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DSS arrests high-profile criminals, killers of Kaduna Chief

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The Department of State Service (DSS) recently arrested suspects in high profile crimes, including those allegedly involved in the abduction and killing of the traditional ruler of Adara Chiefdom, HRH Maiwada Galadima.
The arrest of the suspected killers of Galadima was made possible with collaboration with the military, Mr. Peter N. Afunanya, the Public Relations Officer of DSS, said on Thursday in Abuja.
DSS, he said, sprang into action in its determination to contain the menace of kidnapping.
With the recent arrests, he said that relative peace has returned to Kaduna State after the disturbances that followed the violent abduction and gruesome murder.
He said that concerted efforts were being made to address the resurgence of organized criminal activities in the North-West.
The Service had also arrested high profile kidnappers and notorious elements in different locations of the State and beyond.
“On 25th October, 2018, in Riga Chikun, Kaduna State, five members of a dreaded kidnap gang whose operations span between Kaduna and Katsina States were apprehended.
“They are Isa Ahmadu (Gang Leader), Suleiman Umar (Ransom negotiator), Ibrahim Mallam, Ishaku Saidu (aka ISHE) and MANSUR (Mallam). ‘’
The group’s hideout in Katsina State was raided after preliminary investigation leading to the arrest of two other members of the group,, Muhammadu Ibrahim and Muhammed Isa.
“On 19th October, 2018 Sirajo, a suspected infamous kidnapper was arrested at Hayin Danmni, Igabi LGA of the State.
“On 30th October, 2018, at Sainyinan Dani, Yabo LGA, Sokoto State, the duo of Abubakar Umar and Suleiman Sani were arrested for gun running.
“Between 11th and 12th October, 2018, suspected armed bandits operating in and around Zamfara State were also arrested in Bakura, Tsafe and Bungudu LGAs of the State.
“Those arrested were Dan-Alhaji Dan-Mineri, Yusuf Khalif and Musa (Mallam).’’
He also said that on 5th November, 2018, the tactical team of the Service, in collaboration with the military, arrested Muhammed Aminu, a suspected gunrunner and his accomplice, Dare Okunwola (aka BODA) at Lere LGA.
“During a search of Okunwole’s residence, several ammunitions and eight (8) AK-47 rifles were recovered.
“On the same date, at Toungo LGA, Adamawa State, Abbas Abubakar (aka SAMBO), a suspected Improvised Explosives Device (IED) expert for the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), was apprehended.
Other arrests were those made on 15th October, 2018, at North Bank, Makurdi, Benue State where renowned cultists, Yakubu Mohammed and Joseph Andoaasin were apprehended.
Cartridges and a locally made pistol were recovered from them.
“Investigations have so far uncovered leads that will enable the Service and other sister agencies to address the menace of kidnaping in the country. Suspects will undoubtedly be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
“The DSS reassures the public that the tempo of these operations will not only be sustained, but strengthened for greater impact on the well-being of residents.
“The Service, therefore, enjoins everyone to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and avail them useful information that would assist them carry out necessary operations that will guarantee peace especially at the coming yuletide and general elections.’’

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Special Report/Investigation

Okowa Calls For Review Of Law Establishing TETFUND

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DELTA State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has called for review of law establishing TETFUND to cater for both private and public institutions of higher learning.
The governor made the call today at the combined convocation ceremony of Western Delta University, Oghara, Ethiope West local government area of Delta State.
According to Governor Okowa, “the law setting up TETFUND should be looked into because, it is right for TETFUND to assist the private Universities. Whether private or public, they are training our children.”

He congratulated the graduating students and challenged them to have the zeal to succeed, noting that, “all over the world, the days are gone when you will graduate from the university and carry certificate, moving from one place to the other searching for job; as you go out engage in lawful business, pray and trust in God.”
While assuring of his administration’s commitment to continuously partner with private and public institutions of higher learning, Governor Okowa congratulated the Western Delta University for the successful ceremony.
Chancellor of the University, Obong Victor Attah informed the graduands that “knowledge is not merely a certificate but a deep understanding of issues,” stating that they should deploy knowledge they have acquired to effect positive changes in the society.
Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Otete Okobiah in his address, stated that, “we are graduating five sets of graduands, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016 and 2016/2017.”
Former Governor of Delta State and Visitor to the University, Chief James Ibori, former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbenedion, former Deputy Governor of Delta State, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN) were among dignitaries that graced the ceremony.

