9jadiaspora news items

JAMB releases cut off marks for varsities, polytechnics, others …lifts ban on post-UMTE

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 11 min 38 sec ago

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB has pegged minimum national cut off Marks for Admissions into Universities in Nigeria at 120.

Cut off Marks for Polytechnics and Colleges of Education were pegged at 100, while Innovative Enterprising Institute was pegged at 110.

However, Institutions are at liberty to go beyond the benchmarks for Admission exercise.

These Decisions were taken at the 2017 Combined Policy Meetings on Admissions into Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria.

The Registrar of JAMB, Professor Ishaq Oloyede said a Central Admission Processing System CAPs, would be used to streamline admission processes among Institutions, while it addresses challenges associated with formal approach.

Oloyede also said that Institutions could conduct dual mode system which involves both manual and the newly introduced system CAPs.

He advocated for dynamic educational policy as related to Admissions.

“We should not be sentimental in fixing our cut off mark, we need not over dramatize issue of cut off mark,” he stated.

He said that candidates applications to study Agriculture is very low while applications to medicine, Health Sciences are on the increase.

The Minister of Education Adamu Adamu , has also formerly announced lift on the ban of the conduct of Post-UTME as a prerequisite for admission into tertiary education.

H explained that government had erroneously banned universities from conducting the exam.

He said the banning of Post-UTME lead to a lot of irregularities by candidates and some institutions.

The minister explained that with the lifting of the ban on the conduct of the examination, institutions are now at liberty to conduct, and that the fee for the examination must not exceed N2000.

He stated that the 2016 admission process was a huge success and expressed optimism that that government is working assiduously to make that of 2017 better.

Adamu noted that government is also making efforts to expand access and ensure equality in education sector.

“A substantial amount of candidates who sat for the 2017 UTME would be gain admission into tertiary institution,” the minister added..

Meanwhile, Admissions for all Public Degree Awarding Institutions would end 15th of January 2018 while Private degree awarding Institutions, Monotechnics, Colleges of Education and others would end 31st January 2018.


Constituents threaten to recall Ben Bruce for non-performance

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 12 min 35 sec ago

Constituents, mainly students, from the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, have threatened to recall the Senator representing them in the National Assembly, Mr. Ben Bruce.

The aggrieved constituents accused the “common sense” senator of neglecting them and having no plans for his constituency, which comprises Nembe, Brass and Ogbia local government areas, Bayelsa State.

Leaders of student bodies for the three local governments made their grievances known yesterday in a statement.

The statement was signed by Samuel Tari (Nembe), Ambrose Joseph (Brass) and Mark John (Ogbia).

They lamented that the senator was not in good relationship with his people and had continued to shy away from his constitutional responsibilities.

They cried out that the senator was donating relief materials to people in other states when his constituents were wallowing in poverty with many students unable to pay their fees.

Besides, they said since he was elected, Bruce had not visited his people.

They said: “Since Bruce became a senator, he has failed to look into the basic needs and challenges currently bedeviling the East Senatorial District, such as education, as most of our students cannot access good quality education.

“He has failed to attract a single project to the district in terms of infrastructures, roads and others. He has continuously and deliberately ignored efforts by the people to create a working relationship that will bring out purposeful leadership for our people.

“He is yet to fulfil any of his campaign promises; painfully, he is an Abuja-based senator. He refuses to visit his constituency, except only once when he visited his hometown and couldn’t even stay for up to four hours.

“Sincerely, we are tired, other places are enjoying the benefits that come from having a national representative. Our case has been a curse rather than a blessing. We are just like a district without a senator. This is why we are intended to change that narrative”.

The student leaders gave the senator a 10-day ultimatum, to amend his ways or face consistent protest and the recall process.

They asked the senator to organise a town hall meeting with his constituents and take out time to tour his constituency.

“We are, hereby, giving him an ultimatum of 10 days, starting from 21st August. If he fails to meet with us, we shall take our protest to the National Assembly.

“We will mobilise all the students, our mothers and our fathers. We will initiate his recall process. Our people deserve a better treatment from him. We request to have a town hall meeting.”

Nollywood actor picks form for Anambra guber race

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 13 min 43 sec ago

Nollywood actor, Yul Edochie‎, on Tuesday, picked his expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State.
Edochie stormed the national office of the Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC) with his supporters in Abuja, at about 3:57pm where he obtained his forms.

Addressing newsmen thereafter, the actor explained that he was in the race to rescue the future of the youths and people of the state through good governance.

He said that he would reduce the rate of poverty in the state through wealth ‎and job creation, provide infrastructure and develop other sectors of the state.

He noted that he was not deterred by the number of heavy weight contestants in the election, expressing optimism that he would gain support of the electorate and coast home to victory.

“Politicians have failed us‎. So I am in the race to touch the lives of Anambra people positively. The people are tired of stories,” he said.

Adeosun emerges ECOWAS Investment Bank Chairperson

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 14 min 57 sec ago

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has been appointed the Chairperson, Board of Governors of ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, EBID.

She succeeds Hassoumi Massoudou from Republic of Niger.

The announcement was made on Tuesday in Abuja at the end of the 15th Ordinary Session of the board of governors of the bank.

Adeosun had earlier urged other finance ministers to speak about radical economic transformation, which would no doubt, take the sub-region to improved living standard for all citizens.

She advised them to prioritise industrialisation, especially through labour intensive manufacturing to promote job creation.

“In addition, conscious emphasis should be placed on agriculture to improve food security and deriving more value from the sea by boosting the ocean economy.

“Potentially, these areas also provide investors with profitable investment opportunities in our community, she stated.

Adeosun said that critical work was being done to promote regional integration in the sub-region.

She said efforts were underway to radically transform Nigeria’s economy in a manner that would shift the age-old emphasis away from oil as the main source of revenue.

Adeosun noted that diversification and domestic resource mobilisation through improved tax revenue were ongoing in Nigeria.

“The signalling effect coupled with positive externalities that would be generated will have significant impact on the regional economy.

“Infrastructure development remains top of the agenda to ease movement of goods, people and services across our community.

“Furthermore, power to light up Africa is an essential imperative for industrialisation and for us to succeed, we need to mobilise appropriate financing.

“Accordingly, we must support our Bank, EBID, to mobilise domestic and external resources to strengthen developmental partnerships and collaboration,” the Chairperson explained.

According to her, the meeting was a key instrument in this regard as it brought the drivers of the economy in the sub-region together to discuss important matters.

Our people yearn for prosperity and we must be determined not to fail them and that is why we have ECOWAS Vision 2020 as a clear roadmap towards a better life for all, she said.

EBID was established by the 15 member states for economic development of West Africa through the financing of ECOWAS projects and programmes.

Nigeria ranks third in global internet crimes – NCC

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 17 min 1 sec ago

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says Nigeria currently ranks third globally in cyber crimes behind the UK and the U.S.

NCC’s Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Umar Danbatta, disclosed this on Tuesday at the ongoing 2017 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference’ theme is: “African Business: Penetrating through Institution Building”.

