Archives December 2023

Don’t stop supporting the poor, Kumuyi urges Christians

The General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor Williams Kumuyi, has called on Christians to intensify support for the poor.

The preacher made the call, according to Church Times News Online, in a recent message titled, “Emmanuel, Jesus the Healer,” monitored by our correspondent.

Kumuyi said, “I learnt of a preacher somewhere. He told his congregation now, we are going to collect offerings. He asked those who had N10,000 to give to raise their hands, and he asked those who had N20,000 to give to raise their hands.

“He asked those who had N50,000, they raised their hands. And he said all the money they wanted to give to the church, they should go and give to the poor in their neighbourhood rather than bringing it to the church.

“All the offerings are not just for church. There are poor and unemployed people around. There are indigent people around, but we must build our campground. I understand, we are going to build. But while you are building your neighbours are dying. Those who do not have anything to feed are there. Your fellow brother, your fellow sister have nothing to send children to school.”

(Punch)

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Our expectations from Tinubu govt in 2024 – Labour, business owners, others list demands

As 2023 comes to an end, Nigerians from different walks of life have urged the Federal Government to improve the economic conditions and security outlook of the country in the New Year.

Across several sectors, stakeholders, including the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigerian Medical Association, Association of Small Business Owners, National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, and All Farmers Association of Nigeria, among others, have made their demands for 2024 known to President Bola Tinubu.

They asked the government to stabilise the falling naira, make the economy attractive to foreign investors and friendly to small businesses, and improve the living conditions of citizens, among other demands.

The year 2023 saw Nigeria elect a new leader to run the affairs of the nation for another four years.

It was also the year the country saw the end of petrol subsidy after the declaration of the President during his inauguration on May 29.

This caused unprecedented hardship for Nigerians, as the pump price of petrol skyrocketed, making transport fares, food and other essential goods’ prices to jump astronomically.

The economy, according to experts, is currently at a very low ebb.

For instance, the naira, on Friday, traded at 907.11/$ on the official Investors and Exporters’ foreign exchange window after falling to 1,043.09/$ on Thursday.

This is a 13.04 per cent appreciation from Thursday’s figure, according to data from the FMDQ Securities Exchange.

Trading on the last working day of 2023 began at N911.67/$, it rose to a high of N1,224.10/$ and fell to N700/$, before closing at N907.11/$. Forex turnover improved marginally to $89.30m, a 6.78 per cent increase from the $83.63m it was the previous day.

At the parallel market, the naira closed the year at N1,195/$. A Bureau de Change operator, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “The dollar is N1,195. The difference between the buying and selling rates today is about N6/N7.”

On Thursday, the currency fell to a low of N1,043.09/$, its second time hovering above N1,000 at the official FX window. On December 8, it fell to an all-time low of N1,099.05/$ on the I&E window.

Since the apex bank declared that it was reintroducing the ‘willing buyer and willing seller’ model for the currency, the naira has continued to be volatile due to supply issues.

The foreign exchange reserves dipped to a six-year low of $32.87bn at the end of December, according to the CBN data, with the naira becoming the third worst-performing global currency in 2023 due to a backlog of unsettled forwards, undelivered promises of dollar inflows and a two-decade peak in inflation, according to Kyle Chapman, FX markets analyst at London-based Ballinger and Co.

Inflation, poverty

Inflation, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, surged to 28.20 per cent in November from 27.33 per cent in October, underscoring a worsening cost of living crisis in the country.

In its new ‘Consumer Price Index: November 2023’ released on Friday, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that headline inflation surged by 0.87 percentage points in November to a new record high in almost two decades.

Nigeria’s inflation rate is now poised to close 2023 at about 30 per cent, aligning with recent predictions by KPMG and Stears Business.

Nigeria, according to official data from the World Bank and United Nations, is the second largest host of persons living in extreme poverty.

The World Poverty Clock estimates the number of its extremely poor Nigerians at 71 million. Using the UN threshold of $1.9 per day, Statista says 12 per cent of the global population in extreme poverty lived in Nigeria in 2023.

The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund has warned that 25 million Nigerians are at risk of hunger in the New Year.

NLC lists demand

The Head of Information, NKC, Benson Upah, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said the congress was expecting the dividends of good governance from the Tinubu administration in the New Year.

“Our expectations are good governance, strong institutions, more accountability, less corruption, respect for law and order by the government, more citizen participation in governance, lower exchange and inflation rates, higher standard of living for the citizens, and renewed hope in the country,” Upah said.

He noted that the government must resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state, adding that such would have dire consequences for the country.

“Government should resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state. Our history teaches us that there are usually dire consequences for such political greed or inordinate political ambition,” Upah added.

‘Fix forex issues’

The President, Association of Small Business Owners, Femi Egbesola, demanded an improvement in power generation across the country.

He also said he expected the government to construct new roads and repair existing ones to make transportation of goods and services easier.

Egbesola said, “We hope that there will be an improvement in the country’s fiscal policy. To improve the economy, we expect that the government will work more with critical stakeholders.

“The government should not be the one formulating policies and implementing them. Policies should be developed in collaboration with stakeholders.

“We also expect the government to fix critical infrastructure, particularly power. All businesses depend on power. Having invested billions of naira in power and privatising it, the government should make sure that it works. We expect that power should have improved by now, but it is rather getting worse.

“We also expect the government to be able to make more funds accessible to MSMEs. One of the critical challenges of MSMEs is that they are unable to access affordable funds. This will help to awaken ailing and almost dead businesses.”

He also begged the government to make forex available, adding that MSMEs were currently buying foreign currencies from the black market at exorbitant rates.

Egbesola said, “The banks sell only to big companies at the detriment of micro and small businesses. Our economy will improve if we do more export and we will do more export if we have access to funding and forex.

