Monday, 25 September 2017
Items filtered by date: August 2017

Bill Gates made his largest gift since the turn of the century, giving away Microsoft Corp. shares that accounted for 5 percent of his fortune, the world’s biggest.

The billionaire donated 64 million of the software maker’s shares valued at $4.6 billion on June 6, according to a Securities & Exchange Commissionfiling released Monday. While the recipient of the gift wasn’t specified, Gates has made the majority of his donations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity he and his wife use to direct their philanthropic efforts.

It’s the largest gift of Microsoft shares that Gates has made since 2000. The 61-year-old gave away $16 billion worth of Microsoft shares in 1999 and $5.1 billion a year later, according to calculations by Bloomberg.

Spokesmen for Microsoft and Gates didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Historic Giving

Bill and Melinda Gates have given away about $35 billion of stock and cash since 1994, based on the value of the shares at the time of gifts, according to a review of two decades worth of Gates Foundation tax returns, annual reports and regulatory filings. Gates createdthe Giving Pledge in 2010 with billionaire investorWarren Buffett, and the pair have been joined by 168 others who’ve promised to give the majority of their wealth to charity.

Gates has probably directed more than 700 million shares of Microsoft into the foundation, adjusting for stock splits. Those would be worth about $50 billion today had he held onto them. The June gift represents 38 percent of his holdings in the company and is the latest in a long line of Microsoft share disposals that have whittled his stake down from 24 percent in 1996 to 1.3 percent today.

Gates remains the richest person on earth after the donation with a fortune the Bloomberg Billionaires Index values at $86.1 billion. The drop once again puts Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos close to the top spot. Bezos, whose fortune has risen 30 percent since Jan. 1, briefly leapfrogged Gates to become the world’s richest person based on intraday prices last month.

Published in Headliners

Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe has returned home from South Africa after failing to turn herself in to police in Johannesburg to face accusations of assault, officials say.

It was not immediately clear why Mrs Mugabe did not report to police after saying she would do.

A 20-year-old South African woman has accused Mrs Mugabe of hitting her over the head with an extension cord during a row at a hotel on Sunday evening.

Mrs Mugabe has so far not commented.

Zimbabwean government sources confirmed that Mrs Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, had returned home.

"Yes, she is back in the country. We don't know where this issue of assault charges is coming from," said one senior official quoted by Reuters.

Earlier, South African police said they had been negotiating with Mrs Mugabe's lawyers to get her to hand herself in.

Confusion surrounded the case with officials saying at one point that Mrs Mugabe had handed herself over to police and would appear in court. She did not appear and police sources later said she had agreed to turn herself in but failed to do so.

Gabriella Engels, a model, accused Mrs Mugabe, 52, of hitting her after finding her with her two sons in a hotel room in Sandton, a wealthy suburb north of Johannesburg.

Ms Engels released an image of a head injury online.

Photo posted by Gabriella EngelsImage copyrightGABRIELLA ENGELS
Gabriella Engels says she was beaten with an extension cord

"When Grace entered I had no idea who she was," she told South African broadcaster News24.

"She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it. She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.

"There was blood everywhere," she added. "Over my arms, in my hair, everywhere."

She registered a "case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm", police said.


Who is Grace Mugabe?

Grace MugabeImage copyrightAFP
  • Began affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, while working as a typist in state house
  • Mr Mugabe later said his first wife Sally, who was terminally ill at the time, knew and approved of the relationship
  • Married Mr Mugabe, her second husband, in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony. They have three children
  • Nicknamed "Gucci Grace" by her critics who accuse her of lavish spending
  • Along with her husband, is subject to EU and US sanctions, including travel bans
  • Praised by supporters for her charitable work and founding of an orphanage
  • Received a PhD in September 2014, a month after being nominated to take over the leadership of the Zanu-PF women's league

Published in Headliners

Three female suicide bombers have carried out an attack that has killed at least 27 people in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

Dozens were injured when the women blew themselves up outside a refugee camp near Maiduguri in Borno state - a stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

There has been an upsurge in violence in the city in recent months.

Boko Haram has been fighting to set up an Islamic state since 2009.

A report published by US anti-terrorist researchers last week said it is the first insurgency in history to use more women suicide bombers than men.

Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight the jihadists, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the first bomber blew herself up near the camp, triggering panic.

"People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties," he said.

Last year, Nigeria's government said that Boko Haram had been defeated.

