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Abeokuta boils as angry youths protest naira, fuel scarcity

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…vandalise bank, political billboards, posters

Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta

The peace enveloping Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital was on Tuesday shattered as angry youths took to the destroying public infrastructure in protest of the scarcity of the new redesigned Naira notes and fuel.

The youths went on rampage vandalising political posters and billboards and blocking roads with bonfires.

Our correspondent learnt that the crisis was started at a branch of GTbank in Asero area of Abeokuta, where customers had queued since 4am, but could not withdraw cash.

It was also gathered that the protesters had attempted to attack the GTbank, but they were stopped by the prompt intervention of the police.

The riot, however spread to other parts of the metropolis like: Sapon, Ibara, Panseke and Adatan.

Our correspondent observed that schools and other businesses hurriedly closed to avoid being caught up in the melee.

The protest took a worse turn in Sapon area of the city as the protesters attacked a branch of First bank in the area, while the bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) was also vandalised.

A video trending also shows a young man who was reportedly hit by stray bullet during the ensued melee at Sapon. One of the shop owners around Sapon disclosed that everyone had to hurriedly close for the day so as not to be caught in the middle of the crisis.

And to avoid being attacked, taxi drivers and okada riders had to show solidarity by attaching leaves to their vehicles.

While parents rushed to schools to bring home their wards at noon, relatives also called their loved on phone, asking them to stay safe and avoid being victims of the ongoing violent protest.

“We can’t withdraw our money, we can’t buy fuel, see long queues everywhere. There is no water, there is no light, yet these people are out there campaigning. What type of a nation is this? We must stop this nonsense,” one of the protesters could be heard in a video.

Contacted, the Ogun State police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the incident, saying policemen were monitoring the situation.

While saying calm had been restored in Asero, Oyeyemi warned the protesters against causing more hardship for Nigerians, especially by vandalising other people’s properties.

He expressed concerns that some of those leading the uprising do not have money to withdraw in their accounts.

We have talked to them so that they won’t turn the protest to destruction of properties. Anybody who tries to destroy any property will be decisively dealt with. We have warned them.

“They are protesting that they can’t withdraw money and there is fuel scarcity. The funny thing is that those who don’t have N5 in their accounts are demonstrating that they can’t withdraw. This is uncalled for. We all have to be calm,” he said.

The governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, had on Monday, stormed the Abeokuta branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria to seek revocation of limits to amounts that citizens can withdraw in exchange for deposits made in commercial banks.

The governor also offered to lend members of his cabinet to monitor distribution in order to ensure that no commercial bank and their agents hoard the new naira notes in the state.

The governor had expressed his disappointment over long queues of residents of the state at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), waiting to cash money from the system.

He had said that it was humiliating that those who were attended to were paid not more than two thousand naira per transaction.

Abiodun, however, urged the CBN to ensure the availability of new notes at commercial banks for people to withdraw their money.

The governor explained that he was compelled to visit the state branch of the CBN as the “landlord to find out how we can collaborate to ensure that success of the CBN policy on the new notes and currency swap”.

“I’ve met with the President and CBN governor. It is within the right of the CBN by law and as enshrined in the Constitution.

“Our people went out in their numbers but our people who deposited money and felt they would have as much money as they had deposited or need for their daily needs and welfare and wellbeing.

“We’ve had to suspend our campaigns. I met with people over the weekend who said to me that they have not eaten for days, especially, those from the informal sector.

“As a governor, whose primary function is the welfare and security of our people, I need to find out how we can interact with you to see how we can improve on the current level of distribution of the currency in order to diffuse tension”, Abiodun submitted.

The governor appealed to youths in the state not to embark on any civil disobedience, saying that such actions would only shut down the economy of the state and make things much more difficult.

“I want to use this medium to talk to our youths that when there is a problem, the solution is not to hit the streets and to start protest marches; we can not solve a problem with another problem.

” I want to encourage them that rather than sending social media announcements of impending disobedience around town, we are a very peaceful state, we are very orderly and we have spent a lot of time and energy in investing in that peace and security.

“You cannot because of this problem now want to begin to hit the street to shut down the system and by so doing, shut down investors. We are here in CBN, give us time to expect an end to this crisis,” he demanded.

Earlier in his remarks, the state controller of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Wahab Oseni pleaded with the people to exercise patience.

He assured the people of the state that they will start having access to more cash as from Tuesday, February 6th, 2023.

Oseni while noting that the Ogun State branch of the bank has enough cash to distribute among commercial banks in the state, disclosed that the bank has come up with a plan that would see 40% cash disbursed to money agents, 30% paid across the counter and 30% paid through the Automatic Teller Machine.

He also added that Microfinance banks in the state have also been added to the plan of cash disbursement across the country.

At the meeting were representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria from Lagos and Abuja, Mr Adefuye Adeyemi and Mr Kayode Makinde while assuring the good people of the state that the situation will improve on Tuesday noted that the bank would ensure full compliance by commercial banks on the disbursement of cash.

Both the controller and the State government team led by Gov. Abiodun later had a session with commercial bank executives in his office on the modalities agreed with the apex bank to ease the naira scarcity facing the people.

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Technology, key to growth in Niger Delta — NDDC MD

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The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr Samuel Ogbuku, has emphasised the importance of technology in driving economic growth and social development in the Niger Delta region.

Speaking at the Port Harcourt Tech Expo 2024, Ogbuku, said it was necessary for the NDDC to collaborate with technology experts to impart skills to the youths and boost their chances of gaining employment in the field of technology.

The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that by sponsoring the Tech Expo, the Commission was demonstrating its commitment to fostering technological growth and development in the region.

