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Armed men gun down police officer in Anambra

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Unknown gunmen have killed a mobile policeman in Eziama-Uli, in Ihiala local government area of Anambra State.

According to TheHeute understands that the victim was one of two mobile police operatives providing security for a team of health officials conducting vaccination exercises at Eziama-Uli Health Centre.

The unknown gunmen stormed the health center and opened fire on the two police officers, killing one of them.
The second mobile cop was said to have gotten away.

According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen banned residents from holding any social event, warning,

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“You people should not be celebrating while our leader, Nnamdi Kanu is languishing in DSS detention.”

Eziama-Uli is one of the border towns of Anambra State close to the Orlu area of Imo State.

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42,000MT of grains ready for distribution, FG declares

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The Presidency on Friday revealed that the 42,000 metric tonnes of grains it promised for nationwide release two weeks ago are being bagged for distribution.

It added that the remaining 60,000 metric tonnes of grains would be purchased from the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria.

Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, revealed this in a statement he signed Friday night titled, ‘Update on Tinubu administration’s efforts to ramp up food supply in the country’.

As a temporary response to the nation’s growing food crisis and the rising price of commodities, President Bola Tinubu, on February 8, ordered the immediate release of 102,000 metric tons of various grain types from the Strategic Reserve and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria.

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Deliberations began in earnest after angry youths and women took to the streets of Minna, the Niger State capital and Kano to protest what they described as the rising cost of living in the country. Similar protests also erupted in Ondo State, Nigeria’s southwest.

Giving updates on the strategy, the Presidency said, “The Tinubu administration through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is in the final stages of releasing 42,000 metric tonnes of assorted food commodities to support the vulnerable population across the country.”

“The grains in seven locations of strategic reserve are now being bagged for onward delivery to the National Emergency Management Agency.”

Explaining reasons for the delayed distribution, Onanuga stated, “The need to bag the grains, caused the delay as the bags were freshly ordered by government,” adding that, “Nigerians will not need to pay for the grain bags, as they are free.”

This will be complemented by the 60,000 metric tonnes of milled rice to be purchased by the Federal Government from the Mega Rice Millers, explained the Presidency.

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Citing remarks by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, it said with the announcement of the impending releases of food commodities from the Strategic Reserve, there is a noticeable reduction in commodity prices across major grains markets in the country.

At the emergency meeting on February 8, the FG had revealed plans to inject a yet-to-be-disclosed amount of capital into dry-season farming to ensure a year-round food supply.

Idris explained, “There is a directive to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to invest massively in conjunction with Nigerian farmers and other producers so that we can have a better season coming up shortly.”

Giving updates on this, Onanuga said the first phase of the Dry Season Farming under the National Agricultural Growth Scheme Agro-Pocket (NAGS-AP) Project kicked off in November 2023.

“It focuses on the cultivation of wheat across 15 wheat-producing states, covering 118,657 hectares and involving 107,429 farmers. The fields are green now and harvest will commence in a matter of weeks”, Kyari said.

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“There are fantastic reports of the growth of wheat from Jigawa State, which is now targeting harvest from about 50,000 hectares, 10,000 hectares more than initially allotted under the programme,” noted Onanuga.

The Presidency also said Phase 2 of the Dry Season Farming will commence soon, across all 36 states and the FCT.

“It will cover rice, maize, and cassava. For rice, the target is 250,000 hectares involving 500,000 farmers with the expected output of 1 million metric tons of paddy rice.

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“For maize, we are cultivating 55,000 hectares with 110,000 farmers thereby adding 165,000 metric tons to national maize production while for cassava, we are doing 35,000 hectares with 70,000 farmers to produce 525,000 metric tons of cassava.

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N10bn fraud: Court grants ex-Kwara gov N50m bail

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A Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State, has given a N50m bail condition for the embattled former governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, after he pleaded not guilty to 12 counts bordering on alleged mismanagement of public funds to the tune of N10bn.

The Ilorin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Ahmed before Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court in Ilorin on Friday.

The immediate past governor of Kwara State has been in the custody of the EFCC after being initially invited for questioning on Monday.

