Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic For Our Collective Humanity, By Femi Falana

In sum, the response to the crisis should, therefore, be based on the principles of compassion, cooperation and multilateralism. In fact, apart from the pandemic, other global issues such as climate change, social inequality, drugs and identity crisis require cooperation and multilateral approaches because they constitute dangers to our common humanity.
The most telling lesson of the coronavirus pandemic is that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” It is an indisputable proof of our biological connectedness, which is even more consequential for life and livelihoods   than the digital connectivity that is the buzz phrase of the millennials.
As it happens in any pandemic, the coronavirus does not respect geo-political boundaries; neither is it restricted by socio-economic and cultural divides. The virus infects the poor and the rich alike. It overwhelms developed countries and underdeveloped ones, despite the sophistication of the healthcare system of the industrialised countries. Yet, humanitarian disasters loom in some parts of the world because the obvious lesson seems to be currently lost on mankind.
Let me illustrate this point with the politics and economics of vaccines being played out before our very eyes around the globe. About this time last year, no fewer than 140 world leaders and experts issued an unprecedented joint statement calling for equity and humaneness in the distribution of the vaccines meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was indeed a battle cry for “people’s vaccines.” The essence of the call was to ensure a global arrangement to guarantee the provision of COVID-19 diagnostics, tests, vaccines and treatments to everyone on earth.
Among the signatories to the statement were President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana; President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Chair of the African Union; the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall; and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. Notable economists including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and public health experts joined the political leaders in signing the statement. Their motivation was obvious: The pandemic is a tragic reminder of our shared humanity, which some members of the global elite and establishments seem to have forgotten. They are immersed in their myopic and selfish pursuit of polices defined by unbridled competition, instead of cooperation and isolationism, rather than multilateralism. The world leaders and experts argued as follows:
“It is time for Health Ministers to renew the commitments made at the founding of the World Health Organization, where all states agreed to deliver the ‘the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.
Now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods are in the interests of all humanity. We cannot afford for monopolies, crude competition and near-sighted nationalism to stand in the way.”
It is also worth noting that President Ramaphosa, in a separate statement, added an African note to the clamour for the equitable distribution of vaccines:
“Billions of people today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic. As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All the science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”
The sad story is that of the resurgence of vaccine nationalism, with all its perils for our shared humanity. The current battle is not only against coronavirus, it is also a war against vaccine inequality. The trend is a portrayal of the huge deficits in the global consciousness about our collective humanity. Intriguingly, these deficits are not on the part of the poor people who continue to exude immense humanity…
Since the May 14, 2020 statement, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic has shifted from China to Europe, the Americas and now back to Asia, in India, where more than 230,000 persons have died. More than 5,000 human beings die daily in India! Watching the grim footages on television today, of the havoc being wreaked by coronavirus in places as diverse on the planet as India, Brazil and Turkey, you would not believe that that statement was ever made in the sober moment of May 2020, when the whole world was on a virtual lockdown.
The sad story is that of the resurgence of vaccine nationalism, with all its perils for our shared humanity. The current battle is not only against coronavirus, it is also a war against vaccine inequality. The trend is a portrayal of the huge deficits in the global consciousness about our collective humanity. Intriguingly, these deficits are not on the part of the poor people who continue to exude immense humanity, despite their sordid conditions. The deficits are noticeable more on the part of the selfish poltical and economic elites who make decisions in the rich countries.
Some countries are stocking vaccines more than their urgent needs, while some countries lack vaccines to save the extremely needy sections of their populations. In Nigeria, a country with a population of more 200 million people, only about a million persons have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, it was reported at the weekend that the highly virulent South African variant of coronavirus has been found in Ghana and Togo. The proximity of the variant to Nigeria suggests a greater need for vaccination within the population. This should be treated as a matter of emergency because of the porous borders. Corruption has rendered the surveillance at the airports ineffective.
The story is more pathetic in some African countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Men and women of good conscience should join in the campaign against vaccine inequality because of its destructive implication for mankind. The reputable British news agency, Reuters, did a review of about a dozen contracts involving major suppliers of vaccines in the United States. The revelations put into serious question the consciousness about our collective humanity.The richest and most powerful nation on earth has been stockpiling finished vaccines, as well as the ingredients and equipment desperately needed by other countries such as India, Brazil and Turkey to manufacture vaccines. Employing selfish policy instruments, the U.S. only grants access to American manufacturers to make the jabs. Less developed countries in dire need of vaccines have been pushed into looking for alternatives. As a matter of fact, this trend began during the tenure of President Donald Trump, who would rather lure vaccine manufacturers into the United States from other countries, instead of establishing supply chains with these countries.
There is a global debate about the patent for COVID-19 vaccines. Some countries being ravaged by the pandemic are requesting the richer countries to grant them waivers on the patent for the existing vaccines. They need the waivers on intellectual property, so that enough could be produced to check the explosion of infections in those countries. Although President Joe Biden of the United States expressed support for the waiving of patent for COVID-19 vaccines only last Wednesday, the problem could still persist without addressing the hidden question of the universal access to the ingredients and equipment for making vaccines.
The United States controls the supply of items such as tubing, special disposable bags and filters. If the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accepts the waiver on patents, the gate may be opened for a faster production of vaccines to significantly reduce the number of infections. But the access to the ingredients would still be a hurdle to scale by manufacturers in other countries. Surprisingly, the United States is invoking a law made during the Korean War of the early 1950s to justify this vaccine inequity. The law is called the Defence Production Act (DPA). Agencies of the federal government are empowered by law to decide the priority of items related to national defence. Like defence items, America is restricting ingredients for making vaccines.
As such, the most powerful nation on earth is treating the fight against COVID-19 as a geo-political war by this application of a 70-year old law to restrict the democratisation of the distribution of vaccines. A false equivalence is being drawn between military supplies and materials needed to make vaccines! Trump invoked the same law to give American manufacturers priority over those in other countries. The same Trump took his isolationism to an outrageous level when the United States stopped funding the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid the pandemic last year.

I like to draw a particular attention to the philosophical underpinnings of the difference in the response of socialist Cuba and Western capitalist countries. Internal and foreign policies of Cuba are determined by an ideology that makes man the object and subject of development. And one other lesson of this pandemic is that issues of healthcare cannot be inclusively resolved by market forces.
Meanwhile, Americans have access to full doses of the vaccines, while the country’s pharmaceutical companies are making a lot of money in the process. It took weeks of appeals before the Biden administration granted waivers to the Indian vaccines manufacturers, the Serum Institute of India (SII), to import filters needed for making vaccines. The net result is that more than 45 per cent of the American population has been vaccinated, while less than 1 per cent of the population of Guatemala, Thailand or Nigeria has received the jabs.
The foregoing is the ugly picture of vaccine inequality. Talking about the political economy of COVID-19 in relation to a sense of our common humanity, let us contrast the role of Cuba in the crisis with those of the Western capitalist countries. Whereas the United States and some other capitalist countries have been largely selfish in the approach to the pandemic, Cuba has heroically demonstrated humanism. At the height of the lockdowns last year, some British voyagers infected with coronavirus were stranded in a ship. No Western ally of the United Kingdom allowed the ship to berth because of the travel bans imposed by countries around the world. Europe was then the epicentre of the virus infections. It was only Cuba that welcomed the infected passengers and ensured that they returned to the U.K. It was another teachable moment for the whole world. In a highly compassionate tone, the Cuban foreign ministry put the matter like this: “Given the urgency of the situation and the risk to the lives of sick people, the Cuban government has decided to allow the docking of this ship.“ The passengers will be repatriated by air to the U.K. and their home countries… These are times of solidarity, of understanding health as a human right, of reinforcing international cooperation to face our common challenges, values that are inherent in the humanistic practice of the Revolution and of our people…”

