By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The federal government has slammed some Nigerians criticising the military over the disappearance of a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, while addressing reporters on Tuesday, described the act as unpatriotic and “abhorrent.”
According to him, this should be condemned because “no patriotic citizen will denigrate his or her country’s military for fighting to protect the nation’s territorial integrity and ensuring peace and security.”
He said those who did this are not likely to be “trueborn Nigerians,” noting that the disappearance of the NAF aircraft is not what should be gloated about.
Mr Mohammed said the missing aircraft “has once again accentuated the huge sacrifices being made by our men and women in uniform to keep our country safe and to make sure we sleep well at night.
He said “while we await word from the Air Force on the ongoing search and rescue efforts,” Nigerians should continue to “support our troops and to continue to remember them in their prayers. This is the least we can do to show appreciation to these patriots.”
The Minister said the “federal government condoles with the Nigerian Air Force on the disappearance of one of its fighter jets involved in the war against insurgency.”
“Every day, these valiant men and women put their lives on the line, in the ultimate act of sacrifice and patriotism, for the sake of our nation.
“When they leave their homes, there is no guarantee they will return. Yet, they soldier on! This is one of the reasons why we launched a national campaign to seek support for our military and other security agencies in February 2019,” he added.
While commenting on the attack on police formations and the freeing of inmates in Imo State on Monday, the Minister said it was the “most unfortunate, dastardly, condemnable and unacceptable.”
“This attack fits into the growing pattern of inexplicable and anarchical acts by some malcontents, who seem bent on triggering chaos across the land,” he said.
According to him, all persons of goodwill, especially the traditional, religious and political leaders, must “speak up against these anarchists before they throw the country into chaos.”
“Nigerians must fish out those who are acting as ‘agent provocateur’ for reasons best known to them. We must not allow them to win,” he stressed.
However, he noted that “the federal government is resolutely tackling the insecurity in the country and I can tell you the situation will improve drastically in the days ahead.”
“Our security agencies, acting on the directives of Mr President, are taking concrete actions that will significantly reduce the level of insecurity nationwide, and citizens will feel the impact of the security agencies’ actions in the days ahead.”
Nigerian Navy Acquires Tools to Fight Crude Oil Theft
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Navy has acquired 172 patrol boats, four helicopters, four ships and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles to aid its fight against crude oil theft and sea piracy within the country’s territorial waters.
This was disclosed by the Navy spokesperson, Mr Suleman Dahun, who noted that the agency has made significant progress in the recapitalisation of its fleet, with dozens of vessels commissioned since 2020 and more on the way.
These acquisitions, according to the Nigerian Navy, came as the service attempts to deal with a continued spate of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as oil thieves and other criminals in the Niger Delta region.
Mr Dahun, in a statement, said that France’s Ocea shipped the third and fourth C-Falcon interceptors (P273 and P274) to Nigeria via cargo ship earlier this month, explaining that the first two (P271 and P272) were delivered at the end of 2020.
“Over the last eight years, Ocea has supplied one FPB 98 Mk I patrol vessel, eight FPB 72 Mk II and two FPB 110 Mk II patrol vessels to Nigeria. Ocea also won three tenders for two additional FPB 110, one OSV 190 SC-WB and four C-Falcon vessels.
“The two additional 35-metre FPB 110 boats were delivered by the end of 2020. In September last year, Ocea launched a new hydrographic survey ship, the Lana, which is expected to be delivered later in April 2021.
“The Nigerian Navy is also expecting four 17 metre Suncraft Manta boats from Malaysia (these were built in 2020) while Damen is set to deliver two 40 metre fast patrol boats. The Damen boats are being built at its facilities in Vietnam.
“On the smaller end of the scale, Suncraft has supplied 25 of its 9.5 metre long rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) and 15 of its 8.5-metre RHIBS. Another 90 small boats are either expected or have been delivered to the Nigerian Navy,” he stated.
The Nigerian Navy said acquisitions include locally manufactured vessels, as indigenous construction of a third 43-metre Seaward Defence Boat and two logistic supply houseboats at the Naval Dockyard Limited and Naval Shipyard Limited, were in progress.
“These vessels were expected to join the service in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, about 170 riverine patrol boats were built in Nigeria and more acquisitions are planned.
“On the aerial side, the Nigerian Navy has taken delivery of a single AW139 helicopter from Leonardo Helicopters and is in the process of procuring 14 unmanned aerial vehicles, to enhance response capability, through South Africa’s Epsilon and CACTIC in China.
“These are expected to be delivered within the current year. Over the last six years, the Nigerian Navy has acquired a total of 378 platforms, including 172 patrol boats, 114 RHIBs, two Seaward Defence Boats, 12 Manta class boats, three Whaler boats, three tugs and two barges.
