Buhari Absent As Osinbajo Presides Over Emergency FEC Meeting

President Buhari is absent at the emergency meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting he summoned yesterday.

The meeting just came underway at the council chambers of the presidential villa, Abuja with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presiding.

No official reason yet as why the president is absent.

His absence was apparently a surprise to the members of the FEC made up of the 36 ministers, the Vice President, the Secretary to the State Government, SGF.

Time of the meeting was 11: am and the licensed members had arrived pretty early.

But there was no sign of the president in the room.

It was the SGF, Mr. David Babachir that verbally called the meeting to order while Vice President Osinabjo called for opening prayers.

At this point, journalists were excused from the meeting. It was not known whether the president would join the meeting later.

Meanwhile, the purpose of the emergency meeting, it was learnt, was apparently to review the 2016 budget estimates whose got to the presidency yesterday from the National Assembly.

It will be recalled that the president had insisted on seeing the details of the budget before he could append his signature to sign the 2016 Appropriation Bill into law.

While he submitted a total of N6.08 trillion as the budget estimates, the National Assembly pruned it down to N6.06 amid stories of all-time padding.

It was yet unknown whether FEC would recommend the signing of the document into law after the meeting as the president is believed to be leaving for China next week, a trip that may keep him away from office for almost a week or even more.

FG Promises To Prevent Doctors Strike

The Federal Government on Thursday said that everything will be done to prevent the impending strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD).

The NARD had on Monday given the Federal Government a 21-day notice to meet their demands or face an indefinite strike.

Their demands include payment of members’ salaries till date and appropriate placement of members in states and federal tertiary hospitals across the nation, reversal of sacked members in some hospitals and appropriate funding of residency training programme.‎

NARD’s President Dr. Muhammad Askira, had told newsmen in Abuja, that the ultimatum took effect from April 4.

But speaking at the commemoration of the 2016 World Health Day and the flag off of diabetics screening exercise organized by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, gave assurance that there will be no strike.

The focus of 2016 World Health Day campaign is on Diabetes with the theme “Beat Diabetes”.

Adewole said: “I am assuring Nigerians that there will be no strike. We have received the ultimatum, we have talked and will be meeting again on Monday.”

He said that with Nigeria’s sustained efforts and support from development partners, the spread of the wild polio-virus was halted and Nigeria was dropped off the infamous list of countries where the virus is still endemic.

The Minister also commended Nigeria’s capabilities of meeting the health needs of a greater proportion of her population and her ability to withstand challenges of epidemic like HIV, infectious disease outbreaks as demonstrated by her response to recent Ebola virus epidemic.

Quoting Wealth Health Organization recent ‎report, he said that 24 per cent of illness related deaths in the country is caused by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), with diabetes accounting for two per cent of that figure.

He said: “Diabetes is increasingly becoming an epidemic especially among adolescents and young adults, partly due to the rapid socio-cultural change being experienced, and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles and risky behaviours”.

His ministry, he said, has mapped out six critical action areas to tackle the disease.

He said that the action areas included adoption of the global monitoring framework for NCDs, development of a National Diabetes Plan and Policy, ‎increased monitoring and surveillance systems, engagement and rights, improved access to care and sustainable financing for management of diabetes.

The Minister also urged Nigerians to be actively involved in the campaign, stressing that people must learn to identify their risk factors and take steps to avoid them.

He said that some of the steps included maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, being physically active, avoiding harmful habit like alcohol intake and tobacco use.

He urged those already diagnosed with diabetes to follow up on doctor’s advice as well as be consistent with doctor’s appointment.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, warned that except Nigerians follow experts’ advice and adopt healthy lifestyle, the current adult population with the diabetes disease will increase.

According to him, ‎diabetes is a disease that could be managed medically if detected early.

He said that it can also be avoided if Nigerians take adequate interest in what they eat.

NCC Explains Delay In Settlement Of MTN Fine

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, wednesday said the absence of instrument of negotiation on the part of government was one of the reasons MTN had not commenced the process that would lead to the full payment of the N780 billion fine imposed on it last year.

He also admitted that key agencies had not made inputs into the proposal made by MTN to government to facilitate the negotiation process, adding: “This is being collated as we speak and very soon, a team which we already have in place will enter into direct negotiation with MTN.”

The EVC spoke during a courtesy visit by the Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Mr. Adolphus Joe Ekpe, in his office in Abuja.

