China signs $37bN deal to buy 300 Boeing planes

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China signed an agreement Thursday to buy 300 airplanes from US aerospace giant Boeing valued over $37 billion, as part of a multi-billion dollar raft of deals announced during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing.

The agreement for China Aviation Suppliers Holding Co (CASC) to buy the single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft was among the more than $250 billion in agreements announced at a ceremony attended by Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

A Boeing statement said the agreement includes “orders and commitments” to buy the aircraft, but it did not give a further breakdown.

In September 2015, Boeing had already received an order from CASC for 300 aircraft valued at a record $38 billion at list prices.

Boeing and European rival Airbus are competing heavily in China, the world’s second aircraft market, with the US company forecasting that the Asian giant needs over 7,200 commercial aircraft in the next 20 years.

China, meanwhile, has developed its own medium-haul C919 in a bid to challenge the Airbus-Boeing duopoly.

Saraki taunts sacked SGF, says days of balderdash over

Image result for Tweet   Share  Pin it  +1 Senate President, Bukola SarakiThe Senate has said that, based on the smooth relationship, which the newly appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has established with the chamber, it will allow a gentleman’s discussion on the alleged illegal extension of the tenure of the Chairman of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.

This was sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Emmanuel Paulker (Bayelsa-Central) at the plenary on Wednesday, which was entitled, ‘The Illegal Extension of the Tenure of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.’

In the motion, Paulker alleged that the former acting SGF, Dr. Habiba Lawal, who succeeded Babachir Lawal, allegedly extended the tenure of the former Majority Leader of the Senate as chairman of the NDDC board without legislative approval.

The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, however, said he had met with officials in the Office of the SGF to know the circumstances surrounding the tenure extension.

Lawan said, “I want to appeal to all of us here that since we have a new SGF who wants to work with us, in the spirit of this season and the interest showed by the SGF that he wants to deal with this issue, I will advise and move that we ask our Committee on the NDDC to liaise with the Office of the SGF to look into the real issues so that we can deal with them.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while commenting on the motion, made a veiled reference to the former SGF, Babachir Lawal, who dismissed his indictment by an investigative panel set up by the chamber as balderdash.

Saraki said, “Yesterday, after the budget (presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari), paper from the SGF coming to thank us, he also took this matter up. And I think that, in the spirit of the relationship, we are not here to always antagonise the executive. The days of balderdash are over. We have a new SGF and we must also show that. Let this matter be referred to the NDDC committee and let it take the matter up with the SGF.”

The initial prayer of the motion, as moved by Paulker, was to mandate the Senate Committee on Niger Delta “to investigate the illegal renewal of the tenure of the present board of the commission.”

In the motion, Paulker said the NDDC had a board made up of members drawn from Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.

He also said that Section 4 of the NDDC Act stated that the office of the chairman shall rotate among member states of the commission in alphabetical order.

He added that the chairmanship of the NDDC started with Abia State and had now rotated to Cross River State.

Paulker said, “The Senate observes that the NDDC Act also states that ‘where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of his predecessor, so, however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces subject to the confirmation of the Senate in consultation with the House of Representatives’.

“The Senate observes that the board headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) was appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to replace the one headed by Senator Bassey Henshaw.

“The Senate observes further that Section 5 (3) of the Act dictates that the board headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba serves out the remainder of the term of the board chaired by Senator Bassey Henshaw, which will terminate in December 2017.

“The Senate notes that, contrary to the clear provisions of Section 5 (3) of the NDDC Act, the tenure of the present board of the commission has been illegally extended to four years by the immediate past acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. Habiba Lawal; it is worried that contravention of the NDDC Act portends grave danger to the relative peace we enjoy in the Niger Delta.”

Maina: Kyari, Oyo-Ita reconcile, embrace publicly

Image result for Maina: Kyari, Oyo-Ita reconcile, embrace publiclyThe Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, on Wednesday embraced publicly before the commencement of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The development came a week after the two top government officials engaged in an altercation at the same venue.

Oyo-Ita on arrival at the council chambers’ venue for the meeting went straight to greet Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

She was still discussing with Osinbajo when Kyari arrived.

All smiles, Kyari and Oyo-Ita embraced as cameramen struggled to get good shots of the public display of reconciliation.

Other members of the council clapped for them as the drama unfolded.

A heated argument had taken place between the two officials last week.

The altercation was believed to be the fallout of the leaked memo, which Oyo-Ita sent to Kyari on the controversial reinstatement and subsequent posting of the embattled former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina.