“Other platforms acquired included 22 fast attack boats, 14 UAVs, four helicopters, 14 River Town class boats, 12 houseboats and four capital ships,” he said.
TAWN Echoes Determination to Fight Poverty
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A non-government organisation known as The African Women Network (TAWN) has reaffirmed its determination to help eradicate poverty among women.
Recently, the group, which was established to help empower African women, organised a free skills acquisition programme at the Waterside community in the Ogba area of Lagos State.
The event was part of activities rolled out to celebrate the 2021 International Women’s Day (IWD) themed Choose to Challenge.
President of TAWN, Mrs Pat Okeahialam, while speaking at the programme, noted that the theme for IWD this year was particularly profound for TAWN as the group remains determined to show up all forms of unfair practices against women in the society even as it remains resolute to impact women with different skills that would benefit them economically.
On the free acquisition programme, she said TAWN was very passionate about women and is desirous to see women, no matter their status in society, excel in their chosen profession using their talents or acquired skills.
It is that passion to help women fight poverty, injustice, diseases, idleness, inequalities in societies that underscored the free training for women in the Ogba community, she stated.
“At TAWN, we believe that people are the greatest asset we have and the greatest infrastructure that we build upon, especially the women.
“And that is why we are determined to ensure that every woman and youth benefit from the policies and programmes of TAWN. We hope to empower women across the continent through targeted initiatives,” Mrs Okeahialam said.
Participants were taught different skills they could immediately use to financially empower themselves and their families like bead making and liquid soap making, handled by Mrs Blessing Njideka Adebola.
Balloon decoration and yoghurt making were handled by Mrs Okeahialam, while tie & dye was taken by Mrs Iyobosa Ikade, the arts teacher in American International School, Lagos.
The beneficiaries of the training commended TAWN for the laudable initiative, assuring that they would utilise those skills because they are very relevant to their financial stability and growth.
Mrs Bernice Mbaolu, who spoke on behalf of the participants, said, “God bless you. We are so grateful for what you people have done for us today.
“What you have taught us can never be forgotten by us. With these new things we have learnt today, we will be able to help our husbands; we will no longer depend on our husbands or children for everything. We can make a living from these skills. Thank you very much.”
Alleged US Terror Watchlist: Pantami Reacts
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Nigerians woke up to reports on social media alleging that the country’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Ali Pantami, has been put on the United States terror watchlist.
According to the reports, the Minister got into trouble with the world power because of his alleged support for known Al-Qaeda members as well as the late Mohammad Yusuf, who is believed to be the founding leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Mr Pantami, before he was appointed as Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, was a well-known Islamic cleric, who worked in Saudi Arabia at the Islamic University of Madinah as Head of Technical Writing.
He studied Computer Science at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, graduating in 2003 and then obtained an MSc in 2008 before securing a PhD from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland.
He is also trained on Digital transformation at Harvard University, USA, then Management Strategy in both, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Institute of Management Development in Loussaune, Switzerland. He was also in Cambridge University for Management Programme, among others.
Reacting to the reports, after one of the publishers retracted the story, the Minister said his lawyers would take legal action on those who published the defaming article.
“Your retraction through your independent investigation has been noted. However, investigative journalism requires the investigation before publishing, not after.
“Further, major publishers will meet my lawyers in the court on this defamation of character.
“My lectures against the doctrines and all other evil people have been available for over 15 years, including debates that endangered my life against many criminals in Nigeria. If you can’t understand Hausa, get an objective Hausa speaker to translate for you objectively.
“On the issue of NIN-SIM verification to fight insecurity, there is no going back. Our priority as a government based on the provision of our constitution 1999 (as amended) Section 14(2) is security, not just economy. For sure, [there is] no going back at all. Let the sponsors continue.
“FYI (for your information) all, by the Almighty, no amount of intimation will stop @IsaPantami from implementing the good policies of President Muhammadu Buhari on security.
“Finally, if you are yet to verify your SIM using NIN, do it very soon, before our next action. Criminals are feeling the heat,” Mr Pantami said.
Cross River Earmarks N100m to Generate Electricity from Boreholes
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Cross River State Government has announced the sum of N100 million as a research grant to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) for the generation of electricity from boreholes.
This was announced by the Governor of the state, Mr Ben Ayade, over the weekend, explaining that the project would be jointly undertaken by NASENI and the state-owned Cross River State University.
The Governor, while playing host to the Executive Vice Chairman of NASENI, Mr Muhammed Haruna, said the time has come for the agency to develop a holistic framework to launch Nigeria into the global engineering map.
“NASENI is an agency that is responsible for the science and engineering infrastructure. We must begin to truly develop engineering infrastructure in this country.
“It is a shame that as a country we still import spare parts, it is a shame that you have to take a man from a temperate climate who does not have sun, who is always in the cold to come and tell us how to use our sunlight.
