How Juju Arrested PHCN Officials In Osogbo

By Tunde Odesola

Published In THE PUNCH Of Monday, 5th February, 2018.

I don’t know how to translate this into English, but “ohun t’aba wi f’ogbo, logbo ngbo…” is the most popular Yoruba incantation used by Ifa believers to spellbind an individual; hypnotise the enemy or arrest an awkward situation. But some Ifa adherents don’t have to chant incantations. They are incantations themselves! The Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, belongs to this class of esoteric clan of Ifa votaries.

It was about midday in the heart of Osogbo. Some officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria were on a mass disconnection at the Ayetoro area of the city capital. Snaillike, their vehicle inched towards Ifayemi Elebuibon Street, stopping at the very pole in front of the expansive residence of the Ifa priest. Four PHCN officials alighted from the vehicle. A group of residents, whose electricity cables had been disconnected some distance up the street, had followed the vehicle on foot. The leader of the team, a dark-skinned middle-aged man, opened a conversation with the restless residents.

Two men, who appeared to be the youngest in the PHCN team, brought down a brown, long wooden ladder hinged to the top of the pickup. As they were mounting the ladder against the pole, Elebuibon came out of his compound. He greeted them and asked what their mission was. The team leader told him that they were going to disconnect the cable supplying his house with electricity unless he produced a bill showing that he was not owing the PHCN. The babalawo told them that he was not owing the PHCN and added that it was not his place to produce any bill. He said the PHCN should have a record of those who had paid up their bills just as he stressed that he had never owed electricity tariff all his life. Some residents intervened and told the officials that the Araba never owed electricity bills.

Shunning all entreaties, one of the PHCN officials rebuffed the pleas and started to climb the long ladder. Residents yelled and told him not to climb the ladder, but he refused, climbing and grumbling. Elebuibon raised his hand, saying ‘e je o gun, to bati le bo’le’; meaning: let him climb the ladder if he would be able to climb down from it. One! Two! Three! Four!…the brave official climbed the ladder to the top. Suddenly, he stopped grumbling, became utterly silent, distant and hazy.

He couldn’t disconnect the cable, neither could he come down. Looking as cool as cucumber, he chewed a gum slowly, absent-mindedly and remained at the top of the ladder, blinking and oblivious of the flood of pleas gushing on his behalf down below.

The other three PHCN officials at the foot of the ladder sweated and begged. Together with residents, they pleaded with Baba Elebuibon to set the young man free. Elebuibon yielded. ‘Arakunrin, ma bo nle (young man, come down),’ he simply said, snapping the detainee out of his forced reverie. The Ifa priest later told one of his children to go inside his house and bring the bill showing he had paid his electricity tariff. Elebuibon was able to resist the highhandedness earmarked for him by the PHCN, but do millions of Nigerians, whose businesses and well-being are tied to electricity supply, have the arcane power to such do?

The commonest testimony that governmental injustice and corruption freely and daily stalk our land unchallenged is the PHCN. Injustice and corruption aided, abetted and perpetrated by the government against the people. Or what better adjectives are there to qualify a government parastatal that collects citizens’ hard-earned money and yet refuses to provide the commodity for which they paid? Worse still, those that pay brazenly have their power supply cut if they were not around to show the almighty PHCN officials their bills.

The inability of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to bring just one ‘oga’ to book despite the trillions of naira that have gone down the PHCN drain since 1999 shows the corrupt nature of the country’s anti-corruption fight. Nigerians watch hopelessly as yesterday’s corrupt politicians have had their iniquities washed with hyssop and a detergent called defection while the EFCC bays at the midnight moon. The crazy bill phenomenon by the PHCN is the crowning of the nation’s abhorrent corruption behemoth. How a government could watch and support the fleecing of her citizens year in and year out without a twinge of compunction beats the imagination. And all the agencies, state and national parliaments statutorily constituted to check underhand practices in the various segments of the economy look the other way as the python of corruption and insensitivity encircles the citizenry. A Nigerian-American living in Huntsville, Alabama, Olusegun-Richard Adeyina, said he has witnessed uninterrupted power supply since relocating to the US 16 years ago.

