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Nigeria Hunger Crisis Worsens, Hits Lake Chad Basin

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Nigeria Hunger Crisis Worsens, Hits Lake Chad Basin

Nigeria Hunger Crisis Worsens, Hits Lake Chad Basin

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Few days ago, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) raised an alarm of food crisis in northeast Nigeria caused by activities of Boko Haram militants.

It warned then that if nothing urgent was done, it could become worse.

However, on Friday, the FAO further warned that the food security situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin is drastically deteriorating as conflict and instability continue.

The agency has called for swift and decisive action from the international community to protect the livelihoods of millions of families dependent on farming, livestock and fishing for their food and livelihoods.

It said with the next planting season starting in May, and with scarcity of animal fodder and water points during the lean season, it is crucial that crop seeds, tools and livestock support reach families urgently to limit the scope of the deepening crisis that now involves four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across the four countries. Among them are 515,000 children who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a condition which, if untreated, can lead to permanent damage to a child’s development and even death.

FAO is among the UN agencies and governments attending the Oslo Humanitarian Conference today, organized to mobilize international funding for the crisis-struck region, where 80 to 90 percent of people rely on farming, fishing and herding for their livelihoods.

“In the worst-affected areas, famine continues to loom — and millions will remain trapped in cycles of severe hunger if we don’t enable farmers to start cropping now,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, who is representing FAO at the conference. “Our collective efforts cannot be limited to merely avoiding massive famine – they need to allow people to return to a dignified life. And supporting agriculture is the key to both,” he said.

Besides reducing hunger and boosting nutrition, investing in farmers also provides much needed job opportunities that reduce migration and limit the potential for radicalization of unemployed youth, according to Burgeon.

Crisis spilling across borders

Violence related to the armed group Boko Haram in north eastern Nigeria has spilled over to parts of neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin – specifically, Cameroon’s Far North, western Chad and south eastern Niger – with devastating effects on food security and livelihoods.

With the Lake Chad Basin approaching a critical period in the agricultural calendar, FAO is urgently calling for $30 million in immediate emergency support to help farming families in the four countries get ready to plant in the upcoming May planting season and prevent them from slipping into long-term dependency on food aid.

It said a total of $232 million will be needed to secure food production and access to food for three million people in the worst-hit areas over the next three years. The vast majority of the requested funds – some $191 million – is designated for Nigeria, which is bearing the brunt of the crisis.

Violence and displacement drive severe hunger

Nigeria Hunger Crisis Worsens, Hits Lake Chad Basin

Violence has driven millions across the four countries from their homes and hampered access to agricultural lands and assets, creating massive humanitarian needs in an area already struggling with food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation. Host communities, in particular, have been struggling for several years now to feed the displaced as well as their own.

As humanitarian access improves, revealing the magnitude of impact of the conflict, time has come to support both people who remained on their land and those who decide to return to their original livelihoods.

In Borno State alone, the population in crisis, emergency and catastrophe phases of food insecurity (Phases 3 to 5 on the five-tiered scale used by humanitarian agencies) increased from 2 million in August 2016 to 3.3 million in October-December 2016. The worst-affected in this group are not able to feed themselves and have exhausted all resources by selling off their belongings, including seeds, tools and animals. Without intervention, that number is expected to climb to 3.6 million at the height of the lean season in August 2017.

The UN foresees around 120 000 people facing famine conditions in Nigeria. Of this number, the vast majority – some 96 percent — are expected to be in Borno.

Targeting the most vulnerable

Emergency farming assistance must go hand in hand with food assistance for it to be successful throughout the upcoming lean season. To this end, FAO is collaborating with the World Food Programme to ensure vulnerable families — mainly IDPs and host communities — receive food assistance, and at the same time agriculture-based livelihood support in the form of provision of seeds, tools and fertilizer. This way, they will able to restore and protect their livelihoods and farming assets for ongoing food production.

FAO’s long-term strategy for the Lake Chad region puts a special emphasis on supporting refugees, internally displaced families and host communities, as these are the most vulnerable groups in this crisis. Interventions are geared to improving their food security and nutrition and building their resilience so they are better equipped to handle future shocks. In addition, restoring agriculture-based livelihoods will offer a unique opportunity to pave the way to recovery and peace in the affected areas.

The strategy incorporates not only provision of farming and livestock inputs but also technical training, cash transfers, instruction in natural resource management, and support in setting up community-managed funds that can reduce vulnerability to shocks.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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NDLEA Confiscates N75bn Drugs in Three Months

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NDLEA screening

By Adedapo Adesanya

Illicit drugs worth N75 billion have been seized within the first three months of the year by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

Chairman of the agency, Mr Buba Marwa, made this disclosure when he paid a courtesy visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, at the Radio House in Abuja, on Thursday.

In a statement signed by the Minister’s aide, Mr Segun Adeyemi, the NDLEA chief explained that more than 2,000 suspected drug traffickers have been arrested in various parts of the country in the period under review with over 300 convictions secured during the same time frame.

