Wednesday, 20 September 2017

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Chelsea lifted Antonio Conte’s spirits ahead of the crucial final days of the transfer window as goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over woeful Everton on Sunday.

Conte has spent the last few weeks grumbling about Chelsea’s failure to land his top transfer targets, and with the window closing next week, the Blues boss is hoping to bolster his depleted squad with several signings.

Against that troubled backdrop, it was essential Chelsea signed off before the international break with three points to keep in touch with Premier League pace setters Manchester United.

The champions achieved that aim with ease as Fabregas opened the scoring in the first half at Stamford Bridge before Morata bagged his second goal since his club record £58 million ($74 million) move from Real Madrid.

Conte’s men have now won two in a row following their shock opening-day defeat against Burnley, but they won’t have many less demanding victories than this one against a lethargic Everton side who barely broke sweat.

Although Morata scored again, the Spain striker was a diffident figure for long periods and Conte knows Chelsea’s hopes of more silverware rest on him being given extra options to juggle the demands of a gruelling season.

Everton’s first league defeat of the season was a frustrating end to what had been a positive week for Ronald Koeman’s men after they drew at Manchester City and qualified for the Europa League group stages.

Back from suspension, Fabregas came in for Tiemoue Bakayoko and was immediately in the thick of the action when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye escaped with a yellow card after catching the Spaniard with a crude studs-up lunge.

Quickly monopolising possession, Chelsea threatened an early goal as William’s penetrating run teed up Morata in the penalty area.

But Morata opted to pass and the chance was gone when Pedro lifted an ambitious bicycle kick over the crossbar.

David Luiz took a direct approach moments later, bringing Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into action for the first time with a low strike from just outside the area.

Pedro followed suit with another long-range effort that had Pickford sprawling to his right to save.

Killer blow
Chelsea’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 27th minute.

Fabregas flicked a pass to Morata and timed his run perfectly to receive the Spaniard’s headed return ball in stride, nudging in front of Leighton Baines to guide a deft finish past Pickford for his first goal of the season.

Although Everton had a draining Europa League assignment at Hajduk Split on Thursday, even that couldn’t completely excuse a desperately uninspired display.

It was only a matter of time before Chelsea made them pay again and it was Morata who delivered the killer blow in the 40th minute.

After referee Jon Moss played the advantage following a foul on Victor Moses, Cesar Azpilicueta had time and space to whip over a pin-point cross and Morata punished the flat-footed Everton defence with a header beyond Pickford from 10 yards.

Pedro almost made it three just after half-time with a curling effort that whistled wide before Everton finally carved out a chance.

Sandro Ramirez had only Thibaut Courtois to beat when he raced onto Wayne Rooney’s pass, but the striker’s miscued shot was in keeping with his side’s limp performance.

Normal service was soon resumed as Chelsea peppered Pickford’s goal, with Pedro shooting wide and Moses firing too close to the keeper.

Despite Chelsea’s commanding position, Conte remained typically hyperactive on the touchline.

A calmer head will be required when he returns to the transfer maelstrom.

Sunday, 27 August 2017 20:42

Liverpool thrash Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield

Arsenal’s early-season problems mounted at Anfield on Sunday after they were condemned to a miserable 4-0 defeat by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool.

Not even the return of Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsene Wenger’s side as they fell to goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge. Salah’s third goal, after 57 minutes, summed up Liverpool’s mastery of the opposition as Arsenal managed to concede from an attacking corner.

After the ball was headed clear, Hector Bellerin misjudged the bounce and Salah sprang past him before sprinting over half the length of the field and converting clinically.

Substitute Sturridge got in on the act with just his third league goal of 2017, completing the rout with a far-post header from Salah’s cross after yet another unstoppable counter-attack 20 minutes later.

The opening goal had come in the 17th minute after wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.

Finally, on a rapid break, young full-back Joe Gomez delivered a superb, hanging right-wing cross and Firmino sprinted in at full speed to head past Petr Cech from six yards.

The warning signs had been there for Wenger, even before Firmino’s opener.

On 10 minutes, Emre Can and Firmino had combined effectively for the former to cross to the far post, where Salah looked certain to score until Cech scurried across his goal to make a brilliant block.

Moments after taking the lead, Liverpool should have doubled it as Firmino freed captain Jordan Henderson, whose poor touch preceded a shot that flew well off-target.