He said the N50 billion paid by MTN was a mark of good will for negotiating an out-of-court settlement, adding that it was not part of the N70 billion the commission generated within the last six months from sale of spectrum broadband.

Danbatta said: “NCC has generated N70 billion from the sale of spectrum broadband and spectrum within the six 6 months. This money belongs to the Nigeria people and is remitted into the federation account for services to be rendered to Nigerians by the government.”

On the proposal made by MTN on a convenient mode of payment, Danbatta said government is looking at it, adding however that he is not in a position to say whether it will be acceptable to government or not.
He said: “This is an ongoing process of negotiation and not until it is concluded, nobody will be able to offer a position on it.”

Asked on MTN’s preparedness to pay the fine, he said: “MTN didn’t say they were not going to pay. I did not read this anywhere in the papers, nor does their body language indicate unwillingness to pay.
Danbatta admitted that the most important thing is that the case has been struck out of the court and they have made a goodwill payment, saying. “This is an action that acknowledges their willingness to pay and to amicably resolve the matter, and it will be resolved.”

In his remark, Ekpe said the commission was visiting NCC to seek greater collaboration in the spirit of nation building that will help in the revenue generation base of government, adding that inter-governmental collaboration has not been adequate enough.

He said it had become expedient that there should be a platform for the integration of NLRC text message transaction monitoring and archiving platform for lottery schemes aided by telecommunication providers.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications Technology through the NCC, yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the federal government and the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) at the ministry headquarters.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), has denied any wrong doing in his handling of the settlement of the fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian NCC.
In a letter written on his behalf by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, the justice minister accused the Senate of failing to give him fair hearing before accusing him of wrong doing.

He said the negotiation with MTN has not been concluded as claimed by the senators.
Isah said he was compelled to respond to the spate of bad press as well as the obvious and deliberate sponsorship of same by those “who ordinarily should investigate and have the capacity to demand an explanation from the Office of the AGF (OHAGF/MOJ) on his role in the matter relating to the N780 billion fine slammed on the MTN by the NCC in which the company has made N50 billion down payment as a condition for it (MTN) to gain audience with the relevant government agencies for the out-of-court settlement as ordered by the court.”

He said: “However, for the benefit of those in doubt, it is so far, so good for the role my principal has played. I wish to state vividly that, when Mr. Eric Holder, the counsel to the MTN led a team to interface with my principal as the chief law officer of the nation- (mind you, Holder is a former Attorney General of the United States) and so wouldn’t have entered into the meeting if he was not sure my principal was most appropriate to negotiate with; even at that; the former insisted that MTN which the latter represents must show some commitment by ensuring down payment of N50 billion. The federal government insistence was that no audience could be granted to the telecom company or anyone acting on its behalf while the case is still pending in court and in the absence of demonstration of good faith by MTN.

“To this request, MTN offered to comply, and indeed complied by withdrawing the case unconditionally and to make an agreed payment of N50 billion ($250 million), an offer the FGN accepted only to grant audience to it and its counsel in relations to the settlement discussions (and without prejudice and in good faith). The payment was made on February 24th, into a Federal Government Recoveries Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Company also filed an application to withdraw its pending suit in an attempt to fulfill the second condition for audience with the FGN on the matter. This was also confirmed by the Office of the AGF before it agreed to grant audience to MTN or its counsel. And having fulfilled the two conditions as demanded by the federal government through the OHAGF/MOJ; the MTN through its counsel Eric Holder and his Covington legal team thereby sought audience with HAGF/MOJ who yet denied going into any negotiations, but demanded a proposal of the terms meant to be discussed in writing. Mr. Eric Holder obliged those terms and the HAGF/MOJ who quickly despatched a mail through the normal official channel to the Honourable Minister of Communications and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC inviting for their input before fixing any meeting.

“While still awaiting the responses of both, no meeting or discussion or negotiation has been held on the issue ever since. What the HAGF/MOJ did afterwards was to ask the MTN legal team to formally present its proposals on the matter so that technical input could be sought from all stakeholders before the FGN could grant them any audience. This proposal has now been circulated among the stakeholders for their technical contributions and that is where we were on the issue when the invitation of the Senate came in at a time when the HAGF/MOJ was embarking on a trip to attend an anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom that he was earlier billed to attend before the invitation came handy.

