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Opinion: Release Nnamdi Kanu now and declare Biafra

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By Ijeoma Osuji

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a pro-self-government group in Nigeria that seeks to restore the Republic of Biafra, which seceded from Nigeria during the Nigerian Civil War but later rejoined the country. IPOB was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu and Uche Mefor, and Kanu has been its leader since then.

The Republic of Biafra existed as an independent multi-ethnic state led by Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu during the civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of people.

IPOB’s goal is to achieve Biafran independence through a referendum, like how South Sudan gained independence.

The Nigerian government has not agreed to hold a referendum, leading IPOB to use peaceful means such as protests and online platforms to raise awareness. The group has a large following among the Igbo diaspora and within Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, has been illegally detained by the Nigerian government for years despite court rulings calling for his release.

IPOB demands his unconditional release and continues to advocate for the peaceful separation of Biafraland from Nigeria.

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Expatriate Employment Levy: CPPE tasks FG on review to avoid unintended consequences

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The Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE) has urged government to review the Expatriate Employment Levy (EEL) policy and undertake broader consultation to fine-tune it to protect genuine investors.

The Founder, CPPE, Dr Muda Yusuf, gave the advice on Sunday in Lagos, in reaction to the EEL policy.

The government had announced a mandatory annual levy for organisations employing expatriate workers.

The development requires them to pay $15,000 (£12,000) for a director and $10,000 for other employees.

According to the Federal Government, the move is to encourage foreign companies to employ more Nigerian workers.

Yusuf noted that the EEL had the dual purpose of promoting the localisation of skills and economic growth.

He, however, stressed the importance of worrying about the implications of possible diplomatic reciprocity, especially for the Nigerian diaspora community.

He stated that while the broad objectives of the policy were laudable, serious concerns remained about its unintended consequences.

Yusuf noted that there were extant legislations and regulations with similar objectives such as the expatriate quota, National Content Act, and Presidential Executive Orders 3 and 5.

“The expatriate quota empowers the Nigeria Immigration Service to give approvals to companies for expatriate staff engagement only when there is no local capacity. Companies currently pay $2000 per expatriate annually.

“There is the National Content Act for the oil industry which offers tremendous opportunities for indigenous investors to offer services to oil and gas companies.

“Indigenous capacity in the sector had grown remarkably since the enactment of the act.

“The Presidential Executive Orders directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies to give first right of refusal to indigenous contractors, service providers for procurement purposes.

“The point to stress is that implementation of these legislations and regulations has been very weak thus affecting the outcomes. The problem is not lack of policies, but the institutional structure to deliver results,” he said.

The CPPE founder said the timeline for compliance with the new policy was too short, noting that the policy gave barely four weeks for companies to comply.

According to him, for such a major policy shift, companies needed to be given minimum of six months, seeing that the new policy would be very disruptive for their businesses, plans and projections.

“Some of the companies affected are major investors that have investment billions of dollars and have been in Nigeria for decades. This administration, being an investment friendly regime, should give companies more time.

“The country needs more direct investors than portfolio investors at this time. But ironically, both foreign direct investors and domestic direct investors would be more negatively impacted than portfolio investors.

“There are serious implications for diaspora Nigerians as the policy may trigger reciprocal actions from other countries and this may affect Nigerians in diaspora.

“There are currently over 17 million Nigerians in various countries around the world doing extremely well in various fields and this is a pool of very valuable external sector assets for us as country.

“We have the largest diaspora population in Africa and we also have the highest diaspora remittances on the continent, generally in excess of $20 billion. All of these could be at risk as a result of this policy.

“If the reciprocity policy is activated in any of their host countries, the effect on our diaspora citizens will be very devastating,” he said.

