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Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, March 30, in Washington, said the United States will invest more than $600 million in Nigeria in 2016.
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 lauded 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.”
Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, remained in the Red Zone on Wednesday, March 30, as the All Share Index shed 132.01 basis points represented 0.51 per cent.
At the end of the trading, general index which opened with 25,277.29 points end with 25,145.28 points yesterday.
The depreciation recorded in the bourse’s indices fell on losses recorded in share prices of Nigerian Breweries which dropped by N4.83, Guinness with a loss of N3.18, PZ Cussons Plc with a decline of N1.19, UACN’s fall of 48 kobo and Zenith Bank’s depreciation of 35 kobo.
At the end of the trading, Livestock Plc led the most traded stocks with 100.340 million unit of share worth N107.380 million followed by Sterling Bank Plc with 70.598 million shares at N111.526 million, UAC of Nigeria Plc with 65.691 million shares valued at N122.675 million, FCMB Plc with 40.241 million of share at N35.219 million and FBN Holdings Plc with 37.698 million share worth N115.457 million.
The market capitalization of the 190 equities quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, on Wednesday, March 30, lost N45 billion to end the day at N8.650 trillion from N8.695 trillion.
Market turnover closes positive as volume rose by 178.35 per cent against 28.80 per cent dropped recorded in the previous session.
The total value of stocks traded on the floors of the NSE today increased by 60% to N2.14 billion from N1.34 billion sold yesterday, while the total volume of stocks traded was 504.21 million in 3,374 deals compared to 282.7mn shares exchanged in 3,225 deals yesterday.
Top five financial gainers during the day’s transactions were SEPLAT which added N10, WAPCO and Dangote Cement which rose by N2 each, 7up which gained N1.41 and Flourmill which increased by 86 kobo per share.
The current scarcity of petrol became more acute on Wednesday as reports from various parts of the country indicated that the product was selling far above the official pump price at filling stations operated by independent and major marketers.
Black market hawkers also had a field day in most cities by selling the product as high as N250 per litre instead of the official pump prices of N86 for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation retail outlets and N86.50 in other operators’ stations.
In parts of Lagos and Ogun states, the few filling stations that had the product were selling at almost double the regulated price.
At World Oil and Ascon filling stations along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in Ogun State, the product was sold for N170 and N120, respectively on Wednesday, while many stations in Ota sold it for N140 per litre.
One of our correspondents gathered that most private depots in Apapa, Lagos were selling the Premium Motor Spirit ticket at N125 per litre to dealers as against the approved price of N76.50 per litre.
A top official of one of the independent marketers in Apapa said the supply situation at the depots had not changed.
“We don’t have products; we are just doing epileptic loading. The NNPC promised to bring in at least two vessels between now and Friday and they left a parking space vacant since yesterday (Tuesday). But I was surprised that an NLNG vessel, Gas Providence, berthed there this afternoon, and that one will take a minimum of three days before leaving. That means the supply situation cannot be improved in Apapa until about three days’ time,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained.
On the promise by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that the queues would disappear on or before April 7, the source said, “It is not achievable. You need consistent supply of minimum of two vessels discharging at the jetty in Apapa every day before the scarcity can be arrested.”
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said, “I don’t know the magic the minister wants to use, but as of today, nothing has changed at the depots. After nine days, we will re-evaluate and see whether he was speaking from both sides of his mouth or he was talking sense.”
The National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, said the price distortion at filling stations was as a result of the scarcity of the product, adding that Nigerians should exercise patience since the minister had said the scarcity would end by next week.
In Abuja, the scarcity of petrol grew more complicated as hundreds of motorists spent over 10 hours in fuel queues at the few filling stations that dispensed the product.
Ten litres of the product was sold for N4,000 by hawkers, who were bold enough to display the commodity around the headquarters of the NNPC at the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory.
The two petrol stations, Total and Conoil, located right opposite the NNPC headquarters, dispensed products, but the massive queues blocked the only access road in the area for several hours.
One of our correspondents observed that the cost of transportation in Abuja and environs had doubled.
Taxi drivers were charging between N500 and N700 for a ride of less than five minutes instead of the previous N300.
In Minna, Niger State, most of the filling stations did not have the product on Wednesday, with the few that had it selling a litre of petrol for N180 and recorded long queues.
The situation led to reduction in the number of vehicles plying roads in the state capital since most motorists could not wake up as early as 4am and in the long queues for five to six hours to get fuel.
However, the NNPC mega stations in Minna and Suleja recorded long queues of motorists, while those who could not wait in the queues patronised the black marketers, who sold the product for between N220 and N240 per litre.
In Akwa Ibom State, the product sold for between N160 and N170 per litre. Though there was no scarcity of the product in the state, queues were noticeable at the NNPC mega station along the Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo.
