Fake News On Social Media Has Become A Cancer, Says Minister Of Information

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed says fake news on social media, if not tackled, can cause great damage to the world. 

 “The mix of fake news using social media platforms has now become a cancer that if the world does not take time, it will destroy the world,” the minister said during an interview on Channels Television’s News Night which aired on Monday.

While noting that he has always been at the forefront of the fight against fake news, the minister reiterated his stance that “the next war will be caused by fake news,” calling for collaboration among stakeholders to tackle the menace.

“If we do not take the issue of fake news, social media seriously, it will be at our own peril,” the 69-year-old old noted.

Stifling Media? 

He, however, dismissed fears that the Federal Government may want to stifle the media via the regulation of social media, explaining that stakeholders have always been carried along in the country’s quest to curb fake news.

“The government is setting up a high-powered committee to see how we can make social media more responsible,” he said. “And I want to say this clearly, nobody has the intention of stifling the media.”

He accused social media platforms of double standards especially during the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that rocked the West African nation in October 2020.

“It was fake news. Unfortunately, the major players like Twitter and co were supporting this,” he stated.

The Minister’s comment comes on the heels of a kidnap that took place in a secondary school in Kagara, Niger State that led to the abduction of scores of students by gunmen.

An ‘Immediate Concern’

Despite fears that the Federal Government might be forced to pay a ransom to ensure the students are freed, the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says there is no plan to give money in exchange for the kidnapped students.

“The immediate concern of the Federal Government is to get those students released unharmed,” the minister added. “In doing so, we are going to employ kinetic and non-kinetic. But non-kinetic does not necessarily mean amnesty or ransom. But we would not outrightly say we would not do this or that. But one thing I know the government will not do is pay ransom.”

According to him, if the government pays a ransom to free the abducted students, it would become a “bad precedent” and people will turn the kidnapping of schoolchildren into a business.

Govt Will Not Pay Ransom To Secure Release Of Kagara Students, Says Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, has said that no ransom will be paid for the release of the abducted staff and students of Government Science College Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.

He said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Saturday while explaining some of the government’s strategies to curb the rate of abductions in the country.

While he ruled out the option of paying ransoms, the minister assured Nigerians that “government has put in place various strategies to contain banditry, insurgency and kidnapping.”

“Some of these measures are kinetic, some are non-kinetic,” Mr Lai Mohammed said, without disclosing any specific actions.

According to him, the same was the case for the abducted Kankara schoolboys in Katsina State and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State, where contrary to reports, he claimed that no ransom was paid to secure their release.

“All these stories about ransom, are conspiracy theories,” the minister said.

He continued by saying: “I can assure you that the government is on top of the matter – but it is not a subject matter for television discussion.

“We didn’t get there overnight, that is why we can’t get out in one day”.

Read Also: No Ransom Was Paid For Release Of Kankara Schoolboys, Dapchi Schoolgirls – Lai Mohammed

According to the minister, bandits and terrorists work with the psychology of people and they deliberately attack mostly women and children because they believe that is what is going to attract global outcry.

“That is exactly what bandits do all over the world,” he said, adding that “solidarity in any form will not be tolerated by this government”.

Armed men attacked the Government Science College Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State in the early hours of Wednesday, shooting sporadically, before abducting some students, staff members, and their families.

One student was also killed in the incident.

The operations started from the staff quarters and ended in the students’ hostels and in the process, other students were also wounded by gunshots.

The gunmen who were said to have worn military uniforms gathered some staff and students at a place for hours before moving them out of the school premises to an unknown destination.

No Ransom Was Paid For Release Of Kankara Schoolboys, Dapchi Schoolgirls – Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed has said that no ransom was paid for the release of the abducted Kankara schoolboys in Katsina State and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State.

He said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Saturday while explaining some of the government’s strategies to curb the rate of abductions in the country.

“All these stories about ransom, are conspiracy theories,” the minister said.

His comments come days after another abduction of students in Kagara, Niger State, was executed.

Reacting to the incident, the minister who had on Wednesday visited the state with a Federal Government delegation to assess the situation, said the government is putting various strategies in place to curb the menace.

“Government has put in place various strategies to contain banditry, insurgency and kidnapping.

“Some of these measures are kinetic, some are non-kinetic,” Mr Lai Mohammed said.

Read Also: Gunmen Attack School, Abduct Students, Others In Niger

He, however, ruled out the option of a ransom being paid for their release.

When asked: Will a ransom be part of the government’s strategy? the minister said: “No”.

He continued by saying: “I can assure you that the government is on top of the matter – but it is not a subject matter for television discussion.

“We didn’t get there overnight, that is why we can’t get out in one day”.

According to the minister, bandits and terrorists work with the psychology of people and they deliberately attack mostly women and children because they believe that is what is going to attract global outcry.

“That is exactly what bandits do all over the world,” he said, adding that “solidarity in any form will not be tolerated by this government”.

Armed men attacked the Government Science College Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State in the early hours of Wednesday, shooting sporadically, before abducting some students, staff members, and their families.

One student was also killed in the incident.

The operations started from the staff quarters and ended in the students’ hostels and in the process, other students were also wounded by gunshots.

The gunmen who were said to have worn military uniforms gathered some staff and students at a place for hours before moving them out of the school premises to an unknown destination.