But correspondents say that the army is failing to stop the attacks, and people have continued to flee their homes in Borno State and poured into camps.

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Published in Business and Economy

ABOUT six persons were said to have been feared dead when pro-President Muhammadu Buhari attacked a group known as Our Mumu Don Do led by Charles Oputa, popularly referred to as Charley Boy.

The incident, according to an eyewitness, happened when Charley Boy was about leading other protesters with various placards to Wuse Market in Abuja, on Tuesday, as continuation of their protest calling President Buhari to either resume and continue from where he stopped or resign if his health condition could not cope anymore.

It will be recalled that the protesters under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Organisation began their protest penultimate Monday in Abuja, against the long vacation of President Buhari in London hospital.

Investigations by the Tribune Online however revealed that their decision to stage a protest inside the market, on Tuesday, was rebuffed vehemently by pro-Buhari who had earlier warned the former to go back to Unity Fountain, Maitaima to continue their protest.

Eyewitnesses further stated that one of the executive members of the Wuse Market Association came out to persuade Charley Boy and other protesters to leave with a view to allowing peace to reign, having realised that the youths within the market have been mobilising themselves.

According to one of the witnesses, “the chairman of the market came out to persuade him to go but he insisted that he will protest inside the market and as they were arguing, the pro-Buhari descended on him and his members, destroying his BMW sport car with woods and stones.”

Conflicting reports however said about six persons were feared dead from both parties, while others said four people were killed as different weapons were freely used before the arrival of combined security operatives.

Unformed report further said Charley Boy and four others who sustained serious injuries have been rushed to undisclosed hospital for medical attention.

The market has since been closed down to forestall escalation of the civil unrest.

Published in News & Stories

Lecturers action unnecessary, says Presidency

The Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Tuesday presented different views on a parley involving both parties over the strike by university teachers.

While the Federal Government said significant steps were taken at the meeting towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU, the President of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said it was a “mere consultation.”

He said, “We have not yet had a formal meeting (with government); we are still making consultation. Don’t worry; I will get back to you when there is information. But there is no information for now.”

But the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday said the Minister of Labour and Employment,  Senator Chris Ngige, led government to the meeting on behalf of the government.

He said the meeting held took significant steps towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU.

Olowookere said the meeting agreed on the forensic audit of N30bn earlier given to ASUU in 2010 and further agreed on monthly remittances to ASUU while the audit lasts.

He said, “The Minister hence wishes to assure members of ASUU, and indeed all Nigerians that government is already at work   to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the resolve of the present administration to cast any form of disruption of universities’ academic calendar into the dustbin of history.  The meeting continues on Thursday August 17, 2017.”

ASUU strike unnecessary, says Presidency

The Presidency on Tuesday described the industrial action declared by ASUU on Monday as “totally unnecessary.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.

Shehu said the union leaders were aware of the fact that the Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited the agreements based on which the industrial action was declared.

He said they were also aware that the Federal Government had set up a committee on the matter.

The presidential spokesman regretted that while the union leaders were expected to sit down and negotiate with the committee, they resorted to a strike.

He gave an indication that the government might not be able to meet the huge financial obligation the striking university teachers were asking for since the N850bn debt was more than the total allocation to the Ministry of Education in the 2017 Budget which he put at N369bn.

Shehu said, “Governments enter into agreements that they can pay for. Ability to pay is a key requirement in going into agreements.

“Since President Buhari assumed office, he has sent words out there in form of a warning to all government institutions that they should not go into negotiations and agreements that they cannot pay for; but get clearance.

“I understand that they are talking about debts owed their members to the tune of N850bn. If I am correct, the entire appropriation for the Ministry of Education for this year is N369bn. So where do they want us to get the money from?

“We have inherited these agreements and we are not running away from them. Government has set up a committee led by (Dr Wale) Babalakin. They are already sitting. Why didn’t they sit down and negotiate?

“This strike is totally unnecessary. The issues can be resolved, especially where we have full understanding of where we are coming from. The governments that signed those agreements did not deem it fit to implement because the capacity was not there.

“If they are ready, they can sit down and discuss with the committee that has capable and qualified people as members.”

Shehu said the university teachers opted to go on strike because they expected that all their problems should be solved with a wave of hand.

“They want all the problems to go with a wave of the hand. They want all the answers to all their problems at a go. There is an avenue that the government has opened for them for dialogue and it is not closed yet,” the presidential spokesman said.

