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Thursday, March 30

CBN to commence twice weekly FX sales to BDCs

…Each BDC to receive $10,000, weekly
In continuation of its determination to sustain liquidity in the foreign exchange market, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to commence twice weekly foreign exchange sales to Bureaux de Change(BDCs) as from Monday, next week.
Emefiele CBN Governor
The apex bank , in a statement by the spokesman of the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, in Abuja, yesterday, directed licensed BDC operators to fund their accounts with the CBN on Mondays and Wednesdays for this purpose.
It said that they would receive their purchases on Tuesdays and Thursdays, respectively.
“The sale amount to BDCs is hereby increased to $10,000 weekly ($5,000 per bid) and a new rate will be announced on Monday, April 3, 2017,” CBN added.

Blatter is biggest egoist I’ve ever seen in my life, says Platini

Michel Platini laid bare his anger at his spectacular downfall on Thursday, breaking his silence to accuse FIFA bosses of wanting to destroy him and claiming Sepp Blatter “always said I’d be his last scalp”.
Sepp Blatter & Michel Platini
Former UEFA boss Platini and erstwhile ally Blatter — once the most powerful man in football as FIFA president — were both banned from football in December 2015 over a payment of two million Swiss franc ($2 million, 1.8 million euros) authorised by Blatter to his one-time heir apparent.
Platini’s orignal ban was cut from eight years to six and then to four by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Speaking publicly for the first time since he vowed in May 2016 to fight to clear his name after the CAS ruling, the former France football star gave senior FIFA officials and Blatter both barrels.
“They were looking for something to destroy me with,” Platini, 61, told the French newspaper Le Monde, when asked if he felt that FIFA has trained its sights on him.
“Various in-house affairs at FIFA were exploited by the people who pulled the strings.
“I lived in the hope that they would tell the truth, but it never happened.”
Platini was responding to suggestions that Marco Villiger, a close associate of Blatter and a FIFA legal director, had informed prosecutors of the controversial payment, chief among a series of corruption scandals that rocked FIFA and triggered his and Blatter’s ousting.
Asked about Blatter, 81, who had been head of FIFA since 1998, Platini added: “He’s the biggest egoist I’ve ever seen in my life. He always said I’d be his last scalp.”
“He thought he would grow old, finish, die and be buried in FIFA, it was his wish,”
Blatter was “a fascinating person” and “exceptional political animal”, Platini added.

Federal Government to Improve Engagement with States and Stakeholders in the Mining Sector

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has reiterated government’s determination to improve its engagement with State governments and stakeholders in the minerals and mining sector to achieve full potentials of the industry for wealth creation and employment.
The Minister stated this at the opening ceremony of the 53rd Annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Mining and GeosciencesSociety (NMGS) in Abuja, on Tuesday.
Dr Fayemi said there was need to partner with states particularly around financial participation, revenue sharing and recognising the oversight on the part of Federal Government.
“The new roadmap for the sector already dwells on this and States are being taken into consideration- ranging from the establishment of the Council on Mining and Mineral Resources Development to the extension of derivation principle of 13% to mineral resources extraction at the state level” he added.
The Minister noted that in line with the initiative, the Ministry commenced a nationwide tour of mining sites and meeting with stakeholders starting with Kaduna, Lagos and Ogun States. He said that the essence of the tour was to ensure that all parties recognise their social responsibilities. “The Ministry is working to attract a diverse portfolio of participants from artisanal miners to junior explorers to mining majors into the industry.”, he added.
Earlier, the President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, Prof. Olugbenga Okunlola, noted that the society in its 56th year of existence has assisted the government and the private sector in policy formulation and execution, intellectual contribution in the sphere of mining, oil and gas, water and mineral processing, training and skills acquisition engagement.
He said the society has also organised programs, lectures, workshops, short trainings, direct and indirect engagement in the extractive industry, adding that the extractive industry produce the wealth of the nation.
Prof. Okunlola commended the efforts of the present government in truly emphasising the importance of the extractive sector in the economic revival of Nigeria and the inclusion of members of the society in policy formulation and implementation. He said a lot of responsibilities rest on the professionals as the expectation is high and it is time for them to prove that they are capable.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari, alongside some prominent Nigerians were conferred with Honorary Fellows of the Society.

Israel holds anti-BDS summit at United Nations

Palestinian ambassador says anti-BDS efforts will fail as Israel also cuts it funding to UN to protest resolutions.

Israel has hosted a summit at the United Nations in protest at the Palestinian-led 'Boycott, Divest and Sanctions' (BDS) movement.

The BDS movement, launched in 2005 as a non-violent campaign to press Israel to obey international law and end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, has gathered momentum in recent years.

BDS supporters object to Israel's continued building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

They also accuse Israeli forces of killing and mistreating Palestinians under the pretext of maintaining security. They say neither US universities nor businesses should have any links to their Israeli counterparts.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told attendees that the BDS mission was misguided.

"How tragic is it, that of all countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel? We should boycott North Korea. We should sanction Iran. We should divest from Syria, not Israel," she said.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, watched the summit and told Al Jazeera the anti-BDS campaign would not succeed.

"Why do you bring your supporters and followers to the UN to abuse the facilities and to threaten injecting this issue on the agenda of the UN ... If you want to go and combat BDS, go to campuses and universities and conduct your business there," Mansour said.

