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Theft, Sack Gale Threaten N10b GGW Project

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  • Theft, Sack Gale Threaten N10b GGW Project

Lack of community ownership and theft of submersible machines (popularly known as borehole pumping facility) is threatening the success of the Great Green Wall (GGW) programme.

The project being implemented by the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), an agency under the Federal Ministry of Environment got N10 billion approval from the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration for its implementation.

It is saddled to plant wall of trees across the 11 northern states severely threatened by desertification, provide potable water and empower the host communities among other targets. The benefiting states include Borno, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Adamawa and Bauchi. Others are Gombe, Zamfara and Yobe States. It was gathered that 157 boreholes have been constructed in the states since 2013.

But the project according to a top source in the agency is suffering various setbacks including allege sack of over 700 forest guards by the ministry. The guards were reportedly engaged and were being paid stipends as part of job creation window of the project.

The source, who did not want his name in print, explained that aside from theft, iron wires used to cordon the borehole facilities were destroyed in order to access the facilities especially at night. He explained that the contractors had to improvise by hiding the submersible machines away from the main spot of the borehole.

“They went to the borehole digging and looking for the submersible pumping machines. They usually go in the night to dig the pumping machine that is normally underground, remove and sell. They had stolen so many on the sites and we have replaced several.

“So what the engineers do now is that they don’t fix it close to the place, they hide it away. Some people have been arrested and the cases are in court while some are with the police.”

The source blamed community leaders and youth representatives, who ought to have taken active ownership of the intervention projects such as repairing faulty parts of the machines but depended on the government to fix the minor problems.

However, he noted that few communities from the project site who recognised importance of the project volunteered to provide local security, thus safeguarding the equipment.

“In some areas where the people have realised importance of the programme, they come out on their own like vigilante in the night and because most of the sites have security post with lights. Some of them set up camps under the lights safeguarding the projects,” he added.

The NAGGW Katsina State Field Officer, Umar Yusuf during a phone interview affirmed the situation saying Katsina has the highest number of projects among the 11 States. He acknowledged the re-occuring cases of pumping machine thefts and damaged borehole systems but could not provide details of replaced borehole machines in the state.

“There is a lot of reluctance on the community to really take care of the investment in their custody. That is what leads to the stealing of the submersible pumps. The community left it in the night without anyone watching.

“There are some boreholes having technical fault while some have been stolen,” Yusuf added.

The agency’s Director-General, Goni Ahmed warned over gradual spread of desert encroachment to other parts of the country. He said about 43 per cent of the nation’s landmass is currently threatened by desert encroachment.

In his reaction, the Environment Minister, Ibrahim Jibril denied claims of machine thefts. He said his recent visit to few of the states showed contrary, adding that that the communities appreciated the interventions.

However, Jibril explained that the forest guards were not sacked but government terminated their involvement in the project to improve it and ensure steady payment.

Describing the forest guard recruitment as ‘job for the boys’, Jibril noted that the process of recruitment was faulty, not credible and enmeshed with irregularities, adding that there was no budgetary provision.

“This issue of engaging people, in the first place, you must know that there must be a budgetary provision for them. You don’t recruit people and don’t pay them. We must plan for this; remember we inherited this programme and at the time we came, those so called engagement you are talking about, i don’t even know the figure and i won’t tell you a lie, is like creating jobs for the boys, and then anything you link to politics in those days, you are not going to get the results.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to recruit someone who will not go to the field to take care of the trees. I went to Sokoto and Kebbi states last year and I asked the leaders of the communities not the commissioner or the permanent secretary, I went to see the village heads and ward heads and when they came, the first question I asked is that are you using this water for you domestic use? He said yes in fact they are most grateful and they would have starved without this water,” Jibril stated.

However, the minister said plans are ongoing to structure the recruitment process in the Head of Service (HoS), include it in the budget and ensure there is steady payment of salaries and other benefits.

“At that time, the idea was not to get them permanently engaged, it was to give them just a period of months to sustain the trees and even at that a lot of them were not reporting, so when the time expired and there was no budgetary provision for them they had to stop.

“We will address that issue. We have written to the Head of Service and also the Office of Budget and National Planning; we must have to get people properly structured in the payroll and have budgetary provisions to pay them.

“If you employ and you don’t pay it is a recipe for disaster. If the man is hungry and takes away the pump what are you going to do about it? We will be getting unintended results. So what we are planning now is to make sure that what has happened before will not be repeated now. Once we engage you, we will make sure that you stay and you are employed properly, the community will be involved; we will get people from the community,” Jibril added.

NAGGW Director of Information, Mrs. Larai Daze in her reaction said the agency already intensified sensitisation campaign on need for host communities to own the projects.

She said aside from 600 kilometers of Shelterbelt which serves as wind breakers, over 200 kilometers of woodlots have been planted as alternative to felling of trees.

“We have almost 600 km of Shelterbelts already established all over the states. We have over 200km of Woodlots and almost 300 hectares of fruit trees such as Guava, Orange, Mangoetc planted across the 11 states,” she stated.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Computer Village Traders Demand Refunds as Lagos State Cancels Katangowa Project

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Traders at the renowned Computer Village in Lagos find themselves in a state of uncertainty following the abrupt termination of the multibillion-naira Katangowa project by the Lagos State Government.

The project, which was aimed at relocating the bustling tech market from its current site in Ikeja to the Agbado/Oke-Odo area of the state, has left traders in a state of limbo.

Despite the cancellation of the project reportedly occurring two years ago, traders claim they were not informed by either the government or the developers, Bridgeways Limited.

