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FG Assures Microsoft, Multinationals of Conducive Business Environment

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, has  assured of the government’s dedication and commitment towards creating a conducive business environment that will enable multinational companies to expand their investments in the country with a view to contributing to the nation’s economic growth and development.

 Edun gave the assurance when he received and met with a delegation in his office in Abuja from Microsoft Nigeria, led by the Country Manager Nigeria, Olatomiwa Williams.

The Minister welcomed Microsoft’s commitment to Nigeria and emphasized the administration’s understanding of the strategic importance of sector leaders like Microsoft.

The meeting, he said, marks a significant step forward in fostering a collaborative relationship between the federal government and multinational technology companies, driving economic development and innovation in Nigeria.

Speaking earlier, Microsoft Country Manager for Nigeria, Olatomiwa Williams, stated that the team was on the visit to address recent media reports and explore potential areas of collaboration between the federal government and the technology giant.

 The Managing Director reassured the Minister that Microsoft remains committed to its operations in Nigeria, contrary to recent speculation.

He expressed the company’s desire to partner with the government in areas of mutual interest, including cyber security and youth upskilling.

Customs Officers Reject N1.5m Bribe from Vandals – Comptroller

Officers and men of the Nigerian Customs Service, Sokoto/Zamfara Command were said to have turned down N1.5m bribe from suspected vandals of railway tracks.

The operatives of the command on June 8, clamped down on a notorious cartel that specialises in the vandalisation of railway tracks, alongside a truck conveying a 20-foot container laden with vandalised railway tracks.

Also in the process, three suspects were intercepted by the command’s monitoring team at Kajiji along Kebbi Road.

The Comptroller of Customs, Sokoto/Zamfara Commands, Kamal Muhammed, while briefing newsmen at the command’s headquarters in Sokoto on Monday, said,  “The suspects could not tender evidence of allocation from the Federal Ministry of Transport, instead made an overture to bribe the officers with N1.5m and even making an advance cash offer of N300, 000.

“Out of patriotism and integrity, the officers chose the path of honour by detaining them at the command headquarters.

“As we are all aware, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence is the agency mandated to secure critical national assets, conforming with the collaboration policy thrust of the CGC, the Area Command will hand over the suspects, the truck, and its content and the N300,000 cash to the Commander NSCDC Sokoto Command who is here with us for further investigation and prosecution”

Speaking further, he noted that in compliance with the orders of the Comptroller General of Customs to seal up routes used by smugglers to smuggle contraband, officers of the whirlwind tactical team intercepted 11,270 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

He said, “In compliance with the Comptroller General of Customs matching order to seal up all routes used for the smuggling of petroleum products, the Zone  ” B” whirlwind tactical team with reinforcement by Officers and men of Sokoto/Zamfara Area Command intercepted 11, 270litrea of Premium Motor Spirit popularly called petrol.

“The maritime and cross border smuggling of PMS hurts the overall supply chain of the product in addition to the possibility of funding criminal activities with the proceeds.

“Even with the removal of subsidy, the smuggling of PMS brings about an extra cost burden on the country both in terms of security of supply and securing of the scarce foreign exchange used to import the product.”

He added that the command will auction the sale of 11,270 litres of Petroleum Motor Spirits, at the rate of 180 naira per litre to the general public in Sokoto.

“In line with extant laws and the approval by the Comptroller General of Customs, the seized PMS will be auctioned to the general public today at a token of 180 naira per litre.

“Relatedly, last week the Whirwild Zone B tactical team auctioned 20,142 litres of PMS to the general public at Kebbi Area Command”, he added.

Similarly, in August 2023, the Tincan Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service said it rejected the N50m bribe offered by a smuggler involved in the importation of tramadol and other drugs for his container to be released.

The Customs Area Comptroller of Tincan, Adekunle Oloyede, said this while addressing journalists at the command.

He said the suspect, Boniface Ike, accepted ownership of two 40-foot containers arrested with drugs with the duty paid value of N550m.

Unilorin Introduces Self-defence, Combat Training for Students

The Department of Criminology and Security Studies, University of Ilorin (Unilorin), has taken steps to equip its students with essential skills by introducing self-defence and combat training as a vocation.

Dr Adedeji Oyenuga, a Visiting Scholar in the institution’s Department of Criminology, disclosed this on Monday in Ilorin.

He spoke at the maiden edition of the combat training at the university’s sports complex.

Oyenuga who is an Associate Professor at the Lagos State University (LASU), however, said the training could not be immediately integrated into the curriculum due to the proposal’s lateness.

He explained that the university had recognised the importance of this initiative and decided to offer it as a vocational activity before incorporating it into the curriculum at a later date.

The don highlighted the significance of self-defence within the context of security studies.

“I commend the University for thinking outside the box and swiftly approving the idea of practical combat training,” he said.

Oyenuga pointed out that the integration of self-defence and combat training into the curriculum reflected the university’s commitment to producing well-rounded graduates.

He said these would be those who are academically proficient and capable of ensuring personal safety and the security of others.

 “This innovative approach aligns with the evolving landscape of Criminology and Security Studies, which demands a comprehensive understanding of practical self-defence techniques,” the don explained.

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FG Launches $100bn Economic Expansion Fund to Promote Cultural Heritage

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

The Minister of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musa-Musawa, has announced the establishment of a $100 billion economic expansion fund to promote and preserve Nigeria’s cultural heritage under the administration of President Tinubu.