Hundreds of university  students were invited to the summit at the UN to learn how to counter BDS's campaign.

"The anti-BDS summit was a call to arms in a very visible location," Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from UN headquarters in New York, said. "But there is no way to predict whether it will ultimately succeed."

Israel also announced on Wednesday it was cutting its already reduced required annual payment to the UN by $2m to protest resolutons taken against it in various UN forums.

The General Assembly requires all 193 UN member states to pay a percentage of its regular budget, based on their GDP. According to the UN Secretariat, Israel is expected to pay about $11m this year, or 0.43 percent of the regular budget.

Israel's refusal to pay $2m of its dues will put the country in arrears, but it won't immediately lose its vote.

Under Article 19 of the UN Charter, any country in arrears of its dues payments in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly.

Nahshon said the money it was holding back would be used for development projects in countries that support Israel in international organisations.

A UN report this month accused Israel of practicing apartheid in the occupied West Bank. That report was withdrawn and Rima Khalaf, the senior UN official with responsibility for it, resigned in protest.

"A few weeks ago ... together with our American friends, we made clear that Rima Khalaf, an anti-Semite, a promoter of BDS, will not be tolerated in the halls of UN," Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told attendees at the BDS summit.

Khalaf has dismissed previous Israeli allegations of anti-semetism and has stood by the report.

Separately, David Friedman was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Israel on Wednesday.

Friedman has no diplomatic experience but is a longtime friend of US President Donald Trump and worked for him as an lawyer. Friedman is a supporter of the expansion of Israeli settlements on land belonging to Palestinians.

He also favours moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The relocation is opposed by many US allies because both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

£156m Man Utd striker swoops, major Chelsea dispute, Arsenal triangle, Liverpool decision

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho wants to add both Romelu Lukaku and Antoine Griezmann to his armoury this summer.
Express Sport understands the Red Devils will enter a £70million battle with Chelsea for Everton’s hitman.
And Mourinho won’t stop there as he goes in search of more firepower at Old Trafford.

Griezmann, Lukaku, Sanchez and Dahoud all feature in our Transfer NewsTop target Griezmann, who has an £86m buy-out clause at Atletico Madrid, is wanted as well with long-term solutions required to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.
Chelseaare reportedly in disagreement behind the scenes over who they should pursue up front in the transfer market
Antonio Conte is keen to bring Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata to Stamford Bridge, having failed to land him last summer.
However, according to The Sun, technical director Michael Emenalo is disputing the Italian’s stance and wants Lukaku back in west London.
United could swoop for the Everton man if Chelsea stall on a return, although signing both may be an option if they offload £33m misfit Michy Batshuayi.

Arsenal, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich could reportedly be involved in a transfer chain reaction.
Alexis Sanchez is expected to be sold with his contract expiring in 2018, and the Allianz Arena is his most likely destination.
According to Spanish outlet Don Balon, the Chile attacker’s sale will pave the way for Arsenal to pursue Karim Benzema.
And should the Gunners secure his services to replace Sanchez, Madrid president Florentino Perez would turn to Bayern’s left-winger Douglas Costa so Zinedine Zidane can shift Cristiano Ronaldo back into a central role.

Liverpool target Mahmoud Dahoud has reportedly made his decision and chosen to snub Anfield for Jurgen Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund.
The Reds have eyed the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder since last summer.
But according to German news outlet Waz, the 21-year-old has committed to a move to the Westfalenstadion as he wishes to remain in the Bundesliga.   
As a result, Klopp will have to look elsewhere as he aims to bolster his midfield options at the end of the campaign.

Wednesday, March 29

Emmanuel signs N371.29 billion 2017 appriopriation bill into law

Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has signed the 2017 Appropriation Bill into law, with a total budget size of N371,292,435,580.

Mr Emmanuel signed the bill on Tuesday at the Executive Council Chamber, Governor’s Office, Uyo during an enlarge executive council session.

The governor said the timely passage of the bill was a clear indication of the shared focus of development agenda between the executive and the judiciary.

He expressed determination that his administration would remain focused on the task of delivering democracy dividends to the good people of the State.

He commended the Sixth Assembly for the show of unity with the Executive in moving the state forward and to provide lucrative dividends of superior performance for our people.

“This budget has been christened Budget of Consolidation. Together in unity and in one accord we shall work to consolidate the gain of the previous year.”

“I pray this brings development, material and economic advancement, unity and growth to our people and the state,” Governor Emmanuel enthused.

He re-emphasized on his administration’s commitment to develop the state and free the citizens from the shackles of poverty and economic backwardness to enable them rise to their God-given potentials.

Present at the ceremony where the deputy governor Mr Moses Ekpo, and members of the State executive council, and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly Barr Onofiok Luke, who led some members of the House of Assembly to witness the exercise.