Lai Mohammed Calls For Cancellation Of APC Membership Registration Exercise In Kwara

 

The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has called for the cancellation of the ongoing All Progressives Congress (APC) membership registration and revalidation exercise saying it is marred by irregularities.

The Minister made the call in Oro, Kwara State while addressing journalists after his APC membership revalidation at Oro Ward 2 polling unit 006, Ile Onikoyi.

The minister who reeled out several allegations says the registration officials failed to consult with all stakeholders before the commencement of the membership registration.

“The guidelines are also clear on how registration materials are to be handed over and distributed. It says officials for the assignment are prohibited from handing over registration forms, other materials inclusive of registration data in a manner not prescribed by the exercise to unauthorised persons, and that the materials (forms, registers, and others) are to be distributed directly to the Registration Officers, and records of the distribution area to be captured and reported accordingly,” he said.

Mohammed however called on officials to put in place a process to ensure the conduct of a credible and fair exercise that will enjoy the support and confidence of all.

He also called for the immediate disbandment of the Senator John Danboyi-led membership registration committee for Kwara State saying a vast majority of the APC stakeholders in the state have lost confidence in the committee.

Meanwhile, the state chairman of APC, Abdullahi Samari while reacting in a statement said the registration of the Minister shows that the exercise is peaceful and all-encompassing.

 

Corruption Index: Data Missing In Areas Where Nigeria Performed Well – Lai Mohammed

A file photo of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed.
A file photo of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

 

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has faulted Nigeria’s rating in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (TI-CPI), saying it does not truly reflect the great strides by the country in its fight against corruption.

The Minister also believes that there are missing assessments for Nigeria in the data entries where the country has performed well in previous CPI calculations, which has now affected the overall rating of the country over a period of time.

He made this known in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday while assuring Nigerians that the country’s anti-corruption agenda, which has placed great emphasis on corruption prevention measures and the building of integrity systems, remains on course.

In the 2020 index released on Thursday, Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 points, dropping to 149 out of the 180 countries surveyed.

The country also went three steps down from the 146 scored in 2019, making it its worst rating on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index since 2013.

While the Information Minister highlighted a number of efforts being made on the part of the government to curb the corruption in the country, he also lamented the “under-reporting of our ongoing corruption reduction measures”.

Read Also: Corruption Index Not Accurate Portrayal Of Nigeria’s Situation – Presidency

He said having analyzed the 2020 TI-CPI rating for Nigeria, the Federal Government is interrogating a number of issues and discrepancies that have been observed in the rating process, including some data sources in which Nigeria’s scores have remained flat over the past 10 years, reflecting no improvement, decline or fluctuation.

“This is very improbable given the nature of behaviour of variables, which are normally influenced by a variety of factors (which is the reason they are called ‘variables’). In this case, the corruption scores would have been affected by changes in the size and structure of the public sector over the past 10 years, changes in policies and personnel and systems over the period including, for instance, process automation, etc. There is therefore a need to verify that there is no transposition of figures from year to year due to absence of current
data,” the Minister said.

Also, he said, different assessments on the same indicators (for instance corruption in the bureaucracy) by different rating institutions have generated different scores and different rankings across the ranking agencies

“There is a need to understand why these variations occur, and consequently the robustness of the methodology and validity of data,” Mr Mohammed said, adding that there are missing assessments for Nigeria in the data entries where the country has performed well in previous CPI calculations, like the African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment.

“There is a need to understand why scores for this assessment have not been recorded for Nigeria for the past two years, which has had the effect of reducing Nigeria’s cumulative score and ranking relative to countries with those scores included in their CPI for both years,” he said.

The Presidency had earlier reacted to the report, saying it is not an accurate portrayal of the facts on the ground.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, who signed the statement last Thursday, had also said the Muhammadu Buhari administration deserves credit for reducing corruption in the country.

FEC Approves N9.4bn For Power, Road Projects

The FEC meeting was held on Wednesday at the State House in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

 

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved a total of N9.4 billion for various projects including power and road.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo also revealed that FEC approved the National Quality Policy.

The policy according to the Minister will see to the establishment of quality testing centers and laboratories in the country to reinforce quality in exported goods.

READ ALSO: Reps Will Protect Nigeria’s Interest In New PIB – Gbajabiamila

“This policy will create a situation whereby the government and the private sector will be able to collaborate to set up quality testing centres, testing labs which we hope will have accreditation with international centres, such that any good that has approved to have met the standard, would be of international standard,” he said.

Ministers brief journalists at the end of the FEC meeting

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed after the meeting also announced that the sum of N1.14 billion was approved for the award of contract for the installation of solar street lighting for the Karshi-Jikwoyi dual carriage road in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Mohammed said the contract was awarded to Messrs Bassman Nigeria Limited for a completion period of six months.

“This is a 20-kilometre street lighting project and the area hosts some very strategic institutions such as the Treasury Academy, the new Correctional Center which is under construction and it also houses the Federal Science College, the Armed Forces Post Service Housing Scheme in addition to Police Housing Scheme among others.

“Apart from beautifying the area, it also provides better security for the area. It means the SDG goal number 11 will be met and at the same time the global energy policy,” he said.

Also the Minister of State for Power, Godwin Jedy-Agba said the council gave approval for a 124.3 million variation of contract towards the construction of sub-station project in Lanlate, Oyo State, and Abeokuta, Ogun State.

