Monday, May 25, 2015

Video - President-elect Muhammadu Buhari may pardon death-row soldiers

Dozens of Nigerian soldiers could be spared in the coming months. A military court sentenced them to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram. But president-elect Muhammadu Buhari's plan to review all military operations against the insurgent group could see the soldiers spared.

Related story: 54 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death by firing squad

Video - Nigeria Super Eagles coach talks about challenges ahead

Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi says he is determined to leave a lasting legacy as he begins a second stint as coach of one of Africa's most famous footballing nations.

The 53 year old will hope for an improved relationship with the new officials at the Nigeria Football Federation as he tries to steer the 2013 champions back to the top in his second coming.

Nigeria's economy grinds to a halt as fuel crisis continues

Nigeria is facing a full-blown national crisis as virtually all sectors of the economy has grounded to a halt as the fuel scarcity bites harder across the country.

As the economy races to breakdown, the Nigerian government appears helpless, with President Goodluck Jonathan merely counting days to hand over the problem to the incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari on Friday.

From the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to the 36 states of the federation, reports are that virtually all public and private institutions have shut down in the face of shortage of fuel to maintain normal businesses.

Worse hit are hospitals, schools, banks, transportation companies and telecommunication operators, which have either suspended normal operations or issued notices of closure or scaling down on full business hours for lack of fuel to power the engines that power their activities.

For most part of last week, several airline operators announced plans to significantly alter their normal flight schedules, blaming it on their inability to get aviation fuel for their aircraft.

“Due to the current scarcity of Jet-A1 fuel being experienced in the country, we regret to inform you that all our flights will not operate regularly as scheduled,” one of Nigeria’s premier arlines, Aero Contractors, informed its customers on May 22. “We regret any inconveniences the changes will cause. All efforts are being made to ameliorate the situation and revert to our regular flight schedule.”

At the airports in Abuja and Lagos, thousands of travellers were stranded as most airlines cancelled their scheduled flights.

Both MTN and Airtel, two of Nigeria’s major telecommunications operators, have all notices to their customers to inform them that their services might be disrupted till the fuel supply situation improves.

The text message from Airtel management to its customers on Sunday read: “Dear Valued Customer, this is to inform you that due to nationwide fuel crisis our services may experience some strain. We are doing everything possible to manage the situation. Thank you for understanding.”

In a similar message on Sunday, the management of GTBank issued notice of early closure of its branches nationwide.

“The current shortage of petroleum products in the country has limited our ability to supply diesel to all our branches, in order to continue normal branch operations.

“Due to this, we unavoidably have to close our branches nationwide at 1 pm, from tomorrow Monday, 25th May 2015,” the bank said in the text message.

In its own notice to customers, MTN announced that the intractable fuel shortage might force it to shut down some of its base-stations that are powered by diesel-operated generators.

“The management of MTN states that the current diesel scarcity in most parts of the Nigeria is posing threat to quality of services and the ability to optimally operate the network,” the company said in a statement released on its Twitter handle.

“MTN’s available reserves of diesel are running low and the company must source for significant quantity of diesel in the very near future to prevent a shut down of services across Nigeria. If diesel supplies are not available within the next 24 hours the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact.”

Car dealer, Cosharis Motors, has also warned buyers of its new BMW cars to park them until fuel is available, apparently in other to avoid using adulterated fuel purchased from the black market to run the vehicle that may cause serious mechanical damage in the cars. Experts say the new BMW cars have zero tolerance for adulterated fuel.

Throughout last week, as the fuel scarcity took its toll on businesses, parents experienced difficulties transporting their wards to school and back, as no filling station opened for business following the continued strike action oil workers.

Some schools’ management in Abuja and environs were compelled to order early closure of their schools for mid-term break, as most teachers and parents could not cope with the unprecedented pressure imposed on them by lack of fuel.

On Sunday, the Divine Scholars School in the Lekki area of Lagos informed parents it is closing for mid-term break till June 1, although insiders in the school said the forced holiday was caused by the biting fuel shortage

A visit to some public hospitals, including the National Hospital and Garki General Hospital, witnessed significant reduction in activities at the weekend.

Similarly, churches and other places of worship in the Federal Capital Territory also witnessed low turnout of the usual population of worshippers, most of whom found movement difficult.

At Jabi and other locations where there are motor parks, the usual hustle and bustle of activities by travellers were almost absent, as very few commercial transport operators were on duty.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Sunday called on the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari to consider the deregulation of the oil and gas downstream sector as a priority on assumption of office.

The President of the Chamber, Remi Bello, said the current fuel scarcity and power supply situation in the country have grounded the economy
Mr. Bello said only the immediate deregulation of the sector would help resolve the recurring problem of scarcity of petroleum products in the country.

The Chamber identifies massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime, collapse of the country’s refineries, dwindling investment in the downstream sector and loss of jobs as some the key challenges the sector was facing.

The current fuel subsidy regime and government’s direct involvement in the operations of oil and gas sector should be stopped if normalcy is to be restored in the nation’s economy.

Regardless, while the people continue to suffer untold hardship as a result of the fuel supply crisis, the oil marketers and the outgoing government continue to bicker in their unending blame game over unpaid subsidy claims.

The marketers, under the umbrella groups of Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association (DAPMA) and the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), have continued to accuse government of refusing to pay outstanding claims of about N200 billion.

