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Buhari Charges Ministers-Designate to Prove Their Mettle

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, tasked ministers designate to live up to the expectations of Nigerians by by working in tune with his administration’s policies and ensuring that that the lives of Nigerians especially the ordinary citizens are better off. 

The President enjoined the ministers designate to adopt team work adding that many national issues require unified decisions.

The President gave the charge when he  declared-opened, a two day retreat for ministers-designate and other top government functionaries at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He emphasized that his new cabinet members would have to prove their mettle in delivering on policies and programmes aimed at  lifting many Nigerians out of poverty index.

 At the end of the Retreat, Buhari said, “it is hoped that all of you will be in tune with the roles and responsibilities of positions you will occupy in Government.

He said that his government succeeded in the last four years in rolling back the frontiers of terrorism; and actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety on our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.

The President declared that his government would have to carve a niche for itself economically, by ignoring what he termed as ‘handouts from development partners’ to solve prevailing challenges confronting the country.

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He explained that considering the United Nations (UN) projection that Nigeria’s population will increase to 411 million by 2050, to become the third globally, behind only India and China, there was need for urgent measures to check what he described as ‘frightening consequences’.

He said: “we are all aware of the looming demographic potential of our country. By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates put Nigeria third globally behind only India and China with our projected population at 411 million.

“This is a frightening prospect but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us,” he added.

The President also noted that: “as Ministers, I am counting on you together with Advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to build upon our road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.”

He said his government cumulatively in eight years, would have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

According to him, such outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place it among the World’s Great Nations.

Buhari who reminded the ministers designate that they will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in their various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), said that they must ensure that such agencies remain effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.

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President Buhari said, “It is a great privilege for you to be called upon to serve in these Great Offices of State and you must grasp the chance with two hands and put in your best efforts as Nigeria today needs top managers to handle our numerous challenges. There will be long hours and you must be prepared to live laborious days if we are to serve our people optimally.

“I congratulate all the new comers who your country has chosen above others to join the first term Ministers whose performance has been outstanding. All of you are appointed to assist and advise the President in running the affairs of our country.

“We are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.

“On corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption,” Buhari said.

Earlier in his remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that the objective of the retreat was to prepare the new cabinet members for the challenges ahead in Buhari’s second tenure, while affording them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their roles and responsibilities as Cabinet Ministers.

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This, the SGF said, would help to shape and streamline efforts towards achieving the delivery of dividends of democracy to the people of Nigeria.

He said that the outcome of the retreat will set a strategic agenda which would define our course of action for the next four years of the Administration, set achievable targets and identify basic strategic options that will assist the new Cabinet realise the goals for which the Administration was elected to achieve.

According to him, the retreat was conceptualized in three thematic phases comprising, a Context Setting segment, led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and supported by Mckinsey & Co. and KPMG as consultants.

“The second segment is principally designed to be more interactive, setting the values of team work as your appointments demand, which will be demonstrated by your involvement in syndicated breakout sessions focused on topics across defined Government priority areas,” Boss noted.

The retreat is expected to end on Tuesday while the ministers will be assigned portfolios and sworn-in by President Buhari on Wednesday inside the Council Chambers.

Education

 UNICEF Reveals 226,000 Grave Violations Against Children

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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja. 

Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,

 According to UNICEF, this figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain, and fear that child and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.

West and Central Africa is the region with the second highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally. In the Central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), conflict and insecurity have been major drivers of population displacement, which has put children further at risk of grave violations.

In these three countries, the number of verified grave violations increased by 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the last quarter of 2021. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed in recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. 

UNICEF emphasized that 25 years of children and armed conflict:Taking action to protect children in war – found that between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict; over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict; at least 4,800 children have been verified as abducted by parties to conflict; parties to conflict have raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and committed other grave forms of sexual violence against at least 8,000 children.

 The United Nations verified more than 2,500 incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals and verified no fewer than 1,900 incidents of denial of humanitarian access for children since 2005 in West and Central Africa.

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In Nigeria there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children. These violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.

In most conflict areas in the West and Central Africa region, civilians continue to be targeted. This includes the deliberate targeting of frontline humanitarian workers who are finding it more difficult to deliver life-saving services and supplies to children in large parts of the Central Sahel and other conflict-affected areas of the region.

“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the wellbeing of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Based on sixteen years of data from the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the report illustrates the impact that armed conflicts have had on children, by presenting trends of grave violations across the world and over time. The report examines how information on the documented patterns of grave violations is being used to respond to children’s needs and how engagement with parties to conflict – State and non-State actors alike enables ending and preventing grave violations.

The annual number of verified violations in the world has gradually increased since 2005, surpassing 20,000 in a year for the first time in 2014 and reaching 26,425 in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the daily global average of verified grave violations stood at an alarming 71 violations. The elevated number of violations observed in recent years demonstrates the dramatic impact that armed conflict and increasingly complex and protracted protection crises have on children.

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The report notes that many children suffer from more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, particularly recruitment and use and sexual violence. Children especially girls who have been abducted and/or associated with parties to conflict are exposed to elevated risks of sexual violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

The report found that grave violations against children were committed by States and non-State actors alike underscoring the importance of engagement with all parties to conflict, to meaningfully end and prevent violations against children.