According to him, this implies that the national metering programme directive by the President, will soon be completed and services will improve.

Items Worth N12bn Seized, 1,375 Irregular Migrants Arrested During Border Closure – FG

The federal government ordered a partial closure of the nation's land borders in August 2019.
The Federal Government ordered a partial closure of the nation’s land borders in August 2019.

 

Security operatives have seized smuggled items worth about ₦12,362,574,090.50 across the nation’s borders.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Monday at a press conference held in Lagos.

Highlighting the gains of the operation, he noted that a total of 1,375 irregular migrants were arrested as of December 17, 2020.

Mohammed listed the seized items to include 157,511 50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 10,447 bags of NPK fertiliser used for making explosives, and 18,630 jerry cans of vegetable oil.

He informed the reporters that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the reopening of four land borders – Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun.

The minister noted that the reopening was the culmination of the border drill, code-named Exercise Swift Response.

“I can report to you, gentlemen, that over a year into the exercise, it is a huge success, having saved resources and enhanced national security.

“The importation of drugs and proliferation of small arms, which usually fuel violent extremism and terrorism in the country, has been significantly curtailed,” he said.

A file photo of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

 

Mohammed added, “For instance, 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in the country comes in through our porous borders.

“However, since the border drill started, this importation has been drastically reduced.”

According to him, the agricultural sector also received a boost from the drill, with rice production now nearing the level of self-sufficiency for Nigeria and poultry production at a high level.

The minister explained that the exercise was launched on August 20, 2019, as part of efforts to secure the land and maritime borders in the south-south, south-west, north-central and north-west regions from smuggling and irregular migration, as well as boost the economy and strengthen security at the nation’s borders.

The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and comprises the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Armed Forces of Nigeria, as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies.

Nigeria Will Witness Improved Security In 2021, Says FG

A file photo of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

 

Nigeria will witness improved security in 2021, the Federal Government has assured residents across the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the assurance on Monday while addressing reporters in Lagos.

He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to provide the military and other security agencies with the required support to function better.

Mohammed described 2020 as undoubtedly one of the most challenging years for the country, saying it was a result of the global pandemic that triggered an economic recession, a heightened security challenge, and unnecessary violence in the country.

He noted that as the President said in his New Year broadcast, the security apparatus, as well as military and police personnel would be re-energised and re-organised, with a view to enhancing their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against communities in parts of the country.

The minister revealed that a number of platforms there were expected to boost the fight against terrorists and bandits were due to arrive in the New Year.

He, however, faulted the opposition for “constantly shooting down” anything the present government does and condemning whatever the President does or says.

According to Mohammed, they messed up in government and they are messing up even more in opposition and there are no lessons learned either way.

He also condemned the predictions by Doomsday, saying Nigeria would not become a failed state but would rise to become a more respected member of the comity of nations.

Read the full text of the minister’s briefing below:

Text of the press conference addressed by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Lagos on Monday, 4 January 2021.

Good morning gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference, our first this year.  In fact, it was meant to be the last for 2020, but it has now become the first for 2021.

As you are aware, this press conference was scheduled for Tuesday, December 29th, 2020. However, we had to postpone it in order for me not to breach the COVID-19 protocols.

Many of you may not be aware that I represented Mr President at the inauguration of His Excellency, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, in Ouagadougou on Monday, December 28, 2020.

I returned to Nigeria the same day but had to observe the mandatory seven-day quarantine, which expired yesterday, Sunday, January 3rd 2021. My sincere apologies to you, gentlemen, for the postponement, especially coming at such short notice.

Now that we are here, let me wish you all a Happy New Year. The year 2020 was a very challenging one for our country. COVID-19 and EndSARS – with their impact on the nation’s economy – and of course heightened security challenges combined to make the year such a tough one.

But I make bold to say that the federal government rose stoutly – with courage and determination – to tackle the challenges, and has continued to do so.

COVID-19

The Federal Government immediately kick-started a massive onslaught against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, as soon as it was imported into the country in February 2020, mobilising all sectors and segments of the country for a multi-sectoral approach to interrupt the transmission of the virus, curtail mortality, expand health infrastructure, build the capacity of health workers and mount an aggressive public sensitisation and community mobilisation against the spread of the virus.

To achieve these targets, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated a Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 under the chairmanship of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to drive the multi-sectoral approach to contain the virus. Nigeria has so far availed itself creditably in the fight against COVID-19 through the deployment of resources, mobilisation and training of manpower and expansion of health infrastructure, particularly our testing capacity for Covid-19.

From just two national reference laboratories for the testing of COVID-19, we now have over 100 laboratories, public and private, across all the states of the federation.

Treatment centres were also built, in collaboration with the states and the private sector (CACOVID), across the country to isolate and treat cases of COVID-19, while the Federal Government, through the Sustainable Production Pillar of the PTF, has been encouraging local manufacturing companies to embark on the production of consumables such as face masks, ventilators, hand sanitisers and face shields.

To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy across all levels, the Federal Government unveiled the Economic Sustainability Plan to support families, small and medium enterprises and the manufacturing sector, among others.

A major highlight of the Economic Sustainability Plan is the provision of solar power to five million Nigerian households in the next 12 months.

This alone will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation. Various other interventions were made through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, as well as the Trader and Market Moni loans.

