Local Calabar news, Nigeria
Akpabio Denies Saying 60 Per Cent Of NDDC Contracts Given To Lawmakers
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has denied accusing members of the National Assembly of collecting 60 per cent of contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Akpabio in a letter read on the floor of the House during plenary by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, claimed to have referred to old contracts awarded by the NDDC, which had not been paid for and some of which are part of the constituency projects of the lawmakers.
He said the only reference he made to 60 per cent during his presentation before the NDDC committee on Monday was in response to a question by a member of the committee.
According to the minister, the member had sought to know whether a medical director can serve as an Executive Director, Project, to which he responded by saying that since 50 to 60 per cent of NDDC contracts were medical-related, there was nothing wrong in a medical director serving in that capacity.
The Speaker said Akpabio’s response would be referred to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges to look at the merits of his arguments.
The House had earlier initiated moves to sue Akpabio for perjury.
Policeman Killed As Gunmen Abduct Four Chinese Workers In Cross River
Gunmen have kidnapped four Chinese construction workers in Cross River State.
The police spokesperson for the state, Irene Ugboh Itohan, confirmed the incident to the BBC.
She said a policeman working with the Chinese nationals was killed during the abduction which happened near a quarry site in the remote area of Akampka on Tuesday night.
Security personnel have been deployed to search for the expatriates.
It is not yet clear why the gunmen seized them, but kidnapping for ransom is rampant across Nigeria with both locals and foreigners targeted.
In some cases, the abductors kill their captives if their demands are not met.
Immigration to establish border community committee in Cross River
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Cross River has express its readiness to establish the Immigration Border Community Relations Committee in all border communities in the state.
Comptroller of NIS in the state, Mr James Ezugwu, disclosed this on Wednesday in Calabar during a courtesy visit to the Paramount Ruler of Calabar South, Prof. Itam Hogan.
Ezugwu explained that the committee would bring all the traditional rulers, youths and relevant stakeholders together in border management, security and patrol.
According to him, the committee will be charged with checking irregular migration and all forms of illegality along the border posts through a stronger and collaborative security.
He maintained that the committee would be chaired by the Paramount Ruler of each of the border communities in the state.
“My visit here today is to seek for collaboration between the NIS state command and the traditional institution.
“It’s important that we identify with the people of Calabar South because the area is very important to the NIS because it occupies an important security attraction due to its route to Cameroon.
“The traditional rulers and youths are important to us because the security of the country does not rest on the hands of uniform personnel alone, but in the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders.
“It’s in view of this that we are planning to establish the Nigeria Immigration Service Border Community Relations Committee across all border communities in the state,” he said.
The Comptroller said: “when you are in a place where the waters are closer to other countries, you collaborate with the local authority to ensure legal migration of persons.
“We need to collaborate and get it right so that the people we don’t desire are not allowed into the country. This country is ours and we must do everything to secure it.
“I am appealing to the traditional rulers here to collaborate and help us with intelligence. When we get this information on time, our response time will be faster and we will achieve results,” he said.
Responding, Hogan said the collaboration was a welcome idea, adding that it would serve the interest of Calabar South, the state and Nigeria in general.
“On our part, we will do our best to cooperate with you. Calabar South is the most cosmopolitan local government area in Cross River.
“The border committee you are planning to set up will help us to give you the needed support and intelligence that you require for your operations,” he said.
Newsmen report that the Comptroller in company of some traditional rulers and youth leaders went round some of the creeks in Calabar South for an on-the-spot assessment of the area.
HON. EMMANUEL ISHABOR FLAGS OFF MAIZE PLANTING PROJECT IN OGOJA.
In line with one of his cardinal objectives of repositioning Agriculture and keying into the Green Money initiative of the Governor Ben Ayade led state government agricultural revolution in Cross River State,as well as to reposition the economy of the the people of Ogoja Local Governmemt Area, Hon. Emmanuel Ishabor, the Executive Chairman of Ogoja Local Government Council, flagged off the hybrid maize planting project today, 8th July 2020.
The flag-off which was attended by so many sons and daughters of Ogoja, had in attendance the Paramount Ruler of Ogoja, Ntol George Nsor Ibembem and his council of chiefs, the Vice Chairman of Council, Hon. Sarah Amu, the Leader of the Legislative Council, Hon. Cyril Abang and his councillors, former Chairman of Ogoja Chief Sylvanus Idam, Ogoja Chapter Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Paul Adinye, Dr Ikani Wogar, Special Advisers to the Governor, DGs of Boards, Board members, numerous appointees of State Government, the non-indigene community and representatives of United Nations.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony which took place at the council secretariat, Hon. Emmanuel Ishabor said the maize farming project which is in collaboration with Siga farms limited and Tofamid Farms Limited, is an effort at diversifying economy of the people of Ogoja for growth and sustainability.