Poly lecturers threaten sympathy strike

The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics on Tuesday said it supported the strike embarked upon by ASUU.

The union in a statement by its Secretary General, Anderson Ezeibe, noted that the strike was aimed at restoring sanity to Nigerian universities and the education sector.

It also urged government to commence the implementation of agreements entered into with ASUP to forestall an impending crisis in polytechnics.

The union lamented that it had become a norm for government to renege on agreements entered into with trade unions, particularly in the education sector.

It said failure of government to implement agreements   frustrated unions and left them with no choice but to go on strike.

The group said that it was concerned about the consequences of the strike on students, parents and society at large.

It urged government to address the issue of shortfall in personnel releases in federal institutions since December 2015, non-payment of salaries in state polytechnics, non-implementation of Needs Assessment report and non-payment of allowances.

“ASUP notes the renewal of hostilities on the country’s university campuses between ASUU and government of Nigeria.

 “While we are in unconditional solidarity with ASUU in this struggle to restore sanity to Nigerian universities, we are calling on the government to commence without further delay the implementation of agreements entered into with ASUP to forestall an impending crisis in the polytechnic sub-sector.”

Published in Headliners

Nigeria failed to win a medal at this month's World Athletics Championships - meaning Africa's most populous nation has come home empty-handed from eight of the last nine tournaments.

Some athletes, like Tosin Oke, feel the lack of medals reflects a lack of support from the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

The triple jumper alleges discrimination and the holding back of training funds from the AFN.

He also feels let down by the IAAF, after complaining to athletics' governing body about his concerns.


Who is Oke?

Tosin Oke in the sandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Oke, 36, is the reigning African champion in triple jump.

Having competed for Great Britain as a youngster - winning a European junior title - he switched to compete for his parents' homeland after not being selected for the 2007 World Championships.

Since then, he has won three African titles: Two gold medals at the All Africa Games (the "African Olympics") and another gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. At the 2012 Olympics, Oke was Nigeria's best performing individual athlete - finishing seventh in the final.

Nonetheless, he says he has suffered repeated discrimination at the hands of Nigerian sports authorities, which he believes stems from his public criticisms of their work.


After winning at the 2015 All Africa Games (AAG), Oke wrote to the director-general of the National Sports Commission, the body then responsible for overseeing sport in Nigeria.

'No victory lap, no Olympics'

In his email to Alhassan Yakmut, the athlete outlined the funds he desired to support an attempt to go for a field medal at the 2016 Olympics - a feat which no Nigerian man has ever achieved.

"Well received. Sorry your refusal to take a lap of honour at the AAG has ruled you out of Rio. Yakmut," came the reply.

A baffled Oke duly sent through pictures of his victory lap but failed to win over Yakmut, who chastised him for looking "emotionless".

Two weeks later, Oke learned that his name had not been put forward by Nigerian officials for an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship training grant provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"We do not know the criteria used by the IOC," Solomon Ogba, then president of the AFN but now a board member, had told him in March 2015 when Oke had queried his absence.

"The selection was not done by us. What [we] did was send all the names to them," added Ogba, a vice-president of Nigeria's National Olympic Committee (NOC).

Tosin Oke at the All Africa Games in 2015
Oke - pictured here smiling after winning gold at the 2015 All Africa Games - was told he was emotionless about his medal

Concerned by the tone of Yakmut's mail, Oke wrote to the IOC to ask why it had rejected his application.

"Your name was not included in the list of scholarship requests we received from your NOC," came the IOC reply.

When contacted by the BBC about the discrepancy between their versions of events, Ogba said:

"Athletes were asked to fill the forms which the NOC processed and sent to the IOC. Not all those - to the best of my knowledge - who filled the forms got the scholarship."

Despite lacking training funds, Oke did make it to Rio - after buying an expensive flight to Brazil at late notice when the AFN told him the government had not released funds on time.

Told he would be refunded for his fare in Brazil, Oke realised this would not be the case upon arrival in Rio, so he spent the run-up to his event trying to secure his money, which equated to two months' salary.

"At this point my mind was definitely not on competing, it was on 'this is a huge amount'," he said.

Unlike 2012, Oke failed to reach the final. He says he is still owed for a third of his flight fare. The government says all flight fares have been paid in full.