For the very vulnerable, significant steps taken include the expansion of the National Social Register to 3.6 million beneficiaries across the 36 states; support provided to 8,827,129 households through the 70,000 Metric Tons food grains released from the Strategic Reserve; and support to 1,289,405 vulnerable households that benefited from the Conditional Cash Transfers across 34 States.

The Central Bank of Nigeria also announced a number of measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

These include:

– A one-year extension of a moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facilities;

– The reduction of the interest rate on intervention loans from nine percent to five per cent

– Strengthening of the Loan to Deposit ratio policy (i.e. stepped up enforcement of directive to extend more credit to the private sector)

– Creation of N50 billion target credit facility for affected households and small and medium enterprises

– Granting of regulatory forbearance to banks to restructure terms of facilities in affected sectors

– Additional N100 billion intervention fund in healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity

– Identification of few key local pharmaceutical companies that will be granted funding facilities to support the procurement of raw materials and equipment required to boost local drug production.

– N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.

– Provision of credit assistance for the health industry to meet the potential increase in demand for health services and products “by facilitating borrowing conditions for pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and practitioners”.

– The Central Bank pledged to pump N1.1 trillion into critical sectors of the economy.

– Commencement of a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans

– Similar moratorium to be given to all Federal Government-funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export-Import Bank.

Of course, we also have the 774,000 Special Public Works (SPW) jobs scheme (1,000 jobs per each Local Government) which is now scheduled to commence this January.

The programme is designed for artisans to do public works for three months at N20,000 per person per month. There is also the N75 Billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), which is targeted at interested young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

The aim of the scheme is to financially empower Nigerian youth to generate at least 500,000 jobs between 2020 and 2023. Please note that all these programmes, with the youth as major beneficiaries, were put in place long before EndSARS.

With the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr President has extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 until the end of March 2021, bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.

This is further evidence of the Administration’s untiring efforts to tame the pandemic and protect Nigerians.

ENDSARS

Just as the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic was rounding off, the country witnessed the EndSARS protest by the youth, who were calling for an end to police brutality and the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The protest started peacefully but soon degenerated into violence after it was hijacked by hoodlums.

The five demands of the EndSARS protesters were:

Immediate release of all arrested protesters;

Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families;

Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days;

In line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed;

Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

The government responded comprehensively to the demands thus:

On October 11: The Inspector-General of Police announced the immediate disbandment of SARS across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

On October 12: President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation, stating: ”The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.”

On October 13: The IGP ordered all defunct SARS personnel to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for debriefing as well as psychological and medical examination.

The officers were to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties. The medical examination was carried out by the new Police Counselling and Support Unit (PCSU).

On the same day, October 13th: The presidential panel on the reform of SARS formally accepted the five-point demand of the EndSARS protesters.

On October 15: The National Economic Council (NEC) directed the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.

The panel will include representatives of Youths, Students, Civil Society Organizations and would be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge. The panels have six months to complete their assignment.

Other decisions by NEC on the Demands:

– State Governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.

–  State Governors should immediately establish State-based Special Security and Human Rights Committees to be chaired by the Governors in their States and to supervise the newly-formed police tactical units and all other security agencies located in the States.

This will ensure the protection of citizens’ human rights. Members will also include Representatives of Youths and Civil Society, as well as the head of police tactical units in each of the States.

–  Establishment, by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights, of a Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between 2 to 3 persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis. That team would be established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights.

–  State Governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

Finally, on the Federal Government’s response, the National Salaries, Income, and Wages Commission was directed to expedite action on the finalisation of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force.

Despite meeting the demands, the protest continued and the demands kept expanding, until the protest was hijacked, leading to unprecedented violence characterised by killings, maiming, arson, looting, etc.

For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down.

Also, the violence left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/ vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/ vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted. The violence was unprecedented in scale and scope, and the impact has been damaging to the economy.

ECONOMY

Nigeria recorded positive economic developments in 2020, but these seem to have been overshadowed by the country’s economic recession.

As you are all aware, Nigeria officially entered recession at the end of the third quarter (Q3), after the country’s Gross Domestic Product declined for the second consecutive quarter in 2020 (Q2 and Q3).

That’s in line with the traditional definition of a recession. The main reason for this is COVID-19 pandemic. Nigeria is not alone. Dozens of countries, including economic giants like the US, UK and Canada, have entered a recession, of course, due to the global pandemic.

Others include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, and Spain.

But, like I said earlier, Nigeria’s economic recession has masked a lot of positive economic developments: According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the decline of -3.62% in Q3 is much smaller than the -6.10% recorded in Q2.

The economic conditions are actually improving, with 17 activities recording positive real growth in the third quarter, compared to 13 in Q2. Also, 36 of 46 economic activities did better in the third quarter of 2020 than in the second quarter of the same year.

The -3.62% contraction recorded in the third quarter of 2020 was better than the -6.01% earlier forecast by the National Bureau of Statistics and outperformed several domestic and international forecasts.

Please note that before COVID-19, the Nigerian economy had been experiencing sustained growth, which was improving every quarter, until the second quarter of 2020, when the impact of COVID-19 started to be felt.

Just as the year 2020 was rounding off, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was named the best-performing stock market among the 93 equity indexes being tracked by Bloomberg across the world.