Among the charges against the former governor is the use of N1,610,730,500.00 meant for the security and running cost of the Government of Kwara State, in chartering private jets for local travels, on different occasions through Travel Messengers Limited, while he was governor between 2015-2019.

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Another charge against the governor was the conversion of the sum of N411m meant for the provision of security in the state between January and December 2018.

Also named as second defendant, was former Kwara state Commissioner of Finance, Ademola Banu, who, in a statement by EFCC Director of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, is facing a 10-count charge “also bordering on mismanagement of public funds while he served under Ahmed’s administration as commissioner for finance”.

According to the statement, when the matter was called, EFCC’s lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed the court that Banu jumped an administrative bail granted him by the EFCC and efforts to arrest him had proved abortive.

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He urged the court to rely on Section 83 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, to issue a summons against his surety, Salami Bashiru Ola and/or a warrant of arrest against the second defendant (Banu).

The defence led by Kehinde Eleja, SAN, did not put any defence in favour of the second defendant, as he said that his appearance was for the first defendant. In a short ruling, Justice Anyadike issued a bench warrant against Banu.

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“After listening to the arguments and counter-arguments of both counsels, Justice Anyadike admitted the first defendant to bail in the sum of N50m, with two sureties in like sum.

“According to the judge, the sureties must deposit their passports with the court’s registrar. One of the sureties must have a landed property in Ilorin with the title documents of the property deposited with the Registrar of the Federal High Court,” the EFCC state read in part.

Justice Anyadike thereafter ordered the defendant to be remanded in EFCC custody pending the perfection of his bail terms, while the case was adjourned to April 29th and 30th, 2024 for the commencement of trial.

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FG plans cooking gas export ban to crash price

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The Federal Government is to stop the exportation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly called cooking gas, in a bid to increase its volume domestically so as to warrant a crash in price.

It stated on Thursday that LPG producers in Nigeria and key stakeholders in the industry had been told to stop exporting the commodity out of Nigeria, following the recent jump in the cost of cooking gas.

Although the volume of LPG consumption in Nigeria depends on the specific timeframe, figures obtained from the Nigerian Midstream Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority indicated that in 2022, the total cooking gas consumption across the country was 1.4 million metric tonnes.

Data from the agency put total domestic production during the review period as 600,000MT, while imports accounted for 800,000MT.

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In 2021, total consumption was estimated at around 800,000MT, as domestic production was about 300,000MT, while the volume that was imported in that year was put at 500,000MT.

Cooking gas consumption has been increasing significantly, with ambitious targets to reach five million metric tonnes by 2029, as LPG dealers stated that though Nigeria exports the commodity, the country relies heavily on imports to meet domestic demand.

This implies that the Federal Government could stop the export of over 600,000MT of cooking gas based on its drive to crash the price of the commodity locally.

Findings showed that the cost of refilling a 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and some other states had climbed to about N18,000. It was specifically N17,500 in Abuja on Thursday, a product that sold for less than N9,000 in November last year.

LPG dealers under the aegis of Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers had predicted mid last year that a 12.5kg cylinder would cost N18,000 going by the incessant hikes in its cost.

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To tackle this, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo, constituted a committee in November 2023, headed by the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Farouk Ahmed.

But up till today (Thursday), the cost of the commodity has maintained a northward movement, as many LPG users are gradually shifting to the use of charcoal.

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But while speaking on the sidelines of the internal stakeholders’ workshop in Abuja on Thursday, Ekpo stated that the Federal Government had asked LPG producers to stop exporting the commodity.

He named some international oil companies including Mobil, Shell and Chevron as producers, stressing that the government was interfacing with them to crash cooking gas prices.

In November 2023, a kilogram of cooking gas was about N700, but the product is now sold at about N1,400/kg. Some operators stated that the cost would increase further if the government fails to intervene.

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Ekpo said, “With the issue of gas, you have seen the demonstration of the Federal Government by withdrawing all taxes and levies from the importation of gas related equipment. It is a big incentive.

