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.

Obasanjo Denounces Calls For Him To Account For Abacha Loot, Backs Buhari On Foreign Trips

A former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described those calling on him to account for the recovered Abacha loot, as “illiterates and stupid people”.

Obasanjo also faulted those criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent trips overseas, saying Nigeria needs to be in touch with important centres of the world.

Obasanjo, who stated this at the weekend in an interview with Vanguard, said the role of his office was to facilitate the recovery process and not how it was put to use.

“They said the money recovered from Abacha, I should account for it. What stupidity! The man who asked for it, the man who gave the judgement or who answered them are all stupid, with due respect,” he fumed.

“I don’t keep account, all Abacha loots were sent to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and every bit of it was reported to Minister of Finance. My job was to write to where we can get help to recover the money.

“Every penny that comes out of it went to CBN, so if they want to know what happened to the money, they should call CBN governor or call the Minister of Finance.

“But again, it shows ignorance, total ignorance, which is lacking and you wonder, are these people educated? They can also approach the man who helped us in recovering process to give the list of money recovered and where he took it.”

Adding his voice to the fluctuating oil price, Obasanjo said President Buhari was lucky than he was, saying: “When I assumed office in 1999, I inherited $3.7 billion in reserve, while Buhari met $30 billion, almost 10 times of what I met then, and the price of oil then was $9. When it got to $20, I was dancing.

“I know the price is down now and with time, it will jump up again. What Buhari is doing currently is preparing ground for Nigeria to take advantage when it goes up again.”

“He needs to be known and to know people. How do you make friends and influence people except you know them and this cannot happen if he sits in Aso Villa, especially in a situation that we found ourselves, a situation where we have bad image in the world, a situation where we need to play leadership role, especially in Africa, because during Jonathan’s administration, Nigeria was not on the table.”

British Ex-Envoy Says They Knew Location Of Chibok Girls

Both the British and United States (U.S.) governments knew where some of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram members from Chibok but felt powerless to launch a rescue mission, it has been reported.

More than 200 girls have remained missing since 2014 when they were kidnapped by the terrorist group from a boarding school in Chibok while preparing for end-of-year exams.

Although 57 of the 276 girls managed to escape, the rest have not been seen since May 2014, when they appeared in a video reciting verses of the Koran.

But a former British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Andrew Pocock, has said that a large group of the missing girls were spotted but the governments felt any rescue attempt was risky.

He told The Sunday Times: “A couple of months after the kidnapping, fly-bys and an American eye in the sky spotted a group of up to 80 girls in a particular spot in the Sambisa forest, around a very large tree, called locally the Tree of Life, along with evidence of vehicular movement and a large encampment.

“A land-based attack would have been seen coming miles away and the girls killed, an air-based rescue, such as flying in helicopters or Hercules, would have required large numbers and meant a significant risk to the rescuers and even more so to the girls.

“You might have rescued a few but many would have been killed. My personal fear was always about the girls not in that encampment — 80 were there, but 250 were taken, so the bulk were not there. What would have happened to them? You were damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Nigeria’s Booming Population Requires More and Better Jobs

With over 170 million people and a high rate of population growth, Nigeria needs to create 40 to 50 million additional jobs between 2010 and 2030. To reduce poverty and promote more inclusive growth, these jobs need to be more productive and provide higher incomes than the country’s jobs today. Three new World Bank reports focus on this challenging agenda.

The report “More, and More Productive, Jobs for Nigeria” provides a detailed overview of jobs, workers, and employment opportunities, while “Understanding and DrivingPrivate Sector Growth in Nigeria” studies constraints and drivers of firm-level growth and implications for employment.” The third report “Skills for Competitiveness and Employability” examines the demand in priority economic and job growth sectors and how to ensure that Nigerians have the right skills.

Understanding where people work, constraints to firm growth, and the skills needed is fundamental for formulating appropriate policies,” says Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria. “The solid, detailed diagnostics in these reports are critical inputs to developing education and jobs strategies for Nigeria.”

The reports show that “two Nigerias” seem to be emerging: one in which high and diversified growth provides more job and income opportunities, and one in which workers are trapped in traditional subsistence activities. The reports also show a geographic divide, with northern Nigeria having low levels of education access and high youth underemployment than the South. Although skills required in Nigeria remain mostly manual, the South is experiencing more demand for the cognitive skills required by the new knowledge economy.