The all-share index, which opened at 38,800.01, moved up by 310.16 points to close at 39,110.17 – crossing the 39,000 marks, while the market capitalisation rose by N167 billion to close at N20.446 trillion. Returns are currently at 45.7 percent; the best annual return since 2013.

OIL SECTOR WORST HIT

The oil sector was largely responsible for the slowdown in economic activity in the third quarter of 2020, as it recorded a sharp contraction of -13.89% in the third quarter of 2020 year-on-year, the largest decline in that sector in 14 quarters.

The reason is not far-fetched. The slowdown in global economic growth and oil demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Nigeria’s obligations to meet OPEC cuts, were principally responsible for the slowdown in the performance of the oil sector.

NON-OIL SECTOR

Though the non-oil sector also contracted in the third quarter of 2020, the decline in the sector by -2.51% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2020 was significantly better when compared to the contraction of -6.05% year-on-year recorded in the second quarter of 2020.

Overall, there is good news: The latest recession in Nigeria will be short-lived, and Nigeria will return to positive growth soon, unlike the 2016 recession which lasted five quarters.

This is because of several complementary fiscal, real sector, and monetary interventions proactively introduced by the government to forestall a far worse decline of the economy and alleviate the negative consequences of the pandemic.

SECURITY

Gentlemen, let me say straight away that Nigeria is fending off attacks on many fronts, not just from terrorists and bandits, but also from some human rights organisations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) which seem to have colluded to exacerbate the challenges facing the country in the area of security.

While our security agencies continue to battle these bandits and terrorists, the ICC and some international human rights organisations, especially Amnesty International, have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Unfortunately, a section of the local media has been parroting these organisations without weighing the impact of their constant threats on the security of the nation.

The Federal Government frowns at this unbridled attempt to demoralise our security men and women as they confront the onslaught from bandits and terrorists.

Nigeria did not join the ICC so it can become a pawn on the court’s chessboard. It beggars belief to see that a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and terrorists is constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly joined.

Nigeria is a sovereign state and will not surrender its sovereignty to any organization. ICC, Amnesty International, and their cohorts should desist from threatening our troops and putting the security of our country in jeopardy. Enough is enough.

It is sad that these organisations mostly rely on fake news and disinformation to reach their conclusions, as witnessed during the EndSARS protest when CNN – an otherwise respected global news network – went to town with fake news of a massacre.

As it turned out, it was a massacre without bodies. As you are aware, we called CNN out and also petitioned the network. Though they acknowledged receipt of our petition, we have yet to hear from them on what actions they intend to take to prevent a recurrence of the fake news they peddled about Nigeria.

I can assure you, gentlemen, that the matter is far from over.

Gentlemen, despite the antics of those who have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against our country, we have indeed made tremendous progress in tackling bandits and the terrorists of Boko Haram.

Recently, some jaundiced analysts and their lapdogs have sought to portray Nigeria as a failing state, on the strength of its security challenges. But these analysts are dead wrong. Nigeria is not and cannot be a failing or failed state. Of course, you would remember that for the past two decades or so, some pseudo-analysts have been predicting the country’s implosion. That has not happened, hence they have found a new tag line: failing or failed state!

It’s all a ruse aimed at depicting Nigeria as being in a constant state of anarchy, just so they can achieve their nefarious objectives for the country.

If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state when a large slice of its territory equivalent to the size of Belgium was under the occupation of Boko Haram, which collected taxes, installed and deposed emirs, is it now that no territory is under the terrorists that Nigeria will be a failing state?

If Nigeria was not a failed state when bombs were raining on towns and cities in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Yobe, FCT, and other states, is it now that such bombings have stopped that Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state?  If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state in those years that Christian and Muslim worshippers had to be screened to even enter their places of worship, is it now that the siege on places of worship has ceased that Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state?

It is sad that we have forgotten where we were in terms of the state of insecurity just a few years back. Let me mention some instances that will put things in a better perspective. Thanks to our security agencies, we have just celebrated another Christmas and New Year without rain of bombs.

Few would remember that in 2010, 2011, and 2012, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day attacks left hundreds dead or injured. What about the attack on the UN Complex in Abuja in August

2011; the bombing of media houses in Abuja and Kaduna in April 2012 and the killing of about 40 students in Mubi, Adamawa State, in October 2012?

Have we forgotten that over 80 towns and villages were attacked and razed, with casualties, by Boko Haram in Borno State alone? Have we forgotten the constant attacks on military and security formations like Giwa Barracks (Maiduguri), Mohammed Kur Barracks (Bama), Monguno Barracks (Monguno), Airforce Base (Maiduguri), New Prison (Maiduguri), and numerous police stations?

The fact that these attacks and bombings have stopped is a testimony to the progress we have made in tackling terrorism which, by the way, is not like a conventional warfare. The stoppage of the attacks didn’t happen by accident.

It is therefore mischievous for anyone to discountenance the progress we have made in tackling insecurity, in building and upgrading infrastructure, and in diversifying the economy, among others.

The federal government rejects this characterization of Nigeria as a ‘failing’ state, which is a combination of the wishful thinking of naysayers and the evil machinations of those who don’t wish Nigeria well.

Gentlemen, the federal government has sustained the fight against terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements across the country especially in the North East and the North West Regions.