This lack of communication has left them in a precarious position, particularly concerning the substantial upfront payments made by some traders to the developers.

Chairman of the Computer Village Market Board, Chief Adebowale Soyebo, expressed dismay at the lack of communication from the authorities regarding the project’s termination.

He explained that neither the government nor the contractors had officially informed them of the decision, leaving traders in the dark about the fate of their investments.

Traders who had made payments to Bridgeways Limited now seek clarity on the refund process. The absence of official communication has compounded their concerns, with many uncertain about the fate of their investments.

While acknowledging the payments made by traders, Lagos State Governor’s Adviser on e-GIS and Urban Development, Dr. Olajide Babatunde, assured that the government would facilitate refunds.

He, however, said there is a need for proper identification and verification to ensure that affected traders receive their refunds accordingly.

The termination of the Katangowa project has reignited debates about the relocation of Computer Village.

Traders assert that the issue of relocation should not be raised until the new site is at least 70% completed, as per their agreement with the government.

The cancellation of the Katangowa project underscores the challenges associated with large-scale urban development projects and the importance of transparent communication between stakeholders to avoid such situations in the future.

As traders await further directives from the government, they remain hopeful for a resolution that safeguards their interests and ensures the continuity of one of Nigeria’s most prominent tech markets.

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Government Begins Disbursement of N200bn Support Fund to Manufacturers and Businesses

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The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has initiated the disbursement of the long-awaited N200 billion Presidential Conditional Grant Scheme.

This is the beginning of a vital phase in the government’s strategy to provide financial assistance to manufacturers and businesses across Nigeria.

The scheme, which is being administered through the Bank of Industry (BOI), has been divided into three categories of funding, totaling N200 billion.

The disbursement process comes after an exhaustive selection process and verification of applicants to ensure transparency and accountability in the allocation of funds.

Doris Aniete, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, announced the progress in a statement posted on the trade minister’s official X (formerly Twitter) handle.

Aniete highlighted that verified beneficiaries have already started receiving their grants, signaling the beginning of the phased disbursement strategy.

“We are pleased to inform you that the disbursement process for the Presidential Conditional Grant Programme has officially commenced. Some beneficiaries have already received their grants, marking the beginning of our phased disbursement strategy,” stated Aniete.

She further disclosed that by Friday, April 19, a substantial number of verified applicants are set to receive significant disbursements.

However, Aniete emphasized that disbursements are ongoing, and not all applicants will receive their grants immediately, assuring that all verified applicants will eventually receive their grants in subsequent phases.

The initiation of the disbursement process comes after more than eight months since President Bola Tinubu announced the grant for manufacturers and small businesses.

The scheme aims to mitigate the adverse effects of recent economic reforms and foster sustainable economic growth by empowering businesses with financial support.

President Tinubu had outlined the government’s commitment to strengthening the manufacturing sector and creating job opportunities through the disbursement of N200 billion over a specified period.

The funding is intended to provide credit to 75 enterprises, each able to access up to N1 billion at a low-interest rate of 9% per annum.

However, the implementation of the programme has faced challenges, including delays and criticisms regarding the registration process.

Femi Egbesola, President of the Association of Small Business Owners, expressed concerns over the slow pace of data collation and suggested that genuine businesses were being discouraged from accessing the loans.

Despite the hurdles, the commencement of the disbursement process signifies a significant step forward in the government’s efforts to provide vital support to manufacturers and businesses, potentially revitalizing economic activities and driving growth across various sectors.

As beneficiaries begin to receive their grants, the impact of this initiative on the nation’s economic landscape is eagerly anticipated.

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MicroStrategy Rally Crushes Short Sellers, Wiping Out $1.92 Billion

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Short sellers betting against MicroStrategy found themselves facing significant losses as the company’s rally wiped out $1.92 billion since March.

This development comes amidst a rally that has seen MicroStrategy’s stock outperform bitcoin, causing a considerable hit to those who had taken a bearish stance on the tech firm.

According to data from S3 Partners, short sellers have been on the losing end since March, as MicroStrategy’s stock surged, highlighting the impact of the rally on those betting against the company’s success.

This loss underscores the challenges faced by short sellers in a market where certain stocks experience rapid and unexpected price increases.

The rally in MicroStrategy’s stock is attributed to several factors, including the approval of several spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier in the year.

This move by the SEC brought bitcoin, a once-nascent asset class, closer to the mainstream and fueled investor interest in companies like MicroStrategy, known for their significant holdings of the cryptocurrency.

MicroStrategy, which held nearly 190,000 bitcoin on its balance sheet as of the end of 2023, has indicated its intention to continue increasing its exposure to the digital currency.

The company’s decision to sell convertible debt to raise money for additional bitcoin purchases further bolstered investor confidence and contributed to the stock’s rally.

Analysts at BTIG noted that the premium for MicroStrategy’s stock reflects investors’ desire to gain exposure to bitcoin indirectly, especially those who may not have the means to invest directly in the cryptocurrency or ETFs.

The company’s ability to raise capital for bitcoin purchases is seen as a positive sign for shareholders, adding to the optimism surrounding its stock.

However, despite the recent rally and optimism surrounding MicroStrategy, the crypto industry as a whole continues to be heavily shorted.

Short interest in nine of the most-watched companies in the crypto space remains high, standing at 16.73% of the total number of outstanding shares, more than three times the average in the United States.

Moreover, concerns persist regarding the SEC’s stance on cryptocurrencies, with some experts suggesting that the approval of spot bitcoin ETFs may not necessarily indicate a broader acceptance of other similar products, such as spot ethereum ETFs.

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