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Tinubu Suspends Tax, Import Duties on Produce

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

In a move to tackle high cost of foodstuffs, President Bola Tinubu has approved a 150-day duty-free import window for maize, husked brown rice, wheat, and cowpeas.

This initiative suspends duties, tariffs, and taxes on these imports through both land and sea borders.

Similarly, the Federal Government will import 250,000 metric tons of maize and 250 metric tons of wheat to satisfy the demand by small-scale processors and millers across the country.

This was made known by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday.

This measure is part of the Presidential Accelerated Stabilisation and Advancement Plan.

Under the new arrangement, imported food commodities will be subject to a Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

In the words of the minister, “Over the past several months, we have all been witnesses to the escalating cost of food items in all parts of the country.

“There is virtually no food item that has not had its price raised to a level higher than what a good many Nigerians can afford.

“The affordability crisis in our food security system has been indexed by the data from the National Bureau of Statistics which by the last count, had put food inflation at 40.66%.

“We have heard the cries of Nigeria over the prices of food items and condiments, with some now describing tomato as gold and proposing a variety of recipes to prepare soups and dishes with some of the overly priced food items.

“What in the past were regarded as common items such as yam, plantain, potato now command excessively high figures and Nigerians are right to wonder how and why things are the way they are.”

The minister recalled that President Bola Tinubu in March 2024 constituted the Presidential Economic Coordination Council (PECC) under which, the Economic Management Team (EMT) who presented an Accelerated Stabilization and Advancement Plan to the President.

He said part of the decision of the EMT to ameliorate food inflation in the country is a 150-Day Duty Free Import Window for Food Commodities, suspension of duties, tariffs and taxes for the importation of certain food commodities (through land and sea borders) which include Maize, Husked Brown Rice, Wheat and Cowpeas and under this arrangement, imported food commodities will be subjected to a Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

“In addition to the importation by private sector, Federal Government will import 250,000MT of Wheat and 250,000MT of Maize.

“The imported food commodities in their semi processed state will target supplies to the small-scale processors and millers across the country.

“Engage relevant stakeholders to set a Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) and mop up surplus assorted food commodities to restock the National Strategic Food Reserve, continuous ramp-up production for the 2024/2025 farming cycle,” he noted.yari said there will be a sustained support to smallholder farmers in the ongoing wet season farming through existing government initiatives and the government will strengthen and accelerate Dry Season Farming across the country.

He said government will embark on aggressive agricultural mechanization and development to reduce drudgery, drive down the cost of production and boost productivity, collaborate with Sub-National to identify irrigable lands and increase land under cultivation and work closely with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, to rehabilitate and maintain irrigation facilities under river basin authorities across the federation.

He said there will be the development of a strategic engagement for the youth and women across the federation for immediate greenhouse cultivation of horticultural crops such as tomatoes and pepper to increase production volume, stabilize prices, and address food shortages and fast-tracking ongoing engagements with the Nigerian Military to rapidly cultivate arable lands under the Defence Farms Scheme, while encouraging other Para-Military establishments to put secured available arable lands to cultivation.

“As our nation confronts a critical food security challenge, let me reiterate Mr. President’s unwavering commitment to attaining food security and ensuring that no Nigerian goes to bed hungry.

“To this end, I can assure all Nigerians, that my team and I, will swiftly and diligently actualize these crucial policies to ensure food security for everyone in the country in the immediate term as we also continue our strategies for long term interventions to address the underlying causes and ensure sustainable and resilient food systems in the country”, the minister stated.

Concerning the quality and genetic composition of the imported food, the minister assured, “The government’s position exemplifies standards that would not compromise the safety of the various food items for consumption.”

In his reaction to the development, a Professor of Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Uche Uwalaka described it as a welcome development.

He told our reporter, “I think it is a welcome stop-gap measure aimed at moderating food inflation, which is largely caused by supply constraints occasioned by insecurity in the food belt regions of the country.

“The reality is that the government needs to buy time to deal with the legacy supply-side factors fueling inflation in Nigeria.

