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President Muhammadu Buhari has given the directive that all the 36 state capitals should be connected with rail in the ongoing railway projects. The Minister of Transportation, Mr, Chibuike Amaechi, said on Thursday at the meeting with the Chairman Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Sen. Shehu Sani. The meeting also attended by the Ministers of Finance; Budget and National Planning; and Power, Works and Housing was in connection with President Buhari’s loan request of 5.5 billion dollars. Amaechi said that the central rail line project connecting several communities of northern and southern Nigeria would be completed in June, next year. According to him, 17 coaches are expected to arrive in November and out of the number, 10 will be deployed to Abuja-Kaduna rail line while the remaining seven will be deployed to the Itakpe-Warri rail line. Amaechi said that part of the money being requested now for approval by the senate was to execute the rail projects covering Kano-Kaduna, and Lagos-Ibadan networks. Sani had earlier advised if Nigeria “must borrow, it must borrow responsibly”. Sani said: “the committee has the mandate to examine the merits and otherwise of the current loan request of 5.5 billion dollars of the president. “If we must bequeath to the future generation a pile of debt, it must be justified with commensurate infrastructural proof of the value of the debt. “The payment plan of this debt will undoubtedly last the length of our lifetimes and possibly beyond. “We must leave behind a legacy that will appease and answer the questions the next generation of Nigerians will ask,” Sani said. Also providing insight into the loan request, the Director-General, Debt Management Office, Mrs Patience Oniha, explained that the loans have sustainable benefits that would live beyond the present generation of Nigerians. “What we should take away is that we are going into projects whose benefits don’t go away. “The roads don’t go away, the schools don’t go away, and the hospitals don’t go away but all that we need to do is to maintain them properly and that is the explanation I want to make on that,” she said..

Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State on Wednesday inaugurated N358 million urban expansion project at Mgbowo in Awgu Local Government Area of the state. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the State Executive Council approved the urban expansion project of the current administration in line with the campaign promise of the governor. The project is aimed at developing additional satellite towns with a view to decongesting human traffic in the capital city. Ugwuanyi, while inaugurating the project situated at the popular ‘Aki na Ukwa’ Junction on Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway, said when completed, the facility would be a befitting gateway into the capital city from Abia, Imo and Rivers States. He said that the area would be adorned by solar powered street and traffic lights, security posts and dual carriage ways. The governor said that it was his aspiration to open up more urban centres to further attract investments to the state. Ugwuanyi appealed to residents of the area to cooperate with the contractors as they delivered the project. The President-General of Mgbowo Town Union, Mr Tony Udinya said that the project would improve the aesthetics of the community and provide market for the vast agricultural produce from the area. Udinya said that residents of the area were appreciative of the goodwill of the governor to their people, adding that much still needed to be done to bring Mgbowo at par with its peers. “The major problem confronting this community is water. Hence, your intervention in this regard will be highly appreciated. “There is a damn project in Mgbowo that had been abandoned over the years,” he said. Udinya said that it was imperative for the state government to construct a link road to connect all the communities that were the direct beneficiaries of the project. “This project will not only serve Mgbowo, but the entire Awgu and Aninri Local Government Areas. The major constraint we have is the traditional link road that connects the area. “This is where our people and those from Aninri do their farming and the road is deplorable. It will ease the flow of agricultural produce to the market,” he said. Udinya said that the people of the area were thrilled by the move to urbanise the community, adding that they would show their unflinching appreciation in due time. NAN reports that the project has a completion period of six months.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday assured stakeholders from the South East that the region will benefit more from roads and coastal rail projects, which are of critical importance to the economy. During an audience with leaders from the region led by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, the President declared that the 2nd Niger Bridge, the East-West Road and the Coastal rail project, are receiving utmost attention from his administration. The President said counterpart funding from the Chinese government would substantially fund these projects, which when completed will improve the welfare, well-being and economy of the people in the region. “I know the Chinese are very competent in handling such projects and we will ensure that we get the money for the projects to take off. “I thank you for articulating your demands and I want to assure that we are doing our best for the country. If we can stop people from stealing, then there will be more resources to put into projects that will create employment for Nigerians,’’ the President said. Responding to allegations of under-representation of Igbos in his government, the President said: “ I gave south-east four substantive ministers in the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment, Science and Technology and Labour. “Seven states in the North got Ministers of State and of the two Ministries headed by your sons, I cannot take any decision on foreign policy and investments without their input,’’ he said. The President also promised the leaders, comprising governors and ministers from the region, the President of Ohaneze, Chief Nnia Nwodo and representatives from the National Assembly, that he will visit states in the zone soon. “I want to assure you that I came into government with a clear conscience and I will also leave with a clear conscience,’’ he said. Earlier, the President of Ohaneze, while articulating the demands of the zone to the President highlighted the issue of state creation, restructuring, federal projects in the South East namely Enugu-Onitsha road, Enugu-Port Harcourt road and Aba-Ikot-Ekpene road, among others. Nwodo also demanded urgent presidential interventions on the Enugu Airport, reticulation of the gas-pipelines in the South East and the standard gauge plan for railway construction. Commending the President’s remarkable achievements on security and the fight against corruption, Nwodo declared: “we are ready to work with you. We are determined to work with you. We know you are a decisive leader and we know God will continue to give you the wisdom to govern Nigeria.’’ Also speaking, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State expressed satisfaction on the outcome of their discussions with the President on critical issues and topics affecting the region. “You have no hatred for any state. You have treated all states with equality. What one state gets in the north, the other gets in the south,’’ the governor said, referring to budget support facility and stabilisation fund released to states and local governments since the inception of the administration.