A report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said at least N11tn meant for the provision of adequate electricity for Nigerians was squandered under ex-Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. The report also warned that the ‘financial loss to Nigeria from corruption in the electricity sector’ may reach N20tn in the next 10 years.

The report, which was presented to the media by an Associate Professor of Energy and Electricity Law, University of Lagos, Yemi Oke, some months ago, said, “The much publicised power sector reforms in Nigeria under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 is yet to yield desired and/or anticipated fruits largely due to corruption and impunity of perpetrators, regulatory lapses and policy inconsistencies. Ordinary Nigerians continue to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector – staying in the dark, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills. The Obasanjo administration spent $10bn on NIPP with no results in terms of increase in power generation. $13.278,937,409.94 was expended in eight years while unfunded commitments amounted to $12bn. The Federal Government then budgeted a whopping N16bn for the various reforms between 2003 and 2007, which went down the drain.”

Oke said that the country had lost more megawatts in the post-privatisation era due to corruption and impunity, among other social challenges reflected in the report.

Largely owing to insatiable greed and cronyism, the privatisation of the power sector carried out in November 2013 has worsened the electricity misery of Nigerians, instead of alleviating it. The excuse of liquidity challenge and damage to gas pipelines by the distribution and generation companies are a reflection of corruption and operational inefficiency. It is only in Nigeria that power firms could ask for the fulfilment of N100bn subsidy fund after the National Electricity Power Authority assets were sold off ten a penny. Despite collecting monthly tariffs from Nigerians for electricity they never supplied, it is insensitive that these firms are yet clamouring for consumers to pay cost-reflective tariffs – to reflect the devaluation of the naira and rise in inflation. My take; if due process was followed to the letter during the privatisation exercise, the country won’t arrive at this rack and ruin.

I don’t give a hoot about the good-for-nothing improved-power statistics being bandied about the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. But I give a fig about the huge number of Nigerians whose lives have been snuffed out by generator fumes, despite paying through their noses crazy electricity tariffs by the most inefficient power company on the planet. I worry stiff about the millions of Nigerians – long dead and buried – on whom mosquitoes sneaked in when they opened their windows and doors to keep alive from PHCN-induced suffocating heat.

Does the way Nigeria treats adequate power supply, which remains the greatest change factor in this industrialised century, not suggest that we are truly a “wasted generation”?

FG Feeds Over N6m Pupils In 20 States

Over 246 million (246,355,190) meals has been served to date to primary pupils across 20 states in the country, since the first meal served in December 2016 under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP).

The total figure is expected to reach 313,928,420 meals by the last week of February 2018.

Also, the School Feeding Programme now feeds 6,044,625 pupils in 33,981 public primary schools across 20 states.

more states are expected to be added to the programme this year. The NHGSFP plans to implement feeding in a total of 28 States, while it aims to link farmers to school feeding markets.

In the same vein, several milestones were recorded by the Buhari administration’s National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) in 2017, in line with its inclusive growth plan, which includes tackling poverty and hunger, and creating jobs for Nigerians.

About 40,000 direct jobs have since been created from the School Feeding Programme across the participating states. The 20 states that have so far been covered by the NHGSFP include Anambra, Enugu, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ebonyi, Zamfara, Delta, Abia, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Taraba, Kaduna, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Jigawa, Niger, and Kano.

Also, in 2017, the school feeding programme collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health to deliver an integrated deworming programme for pupils in all public primary schools classes 1 to 6 across 17 states nationwide.

Meanwhile, the School Feeding programme now has a social media-based quality assurance tracking system, #TrackWithUs, ensuring that required standards for menu for pupils and meal distribution are adhered to across the states in a transparent manner.