That was a practical demonstration of our shared humanity! The significance of the Cuban gesture even becomes more conspicuous when you remember that in the course of the 60-year old callous economic blockade that the United States has imposed on the Cuban people, the U.K. and other Western capitalists have never risen even in moral defence of Cuba or shown any compassion to them. At the request of the Italian government, Cuba doctors, armed with their drug, Interferon, were in Italy when that country’s healthcare system was overwhelmed by coronavirus infections last year. Cuban doctors were on ground also in other countries in different continents of this world to battle coronavirus.
The reputation of the Cuban social medicine is legendary. The conscious investment in its healthcare system as a social good has paid off for the tiny Caribbean country. The investment is so huge in public health and primary healthcare that no one is left behind. It is an exemplary policy of social inclusion. The result: Lifespan in Cuba is higher than that of any of the U.S. and all the other members of the G7. Apart from India, Cuba is the only country that’s not a member of the G7 but is actively involved in the production of vaccines. Cuba already has five candidate vaccines. The heroism of the Cuban nation in this crisis is firmly hinged on the assertion of our common humanity in words and action.
I like to draw a particular attention to the philosophical underpinnings of the difference in the response of socialist Cuba and Western capitalist countries. Internal and foreign policies of Cuba are determined by an ideology that makes man the object and subject of development. And one other lesson of this pandemic is that issues of healthcare cannot be inclusively resolved by market forces. The excluded members of the society in healthcare provision are more vulnerable during this pandemic in advanced capitalist societies.
The present situation in which some national policies are informed by low humanity is not due to the lack of efforts by multilateral institutions. For instance, about a year ago, the WHO created the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool for the sharing of intellectual property, information and the technology needed to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. Surprisingly, nothing has been put into the pool despite the fact that the Director-General of the WTO, our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called on vaccine makers to share their technology knowhow with others.
Those hoarding vaccines, as if they are oblivious of a common humanity, should be reminded of history. To make penicillin available during World War II, the British government waived the intellectual property on the antibiotic needed to treat wounds during war. The antibiotic was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, but it was not until 1941 that some Oxford University researchers demonstrated its antibacterial effectiveness. Rather than make a fetish of intellectual property, the Oxford researchers went to the United States to share their knowledge and American manufacturers began to make about 100 billion units of penicillin in a month. The same knowledge was shared with India with the support of WHO and UNICEF. India became a big manufacturer of penicillin. The principle then was the exchange of knowledge, because untreated wounds constituted a global health problem. That same principle could still be applied to as mankind battles this pandemic.
One thing is crystal clear from the global debate on the central factor of intellectual property in the production of coronavirus vaccine: The capitalist logic rules the policies of the advanced countries. The priority of the big pharmaceutical companies is profit and not saving humanity from the pandemic. Western governments are giving a political and ideological stamp to this approach to the problem. But the approach to a global public health emergency is not only selfish, it is also scientifically myopic. As long as the virus exists in any country, it could spread to other countries. One other lesson of the pandemic is that public healthcare systems cannot be developed by applying the logic of market forces. Public health services should be treated as social goods because a pandemic is a challenge to the common good. The implication is that government should invest more in public health.
Humanism can find expression at the global level. It can also manifest at the national level. Contrary to the cynical viewpoint of bourgeois theorists, humanism could be expressed in moments of crisis, as it happened last year in Nigeria. The coronavirus unmasked the grave inequality in the Nigerian society during the lockdown imposed to cut the chains of the virus.
Nigeria, for instance, devotes less than 5 per cent of its budget to healthcare. Little surprise that the response of Nigeria to the pandemic has been extremely weakened by the manifestation of poverty in the healthcare system. Most of the states are yet to comply with the law on universal healthcare coverage. Health insurance still remains essentially an idea whose time is yet to come in Nigeria. In fact, the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said last year that he never knew that the condition of healthcare system was so derelict until he was given the assignment. Health is still not yet a budgetary priority in Nigeria. In a culture that is bereft of humanism, members of the political and economic elite are content with the situation in which they pay exorbitant fees in private hospitals at home and abroad. Here we are talking of less than 1 per cent of the population. Policy makers are not losing their sleep because the 99 per cent cannot afford quality healthcare.
It is, therefore, shocking that with all the billons garnered by the private sector Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID) last year, the federal and state governments are yet to report noticeable improvements in healthcare infrastructure in the country. Not enough molecular laboratories have been built. Ventilators are not in adequate supply in hospitals and isolation centres. Even with all the warnings that the pitiable situations in India, Brazil and Turkey are presenting to the world, Nigeria is not getting prepared for the possibility of another virulent wave with massive production of medical oxygen and other essential materials to save lives.
In this respect, I like to call on African governments not to wait naively and irresponsibly on those who may not have compassion on poor African countries. They should fund the health sector as a public good. For instance, Nigeria was producing vaccines in the 1980s. How come we are not talking of Nigeria’s own vaccines against coronavirus in 2021? The challenge of the hoarding of vaccines by the developed countries is that Africa should begin to prepare for future pandemics by producing its own vaccines.

Meanwhile, the little quantity of vaccines available in Nigeria came from India through the facility of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). Now, India itself has now run of stock of vaccines for its population being ravaged by coronavirus. So the vaccine situation for Nigeria, like other third world countries, is precarious. This is despite the great efforts of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), which has been nudging the American government to remove the restriction to the production of vaccines by manufacturers located in other parts of the world. The alliance comprises governments, international organisations, drug companies and non-governmental organisations.
In sum, the response to the crisis should, therefore, be based on the principles of compassion, cooperation and multilateralism. In fact, apart from the pandemic, other global issues such as climate change, social inequality, drugs and identity crisis require cooperation and multilateral approaches because they constitute dangers to our common humanity. Those who for profit motives, power and other considerations ignore these issues of common humanity, while pursuing recklessly selfish private interests, are really short-sighted. They are like fleas, parasites which inflict so much pains on their dog host, forgetting that the death of the host would be their own end too.
I like to end on a little optimistic note. Humanism can find expression at the global level. It can also manifest at the national level. Contrary to the cynical viewpoint of bourgeois theorists, humanism could be expressed in moments of crisis, as it happened last year in Nigeria. The coronavirus unmasked the grave inequality in the Nigerian society during the lockdown imposed to cut the chains of the virus. Most of those working depended on daily incomes. Millions of others were jobless. The pressure was such that some starved members of the society hid behind the placards of the legitimate #EndSARS protests to loot warehouses full of foodstuffs. The good news was that food items were provided by a coalition of private businessmen for the benefit of the most vulnerable people.
Another piece of good news is that people living in middle class and upper middle class estates supplied their poor neighbours in slums with food. Many individuals also quietly assisted others with provisions and money during the lockdown. No, all these kind gestures did not address the systemic question of the poverty of the majority. However, they pointed to the realisation of our common humanity. The trend provides a basis for hope, as we ponder the future of mankind.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.
This is the edited text of a keynote address delivered at the International Conference Humanism in the Era of Pandemic at Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State on Monday, May 10, 2021.
 

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Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic For Our Collective Humanity, By Femi Falana – Premium Times – 2021-05-13 18:39:26

Nigeria on life support, says Wike

By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, has said that Nigeria is on life support following widespread insecurity overwhelming the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government
The Governor spoke during a thank-you- visit by the Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers of Ogoni nationality at Government House, Port Harcourt on Thursday.
He said nobody felt secured anymore anywhere in the country because of the unchecked attacks on law enforcement personnel and innocent citizens.
According to him: “You know how the country is today. Nobody can say that he or she is safe now. Governors are being attacked even on the road like other citizens. The security of the country has collapsed.
“The present Federal Government of All Progressives Congress (APC) has not shown enough commitment to protect life and property of Nigerians.”
He said it would be disastrous if Nigerians failed to take their destiny in their own hands by kicking out the APC in 2023.
“Nigeria is already and almost on life support now. Making another mistake will be disastrous. We are praying to God not to let us to die. Let this country not collapse”, he said.