“We also expect that the committee on tax and fiscal reforms established by the government will be able to bring out solutions that will mitigate against multiple taxes and other arbitrary charges by the government.  We also expect that the government will do more on intervention funds. One thing is to make funds available through commercial banks. Another thing is for the government to create more intervention funds for small businesses.”

‘End brain drain’

The Oyo State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Wale Lasisi, urged the Federal Government to improve the health infrastructure across the country and end the exodus of doctors from the country in droves.

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors revealed that no fewer than 1,417 doctors had left the country in 2023, compounding the doctor shortage.

Lasisi said, “We expect the government to invest more in the health sector and see to the proper implementation of the health sector policies.

“The government should also improve the primary healthcare centres and infrastructure across the country. Also, new teaching hospitals being proposed should be cited in places with wide coverage and population.

“We also expect the government to improve the remuneration of healthcare workers in a bid to retain the manpower and make available necessary equipment and gadgets that will make work easy.

“Health is wealth, so the government at all levels must prioritise delivering quality healthcare. Considering that most of the populace cannot afford the exorbitant costs of healthcare, and most cannot afford medical tourism.

“For a government that has the agenda of renewed hope, we expect that the renewed hope will also affect health and should be as quick and effective as they can do it.”

‘Reduce petrol price’

The National President, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, Magaji Sani, said, “We are all aware that many Nigerians are suffering currently, and the main issue is the petrol pump price. As long as it remains on the high side, the price of every other thing will increase.

“Motor parts will be high, and as you are aware, a lot of people have parked their cars. If that is the case, many of our members will not have jobs to do.

“We expect that more attention will be paid to reviving the refineries in 2024. The price of petrol should be reduced, and the cost of other products should also be reduced so that Nigerians can experience relief in the New Year.

“Our sector is very important in the alleviation of poverty because we are very close to the people. After all, those young ones who leave secondary school and can’t further their education are trained by us and this contributes to the area of job provision. So, we expect the government to help us ensure ease of doing our jobs in 2024.”

‘Ensure farmers’ safety’

Between January and June 2023, armed groups killed no fewer than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across the country, according to the Nigerian Security Tracker.

The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Kabiru Ibrahim, said the President needed to declare a state of emergency on food security, adding that the lives of farmers were now endangered.

He said, “We don’t have standard security for farmers; and without securing the farms, more farmers will lose their lives.

“We are expecting that security actions will be taken to make sure that they protect all farmers across the country.”

Ibrahim urged the Federal Government to give “proper subsidies to farmers for fertilisers,” adding that such should be made available for farmers in the New Year.

“We also expect the availability of all inputs so that we will be able to produce food at reasonable prices for the citizens,” he added.

No strike – NANS

The Senate President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr Afeez Babatunde, said students did not need any episode of strike in the New Year.

He said, “We are not expecting any strike in 2024 as we are on our toes to make sure the government fulfils all its promises and do more.

“However, we are expecting the government loan promised to students and also the buses promised to all tertiary institutions in the country starting from January. Moreover, we want a year that will be full of activities on our campuses where students will go to school and perform their activities comfortably.”

Babatunde added that the students were still expecting the promised bursary scheme and the increment of government subvention to universities.

He noted, “We were present during the budget public hearing, and we told the lawmakers to increase the allocation to education to raise the standard of education in the country.

“So, we are expecting them to adjust the budget, and also deliver on the promise of the student loan scheme. The welfare of students and all academic and non-academic staff of varsities, polytechnics and colleges of education must be a major priority so that there will be a peaceful academic calendar.”

Increase salaries – Workers

A civil servant, Mr Segun Ajagbe, urged the Federal Government to consider salary adjustment and welfare improvement in 2024.

He added that civil servants would anticipate such reviews from the government and implement measures to enhance their overall welfare, considering the current realities of inflation and the high cost of living.

He said, “We want the government to review and adjust the salary structure because of the current inflation and the high cost of living. We also want them to implement policies that will improve our welfare, including healthcare and housing benefits.”

Another civil servant, who identified herself only as Atinuke, suggested continuous training and capacity building for workers at all levels of government.

She also noted that opportunities must be created to enhance the skills and capabilities of civil servants and ensure that they were well-equipped.

Another civil servant, Fiyin Akanmu, told one of our correspondents that the government should increase salaries and regularise the prices of commodities.

She said, “Things are so expensive. The government should, please, regularise the prices of commodities, and invest in infrastructure, particularly roads.”

An Information Technology expert, Mr Adekunle Oyelakin, said the Federal Government should enforce more stringent regulations and standards to boost cyber security and tame the current rise in the rate of cyber threats.

He noted that the government should work on expanding technology infrastructure like broadband connectivity to support the growth of the digital economy.

He added, “Our expectations include increased government investment in improving and expanding technology infrastructure, such as broadband connectivity to support the growth of our digital economy.

“The government should also foster a more tech-savvy population by promoting digital literacy initiatives to empower the people.”

Another IT expert, Chidinma Uche, corroborated Oyelakin’s stance, saying their expectation from the government was to introduce policies and programmes to enhance further innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of tech start-ups, adding that this would contribute to job creation and economic development in the technology sector.

Mr Kehinde Mukhtar, who is also an IT expert, said the Federal Government should ensure that pressing issues were addressed in the country.

He said, “My expectations from the Federal Government in 2024 revolve around fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

“I anticipate a commitment to addressing pressing issues such as healthcare, education, and environmental concerns. Specifically, I hope for policies that promote accessible and quality healthcare for all, initiatives to enhance educational opportunities, and a strong dedication to environmental conservation.

