Abuja-Kaduna train service resumes December 5 — FG

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The Federal Government have announced that services along the Abuja–Kaduna rail corridor would resume on Dec.5.

Fidet Okhiria, Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Thursday that all was set for resumption of the services.

Mr Okhiria, however, advised passengers wishing to utilise the service to commence updating of their mobile app as from December 3, to enable them to successfully book for the ride.

According to the NRC boss, the services will commence with two train rides from Abuja- Kaduna and vice versa.

“AK 1 will depart Idu station at 9:45hrs and arrive Rigasa Station at 11:53hrs.

“KA 2 will departs Rigasa at 8:00hrs and arrive Idu station at 10:17hrs.

“AK 3 will depart Idu Station at 15:30hrs and arrive Rigasa Station at 17:38hrs.

”And KA 4 will depart Rigasa at 14:00hrs and arrive Idu Station at 16:07hrs.

The NRC boss assured its esteemed passengers of the Federal Government commitment to ensure safety of lives and properties on board its train at all times.

NAN reports that the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo , during the test-run of the train Sunday directed that Nigerians without a NIN would not be allowed to board the train.

The minister said the security measures to be put in place before the commencement of services was 90 per cent completed.

“I think we are 90 per cent ready as far as what we are set to do is concerned.

“ The remaining 10 per cent I am sure would be achieved in the next couple of days for full resumption of train services.

“Your purchase of a ticket requires you to provide a phone number and a national identification number in order to profile, because that is the beginning of the security checks.

“So, at any point in time when a train moves from one station to another we know who and who are on board.

“If you don’t have a NIN you are not going to board our train. It is as simple as that.

“If you are a minor, an adult will pay for you and will register for you and an adult can only register for not more than four minors, ” Mr Sambo said.

NAN

Former President Goodluck accepts Africa’s agricultural technology ambassador

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The President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has been accepted as Africa’s Agricultural Technology Ambassador by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

Making the announcement after meeting with the former President in Yenagoa, Bayelsa South-south during the week, the AATF Executive Director, Dr Canisius Kanangire, said the appointment was informed by the former President’s track record of championing agricultural transformation on the continent.

AATF, in a statement by its Communications Officer, Alex Abutu, described Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as a Nigerian politician who served as the President of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015 and had since been at the forefront of agricultural improvement on the continent.

In his acceptance speech, Dr Jonathan said that as a former Head of State, his interest in serving the continent is driven by the interest he has in driving food security and transformation for a better quality of life in Africa.

Kanangire said: “Dr Jonathan’s commitment to uplift agriculture on the continent was exemplified by the Agricultural Transformation Agenda he pursued and diligently implemented in Nigeria during his tenure as President.

“The agenda targeted increasing efficiency and profitability in about 12 selected key agricultural commodities, which include: cotton, cocoa, cassava, oil palm, maize, soya bean, onion, rice, livestock, fisheries, tomato and sorghum.

“Under the agenda, about 3.5 million new jobs were created based on the selected key products, while many more jobs were created from other value chain activities, with over N300 billion of additional income in the hands of Nigerian farmers and rural entrepreneurs. In addition, over N60 billion (US$380 million) was injected into the economy from the substitution of 20% of bread wheat flour with cassava flour.

“Another critical element of Dr Goodluck’s agricultural legacy as President of Nigeria was his ability to cut down on the importation of food that can be produced locally, thereby, saving the nation well over N1.3 trillion per annum on the importation of foodstuff.

“Dr Jonathan was able to demonstrate in Nigeria that agriculture should be treated as a business and supported by relevant policies for the improvement of the livelihoods of our growing farming population.”

AATF’s boss further said that Dr Jonathan is a Pan-Africanist who had stood for the eradication of rural poverty and the peaceful coexistence of the continent, hence his involvement in peaceful conflict resolution on the continent.

“As AATF’s Ambassador, Dr Jonathan will advocate for the advancement of Africa’s agricultural goals and economic growth through the application of innovative technologies and enhanced investment in agriculture. AATF is honoured to have the former president as our Ambassador, whose role will accelerate ongoing efforts to improve our agricultural terrain.”