The Controller, Operations, Department of Petroleum Resources, Eket Office, Mr. Bassey Nkanga, said the agency was monitoring the sale of fuel in the state.
He added that most filling stations were now selling fuel at night so as to avoid arrest by officials of the department.
A litre of petrol now sells for between N150 and N170 in the few independent marketers’ filling stations that have the product in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
While many filling stations in the state, especially in Ilorin, did not have the product on Wednesday, a few at Tanke, Pipeline and Ajase-Ipo road sold the product for between N150 and N170, while those at the hinterland were selling at N200 per litre.
It was also gathered that a litre of petrol was being sold on the black market for between N250 and N300.
One of our correspondents reported that petrol was selling for N150 per litre in most filling stations in Imo State, while the black marketeers were selling it for N300.
In the Kaduna metropolis and environs, the product sold for N180 per litre at filling stations on Wednesday.
The Federal Government, however, said it was aware of the difficulties that Nigerians were facing as a result of the lingering fuel scarcity and poor power supply.
Speaking when he visited a media house in Abuja on Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the government was working round the clock to provide solutions to the challenges of fuel scarcity and power shortage, according to a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Segun Adeyemi.
Mohammed was quoted to have said, “As a government that was propelled into office by the power of the people, we cannot but feel the pains of our compatriots, and we deeply empathise with them.
“Our message to our compatriots is that this administration, under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, is working round the clock to ease the pains of Nigerians and that very soon, the efforts of the government will begin to yield fruits for the benefit of Nigerians.
“While we give no excuses for the challenges currently being faced by Nigerians, because they voted for us specifically to address those challenges, we appeal to them to bear with us as we strive to provide the much-needed relief in the days ahead.”
The minister also said that the government was aware that Nigerians had started questioning the genuineness of its change mantra.
“We understand the scepticism of Nigerians in questioning whether this indeed is the change they voted for. I can tell Nigerians that our change agenda is real, and that, indeed, Nigerians will get the change they voted for,” he said.
The minister said immediate measures were being taken to end the fuel scarcity, while medium and long-term solutions were being worked out to prevent a recurrence.
He said, “Petroleum product supply and distribution have been ramped up across the country by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to ensure product availability in the country, but repeated trips to filling stations and the backlog are making it impossible to immediately feel the impact.
“Monitoring has also been intensified to ensure full compliance with approved prices. Violations of approved prices and hoarding of petroleum products attract severe penalties, including giving out of petroleum products free to the public, sealing off of fuel stations found to be hoarding petroleum products, payment of fine as well as withdrawal of marketer’s licence.
“The ultimate is to ensure self-sufficiency in refined products supply by ramping up our local refining capacity. All local refineries will be made to run at a minimum 70 per cent capacity utilisation in the weeks ahead.
“This is in addition to the initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost-efficient modular refineries within the existing refinery premises.”
Mohammed also announced the willingness of the international upstream oil companies to support the major oil marketing companies with the required foreign exchange, thus complementing the efforts of the NNPC, which has been solely importing refined products.
On the power situation, which he blamed largely on lack of gas supply to the generating stations, the minister said the NNPC was seeking alternative sources of gas supply after the attack on the Forcados Export Pipeline had forced the cut off of supplies to the stations.
The total generated electricity on Wednesday fell to 2,030.5 megawatts from the over 5,000MW peak recorded earlier this year.
Data obtained from the power System Operator in Abuja on Wednesday showed that as of 8.37am, electricity generation had fallen by over 800MW when compared to the 2,841.9MW that was recorded at 12.42pm last week Thursday.
The fall in power generation, according to officials of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing as well as private investors in the sector, is as a result of vandalism of gas pipelines and the destruction of vital infrastructure in the industry by miscreants.
“Aside pipelines vandalism, some miscreants have been involved in the destruction of vital power infrastructure, and this has been affecting not just generation, but transmission and distribution as well,” a senior official at the ministry said.
The official, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, also stressed that the ongoing difficulty in the downstream oil industry was also impacting negatively on the power sector.
Corroborating this, the Executive Director, Association of National Electricity Distributors, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said the power situation was a big concern to operators in the sector as they were losing huge amount of money due to the development.
On the cause for the drop in power generation, he said, “It is mainly because of gas pipelines’ vandalism although there are a few other issues that also attribute to it. But I must say that the current poor supply of electricity across the country is not the fault of the distribution companies.”
On electricity load allocation to power distribution companies, the System Operator stated that Ikeja Electric got 304.58MW; Abuja, 233.51MW; Eko, 233.36MW; Benin, 182.75MW; Ibadan, 263.97MW; Jos, 111.68MW; Kano, 162.44MW; Kaduna, 162.44MW; Port Harcourt, 131.98MW; and Yola, 71.07MW.