In order to bolster accountability, parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict develop and implement Action Plans with specific, concrete, and time-bound actions to establish sustainable measures to protect children from the impact of conflict. Between 2005 and 2021, a total of 16 Action Plans have been signed by parties to conflict in 6 conflict situations. 

14 Action Plans were signed with non-State actors, with the remaining 2 were signed with State actors. The report lays out several examples highlighting the critical value and impact of Action Plans in bringing about positive change for children, both in the immediate and long terms, as well as outlining challenges and obstacles.

The ever-growing number of armed non-State actors, the development and employment of new means and methods of warfare, the use of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, are just some of the many factors contributing to the creation of unprecedented challenges for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

It is important to note that the increase in verified violations over time also underscores the increasing strength of the monitoring and reporting mechanism over the years. The development of guidance on monitoring and reporting, the training and capacity building of UN and its partners’ staff on documenting grave violations, and the awareness raising of families and communities on the protection risks for children, have all contributed to strengthen the mechanism and enabled it to collect increased information on grave violations against children.

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Whilst the overall ability of the United Nations to document and verify incidents of grave violations has increased over time, it has fluctuated from one year to another, from one situation to another, and from one violation to another. In this regard, and based on all of the above, direct comparisons between situations, years, or violations should be undertaken with caution.

“Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and multi-country emergencies, including crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating consequences on children and communities. Beyond the consequences for the victims, grave violations of children’s rights are often accompanied by massive population displacements that increase the vulnerability of thousands of people and expose more children to other risks of violence,” said Ms. Poirier.

The report recommendations, based on the evidence and analysis presented, aim to mobilize all concerned stakeholders, including parties to conflict, States, and the UN Security Council, to effectively and sustainably protect children and to accelerate action at local, national, regional, and global levels.

In addition to calling on parties to conflict, and states, to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, the report includes recommendations on how to better provide adequate care and response services to children affected by conflict,ways to improve data disaggregation and analysis for better response and prevention,how to support Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) to accelerate action, and improve CTFMR engagement with governments and ways to better engage with parties to conflict to develop Action Plans and sustainably protect children.

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Biden Announces Expansion of U.S. Military Presence in Europe

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The U.S. military presence in Europe is set for a long-term expansion, U.S. President Joe Biden says.

“We’re going to make up sure that NATO is ready to meet threats from all directions across every domain, land, air and the sea,’’ Biden said.

He spoke alongside alliance NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid.

Biden noted plans for increased U.S. troop deployments in the Baltics, the deployment of two squadrons of U.S. F35 fighters in Britain and additional air defences in Italy and Germany.

Biden also announced the establishment of a permanent headquarters for the U.S.  Fifth Army corps in Poland.

The announcement followed a U.S. decision to up the number of U.S. destroyers based in Rota, Spain from four to six. (dpa/NAN)

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NEWS

Breaking: Reps Raise Crack Team to Probe Oil Subsidy Regime Under Buhari

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday, raised a crack adhoc committee, to Probe the petroleum Products subsidy Regime in the last five years, from 2017 to 2021

The committee was given eight weeks to carryout this investigation and report back to the House for further legislative action.

The decision was sequel to a motion on the “Need to Investigate the Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021”, brought before the Honda by Hon.

Sergius Ose Ogun.

The lawmaker had said that his motion was informed by section 88 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) , which empowered the National Assembly to conduct investigations into the activities of any authority executing 

or administering laws made by the National Assembly;.

He also noted that Section 32 of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 saddled the Petroleum Midstream and 

Downstream Regulatory Authority with the task of regulating and monitoring technical and commercial 

midstream and downstream petroleum operations in Nigeria.

Ogun informed the House that as of 2002, the NNPC’s purchase of crude oil at international market prices stood at 445,000 barrels per day in order to enable it to provide petroleum products for local consumption.

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He was concerned that as at 2002, the installed capacity of Nigeria’s local refineries stood at 445,000 barrels per 

day, however, their capacity utilization began to nosedive and eventually fell completely to zero due to the 

ineffectiveness and alleged corruption of critical stakeholders in the value chain.

The lawmaker said he was aware that due to the decline in the production capacity of the refineries, NNPC found it more convenient to export domestic crude in exchange for petroleum products on trade by barter basis described as Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.

He said he was further aware that component costs in the petroleum products subsidy value chain claimed by the NNPC was highly over-bloated while the transfer pump price per litre used by the NNPC in relation to PPMC was 

underquoted as N123-N128 instead of N162-N165 and this fraudulent under-reporting of N37-N39 per 

litre translates into over 70 billion naira a month or 840 billion naira a year.

The legislator worried that the consumption rate of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was 40million to 45million litres per day, however, the NNPC used 65 million to 100 million litres per day to determine subsidy as discoverable 

from NNPC’s monthly reports to the Federal Allocation Committee (FAAC).

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He also worried that the subsidy regime has been unscrupulously used by the NNPC and other critical 

stakeholders to subvert the nation’s crude oil revenue to the tune of over 10 billion US dollars, with records 

showing that as at 2021, over 7 billion US dollars in over 120 million barrels have been so diverted.

The lawmaker was disturbed that “there exists evidence that subsidy amounts are being duplicated, thus subsidy is charged against petroleum products sales in the books of NNPC as well as against crude oil revenue in the books 

of NAPIMS to the tune of over N2 trillion.”

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