Danbatta, at a breakout session with the sub-theme: “The Business of Cyber Law, Internet Policy and Privacy Rights”, moderated by Mr Augustine Alegeh (SAN) a former NBA President, said the number of internet users in Nigeria has hit 91.6 million.

“About N127 billion was the estimated loss to cybercrime in Nigeria in 2015; Nigeria ranks third in global internet crimes behind the UK and U.S.

“A critical factor militating against Africa’s economic resurgence is the weakness of its institutions.

“Nigeria ranks 169 out of 199 on the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings; we are in a middle of a revolution and the rise of what we call the networked society.

“The NCC stipulates the laws of engagement that will make the cyberspace safe and ensure the confidence as well as the safety of the cyberspace,” Danbatta, a panelist, said.

“There are benefits and risks of the use of cyberspace and both has to be properly managed.”

NAN reports that other panelists at the breakout session were Mr Bayo Adekanmi, the Chief Transformation Officer of MTN and Ms Ibikun Abidoye, the legal counsel of Chocolate City Group.

Others are Ms Sascha Grimme, the Associate Solicitor of Cooley LLP, a UK-based Lawfirm; and Mr Bisi Adebutu of Premier Lotto, also known as ‘Baba Ijebu.’

In his remarks, Adebutu gave insight into the challenges Premier Lotto faced in conducting transactions on the cyberspace.

“Premier Lotto has moved from the streets to the internet, we have faced certain challenges including paying those who do business with us.

“The cyber laws are not favourable to our business, Premier Lotto ranks as the fourth most visited site in the country.

“We have no easy way of verifying or identifying the owner of cards used to transact business.

“In Nigeria, the business of giving is just emerging, and it is important that we respect the privacy of our clients when they interact with us through the use of usernames and passwords.

“Gaming is very popular on the internet and fraud is one to the challenges we have; if we apprehend an individual trying to perpetuate fraud, we block their access to us.

“We also have challenges of having to discipline offenders and the cyber laws have to be properly identified and implemented to appropriately punish offenders,” Adebutu said.

In her contributions, Grimme said:“Threats and perpetrators of cyber crimes and the motives behind the cyber attacks have to be properly identified.

“There are challenges in identifying perpetrators of cyber crimes; even when identified, there have been instances where they stay in different jurisdictions making prosecution difficult.”

Adekanmi, while speaking, noted that there is an ongoing online revolution happening in modern times, and that online security was very important.

“There is going to be what I call a technology apocalypse, you will wake up one day and someone is living your life somewhere.

“Someone once said that identity theft is worse than kidnapping, there is a thin line between privacy and security in modern business,” the MTN executive said.

On his part, Abiloye, who discussed copyright challenges in the nation’s music industry, said the general perception of copyright is that its incentive is to encourage people to create.

“There is a public slant to copyright; there are a lot of cases about unfair use of copyright.”


Netherlands Embassy halts visa issuance to Nigerians

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 17 min 13 sec ago

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria, on Tuesday reminded Nigerians that it was no longer in the business of issuing them visas.

The Embassy’s Charge d’ Affaires, Mr Michel Deleen, told the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Lagos that the Embassy had since 2013 swapped its visa issuance processes in Nigeria.

Deleen said that the Embassy had since 2013 swapped its visas issuance to Nigerians with the French Consulate General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja.

“Let me remind Nigerians that since 2013, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria had signed agreements with the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja.

“What this means is that we have swapped our visa application
processes in Nigeria with the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja.

“Let me remind Nigerians that under these agreements, any Nigerian that wants to visit the Netherlands for business, study or tourism should always process their visa applications through the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja,’’ he said.

Deleen also enjoined Nigerians to always apply for visas to
the Netherlands, through VFS Global to the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja.

The Charge d’ Affaires said that it was important for Nigerians and other nationals in Nigeria to know that VFS Global was the
internationally-authorised organisaton for receiving all visa

“Let me also advise anyone seeking visas to the Netherlands through the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja, to always first apply through VFS Global.

“When you first apply to VFS Global for visas to the Netherlands, VFS Global would thereafter send them to the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja for processing,’’ he said.

VFS Global is the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide.

The company manages administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visas, passports, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments.

FirstBank improves customers’ banking experience with bespoke offerings

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 20 min 9 sec ago

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s most valuable bank brand, has continued in its tradition of creating a value-chain of support for the interests and lifestyles of its customers.

With varying categories of products and services across market segments, the Bank ensures that it supports customers’ lifestyle, goals and aspirations.

To drive convenience in banking, FirstBank offers innovative virtual options for funds transfer, bills payment and airtime top up, using FirstMobile app and the Bank’s USSD banking code *894#. FirstMobile, the bank’s mobile app has recently been updated with enhanced card security feature – ‘card-in-control’ which makes it possible for customers to define their card functionality on their mobile phone; a Quick Response (QR) Code that transforms your phone into a tap and pay device, riding on NFC technology and the Transaction receipt and Save beneficiary functions all of which make business transactions much more convenient and safe.

The Bank has also provided a Lifestyle information aggregator – the LOOP app which enables customers stay updated on the latest global trends from their mobile phones.

For a borderless banking experience, FirstBank offers an array of payment cards for both domestic and international use.  The Bank’s dollar denominated cards in debit, credit and prepaid variants provide 24/7 access to funds worldwide.

To support the businesses of High Networth Individual Customers, FirstBank provides them with the Visa Gold, Platinum Debit MasterCard as well as Visa Infinite cards, giving them unlimited power anywhere in the world. These cards come with added benefits and rewards from partner merchants, airlines and hotels home and abroad with card-holders having the opportunities of massive discounts and offers with hotels, airlines and other hospitality value added services and upgrades.

FirstBank also offers exclusive financial tools and products to its premium customers such as the First Current Plus account, which allows unlimited turnover threshold and zero account maintenance charge; the Firstdom Plus dollar account that offers attractive interest rate and free over-the-counter charges with huge concession on transfer charges; the FirstOnline internet banking which enables customers carry out variety of transactions from anywhere in the world; and competitive mortgage products, empowering customers to deepen their stakes in real estate.

The mortgage products are designed to part-finance the acquisition, construction and refinancing of residential properties or office complexes for SMEs who desire to own their business premises. The facility is availed either as a Personal Home Loan with Joint Mortgage option for eligible individuals in paid employment or as Commercial Mortgage for SME customers who are either small & medium enterprises, professional organizations or private schools

According to Folake Ani-Mumuney, FirstBank’s Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, the Bank’s continuous delivery of suitable and bespoke products and services to enhance its customers’ lifestyle is another way FirstBank is putting its customers first. “We are an active partner in the fast-paced lifestyle of our customers and we are constantly rolling out tailor-made products and services to fit their needs and aspirations”.

Gombe govt swears-in 26 judges

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 21 min 30 sec ago

The Chief Judge of Gombe State, Justice Hakila Heman, on Tuesday advised judges in the state to update themselves with the ever-changing nature of legal procedural rules.