The clash between the two officials took place in the presence of Osinbajo; President of the Senate,  Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun; service chiefs and ministers.

The leaked memo, titled, ‘Re: Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina,’ was Oyo-Ita’s response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that she should investigate the circumstances that surrounded the return of Maina to the civil service.

He gave the directive following the public outcry that greeted Maina’s reinstatement.

Maina, whose whereabouts are still unknown, has been accused of embezzling pensioners’ funds running into billions of naira and is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The memo started by stating, “Further to your letter Ref. SH/COS/100/A/1570 dated 23rd October, 2017 on the above subject matter, I write to inform you of the circumstances leading to the irregular recall of Mr. Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina.

“I wrote to place on record the following facts as it pertains to Mr. A. A. Maina who was dismissed from service on 21st February, 2013.

“The move to recall Mr. A. A. Maina was at the instance of a series of letters from the Attorney General of the Federation to the Federal Civil Service Commission requesting the commission to give consequential effect to the judgment that voided the warrant of arrest issued against Mr. A. A. Maina which formed the basis for the query and his eventual dismissal.”

It concluded, “Please note that the OHCSF was never in agreement with the reinstatement and consequently never conveyed the approval of the FCSC to Mr. A. A. Maina nor approved his posting to the Ministry of Interior or any other MDA. Rather, I sought audience with His Excellency, Mr. President, on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration.”

Abuja airport set for NCAA safety certification

Image result for Tweet   Share  Pin it  +1 Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, AbujaThe Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja will before the end of this week get safety and security certification from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, a source close to the regulatory organisation has said.

According to the source, the airport, which began operations about 15 years ago, recently got a pass mark in security, safety and equipment from the NCAA, adding that the certification process began in 2014.

The NCAA was said to be satisfied with the several manuals submitted to its inspectors by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, operator of the airport.

The source added, “There are five stages involved in airport certification. The fifth stage is the presentation of certificate to the management of FAAN, which is slated for this week.

“With the successful certification, Abuja will now be the second airport in the country to be certified by the authority. The Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos was the first to be certified by the NCAA in September.”

Four power plants shut down in two days

Image result for Four power plants shut down in two daysFour of the nation’s power plants shut down this week, making the number of idle plants to rise to nine.

The number of power plants that did not generate any megawatts rose from five on Sunday to eight on Monday and one more shut down on Tuesday, the latest data from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing showed on Wednesday.

The latest four affected power plants are Sapele I, Alaoji NIPP, Omotosho NIPP and Gbarain NIPP.

Sapele’s ST1 unit was said to be out due to barring gear problem; ST2 out on maintenance; ST4 and 5 awaiting major overhaul, and ST6 tripped on gas control valve not following reference point.

Units GT1 and 2 of Alaoji tripped due to low gas pressure; the GT4 out on maintenance; and the GT3 was shut down due to generator air inlet filter trouble.

Omotosho’s GT1 and four units were out due to gas constraints; GT2 tripped on loss of power supply from the MCC; and the GT3 shut down due to oil leakage on the unit.

Gbarain’s GT2 unit was out on frequency management, report by the ministry showed.

Other idle plants on Tuesday were Afam IV & V, Gbarain II, AES, ASCO and Rivers IPP, according to the latest data from the ministry.

Electricity generation from Egbin, the nation’s biggest power station, stood at 449MW on Tuesday, down from 1,085MW on March 15, 2016. The plant has an installed capacity of 1,320MW, consisting of six units of 220MW each.

The total generation stood at 3,837 megawatts as of 6am on Monday, with seven power plants, including Sapele II and Alaoji II not generating any megawatt.

The power grid has suffered 24 collapses; 15 of which are total and nine, partial, this year.

The nation generates most of its electricity from gas-fired power plants, while output from hydro-power plants makes up about 30 per cent of total generation.

Unutilised generation capacity stood at 2,321.2MW due to gas constraint (1,137.2MW), line constraints (1,034MW) and water management (150MW).

Last month, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Mr. Chiedu Ugbo, said the power plants built under the National Integrated Power Project scheme had suffered from load rejection by Discos.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said on Wednesday that the capacity of the distribution network had increased to 6,200MW.

2018 budget: PENGASSAN cautions against oil, gas assets’ sale

Image result for 2018 budget: PENGASSAN cautions against oil, gas assets’ saleThe Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria has cautioned the Federal Government against selling profitable oil and gas assets as scrap to fund the 2018 budget.

The trade union expressed its support to other models of funding the budget aside from selling the oil and gas assets, and called on the National Assembly to reject the proposal as it had done in the past, because the plan was not in the national interest.

