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Niger-Delta Leaders Reject FG’s $10bn Development Package

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  • Niger-Delta Leaders Reject FG’s $10bn Development Package

Ahead of their meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, tomorrow, strong indications emerged, yesterday, that elders, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region have rejected the Federal Government’s move to launch a $10 billion (N4 trillion) infrastructural rebirth investment programme in the area.

The multi-trillion naira programme is part of the Short and Medium Term Priorities to Grow Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry (2015 to 2019), tagged the ‘7 BigWins’, a new initiative of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Dismissing the proposal as a blackmail since there is no money to fund it, the Niger-Delta leaders said it is imperative to tell President Buhari that they are rejecting the move because it is private sector-driven with the aim of dragging the government into it.

“At the end of the day, other Nigerians will say why complain when you have $10 billion and the money is not there in the first place. If the companies have such money, they should pay the money owed the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, rather than blackmail the region with such money,” they said.

These are part of the issues that would be raised with President Buhari tomorrow. These were also some of the resolutions at the end of a meeting held at the residence of the convener, Chief Edwin Clark at his 43, Haile Selassie Street, Asokoro, Abuja in the wee hours of Saturday.

Clark, a former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, will lead about 46 traditional rulers, elders and leaders drawn from the academia, civil society, freedom fighters and ethnic nationalities of the six South-South states to meet President Buhari tomorrow.

The leaders said it would be blackmail for the people of the Niger Delta as they were not consulted before the decision was taken and announced, adding that the people should have been carried along and their inputs obtained because they know the problems of the region.

Canvassing a bottoms-up approach instead of a top-bottom strategy, the leaders noted that the people of the region are suffering from oil exploitation, while mining is going on in the North without anyone harassing the people.

Let Maritime varsity remain, no to polytechnic

The elders also urged President Buhari to jettison moves to change the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu, Delta State to a polytechnic, against the backdrop that the government did not consult with the people of the region.

The region is also seeking for a special Marshal plan for the Niger Delta, review of the amnesty programme and the need to have a ministerial department that will always be a platform for discussion by the people of the region.

Leaders to meet Buhari

Expected at the parley are the Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli; Obong of Calabar, Ekpo Abasi – Otu V; Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Major-General Felix Mujakperuo, retd; first Military Governor of old Rivers State and Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass, King Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff; and His Royal Majesty, Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu among others.

Also to attend tomorrow’s meeting are former Akwa Ibom governor, Obong Victor Attah; Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Professor G.G. Darah, Chief Timi Alaibe, Ambassador Godknows Igali, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Chief TKO Okorotie, Hon. Justice Francis Tabai, High Chief Mike Ekayama Loyibo, T.K. Ogoriba, High Chief Wellington Okirika, Chief Justice CET Ayama (retd), Dr. Alfred Mulade, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, MOSOP leader, Ledum Mitee, former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke; Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo; Brigadier Gen. Idada Ikponmwen, Senator Rowland Owie, Tony Uranta, Chief Dan Ikpebide and Senator Bassey Henshaw among others.

Agenda for meeting

The elders and leaders at the meeting will engage the President on the need for Justice, equity, fairness, confidence-building and consultations with Niger-Delta people prior to taking decisions on their problems.

Other issues to be raised at the parley include the need for restructuring the country and the zone; implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, appointments of board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC where membership must reflect oil producing areas, and the need to perfect the protocol of memorandum of understanding, MOU on the ceding of Bakassi, because if not addressed, the people of the area stand the risk of not having a country. The problem in Gbaramatu with military allegedly harassing the people would also be presented before the President. After tomorrow’s meeting, the elders and leaders will ask for an executive session with the President where meaningful discussions would take place.

Niger-Delta now speaks with one voice – Clark

In his remark at the meeting, Chief Clark, who noted that the issue of not having representatives to negotiate with government for Niger Delta people was gone, saying the people are ready for negotiation. He said if there were issues, the meeting will not be the last, adding that the people are one family, though they are from different communities.

The elder statesman, who stressed the need for unity of purpose, said the people were not fighting the President but wanted government to carry them along.

His words: “We are going to ask for justice, fairness and equity. We are going to tell him that he should dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta and that the use of force is not and cannot be a solution to the Niger Delta crisis.

“He is our President. We will pledge our loyalty to him. We will congratulate him on his election because this is the first time we are seeing him as a people since he won. We are not going to be submitting any long list of demands to him, but we will let him know the need for him to carry the people of Niger Delta along in his government. They should take us as a people who are part of Nigeria. We are not separating from Nigeria.

“It is obvious that the country requires true federalism to move forward. We will tell him that and that is the same thing other parts of the country are asking for. If there is true federalism, we will not have a case of states not being able to pay salaries or maintain themselves. Those (states) that cannot stand on their own will join others.

“Of course, we are going to talk to him about the need to develop Niger Delta. The problem is not lack of ideas on what should be done, the Mitee Technical Committee Report on Niger Delta in 2009 and others are there; the problem is lack of political will to develop the region.”

One group for all of N-Delta

Before the Saturday meeting, Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders, to enable them speak with one voice, came up with a position against those who they accused of using divide and rule tactics against the region. They decided to fuse all the separate groups into one umbrella body, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PNDF.