“I also think the CBN is in a position to intervene in the Fx market to stabilize the exchange rate following any associated pressure in the Fx market given the recent accretion to external reserves to over USD 34billion.

“Indeed, any fiscal measure at this time to reduce the high rate of hunger in the land is welcome.”

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Universal Insurance Projects N20bn Premium This Year

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Universal Insurance Plc has projected to generate a premium income of N20 billion for the 2024 financial year in spite of the country’s harsh operating environment.

Mr Ben Ujoatuonu, Managing Director, Universal Insurance, disclosed this at a media briefing yesterday in Lagos.

Ujoatuonu confirmed that all the company’s indices were showing positive, adding that the underwriter would continue to sustain the tempo.

He also revealed that the company grew its assets from N11 billion in 2022 to N17 billion in 2023, adding that its premium income and profit for the 2023  financial year stood at N9.

3 billion and more than N530 million respectively.

”This year 2024, we started out with very high expectations and also looking forward to opening more branches.

“In 2024, we are projecting to end the year with a premium income of about N20 billion.

“We are very optimistic that we are going to achieve this before the end of the year, and it may interest you to know that as at today, we are doing about N9.3 billion in premium income.”Our assets will also increase from N11 billion to about N17.5 billion and our shareholders fund will increase from about N9 billion to N12 billion,” he said. NAN

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Father of Twins Cries Out as Wife Dies after Childbirth

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From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja

Mr Hassan Isyaka Ibori, an indigene of Lafia-Obessa community in Okehi LGA, Kogi State has cried out for help in taking care of his set of twins who lost their mother shortly after delivery.

Ibori, a young farmer, who resides at Anyone community in Adavi LGA lost his wife, Nana Hawa Ibori, barely an hour after she was delivered of a set of female twins.

Narrating his ordeal to our reporter in Adavi, amidst tears, Ibori said the sad incident happened on June 2 at a private hospital in Anyone community.

“I took my wife to the hospital around 4:00am when she was due on 2nd of June and was delivered of a set of female twins around 7:00am successfully.

“I started jubilating with the arrival of the twins, but my joy suddenly turned to sorrow when my wife died about one hour after.

“Shortly after the delivery, she started complaining of stomach pain and she was attended to by the nurse who gave her injection to relieve her of the pain but she died about one hour after.

“It was so painful losing my wife shortly after she gave birth to our set of twins,” Ibori said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

He lamented the difficulties he has been going through in feeding and ensuring that the babies’ nutritional needs are adequately met.

He added, “I’m a farmer. I farm to take care of myself and my family but in the last two years, the Fulani herdsmen have been destroying our farmlands.

“Because of the destruction of our farmlands, I hardly get much harvest. It has not been easy for me feeding the twins as well as my other children.”

Ibori made a passionate appeal to the state government, the governor’s wife, commissioner for women affairs as well as other well meaning individuals to come to his aid.

“I am yet to get over the shock of my wife’s death. I have exhausted all my savings in taking care of the babies.

“I appeal to the wife of our governor, Hajia Shekinat Usman Ododo to come to my aid to enable me take good care of the twins,” he stated.

Ibori appreciated members of his community for the support rendered his family do far.

Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in several low-and-middle-income countries is alarming, with about 34 percent of global maternal deaths occurring in Nigeria and India alone.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the MMR of Nigeria is 814 (per 100,000 live births).

The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is one in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at one in 4900.

Medical experts link the high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria to the three forms of maternal delay.These barriers include: delay in making decision to seek maternal health care; delay in locating and arriving at a medical facility; and delay in receiving skilled pregnancy care when the woman gets to the health facility.

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N1.6bn Fraud: Ex-AGF, Co-defendants Make Refunds to EFCC

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By David Torough with Agency report

Former Acting Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) Anamekwe Nwabuoku yesterday begged a Federal High Court, Abuja to give him more time to conclude the refund of the public funds allegedly siphoned.

Nwabuoku and his co-defendant, Felix Nweke, in the 11-count money laundering charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prayed Justice James Omotosho to suspend their trial to enable them perfect the refund process.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nwabuoku and Nweke, a former Deputy Director in the Ministry of Defence are being prosecuted for alleged money laundering offences to the tune of N1.