Klopp’s decision to axe regular first-choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from his squad had raised eyebrows, although Arsenal made an equally significant move in dropping club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette to the bench.

Wretched
Despite recalling Sanchez for his first Arsenal start since the FA Cup final in May, the Gunners looked close to complete disarray at times.

Still, they might have taken the lead after just seven minutes when Sanchez surged through and played in Danny Welbeck, who could only hook his shot over under pressure from Gomez.

But once in front, Liverpool played with increasing confidence, while Arsenal’s visibly drained. When Henderson’s 31st-minute cross was headed out of the area, Mane volleyed it, first-time, narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

Liverpool’s control was complete in the 40th minute when Mane claimed a second goal that had been a long time coming. To sum up Arsenal’s wretched half, it came from one of their own attacks, which was broken up in the Liverpool area by Gomez.

Liverpool broke upfield at electrifying pace, Can to Firmino to Mane, and the forward calmly cut inside Rob Holding before curling an unstoppable finish past the diving Cech.

Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Aaron Ramsey at the interval and the visitors at least started to threaten, with Mesut Ozil shooting wide and Sanchez seeing his shot blocked on the edge of the area.

The relief was short-lived, however, with Can soon heading a Salah free-kick just wide and Salah’s pacy run clean through on goal drawing another good save from Cech.

The third and fourth goals were fully deserved for the hosts and only another good stop by the beleaguered Cech denied Mane a second goal in between them.

Paris Saint-Germain have agreed a deal to sign teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe from Monaco, French media reported on Sunday.

Radio stations France Info and RMC reported that PSG had agreed to pay 180 million euros ($215 million) including bonuses for the French international striker.

That would make him the second most expensive transfer in football history behind Neymar, who joined PSG from Barcelona for 222 million euros earlier this month.

Despite the reports, Mbappe was named on the Monaco bench for Sunday night’s Ligue 1 meeting with Marseille.

According to sports daily L’Equipe, Paris will initially sign Mbappe, 18, on loan before making the move permanent.

“Monaco and PSG on Sunday reached an agreement for a loan deal for Kylian Mbappe to the Parisian club with an option to buy for 180 million euros,” said L’Equipe, adding that Mbappe would undergo a medical by Monday morning.

A loan deal would help PSG get around UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, with many wondering how the Qatar-owned club can avoid sanctions from European football’s governing body considering the investment already made on Neymar.

FFP rules currently stipulate that clubs cannot post losses of more than 30 million euros over the three-year period to 2018.

Among the sanctions risked by PSG if they are found to have broken those rules is a ban from the Champions League.

Mbappe burst onto the scene in the second half of last season and scored 15 goals in 29 appearances in Monaco’s run to the French title.

•Shagaya sues Unity Bank, says accounts frozen without court order
•Freeze: I have lost business goodwill, can’t pay N514m debts on chartered aircraft, Shagaya tells court •Unity Bank: Our hands are tied by the law

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has frozen over N8, 627,458,773.36 billion in three accounts of Hajiya Muinat Bola Shagaya, an associate and friend of a former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

Shagaya’s relationship with about 10 firms/account names are also being investigated by the anti-graft agency, The Nation learnt yesterday.

But Shagaya, who did not hold any public appointment during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, has dragged Unity Bank to the High Court of Lagos State for allowing the EFCC to Post No Debit (PND) on her accounts without a valid court order.

She says the action taken on her accounts violates Section34 (1) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

Besides, the withdrawal ban placed on one of her accounts has prevented her from defraying N514, 800,000 incurred as cumulative costs in the course of an Aircraft Lease Agreement of a bombardier Jet, according to documents which Shagaya filed and deposed to at the Court alongside with her counsel, Napoleon Emeaso-Nwachukwu.

Hearing of the matter is slated for September 28.

However, Unity Bank says its hands are tied by the law in complying with the EFCC’s directives to freeze Shagaya’s accounts.

The EFCC in a letter to the Unity Bank Managing Director in respect of one of the frozen accounts said: “The commission is investigating a case in which the above-mentioned account featured.

“In view of the above, you are requested to kindly check the table below and provide us with Certified True Copies (CTC) of the following information, which should include but not limited to the following: (i) The deposit slips/telex copies (front and back) that conveyed the authority of the transactions; (ii) Any investment made with the funds in any of your products which should include fixed/term deposit and their liquidation and the interest incurred, Banks Acceptance, Commercial Papers and any other relevant information in relation to these.