“Additionally, I look forward to transparent governance, economic policies that prioritise job creation, and efforts to bridge socio-economic disparities. Ultimately, my expectation is for a government that actively engages with the diverse needs of its citizens, ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for the nation.”

A schoolteacher, Alimo Anifowose, said the welfare of the masses should be the main focus of the government in the New Year.

She said, “In 2024, the Federal Government should pay attention to the welfare of the masses. First, there should be a significant increase in the salaries of civil servants and government workers.

“Security in the country should also be improved so that Nigerians can sleep well at night. The Federal government should also make sure that commodities become affordable.”

Stabilise economy – Experts

In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, a financial expert, Oluwasegun Alli, said the government should devise methods to ease the country’s financial burdens in 2024.

He said, “I expect that the government will roll out ways to ease the financial burdens witnessed in 2023.

“I spend a significant part of my salary on transport and food. Despite cutting off unnecessary expenditures such as visitation to friends and families, my monthly income still can’t take me to the next month.

“The government should find means of reducing food inflation, which is estimated at 32.8 per cent as of November, to save people from dying of hunger. Also, the onus is on the government to implement measures to improve power supply so one can save money for buying fuel every night. I hope that the New Year will be a rewarding one.”

Another financial expert, Kehinde Adekoya, said Nigeria witnessed considerable changes in every sector in 2023, adding that the government must ease the masses’ woes in the New Year.

“Nigerians have witnessed an increase in fuel pump price and exchange rates, which have affected the prices of every other goods and services.

“Besides the above concerns, there is the safety and security issue. Although there has been an existing level of insecurity in the country, the recently inflicted hardship fuels the crime rate in the country as many take to crime as their last resort for a livelihood.

“The government should create more job opportunities through foreign investors, establishing new businesses or state-owned industries in the country. This will, in turn, reduce the high rate of unemployment. The government must ensure that it makes the country a producing country rather than a consuming one.”

(Punch)

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Child marriage: Bayelsa summons four-year-old girl’s parents, 54-year-old groom

The Bayelsa Government has invited the parents of a four-year-old girl and the 54-year-old man allegedly involved in a marriage in Akeddei community, Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

The government’s intervention is coming on the heels of media reports of a marriage between the child bride and the 54-year-old.

In a statement on Saturday, sighted by our correspondent, the government frowned at the development, terming the ‘union’ illegal.

The statement was jointly signed by the Chairman, Gender Response Initiative Team, Dr. Dise Ogbise-Goddy, and the Director, Child Development at the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Development, Mr Paniebi Jacob.

The government said the “illegal marriage” was not based on tradition and customs, adding that it was repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

It added that it would not support child marriage under any guise.

The government also noted that it had received a formal complaint from a child rights advocacy group, DO Foundation, on the controversial marriage.

Also, the state Human Rights Commission said the traditional ruler of the Akeddei community honoured the government’s invitation and promised to produce the child, her parents, the groom, the youth leader and the chairman of the Community Development Committee.

“The Bayelsa State government did not hesitate to assent to the passage of the Bayelsa State Child Rights Law.

“We are taking steps to rescue the child from all the key actors in this illegal ceremony that they tagged a ‘mere spiritual’ affair.

“The law is clear on issues of tradition and customs that are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Working with the Bayelsa State Police Command, we shall ensure incidents like this do not occur in the state again.

“On behalf of the governor of Bayelsa State, we express our gratitude to all the non-governmental organisations, including the International Federation of Women Lawyers and DO Foundation, that have risen to the rescue of this innocent child.

“Bayelsa State is children-friendly and this case will be pursued to a logical conclusion,” it added.

However, several media reports have alleged that the marriage involving the man, simply identified as Elder Akpos, was at the instant of the girl’s parents.

(Punch)

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Terrorists perceive security agencies as objects of mockery – Kukah

Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Bishop Mathew Kukah, has joined numerous of Nigerians in condemning recent killings in Plateau, asserting that citizens of Nigeria are gradually losing hope in their government’s ability to protect them.

Bishop Kukah in a statement he signed personally and made available to newsmen in the state of Saturday evening said religious leaders; both Muslim and Christians, had continued to use moral authority to encourage their people not to take laws into their hands.

Kukah’s states came on the heels of the killing of over 150 persons in Plateau State on Christmas Eve by suspected terrorists.

According to the statement titled, ‘Blood and Crucifixion on the Plateau’, he said the invisible men came to the Plateau again, bearing their gifts of death and destruction.

He said, “They came from the deepest pit of hell, the habitat of the devils that they are. They are children of darkness, sons of Satan. They opted to extinguish and snatch the light of the joy of Christmas from thousands of people on the Plateau.

(Punch)

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N37bn fraud: Buhari’s minister to face EFCC interrogators January 3

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has invited the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, over an ongoing probe into the N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered under her watch through a contractor, James Okwete.

The former minister was asked to appear before interrogators at the EFCC headquarters, Jabbi, Abuja on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, to explain the alleged fraud, an exclusive document seen by our correspondent on Saturday revealed.

The document read in part, “The commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development during your time as minister.

“In view of the above, you are requested to kindly report for an interview with the undersigned. Scheduled as follows: Wednesday, 3rd of January, 2024. Time: 10am. This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (I) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 & Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

The ex-minister could not be reached for comments on Saturday as her telephone indicated that it was switched off. When our correspondent contacted her former media aide, Nneka Ikem, over the development, she told our correspondent off and proceeded to switch off her phone.

“As you’re asking me? I’ll be asking you too, where did you learn that the EFCC has invited her, “ Ikem queried before ending the call. Subsequent calls indicated that her phone had been switched off.

Umar-Farouq had earlier denied knowledge of the contractor, James Okwete, who is still being held by the anti-graft agency.