Biden signs emergency law forcing US rail unions to accept wages deal

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US President Joe Biden signed into law Friday a rare intervention by Congress forcing freight rail unions to accept a salary deal, avoiding a possibly devastating strike — but putting the pro-union Democrat in an awkward political position.

Biden signed the law in a brief White House ceremony only a week before unions who had rejected the deal were expected to have gone on strike, threatening crucial supply chains across the world’s biggest economy.

The deal delivers a hefty wage increase but four of the 12 unions involved refused to accept it because there was no agreement on giving workers paid sick leave. Congress acted under a little-used power to resolve disputes involving railroads.

As he signed the bill, Biden said Congress had “avoided what, without a doubt, would have been an economic catastrophe.”

“Without freight rail, many of the US industries would literally have shut down,” Biden said, adding that his advisors feared the loss of three quarters of a million jobs within two weeks if the strike had gone ahead.

The episode was awkward politically for Biden.

Trade unions constitute a major element in his electoral coalition and he frequently describes himself as a lifelong union supporter and the “most pro-union president” in history.

That brand has taken a hit from the emergency bill signing, with some on the left accusing Biden of having sold out. After the Senate came down decisively in favor of the rail management, one union leader called the situation “horrific.”

The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen alleged that Senators had “demonstrated they are for the corporate class.”

The issue could come up Friday when Biden does voter outreach during a visit to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union in Boston.

– No choice –

Judging by the overwhelmingly bipartisan support in Congress for forcing through the deal, the political hit for Biden will be contained. The House easily passed the bill and on Thursday the Senate, where usually Biden’s bills are lucky to scrape through with the one-vote Democratic majority, passed 80-15.

Biden said he had no choice but to act quickly in the face of what the White House warns would have been a crippling strike right when the US economy is showing signs of stabilizing in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

In his comments at the signing ceremony, Biden said the wages deal — which his administration was heavily involved in crafting — was “a good product.”

He acknowledged the lack of sick leave but said “I’m coming back at it” with “more work to do.”

Above all, Biden said, the forceful intervention by Congress and the White House would benefit the country as a whole.

“They did one heck of a job in averting what could have been a real disaster,” he said.

Biden said “765,000 Americans, many of them union members themselves, would have been put out of work within the first two weeks of this strike alone.”

In addition, the breaking of supply chains for basic materials like chemicals and farm supplies would put clean drinking water and food at risk.

“We’ve spared the country that catastrophe,” Biden said.

Top African prospects for NBA Academy Women’s amp

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The National Basketball Association, NBA Africa yesterday announced that the fourth NBA Academy Women’s Camp Africa would take place from Monday, December 5 to end on Thursday, December 8 at NBA Academy Africa, an elite basketball training center in Saly, Senegal, for the top high-school age prospects from across the continent.

This year’s women’s camp will bring together 25 of the top female prospects from 11 African countries to learn directly from current and former WNBA players and coaches, including Seattle Storm head coach and 2021 WNBA Commissioner’s Cup winner Noelle Quinn (U.S.), 2005 WNBA champion Hamchetou Maïga-Ba (Mali), two-time WNBA champion Taj McWilliams-Franklin (U.S.), 2003 WNBA champion Astou Ndiaye (Senegal), 2021 WNBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings; U.S.), and 2017 WNBA All-Star Jasmine Thomas (Connecticut Sun; U.S.).  The campers and coaches will also participate in life skills programming and leadership development sessions.

“In just a few years, the NBA Academy Women’s program has helped identify and develop some of the best female prospects in the world, many of whom have gone on to attend NCAA Division 1 schools,” said two-time WNBA champion and NBA Elite Basketball Women’s Operations Lead Monica Rogers. “We look forward to building on that success with our fourth NBA Academy Women’s Program camp in Senegal as part of our continued efforts to make basketball more accessible in Africa and provide a predicable pathway for African youth to learn the game and maximize their potential.”

Launched in 2018, the NBA Academy Women’s Program is a series of basketball development camps for top female athletes from outside the U.S. at the league’s academies in Australia, India, Mexico and Senegal. The three previous NBA Academy Women’s Camps Africa were held at NBA Academy Africa in May 2018, November 2018 and November 2019.  Eight former NBA Academy Women’s Camp Africa participants have committed to or gone on to attend NCAA Division I schools in the U.S. 