The recent swift response and rescue of the 344 kidnapped Kankara schools boys in Katsina State from bandits attest to this. The President has continued to provide all the necessary platforms on land, air and sea to support the fight against criminals and terrorists in the country.

AGRICULTURE, INFRASTRUCTURE AND POWER

Amid the challenges of insecurity, which the Administration is tackling headlong, Nigeria has continued to make steady progress in many areas, including infrastructural development, agriculture and power.

In agriculture, the federal government, within the period under review, inaugurated “The Green Imperative,’’ which is a 10-year agricultural programme amounting to $1.2 billion targeting the creation of five million jobs and injection of $10 billion into the economy.

The Green Imperative is a Nigeria-Brazil bilateral agriculture development that will be implemented over a period of five to 10 years and the funding will come from the Development Bank of Brazil (BNDES) and Deutsche Bank, The Initiative will lead to the reactivation of six motor assembly plants in the six geopolitical zones of the country for assembling tractors and other implements, with importation of the Completely Knocked Down (CKD) parts of about 5,000 tractors and numerous implements for local assembly annually for a period of 10 years.

Also, through the Anchor Borrowers programme, more than N200 billion has been made available since the inception of the scheme in 2015 to support over 1.5 million farmers in the production of rice, wheat, cassava, poultry, soya beans, groundnut, maize, cotton and fish. Thanks to this scheme, Nigeria is now on the verge of attaining self-sufficiency in rice production.

In the area of power, following an agreement with German company Siemens in July 2019 to boost power supply in Nigeria, the stage is set for the perennial power problem to become a thing of the past.

Under the three-phase agreement, Nigerians will enjoy 7,000 megawatts of reliable power supply by the end of 2021 (phase 1), 11,000 megawatts by the end of 2023 (phase 2) and 25,000 megawatts in the third phase.

In the area of infrastructure, the President this year virtually inaugurated the 326-kilometre Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line, which has suffered a setback in the last 30 years. It is expected that close to one million passengers and 3.5 million tons of freight will be conveyed along the rail line annually.

Passenger service has also commenced on the Lagos-Ibadan railway, ahead of the project’s inauguration in January 2021. The Lagos-Ibadan rail line is a double-track standard gauge rail, the first of its kind in West Africa, and the first leg of the Lagos to Kano rail line.

Block by block, President Buhari is reviving and modernizing the country’s rail sector for a better conveyance of passengers and goods and in order to give the nation’s economy a shot in the arm. The Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue is now 97% completed.

The 1.8-kilometre bridge links the northern and southern part of the country across the River Benue, achieving a drastic cut in travel time. And the federal government is constructing or renovating 37 bridges across the country, including the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, the Second Niger Bridge, the Ikom Bridge in Cross River, the Murtala Mohammed Bridge in Koton Karfe, Kogi State, the Tatabu Bridge linking Niger and Kwara States, the Isaac Boro Bridge in Port Harcourt and the Tamburawa Bridge in Kano State.

The Federal Government also completed and inaugurated the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu for scheduled flights. The rehabilitation of the runway and other associated work were executed in line with ICAO standard.

 

BORDER DRILL

As you are all aware, gentlemen, four land borders have now been reopened on the directive of Mr President. The borders are those in Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun.

The opening is the culmination of a border drill, code-named ”EXERCISE SWIFT RESPONSE”, that was launched on August 20th 2019 as part of efforts to secure the land and maritime borders in the South South, South West, North Central and North West zones from smuggling and irregular migration, as well as boost national economy and strengthen border security The Exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), and comprises the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as the Nigeria Police force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies.

I can report to you, gentlemen, that over a year into the Exercise, it is a huge success, having saved resources and enhanced national security. The importation of drugs and proliferation of small arms, which usually fuel violent extremism and terrorism in the country, have been significantly curtailed.

For instance, 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in the country comes in through our porous borders. However, since the border drill started, this importation has been drastically reduced.

The agricultural sector has also received a boost from the drill, with rice production now nearing the level of self-sufficiency for the country and poultry production at a high level. As at 17 December 2020, 1,375 irregular migrants have been arrested while seizures so far include; 157,511-50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 10,447 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives and 18,630 Jerrycans of vegetable oil.

The total monetary value of the seized items is about ₦12,362,574,090.50. I commend our security operatives for displaying a high level of professionalism and unflinching commitment to this national assignment.

 

CONCLUSION

Gentlemen, the year 2020 has been a challenging year, undoubtedly one of the most challenging years for the country.

A global pandemic that triggered an economic recession, a heightened security challenge and an unnecessary violence that stemmed from what started as a peaceful protest are just some of the challenges.

It is to the credit of the Buhari Administration that it tackled these challenges headlong. Thanks to the several complementary fiscal, real sector and monetary interventions proactively introduced by the government to forestall a far worse decline of the economy and alleviate the negative consequences of the pandemic, the current recession will not last long, and Nigeria will soon return to positive growth.

Nigeria will witness an improved security in 2021, as Mr President has continued to provide the armed forces and other security agencies with whatever they require to function better, both in terms of platforms, logistics and capacity development.

And, as Mr President said in his New Year broadcast, the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police are to be re-energised and reorganised, with a view to enhancing their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.

The good news is that a number of the platforms we have been expecting to pep up the battle against terrorists and bandits are due to arrive in the New Year.

While at this, please permit me to salute all our security personnel for their sacrifice, dedication to duty and patriotism. The nation is in their debt for their service.

