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Taliban Enter Afghan Capital as US Diplomats Evacuate by Chopper

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Taliban - Investors King

Taliban insurgents entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul on Sunday, an interior ministry official said, as the United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.

The senior official told Reuters the Taliban were coming in “from all sides” but gave no further details.

A tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account said firing had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but that security forces, in coordination with international partners, had control of the city.

U.S. officials said the diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.

Just last week, a U.S. intelligence estimate said Kabul could hold out for at least three months.

“Core” U.S. team members were working from the Kabul airport, a U.S. official said, while a NATO official said several EU staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.

A Taliban official told Reuters the group did not want any casualties as it took charge but had not declared a ceasefire.

There was no immediate word on the situation from President Ashraf Ghani, who said on Saturday he was in urgent consultations with local leaders and international partners on the situation.

Afghanistan - Investors KingEarlier on Sunday, the insurgents captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan. They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan that is still in government hands.

The capture of Jalalabad followed the Taliban’s seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, also with little fighting.

“There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. “Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives.”

A video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shout Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks entered the city with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag.

After U.S.-led forces withdrew the bulk of the their remaining troops in the last month, the Taliban campaign accelerated as the Afghan military’s defences appeared to collapse.

President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of military personnel. A U.S. defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif virtually unopposed as security forces escaped up the highway to Uzbekistan, about 80 km (50 miles) to the north, provincial officials said. Unverified video on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms crowding the iron bridge between the Afghan town of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.

Two influential militia leaders supporting the government – Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum – also fled. Noor said on social media that the Taliban had been handed control of Balkh province, where Mazar-i-Sharif is located, due to a “conspiracy.”

Popularly Accepted

In a statement late on Saturday, the Taliban said its rapid gains showed it was popularly accepted by the Afghan people and reassured both Afghans and foreigners that they would be safe.

The Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban calls itself, “will, as always, protect their life, property and honour, and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” it said, adding that diplomats and aid workers would also face no problems.

Afghans have fled the provinces to enter Kabul in recent days, fearing a return to hardline Islamist rule.

Early on Sunday, refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces were seen unloading belongings from taxis and families stood outside embassy gates, while the city’s downtown was packed with people stocking up on supplies.

Hundreds of people slept huddled in tents or in the open in the city, by roadsides or in car parks, a resident said on Saturday night. “You can see the fear in their faces,” he said.

Biden said his administration had told Taliban officials in talks in Qatar that any action that put U.S. personnel at risk “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”

He has faced rising domestic criticism as the Taliban have taken city after city far more quickly than predicted. The president has stuck to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

Biden said it is up to the Afghan military to hold its own territory. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.

Qatar, which has been hosting so-far inconclusive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said it had urged the insurgents to cease fire. Ghani has given no sign of responding to a Taliban demand that he resign as a condition for any ceasefire.

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

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FG Awaits National Assembly’s Nod Before Take-Off of $800m Cash-Transfer to About 50m Poor Nigerians

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Zainab Ahmed Finance Minister

About 50 million poor and vulnerable households in Nigeria are eagerly waiting for the take-off of the National Social Safety Net Programme Scale Up which is aimed at alleviating their poverty through monetary provisions by the Federal Government.

Data from the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office revealed that there were about 12.06 million poor and vulnerable households in the country, totalling 49.81 million persons.

Investors King reports that the social safety-nets are part of broader social protection systems comprising non-contributory transfers in cash or in kind, designed to provide support for the poor and vulnerable people in the country.

Through this scheme, which has already been captured by the Federal Government in its 2023 Budget, thousands of poor households would be supported with cash, while others in need of material provisions would also be included.

The Federal Government has said that in order to reach out to targeted persons, especially in the rural communities across the country, it will deploy Point-of-Sales agents for cash transfers during the programme billed to commence this year.

Already, the National Social Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) which is collaborating with the World Bank has been working on building a National Social Register (NSR) that would contain poor and vulnerable Nigerians who are direct beneficiaries of the $800million earmarked for the project.

The programme, which is to be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, has the approval of World Bank and it would run till June 30, 2024.

Announcing that POS agents would be co-opted to transfer the money to the needy, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, said the Federal Government was waiting for the approval of the National Assembly before the programme would commence.

Ahmed, who made this known while hosting the Executive Director, Angola, Nigeria, South Africa Constituency of the World Bank Group, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, in Abuja last week Friday, said the social safety net would be expanded.

According to her, the NASSP-Scale Up has been approved by the bank and the Federal Executive Council, while the financial implications have been catered for in the 2023 Appropriation Act presented recently to the NASS by President Muhammadu Buhari.

To activate the project, the minister said the National Assembly must approve it, adding that there are efforts to expand the rapid response register to capture those who had slid into poverty of recent.

Also, she disclosed that the government is working with agents network in the banking system and other financial services for the cash transfer programme.