Heman gave the advice after swearing-in 26 new judges for the state.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that 19 of the judicial officers are area court judges while remaining seven are high court judges.

“Judges should be conversant with the provisions of the constitution of Nigeria, Evidence Act, Area Court Law, Civil Procedure rules, Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

“You must also update your knowledge on the ever-changing procedural rules of the courts so as to be effective in the discharge of your duties.

“Those that are to administer Islamic Law must take extra step to be knowledgeable in the Holy Quran, Hadith  and other Islamic books to enable them to apply the relevant law books,’’ Heman said.

The CJ added, “You are expected to record your proceedings yourselves, you should also have full control of your courts. It is your responsibility to guide and direct your members of staff, particularly the registrar, in the day-to-day running of the courts,” he said.

Heman also advised them to administer justice to all manner of people without fear or favour, adding that they must shun corruption in and outside of the court.

Enugu LG polls: Agbo emerges PDP consensus candidate for Igbo Etiti council

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 22 min 12 sec ago

Hon. Malachy Agbo has emerged the consensus candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Chairmanship position for Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area, Enugu State in the November 4th local government elections.

Agbo who is the current Transaction Chairman of the council emerged at Igbo Etiti PDP stake holders meeting held at Gold Valley Hotel, Enugu.

His emergence followed a “yes” voice-vote, after a motion moved by Hon. Tony Igwe, the immediate past Chairman of the party in the local government, that was seconded by Hon. Oke Nwoke, the immediate past member Enugu State House of Assembly representing Igbo Etiti West Constituency, to that effect.

In her opening remarks, the local government PDP Chairman, Bar. Mrs. Nkechi Ugwuoju, said that the local government party Executives narrowed their choice on Agbo based on his sterling performance as the Transition Chairman of the council.

She said, “The workers of the local government testified that Agbo has performed creditably well and should return to continue with the good works he has been doing”.

She also said that feedbacks from other citizens of Igbo Etiti point to the fact that Agbo deserved to continue in office, to build on the peace, stability and equitable development he had engendered among the communities in the area.

In the same vein, the former Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, thanked the party for passing a vote of confidence on Agbo because of the good job he has done in the council. Continuing, Nwodo observed that having been scored tops, as one of the best performing Transition Chairmen in the state, Agbo’s resourcefulness should continue to be tapped for good, in serving our people.

On her part, the member representing Igbo Etiti/Uzo-Uwani Federal Constituency, at the House of Representatives, Hon. Princess Stella Ngwu, said, “Igbo Etiti has remained peaceful since Agbo came in as the Transition Chairman due his humility, respect and commitment to the welfare of workers and well-being of our people. Therefore, it is only natural he is returned to sustain the good works”.

Among the stakeholders at the event were the former Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Chief Okechukwu Itanyi, House of Assembly members, members of Enugu State Exco from the Igbo-Etiti, former commissioners, former House of Assembly members, party stalwarts and members of the public.

The dangers of nation-building without the youths

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 23 min 7 sec ago

By Jerome-Mario  Utomi

With the exception of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is a little above 43 years of age and could be described as  relatively youthful, no other African sitting   president is  in the same age range or bracket as they are about or 50. In Nigeria, the story is not different, except for those that got to position of authority through undemocratic means in the time past, lt is only   the incumbent governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, who is just a little above 43years and the immediate past Governor of Lagos State who is now the Federal Minister in charge of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) who governed Lagos State at a relatively youthful age and a handle of others yet to  be identified , others got to power at over 50

Chances are this category of political office holders may remain in leadership positions till they are well above 70. A very good example that readily comes to mind is that of our very own, President, Mohammadu Buhari. This very trend had earned Africa a laurel as a continent that produced the oldest serving president in the world in the person of President Robert Mugagbe of Zimbabwe who is a little above 93.

In this clime, “youths are the leaders of tomorrow’’ has become a form of a mantra, a sermon by our leaders that we can describe as a gospel without the truth. They preach this without taking pragmatic steps to develop or design strategies that will help it see the light of the day. The youths in particular are also beginning to view it as a one sided narrative especially when it is coming from our present crop of leaders. It has become an epigrammatic tales that revolve round a particular plot construed around the electioneering campaign, with the sole aim of achieving electoral victory. In most cases, this particular it becomes more of a slogan or anthems for the political parties. It lasts as long as the electioneering period and fizzles out as soon as the winners emerged. Youths are never assured again that they are “the leaders of tomorrow” till the next electioneering campaign. And the cycle goes on and on. This has been the grim fate and burden which successive generation of Nigerian youths has grappled with since 1960.

However, recent happenings round the world’s political arena as regard  emergence of some youthful Presidents such as France’s Emmanuel Macron who is just 39, and others young leaders occupying exulted positions in their countries, have served as an awakening of political and leadership consciousness among Nigerian youths. Heightened youth agitations around the country have become a hot topic for national discourse and have taken the centre stage with the 2019 elections around the corner.

The social media has become not just a platform for this debate but willing tools. Youths on their parts are getting unusually busy aligning and realigning politically. Proliferations of politically induced associations are becoming conspicuously visible. Sadly, however, our sit tight political elders and leaders who claim the wisdom of Solomon as to how to run the polity  are not ready to let go power or shift political boundaries to accommodate the restive youths.

Instead, they are perfecting anti-youths political strategies and tactics they hope to use to perpetuate them in power.

Current waves of political activism on the part of the youths are viewed by political pundits as a step in the right direction .They opines that it calls for celebration because alarming apathy has been the sad commentary about political participation of young people in Nigeria thus giving some Methuselah politicians the leeway to continue to prance the political space unchallenged.

It recently got to a comical but worrisome stage that some political parties and their gladiators were appointing and anointing men well above 60 as national youths leader of their various parties.  Some of these political grandfathers recently at different gatherings declared that current crop of Nigerian youths are not matured politically enough to be saddled with critical political positions. The youths were roundly accused of not being any different from the “politically matured‘’ adults.

A school of thought shares the opinion that in today’s Nigeria, and in politics, both the adults and the youths in politics are bonded by a common denominator: corruption and abuse of public office.

The above scenario leaves huge question mark on the political future of young Nigerians. Victoria  Ibezim-Ohaeri, a Harvard trained Lawyer and Executive Director, Spaces for Change, rues that “the inability  of Nigerian youths to occupy political or leadership  positions in the country, be it elective or appointment should be blamed  on the nation’s inglorious departure from politics of ideas to money politics or what is currently  referred to  as the politics of the highest bidder which the youths have no financial muscles to partake in and therefore settled for the easiest option at their disposal which is praise singing or what is referred to as ‘’Otinkpu’’ in Igbo local palace” .

On corruption allegation against the youths, the Legal luminary said the allegation has no basics as corruption knows no age, gender or tribe and is not limited to the youths but cuts across all spectrum. She added that the youths lack leadership experience because they have not been given the opportunity to participate and learn what leadership is all about like the Obasanjos and Gowons of this world that had that opportunity at their very youthful stage.

