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Let us talk, Buhari begs N’delta militants

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday appealed to the militants vandalising oil installations in the Niger Delta to come to the negotiation table in order to end their arms campaign in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Buhari said this would afford both the government and the militants the opportunity to decide how the nation’s resources could be managed instead of agitators picking up arms against their fatherland.

Regretting that the problems he identified during the campaigns that preceded the 2015 presidential election, which he won, still lingered even with him in the saddle for almost 18 months, the President appealed to Nigerians to be patient with his government.

Buhari spoke when residents of the Federal Capital Territory, led by the Minister, Muhammad Bello, paid him a Christmas visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The President said Nigeria and its citizens were uppermost in his mind, stating that he would continue to do all within his powers to improve their living conditions.

He said, “I want you to talk to people to be patient with the government. We are always thinking about our country and we are thinking about our people.

“I assure you that the country and the people of the country are always uppermost in our minds. With our performance in the North-East, Nigerians know that this government is serious.

“For our friends in the Niger Delta area, we will persuade them that they should please sit down with us and agree to manage our resources rather than think of fighting it out.”

While saying that the problems he identified during campaigns were still the nation’s fundamental problems, Buhari specifically identified power and lack of infrastructure as major challenges.

He regretted that during the oil boom, the nation’s handlers at that time failed to save for a rainy day.

He noted that while proceeds from agriculture were used to develop oil, he lamented that agriculture was discarded immediately oil started yielding resources for the country.

The President promised that his administration would concentrate on infrastructure development, saying jobs would be created through the process.

Buhari added, “It is about 18 months since we resumed here. I believe some of you followed us during our campaigns and what we identified are still fundamental problems.

“The first is security, and we kept on saying whether it is an organisation or a country, we have to first secure it before we can manage it properly. Without security, nothing can work.

“Secondly, the economy and the unemployment of able-bodied persons. From 1999 to 2014, the crude production was over 2.2m barrels per day. The average cost per barrel was $100.

“When we came, it was $37. I think it is now between $40 and $50. I asked for savings, there was no saving. I asked them what they used the money to buy, they said they bought food and oil. I do not know how long it took me to recover from the shock.

“Some of you will recall either by history or discussion that it was cocoa, palm kernel, cotton, agro allied industry that we used to build infrastructure, be it rail or school.

“We also used the proceeds to develop oil. When we got the oil, we threw everything away. We thank God this year, the harvest was quite good; otherwise, I do not know what we would have done.

“There was no money saved, no infrastructure built, and power is still our main problem. Old roads are dilapidated and they need to be repaired from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt up to Maiduguri. There are rail lines we want to develop from Lagos to Calabar, from Lagos to Kaduna and the Abuja one.

“If we can get the infrastructure done, we cannot even know the number of Nigerians that will get jobs. So, we have to get infrastructure. It will take tankers and other articulated vehicles off the road; we will save vehicles and we will save lives and we will get jobs for a lot of Nigerians.”

Bello, in his opening remarks, commended Buhari for the success recorded by the nation’s troops that cleared Sambisa Forest of insurgents last week.

“We are very proud of this milestone and we prayed that Boko Haram never rears its head in any part of the country again,” the minister said.

Also, the Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria, FCT branch, Rev. Jonah Samson, said they were in the Presidential Villa to identify with Buhari and commend him for his leadership, which he said had impacted positively on Nigerians.

Samson particularly commended the President for his administration’s anti-corruption war.

He expressed the hope that the anti-graft war would not end with this administration.

Samson said, “Corruption is a cankerworm. It is a terrible thing that we must kill. We urge you to ensure that the war continues. It should not end during this administration.

“We thank God for the victory over Boko Haram. It is a thing of joy worthy of celebration.”

The minister and his aides later presented a giant greeting card to Buhari.

Representatives of the Aso Villa Chapel also presented a card and locally-made artworks to the President.

Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the visit, the Senator representing FCT, Philip Aduda, urged Nigerians to support the present administration.

Aduda expressed the hope that 2017 would be better for the nation.

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Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno

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Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.

The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.

The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.

The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.

A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.

“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.

But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.

“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”

Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.

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EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.

This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.

In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.

The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.

The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.

Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.

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Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.

The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.

She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.

“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.

According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.

At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.

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