The Senate has rejected the nominations of former Speaker of Kwara State, Pastor Ezekiel Benjamin and Mr Saidu Abubakar as Non-executive Commissioners of the National Communications Commission (NCC).
The Upper Chamber however confirmed Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye as Chairman of the NCC Governing Board, Mr Sunday Dare as Executive Commissioner, Mr Ifeanyi Ararume as Non-executive Commissioner as well as Mr Clement Omeiza Baiye and Mr Okoi Obla as Non-Executive Commissioners.
Presenting the report, the Chairman Senate Committee on Communication Sen. Gilbert Nnaji explained why the committee is recommending that Mr Saidu Abubakar and Pastor Ezekiel Benjamin should not be confirmed as Non-executive Commissioners of the NCC.
Boko Haram, which has killed and kidnapped thousands of people, had seized an area approximately the size of Belgium in northeastern Nigeria by last year but has since lost significant ground amid growing regional military pressure.
Analyst and security sources think the fighters are probably recent recruits that Boko Haram has struggled to retain as it has ceded territory. Defections of Boko Haram fighters have been reported in Nigeria but are not known to have previously occurred on such a large scale.
“They surrendered to our troops on the front line in Lake Chad,” said Colonel Mohammad Dole, Chief Military Public Information Officer for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) headquartered in Chad’s capital N’Djamena.
“The surrenders are taking place because of the firepower of our operations. The groups, many of them armed, have been arriving since September and their number keeps increasing,” he said.
Some 240 fighters, most off whom are Chadian, are now being held in detention along with their families, Dole said.
The MNJTF, with troops from Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin and intelligence, training and logistical support from the United States, launched a regional operation in July against the group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
It has since continued patrols around the waterways of Lake Chad – one of the world’s poorest regions whose villages were last year regularly struck by fighters, sometimes aboard canoes.
Around 2.6 million people have been displaced in the Lake Chad Basin where Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon meet.
Signs that regional armies are wresting back control of the Chadian part of the lake is significant since it had been a recruitment hub, even if the group never sought to conquer territory there, said Ryan Cummings, director of consultancy Signal Risk.
“Their presence in Chad was more for recruitment and for resources. Its strikes in the country were punitive,” he said, referring to revenge attacks on regional military heavyweight Chad, which has supplied 3,000 troops for the MNJTF.
A blast rocked a pipeline operated by Nigeria’s state-run oil firm NNPC that feeds the Forcados terminal in the southern Niger Delta energy hub, a community leader and security source said on Tuesday.
The explosion occurred while the pipeline was being repaired following an attack last week, they said.
A week ago, community leaders from the restive region, the source of most of Nigeria’s oil, met the president and asked him to pull the army out of the energy hub, order oil firms to move headquarters there and spend more on development to end militancy in the region.
A community leader said it happened at the same location as last week’s attack – in Batan, near the southern city of Warri – while repairs were being carried out because “the boys claimed they were not happy” with the work.
“There was a serious fire and most people working narrowly escaped being shot by the gunmen, who opened fire on them,” said the leader, who did not want to be identified.
A security official attached to Operation Delta Safe also said the attack took place.
Diplomats and security analysts say the violence risked spawning a radical Shiite militant wing, just as the Boko Haram uprising began in 2009 after security forces killed hundreds of its members and its leader Mohammed Yusuf died in custody.
The Shiite sect’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, has been held in custody, without charge, by Nigeria’s security agency since his December arrest following the clashes. His supporters have called for his release.
The Kaduna state government said the group had “overtly continued with unlawful processions” and “obstruction of public highways” since the clashes.
“These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquillity, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna state,” it said, declaring the group unlawful with immediate effect.
A spokesman for the sect, Ibraheem Musa, said its members were not going to be intimidated into resorting to violence.
“Very soon, we shall challenge this ban through legal and peaceful means,” he said.
The Anglican Primate, Arch Bishop Nicholas Okoh, has commended the Governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode and the Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni for the rescue of the three girls abducted from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary.
Arch Bishop Okoh, who led a delegation from the Anglican Church, praised the promptness of the rescue efforts for the abducted schoolgirls.
Describing his visit as a “thank you visit”, he told Channels TV that the Church was grateful for “what the Police has done under the leadership of the Governor of the state”.
“We believe that they have performed exceptionally well,” he said.
Speaking about the kidnap of the girls, he said, “I was very devastated because (they were) young women out in the cold day and night. We couldn’t sleep.
“So when we got the news that they have been rescued, we bounced back.”