Similarly, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) has so far recorded over 280,000 beneficiaries in 21 states, while about 300,000 Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) micro-credit, interest-free loans have been disbursed nationwide.

In the same vein, in 2017, the N-power scheme, which is targeted at providing jobs for unemployed young graduates, started its physical verification process for the 2017 applicants. In 2018, more beneficiaries are expected to be added to about 200,000 young graduates currently employed under the scheme.

A total of N900 billion was appropriated for the SIPs in 2016 and 2017; with N500 billion appropriated for 2016 and N400 billion appropriated for 2017.

However, the total amount released was N110 billion for 2016 and 2017, with the total expenditure of N109 billion.

Below is a breakdown of the N109 billion released between October 2016 and November 2017 for the SIPs, namely: GEEP, CCT, NHGSFP, N-power, and general expenditure.

The GEEP expenditure was N11,700,200,466, while the CCT gulped N5,235,401,087.

In the same vein, between October 2016 and November 2017, N22,370,719,017 was expended for the Home-grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP); while N69,731,256,122 was expended on N-power, which is the Job Creation component of the SIP, during the same period.

Security Crisis: Senate Partners Presidency To Hold National Summit Feb 1

Worried by the multi-dimensional security challenges facing the nation, the Senate in collaboration with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Executive arm will on Thursday, February 1 and Monday February 5 convene a National Security Summit.

The Summit will provide an all inclusive platform for heads of security and defence agencies, Governors, traditional rulers, socio-cultural groups, civil society organizations and others, with a view to finding solutions to acute and long term security challenges in the country.

It will be recalled that the Senate had on January 17, while deliberating on the interim report submitted by its adhoc committee on review of security infrastructure led by majority leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, on the crises that erupted in Benue, Taraba and Adamawa States, resolved to convene a summit to interface with security agencies and other critical stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the issue and other related security challenges.

The two-day Summit, according to a statement by the chairman of the ad-hoc committee and Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, will also review the challenges being faced by security agencies in the performance of their duties and charting the way forward towards resolving the issues involved.

The statement noted that though the summit was an initiative of the Senate as part of it’s contribution to the resolution of the rising security challenges, it is being convened in partnership with the Presidency to find a common solution to the issue.

President Buhari, according to the statement, will declare open the summit to be held at the Banquet Hall of the State House on Thursday with all the 36 state governors in attendance.

Other participants at the event include all Senators and members of the House of Representatives, Ministers of Defence and Interior, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Service Chiefs and other heads of security agencies.

Others expected to participate in the two-day summit are selected traditional rulers from across the six geo-political zones, representatives of regional socio political organizations, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Other stakeholders invited to the summit are the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Signed:

Senator Ahmad Lawan
Senate Majority Leader and Chairman, Senate Adhoc Committee on Security Infrastructure

FG Appoints Consultants To Probe Minerals Sector’s Revenue leakages

100 consultants on Monday were appointed by the Federal Government to probe revenue leakages in the mines and minerals sector of the economy between 2012 and 2017 in an exercise titled: ‘Revenue Optimisation and Verification Project’.

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at the inauguration who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Abdukadir Muazu, said the consultants would be paid based on how much they were able to realise for the Federation Account.

“It is regrettable that in spite of our good efforts, we still have economic saboteurs in the sector who wish to undermine efforts of government by failing in their responsibilities to render to the Federation Account the fair due in royalties and taxes stated Fayemi.

“Indeed, leakages in government revenue remain a big challenge in the sector, which we are working collaboratively with other government entities and sector stakeholders to fix. We have given considerable thought to this challenge and come up with a number of strategies to tackle it, one of which we are witnessing its launch today.”

He added, “I am, therefore, pleased to announce that following the approval of the National Economic Council, we are today inaugurating a new model of revenue generation and collection in the mining sector. This entails the engagement of professional revenue consultants, who will work with our ministry’s mining officers to identify revenue leakages in the system.

