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EDITORIAL

Signing of the AfCFTA

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History was made on July 7, 2019, when President Muhammad Buhari finally signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement at the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union, holding in Niamey, Niger Republic. Nigeria has thus become the 53rd African country to sign the agreement, which has already been ratified by 24 countries.

Over the years, African leaders have toyed with the idea of an integrated market on the continent that allows free trade among countries in the continent to strengthen the economies of their respective countries, which have been struggling. The countries, through the African Union, in 2012, came up with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which aim is to deepen regional integration. The ACFTA covers goods and services and has plans for infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture modernisation and small scale trade, as well as innovation, intellectual property, competition and investment, and is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, with a potential market of 1.

2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2 5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union.

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Even though Nigeria was one of the countries that championed the AfCFTA, local labour unions kicked against it as they perceived it to be detrimental to our country’s economy.

Following the protests against it, at a time most African countries had keyed into the arrangement, Nigeria was yet to, as there was a high level of scepticism about it. At the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari had announced Nigeria’s decision to put off the signing of the AfCFTA to allow more time for stakeholders in the country to review and make contributions. The president’s announcement was on the heels of protests by local business groups that the AfCFTA would hurt the economy, which was battling a recession.

It was therefore heart warming when the president recently disclosed that he would be signing the phase one of the AfCFTA. The president’s decision followed the report of the Presidential Committee on the Impact and Readiness Assessment of the AfCFTA. The committee was set up to review the issues that had been raised about the agreement, primary among which was that it had the potential to make Nigeria a dumping ground on the continent.

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Presenting the report, committee chairman, Dr. Desmond Guobadia, had remarked that “Our reports show that on the balance, Nigeria should consider joining the AfCFTA, and using the opportunity of the ongoing AfCFTA Phase one negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards required to ensure that our domestic policies and programmes are not compromised.”

While we note that the country needs to consider the AfCFTA carefully, we consider it crucial to economic development and fully endorse it, especially in view of the projection by the the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa that it could increase trade between African countries by about $35 billion, representing more than 50 per cent growth from the current figures. Nigeria cannot afford to exempt from a treaty that holds huge potentials for it, in view if its size, population and position on the continent.

To ensure that businesses in Nigeria benefit from the AfCFTA, we call on the Nigerian government to eliminate barriers such as multiple taxation, epileptic power supply and other issues that make the business environment hostile to operators, to make the businesses truly competitive within the continent and also ensure strict compliance with all trade regulations in the country to guard against dumping.

EDITORIAL

In Support Of The Ban On Open Grazing 

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After years of indecision, procrastination and dilly dallying, the Federal Government last week took a firm decision to ban open grazing of cattle across the country. The implementation of the ban will however take-off on a pilot basis in five states of the Federation-Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara.

The decision was taken by the National Economic Council (NEC) after its meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the decision public on behalf NEC also said the Council equally banned the free movement of cattle and other animals across the Nigerian border from other West African countries, regardless of the relevant protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which guarantees free movement of people and goods within the sub-region.

We welcome the decision of NEC even though it is coming late in the day when the country has witnessed unnecessary spilling of blood from incessant clashes between Herdsmen and farmers nationwide.

The clashes which have become a national security concern, it is hoped will abate since the Herdsmen will by the new decision adopt to ranching which is the global best practice in animal husbandry.

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We are even the more happier that the decision was not based on political or  religious sentiments but a product of the report of the  technical committee earlier set up by Council under the chairmanship of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.

Umahi’s Committee traversed the states where the farmers-Herders clashes have been most prevalent, i.e Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states. During the fact-finding visits, the Committee met with all stakeholders including farmers, security agencies, state governors, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Horel, among others.

In all the meetings, ranching was canvassed as the most enduring solution to the bloodletting occasioned by the farmers-Herders clashes. The Committee was therefore, left with no better option than recommend the ban on open grazing of cows.

The NEC decision has at long last vindicated the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his Taraba state counterpart, Darius Dickson Ishaku, both of who enacted the anti-open grazing law as a panacea to the frequent violent clashes between farmers and the Herdsmen. It can be said therefore, that the two governors understood the issues and the best solution and indeed acted appropriately. It is to their credit that  NEC arrived at the same solution the two governors proffered several months earlier.

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While we commend NEC for the courage to take this decision, the security agencies especially the police and the Department of State Services(DSS) must immediately commence the enforcement of this ban otherwise the Federal Government decision would pass as one of the  rhetorical statements commonly associated with politicians when confronted with difficult situations. 

As has been severally argued by experts, Nigeria with a little over 26million cattle should have no problem operating ranches since countries like India, Brazil, Argentina and the US with upward 100million cattle have long practiced ranching.

What more, animal scientists have since established that the nomadic cows produced less milk and poor quality meat compared to those kept in ranches.

The Federal Government should live up to its words to provide subsidies for animal husbandry as recommended by the Umahi Committee.

In our view, the subsidies should come by way of

If the NEC decision is properly implemented, Nigeria would have just began the journey towards a profitable and healthier cattle rearing business through the ranching model.

Most importantly, the NEC decision banning the free movement of

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EDITORIAL

The Owo Killings

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Nigerians appear  to be tired  and even  helpless  as a result of the nation’s drift into a  state of high level of insecurity.

The country that prides itself  as Africa’s most populous nation, and equally  boasting of its largest economy  has degenerated  over the years  to   become the killing field for terrorists, bandits, kidnappers , and other criminal elements in the society.