Nigerian record holders

Sprinter Femi Ogunode represents QatarImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Sprinter Femi Ogunode represents Qatar

Nigerian-born athletes hold the fastest 100m times on three different continents:

  • Africa (Olusoji Fasuba, representing Nigeria)
  • Europe (Francis Obikwelu, representing Portugal)
  • Asia (Femi Ogunode, representing Qatar)

Oke says he has repeatedly failed to receive significant funds due to him from Nigerian officials - primarily for training grants.

Originating from the Nigerian government, the funds must pass through the AFN before reaching the athletes.

While saying he did receive some grants, Oke claims he was deprived of at least $146,500 (£112,923) more by the AFN between 2010 and 2015.

Tosin Oke won silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth GamesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Tosin Oke won silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Ogba rejects the allegations.

"The best thing is for him to petition the government who he claimed released money to the AFN," he told BBC Sport.

"As a matter of fact, most of the monies he claimed to have received were my personal assistance to him and other athletes."

When contacted by the BBC, the Nigerian government declined to comment on this matter.

IAAF response

In December 2015, Oke sent a 10-page statement to the IAAF in which he outlined his allegations of funds being withheld from athletes as well as other claims about lax doping controls and mismanagement - all of which he largely blamed on then-AFN president Ogba.

Ogba denies the allegations.

In his letter, Oke also hoped that its recipient - IAAF President Lord Coe - would find his "experiences serious enough to ask the right questions of the characters running the federation".

The IAAF responded to Oke's letter by sending a representative to meet the athlete, Ogba and the AFN's general secretary in March 2016.

"Having spent time with both Mr Oke and his federation [president and general secretary], the IAAF representative left reassured that the other issues canvassed by Mr Oke would be resolved between them," Huw Roberts, the IAAF's Legal Counsel, told BBC Sport.

The IAAF did not confirm whether or not its representative had brought up the denial of funds at the meeting.

Oke feels the IAAF effectively asked the AFN to investigate itself.

'Lax' doping controls

Oke had also told the IAAF how he had witnessed insufficient doping controls in Nigeria.

"This year [2015], I saw an athlete enter the doping room claiming to be another athlete," he wrote. "As ID is not asked for/checked, anything is possible."

The IAAF says that according to its representative, the issue was not raised in March 2016 when he met both Oke and Ogba.

Oke maintains he did discuss wider concerns over doping in Nigeria with the representative, even if he did not directly address the matter above.

"The AFN, under my leadership, fought doping violations with every vigour we could muster," Ogba told BBC Sport.

Scenes at stadium in World Athletics Championship in London 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Nigeria's athletes did not manage to win a medal at the 2017 World Championships held in London

Oke was not originally set to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London.

As an area champion, he was qualified to do so but the AFN did not put his name forward on time.

"It was the duty of your National Federation to submit your entry in due course," the IAAF told Oke.

"At this late stage, with entry lists being already published, I am afraid there is nothing we can do."

When the BBC asked the IAAF about Oke's letter of 2015 and its various allegations, the initial response that came back two working days later largely dealt with the athlete's selection issues with Nigeria.

It also revealed that the Nigerian had now been included in the World Championships - just six days before the event began.

The IAAF told Oke this was due to "exceptional" circumstances.

Oke, who says he had stopped training in the run-up since he was not expecting to be involved, finished in 25th place.

Despite his experiences, the athlete still hopes to compete for Nigeria at next year's Commonwealth Games.

He is not the only athlete to be frustrated by the way in which Nigerian athletics is run, with several having switched nationality to compete for other countries in recent years.

Published in Parliament
 

DAKAR, Senegal — Torrents of water rushed through the streets of the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown on Monday, causing mudslides that killed hundreds and trapped hundreds more in their homes and vehicles, officials said.

As many as 200 people were killed after heavy rains overnight deluged the city’s poor drainage system and created one of the most devastating floods Freetown has experienced.

Residents awakened Monday to find some streets filled waist-high with water, and roads in some areas were transformed into muddy raging rivers. Some reported bloated bodies floating down the streets and washing up on beaches.

By Monday morning, the county coroner’s office had run out of space, Sinneh Kamara, a coroner technician at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, told a local television station.

Continue reading the main story
 
Photo
Volunteers and health care workers awaited the arrival of more bodies at Connaught Hospital. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Officials were coordinating rescue and recovery efforts conducted by the armed forces and the Red Cross, and the government ordered people living in vulnerable areas on hilltops or close to the coastline to move to safer ground. Boats were warned to halt all sea travel because of the “life threatening” situation created by the heavy downpour.