“The deployment of consultants became imperative considering the funding and manpower challenges of the ministry. The consultants will add value to the ministry’s efforts and contribute the much-needed technical expertise, while also working on a no-win, no-fee basis, thus costing us nothing upfront.”

The minister said the Revenue Optimisation and Verification Project would seek to confirm the adequacy of royalty remittances made by the various operators in the mining industry.

He stated that the consultants were mandated to collect and analyse data from 2012 to 2017 in the course of their work, thus giving the government an opportunity to demand and receive accruals due to it from the referenced period.

It will also ensure the compliance of all operators to paying the correct amounts in royalties to the government’s coffers.

The Federal Government has established an inter-ministerial committee on the harmonisation of data collection and evaluation for the country.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who confirmed this on Monday in Abuja, said the committee would be chaired by the Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive of the National Bureau of Statistic, Dr. Yemi Kale.

The minister, according to a statement by the ministry, stated that the inter-ministerial committee would serve as the clearing house and focal authority for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government for data collection, authentication and publication.

She also noted that the committee would ensure national standards for data collection, evaluation and publication as well as regularly provide guidance to all the MDAs and other stakeholders engaged in data collection, analysis and publication for policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.

The statement quoted Adeosun to have said, “The establishment of the inter-ministerial committee has become imperative to develop the production of national statistics and avoid data production duplication.”

The committee is also expected to submit half-yearly reports to the finance minister for necessary briefing of President Muhammadu Buhari

Members of the committee include the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Idris Ahmed; Director-General, Debt Management Office, Ms. Patience Oniha; Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze; and representatives of the Federal ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health, Agriculture and Rural Development, Labour and Productivity, Education, and Communication Technology.

Other members are the representatives of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria, Department of Petroleum Resources, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, National Population Commission, Nigeria Police, and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

 

 

 

Benue Clash: FG Implores Media, Others Not To Worsen Situation

The Federal Government has implored the media and public commentators to exercise utmost restraint in their coverage of the fallouts of the recent farmers/herders’ clash in Benue State in order not to further inflame passion and worsen the situation.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that while the Federal Government was working hard to address the situation with a view to preventing a recurrence not just in Benue State but everywhere across the country, it was incumbent on the media and public commentators not to engage in actions that can aggravate the crisis.

“’Lest we are misunderstood, we are neither saying the media should not cover the crisis nor asking public commentators to desist from commenting on it. All we are saying is that both must be circumspect.

“The current poisoned atmosphere of incendiary comments, unrestrained use of pictures and footages that offend human sensibilities as well as finger-pointing can only exacerbate the situation and complicate ongoing efforts to end the crisis,” he said.

Mohammed said the Federal Government was absolutely saddened by the loss of lives and the destruction of property resulting from the crisis, and recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, in commiserating with the Benue State Governor, unreservedly condemned the killings and also assured of the necessary security measures to prevent further attacks and bring the perpetrators to book.

He said the Federal Government had also mapped out short and long-term solutions to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders, including a planned conference of stakeholders, and assured of the government’s strong determination to find a lasting solution to the farmers/herders’ clashes.

What We’re Doing To End Extreme Poverty Among Women, Youths – Maryam Uwais

Hajiya Maryam Uwais is the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Office of the Vice President. In this interview, she provided an update on the national social investment programs, among other activities of her office. Excerpts:

 

You have been coordinating the social investment programs of the Buhari administration in the last two years now. What exactly are you doing?

There are over 26 different programs that we discovered. We did a lot of research and found that some of them were quite effective but there were challenges. The beneficiaries were not really the poorest. A lot of them were selected in a manner that was not transparent. There was no defined method of ensuring that they were actually the poorest of the poor.