Mr Marwa decried that drug abuse has assumed an alarming proportion in Nigeria, saying there were about 15 million drug users between the age bracket of 15 and 64 – 25 per cent of whom were females.

He noted that NDLEA operatives arrested two traffickers from the Niger Republic and Chad, who confessed to supplying illicit drugs to bandits.

The NDLEA boss sought the collaboration of the information ministry and its agencies to launch a nationwide public sensitisation on drug demand reduction drive, through advocacy programmes in the media in order to curb drug abuse in the country.

On his part, the Minister gave an assurance that his ministry would collaborate with the NDLEA to launch a national campaign against drug trafficking and illicit use of drugs in the country.

“The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will work with you to give maximum publicity to your activities, especially in the area of advocacy,” he assured.

Mr Mohammed added, “To date, we have launched a number of national campaigns. It will not be a bad idea for the ministry, working with the NDLEA, to launch a national campaign against drug trafficking and the use of illicit drugs.

“I will also encourage the NDLEA to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), which has set up Integrity Clubs in secondary schools nationwide, to reach the young ones with its campaign against drug use.”

According to him, the war against illicit drugs and tackling drug trafficking is one of the most important tasks in Nigeria, considering that drug trafficking, money laundering by traffickers, and the use of illicit drugs are closely linked to the nation’s security, the well-being of the citizens, the moral fabric of the society, and even governance.

“It is common knowledge that drug money can be used to finance insurgency and terrorism. A successful fight against drug trafficking will, therefore, help to deny or reduce funding for the insurgency.

“The kind of vicious banditry and kidnapping for ransom that our country has witnessed in recent times cannot be totally separated from illicit drug use and their effects on users who take to crime,” said the Minister.

He commended the NDLEA Chairman for recording impressive achievements in less than three months of his appointment, particularly in restoring the visibility of the agency for local and international partnerships.

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FG Apologises to Nigerians over Poor Electricity Supply

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The federal government has apologised to Nigerians over the poor electricity supply being experienced by them at the moment.

The Minister of Power, Mr Mamma Sale, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Mr Aaron Artimas, said efforts are being made to improve the supply.

He explained that the situation was caused by the breakdown in 13 power generation plants across the country, but assured that engineers were doing everything possible to rectify the issue.

Mr Sale said the faulty power plants affected some National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP) supplying electricity to the national grid.

It was gathered that the Geregu, Sepele, Omotosho, Gbarain, Omuku, Paras and Alaoji integrated power plants are experiencing gas constraints, while the Shiroro plant is experiencing water management issues.

According to reports, the Egbin, Afam, Ibom, Sapele, Ihovbor, Olonrunsogo, Alaoji and Omotosho power plants are down, while the Jebba power plant is currently undergoing annual maintenance.

But Mr Mamman assured that the national grid would be restored to its previous historic distribution peak of about 5,600MW of electricity achieved early this year, so as to relief Nigerians from the current harsh climatic conditions and restore full economic activities.

“The Ministry of Power is not unaware of the current power outages/shortages bedevilling many parts of the country. This unfortunate development has drastically affected Power generation, thus effectively minimizing the national grid.

“In view of this, the Hon Minister of Power, Mr Sale Mamman, regrets this unfortunate situation and offers his sincere apology to all affected Nigerians on the inconveniences the power shortages are causing.

“He assures that the ministry through the appropriate agencies is working assiduously to rectify the technical problems affecting the plants as well as resolving the gas issues to the others,” the statement from Mr Artimas said.

The power situation in the country has been horrible lately, especially in a period the weather has been hot, forcing some residents to run power generating sets.

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ITF Signs MoU to Improve Air Force Research

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Industrial Training Fund ITF

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to boost research and development.

The pact, which will ensure parties work together in an effort to nurture a cooperative relationship among the institutions, is geared towards optimal performance and improved productivity.

Speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, the Director-General of ITF, Mr Joseph Ari, said the MoU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.

He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education, adding that developed nations are where they are today because of such initiative.

“Even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore.

“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a University.

“The ITF is well-positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said

The ITF boss added that “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think of this Memorandum of Understanding because indeed, ITF is where you should be.

“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped its workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” the ITF boss added.

He, however, commended men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.

On his part, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Mr Oladayo Amao, said the Nigerian Air Force is a highly technical service that places technology as the bedrock of all its operations.

Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal Olusegun Philip, the air chief noted that in line with the focus of the federal government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.

“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding.

“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.

“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

Also speaking, the Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Mr Kola Balogun, assured that the deal entered into would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.

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FEC Approves N20.1bn to Equip Customs

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Nigeria Customs Service

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a total of N20.1 billion for the procurement of various operating equipment for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, disclosed this on Wednesday to State House Correspondents at the end of the weekly FEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja and presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The council also approved N539.3 million for the construction of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) building at the Ilupeju Medium and Small Taxpayers’ office, according to the Minister.

The Minister further said that a total of 427 operating vehicles worth N14.55 billion and nine assorted gunboats worth N5.6 billion were all approved for Customs contracts.