Oduntan explained that the more power allocated to the Discos, the more hours of supply to households across the country.
“The drop in generation is affecting everyone, particularly at a time when there is petrol scarcity. For if we get enough allocation, this will mean more hours of power supply to households as well as to industries and other organisations across the country,” he said.
Italian prosecutors are investigating Royal Dutch Shell as part of a probe into the acquisition of an offshore oil field in Nigeria, the Anglo-Dutch company said on Wednesday.
Oil Prospecting Licence 245 was said to have been purchased in 2011 by Shell and Eni for $1.3bn. But corruption scandal has continued to trail the transaction.
“We can confirm we have received notice of proceedings from the public prosecutor in Italy,” Reuters quoted a Shell spokesman to have said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a judicial source told Reuters that Shell was under investigation by Milan-based judges for alleged international corruption.
Shell headquarters in The Hague were searched in February by Dutch police and prosecutors as part of this new strand of investigations, the company spokesman also said.
In 2014, a Milan court placed Eni under investigation over the $1.3bn purchase in 2011 of OPL 245 offshore oil block by the Italian major and Shell.
Prosecutors later widened their investigation to include Eni’s Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi.
Eni and Descalzi have denied any wrongdoing. The state-controlled oil company has always said it dealt exclusively with the government of Nigeria, paid fees into a government account and did not use intermediaries for the transaction.
“Shell is cooperating with the authorities and is looking into the allegations, which it takes seriously,” the spokesman said, adding, “Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity, one of our core values.”
Italian prosecutors are working jointly with an anti-fraud team in the Netherlands in order to determine whether the two oil companies paid bribes to obtain licences for the Nigerian site, the judicial source said, confirming reports by Italy’s daily Corriere della Sera.
The OPL 245, which has been at the centre of a series of long-standing disputes, was initially awarded in 1998 by former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company in which he was a shareholder.
The field was then sold in 2011 to Eni and Shell. According to documents from a British court, Malabu received $1.09bn from the sale, while the rest went to the Nigerian government.
Nigeria is losing about $450m (N89.55bn) annually to computer and Internet-related frauds, the consultant to the National Information Technology Development Agency, Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, has said.
Ajijola said this in an opening remark at the public sector cybersecurity hands capacity building workshop for IT officers in Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies organised by NITDA, which opened in Abuja on Wednesday.
Quoting the United States Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and information security firm, McAfee, a subsidiary of Intel, which puts Nigeria’s losses to cybercrimes at 0.08 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, Ajijola said the country’s annual losses were equivalent to the value of its booming cement industry.
He said, “As technology becomes increasingly pervasive and our dependency on it grows, our economic losses will grow exponentially unless pre-emptive measures are taken to mitigate and eliminate the capacity of cybercriminals to take advantage of our environment.
“This does not preclude major disruptions by cybercriminals to critical national infrastructure like oil and gas, telecommunications, banking and finance, national security and government. For example, in January 2016, the infamous Anonymous hacker collective has started a cyber campaign against the government of Nigeria, accusing it of corruption, greed and theft.
“The Nigerian Communications Commission indicates that as of September 2015, over 97 million Nigerians used the Internet on a daily basis. According to a 2015 survey by Kaspersky Lab, 45.3 per cent of the Internet users in Nigeria suffered attack in the third quarter of 2015. By implication, either you or the person next to you was hacked in some way.”
The Acting Director-General, NITDA, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, said Nigeria, like other countries, was facing many challenges such as network design, security and prevention, as well as cyber-attacks as a result of increasing use of the Internet.
“The need for effective security measures to create trust and confidence in our various platforms can, therefore, not be overemphasised,” he added.
Despite significant fall in the value of financial frauds recorded in 2015, Nigerians still lost about N2.25bn to the activities of fraudsters.
In 2014, fraudsters made 1,461 attempts to steal N7.8bn, but succeeded in stealing N6.2bn.
The governor of Benue, Dr Sam Ortom has expressed his state government’s commitment to partner with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to ensure agriculture products from the state are certified for export.
The governor made this intention known in the course of
standardization campaign held in Makurdi on Tuesday.
He said certification of agricultural produce would boost their export value and also help checkmating the rejection of Nigerian export produces in the international market.
Ortom said the state was blessed with abundant natural
resources that could serve as back bone for the industries
and for export
According to him, the state was ready to partner with
relevant agencies of the federal government especially the
SON towards improved value addition, wealth creation and jobs for Nigerians.
He also applauded the current SON leadership for embarking on a noble initiative of building the capacity of operator of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), describing it as step in the right direction given that MSMEs are the engine of growth of any economy.