Nigeria Prices $500m Bond At 7.5% Yield

The federal government yesterday announced that it has priced its offering of $500 million aggregate principal amount of notes at a yield of 7.5% under its $1.5 billion (increased from US$1 billion) Global Medium Term Note Programme, which will be consolidated and form a single series with the nation existing $1billion 7.875 per cent per annum.
It would be recalled that the Presidency recently got the approval of the National Assembly to raise additional $500 million Eurobond from the international capital market.
The bonds which were issued on 16 February 2017 will mature on 16 February 2032 and repayable by way of bullet repayment of the principal together with the original ones of $1 billion. The proceeds of the Notes would be used to fund capital expenditures in the 2016 budget, according to the ministry of finance.
The successful pricing, which is priced 37.5bps inside the original coupon rate, demonstrates continued strong market appetite for Nigerian securities, director of information in the ministry of finance of finance, Salisu Na’inna Dambatta.
Despite continued volatility in emerging and frontier markets and shows confidence by the international investment community in Nigeria’s economic reform agenda.
When issued, the Notes will be admitted alongside the Original Notes to the official list of the UK Listing Authority and to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s regulated market. Nigeria however have to apply for eligibility of the bond for trading or to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and Financial Markets Dealers Quotations Over-the-Counter Securities Exchange.
Pricing of the Notes comes shortly after the federal government launched its National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020 on 7 March 2017, which focuses on policy objectives in five core areas: macroeconomic policy, economic diversification and growth drivers, competitiveness, social inclusion and jobs, and governance and other enablers. Key targets of the NERGP include reaching single-digit inflation, further growth in the agricultural sector, reducing unemployment, increasing operational energy capacity and domestic refining capacity, improving transportation infrastructure and stabilising the exchange rate, with an emphasis on implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these economic goals.
Commenting on the successful pricing, the Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun said: “The proceeds from this additional note issuance will go towards funding capital projects in the 2016 budget. Infrastructure spending is at the heart of our National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which was released earlier this month and guides how we will deliver the urgent reform our economy needs between now and 2020. Resetting the Nigerian economy is essential in order for us to deliver sustainable long term growth.”
Director General, Debt Management Office Dr Abraham Nwankwo said, “Nigeria is delighted to have increased our 2017 Eurobond programme to US$1.5 billion and to have secured the additional US$500 million. Nigeria was keen to take advantage of favorable market conditions and investor appetite for Nigerian debt to complete our foreign borrowing programme for the 2016 budget and deliver further funds for vital capital projects.”
Citi, and Standard Chartered acted as Joint Lead Managers and Stanbic IBTC, as Financial Advisers on the issuance of the bond.

Church revs up for cleric’s retirement

Activities lined up for the retirement of the first Venerable of Igbo origin of the Diocese of Lagos Anglican Communion, Venerable Levi Egbuchulam Opara, begin Sunday April 2,2017 with a fund raising.
A picture taken on January 1, 2016 shows the nine-metre tall statue of Jesus Christ carved from white marble, thought to be the biggest of its kind in Africa, unveiled in Abajah, southeastern Nigeria.
Standing barefoot with arms outstretched, the “Jesus de Greatest” statue weighs in at 40 tonnes. More than 100 priests and hundreds of Catholic worshippers attended the nine-metre (30-foot) statue’s official unveiling in the village of Abajah in southeastern Nigeria. It was commissioned by Obinna Onuoha, a local businessman who hired a Chinese company to carve it and placed it in the grounds of a 2000-capacity church that he built in 2012. / AFP
Speaking with newsmen,  chairman of the Committee, Sir Emeka Iloh (JP) stated that the early kick off is to enable them raise enough funds in view of the large crowd expected at the occasion in May 2018.
Other activities lined up for the occasion include a Valedictory church service to be presided over by the Lord Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion Dr. Ephraim Ademowo on a date that will be communicated later. Chancellor of the Diocese, Hon. Justice George Oguntade will lead other legal luminaries to the occasion.

Article 50: PM says 'significant' increase to powers expected

Wales can expect a "significant increase" in devolved powers following Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

The UK government has officially started the process of leaving the European Union.

In the letter to trigger Article 50 Mrs May said her government would consult on which powers should be devolved.

Brexit negotiations will take "due account of the specific interests of every nation", she added.

In the letter delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk, Mrs May said: "From the start and throughout the discussions, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking due account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK as we do so.

"When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"But it is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration."

Earlier on Wednesday Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said First Minister Carwyn Jones had no evidence to support his claim that farming subsidies could disappear after the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Jones told the Senedd on Tuesday he was "not optimistic" the UK government would replace funding lost after Brexit.

But Mr Davies, who backed the campaign to leave the EU, told BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday he was "very confident" the UK government would support the interests of Welsh farmers.

He accused the first minister of "scaremongering", adding: "He's fast turning into the angry man in the grandstand shouting at the team on the field playing the game."

Mr Davies said governments in the UK would have the ability to draw up their own plans to support their poorer regions and food production.

"That's what people will vote on at elections times," he said.

"They will look at manifestos and they will vote on the government they think will look after their interests, unlike what we have at the moment which is unelected bureaucrats putting in place measures that frankly just have not worked."

Mr Jones, who wanted the UK to remain in the EU, said he stood "ready to work constructively with the UK government to secure a deal which protects Welsh businesses, our economy and the future prosperity of Wales".

"If, as negotiations progress, we believe our priorities are not being championed or our representation falls below a level we find acceptable, we will not remain silent," he said.

LSE 'regrets' Deutsche merger block

The London Stock Exchange says it "regrets the [European] Commission's decision to prohibit the proposed merger " between itself and Deutsche Boerse. 

