Political Stability, Key To Defeating Terrorism, Says Osinbajo

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has described political stability in West Africa as a key element in winning the war against the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

He also identified continuity in governance, especially in West Africa, as an important factor if the anti-terrorism war would be successfully prosecuted.

According to a statement on Sunday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, the Vice-President spoke on Saturday in Niamey, Niger Republic, where he represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the inauguration of President Mahamadou Issoufou for a second term in office.

“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has identified continuity in governance and political stability in the West African subregion as important elements in the fight against Boko Haram and insurgency,” the statement read in part.

While harping on continuity in governance in the region, Osinbajo said Issoufou’s re-election was significant for the sub-regional coalition against insurgents and terrorists.

He described Niger as Nigeria’s “important partner, and also an important ally in the war against terrorism,” adding that Nigeriens were Nigerians’ good neighbours.

Osinbajo said Issoufou’s inauguration for second time had great significance in Nigeria.

This, according to him, is because Nigeria understands the Nigerien leader very well.

He said Nigeria had worked with him in the past.

He added, “He (Issoufou) is an old hand and Nigeria has worked well with him as a partner. So, his re-election brings continuity and is good for the fight against Boko Haram and insurgency in general.

“Nigeria holds the Nigerien President in high esteem. He is an old friend of President Buhari, who is abroad attending the nuclear security summit in Washington, USA, which is why he could not attend this event.

“This inauguration is also an opportunity to honour a strong ally and to reinforce all our important diplomatic and military ties.”

Issoufou was quoted as saying after his inauguration that current worries regarding insecurity were global, transcending boundaries.

He restated Niger’s renewed commitment to joining forces with Nigeria and other neighbours to fight insurgency at the sub-regional level.

The Nigerien President explained that defeating Boko Haram had several benefits particularly for economic integration in the region stating that it “will facilitate trade between Niger and Nigeria.”

Nigeria’s SWF Assets Grew By 20% To $1.07bn In 2015

Total assets of Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund grew to 213.67 billion naira ($1.07 billion) in 2015, up by 20 percent compared with the previous year, its managing director said on Friday.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, established the Sovereign Investment Authority (SIA) in 2011 with $1 billion of seed capital in an effort to manage oil export revenues.

President Muhammadu Buhari took office last May and has prioritised cracking down on corruption and mismanagement, particularly in the oil sector, which has deepened an economic crisis exacerbated by falling crude prices.

“Total assets recorded a growth of 20 percent to 213.66 billion naira at year end,” the fund’s managing director, Uche Orji, said in a report issued on Friday.

The total assets were up from 177.84 billion naira ($894.57 million) the previous year. And investment income grew by 47 percent to close at 5.8 billion naira ($29.18 million).

The report said 2015 was a “difficult year” but the SIA had “managed to protect its capital in a harsh and volatile market environment”.

The fund is divided into three parts, a ‘Stabilisation Fund’ to act as a buffer against economic turbulence, an Infrastructure Fund and a Future Generations fund.

In November officials announced that $250 million from liquid natural gas export proceeds would be injected into the wealth fund, reports Reuters.

Orji said this additional capital was received in February 2016 and will be invested within the new fiscal year.

He said it would be invested using the existing deployment ratio of 40 percent in Infrastructure Fund, 40 percent in Future Generations Fund and 20 percent in Stabilisation Fund.

It is the first fresh money since the previous administration injected $1 billion in 2014.

We’ll Move Nigeria Forward Quickly – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday in Washington DC assured Nigerians in the Diaspora of his administration’s determination to move the country forward as quickly as possible.

Speaking at an audience with a group of Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in various professions in the United States, Buhari said his administration was fully committed to correcting the errors that had hindered Nigeria’s progress as a nation.
“We are working diligently to correct our mistakes as a nation. We will rehabilitate and expand national infrastructure, and move forward as quickly as possible,” the President said, adding, “We are determined to get things done properly this time and God willing, we shall succeed.

Buhari also said his administration would maintain contacts with Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora and see how they could be best placed to contribute effectively to national development if they chose to come back home.
The president congratulated the five Nigerians he met with for their exceptional accomplishments, saying that he was very proud of them all.

