Nigerian Newspapers: 10 major events this Saturday

Good morning! Here is today’s summary from Nigerian Newspapers:

1. The organised labour, on Friday, walked out of a scheduled meeting with the Presidential Steering Committee on subsidy palliatives at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had led his delegation to the Chief of Staff’s office, venue of the meeting but were soon on their way out of the villa.

2. The Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has forwarded the list of commissioner-nominees to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
The 39 names are a mixture of politicians and technocrats. While some of the immediate past members of the State Executive Council returned, many did not return.

3. Vice President Kashim Shettima, on Friday, said Nigeria is now at a new dawn to chart and re-position its destiny for greatness, citing the current measures adopted by the Tinubu administration to diversify the economy and address emerging challenges as reason.

4. President Bola Tinubu has expressed the willingness of the Federal Government of Nigeria to support global tech giant, Google Incorporated, to create one million digital jobs in Nigeria. The President gave the assurance at the State House, Friday evening during the visit of Google Global Vice President, Mr. Richard Gingras, to his office.

5. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has directed security agencies to take decisive action against purveyors of violence and other undemocratic activities like vote buying, attacks on election officials and disruption of electoral process. Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal at a meeting with the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja on Friday.

6. Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is not yet Nigeria’s President until the courts have finished their job and declared who the president is. The former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in an interview on Friday said the tribunal has the final say on who won the Feb 25 election.

7. Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has ordered an end to all sit-at-home activities in the South East, including those of Mondays and any other proposed day. This is contained in a public announcement issued by the IPOB leader through his special counsel, Aloy Ejimakor.

8. The Edo State Police Command has arrested a former banker, Gift Igbinosun, 35, for allegedly defrauding John Nnamdi and Obasogie Osagieduwa of over N14.9m. The police spokesperson in the state, Chidi Nwabuzor, said the suspect who was sacked by her employer, a commercial bank, two years ago defrauded the victims under the pretence of helping them get new notes.

9. The Police in Bauchi State have arrested a suspect who allegedly removed the hand of a 25-year old man and stabbed him on the head. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ahmed Wakil, in a statement on Friday, said the suspect had been on the command’s wanted list for two years over thuggery and causing grievous harm. He said the suspect committed the crime with two others still at large.

10. The family of Chinyere Awuda, a lady found dead near an abandoned swimming pool at a hotel in Anambra State, on Friday rejected the autopsy report that said she died of drowning. The family, speaking through their lawyer, Eziafa Enwedo, asked the police to release the CCTV footage, alleging that the footage showed a male adult chasing the deceased towards the pool area.

Nigerian Newspapers: 10 major events this Friday

Good morning! Here is today’s summary from Nigerian Newspapers:

1. The National Economic Council, comprising 36 state governors and Vice President Kashim Shettima, on Thursday concluded a plan for state governments to implement cash transfer programmes using state-generated social registers. It said state-generated social registers would better reflect the number of vulnerable Nigerians to be reached with such cash transfer or palliative schemes.

2. The military high command says it has discovered and destroyed no fewer than 23 illegal crude oil refineries and arrested 60 suspected oil thieves in the last two weeks. The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, disclosed this on Thursday during the military’s biweekly press briefing in Abuja.

3. The Independent National Electoral Commission has bowed to pressure and finally recognised the Youth Party as a registered political party in Nigeria. The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, in a statement on Thursday, said the commission recognised the Youth Party following an order by the Supreme Court.

4. The National Vice Chairman for North-West, Mallam Salihu Lukman has warned against replacing the ousted National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, with former Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, saying the action may upset the zoning arrangement of the party.

5. A court in the United Kingdom (UK) is set to order the seizure of more than 100 million pounds ($129 million) from James Ibori, former Delta State governor who was convicted of fraud and money laundering in Britain. Ibori was among the class 1999 governors who visited President Bola Tinubu at Aso Rock last week.

6. The National Public Relations Officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Yakubu Suleiman, on Thursday said that even with the sudden hike in the pump price of petrol in Nigeria, the country still has the cheapest price of the product among other African countries. He stated this during a chat with ARISE TV concerning the recent hike in the price of fuel.

7. The Police Service Commission (PSC) has approved the appointment of two Deputy Inspectors General of Police and the promotion of CSP Olumuyiwa Oladunmoye Adejobi, the Force Public Relations Officer to the next rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police. PSC also confirmed 9,016 unconfirmed Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASP).

8. All Progressives Congress (APC) governors under the platform of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) have clarified that no powerful bloc in the ruling party coerced erstwhile National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu and the Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, to resign their positions in the party.

9. Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Dankwara, on Thursday, said 53 persons had been arrested in connection with cult-related activities in the state. Dankwara disclosed this in a statement made available to our correspondent in Benin, the state capital. He warned citizens and organisations in the state to stop backing cult groups by providing logistics for their nefarious activities.

10. A lady identified as Chinyere Awuda has allegedly been beaten to death inside Cosmila Hotel in Awka, Anambra State capital, where she went clubbing. The corpse of the deceased, who hailed from Nnobi, in Idemili South Local Government Area of the state, was said to have been found the following morning near the hotel’s swimming pool where it was dumped.

Students Loans Act, the realities of prospective beneficiaries and calls for amendment

The student loan idea is one that I have been skeptical about since it first surfaced as a proposed policy in President Tinubu’s policy document, ‘Renewed Hope 2023’. In the document, it was stated that if elected, the Tinubu administration “Will institute a pilot student loan regime like the programme established by the Lagos State Government. This will expand access to education to all Nigerians regardless of their backgrounds.”

The document further elaborates that the implementation of the loan regime aims to provide institutions with greater flexibility to be able to adjust their tuition fees to become more cost-reflective, potentially leading to a significant increase in fees.

In fulfillment of this campaign promise, the president has assented to the “Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2023,” which, by implication, repeals the Nigerian Education Bank Act, 2004. The bill, now an Act, seeks “to provide easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Loan Fund established in this Act with a view to providing education for all Nigerians.” 

Under the Act, only applicants whose income or that of their family is less than N500,000 will be eligible for the loan. It also mandates that applicants must provide at least two guarantors who shall be civil servants of on at least Grade Level 12 in service, lawyers with at least 10 years post-call experience, judicial officers, or justices of peace.

According to the Act, the loan is open to applicants who must have secured admission to study in federally or state-owned universities, polytechnics, COEs, and any vocational schools.

Repayment becomes due two years after the mandatory National Youth Service, and it shall be done via direct deduction of 10% of the beneficiaries’ monthly salary at source or remittance of 10% of monthly profit in cases of self-employment.

Certain gaps become obvious when the policy is compared with similar policies in other countries (like the United States) and within the country as well, as in the case of the Kaduna State loan scheme, which was particularly referenced in the policy document as a model.

When comparing the loan regime described in the Act and the Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan, commonly known as the Subsidized Stafford Loan in the United States (which is the closest in similarities), certain parallels can be observed. The Subsidized Stafford Loan is primarily allocated to students with financial hardships, typically those whose family income falls below $50,000.

The maximum loan amount varies depending on the student’s academic year. Under the default repayment plan, known as the Standard Repayment Plan (SRP), borrowers are granted a six-month moratorium before commencing a 10-year repayment period, featuring fixed monthly instalments.

However, alternative repayment plans exist to accommodate individuals with low income and financial challenges. These include income-based, income-contingent, and Pay-As-You-Earn plans, which extend the repayment term to 25 years.

Monthly payments are set at 10 to 15 per cent of discretionary income. The interest rate for such loans is typically determined by the federal government and only begins accruing after a six-month grace period.

Furthermore, provisions are in place to grant deferment, forbearance, or forgiveness in cases of unemployment, with eligibility contingent upon individual circumstances and associated conditions.

In contrast, the student loan scheme in Kaduna State follows a distinct structure. It entails a repayment period of five years without a grace period, an interest rate of 8%, and a Debt Burden Ratio of 33.33%. Only employed students or sponsors, such as parents, are eligible to apply for the loan.

Disbursement of the loan amount occurs subsequent to credit checks conducted by the issuing bank, ensuring confirmation of a consistent income source for the student (in the case of employment) or sponsor (for unemployed students) capable of repaying the loan within five years.

The loan amount accessible to each beneficiary depends on their monthly income. For example, based on the loan calculator available on the application website, an individual with a monthly income of N30,000 qualifies for a loan amount of N490,000, with a monthly repayment obligation of N9,999, equating to 33.33% of their income over a 60-month period (five years).

The scheme mandates that a federal or state civil servant serves as a guarantor.

But unlike these two loan schemes described above, especially that of the US, the Act does not clearly define any alternative repayment method or the implications of the failure to start repayment after the moratorium period of two years after NYSC due to unemployment or other circumstances like loss of a job. This is particularly important and problematic because of the country’s record-high unemployment rate of 33.3%.

Additionally, a misalignment concerning the target beneficiaries of the loan scheme, their realities, and payment prospects become obvious on critical appraisal. This is particularly in contrast to the other schemes referenced above where the target beneficiary realities and payment prospects arguably justify the loan schemes.