The EFCC listed the transactions in the said account as “N300m(Bola Shagaya RTGS);  N300m (Additional N300FTD at 15% TRAN); N500m (Time Deposit); N2,317,013,698.64 (BNG COLLAOS FOR FTD-CUSTOMER ACCOL); N2.3billion (Opening a Time Deposit Account); N292, 495, 029.82 (Withdrawal from Time Deposit); N292, 495, 029.82 (TAK Asset Mgt Limited); N300m (Term Loan booked for 356 days); and N2,025,455,015.08 (BNG COLLAPS OF FTD Customer Account.”

In a separate letter Cr: 3000/EFCC/LS/STF/ STF3MP/ Vol.11/182 which Shagaya made available to the court, the EFCC asked Unity Bank to Post No Debit(PND) on 10 accounts linked with her.

The account names are (i) First Deep Water Discovery Limited; (ii) Bola Shagaya; (iii) FAPLiNs Nigeria Limited (iv) Lingo Nigeria Limited; (v) Buri Barclays BDC; (vi) Links Global Synergy Ltd; (vii) OKIOIL Nig. Ltd; (vii) JEMARVIZ Nig Ltd; (ix) PJ Oil and Gas Ltd; and (x) AFDIN Ventures Ltd.

The anti-graft commission said: “The commission is investigating a case in which the above mentioned accounts featured.

“You are requested to kindly place the account on Post No Debit (PND) category pending the conclusion of the investigation.

“This request is made pursuant to Section 38(1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

In the third letter, the EFCC said it was looking into two other accounts including Voyage Oil and Gas and Bola Shagaya from 2008 to date.

It said: “The commission is investigating a case in which the above mentioned accounts featured. In view of the above, you are requested to kindly provide us with Certified True Copies (CTC) of the following information which should include but not limited to the following: (i) The Mandate Card  and statement(s) of all domiciliary and Naira account(s) in the above mentioned accounts from 2008 to date with letter of certification in accordance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011; (ii) any investment made with the funds in any of your products which should include fixed/term deposit and their liquidation and the interest incurred, Bank Acceptance, Commercial Papers and any other relevant information related to these.

“You are further requested to kindly place the account on Post No Debit (PND) category pending the conclusion of investigation.”

But Shagaya accused Unity Bank of complicity on her travails following  the bank’s alleged failure to exercise the requisite due diligence.

She said the freezing of her accounts did not comply with Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, 2004. She specifically referred to the bank’s refusal to allow her to make transactions on Account 000326118 including payment of N514, 800,000 to Global Apex Air Limited, through Heavywind Integrated Services, for the lease of a bombardier Jet.

She said the Aircraft Lease Agreement between her and Global Apex Air Limited has been terminated with her forfeiting US$1million.

In an affidavit she deposed to, Shagaya said: “The official of the Defendant (Unity Bank) whom my Personal Assistant relayed the development to, informed him that on the 3rd of November, 2016, the Defendant received a letter from the EFCC through their Lagos office informing it that my account with it is under investigation and requested that the account be put on “Post No Debit” pending the outcome of the investigation hence the Defendant’s inability to honour my payment instruction.

“Initially I laughed off the excuse as a ploy of the Defendant to deter me from taking legal actions against it for dishonouring my payment instructions especially that of the 31st of October 2016 which ultimately led to the termination of the Aircraft Lease with Global Apex Air Ltd. And the loss of the sum of One Million United States Dollars deposited with the Lessor by me.

“On the 27th of January, 2017 the Defendant responded to my Solicitor’s letter. In its response, the defendant stated that: “it observed that long before your client forwarded her cheques and payment instruction to the Bank as indicated in your letter under reference, the EFCC had formally informed the Bank that an investigation relating to your client’s account was ongoing and sought the cooperation on the Bank accordingly.” The Defendant’s letter ended by stating that “Based on our understanding and the fact that the Bank was already aware that the Law Enforcement Agency had taken definite steps to comply with Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, 2004, behoves the Bank not to allow the dissipation or removal funds in your client’s account without appropriate clearance from the Law Enforcement Agency or a judicial order directing the release of the funds to your client.”

“I will also contend at the hearing of this Suit that the Defendant negligently and wrongfully failed to exercise the requisite due diligence and by extension, the duty of care it owed me as my banker prior to complying with the alleged freezing instruction from the EFCC.

