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Nigeria Ranks Fifth in Global Humanitarian Crises

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…Boko Haram Remnants Turn Bandits – Buhari

By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

Amid insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and herdsmen attacks on communities across the nation, the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) has disclosed that Nigeria is rated fifth largest humanitarian crises country in the world.

President of the Committee, Mr Peter Maurer made the disclosure yesterday when he met President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.

President Buhari had told Maurer that remnants of Boko Haram in the North-east region of the country were bandits, warning that the government would continue to treat them as such.

According to him, Boko Haram had been degraded, but its members were still a nuisance around Lake Chad and surrounding islands. 

“We are cooperating with Chad, Cameroon, Niger Republic, and other countries. We are also using the Air Force quite effectively. They are bandits, and we will continue to treat them as such”, President Buhari stated.

He said the government was concentrating on repairing damaged infrastructure, rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, securing their communities, so that they can return home.

He applauded the support of the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations, noting: “The situation of the displaced persons is very pathetic. Some children don’t know where their parents are, neither do they know where they come from.

“We are focusing on education and healthcare, along with rebuilding of infrastructure. 

“The agency formerly under the leadership of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd) and now headed by Major-General Paul Tarfa (retd) is quietly making an impression. We are dedicating lots of resources to the area”. He added.

Buhari disclosed that great progress has equally been made in disabusing the minds of people that the insurgency was religious.

“How can you kill people, and say ‘God is great.’ It’s either you don’t know that God, or you don’t know what you are talking about. God is God of justice. And the people have understood the message well, so recruiting is now difficult for the insurgents,” the President said.

Maurer said Nigeria was the 5th largest operation of ICRC worldwide, and the organization would continue to render humanitarian action to people affected by violence.

Peter Maurer also stressed upon the need for the ICRC to engage with all stakeholders to be able to carry out its neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action. “The essence of the ICRC’s role as a guardian of the Geneva Convention is to talk to all parties to armed conflicts. This does not confer any legitimacy on any party. It means we do our utmost to ensure a minimum of humanity in war.”

Maurer noted that as a result of ICRC’s engagement in Nigeria, since January 2019 over 258,000 people from areas affected by armed violence got access to health care and over 640,000 received food or agricultural support. During the same period, over 22,000 detainees were visited.

On the recent killing of two officials in the North-east, he said: “We are shaken by the killing of our staff, but not discouraged. Humanitarian assistance should continue, and we applaud the hospitality of Nigeria.”

The ICRC President said relationship will be further strengthened with Nigeria, submitting that “the more we see activity from Nigerian authorities, the easier it is for us to add here and there.”

Early the ICRC stated that international humanitarian law more relevant than ever in Nigeria today.

According to the ICRC, the meeting with President Buhari followed a two-day visit of Mr Peter Maurer to Maiduguri and Monguno.

The humanitarian agency stated: ”The suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced several times due to the armed conflict is alarming.”

According to ICRC, as August 2019 marked the 70th Anniversary of the universally ratified Geneva Conventions, the meeting highlighted how international humanitarian law (IHL) is more relevant than ever in Nigeria today.

Maurer highlighted the commitment of the ICRC to continue alleviating the suffering of the people affected by the armed conflict in the North-East, by delivering humanitarian relief and fostering an environment for an increasing respect of international humanitarian law.

At the heart of IHL lies the protection of civilians, of detainees, of the wounded and sick and other not participating in hostilities. In Nigeria, the authorities have taken several steps – ICRC has provided support to some, such as the strengthening of IHL training for the military – to improve respect for IHL. These efforts and other efforts need to be sustained and amplified. Full respect for the law requires effective mechanisms at the domestic level to ensure incidents are investigated and perpetrators held accountable.

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BDCs: CBN Decries Distortions at Forex Market

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Following the on-going reforms in the foreign exchange market, with the objective of achieving an appropriate market determined exchange rate for the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has observed the continued distortions in the retail end of the market, which is feeding into the parallel market and further widening the exchange rate premium.

To this end, the bank has approved the sale of FX to eligible Bureau De Change (BDCs) to meet the demand for invisible transactions.

The sum of $20,000 is to be sold to each BDC at the rate of N1,450/$ (representing the lower band of the trading rate at NAFEM in the previous trading day).

This was contained in a circular signed by A. A. Mahdi on behalf of the CBN Acting Director of Trade and Exchange Department and made available in Abuja on Thursday.

The circular reads, “All BDCs are allowed to sell to eligible end-users at a margin not more than one point five percent (1.5%) above the purchase rate from CBN.

“All eligible BDCs are directed to make the naira payment to the listed CBN Naira Deposit Account Numbers and submit confirmation of payment with other necessary documentation for disbursement at the appropriate CBN branches (Abuja, Awka, Kano and Lagos).

“Please be guided accordingly.”

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Amidst High Stake Intrigues, Tinubu Approves N70,000 Minimum Wage

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By Lubem Myaornyi, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Abuja increased the Federal Government’s offer on the national minimum wage from N62,000 to N70,000, with an assurance that it will be reviewed after three years, instead of five years.

In a meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Presidential Villa, President Tinubu said he had to intervene in the negotiations, knowing the economic challenges faced by many Nigerians, and the need to provide urgent succour.

“I have heard all your presentations. You came here with the intention to get something on behalf of your members. It has been tough globally.

And if you review my track record, I have never been found wanting in ameliorating the problems of workers. I belong to the people and to all of you in leadership. Without you, this job is not interesting.