The other intervention had people from federal working at state level and that created a lot of tension. The federal officer would assert himself that the money was coming from the federal and that negatively impacted on monitoring and accountability. The state now refused to cooperate because whenever they demanded for information relating to what was happening from the federal, the federal would assert itself and say “I am in charge”. Thus, a conscious decision was taken to actually encourage the state to take ownership of these programs. We had to design a strategy for getting to the poorest of the poor.

Our trained officials now go to those households that have been identified and ask them questions like “how many people are in this household?  How many children? How many go to school?” You put it all down in a device that has a proximity testing formula that ranks everybody that you put on that device, from the poor down to the least poor. It is only those below a dollar a day that we actually pay.

Beyond that information, we ask the community “what is the nature of the access road here?” “How far is the nearest primary and secondary school?” “How far is the nearest primary healthcare center?” “How far is the nearest payment service provider?” All these matter when you want to graduate a community from poverty. There is a community where there is no primary school within 3 km. We showed government all these findings and said that for us to help these communities, we have to build primary schools nearer to them so that they can feel secure about their children walking to school. That is the kind of data we are collating in each state.

Now because it is a process, some states have been faster than others. Some states tell us “we already know who our poor people are” and they send us away. We tell them that we have to do it ourselves. We really need to get to the poorest people. There are many statistics, almost 80 million or thereabout are poor in this country. So you can give me poor people, but that doesn’t mean that they are the poorest. The National Social Register is where we pick people that are under a dollar a day in various communities. Reality is that a lot of these communities are very far from where you can get an ATM, or any bank. Some of them are so poor, that having a phone is a luxury.

What we did now is to work with the mobile money operators who have agents in the field. We pay them and they sign an indemnity with us. They go to those communities and pay them. We have communities as facilitators because we have people we work with that are elected by the communities. The person that receives the money signs off. Anybody that did not turn up, by the next payment, you would refund us the money. We would look and reconcile all the documentation. We were using the banks before but our banks are not interested in handling poor people. They want high network individuals that would pay thousands and millions of dollars. For our poor people, we have to handle them.

We are training the caregivers in basic financial skills and we see very interesting stories coming up. They are doing things like charcoal business, shea butter, weaving, and the rest. We pay them N10,000 every two months.

But your office is popularly known with N-Power instead of other activities? 

This is because N-Power has youths, they have social media, they are graduates that can speak English and can engage within the media. My passion is also with cash transfer because they are poor people and are as important. And journalists don’t go to interview them. I advise that you go to these people and amplify their stories. I tell you they have beautiful stories to tell.

Talking about school feeding, it was designed to boast pupil enrollment into schools. You know we have about 11 million out-of- school children. It was designed also to boast their nutrition. Then go empower our women in the rural communities; as well as boast production for our small holder farmers.

On this, we signed an MOU with the states. We had a stakeholder meeting with the states where they called the Ministry of Agriculture, Women Affairs, Finance, Education, Health to talk about what we intend to do where they designed a menu affordable in each state. We rely on the state to have an open process of selection. We hope they invite the school-based management committee, to invite the PTAs, sit down and do something that the community would feel is helpful. After they select the women, we go and train them on hygiene, allergy and sanitation.  We need the chairpersons if SUBEBs in the states because they know where the schools are located, the number of children to be fed, and so on. We are targeting Primary 1-3 because unfortunately the federal government doesn’t have enough money to cover Primary 4-6. They give us the numbers. We then asked the states to assign to each woman, not more than 150 children and not less than 70 children, because we want quality.  We did that because we want to track who is feeding who and where. So, when the cooks were selected, we also opened account for them because we want to pay them with their BVN. We identified cooperatives in the states where these women will be getting some ingredients such as eggs in bulk and in subsidized price.

There have been challenges. We have had situations where the state officials want to have a piece of the action. They have tried to divert monies and have spoken to the banks that they would do the supply. We have actually gone to SSS and EFCC to try to trace where those monies went because these women are not literate.