Continue reading the main story
 

The exact death toll was unknown, said Francis Langumba Keili, the director of the Office of National Security, and the count was expected to rise. He said emergency workers were trying to rescue survivors as more bodies were turning up.

“Our efforts is to look for more survivors, but so far all we see is dead bodies,” Mr. Keili said.

On Monday, residents of the Kaningo neighborhood on the west side of Freetown were going about the gruesome task of collecting the dead even as floodwaters had yet to recede — one body was retrieved from up a tree. The neighborhood was among the hardest hit by rampaging floodwaters, which washed away a bridge and left homes caked in mud and debris. Boxes, plastic containers and furniture were scattered among the homes in the neighborhood, and residents’ belongings were stuck in tree branches and on rooftops.

Continue reading the main story
 
Photo
In Freetown, residents cut through debris to free the body of a woman killed in the mudslide. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Young people used ropes to retrieve some bodies from the fast-running water, according to witnesses. Many of the victims were children, they said.

Several bodies were piled up on a soccer field in the neighborhood, waiting to be taken to the mortuary.

Alimamy Zachariah Barrie, a resident of Kaningo, said more than 15 ambulances were on hand to transport the dead.

“They have retrieved over 50 bodies so far,” said Mr. Barrie, who added that many people were also seriously injured. Other residents had complained that there were not enough ambulances to transport the injured.

In another neighborhood of the capital, Regent, the rain caused a massive mudslide that killed seven members of the same family, including children, when the two-story building in which they lived collapsed. Three people trapped in another building in Regent had been calling for help all morning, but the house was still inaccessible as of Monday night because of mud from a slide that reportedly wiped out half the land in the neighborhood.

Continue reading the main story
 
Photo
A house in Freetown was surrounded by water. Some homes were submerged, and many buildings were flattened altogether. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Elsewhere in the city, several people were stuck in vehicles surrounded by floodwaters. Local television broadcast images of people standing on rooftops waiting to be rescued. Some homes were submerged, and many properties were flattened altogether.

Freetown is dotted with scores of informal settlements, many of which are on hilltops or close to the sea, making them vulnerable to landslides and flooding. The city is also one of the wettest in West Africa, receiving more than 20 inches of rainfall on average in August, the wettest month of the year.

In an interview in June, Oswald Hanciles, a spokesman for President Ernest Bai Koroma, warned that homes constructed precariously on hillsides in defiance of government regulations posed a significant risk to residents and the environment. He said that residents were building recklessly and cutting down trees that would otherwise help protect the land.

Still, many Sierra Leoneans say the country’s drainage system is insufficient and this is a main cause for most of the flooding in the country.

In September 2015, just as the country was dealing with the devastating effects of an outbreak of Ebola that killed thousands in the region, a huge flood in the capital killed at least seven people and left several thousand homeless.

Continue reading the main story
 
Photo
Rescue workers cleared debris and dug through mud as they searched for bodies. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times
 
Published in Parliament

Presidency rejects claim that PDP left healthy economy

The Presidency yesterday dismissed former President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim on the state of the economy at the end of his administration in May 2015.

Jonathan said at the weekend that he handed over a healthy economy to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“We tamed inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, and drove the economy to become the largest in Africa”, the ex-president explained.

But the Presidency disagreed, saying the economy President Buhari inherited had crumbled.

In a statement titled “Your Excellency Dr Jonathan, this is the economy you left behind, in case you have forgotten”,  the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “With due respects to the former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, these are the facts about the economy you left behind, in case you have forgotten.

“I hope this will help to erase the wrong statement credited to you at your party, the PDP Convention at the Eagle Square last weekend that you handed to President Buhari a robustly healthy economy.

“To the same extent, this should also help to erase yet another false statement by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, the Caretaker Chairman of the party, to the effect that under the previous administration there was money but now things are very hard.

“Let me start by reasserting an obvious statement, which is that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was handed an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement and corruption.

“It is understandable that Dr Jonathon kept his comments short, because a cursory look at any sector clearly indicated that he and his government presided over the most monumental and tragic economic mismanagement recorded in our national history.