“The ministry also presented, on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, a memo that was seeking for Council’s approval for the design, construction and supply of two NC36M patrol boats, in favour of Messrs of Boat Plus Limited, in the sum of N5,062,530,400, inclusive of 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) with a delivery period of 12 months and council approved our request.

“We also presented a memo, again on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, for the approval of council for the design, construction and supply of seven fast assault patrol boats and seven regular patrol boats, in favour of Messrs Siwa West Africa Limited, in the sum of N501,472,471.08, inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT with a delivery period of eight weeks.

“The purpose of the purchase of these two types of patrol boats is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of operations of the Nigerian Customs Service in its bid to control smuggling and also ensure enhanced efficiency in all customs duty operations in the Marine Unit of the Nigerian Customs Service.

“We also presented, again on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service, a request for Council’s approval and council approved the procurement of 427 operational vehicles for the Nigerian Customs Service operations in favour of various contractors in the combined sum of N14.55 billion, inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT with a delivery period of four weeks,” she said.

On his part, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, speaking on behalf of Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba, also revealed that council approved a project for the extension of the University of Ibadan’s library worth N532 million.

“The Minister of Education also presented a memo for the award of contract for the construction and furnishing of the extension of the library of the University of Ibadan. The memo, which was approved, is at the cost of N532,609,000 and with a completion period of 48 weeks.

“It was a memo that was very well received because of the need to actually extend the library facility in the University. For many years, the library of the University of Ibadan had needed real extension, given a surge of the student population,” he said.

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Lagos Charges N1.37m for 2021 Umrah

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2021 Umrah Lagos

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Muslims who wish to observe the 2021 Umrah (lesser Hajj) in Saudi Arabia through the Lagos State government will have to pay N1.37 million.

A statement issued by the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board disclosed that the amount is the least package fees.

“The first package at a cost of N1.37 million includes stay at a 3-star hotel; Sahur (morning meal) and Iftar (evening meal) in Nigerian delicacies; economy class ticket with a reputable airline; executive and convenient local transportation; five days stay in Madinah, including three days isolation period; COVID-19 tests in Makkah and Madinah; visitation to historical sites and two-to-a-room accommodation,” the Executive Secretary of the board, Mr Rahman Ishola, explained.

Mr Ishola further said the Umrah exercise comes up during the last 10 days of the Holy month of Ramadan and has two different packages that the intending pilgrims can choose from.

For the second package, he said pilgrims would be required to pay N2.7 million and comprises accommodation at the 5-star Ajyad Makareem Hotel in Makkah and Coral Hotel in Madinah.

“This is in addition to other benefits contained in the first package like Sahur and Iftar among others,” he added.

The board scribe explained that the increase in fare was due to the strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocols by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, emphasising that the Umrah exercise will hold between April 27 and May 15, 2021, and urged interested Muslims to seize the opportunity provided by the agency to make their payment as soon as possible.

He also encouraged those who had already made initial deposits to endeavour to pay up the balance for the package of their choice and forward evidence of payment (teller/bank receipt) and international passport to the board on or before April 18, 2021, for further necessary action.

Mr Ishola stated that it is mandatory for all the intending pilgrims to get the COVID-19 vaccine before embarking on the pilgrimage, stressing that without the vaccination, they would be denied entry into Saudi Arabia.

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FG to Use Gas to Lift Nigerians Out of Poverty

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government has revealed that it plans to use the implementation of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) to lift no fewer than 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, was quoted as saying in a statement issued on Monday that this would be achieved by creating jobs for millions of young Nigerians.

“Counting the impacts of the programme on our socioeconomic space within the first year of its launching, the administration further stepped up its commitment to industrialising Nigeria through gas utilisation by declaring the year 2021 to 2030 as the Decade of Gas.

“With proven gas reserves of over 200 million cubic feet and natural gas presents an opportunity for the nation to use gas as the catalyst for its socio-economic renaissance,” the Minister stated.

The federal government rolled out the NGEP last year and it involves the conversion of fuel-powered cars and generators from petrol to gas.

Aimed at deepening domestic usage of natural gas in its various forms, the programme aligns with the federal government’s plan to make gas the first-choice source for cheaper and cleaner energy and is expected to deliver at least one million vehicle conversions by the end of 2021.

The Minister oversaw the physical launch of the policy as President Muhammadu Buhari virtually conducted the rollout.

The NGEP seeks to deepen the penetration of gas as a cheaper alternative to petrol for powering automobiles.

The Minister stated that the induction of gas to power automobiles and other engines represented a step in the right direction, as the NGEP is set to create two million jobs annually for the country.

It was revealed that under the directives of the President, Nigeria will continue to strengthen the gas value chain, as a vital tool for transforming the economy.

Gas products to be widely pushed for adoption include Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) also pledged support to the effort of the NGEP, the national oil corporation has established designated NNPC retail filling stations offering free petrol-to-gas conversion services for some cars to enable vehicles to run on LPG or CNG.

There are currently 80 locations in the country capable of fueling the vehicles, and the price of CNG is expected to cost N97 per litre.

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