He stated that his administration will provide the enabling environment as well as funds, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers needed for local farmers to strive.
Hon. Ishabor stressed the need for the farmers to take the opportunity created by council seriously, stating that committed farmers will continue to enjoy the patronage and support of his administration in bigger and better ways with regard to Agriculture.
On the part of Siga Farms, the Director Mr. Etuki Stephen in his presentation, intimated local farmers that Siga farms Limited, is an Agricultural establishment that aid farmers through government intervention into planting of hybrid maize for cultivation within 90 days.
Mr. Etuki assured farmers of the high productivity level of the hybrid maize and its resistance to pest. He thanked the Chairman for keying into the Federal Government and Cross River State Government Agricultural Agenda, and promised the Council boss of continuous synergy in other agricultural value chain for the people of Ogoja.
Speaking during the occasion, Mr. Woga Celestine, Assistant Manager Tofamid Farms Limited who are the potential buyers after harvest, encouraged farmers to take this gesture by council seriously assuring farmers of Tofamid's readiness to buy as much as 50 trailer loads of Maize every month.
On the part of farmers, Mr Iyaji David Agantem appreciated the Chairman of Council, Siga Farms and of course Tofamid Farms for coming to the aid of farmers at this period, he specifically on behalf of farmers, poured enconiums on Hon. Emmanuel Ishabor for starting in such a good light, assuring him that farmers will do their best not to betray the confidence reposed on them.
High point of the event was the presentation of the hybrid maize to 2000 farmers cut across the ten legislative council wards of Ogoja Local Government Area through their respective councillors.
Mele Kyari And NNPC: One Year After By Reuben Abati
Ayear ago, Mele Kolo Kyari was named as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He succeeded Maikanti Baru, now of blessed memory.
On July 8, 2019, the then incoming GMD made the following promises: (i) There will be no corruption without discretion. We will work with all shareholders within the NNPC group to ensure there is no discretion in the system; (ii) We will build this company to enable it to compete with its global peers. We are not saying we will not make mistakes along the way, but we will not make deliberate mistakes. (iii) We will deliver all our four refineries within the life of President Buhari’s administration. We shall seek strategic partnerships to ensure Nigeria becomes a net exporter of petroleum products.” Within two months of settling down in office, Mele Kyari further reiterated the goals of his tenure. One year later, how has he fared? Is the NNPC better today than it was at the point he took over the helms of authority? Has he been faithful to his promises? This is the focus of this brief, preliminary interrogation of his first year in office. I intend to be fair but I will also raise questions.
Mele Kyari’s main achievement in the last year should be the efforts that he has made to create a peaceful environment for team work, efficient communication and collaboration within and outside the NNPC system. His tenure so far has been without rancor, dispute or the kind of unnecessary drama that characterized his predecessor’s time in office. There was no love lost at any time between Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as Minister of State for Petroleum and Maikanti Baru as GMD of the NNPC. I stand to be corrected. Baru succeeded Dr. Kachikwu as GMD and when Kachikwu became Minister of State, both worked largely at cross purposes. Baru reportedly had the support of the Villa and the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Mele Kyari assumed office in July. In August 2019, President Buhari named Timipre Sylva as Minister of State for Petroleum. Kyari and Minister Sylva seem to have a much better working relationship. Kyari seems to be doing a better job of managing internal politics. He also seems to be doing a good job of managing relationships with stakeholder communities. Within a few weeks of assuming office, for example, he was able to broker peace between Shell/Belema Oil, operators of OML 25 and the oil well’s host community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. Crude oil production activities in the community have since resumed. Brokering peace with oil bearing communities however is a task that the NNPC should remain focused upon. In the absence of a mutually acceptable framework to address the interest of host communities, and the failure of the National Assembly to enact the Petroleum Industry Bill, the people of the Niger Delta will remain aggrieved, and they are not keeping quiet at all. Kyari and the NNPC need to do more in this regard.