Toshiba US nuclear group files for bankruptcy

Toshiba's nuclear division Westinghouse Electric has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US.

The company has been struggling under major cost overruns at two projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

London visa call renewed

The chief executive of the  London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Colin Stanbridge has renewed his call for the introduction of a London visa system  allow skilled workers from the EU to remain in the capital after Brexit.  

“They [businesses] will be looking for real answers to questions about the exiting process and trade negotiations as well as addressing the need for a London Visa to ensure that London is able to continue to access the skills it needs.

“However we also need to balance Brexit with the domestic agenda and make sure the government is listening to business concerns as the struggle with mounting costs.” 

London Stock Exchange-Deutsche Boerse deal blocked by EU

EU regulators have blocked London Stock Exchange's £21bn merger with German stock exchange Deutsche Boerse.

The European Commission said the deal would have created a "de facto monopoly" for certain financial services.

The merger would have combined Europe's two largest stock exchange operators.

London Stock Exchange Group warned last month that the deal was unlikely to receive EU approval over concerns it would limit competition.

Theresa May set to trigger Brexit Article 50

British prime minister photographed signing letter to be delivered to European Union triggering Britain's EU exit.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will on Wednesday trigger the formal, two-year process of negotiations  that will lead to Britain leaving the European Union (EU).

Late on Tuesday, a photograph was released of her signing a letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and officially notifying the EU of Britain's decision to withdraw from the bloc after more than 40 years in a process popularly known as Brexit.

The letter is to be hand-delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels by British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow at 1130 GMT and copies are to be sent to the other 27 EU member states.
How will Brexit impact the UK economy?

In a speech to parliament designed to coincide with the letter's delivery, May will urge the country to come together as it embarks on a "momentous journey."

"We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together," she is to say.

May will tell MPs that she wants to represent "every person in the UK," including EU nationals, in negotiations.

Britain voted to leave the EU last June, after a campaign that divided the country. In a close result, 52 percent voted for Brexit, while 48 percent wanted to stay in the EU.

Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, while England and Wales, with a much larger combined population, voted to leave.

May spoke to key EU figures late on Tuesday including Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker said his conversation had been "good and instructive" and that Britain would remain a "close and committed ally."

May has promised to take Britain out of the EU single market but negotiate a deal that keeps close trade relations with Europe, as she builds "a strong, self-governing global Britain" with control over its own borders and laws.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Britain was "on the threshold of the most important negotiation" for Britain "for a generation."

what is article 50 explainer infographic

Challenges ahead

The British parliament backed May's Article 50 plan earlier this month, after six weeks of debate.

The EU is expected to issue a first response to Britain on Friday, followed by a summit of EU leaders on April 29 to adopt their own guidelines - meaning it could be weeks before formal talks start.

Their priority is settling Britain's outstanding obligations, estimated between 55 and 60 billion euros [$59bn and $65bn] - an early battle that could set the tone for the rest of the negotiations.

Both sides have also said they are keen to resolve the status of more than three million European nationals living in Britain after Brexit, and one million British expats living in the EU.
Europeans in UK face uncertain future after Brexit

The two sides also want to ensure Brexit does not exacerbate tensions in Northern Ireland , the once troubled province which will become Britain's only hard border with the rest of the EU.

Britain also wants to reach a new free trade agreement within the two-year timeframe, although it has conceded that a transitional deal might be necessary to allow Britain to adapt to its new reality.

Many business leaders are deeply uneasy about May's decision to leave Europe's single market, a free trade area of 500 million people, fearing its impact on jobs and economic growth.

The Brexit vote sent the pound plunging, although economic growth has been largely stable since then.

On Tuesday, Scotland's semi-autonomous parliament backed a call by its nationalist government for a new referendum on independence before Brexit.

Scotland's devolved administration is particularly concerned about leaving Europe's single market - the price May says must be paid to end mass immigration, a key voter concern.

The prime minister rebuffed the referendum request and has vowed to fight for a new relationship with Brussels that will leave Britain stronger and more united than before.

The EU, too, is determined to preserve its own unity and has said that any Brexit deal must not encourage other countries to follow Britain out the door.

With the challenges ahead, there is a chance that negotiations will break down and Britain will be forced out of the EU without any deal in place.

This could be damaging for both sides, by erecting trade barriers where none now exist as well as creating huge legal uncertainty.

May has said that "no deal is better than a bad deal", and she has the support of pro-Brexit hardliners in her Conservative party, who have been campaigning for decades to leave the EU.

Tuesday, March 28

US 'probably' involved in mass Iraqi civilian deaths

Top US commander in Iraq says 'fair chance' coalition air strike had role in scores of civilian killings in Mosul blast.

UN says as many as 400 civilians may have been killed in west Mosul in the past month [Reuters]

The top US commander in Iraq on Tuesday acknowledged the likelihood that the US-led coalition played a role in blasts in Mosul that killed many civilians this month, but said an investigation was under way and ISIL may also be to blame.

"My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties... What I don't know is were they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy? We still have some assessments to do," Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, speaking from Iraq.

"I would say this, that it sure looks like they were."