He disclosed that the Anglican Church has since raised the standard of security at the school in terms of physical structure and also employed more security personnel to guard the school.
“We seek to work more closely with the Police and other security agencies,” he added.
In his reaction, the Commissioner of Police said that the visit was a morale booster which would encourage the Police to do more.
The three female students who were abducted from the Babington Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos State have been released.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni says the girls were found at the Igbokuta area of Ikorodu.
Mr. Owoseni says the girls are hale and hearty and were not molested by their abductors.
The Police Commissioner also disclosed to Channels Television that three arrests have been made in line with the abduction.
The gunmen on February 29 gained entry into the school, by breaking the perimeter fence which served as protection for the boarding students and forcefully took the girls away.
In the meantime, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has also confirmed the release of the girls from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School in Ikorodu and at the same time their abductors have been arrested.
The Governor announced this in a press briefing at the government house in Alausa, Lagos.
Governor Ambode also assured the people of Lagos State of his administration’s zero tolerance to all criminal activities in the state.
The Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, says it has mapped out a five year plan to procure and distribute 500,000 pre-paid meters to its customers free of charge.
The company’s Head of Corporate Communications, Abdulazeez Abdullahi, told reporters that 100,000 pre-paid meters would be distributed to customers each year, as part of efforts to address issues associated with over-billing and estimated bills.
This is as business activities resumed at the Electricity Company a day after it was shut down as a result of protests by the organised labour over increased electricity tariff.
The Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Labour Congress had On Monday kicked against the 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Agency (NERC).
Operating At A Loss
The labour unions locked the main gate of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company during the protest. The unions while describing the increase as unjustifiable and anti-people, demanded for the reversal of the increase or they would continue with the protest.
Some of the customers – welders and business centre operators – complained that the increment was very high and had already affected their income.
Some of them, yet to get their own pre-paid meters, lamented being over billed heavily every month. They, however, called on the Federal Government to reverse the increment and make meters available to them.
Meanwhile, the management of KEDCO, insisted that the protest by the labour unions was unwarranted, as due process was followed by the government before the NERC came up with the increment.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing had also said that the increase in tariff was necessary to attract investment in the sector.
Speaking to Channels Television, Mr Abdullahi explained that KEDCO held a consumers forum last year where the issue of the increment was tabled and agreed by all parties. He stated that since the company took over the management last year, it had been operating at a loss with the old tariff.
In spite of the challenges , Mr Abdullahi further explained that the company was currently carrying out customers’ enumeration with a view to knowing the actual number of electricity users within its franchise area.
He explained that the process would be followed with mass pre-paid meters deployment which should commence in due course.
The top official of KEDCO complained that customers under its network were owing over 30 billion Naira, a situation he said was affecting the smooth operation of the company to serve its customers better. According to him, a large chunk of the amount was owed by the Federal and State government agencies, parastatals and military institutions.
The Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company was handed over to the core investor on December 4, 2014, after the preferred bidder, the North-west Power Limited fulfilled all requirements.
While stating that electricity supply within its network coverage had improved significantly, KEDCO stressed that there was room for further improvement, as soon as its revenue profile got better.
A Syrian Army source said the city of Aleppo would soon be encircled by government forces as rebels pounded by Russian air strikes expressed hope that the failure of Geneva peace talks would encourage their foreign backers to send better weapons.
Turkey, a major sponsor of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, said there was no point to peace talks while Russia carried out attacks in Syria. Moscow confirmed a Russian military trainer was killed in Syria this week, but denied that Russian servicemen were fighting on the ground.
The United Nations on Wednesday suspended the first peace talks in two years, halting an effort that seemed doomed from the start as the war raged unabated on the ground and government forces severed a major rebel supply route into strategically-important Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the war began.
Turkey said on Thursday that tens of thousands of refugees from Aleppo were moving towards the border due to air strikes.
Four months of Russian air strikes have tipped the momentum Assad’s way after rebel advances earlier in 2015 that posed a growing threat to his control of crucial areas of western Syria.
With the help of Russian air power and allies including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iranian fighters on the ground, the overstretched Syrian army is regaining ground on key fronts in the west, where Syria’s most important cities are located.
But vast swathes of the country are in the hands of armed rebels, including a mosaic of groups in the west, Islamic State in the east, and Kurdish militia in the north.
The refugee crisis created by the five-year-long war moved back into focus as donors convened in London on Thursday, with U.N. agencies seeking billions in aid to help the victims of a conflict that has forced millions from their homes.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the first steps in peace talks were undermined by increased aerial bombing. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week pause.