The Nigerians received by President Buhari included Prof. Austin Esogbue, the only African to have served on the board of the United States’ National Aeronautical Space Agency; Jelani Aliyu, a leading car designer with General Motors; Prof. Nwadiuto Esiobu, a renowned Microbiologist and Biochemist; Dr. Yemi Badero, an Assistant Professor of Medicine; and 13-year old Muriel Oduwole, who had interviewed 18 world leaders.

In another development, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mr. Lars Rasmussen, has said investors from his country were interested in investing in the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
Rasmussen, who spoke at a bilateral meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington D.C., on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, however said the Federal Government must put the right policies and conditions in place.
“We are quite experienced in agriculture. It is an area in which we can cooperate. If you pave the way and remove the obstacles, we will like to come in,” the Prime Minister told Buhari.

Rasmussen’s response followed an invitation by Buhari to him for investors in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors of the Nigerian economy.
Earlier, Buhari had reiterated the determination of his administration to significantly reduce the very high bill for importation of food products to Nigeria.

The president also reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to the rapid diversification of Nigeria’s economy.
“We developed a mono-product economy and lost opportunities to diversify in the past.
“We have great potentials for agriculture and solid minerals. We are now determined to exploit them to the fullest. Addressing the past neglect of these two sectors will help to reduce unemployment and make us a more productive country.
“We will welcome more investment in our agriculture and solid minerals sectors from countries with expertise in the two sectors. We abandoned them for petroleum. Now, we have to go back.

“Our bill for the importation of food and dairy products is very high. We want to cut it as much as possible by developing our local potentials,” the president told Rasmussen.
Buhari assured the Danish Prime Minister that the Federal Government would continue to work in partnership with other countries to further improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The president said his administration was determined to stop the huge loss of revenue from crude oil theft and has received assurances of international support to curb illegal shipments of Nigeria’s crude oil.
Remarking that his country was a major shipping nation, Rasmussen thanked Buhari for Nigeria’s current efforts to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea.

He assured the President that Danes would be very interested in investing in the development of Nigeria’s agricultural sector if the right policies and conditions were put in place.

IMF Slashes Nigeria’s Growth Projection Again Amid Oil Slump

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday that it has again cut its growth forecast for Nigeria as the oil exporter faces “substantial challenges” from low crude prices.

In its annual review of Nigeria’s economic situation, the IMF said that gross domestic product growth would slow to 2.3 percent in 2016 from an estimated 2.7 percent in 2015. In February, after IMF officials visited the country, the Fund had forecast 3.2 percent growth for Nigeria in 2016.

“Key risks to the outlook include lower oil prices, shortfalls in non-oil revenues, a further deterioration in finances of state and local Governments, deepening disruptions in private sector activity due to constraints on access to foreign exchange, and resurgence in security concerns,” the IMF said in a statement.

It added that Nigeria’s general government deficit would grow further after doubling to 3.7 percent of GDP in 2015.

US To Invest $600m In Nigeria In 2016 – Kerry

The United States will invest more than $600 million in Nigeria this year, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday in Washington.

He spoke during the opening session of the U.S.- Nigeria Bi-National Commission meeting.

The Nigerian delegation was led by Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyema, supported by other officials including Nigerian Charge d’Affaires Hakeem Balogun.

Those with Kerry include leaders from the State Department, USAID, the Defence Department, Commerce Department, and other key agencies. The U.S. Ambassador James Entwistle also attended.

Kerry, who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s actions in office in the area of security and the attaempt to diversify the economy, said:”Our development assistance this year will top $600 million, and we are working closely with your leaders – the leaders of your health ministry – to halt the misery that is spread by HIV/AIDS, by malaria, and by TB.

“Our Power Africa Initiative is aimed at strengthening the energy sector, where shortage in electricity has frustrated the population and impeded growth.

“And our long-term food security programme, Feed the Future, is helping to create more efficient agriculture and to raise rural incomes in doing that.

“Our Young African Leaders Programme, in which many Nigerians participate, is preparing the next generation to take the reins of responsibility….and in education, we are working together to try to fight illiteracy, especially in the country’s north, where the lack of opportunity has been holding people back, and where the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, has murdered thousands and disrupted the lives of millions.”