Conflicting accounts have emerged since the March 17 explosion in al-Jadida district in west Mosul, where Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes are fighting to clear Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters from Iraq's second city.

Investigators are in Mosul to determine whether a US-led coalition strike or ISIL-rigged explosives caused a blast that destroyed buildings and may have killed more than 200 people.

"My initial impression is the enemy had a hand in this. And there's also a fair chance that our strike had some role in it," Townsend said.

"I think it's probably going to play out to be some sort of combination. But you know what, I can't really say for sure and we just have to let the investigation play out."

More than 300 civilians have been killed in west Mosul since Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition began an offensive last month to push ISIL out of its last stronghold in Iraq, the UN said on Tuesday, adding the toll could exceed 400 if new killings are verified.

"This is an enemy that ruthlessly exploits civilians to serve its own ends, and clearly has not even the faintest qualm about deliberately placing them in danger," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement.

"[ISIL's] strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality," he said.

Hundreds of thousands more civilians are still trapped inside west Mosul after Iraqi forces and the US-coalition recaptured the city's east from ISIL in January.

West Mosul is both smaller and more densely populated than the city's east, meaning this stage of the battle poses a greater danger to civilians than those that came before.

Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera said field research in east Mosul showed "an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes, which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside".
How bad is the humanitarian crisis in Mosul?

"The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces... have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law," she said.

In the east, the Iraqi forces adopted a strategy of encouraging civilians to stay at home, dropping leaflets into the city with safety instructions for residents.

"The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home instead of fleeing the area indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties," Rovera told Al Jazeera.

Witnesses told Amnesty that people were killed in their own homes after heading government advice not to flee the city.

The UN said it also received reports of another 95 people killed in four western Mosul neighbourhoods between March 23-26.

The rights office said it was not in a position to provide a breakdown of the deaths caused by ISIL violence and air strikes by the international anti-ISIL coalition.

Use what we make, make what we use, says Bola Tinubu

Former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who turns 65, today has enjoined Nigerian to patronise made in Nigerian goods.
Tinubu in his speech title Use What We Make, Make What We Use said ‘we must begin and end our pursuit of economic balance with the precious things this nation produces.’

L-R: former Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Celebrant, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Representative of tne President & Minister of Interior, Abdulrahaman Dambazzau; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode; Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu I and Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai during the 9th Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium with the theme Make It In Nigeria as part of activities marking Asiwaju’s 65th birthday at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

