transverse federal roads in August 2017. I also approved the enforcement of the Act to commence from the loading points at the ports, depots and factories, respectively.

“This enlightenment forum is therefore organised to bring awareness and seek the cooperation of major players in the haulage industry, manufacturers, policymakers, labour unions and all those involved in the movement of goods and services of the new rules and regulations guiding the maximum axle load allowed on any goods’ vehicle within the ECOWAS sub-region that is also applicable in our country.”

He also told delegates at the event that the Federal Government was investing in the rail sector in order to reduce the pressure on the highways.

Buhari urged participants to provide inputs that would enhance the country’s road policies.

Earlier in his address, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the meeting was to reflect and agree on the need for change about how roads were being used, adding that the Federal Government was working on one or two roads in all states across the country.

Fashola stated, “This government is now rapidly and aggressively addressing road transport infrastructure repairs, rehabilitation and construction as many of you who travel regularly will attest. There is no state in Nigeria today where you will not see our contractors busy at work.

“The crux of this meeting is to first acknowledge that the President is only one man who cannot be everywhere, and secondly to recognise that we are the actors of the change that is required to take us to prosperity, and thirdly to recognise that the way we use the roads, when finally completed, will determine how long they last and whether they deliver prosperity or not.”

CBN Pumps In $210m Into Forex Market

The Central Bank of Nigeria has infused another sum of $210m into the inter-bank foreign exchange market.

The lender said the forex sale was aimed at sustaining liquidity in the forex market, and making forex available for customers’ demands in different sectors of the market.

The figures obtained from the CBN on Monday shows that the bank offered $100m to authorised dealers in the wholesale segment of the market, while the Small and Medium-scale Enterprises segment received the sum of $55m.

Customers requiring forex for invisibles such as tuition fees, medical payments and Basic Travel Allowance, among others, were also allocated the sum of $55m.

The Acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, while confirming the figures, reassured the public that the bank would continue to intervene in the interbank forex market in line with its desire to sustain liquidity in the market and maintain stability.

He said that the steps taken so far by the CBN in the management of forex was paying off, as reflected by reduction in the country’s import bills and accretion to its foreign exchange reserves.

Meanwhile, the naira continued its stability in the forex market, exchanging at an average of N362/$1 in the Bureau de Change segment of the market on Monday.

Nigeria Has The Capability To Repay N21.7tn Debt – Adeosun

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has said that the country has enough capability to pay back the debt obligations, which is presently at about N21.7tn.

Adeosun made this known in an interview with some journalists in Abuja on Monday.

She said that the government was not unsettled about the country’s increasing debt as the debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio was still low in comparism with other countries.

The minister stated that unlike previous government that borrowed to pay salaries, the focus of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was to invest massively in infrastructure.

She said as of the time that Buhari took over the mantle of leadership in 2015, oil prices were very low and as such, the government was constrained in allocating funds for capital projects without having to borrow.

According to her, with over N2.5tn pumped into infrastructure in the last three years, the country will start seeing the benefits of the borrowed funds.

Adeosun said, “I am not worried at all (about rising debt). Our borrowing is sustainable and well managed. Firstly, we took a decision to reflate the economy. Our borrowing is a true reflection of our economy.

“When your income has gone down, the only place you can go is to borrow. It was a strategic decision. We borrowed and invested heavily in infrastructure and then increased our revenue so that we could pay back the debt.

“It was a deliberate decision. We looked at our budget in terms of size and increased it from N4tn to N7tn so that we could focus on developing our infrastructure.”

She explained that the government’s borrowing was a deliberate policy to stimulate economic activities and take the country away from recession.

She added, “It was a very deliberate policy. It was deliberate because if we do not invest in our capital projects, we cannot grow. If all that the government does is to pay salaries, we will be running at a loss every year. So, it was a strategic decision to tie that money to capital projects.

“One of the differences between our style of borrowing and the previous era when oil prices were at the highest is that in May 2011, the debt was N2.5tn and oil price at that time was $111 to a barrel. By May 2015 when we came in, our debt had risen to N12tn; meaning that in that period when oil prices were highest, the debt doubled but capital releases were very low.

“So, if we should be worried about debt accumulation, it should have been that time. And we should be asking, why were capital releases so low and debt doubled when oil price was so high at over $100 per barrel?

“Yes, there has been acceleration in debt, but there has also been acceleration in capital releases and capital spending.”

Adeosun said if the government continued to get the major projects in power, transport and agriculture off the ground, the economy would continue to experience growth.

She added, “We will have no problem managing our debts because they are sustainable. As the economy grows, we will get everyone to pay their tax so that we will be able to service the debts. If you compare us with any of our neighbouring countries, you will see that we are better than any of our neighbours. We will like to keep it that way.

“There is no sense having no debt, no road, no power and no growth prospect. With the kind of young people that we have and the kind of jobs we want to create, we need to build infrastructure and we cannot use oil money alone to fund our debt.”

CBN Fixes April 3, 4 For MPC Meeting

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has fixed April 3 and 4, 2018 for the country’s first Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

The apex bank fixed the date following the concession made by the Senate to screen and confirm the nominees of President Muhammadu Buhari to fill the posts of deputy governors of the CBN and the four members-designate of the Monetary Policy Committee.

The MPC was unable to hold its first meeting last January because it could not form a quorum, due to the Senate’s refusal to confirm the nominees sent by the President to the National Assembly.

However, due to the importance of the MPC meetings to the economy, the Senate reconsidered its stance last week on the CBN nominees and gave its Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions one week to screen them.