N-Power was designed as a Federal Government program to address unemployment of our youth, graduates and non-graduates, to support our artisans and also address the gap in our communities.

We found out that in some states we can have up to 300-400 children with no permanent teacher only if there is a youth corper there but there may be a head teacher. We needed to address that gap so we decided to employ teaching assistants. They can’t be teachers because they haven’t gone through the normal process.

We sat down with the Ministry of Agriculture who sat down with the private sectors in agric to draw up what their needs are. Our youths are not being groomed to be employed by government. It is about them setting up their own business. So if for two years, you are on a program, you will know where your interest lies. Is it in planting, harvesting, or packaging or export? You have been working there for two years so you know where the challenges are.

In the health sector, we sat down with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), and asked them to train them on the modules.

We also have motivational talks on taking charge of your own life, entrepreneurial skills, how to start up your own business, all of it is in that device. Each one of them gets that device.

We then decided to give everybody an open level playing field. When you apply on the portal, you would put in your BVN, your date of birth, your first, second and third name, and your phone Number.

At the end of the exercise, we had applications from over 774 Local governments. Many states didn’t actually believe even though I had briefed the governors on this matter. Very few of them designated business centers for youths to apply for the exercise. We had to use the information we had to do the selection. We decided to take 40 percent of each state application. Those states that were less than 1,000, we added a certain percentage.

On the issue of Abadan (in Borno State), it was first brought to my notice by Senator Kyari, who is in charge of that constituency. I was alarmed when I saw the names. When you open the portal and click on the local government, the first drop down was Abadan Local Government. My presumption then was that a lot of the people just put it in without realizing that they made a mistake. We later removed all of those people after a meeting. We then asked for the people of Abadan and found that only six people who actually lived in Abadan had applied. We now filled up the numbers with those that lived around Abadan so that they would be able to go and teach in the schools there.

When they applied, we then conducted tests for those that were in huge numbers. Those that were selected were about 200,000. We sent them texts informing them that they had been selected. We wanted to ensure that their qualifications were authentic and that they could be deployed to the nearest place that they lived. The state now sent back the deployment lists to us.

You recall that there were protests. Some of those protests were in states that were cosmopolitan. We discovered that states had replaced names, put their own indigenes and had dropped those that had actually received texts from us. For those of you who we sent texts to, we would set up a new verification exercise. I told the state leadership that if they wanted to do an employment intervention for their states, they should use their own money. This is a Federal Government programme. Thus we can’t say that because somebody doesn’t come from your state, he can’t work in your state. This is how we were able to address and start paying backlogs of people who had not been paid because they had been changed by their states. These are just the practical issues behind the N-Power.

The N-Agro is the most commercially viable. We hope to increase the number of the N-Agro this year. We also have the N-Zed, we’ve entered agreement with the automotive council and we’re selecting 20,000 graduates. We did an audit around the country and that was a long process. We would be paying those N10,000 for training in three months and they would now be interns in government or private owned institutions.

We’ve done the audit of all of that and we’ve done the deployment already. We are targeting a primary and secondary school in each senatorial district around the country but we don’t have the funds yet. We have agreed with the CISCO Academy to train them further. We would be putting in computers for the children to be taught programming, coding, animation, graphics and anything to do with ICT. We encourage them to begin to look at those topics while they’re young. For any government school that has more than 20 computers, we would send these trained ICT personnel to them.

You have activities involved so much logistics. How much is your budget?

The first year, we got N500 billion and we were only paid N80 billion. For the 2017 budget, we were given N400 billion and so far we got N55billion. This is why we strive very hard to cut our costs.

Finally, how long would it take you to achieve what you have designed? 

If a state is not ready to give us people that would work with us, we can’t work. If they are not giving us information, we can’t do anything. We have targets and these targets are subject to so many other things. We need the money, unless we have money to accommodate those issues, we can’t accomplish anything.