He said poor governance festered in the country because Nigerians never bothered to hold elected officials accountable.
Wike said the federal government rode on mere rhetoric without clear direction on how to address the insecurity plaguing the country.
He said: “All of us are at risk because the party voted for at the national level have refused to protect us. They have shown that they have no capacity to protect Nigerians.
“There’s no day you wake up and will not hear that 20 people have been kidnapped, 10 people have been killed, army and police officers have been killed, police stations have been set ablaze, and children have been kidnapped from school.”
Wike said the completion of the first phase of the dualised Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road and other ongoing projects in Ogoni demonstrated his resolve to fulfil all campaign promises to Ogoni people.
“We pledge our willingness in the area of intelligence gathering to you and the security agencies to enhance the security architecture of the State to forestall further occurrences,” he said.

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Nigeria on life support, says Wike – Oamen Eromosele – 2021-04-29 18:35:15

Senate Seeks Policies to Encourage Local Investors in Cement Production

By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The Senate has called on the federal government to provide more industrial incentives and protections such as concessionary loans and larger tax incentives for new entrants into the local cement production with a view to boosting production, reduction of price and encouragement of more valuable producers in the country.
The Senate passed a resolution at yesterday’s plenary, following the adoption of a motion, entitled, ‘Need for Liberalisation of Cement policy in Nigeria,’ sponsored by Senator Ashiru Yisa (Kwara South) and five others.

The co-sponsors are Senators Muhammad Bima (Niger South); Adelere Oriolowo (Osun West); Samuel Egwu (Ebonyi North); Kabiru Gaya (Kano South); and Michael Nnachi (Ebonyi South).
Moving the motion, Yisa said cement was of strategic importance to the country’s infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drainages as well as in the construction of residential and public buildings.
He stated that the cement market was oligopolistic in nature with three players (Dangote Cement (60.6 per cent); Lafarge Africa Plc (21.8 per cent) and BUA Group (17.6 per cent) largely dominating the scene therefore making it susceptible to price-fixing practices.
According to him, the significant rise in cement prices in the country and the low purchasing power of Nigerians may result in substandard building construction and non-completion of planned infrastructural works.
He added that the situation called for urgent need to encourage more local production of cement to satisfy demands with a steady growth rate of approximately three per cent per annum; a housing deficit of 30 million units and less engagement of over 10.5 million workforce of the building.
He said unfavourable government policies such as the imposition of multiple taxes, erratic power supply, government ban on importation in violation of ECOWAS Trade liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and subsequent lifting of importation in favour of few producers had negative implications on the growth infrastructures.
The sponsor of the motion added that if the status quo persists, the negative consequences of high prices on the economy will outweigh the benefits of producing cement locally;He said: ”Cement is one of the few building materials in which Nigeria is self-sufficient.
As of 2018, the installed capacity of cement producers was about 47.8MMT, which is far above the estimated (2018) consumption of about a 20.7million metric tonnes. Yet, the prices of cement in Nigeria (N380) are about 240 per cent higher than the global average.
”Cognisant that cement takes a large share of domestic expenditure, and the price of such commodity; significantly impacts the government’s ability to provide much-needed infrastructural works required for the growth of our economy. Further cognisant that the recent increase in price of cement ( from N2,600 N3,800) slowed down the amount of construction work being embarked upon thus negatively affecting labour engagement and almost collapsed the procurement plan of the governments in 2020 Appropriation Act.”
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Senate Seeks Policies to Encourage Local Investors in Cement Production – editor – 2021-04-21 04:28:26

JUSUN strike: What FG, States must do — SANs

By Henry Ojelu & Onozure Dania
As the strike action embarked on by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, to demand financial autonomy for the judiciary enters day nine, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs spoke on JUSUN’s position and what the state governments must do.
 

Judiciary must be emancipated now— Ozekhome, SAN
Rights activist and lawyer, Mike Ozekhome expressed  support for the ongoing JUSUN strike, insisting that the judiciary must be emancipated now. He said: “Autonomy as prescribed by the Constitution, is the goal of the JUSUN strike. No more, no less. This was why I supported President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order which had ordered direct payments to Heads of Courts for disbursements. Though appearing then otiose and superfluous, having been duly and fully provided for in the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, I still supported it. Why should Governors waylay, like armed bandits, funds meant for the Judiciary on a first-line-charge? Where is the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers, checks and balances, as ably propounded by the great French Philosopher, Baron de Mintequieu,in 1748?
“Do the Governors still want to prove Alexander Hamilton right in his over 200 years old treatise in his Federalist Paper no 78, to the effect that the Judiciary is the weakest of the three arms of Government, because it possesses neither purse nor arms to enforce its judgment? JUSUN should stand by its rights, nay the rights of the entire Judiciary. We may suffer some inconveniences for a while, but after darkness comes dawn. The cliché remains, no pain, no gain. It’s a worthwhile struggle for the full emancipation, independence, integrity and credibility of the Judiciary, the last hope of the common man.

“The issue of managing the judiciary funds in such a way as to avoid corruption can always be dealt with at the appropriate time .In any event, there are checks and balances. For now, let us first get to the bridge before crossing it. Let us first drive away the fox before blaming the fowl for wandering too deep into the forest.”
 
Strike should be supported—Ojukwu, SAN
Professor Ernest Ojukwu, also expressed  support for JUSUN, saying it is dangerous for the judiciary to continue to beg for fund from the executive. He said: “JUSUN should be supported by all Nigerians to solve this problem of financial autonomy for the Judiciary especially at State levels. The fight by JUSUN is actually a fight that should have been undertaken by the Nigerian Bar Association long before now. It is saddening and disappointing to hear that the Bar had been persuading JUSUN to call off the strike at the Federal level. The NBA call is self serving and a set back to the advocacy for the independence of the judiciary which the Bar has for long been pretending to fight for.
“Whenever there is civil action against mis-governance and what the State Executives have been doing with the judiciary is mis-governance at the lowest level, there is bound to be some inconvenience even for those being fought for. The inconvenience is usually temporary and no matter how long it may take, our eyes should be on the ball and win this fight once and for all times.
“At the same time we must also begin a robust discussion with the judiciary on how accountability and transparency must be practiced by them when the fight for financial autonomy is won. I believe that our judges especially the Chief Judges should not be exposed to the opportunity to be corrupted by the financial processes. They should focus on the task of adjudication hundred percent and independent court administrators should be appointed to manage the courts and their funds. Each state should enact such judiciary financial autonomy accountability law that creates a procurement committee and that grants powers to an administrator to manage the funds. Such an administrator cannot be removed from office except with the two-third votes of the legislature. Chief Registrars should also not be accounting officers for the judiciary. Chief Registrars have enough work as quasi judges managing the pure administration of justice and its processes.”
 
Executive Order 10, an admission of impunity — Erugo, SAN
Another Law Professor, Sam Erugo insists that Executive Order 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020 is an admission of impunity by state governments.
He said: The strike action by JUSUN seems justified under Industrial law-as strike action, is a weapon of negotiation and ultimately enforcement, and usually employed when reason and other negotiations fail.
There is no argument that the government of Nigeria, including the states, is constituted by three arms-the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The Judiciary, unfortunately conservative, is the weeping arm that must go begging the other arms for her due as an arm of government.  This is not acceptable as it makes independence of the Judiciary a hoax.
Section 81 of the Constitution, provides that: “any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of the courts established for the Federation and the states under section 6 of the Constitution”.
For the 36 states of the Federation, Section 121 similarly provides that: “any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.”
What is difficult in implementing these provisions of the Constitution, in same manner as done for the other arms of government? Apart from collective bargains and previous strike actions by JUSUN, there are judgments of court that the governors have with impunity refused to obey. Of course, the President’s Executive Order 10 of 2020 is an admission of impunity in the face of lawlessness. Since the Judges are conservative and cannot openly complain, it makes sense that JUSUN should take the lead as workers. They need the support of all those who wish to see an independent and well-funded Judiciary.
 