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THE ANAMBRA STATE HON COMMISSIONER FOR WORKS, CHIEF ENGR. MARCEL IFEJIOFOR BAGS NSE’s PROFESSIONAL FELLOWSHIP AWARD

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BY MADUABUCHI NWALIEJI

THE Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) founded in 1958 is the umbrella body of the engineering profession in Nigeria. Over the years, the society has distinguished itself through various programmes making it an avenue for true professional development for its members and the technological advancement of the country.

In recognition of the meaningful contributions of its members to the advancement of technology and also those who have distinguished themselves in various spheres of life, every year the society during its national conference singles out such esteemed members for commemorative awards.

Chief Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor’s pedigree as a distinguished Commissioner in addition to his professional qualification, undoubtedly, earned him the award.

The distinguished FNSE award will be presented by the National President of the NSE, Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu, FNSE to Anukanu Aguleri at the 9th fellowship conferment ceremony & lecture scheduled to hold on Friday 23rd November, 2018, at the Banquet hall, NAF Conference centre & suites, Kado district, Abuja. Chief Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor had a month earlier been conferred with the Most Distinguished award of Excellence and Icon of Infrastructural Development by the Students Union Government of Nnamdi Azikiwe University in the occassion of the 25years anniversary of the University.

The award is therefore an endorsement and a confirmation of his astute leadership qualities and human character traits, which has also endeared him to well-meaning people and organizations. The society rightly invited him for the award, which has enlisted him into the Board of Fellows of the NSE in Nigeria.

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHIEF ENGR. MARCEL IFEJIOFOR, THE HONOURABLE COMMISSIONER FOR WORKS ANAMBRA STATE.

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Peter Obi, Ghost Of The Past And Reality Of Today

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By Abdullahi O Haruna

Never live in today like tomorrow won’t come, while he reigned supreme as the lord of the manor, he exhibited certain needless manifestations that were antithetical to common sense. In a swift moment of needless impulse, he bundled some northerners, mostly those who engaged in menial jobs for survival and marched them in trailer load back to their base. To him, these guys had no business being in Anambra State. Those who were allowed to stay behind were marked with identity ropes dangling on their necks. This same lethargic indecision was extended to neighboring southeastern states when he sacked civil servants who aren’t indigenes of Anambra State. They were tragic decisions that left a sore reference in the idea of one Nigeria. Nothing breaks the fiber of a society like the flagrant display of divisiveness.

Mr Peter Obi is dangerously being haunted by the hubris of his self-inflicted past, like a book every chapter is open to unbury gaffes, lies and double-faced personality. In one of his outings on the popular talk show platform, he regaled the audience on his prudent and austere lifestyle, so excited was he that he announced to the boisterous crowd of having just a wristwatch! He was cheered to high heavens as that leader that isn’t defined by the ostentatious bait of life. In the same vein, the soft-spoken former governor of Anambra announced his penchant for traveling on economic class, not staying in expensive hotels and bragging of owning just a house. These were however punctured as a house in the United Kingdom was traced to him with pictures of him adorning different shades of wristwatches.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) running mate to Alhaji Atiku in the forthcoming presidential elections was also recently busted with the echoes of his past stance when he vehemently referred to Muhammadu Buhari as being too old to be president in 2015. According to him, a 72-year-old man has no business. Unfortunately, Mr Obi is today standing in supportive tissue with Atiku who is 72 years old! Talk about consistent inconsistency. Tracing the many inconsistencies of Peter Obi was the reported embarrassing situation where the convoy of the former governor was sighted and caught in front of Next International Offices in Apapa, Lagos, carrying a whopping sum of N250 million in raw cash. Public calculations were made and plausible questions were put forth on why a ‘financially disciplined’ former banker would have to move a quarter of a billion naira in this era of seamless electronic cash transfer?