“The oil sector boomed under his tenure, with oil prices as high as US$ 120 and peace in the Niger Delta. Nigeria earned unprecedented dollar revenues. Sadly,that is where the story turns sour. There is nothing to show for the revenues earned, no major capital project was completed,  neither power generation, road development, rail nor agriculture benefited from the windfall earnings. Rather the administration presided over  the diversion of oil revenues on such a massive scale that even without the protection now accorded to Whistle blowers, the   then Central Bank Governor blew not only a whistle but a trumpet.

“He was hurriedly shown the door. Meanwhile, the acquisition by public officers and their cohorts of private jets, luxury yachts and the accumulation of expensive property portfolios world-wide continued unabated. Indeed the President once celebrated having the largest number of private jets, whilst our youth languished without jobs, our fields stood idle and our factories began the lay-off of workers.

“Government simply reticulated oil revenue  through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and  salaries. This was done rather than investing in what would grow the economy. Economies grow due to capital investment in assets like seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing. Nigeria cannot record a single major infrastructural project in the last 10 years. In short the money was mismanaged.”

“Such was the looting that even the goose that was laying the golden egg was being systematically starved. The direct contractual  costs of oil produced , in the form of cash calls, remained unpaid.  The incoming, President Buhari’s welcome from the oil majors included  demand for US$6Bn owed by Nigeria for oil that had already been sold or stolen,” he said.

Shehu recalled that at the inception of the Buhari administration, 21 States were unable to meet their salary bills and the spectre of workers arrears had begun.

“The PDP solution was the raid of the Ecological Fund and it selectively granted N2Bn each to the PDP states.  It was only aggressive borrowing by the Ministry of Finance under Dr  Okonjo- Iweala that prevented Federal Government from also owing salaries. The economic wisdom of borrowing to pay recurrent bills  is a questionable one, particularly as those paid would have included over 45,000 that have subsequently been removed by the Buhari-led administration as ghost workers.

“It also included the lavish costs of chartering private jets, first class travel   and other wasteful acts that have been eliminated under this administration.

“To compound the problem, the government was borrowing heavily and owed contractors, and international oil companies. When this government took over we had accumulated debt back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt forgiveness.

“All these factors  were building up to Nigeria heading for a major crisis if the price of oil fell. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock.

“The oil shock should and could have been foreseen.  When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, crisis started, it was clear that the United States of America wanted to cut off funds to terror groups by crashing the price of oil. When America granted permission for exploration of oil on land (Shale), the warning signs were evident, but these were ignored by Nigeria’s economic managers,” Shehu said

The spokesman added: “In summary, Nigeria earned a lot of money when oil prices were high but there is nothing to show for it. Now oil prices have fallen we are suffering.

“What could they have done differently? They could have begun doing the very things that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing so painfully now:

“Fight corruption, sanitise the huge salary bill  by eliminating payroll fraud, reduce wasteful expenses like first class travel and private jets, encourage state governments to reform their spending and build savings or investments, Increase spending on capital projects, especially on infrastructure needed to make Nigerian businesses competitive, and create jobs, block the leakages that allowed government revenues to be siphoned into private hands, Focus on key sectors  ( apart from oil) that can create jobs and or  generate revenue, such as agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.”

“If these things had been done when the oil price was as high as US$120 per barrel, Nigeria would not be in the current predicament.”

In Shehu’s view, Nigeria would not have been suffering, if we had cash reserves, power, or a rail system, or good roads, or good housing. “But we don’t have money and we don’t have the projects either.

“Now that the oil has fallen below those levels, it is very difficult to do what is needed but they must be done to save Nigeria. There is no other way if we want to be honest,” he said, adding:

“If PDP were still in power they would have continued deceiving people, by borrowing to fund stealing and wastage and the problem would have simply been postponed for future generations to face.

“One of former President Jonathon’s specific boasts is that dollar under him was N180 compared to today.  With such a line of  argument, it is clear why we are where we are. With oil prices as high as $120, the average inflow of dollars each month was high, making it easy to support cheap dollars. However with oil price plummeting as low as $28, the fundamental laws of supply and demand dictate that the currency would need to adjust, since oil was the sole export.  It is instructive to note that virtually every major oil exporter has witnessed currency adjustments with the fall in oil price.