“It is imperative to state at this juncture that neither an audience nor commitment was made by the HAGF/MOJ to MTN who was then waiting for the technical inputs and comments of the Ministries of Communications and Finance as well as the NCC with a view to harmonize the inputs and coordinate inter-ministerial meeting for a common position before considering an audience meeting or negotiation with MTN, all of which were aborted by the pre-emptive conclusion hastily reached by your committee.”

In Moves To Cut Overhead Costs, FG Bans First Class Flights For Its Officials

The Federal Government on Wednesday banned all top government officials from flying first class while embarking on officials trips.

This is contained in a statement by the Media Adviser to the finance minister, Mr Festus Akanbi in Abuja.

According to the statement, the decision is in a bid to reduce the amount being spent on overheard expenditure.

The statement further noted that all top officials of government such as ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Federal Government Committees, as well as Chairmen and Chief Executives of Parastatals and Agencies are to travel on business class.

It will be recalled that before now, some government officials who should have been on business class usually travelled on first class, while many others travelled business class instead of economy class.

Akanbi in the statement said the new directive has been captured in a circular on review of overhead expenses released by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

He said the development is one of the recommendations made by the Efficiency Unit which was set up by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, last year aimed at reducing overhead expenses.

The unit was set up to engender transparency and reduce government’s large expenditure through procurement in the various ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

FG To Hold National Summit On Culture And Tourism

As part of its economic diversification initiative, the Federal Government’s eye on the creative non-oil sector will, this April, focus on culture and tourism, through a three-day national summit, scheduled for April 27 to 29, 2016.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced this in Abuja on Tuesday, while declaring open a Working Session between the Ministry of Information and Culture and the British Council on the planned collaboration between the two.

The minister is optimistic that if properly harnessed, culture could be used to drive tourism as a viable GDP revenue stream.

“As you are very much aware, a major plank of this administration’s policy is the diversification of the economy away from oil. To further this agenda, we in the Ministry of Information and Culture have been putting in place measures to fast track the diversification agenda in the Culture and Tourism Sectors.

“One of such measures is to critically assess veritable avenues of using culture to drive tourism in order to achieve a significant boost in the vast tourism potentials of the country. In view of this, we are happy to announce that the Ministry will host a three-day National Summit on Culture and Tourism from April 27th to 29th,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said that the summit, which has the theme, “Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy,” would attract stakeholders in the culture and tourism sectors.

He commended the British Council for its efforts in forging the partnership with the ministry in the culture sector.

“Ahead of a formal partnership between this ministry and the British Council, we have convened this meeting, or working session if you like, to provide the platform for better understanding between us; discuss the proposed areas of collaboration as well as to agree on an implementation plan for delivery of the agreed areas under the partnership.

“I am optimistic that this meeting will firm up our collaboration so that we can then have a comprehensive schedule of joint projects and the details of their implementation, especially regarding the areas to be handled by each partner,” the Minister added.

Earlier, the British Council’s Country Representative, Ms. Connie Price, who led a five-member team, said the Working Session was aimed at understanding the ministry’s priorities in the area of Culture in order to facilitate an agreement on the specific actions to be implemented.

The Minister is also expected to inaugurate a ministerial committee for the review of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON), draft bill, an exclusive practitioners’ proposal which seeks to professionalise the Nigerian film industry.

Bakare Calls For New Constitution, Says Blaming Oil Price For Economic Woes Is Laziness

The General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, says Nigeria urgently needs a revolution.

Bakare said it was sheer laziness to blame the global economic downturn for Nigeria’s economic woes, adding that waiting for a rise in crude oil prices before reviving the economy was pointless.

He said this during the 27th anniversary thanksgiving of his church on Sunday in Lagos.

The cleric, who lamented that Nigeria’s destiny was hanging in the balance, said that the revolution must include a radical transformation of values that should transcend politics and change of government.

According to him, since past leaders of the country could not deliver on the promise of a new Nigeria when the global and local economic climates were favourable, it would be wrong to blame the country’s woes on the global economic downturn.

He said, “While appreciating the positive developments in our democratic experience, especially the attempts by past and current governments to eliminate systemic leakages, I shall seek to prove that, by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence, the state of the nation calls for a revolution.

“This is a revolution that transcends politics or policies; a revolution that means far more than any change of government; a revolution that means a radical reformation of values as they impact upon the social, economic and political landscapes of our nation.