Let me also take this opportunity to condemn the constant infantile press releases by the unserious, unimaginative and drab opposition, which misconstrues opposition as constantly shooting down anything the government of the day does or bad mouthing whatever Mr President does or says.

There is more to opposition than predictable and bring-it-down-at-all-cost media interventions. They messed up in government, and they are messing up even more in opposition. No lessons learnt either way.

Finally, let me say this: Doomsday predictions about Nigeria will not come to pass. Nigeria will not become a failed state, but will rise to become a more respected member of the comity of nations.

We thank all Nigerians for their support and wish them a happy new year. And to you here, thank you for honouring our invitation and, once again, best wishes for a better year in 2021.

Chico Ejiro’s Death Huge Blow To Nollywood – FG

File photo of the late Nollywood film maker, Chico Ejiro

 

The Federal Government has mourned veteran Nollywood filmmaker, Chico Ejiro, saying his death is a huge blow to the Nollywood industry.

In a statement issued on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the government commiserated with the family and friends of the deceased and to the entire industry.

“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described the shocking death of veteran film producer Chico Ejiro as a huge blow to the nation’s Creative Industry in general and to Nollywood in particular,” the statement partly read.

READ ALSO: Nollywood Movie Producer, Chico Ejiro is Dead

The Minister said the late Ejiro was “a prolific movie director and a shining star of Nollywood, which has – through its movies – stamped Nigeria’s creative presence all over the world.”

 

“Thanks to the pace-setting work of Mr. Ejiro and his contemporaries, Nollywood is today one of the biggest movie industries in the world, which is providing employment for many Nigerians and creating wealth for the nation. ‘May God grant repose to the soul of the departed and comfort his family and friends.”

Ejiro died in the early hours of Christmas day from a seizure. He only just concluded directing his new movie on Christmas Eve.

Prior to his death, he held the record of the Nollywood director with the highest number of released movies. He says he has produced and directed over 85 movies in his career in the span of three decades.

FG Warns Religious Leaders Against Message Of Hatred, Disunity

A file photo of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

 

The Federal Government has urged religious leaders in the country to refrain from stoking the embers of hatred and disunity.

It warned that resorting to scorched-earth rhetoric at a time such as this could trigger unintended consequences in the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, issued the warning in a statement on Saturday in Lagos.

“While religious leaders have a responsibility to speak truth to power, such truth must not come wrapped in anger, hatred, disunity, and religious disharmony,” he said.

Mohammed believes it is graceless and impious for any religious leader to use the period of Christmas, which is a season of peace, to stoke the embers of hatred, sectarian strife, and national disunity.

He stated that while some religious leaders, being human, may not be able to disguise their national leadership preference, they should refrain from stigmatising the leader they have never supported anyway, using disproved allegations of nepotism or whatever.

The Minister said whatever challenges Nigeria may be going through at this moment could only be tackled when all leaders and indeed all Nigerians come together.

He stressed that the practice of engaging in name-calling and finger-pointing was one that should be discouraged by all citizens.

“Calling for a violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government, no matter how disguised such a call is, and casting a particular religion as violent is not what any religious leader should engage in, and certainly not in a season of peace,” Mohammed said.

READ ALSO: Killings: Buhari’s Govt Owes Nigerians An Explanation, Says Kukah

He insisted that instigating regime change outside the ballot box was not only unconstitutional but also an open call to anarchy.

In his Christmas message, Bishop Matthew Kukah accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism.

 

Although he did not mention any religious leader, the statement from the minister could be linked to the Christmas message of the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah.

In a statement on Friday, Kukah criticised the Muhammadu Buhari administration for the way it was handling the insecurity situation and other challenges in the nation.

He had also accused the President of deliberately sacrificing the dreams of those who voted for him to what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern supremacy by reducing others in public life to second class status.

“He has pursued this self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion. Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it.

“There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war. The President may have concluded that Christians will do nothing and will live with these actions.

“He may be right and we Christians cannot feel sorry that we have no pool of violence to draw from or threaten our country. However, God does not sleep. We can see from the inexplicable dilemma of his North,” Bishop Kukah said in the statement.

Buhari’s Administration Will Do Everything To Prevent Repeat Of School Abductions – FG

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu’s administration will do everything possible to prevent a repeat of school abductions.

The minister stated this on Friday during a press briefing following the release of the Kankara Schoolboys.

Hundreds of students were last week abducted from a school in Kankara Local Government Area (LGA) of Katsina State.

They were released yesterday (Thursday) with the intervention of the state governor Aminu Masari and the military.

Mr Lai in a statement said, “Let me state here that the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of these school abductions.

“But we also make bold to say that we have moved with speed and determination each time we have faced the challenge of school abductions and the results attest to this”.

The minister also pledged to ensure that the Federal Government will not relent until the remaining Chibok schoolgirls and Dapchi schoolgirls are reunited with their families.

“Each time this has happened, we have always accepted responsibility, rather than being in denial.

“And that has made all the difference in whether or not the abducted school children have been recovered. We will not relent until all those who remain missing in Chibok and Dapchi and reunited with their families”, he added.

 

Read Full Statement Below

TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF
INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON FRIDAY, 18
DEC. 2020

Gentlemen of the press, good afternoon, and thank you for honouring
our invitation despite the short notice.