Is Mr Peter Obi living a two-faced life where what he preaches is in variance with who he is? Did the man overrate himself in sanctimonious garb to hoodwink the people when in measurable sense there are frightening contradictions in his personality? Should we allow Obi’s sheer boost of falsehood in the face of glaring truth? In every element of the future, there is an iota of the past. Those who look up to the future must have their past in tandem to the reality of today. It would be unfair to allow the inconsistencies in the beautiful profile of Peter Obi to sail on when he can address them now that he seeks the mandate of the people. Leadership founded on deceit is a catalyst to a dysfunctional society. We are where we are because of where we are coming from and where we are today determines where we will be tomorrow.

Whoever must lead us must carry the ware of integrity in character and deeds; never again shall we go back to the era where lies and deceits were the ingredients of existence. Great nations are made when the people are governed by people defined by the true spirit of honesty, moral compass, and by leaders whose patriotism overwhelm their personal interests devoid of primordial sentiments. This is the time to scrutinise the characters of our leaders beyond what they throw at us. For Mr Peter Obi, he alone can bury the ghosts of the past  by coming out clean in his true character.


| Leadership Newspaper

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Special Report/Investigation

OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT :NO VIOLATIONS IN APPROVAL OF N5.8B EMERGENCY FOOD INTERVENTION FUND FOR NORTH EAST

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Our attention has been drawn to a report of the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness issued on Thursday, November 8, 2018, particularly in respect of funds released for “emergency intervention of food security to the North-East” in June 2017, when the Vice President was Acting President.
In its report, the Committee alleged that a sum of N5,865,671,939.26 was approved and released in June 2017 vide a Memo raised from the Office of the Acting President, directing the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation to so act. The House Committee also concluded that the payment made was in contravention of approval of the National Assembly. This conclusion is both false and misleading.
To start with, it is important to understand the context of the transaction. This was at a time when internally displaced persons and their host communities faced very severe food shortages throughout the North East, as a result of successive poor harvests and abandoned farmlands, minimal cross-border cash crop trade and lost economic opportunities.
On 15th April 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), a major aid organisation and food supplier to the region, had issued a warning that it would be reducing its vital support to about 1.8 million IDPs by as much as 85%, due to corresponding reduction in funding by the donor countries. Around the same time, the United Nations Commission for Refugees in Geneva also warned of the growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in the conflict areas.
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) moved urgently to prevent the looming disaster by establishing a strategic food intervention plan for the affected States. A Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Delivery to the North East was convened and the Committee met on the 13th of May, 2017 to kick off the process, with the then Acting President as Chairman. Other members of the Committee included:
(i) Minister of Finance;
(ii) Minister of Budget and National Planning;
(iii) Minister of State for Budget and National Planning;
(iv) Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development;
(v) Governor of Central Bank;
(vi) Deputy Chief of Staff to the President; and
(vii) Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
Resulting from the deliberations of this and subsequent meetings, the approval referred to in the House Committee’s Report was, in fact, based on a request raised by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as facilitator of the National Food Security Programme, vide a letter dated May 25, 2017.
As explained in the said letter, there was an immediate need to distribute grains, including rice, maize, soya beans and sorghum, to Internally Displaced Persons through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The only way to obtain the quantity of grains required was to resort to the National Food Security Progamme (NFSP) earlier established by the Federal Government as a means of shoring up its strategic grain reserves.
It was in consequence of the Federal Government decision to urgently purchase the stored grains for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons that the CBN made the proposal for approval of 30,905.08 Metric Tonnes at N5,229,685,333.26. Of that amount, the then Acting President eventually approved N5,036,644,933.26, after excluding bagging costs. This was pursuant to the recommendation that bagging, transportation and other logistics were best handled by NEMA.
NEMA also originated a request to the Acting President, dated May 25, 2017, requesting the sum of N829,026,456.00 for general logistics, branding & packaging, tracking, security, personnel, media & publicity and contingency costs of taking the grains from their respective locations in Kano, Kaduna, Funtua, Ibadan and Gombe to Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Jigawa States.
These presidential approvals were well within the clear constitutional authority of the Acting President, who needed to take emergency steps to forestall acute food shortages in the affected States and there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about them. The approvals were duly communicated by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Central Bank, Director General of NEMA and the Minister of Finance for implementation.
On account of the emergency nature of the procurement, the House Committee’s assumption that the ordinary rules of procurement would apply was wrong. Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act makes provision for emergency procurement, in which case the procuring entity is allowed to engage in direct contracting for goods and file a report thereafter with the Bureau of Public Procurement.
It is also wrong to assume that taxes and interests accruable to government from these transactions in food items were deliberately ignored or waived by neglect. Of course, we expect that any loans advanced to any of the companies would be recovered with the agreed interests, and that any profits made by such companies would be liable to tax in the usual manner.
The suggestion that the grains were never delivered to the target States is also blatant falsehood. In actual fact, in order to ensure effective distribution of the grains, an Emergency Food Intervention Project Team was established, consisting of the Director General of NEMA and representatives of the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Department of State Security, Nigeria Police and the Presidency.
The Committee also worked with respective State Emergency Management Agencies, as well as humanitarian agencies such as World Food Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Deliveries were publicly made directly to the intended beneficiaries. In fact, the then Acting President personally inspected the electronic truck-tracking unit established in Maiduguri for the purpose of monitoring the transportation, and flagged off the food distribution on the 8th of June, 2017. Besides, there was the integration of a robust monitoring and evaluation system into the operation in order to facilitate a transparent and accountable process.
Therefore, all insinuations on this matter regarding purported indictments and perceived violations of due process or the constitution are baseless and totally false. Such interpretations are flawed and should be utterly ignored.


Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President
Office of the Vice President
9th November, 2018

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Anambra Govt Directs Road Project Contractors To Go Back To Site

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The Anambra State Government has directed all contractors, handling road projects in the state, to go back to their different sites as the rains have subsided.
The Commissioner for Works, Engineer Marcel Ifejiofor, gave this directive at the end of a meeting with Contractors, Consultants, Engineers, Representatives and the management staff of the Ministry of Works in his office in Awka.
Engineer Ifejiofor noted that work slowed down on road construction because of the rainy season.
According to him, now that the rains are over, massive construction of roads would re-commence effectively.
The Commissioner emphasised that because of heavy rains and flooding that occurred this year, the contractors would have so much work to do.
He, however, urged them to put in the best to guarantee business dealings with the state, stressing that shoddy works would not be tolerated.
The Commissioner told the consultants and the engineers representing state government interests to be alive to their responsibilities to avoid lapses.
He added that henceforth, every design must follow an assessment template from the state road design committee.
One of the contractors and the traditional ruler of Umueri, Igwe Ben Emeka, re-assured that the contractors would work hard according to specifications and expectations of the government and people of the state.

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Anambra Govt Approves Recruitment Of More VIOs, Provision Of Alcohol Testing Device For ATMA

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The State Government has approved the recruitment of more Vehicle Inspection Officers and the provision of alcohol testing device for the Road Traffic Agency.
Governor Willie Obiano disclosed this at the 2018 National Conference of Directors and Chief Road Traffic Officers of the Federation in Awka.
The Governor who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu noted the importance of Vehicle Inspection Officers in ensuring Road Safety and Security. Governor Obiano, who enjoined the officers to ensure that only those that have been properly trained should be given driver’s licence, urged them to put off road, any vehicle that is not road worthy including ones used by some driving schools during training.
In a remark, the Commissioner for Transport, Mr Uchenna Okafor, noted that Anambra State had improved tremendously in every sector.
According to him the State is rated as number one in security in the country, adding that Vehicle Inspection Officers are of paramount interest to the State adding that the annual conference they embarked upon will help them rebuild and promote safety on the road.
The Acting National Chairman of Conference of Directors and Chief Road Traffic Officer of the Federation, Mr Garba Abdu Gaya said that the theme of the conference: `Innovative Strategies for Enhancing a Sustainable Road Traffic Safety and Security` is very relevant and timely.