Nigeria’s representatives, Ayah James, Bright Eze, Franca Iyamah and Patience John would join their counterparts from all over Africa for this year’s camp experience.

Aisha Buhari ‘Bows To Pressure’, Withdraws Case Against Student Critic

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First Lady Aisha Buhari has withdrawn the defamation case against Aminu Mohammed, the student of Federal University, Dutse, who was arrested for allegedly defaming her.

Prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe, told the Federal Capital Territory High Court on Friday that the president’s wife withdrew the case due to the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians.

The first lady has been under pressure since news of Mohammed’s arrest broke last week.

Celebrities, social media influencers, students, politicians, media analysts have been commenting on the plight of Mohammed, who landed in trouble over a comment that the wife of Nigeria’s number one citizen found offensive.

Back in June, Mohammed had tweeted that the First Lady was feeding ‘fat’ on poor people’s money.The tweet, which was posted in Hausa, read: “Su mama anchi kudin talkawa ankoshi.” It loosely translates as “Mama has fed fat on poor people’s money.”

A picture of Aisha was posted with the tweet to match the joke.

After two weeks in detention, Mohammed was arraigned before Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court at Maitama, on Tuesday.

Although he pleaded not guilty, the judge ordered that he should be remanded at Suleja prison in Niger State.

The police said the alleged offence of the 24-year-old student bordered on defamation and cyberstalking, which contravened Section 391 of the Penal Code.

In the one-count charge marked: CR/89/2022, and dated 23 November, the police said “between May and June 2022 within the jurisdiction of this court, did intentionally open a Twitter handle with the name …Catalyst and screenshot the photograph of her Excellency Hajia Aisha Buhari and wrote on it in Hausa language… roughly translated to English language to mean ‘Mama has embezzled monies meant for the poor to satisfaction’ and posted same on your above Twitter handle.. knowing same to be false and capable of affecting her reputation.”

The prosecuting counsel informed Daily Trust that following the instruction of Mrs Buhari, the legal team made an application for discontinuance of the matter.

“The judge magnanimously granted the application and struck out the matter from the court,” he said.

He added that Mrs Buhari stated that she had forgiven the young man as a mother, thus there is an instruction to bring him (Aminu) out of the correctional centre in Suleja.

CK Agu, Mohammed’s counsel, had earlier requested bail for his client to enable him start his final exams on Monday, but the court did not grant the application.

INEC: PVC Collection Begins Monday

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed Monday 12 December 2022 to Sunday 22 January 2022, February 18 for the collection of permanent voters cards (PVCs).

National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC Festus Okoye, announced this in a statement on Friday night.

He said INEC held a retreat in Lagos with all the Administrative Secretaries and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT from 28th November to 2nd December 2022, where the commission finalised the procedure as well as the timetable for collection of PVCs.

“Consequently, the Commission has fixed Monday 12 December 2022 to Sunday 22 January 2023 as the dates for the collection of PVCs in all the 774 local government offices of the commission throughout the Federation.

“The commission also resolved to devolve PVC collection to the 8,809 registration areas/wards from Friday 6th to Sunday 15th January 2023,” Okoye said.

He said those who are unable to collect their PVCs at the local government offices of the commission can do so at the registration areas/electoral wards.

He urged all eligible and valid registrants to collect their PVCs from 9.00am to 3.00pm daily, including Saturdays and Sundays.

He said, “All the RECs and Electoral Officers (EOs) have been directed to convene a meeting with the critical stakeholders in their states and local government areas, including traditional and religious leaders, civil society groups, community-based organisations and the media to brief them on the modalities for the collection of the PVCs in order to sensitise the public and ensure seamless exercise.

“Similarly, RECs and EOs have also been directed to set up help desks to assist registrants with complaints about their PVCs or with the PVC collection procedure for immediate redress.”

Okoye commended the patience and understanding of Nigerians, especially those who registered as voters or applied for transfer/replacement of their cards from January to July 2022.