“You challenged the thinking faculty of leadership, and we have reviewed the position. I have consulted widely, and when the tripartite committee submitted their reports, I reviewed them again and started to think and rethink.

“Last week, I brought the workload to you because we have a timeline. We have a problem, and we recognize that you have a problem too. We are in the same economy. We are in the same country. We may have different rooms, different addresses, and different houses; we are just members of one family that must care for each other. 

“We must look at the parameters of things. Here, I have a speed limit, and I must pay attention to traffic warnings; slippery when wet, curved roads, and be careful not to have an accident. That is why I went as far as having this meeting today.

“We are driving this economy together. Let us look at the tenure of review. Let us agree on that, and affirm three years. Two years is too short. We affirm three years. We will review.

“I am going to move from the tripartite committee. I am going to edge a little bit forward, looking at the review that we have done. Yes, no one in the federal establishment should earn less than N70,000. So, we are going to benchmark at N70,000,’’ the President said. 

President Tinubu explained that renewing the hope of Nigerians extends to providing infrastructure that will improve their livelihoods and create an inclusive economy that all can participate and benefit.

 The President said the government was committed to reducing the cost of transportation with the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses, which will be cheaper and efficient, and also assured the labour unions of providing buses that will be deployed across the country.

President Tinubu also said the entitlements of members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) will be considered, urging the Ministries of Finance, and Budget & Economic Planning to look at the possibilities of clearing the backlog.

At the meeting, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, thanked the President for his consideration of issues as the “Father of the Nation’’ and scheduling two meetings to resolve the initial impasse.

“Mr. President, at the tripartite meeting, and the resolutions of the government, Organized Private Sector and labour unions; we were all united as one family to promote and grow our economy, and deepen our democracy, by implication to the benefit of all. Basically, that is what we are saying today. We have a listening President here,’’ the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Festus Osifo, thanked the President for creating time to host two meetings on the review of the national minimum wage.

The two labour leaders acknowledged that at the last meeting, the President directed the rescheduling of an official trip in order to attend the second meeting.   The labour leaders also expressed their appreciation to the President, applauding him for his clear show of commitment to the welfare of Nigerian workers.

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Education Minister Bows to Pressure, Pegs ‘Varsity Entry Age at 16

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By David Torough, Abuja.

Education Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman yesterday, bowed to pressure mounted by Vice Chancellors of universities and heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to peg the minimum entry age to Nigerian universities and tertiary institutions at 16 years.

This was just as the nation’s universities adopted 140 as the baseline score for admissions as well as 100 for polytechnics and Colleges of Education (CoEs) for the next academic session (2024/25).

The 16-year age approval came moments after the minister had already announced emphatically in his speech at the opening of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) policy meeting for 2024 that the  entry age would be 18 as prescribed by extant laws of the country, particularly the National Policy on Education.

In his initial directive, the minister had explained that the minimum six years of age for primary education automatically implied that any applicant who began primary school at the prescribed age would have attained 18 years  at the time of completion of secondary education and application for university admission.

The minister’s declaration was however, met with shouts of disapproval from most of the over 3,000 top education administrators in the audience.

As the education administrators sustained their opposition, the Vice Chancellor of Elizade University, Professor Kayode Ijadunola moved a motion for reduction of the age limit to 16.

Ijadunola argued that since the applicants had already taken the UMTE, so the entry 18 years entry age be enforced in subsequent years.

After due consultation, the Minister accepted the proposals from the academic institutions but ruled however, that after the 2024/25 academic session, admission age would be pegged at 18.

He directed JAMB to ensure that adequate publicity as given to the new directive to guide future applicants and parents.

The policy meeting, attended by Vice Chancellors, provosts of CoEs, rectors of polytechnics and heads of education agencies is convened annually by JAMB to adopt admission policies and procedures after the annual Universities and Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Mamman warned admission officers and heads of tertiary institutions to adhere strictly to the guidelines as proposed by JAMB and democratically approved by yesterday’s Policy Meeting.

He regretted that improprieties in the admission process had led to the illegal admission of one million students in the universities, polytechnics and COEs since 2017 but warned that such would no longer be condoned.

The minister announced that a new curriculum for secondary schools in the country with emphasis on skills acquisition would be introduced from September and said the new policy would be presented to various stakeholders including the National Council on Education for approval before its eventual launch at the start of the next academic session.

According to the minister, the new policy was the ministry’s response to the problem of unemployment of school leavers and crisis faced by many secondary graduates in the pursuit of admission in the tertiary institutions.

“These young children live with us and we must care about their future,” he stated adding that the graduates with reasonable skills would better fend for themselves if they could not pursue higher education.

The minister warned the recently inaugurated governing councils of Federal Government owned universities and tertiary institutions to ensure they operate according to the laws guiding their respective institutions and to avoid the temptation to usurp the powers of the heads of the institutions on critical issues such as appointment of principal officers and procurement of goods and services.

He also clarified that there was no plan by the Federal Government to privatise any of its tertiary institutions or transfer its management to private hands, contrary to what he described as “propaganda in certain quarters”.

Registrar of JAMB, Prof Is-haq Oloyode, who led participants through adoption of the comprehensive admissions policy for 2024/25 academic session warned that the board will not condone any sharp practices in line with its zero –tolerance on corruption in the admissions process.

He assured that the huge investment in technology by the board had made it impossible for criminally minded applicants to circumvent the rigorous examination and admission processes and vowed that anybody who attempted to manipulate the system would be fished out and punished according to law.

He said some applicants and staff of some institutions were already in police custody over various infractions of the law and assured that the suspects would be taken to court to face the law.

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