6 billion.

While Nwabuoku is the First Defendant in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/240/24 dated May 20 and filed May 27 by Ekele Iheanacho, Nweke is the Second Defendant.

They were alleged to have perpetrated the act while Nwabuoku served as the Director of Finance and Accounts in the Ministry of Defence between 2019 and 2021.

Nwabuoku was appointed Acting AGF on May 20, 2022 under ex-President Muhammadu Buhari after Ahmed Idris was suspended as AGF over alleged N109.5 billion fraud.

He was, however, removed in July 2022, few weeks after he assumed office.

Sylva Okolieaboh, a Director at the Treasury Single Account (TSA) Department replaced Nwabuoku as Acting AGF.

Okolieaboh’s appointment followed after report that Nwabuoku was under the radar of EFCC over corruption allegations.

When the matter was called yesterday for the defendants to take their pleas, Nwabuoku and Nweke stepped into the dock.

However, Nweke’s lawyer, Emeka Onyeaka informed the court that there was a new development in the case.

Onyeaka notified the court that his client had taken steps toward settling the matter.

The lawyer said Nweke had made substantial refund of the money traced to him by the anti-graft agency.

“The Second Defendant has taken steps, as there is a communication to the commission via-a-vs the alleged offences on making refund.

“The commission is in receipt of the money and promised to communicate to us,” he said.

Onyeaka said, “Upon being served with the charge on Monday, we communicated with the commission and we are asked to tarry for their administrative procedure.”

He said since substantial amount had been refunded, if his client is arraigned, such action would affect the trial.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant them an adjournment in order to take further step on the administrative procedure.

Maduakolam Igwe, who appeared for Nwabuoku, aligned with Onyeaka’s submission.

Igwe said his client had equally taken same step and that substantial amount of money had been refunded.

“We have written to the commission on this. The First Defendant has also made some refund.

“May I adopt the submission of my learned friend to tidy up the administrative procedure,” he corroborated.

Responding, counsel to EFCC, Ogechi Ujam acknowledged that the commission was in receipt of a proposal letter.

She said, “However, no negotiation has been made, no settlement has been done and no agreement has been reached by parties.”

According to her, in the circumstance, we urge this honourable court to allow us to arraign the defendants.

“Take a date for arraignment,” Justice Omotosho responded.

After counsel agreed, the matter was adjourned until Oct. 14 for arraignment.

EFCC alleged that Nwabuoku, Nweke, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), Turge Global Investment Limited (at large), Laptev Bridge Limited (at large), Arafura Transnational Afro Limited (at large) and other persons (at large) converted funds which are proceeds of unlawful activities to personal use.

The offence is contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as (amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 15(2) (b) and (3) of the same Act.

In count two, Nwabuoku, Felix, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), between September 2019 and October, 2020 in Abuja, indirectly converted the sum of N262, 602,897.27 (Two Hundred and Sixty Two Million, Six Hundred and Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety Seven Naira Twenty Seven Kobo).

The money was alleged to have been paid into the Zenith Bank account of Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), with account number: 1016901286, knowing that the funds constituted proceed of unlawful activity.

The offence, EFCC said, is contrary to Section 15(2) (b) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012), among other counts.

Meanwhile, the former AGF Idris is undergoing trial-within-trial.

Idris was arrested by EFCC in Kano in 2022 following allegations that he fraudulently amassed N109.5 billion through bogus consultancy contracts and other illegal activities, using proxies, associates and family members.

The commission alleged that he laundered the money using real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

His arrest was ordered by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in the Buhari-led administration, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

His trial took a new dimension on Feb. 1, when he told the Federal Capital Territory High Court that EFCC had deceived him to admit to the allegations against him.

The trial-within-trial was ordered by the court following the objection raised by his counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), alleging that his client did not make his statements to the EFCC voluntarily.

He claimed that EFCC told him they wanted to use him to get the Minister of Finance and some governors to receive derivation funds.But a detective with EFCC, Mahmud Tukur denied promising the former AGF leniency in exchange for indicting the former Minister of Finance and others.

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