The Federal Government has announced plans to commence the construction of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge railway project.
The rail project allocated to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is expected to cost FG $3 billion. The rail project is expected to link states in the southern part of Nigeria down to the north through the eastern states.
Rotimi Ameachi, minister of Transportation affirmed this on Sunday, he said the the laying of rail tracks may get to the Enugu State capital by September 2022.
Rotimi was accompanied on the inspection by Magdalene Ajani, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, the Managing Director; Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) among others.
Amaechi said, “When it was inugurated, enough fund was not given to them. Now they have some level of funding, I hope we can secure the fund before they exhaust what they have”.
He hinted that some of the stations where passengers will join the train or disembark are yet to be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The Minister equally noted that whenever standard gauges are to be constructed on the line, it should be built in such a way that both the narrow gauge and standard gauge could share the same infrastructure.
He also insisted that more security is required to forestall any form of delay that may arise as a result of agitations from locals.
Amaechi said he expected CCECC to have cleared the track up to Imo River,
The Federal Government on the 10th of March, 2021 kick-started the $3 billion rehabilitation and reconstruction of the 1,443-kilometer (897-mile) Eastern Railway Line that starts from the southeastern oil hub of Port Harcourt and terminates at the northeastern city of Maiduguri.
It is expected to link Nigeria’s industrial and agriculture hubs, facilitating the easy movement of people, goods and services.
When fully functional, it will connect Rivers, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe and Borno states respectively.
NCAA Alerts Airport Operators over Hazardous Weather, Calls For More Caution
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has called for more caution from pilots, airlines and airport operators, especially with regard to the hazardous weather prompted by the rainy season.
The Directorate of Aerodrome and Airspace Standards revealed this in an advisory document signed by the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu.
Investors King recalls that NIMET had earlier predicted early March to be the start of the rainy season in the southern states, while April/May and June 2022 will be the start of the rainy season in the central and northern portions of Nigeria.
“Flight crews/operators and ATCs shall ensure strict adherence to aerodrome operating minima.
“Pilots shall exercise maximum restraint whenever adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET.
“Pilots /flight crew members shall obtain adequate departure, en-route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET aerodrome meteorological stations prior to flight operations”, the advisory noted.
The agency asked all parties to follow safety laws to the letter since infractions would be taken seriously, while travellers were urged to be patient and understanding, as their safety is more paramount.
Prior to this, Investors King earlier reported the projections of a fresh fuel crisis, following the revelation of a shortage in supply to the Nigerian Aviation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).
Investors King gathered that the product costs N598 per litre in Lagos, N642 in Kano, N640 in Kaduna, N627 in Abuja, N635 in Enugu and Anambra, and N628 in Port Harcourt as at Monday.
Also, airlines have already begun delaying flights and raising rates around the country as a result of the shortage.
Air Peace, Dana, and United Nigeria Airlines’ economy one-way fares from Lagos to Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt, and Asaba have climbed to between N55,000 and N70,000.
Air Peace, Azman, and Max Air fares from Lagos to Abuja, Kano, and Kaduna have increased from N50,000 to almost N65,000.
N-Power And Its Bitter-Sweet Experience
N-POWER was initiated to be a solution provider to curb the high rate of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. However, so far, it has been a bitter-sweet experience for beneficiaries of the programme.
Investors King gathered that the monthly stipends of these beneficiaries are now unable to meet up with the economic situations in the country.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, under the Social Investment Programme (SIP) and through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, had said the programme was built to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development, targeting youths between the ages of 18 and 35. Designed to be community-based, the exercise is to allow one million volunteers in different streams of batches.
Affirming this, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Faroug had said: “It is a well-known fact that N-Power programme is a critical part of the National Social Investment Programmes domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) and designed to achieve the national objectives of poverty reduction and job creation”.
With the national minimum wage standing at N30, 000, N-Power beneficiaries are usually paid the sum of N30,000 monthly.