 

Culled From The Daily Trust Newspapers

FG Clears The Air On Attacks And Killings By Herdsmen In Benue

…says allegations against Buhari unkind, incorrect

Insinuations and allegations that the attacks and killings are happening because President Buhari is Fulani are both unkind and incorrect. These attacks long predated the Buhari government. In 2013, no fewer than nine cases of herdsmen attacks were recorded in Benue State alone, with more than 190 people killed. In 2014, there were no fewer than 16 recorded attacks in Benue, which claimed more than 230 victims. Between January and May 2015, six attacks left more than 300 people dead, again in Benue State alone.

This historical context is important for a proper understanding of the issue, and to avoid unnecessarily politicising what should be regarded and dealt with as acts of criminality. These attacks have been a longstanding issue, and successive governments have struggled to contain the situation.

The Buhari administration is more than fully committed to bringing the cycle of violence to an end, prosecuting the attackers, and preventing further killings and attacks. The security agencies have standing instructions to arrest and prosecute any and all persons found with illegal arms.

Federal interventions
The recent killings in Benue and Taraba States have elicited the following Federal responses:

1. President Buhari has met with the Governor of Benue State on the matter to assure him of the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting farmers and communities.

2. President Buhari has directed the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State.

3. On Monday January 8, 2018, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau convened a security meeting on the issue, bringing together Federal and state government officials: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Heads of security agencies, and the Governors of the most affected States: Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Taraba.

4. On Wednesday January 10, 2018, the IG held a stakeholders engagement with the Benue State government, elders, community, religious and traditional leaders etc

5. Since the first week of January, immediately following the January 1 attacks, the Inspector General of Police has deployed the following to the affected areas:
• Ten (10) Units of PMF
• Police Special Forces
• Counter Terrorism Units
• Conventional Policemen.
• Police Explosive Ordinance Department
• Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams
• Police Aerial Surveillance Teams (Police Helicopters)

6. The Nigerian Army has deployed Special Forces to Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa States.

7. In Benue State, eight (8) suspected herdsmen are in Police custody over the recent killings, and are currently being prosecuted.

8. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working to establish cattle colonies across the country, in 2018. These colonies will provide grass and water for the cattle, and education and healthcare facilities for herders. They will also have Agro-Rangers deployed to secure the facilities.

• Being text of a statement issued on Thursday in Abuja by the Presidency Media Office.

Herdsmen-Farmers Clashes Receiving ‘Highest Level’ Of Attention – FG

 

The Federal Government says the clashes between farmers and herdsmen have become a major national concern which is determined to holistically address.

 

This is according to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who addressed State House correspondents on Wednesday shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting.

 

“The government is very very concern about the herdsmen and farmers clashes and they are receiving attention at the highest level,” he said.

 

Mr Mohammed, who briefed reporters in company of the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, as well as the Minister of Works, Power, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, also defended government’s proposal for the establishment of cattle colonies.

 

He further explained why the Federal Government was yet to consider setting up a full-fledged military operation in the affected parts of Benue State.

 

“As to who to send after what, I think that would be a decision after thorough deliberation of the matter,” the minister said.

 

In a bid to prevent further loss of lives and properties, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday ordered the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to immediately move to Benue State.

 

While in the state, the President asked the police boss to restore law and order in the communities affected by the recent herdsmen attacks and to also prevent the crisis from escalating and spreading to other parts of the state.

 

On his arrival in Benue on Wednesday, Mr Idris promised to arrest those behind the incessant killings in the state.

 

He also assured the state governor, Samuel Ortom, and people of the state that the law would definitely take its course on the culprits.

 

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has also deployed Special Forces to Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states amid tensions of attacks on communities in the states.

 

The deployment of the troops was to restore peace in attacked communities and secure vulnerable communities in the states.

 

 

Agriculture Created Six Million Jobs In Two Years – Ogbeh

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said on Monday that agriculture sector created six million jobs in the in the last two years.