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HURIWA condemns Army’s killing of civilians in Delta State

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Expressing deep worries that efforts are not being sufficiently made by the hierarchy of the Nigeria Army to instil discipline and professionalism in the ranks and file and officers, the civil society group-Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) – has described as unwarranted, barbaric,  unconstitutional and deeply disturbing, the alleged killing of two young persons in Okere community of Warri, Delta State on Saturday.
HURIWA, citing available media information, recalled that no fewer than two persons were shot on Saturday at Okere Community in Warri Metropolis of Delta State even as it was gathered the victims were shot by security operatives believed to be soldiers of the 63 Brigade of the Nigerian Army.
The Rights group quoted the media to have identified the  victims of the extrajudicial  execution by soldiers to include Macaulay Uku and another simply identified as Eguono.  Uku, according to various sources, was shot early in the afternoon while Uku was shot later following a disagreement between the soldiers and youths.
The report stated that although the cause of the latest crisis in the Itsekiri enclave of Warri was still shrouded in controversy, sources said it was connected to the visit to the enclave of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III
“I don’t really know what happened but what we heard was that the Olu went to the shrine as part of his visit to Itsekiri communities.”
“One side said at the shrine he tried to dab olive oil but was resisted by youths of the community,” a local source said.
It was, however, not clear how soldiers were deployed to the community.  Brigadier General Sanusi Aliyu, Brigade Commander 63 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Asaba, could not be reached for comment, says the media.
HURIWA which reacted to the incident is calling on the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja to activate transparent mechanisms to fish out the killer soldiers, prosecute them for murder before a court Marshall or a regular court so that it will be known that his leadership doesn’t tolerate extra legal killings of citizens who are supposed to be protected by the security forces maintained with taxpayers money.
HURIWA said also that: “The hierarchy of the Army led by the Chief of Army Staff should take much more than the routine approach towards confronting this latest report of soldiers involvement in unlawful killings of citizens. The circumstances that characterised this latest story of abysmal conduct of some unruly soldiers is such that one begins to ask whether those soldiers were actually taken through the rudimentary training that soldiers ought to have passed through before being handed guns. There is no justification for these killings of very young citizens. These killings are provocative and absolutely despicable. The killers must be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
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COVID-19 Probe: Reps committee directs private airlines to refund N4bn to FG

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives has given a week aultimatum to all private Airline operators  in the country within which to render justifiable evidence  before it on how they expended the N4bn  they collected from the Federal Government as COVID-19 intervention funds or  refund the money to the government treasury
The Committee being chaired by Rep.Bamidele Salam (Osun-PDP) handed down the directive on Friday at the resumed  investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 intervention funds by the Ministries Departments and Agencies MDAs of the Federal Government and others who benefited from the funds
The Committee resolved that “all private airlines that received COVID-19 relief funds designated to support the aviation sector to refund the allocated funds to the federal government treasury, if they fail to give justifiable evidence of how the money was judiciously spent within a week”
The Committee lamented that despite appearing before it,  several of the airlines and industry stakeholders, including Aero Contractors, Azman, Newrest, and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, failed to provide satisfactory explanations regarding the allocation and expenditure of the funds.
The committee emphasized the need   for accountability and transparency in the utilization of public funds.
On its part, Azman Airlines represented by its Marketing Manager, Odum Chizoba Uju admitted receiving N367,935,779.95, purportedly allocated for various operational expenses including aircraft maintenance; spare parts, fueling, Forex purchasing, and insurance premium paid while  the Station Manager of Aero Contractor, Mr. Abdulmalik Musa said the company received N217,345,542.05 from the federal government for the Covid-19 intervention fund.
The representative of the Aero Contractor Airline explained that the fund was used for Airport handling and facility payment, fueling payment, Onboard catering payment, pilot training payments, and lease rental payments.
However in a Sharp reaction  to the  submissions on how they utilised the  funds , a member of the Committee and former pilot with the Nigeria Airforce, Hon. Ojuawo Adeniyi from Ekiti state faulted the submissions,  saying that the services claimed by the operators were applicable only during the regular operations of airlines.
Following this development a motion was moved by a member, Hon. Akiba Bassey   that the amount involved should be refunded to the Federatiom account should they failed to give justifiable evidence before the Committe on the expenditure which was unanimously supported by members.
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