Over 500 tricycle (Keke) operators in Imo state, Thursday, blocked the entrance into the Imo government house, over ban order. Vanguard monitored the protest which started from Control post, World bank and Wethdral to the government House. While giving reasons for their demonstration, they said that they were surprised that they got an information, that they had been banned completely on Thursday, contrary to the deadline date earlier given to them. According to some of the keke operators that the governor gave them upto December 1st as a deadline to stop operating in the metropolis. Just as some said that suspected government officials were using the ban order to intimidate and extort money from them. Speaking to Vaguard, one of them who introduced himself as Banky, said: “They have banned us three times. I believe Okorocha is not aware of all this, some people are taking advantage of the whole situation to get money.” Another Keke drive, simply identified as King, “We want Okorocha to pity us. Let him show us where to ply within the capital city and not ban us completely. Some of us do not have jobs, except for this Keke.” Earlir in his remark, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, said that the first phase of banning tricycle operating in the capital city of Owerri has commenced. He said: “On this issue of Keke operators we have discussed with them and they seize to operate in some areas from today (Thursday) We have replaced them with taxis. “What I understand is that the taxis we bought for them, they are using them outside the state, their reason was that as long as keke still ply in the capital city, it will be difficult for them to get passengers and they cannot compete with Keke. “So fotunately enough those that got the taxis are the the same keke riders. As a result of this, they packed the taxis in their houses. “However, we have agreed with them that we should start the first phase of the ban. That reminds me as from today (Thirseday) there will be no Keke on Wethedral road and among other areas. “We are also introducing Imo black cap. It is special designed buses, that help to take away VIPs. This is to compliment the effort of taxi scheme. It is a way to give Owerri a new look.” Over 500 keke operators, yesterday, blocked Imo government House, over ban order.