He assured that in making the cards available for collection, the commission is also working to ensure that the process is simple and hitch-free for Nigerians.

Buhari Fires NIRSAL MD Over N5.6bn Wheat Project Saga

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Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), has been removed from office Daily Trust can report.

https://85c90ee5f156aad7fa784ddf25072e3b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.htmlDaily Trust gathered that the removal of may not be unconnected with multiple allegations of corruption.

Daily Trust had in January this year carried out an investigation on how a multi-billion naira loan guaranteed by NIRSAL for three investor companies for the cultivation to harvest of 20,000 hectares of dry season wheat in Kano and Jigawa was allegedly diverted by the companies in connivance with NIRSAL officials.

Abdulhameed had denied the allegation saying they were mastermind by faceless individuals to tarnish his image and that of the organisation.

However, following the report, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invited him and other officials of NIRSAL for questioning over their roles in the wheat project scandal.Apart from the EFCC, the ICPC and the Police had also launched their investigations into the matter.

Insider sources who confirmed the development said following a directive from the Presidency, the MD was ousted last Thursday afternoon and escorted out of premises shortly after he briefly addressed staff.

Although he was yet to officially handover, a source who wouldn’t want to be named said the Board of NIRSAL was billed to name an acting MD .

Both the MD, Abdulhameed and NIRSAL’s spokesperson, Anne Ihugba, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to them to respond to the development.

INSTALLATION OF FLIGHT SAFETY GADGETS ACROSS NIGERIA’S AIRPORTS

Not relenting in its effort to enhance safety of flight operations in the Nigerian airspace, do you know that the Buhari administration has been installing Lightning Detectors across all our airports?

The installations, which are being done by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) have so far been done at the Kano, Port Harcourt, Illorin, Maiduguri and Yola airports, with the process continuing untill all the airports are safely covered.

Yes, Nigeria is on track!

Jonathan, Kukah, Amaechi, Yusuf Ali, others for unveiling of “The Letterman”

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Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is expected to literarily come alive on Thursday as former President Goodluck Jonathan and other top dignitaries converge on the city for the public presentation of The Letterman, a book on the ‘secret’ letters of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The book, written by the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Musikilu Mojeed, will be unveiled in front of what promises to be a packed audience at Bolton White Apartments in the Wuse Zone 7 District of Abuja.

Aside Mr Jonathan, who is the special guest of honour, an array of other top political, business and government functionaries are expected at the event which has a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Chairman of the Governing Council of Osun State University, Yusuf Ali, as Chairman.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah (book reviewer) and a former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ifueko Omoigui Okauru (who is listed as chief presenter) are also expected at the occasion.

Some of the other dignitaries who have confirmed attendance at the event are a former Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Senator Adelere Oriolowo, former Senator Babafemi Ojudu, a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Asishana Okauru, and a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu.

Equally expected are members of the diplomatic corps, top politicians, governors, legislators, captains of industry, traditional rulers, clergy, media executives and practitioners among others.

The Letterman: Inside the ‘Secret’ Letters of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has been described by those who have read it as a trail-blazing literary work.

The book brings to the front burner the place of letter writing in leadership, governance and politics. President Obasanjo seems a perfect pick for this genre of work having demonstrated a consistent penchant for using letters to speak candidly to subordinates, superiors, associates and foreign personalities, not minding the accolades or invectives such letters might generate.

Meanwhile, many respected personalities have poured encomiums on The Letterman as a pacesetting literary work in the country.

Among those who have commended the work are a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku; Bishop Kukah, Omoigui Okauru, Toyin Falola, renowned professor and the Frances and Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin; Dan Agbese, respected columnist and writer, who was also the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Newswatch, a foremost and trail-blazing investigative magazine; and Kadaria Ahmed, founder/CEO at Radio Now 95.3FM Lagos, television host, and former editor of NEXT newspaper.

The Letterman, a 492-page, 25-chapter narrative non-fiction, curates some of the most significant and historical letters written and received by former President Obasanjo, which compellingly tell the story of his life, as defined by and defining of the story of his country, Nigeria and the larger African continent. A number of these letters, written to dignitaries in Nigeria and around the world, have never been publicly seen.