Reacting to a report on the plans by the government to sell the oil and gas assets to fund the budget, the National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Fortune Obi, noted that the idea was rejected by majority of Nigerians when it was first mooted in 2016.

Obi described the plan to sell national assets in the oil and gas industry to fund the budget as a way of handing over “our collective commonwealth to a few individuals and further impoverish majority of Nigerians.”

He advised that instead of selling the assets, the government should look for other ways of funding the budget such as plugging loopholes and leakages in its finances.

Obi stated, “We will not allow the commonwealth of the country to be given away to cronies of the government all in the name of sale of the assets in the industry to fund the budget.

“The government should critically evaluate the assets to look at their viability and profitability. Profitable assets such as the NLNG and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations that have become a huge revenue earner for the country should be kept by the government to the benefit of the Nigerian majority.

“We also advise the government to endeavour to repair assets that are in state of disrepairs but not to sell them as scrap to some opportunists in the cloak of businessmen and short-sighted politicians.”

Senate shifts PIB passage to Q1 2018

Image result for Senate shifts PIB passage to Q1 2018The Senate has again shifted the time for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill from this year to the first quarter of 2018 on the premise that the National Assembly has a lot of work to do in order to ensure the early passage of next year’s Appropriation Bill.

According to the Senate, lawmakers will have to shift attention to the 2018 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, a development that will delay the ongoing process required for the passage of the PIB.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Upstream, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, explained that although the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had earlier in the year stated that he wanted the PIB to be passed in 2017, the present circumstance on ground had shown that the passage of the bill would not happen until 2018.

Alasoadura, who spoke on Wednesday at the ongoing 7th Practical Nigerian Content Forum, told participants at the event that the increased call for the passage of the PIB was not misplaced considering its significance to the oil sector, but insisted that it would not happen this year despite the several years of delay.

He said, “The PIB will be passed in the first quarter of next year and this is because of the budget that was presented to the National Assembly by the President on Tuesday. He (Buhari) asked us to do all we can in order to pass the budget before the end of this year.

“So, there is much work to be done by the National Assembly on the budget and as a result of this, we won’t or may not have all the time to go through all that is needed for the passage of the PIB before the end of this year.

“The Senate president wants it to be done before the end of this year, but I have to be practical. For with the budget in place, I think we need to concentrate on its passage so that its implementation can also take effect in good time.”

Alasoadura admitted that the passage of the PIB had been delayed for so long and corroborated the argument of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Simbi Wabote, that the bill needed to be passed, whether in good or bad shape.

Separatists kill two policemen in Cameroon

Image result for Tweet   Share  Pin it  +1 President Paul Biya of CameroonSeparatists killed two policemen in the restive English-speaking region of Cameroon, a day after an officer was shot dead there, the government said Wednesday.

“Secessionist terrorists killed two gendarmes overnight in Bamenda,” government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary told AFP, adding that the attack was carried out “with combat weapons.”

The two were on guard duty at the time, one of them outside a micro-loan bank, he said.

The assailants fled with the policemen’s guns, said Tchiroma, who is also minister for communications.

Bamenda is the chief town in the Northwest, one of two regions where unrest has broken out among Cameroon’s anglophone minority.

On Monday, “suspected separatists” killed a gendarme in Jakiri, also in the Northwest Region, while he was pursuing men who attacked a school, according to a local official.

The officer found himself cut off and encircled by the attackers in a forest, the source said.

French-speaking Cameroon has a large anglophone minority which comprises about a fifth of its population of 22 million.

Gathered mainly in two regions, many English speakers say they suffer inequality and discrimination.

On October 1, a breakaway movement issued a symbolic declaration of independence for their putative state of “Ambazonia.”

President Paul Biya fiercely opposes secession or a return to Cameroon’s former federal structure.

The agitation has met with a crackdown that has alarmed human-rights watchdogs.

International monitors say at least 20 and possibly 40 people have been killed in clashes since late September.

The International Crisis Group thinktank last month accused Cameroon of embracing policy of “murderous repression” that, it warned, could lead to an “armed uprising”.

The Biya government fiercely disputes the claimed death toll and has accused the ICG of being “an agency of destabilisation, in the pay of the secessionist movements.”

On October 31, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said thousands of people had fled from the anglophone regions into neighbouring Nigeria, and the agency was bracing for an influx of up to 40,000.

The anglophone minority in Cameroon is a legacy of the colonial period in Africa.

France and Britain divided up the one-time German colony under League of Nations mandates after World War I.

