Nine kidnapped ABU students regain freedom

The Management of the Ahmadu Bello University , Zaria , Kaduna State , said nine of its students kidnapped along the Abuja – Kaduna Expressway last Sunday, by gunmen , have been set free by their kidnappers.

ABU Director of Public Affairs , Auwal Umar, confirmed the release of the kidnapped students to The PUNCH in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Umar said the nine students regained freedom from their captors on Saturday night.

He , however , couldn ’ t confirm whether a ransom was paid before the release of the students .

Umar said , “ All that I can say is that our students that were kidnapped some days ago have been released .”

On whether a ransom was paid before their release , Umar added , “We don’t want to go into that . Honestly, I don’t know but all that I can confirm to you is that they ( students ) have been released . They were released last night ( Saturday ) .”

Also , a brother to one of the students , Julius Mutum , tweeted that his sister has been freed .

Mutum wrote , “Some of the # ABU 9 including my sister have just regained their freedom . Strictly by family efforts . Thank you @TheAbusite for lending your voice when everyone including govt and security agents didn ’t care .”

It was reported that the students from the Department of French were travelling to Lagos for a programme at the Nigerian French Language Village in Badagry when they were kidnapped along the Abuja -Kaduna Expressway a week ago .

One of the students , Dickson Oko , who escaped with a gunshot wound said the kidnappers had contacted families of the students demanding N 30 million ransom on each student . The kidnappers , however , reduced their demand to N1 million on each student .

​Recession: Expunge non essential items from 2021 budget, Atiku counsels Buhari

Former Nigeria’s Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to delist all non essential line items from the proposed 2021 budget as a means saving costs as the country enters another phase of recession.

Atiku who gave the counsel in a statement he signed on Sunday also blamed the Buhari-led government for failing to heed recommendations by eminent Nigerians on the management of the nation’s economy.

While admitting that the COVID-19 pandemic did its part in worsening an already worrisome situation; the former Vice President insisted that the current economic Squeeze could have been avoided had a more cost effective model of governance been adopted by the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government.

“As a matter of importance and urgency, every non essential line item in the proposed 2021 budget must be expunged. For the avoidance of doubt, this ought to include estacodes, non emergency travel, feeding, welfare packages, overseas training, new vehicle purchases, office upgrades, non salary allowances, etc.

“Until our economic prospects improve, Nigeria ought to exclusively focus on making budgetary proposals for essential items, which include reasonable wages and salaries, infrastructural projects, and social services (citizenry’s health, and other human development investments).

“For a start, the proposed 2021 budget presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2020, is no longer tenable. Nigeria neither has the resources, or the need to implement such a luxury heavy budget. The nation is broke, but not broken. However, if we continue to spend lavishly, even when we do not earn commensurately, we would go from being a broke nation, to being a broken nation.

“Yes, the COVID19 pandemic has exacerbated an already bad situation, however, we could have avoided this fate by a disciplined and prudent management of our economy.

“Be that as it may, it serves no one’s purposes to quarrel after the fact. We must focus on solutions. Nigeria needs critical leadership to guide her back to the path of economic sustainability,” he said.

He also called for financial stimulus for the poor to cushion the effect of the recession, saying “we have to stimulate the economy, by investing in human development, and increasing the purchasing power of the most vulnerable of our population. Only a well developed populace can generate enough economic activity for the nation to exit this recession.”

He continued: “We must invest in those most likely to be impacted by the effects of the recession, the poorest of the poor. As well as stimulating the economy, this also ensures that they do not slip further into extreme poverty.

“For example, a stimulus package, in the form of monthly cash transfers of ₦5000 to be made to every bank account holder, verified by a Bank Verification Number, whose combined total deposit in the year 2019 was lower than the annual minimum wage.

“Now, how will this be funded? By more profligate borrowing? No. I propose a luxury tax on goods and services that are exclusively accessible only to the super-wealthy. A tax on the ultra wealthy to protect the extremely poor.

“A practical approach to this is to place a 15 per cent tax on all Business and First Class tickets sold to and from Nigeria, on all luxury car imports and sales, on all private jets imports and service charges, on all jewellery imports and sales, on all designer products imported, produced or sold in Nigeria, and on all other luxury goods either manufactured, or imported into Nigeria, with the exception of goods made for export.

“The proceeds of this tax should be exclusively dedicated to a Poverty Eradication Fund, which must be managed in the same manner as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, or the Ecological Fund”.

“I further propose that a 1 per cent poverty alleviation tax should be legislated by the National Assembly on the profits of every International Oil Company operating in Nigeria, and international airlines doing business in Nigeria, which should also go towards the proposed Poverty Eradication Fund.

“It is inhumane for us as a nation to increase the cost of goods and services that affect the poor, while keeping the cost of luxuries fairly stable. We must flip this, and flip it immediately.