But the outgoing Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Saturday accused the marketers of blackmail, claiming that government had agreed with marketers that N159 billion would be paid after a reconciliation by a committee constituted for that purpose.

Meanwhile, another systems collapse has been reported at Shiroro Power Plant on Sunday amid the worsening energy crisis.

The latest systems collapse reported at about 4.10 pm on Sunday by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) said the development has left the zone with just 15 mega watts (MW) at about 5.05 pm.

The AEDC said at about 6.50pm, only sensitive installations within the Central Business District had electricity supply.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, had on Friday reported that power generation nationwide had dropped from 4,800MW to 1,327MW, leading to the massive load shedding ongoing across the country.

The AEDC said it has sent alerts to customers in the FCT, Kogi, Nasarawa and Niger states to apologise to them for the difficult situation caused by the huge drop in power supply from the national grid, from about 450MW daily to less than 200MW in recent times.

The company said allocation to the zone for Friday, May 22 was 145MW, while allocation for both Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24, was 115.6MW.

“The situation has been worsened by the system collapse at Shiroro this evening, which brought our supply down to 15MW,” the company said in a statement.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

President elect Muhammadu Buhari confirms outgoing President and team yet to brief incoming government

The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday confirmed claims by his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, that the incoming administration has yet to receive any briefing from the Goodluck Jonathan government as the country prepares for the transfer of power in a week.

Mr. Buhari opened up while receiving the Interim Report from the 19-man Transition Committee he set up under the Chairmanship of Ahmed Joda.

The APC has repeatedly accused the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administration of withholding information and seeking to frustrate the transition.

The party’s claim was however disputed by Mr. Joda, who said last week that his team had received enough cooperation from the outgoing government. The APC maintained its position.

But speaking Thursday, Mr. Buhari said the government’s committee, headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, had yet to furnish the committee with any information.

Mr. Joda also backtracked, and said his committee managed to prepare the report based on guesswork.

Mr. Buhari expressed disappointment that the incoming government was misunderstood.

“The incoming government was misunderstood. It is not that we are preparing for indictment. What we are trying to get is a starting point, where we are exactly going to start from,” the president-elect said.

“We have seen the debt profile and the performance of the economy.

“The question is what can we do about it especially the urgent ones like social security, lack of fuel in the country and fraud. The list is endless.

“I thank you for what you have done and I hope that the subsequent submission by the government will make your job easier and more efficient and tell us where to begin from.”

The president-in-waiting thanked the committee and assured that he would read the initial report before the final report comes in.

“My expectations were that each ministry makes its own presentation. The politicians know that they are going while the bureaucrats who do the job know they are staying.

“They are the ones who are going to do the job and they are going to be available to help crosscheck the information.

“I think that this research you have made will help the incoming government to cross check the information on paper given by the outgoing government,’’ he added.

On his part, Mr. Joda said they had to prepare the interim report by guesswork adding that they were expecting the government to make a presentation to the committee on Friday.

He said the report would be built into the final report which will be submitted to Mr.Buhari after inauguration.
He complained of inadequate time and members to adequately cover all areas.

“In spite of limitations, we were able to cover all areas by breaking into four sub-committees.

“We received lots of contributions from Nigerians who have served the country both in the private and public sectors and in various fields,” Mr. Joda said.

On the state of the economy, Mr. Joda said “Nigerians know that the economy is bad, some of us here are directly affected.

“Salaries and wages in some cases have not been paid for months. The situation may even be getting worse,” he said.

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Video - Fuel shortage in Nigeria

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, but fuel shortages have paralyzed the country that just a year ago was declared Africa's largest economy.

At one gas station in Lagos, crowds push at the gates waving empty jerry cans. Cars queue for a kilometre down the road creating gridlock.

Similar scenes are being repeated at almost every petrol station across Nigeria.

"I've been here since 4 a.m. It's not good," says local resident Abdulsalam Mohammed as he finally drives his car to the petrol pump. "Now it's almost 3 p.m. Nobody can work today."

"We are an oil producing country, very rich, a giant in Africa," says Seun Olewale, another driver who is carrying empty fuel cans. "But the experience we are getting now is so hard."

The shortages have been going on since March despite the fact that, according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria produces about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day.

The problem is Nigeria does not have the capacity to refine enough of its own oil into fuel to meet the needs of its population of 150,177 million people.

Fuel in Nigeria is used not just to run cars and transport for goods and services, but also to power generators for homes and businesses; most Nigerians get only a few hours of electricity a day.

The companies that import fuel claim they have not been paid by the Nigerian government -- and so they cut off the supply. As a result, Africa's largest economy has ground to a halt.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's finance minister, told CNN's John Defterios the situation was complex.

"You have to verify the claims of the marketers before they are paid, and because the government is coming to an end, they are getting quite nervous," she said.

"They are pushing very hard and they are using this shortage as an instrument to try to get the existing government to pay them quickly, without going through the thorough verification, and we are not going to do that."

Nigerians are no strangers to fuel shortages -- the country was subject to similar shortfalls in 2012.

The obvious solution would be to simply pay the fuel importers, but the Nigerian government subsidizes the country's fuel prices, and with oil prices falling, it needs to save money.

And that, says Seun with his two jerry cans, is the real problem. He says the government's policies are hurting Nigeria's economy, and hurting ordinary Nigerians even more.

"This is a war on the poor," he insists.


Related stories: Video - Black market worsens Nigeira's fuel crisis

Aliko Dangote to invest $2 billion in oil refinery