For instance, the unemployment rate in the United States is about 3.7 per cent as of May 2023. Only 19.8 per cent of the total unemployed have been jobless for 27 weeks or more. Also, according to Pew Research Center, “only 1.9 per cent of college graduates ages 25 and older were unemployed” in February 2020 just before the COVID-19 outbreak.

The number rose to 6.8 per cent after the pandemic but stabilized in March 2022 at about two per cent. These numbers provide sufficient justification for the 6-month grace period and 10-year repayment period for the Standard Repayment Plan and up to 25 years for income-driven repayment plans.

However, even with these favourable numbers and flexible repayment plans, the scheme adequately provided for cases of unemployment and other situations of financial hardship through loan deferment, forbearance, and even forgiveness.

Still, it is worth noting that out of about 34 million federal direct loans due for repayment, 5.1 million are currently in default, 3.1 million are in deferment, and 24 million are in forbearance, according to Forbes Advisor. Only 0.5 million have been repaid. 6.4 million are in school, while 1.6 million are in the grace period. The level of forbearance is high because repayment has been paused since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A student loan forgiveness plan of the Biden administration is currently being considered and is in the courts due to some controversies.

Similarly, the Act is also in contrast to the Kaduna State scheme where it is clear that the target beneficiaries are only students who are either employed or have sponsors who are willing and able to pay back the loan within five years. This justifies the five-year repayment period, and one can clearly see the alignment between the scheme’s terms and the realities of the target beneficiaries. Compliance with repayment conditions is almost always easily assured.

The federal scheme, however, seeks to target poor households with less than N500,000 in annual family income. Yet, the terms of the loan as provided by the Act require repayment to start two years after the completion of NYSC. In a country with poor employment and graduate survey numbers as described above, the Act does not recognise circumstances of unemployment and other financial hardships which are highly prevalent — a definition of the realities of Nigerian graduates.

By extension and implication, it also does not provide for alternative repayment plans and provisions that address such circumstances as unemployment like loan forbearance, deferment, or forgiveness options.

This stresses the questions of whether the provisions of the Act are consistent with the realities of its target beneficiaries, the country at large and whether it is enough to justify charging more cost-reflective tuition by universities, which is one of the ultimate aims of the Act.

For the Act to be able to usher in an effective loan scheme, the government must resist being cornered by the clutches of ‘Isomorphic Mimicry’, a term used by organisational theorists and policy experts to describe a phenomenon where governments adopt policies and practices that superficially resemble successful models elsewhere without fully understanding or internalizing the contextual factors, specific conditions, structures, and levels of institutional/processual efficiencies of the original contexts of such policies.

A thorough reassessment of the realities of the country and the target demography is advised. This should be followed by a reappraisal of the operational aspect of the provisions of the Act. The government must decisively choose a distinct demography of target beneficiaries. They must choose whether to target prospective beneficiaries who are willing and capable of paying the loan, as in the Kaduna State scheme. This extinguishes the concerns of difficulty and uncertainty regarding compliance with repayment conditions but entirely changes the original aim of the Act, which seeks to cater to ‘indigent’ Nigerian students.

Alternatively, they can maintain the objective of providing easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians but must explicitly provide for circumstances of unemployment and other financial hardships that define the realities of the original target demography and the country. Provisions for deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness of loan repayment should be made. Such provisions are highly essential and must be included as provisions of the Act (not only the Nigerian Education Loan Fund policy and guidelines) to avoid ambiguity and other legal issues.

Such provisions will definitely affect the viability of the programme as currently designed by the Act if considered, especially in terms of financials and operations. This is where the government must reassess the situation, ask itself whether the scheme justifiably allows for an increment of tuition fees at the moment, and decide whether it is the right timing for such a programme.

Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim wrote from Zaria

haleemabdul1999@gmail.com

(Daily Trust)

No superior religion in Nigeria — CAN, NSCIA

The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council on Friday maintained the secularity of the country, saying no religion is superior to the other.

While affirming that Nigeria is a multi-religious state under God, the organisation called on religious leaders to resist political manipulation of religion that could lead to anarchy.

NIREC made the submissions in a joint statement by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Daniel Okoh and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar.

The NIREC co-chairmen said they were disturbed by the ugly trend occasioned by the hate speeches before and after the 2023 elections.

The statement said, “Weaponizing religion for selfish, political gains is capable of causing religious conflict in Nigeria. NIREC therefore condemns, in strongest terms, the statements that give the impression that one religion is superior to the other. NIREC affirms that Nigeria is a multi-religious state under God.