To buttress the critical issues  raised by Ohaeri, I have  had the opportunity of chatting with some youths on this topic, and the outcome of the conversation   revealed  that they been fed with and with fundamentally  wrong tradition, ideals, values and superstition of seeking instant gratification, wealth without work and pleasure without conscience  This imbibed  negative and self-limiting qualities have dovetailed into making  the youths willing and ready tools in the hands of the politicians whom they serve ingloriously.

The constitutional limitation is another point that the youths complained bitterly about describing it as a big snare. Age limit for most of the elective positions imposed by the Nigerian constitution shuts the doors of elective opportunities to the youths.

The book, “Good to Great’’ authored by Jim Collins, a management consultant, opines that ‘’ the first duty of a great leader is to find the right people and give their rightful positions. I therefore, holds the view that there are many ‘right people’ among Nigerian youths whose youthful zeal, energy and intellect will be hugely beneficial to the socio-economic and political growth of our fatherland if entrusted with critical positions of authority and leadership, whether appointed or elective.

To this end, Nigerian youths as a matter of urgency should crawl out of their shells and start thinking as professional politicians so that they could end up becoming political entrepreneurs as advised by Steven Silbiger in his wonderful master piece titled “The Jewish Phenomenon”. No time will be better than now, for the youths to learn how to prioritize, distinguishing importance from fundamental and always going for the fundamentals as they guarantee the best results.

Jerome-Mario, a journalist could be reached through [email protected]


Saudi Arabia apologises to Nigeria

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 27 min 3 sec ago

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have apologised to the Nigerian Government over an alleged maltreatment of two pilgrims by its security agents in Madina.

The Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammad Albijawi, made the apology on behalf of the Royal leaders of the Kingdom when he visited the victims in Madina.

He said the incident was regrettable and gave assurance that it would not happen again.

Mr. Albijawi said that Saudi authorities does not tolerate anything that could embarrass pilgrims and would take measures to ensure that all those who participated in the maltreatment of pilgrims were brought to book.

He stated that Saudi would continue to ensure better handling of pilgrims while in the Kingdom.

He pledged the Kingdom’s commitment to delivering the needed services to pilgrims from Nigeria and other countries of the world.


Nigeria, Russia sign defence deal

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 28 min 20 sec ago

Nigeria and the Russia Federation have agreed to pursue a common programme aimed at intensifying the fight terrorism in Nigeria, and Lake Chad basin region.

A statement issued by the Public Relations Officer to the Minister of Defence, Col. Tukur Gusau said the agreement was reached today in Moscow at a bilateral meeting between officials of both countries led by the Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu and Nigeria’s Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali.

According to the statement the Russian Defence Minister expressed satisfaction with the effort of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to make Nigeria and the region safer.

The statement said the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali thanked Russian federation for its support particularly in procurement of military platforms and training needs.

It said during the visit the two ministers signed a bilateral agreement on military cooperation and training agreement among others.

The Nigeria’s Defence Minister also inspected some Military platforms at Military technical exhibition pavilion in Moscow.

Russian media recently reported that Nigeria would buying twelve Su-30 fighter jets from Russia, two of which have already been delivered. The aircraft has two seats for long-range missions and is known for its high maneuverability.

It is manufactured by the Sukhoi Aviation Company. There has been no public announcement of the cost or how Nigeria will pay for them, but, according to past transactions, the fighter jet can cost upwards of $30 million each. Su-30’s have be seen in sub-Sahara Africa before.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Uganda and Angola inked deals to purchase the fighters within the last decade.

The Su-30 fighters, and their subsequent iterations, remain a mainstay of the Russian air force and have seen considerable action in Syria.

Among other things, the Su-30 fighter is used in air-to-ground operations. Presumably, the Nigerian government is buying them for use against Boko Haram, the Jihadist terrorist group in the north.


Domestic danger – The Nation

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 28 min 41 sec ago
  • Nigerian employers need to be much more careful when hiring domestic servants

The recent arrest of a driver who organised the kidnapping of his Filipino bosses is yet another grim reminder of the very real danger posed by subordinates who betray their employers instead of serving them.

The driver, Yinka Adebanjo, allegedly connived with six others to kidnap Mr. Jamie Larcar and Mr. Mario Maglundo and hold them until a ransom of N4 million was paid. They were kept in Iperu-Remo in Ogun State for nine days after being abducted in Odogunyan, Ikorodu, Lagos State, while being driven by Adebanjo. After their release, policemen from the anti-kidnapping unit of the Lagos State Police Command arrested the driver in Ikotun, and he led them to other members of the gang.

This case has all the ingredients familiar to a phenomenon that has become all too common across Nigeria. The driver had all the information regarding the targets’ location, movements, capacity to pay and other intelligence necessary to a successful kidnapping. As their driver, all he had to do was to arrange for other members of the gang to wait at a convenient spot to carry out the abduction.

The country’s recent past is replete with stories of housemaids who have conspired with armed robbers to loot the homes of their employers in their absence, personal servants who have robbed and killed their employers, and nannies who have kidnapped the children they were hired to look after.

Running through these tales is a gullibility that is amazingly persistent. Nigerians repeatedly hire domestic servants on social media sites without seeking references of any sort, without obtaining authentic guarantors, and without carrying out security and background checks. At best, they usually depend on the dubious recommendation of acquaintances whose claims cannot be verified.

To make matters worse, a troublingly high percentage of employers treat their servants with very little concern for their welfare and negligible acknowledgement of their human dignity. Domestic servants in particular suffer all kinds of ill-treatment, ranging from long working hours, sexual harassment and physical abuse. Drivers are expected to resume early and sign off late, and often have to undertake tasks well outside the scope of their official duties.

The optimism inherent in the social mobility of the past years is often denied these servants who can no longer hope that their children will rise to positions of social prominence like those they are serving. The scarcity of jobs makes them even more vulnerable to the caprices of cruel employers; the absence of domestic workers’ unions and the scant regard for servants by law-enforcement agencies only compounds the problem.

In essence, a toxic combination of poor vetting, harsh treatment, economic recession and the absence of institutional safeguards has created a situation in which many of those who work for others also prey on them.

If the phenomenon of insider kidnappings is to be reduced to the barest minimum, strategies must be evolved to make them less easy to undertake. The employment of domestic servants should be streamlined to make it more open and transparent. Government can encourage the establishment of licensed agencies which can hire out properly-registered domestic servants, with verified home addresses, authenticated guarantors and comprehensive biometric data. Background checks must become a compulsory aspect of the hiring process, and a comprehensive database of all domestic servants should be made available to prospective employers.

Employers themselves must stop engaging in the casual hiring of domestic servants. Word-of-mouth recommendations are insufficient for employing strangers who will work intimately with one. Greater social protections must be established for domestic workers to protect them against inhuman treatment and exploitation.