The former minister tweeted on her X handle on Monday, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the activities of one James Okwete, someone completely unknown to me.

“James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious. While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my legal team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.

“I remain proud to have served my country as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend my actions, stewardship and programmes during my tenure whenever I am called upon to do so.”

The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comments on the ex-minister’s invitation when contacted by Sunday PUNCH.

“I’m not around at the moment, and I can’t speak on that, please,” Oyewale said.

Sunday PUNCH had earlier reported that the EFCC had arrested Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe into the N37.1bn allegedly laundered by the ministry under Umar-Farouq.

A top EFCC official, who confided in our correspondent, said the contractor had made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouq and former directors-general of agencies under the ministry.

The development coincides with the probe of three other ministers, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari for alleged graft estimated at N150bn.

“It is not only Umar-Farouk we are investigating. Three other former ministers are also under probe. They were allegedly involved in graft to the tune of N150bn,” a credible source in the EFCC had confided in our correspondent.

Sources revealed that Umar-Farouq and some former directors-general of agencies under the ministry might be arrested by the commission following the details of the alleged financial misappropriation so far revealed to interrogators by the contractor.

Investigations by the anti-graft agency allegedly revealed that the N37.1bn was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with Okwete.

Impeccable sources had earlier confirmed to Sunday PUNCH that Okwete was cooperating with investigators.

According to the EFCC officials, the contractor was arrested four days ago.

A source said, “The contractor, Mr Okwete, who was used in laundering the money, has been arrested by the commission. He is currently in our custody and has been giving investigators more details that have indicted the former minister and some DGs under the ministry, and they may be brought in anytime soon too.”

Another source stated, “The contractor involved in the N37.bn fraud has been arrested and will spend Christmas in our custody. He has given some names, and the former humanitarian affairs minister and directors-general in the ministry were linked to the fraud.”

Sunday PUNCH reports that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs currently serves as the parent ministry to eight agencies, including the National Social Investment Office, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internationally Displaced Persons, among others.

Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.

Her work with Buhari dates back to his days as the leader and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change when she was the national treasurer of the party and later the national treasurer of the All Progressives Congress.

Documents obtained by Sunday PUNCH revealed that following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000 to Bureau De Change operators, withdrew N540m, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600 and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.

A total of 53 companies were reportedly traced to Okwete, who was also said to have used 47 of the firms to secure Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86.

He was also linked with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks of which 134 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.

Checks by our correspondent with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Okwete is a director in only 11 of the 53 companies, while the remaining 42 companies’ accounts are linked to his Bank Verification Number as a signatory to the accounts.

The document stated, “Between 2018 and 2023, the subject (Okwete) received the sum of N37,170,855,753.44 from the coffers of the Federal Government linked to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The money was sent to 38 bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks. The suspect transferred N6,746,034,000 to Bureau De Change operators, N540mn withdrawn in cash, N288,348,600 used to purchase cars, and used N2,195,115,000 to purchase choice properties within Abuja and Enugu State.

“Fifty-three companies were traced to the suspect. He used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86.

“Okwete is associated with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 of the 143 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.”

In 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission said it uncovered N2.67bn meant for the ministry’s school feeding programme in private bank accounts.

The former ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the commission unravelled N2.67bn in personal accounts, being payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Other discoveries by the ICPC include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January and August 15, 2020, of the 268 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, 72 had cumulative infractions of N90m.

The former ICPC chairman argued that the money was paid when children were not in school.

(Punch)

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Edo 2024: Ize-Iyamu declares to contest governorship again

A former Secretary to the State Government of Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, on Wednesday, declared his intention to join the 2024 governorship race in the state.

This is the third time he will be taking a shot at the Edo governorship office.

In 2020, he ran on the platform of the All Progressives Congress but lost to Governor Godwin Obaseki, who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Declaring his intention to run on the APC platform again on Wednesday, Ize-Iyamu said he would stick with his previous SIMPLE agenda, which stands for  Security, Infrastructure Development, Manpower Development, Public/Private Partnership, Leadership by example and Employment creation.

He said, “Having served as Secretary to the State Government and a previous governorship candidate of the party, I possess the required experience to be governor. We lost the 2020 election because our leaders outside the state chose to vote against us.

“The SIMPLE agenda will be used to develop the state, if given the chance to become the governor. All the 18 local government will enjoy infrastructural development.”

He urged the electorate to vote for a politician like him who understands the needs of the people and not an outsider, questioning the present administration’s claim of infrastructural development in the state.

He added, “In Orhionmwon Local Government where I come from, there is no Automated Teller Machine let alone a bank and other social amenities like pipeborne water and electricity.

“The present administration is engaging in selective development as the only visible projects can only be found in Benin City.

“Also, I am not like other politicians who will rule for four or eight years and relocate to Abuja or Lagos. I am based in the state and I think I should be given the chance rather than backing people who only come to vie for positions during elections.”

In his response, the deputy chairman of the party, Jarret Tenebe, stated that the party needed a candidate who would win the 2024 poll.

(Punch)

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Rivers elders write Fubara, say Abuja resolution ‘death sentence’

Rivers State elders and leaders have written an open letter to Governor Siminalayi Fubara, warning him against implementing the resolution reached at a meeting with President Bola Tinubu in Abuja to resolve the political crisis in the state.

The Rivers elders, in their letter, described the resolution as “a death sentence,” contending that it was lopsided in favour of Fubara’s estranged political godfather and ex-governor, Nyesom Wike.

The forum, led by former Rivers State governor, Chief Rufus Ada-George, made the declaration in two separate open letters dated December 24, 2023, and addressed to President Tinubu and Fubara respectively and read to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

They declared that the presidential resolution on the political crisis in Rivers State was lopsided and not implementable because it was against the rule of law.

