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Fuel Subsidy: Buhari Seeks Senate Approval for $800m World Bank Loan

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By Tony Obiechina & Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Senate to approve his request to obtain a loan facility of $800m from World Bank to finance the National Safety Net Programme.

The president’s request was contained in a letter read by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the plenary session yesterday.

In the letter, the president said the $800m loan facility was intended to be used to support poor Nigerians and will be disbursed to poor households across the country.

According to him, the facility was an extension of the unconditional cash transfer being implemented by the federal government.

The president stated that the funds, when approved, will be sent to the bank accounts of the identified beneficiaries

He also said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved his request for obtaining the loan, noting that he was waiting for the approval of the Senate before going ahead with processing of the loan.

Minister of Finance and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, announced in April that the federal government would secure an $800 million World Bank loan to be disbursed to about 50 million vulnerable Nigerians or 10 million households as part of its subsidy palliatives measures.

According to the Minister, the disbursement of the grant is in the light of the planned subsidy removal in June 2023.

The Minister, who announced the decision, stated that the council concluded in its recently concluded meeting that it was not a favourable time for the action.

According to her, the NEC deliberated on the matter and resolved that it cannot be removed for now, adding that it was equally agreed on the need to continue the discussion on the matter and the necessary preparatory work in conjunction with states and representatives of the incoming administration.

The National Economic Council (NEC) on April 27 suspended the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products by the end of the Buhari administration.

The NEC comprises the 36 state governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other co-opted government officials.

The finance minister, who announced the decision, stated that the council concluded in its recently concluded meeting that it was not a favourable time for the action.

According to her, the NEC deliberated on the matter and resolved that it cannot be removed for now.

The Debt Management Office had recently announced that the debt profile of Nigeria as of 31 December rose to N46.25 trillion or $103.1 billion.

The DMO while giving the breakdown stated that there was an increase of over N7 trillion from what the country owned in 2021.

The National Economic Council (NEC) on April 27 suspended the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products by the end of the Buhari administration.

The NEC comprises the 36 state governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other co-opted government officials.

The finance minister, who announced the decision, stated that the council concluded in its recently concluded meeting that it was not a favourable time for the action.

According to her, the NEC deliberated on the matter and resolved that it cannot be removed for now.

She added that it equally agreed on the need to continue the discussion on the matter and the necessary preparatory work in conjunction with states and representatives of the incoming administration.

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Afreximbank Pledges US$2bn Facility to Support Health Sector in Africa

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Through collaboration, Afreximbank has committed a US$ 2 billion facility to the “Africa Health Security Investment Plan” to support the health product manufacturing ambition of the continent.

This initiative will focus on the African Pooled Procurement Mechanism (APPM) and the Platform for Harmonized African Health Products Manufacturing (PHAHM).

The initiative is pivotal in addressing Africa’s health investment challenges, promoting economic development, and strengthening health security across the continent.

It also intends to complement GAVI’s innovative financing mechanism, the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) which is set to provide up to USD 2 billion financing to African manufacturers of health and pharmaceutical products over the next ten years.

African pharmaceutical companies face severe impacts of the global health, security and economic challenges, yet they are the drivers of investments and technology advancements that the health sector needs.

 Low investor confidence, lack of appropriate infrastructure, trade related barriers, and regulatory challenges are some of the constraints to investment in Africa’s health sector. While funds might be available, many potential investments do not materialize due to financial and non-financial obstacles. Coordinated efforts at the continental level are essential to reverse this trend and align with the New Public Health Order.

Closing the investment gap will be crucial to achieving the African Union’s ambition of manufacturing 60% of vaccines needed locally by the year 2040 as well as implementing all other countermeasures necessary to ensure self-reliance especially during crises such as pandemics and outbreaks.

 While commenting on the signing, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank said: “We are pleased to be part of yet another momentous event that will change the course of health security in Africa.

This facility will help strengthen the manufacturing of health and pharmaceutical products in Africa through our comprehensive and existing interventions such as Project Preparation funding, Project and Trade Finance as well as Guarantees. Furthermore, we intend to put our full weight behind this facility with equity investments through our subsidiary FEDA – the Fund for Export Development into Africa.

“Today is a big day for African vaccine manufacturing as well as health products manufacturing in general, as we welcome these major investment announcements that will change the face of health products manufacturing in Africa for years to come. Protecting our future, means investing in our ability to achieve self-reliance on all health countermeasures; vital to accomplish our mission of safeguarding Africa’s health” said H.E. Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director General, Africa CDC.

The “Africa Health Security Investment Plan” will allow Afreximbank to support and finance key health projects identified by the Africa CDC. The joint effort combines institutional and financial resources, financial tools such as equity and debt financing, guarantees, venture capital, capacity building, and risk-sharing to boost and attract more health investments in Africa.

The ‘Africa Health Security Investment Plan’ is built on three key pillars:

Technical Assistance and Advisory Services: A single-entry point for health project preparation and implementation, with capacity-building support from the Africa CDC.

Investment Project Pipeline: A clear, forward-looking list of health investment projects in Africa, accessible through Afreximbank Project Portal.

Regulatory and Normative Support: implementing programs to remove bottlenecks and create a conducive environment for trade and investment, guided by the Technical Steering Committee of Africa CDC- AfCFTA.

The Africa Health Security Investment aims to tackle Africa’s health investment challenges, promote economic growth, and enhance health security across the continent.

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Nnamdi Kanu Seeks Negotiation with Federal Government

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By David Torough, Abuja

Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), Nnamdi Kanu yesterday said he would seek negotiation with the Federal Government over his ongoing trial.

Kanu who spoke through his lead counsel, Alloy Ejimakor, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that he would seek the negotiation under Section 17 of the Federal High Court Act.