Ultimately, however, increased caution must be the watchword. The more difficult a prospective target is to kidnap, the less incentive servant-kidnappers will have to activate their nefarious plans.

Police and the Abuja protesters – Thisday

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 31 min 11 sec ago

The right of citizens to peacefully protest is a fundamental right

Following unpleasant encounters with a mob at Wuse market last Wednesday and with the Police who shot tear gas canisters at them the day earlier, protesters demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should either return to the country to resume office or resign had to suspend their daily sit-out. Now that the president is back to the country after spending more than100 days on medical vacation in the United Kingdom, the protesters led by a popular artiste, Mr. Charles Oputa (a.k.a. Charly Boy) under the aegis of “#OurMumuDonDo”, can claim some moral victory. But the police did not conduct itself very well on the matter.

It is unfortunate that policemen in our country find it difficult to understand the elementary fact that they are hired to manage the delicate balance between protecting citizens exercising their lawful rights and the responsibility of ensuring an orderly environment for the discharge of the obligations of government. A mindset that is trained always to see protesting citizens as potential criminals to be dispersed with tear gas is a disgrace to any society that aspires to be termed democratic.

The right of the citizens to peacefully protest in open expression of their grievances or support of any issue in the public space remains a fundamental right the exercise of which does not require anyone’s permission. That expression is no different from the right to free speech by individuals and groups. Protests only become matters of public safety when they degenerate into riots. But in Nigeria today, the only protest that is allowed is one that is sponsored by agents of government in aid of unpopular causes.

Policemen are paid to be present whenever and wherever the people are exercising their rights. In all such situations, it is the responsibility of the police to protect the lawful and arrest the lawless for prosecution where and when necessary. Therefore, scuttling and abridging citizen rights, most often on spurious grounds, is a relic of decades of military autocracy. Security is not the myth and cultic mystery that we keep being blackmailed with.

As we have reiterated repeatedly on this page, by voluntarily entrusting to a few elected people the responsibility of governing their affairs, the people have not relinquished their power. They have merely entrusted it to the office holders. They can invoke that power at periodic elections to either vote for a popular government or even vote out an unpopular one. In the same vein, they can invoke that power by staging public protests over any issue on which they may feel dissatisfied. In a presidential democracy such as ours the people should not be shut out from expressing their views in matters which affect their interests and welfare.

It must be noted that the Nigerian Court has ruled that the right to peaceful rally and peaceful demonstration is a fundamental human right protected under our constitution. Specifically, section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of movement. Besides, peaceful strikes, lock-outs, non-violent positive actions and others are well-known legitimate weapons of expression in a democracy.

Now that President Buhari has returned to the country, we need to stress that the people do not derive their natural right to peaceful assembly from the government: they are born with that right. Besides, the era of military dictatorship is gone. We are now under a presidential democracy which ought to guarantee maximum expression of the citizens’ fundamental rights especially the rights to hold public gatherings and public debates. Therefore, it is important for the Police to conduct their activities in line with the aspirations of the people who at all times deserve to be heard.

Resolving the ASUU/FG logjam – The Sun

THE CITIZEN ONLINE - 33 min 29 sec ago

University teachers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) have commenced another strike to protest the Federal Government’s failure to fully implement the 2009 agreement and 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with the union. The industrial action, which commenced on Monday, August 14, has paralysed academic activities in about 40 federal and 44 state universities across the country.

As explained by ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the “total, comprehensive and indefinite” strike became necessary because of the alleged breach of the MoU arising from the 2009 FG/ASUU Agreement on financing of state universities; breach of the conditions of service; refusal to honour the Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), and re-negotiation of the agreement. The ASUU leader stressed that other aspects of the 2009 agreement which the government has been reluctant to implement include conditions of service, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom. Altogether, ASUU says that the federal government owes the universities over N880 billion intervention funds arising from the NEEDS Assessment Report. The other critical issues are lack of funds for revitalisation of public universities, non-release of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Commission (NUPEMCO) operational licence, non-payment of earned academic allowance, and non-payment/payment of salaries infractions.

The Federal Government has opened dialogue with the leadership of the striking union with intent to resolve all the outstanding issues. And, there are strong indications that the matter will be resolved soon. While the strike is on, it is good that the government, through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has admitted that its failure to resolve the outstanding issues with ASUU was responsible for the industrial action, even though he frowned that ASUU went on strike without following due process and giving the government enough notice.

Since the government knows the cause of the current strike, it must do all in its power to arrest the situation to avoid an indefinite lockdown of the  universities. We say this because long closure of these institutions will not be in the best interest of the university system, academics and the students. The earlier all the issues that informed the strike are resolved the better for the country.

We recall that our public universities suffered industrial actions in 2011, 2012 and 2013, due to the failure of government to honour the 2009 agreement. The government must avoid a situation that will perpetuate such a vicious circle in the university system.

Although ASUU did not fulfill Section 17 (1) of the Trade Disputes Act which provides that “an employee shall not declare or take part in a lock-out and a worker shall not take part in a strike in connection with any trade dispute where (a) the procedure specified in S.3 or 5 of this Act has not been complied with in relation to the dispute,” it has genuine grounds for the strike.

We disapprove of government’s penchant for reneging on agreements it freely enters into with workers’ unions. It is not proper that the Federal Government reached an agreement with ASUU and failed to fulfill it. It is not good for government to renege on its pledges.

Since equity does not act in vain, we urge the government to set in motion the steps that will lead to the resolution of the longstanding dispute with ASUU. Considering declining government revenue on account of the crash in oil prices, we urge ASUU to be realistic in its demands from the government.   While government is a continuum and the present administration is bound by the agreement signed by its predecessors with the union, the lecturers must   realise that the finances of the country are not as buoyant now as when the agreement was signed. They should, therefore, allow the country’s difficult financial situation to temper their demands.

We also wish to remand ASUU that the frequency of its strikes has become embarrassing and   unacceptable. It should seek other ways of airing its grievances without regularly making nonsense of the university calendar and throwing students into a quandary.

Above all, let government take education very seriously, especially university education. It should fund the universities adequately so that they can compete favourably with their counterparts the world over. Frequent disruptions of the academic calendar are not good for universities. The poor ranking of our universities on global indexes show that all is not well with our university system. We enjoin both parties to this dispute to find an amicable solution to the problem and avoid indefinite lockdown of the universities..

Pig: Livestock of tremendous profitability

THE PUNCH - 1 hour 22 min ago

Arinze Onebunne

Despite the huge profitability of pig farming, many Nigerians are still overlooking this goldmine because of being ignorant on how it really works. While some don’t just get the fact that it is a money spinner, many who engage in it do it as a part time business. But if you can engage in this business fully, you will make millions.

It may come as a surprise to those of us in Nigeria that love pork meat; that pork has the highest consumption rate of all meat types worldwide.

About 36 per cent of meat eaten by humans annually is pork, followed by poultry (35 per cent), and cattle and goat (22 per cent). Lamb and mutton, come in at a distant four and six per cent respectively.