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Army overpowers Boko Haram in Yobe

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The Nigerian Army said the situation at Katarko in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe had been brought under control after troops foiled terrorists attempted attack on the military location in the town.
The army spokesman, Brigadier General Texas Chukwu in a statement on Thursday said the troops immediately swung into action following a tip off and pushed the terrorists backward with superior fire power.
He, however, said some of the terrorists escaped into nearby bushes but efforts were on to get them, adding that the troops were currently embarking on clearance patrol in the area.
Chukwu urged Yobe residents in general and Katarko in particular, to go about their legitimate businesses and report any suspicious activities or movement in their area to the law enforcement agents for prompt action.

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Nigeria hails Africa’s resolve to combat terrorism

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President Buhari with delegates of the African Parliamentary Union

President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the African Parliamentary Union APU for choosing to look at issues of terrorism and organised crimes in Africa.
Speaking at the opening of the 41st Conference of Speakers of the National Parliaments of the African Parliamentary Union in Abuja, President Buhari said parliamentarians have helped in promoting democracy and human rights in Africa.
“Since its foundation, the African Parliamentary Union has continued to champion the objective of bringing African Parliaments together to join the challenge of finding solutions to the many problems confronting the continent, and at the same time, helping to develop parliamentary practice in the continent towards the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedoms and the realization of the objectives of the African Union to achieve durable peace.
I am delighted that the 41st Conference of Speakers, as part of its meeting, will be considering the role of parliaments in the fight against terrorism, armed gangs and organised crimes in Africa.
Terrorism, armed banditry and organised crimes have continued to be a security challenge for member states of the African Union; the proliferation of arms aided by abuse of the ease of movement of persons across freer borders, which have been historically in place to encourage African unity, have contributed to acts of terrorism by groups like Al Shaabab, ISIS and Boko Haram,” he said.


Nigeria’s Effort
President Buhari said on her part, Nigeria has done a lot in tackling the menace of Boko Haram and the country is still working hard to address other security challenges.
“Here in Nigeria, we have done a lot to reverse the terror trend and halt the advancement of Boko Haram. We have in collaboration with our neighbours strengthened our armed forces to effectively confront terror groups and have also initiated programmes to address widespread poverty, which has been identified as a significant factor fueling unrest and boosting terror recruitments.
In spite of this progress, we are not unmindful of the remaining challenge of armed invaders who ransack villages and small farming communities and commit terrible acts including the cold-blooded murder of women and children. We are also making progress in addressing this challenge,” he said.
The Nigerian leader, who commended the efforts of African governments in dealing with terrorists groups, advised the African APU to develop strategies that will help Africa completely destroy the monster of terrorism.
“While I commend the actions of African governments in dealing with these evil groups, it is my strong belief that the APU will develop strategies to assist governments in confronting this menace and, as Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), I will be more than willing to fast track your resolutions for deliberation and adoption at the ECOWAS sub-region and the much larger African Union.
“At the recently concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in China, many trade and cooperation agreements running into hundreds of billions of dollars were signed between China and individual African countries. These agreements will hasten the efficiency of the business and investment climate in Africa. I am pleased that the Conference of Speakers will also consider the promotion of private investment. The dynamics of global trade are changing fast. Foreign Direct Investment is a key index of economic performance,” he said.