It is more than gratifying to mark my birthday in this good way. To all of you – many who have traveled great distances – I am honored that you joined me today. Though the event banners speak my name, this gathering is not about me. It is about that which a people united in purpose must do to improve their beloved country.
We build the nation we seek by forcing ourselves to become that nation, day by day, step by difficult step. We do so by casting aside the prejudices of yesterday to forge a more just society where no Nigerian is held down because of his place of origin, his faith or social station. But where all have the chance to rise by dint of honest labor and constructive enterprise. This is as God intended us to be. We have no choice but to achieve this destiny.
Before we go further, I give special thanks to Vice President Osinbajo.
Leading a group of fellow commissioners who worked together during my time as governor of Lagos, Yemi and this creative group have turned this event into an annual reality.
Each year, they assemble creative minds to address the issues that stand in the way of our national greatness. As result, the colloquium gets better by the year.
In this and so much else, the VP has proven himself a true servant of the Nigerian people. While our dear President had to be away, the VP performed admirably as his loyal subordinate.
I applaud President Buhari. He meticulously followed our constitution in temporarily transferring the helm to the VP. As such, these two excellent men exemplified teamwork and the true meaning of unity of purpose.
A selfless leader, President Buhari set the stage by giving strategic policy direction. Showing himself equally selfless, our VP, as acting president, worked as the faithful arm of the President, diligently putting in action what President Buhari had directed him to do.
Two men of different backgrounds, faiths and professional experiences forged themselves into a team managing complex matters of governance in a seamless, smooth manner.
Try as critics might, they could not create any space between the President and his deputy. This is how things are when people are united in vision and purpose. As President Buhari and his VP have been, we all must become.
I have been told that I must utter some brief comments. Given that this event has rendered you a captive audience and that my birthday affords special privileges that disappear the next day, I will take undue advantage to give more than brief comments.
More than any hour in our recent history, Nigeria stands at a defining juncture. Our challenges are manifold and profound. But so are our collective abilities and talents. The balance will then tip in favor or against us as our commitment and political will to succeed dictate.
Today we must ask a most fundamental question: Is our our political economy structured for the benefit of man or have we reduced man to be subservient to the impersonal political economy?
The correct answer looms self evident. The political economy should be for the benefit of man. In reality, we do not first try to reshape the economy to realize optimal benefit for the people. Instead, we have been conditioned to demand that the people contort themselves to fit the dictates of what the economy is or what it isn’t.
I reject this harsh path. It violates the tenets of morality and of sustainable economics itself.
We must begin and end our pursuit of economic balance with the precious things this nation produces.
You see, Nigeria is actually a prolific manufacturer. It has produced 170 million of the most adaptive, industrious economic units on earth.
I talk about our people. Our task is not to lament their great numbers but to reform the political economy in a manner that puts them to productive work.
The old model upon which this economy has so long sputtered, has crashed right before our eyes. We must retool ourselves. A new outlook is needed.
Even at the best of times and with the highest of oil prices, widespread poverty, gross inequality and high unemployment of man, machinery and material described our condition.
The decline in oil prices turned our extant economic model into rubble overnight. If we do nothing to reform it, we have done nothing less than enter into an economic suicide pact with ourselves.
Fortunately, the current government has begun the sometimes painful process of salvage and reform.
I offer a few personal insights, hoping they may be of some help in this vital economic reformation.
No populous modern nation with a significant urban population has attained prosperity without creating an industrial base capable of employing great numbers of the urban population and of manufacturing goods for domestic consumption and export.
We must learn from England which barred the export of textile looms at dawn of the Industrial Revolution, from the high tariffs America imposed for over 150 years after its independence. From China which implemented a most comprehensive protectionist regime to become the world’s most prolific manufacturer.
These three nations represent the past, present and immediate future of economic achievement.
Yet we depart from what has proven effective. The manuals of mainstream economics tell us not to do as these nations did. We oddly choose to believe falsehoods written in the books at the expense of the truth on the ground.
We must press forward with a national industrial policy fostering development of strategic industries that create jobs and spur further economic growth.
As part of this plan, government should institute a policy of tax credits, subsidies and the insulation from the negative impact of imports critical for these sectors.
Closely complementing the industrial plan, we need a national infrastructure plan. New structures need to be built and existing ones enhanced so that we enjoy a coherently planned and integrated infrastructural grid. A national economy cannot grow beyond the capacity of the infrastructure that serves it.
Of utmost importance, we must conquer the political and bureaucratic bottlenecks preventing affordable, reliable electrical power.
This impediment places us literally and figuratively in the dark regarding our economic condition.
The problems are not technical in nature as reliable electricity is a staple of economic life in nations less endowed than Nigeria.
We must persuade and convince those factors that currently impede our national quest for reliable power to move aside so that we can achieve this crucial precursor to economic vitality.
Modern economies are built on credit. However, credit for business investment and consumer spending is too costly in Nigeria to be of much help.
Consumer credit mechanisms must be more accessible to the average consumer. Prevailing custom still requires a consumer to purchase in one lump sum a house, a car, a refrigerator. This is oppressive. It defeats the average consumer and dampens economic activity.
Moreover, this systemic credit malpractice fosters corruption. Hardly any can save so much that they are able to pay for a house or car all at once. To acquire the lump sum amounts, decent people are tempted to do what they would not even consider if consumer credit was practically at hand.
We have to revamp our government-backed home mortgage system. Mortgage loan agencies need to be better funded, they must liberalize eligibility requirements so more people qualify and they should provide longer-term mortgages with manageable interest rates.
At last year’s colloquium, we discussed a commodity exchange boards and futures markets to ensure minimum farm incomes and encourage production. We now need to summon the heart and courage to implement ideas that have consistently proven themselves in other countries. If we try, these measures will ably acquit themselves here.
In conclusion, one additional thought shall suffice. Here I add a third part to this year’s theme. Not only must we use what we make and make what we use. We must make what the world values.
A nation does itself better by manufacturing a good and affordable appliance or car than in cultivating a sublime mango or perfect banana. We must not allow our present comparative disadvantage in manufacturing to keep us from pursuing a tomorrow where that disadvantage is abolished.
We stand at a moment where history will be made for better or worse. Consequently, we must use our creative insight to peer into tomorrow to see what the rest of the world may want to buy, then devote ourselves to making these products.
Neither Japan nor South Korea had significant iron ore deposits. Yet they built steel industries as the foundation for their impressive rise in car manufacturing.
Nigeria must act in similar fashion. We must remember nothing that another nation can do is beyond our grasp even if we do not currently have the thing in hand. This is the change that we can and must achieve.
God bless you and God bless Nigeria.
Thank You

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Happening now: Dino Melaye appears in Senate chamber in academic gown [PHOTO]

Senator Dino Melaye on Tuesday caused a stir on the floor of the Senate as he entered the chamber clad in full academic regalia.
His appearance caught the attention of his colleagues who were amused.
Meanwhile, Melaye has released his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, certificate dated 2000 to calm the waters concerning his participation in the scheme.Some Senators, however, walked to him to exchange pleasantries and made comments about his outfit.
The Kogi West senator on Monday shared a clip of himself singing and dancing, after the Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Ahmadu Bello University, Ibrahim Garba, confirmed to the Senate that Melaye graduated from the school.