“The Defendant did not request and ensure it was obliged the Freezing Order from a court of competent jurisdiction prior to complying with the instruction to freeze the Claimant’s account

“The Defendant failed to honour the Claimant’s payment instructions of the 31st of October 2016 as well as those of the 1st and 2nd November 2016 which preceded the alleged instruction from the EFCC.

“The Defendant failed to promptly notify the Claimant of the freezing other account. The freezing of the Claimant’s account did not comply with Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

“Since the unlawful freezing of my account by the Defendant, I have not been able to transact with that account due to my inability to access same thereby causing business losses and opportunities.

“By reason the Defendant’s action, I have suffered loss of reputation and damages and my person brought to disrepute, public opprobrium and odium.

“The actions of the Defendant which consist in unlawfully freezing my account without an Order of a Court of competent jurisdiction and failing to disclose same to me promptly was unreasonable as well as defamatory of me before my business associates who now see me as a criminal and an untrustworthy fellow who is in the habit of issuing due cheques and payment instructions that she knew would not be honoured.

She said she had lost a lot of business goodwill since her accounts were frozen including

o    The loss of $1,000,000 deposited with Global Apex Air Ltd. Due to her in ability to pay accrued costs in line with Aircraft Lease Agreement which was occasioned by the failure of the Defendant to oblige the Claimant’s payment instruction to Heavywind Integrated Services.

o    Loss of business opportunities and goodwill occasioned by her inability to operate her account domiciled with the Defendant due to its freezing.

o    Loss of reputation occasioned by the Defendant’s wrongful dishonouring of her payment instructions to third parties.

“If not compelled by this Court, the Defendant will not on its own volition unfreeze my account even when it is glaring the Defendant had wrongfully breached the duty of care it owes complying with an illegal instruction in freezing my account.”

But in a letter to Shagaya’s counsel, Unity Bank said it has a legal and ethical responsibility to render assistance to law enforcement agencies.

The bank explained its constraints in a letter by its Head, Legal Services Department, Mr. Alaba Williams and Mr. Olusegun Olukoya of the same department.

The bank said:  “While the Bank respects the contractual nature of the relationship with your client, it is without prejudice to the Bank’s standing as a responsible law abiding Corporate Citizen.

“In spite of the Bank’s contractual relationship with your client, that relationship is not without a legal and ethical responsibility to render assistance to law enforcement agencies when required of the Bank.

“Considering the sensitive nature of the investigation touching your client’s account as advised by the EFCC in October 2016, the Bank had to exercise caution in relation to further transactions, especially debits, in the account of your client under investigation.

“The need for the Bank to exercise due caution in the matter of the operation of your client’s account after receipt of notification of the ongoing investigation by the EFCC was informed by our understanding of various existing statutory provisions  relevant to the request of the EFCC received by the Bank.

“Based on our understanding and the fact that the Bank was already aware that the Law Enforcement Agency had taken definite steps to comply with section 34(1) the EFCC Act, 2004. It behoves the Bank not to allow the dissipation or removal of the funds in your client’s account under investigation, before the Court Order seeking to preserve the funds was obtained.

“The contractual relationship between your client and the Bank does not permit us to pre-empt the investigation by the Law Enforcement Agency and the related Court Proceedings which outcome could lead to forfeiture of the funds in the same account.

“The Bank could be considered an accessory after the fact if it allowed the dissipation of the funds in your client’s account without appropriate clearance from the Law Enforcement Agency or a judicial order directing the release of the funds to your client.

“Therefore contrary to the allegation in your letter, the Bank had a proper justification for refusing the payment instructions from your client for funds to be removed from her account in issue when there was an ongoing investigation by the EFCC in respect of the said funds. The Bank is therefore not in breach of any contractual obligation to your client. The Bank is also not liable to your client for the sum of N700,000,000.00 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) or any other sum that matter as damages claimed by you.

“Please, note that Unity Bank Plc. is committed to comply with the extant laws and Regulations of all competent Authorities and Jurisdictions.

“In addition to adopting best practices; ethical and legal considerations always guide our commercial decisions protecting the good name and the reputation of the bank remains the primary consideration in all actions taken by the Bank. Accordingly, the Bank protects its products and services from being involved in allegation of unlawful activities. Hence we  will cooperate fully with all Regulators and Law enforcement Agencies.

“We are of the humble opinion that your client should kindly resolve any outstanding issues with the Law Enforcement Agency and facilitate the removal of the “Post No Debit” on her account with the Bank.

