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The federal government yesterday approved contracts for three road projects at the total rate of N47 billion including the redesign and reconstruction of Aba-Port Harcourt road. Speaking at the end of seven-hour Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the contract for Aba-Port Harcourt road portion of the Enugu – Port Harcourt road would cost N6.3 billion. He also said FEC approved N22 billion for the reconstruction of 81-kilometre Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway and another N19.392 billion for the repair of 44.625-kilometre Baban-Lamba-Sharam road in Plateau State. That road was first awarded in 2000 and it has since been left uncompleted because there were no budgetary provisions for it. The third approval was for section four of the Enugu – Port Harcourt road, the part between Abia and Port Harcourt, particularly in Port Harcourt that has been problematic and has failed severally. We have a contractor there but we need to change the design because of the storm water drainage needs and the high water tables there so that the road does not fail. So, that requires a revision of the scope of work to include retaining side lanes and drainage facilities in the sum of N6.309 billion,” he said.

Also, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, announced that the council approved N13 billion for the dredging and refurbishment of navigational facilities of Warri seaport in Delta State. The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authorities (NPA), Mrs. Hadiza Bala Usman, who led senior officials of the organisation to FEC meeting to defend the project, said the dredging of escravos channel of the seaport would improve the effectiveness of Warri port and equally expand the utilisation of eastern seaports. She said the plan by NPA towards the dredging of Calabar port had got to an advanced stage, disclosing that previous contracts were terminated for violating relevant procurement processes. While the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said FEC also approved the establishment of the Nigerian Army University in Biu, Borno State, with courses of study to be spelt out and accredited by the National Universities’ Commission.

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) from the initial March 31 to June 30, 2018. The extension, according to the president’s Special Adviser, Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, was spurred by the appeals from professional bodies and individual taxpayers. The statement, which added that no further extension would be approved beyond June 30, disclosed that the president also approved the extension because the Ministry of Finance was convinced that the overall objective of the scheme was to ensure that increased compliance is attained, and additional revenue accrues to government coffers. A fresh executive order would be issued to give the extension a legal force.

EIGHT zonal public hearings are to be staged across the country by the tripartite committee on the new national minimum wage. The hearing will allow stakeholders to make their inputs into organised labour’s fresh demand for N66, 500 monthly salary for the least paid worker. Labour presented its memorandum to the tripartite committee, which was inaugurated on November 27, last year by President Muhammadu Buhari. The 30-member tripartite committee is chaired by a former Head of Service and Minister of Housing, Ms. Ama Pepple. Its members are drawn from the government (federal and state), workers’ unions and employers of labour. The zonal hearing would be conducted in the six geopolitical zones as well as in Lagos and Abuja, beginning from April 23. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, confirmed the upward review of the demand.
Wabba explained that the organised labour considered the prevailing realities including certain variables and current inflation to make an upward review of its demand. The fresh demand is N10, 500 higher than the labour’s initial request. Earlier in February, the NLC made a request to the tripartite committee on minimum wage to increase the wage from N18,000 to N56,000 for the least paid worker.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, yesterday said that President Muhammadu Buhari is the only member of the party who has so far indicated interest to fly its presidential ticket. Abdullahi said they were delighted that President Buhari had finally declared his intention to re-contest for the presidency. He said the declaration had given the party a kind of direction because the 2019 general elections were around the corner. He said the party was initially not too clear about the direction the president wanted its members to go, but that with his declaration, they had seen a clear signal for the way forward. He further said Buhari’s declaration had received spontaneous reaction from the NEC members. He said that it was normal for other people to want to contest for the position of president, but that for now, Buhari was the only aspirant that had signified intention for the number one position. He, however, held that the party’s constitution allowed other members to also express similar interest while the party would finally take a decision.

The People’s Democratic Party said it has uncovered plots by the ruling All Progressives Congress to frame up and humiliate its governors, leaders of National Assembly and some presidential hopeful. The party specifically mentioned the Deputy President of Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu, as well as Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose of Rivers and Ekiti States respectively as some PDP members marked out for humiliation by the APC. Ekweremadu, who is presently standing trial for undeclared asset, has accused former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike and presidential aide, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, of running a smear campaign against him. Also, Wike, early this week, alleged that he had uncovered plans by the Federal Government to use security agencies to set him up anytime he travels abroad. PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that the orchestrated plan by the APC is to use the state apparatus of power to coerce, emasculate and effectively decapitate opposition and other dissenting voices. He said the party was aware of a special presidential committee put up by the APC-led Federal Government to persecute its leaders.
According to him, no fewer than 28 cases have been filed based on trumped up charges, adding that the party was privy “to series of clandestine meetings between agents of the APC and some compromised judicial officers to get conviction at all cost.” Ologbondiyan added that the party has also uncovered plots to embarrass credible individuals in the PDP, known or perceived to be interested in contesting the 2019 Presidential election.