The killings of hundreds of the nation’s defenceless citizens, and even scores of security men have continued unabated because the government, especially the Federal Government has shown itself to be   weak and indecisive towards  handling the criminal elements.

Barely a week after the massacre  of farmers and other  defenceless   Nigerians in Borno and some states in the North, a group of criminals carried out another heinous  attack on a church in Owo , Ondo State on Sunday, June 5.

The attack, which was unleashed on   Saint Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo,  the headquarters of the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State witnessed pandemonium  as gunmen struck leaving no fewer than 50 persons dead.

There has  been serious concern among Nigerians as the  attack on the church in Owo,  the hometown of the state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, came barely a week after the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Bishop Samuel Kanu-Uche, was kidnapped in Abia State by gunmen which  the priest later identified as Fulani youths working with some security men.

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Reports had it that  the gunmen, who attacked the Catholic church, arrived at the premises, which is less than 200 metres from the palace of the Olowo of Owo, at 12pm when the Sunday mass was being rounded off.Reports further had it that  worshippers, mostly children and women, were killed in the attack, by the criminals  who were said to have thrown an improvised explosive device before they started shooting sporadically.Some videos posted online showed some of the slain worshippers in a pool of their own blood.

Workers of the Federal Medical Centre and Saint Louis Hospital, both in Owo, where the dead and the injured were taken to, said no fewer than 50 persons were killed in the tragedy.

While visiting the scene of the tragedy,  Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state and the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye have appealed to youths in Owo, Ondo state not to retaliate the killing of worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church in the town.

Speaking during his visit to the church and hospitals where survivors of the attack are receiving medical attention, Gov. Akeredolu,further  described the terror attack on innocent worshipers at St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo, as a massacre and horrific.

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Akeredolu, who said he was terribly sad, noted that the attack was the most dastardly act that could happen in any society.He said the  security agencies lost no fewer than  two men and that the incident  was not an expected attack.

The Governor  expressed  his  condolences to those who  lost their dear ones to this unnecessary gruesome murder.

He declared that the ugly incident  must not happen again as the people must  very vigilant.

At the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye,  Gov. Akeredolu  condoled with the monarch over the sad incident.Akeredolu said the gunmen made a mistake of attacking Owo, vowing that they will not escape justice.Like other men of goodwill we condemn in totality the killings in Owo, which we describe as callous, wicked and inhuman.

We are condoling with the government and people of Ondo state, the relatives of worshippers that lost their dear ones as a result of the ugly incident.

Once more, we call for a review of the nation’s security architecture, which has failed the nation in tackling the numerous security challenges. Without further ado, the much advocated state police is an idea whose time has come. Nigeria must embrace state police for its survival and existence as a nation.

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EDITORIAL

NPA as Den of Corruption

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The Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA)is one of the agencies of the Federal Government notorious for corruption.  A body like NPA that should serve as a  cash cow for the government of the Federation  has unfortunately  been turned into an organ  for looting and stealing in high places.

Exactly a year ago, its former Group Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman was suspended from office, with an Administrative panel set up to investigate a number of allegations against her, mainly on illegal diversion of funds close to N 200 billion.

 While Nigerians continue to wait in despair for the official  outcome of the probe, another disturbing report of high level of corruption against the management of NPA came to limelight recently. 

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke has demanded explanation from the management of   NPA, over non-remittance of millions of dollars by terminal operators and the agency into the Federation account.

This followed the launch of a large scale investigation by the House committee into the matter. The probe came on the heels of 12 audit queries from the office of the Auditor General for the Federation on the financial statement of the NPA for the 2019 financial year. Of the number, NPA has only responded to one on the indebtedness of terminal operators to the government.

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The House of Representatives  has therefore began probe of the  unremitted multi-million dollars by terminal operator,  to the commonwealth.

The amount involved is about $852.094 million and N1.897 billion.

NPA however said the sum of N269.410 million of the N1.8 billion has been recovered while the balance of N1.6 billion “invoices processed on the encumbered areas remain unpaid”.

NPA said in its lame defence that bills raised on encumbered areas which remained unpaid is $19,169,459. This is a serious development ,  that should not be allowed to be swept under carpet as appears to be the case with the former GMD of the NPA.

Hadiza Bala  Usman who  did not conduct her self with the integrity  while at the agency. President Muhammadu Buhari approved her suspension, as a result of grave allegations against her.

She had to be probed as a result  at the instance of the supervising transport ministry, headed by Rotimi Amaechi.

Curiously before her sack, Usman was reappointed to continue heading the NPA in Janaury 2021 by President  Buhari several months before the end of her first tenure.

But the public is disturbed that there have been attempts to exonerate her of these allegations.  The former managing director of the NPA, has reportedly  been cleared of allegations of failing to remit N165 billion operating surplus to the coffers of the federal government.

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However, the 11-member committee set up by the ministry of transportation to probe the alleged fraud decided to shift its attention to allegations of insubordination to Rotimi Amaechi, the minister.

She was instead accused of ignoring ministerial directives and communicating directly with President Muhammadu Buhari.

Usman was originally suspended in May 2021 by the minister over an allegedly missing N165 billion but the committee did “not find any evidence” in its account reconciliation. We are calling on the Administrative Panel to make its report public for  the scrutiny of Nigerians. We are equally calling on the House of Representatives  to probe the Audit Report  indicting the NPA of unremitted colossal amounts in local currency and in foreign ones. It is no doubt a case of a case of high level of  corruption too many in NPA.

Corruption, sadly, continue to thrive in government agencies because of the present government’s lackadaisical attitude towards this monster. Matters must not and ca should not continue so for the advancement and well-being of the nation.

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