Lai Mohammed leads FG’s delegation to Garden City for AMAA

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Garden City of Port Harcourt will come alive on Saturday 11th June, as Governor Nyesom Wike and the good people of the oil-rich Rivers State play host to celebrities, high society personalities, business leaders, film makers and allied professionals from Africa and around the world.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed will lead the Federal Government delegation to the most prestigious and respected Pan-African awards designed to celebrate and recognise practitioners in the motion picture industry.

The 2016 African Movie Academy Awards will have Ghana Musician, Jon Germain, Nollywood A-rated Actor, Mike Ezeuronye and very popular South African Radio Personality, Kgopedi Lioane as the show hosts for the awards night which will take place at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre. In a statement signed by the Director of Administration of the organization, Mr. Tony Anih the 2016 awards event will be the 12th consecutive edition and the 11th time it will hold in Nigeria having been hosted in 2015 by the City of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“It is a great development in the evolution of AMAA that we are back home this year having made the first voyage outside Nigeria last year to South Africa. We are indeed grateful to His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike, the government and good people of Rivers State for accepting to host us this year. We are set to forge a good relationship with the state, going forward. Rivers State is a very strong brand and partnering with AMAA, an equally strong continental awards brand will provide a win-win for the state and the work we do to promote Africa to the rest of the world through our films,” said Mr. Anih.

We have great hopes for Abia’s economy- Ikpeazu

We have great hopes for Abia’s economy- Ikpeazu

In the face of the continuous slide in the federal allocation that is affecting all the states in the federation, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has given assurances that the state would soon become economically prosperous such that the dwindling federal allocation would not have adverse impact on its operations.

He said the state has worked seriously in the last one year to develop the key enablers that would form the mainstay while the federal allocation would come as an additional support.

Speaking to the media in Lagos on the one year scorecard of his principal, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Godwin Adindu, said to achieve the goal, Ikpeazu has emphasised on the areas where the state has comparative advantage such as agriculture, commerce and trade, craftsmanship and human capital development.

Adindu said the governor has deployed prudence and judicious management skills to achieve so much in the first one year, particularly in the area of infrastructural development. “This has taken a greater share of the governor’s attention in the last one year and this is happening at a time when our federal allocation has come down from about N4 billion to N1.8 billion, while our wage bill is about N3 billion,” he added.

Adindu further disclosed that the strategy of the Ikpeazu-led government has been to create the enabling environment and then develop the sectors that would boost and sustain the Abia economy such that very soon Abia would no more be completely dependent on the cheque from Abuja.

He said the governor has embarked on some strategic development programmes with his eyes set in the distant future. These included the Obiaku City Port in Ukwa East, which was initiated to link Aba to the sea and provide a great boost to Aba as the commercial hub of the southeast, as well as the market development  programme aimed at revamping the markets as strong Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) base for the state.

“One strategy was to separate the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Now we have the Ministry of Commerce as well as Ministry of Trade and Investment, with the latter focusing on market development and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises,” the CSP explained.

On road construction, Adindu said that the state government has actively constructed 66 roads across the three geopolitical zones of the state with 27 fully commissioned, adding that Governor Ikpeazu had to deploy the high cost-intensive  cement/rigid technology on five roads in Aba to sustain their load bearing capacity and maintain quality.

Nigeria deploys genetically modified cotton, maize; safety concern persist

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The National Biosafety Management Agency has issued two permits for the Commercial Release and Placing on Market of genetically modified cotton, and the confined field trial of maize, to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited.

This move came despite concerted efforts of many Nigerians (comprising 100 groups of farmers, faith-based organizations, civil society groups, students and local farmers) to prevent the introduction of genetically modified (GM) cotton and maize into Nigeria’s foods and farming system.

Ibrahim Jibril, the Minister of State for Environment, had also promised that “Nigeria would not mortgage the safety of its citizens by introducing unproven products into the country”.

The two permits are: “Permit for Commercial release/ Placing on Market of Cotton (MON15985) genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest resistance’ with Permit No: NBMA/CM/IM/001 and ‘Permit for Confined Field Trial (CFT) of maize (NK603 and MON 89034 x NK603) genetically modified for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance’ with Permit No: NBMA/C FT/001.