A Kenya Professor of Law, Patrick Lumumba on Monday decried rising wave of corruption in Nigeria, saying that the malaise has produced thousands of elite thieves in the biggest black nation on planet. Lumumba was the keynote speaker at the 9th edition of ‘Fela, the Debates,’ with the theme: “40 years after FESTAC. 20 years after Fela…Wither the Pan-African Dream?” The event was held at the NECA House, Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the demise of Afro-beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It was one of the activities lined up for this year’s Felabration Festival. Felabration is an annual festival of music and arts commemorating the life and times of Nigeria’s foremost musical icon, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Speaking at the event, Lumumba lamented that corruption has been the bane of the African continent, saying that it was roughly estimated that through the activities of corrupt individuals who were in position of authority, the continent was losing huge sums of money. He likened Nigeria to the case of the popular book, “Alibaba and the 40 thieves,” saying that the case of Nigeria has gone beyond 40 thieves but thousands of thieves. “Today in Nigeria and the 36 states of Nigeria, you read the story of Alibaba and the 40 thieves, you will discover that they are no longer 40 thieves, but thousands of thieves. Until the day we liberate ourselves from the clung of these thieves, Africa is going nowhere. “We are in a continent where the occupation of public office is a gargantuan of acquiring wealth. We have to ensure that the continent of Africa is free from corruption and it must come,” he stated. Lumumba added that when former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu was fighting corruption, he was forced out of the system, saying that when the same Ribadu vied for the presidency despite his pedigree, he was rejected. According to him, the current president, Muhammadu Buhari came out with the mantra to fight corruption and was elected, lamenting that when he started fighting corruption, some people were now saying “oh let corruption come back. What do you want your president to do? “ The professor said if corruption must be won, it must not only be at the top, but that all, including civil servants, companies and others must say no to corruption. “Civil servants, don’t be corrupt, Petroleum minister, don’t be corrupt. There is no justification for corruption. Corruption undermines education, values, infrastructure; corruption destroys our being, it is the reason why Africa countries can never be allowed to sit at the UN Security council, Corruption must be dealt with. Fela saw it many years ago, Fela was a human being and not a Jewish prophet,” he said. Lumumba stated that when Fela introduced the Afro Beat music, he never meant it to be for entertainment and for dance alone, but that he wanted the nation to ‘dance’ to the Afro Beat of good education, infrastructure, good health system, among others, which he said were lacking in the system due to corruption. He also said that more than ever, the call for Pan-Africanism was louder as many nations in the continent were still under the siege of neo-colonialism after decades of exit of the colonial masters. He said since the partition of Africa at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 and 1885, several Africans, such as Nkwame Nkrumah of Ghana and the rest championed the course for independence for Africa, adding that after the 1963 meeting in Accra by Nkrumah for Africans to decimate neo-colonialism, Patrick Lumumba of Congo, Tafawa Balewa and a host of others were assassinated due to the force of neo-colonialists. Lumumba lamented that Africa remained the only continent where the countries had been polarized as Francophone, Anglophone and the rest, which he said had been the tragedy of the continent. He said the late Fela was right when he said ‘if they want to enslave you forever, they won’t let you know who your grandfathers are.” The legal luminary added that 40 years after the Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC, was staged in Nigeria, the culture of the African continent had been eroded, while the continent was still to realize its potentials. He decried that the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of the entire two billion population of the African continent was not up to the GDP of Spain alone, asking: “are we children of a lesser God? God in His divine wisdom gave us all the resources that we need. Our presidents can’t attend our hospitals when they are sick.” Lumumba also said it was proper for every tribe in Nigeria and in the continent to know their root, saying it was only through this that they would be proud Nigerians and others. “Here in Nigeria, it is proper and right for the Igbo to know their origin, it is proper and right for the Yoruba to know their origin. It is proper and right for the Ibibio, Hausa and Fulani to know their origin because it is when they have all discovered their origins and are proud Yoruba, Igbo that they can make a great Nigeria. This must happen in all countries in Africa. “There must be unity in diversity. When I think of the music that Fela put in place, it is telling us that we should be proud of our black skin, that God was not mad in creating us black, it is telling us that there is beauty in our being negroes,” he said. Lumumba further stated that secession would not do Nigeria and any other country any good, saying that the unity of the nation could be negotiated so that everyone would be happy. “You, the Igbo and Hausa in Nigeria, your destiny lies in Nigeria, your problems can be solved within Nigeria. There is no need to slaughter yourselves. We can talk about the unity of Africa. We must have the moral courage to tell ourselves that we can resolve our problems without resolving to fight,” he added. Also speaking at the event, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN faulted Lumumba that Africans were more corrupt than their western counterparts, saying that America and Britain were the most corrupt countries in the world. He said all those rankings that Nigeria and other Africa countries were the most corrupt were being exaggerated, but agreed that it was high time Africans decimated neo-colonialism and champion the course of Pan-Africanism. Replying Falana, Lumumba said even though there is corruption in the western countries, they still provided the necessary infrastructure for the people unlike in Africa where the leaders would steal and do nothing for the masses. The panel session was anchored by Kadaria Ahmed, a media entrepreneur and season journalist, while the Editor of the Guardian, Abraham Ogbodo was on the panel along with Falana. The Excutive Editor, The News/PM News, Kunle Ajibade lamented that the abolition of history from school curriculum in Nigeria for a long time had impacted negatively on students’ acquaintance with the culture of the nation and the people they should have emulated as role models. According to Ajibade, “For more than a decade, history was taken off the curriculum, even though it has just been brought back; what happened to all the hundreds and millions of students who went through secondary schools without history? What happened to those who removed history? What were they smoking?” •