He noted, “Technology is key to the future of the Niger Delta. The way technology is changing, it is only wise to change with the times and prepare for the future. We are ready to collaborate with relevant organisations to provide a training platform for our youths.

“We are already collaborating with the Rivers State Government to drive the Holistic Opportunity Project of Engagement, HOPE, project in the area of Information and Communication Technology, ICT.”

Ogbuku said that the Commission was revamping the Rivers State ICT Centre in partnership with the government to empower the youths with needed skills in the rapidly advancing technological era.

He said that the Commission would ensure that the facility was not just available but in top shape, ready to accommodate the anticipated vast number of participants in the Commission’s ICT hub and job creation initiative.

Ogbuku said further, “We need to build our youths and our children as well. We have acquired 45,000 U-lesson tablets for distribution to schools for the use of our children. We will launch the tablets and deploy them to schools across the region.”

The NDDC boss said that the world of tomorrow would be shaped by the designs and technologies emerging today.

“It is up to us, as individuals and organisations, to determine what happens next,” Ogbuku noted.

A keynote speaker and a Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, USA, Dr. Maurice Dawson, addressed the subject: “Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence.” He remarked that Nigeria was the fastest growing digital economy in Africa.

According to him: “Cyber Security is the act of protecting networks, devices and data from unauthorised access or criminal use and the practice of assuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of information. In a world driven by computers and the internet, cyber security was very critical.”

In another presentation, a lead forensic examiner, Dr. Tombari Sibe, said that the landscape of cyber security was widening on a daily basis. Speaking on the topic; “Cyber Security; Emerging threats and countermeasures,” he noted that the global cost of cybercrime was rising exponentially, adding that it was a top risk threatening digital transformation in Nigeria.

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Again, fire razes four shops in Benin

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By Elvis Omoregie, Benin

Men of the Federal Fire Service, Edo State Fire Service, Nigerian Army School of Supply and Transport Benin, the University of Benin Fire Service (UNIBEN) and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), on Wednesday battled helplessly to put out a raging fire that razed four shops on the busy Ugbowo-Lagos road.

The fire incident was said to have started from one of the shops, dealing in Hospital and Laboratory equipment, and later spread to other shops within the building.

It was gathered that the fire incident occurred by 2pm and caused a lot of anxiety as residents and shop owners made frantic efforts to salvage the goods, while operatives of the different fire services were on ground to fight the fire, without any luck.

The correspondent who visited the scene of the inferno discovered that all four shops directly opposite the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) were completely razed in the inferno.

Speaking with one of the shop owners who operates a Boutique, Mr. Sunday Madubuko said about 2.45pm, a shop next to his was on fire, as he was told by the shop sales girl.

“The sales girl ran to my shop telling me that a fire was burning in our office, I told her I  don’t have a fire extinguisher. Before I knew it, the fire extended to my Boutique. All I  know is that the fire started from the Laboratory Shop and spread to other shops. The cause of the fire, I still don’t know. What I lost in the inferno is goods worth over N20,000,000,” Madubuko said.

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Okuama: Delta Gov. inaugurates IDP Mgt committee

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By Dave Okpogadie, Asaba

As a way of bringing succour to the displaced people of Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori on Wednesday inaugurated Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Management Committee.

The Committee has veteran journalist and former Editor of The Guardian Newspaper, Mr Abraham Ogbodo as Chairman, and Director of Personnel Management, DPM, Ughelli South Local Government Council, Chief Austin Emaduku as Secretary.

Other members include Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Hon. Festus Utuama, Hon. Reuben Izeze, Dr Richard Kofi, Chief Oviri Uto, Hon. Josephine Oduaran, Obukohwo Henry Ediyo, Karo Ovemeso and Austin Ohwofaria who will serve as Camp Commandant.

Inaugurating the Committee at Government House Asaba, Governor Oborevwori charged the Committee to carefully plan the resettlement and rehabilitation of the innocent citizens of Okuama community.

Oborevwori said, “I welcome all of you to the inauguration of a Committee charged with the duty of planning and coordinating the settlement and rehabilitation of our people at Okuama.

“Much as we condemned in strong terms the dastardly act that took the lives of our gallant officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.

“We will do everything we can to reduce to the barest minimum the attendant effects on the common man in Okuama community.

“Innocent people have been displaced, their homes and properties destroyed, this was, and still is, an unfortunate and most unexpected development.

“Like I said when I visited Okuama the other day, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and the military agreed that innocent people in Okuama should not be made to suffer needlessly.

“This is why we sincerely believe that sooner than later, the innocent ones will be allowed to return to their homes.

“It is now right for the government to set up a committee to plan their resettlement and rehabilitation ahead of their return. This is the minimum we owe our people, we have to reassure them to have a sense of belonging as we make adequate arrangements for their settlement and rehabilitation.

“Note that you have been carefully chosen based on your previous antecedents, we are therefore confident that you will do a transparent, thorough and selfless job that not only the people of Okuama but every Deltan will be proud of you as you make adequate arrangements of receiving them and lessening their pains.

He urged them to attach a sense of urgency to the assignment.

“We must demonstrate the highest degree of love and responsibility towards our people. That is the least we can do for them.”

Responding on behalf of members of the committee, the Chairman, Abraham Ogbodo, expressed appreciation to the governor for finding them worthy to serve in the committee.

He said their appointment into the committee was a call for service and assured the governor and Deltans that, by the grace of God, they would live up to expectation by delivering the needed services to the people.

According to him, members of the committee would work with the sense of urgency that the state assignment requires, assuring that they would be transparent, thorough and selfless in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Okuama.

Recall that Okuama is the community in Delta State where about 17 soldiers were ambushed and brutally murdered by criminal elements a few weeks ago.

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