They were signed by NBMA’s Director-General, Rufus Ebegba, on May 1.

Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, described the development as “extremely shocking”.

“This is little wonder officials of NBMA, National Biotech Development Agency (NABDA) and their pro GMO train have been fighting tooth and nail to fool Nigerians by claiming that GMOs are safe,” said Mr. Bassey, whose group is among those at the front line of the resistance.

“They approved the poorly concocted applications and issued these permits on a Sunday when government offices do not open. In fact, 2nd May was also a public holiday.”

According to Mariann Orovwuje, Food Sovereignty Campaigner, several main areas of concern had been identified regarding objections to the release (and placement in the market) of GM Cotton and confined field trial of Maize in Nigeria.

“There are serious concerns and they include amongst many: health concerns, environmental concerns, socio-economic concerns, technical and administrative concerns, molecular concerns, safety assessments, environment risk assessment, secondary pests and insect resistance and many more concerns have been extensively laid out in our submissions to NBMA objecting to Monsanto’s applications.”

In the objection to Monsanto’s applications, the concerned Nigerians stated in its application MON 15985, that Monsanto was using genes referred to as cry2Ab2 and cry1Ac, which produce Bt toxins that have been synthetically manufactured with no history of safe use in nature.

The insertion of the antibiotic resistant marker gene (ARMG) causes concerns regarding the potential transfer of antibiotic resistance to other living organisms, according to the groups.

This concern, which was dismissed by the applicant, had been raised by a scientific panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stating that this particular ARMG should be restricted to field trial purposes and should not be present in GM plants to be placed on the market – unfortunately this is what NBMA has released into the Nigerian market.

The groups also complained that there is no baseline data regarding the quantity, spread and use of cottonseed meal/cakes/oil used for human or animal consumption in Nigeria, and therefore no foundation for the assessment of food and feed safety.

Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, a consumer, said NBMA’s decisions were “grossly faulty”.

“The claim of the agency is shocking when it claims that in arriving ‘at this decision the National Biosafety Management Agency took into consideration the advice of National Biosafety Committee National Biosafety Technical Sub-committee and public views… The Agency was convinced that there are no known adverse impacts to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity taking into account risk to human health.’

“The agencies they consulted are in the business of promoting these toxic and risky GMOs in Nigeria. We do not also know which public NBMA consulted.”

The NBMA Act of 2015 is defective, according to Mr. Bassey, because its governing board is filled with GMO promoters such as NABDA and the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria.

“Those GMO promoters are concerned with ensuring the profit of biotech entrepreneurs rather than the health and environmental concerns of Nigerians,” he said.

“A case in point is that NABDA, a member of the Board of NBMA, is a co-sponsor with Monsanto of the application for the field trials of the GMO maize.

“We are also appalled that an agency saddled with defending Nigeria’s biodiversity is actively promoting these risky technologies.”

NBMA approved Monsanto’s proposal for Bt cotton when the cabinet of nearby Burkina Faso was announcing, on April 14, their goal to reduce the acreage for genetically modified cotton this season until it’s completely phased out in 2018 and replaced by conventional cotton.

The decision was reached amidst concerns that GMO cotton yielded shorter fibres, resulting in economic loses.

NBMA approved the glysophate herbicide resistant maize despite the International Agency for Research on Cancer report that linked the active ingredient glyphosate to cancer.

“It is no surprise that nations like Sri Lanka, amongst others, heeded and took action by banning Monsanto’s round up herbicide because of its link to Kidney disease,” Mr. Bassey said.

“That NBMA is considering giving us this ‘trojan horse’ gift is indeed unfortunate knowing the low level of use of protective gears by our rural farmers and communities living close to farms.

“References used in support of claims made by Monsanto are too old and none referred to the two GM maize events specifically but are general references for normal maize research.

“This may be due to the lack of thorough scientific peer-reviewed research carried out in support of the claims made in the application, or is a deliberate effort at hiding information. We note that no details of feeding studies whatsoever were provided by the applicant.”

The case against Monsanto

On May 26, 2016, a St. Louis jury ordered Monsanto to pay $46.5million in damages for negligence in the production of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

This case, which went on trial April 28 2016, involved three of nearly 100 plaintiffs claiming that “exposure to PCBs caused cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

While a number of plaintiffs had died as a result of the cancers they developed from the toxic PCBs, their claims were made by surviving relatives.

