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Tinubu and the quest to secure Nigeria’s natural resources

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By Temitope Ajayi

For many decades, Nigeria’s move towards rapid development and economic growth was impaired by poor revenue despite the country’s abundant natural resources.

The country’s unsavoury economic situation was also compounded by the almost crippling foreign exchange crisis of the last eight years, accentuated by insufficient supply of dollars into the economy. With demand outstripping supply, the fiscal and monetary authorities have been battling to control the declining value of the naira against the US dollars, which has now hit an all-time low of over N1400 to $1 at the parallel market. The local currency, at the official window, oscillates against the dollar between N800 and N950 depending on demand.

While the supply of US dollars has been grossly inadequate, largely because of our import dependency, the increasing demand for the greenback to settle tangible and intangible obligations by businesses; individuals, and the criminal speculation by some Nigerians, continue to exert pressure on the demand side. The volatility of the foreign exchange market has been a source of serious concern for the current managers of the economy who are being assailed by the citizens to rein in the downward spiral.

Amid this unpalatable situation, questions have been asked why a country like Nigeria endowed with vast natural resources in solid minerals, marine economy, forestry, agriculture, and oil among others cannot generate enough foreign exchange. The country is constantly in financial and economic quagmire. In giving answers to the nagging question, many have attributed the decade-long dollar crisis to the monolithic nature of the Nigerian economy that depends, mainly, on oil and gas export to earn foreign exchange. There are those who also posited that the government should put in place deliberate policy actions to diversify the economy. The economic diversification argument may be tenuous because the available datasets show that Nigeria’s economy is highly diversified.

In real terms, the non-oil sector driven by telecommunication, financial services (Banking and Insurance), agriculture, trade, construction, real estate and service industry contributed 94.52 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in Q3 of year 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In comparison, the oil and gas sector contributed the balance of 5.48 percent.

While it is apparent from NBS figures that Nigeria’s economy is well diversified, the source of foreign exchange earnings remains yet undiversified. Over 80 percent of the foreign exchange that comes into the country is from crude oil export, whereas billions of dollars worth of exports in solid minerals, seafood and other forest resources are taken out of the country without record or direct benefit to the Federation account.

To address the problem of natural resources dissipation, illegal exploitation and sabotage of our national economy, President Tinubu at the last meeting of the Federal Executive Council, set up an inter-ministerial committee to draw up plans to maximise the economic potential of the country’s natural resources and secure them from those pillaging them. Members of the committee are Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, Defence Minister, Abubakar Badaru, and Environment Minister, Balarabe Abass Lawal. Others are Marine and Blue Economy Minister, Adegboyega Oyetola, Interior Minister, Tunji Olubunmi-Ojo, and Minister of State Police Affairs, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim.

At the moment, Nigeria can boast of solid minerals deposits worth $700 billion  according to estimates from the Ministry of Solid Minerals, while the Africa Blue Economy Alliance (ABEA), using information from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), puts the value of the country’s unexplored blue economy at  over $300 billion.

Rather than these resources drawing massive foreign exchange earnings into the country, foreigners are carting them away in cahoots with their local enablers through illegal economic activities.

The inter-ministerial committee set up to stem this colossal economic wastage met a fortnight ago to develop a framework that will enable our country to harness the full benefits of its natural resources. The presidential committee which is chaired by Mr. Alake also had an expanded second meeting with Service Chiefs last week Thursday, January 25, 2024.

Giving highlights of the expanded meeting, Mr. Alake emphasised that the committee’s engagement with the Service Chiefs across all security outfits and Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was a follow-up to the maiden meeting of the Ministers to get inputs for developing a workable strategy to effectively secure Nigeria’s natural resources, in line with the Presidential mandate.

On the outcome of the second meeting, which had the Inspector-General of Police Kayode Egbetokun and other security top brass in attendance, Alake said, “We have deliberated exhaustively. We have covered all the issues, all the grounds. Certain decisions have been made, and there is going to be another follow-up meeting because the security agencies are going to give us the framework of execution of our mandate.

“That has been the crux of today’s deliberations. The security agencies, the service chiefs, NSA’s office, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) are going to form a smaller committee to give us the work plan, execution modalities and we will be meeting in another fortnight.”

Apart from the IGP of Police,  Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr. Ahmed Audi,  Air-Vice Marshall Abdulkadir Abubakar and Rear Admiral I. Abbas represented the Chief Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff, respectively.

With the renewed drive to protect the country’s natural resources based on new security arrangements, the nation’s economy will soon witness a new era of increased economic outputs and growth through the full utilisation of her natural resources.

Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

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Ogun Assembly passes Assembly Commission Amendment bill

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The Ogun House of Assembly on Wednesday passed the State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

The passage of the bill followed  presentation of the Committee’s report by the Chairman, House Committee on Establishments and Public Service Matters, Mr Babatunde Tella at plenary in Abeokuta.

Tella moved the motion for its adoption, seconded by Mr Adeyanju Adegoke and supported by all the members.

The bill was later read and adopted clause by clause before the Committee of Whole.

The Majority Leader, Mr Yusuf Sheriff, moved the motion for the third reading of the bill, seconded by the Minority Leader, Mr Lukmon Adeleye and supported by the Whole House through a unanimous voice vote.

Consequently, the Deputy Clerk of the House, Mrs Funmilayo Adeyemi, took the third reading of the bill before the lawmakers.

The Speaker, Mr Oludaisi Elemide, directed that the clean copy of the bill be forwarded to Gov. Dapo Abiodun for his assent.

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Abuja court gives EFCC go-ahead to arrest ex-Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered that a warrant be issued to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for immediate arrest of former Governor of Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling on EFCC’s ex-parte motion, held that after listening to the submission of commission’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, and reading the affidavit in support of the motion, including the exhibits and written address, he was inclined to grant the application.

It was earlier reported that a High Court sitting in Lokoja on Wednesday, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting Bello

Justice I.A Jamil, who gave the order in a two-hour judgment delivered in suit no HCL/68/M/2020, held that infringing on Bello’s “fundamental human rights is null and void.”

The judge, who dismissed the commission’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the court, said: “By this order, the EFCC is hereby restrained from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant.

“This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given.”

However, in a ruling delivered by Justice Nwite on Wednesday, the judge ordered that a warrant be issued to the commission for Bello’s immediate arrest.

He also directed that the former governor be produced before the court on April 18 for arraignment.

“It is hereby ordered as follows:

“That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing and/or issuing a warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant for the purpose of bringing him before this honourable court for arraignment.

“That case is adjourned to 18th day of April, 2024 for arraignment,” he declared.

NAN reports that the EFCC, in the motion ex-parte marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/98/2024 dated April 16 and filed April 17, sought six orders.

These include “an order granting leave to the complainant/applicant to effect service of the charge together with the proof of evidence on the defendant by substituted means to wit; by pasting the charge at the last known address of the defendant within the jurisdiction of this honourable court being: 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja.

“An order directing and/or issuing an arrest warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant for the purpose of bringing him before this honourable court for arraignment.”

In the alternative, the anti-graft agency sought an order issuing and directing the publishing of a public summons requiring/ commanding the defendant to appear before the court on a named date, among others.

The conflicting orders came after the EFCC had appealed against the initial order, and the appeal was scheduled for hearing on April 22 in Appeal No: CA/ABJ/CV/175/2024 between EFCC and Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

The Yahaya Bello Media Office had, in a statement signed by Onogwu Mohammed, alerted the nation to a siege on the former Governor’s Abuja residence.

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Zulum approves N1.3bn scholarship for 997 nursing, midwifery students

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Gov. Babagana Zulum, of Borno has approved the release of N1.3billion as scholarship for 997 nursing and midwifery students from the state.

Zulum stated this on Wednesday while inaugurating the scholarship programme at the College of Nursing and Midwifery, Maiduguri.

He said that out of the 1,080 nominations, 40 from each of the 27 local government areas of the state, 997 qualified to benefit from the scholarship.

He also announced that the 997 beneficiaries of the scholarship would receive automatic employment after graduation.

The governor said that the support was to encourage the students to complete their studies so as to bridge the workforce demand in the state’s healthcare system.

“The government has allocated  N1,305,189,000 for scholarship, with a breakdown of N124,149,000 earmarked for tuition fees, the remaining N1,181,040,000 will be disbursed as monthly stipend of N30,000 to each beneficiary throughout their studies,” Zulum said.

He added that N201 million bursary allowance would be given to 2,010 nursing and midwifery students who did not benefited from the scholarship, and directed that each of them should receive N100,000.

Zulum, who stated that ongoing construction of two colleges of nursing would be completed this year, inaugurated a lecture theatre complex and a 3,000-capacity multipurpose hall at the college.

Earlier, Lawan Wakilbe, the Commissioner for Education, said that the government had approved over N6 billion scholarship, out of which about N2.7 billion was disbursed to students from the state studying in higher institutions across the country.

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