“For us, as custodians of the Rivers people’s conscience and morality, we find the directive resolution document lopsided and skewed in favour of the interest of your current minister, Nyesom Wike, to the detriment of the governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, the governance of the state and the interest of the generality of the good people of Rivers State,” they wrote.

They said Tinubu did not have the power to overrule the decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, while faulting the Christmas Day broadcast by Fubara that he would implement the resolution.

The open letters were signed by Chief George, Dr Gabriel Toby, Ibim Princewill, Rear Adm. P. Fingesi (retd.), Emeritus Prof. Dagogo Fubara, HRH Iraron, Ede Obolo, Anabs Sara-Igbe, Senator Bennett Birabi, Ms Annkio Briggs, Captain Nwankwo, Prof. A.W. Obianime, Prof. E. T. Bristol, High Chief Marcus Atata, Senator Wilson Ake, Dr Silva Opusunju, Sen Andrew Uchendu, Kalada Iruenabere, Atamuno Atamuno, Prof. N O Nyenke, and Godwin Abbey.

“Mr. Governor, Sir, you stated categorically that you are a principal participant in the entire saga and the Presidential Peace Proclamation is not as bad as being portrayed by those genuinely opposed to it.
“That proclamation is actually a death sentence as it breaches all legal and constitutional rights you swore to uphold. Mr. Governor, you
also stated in your broadcast that the document offers a way and means of peace: Peace at what cost?” the elders queried.

“Does the President have the powers to overrule the ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction when he is a product of the court himself?

 “Central to this, Mr President, is the sacred doctrine and practice of the separation of powers. May we inform Mr President that the seats of the cross-carpeting members have been declared vacant by the Speaker, known to the law, Rt Hon Ehie Edison, through an ex parte order issued by the Federal High Court Port Harcourt division.

 “We cannot but imagine how providing accommodation and meeting venue for legislative business becomes the duty of members of the House of Assembly who you directed to seat wherever they choose and not by the Executive arm as in the case of the National Assembly Complex were Legislative Quarters are provided and maintained by the Executive arm.

 “Given the foregoing, it is evident that Governor Siminalayi Fubara, the Chief Executive Officer of Rivers State, was coerced into submitting to your premeditated action plan even when it is well known that Mr President does not possess such powers to give directives to a democratically elected governor or impose his will on the state government and the good people of Rivers State.

 “As far as we are concerned, that meeting did not happen, and those directives are not implementable because to do so will be acting against the constitution and the rule of law.”

The elders, however, lauded Fubara for his humility as shown in his Christmas Day speech to the people of the state.

(Punch)

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Aiyedatiwa takes over, Tinubu, govs say Akeredolu’s death big loss

Acting Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, was on Wednesday sworn in as the substantive governor of the state following the death of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu earlier in the day.

Akeredolu, aged 67, passed away on Wednesday morning while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in a German hospital.

Born on July 21, 1956, Akeredolu studied Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University (then the University of Ife) graduating in 1977. He was called to the bar in 1978.

His demise generated an outpouring of tributes and condolence messages from President Bola Tinubu, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the Ooni of Ife, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Christian Association of Nigeria, and other eminent Nigerians, who described his death as a big loss to the country.

In line with the constitution, Aiyedatiwa was sworn in as the seventh executive governor of the Sunshine State by the state Chief Judge Justice Olusegun Odusola.

He took the oath of allegiance at 5.15pm, swore the oath of office at 5:17pm, and signed the Oath Register at about 5:19pm.

‘Man of courage’

In his maiden address, the new governor described his former boss, Akeredolu, as a man of courage and conviction who always stood for the truth even at his own detriment.

He vowed to continue with the developmental ideas of the late former governor and also solicited support and cooperation from the stakeholders.

He said, “Today’s (Wednesday ), event has placed a burden on all of us to pull together and stay together as one because we have the onerous responsibility to continue to sustain the legacies of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, which was good governance, properly called.

“Our leader and governor, during his time embarked upon several landmark projects, many of which have been completed and several ongoing. We now have the responsibility to complete them.

“It is to the credit of Arakunrin Akeredolu, that the state now has a flyover in Ore, while the one in Akure is ongoing. It is necessary for us to acknowledge with pride the wonderful achievements and legacies of Arakunrin Akeredolu. His records of performance are monumental and unprecedented.’’

He said the people of the South-West would forever be grateful to Akeredolu, who as the Chairman of the governors in the zone ensured the establishment of Amotekun, the region’s security outfit which tackled kidnapping and other crimes

Present at the inauguration were the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Olamide Oladiji; Secretary to the State Government, Oladunni Odu, some state executive council members; the Head of Service, Pastor Kayode Ogundele, former deputy governors, permanent secretaries, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Ade Adetimehin, the Chief of Staff to the late governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale, party supporters, among others.

Before his death, Akeredolu had transferred power to Aiyedatiwa via a letter to the state House of Assembly on December 13, 2023, when he was to proceed on medical leave in Germany.

The development followed the intervention of President Tinubu who intervened in the crisis that resulted from the failure of Akeredolu to hand over to his deputy after he returned to the country from Germany in September.

Although Akeredolu returned to Nigeria in the first week of September after a three-month medical leave, he was operating from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

The state House of Assembly had commenced an impeachment process against the deputy governor over allegations of gross misconduct.

This led to a division in the state assembly and the state executive council as well as the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress.

In a bid to resolve the crisis, Tinubu met with the leadership of the assembly and the state APC at the State House, Abuja, last month, where it was decided that Aiyedatiwa should take over as the acting governor.

The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, announced the governor’s death in a statement saying, “Mr governor peacefully departed from this world in the early hours of today, Wednesday, December 27, 2023.”