“It is a symptom of chronic national laziness to blame the global economic downturn for Nigeria’s economic woes, or to wait expectantly for a rise in crude oil prices in order to sustain our consumptive economic patterns. Our problems are not the result of global economic cycles; our problems are the results of counter-productive national paradigms and self-limiting frameworks of state.”

Bakare listed structural deformation, institutional degradation, constitutional aberrations and governmental incapacitation as ‘fundamental errors’ that needed to be addressed for the country to move forward.

In order to correct the structural deformation, Bakare said the devolution of powers was essential, adding that power must be devolved to the levels of governments that are closest to the people and that can best deliver public goods.

He also called for a new constitution, noting that the 1999 Constitution lacked “virtue and laid the foundation for a culture of political fraudulence.”

Speaking on tensions created by aggrieved groups in the country, Bakare advised Buhari to create a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring in order create a new national identity for Nigerians.

Other functions of the commission, according to the cleric, should include promoting forgiveness and reconciliation among contentious interest groups in Nigeria and facilitating the creation of an acceptable functional governmental structure for the country.

While praying for President Muhammadu Buhari to leave a legacy of a new Nigeria, Bakare urged Nigerians to support the President.

He added, “In a three-dimensional strategic arrangement, this national rebirth process can go on seamlessly alongside socio-economic development, championed by the economic team of this administration, headed by the Vice-President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) as well as a national security and anti-corruption strategy, spearheaded by the President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria Loses 10kg Of Gold Daily – Fayemi

About 100 kilogrammes of gold leaves the country every day without any record, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has said.

Fayemi said this in a lecture delivered on Friday at the National Defence College, Abuja, according to a statement issued on Sunday by the Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode.

The minister, who spoke on ‘Solid Minerals and National Development in Nigeria,’ lamented that the country was losing a lot to illegal mining activities being carried out by some citizens aided by some foreigners.

He said the ministry was collaborating with relevant security agencies to ensure that the ugly trend was stopped.

He said, “Many of them do not recognise these minerals. So, in most cases they do not know the value of what the person is taking out illegally.

“So, we are partnering with security agencies, the Customs, Immigration, Police and Civil Defence to assist us.

“Once we get the regulatory framework right and create conducive environment for investment to thrive, we shall witness huge investment in the sector, create wealth and employment opportunities.”

Fayemi challenged security agencies in the country to come up with technology that could be deployed to track the use of explosives for which permits were given in the country.

He said part of his tasks as minister in charge of the solid minerals was to sign explosives permits for use in quarries and mining sites, adding that it was important to track their use as part of efforts to curtail activities of insurgent groups and violent crimes in the country.

FG To Invest N59.7bn On Youth-In-Agriculture Scheme In September

Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director-General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), on Sunday said the Federal Government would launch N59.7 billion Youth-In-Agriculture Scheme in September.

Sanginga, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan, said the scheme would be sponsored by the federal government and African Development Bank (AFDB).

The director-general said IITA would train those enrolled in the scheme, adding that beneficiaries would be trained on how to make agriculture a business with good networking.

“The programme tagged “Enable Youth Empowerment Agribusiness programme, will engage youths in agribusiness for 18 months to enable them learn how to make agric business plan.

“Each will be given between 25,000 US Dollars and 300,000 US Dollars as loan to start a business.

“The programme started by IITA in 2012, was taken over by the federal government and AFDB to create employment in agric sector.

“To support this objective, the programme will be extended to 36 states and Abuja in September.

“After the programme, we expect the youths to become chief executive officers of factories, companies and creators of jobs rather than job seekers,” he said.

Sanginga urged the youths to develop positive mindset in agriculture and take good advantage of the programme.

“They should be serious with the training because at the end of it only those who did well will be rewarded,” he said. (NAN)

This War Will Not End, Boko Haram Says In New Video

The terrorist group, Boko Haram, issued a new video yesterday dismissing any suggestion it would surrender.

This came just over a week after the sect’s shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau appeared in a rare message looking dejected and frail.

Shekau, who was not seen on camera for more than a year, released an unverified video late last month and said his time in charge of the group might be coming to an end.

If the video indeed depicts Shekau, he appears thin and listless, delivering his message without his trademark fiery rhetoric, prompting speculation from the army that the sect was on the verge of collapse in the face of a sustained military counter-insurgency.

However, in the latest message, Boko Haram maintained it was a potent fighting force, with insurgents posing with AK-47s in front of Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks and a lorry mounted with a military cannon.