A year after the French-ruled territory became independent in 1961, the southern part of British Cameroons was integrated into a federal system, scrapped 11 years later for a “united republic.

Anglican bishop visits Ekwueme, dismisses ex-VP’s rumoured death

Image result for Tweet   Share  Pin it  +1 Alex Ekwueme

Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, is alive, waiting to be flown abroad for medical attention, the Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Enugu, Emmanuel Chukwuma, disclosed after visiting the elder statesman in hospital on Tuesday.

Rumour, which spread through the social media, had it that Ekwueme had passed on at the Memphys Hospital of Neurosurgery, Enugu in the early hours of Tuesday.

The octogenarian was hospitalised after collapsing at his residence in the Independence Layout on October 28.

Reports of Ekwueme’s demise led to confusion and anxiety in Enugu on Tuesday as the elder statesman’s associates, as well as members of the public, scrambled to confirm the development.

However, Bishop Chukwuma debunked the reports after visiting Ekwueme in the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

It was learnt that the former Vice-President is one of the Archbishop’s parishioners at The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Independence Layout, Enugu.

In an encounter with journalists when he came out of Ekwueme’s ward in the hospital at about 2.25 pm, Chukwuma declared that the elder statesman was alive, and not dead.

He also revealed that Ekwueme was waiting to be flown abroad.

“The rumour making the rounds is not true. I can tell you as we speak that arrangements are being finalised by the Federal Government to get an air ambulance to fly him abroad as soon as the government gets an air ambulance,” the cleric said.

Chukwuma did not provide further details as he hurried out of the hospital.

But a source in the hospital, who did not wish to be named, disclosed that the Archbishop prayed for the former Vice-President during the visit.

However, a medical personnel told our correspondent that Ekwueme opened his eyes for the first time since he was brought to the hospital on Tuesday.

Our correspondent, who was at the hospital on Tuesday, observed that security has been beefed up at the medical facility because of Ekwueme’s presence.

A police patrol vehicle was stationed near the hospital and security operatives were observed around the premises.

The source added that “only those authorised by Ekwueme’s family are allowed access to him in the hospital.”

Ekwueme, who celebrated his 85th birthday on October 10, is said to be suffering from a chest infection, according to a statement released by his family.

Schools shut as toxic smog hits Delhi

Delhi shut all primary schools on Wednesday as pollution hit 70 times the World Health Organization’s safe level, prompting doctors in the Indian capital to warn of a public health emergency.

Dense grey smog shrouded the roads of the world’s most polluted capital, where many pedestrians and bikers wore masks or covered their mouths with handkerchiefs and scarves.

The US embassy website showed the concentration of PM 2.5 — the microscopic particles that are the most damaging to health — topped 700 early on Wednesday morning, 70 times the WHO guidelines on long-term exposure, before dropping slightly.

“When I came to Delhi in 1984, the air in the city was clean. But today when I left at 4 am for work I could barely see anything,” said Jeevanand Joshi, a roadside tea seller.

“This is not fog, this is smoke, and it is certainly making us sick.”

The Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency, urging administrators to “curb this menace”, while the Environment Pollution Authority warned that things were set to get worse in the coming days.

As public outrage mounted, the Delhi government ordered the closure of all primary schools on Wednesday.

“We have decided to shut schools up to primary level for a day, and will evaluate the situation on an hourly basis to see if such a closure needs to be extended,” Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told reporters.

Almost 2 million students are enrolled in primary schools in Delhi, according to government data from 2015.

All outdoor activities have also been banned across the capital’s 6,000 schools while pollution levels remain at severe levels.

The city of 20 million has the unenviable distinction of being the world’s most polluted major city, often surpassing Beijing.

Since 2014, when WHO figures showed the extent of the crisis, authorities in Delhi have closed power plants temporarily and experimented with taking some cars off the road.

But the temporary measures have so far had little effect.

Delhi’s air quality typically worsens ahead of the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground, preventing them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

High levels of moisture in the air and a lack of wind meant emissions had become trapped in the environment, according to India’s Central Pollution Control Board.

Firecrackers set off to celebrate the Diwali festival of lights in the city add to the toxic mix created by pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

The problem is further exacerbated by the burning of crop stubble by farmers after the harvest in northern India, a practice that remains commonplace despite an official ban.

On Tuesday India’s Environment Pollution Authority, which was set up by the Supreme Court to tackle the issue, ordered the closure of dust-spewing brick kilns and an increase in parking fees to encourage the use of public transport.

“In terms of air pollution, things are expected to get much worse in the coming days,” Bhure Lal, head of the agency, said in a statement late Tuesday.