“Litigation against the Bank will therefore not be necessary in the circumstance.”

Africa Reporters Foundation campaign: Be a good samaritan. Help save this young boy. Donate your widow's mite.


He is just three years old and there is no way anyone, even with a heart of stone, would not melt at the sight of little Godwin Nna. The child who is diagnosed of hydrocephalus (water in the head) has been battling to stay alive for the past two years.

And when our correspondent visited the Akure home of his parents earlier in the week, it was a heart-wrenching sight as the little boy, looking so helpless, lay at one corner of the room while crying intermittently.

According to his father, Godspower Nna, the ailment has made the little boy to be retarded in growth. And to add to that, he doesn’t talk or walk.

Godspower, 26 lamented that the little boy had been taken to various hospitals when the ailment started in 2015 but there was no solution to the problem. He added that the family had spent a lot of money on drugs and operations but there hasn’t been any improvement as the head keeps swelling up.

He said, “The problem started when he was one year old. We just observed that he always had high temperature and was always crying. We thought it was malaria, we gave him malaria drugs, but the problem persisted. So we went to the hospital here, they only prescribed malaria drugs which we gave him but this didn’t help.

“Later, we discovered that his head was swelling every day. We did not know the cause, so we took him to a teaching hospital where series of tests were conducted on him and we were told that he is suffering from a disease called hydrocephalus.

“They told us that there is water in his head and that the water that is supposed to go through his body is stored in the head and that is why the head is swelling up increasingly. We were told that he would undergo surgery and we were asked to pay a sum of N600, 000 for the operation, which we did. We were told by the doctors there that the head would become normal after the operation but unfortunately it was not corrected.”

Godspower who works as a bar attendant in a hotel in Akure further stated that in search for solution to the ailment of his only child, somebody advised him to take the boy to the National Hospital, Abuja , where he went and he was asked to come with a sum of N800,000 for another surgery.

“But we have practically spent all we had when we went to the teaching hospital. Since this sickness started, we have spent over N1m. There is no way we can afford anything else again. We are just begging well meaning Nigerians to help us so that my child doesn’t die.

“They told us that it is only the National Hospital, Abuja that tackles such a case successfully, so we took him there. They too also conducted tests on him and diagnosed hydrocephalus. They said we should come back for the operation with N800,000. I could not go back to the hospital because there is no money again. That is why we are appealing to Nigerians to help us out. This is the only child I have and I don’t want him to die, the head is so heavy that you can’t carry him for five minutes; you will feel the pain because it makes him very heavy.”  

The distraught father gave the account details Nna Blessing, 2082214074 United Bank for Africa, for Nigerians and other good Samaritans who wish to come to their aid. 

PUNCH 

A coalition of civil society groups on Thursday said they would commence a two-day sit-out to press for the extradition of the former Minister for Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke.

The movement in a statement said the #BringBackDiezani sit-out would hold in front of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission headquarters in Wuse, Abuja on August 28 and 29, 2017.

It was signed by the convener, Charles Oputa (Our Mumu Don Do), Deji Adeyanju (Concerned Nigerians) and Adebayo Raphael, Publicity Secretary, OurMumuDonDo movement. 

The coalition called on the EFCC to apply for the ex-minister’s extradition from the United Kingdom to face prosecution in Nigeria.

It added that the call for Allison-Madueke’s  extradition was informed by her roles in the wanton looting of the nation’s treasury and the failure of the Federal Government to push for her repatriation.

The CSOs noted that a Federal High Court had ordered Allison-Madueke to permanently forfeit several luxury properties in several high brow areas across the country to the FG. 

They said, “It is therefore unimaginable that the Federal Government is not pushing for Mrs Allison-Madueke’s extradition to face punishment for her alleged crimes.

“In the light of this, we will be holding a two-day day sit-out in front of the EFCC Headquarters to demand that the Federal Government applied for her extradition and prosecution in Nigeria. 

“We will also be highlighting the level corruption at the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

The protesters called on Nigerians to participate in the event.

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday signed instruments of ratification for some bilateral agreements.

One is to strengthen the government’s anti-corruption battle. Others cover Tax Administration and Intellectual Property Protection.

Ratified are Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and Extradition Treaty.

Other instruments of ratification are Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad; African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters; World Intellectual Property Organisation Performances and Phonograms Treaty; The World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances and Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise.