“What a shame that you have crude oil under your earth, yet it takes somebody who comes from a country that does not have oil to tell you how to dig it out, more shameful that you do not even know how to use it. You have to send it out,” he said.
Mr Ayade urged NASENI to set up an office in Calabar, pledging to support with vehicles, office space and a piece of land for a permanent office building.
“We are providing in collaboration with the University of Cross River, the sum of N100 million for the development and generation of electricity from boreholes. I want to also challenge you that from this same N100 million, you should generate electricity for CalasVegas from the Calabar River.
“This is going to be our (Cross River State) patent because the research is being financed by us in collaboration with NASENI.
“So, together, we will hold the baton to be able to ensure that every single home has electricity from simply just taking water from the ground, using that water to move a turbine and the turbine generates electricity and the electricity pumps back the water from the borehole and recirculate,” the Governor stated.
On his part, Mr Haruna assured that NASENI will collaborate with the Cross River Government in its industrialisation drive while appealing to the governor to market the agency to other state governors.
“Your Excellency, be our ambassador, convince your colleagues that what we are doing in NASENI is very important to them.
“We commend you for the massive agricultural and infrastructural investment in Cross River State. You are turning things around, we offer to collaborate with you because it is within our mandate to collaborate with states.
“Most importantly we are willing to work with the private sector in the state to establish manufacturing concerns that are technology-oriented and will generate local employment,” the NASENI boss said.
FG Laments Slow Pace of Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has lamented the slow pace at which the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is working on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line project, urging for the firm to speed up the full completion of the project.
This was made known by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday while inspecting the project in Lagos. He added that the company had given a commitment towards finishing it by end of April.
He said: “Most of the things remaining are minor and it cannot delay the movement of goods. They have promised to finish by the end of the month. I believe them but I want them to reiterate that.”
He said that though the company had shown commitment to the project, much still needed to be done to achieve the target date of completion.
“When we start the Ibadan-Kano rail, it will be a different ball game and we will ensure they keep to plan.
“For Ibadan to Kano, everybody must go according to work plan both in terms of payment, construction, inspection and everything.”
The minister said the current pace of work may delay the inauguration of the project which was slated for April.
“If you look at the level of work, we cannot ask the president to commission this, but once we give CCECC definite time, I know they will speed up.
“There are some minor things they still need to put in place but it is taking them time to do that. Some of those things should not take more than a day or two to put in place; so am not so worried,” the former Governor of Rivers State said.
Speaking on another project under construction, the Ibadan – Kano project, the minister explained that it was dependent on the disbursement of loan by the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank).
The Lagos-Ibadan project was funded primarily through a Naira 408 billion loan approved by the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) in January, alongside counterpart funding worth Naira 72 billion provided by the Nigerian government.
The line is part of a planned $11.1 billion, 2733 kilometres Lagos – Kano standard-gauge north-south railway.
The first 186.5 km section of the project, between Abuja and Kaduna, opened in July 2016. CCECC is constructing the line under an $8.3 billion contract awarded in 2006.
FG to Establish Gas Plant to Boost Electricity in Borno
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government is set to establish a dedicated gas plant to address the lingering power problem in conflict-ridden Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
This was disclosed by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, when he led the management staff of the corporation and other partners on a courtesy visit to the Borno State Governor, Mr Babagana Zulum, at the Government House, Maiduguri.
At the meeting, it was revealed that Maiduguri and its environs had in the last seven years experienced series of power outages due to vandalism and incessant attacks on power installations by the insurgents.
In January this year, electricity supply was interrupted following damages on transmission towers along Maiduguri-Damaturu lines plunging the city and environs into darkness.
The continued loss of power supply has adversely affected small and medium scale businesses and other socio-economic activities.
In an effort to address this lingering problem, the NNPC and its partners in the gas supply value chain have concluded a plan to set up a gas plant to serve the energy needs of the people of Maiduguri and other neighbouring states.
Mr Kyari said the corporation would leverage on existing power infrastructure to deliver the plant in the next four months.
“We are seeing a very short time frame and we think that between three and four months we should be able to put up a power plant in this town that will serve Borno.
“I have the confidence of all of us, the gas suppliers, the potential supplier of the power plant itself and also the distribution company to make sure this thing works, we are counting on your help and support to make sure we deliver,” the NNPC chief said.
Mr Kyari explained that the project is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s cardinal principle of deepening gas consumption in the domestic market across the country.
On his part, the Borno State Governor appreciated the NNPC and its subsidiaries for always identifying with the state during trying moments.
He explained that the provision of sustainable energy is critical to addressing insurgency and other criminal activity in the region.
Governor Zulum promised to provide all the needed support and cooperation to see to the realisation of the project.
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