Financial autonomy may become booby trap if… —Babatunde, SAN
Publisher of Supreme Court Law Report, Layi Babatunde, SAN, cautioned that the judiciary must be ready to meet the demands of financial autonomy when it comes into play, otherwise, it may become a booby trap to which many high ranking judicial officials may succumb through anti corruption agencies.
He said, “Absence of financial autonomy for the judiciary opens a shadowy window for the executive, to rig the process and enforce their Will, through undue patronage by the bench. The system we are operating now is a typical example of fraudulent benevolence by the Executive. It is humiliating, watching governors’ hand over car keys to Judges, in the full glare of TV cameras! This is antithetical to good justice delivery and highly objectionable to all lovers of justice and fair play. Equality of all before the law, abhors strong arm tactics through the purse. Executive Order 10 of 2020 is a good starting point. Appropriate Legislations should be put in place at all levels to give it teeth and create safe guards. However the point must be made, that the judiciary itself must be ready to meet the demands of this new regime when it comes into play, otherwise financial autonomy may become a booby trap to which many high ranking judicial officials may succumb through anti-corruption agencies, firmly in the hand of the executive.
“As appealing as the cause of judicial workers is, for litigants and counsel, shutting the courts at this time, is a double tragedy that must not be allowed to persist. Every litigant or accused deserve their day in court. To make matters worse, judges are unable to access their Chambers to perform some other judicial duties, apart from sitting in open court. Government should do all that is necessary, to bring this impasse to an early and happy ending .”
 
Constitutional provision on financial autonomy not practicable
— Pedro, SAN
Former Solicitor General of Lagos State, Lawal Pedro is of the opinion that present constitutional provision of financial autonomy for the judiciary is not practicable. He said: “Financial autonomy to a body in my understanding is the freedom to generate revenue within its assigned sources, allocate its financial and material resources, determine and authorize its annual budget without external interference. I have my doubt if this is realisable in the present constitutional arrangement in Nigeria by the judiciary.
“In my view the provisions of the present constitution of Nigeria on financial autonomy to the judiciary is fluid and inadequate for purpose of implementation because it provides that “money standing to the credit of the judiciary” shall be paid directly to the judiciary. The question is when can it be said that an amount is standing to the credit of the judiciary? Is it when it is budgeted for and approved or when the amount is available to be released having regard to the relevant government budget implementation. This underscores the need for an amendment of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria  to ensure financial autonomy for the Judiciary to deliver effective and efficient administration of justice. In the meantime I will advocate for increase in Budget Envelope for the Judiciary both in the Federal and States.
 
FG should deduct from fund of recalcitrant states —Ahia, SAN
On his part, Ken Ahia says that the federal government ought to have disciplined recalcitrant states by deducting judiciary fund directly from their accounts.  Expressing support for JUSUN strike, Ahia said: “I believe it is appropriate for the judiciary to have financial autonomy because, without financial autonomy, all other kinds of autonomy may just be a hollow ritual. So the strike has a laudable objective but it is also regrettable that we don’t seem to achieve anything without strike. In my view, what the Federal Government ought to have done, given the seeming recalcitrance of the states, is to deduct the fund for the judiciary of every state and hand them directly to the judiciary for utilization.
“As for managing the fund to curb corruption, I am a bit surprised  because the executive branch gets its fund just like the  legislature. That is to say, these branches of government manage their fund. How have they been doing it without corruption? Budgets of the judiciary are approved by the legislature and much of the funds are tied to specific heads. The judiciary, like other arms, ought to have internal mechanisms such as internal auditors. The accountant general, where he is not satisfied, can also call for audit annually or periodically to ensure that waste or corruption is minimized.”
 
AuGF, state Assemblies responsible for judiciary’s financial problem
—Ozoani, SAN
Emeka Ozoani, SAN, blamed the inability of state judiciaries to get their funds on the Accountant General of the Federation and State House of Assemblies. He said: “The Accountant General of the Federation and State House of Assemblies are the cause of the problem we have in the judiciary. The Executive through the accountant general mans the federation account. The AuGF ought to know what the state house of assemblies and the joint allocation committee of the state for the judiciary has agreed as their expenditure for the year. The onus is now on the accountant general to make a direct transfer to the state judiciary. If financial autonomy is not granted to the judiciary as being demanded by JUSUN, the governors will continue to hold judges to ransom and I can assure you that the next general election will be crazy and judgments will be flying everywhere.
“I just pray that the leadership of JUSUN will remain adamant on their demand and refuse to yield any ground. If they are determined, I can assure you that government will back down because what they are fighting for is a constitutional provision. They are not begging government to make a new law. What they are demanding is the rights of the judiciary arms of government. I know a lot of cases have suffered setback, but it is important that we do this once and for all. The question about timing of the strike is really inconsequential. Agreed that the judgment for judiciary autonomy upon which they are basing their strike was delivered was in 2014, but I think they have also endured enough. If we want quality judgments, then let us get it right now. Let the judgment be fully implemented and let judiciary manage their own affairs.”
 
Judicial independence cannot be measured by money alone— Adegboruwa, SAN
Rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, cautioned that judicial independence should not be measure by money alone. Appraising the JUSUN demand for financial autonomy, he said: “The executive order signed by the President is critical because it goes to the very root of the many problems associated with justice administration and the seeming docility and ineffectiveness of state legislatures.
“No matter the quantum of the amount of money released, the judiciary should have the power to determine its budget and spending, to prioritize its commitment level, all targeted at delivering justice to the people. The appeal then is to the Governors of the States, to work together with JUSUN, NBA and the federal government to empower the judiciary financially, once and for all. This should be the focus of the various meetings being convened to resolve this imbroglio.
“It is my belief however that judicial independence cannot be measured by funding alone, but also in the willingness to obey and abide by all decisions and orders of the courts. The integrity of the judiciary is better achieved through willful obedience to the orders and directives of the courts. In this regard, so long as judges are living under some mortal trepidation of persecution on account of their decisions, as long as we still require persuasion to get the executive to obey court orders, then the judiciary cannot be said to be independent, no matter the amount of billions of naira thrown at the courts.
“My charge to the President is to extend the executive order to include compulsory obedience to all lawful orders issued by the courts and to prohibit any form of harassment or intimidation of judicial officers, however subtly it may come. When this is achieved, then we can truly say that the judiciary is autonomous and independent.”
Vanguard News Nigeria
 

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JUSUN strike: What FG, States must do — SANs – Urowayino Jeremiah – 2021-04-15 19:06:14

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC solid and steady progress on backward integration in dairy development in Nigeria