The President said: “I am delighted to perform today, the duty of executing Instruments of Ratification of certain Agreements on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pursuant to the powers conferred on me by Section 5(1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties of 1969.

“Today’s ceremony marks a very important milestone in our demonstration of sovereign capacity to fulfill our international obligations and take important steps for the benefit of our economy, security and the anti-corruption war within and outside Nigeria.

“The full implementation of the Agreements has, however, been delayed due to the need by both sides to conclude their respective ratification processes.

“I am happy to note, therefore, that pursuant to a Memorandum presented to the Federal Executive Council by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Council has approved the ratification of the said Agreements, thus paving the way for today’s ceremony.”

“With this sovereign act, which has been replicated in the United Arab Emirates by their responsible authorities, we are now in a position to utilise these Agreements fully to foster cooperation between our respective authorities particularly for the purpose of prosecuting the anti-corruption campaign of this Government,” Buhari said.

The President added: “It is my hope that these Instruments which are signed today will reinvigorate the anti-corruption war and check the illicit flow of funds out of our country to other jurisdictions, improve national security, food security, boost our economic and tax regimes and improve the overall well-being of our creative community.”

Before the signing of the instructions, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, explained the agreements.

The Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters “is between Nigeria and United Arab Emirate and it is to create a broad legal platform for cooperation between both countries in the administration of criminal law generally and other matters related to the investigation and prosecution of crimes and sharing of information and experience between authorities of notice countries”.

“It is our expectation that this agreement will constitute a core component for our anti corruption strategy, given the prominence of the United Arab Emirates as an investment destination for many Nigerians some of whom have unfortunately seen that country as a haven to invest illicitly acquired wealth.”

On the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and  Commercial Matters, Malami said: “This agreement created a platform for assistance between both countries in civil and commercial matters which will in essence assist to institutionalise support for the Nigerian business community through commercial and civil protection and thus engender massive growth on both sides.”

“This agreement has a strong potential to promote commerce between both countries by strengthening the legal framework for the settlement of legal dispute and execution of court judgement in civil and commercial matters,” he said

The Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons “ will grant our country the privilege of bringing back sentences persons of Nigerian origin serving their terms in the United Arab Emirates to serve the same terms in Nigerian prisons and, where applicable, face investigations and prosecution for the crimes, inclusive of financial crimes that are committed in Nigeria before their apprehension in UAE.”

“The Extradition Treaty will create a legal platform for either country to make requests for the extradition of fugitives from justice found in each other’s territories.

“Recall, that Mr. President personally led a delegation to the UAE in January 2016 during which the said agreements were signed on the 18th of January 2016.

“Both counties agreed that there was a need because of the positive relations between them to encourage and boost each others’ commercial transactions in Nigeria and UAE through all legitimate channels,” Malami said.

“There is however concurrent imperative to discourage and mutually convert illicit financial dealings by criminal elements who are engaged in financial money laundering and other financial crimes.”

On the charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad, he said: “This charter is a political, legal instrument for equitable water sharing, common investment and environmental management for the Lake Chad Basin.

“Our decision to ratify the agreement is in recognition of the need for the responsible management of Lake Chad Basin area, which has historically supported one of the world’s richest eco-system and provided employment for millions of people but is now being ravaged by the effect of climate change.

“A revitalised Lake Chad Basin will not only boost the security situation in the region but also demonstrate the commitment of the government in  sustainable development goals on the management arrangement of the environment.”

On African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, Malami said: “This agreement is designed to contribute to the efficacy of tax administration and improve public accountability. This is consistent with the vision of this government to significantly diversify our revenue resources away from oil by aggressively expanding the taxation rate through various strategies.

“It will also boost continental cooperation with our sister African countries and thus cultivate sources of tax revenues which were hitherto overlooked for greater mutual assistance in Nigeria and other countries.”

On World Intellectual Property Organisation Performances and Phonograms Treaty and the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise, Malami said: “These two treaties will in various dimensions protect the rights of Nigerian performers, actors, singers and others in the visual environment on the one hand and producers of kenetic abstract art and music or sound set in relation to each other on the other hand.

“The decision to engage in these agreements is a bold step in recognition and importance which the present administration accords to the protection of intellectual property in the Nigerian jurisdiction.

“It is intended to protect the works of creative industry, including Nollywood, which has been expanding the components of our gross domestic products.