Many factors affect these trends. They include religious beliefs, environmental conditions, pricing and the growth of the human population.

Livestock producers continually strive to breed the ‘ultimate animal’ – one that grows faster and converts food to meat better, carries more meat in valuable areas of the carcass, and has a better temperament for ease of handling.

In many respects, pigs are ideal in this regard. They have fast growth rates and good feed-to-meat conversion ratios; are relatively easy to raise and do not require much space; have prolific breeding potential; and are docile.

These factors not only lead to increased profitability but also will surely assist in meeting the growing demand for meat in future. Pork consumption is likely to increase even more due to lower production costs.

Pigs, which belong to the Genus Sus, are very intelligent animals. There are 16 species, including warthogs and wild boars. Pigs interbreed quite easily and domesticated pigs will breed with wild pigs if allowed to.

Domesticated pigs vary according to breed, and some breeds have been line-bred to produce more lean meat than others have. There are hundreds of breeds of domesticated pigs, with about 25 being popular with commercial farmers.

It is possible to choose a specific breed or certain outcrosses to satisfy a particular market. For example, very fat pigs may not be useful for the production of belly or ‘streaky’ bacon, as the bacon will have more fat than meat.

Pigs are highly sociable, and communicate with one another via grunts of different pitch and duration. Pigs in the wild live in groups called ‘sounders,’ usually made up of one male with a number of sows.

Some sounders have been known to include 300 members. Males chased away by dominant boars often leave to form their own sounder in another location.

Pigs are remarkably clean and will often reserve an area in a sty solely for defecation.

Prolific breeders
Pigs usually breed twice a year, and produce about 12-20 piglets in a litter. These weigh about 1.1kg at birth and, unlike any other livestock, may double their weight in the first week of life if they obtain sufficient milk from the sow.

Piglets can be weaned at two to four weeks and can be slaughtered as ‘weaners’ at two to three months old. Other categories include ‘porkers’ (slaughtered at four months), ‘baconers’ (at eight months) and ‘sausage pigs,’ elderly animals that are culled.

In comparing pig growth rates and offspring numbers to those of cattle and sheep, it is easy to see why pig farming can accelerate profitability if undertaken properly in a humane, clean, and stress-free environment.

This is not only the correct thing to do. A lack of such farming practices can lead to great financial loss due to disease and stress-related problems.

Today’s domesticated pig has most of the qualities that the modern farmer looks for in livestock, including high profitability.

Investors should embrace piggery for quick returns and produce surplus food in Nigeria, to bring about the diversification of the Nigerian economy rather than expending billions of dollars annually in importation of frozen fish and meat.

Visit us for consultancy or attend Jovana Farms seminars nearest to you and discover how produce pigs! Can’t attend? Order for self-tutorial VCD & book. Visit: www.jovanafarms.come-mail:[email protected] or call: 080 33262 808, for more details. Choose also the nearest venue from our website.​

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Are you losing sleep over school fees?

THE PUNCH - 1 hour 24 min ago

Author of ‘Practical Steps to Financial Independence and personal finance coach,’ USIERE UKO, writes about the self-inflicted pressure arising from school fees we can’t afford   

 School resumption is not the best of times for many parents. While the child may be excited about moving to a new class, the parent may be wondering how the money will come together. Many parents are losing sleep, trying to figure out how to raise money to pay fees for the school they chose to send their children. Nobody put a gun to their heads. They chose the school out of their own volition. They are writhing with pain from self-inflicted injury.

I often wonder why parents send their children to schools they cannot afford. I have heard many excuses. They want to give their children good education. They don’t trust the quality of education offered by cheaper or free schools. They want to give their children opportunities they never had while growing up.

Trying to convince a parent otherwise is often a waste of time or energy, unless they have endured enough school fees-inflicted pain and are ready to do something different.

There is nothing wrong with wanting something better for your children. That is very noble indeed. It is how it should be. Things ought to get better, and not worse. But the issue is simple; can you afford it?

 It is also painful for the child

Many parents are not aware of the pain the child goes through going to a school the parents cannot afford. It gets obvious very quickly that the child does not belong. Classmates and sometimes teachers rub it in at the earliest opportunity. When all you can afford is school fees, what about uniforms, books, school shoes, bags, sportswear, club dues, and school trips? Each time the list of students yet to pay up is called out, your child’s name comes up. The child takes the brunt of the consequences of the parent’s failure to meet up.

How does the child feel watching others do stuff while the parent keeps giving excuses? How does your child feel getting locked out of class due to late payment of fees? I heard a story of a child who was denied graduation gown due to non-payment of school fees. The child missed her high school graduation. How can the parents make it right? Arrange another graduation for the child? How will the child forget such humiliation in a hurry?

The child is made to suffer a huge dose of low self-esteem because of the sins of the parents. It is not a good feeling hearing your teacher and school authorities call your hard working parents irresponsible.

 Self-inflicted suffering

Property owners, for inability to pay the rent, throw out some parents. Some have wrecked their businesses on the altar of paying high school fees. How does being perpetually under pressure serve? If you are struggling to pay primary and secondary school tuition, what happens when the child goes to the university? What message are you sending to the child regarding cutting your coat according to your cloth?

Regarding the quality of education, does going to an expensive school translate to success in life? Reality seems to show the opposite. If degrees are what makes a person or nation great, Nigeria would be a first world country. The fact that Nigerians graduate top of the class in the best universities in the world is yet to be translated to greatness as a nation. It is an established fact that emotional intelligence is a better indicator of success in life than academic intelligence. While we kill ourselves over good grades from good schools, we seem to neglect what matters most.

There is nothing wrong with getting one if you can afford it. However, killing oneself with financial pressure when academic intelligence is not the only success factor does not make much sense.

Focus on academics to the exclusion of other factors is an industrial age mindset. Many professions are becoming obsolete while many new ones are being born. If you are not careful, you may be killing yourself with stress and preparing your child for a world that no longer exists. The skills you need to succeed in today’s world are different from the 1980s and 1990s.

The assumption that your child will take care of you in your old age may no longer hold. Someone noted that children are getting more selfish as one goes from one generation to the other. Even when the child is inclined to support the parents, he needs to have a job, which is not guaranteed by expensive education.

You can always find your level

There are things parents can do if they feel the standard of education they could afford is not adequate. It ranges from getting a private teacher for the child, have one of the parents teach, or go online. The child can enroll on many online home schooling websites. Home schooling can also be an option if the child could enroll for certificate exams as an external student. There is always a way out when there is a will. What is important is getting the education the child needs, not how much you paid for it.

If all fails, missing a year is not a death sentence. Success in life is not based on first to finish school. Developing other competencies gives a competitive edge compared to finishing first while remaining immature emotionally.

At the end of the day, it depends on what you really want, and finding the right path to get there in one piece. We are all running an individual race. Where you start does not determine where you will end up.