He equally urged other states of the federation as well as
the federal government to key in to the standardization
campaign of the SON to help achieve economic
In his response, the Acting Director-General of SON, Dr Paul Angya said the essence of the visit which began with
Nasarawa was to sensitise the MSME operators on the
importance and benefits of deploying standards in their
production and businesses.
He said the choice of Benue state as one of the states to be
visited was based on its proficiency in agriculture
Angya said the programme also seeks to create opportunities for interaction with the state government to solicit the necessary support in the drive for standardization of MSMEs production and business processes in the state.
“Our aim is to establish a culture of self-regulation
through voluntary participation in standardization which
would enable the MSMEs to imbibe the standardization and quality assurance procedures in their businesses on their own volition”.
The Acting DG said part of the strategic plans of the SON is to partner with state governments to ensure that agricultural products are certified for export.
He said to achieve such an initiative; codes of practice
have been developed in collaboration with the EU. This
development will boost trade, as Nigerian products were
facing rejection high levies and low pricing due to lack of
awareness on available certification.
“I wish to reassure you that any product certified by SON
will be accepted globally. I am all out to partner with all
state governments in the training of MSMEs. Farmers,
processors, millers etc. on how to achieve global best
practices”, he said.
He argued that Government was now ready for economic diversification by promoting local rice production through appropriate policies and other intervention supports.
Addressing agriculture correspondents in his office in Lagos recently, Owoeye, maintained that the biggest challenge of rice farmers in the country had been removed by the government with the reversal of the earlier policy that allowed importation of rice through land borders.
He said the policy had allowed smuggling of rice from neighbouring countries, thus impacting negatively revenue generation for Nigeria while improving the revenue generation of other countries.
According to Owoeye, “This was our stand before, but the Government claimed that we should allow goods to move freely within ECOWAS countries into Nigeria.
“Secondly, the government believed that our much needed revenues would be generated from land borders. Meanwhile, from our experience, we let the Government know that as at then, we didn’t have resources to manage to align with the rice coming through the border because we have many unmanned borders through which illegal importation could be done,”.
Apart from the policy reversal, Owoeye, disclosed that Governments, both Federal and States, have also been supporting the local farmers along rice value chairs with various intervention funds made available to farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, at single-digit interest rate.
He explained that the farmers especially in the Northern part of the country where there were larger number of rice farmers who also enjoyed advantage of irrigation have been benefiting from those funds.
He added that through the interventions and support, many moribund rice mills across the country have been revived and are fully operational.
He assured that with the massive interventions and support from government, CBN, Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry, DFI and others bodies, the insufficient gap in the rice production in the country would be drastically reduced to the barest minimum before the end of this present administration.
He declared that imported rice was not of good quality as the locally produced ones, adding that imported rice was not as nutritious as the one produced in Nigeria.
Reacting to questions on the price gap between the imported rice and the locally produced rice, Owoeye said the price of the local rice especially the integrated milled rice was lower than that of the imported one in the market.
He explained that because of its low quantity in the market, the distributors might have inflated the price.
He said the regulation of the price in the market was not the responsibility of the farmers but that of the government.
He therefore urged the government to constitute a vibrant Market Board to comprise agro and agribusiness experts who are not politician to regulate the market price of the locally produced rice.
As a member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Afolabi Akanni regained freedom from the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, last Friday; the state assembly has advised its members not to honour any invitation from the security agency for their safety.
Aside Akanni, the Assembly announced that its three other members: Musa Arogundade, Badejo Anifowose and Sina Animasaun, who had gone underground since March 4 when some DSS operatives allegedly invaded the assembly complex have resurfaced from hiding and are now reunited with members for legislative duties.
The Assembly, at a press conference in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday, said the manner in which Akanni was detained for18 days without any cogent reason, gave credence to the widespread insinuation that the agency was being allegedly used by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to forcefully impeach Fayose.
The Speaker, Hon Kola Oluwawole said the House has resolved that members should shun any invitation from DSS, saying they heard it from the grapevine that the security agency is still after some of his colleagues over spurious allegations.
He said: “We are lawmakers and not law breakers. If the DSS has started on a good note, we would have cooperated. But going by the questions posed to Hon. Akanni during interrogation that why was he resisting Fayose’s impeachment shows that they have a sinister motive.
“We have collectively resolved that based on that suspicion, we may not be able to honour any invitation by DSS because of our safety”.
A speech read by the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan, praised the National Assembly, traditional rulers and concerned Nigerians for their swift response, leading to the release of Hon Akanni.
Aribisogan advised the DSS to stop subjecting the lawmakers to unnecessary trauma , saying what they were made to pass through during the trying period didn’t portray Nigeria as a democratic and civilized nation.
“The three members and some governor’s aides had to go into hiding when it became obvious that the DSS was desperately after them too and their fear became further heightened when the DSS refused to obey an order of the court for the immediate release of Hon. Akanni,” he stated.