“Nigerian youths who have ventured into the creative sector can be rest assured that the Federal Government will continue to support their aspirations and protect their source of livelihood through the vigorous protection of their intellectual property rights as these instruments are intended to approve that protection.

“This ceremony today demonstrates the national resolve of this administration to continue to play our role as a responsible member of the international community.”

•‘It’s FG’s ploy to destroy public varsities’

SOME Vice-Chancellors and the Academic Staff Union of Universities have rejected the decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to peg admission cut-off mark at 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.

ASUU said the action, which it described as a “sad policy decision,” was in tandem “with the dream of the present government to destroy public universities in the country.”

Most of the vice-chancellors our correspondents interviewed on the issue maintained that they would not lower admission standards in their respective varsities.

The vice-chancellors stated that the decision would add no value to the nation’s university system.

For instance, in a statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, on the issue and released by his Media Assistant, Mr. Sunday Saanu, on Thursday,  the premier university stated that it would never admit any candidate that scored 120 in the UTME.

The statement added, “It should worry us as patriots that candidates who scored just 30 per cent in the UTME can be admitted into some of our universities. Yet, we complain of poor quality of our graduates. You can hardly build something on nothing. The consolation here is that since JAMB started conducting this qualifying exam in 1978, UI has never admitted any candidate who scored less than 200 marks out of the maximum 400 marks.

“This translates to a minimum of 50 per cent. This remains our position as an institution aspiring to be world-class. Reality is that only about four other universities in the country have such high standard. To that extent, apart from being the oldest, we are an elite university in the country at least judging by the quality of our intakes.’’

Olayinka, however, commended the decision of the Federal Government to re-introduce the post-UTME test and exonerated the incumbent JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, from the cancellation of the test two sessions ago.

“It is gratifying to note that the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who chaired the meeting, apologised publicly for canceling the post-UTME screening last year.

“In effect, universities are now allowed to conduct the test using modalities approved by the Senate of each institution.

“To be fair to the incumbent Registrar of JAMB, he was not the Registrar when the policy somersault of cancelling the post-UTME test was made last year. As strongly canvassed by us at every opportunity, for UI, the need to admit the best admission seekers is the primary motivation for the test and not money, even though we do not pretend that you can run any university so properly called without funds.”

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Thursday, the Vice-Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, Prof. Oluyemisi Obilade, said that the onus would ultimately fall on parents and employers of labour to decide “between a first-class graduate of a university which takes 120 as its cut-off mark or one that takes 180 as its cut-off mark.’’

Obilade, who said that TASUED would never go below 180, insisted that many of the VCs at the Combined Policy Meeting during which the 120 benchmark decision was made, said they would not go below 180.

She said, “But some universities chose 120 at the meeting. What the JAMB has done is to transfer power back to the Senate of universities to decide their cut-off marks.  What I can tell you is that many public universities and even private universities will not go below 200. We were told that some universities were doing what they called ‘under the table admission’ and then come back to JAMB after four years for regularisation.

“TASUED will not go below 180, not under my watch. Even in the United States, there is what we call Ivy League universities, and there are those you can call ‘Next Level Universities.’ There are also those that are termed community colleges. At the meeting, the outcome is that universities have been given the freedom to decide. It is not general legislation and it is not binding on everybody.’’

Speaking with journalists in Ibadan, the Chairman of ASUU at the University of Ibadan, Dr. Deji Omole, said it was the dream of the present government to destroy education in the country.

He said, “Rather than sanctioning the identified universities that admitted over 17,000 students illegally, the JAMB registrar simply regularised illegality and lowered cut-off marks to favour the interests of the friends of government who own private universities and are hell bent on destroying public education.”

Omole said it was vital for JAMB to be scrapped in order to save the nation’s education and its future. He said the board had outlived its usefulness and that prospective students should apply directly to universities of their choice for admission.

He said, “Where are the students that the JAMB registrar said entered universities illegally? Which universities admitted them? If 30 per cent did not take JAMB and found their way into the university system, is that not corruption and a message that JAMB is not significant anymore? What sanction did those who did the illegal thing receive other than regularisation of illegality.

“We are watching because long before now we have said that JAMB has outlived its usefulness. Let the universities set their unique standards and those who are qualified can come in. Scoring 120 out of 400 marks is 30 per cent. Even in those days, 40 per cent was graded as pass. But now JAMB said with F9 which is scoring 30 per cent you can be admitted.