The groups included the Pan-Niger Delta States Consultative Forum, led by Clark, the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group, NDDCG, led by King Alfred Diete-Spiff, and a new group that was facilitated by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. Other groups that collapsed into the PNDF were the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development, South-South Consolidated Forum among others.

University status not affected – Kachikwu

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has cleared the air on the apprehension that erupted, weekend, in the Niger Delta, over purported downgrade of the Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, to a polytechnic, saying the Federal Government’s action does not affect the status of the institution as a university.

The people of Gbaramatu, speaking through one of their leaders, Chief Godspower Gbenekema and spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, yesterday, hit the roof over alleged downgrading of the institution from university to polytechnic.

Kachikwu, who is facilitating the meeting of Niger Delta leaders with President Buhari, tomorrow, said “The status has not changed; I said with the facility in place now; we can start a campus version of the university on a polytechnic level until we build up.”

It’s objectionable – Omare

IYC spokesperson, Mr. Omare, in a statement, said: “The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide rejects in its entirety the proposal by the Federal Government to downgrade the Maritime University, Okerenkoko to Higher National Diploma awarding institute under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR).

“This proposal which is contained in the Niger Delta and Security column of the ‘7 big wins’ initiative by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and launched by President Buhari on Thursday, the 27th of October, 2016 in the Presidential Villa is totally unacceptable to the Niger Delta people.

“There is no single justification to downgrade the Maritime University, Okerenkoko which is an existing university by National Universities Commission (NUC) records under the Ministry of Transportation to an institute under the Ministry of Petroleum. It is unprecedented for an existing university with degree awarding status to be downgraded to an institute.

“This move also demonstrates that the Buhari government is not sincerely committed to resolving the Niger Delta crisis despite efforts by stakeholders of the region to support the government as this unpopular and anti-Niger Delta decision was reached without consultation with the people of the region.

“The insincerity on the part of the Federal Government is capable of escalating the already volatile situation in the Niger Delta despite the efforts of leaders and stakeholders of the region.

“The insincerity of the federal government is further buttressed by the much publicized $10bn intervention fund for the Niger Delta. The way and manner government publicized this intervention fund would seem as if the fund would be released instantly to start the development process, whereas it is a 10-year initiative with no guaranteed source of funding. All the identified sources of funding are vague and unpredictable without stakeholders’ input. Therefore, the IYC regards this effort more as a propaganda strategy by the Federal Government rather than a genuine effort towards the development of the Niger Delta region.”

It’s ridiculous, insulting – Gbenekema

Chief Gbenekama, the Ibe Benemowei of Gbaramatu kingdom, who spoke on phone from Abuja, said: “It has come to our knowledge that on October 27, 2016, the Federal Government launched a book entitled ‘7 Big Wins to grow the oil sector,’ as presented by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.

“Among these ‘7 big wins’ is the issue of Niger Delta and Security. Under Niger Delta and Security, we discovered that one item is the Okerenkoko Maritime University. In presenting the decision of the Federal Government, Dr Ibe Kachikwu stated that the Ministry of Petroleum has taken over the issue of Okerenkoko Maritime University and that the government had decided to reduce the Okerenkoko Maritime University, which was a degree awarding university to a polytechnic that will award OND and HND.

“This presentation was sanctioned by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. As critical stakeholders and immediate host to the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, we find this presentation and plan annoying, disturbing, disgraceful, insulting and dehumanizing.

“The issue of the Okerenkoko Maritime University was supposed to be a pre-Niger Delta, Federal Government parley agenda, which was part of the low-hanging fruits that the Federal Government was supposed to deal with to build trust before the Niger Delta leaders and Federal Government discussions and signpost that government will be serious with the discussions, but to our surprise, without consultations, the government has gone ahead to take a decision reducing the university to a Petroleum Ministry- run polytechnic that would award OND and HND certificates.

“Whatever would have gone wrong with the maritime university that made the Federal Government to reduce the status to a polytechnic is what any serious minded Niger Deltan and Gbaramatu man in particular cannot understand. For avoidance of doubt, we reject this plan of the Federal Government.

“We are not good enough to be educated, our areas is not good enough to be developed, both infrastructural and human capital development, which is the reason the federal, through its militarization policy of the Niger Delta has rendered all our primary and secondary schools ineffective. The height of it is to cancel the Maritime University which the immediate past administration sited at Okerenkoko with take-off campus at Kurutie in Gbaramatu kingdom,” he said.

Militants continue bombing despite Buhari’s meeting with N-Delta leaders

Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, a militant group in Delta State, went ahead with destruction of oil facilities in Niger Delta region, weekend, despite the meeting tomorrow, between President Buhari and Niger Delta monarchs, leaders and stakeholders in Abuja.

The group, in a statement by self-styled General Aldo Agbalaja, yesterday, said: “At about 23:30 hours of Saturday, October 29, in furtherance of the Operation Hammurabi Code, our Akuma Strike Team struck and brought down the 32-inch Effurun-Otor delivery line.”

In the statement, entitled: “This is not ending soon, we shall fulfill our promise of uprooting your entire assets in our land,” the militant group said:

“We are reiterating our unflinching belief that the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, being coordinated by E.K Clark is a job and, therefore, can never get our support.
“Like we said before now, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not opposed to a genuine dialogue between the Federal Government and real representatives of the various nations of our region.

“We are collecting names from the nations in the region, those who will sincerely and equitably represent our various peoples,” he added.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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