Kyari promised transparency and accountability. One year later, he can claim to have scored big in this regard with the release in June 2020, of the 2018 Audited Financial Statement of the NNPC. The statement covered all the 20 plus subsidiaries in the NNPC group. It was the first time in 43 years NNPC accounts would be audited and published for scrutiny. Before then unaudited monthly financial and operational reports were published but Kyari is the first Group Managing Director to subject the accounts to an independent audit. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency International (NEITI) and other industry watchers who had consistently insisted that NNPC’s opaqueness and inefficiency was unacceptable were understandably pleased that for the first time in four decades, the NNPC is willing to render audited accounts. But, ironically, the published audited accounts exposed the very reason why previous GMDs failed to toe the same line. The revelations are damning, if not surprising. It was disclosed for example that the country’s four refineries have all been running at a loss. The Kaduna Refinery in particular did not earn any income during the period of the audit. In 2018 alone, the Kaduna Refinery recorded zero revenue. Zero! And yet it reported an operating cost of N65 billion. What! In other words, Nigeria spent that amount on that refinery and got nothing in return. How about that as a business model?
This question is important. When he assumed office, Kyari promised to fix the refineries before 2023. In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party, promised to fix one refinery per year. Five years later, where are we? The children of the workers in those refineries today, can their own children work there in the future given the present state of the assets? The truth is that government has no capacity anymore to manage those refineries. The thing to do is to release them to the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) for privatization. The point has been well made over the years that if the refineries work and there is efficient local refining of crude, Nigeria would save cost and Nigerians won’t have to pay N143 per litre for petrol!. In a recent report by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), we are told that Nigeria wastes valuable funds importing “low quality” and “dirty” petrol from European refineries whereas it can do much better locally. The report reveals that the bush, illegal, artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta produce even much better fuel. Does this make sense? There is no reason why Nigerians should be placed at the mercy of so-called market realities and made to pay through their nose for a natural resource that is in their own backyard. I have said my bit. But going forward, what is Mele Kyari’s strategy? What does he intend to do?
Mele Kyari promised to increase crude oil production. He has been able to do so. Under his watch as NNPC GMD, in the last year, crude oil production reached about 2.3 million barrels per day at a point. The fortunes of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC), the corporation’s flagship upstream company also improved. NNPC also executed the NPDC OML 65 project which should generate more revenue and create jobs in the areas of operation. This however has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the shut-down of the global supply chain and various industries, oil producers were faced with demand and supply disruptions. In April 2020, OPEC+ agreed to cut global output by a record amount of about 10% of global supply. COVID-19 reduced demand for oil, and drove down oil prices. Storage tanks were full; there were no off-takers. The impact on oil-dependent economies like Nigeria was devastating. Nigeria’s 2020 budget which was benchmarked at $57 per barrel had to be revised more than thrice. Low oil prices meant lower revenue for Nigeria. COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability and fragility of Nigeria’s mono-cultural economy. It is interesting, however, to see the NNPC actively involved in the on-going conversations about how Nigeria now more than ever, needs to address this challenge.
Further, Mele Kyari as part of his one-year score card can include the Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) which was taken in November 2019. The project has been on the table for years. Kyari led the negotiations to a decision stage. The NLNG is one of the most successful business models in Africa. It is expected to generate over $20 billion revenue and over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs. Nigeria may need to consider the same model for moving the NNPC to a higher level. It is also under Kyari’s watch that the AKK gas pipeline project which had been in the pipeline since the 80s was finally commissioned! Kyari also promised in 2019, to leverage on technology and innovation. Our investigation reveals that the downstream arm of NNPC operations – the buying and selling of petroleum products - is heavily digitized under Kyari, resulting in a significant reduction of human interface and bureaucratic red tape. Marketers can now see inventories across 22 depots and make appropriate decisions based on real-time data. NNPC Retail is also digitized to enhance service delivery. While this is another case of promise made and kept, it is worth noting that many stakeholders and observers are uncomfortable with the NNPC’s seeming “monopoly” of the downstream sector, and rightly so. They insist that the NNPC should operate upstream and leave the downstream sector for private investors.
Between 2002 and now, private investors have invested so much in the importation of finished products and the building of tank farms and fuel stations. Their expectation was that government was serious about its decision to deregulate the downstream sector. But today, deregulation is essentially a myth. Shortly after the deregulation plan, the NNPC took over the downstream sector. It began to build petrol stations, and established a retail company. Private sector investors in the downstream sector have since learnt that they cannot compete with the NNPC. They borrow money at high interest rates to do business. NNPC uses government money. To worsen matters, another government agency, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) fixes the price at which marketers can sell. Both the NNPC and the PPPRA exercise a monopoly of discretionary power to the disadvantage of other players in the market. This is probably the reason why other stakeholders, notably Total and Exxon Mobil are cautious. Is this conflict between NNPC mega stations and private fuel stations something Mele Kyari would like to address?