At least five people are feared dead on Saturday after a fuel tanker exploded at Tafa village along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. An eyewitness told Channels Television correspondent in Kaduna State that the tanker laden with kerosene was trying to avoid dangerous potholes on the road when it suddenly fell by the roadside and burst into flames. Two of the deceased were said to have been killed after inhaling fumes from the flames and the other three were burnt by the fire. According to reports, many others who sustained severe burns have been hospitalised while several vehicles parked by the roadside were burnt to ashes. Thousands of Abuja-Kaduna bound passengers are said to have been left stranded following the incident. The spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Yushau Shuaib, also confirmed the incident to Channels Television. He, however, said they could not ascertain if lives were lost in the incident or not. The busy Kaduna-Abuja highway links the Federal Capital Territory with the North West and North East, with thousands of vehicles plying it every day. It also links the North with the South through Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.

The Bankers Committee says commercial banks will start the disbursement of the N26 billion equity contribution to Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) in agriculture by end of 2017 third quarter. The Managing Director of Unity Bank, Mrs Tomi Somefun, disclosed this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Bankers’ Committee meeting on Thursday in Lagos. She said that the framework for the process of the fund had been developed and finalised, while the body of banks will be the shareholders. Somefun said that the CBN had also created a special export intervention to support it to generate more funds. She said that many of the SMEs would benefit from the fund once it started . The Unity Bank boss, however, said that the issues in the past where exporters failed to repatriate proceeds from their businesses would no longer be tolerated. She said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had agreed that Bankers Committee should henceforth sanction defaulting exporters. Somefun also said that the sanctions would ensure blacklisting of defaulters such that banks would no longer do businesses with them. On further developments in the foreign exchange market, the Managing Director of the FBN Merchant Bank, Mr Kayode Akinkugbe, said it had recorded stability. Akinkugbe said the stability was seen in the foreign exchange and capital markets as well as moderation in the inflation rate. Akinkugbe said that the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth would be more deepened and robust following the positive developments. He said that the committee also commended the CBN’s efforts on stability and boosting liquidity in the foreign exchange market. Akinkugbe said the CBN was steady-fast in its approaches on ensuring stability and that brought the confidence in the market. He also said the CBN, not withstanding its successes, had reiterated its commitment in ensuring constant supply of foreign exchange. Also the Managing Director of the Union Bank, Mr Emeka Emuwa, said one of the other areas of discussion was process of collateral registry for SMEs. Emuwa said the collateral registry, which had started, would be an opportunity for small business operators to access funds from bank. According to him, the process facilitates easy lending to small businesses which have potential to contribute to the nation’s economic growth and development. He warned Nigerians to desist from investments that promised too good returns, saying such were likely to come up in the last quarter of the year. Emuwa cited the return of the Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM). The Director (Banking Supervision) in CBN), Mr Ahmed Abdullah, said there was the need to deepen the growth that the country recorded after existing from reccession. Abdullahi said that the committee recognised that the growth was still fragile and more efforts were needed to improve on it. The CBN director said that a number of projects had been discussed to ensure that the growth became more robust. (NAN)