According to the studies, the majority of adult Nigerians are employed but locked into low-productivity and low-income work, with no job or income security. The studies find that half of working Nigerians are in small-holder farming and another 30 percent working as self-employed in small or micro household enterprises in the non-agricultural sector. Their work is not enough to escape poverty, or attain middle class status for their households.

The reports call for attention to key areas for the country’s education, competitiveness, and jobs agenda. Among the solutions they offer:

First, a transition into more productive employment requires more skills. Nigeria needs to improve basic skills levels. Some 30 percent of youth have not completed more than primary education. Beyond basic skills, better policies and programs would improve access and market relevance of technical vocational education and training. Better job market information and facilitation would strengthen job accreditation and certification and expand opportunities for school-to-work transition. At the same time, informal short programs could help existing workers upgrade skills and become more employable.

Second, the private sector generates employment but firm growth is too small to absorb a large number of Nigerians. About 4 million microenterprises are capable of generating wage jobs, indicating that the informal sector should not be overlooked in development strategies. The formal sector appears to have an even greater potential to grow and generate employment but is limited by low productivity especially in northern Nigeria. The biggest gains to productivity would come from reducing crime, improving access to credit, reducing losses due to power outages, and increasing use of the Internet.

Third, a focus on agriculture is critical, as it will remain the largest employer for the foreseeable future. But there is a disconnect. Agriculture contributed 22 percent to GDP in 2012, but employed half of the working population. Raising agricultural productivity – incorporating small farmers in value chains, increasing access to markets, inputs, and technology would both help raise income opportunities for small holder farmers and simultaneously tap into the significant potential for domestic agriculture and agribusinesses in Nigeria.

Fourth, the reports advocate programs that reduce income volatility over the short term. Safety nets are needed to prevent people from falling into poverty and to protect economic development over the longer term. A coherent framework and institutional set-up for social safety nets is needed.

Finally, efforts to identify appropriate employment policies must be based on reliable data and rigorous analysis. Insufficient and poor quality data is still a constraint in monitoring jobs in Africa’s most populous country.

Buhari Receives Highest Honour In Equatorial Guinea

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday night received in Malabo Equatorial Guinea’s highest national honour, the Grand Collar of the Order of the Independence.

He has dedicated it to the people of Nigeria, who, he said, have worked tirelessly for peace in the country and Africa.

Buhari in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said: “I will like to express profound gratitude for the honour given to me and my people.

“There has never been a time for greater neighbourliness on our continent in the interest of peace, security and economic stability than now,” President Buhari said at the investiture ceremony.

As African countries faced common challenges, he said, they must strive to cooperate more to find workable solutions that will facilitate rapid socio-economic development on the continent.

Buhari pledged that under his leadership, Nigeria will continue to make significant contributions to peace, political stability and progress in Africa.

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea said that the honour was conferred on President Buhari for his “personal integrity, exemplary leadership style and courage to fight terrorism in order to ensure peace and safety in Africa”.

“We deemed it fit and appropriate to honour this son of Africa for the great work he is doing, which includes tackling Boko Haram, a great menace to the continent,” President Mbasogo said.

Buhari Condemns Cote D’Ivoire Terrorist Attack

President Muhammadu Buhari has “unreservedly condemned Sunday’s terrorist attack on the Grand Bassam Resort in Cote D’Ivoire”, his office said Monday.

Al Qaeda’s North African arm on Sunday killed 16 people at resort hotels in the country.

A statement issued by presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said Mr. Buhari conveyed his message in a telephone call to Ivorian president, Alassane Ouattara, after the attack.

“President Buhari conveyed the sympathy of the Federal Government and people of Nigeria to the people of Cote D’Ivoire as they mourn their compatriots and foreign visitors who lost their lives in the attack,” the statement said.

“The president assured his Ivorian counterpart of Nigeria’s full solidarity and support as his country grapples with the consequences of the heinous attack and strives to overcome the new security challenges posed by the terrorist incursion.”

Mr. Buhari says terrorism now transcends all national boundaries, and restated his call for greater international cooperation against terrorists and their sponsors.

“They have attacked a hotel in Mali, leaving 21 people dead. They killed over 130 people in attacks in Paris and they murdered 28 persons in Burkina Faso.

“Terrorism does not respect territorial boundaries again. That is why the world has to come together, present a common front and deal with these merchants of evil,” President Buhari said.

President Ouattara thanked President Buhari for Nigeria’s sympathy and solidarity.