Kerry condemned the Bokoharam activities, promising U.S. support to finish off the sect and end its terrorist activities.

On investment, he recalled that the U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker “has been among the first senior U.S. officials who have been to Nigeria recently. In her case, it was to highlight investment opportunities and that is a theme that has been reinforced by yesterday’s business forum here in Washington.”

On Boko Haram, Kerry said: “Under President Buhari, Nigeria has been taking the fight to Boko Haram and it has reduced Boko Haram’s capacity to launch full-scale attacks.

“However, the group still remains a threat – a serious threat – to the entire region.

“And in recent months, our governments have been collaborating on new ways to institute security measures, including counter-IED equipment, improved information sharing, and training and equipping two infantry battalions.

“Now, I want to be clear, this aid is predicated on the understanding that, even when countering a group as ruthless as Boko Haram, security forces have a duty to set the standard with respect to human rights. One abuse does not excuse another.

Onyema expressed optimism on a successful outcome as the meeting went into a closed session.

US To Engage FG On Foreign Exchange Flexibility

The United States (U.S) has said it would this week, engage the Federal Government in talks to adopt a more flexible foreign exchange (forex) rate to boost growth and investment.

Its Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace that Nigeria should ensure that the value of the naira versus the U.S. dollar was “more realistic.”

“While most people complain about the possibility of a devaluation, people are already operating on a devalued currency, and the only people who are not, are people who are doing it officially.

“Our recommendation is, and we will have discussions about it … that they should look at the exchange rate and try to make the exchange rate more realistic to what the value of the naira is to the dollar,”Thomas-Greenfield was quoted to have said by Reuters.

She spoke before the talks to be launched in Washington by Secretary of State John Kerry today. The talks will focus on Nigeria’s economy, security and development.

Nigeria faces its worst economic crisis in decades as the falling prices of oil has slashed revenues, prompting the Central Bank of NIgeria (CBN) to peg the currency and introduce curbs to protect forex reserves, which have fallen to an 11-year low.

Some members of CBN bank monetary policy committee have backed the devaluation of the naira.

Thomas-Greenfield said the parallel currency market in Nigeria was “alive and well,” warning that a rigid exchange rate, capital controls and import bans could undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to expand economic growth and fight corruption. Buhari has rejected the idea of devaluing the naira.

“Capital controls that limit access to foreign exchange rewards insiders and undermines the stated goals of Nigeria to increase domestic production because both Nigerian and export investors alike tell us many businesses are unable to obtain the capital to purchase badly needed intermediate goods,” she said.

The naira trades some 40 per cent below the official rate in the black market versus the dollar. The CBN last year pegged the exchange rate to curb speculative demand for the dollar and conserve foreign exchange reserves after it restricted access to hard currency for imports of certain items, frustrating businesses.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on the Federal Government to lift the curbs and let the naira reflect market forces more closely, as the restrictions have significantly affected the private sector.

Nigeria To Become West Africa’s Internet Transmission Hub

Indications emerged yesterday that Nigeria could well become West Africa’s Internet transmission hub.

This is because the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), the country’s Internet gateway, has achieved a major milestone by its elevation to the status of the West African regional Internet Exchange Point.

Confirming this development yesterday, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of IXPN, Muhammed Rudman, disclosed that the huge stride was made by successfully vying in the Africa Union Commission (AUC)’s African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project for a Regional Internet Exchange Point (RIXP) for West Africa.

Already, Rudman, who is very optimistic about the huge revenue generation that would accrue to Nigeria immediately other service providers in the region are connected to the country’s exchange point, disclosed that currently the IXP saves Nigerian telecom operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) about $1 million monthly because they now route traffic locally instead of hosting them abroad.

The country currently has three IXPs, situated in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

It was learnt that while there are plans by the Federal Government to commission two new ones in Kano and Enugu soon, the established ones cost as much as N35 million each.

A reliable source in the industry said that prior to now, some ISPs in the country still depended on Internet hubs located outside the country, in places like the United States (U.S), Israel and some parts of Europe.