Improved Economies
President Buhari called on African countries to look into ways of improving their economies, as the face the realities confronting the globe in that sector.
“As the global economic superpowers redesign and restructure the global economy, Africa cannot afford to be caught off guard. We have to navigate these uncertain economic times with realistic plans in which the private sector is key. Barriers that restrict ease of doing business and private sector growth must be addressed by legislation and it is hoped that your resolutions will aid the efforts of African governments in developing a more robust private sector to attract necessary investments in our economies,” he said.
Girl Child Education
President Buhari also praised the decision of the APU to critically look at the issue of girl child education and early marriage, which has affected many girls in Africa.
“I am also delighted that the promotion of girls’ education as a way to address early marriages will be the focus of the APU Committee of women parliamentarians. This is another subject that requires close attention and I assure you of the support and cooperation of the government of Nigeria. A few months back, four girls from a high school in Anambra State, in South East of Nigeria, won the first prize for innovation at an international competition held in the United States of America. The success of these girls, some as young as 14, is a success for Africa as a whole, but more importantly, it is a demonstration of what can happen when the girl child is given the opportunity. Education should not be seen as a government programme only, but as a human right and a social imperative.
He said educating girls increases the possibility of having more women innovators, entrepreneurs and Chief Executive Officers as he assured the APU of the desire of the government to improve the condition of the African girl-child.

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Minimum wage on course – Buhari

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The Federal Government says President Muhammadu Buhari will study the report of review of national minimum wage and present an executive bill on it to the National Assembly.
The report was submitted to President Buhari by the Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage before making his view known to Nigerians.
“Our plan is to transmit the Executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.
“I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future,’’ Buhari said.
Information and culture minister Lai Mohammed made the clarification when he addressed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which was presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage chaired by former Head of Service, Ama Pepple, had on Tuesday submitted its report to President Buhari with a recommendation of N30,000 as new National Minimum Wage.
While receiving the Tripartite Committee Report, President Buhari pledged that the Federal Government would soon transmit an Executive Bill (on National Minimum Wage) to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.
He said: “Our plan is to transmit the Executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.
“I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future.’’
To this end, some traditional media outfits and the social media reported that the president had endorsed the Pepple’s recommendation of N30,000 minimum wage.
But, the minister said the president was only in receipt of the recommendations of the Ama Pepple’s Report, and he would consider it before making his views known to the public.
He said: “I think it was a recommendation. So, Mr President will consider it and would make his views known in due course.
“So, like I said recommendations have been made and Mr President would get back to the committee after he has studied the recommendations.’’
It would be recalled that the Presidency had also frowned at the misinterpretation of President Buhari’s remarks when he received the report of the Tripartite Committee on the Review of National Minimum Wage from the committee’s chairman, Ama Pepple, on Tuesday.
It said that the president did not endorse N30,000 as proposed by committee as being reported by some sections of the media.
“But the president’s speech at the event was immediately made available to the media and nowhere indicated that the president endorsed N30,000 Minimum wage,’’ a presidential source maintained.
President Buhari had also expressed delight that the Amal Pepple committee had successfully completed its assignment in a peaceful and non-controversial manner.
“Let me use this opportunity to recognise the leadership of the organised labour and private sector as well as representatives of State and Federal Governments for all your hard work.
“The fact that we are here today, is a notable achievement.
“As the Executive Arm commences its review of your submission, we will continue to engage you all in closing any open areas presented in this report.
“I, therefore, would like to ask for your patience and understanding in the coming weeks.”
The president, however, enjoined the leadership of the labour unions as well as the Nigerian workers to avoid being used as political weapons.
“May I therefore, enjoin workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons,’’ he said.


nan

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Tackling Nigeria’s high suicide rate

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Nigeria has the 15th highest suicide rate worldwide. Some survivors are now taking it upon themselves to provide support where it’s needed.

How can Nigeria provide support for people suffering from mental health problems?

Earlier this year, Hauwa Ojeifo found herself thousands of miles from her home at London’s Buckingham Palace. She was there to be honoured alongside several others at the Queen’s Young Leaders Award for her innovative contributions to mental health.
At the celebration, few of the guests looking on would have known that the joyous 26-year-old was lucky to be there – that just two years ago in Nigeria, her world was falling apart and she had tried to end her own life.
“I had a mental breakdown,” she recalls. “It led to a near suicide attempt.”
Ojeifo was later diagnosed with bipolar and mild psychosis, symptoms of which she had experienced for ten years. She would go through extreme highs followed by extreme lows.
“In my low mood, I find it hard to get out of bed,” she says. “I started having psychosis, paranoia, delusion and suicidal ideation, a feeling that people are trying to bring me down or that somebody is conspiring against me. I struggled with irrational thoughts that took me from the realm of reality.”
One particularly bad episode led her to want to kill herself. After that experience, she vowed to find out what was at the heart of her problems and to help others facing similar struggles.
“I realised that mental illness was not something one accidentally overcomes,” she says. “It has to be a deliberate and intentional process. You have to know yourself, study yourself, how it affects you and what you want instead of your current situation.”
Her reflection and research led her to set up a range of services to help people dealing with suicidal thoughts including a support group and a national crisis helpline.