“And above all, Nigeria must stop borrowing for anything other than essential needs. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, borrowing to pay salaries, or to engage in White Elephant projects, is not an essential need. This is particularly important as we need cash at hand, because the world and our economic and development partners are also focused on helping their home economies overcome effects of COVID19. We must be our own saviours.

“The more we borrow, the more we will need cash to make interest and principal payments, and the less cash we will have to make necessary investments in our economy and our people. If we keep borrowing, we stand the risk of defaulting, and that will make recession a child’s play, because we will lose some of our sovereignty,” he added.

Atiku further urged the Buhari-led government to swallow its pride, “and accept its limitations, so that they can open their minds to ideas, without caring who the messenger is. For as Deng Xiaoping said ”t doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.’ ”

​FG orders trailers to vacate Ogere on Lagos-Ibadan expressway

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, on Saturday directed trailers parking indiscriminately at Ogere section of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to immediately vacate the area to give way for ongoing construction works.

Fashola, who undertook an inspection of the road from Lagos, gave the directive during a town hall meeting with stakeholders at Ogere in Ogun State on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

After listening to the submissions of tractional rulers, representatives of the three major tribes, civil society, state government officials, contractors and traffic regulatory agencies, Fashola appealed to the trucks to vacate the highway.

“My appeal to you (articulated vehicles) is for you to the leave the road today immediately,” he said.

Fashola asked the task force on traffic laws newly constituted by Ogun State Government to enforce the directive, noting that parking on the highway was a violation of the nation’s traffic laws.

He said trucking and trailer operations were businesses and operators were supposed to provide parking spaces for their fleet, adding that government’s construction of truck parks were only to assist.

He also frowned at road abuses by truck drivers who pour diesel and petrol on the highway, causing quick road degeneration.

He listed projects funded by the Presidential Intervention Funds to include the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, a major artery connecting South-West to other regions.

He said that the highway was important for interconnectivity and ease of doing business, hence the need for stakeholders’ cooperation and sacrifice to ensure speedy completion of the construction.

He promised Ogun Governor, Dapo Abiodun, that the issue of burrow pits causing flooding would be tackled, while degenerating alternative routes along Ikorodu-Sagamu road construction would be completed.

Burrow pits are places where laterites are excavated for road or building construction.

“The governor and people of Ogun, we hear you very loudly on Ikorodu-Sagamu road. The story is the same with Lagos-Ota Road,” Fashola said.

The minister said that the contractors were back to site on the projects, adding that the Buhari government was determined to complete all ongoing constructions in spite of dwindling oil revenue reducing the nation’s earnings.

Fashola, however, admitted that government was owing contractors on the Lagos-Ota road and other projects.

Julius Berger and RCC, contractors handling sections one and two of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project, took turns to make slide presentations on how high traffic volume and new settlements on the highway slowed down construction.

They said that 400,000 vehicles plied the road daily and 3,000 of them per hour

They also enumerated their corporate social responsibility programmes to their host communities.

Gov. Abiodun, in his speech, thanked the Federal Government for the progress of work but requested that some roads be handed over to the state government.

He also appealed to the contractors on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project to adopt best traffic management options to minimize hardship, while calling for more sensitization of the public to help them understand the project.

He listed efforts of the state government to speed up construction, which included a tripartite committee with the Lagos State Government and the Nigeria Ports Authority.

“I must emphasize that we are delighted that this road construction is taking place,” he said.

The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye, thanked Fashola “for the tenacity of purpose to the construction of the road”.

Giving a brief history of previous slow construction of the highway by previous administrations, Adeyoye promised collaboration of Lagos State government with those of Ogun and Oyo to fast track construction.

She said the trailer park problem needed enforcement and could be resolved through determination of all stakeholders.

“All in all, we are having an infrastructure that will work, provided we take ownership,” she said. 

Sports: Osun United to review Old Players

The Osun United Football Club has commenced  reviewing its  Old Players  in order to  know the  ownership structure of the  players that belongs to the club.

The Club’s Vice President, Mr Vincent Akinbami , who disclosed this to Newsmen said Players contract are intangible asset and need to be valued in terms of figures and placed in the balance sheet of the clubs  financial statement at the end of the year.

He added that the club will put up a good structure with the supports of the Governor Gbenga  Oyetola-led administration, House Committee on Sports, Commissioner for Sports, Mr Yemi lawal  and that of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Sports,  Aremu Adelabu.

According to him, “Our mission is clear, we will run the club professionally, challenges will be met, but we will overcome. The new players will also be valued and be seen as an asset to the club”.

“We are happy that the Nigeria National League Board and LMC through the demands of NFF and Federal Ministry of sport are beginning to make demands for things that will make our football clubs run professionally”. 

The Vice President also commended the previous management, saying they had done a good job, away from the  practice they met in terms of the club having ownership of it players.

” My president Chief  Ademola Adeshina, Team manager Kabiru  Adekunle and other board members, started a good job last season but as a new member on board, we need to be on the same page to regularise it for a new season”. He said.