Healthy lifestyles cause of rising cost of dietary foods – expert, traders

Some traders have attributed the rising cost of dietary foods to the rising awareness among Nigerians about healthy lifestyles.
Dietary foods include cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, egg plant, pumpkin, palm oil, coconut oil and eggs. Checks on prices of these items Lagos markets showed that they have risen by over 100 per cent in the last one year.
At the Mile 12 Market, a bag of cabbage now costs N18, 000 against N8000 a year ago, while a bag of cucumber goes for N6000 from N2,500.
At Ikeja, Oniru and Ogudu markets, a medium sized cauliflower costs N600 from N400.
In the four markets, a 500ml bottle of coconut oil now costs N3,500 from N2,500, while 5 kg of palm oil goes for N2,000 from N1,500.
The traders said an average trader was now aware of the importance of dietary foods to the body, hence the rising prices.
Mrs Adaeze Ogar, Managing Director, Trevo Organic Store, Ogudu, said that rising demand for vegetables and other dietary foods was due to growing awareness and acceptance of wellness and fitness.
According to Ogar, traders are aware that many residents have become conscious of losing weight to remain fit.
“Many people suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight related challenges that depended on remedies like supplements, strenuous exercises now have new mindset.
“They have realised that a disciplined lifestyle through one’s food intake would sustain good health and fitness.
“Many have embraced the ketogenic (Keto) and Atkins diet that give low carbohydrate, adequate protein and low fat.
“This adoption of new lifestyles has led to an increase in prices of cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, egg plants, pumpkin, palm oil, coconut oil and eggs,” she said.
Mrs Mosunmola Bello, a banker, said Keto was a better approach to weight loss, fitness and healthy living compared to quick fix by many people.
She said the prices were high because the average Nigerian knows the consequences of excessive weight.
“On the average, I spend about N20,000 monthly on such ingredients because most of them are perishable produce and energy challenge restricts bulk purchase,” she said.

Monday, March 27

Cabinet reshuffle much bigger than Gordhan - economist

Cape Town – Market reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s instruction that Finance Pravin Gordhan immediately return from a post-Budget investor roadshow in the UK and US, shows that the bigger picture is not taken into account, said emerging market economist Peter Attard Montalto.

In a company note issued late on Monday, Montalto (from the Japanese bank Nomura) said the markets have focused too much on the National Treasury and that a Cabinet reshuffle, which is widely expected, is also about Zuma wanting to assert loyalty and rid the Cabinet of detractors, such as certain SACP members.

“We should not forget that the whole point of a reshuffle is bigger,” Montalto said.

On Monday, markets reacted swiftly to the news, with the rand losing more than 3% to R12.84 in overnight trade in New York. By 21:43 the local unit was trading at R12.82/$. Before the Gordhan bombshell, the rand raced to an almost 2-year-high of R12.31 to the greenback.

“The market focuses too much on National Treasury. If it (a cabinet reshuffle) happens it will be messy. But the markets forget the bigger context.”

Gordhan, who left the country on Sunday to represent South Africa at the roadshow is due to return to the country on Tuesday. His deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who was set to join the delegation in the US later on Tuesday, won't leave South Africa.

Montalto opines that a Cabinet reshuffle would "surely" have been discussed during a meeting of the ANC’s National Working Committee late on Monday, although it was not officially on the agenda.

He is of the view though that it is more likely that Jonas would be removed from his position than Gordhan.

“The risk of a Gordhan exit is still clearly there and I think Zuma is in favour of it, but he is probably testing the market,” Montalto says.

'No rate cut'

Montalto also believes that Monday’s “shock” would give the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) a “perfect reason” not to abandon its “fear narrative” around the rand.

The SARB’s monetary policy committee meets on Thursday to discuss its policy decision regarding interest rates. Analysts have had mixed views as to whether interest rates, currently at 7%, would be retained at the same level or adjusted downwards.

“The market got too ahead of itself in thinking the SARB would cut interest rates,” Montalto says.

“Today is a reminder that risks are there. Although the SARB won't mention this specifically (at its meeting on Thursday) they do worry in my view about political risk that is factored into the currency, as well as about second round effects, such as on

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed for 15 days

EU calls for release of prominent Kremlin critic Navalny, a day after he was detained at opposition protest in Moscow.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after being detained at a major opposition protest that he had organised.

A Moscow court issued the verdict on Monday against Navalny for resisting police orders on Sunday when he walked to the protest in the Russian capital.

Navalny, 40, posted a selfie on Twitter from the courtroom, saying: "A time will come when we'll put them on trial too - and that time it will be fair."

"Even the slightest illusion of fair justice is absent here," Navalny said on Monday at the defendant's bench, complaining about the judge striking down one motion after another.

"Yesterday's events have shown that quite a large number of voters in Russia support the program of a candidate who stands for fighting corruption. These people demand political representation - and I strive to be their political representative."

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Russia on Sunday in the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 anti-government protests.

The Kremlin has dismissed the opposition as a Westernised urban elite disconnected from the issues faced by the poor in Russia's far-flung regions. But Sunday's protests included demonstrations in the areas which typically produce a high vote for President  Vladimir Putin, from Siberia's Chita to Dagestan's Makhachkala.

Putin's spokesman on Monday criticised the organisers for allegedly inciting illegal acts.

"The Kremlin respects people's civic stance and their right to voice their position," said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"We can't express the same respect to those who consciously misled people and who consciously did it yesterday and provoked illegal actions."

Peskov defended the Russian police in riot gear who were seen manhandling protesters, some of whom were minors, calling their response "highly professional and lawful".

Asked about the Kremlin's reaction to the wide geography of the protests, something that has not been seen at least since 2012, Peskov said "the Kremlin is quite sober about the scale of yesterday's protests, and are not inclined to diminish them or push them out of proportion".

Putin "constantly talks to people" and is well-briefed on the sentiment in the country, Peskov insisted.

Peskov also claimed that underage protesters in Moscow were promised cash if they were arrested.