However, during the 2022 Worker’s Day celebration, Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki approved N40, 000 minimum wage for Edo state workers. The governor said the decision was to “cushion the hardship being experienced by the workers, particularly the effects of rising food prices.”
Investors King recalls that in the fourth quarter of 2015, prior to the commencement of the programme, unemployment rate in Nigeria was 12.1 per cent. However, in 2018, the rate rose to 14.23 per cent.
Currently, unemployment rate in Nigeria stands at 33.3 per cent while youth underemployment is at 42.5 per cent.
In 2021, Farouq stated that the Federal Government has approved an additional 400,000 youths have been approved for the Batch C1 programme. Since this announcement, beneficiaries have not been able to register for this Batch C2.
Several reasons have been responsible for this, from wrong deployment of Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) to delay in monthly payment.
N-POWER had severally apologised to beneficiaries over the non-payment of their stipends. It had earlier said on its official Facebook page that payment for Batch C1 have been initiated and crediting of accounts will begin, including outstanding payments.
But later, N-Power posted that network glitch was responsible for the subsequent delay.
“We did not intentionally redeployed N-power Batch C1 Beneficiaries, not at this point.
Therefore, the sudden CHANGE OF PPA and all PROCESSING PAYMENT recently changed to FAILED reading system error as encountered was as a result of NETWORK FAILURE.
“There is no cause for Alarm as our team are working to rectify it. Once that is done, your payment will be reinitiated. Please be patient,” N-Power said.
However, different reactions trailed this latest announcement. To many beneficiaries of the programme, a delay in the payment of their stipends amounts to delay for the Batch C 2 intakes.
One of the beneficiaries, SAYEDADAMADAMS said: “Why is it that the same network glitch did not fail and make their five-months paid into their accounts.”
Others lamented that the N30,000 stipend has not been able to sort their expenses due to the growing economic challenges in Nigeria.
One of the beneficiaries, Oluwafunmilayo Oluwatobi Adegun told BBC that the stipend is small, adding that the government is supposed to increase the stipend from N30, 000 as that the amount has not been able to solve anything in this country.
She said: “Many of the beneficiaries have families that depends on them to pay school fees.”
She further faulted government’s decision to disengage N-Power beneficiaries after their expiration of one year and advised that they should provide other engagements for beneficiaries.
“Government is supposed to put concrete plans in place so that the beneficiaries will not be stranded after the programme. N-Power without proper exit plan is meaningless,” she continued.
ASUU Says no Resumption Yet, Extends Strike by Another Three Months
Following the failure to reach a consensus with the Federal Government, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has extended its ongoing strike by 12 weeks. This is coming two months after the first phase of the strike commenced.
Investors King recalls that ASUU had previously gone on a warning strike which commenced on February 14, 2022 and was meant to come to an end on Monday, May 9, 2022.
In a statement on Monday, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke revealed that the decision to extend the strike was unanimously taken during the association’s National Executive Council meeting, which commenced on Sunday night at the University of Abuja’s Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat.
According to him, the decision is aimed at giving the government adequate time to resolve all remaining concerns satisfactorily.
He noted that the NEC had earlier authorized the national leadership to commence on an indefinite strike if no significant results were achieved during the eight-week warning strike.
“After extensive deliberations, noting the Government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities and speedily address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) within the additional eight-week roll–over strike period declared on 14th March 2022, NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for twelve weeks to give Government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues.
“The roll-over strike action is with effect from 12.01 a.m. on Monday, 9th May 2022″, the statement read.
Investors King gathered that while ASUU was on its warning strike, other university staff unions also went on strike. They include: Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); The National Association of Academic Technologists; (NAAT), and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Allied institutions, (NASU).
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has vowed to disrupt all political events by the two major parties, as well as all candidate selection activities if the ASUU continues with the strike action.
The association condemned politicians for being unconcerned about students’ situation while being preoccupied with their own ‘selfish and irrational quest’ to contest for presidency.
In view of this, students from various institutions have continued to stage protests in Ibadan, Abuja and Lagos, calling for the strike to end, as well as the reopening of universities.
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