The Registrar-General, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Mr. Bello Mahmud, said on Tuesday in Abuja that the cost of business registration in Nigeria was now cheaper and its process simplified to enable small entrepreneurs to register their businesses. Muhmud announced this in a statement by Head, Public Affairs, CAC, Mr Godfrey Ike. Muhmud disclosed this while addressing the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Clinic. He said that with the Company Registration Portal (CRP), any member of the public could now register businesses on-line at the comfort of their homes and offices. “This has drastically reduced the registration cost hitherto charged by professional middlemen (Lawyers, Accountants and Chartered Secretaries), in the registration process. “Entrepreneurs who had already registered their businesses have the obligation to file Annual Returns with the Commission as and when due. ” Failure to file Annual Returns will result to striking-off of such defaulting entities on ground of dormancy. ” The MSME Clinic is an initiative of the Office of the Vice President, which is aimed at holistically addressing all the operational challenges and bottlenecks of MSME in Nigeria,” Muhmud said. According to him, the commission is one of the critical government agencies that has been participating in the on-going nationwide MSME Clinic that commenced in Aba in January. He added that the MSME Clinic was expected to be held in all states of the federation. “So far, the Clinic has been held in 13 states of the federation,” he said. According to him, other relevant agencies like FIRS, SON, Bank Of Industry (BOI), NAFDAC, SMEDAN participated in the clinic. (NAN)

Six members of a family were found dead at their home in the southern Indian city of Madurai in an apparent suicide pact over debt, officials said on Monday. Two more family members were rescued from their residence in a critical state late Sunday night and were being treated at hospital, administration official, Veera Rao said. The family which ran a school, committed suicide by consuming poison and police found a suicide note that said they were under a huge loan default, Rao added. The family, in the suicide note, asked authorities to sell their property to help settle the dues, according to the police. Police were investigating if the family was under pressure from any private money lenders. Madurai is notorious for unscrupulous money-lenders in spite a state-government ban and local media has reported on a number of cases of harassment by money-lenders. (NAN)

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has commended the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for remitting the sum of N5 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government. NANS’ President, Mr Chinonso Obasi, in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, said such remittance from JAMB within a short period under the leadership of Prof. Is-haq Oloyede showed a great deal of probity. Obasi said that he was in support of the Federal Government’s move to probe the former administrations of JAMB and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). He urged the Federal Government to extend the probe to other agencies. The Federal Executive Council, FEC, presided by President Muhammadu Buhari recently ordered the probe of past heads of JAMB and NIMASA over poor remittances in the past. The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, told the FEC that JAMB for the first time remitted N5 billion to the government with a balance of N3 billion still to be remitted. She said it was a big difference when compared to maximum N3 million per annum remitted in the past. Obasi said that the remittance of such amount from a non-focal revenue generating agency of government underscored the importance of transparency in the administration and management of government business. “The development is highly commendable and all heads of Federal Government agencies and parastatals should emulate the registrar of JAMB. “I urge President Buhari to beam his eagle eyes on all other agencies of the Federal Government to ensure that all loopholes that encourage corrupt practices are prevented and blocked. “Corruption is evil and the worst thing that can happen to a country in dire need of financial resources for development. “I wonder why any right thinking person would choose to abuse public trust bestowed on him by engaging in corrupt practices, stealing public funds that can used in addressing other development challenges,’’ he said. Obasi called on Nigerians occupying public offices to endeavour to be responsible and patriotic in the management of government businesses. He reiterated his call for the inclusion of the association in anti-corruption fight in order to stamp out the scourge and channel resources to critical needs of national development. He said that the association would reach out to Federal Government agencies with a view to fostering interaction and building leadership capacity for Nigerian students.

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