“On the issue of LPG (cooking gas), we are interacting with the critical sectors to ensure that there is no exportation of LPG. All LPG produced within the country will have to be domesticated. And when this is done, the volume will increase and, of course, the price will automatically crash.

“I’m in contact with the regulator, NMDPRA, we have meetings almost on a daily basis and with the producers of the gas like Mobil, Chevron and Shell. So there is that hope that things will turn around.

“And that is also why we are having this engagement to know exactly what the problems are, so that we can address them once and for all.”

When told that the removal of Value Added Tax on LPG seems not to be reflecting on the cost of the commodity, the minister stated that cooking gas investors were trying to maximise their profit from the sale of the product.

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“Excuse me, it is not going to reflect that way. We are dealing with human beings. A policy has been put in place and these people, the investors, want to maximise the profit that they are going to get from it all.

“So at the end of the day we had to come in, which is why you have the regulator. We are interfacing with them to make sure they crash the price. We are meeting with them on a daily basis,” Ekpo stated.

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It was reported in December 2023 that the Federal Government had exempted the importation of LPG and its equipment from the payment of customs duty and Value Added Tax, as the move was expected to result in a drop in the cost of cooking gas across the country.

This was disclosed by the Federal Ministry of Finance in a letter (dated November 28, 2023) to the Special Adviser to the President on Energy; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service; and the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, signed the letter.

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Meanwhile, when asked on Thursday to state when government vehicles would start running on Compressed Natural Gas as always championed by the government, the gas minister stated that he would speak on this later.

“The Presidential Initiative on CNG was set up before the inauguration of the ministers, but I’m interfacing with them. The Federal Government committee is working towards realising the goals. So the moment I get a clearer picture about it I will address you accordingly,” Ekpo stated.

Nigeria has over 208 trillion standard cubic feet of gas reserves and is now viewed as a gas-rich nation.

But most of the country’s gas resources remained untapped due to several reasons such as lack of investments in the sector, the shift from fossil fuels, policy issues, among others.
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Ekpo was also asked whether the government would allow operators in the sector to run most of their transactions in naira, as against the popular practice of dollar transactions, and he said the matter would be discussed at the meeting by stakeholders.

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“If you were there when the director on gas was presenting what we discussed during the stakeholders meeting on February 6, 2024, it (the concern) was presented, and I will have the views of the implementers and regulators today. Then from there we can take a decisive decision on how to address it,” the minister stated.

Earlier during his speech at the workshop, he said the aim of the event was to reposition the Nigerian gas sector for optimal performance, in line with President Bola Tinubu’s agenda to unlock Nigeria’s abundant gas resources for economic development and poverty eradication.

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“This is the second in a series of engagements with stakeholders in the gas sector, the first being the consultative meeting I held with external stakeholders in the gas sector on February 6, 2024 which provided a platform for me to hear from the various associations and groups operating across the gas value chain with a view to understanding the pain points of the industry operators.

“It is my expectation that having heard from the operators in our industry, we as policymakers, regulators and policy implementers will internalise the feedback from our stakeholders and customers to proffer workable solutions to tackle the issues bedevilling our nation’s gas sector.

“With over 208 trillion standard cubic feet in proven gas reserves, Nigeria has no business with energy poverty, and it is imperative for us to rise up as a people to tackle these challenges head-on,” Ekpo stated.

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He stated that as part of efforts to ensure a high level of performance and accountability within the Federal Government, the President, through the office of the Special Adviser on Policy and Coordination, had released the Presidential Priorities and Ministerial Deliverables for 2023 – 2027 to create a performance tracking mechanism for the Minister of Petroleum Resources and relevant agencies.

“The theme for this workshop – ‘Harnessing Nigeria’s Proven Gas Reserves for Economic Growth and Development,’ is very apt and provides a platform for us to galvanise action and take the necessary steps to release this nation’s abundant gas reserves to accelerate our industrialisation and develop the economy for the good of our teeming population,” Ekpo stated.

The Chief Executives of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Ahmed Farouk, and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Gbenga Komolafe, were in attendance at the internal stakeholders’ workshop on Thursday.

Representatives from other agencies under the petroleum ministry such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, directors from the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, among others, were also in attendance.

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