Ogbeh said this while analysing the achievements of his ministry and 2018 targets of the ministry at a strategy retreat in Abuja.

The minister was reacting to reports that over four million jobs had been lost in over two years of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.

He explained that the six million jobs were created both on and off farms as a result of the huge increase in local rice production.

According to him, our agriculture is heavily manual and to be able to reduce rice importation by 95 per cent, at least six million extra jobs have happened in the farm.

“There are about 12.2 million members of the Rice Growers Association; we have created more jobs than we have lost,’’ he said.

The minister said the country earned $31m from the sale of purple hibiscus popularly known as zobo leaves in the last one year and that the demand was still increasing.

“We are exporting more than we are importing now and most exportation is agro-products.

“We are growing in agriculture and from the middle of this year; whoever chooses to eat Thailand rice is welcomed to pay duties.

“We shall impose duties on it because we consider it a wasteful luxury and something this country can’t afford,’’ he said.

Ogbeh said the Federal Government would also engage in establishing both cashew and cocoa plantations to boost production and export in 2018.

He said that plans are underway to make the country leading producers of cashew nuts.

The minister said that fertiliser blending would also be improved to accommodate micronutrients in the product.

Ogbeh said the government would also work to ensure quality control of produce both for export and local consumption.

(NAN)

Nigerian Govt Urged To Implement Economic Recovery Growth Plan

A member of the State of Osun House of Assembly, Mr Babatunde Olatunji, has urged the Federal Government to implement the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to impact the lives of Nigerians in the New Year.

Olatunji who is a member of the All Progressives Congress representing Ife North State Constituency, House Committee Chairman on Commerce, Cooperatives and Youth Empowerment, made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Osogbo on Friday.

According to him, it is cheering news that the nation exited recession in the second quarter of 2017 with growth in the third quarter.

He, however, said that government needed to sustain the continued growth of the economy with positive policies.

Olatunji said that government also needed to renew its focus on economic diversification; growth in the private sector and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises toward full economic recovery and growth in the New Year.

The lawmaker said that the expected economic recovery should be driven largely by continued recovery of oil production and price.

He also suggested availability of foreign exchange for non-oil sector and other critical needs as well as reduction of lending rate, among others.

“With appropriate and coherent fiscal, monetary and trade policies mix, government must intensify efforts in boosting the economy through fiscal stimulus, spending on critical infrastructure, agriculture and solid minerals to catalyse the economy,’’ Olatunji said.

He commended the prevailing projection of national economic growth rate of 2.1 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund and 2.6 per cent by Fitch Rating Agency for the 2018 financial year.

According to him, with the projection, Nigerians are expected to experience an improvement in condition of living as against years 2016 and 2017.

Olatunji said that the Federal Government also needed to ensure that the economy grew very fast above the population growth rate for the citizens to feel the impact of the growth.

“With early passage as well as strict implementation of the 2018 budget, I am optimistic that Nigeria will consolidate on the economic growth of previous years, ‘’ the lawmaker said.

Nigeria To Stop Fuel Importation/Export By 2019 – Adesina

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has said that the country will stop importation and exportation of petroleum products by 2019.

Mr Adesina said that importation and exportation of fuel has a high effect on the lingering fuel crisis because the country does not produce the product locally and the refineries do not work, which makes room for little hitches in the inflow. .

“When you import fuel and do not produce fuel locally or the refineries do not work once in a while fuel scarcity should be expected, as long as you have those variables not under your total control you can’t rule that out.

Mr Adesina made this known while speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, where he explained that the Minister of State For Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachukwu, has drawn a timetable leading to 2019, noting that part of the plan is that Nigeria will stop importing but exporting.

Concerning the unemployment rate in the country which the National Bureau of Statics recently released a data saying that unemployment has increased in the 3rd quarter of 2017, Mr Adesina said that there is an increase agricultural sector especially rice farming, mining and solid minerals.