UAC of Nigeria PLC (“UAC” or the “Group”) announced its audited results for the year ended 31 December 2020.HighlightsRevenue 3% ahead of FY 2019, despite COVID-19 related disruptions.Gross margin 134bps lower due to limited sales during the Q2 2020 restrictions to the movement of people and goods, as well as, higher input costs.Underlying operating profit 26% lower at ₦3.6 billion, largely on account of the Paints segment.Total profit for the period was ₦3.9 billion, a reversal from the ₦9.3 billion loss reported in FY 2019.Earnings per share was 92 kobo, up from negative 183 kobo in FY 2019.Total dividend of 120 kobo per share (₦5 billion) comprised of an ordinary dividend of 65 kobo and a special dividend of 55 kobo per share. This translates to a dividend yield of 13.8%. Subsidiary and associate company highlightsCompleted partial exit from UACN Property Development Company PLC (“UPDC”). Received N6 billion cash proceeds and 649,392,661 UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust (“UPDC REIT”) units valued at N3.6 billion. UPDC and UPDC REIT are now classified as investments in associates.Divested an 8% stake in MDS Logistics Limited (“MDS Logistics”) to our joint venture partner, Imperial Logistics. This reduced UAC’s ownership from 51% to 43%. MDS Logistics is now classified as an investment in associate.Chemical and Allied Products PLC (“CAP”) and Portland Paints and Products Nigeria PLC (“Portland Paints”) announced plans to merge.Proposed corporate actionsUnbundling of UPDC REIT units, valued at N6 billion, to UAC shareholders was approved by the Board of Directors. Completion is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals as well as the sanction of the court.Commenting on the results and corporate actions, Group Managing Director, Fola Aiyesimoju, stated: “UAC’s objective is to generate attractive long-term, risk-adjusted returns for our shareholders. I am delighted that the Board approved ₦7.1 billion in capital returns to shareholders via a mix of dividends and REIT units totalling N2.47 per share or a 28.3% return at current market values.Over the last 12 months, we faced a recession, civil unrest, and significant changes to the way we work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of these headwinds, we executed our key priorities, implemented initiatives relating to UPDC, strengthened management, and returned the Group to profitability.As part of the partial exit from UPDC, we received ₦6.6 billion net cash proceeds and 649 million UPDC REIT units valued at ₦3.6 billion. I am excited that we are unlocking value for our shareholders via a special dividend, as well as, the unbundling of UPDC REIT units which, if approved by regulators, shareholders and sanctioned by the court, will see UAC’s shareholders become direct holders of units in UPDC REIT.Going forward, our focus remains on creating shareholder value and we continue to prioritise growth, scale, and simplicity to achieve this. We will explore acquisitions as an avenue to accelerate growth.”Corporate Action: Proposed Unbundling of UPDC REIT UnitsConsistent with our commitment to create sustainable shareholder value, the Board of Directors is pleased to announce its decision to unbundle its 24.34% interest in UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust (649 million units valued at N3.6 billion) to UAC shareholders. Following the unbundling, UAC will no longer own any UPDC REIT units, and UAC’s shareholders will become direct holders of UPDC REIT units. The allocation ratio of 0.2254 will see UAC shareholders receive 226 UPDC REIT units for every 1,000 UAC shares owned, providing UAC shareholders with a capital return of N1.27 per share or 14.5% based on the respective market prices of UAC and UPDC REIT as at 29 March 2021. The proposed initiative will provide shareholders with direct exposure to UPDC REIT and its diverse portfolio of income generating assets, ensuring that shareholders directly benefit from future potential dividend distributions from the UPDC REIT.Implementation framework: The transfer of UPDC REIT units to UAC’s shareholders will be implemented through a Scheme of Arrangement under Section 715 of the Companies and Allied Matters, Act, 2020 as amended (“CAMA”), incorporating a reduction in share capital under Section 131 of CAMA. The effect of the scheme will be that UPDC REIT units owned by UAC will be transferred to UAC’s shareholders, pro-rata to their shareholding in UAC. If the Scheme is approved and implemented, UAC’s shareholders will hold UPDyou C REIT units in addition to their existing shares in UAC. UAC will cease to be a unitholder in UPDC REIT.The announced plan is subject to the review and approval of regulators, UAC shareholders at a court-ordered meeting, as well as the sanction of the court. Accordingly, shareholders and the investing public are advised to exercise caution when dealing in the securities of UAC and UPDC REIT. Further updates will be communicated accordingly.Group HighlightsAttributable to share of profit from MDS Logistics and UPDC where UAC holds 43% and 42.85% of the respective company’s shares.Accounting ChangesThe following transactions in respect of equity interests in subsidiaries are responsible for key accounting changes in FY 2020 compared to FY 2019:The divestment of control in MDS Logistics and UPDC. UAC now accounts for MDS Logistics and UPDC as “investments in associates” in the Statement of Financial Position (“SOFP”). UAC’s share of profit from both entities is reported under “Share of Profit of Associates and JVs” in the Group Statement of Profit or Loss (“P or L”) for year ended 31 December 2020. Group Performance and Financial Review: FY 2020Revenue in FY 2020 increased 2.7% YoY to ₦81.4 billion supported by sales growth in the Animal Feeds & Other Edibles segment (+4.6% YoY), the Packaged Food & Beverages segment (1.8%) and the Quick Service Restaurant Segment (1.8%). These segments were deemed essential services during the period of stringent restrictions to the movement of people and goods to curtail the spread of COVID-19.Gross profit in FY 2020 declined 3.8% YoY to ₦16.0 billion as a result of limited sales during the strictest phase of the restrictions to the movement of people and goods (April and May), and higher input costs.Operating Profit was ₦3.6 billion in FY 2020 compared to ₦5.7 billion in the previous year. Adjusting for non-recurring income in 2019 from the sale of non-core real estate assets (₦631 million) and the writeback of statute barred unclaimed dividend (₦206 million), underlying FY 2020 EBIT declined 25.8% YoY to ₦3.6 billion in 2020 versus ₦4.8 billion in 2019. The decline was largely attributable to the Paints segment which was categorised as “non-essential” and was impacted by reduced sales in April and May, as well as input cost escalation partly attributable to foreign exchange devaluation, supply chain disruptions which impacted raw material sourcing, and rising employee costs on account of initiatives to strengthen management teams across the Group.Underlying Profit before Tax was 23% lower YoY at ₦5.1 billion in FY 2020 on account of lower operating profit and steep decline in net finance income (-69.0% YoY) on account of lower investment income yields compared to the prior year. The decline in net finance income was offset by the share of profit of associates of ₦973 million earned from MDS and UPDC, largely attributable to a non-cash, mark to market increase in the fair value of UPDC REIT.Profit after Tax from continuing operations was ₦3.5 billion, down 35.3% YoY against ₦5.3 billion in FY 2019. Total profit for the period was ₦3.9 billion in FY 2020, a reversal from the ₦9.3 billion loss reported in FY 2019. Earnings per share for FY 2020 was 92 kobo, up from negative 183 kobo in FY 2019.Free Cash Flow for the period was negative ₦3.0 billion in FY 2020, compared with negative ₦5.6 billion in FY 2019. Free cash flow in FY 2020 improved significantly on account of the ₦4.2 billion gain from the change in net assets of disposal group held for sale, as a result of the sale of controlling stake in MDS and UPDC. Free cash flow was also impacted by higher net capital expenditure YoY (+71% increase to ₦4.4 billion in FY 2020) from investments in production capacity and cold chain distribution for the Packaged Food and Beverages segment.Return on Equity (ROE) from continuing operations at the end of December 2020 was 5%, a reversal from negative 10.6% as at the same period last year. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) was 103bps lower at 5.9% (6.9% in FY2019).Segment PerformancePerformance of the corporate head office not included in the table as it is not allocated to any segment. Animal Feeds and Other Edibles Revenue from the Animal Feeds and Other Edibles segment increased 4.6% YoY to N54.2 billion in FY 2020. Price increases, as well as volume growth, across major categories to offset higher input costs primarily contributed to the 17.7% increase in YoY EBIT to ₦2.1 billion (FY 2019: ₦1.8 billion). The segment recorded a ₦1.7 billion Profit before Tax in FY 2020, against a ₦990 million Profit before Tax in FY 2019.Paints Corporate Action: On 26 October 2020, Chemical and Allied Products PLC (CAP) and Portland Paints and Products Nigeria PLC (Portland Paints) announced their intention to merge their respective businesses. The boards and management of CAP and Portland Paints expect the proposed merger to be value accretive to stakeholders of both companies. The respective minority shareholders of both companies approved the merger at separate court-ordered meetings on 18 February 2021. Completion is subject to final regulatory approvals and court sanction, expected in Q2 2021.Financial review: The Paints segment reported revenue contraction of 5.4% YoY to ₦10.4billion in FY 2020. The decline in revenue was largely a result of lower sales as this segment was categorised as “non-essential” and was impacted by COVID-19 related restrictions particularly in April and May 2020. Operating profit was 45.3% lower at ₦1.2 billion as a result of losses during the period of no sales, higher royalties, and rising input costs. Profit before Tax of ₦1.5 billion in FY 2020 was 45% lower than FY 2019.Packaged Food and Beverages The Packaged Food and Beverages segment recorded revenue growth of 1.8% YoY in FY 2020 of ₦17.9 billion (FY 2019: ₦17.5 billion). Lower volumes in the snacks category on account of movement restrictions and the partial shutdown of markets to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Q2, were offset by higher volumes in water and ice cream categories, as well as, increased sales in the snacks category in Q4 pls due to sales and marketing efforts. Operating profit increased by 13.3% to N1.4 billion (FY 2019: N1.2 billion) on account of lower operating costs. Profit before Tax declined by 12.0% to ₦1.4 billion on account of lower finance income.Quick Service Restaurants Revenue from the Quick Service Restaurants segment grew 1.8% YoY to ₦1.53 billion in FY 2020 from ₦1.50 billion in FY 2019 on account of an increase in the number of company-owned restaurants (corporate stores). The segment recorded a ₦48 million operating loss in FY 2020 as a result of higher cost of sales and operating costs. UAC Restaurants recorded a ₦57 million Loss before Tax in FY 2020, against a ₦75 million Loss before Tax in FY 2019.Associate: Real Estate (UPDC – 43% ownership)Corporate Action: Sale of 51% stake: On 3 August 2020, UAC entered into a binding agreement with Custodian Investment PLC regarding the acquisition of a 51% stake in UPDC to be completed in two tranches. The first tranche, representing a 5.1% stake was completed in September 2020. The sale of the second tranche of UPDC shares representing a 45.9% stake was concluded on 17 November 2020. UAC received N6.6 billion in cash proceeds and retains a 42.85% stake in UPDC.Unbundling of UPDC REIT units: In 2020, UPDC embarked on a process to unbundle its holdings in UPDC REIT to its shareholders. This initiative was aimed at maximising returns to all UPDC’s shareholders by providing direct access to the steady and regular dividend distributions of UPDC REIT. UAC, as a shareholder of UPDC, received 649,392,661 UPDC REIT units, representing a 24.34% stake, valued at N3.6 billion as at 31 December 2020.Financial review: UPDC’s FY 2020 revenue was ₦1.7 billion, 22.9% lower than FY 2019 as a result of challenging operating environment exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Revenue declined on account of lower sales of properties at ₦1.3 billion compared to FY 2019 of ₦1.7 billion (-24.8%), lower rental income and management fees at ₦96 million compared to FY 2019 of ₦167 million (-42.3%).The segment recorded an operating loss of ₦713 million in FY 2020, an improvement compared to operating loss of ₦1.3 billion in FY 2019 due to improvement in gross profit from inventory write back. Although the company incurred net finance costs of ₦1.5 billion (-43.4% lower YoY) and provision for First Festival Mall loan guarantee of ₦940 million, the fair value gain of ₦2.9 billion, earned on the Company’s asset disposal group held for sale contributed to UPDC recording a ₦263 million Loss before Tax in FY 2020, an improvement of 98.4% against a ₦16.2 billion Loss before Tax in FY 2019. Associate: Logistics (MDS Logistics – 43% ownership)MDS Logistics’ FY 2020 revenue increased 40.3% YoY to ₦8.0 billion from ₦5.7 billion driven by increase in demand for haulage services. Operating profit increased 15.9% YoY to ₦875 million (FY 2019: ₦755 million) resulting in EBIT margin of 11% in FY 2020, a 231bps compression compared to the prior year on account of higher cost of sales. Profit before Tax of ₦388 million in FY 2020 was 44.8% lower than FY 2019 (₦703 million) as a result of increased finance costs incurred on a loan to fund recent capital expenditure to support the haulage business. Profit after Tax was ₦289 million in FY 2020.Results Conference CallManagement will host an investor and analyst conference call on Thursday, 1 April 2021 at 3pm WAT to present and discuss the Group results. The presentation and conference call details are available on our website (www.uacnplc.com). Please direct any questions regarding the conference call to UAC Investor Relations, via e-mail, at [email protected]. For more information, please contactFunke Ijaiya-OladipoGroup Chief Financial Officer[email protected]+234 906 269 2908www.uacnplc.com About UACUAC of Nigeria PLC (UAC) is a holding company with subsidiary and associate companies operating in the Animal Feeds and Other Edibles; Paints; Packaged Food and Beverages; Quick Service Restaurants; Logistics and Real Estate segments. UAC has played a prominent role Nigeria’s development for over a century. The company is focused on building its businesses into leaders in their chosen segments.UAC has four operating platformsAnimal Feeds and Other EdiblesGrand Cereals Limited (71.4% ownership) – a leading producer of cereals, edible oils, poultry feed, fish feed, ruminant feed and dog food. The company has production and distribution facilities in Northern and South Eastern Nigeria. It owns a portfolio of strong brands including Grand, Vital, and Best Mate.Livestock Feeds PLC (73.0% ownership) – produces and distributes poultry feed, feed concentrates and full fat soya. The company recently expanded its offering to include veterinary drugs. Livestock Feeds’ geographic strength is in South West Nigeria. The company is listed on The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“The NSE”).PaintsChemical and Allied Products PLC (51.5% ownership) – the leading player in the premium paints segment and the sole technology licensee for AkzoNobel’s decorative range in Nigeria. The company benefits from a unique distribution model – franchised retail outlets, which it pioneered in Nigeria’s paint industry. CAP is listed on The NSE.Portland Paints and Products Nigeria PLC (85.98% ownership) – is a distributor for Hempel’s industrial products in Nigeria. It also manufactures and markets decorative and industrial paints under its own brand, Sandtex. PPNL is listed on The NSE.Packaged Food and BeveragesUAC Foods Limited (51% ownership) – a joint venture business with Tiger Brands and leader in the snacks, ice-cream, and spring water categories. It owns iconic brands including Gala, Funtime, Supreme and SWAN Spring Water.Quick Service RestaurantsUAC Restaurants Limited (51% ownership) – a joint venture with Famous Brands, manages the network of Quick Service Restaurants across Nigeria under the Mr Bigg’s and Debonairs Pizza brands.UAC owns minority stakes in Logistics and Real Estate businessesLogisticsMDS Logistics Limited (43% ownership) – a leading logistics provider in Nigeria, offers the complete suite of outbound logistics and supply chain services including Warehousing, Haulage and Distribution.Real EstateUACN Property Development Company PLC (42.9% ownership) – a foremost property development and management company quoted on The NSE.UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust (24.3% ownership) – a close-ended property fund listed on The NSE, with a market capitalisation of ₦14.7 billion as at 31 December 2020.For more information visit www.uacnplc.com 