2. As you are aware, 344 school boys who were kidnapped from their
school in Kankara in Katsina State last Friday have all been released
unharmed. They will undergo necessary medical tests before they are
released to their families.

3. The Federal Government is most grateful to our security and
intelligence agencies for this great feat. We also wish to thank the
governments of Katsina and Zamfara states, and indeed all Nigerians
and friends of Nigeria.

4. Let me be clear: What happened in Kankara – and in Chibok and
Dapchi before it – is totally unacceptable. Our children should not
have to go to school in trepidation. The Federal Government is doing
everything possible to secure all our schools, and indeed all
Nigerians. And we will not relent until all Nigerians can go to bed at
night with their two eyes closed.

5. The release of these school boys is a testament to the importance
that this Administration attaches to the security and safety of all
Nigerians. There is no government in the world that will not face the
challenges of security at one time or another. No government in the
world is immune to terrorist attacks. What stands any government out
is the way and manner it responds to such challenges.

6. For example, school shooting has been a recurring challenge in the
United States. Between 2010 and 2020, almost 200 school children were
killed and many more injured in various school shooting incidents.
Needless to say that the world’s most powerful country suffered a
tragic terrorist attack in September 2001 that claimed almost 3,000
lives. In France, between 2010 and 2020, 286 people were killed in
various terrorist incidents. And in New Zealand, in March 2019, 49 people were
killed in shootings at two mosques in ChristChurch, New Zealand. I
have given these instances to support
the fact that no nation, no matter how powerful, is immune to security
challenges .

7. Back here in Nigeria, the abduction of the Kankara school boys
marked the second of its kind under this Administration, coming after
the unfortunate abduction of 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, in
February 2018. Just like the good news from Kankara, all but one of
the kidnapped school girls in Dapchi were rescued unharmed. And in
2014, 276 school girls were abducted by terrorists in Chibok, Borno
State, out of which 112 remain in captivity after this Administration
rescued over 100 of the school girls.

8. Let me state here that the Administration of President Muhammadu
Buhari will do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of these
school abductions. But we also make bold to say that we have moved
with speed and determination each time we have faced the challenge of
school abductions, and the results attest to this. Each time this has
happened, we have always accepted responsibility, rather than being in
denial. And that has made all the difference in whether or not the
abducted school children have been recovered. We will not relent until
all those who remain missing in Chibok and Dapchi and reunited with
their families.

9. Irrespective of the security challenges that we, as a nation, may
be facing at this time, they are not insurmountable. We can only
appeal to those who are quick to politicize the issue of security to
desist from such. The reactions in certain quarters to the Kankara
incident was shameful. Some Nigerians went as far as denigrating their
government and country in the most uncouth and irresponsible manner.
They simply threw decorum to the wind and allowed their emotions to
take a better part of them. When disasters and tragedies strike,
people come together. We hope the naysayers have learnt their lessons.
And we hope those who have started trading and politicking with the
hashtag ‘BringBackOurBoys’ can now go home, as our boys have been brought
back, even before their dubious campaign could take off.

10. We congratulate the parents and guardians of the 344 boys from
Kankara, who will soon reunite with their children and wards. We
congratulate the government and people of Katsina state, and indeed
all Nigerians. Once again, we thank all our committed and patriotic
security and intelligence agencies.

11. I thank you all for your kind attention. I will now take your questions

Without Adequate Weapons, We Remain At The Mercy Of Terrorists – Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed addressing journalists during his visit to Makurdi, Benue State capital on Monday, November 30, 2020

 

The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed on Monday reacted to issues of insecurity and the latest killing of farmers in Borno State by calling for more global support and adequate weapons.

He said terrorism is a global issue and the Federal Government needs global support to combat it. He added that the nation has been denied this support and without adequate weapons, the nation will remain at the mercy of terrorists.

“Terrorism is a global issue and there is no part of the world that is not experiencing these pockets of terrorism. I am glad that you heard from the governor himself that the Federal Government has assisted a lot in curbing the insecurity in Benue State.

“We also need more support from global partners. For instance, Nigeria has made attempt to acquire better and more effective platforms to deal with terrorists. But for one reason or the other, we have been denied these weapons. And without adequate platforms and weapons we remain at the mercy of terrorists,” the Minister said.

READ ALSO: Insurgents Attack On Borno Rice Farmers Wicked, Unwarranted – NGF

Lai Mohammed made this reaction while speaking with journalists in Makurdi, the Benue State capital after a meeting with the State Governor Samuel Ortom for a scheduled event of the official handing over of the Nigerian Institute of Hospitality and Tourism.

He lamented that the insurgent attack in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government Area of Borno State which led to the death of 43 farmers is unfortunate and the Federal Government is doing all possible to eliminate the insurgents.

“What happened in Borno State was quite unfortunate but we must also be able to look at the strategy of the terrorists. Terrorists use media and publicity as oxygen.

“When they go on the mindless killing of innocent people, it is like a dying terrorist group which suddenly spring back to life. This doesn’t mean that the Federal Government is not doing well enough,” Mohammed added.

43 farmers were killed on Saturday morning around Marrabati and Hammayya villages, near Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists.

The farmers were waylaid on their way to their rice farms which they were harvesting before the surprise attack happened.

Some other farmers were also taken away by the insurgents.