The suit claims that Monsanto knew about the dangers of PCBs decades ago, but gave false testimony and scientific information to the public saying it was safe.

Further damaging evidences pile up against indicted Monsanto: A trial in Redlands, California in May 2016 on the dangers of Monsanto’s Roundup reveals that “it is not only glyphosate that is dangerous, but also chemicals listed as inert ingredients.”

A high court in Paris had punished a high ranking official representing Monsanto’s interests for deceitfully covering up research data proving that Monsanto was hiding toxicity of its own corn.

The information showed that it could promote neuro-developmental disabilities including autism, attention-deficit, disorder, dyslexia and other cognitive impairments affecting millions of children worldwide and seem to be increasing in frequency.

“It is a mark of utter recklessness that NBMA would rush to issue approvals for GMOs to be released in Nigeria less than a year of the NBMA Act coming into force,” said Mr. Bassey.

“We demand that the permits surreptitiously issued to Monsanto on a platter of gold without regard to the concerns of millions of Nigerians should be revoked immediately.

“We also urge that the recently enacted National Biosafety Agency Management Act should be quickly repealed to prevent NBMA from running amok with GMOs and flooding our country with these risky organisms.”

Nigeria’s falling oil production drags down total OPEC supply

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Rebel attacks on oil installations cut Nigeria’s production by 10 percent in May, contributing to a drop in monthly output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a BloombergNews survey showed.

Nigerian production declined by 160,000 barrels a day to 1.45 million, according to the survey. OPEC’s total crude output fell to 32.71 million barrels a day last month, from a revised 32.83 million in April.

Nigeria’s production has fallen to the lowest in almost three decades, helping to drive an 80 percent rally in oil prices since they touched a 12-year low in January. Brent, the global benchmark, is trading near $52 a barrel, the highest since October.

Nigeria earns N1.05trn from oil, gas export in 3 months

Nigeria earned N1.052 trillion from the export of crude oil, gas and other petroleum products in three months, between January and March 2016, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. NBS, in its Foreign Trade Statistics for the First Quarter of 2016, disclosed that crude oil and gas accounted for 82.9 per cent of the country’s total export for the period under review, put at N1.27 trillion.

Particularly, the NBS report stated that the structure of Nigeria’s export trade was still dominated by crude oil exports, with the contribution of crude oil to the value of total domestic export trade amounting to N821.9 billion or 64.7 per cent. According to the report, exports by section revealed that the highest export product for Nigeria in first quarter 2016 was mineral products, which accounted for N1.054 trillion or 83 per cent of total exports. It said, “Other products that contributed the most to Nigeria’s exports include vehicles, aircraft and parts thereof; vessels etc; and prepared foodstuffs; beverages, spirits and vinegar; tobacco, whose values stood at N72.7 billion or 5.7 per cent;, and ¦ 63.6 billion or 5.0 per cent respectively, of the total exports from Nigeria for the quarter.

Analysis of the country’s petroleum products export showed that Nigeria earned N821.871 billion from the export of crude oil, petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals in the period under review, while liquefied natural gas export fetched the country N191.212 billion. Additionally, the country earned N12.494 billion from the export of other petroleum gases; N9.774 billion from the export of Liquefied petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons; N8.319 billion from liquefied propane and N7.977 billion from the export of liquefied butanes.

The report pointed out that India, United States and Spain were Nigeria’s highest export destination, accounting for N192.4 billion, N161.91 billion and N127.89 billion of Nigeria’s export respectively. Netherlands, France, South Africa, Brazil, China, Italy and Japan followed accounting for N88.85 billion, N81.409 billion, N73.64 billion, N57.559 billion, N43.789 billion, N40.82 billion and N34.864 billion respectively of Nigeria total exports. India, according to the report, emerged the highest buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil, as it spent N164.98 billion on the country’s crude oil, while the United States followed the purchase of Nigeria’s crude oil worth N134.969 billion. Nigeria’s crude oil export to Spain, South Africa, France and Brazil stood at N86.98 billion, N73.12 billion, N52.14 billion and N51.167 billion respectively, while crude oil export to the Netherlands, Italy and China stood at N24.176 billion, N19.49 billion and N17.563 billion respectively.