According to him, this meant that Internet traffic from Nigeria went directly to the foreign hubs thereby causing serious capital flight in the form of transit charges paid to foreign ISPs by some of their Nigerian counterparts.

But according to Rudman, that has changed as more operators including Google, now route traffic locally in Nigeria.

He explained that before now, ISPs paid as much as $4000 per megabyte to foreign hubs to route Internet traffic, “but because they have now found the IXPN more reliable and dependable, they route traffic within and pay an average of $100 per megabyte.

This has equally come because of the new telecoms infrastructure in the country, including the submarine cable systems and data centres that are now domiciled in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, until the recent development, the IXPN, a core network infrastructure provider company that allows several ISPs, telecommunications companies, carriers, and content providers, to exchange traffic among their networks locally, was primarily focused on localising Internet traffic in Nigeria by interconnecting Nigerian networks.

Nigerian Astronaut To Be In Space By 2030 – Onu

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, on Thursday in Abuja, said a Nigerian astronaut would land in space on or before 2030.

Mr. Onu made the pledge when the management team of the Defence Space Agency, led by the Director-General, Victor Udoh, an Air Vice Marshal, visited him.

The minister said the Federal Government was putting all the structures on ground to ensure that Nigerian astronauts landed in space on or before 2030.

“The space programme is very important for a country like Nigeria.

“The ministry will work very hard in the years ahead to strengthen all the structures of the agencies that will help us to ensure that the nation plays a role in the space,” he said.

He said the ministry would intensify efforts to ensure that all the arrangements needed were provided.

According to him, the space “is a major asset which nations like Nigeria must also be involved in for the purposes of protecting national interest”.

Mr. Onu assured the team that the ministry would support and work with the agency in the best interest of the nation.

Earlier, the Director-General said the agency would like to collaborate with the ministry in order to be more efficient and effective.

He said working with the ministry would fast-track accomplishments of the agency’s stated objectives. (NAN)

Buhari Condemns Brussels Attack, Calls For International Cooperation Against Terrorism

President Muhammadu Buhari has joined leaders across Europe and the rest of the world to condemn the atrocious terrorist attacks on the Zaventem Airport and Maalbeek Metro Station in Brussels earlier today.

In a statement issued by Femi Adesina,Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), the President commiserates with Prime Minister Charles Michel and Belgians over the loss of over 30 lives in the attacks.

He assured Prime Minister Michel and the people of Belgium that having suffered the horror and anguish of incessant terrorist attacks over several years, Nigeria stands in full solidarity with them on this day of national pain and trauma.

The statement said President Buhari believes that the appalling attack on Brussels reinforces the need for greater international cooperation to effectively confront and destroy global terrorism and its perpetrators.

He assured the global community that under his leadership, Nigeria will continue to work with other countries of the world to ensure that terrorism never triumph over free, peaceful and law-abiding nations and people of the world.

He consequently wished the more than 100 persons injured in the attacks a speedy recovery.

AGF, EFCC Chair Jet To Dubai To Complete Repatriation Of Stolen Loot

All seems set for the repatriation of loot stashed away by some former governors, ex-ministers and other public officers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it was learnt yesterday.

Some mansions belonging to some former Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and their cronies or fronts may also be seized, a source said.

Under the searchlight for stashing away cash or acquiring properties in the UAE are seven former governors, six former ministers, a fleeing presidential aide implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals, ex-military chiefs under probe, agents / fronts of some of these public officers and five chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).

A Federal Government team, comprising the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu and crack detectives from the anti-graft agency, yesterday started comparing collated intelligence notes on the PEPs with their UAE counterparts.

The EFCC officials arrived in Dubai on Saturday. The Minister left Abuja yesterday to join the team.

It was learnt that the AGF had barely returned from an official assignment when an urgent travel arrangement was made for him.

The delegation went to UAE in line with an agreement with the Federal Government.

President Muhammadu Buhari in January signed a “Judicial Agreement on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters, which includes the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth”.

Seven former governors, six former ministers and a fleeing Presidential aide implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals, ex-military chiefs under probe, agents / fronts of some of these public officers and about five chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) have either stashed away funds in Dubai or acquired properties.