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FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC solid and steady progress on backward integration in dairy development in Nigeria – NM Partners – 2021-03-31 17:12:55

SGF, NSA, IG, Minister, SSGs Endorse Joint Operations to Flush out Bandits

Tobi Soniyi
A joint operation to deliberately deny criminals room for manoeuvre and change of locations and hideouts has been approved by a forum of prominent state players as part of a new initiative to curb the growing insecurity in the country. Key actors, who endorsed the move, include Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno; and Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADM&SD), Sadiya Umar Farouk; Minister of Environment, Dr. Abubakar Mahmood; and the 36 Secretaries to the State Governments also approved the new operation.

The resolution was part of the decisions reached at the first quarter regular meetings by the Forum of Secretary to the Government of the Federation with Secretaries to the State Governments, which held virtually on Thursday.

According to a communiqué issued yesterday, the meeting urged the Secretaries to the State Governments to explore possibilities of joint operations by states to prevent free movements by criminals between states.“This is to avoid bandits moving from areas of hot pursuit to other areas and returning, when the heat is down,” the communiqué stated.Themed, “Role of Secretaries to the State Governments in Strengthening Sub-National Level Security Architecture,” the meeting was chaired by Mustapha in company with other stakeholders.
The forum called on the federal government to strengthen border controls in order to check illegal immigrants and influx of weapons from other countries. It emphasised the need to resuscitate community-driven safety measures and address existing trust deficits to encourage willingness to release information to state security agencies.“The meeting emphasised the need to recalibrate our traditional governance systems to the time-tested and proven method of responsiveness to civil society at the local levels, which hitherto prevailed in the country,” the communiqué stated.
The forum said there was need to automate the national security architecture and provide adequate resources for personnel, equipment, and operations. It highlighted the need to improve the current low police to population ratio and imbibe community policing. It reiterated the need for appropriate public enlightenment to raise security awareness among the citizenry.
The meeting equally recognised the coordinating role of the Secretaries to the State Governments and called on them to strengthen non-kinetic approaches, especially, by establishing a community level early warning systems.
The forum also noted progress made in strengthening federal and state governments’ relationship in delivering poverty eradication initiatives and called for sustenance and scaling up in view of the growing poverty situation in the country.
Farouk disclosed that there was an on-going high-level consultation to establish structures that would ensure that all agencies responsible for implementing poverty eradication programmes/projects cooperated. The consultation is also to ensure that the agencies are well coordinated to share experiences, share data and complement each other for effectiveness, better deployment of resources, and higher poverty reduction impacts, she said.
Farouk said at the federal level, there will be National Poverty Eradication Cooperation and Coordinating Committee (NPCCC) chaired by her. She explained that at the state level, there would also be a Poverty Eradication Cooperation and Coordination Committee (SPCCC), under the Offices of the SSGs, aimed at achieving similar objectives.
The minister said the ministry had established the National Social Register (NSR) aimed at capturing in details the data on all poor and vulnerable citizens in the country, adding, “So far, nearly 30 million individuals have been registered nationwide.”The forum further examined the inextricable linkage between environmental degradation, security and conflict for resource use and management. It called for a National Forestry and Biodiversity Summit and urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to provide leadership for its convocation.
The forum urged state governments to strengthen their various forestry services especially, by prioritising sustainable forest management practices, developing and adhering to forest management plans, and strengthening the state forestry services. It appealed to the federal government to support the Federal Ministry of Environment in undertaking a comprehensive forest resources assessment.
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SGF, NSA, IG, Minister, SSGs Endorse Joint Operations to Flush out Bandits – editor – 2021-03-21 06:00:50

Why ‘La Femme Anjola’ movie took five years to make – Rita Dominic

Nollywood star, Rita Dominic, has explained why the release of ‘La Femme Anjola,’ the buzzy crime thriller directed by Mildred Okwo and which she stars ,comes about five years after its production commenced.
The movie which stars, Nonso Bassey, in the lead role, will launch locally in theatres nationwide on March 19, 2021.
According to her, the movie was originally billed for release in 2020 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘‘With the funding secured in March 2019 from Lagos-based GTI Securities as well as other private investors we finished up production in time for a 2020 release only for the rollout to be interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ she said.
The 45-year-old actress revealed this during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES at the media screening of the movie on Thursday.
The movie was shot on a tight budget according to the producers who said the movie already had to wait at least five years for financial reasons.
“It was filmed for twenty-five days in Nigeria and went to South Africa for a week. It was difficult because we didn’t have that much money. I would have loved for us to have about eight weeks here in Nigeria and another two or three weeks in South Africa, but we didn’t have much money,” Okwo explained.
“Speaking about how she was able to play the challenging lead role and get in tune with the character, Ms. Dominic said she felt she needed to play the character since she read the script and she connected to the role.
“For me, when I read a script and the character scares me, that is inspiration right there. When I first read the script and I was getting to the end, I said to myself, what just happened here? I went back to the beginning and read it all the way to the end. I feel for every actor, we are all going to find that one role that we connect with and I did connect to that role and I felt that I needed to be a part of this project.
“During the production, you know planning is everything, with the help of the director we created a backstory for Anjola. Backstories help you a lot because it helps you understand who this person is, where she is coming from, how she looks, why she is this way, just basically everything you need to know. Backstories help in the interpretation of the role and that is it,” she said.
Commenting on Ms Dominic’s role on the project, the director of the movie, Ms Okwo, said she felt lucky to have her and other actors on the set because they made her directional role easy.
She said, “Rita scared me. If you say drop it, she just drops it, takes her close, and goes to sit in a corner and won’t talk to us which is sort of unusual because I thought I had to talk plenty but she said to me that I have been talking to her for five years. I always tell people that I try not to direct on set, even with all the other actors. I was very lucky with them, they prepared. But guess what, people will prepare for you when you give them the right tools.“As you can see, we put in a nice script, a good script, proper production setting, but we waited a while to get the money because we didn’t have the money initially. We waited almost four years and it was when we found the money that we started.”
Mental Health Challenges
The actress also revealed how she fell into depression while filming her new movie, ‘La Femme Anjola.’
‘‘I couldn’t sleep, I remember my assistant was saying that I couldn’t sleep at night, I would wake up with jolts, it was really depressing. I felt like Anjola,” she revealed.
Ms Dominic said she completely became her character, Anjola, who went through the harrowing consequences of getting entangled with a young male stockbroker and musician, played by Nonso Bassey, while still married to a wealthy gangster.
The director spoke further on how filming intense roles affected the actors mentally. She said the lead characters, Dominic and Bassey, got so engrossed in their roles that it affected their mood off of the set.

She said, “I remember the day that had to do the killing scene, she was so depressed and she would sit away from everybody. She wasn’t talking, she was sad. There was a scene when Nonso found his brother with his girl, he broke down, he started crying, he was into the character.
“That is what we hope to do with Nollywood, if you give people time, they will get into the character, so as a director, all I do is to guide them.”

She added that, unlike most directors, it is important to her how the actors fair mentally so she helped them unwind to feel better.
“Most directors don’t really care about the actors and these emotional things affect them. So what I did after we finished shooting was I flew them away and paid for extra time for them to at least detox because you must take that time. It is very important to me,” she said.
Expenses
The 54-year-old director also revealed that ‘La Femme Anjola’ is an expensive movie and she is yet to figure out how much the movie costs, adding that she hopes the movie does well in the cinemas.
“Thank God for the pandemic, there are not too many Hollywood movies in our cinemas. I am hoping that people will come out and watch it, we don’t have too many Hollywood films competing. Apart from that, it is a great film.
“Regarding the money, the thing is that we are still spending. It is a very expensive film, I hope that in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to say how much because it is a lot of money,” she said.
La Femme Anjola
Written by Tunde Babalola, ‘La Femme Anjola’ is a psychological-thriller film noir that tells the story of a young man (Nonso Bassey), whose life followed a negative trajectory after he fell for a beauty queen, whom he cannot have.
The film, which is from the stables of ‘The Audrey Silva Company Limited,’ will be distributed by, Silverbird Distribution, the company which distributed their earlier releases – ‘The Meeting’ and ‘Surulere’.
The film was shot in locations in Lagos, Nigeria, and Cape Town (South Africa).