“You should know that there is no truce, there is no negotiation, there is no surrender,” an unidentified masked man wearing camouflage said in a prepared script in Hausa, in the video posted on YouTube.

“This war between us will not stop.”

The video, which was of markedly of better quality than Shekau’s and included Arabic subtitles, featured nine masked Boko Haram fighters standing on sandy ground in an undisclosed desert location.

Shekau did not appear in the video but the masked man in the video said he (Shekau) remains the sect’s leader.

He likened Boko Haram to the Islamist insurgencies in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

But there were few signs Boko Haram — now styled as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) — has so far benefited from the partnership.

The army has since then recovered swathes of territory from the terrorists, liberating thousands living under Boko Haram control.

An estimated 20,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram began its campaign of violence in 2009 in the Northeast.

FG To Public Hospitals: Save Lives First In Emergencies

THE Federal Government yesterday directed all public hospitals across the country to save patients’ lives first during emergencies before demanding money even as it blamed poor performance of the country’s health system on chronic under funding.

Giving the directive during his first official visit to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole lamented that out of 30,000 Primary HealthCare Centres, PHCs, across the country only 20 percent (6,000) are functional.
Adewole, who said government hospitals cannot continue to turn poor patients away, however affirmed that lives of Nigerians mean more than money.

“Accidents, among other emergency cases can occur at anytime, so patients should not be refrained from accessing treatment. The poverty indicator shows that 60 to 70 percent of Nigerians are poor. This means about 100 million people are poor in Nigeria. So, we will provide basic care through the PHC system for Nigerians.”

Adewole who directed the Management of LUTH not to allow patients stay beyond 24 hours at the Accident and Emergency ward to enable room for other new patients on emergency, decried the situation he met on ground.

“What I saw this morning is congestion. When the A & E unit is congested, that facility cannot absorb new cases. When emergency happens, facilities must be able to respond adequately and promptly.

“This reminded me of a situation whereby if you have an accident, LUTH will not be able to respond, and that was why I gave the directive that they should operate a system that would evacuate patients within 24 hours.

Noting that the A & E is the face of any hospital, he said once patients are treated, they should be moved to the ward or be discharge if they are stable, in order to create space for new cases.

On indigent patients, the minister urged the LUTH management to ensure that the poor receive treatment by absolving the cost of their treatment and called for operations of a social system to enable it know those that are genuinely poor.

Revealing that plans are underway to rebuild 10,000 PHCs within the next three years, he noted: “We have the strong determination to implement the under one roof PHCs which has been part of the health project since 2010. By mid 2017 we will ensure that not less than 110 PHCs are functional.”

On radiotherapy machines, the minister for Health said Nigeria needs at least 140 radiotherapy machines to face the challenges of cancer in the country.

Adewole who urged Nigerians to improve on their lifestyle said 40per cent of cancer cases can be prevented while 40 per cent are also curable if detected early, lamented over-stretching of the few machines for the treatments of two million cancer patients.

Fuel Scarcity: We Will Soon Overcome The Challenge – Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has asserted that Nigerians did not elect President Muhammadu Buhari to give them excuses.

Mohammed made this assertion on Friday, while in Adamawa State as part of the presidential entourage led by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, attending the wedding of the son of the Adamawa state Governor, Sen. Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow.

The minister reassured Nigerians that the ongoing nationwide fuel crisis would soon be over.

“Yes, we appreciate the feelings of Nigerians. We also go through it, because we are not immune to it. As a responsible government, a government that was propelled to power by the votes of the people, we cannot give excuses but empathise with them. And this government is working 24 hours to ensure that this problem is resolved,” Mohammed said.

The minister who said Nigerians did not elect them to give them excuses however stressed that the All Progressive Congress led administration as a responsible government was doing everything to ease the current suffering resulting from fuel scarcity.

He said the federal government was working to ensure that in two weeks time the commodity was made available in all parts of the country and alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

According to him, the government had already taken some steps in that direction.

He said, “some short term, some medium term and some longer term, because the question will be what are we doing to alleviate this problem, because that is what concern Nigerians.”

Some of the measures he highlighted included the government’s appeal to oil majors to make forex available to their companies operating in the downstream sector of the oil industry, adding that the difficulties encountered in getting foreign exchange was partly to blame for the fuel crisis.

He added that once the government got this done it would solve the problem of the fuel hiccups.