Under him, NNPC has also shown a great level of corporate responsibility. NNPC operations may have been affected by the Corona virus pandemic, nonetheless the corporation has contributed to the efforts to mitigate the impact on the people. This includes the launch of a Petroleum Industry Intervention Fund, which attracted a pledge of N21 billion, and is being used to fund medical interventions across the country’s six geo-political zones: notably the on-going construction of an Infectious Diseases Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State, and partnership with ThisDay Media Group, Sahara Energy, the CBN and others to build the 230-bed ThisDay COVID-19 isolation, recovery and treatment centre in Abuja.
I rate Kyari highly but on the whole, the big elephant in the room at the NNPC is the urgent need for wholesale reform. The institution itself is in need of a shake up and a shake down. A much leaner and efficient NNPC focusing on the upstream sector may be of more strategic value than a corporation that is over-stretched across the oil and gas value chain.
II: Nimi Akinkugbe: Ambassador-Designate and the Indigeneship Question
The protest by some misguided Ondo youths against the appointment of Mrs Nimi Akinkugbe as ambassador-designate must be condemned by all reasonable persons, most especially the entire Ondo state community. The youths reportedly complained that Mrs Akinkugbe (nee Ajumogobia) who is originally from Rivers State cannot fill the slot of Ondo State. Who told them that? Their tribalism is probably helped by the failure of the National Assembly to amend Part II Section 2 of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act which simply says “a married woman shall continue to lay claim to her state of origin”. The proposed amendment to include a married woman’s right to the indigeneship of her husband has been before the National Assembly since 2015! That notwithstanding, it is illegal and unconstitutional to turn any Nigerian into a “foreigner” in any part of the country or to discriminate against persons on the basis of gender. The objection to married women representing their husbands’ states is also utterly against the principles of equity and justice. Persons holding on to warped notions of indigeneship play the politics of identity with public positions. This is the case with the refusal to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State. The excuse is that Justice Ikpeme who hails from Akwa Ibom, although married to a Cross Riverian poses a “security risk to Cross Rivers State.” How? Mrs Akinkugbe who is married to an Ondo indigene and has Ondo children, has received the support of the Ekimogun Round Table and Senator Patrick Akinyelure (Ondo Central). President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Akeredolu and the Senate should uphold her nomination. An author, newspaper columnist and experienced banker, Mrs Akinkugbe is eminently deserving of the nomination to become one of President Buhari’s envoys.
Cross River Doctors Accuse Governor Ayade Of Covering COVID-19 Cases, Declare Indefinite Strike
The Cross River chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association has withdrawn its services from all medical facilities in the state.
This was relayed in a letter addressed to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, by the state chairman of NMA, Agam Ayuk, on Sunday.
The association demanded explanations from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on why the five confirmed cases from the University College Teaching Hospital, Calabar, have not reflected in its daily update of COVID-19.
It also passed a vote of no confidence on the Commissioner for Health, Betta Edu, over alleged unethical handling of COVID-19 testing in the state.
The letter reads, “The association demands explanation from NCDC why the five COVID-19 confirmed cases from UCTH carried out at the NCDC accredited Molecular Laboratory at Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, have not reflected in the daily situation report of NCDC long after results had been transmitted to UCTH since July 1, 2020. Congress demands update of the NCDC situation report as a matter of urgent public health interest.
“Congress demands explanations from NCDC why epidemiology code numbers have to be generated by Cross River State Ministry of Health before results of samples sent by UCTH to an NCDC approved molecular laboratory can be published by NCDC, despite having approved UCTH as an independent test centre.
“The NCDC is put on notice that the Cross River State Government have abdicated her responsibility of contact tracing, treatment and care for the five confirmed cases which may not be unconnected with the delay in publication of the results by NCDC. Congress demands the immediate activation of Adiabo Isolation Centre and commencement of surveillance and contact tracing in the state.
“Congress demands explanation from NCDC, why, despite several complaints of compromised testing in the state, investigations have not commenced on the unethical activities carried out by Cross River State COVID-19 Task Force.
“The association passed a vote of no confidence on the Honorable Commissioner for Health – Dr. Betta Edu, and further referred her to the NMA National Disciplinary Committee and Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for the unethical handling of COVID-19 testing in the state, thus putting lives at risk and bringing the association to disrepute.
“Arising from the meeting, all members of Nigerian Medical Association Cross River State branch in public and private hospitals have embarked on a total and indefinite withdrawal of medical services until NCDC and the state Ministry of Health give urgent and prompt attention to the issues raised.”
Last week, Ikpeme Ikpeme, Chief Medical Director of UCTH had announced that five patients tested positive for COVID-19 in the hospital but the state government accused him of spreading falsehood.