Continuing, NBS said, “The total value of Nigeria’s merchandise trade at the end of first quarter 2016 stood at N2.724 trillion. From the preceding quarter value of N3.517 trillion, this was N793.5 billion or 22.6 per cent less. This development arose due to a sharp decline in both imports and exports. “Exports saw a decline of N671.1 billion or 34.6 per cent, while imports declined by N122.4 billion or 7.8 per cent. The steep decline in exports brought the country’s trade balance down to -N184.1 billion or 548.7bilIion less than in the preceding quarter.

The crude oil component of total trade decreased by N716.7 billion or 46.6 per cent against the level recorded in fourth quarter 2015. “The value of the export trade, totaled ¦ 1.269 trillion in Q1, 2016 showing a decrease of N671.1 billion or 34.6 per cent, over the value recorded in the preceding quarter. Year-on-Year analysis shows that the country’s exports dropped by N1.395 trillion or 52.3 per cent against the export value recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2015.”

New modular refineries won’t come onstream for at least 24 months – DPR

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The quest for the end of petroleum scarcity in the country may not come soon, as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said the process to get modular refineries on stream takes up to two years to be completed, Vanguard reports.

The Deputy Director, Engineering and Standards Division, DPR, Dr. Olumide Aladeke, said in an interview, “The big question is not how long Nigerians should wait, but how soon can these licensees get the refineries on stream.  “It is after the refineries are on ground that we can begin to talk about how to flood the market with internally produced petroleum products”.

“And so, it is pretty too early for us to start talking of when they will start production.  Anyone of these licensees that will be so fast, will need a minimum of 24 months to put anything on ground; that is assuming the money is available, because there are several stages of construction.”

“However, we are looking forward to proffer solutions and ideas by organizing a forum where potential financiers can come in to see whether there can be a synergy that can make the system work. I know there was one that came up in March in Lagos, which was organised by Financial Bridge” he added.

Avengers ‘blow up’ new Chevron well

NIGER Delta Avengers, NDA, today, said it would not negotiate with the Federal Government. The militant group, which blew up a crude oil pipeline belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, in the early hours today, tweeted:

THE AVENGERS
THE AVENGERS

“This is to inform the general public that we are not negotiating with any Committee. If Federal Government is discussing with any group they’re doing that on their own” It said on its twitter handle: “At 1:00am today, the @NDAvengers blow up Well RMP 20 belonging to Chevron located 20 meters away from Dibi flow Station in Warri North local government area.”

A source told us that the affected crude oil pipeline is between Opia and Dagbolo villages in Warri North. The attack is in spite of the declaration of a two-week ceasefire 48 hours earlier by the Federal Government to create a window for dialogue with militants. Confirming the attack, a security source said: “Yes, there was an attack this morning by militants on a Chevron facility.” “The pipeline had earlier been attacked by militants using the same modus operandi which is with the use of dynamite.

“The attack was carried out at about 3am this morning,” he added. According to the staff of Chevron Nig. Ltd. who spoke on condition of anonymity, the company would draft a team of technicians to the spot to assess the extent of damage.

Acting President, Prof Professor Yemi Osinbajo; governors of oil producing states; service chiefs; Minister of Defence, Dan Ali; Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Programme, Gen. Paul Boroh, among others, met, Tuesday in Abuja and resolved on a stand-down of military action in the zone.

Governors in attendance at the meeting included Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia). The Service chiefs were Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, and Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas.

FG Threatens to Revoke Licences of Banks for Disobeying ‘no Sack’ Order

FG Threatens to Revoke Licences of Banks for Disobeying 'no Sack' Order

The federal government has threatened to sanction banks and telecommunication companies, which fail to comply with its order to suspend retrenchment.

Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, gave the warning on Tuesday at the 105th session of the International Labour Congress (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The minister expressed shock that the directive was disregarded.

“The federal government gave the licences to the banks to operate and if its directives are not adhered to the licences will be withdrawn if the need arises,” he said.

“We will go a step further if they continue. We know what to do. They need to comply. They need to come to the negotiation table. We halted the spate of sack in the oil industry and we succeeded.