The price of crude oil Wednesday rose to $72 per barrel, its highest in more than three years, after Saudi Arabia said it intercepted missiles over Riyadh, worsening tensions in the Middle East. Also, comments by the U.S. President Donald Trump, who, Wednesday warned Russia that missiles ‘will be coming,’ in Syria after a suspected chemical attack, affected the global oil market. The fallout from new U.S. sanctions on Moscow have rattled investors and fears of military action were stoked after one of Russia’s ambassadors reiterated it would shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria. Trump, who has criticized Russia for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, shot back in a message on Twitter early Wednesday. “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” he wrote in the post. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” he added. With the markets reacting, oil prices rose to their highest in more than three years after Trump’s latest comments.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.43 per cent to $67.10 per barrel while Brent closed at $72.50, up 2.06 per cent on the day.

The Federal Government has made clarification on the confusion trailing the whereabouts of recovered looted funds, insisting that they were being paid into dedicated accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Discrepancies in the figures released to the media by Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, have raised suspicions over the whereabouts of the recovered funds. Magu had announced N739 billion as the amount recovered in the first two years of his stewardship, while Adeosun said records available to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had only N91.4 billion as amount recovered since 2015. She, consequently, requested the EFCC to clarify where the cash recoveries were deposited, with documentary evidence. But Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku, said all stolen public funds recovered so far were paid into special asset recovery accounts with the CBN, which in turn transferred such funds into the Federation Account, from where they had been utilized to fund the budget since 2017.

Just like his security chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that marauding herdsmen in various parts of Nigeria are foreigners. The President said in London on Wednesday that the armed herdsmen who have killed thousands of Nigerians and destroyed their property, especially farm lands were trained by the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi. Buhari, who is on official trip to the United Kingdom, made the assertion when he received the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby. He however failed to disclose whether Gadaffi trained them to specifically attack Nigerians or not. Some of the President’s security chiefs, defence minister, and the Department of State Services (DSS) had said that the armed herdsmen were from neighbouring West African states. Buhari told his guest that he decided to announce his re-election bid for 2019 early because Nigerians were distracting him with speculations about whether he would seek their mandate again or not. The President had declared his intention to run for another four-year term in office during the National Executive Committee meeting of the APC in Abuja last Monday, with almost a year before the presidential poll next February, a move that the opposition had criticized.
Responding to Welby’s concerns about the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of Nigeria, the President said that “the problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region. On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by Boko Haram insurgents, because she refused to renounce her Christian faith, the President said that, “we are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.

Suspected armed Fulani herdsmen on Tuesday night made a surprise incursion into Gbeji and other towns in Ukum local government area killing dozens of people and wounding several others. The attack came less than 24 hours before Governor Samuel Ortom left the state for his annual leave in China. He described the militia herdsmen attacks on the State as an extension of the terrorism perpetrated by Boko Haram. The gruesome attack which started at about 6: pm on that fateful day after local residents had closed from their farms where they went to plant their crops lasted for more than three hours. Among those killed were: Mtserkyaa Igbugh, Kananfa Amarfu, Tyavyar Akau, Orfega Hiikyar, Kanyitor Uor and a passer-by said to be aged 75 years, while two trucks of Mobile Policemen were seen patrolling the now deserted communities both within and outside to forestall further attacks. The assailants also attacked some communities in Tswarev, in Logo local Government area where they killed at least three people.

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has approved the construction of 60 roads across the state’s 18 local government areas to bring development closer to the people and open up rural communities for business activities. Obaseki said infrastructure development being pursued by the government would engender job creation and poverty alleviation, as 7,000 youths would be engaged during the roads construction. Obaseki, represented by Taiwo Akerele, his Chief of Staff, during the inspection of ongoing road construction at Ogunmwenyin community, Lucky Way, Osayande Ize-Iyamu Drive and Nneka Street in Ugbor Village, said, “The roads to be constructed are semi-rural/urban roads, ranging from one kilometre to 1.5 kilometres. The effort is geared towards deepening the spread of economic enablers to engender development.” The inspection train also got to Amagba Community, where the governor assured of the re-construction of the major road, noting: “We don’t talk too much, but we assure you that the construction of Amagba Road will commence soon. In road construction, there are procurement processes and procedures that are involved and must be followed. By the time these processes and procedures are completely addressed, the construction of other roads will commence, as contractors will be mobilized to site.”


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