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Why ‘La Femme Anjola’ movie took five years to make – Rita Dominic – Jayne Augoye – 2021-03-18 17:17:32

CBN extends Covid-19 forbearance for intervention loans by another 12 months

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that the Federal Government achieved 89% release of the capital component of the 2020 budget to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as of December 2020.She said that the 89% capital funding for MDAs was achieved with the release of N1.74 trillion.According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), this disclosure was made by Ahmed at an interactive session with the leadership of the National Assembly on Monday, February 22, 2021.She also revealed that the government had disbursed N118.37 billion for Covid-19 capital expenditure from the fund.READ: Recession: Senate attributes recovery to it’s cordial relationship with ExecutiveWhat the Minister for Finance is sayingAhmed said the Nigerian economy faced serious challenges in 2020, with the macroeconomic environment significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.She said this led to a 65% drop in projected net 2020 government revenues from the oil and gas sector, which adversely affected foreign exchange inflows into the economy.On the delayed release of funds to implement the 2020 capital budget until March 31, the Minister said the complaint had decreased.She said, “I think the complaint was earlier in the year when we were trying to transfer the balances. As far as I know, in the past three weeks, I haven’t heard any such complaints and we have been able to address them.“But when we started the transfers, we couldn’t transfer to some agencies because of some limitations in the system, but we have since been able to transfer the capital component that is being utilised by the agencies budget to the system.”READ: Nigeria receives $9.68 billion capital inflows in 2020, lowest in 4 yearsWhile pointing out that the implementation of the MDAs projects was tied to procurement processes and capacity of the MDA, Ahmed also said the extension of the 2020 capital budget implementation to March 31 had recorded 30% performance as at January.However, Ahmed said that she expected that the extension would record 100% performance in March.Speaking during the interaction, the Senate’s Chief Whip, Senator Orji-Uzor Kalu, commended the Minister on the capital performance of the 2020 budget.READ: FG to reopen Kano and Port Harcourt airports for international flightsHe said, “I want to commend the minister and her team because this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that by December 31, we are having 89% performance expenditure of the budget. It has never happened before; Last year was the very first.“The budget had been going 49%, 27%; this means from what the Senate President was asking, it means by March, we should be looking at implementing the budget 100%.’’Earlier, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the meeting was to get an update on the capital implementation of the 2020 budget given its extension for implementation by the national assembly to March 31.What this meansThe 89% capital release for the 2020 budget as of December 2020 is quite encouraging as it occurred despite the economic challenges and disruption caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.There seems to be an improved effort by the Federal Government at the budgeting process with the early passage of the 2021 budget and the implementation of the capital component of the 2020 budget.

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CBN extends Covid-19 forbearance for intervention loans by another 12 months – Chike Olisah – 2021-03-04 00:36:23

PDP demands Defence Minister’s sack

By Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded for the immediate sack of the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) for asking unarmed Nigerians to defend themselves against aggression by armed bandits and terrorists.
The party described the Minister’s call as reckless, irresponsible and an indication that the Buhari administration has abdicated its statutory duties of protecting Nigerians.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines during the screening of the newly appointed Service Chiefs on Wednesday, the Minister had asked Nigerians to “stand and face” the armed bandits.
Stating that security issue should not be the responsibility of the military alone, the Minister had charged Nigerians to stop acting like cowards when confronted by armed criminals.
The Minister, while commenting on the killing of a pupil and abduction of 27 others at a secondary school at Kagara, Niger state the by armed bandits, said it’s a surprise to him that Nigerians often took to their heels on hearing gunshots fired by bandits who sometimes strike with “only three rounds of ammunition”.
But in a statement on Wednesday by the spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described the Minister’s statements as reckless, irresponsible and a confirmation that the Buhari administration has surrendered to outlaws and has no determination to fight them.

“It is unthinkable that a government would describe unarmed victims of armed aggression of terrorists and bandits as “cowards” while those who were elected and given the necessary resources to defend them recede in the comfort and safety of their offices in Abuja.
“Such disposition to security; a statutory responsibility of government, goes to validate apprehensions that our nation is indeed descending to a failed state under the Buhari Presidency, where government can no longer perform its duties while unarmed citizens are left to confront bandits and warlords,” the PDP said.
The party noted that given the silence by the Presidency over the comments, the Minister actually spoke the mind of the President and his security architecture
It added that the Minster’s position further explained why the administration has remained complacent in the fight against terrorism and banditry in the country.
The PDP said: “Such statement by the Buhari administration, at the time it ought to be scaling up its security strategies to guarantee the safety of all Nigerians, have been emboldening bandits, terrorists and kidnappers to escalate their acts atrocities against our compatriots.
“Moreover, with such disposition, the Buhari administration is creating a lucrative job for bandits, terrorists and kidnappers who are settled with huge ransom instead of being faced with firepower.
“Our party however urges Nigerians not to despair at this moment but brace up as it has become obvious that we are now in a despondent situation where government has shown that it can no longer defend the citizens”.

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PDP demands Defence Minister’s sack – Oamen Eromosele – 2021-02-18 17:23:51

Mohammed Mijindadi appointed President for General Electric in Nigeria

General Electric (GE) has announced the appointment of Mohammed Mijindadi as President of GE Nigeria.
In this role, Mr Mijindadi will focus on strengthening GE’s impact in Nigeria, building strong stakeholder relationships across Power, Healthcare, Aviation and Renewable Energy sectors, and supporting the businesses to develop and execute the market strategy.
Mr Mijindadi brings over 20 years of deep domain experience as well as global and regional leadership expertise. He has been with GE for the last 13 years in the various commercial country and regional leadership business roles.
A graduate of the GE Experienced Commercial Leadership Program (ECLP), Mr Mijindadi has progressed through varied, complex assignments including Commercial Excellence Leader, Strategic Sourcing Leader and Business Development. Prior to joining GE, Mohammed worked in several US multinationals in the transportation, services, construction, and entertainment industries.
Commenting on the appointment, Jaime Morais, President, GE West & Central Africa said, “We are privileged to have Mohammed take up the leadership of GE in Nigeria. His track record of building and managing relationships as well as pushing to deliver business results will serve us well as we position to support our businesses for growth, transformation and operational performance in such an important and high priority market.”
“With a growing population and huge infrastructure needs, Nigeria continues to represent a significant market opportunity for GE, and I am excited to take on this challenge to drive GE’s growth in Nigeria, building on its 120 plus years of impact on the continent. I’m looking forward to working across our businesses in Power, Healthcare, Renewable Energy and Aviation to create value for the country, our customers and our team on critical themes such as decarbonization and digitalization, as we rise to the challenge of building a world that works,” Mr Mijindadi said.
Mr Mijindadi serves on the boards of GE international Operations Nigeria (GEION) and GE FZE entities in addition to other external boards. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree (BSc.) in Civil Engineering from Temple University in Philadelphia and an M.B.A in Marketing and Strategic Leadership from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in State College, PA.
GE has been operating in Nigeria for over 40 years, with businesses spanning across key sectors including, power, healthcare, aviation, and renewables.
Today, GE provides gas power technology, services and solutions in the country. “Our Healthcare solutions are improving access and quality of care across the country in public and private healthcare centres, while our Renewables and Grid Solutions business is providing reliable and affordable green power as well as complete, engineered solutions for power generation companies, utilities, and industries,” the company said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of GE.

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Mohammed Mijindadi appointed President for General Electric in Nigeria – Press Release – 2021-02-11 14:28:33