The statement was titled, ‘It is a sad day in Ondo State.’

 It read, “With a heavy heart, the Ondo State Government announces the passing of our beloved Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON.

 “Mr governor peacefully departed from this world in the early hours of today, Wednesday, December 27, 2023. This tragedy has left behind a profound void in our hearts.

“Governor Akeredolu answered the eternal call while receiving medical treatment in Germany. He succumbed to complications arising from protracted prostate cancer.”

It noted that a letter had been sent to the President to officially inform him of the governor’s death.

The family and the Ondo State Government appreciate Mr President’s support for Governor Akeredolu during his illness. The family and the state government will release further details regarding the funeral arrangements.

“Governor Akeredolu was an extraordinary leader whose unwavering dedication to the state and its people was both commendable and unparalleled.’’

Meanwhile, the new governor, in a statement on Wednesday evening  in Akure by his Chief Press Secretary, Ebenezer Adeniyan,  declared three-day mourning.

According to Aiyedatiwa, the period of mourning, with fasting and prayer, takes effect from Thursday and ends on Saturday.

Akeredolu’s aides resign

Shortly before the swearing-in of Aiyedatiwa, the Special Adviser to Akeredolu on Union Matters and Special Duties, Mr Dare Aragbaye and the Chief Press Secretary Mr Richard Olatunde resigned from office.

In the letters of resignation signed by the duo, addressed to the office of the Secretary to the State Government on Wednesday, the aides cited the demise of the governor as the reason for their action. The letters came in, some hours after the death of Governor Akeredolu.

Aragbaye’s letter was titled ‘Resignation of appointment as Special Adviser Union Matters and Special Duties.’

The letter read, “I write to refer to the subject above and to resign my appointment as Special Adviser Union Matters and Special Duties with effect from today, Wednesday 27, December 2023. My decision to resign is based on the unfortunate death of my principal a fearless and honest leader, Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredulu, SAN, CON , whom I am loyal to even in death.

“I sincerely thank His Excellency for the opportunity granted me to serve in his administration as a member of the State Executive Council first as a Head of Service and now as Special Adviser. Please accept the assurances of my esteemed regards. “

Olatunde in his letter titled ‘Resignation Letter’ partly read, “ It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I tender my resignation as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, effective from today, Wednesday 27, 2023.”

It further stated,” My decision to resign from office is hinged on the unfortunate and untimely death of our leader, principal, and father figure, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON.”

The Ondo State Government Secretariat was in a sombre mood following the death of the governor as the workers who resumed office after the Christmas holiday wore somber looks.

They were seen in groups discussing the development while many of them could not carry out any official duty.

Tinubu in a personally signed statement expressing his grief described the second-term governor, who was expected to conclude his tenure in 2024, as a fearless fighter, brother, confidant, and political soulmate.

He stated, “Today, I mourn a fighter and fearless defender of truth and the masses…brother, confidant, political soulmate, and the Executive Governor of Ondo State.”

He further noted, “Rotimi was a man of ideas and action. While he was with us, he taught us the power of action and service.

“In Ondo State, where he had the honour to serve as the governor over the past six years, he served his people with absolute loyalty, dedication, and forthrightness,” said the President.

In the tribute titled, ‘I mourn my fearless brother, Rotimi Akeredolu,’ Tinubu said: “Rotimi has played his role well and left us untimely. We will never see his likes again. Let me tell the people of Ondo State that I am grieving with you. We will honour Rotimi’s memory and make sure his legacy of service is never forgotten.

“In my grief and sadness, I have telephoned his wife, Betty, and Acting Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa to commiserate with them and urge them to take heart over this national tragedy.

“Governor Akeredolu was not just a friend and associate, the departed leader was a brother and a soulmate. His death is a blow to our governing APC and the progressive family as we are diminished by it.”

Govs mourn

Also, the governors of Oyo, Lagos, Osun, Edo, Ogun, Kogi, Benue, and Delta states expressed profound sorrow over the death of the former chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum.

Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State described Akeredolu, who, until his death, was the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, as a dogged fighter and courageous leader.

Makinde, in a statement issued in Ibadan on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Sulaimon Olanrewaju, expressed heartfelt condolences to the late governor’s wife, the entire family as well as the government and the people of Ondo State.

The Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while expressing grief over the sad development, said Akeredolu would be greatly missed for his positive impacts in Ondo State, South-West, and Nigeria as a whole.

Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued on Wednesday by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, commiserated with Aiyedatiwa, Akeredolu’s widow, Dr Betty Akeredolu, and the entire family and friends of the deceased.

In a tribute, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, submitted that Akeredolu’s death had denied Nigeria one of its finest.

Adeleke in a condolence message signed by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, on Wednesday, said he was deeply touched by Akeredolu’s death, who he said made great contributions to Nigeria in the legal field and public service.

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, lauded the departed governor for his bravery and independence of mind, noting that he served his people meritoriously and diligently.

Obaseki in a statement on Wednesday, asserted that Akeredolu’s intellect, hard work, and diligence stood him out and was reflected in his attainments and the fervour in which he served the good people of Ondo State.

Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, described the death of his Ondo State counterpart as tragic.

In his condolence message to Aiyedatiwa, the family of the deceased, and the Ondo people, Prince Abiodun described Akeredolu as a dogged fighter throughout his lifetime.

Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, in a statement, described the tragic passing of his Ondo State counterpart as a monumental loss to the nation.

“Akeredolu’s unwavering commitment and dedication in steering the ship of democracy and good governance during his seven-year tenure as the Governor of Ondo are acknowledged with deep admiration,” Bello pointed out.

Benue State Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, similarly expressed sadness over the death of his Ondo colleague and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghani Na’Abba.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kula Tersoo, the governor described Akeredolu as a gentleman, who he said gave his all in trying to change the fortunes of his state.

The Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori has expressed deep sadness on the passing of the Ondo governor, saying he was an urbane and cerebral leader of great value who was progressively committed to the growth and development of Ondo State and Nigeria.

Governor Oborevwori, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon in Asaba, expressed his condolences to Akeredolu’s wife, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, family members, the government and people of Ondo State on the passing of the renowned senior lawyer.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, described the demise of the Ondo governor as a huge loss to the Yoruba race and Nigeria at large.

Ooni, who stated this in a statement he issued on Wednesday, said that the late governor was an epitome of honesty and courage, who lived a life worthy of emulation.

According to him, the Oduduwa race had lost a pillar of honesty and courage; a man who served humanity with his expertise as a legal luminary, experienced politician, and true descendant of Oduduwa.

“When we were challenged at the grassroots by invaders who masqueraded as herdsmen, Aketi worked with stakeholders across South-West and the national level to deliver our mandate of security and prosperity.’’

“This birthed Amotekun and other initiatives through which our people are safer and more confident to embark on their lawful businesses daily.

“He was an honest, bold, and courageous leader whose legacy will never be forgotten. If Akeredolu tells you anything, that is the way it is.

 “His death is a personal loss to me because we were very close, right from our days as students of Loyola College, Ibadan to date.’’

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, also joined other Nigerians to mourn Akeredolu, whom he described as a politician with exceptional leadership skills.

 The APC national chairman, in a tribute released by his Chief Press Secretary, Edwin Olofu, in Abuja, stressed that the death of the former NBA president was a great loss not only to the Ondo people but to Nigerians as a whole.

. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, observed that the ex-NBA president would be sorely missed.

 Fagbemi, in a statement on Wednesday, recalled Akeredolu’s days as the president of the NBA, saying he brought immense growth to the bar.

 The 2023 Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, commiserated with the families of N’Abba and Akeredolu.

He described the deceased men as quintessential gentlemen who took finesse to governance.

 Atiku noted that the two-term elected governor of the Sunshine State, Akeredolu, was a politician of class because he was never known for destructive politics.

“Hon. Na’Abba on the other hand raised the bar of legislative enterprise in Nigeria as it is evident that the 1st Session of the National Assembly where he served with distinction between 1999-2003 remains one of the best in the annals of our legislatures,’’ he added.

The Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has also joined others in mourning the demise of Akeredolu and Na’Abba.

The former Anambra State governor said their deaths showed the nothingness of life.

Obi stated this in a condolence message via his verified X handle on Wednesday.

He noted that the death of the two prominent Nigerians has shown political officeholders that it is important for them to remain committed to good works.

Obi stated, “I was opportune to be close to Akeredolu as the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association, he invited me to speak at an NBA event and since then we remained close and always discussed issues about Nigeria.”

President of the Senate, Senator Godwill Akpabio, expressed shock over the death of the Ondo state governor, describing him as “a nationalist and the Iroko of the Sunshine state.”

Akpabio in a statement issued in Abuja by his special adviser on media and publicity, Eseme Eyiboh, said Akeredolu was a leader who knew his onions and was indeed the Iroko of Ondo state as he defended the state with all his strength as governor.

The Senate president eulogised the late governor whom he said spent his active life fighting for justice, fairness, and equity adding that as a nationalist, “Akeredolu believed in true federalism, which he pursued with passion and vigour.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, expressed sadness over the death of Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu describing his demise as a painful loss.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Krishi, Mr Abbas described Akeredolu’s death as a big blow to the APC even as he said that the late governor was one of the brilliant legal minds in the ruling party.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has also mourned the passage of his colleague, describing Akeredolu as an exceptional statesman who made indelible marks in public service.

The Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Muhammadu Yahaya, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Ondo State over the governor’s death.

Yahaya, on behalf of the 19 northern governors, mourned the loss of Akeredolu, in a press statement signed by Director-General Press Affairs Ismaila Misilli describing the governor as “a senior figure, friend, resilient advocate, and a visionary leader whose attributes of excellence and remarkable brilliance positively influenced the transformation of Ondo State and contributed to the development of the country.”

On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party said the governor’s death was shocking, noting that he would be missed for his leadership capacity, especially in his roles towards the unity, stability, and development of the nation.

Reacting to the tragedy, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba in a statement on Wednesday, said, “His death is a huge national loss. He was an unrepentant fighter for fairness, equity and justice in the affairs of the nation.

‘’He believed in true federalism, respect, defence, and protection of ethnic nationalities which he advocated as a prerequisite for peace and development in our nation.

“The PDP commiserates with Governor Akeredolu’s widow, Betty Akeredolu, his children, and the people of Ondo State. We pray to God to grant them the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss and to the faithful departed, eternal rest in His Bosom.”

The Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch, has also mourned the passage of the governor, describing him as one of its shining lights.

The Chairman of the association, Mrs Folasade Aladeniyi, said this on Wednesday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.

According to her, with Akeredolu’s death, NBA Ibadan branch has lost one of its brightest, a friend, mentor, and fearless man as well as a caring patron.

Similarly, a legal practitioner, Mr Tobi Fatoki, said that the governor’s death was shocking and sad, adding that Nigerian lawyers had lost a legend.

 The Chairman of the Ondo State Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Anselm Ologunwa eulogised the late governor, saying his death was a colossal loss to the state and Nigeria as a whole.

Ologunwa, in a statement by the Director of Information and Communication of the association, Mr Daisi Ajayi, expressed shock over the news of the death.

He described Akeredolu as a great fighter of democracy, a dedicated and loving father of all.

