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FG queries Perm Sec over NIMASA leadership tussle

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The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Mr. Muhammed Bashir, is currently in trouble over the recent leadership tussle in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

It would be recalled that in sacking Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi as the agency’s Director-General on July 6, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed him to hand over the management of NIMASA and all government property in his possession to the most senior officer in the agency who will remain in charge until a new DG is appointed.

Following that directive, Akpobolokemi on Monday handed over to the agency’s Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Mr. Calistus Obi.

But a mild drama reportedly played out at the agency’s Burma Road, Apapa, Lagos headquarters barely three days after when it became clear that Obi was not the most senior officer.

That discovery led to the elevation of the agency’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Baba Jauro, as the acting DG when he was discovered to be the most senior officer.

Jauro was said to have formally lodged a protest against Akpobolokemi at the Ministry of Transport and Office of the Head of Service of the Federation before the reversal was made.

But a source in the ministry said the Permanent Secretary was suspected to have played a role in the initial elevation of Obi as the acting DG.

The source said Obi had already been issued a query by the HOS, Mr. Danlandi Kifasi. Kifasi also gave Bashir a query.

He added that Kifasi issued the query on the orders of the President who was angry that his directive was not followed on the choice of the acting DG.

“I can confirm to you that the Permanent Secretary has been queried by the Head of Service due the embarrassment caused by that drama in the agency. He is expected to explain his role in the matter,” the source said.

He said the reversal of role between the two top officials of NIMASA was a result of the investigation which revealed that although the two of them were appointed at the same time, Jauro resumed in the agency about three days ahead of Obi.

“The two of them were appointed the same day but their record of resumption showed that the new acting DG resumed about three days before Obi resumed,” the source added.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had in a statement on July 6 announced the termination of Akpobolokemi’s appointment without giving a reason for the development.

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine Covid-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its Covid-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumored to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighboring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

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SERAP drags Nigerian government to ECOWAS Court over undisclosed loans spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari before an ECOWAS Court over “secrecy in the spending of loans so far obtained, the unsustainable level of borrowing by the government and the 36 states, and the crippling debt burden”.

Last week, SERAP lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi filed a suit before ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, in which the organisation sought, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to issue an immediate moratorium on borrowing by itself, and the 36 states, in conformity with the country’s international human rights obligations.”

SERAP is also seeking, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of the loans obtained by governments since 1999 including the list of projects and locations of any such projects on which these loans have been spent.”

The organisation maintained that, “Persistent and unsustainable borrowing by the federal and state governments and the crippling debt burden undermine the rights of Nigerians to economic and social development, and are antithetical to the public interest.

“There is lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained, and opacity around the terms and conditions in loan agreements, including repayment details for these loans. The details of the projects on which the loans are spent are shrouded in secrecy.

“Without a moratorium on borrowing, the Federal Government and many of the 36 states may be caught in a process driven mostly by creditors’ needs. 

“This will result in an exorbitant social cost for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of the population.

“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

“The Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5,803,364,553.50 and a grant component of $10million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.

“This followed previous approvals by the National Assembly of $16.2 (16,230,077,718) billion loan; €1 (1,020,000,000) million and a grant component of $125 million loan; $36.8 billion, €910 million loans, and a grant component of $10 million; $8.3 billion and €490 million loans; $6.1 billion, $1.5 billion and 995 million loans; and $4(4,054,476,863), €710 million and grant component of $125million.

“Several of the 36 states are also facing a debt crisis, and vicious debt cycles. According to the Debt Management Office, the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9billion.

“The loans from China alone amount to $3.59billion. According to the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Nigeria faces debt service relative to tax revenues that exceed 20 per cent, with escalating social tensions linked to poverty and inequality.

“According to the World Bank’s IDA FY21 Report, with debt exposure of $11.7billion US Dollars, Nigeria ranked fifth among the top 10 countries with highest debt risk exposure. The top four countries are India with $22billion, Bangladesh ($18.1billion), Pakistan ($16.4billion), and Vietnam ($14.1billion).”

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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COVID-19: Nigeria records 29 fresh infections, lowest in two months

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that 29 people tested positive for Coronavirus on Saturday.

The figure is the country’s lowest single-day count since November 19, 2021 when 23 cases were reported.

In its latest update, NCDC said the positive cases of Coronavirus came from three states.

A breakdown of new cases showed that Lagos — Nigeria’s pandemic epicentre — recorded the highest number of new infections with 27 new positive samples, followed by Kano and Rivers with one each.

According to the agency, 40 persons recovered from the infection while 225,946 people have now been discharged.

No death figure was recorded from COVID-19 complications, leaving the death toll at 3,124.

Since the index case in February 2020, a total of 251,959 Coronavirus infections have been confirmed across Nigeria — out of which 22,889 are active cases. 

On Saturday, the Lagos government said the consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases indicates the end of the pandemic’s fourth wave in the state.

Giving a situation update via Twitter, Akin Abayomi, the state’s Commissioner for Health, said there was a reduction in positivity rates — from 29.3 percent recorded on December 21, 2021, to 1.9 percent as of January 20, 2022.

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