“I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the organisation did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely,” a U.N. official told Reuters.
Washington and Moscow’s support for opposite sides in the five-year-old war, which has drawn in regional states, created millions of refugees and enabled the rise of Islamic State, means a local conflict has become a fraught global stand-off.
Moscow accuses Washington, which is backing opponents of Assad, of supporting terrorists, while the U.S. State Department said the air strikes around Aleppo focused mainly on Assad’s foes rather than the Islamic State militants Russia says it is trying to defeat.
The Edo State government says it will prosecute persons who produce water that is not fit for human consumption in the court of law.
The Edo State Commissioner for Water Resources and Energy Washington Osifo disclosed this while inspecting a water packaging factory in the state, where he lamented the poor condition in which he met the factory.
Meanwhile the owners of the factory had escaped from the premises before the commissioner and his team arrived.
Medical doctors at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo in Ondo State have called for the immediate release of a staff of the hospital, Mrs Queen Adeyeye, who was kidnapped last Saturday by unknown gunmen.
Mrs Adeyeye, who is the Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services at the hospital, was kidnapped while returning home from a church programme.
Addressing a press conference at the centre, the Chairman of Body of Medical Doctors, which consists of resident doctors and consultants, Dr. Opeyemi Komolafe, urged the state and federal governments to ensure the woman is rescued from her abductors.
They charged President Muhammudu Buhari to tackle the high level of insecurity in the country, lamenting that the lives of the staff of the hospital were no longer safe.
He urged all security agencies to deploy necessary machinery and intelligence to ensure that the kidnapped pharmacist is freed by her captors.
Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says Africa is yet to harness the potentials of the pension scheme in the continent, with a current asset base of funds capable of addressing the continent’s infrastructure challenges.
At the opening of the World Pension Summit, Africa Special on Monday, Dr Okonjo-Iweala called on African countries to switch to the Contributory Pension Scheme currently operational in Nigeria, which she said had immense benefits.
She stressed the need to improve pension fund contribution among the working class in African countries, advising public and private companies to key into the contributory scheme.
“We are happy to have this Africa Pension Summit because the contribution of African pension funds to the growth of Africa’s economies is still rather low. It is a low percentage of the GDP in many countries but it is improving.
“We need to capture a significant proportion of our workforce especially those in the income sector into our pension systems. We need to encourage countries to switch to the contributory pension scheme,” she said, stressing that the huge long-term funding gaps in infrastructure development could be addressed with such funds.
Review Of Laws And Regulations
Infrastructure financing in Nigeria is still seen largely as part of government’s responsibility and the trend in government’s budgets demands that pension funds and other sources of funds should be considered for this kind of investible pool.
The Finance Minister further advocated a review of regulations and laws governing the investment of pension funds, explaining that Nigeria had started the review of the laws and regulations.
“We are looking at strengthening several aspects of the law, part of which is the strengthening of the punitive aspect to check misappropriation and mismanagement of the funds.
“The reform will give more flexibility so that we can use our resources as a good investible pool of savings.
“With over 70 trillion dollars in asset in 2013, institutional investors like pension funds have the muscle to invest in real productive assets and to drive growth. They even have the muscle now to decide the nature of the investment,” she pointed out.
Protection Of Pension Assets
Nigeria transited from pension deficit of about 2 trillion Naira (about 12.9 billion dollars) in 2004 to accumulate pension assets of over 4.21 trillion Naira (about 27.2 billion dollars) by March 2014.
In his speech at the opening of the two-day summit, President Goodluck Jonathan made it clear that the protection of pension funds’ retirement benefits remains top priority of his administration.
“Pension as globally recognised occupies a strategic place in national socio-economic development. It is not only a vital component of social security but also a veritable vehicle for nation building. Indeed, investment in pension has profound impact on the well-being of pensioners, the society and the economy at large” he said.
President Jonathan advised stakeholders in the life shaping industry to engage constantly in dialogue to foster management framework and practices in their respective jurisdiction.
“In 10 years of sustained policy innovation and meticulous management, these have facilitated confidence and credibility in our pension system and administration.
“The protection of pension assets for the payment of retirement benefit as and when due should always be our paramount objective,” he further told the gathering.
President Jonathan expressed confidence that participants at the summit would seize the ample opportunity offered by the inaugural World Pension Summit, Africa Special to reflect and share experiences on how best to fine-tune Africa’s pension system to globally acceptable standards while retaining tailored and unique adaptations.