The Council of Europe said the detentions of the protesters raised concerns about freedom of expression and assembly.

Russian authorities should release all those detained, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said.

The European Union and the United States also condemned the detentions.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said freedom of assembly, which is "of great importance to democracy," was being tested in Russia.

The resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was the main demand of Sunday's protests that were called for by Navalny after he published a detailed report this month accusing him of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of non-profit organisations.

Medvedev, who has so far made no comments on the claims, is accused of amassing a private collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. The alleged luxuries include a house for raising ducks, thus many placards in the protests showed mocking images of a yellow toy duck.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Russia, said that the breadth and scale of Sunday's protests had likely surprised both Navalny and the Kremlin; solidifying Navalny's position as the pre-eminent opposition voice.

"Navalny's message of anti-corruption has really struck a chord with Russians," said Challands. "And going after Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, is pretty canny because - although Putin at the top of the tree is fairly unassailable - Dmitry Medvedev is a different political animal. He is much more vulnerable, much less popular, and putting pressure on him puts pressure on Vladimir Putin."

US-backed Syria forces resume fighting near Tabqa dam

SDF says Taqba Dam is not damaged and fighting will resume, but monitor casts doubt on whether engineers inspected site.

US-backed forces in Syria are resuming an offensive against ISIL fighters at a major hydroelectric dam, saying it is in no danger of collapsing amid conflicting claims over its integrity.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) offensive was briefly suspended on Monday, a day after a senior Syrian government official warned that the Tabqa Dam had been damaged by US-led air raids and cited an increasing risk of catastrophic flooding.

ISIL had also issued warnings that the dam could collapse "at any moment",  releasing pictures showing what it said was the structure's control room after it had been damaged by US air raids.


The Taqba Dam, also known as the Euphrates Dam, is seen as a prize to push ISIL out of Raqqa, the armed group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

Located about 40km from Raqqa, the dam is the biggest on the Euphrates. It stretches four kilometres across the river and is one of the few land crossings left as many bridges have been destroyed by fighting.

But the dam has also been damaged.

Last month, the UN warned that if it collapses there could be massive flooding across Raqqa and as far away as Deir Az-Zor, 150km downstream.

The UN estimates about 90,000 people are "trapped" in Deir Az-Zor by ISIL.

The SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, paused operations for four hours on Monday to allow engineers to inspect the dam, a major target in their campaign to encircle and capture ISIL's self-declared capital of Raqqa, located around 40km downstream on the Euphrates river to the east.

The SDF later said engineers had entered the dam and found no damage or "malfunction".

But it remains unclear whether engineers accessed the site.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor tracking developments in Syria's conflict via a network of sources on the ground, denied the SDF's statement, according to news agencies' reports.

It said technicians inside ISIL-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the ceasefire to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.

"If the dam had been breached, the United Nations was warning of a humanitarian disaster with thousands caught up in the flooding," Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from Beirut, said.

"The SDF says there is no problem - the makeshift ceasefire is over and the battle for Raqqa a step closer."

The dam, which stretches for about four kilometres across the Euphrates, was captured by ISIL at the height of the armed group's expansion in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

The SDF's decision to briefly stop operations followed a request by the Syrian government's water authority, with officials blaming US air raids in the past two days for disrupting internal control systems and putting the dam out of service.

The fight against ISIL – Inside Story
"There was growing concern over the weekend [about the dam's potential collapse]. In fact, ISIL was driving around nearby villages and towns warning them that there was a danger of flooding," said Al Jazeera's Fisher.

Hakam Tawfik, a structural engineer who worked on the construction of the dam, said that it looked like the facility had been critically damaged.

"I've seen the pictures on the internet and the control and operations room had been fully burned, which means there is no control of the water coming into the dam," he told Al Jazeera from Remscheid in Germany.

"This will lead to a real catastrophe, because there is no way from inside the dam to get rid of the water. The situation will escalate because as more cubic metres come in, the situation becomes more dangerous,"  Tawfik added, calling for an emergency operation.

"We need someone to interfere to stop this catastrophe, because water will overcome the dam and we don't know what we could do and how many days it would take to collapse - people living along there along the Euphrates are in danger."

The US-led coalition said on Monday it saw no imminent danger to the dam, unless ISIL fighters planned to blow it up.

"We do not assess the dam to be in imminent danger unless ISIS plans to destroy it," said Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also known as ISIS.

"The SDF are in control of a spillway north of the dam that provides water to an irrigation reclamation canal which can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be. If the lake reaches dangerous levels the SDF can relieve the pressure through alternative means."

Strategic airbase

Separately, the SDF  announced on Sunday that it captured the nearby Tabqa airbase from ISIL,  a former Syrian military outpost that had been in the armed group's hands since 2014.

The allience said it had met pockets of resistance from ISIL fighters but it had managed to capture the strategically important base with the help of US-led raids.

Earlier this week, US forces airlifted SDF fighters and US advisers behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault.

"This is a part of the approach… the [US-led coalition's] assault on Raqqa, and gaining key strategic points, including the nearby airfield and the dam, all become part of the operation," said Fisher.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqqa city in November, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Observatory.

2nd anniversary: Ambode has done well, but PDP faction

Lagos – The Moshood Salvador faction of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos on Sunday commended the Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode-led...