 For questions or comments, email [email protected]; to order the book, call or send a SMS to 0808 275 0980. You can visit www.financialfreedominspiration.com . Follow me on twitter @usiere

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What should be Buhari’s top priorities now?

THE PUNCH - 1 hour 28 min ago
  • Siyan Oyeweso (Professor of History, Osun State University)

I welcome back Mr. President, and I thank God that his health condition has greatly improved. His war on corruption is a good one and it should continue. I call on Mr. President to clearly define the economic agenda that his administration must pursue vigorously. We also need a new vision and strategy for the war against the Boko Haram insurgency, in addition to restoring our educational system to its glory and full potential.

I am also of the view that private universities should be beneficiaries of TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) intervention grants. The fund is a collective initiative of all Nigerians. Private universities should also be benefiting from this fund because they produce manpower for the nation, even if it is in terms of ICT (Information Communication Technology) support or library and conferences. With this kind of support, lecturers in private universities will be on equal advantage with their counterparts in state and federal universities. This is one major thing I believe the President should pursue immediately.

However, I disagree with his position that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. He is not speaking like a democrat. We should talk about Nigeria because God did not create the geographical entity called Nigeria; it was the British colonial master, Lord Lugard, who did. If Lord Lugard did that, then let us reform Nigeria. You can call it restructuring, but the restructuring I am talking of must be within the confines of a united Nigeria. This is not about separation or division of the country but restructuring Nigeria to make things work better.

  • Chief Rafiu Balogun (National Legal Adviser, Nigerian Bar Association)

I welcome Mr. President back to the country and I wish him well. I am elated that we have a competent and committed Vice-President, who held the fort for Mr. President while he was in London receiving medical attention. Mr. President would have naturally taken briefing from the Vice-President already and would continue from where the VP stopped as acting President. So, I do not expect that there will be any need to slow down the pace of governance.

However, I suggest that Mr. President should continue to prioritise security, especially containing kidnapping cases and the Boko Haram menace. My personal opinion is also that the negotiation with the Boko Haram sect should be concretised so that the remaining Chibok girls can be released. If this is achieved, the wanton destruction of lives and property in the North-East will be finally eradicated. The issue of security globally is very critical and the government must not shirk in its responsibility to secure lives and property.

Mr. President must not treat insecurity with levity because it can discourage investors from putting their money in our economy. As part of the new security measures to be considered, I subscribe to the creation of state police, despite the fears expressed by those against the policy. Although I commend the efforts of this administration in tackling insecurity so far, I must add that more measures should be introduced.

The other issues are the economy and unemployment. This government needs to do more to fix the economy and create jobs for our youths, who are roaming the streets. Unemployment is a time bomb if it is not addressed urgently. Mr. President should declare state of emergency on unemployment as we cannot afford youth restiveness in this nation. Electricity is key to fixing the economy. Our Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, is doing his best and I think all hands must be on deck to improve power supply in this country.

Power is a major factor in the efforts being made to revive our ailing economy. Besides, the fight against corruption should continue with renewed vigour. Finally, hate speeches and the notice to quit issued by some groups to the Igbo living in the North must be properly addressed. These are the things that I suggest that Mr. President should address on resumption of office.

  • Mr. Olubunmi Fajobi (Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Ogun State chapter)

I am happy to have President Muhammadu Buhari back in the country. His address to the nation gives a vivid indication of his mindset.

The need to address the following seems very urgent – the growing agitation for restructuring on one hand and the separatists’ clamour for the breakup of the country on the other hand.

The restructuring agitators’ primary aim is to achieve fair and equitable sharing of the country’s resources. It is a call to address the skewed 1999 Constitution that is believed to favour the North than the South.

The separatists in the garb of IPOB, Arewa Youths, Yoruba Youth Forum, Niger Delta Youth Forum, etc., on their part, are demanding the breakup of Nigeria. However, dismantling the entity called Nigeria is not the solution now, given the intertwined situation we already have. But, we can adequately address the clamour for restructuring, which will help all the components of the country a great deal.

Again, revamping the ailing economy is as important as the ultimate survival of the nation. In spite of the improved proceeds from crude oil and non-oil exports, the inflation rate is put at well above 15 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The effects are visible in the reversed gain of the naira against the US dollar, increasing youth unemployment and restiveness. Above all, we have witnessed a decline of the real sector of the economy.

The Nigerian workforce is grossly depressed as the little wage workers are paid is not enough to take them home. This calls for the need to urgently address the long overdue issue of minimum wage increase.

The closure of public universities is another hydra-headed challenge. Its fallouts are predictable -increase in youth unrest, prostitution and crime.

President Buhari could help bring the Nigerian nation back to the path of glory. He can achieve this when these fundamentals are vigorously pursued with focus and sincerity.

Lastly, it has become imperative for Mr. President to tinker with his cabinet, else the change he promised the nation is about to elude the people. Time is really no longer Buhari’s friend.

  • Chief Dare Adekolu (Chairman, Mega Progressive People’s Party, Ekiti State chapter)

It is good that President Muhammadu Buhari came back from his medical vacation and he appreciated the resilience of Nigerians. He should also appreciate the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and his cabinet members.

However, the President should intensify efforts to recoup the money that is stashed away in foreign countries by treasury looters. He should also redouble efforts to prosecute all corruption cases so that those found guilty will be jailed by the courts. The President should also give consideration to the agitation and protests by various parts of the country with a view to proffering solutions to them.

He should study the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference and see if there are areas that can help him. If he is not pleased, he can convene a national conference where the various parts of the country will sit under one roof and sort out those issues that have been agitating their minds. But, I will rather suggest that he should take a look at the 2014 recommendations because of the cost of organising another conference.

The fight against Boko Haram insurgency must also be renewed and sustained in the interest of peace in the country. The Nigerian military must be encouraged and motivated so that the gains recorded in the past are not lost. Similarly, the crisis in the education sector occasioned by the Academic Staff Union of Universities must be resolved. When students are on strike and are not engaged in any gainful activities, the crime rate will naturally increase in the country.

  • Chris Abasieyo (A former Commissioner of Information, Akwa Ibom State)

President Muhammadu Buhari has resumed and has been adequately briefed by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who held the fort while he was away from Nigeria. I expect that Mr. President will study his notes and take decisive actions on areas which have agitated the minds of Nigerians, especially those relating to the restructuring of the country.

Let the President set up a committee right away to prepare for the inauguration of a national conference to address the myriads of issues agitating the minds of Nigerians.  Let’s start talking before things implode.

The President must work towards restructuring and true federalism. Nigeria, as it is today, is not balanced; it is a nation of nations and his administration can do a lot to correct the imbalance that we see everywhere.

Compiled by: Kamarudeen Ogundele, Success Nwogu, Femi Makinde, Samuel Awoyinfa and Etim Ekpimah

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Watch out for arsenic poisoning from rice (1)

THE PUNCH - 1 hour 33 min ago

Rice is a cereal grain that is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia. It is the agricultural commodity with the third highest worldwide production after sugar cane and maize.