The minister said all of the database required have been worked upon for easy disbursement of the money by banks.

With the engagement of PoS agents, Ahmed pointed out that hard-to-reach communities and villages without banks would be covered in the programme.

Speaking, the Executive Director, Angola, Nigeria, South Africa Constituency of the World Bank Group, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, canvassed the urgent need for government to tackle food insecurity and poor power supply in the country.

Dlodlo said about 600 million people in the African continent lack access to electricity, which she described as vital element to national development.

 

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European Union to Donate €102.5m to Nigeria, Other African Countries

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European Union

An international organisation, European Union (EU) has disclosed that Nigeria and some other African countries will benefit from its €102.5m humanitarian aid.

The EU consists of 27 European countries with a common interest on issues pertaining to common economic, social and security.

Investors King reports that other countries marked to take part in the humanitarian aid of the European Union aside Nigeria are Chad, Niger and Cameroon amongst others.

The international organisation disclosed its decision during the third high-level conference on the Lake Chad Region held in Niamey on Monday and Tuesday.

According to the EU, the conference was organised to enhance regional, cross-border agreements and interactions to tackle the issues bedeviling the region.

It earmarked the assistance for the developing countries in order to provide food needs for its citizens especially those affected by conflicts or war.

This will in turn reduce the ravaging undernutrition problem in children under the age of five in the chosen African nations.

The Lake Chad region mapped out comprises the far west of Chad, northeast of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. It is popular for violent attacks, killings, displacement and other vices which have demoralised the region and retarded its development.

The European Union’s aid to underdeveloped countries will serve as its intervention for the social well-being of the nations hit by conflicts to reduce its awful impacts.

Investors King understands that the relationship between EU and Nigeria has been cordial through discussion platforms to address democracy, political issues, good governance, migration and security issues. Also, social-economic matters like trade, healthcare, water, sanitation, food security, climate change amongst others are jointly worked upon  as need arises.

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Failed Gas Deal: Trial Begins in UK Firm’s Suit Against Nigeria Over Unpaid $11 Billion

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President Muhammadu Buhari - Investors King

Trial into the protracted lawsuit between a British Virgin Islands-registered firm, Process & Industrial Development Ltd. (P&ID) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the failure of the latter to pay the firm the whooping sum of $11 billion will commence this week before a United Kingdom High Court.

Investors King gathered that the case emanated from a failed gas deal between the firm and the Nigerian government that dated 2010.

Available facts revealed that Nigeria had in 2010 entered into an agreement with the firm to provide free processed gas for P&ID within a period of 20 years in exchange for an oil refinery facility that P&ID would build for the country.

The firm is said to have bided for the gas supply in order to generate electricity with it and also sell it’s remaining to interested buyers.

P&ID had claimed it failed to build the planned refinery because the Nigerian government failed to tap its natural gas and deliver to it as allegedly agreed during their contract signing.

Explaining why the country defaulted in honouring the agreement, the incumbent Nigeria’s government had accused the P&ID of bribing previous administration officials to secure the gas contract and colluded with former government lawyers and officials to put up what it described as a “sham defense” when the matter became a subject of litigation.

Checks by Investors King revealed that the deal was made during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2010.

Its implementation was said to have got delayed till 2015 when Jonathan lost reelection to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Following the change of power, the deal was stalled as the incumbent administration alleged that the deal came about through bribes to former government officials, and that the award should be revoked.

Buhari’s administration had directed the law enforcement agencies to investigate allegations of bribery surrounding the 2010 gas contract and insisted that bank records indicated that four government officials or their family members received bribes from P&ID before the contract was signed, and that one of them has admitted to overlooking “obvious deficiencies” in the company’s proposal.

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency has also charged the lawyer that represented the state during the arbitration for allegedly bribing public officials involved in the proceedings.

Not pleased with Nigerian government’s allegations, P&ID initiated arbitration in 2012 and claimed that attempts to resolve the issue privately had failed.

Meanwhile, in 2017, a closed-door arbitration court in the UK ordered Nigeria to pay $6.6 billion to the firm to compensate for lost profits over the failed facility project. The $6.6 billion awarded against Nigeria is said to have grown to over $11 billion with interest.

Ever since, P&ID, had been pressuring Nigeria to make the payment. In 2019, the stakes rose again when a UK judge issued an order enforcing the award.

P&ID had denied all allegations and described the Nigerian government’s claims of fraud as an attempt to dodge liability.

Meanwhile, as the case resumes this week in London, Nigerian government is expected to present its case and convince the court to quash the arbitration ruling.

UK high court judge, Ross Cranston had said in a 2020 ruling that there was a strong case to be made that for it to be convinced that the gas processing contract was procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud the country.

It was reported that Nigeria’s economy would suffer a deeper crisis if the country loses in London as P&ID has said it wold demand legal approval to confiscate Nigeria’s overseas assets, thus making it more expensive for Nigeria to raise money in international capital markets.

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