“Even if you are going to lay off, there is a way to declare redundancy, there is a process. Section 20 of the labour act says it. You must call the unions and discuss with them. You don’t just treat them as slaves in their own country and you want us to keep quiet.

“We want them to maintain the status quo. As far as I am the minister of labour, I will protect the interest of workers; same to the telecommunication companies, they are also talking about compiling lists without discussing with anybody.”

Ngige’s statement comes after Skye Bank laid off 175 staff. The bank took the action on Monday, which happened to be the next working day after the directive by the minister.

Eco Bank also sacked over 1,000 staff last week.

The current economic situation in the country has led to massive job loss.

Oil hits 2016 high on U.S. draw forecasts, Nigeria woes

Fuel prices are displayed at a Kazakh state-owned oil and gas company KazMunayGas gas station in Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Oil prices jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday, hitting 2016 highs, with U.S. crude settling above $50 a barrel the first time in almost a year, on expectations of domestic stockpile draws and worries about global supply shortfalls from attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry.

U.S. crude stockpiles likely fell by 2.7 million barrels last week to mark a third straight week of declines, an updated Reuters poll showed. [EIA/S]

A report by trade group American Petroleum Institute (API), released after prices settled, showed a higher-than-expected crude draw of 3.6 million barrels.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will issue official inventory numbers on Wednesday.

Crude oil rallied in the past two sessions after rebels in Nigeria’s Niger Delta vowed to halt output in the country, Africa’s biggest producer until last year. The Nigerian government said it was initiating talks with the rebels.

“The market remains concerned about unscheduled supply interruptions with the latest coming from additional shut-ins in Nigeria,” said Dominick Chirichella, senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in New York.

“With the industry projecting a decline in total U.S. crude oil stocks in this week’s reports, the market bears are remaining on the sidelines.”

U.S. crude’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 settled up 67 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $50.36 a barrel. It was WTI’s first settlement above $50 since July 2015. The session high was $50.53, a peak from October.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled up 89 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $51.44 a barrel. In post-settlement trade, Brent reached $51.54, a peak since October.

Both Brent and WTI have almost doubled in value since winter, when they hit their lowest since 2003.

Prices bounced off those lows on talk of an OPEC production freeze, which did not materialize. The rally heightened after last month’s wildfires in Canada’s oil sands region and also has been supported by supply outages elsewhere, including Nigeria, Venezuela and Libya.

In its latest short-term energy outlook issued on Tuesday, the EIA said it expects U.S. crude production declines for 2016 and 2017 to remain unchanged from a month ago.

Production will fall by 830,000 bpd this year to 8.6 million bpd, and drop next year by 410,000 bpd to 8.19 million bpd, the agency said.

The EIA also raised its 2016 U.S. oil demand growth forecast.

(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in LONDON; editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)

Telecom operators oppose communications tax bill

Telecommunications operators in the country under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria on Tuesday raised a voice of opposition to a bill in the National Assembly seeking to introduce a new communications tax of nine per cent.

The operators which included major mobile operators and infrastructure providers in a meeting with the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, said such tax would be passed on to subscribers who are already bearing a burden of five per cent Value Added Tax on telecommunications services.

Also, the operators who spoke through ALTON Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said another bill intended to reduce the high incidence of unsolicited calls and text messages was unnecessary as it would be at variance with other existing laws including the Nigeria Communications Act 2003.

Adebayo said, “A bill for an Act for the introduction of a nine per cent communications service tax for the imposition, charging and collection of same on communication services is under review at the National Assembly.

“If the bill is passed into law, there shall be an additional tax to end users who currently pay a five per cent as VAT and bringing the total tax on communications users to 14 per cent. This is of further concern, as additional taxes on telecommunications services will adversely impact on the affordability of broadband services.

“Such a tax will also further increase the digital divide with resultant impact on our national broadband objectives. We are very concerned and we have expressed same to all stakeholders to discourage the passage of this bill.”

On the bill to reduce unsolicited text messages and calls, Adebayo said, “The rationale for the bill is that a reduction in unsolicited calls and text messages, if achieved, would bring consumers reprieve and reduce consumer complaints in this regard.