(Punch)

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Borno, Kaduna, four other states to suffer worse insecurity, economic hardship in 2024 –W’Bank

Persistent insecurity, armed conflict, and deteriorating livelihoods will continue to affect local government areas in Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara states, and the far north of Adamawa State in Nigeria until May 2024, the World Bank has predicted.

This is as it disclosed that poor macroeconomic conditions are restricting access to agricultural inputs in the country.

This is set to affect cereal production in the country. The global bank revealed this in its latest ‘Food Security Update.’

Estimated cereal production for the 2023/24 crop year is expected to be 76.5 million tons in West and Central Africa, which is a two per cent decrease from the previous season, but a three per cent rise from the average for the last five years.

Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria are expected to contribute the most to this decline.

The Bretton Woods institution said, “Projections indicate a decline in production from last year in Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. This decrease is attributed to dry spells during the growing season and insecurity that limited access to cropland in Chad, Mali, and Niger and to poor macroeconomic conditions that have restricted access to agricultural inputs in Nigeria.”

While overall, most of the sub-region’s areas will remain in the minimally food insecure (category from November to May 2024, some areas are classified as stressed and some in crisis.

It added, “Over the same period (November to May 2024), Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions, mainly caused by persistent insecurity and armed conflict, and deteriorating livelihoods, are projected to affect the following regions:

“Nigeria: Local government areas in Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara states, and the far north of Adamawa state.”

The other places this will affect include places in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Niger.

In its latest update, the World Bank noted that between August and November, many low- and middle-income countries were battling with high inflation.

It stated, “Information from the latest month between August and November 2023 for which food price inflation data are available shows high inflation in many low- and middle-income countries, with inflation higher than 5 per cent in 61.9 per cent of low-income countries (no change since the last update two weeks ago), 76.1 per cent of lower-middle-income countries (3.9-percentage-point decrease), 50.0 per cent of upper-middle-income countries (no change), and 57.4 per cent of high-income countries (2.6-percentage point decrease).”

It noted that the most-affected countries are in Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. It further highlighted that in real terms, food price inflation has exceeded overall inflation 74 per cent in 167 countries.

In November, Nigeria’s headline inflation rose to 28.20 per cent while food inflation soared to 32.84 per cent.

(Punch)

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British-American Tobacco fined $110m as FG drops criminal charges

The Federal Government, through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, has fined British American Tobacco and its affiliate companies $110m.

This is for alleged infringements of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, National Tobacco Control Act, and sundry legal instruments, the FCCPC said on Wednesday in a statement.

In addition, the commission said BAT must subject itself to compliance and monitoring for a period of 24 months, mandatory public health and tobacco control advocacy, and provisions of written assurances to the commission.

“In exchange for BAT Parties fulfilling their obligations under the Consent Order, the commission withdrew pending criminal charges against BATN and at least one employee with respect to obstructing the commission by attempting to prevent execution of the search warrant and initial lack of cooperation/compliance with steps in the investigation,” the commission said.The FCCPC said the decision followed its “active” investigation into British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and other affiliated companies (BAT Parties) on August 28, 2020, after it received credible pieces of information and intelligence.

Commenting on the resolution, it said, “During the year ending 2023, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission came to a final resolution with British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Limited (BATN, British American Tobacco Marketing (Nigeria) Limited (BATMN), British American Tobacco Plc, British American Tobacco (Holdings) Limited (all together referred to as BAT Parties) with respect to a range of infringements of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, National Tobacco Control Act and sundry legal instruments.”

According to the commission, it carried out an order and warrant of search and seizure, approved by a Federal High Court, at BAT locations and the location of a service provider on January 25, 2021.

It disclosed that it gathered, received, and procured substantial evidence from forensic analysis of electronic communications and other information/data obtained during the search, as well as other evidence procured during, and after the search from other legitimate sources.

It added that additional investigation, including proffers, hearings, transcripts of sworn testimonies, and continuing analysis of evidence established and supported multiple violations of the FCCPA and other enactments.

It highlighted that during the investigation and in furtherance of mutual engagements between the commission and BAT Parties, BAT Parties, in writing sought, and the commission accepted BAT Parties into cooperation under the Commission’s Cooperation/Assistance Rules & Procedure, 2021.

It clarified that this provides for benefits such as possible reduced monetary penalties; waiver of the application of the commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations 2020; as well as prosecutorial discretion, particularly Rules 5.1 and 5.3 (subject to compliance with Rules 3 and 5.4).

The FCCPC noted that its penalties were reached upon full consideration of the record, BAT Parties’ additional articulation representations, and correspondence.

Part of the verdict of the investigation read: “That BAT Parties shall pay a penalty of $110,000,000 under and pursuant to Section 155 of the FCCPA, Clause 11 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations, 2020 and Clause 4.2 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Investigative Cooperation/Assistance Rules and Procedures, 2021.”

The commission stated that it remained committed to promoting and ensuring fair market practices while protecting consumer interests.

It added, “A distorted market redounds only to the benefit of those who engage in malfeasance, is at the expense of others, and exploitation of consumers while undermining a stable economy. It compromises a constitutional and national priority of economic growth and shared prosperity.”

Recently the Executive Vice Chairman of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, revealed that businesses must be held accountable and made to face the consequences when they err. He said this while disclosing that the commission generated N56bn, mainly from penalties, as Internally Generated Revenue in 2023.

While noting that 90 per cent of the IGR was mainly from penalties, he said, “What makes the market stable is holding businesses accountable. The consequence management system is what we have adopted.

“We are not trying to close down businesses, but they must know that if you snooze, you lose. You cannot distort the market and expect that there will be no consequences.”

When contacted, the External Affairs Director of the company, Odiri Erewa-Meggison told our correspondent to send an inquiry via text message. She was yet to send feedback at the time of filing this report.

(Punch)

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