Nigeria’s high suicide rate
Initiatives like Ojeifo’s are desperately needed in Nigeria. The country has the fifteenth highest suicide rate in the world (and seventh in Africa) according to the World Health Organisation’s age-standardised statistics, though comparing between countries is difficult given differing levels of reporting. News reports of suicides are common.
In Nigeria as elsewhere, there are many different factors that lead people to feel suicidal. These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. These are often combined with negative stresses caused by issues such as economic hardship, marital issues or other pressures.
One unusual aspect of Nigeria’s rates, however, is the gender breakdown. Male suicide rates tend to be significantly higher than female rates around the world, but in Nigeria the figures are very similar. The age-standardised male rate is 17.5 per 100,000 people, while the female rate is 17.1. Taken separately, Nigeria has the 56th highest suicide rate among men, but the 3rd highest among women.
Commenting on this discrepancy, medical doctor Benjamin Aiwonodagbon suggests there could be various dynamics at play.
“In developed countries, women are more educated and emancipated financially. Abuse is usually reported and culprits brought to book,” he says. “This is quite different in Nigeria where education among the girl child is low and women are still perceived as second-class citizens. Other factors like early marriage, poverty, illiteracy, pressure to be married and abuses in marriage may all be contributory.”

“We don’t have this structure in Nigeria”
There are many factors then that can lead people to feel suicidal. For Zubairu Rakiya, from Rigasa in Kaduna state, it was a combination of overwhelming life events.
“I lost my husband who confessed to me on his deathbed that he infected me with HIV,” she says. “This news affected me badly. I have three children that I need to take care of. My families have deserted me and I thought of killing myself as a way out.”
Fortunately for her, she was able to get counselling through the Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+).
This may have saved her life, but others are not so lucky. There is a strong stigma attached to notions of mental illness in Nigeria and, in this deeply religious country, people are often encouraged to take solace in their church and mosque rather than to visit a doctor.
Moreover, Nigeria currently lacks the infrastructure necessary to deal with mental health problems.
“Any kind of sickness affects mental health,” says Ojeifo. “Someone receiving treatment for HIV or cancer needs treatment for mental health, [but] we don’t have this structure in Nigeria.”

Taking mental health seriously
It was partly this gap that motivated Ojeifo to set up networks to help people suffering from mental health in Nigeria. This has included a support group, a national helpline, and an online portal.
“Me and my team members have built a community online where people with mental health issues can freely talk about their problems,” she explains. “The platform gives them that confidence and safety to talk freely and confidentially about their mental illness.”
Other organisations are also taking greater action. The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, for example, has initiated the Suicide Research & Prevention Initiative and Staff Emotional Care Services (SURPIN/SECS). Taking into account the huge role that religion plays in society, it hosted a one-day workshop last year that brought together clergy, clerics and other leaders to equip them on how to identify depression and suicidal thoughts.
It is hoped that these initiatives will help address Nigeria’s high suicide rate. But if the country is to really tackle the problem, much more is needed. Among other things, Ojeifo believes support will have to go much deeper and start much earlier.
“We need to focus on preventive strategies for mental health by empowering teachers, children and younger generation from 9-21 years old with the knowledge about mental health care and how they can help themselves emotionally or avoid mental health breakdown,” she says.
“Statistics have shown that 50% of mental illnesses are formed before the age of 14 so imagine if the benefits if we empower our young ones about mental health in schools from the age of 5.”

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