The Minister disclosed this at the 2024 Ojude Oba Festival held in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

Represented by the Director of Cultural Industry Heritage, Ben Ugo, the Minister emphasized the rich cultural diversity of Nigeria and the government’s commitment to establishing the country as a cultural hub by 2030.

She also said the annual Ojude Oba festival is being considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list.

Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State expressed his administration’s dedication to elevating the Ojude Oba festival to a global event. He highlighted the festival’s evolution from a celebration of the Awujale among the Ijebu people to a gathering that attracts participants from across the nation and the world.

Abiodun emphasized that the festival serves as a symbol of unity and showcases the hospitality and traditions of Ijebuland to a wider audience.

The governor acknowledged the festival’s role in attracting tourists and promoting the development of Ijebuland.

He emphasized the importance of preserving traditions for future generations and pledged his administration’s support to make the Ojude Oba festival a permanent fixture in the global tourism industry.He added that the announcement of the economic expansion fund and the commitment of the government and local authorities highlight the significance of cultural heritage in Nigeria and the efforts being made to promote and preserve it for generations to come.

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Nigeria’s Trade Surplus with ECOWAS Rises 216% to N1.14trn

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Nigeria’s trade surplus with countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rose by 216 per cent, Year-on-Year, YoY to N1.14 trillion in the first quarter of 2024, Q1’24.

Analysis of foreign trade data for Q1’24 released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS showed that Nigeria’s export to ECOWAS countries rose YoY by 213 per cent to N1.

25 trillion in Q1’24 from N399.
19 billion in Q1’23.

On the other hand Nigeria’s import from ECOWAS countries rose by YoY by 167 per cent to N113.04 billion in Q1’24 from N42.296 billion in Q1’23.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS showed that Nigeria’s main trading export partners within the ECOWAS region in the quarter are Ivory Coast (N744.

59 billion), Senegal (N361.29 billion), Benin (N55.67 billion), Togo (N38.01 billion) and Ghana (N33.75 billion) altogether representing 98.61 percent of total export to ECOWAS countries.

Nigeria’s major import trade partner within ECOWAS in the period under review was the Ivory Coast (N51.41 billion) followed by Togo (N40.86 billion), Ghana (N13.61 billion), Liberia (N3.96 billion) and Benin Republic (N1.04 billion) representing 98.10 percent of total imports from the ECOWAS region.

NBS stated: “Exports to ECOWAS member states totaled N1,250.71 billion, while imports amounted to N113.04 billion.  The main commodities exported to ECOWAS countries in the first quarter of 2024 are Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals worth N1,074.70 billion (85.93 percent of total exports to ECOWAS), Electrical energy (optional heading) (N58.65 billion or 4.69 percent), Urea, whether or not in aqueous solution (N29.45 billion or 2.35 percent), Flours and meals of soya beans (N9.20 billion or 0.74 percent)) and Other excluding White cement (N6.66 billion or 0.53percent). The top five exported products represent 94.24percent of the total exports to the ECOWAS region.”

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My Purported Removal as SALS President in Quest of Shippers’ N3tr funds – Ogamba

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From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos

President of the Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SALS), Leo Ogamba, has dared the association’s Board of Trustees (BoT) to publish his offences or any act warranting his alleged removal from office other than his push for due process.

Ogamba disclosed that the BoT, whose constitution since 2008 has been invalid, is even being misguided on the expected N3 trillion Cargo Defence Fund, which invariably is influencing their illegal actions.

Addressing the media Tuesday in Lagos over the BoT’s general meeting of June 11, 2024 at which he was purportedly removed, Ogamba said he is not an “embattled president” by any stretch, having not violated or been charged with any violation of the constitution whatsoever.

 “This BoT constituted themselves in 2008. Nobody knew that they were in existence. The record of the status report of the association was invalid, but immediately they heard that I signed the first N13 billion, being the judgement sum between APM Terminals Ltd, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and Registered Trustees of Shippers Association of Lagos State, they woke up from their slumber,” he said.

 “Their understanding has been negatively influenced. They have no idea where that judgment sum would be paid in, thinking that the money, which is about N3 trillion, belongs to them on the ground that they are entitled to 60-70 per cent, with about 15 shipping companies involved.

 “Cargo Defence Fund is limited by guarantee, meaning that even if you make N10 trillion profit, you cannot share it, and accessing the fund is by subscription. I am sure that none of these people paid that money. It is the money that shipping companies and terminal operators collected but ought not to have collected.

 “In this circumstance, for you to have locus, you have to show evidence that you paid that money as a shipper. When the publication was out asking shippers to submit their bill of laden, only two submitted.

 “The Nigerian Shippers’ Council had to go the extra mile to meet these shippers for these bills of laden, on the basis of which the money was determined. The Shippers Association of Lagos State represents the whole shippers in the country by virtue of that judgment.”

Insisting that he remains president, Ogamba said the BoT, which is only advisory, does not have the power to convene a general meeting of the association, nor does it have the required membership to sit, being only three, while the constitution requires seven out of the 10-member body as quorum for any meeting.

He stated that the said general meeting was not properly constituted or was at best illegal on the ground that he “was not in the meeting. Till today, I have not received any letter to the purported removal either through e-mail or whatsapp.”

Meanwhile, more recently, a mediation agreement with the NSC at the instance of the BoT was that there should be “no meeting of SALS at any level pending the outcome of the reconciliation,” he disclosed.

In breach of this, however, he said the BoT has met “about three times,” including for his purported removal on June 11th, 2024, two days ahead of the mediation meeting called by the NSC as agreed, and which the BoT and their supporters failed to attend.

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