Analysts Explain Slowing Down Of GDP In Q4 2015

Following the dip in gross domestic products, GDP, for fourth quarter Q4, 2015 reported last week by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, analysts have delved into how and why the economy got to the declining year end.

In its analysis last week, researchers at ARM Investments noted that in contrast to Q3 2015, when on-streaming fields helped swing production to 2.17 million barrel per day, mbpd, NBS reports that oil production declined to 2.16mbpd in Q4 2015 which, relative to 2.19mbpd in the corresponding period in 2014, largely accounts for the contraction recorded in the sector.

It stated “we link the negative growth to impact of several disruptions along the Trans Niger, Nembe Creek and Forcados pipelines in Q4 2015. “Furthermore, we note that sustained decline in crude oil prices which has induced industry-wide cutbacks on oil exploratory activity continued to weigh on domestic production”.

“Continued moderation in construction activity, as the impact of dwindling oil prices curtailed the ability of the federal government and state governments to embark on capital projects, was evident in further compression in Building and Construction sector which officially entered into recession since Q3 2015 at -0.11 per cent YoY, and Q4 2015 at -0.4 per cent YoY.

“In a similar vein, Services GDP maintained the downward trajectory over 2015 (Q1: 7.3 per cent YoY, Q2: 4.5 per cent YoY, Q3: 3.8 per cent YoY, Q4: 3.2 per cent YoY) as slowdown heightened across its two key segments, namely, Telecommunications and Real Estate.

“Deceleration in the former (telecommunications) is in line with our views about impact of recent regulatory activism on MTN, which resulted in the disconnection of 5.1 million lines, impacting subscriber growth.

“On the latter (real estate), weakness reflects continued restraint on demand for luxury real estate following the anti-corruption thrust of the Buhari government and bulging oversupply in the office space which pressured rental yields in 2015.

“The foregoing speaks to continued struggles for the oil sector over 2016. On balance of all the factors considered, delayed progress on fiscal plans to stem the slide in GDP growth and fresh headwinds to oil production results in a downward revision to our 2016 mean growth forecasts.

“Incorporating the aforementioned points into our forecasts and adjusting for the loss of one quarter of the planned increase in fiscal spending, with delayed budget passage, leads to a 60 basis points moderation in our 2016 growth estimate to 2.9 per cent YoY”.

China Seeks More Oil From Nigeria

Zao LingXiang, economic and commercial counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, on Sunday said his country seeks more crude oil exports from Nigeria in spite of the recent changes in oil prices.

LingXiang said this in an interview with NAN in Abuja on Sunday.

The total amount of export to China was only about one million barrels in 2015, estimated at about 1.3 per cent of Nigerian annual oil export.

“In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter whether Iran comes back or not; Chinese companies want to import more crude oil from Nigeria,” he said.

He said current trade volume between both countries stood at $14.94 billion in 2014, making Nigeria third largest trade partner of China in Africa.

The economic counsellor added that Nigeria’s trade figure was 8.3 per cent of China’s total trade volume with Africa and 42 per cent of the total trade volume between China and Africa.

He said China also sought to explore other areas of cooperation with Nigeria which he noted would be of benefit to both parties.

“China is the largest developing country in the world and Nigeria is the largest developing country in Africa and both countries have complementary advantages in natural and human resources, funds and markets,” he said.

“Right now, the Nigerian government is trying to diversify its economy which is fully in line with the 10 China-Africa cooperation plans announced at the summit on China-Africa trade in Johannesburg in 2015.

“There are great potential for cooperation between China and Nigeria in the fields of industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure construction, financial services, trade and investment facilitation, among others.”

He added that both countries had made “remarkable achievements” in the areas of infrastructure cooperation.

He said the coming visit of President Muhammad Buhari to China in April would facilitate the implementation of agreements reached at the 2015 China-African summit in Johannesburg.

LingXiang added that the president’s visit would also deepen cooperation between both countries.

He explained that the total investment volume between China and Africa exceeded $100 billion in 2015 in spite of the decline in imports from Africa, saying Africa remained China’s largest trade partner despite recent changes in the country’s economy.

“The amount in import from Africa to China declined but did not decline remarkably,” he said.

“Moreover, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa is not only about trade but technical cooperation as well.

“China’s total investment volume in Africa last year increased by 100 times more in a short span of 10 years, which shows that cooperation between both parties is moving to a new level.”