A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The Federal Government team has met with those from the UAE on intelligence sharing, the list of those on EFCC radar, the number of highly-placed Nigerians with fat accounts in UAE and those with choice properties in Marina (Dubai), Bur Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

”Some of the former governors include one from the South-South, two from Northcentral, two from the Northeast, one from the Northwest, and one from the Southwest.

“A former-governor had made botched attempts to transfer about $517million loot to Dominican Republic because UAE law is now strict.

“More than six ex-ministers and a former presidential aide, who is on the run over the $2.1billion arms deals, were said to have acquired choice mansions and malls in UAE. One of the former ministers, who was alleged to own two houses in Dubai, was said to have served as a front for a former First Lady.

“Another ex-minister had bought some malls through a few cronies in Dubai. The list of such agents is being screened.

“Certainly, the anti-graft agency has tightened the noose on these former public officers and there is no hiding place for them.

“The success of the collaboration between the Federal Government team and the UAE Government will determine when EFCC will release the concessions on some of these PEPs. Very soon, we will unveil these ex-political office holders.”

According to sources, the government delegation discovered that many highly-placed Nigerians, including a few ex-governors and money laundering fronts, have fled from Dubai to Singapore, Casablanca in Morocco, Dominican Republic and some islands in the UK and in the Caribbean.

Another source said: “From the trip so far, many big Nigerians have already ran away from Dubai to escape being arrested by the UAE authorities.”

“Some of the ex-governors have also avoided visiting UAE until the coast is clear. They do not want to experience the same fate like ex-Governor James Ibori.

“The frequency at which highly-placed Nigerians fly to Dubai for parties has considerably reduced because they are under watch by the UAE authorities.

A source in the government last night said: “Yes, the AGF and the EFCC chairman with some top officials of the anti-graft agency are in Dubai for a follow-up technical session on the Mutual Legal Assistance between Nigeria and the UAE.

“I can confirm the official trip and it is meant to recover looted funds.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, said over $200 billion had been hidden in UAE.

He said: “Over $200 billion is stashed away from Nigeria in Dubai alone. This may be monies stolen in the past 20 years. I am not talking about estates and bonds and other securities bought with Nigeria stolen money.”

The anti-money laundering policy of UAE Central Bank reads in part: “Any person who commits, or attempts to commit, a Money Laundering offence shall be punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years and or a fine of between AED 100,000 and AED 500,000.

”In cases of multiple perpetrators, the Court, subject to its discretion, may exempt a perpetrator from the imprisonment penalty if he takes the initiative and reports the crime to the competent authorities prior to the knowledge of such authorities and if his actions lead to the arrest of the other perpetrators or seizure of the laundered money.

”Any establishment that commits an offence of money laundering, financing of terrorism or financing of any unlawful organisations, shall be punished by a fine of AED 300,000 and AED 1,000,000.

”Failure to report a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment and /or a fine of between AED 50,000 and AED 300,000.

”Tipping off a person being investigated regarding a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/ or a fine of between AED10,000 and AED 100,000.

”Violation of the requirements of Airport Declarations shall be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine.”

The Nation

Buhari Congratulates Benin’s President-Elect

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the President-elect of Benin Republic, Mr Patrice Talon, on his electoral victory in the presidential run-off on Sunday, March 20, 2015, as announced by the Autonomous National Electoral Commission.

Buhari, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, also commended the government and people of Benin Republic for the peaceful and orderly conduct of the presidential elections.

He saluted the courage and statesmanship of Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou and presidential candidate of the ruling coalition, in upholding the democratic process by promptly congratulating his main challenger, Talon, on his electoral victory.

The president also commendd President Boni Yayi for his leadership throughout the electoral process and for his invaluable contribution to democratic governance in the sub-region, evidently demonstrated in the successful conduct of the presidential elections.

Buhari said he was encouraged by the determination and exemplary conduct demonstrated by Beninese in coming out en masse to perform their civic duties.

He said he believed that the successful conclusion of the electoral process marked an important step in consolidating democracy in the sub-region and a beacon for other African countries to emulate.