With the recession in our part of the world, rice has now become one of the cheapest and most readily affordable and available staple food, despite being mostly imported.

Even our own locally grown crops like yam, cassava and beans are a lot more expensive to buy. Gone were the days in Nigeria when rice was a festivity meal, it is now eaten in many homes and by many people on a daily basis.

Apart from its relative affordability, it is quite loved by many, a comfort food par excellence. What is chicken stew without rice?

Unfortunately, our ‘dear rice’ has its hitches and those who love it and want to eat should know how to eat it safely. Arsenic, a toxic and highly dangerous chemical element with symbol As, has stealthily invaded our food supply, especially rice. Arsenic in rice has tested at levels capable of triggering symptoms of arsenic poisoning!

How does arsenic get to food?

It shows up in our food through three main sources.

First, it naturally occurs in the earth’s crust, coming in at the 33rd most abundant substance that makes up the outer layer of the earth. It often occurs in higher concentrations with other precious or industrial metals, like gold and tungsten.

Thus, a certain amount of exposure is unavoidable and normal. Some areas, though, have naturally elevated and thus problematic base arsenic levels, especially areas known for mining.

Second, some industries release arsenic into the environment. While those industries connected to mining and refining appear to be the largest emitters, they are not alone. Depending on their proximity to these industries, arsenic can end up in its water and soils, and then in the food grown there.

Third, some pesticides and other agricultural chemicals contain arsenic, which builds up over time in soils where they are used.

For many decades, farmers cultivated cotton using arsenic containing agricultural chemicals. Unfortunately, some of the best places to grow rice today are the same places farmers once grew cotton using arsenic-laced chemicals. In addition, commercial chicken farms used arsenic for a long time as a poultry feed additive.

More problematic is the fact that, the type of arsenic often, though not exclusively, used in agricultural processes is inorganic (meaning it is not bound to carbon but other elements and chemicals) and is far more dangerous to human health than the kind that naturally occurs in the earth’s crust.

Certain parts of the United States have startlingly high levels of arsenic contamination in the soil and water. California and Texas, two of the primary places rice is grown, rank as some of the worst in their nation. Mississippi and Arkansas, also major rice producing regions, show problematic arsenic levels in their soils too.

However, it is not limited to these regions as arsenic contamination is incredibly widespread and problematic across any modern major agricultural region. This is especially the case with areas that have high concentrations of concentrated animal feeding operations, otherwise known as CAFO poultry production.

Poultry litter (chicken manure mixed with bedding) is a major source of arsenic contamination. For many years, industrial factory farms used arsenic as a growth stimulant for chickens. The arsenic causes the chickens to eat more, which means they grow faster, which means the big industrial farms make more money. The problem is that the chicken’s faeces is laced with lots of arsenic. All that manure is then used to fertilise grain and vegetable fields.

The arsenic also ends up in groundwater, which people drink and use to irrigate their crops in many regions.

This results in foods, especially those that tend to uptake more arsenic than others, becoming dangerously high in this contaminant. Rice is one such food.

Rice loves arsenic

Unfortunately, arsenic easily contaminates rice crops for two reasons. First, rice appears to have an innate penchant for picking up this chemical element from the soil. By some estimates, rice is 10 times more efficient than other plants at arsenic uptake.

Second, farmers almost always grow rice in flooded paddies. This method exposes rice to far more arsenic than other grain crops since arsenic is highly water soluble. It is also found in irrigation and other water sources, such as well water.

In 2013, the FDA finally banned arsenic as an additive to chicken feed but the environmental and human damage from decades of use is already done.

What does arsenic do to us?

According to a review of arsenic poisoning and its effect on human health by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, soluble inorganic arsenic can have immediate toxic effects. This means that ingestion of a one-time heavy load can lead to acute gastrointestinal symptoms such as severe vomiting, disturbances of the blood and circulation, damage to the nervous system, hallucinations, psychosis and eventually death. When not deadly, it may reduce blood cells production, break up red blood cells in the circulation, enlarge the liver (causing chronic hepatitis or hepatic cirrhosis), colour the skin (melanosis, hyperkeratosis, desquamation and eventually carcinoma), produce tingling and loss of sensation in the limbs, and cause brain damage.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water in Taiwan has caused Blackfoot disease, in which the blood vessels in the lower limbs are severely damaged, resulting eventually in progressive gangrene. However, arsenic exposure has caused other forms of blood vessel disease in the limbs in several other countries.

It can present with non-specific symptoms, which can be present in many other diseases such as palpitations, fatigue, headache, dizziness, insomnia, weakness, nightmares, numbness in the extremities and anaemia

There is strong evidence supporting arsenic playing a part in elevated blood pressure, heart attacks and another circulatory disease. It may also be implicated in diabetes, infertility, stroke and cancers, especially that of the skin, lungs, bladder, kidneys and long-term neurological effects.

In the lungs, asthmatic bronchitis (a cough, expectoration, breathlessness, and restrictive asthma) are common symptoms in long-term insidious exposure. Symptoms of the clinical phase are associated with different complications as the other organs like lungs, liver, muscles, eyes, vessels are affected. Clinical symptoms are associated with biochemical evidence of organ dysfunction as well as high concentrations of arsenic in different organs involved. Liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), spleen enlargement (splenomegaly) and fluid in the abdomen (ascites) are seen in several cases.

To be continued….

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Equities market appreciates by 1.03%, 21 gainers emerge

THE PUNCH - 1 hour 36 min ago

Stanley Opara

The Nigerian stock market soared by 1.03 per cent at the close of trading on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Tuesday as 21 gainers emerged.

A total of 244.315 million shares worth N3.672bn exchanged hands in 3,829 deals, with 22 stocks making the losers’ chart.

The NSE market capitalisation appreciated to N12.739tn from N12.609tn, as the All-Share Index closed at 36,962.48 basis points from 36,584.44 basis points.

The day’s gain pushed the year-to-date return to 37.54 per cent. But, the market turnover and volume traded dipped by 41.45 per cent and 33.68 per cent, respectively.

Commenting on the market performance, analysts at Afrinvest Securities, in a brief, said, “The positive performance was on account of gains of 4.3 per cent in Dangote Cement Plc. Ex-Dangote Cement, the benchmark index would have declined 0.3 per cent.

“While the equities market has continued to ride on the positive developments in the economy, the negative performance experienced in previous sessions presents a potential upside for investors to source for bargain. Hence, we envisage a rebound in investors’ sentiment in subsequent trading sessions.”

Caverton Offshore Support Group Plc and Total Nigeria Plc were the best performing stocks, advancing by five per cent each to close at N1.05 and N239.51, respectively.

This was followed by C & I Leasing Plc, UAC Property Development Company Plc and Skye Bank Plc, which appreciated by 4.85 per cent, 4.73 per cent and 4.69 per cent, accordingly.

Leading the losers’ chart, however, were Conoil Plc, Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Plc, Mobil Nigeria PLc, UACN Plc and May & Baker Nigeria Plc.

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