“They deliberately want to destroy education. Even for polytechnic, 100 marks is 25 per cent. It is sad. And that is where we are in Nigeria. They want to destroy public education at all costs. This is not setting standard for education in Nigeria. It is purely lowering standards and digging grave for the future. This is why ASUU is currently on the struggle to influence the government to do the needful for education in Nigeria.”

Also, the Dean of Students Affairs, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Prof. Kayode Alese, who spoke on behalf of FUTA management, said that the institution would soon unveil its cut-off mark.

“However, I can assure you that FUTA has never gone as low as 120. It has never happened and it will never happen,” he said.

Alese added, “Having spoken for the university, my personal opinion is that the 120 cut-off mark will not add value to our education system.  The Federal Government has just increased the pass mark from 40 to 45 in universities. What that means is that you must score at least 45 for you to pass any course. We have enough candidates and yes you may try to increase access but tertiary education should be for those who have the capability.’’

Also, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Tope Ogunmodede, said the institution would not admit any candidate with 120 UTME score.

He said, “Traditionally, OAU has never admitted students who scored below 200 in the UTME. For us, we are sticking to 200. The minimum benchmark is 120 but you can go higher than that. I expect that an institution should be able to determine the quality of its graduates because there are internal exams. What has been done is to provide a leeway for universities to decide their cut-off marks.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has described the reduction of the cut-off marks for admission into tertiary institutions as “a gross misplacement of priority and an exercise in futility.”

The organisation said that the reduction by JAMB, from 180 for universities and 165 polytechnics, to 120 and 100 respectively for the 2017 UTME, would translate to a disastrous outcome in the future.

The President of NANS, Chinonso Obasi, in a statement on Thursday, threatened that the decision would be resisted if JAMB refused to adhere to the status quo.

He said, “As critical stakeholders in the educational sector, NANS will vehemently resist the review and call on government to maintain the status quo and endeavour to conduct a comparative study and analysis of policies from other climes that support functional learning and production of young people that can compete with their peers globally.

 “Even with the current status, the general phenomenon is that Nigerian graduates are not employable. The lowering of standards will translate to a disastrous outcome in the future by churning out young people who cannot fit into the demands and expectations of the 21st century.’’

According to him, since the 21st century is being driven by innovation and competitiveness, lowering the entry level into tertiary institutions would only further contribute to reducing the productivity and peak performance of young people seeking admission into the country’s higher institutions of learning.

However, the Vice-Chancellor of the Christopher University, Ogun State, Prof. Friday Ndubuisi, said the new admission benchmark would have no negative implication on the quality of education.

He said, “This is not an imposition.  The cut-off mark is a minimum benchmark for admission. This idea of taking the UTME every year without getting admission is worrying. About 1.6 million candidates sat for the examination this year and about 500,000 will be admitted mostly because of the cut-off mark. Most universities will not go below 200, but with five credits obtained in two sittings, a person should be qualified for admission.  This is, however, not an imposition.  Universities still get to decide on whom to admit through the post-UTME.’’

Cristiano Ronaldo was named UEFA Player of the Season for 2016-2017 on Thursday after a campaign which saw the Portuguese superstar help Real Madrid to the La Liga and Champions League double.

It was the third time that Ronaldo had won the award which was presented on the sidelines of the Champions League group stage draw.

His great rival Lionel Messi has won the prize on two occasions and could pave the way for him to capture a fifth Ballon d’Or title.

“There are the same goals every year, to meet the same challenges, win everything if possible, qualify for the World Cup with my national team,” said Ronaldo.

“This trophy will give me the motivation to keep working hard, never to give up. I am blessed and delighted to be with Real Madrid.”

Ronaldo won the UEFA award in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 and in the Champions League last season, where Real defeated Juventus 4-1 in the final, he finished as top scorer with 12 goals.

Juventus goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon was second in the voting ahead of Messi.

There has been a significant increase in the number of children used as human bombs by Boko Haram militants in north-east Nigeria, the United Nations says.

Unicef reports there have been 83 cases so far this year - four times as many as in the whole of last year.

55 were girls under the age of 15 and in one case the bomb was strapped to a baby being carried by a young girl.

Unicef says this tactic is an atrocity causing fear and suspicion of children released by the militants.

 

According to the UN children's agency, 127 children have been used as bombers in north-east Nigeria since 2014.

The Islamist militants Boko Haram have regularly used children in its insurgency, abducting hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruiting boys as child soldiers.

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