The Act states: “In any Proceeding In the court, the court may promote reconciliation among parties thereto and encourage and facilitate the amicable settlement thereof”.

Ejimakor had earlier moved two applications brought before the court. The first application is to move form 49 and an application objecting to the jurisdiction of the court.

Kanu’s lawyer said if the applications are denied, his client will move for the implementation of section 17 of the Federal High Court Act.

In his response, counsel to the federal government, Adegboyega Awomolo told the court that he had earlier informed the defendant that he does not have the powers to negotiate on behalf of the Federal Government.

He stated that the defendant should approach the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagnei (SAN), who has the power to negotiate on behalf of the government.

Responding to the development, the presiding judge, Justice Binta Nyako, said the court was not a solicitor but to only hear cases.

The detained IPOB leader has been in DSS custody since June 2021, after he was arrested in Kenya. Since his arrest, he has been facing terrorism-related charges levelled against him by the government.

It will be recalled that Kanu was first arrested in Lagos on October 14, 2015, upon his return to the country from the United Kingdom, UK.

Justice Nyako had on April 25, 2017, granted him bail on health grounds, after he had spent about 18 months in detention.

Upon the perfection of the bail conditions, he was on April 28, 2017, released from the Kuje prison.

However, midway into the trial, the IPOB leader escaped from the country after soldiers invaded his country home at Afara Ukwu Ibeku in Umuahia, Abia State, an operation that led to the death of some of his followers.

Kanu was later re-arrested in Kenya on June 19, 2021 and extradited back to the country by security agents on June 27, 2021.

Following the development, the trial court, on June 29, 2021, remanded him in custody of DSS, where he remained till date.

On April 8, 2022, the court struck out eight out of the 15-count charge that FG preferred against him on the premise that they lacked substance.

Likewise, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on October 13, 2022, ordered Kanu’s immediate release from detention even as it quashed the charge against him.

Dissatisfied with the decision, FG took the matter before the Supreme Court, even as it persuaded the appellate court to suspend the execution of the judgement, pending the determination of its appeal.

While deciding the appeal, the Supreme Court, on December 15, 2023, vacated the judgement of the appellate court and gave FG the nod to try the IPOB leader on the subsisting seven-count charge.

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Outrage as Niger Loses 50 Communities to Bandits

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From Dan Amasingha, Minna

A youth forum from Lakpma community in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger East Senatorial District known as Lakpma Youth Forum has alleged that no fewer than 50 of its communities have been taken over by terrorists.

The forum blamed Senator Sani Musa representing them at the National Assembly of neglect as bandits displace several communities.

Spokesman of the Lakpma Youth Forum, Abdullahi Suleiman Erena in a letter of protest accused the Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District of double standard.

The statement stated, “The truth is that Lakpma consists of eight political wards, six districts, and hundreds of towns and villages.

The area is more than half of Shiroro LGA in terms of population and land mass.

“Lakpma Youth Forum is saddened by the systematic depopulation of our communities for over a decade by hydra-headed terrorist organizations like the Ansaru, ISWAP, bandits, and others.

“Our people have suffered a dehumanizing reign of terror from kidnapping, murder, arson, rape, ethnic cleansing, economic deprivation, and political disenfranchisement by a systematic crusade that seemed to us.”

According to them, though Lakpma has suffered so much in the hands of the terrorist caliphate established in the Lakpma axis of the Shiroro Local Government Area, the senator has not deemed it fit to visit any of these communities to condole with them, or visit the survivors in the IDP camps around Shiroro Local Government Area.

The letter stated, “The senator is one person we had much hope in because we thought he could loud our cries to the rooftop by virtue of his privileged position as a ranking senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has direct access to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“It all started with a devastating attack on Allawa town, where more than 50 houses were burned to ashes and scores were killed or kidnapped.

“The marauding terrorists found no resistance during their escapades and were emboldened to expand their proposed caliphate to Roro, Maganda, Polowire, Mangoro, and Bassa.”

The youths said on April 21, two officers leading a team of soldiers responding to a distress call at Roro village were murdered by the terrorists, and on April 25, soldiers at the forward operations base at Allawa were withdrawn, leaving the stretch of villages to their fate.

Faced with imminent death, the inhabitants had no option but to run for their lives.

“This treatment will be extended to Bassa, Rumache, Kasamani, Makuba, Lanta, and all the adjoining villages.

“The aftermath of each of these attacks leaves charred bodies, headless torsos, burned houses, and bans of assorted food items turned ashes.

 “All the inhabitants of these villages have been in IDP camps for months.

“Most times, the condition of the people of Kurebe, Kwaki, Malfa, Fadama, Kusasu, Kushaku, Kudodo, Kaure, Kushaka, and hundreds of villages adjoining these towns are hardly reported because it seems the government of Nigeria has handed over these places to terrorists on a platter of gold for their new caliphate.

“Today, these terrorists make laws, enforce them, and collect taxes,” the youths lamented.

They noted that even with the latest tragedy, where a mine pit collapsed in the area, the Senator did not deem it fit to visit the traumatized people who are his constituents to sympathize with them.

The lamented, “For a part of your constituents to suffer these, and you can still go to bed to sleep, calls to question your state of mind or leadership credentials.”

The Senator has not responded to the allegation. But a key ally to the Senator, Hon. Nma Kolo who is Political Advisor to Governor Mohammed Bago said the youth are desperately making efforts to contact the Senator to apologise for the damage they did to the Senator’s name.

He noted that the Senator may not be reached as he might be travelling out of the country.

On the 50 villages the youths said have been taken by terrorists, he said he was not in position to comment on that.

Bago who left for pilgrimage in Saudi Area with his deputy, Speaker of the state assembly and several other government functionaries has yet to return to the state. 

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