“NIREC condemns statements that give the impression of religious dominance and superiority in the country. We wish however that every Nigerian could be a true Christian or a true Muslim as that would promote the religious values that could transform the nation. Given that most politicians in Nigeria practice one religion or the other, the Christian and Muslim politicians should proclaim the fear and love of God by caring for the common good and welfare of the citizens.

“NIREC calls on religious leaders to resist political manipulation of religion that could lead to anarchy. We condemn the antics of politicians whose main goal is to achieve their political interest by whatever means possible including using religion as a cover. NIREC calls on our political leaders to use their platforms to sue for peace, unity and harmony while also refraining from making statements or comments that are capable of aggravating the already heated polity in the nation.

“NIREC calls upon all politicians to play politics with the fear of God, dignity, honour and decorum by eschewing the politics of division and sectionalism. NIREC appeals to the general public to note that the elections are over and various cases are in court challenging the outcome and must therefore give the judiciary the opportunity to do its work.

“Nigerians must continue to be patriotic, law- abiding and peace-loving and must oppose all acts of machinations and manipulations by leaders who are using religion to tear the nation apart. Let us pray for a nation that will continue to promote justice and peaceful co-existence. The task of building a prosperous Nigeria is the task of every citizen. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!”

(Punch)

NNPC Ltd, ONHYM, others sign MoU on $25bn Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline

The Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project has advanced with the signing of four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) to ensure progress and strategic direction of the 25 billion dollars Trans-Atlantic gas pipeline project.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the four MoUs were signed on Friday in Abuja at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Headquarters during the project’s first Steering Committee Meeting.

The agreements were signed between the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd), Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) of Morocco and the Société Nationale des Opérations Pétrolières of Cote d’Ivoire (PETROCI),

Others include the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), the Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures of Benin (SNH-Benin), and the Société Nationale des Pétroles of the Republic of Guinea (SONAP).

Once completed, the project will enhance the monetisation of the natural gas resources of the affected African countries and also offer a new alternative export route to Europe.

Malam Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Ltd, in his remarks disclosed that currently, FEED Phase II Study was at over 70 percent in tendering process for the surveys, with clear visibility in project funding.

Kyari listed the surveys as the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Policy Framework (LARPF).

“We are also pleased to welcome our counterparts from NOCAL of Liberia, PETROCI of Cote D’Ivoire, SNH Benin and SONAP of Guinea for committing to collaborate with us on this project through the execution of MoU.

“This is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the Host Governments, the ECOWAS Commission, and the National Oil Companies to deliver on this strategic project, create wealth and value for our countries and other stakeholders.

“As you are aware, our collective decisions and actions guided by our shared vision would extend far beyond gas supply to spur prosperity and economic integration between our nations,’’ he said.

Kyari, while expressing appreciation to President Bola Tinubu for entrusting NNPC Ltd. with the strategic project, acknowledged ECOWAS Commission’s role in co-hosting the meeting in addition to planned execution of the Treaty, Host Government Agreements and other enablers.

Also speaking, the Director-General of ONHYM, Madam Amina Benkhadra said that the gathering represented a progressive step in ensuring social and economic development through energy security and accessibility geared towards attaining total development of Africa by Africans.

In his remarks, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitisation, Mr Sédiko Douka said the pipeline was designed from Nigeria to Morocco, passing through Atlantic Coast States, with inland ramps to supply the Interland Countries, possibly to Europe.

“The project will strengthen our electricity production/generation capacity, stimulate industrial, agricultural development, and contribute to the energy transition by using a source of energy that is cleaner than other fossil fuels,’’ he said.

He recalled that the Steering Committee, which was enlarged to include other stakeholders, was part of the dynamics of the MoU signed between the ECOWAS Commission, NNPC and ONHYM on Sept. 15, 2022, in Rabat, Morocco.

He recalled that ECOWAS was engaged further to the instructions of the Heads of State and Government in the development of the West Africa Gas Pipeline Extension Project (WAGPEP), through a feasibility study approved in 2018.

He said at the same time, Nigeria and Morocco, through NNPC Ltd and ONHYM, also agreed to initiate the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project (NMGP).

“The similarities between the two projects soon became apparent, and so, the need for synergy to pool efforts in order to achieve a single gas pipeline project.

“Today, we can assure you that the ECOWAS member States are fully committed to this structuring Project.

“As proof, the statutory bodies of ECOWAS have ratified the decision to merge the projects into a single one,’’ he said.

The ECOWAS-ONHYM-NNPC Steering Committee meeting for development of a single gas pipeline had representatives from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco.