“The Buhari administration has taken a long term strategic view of supporting a stable naira on both the supply and demand sides. President Buhari has driven Import substitution to reduce demand for dollars to buy things we can produce, thereby creating thousands of rural jobs in rice and other staples. In addition, there is a credible plan to diversify our revenue sources away from oil, with focus on export crops as well as solid minerals, with the release of US$100m fund to develop solid mineral extraction.

“President Muhammdu Buhari has a  positive and prosperous vision for Nigeria. A nation in which  the natural talent and hard work  of the people is  being supported by an enabling environment of  infrastructural development  and policy reforms that will develop a firm future for our nation.  Nigerians are looking forward and the PDP’s lurking in the economic rear view mirror only underscores the resolve of Nigerians, that as far as the economy is concerned it is ‘never again’” Shehu said.

Published in Headliners

There was drama at the Edo State House of Assembly on Monday when the Speaker of the House, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, was impeached, following an impeachment notice signed by 16 out of the 24 members of the assembly.

Okonoboh was replaced with Mr. Kabiru Adjoto, while Mr. Victor Edoror emerged as his deputy.

The new leadership of the House said Okonoboh; his deputy, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie; and the House Major Leader, Mr. Foly Ogedengbe, were suspended for three months.

Since its inauguration in June 2015, the Edo State House of Assembly has been led by no fewer than four speakers.

But Ogedengbe rejected the impeachment, describing it as illegal, contending that the House did not form a quorum.

“An illegal impeachment was moved today by a group of 11 people parading themselves to be 16. But they did not have that number.

“The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly has made a pronouncement on those persons and they stand suspended; so, shall it be,” he added.

When asked if the development was related to an impeachment scare in May, Ogedengbe said, “Yes. Yes, it is.”

The House had only reconvened after 26 days of break for oversight functions when the incident occurred.

It was gathered that at the resumption of plenary on Monday, a member, Emmanuel Agbaje, read a letter on the floor of the House, passing a vote of no confidence in Okonoboh as the Speaker.

The member representing Etsako West II, Mr. Sylvanus Eruaga, was said to have, thereafter, asked Okonoboh to vacate the exalted seat of the Speaker, a development that was said to have led to a free-for-all among some of the lawmakers in the chambers.

Okonoboh was, however, said to have left the seat after much pressure, paving the way for Eruaga to sit as the Speaker pro tempore.

 Efforts by another member of the House, Magnus Igbas, to prevent the removal of Okonoboh was vehemently resisted by some of his colleagues, who descended on him.

It was also learnt that Adjoto was later elected as the new Speaker, after he was nominated by Eruaga.

Staff members of the Assembly were locked out while the impeachment proceedings lasted.

There was also a heavy presence of security operatives with several police Hilux vans around the premises, so as to prevent further breakdown of law and order.

Addressing journalists, Adjoto said that the decision to effect a change in the leadership of the House became necessary following the alleged incompetence of Okonoboh.

The new Speaker accused his predecessor of desecrating the state parliament by running the House as a private affair.

But Okonoboh declined comments on the matter as he was led by his aides and security details into a waiting vehicle that sped off immediately at about 11.56am.

However, Adjoto explained, “But we discovered that for selfish reasons, the ex-Speaker would adjourn proceedings in the House, either because his wife was marking her birthday or his son was graduating from the Covenant University or the son is going to the NYSC camp and he wants to throw a party for his son. Between June and July, we have worked for just three weeks; he adjourned the House for more than six weeks.

“Today (Monday) is August 14, and we are just resuming. Then, the House is expected to adjourn again next week for another four weeks for the normal holiday. Is that a normal parliament? All of us came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’

“The institution deserves to be protected above the interest of an individual. The ex-Speaker’s wife, like I said earlier, has turned herself into the 25th member of the House of Assembly to the extent that anything we discussed at the executive session, the wife would hear and start calling our wives to tell them what was discussed.

“The wife uses the Speaker’s convoy as if she is Mr. Speaker and at random. The other day, the wife and the son took the convoy to the NYSC camp. When the soldiers and policemen there saw that it was coming, they all stood, hoping that they would see Mr. Speaker, only to see the wife and the son coming out of the vehicle. That is desecration of the parliament.”

Adjoto, who also accused Okonoboh of flouting due process by allegedly awarding contracts to himself, noted that the three-month suspension of the affected members would subsist to enable a committee chaired by Edoror to investigate their conduct.

He added, “Mr. Speaker is not supposed to be a contractor at all. But we discovered that he awards contracts to himself without due process. We have cautioned him several times but he refused to listen to our advice.