In the words of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Nigeria:

“In the book, The Letterman, Musikilu Mojeed introduces a new genre in Presidential history and record-keeping. No single Nigerian has captured and traversed the memories of Nigerians like President Obasanjo. Straddling generations, famous for his role in the civil war through accepting the instruments of surrender of the Biafran army, noted for having the longest period of service as Nigeria’s Head of State and President, complex, forceful or brash, he stands out as the only person to have put down almost his every thought in writing.

“The Letterman takes the reader through President Obasanjo’s complex, intricate, even serpentine mind, captured by the contents of his no-hold-barred letters. The author has offered readers a precious piece of recorded history that will stand the test of time and occupy a special place in Nigeria’s rather barren shelves of presidential writing.”

FG: Governors Building Needless Airports, Flyover While Rural Areas Have Been Abandoned

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The federal government on Wednesday said the preference of state governors to build flyovers and airports instead projects that can improve life in the rural areas is not helping its programmes to alleviate poverty in the country.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, stated this while reacting to a question after the Federal Executive Council FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He told reporters that 72% of the poverty in Nigeria was found in the rural areas, which he said had been abandoned by governors.

Agba, who said the federal government on its part had done its best on poverty alleviation, added that the priority of governors have not made the citizens to feel the impact of those initiatives and investment that had been done in the area.

He said governors focused on building flyovers, airports and other projects that were visible in the state capitals rather than investing in areas that directly uplift the standard of life of the people in the rural areas.

The minister said states which were in charge of land for agriculture had not invested in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.

He advised governors to focus on initiatives that could pull the majority of the people out of poverty.

When asked to explain what he and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, were doing to address the suffering of Nigerians, Agba said: “Question was, what was the Minister of Finance and I doing with regards to hardship in Nigeria, right. So, suggestion is that both of us are the ones creating the hardship for us to resolve it.

“In the first place. I just returned this morning from Brussels where 106 countries nowadays are 27 countries from Europe and 79 countries from the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific countries. What was the deliberation on? Basically on how should the world over tends to do around food and energy and energy crisis.

“I think that it’s always good for us to put things in the right perspective. Like I say to people, when you say government, we should be able to specify which government we are talking about. Is it a federal government? Is it a state government or is it a local government? Because we all have different responsibilities. And it is for this reason that we last year started some work on the multi dimensional poverty index, for which we recently released the report and it was lunch by Mr. President.

To say in the past, we’ve always looked at monetary poverty. But poverty like we know has different pieces, different intensity and different causes. And it is for this reason, I went around the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, to carry out those survey and to be able to say specifically, where this hardship is.

“The result clearly show that 72% of poverty is in the rural areas. It also showed clearly, that Sokoto state is leading in poverty with 91%. But the surprising thing is Bayelsa being the second in terms of poverty rating in the country. So, you see the issue is not about availability of money. But it has to do with the application of money.

“In the course of working on the national development plan, we looked at previous plans and say why they didn’t do as much as was expected. We also looked at the issues of the National Social Investment Programme.

“At the federal level, government is putting out so much money but not seeing so much reflection, in terms of money that has been put in alleviating poverty, which is one of the reasons the government also put in place the national poverty reduction with growth strategy.

“But if the federal government puts the entire income that it earns into all of this without some form of complementarity from the State governments in playing their part. It will seem as if we are throwing money in the pond. Because the governors basically our only functioning in their state capitals.

“And democracy that we preach about is delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And from our demographic, it shows that the greatest number of our people who live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas.

Right now 70% of our people live in rural areas they produce 90% of what we eat. And unfortunately 60% of what they produce is lost due to post harvest loss and it does not get to the market.

“When we’re talking about food prices, like I mentioned right now as driving inflation, prices of food at the farm gates are low. But when you now take it to the urban areas, you find out that the prices are high due to supply chain disruptions, lack of infrastructure to take them there.

“I think from the federal government side we are doing our best. But we need to push that rather than governors continuing to compete to take loans to build airports that are not necessarily where they have other airports so close to them. Or governors now competing to build flyovers all over the place and we applaud they should concentrate on building rural roads so that the farmer can at least get their products to the market.