(NAN)

Frank Mba, Ciroma become Deputy Inspectors General of Police – PSC

The Police Service Commission has approved the appointment of AIGs Frank Mba and Bala Ciroma as Deputy Inspectors General of Police.

DIG Ciroma will replace DIG Ali Janga who has retired from service and had represented the North East geo-political zone in the Police Management team.

DIG Ciroma, the most senior Officer from the zone will henceforth represent the zone.

DIG Mba, on the other hand, will represent the South East zone and replace retired DIG John Amadi who before his retirement represented the zone.

According to the spokesman of PSC, Ikechukwu Ani, “The Commission also approved the promotion of 14 Commissioners of Police to the next rank of Assistant Inspectors General of Police and 22 Deputy Commissioners of Police to the substantive rank of Commissioners.

“These decisions were high points of the 21st Plenary Meeting of the Commission presided over by its Chairman, Dr. Solomon Arase, retired Inspector General of Police and attended by all the Members of the Commission including the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Commission, Dr. (Mrs) Ifeoma Adaora Anyanwutaku.”

The new AIGs are CP Abubakar Lawal; CP Alhassan Aminu; CP Abdul Umar; CP Shettima Zannah; CP Ebong Eyibio Ebong; CP Adepoju Ayiinde Ilori and CP Okon Okon Effiong.
Others are; CP Echeng Eworo Echeng; CP Susan Ukpanukiema Horsfall; CP Bankole Lanre Sikiru; CP Oladimeji Yomi Olarewaju; CP Sani Gwarzo and CP Odama Paul Ojeka.

The 22 Deputy Commissioners of Police promoted to the rank of Commissioners are; DCP Abibo Deinma Reuben; DCP Thomas Abraham Nabhoni; DCP Wakil Abdul Salamai; DCP Enyinnaya Inonachi; DCP Ronke Nurat Okunade; DCP Adekunle Ismail Olusokan; DCP Hassan Abdu Yabnet; DCP Festus Chinedu Oko; DCP Aminu Baba Raji; DCP Omolara Ibidun Oluntola; DCP Akoh Benedict Gabriel; DCP Alamutu Abiodun Mustapha; DCP Bafda Magaji Jahun, DCP Ahmadu Tijani Abdullahi; and DCP Mohamned Mu’azu; Others are, DCP Bretet Emmanuel Simon; DCP Ihebom M Chukuma; DCP Shettima Mohamned Qurtu; DCP Olatokunbo Maxwell Olabisi; DCP Yusuf Mohammed Lawal; DCP Monica Leo and DCP Abaniwonda Surajudeen Olufemi.

He said the Commission also approved the promotion of 24 Assistant Commissioners of Police to the next rank of Deputy Commissioners. They include, ACP Ezekiel Ibrahim, Project Monitoring Unit, Force Headquarters, Abuja; Mohammed Shamsudeen, Assistant Director, OPS, Kaduna (NCCSALW); ACP Khan Salihu Usman, Networking Admin ICT FHQ, Abuja; ACP Wan Mantu Chongs, Commander PMF 19 Portharcourt; Baba Lawan Audu, Area Commander, Exeter Akwa-Ibom State Command; Okon Etim Asuquo, Department of Operations, Benue State Command; Louis Chike Nwabuwa, Department of Operations, Plateau State Command; ACP Samuel Osman Onoja, Police College Oji River; ACP Sa’ad Yahaya and ACP Ibrahim Jibrin, Commanders 76 PMF, Nsukka and 56 PMF Ogoni amongst others.

The Commission also approved the promotion of 39 Chief Superintendents of Police to Assistant Commissioners of Police. They include, CSPs Joseph Udoh; Nze Helen Omeba; Uduaku Isaac Udom; Anthony Francis Etim; Benjamin Kelembus Bello; Abdullahi Idris Abubakar; Ogbonnaya Nwota and Daiyabu Mohammed Ahmed among others. It also approved the acting appointment of CSP Akande Bamidele to acting Assistant Commissioner of Police.

The two AIG’s, 14 CP’s and 22 Deputy Commissioners of Police appeared before the Commission in Plenary for an interactive session, a requirement for their new ranks.

The Plenary Meeting also approved a new Instrument of Delegation on delegated powers to the Inspector General of Police.
Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Solomon Arase congratulated the newly promoted Officers and charged them to reciprocate the Commission’s Good gesture by rededicating themselves to the service of their fatherland. He promised to ensure that Police Promotions will be regular so that Officers are not allowed to stagnate in any rank.

Dr. Arase commended other Members of the Commission for their dedication and sacrifice stressing that a new and brighter future “is here for the Nigeria Police Force”.

(Guardian)

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