 “He just came back from the United States of America where he claimed he visited eight states. He was telling us, joyfully, how he toured America, whereas, he shut down the House. We are not supposed to go on holidays, but because you were going to America to have a party for your son that graduated, you shut down the House, stopping us from working for Edo people.”

Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has held a peace meeting with warring members of the state House of Assembly over Okonoboh’s impeachment.

Present at the closed-door meeting, which was held at the state secretariat of the All Progressives Congress on Airport Road in Benin, were the Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; the state Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua; and other chieftains of the party.

Although Obaseki did not grant any interview after the meeting which lasted for about two hours and ended at about 5.35pm, the state chairman of the APC told journalists that consultations were still ongoing.

Ojezua said that deliberations on what transpired at the House of Assembly were still on, adding that the resolution would be made public at the appropriate time.

“Let me just say that we have started talking and hope that we can resolve the issue very soon,” he stated.

 When asked if the change of leadership in the House of Assembly would remain, the APC Chairman said, “I said we are discussing. When we resolve, we will make a statement. When we finish, we will address the press.”

Published in Business and Economy

Cristiano Ronaldo has been banned for five matches after pushing referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea during Real Madrid's 3-1 Spanish Super Cup first-leg win at Barcelona on Sunday.

Ronaldo's 24 minutes as a substitute at the Camp Nou saw him score a superb goal, pick up a booking for removing his shirt during the celebration, and then quickly receive a second yellow after De Burgos Bengoetxea ruled the Portugal captain had dived to try to win a penalty.

Ronaldo reacted to being sent off by pushing De Burgos Bengoetxea. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) banned Ronaldo for one match for drawing the red card and the other four for pushing the official.

That was just one major talking point on a night that also saw Gerard Pique's own goal put Madrid ahead, Lionel Messi equalise with a controversial penalty won by Luis Suarez and Marco Asensio score a screamer to put his side fully in control ahead of Wednesday's second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ronaldo has also been fined €3,805 for his actions, while Madrid were fined €1,750.

Ronaldo is set to miss the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona as well as Madrid's four opening La Liga games against Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia, Levante and Real Sociedad.

His next domestic appearance will come at home to Real Betis in La Liga in the midweek round of fixtures of Sept. 20, although he will be eligible to play in Real Madrid's Champions League group stage opener a week before and the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy friendly against Fiorentina on Aug. 23.

The RFEF says Madrid have 10 days to lodge an appeal with its appeals committee, while adding in its report that the club attempted to get the offence downgraded from a push to a minor "disregard" for the referee.

The official match report sent to the RFEF from the Camp Nou included Ronaldo's push in the "other incidents" section.

"Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro -- having been shown the red card, the player pushed me slightly in a sign of his disagreement," the Basque official wrote.

The RFEF's disciplinary code appears clear that the punishment for such behaviour, even if only "slightly violent," is an extra suspension of four to 12 games.

"Pulling, pushing or shaking, or a general attitude towards the match officials which, even if only slightly violent, without confirming an aggressive attitude on their part, will be punished with a suspension of four to 12 games," says the code's article 96.

At the postmatch news conference, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said the second yellow was "a bit too much" and hoped Ronaldo could still be cleared to play in Wednesday's second leg.

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos told Telecinco after the final whistle that he believed Ronaldo had not dived, and therefore the club would be able to appeal the decision.

"I was far away," Ramos said. "But I believe Cristiano lost his balance and did not fake anything. We can appeal, as it leaves us without a very important player, with 10 minutes left. [The referee] should have thought about it a bit more."

Ramos also said that De Burgos Bengoetxea had erred in earlier awarding a penalty when Suarez fell to the ground dramatically, having been challenged inside the box by Madrid keeper Keylor Navas.

"There is a lot of tension in these type of games," he said. "For me it was not a penalty. I don't believe the referee blew the whistle if he did not see anything; he must have seen it clearly. But for me there was nothing."

Madrid left-back Marcelo told the club's official website that the red card was "bizarre" while acknowledging that referees make mistakes.

"Cristiano being sent off was bizarre, but sometimes that can happen," the Brazil international said. "Referees can make mistakes, along with the things they get right."

Ex-Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, now popular among fans and pundits for his regular defence of his former club, tweeted after Ronaldo's sending off: "They are laughing in our face. Lamentable."

Published in Sports
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