​FG will use oil, gas revenue to stimulate growth in other sectors — Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, pledged to continue the Federal Government’s economic diversification through the utilisation of oil and gas revenues.

Speaking at the virtual inauguration of the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre at the Department of Petroleum Resources headquarters, Lagos, he said: ”You would recall that at the beginning of this administration, we set a clear roadmap for the oil and gas sector in order to increase value from the nation’s huge resource potentials and create opportunities for investors, both local and foreign when I declared that: ‘Nigeria is Open for Business!’

“I am delighted that since then, we have witnessed major Final Investment Decisions in the sector such as the AKK Pipeline project, the NLNG Train-7 project, and the completion of the 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith Modular refinery.

“Our renewed drive for economic diversification using the oil and gas industry as a pivot remains on track as we expand government revenues and deploy it to grow our Gross Domestic Product, generate employment and contribute to eliminating poverty in Nigeria.

“This National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre will serve as an integrated resource complex to drive safety, value and cost efficiency in the industry. It is, therefore, another milestone in the development of the oil and gas sector and the realisation of greater value for the country.”

The President, who noted that the centre has opened a new set of opportunities for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry in terms of investments, said: ”The establishment of the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre aligns with our administration’s commitment to foster stability, growth, and sustainability of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry consistent with the economic development and sustainability agenda articulated in the National Petroleum Policy 2017, National Gas Policy 2017, Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the Economic Sustainability Plan, 2020.”

Similarly, the Director/CEO, DPR, Engr. Sarki Auwalu, said: “The journey to NOGEC began with the express mandate of Mr. President for the Industry to reduce cost, improve efficiency and create employment. Based on these directives and the ministerial delivery priorities, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) identified five (5) key initiatives that will help to achieve the intent of Mr. President’s mandate. It is pertinent to note that the entire oil and gas business is hinged on revenue and safety, which provide the basis for identifying the five (5) initiatives that form the pillars of NOGEC.

“The National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre encompasses industry-focused programmes that will drive strategic mediation in operations, skills and competence development, use of Big Data, Internet of things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for decision making, deployment of proven technology for secondary and tertiary oil recovery as well as a coordinated response for an emergency. Today, we have concluded the framework and implementation modalities for the successful take-off of these Programmes within the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre due for imminent commissioning. We have no doubt that the Industry now has the resource and platform to interact, cooperate and collaborate on salient industry issues that remain impediments to cost reduction, safe operations, and optimum value optimisation.”

However, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, said the facility would culminate in the sustainable development of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

​My mother is positive for COVID-19 in Kaduna Correctional Centre, El-Zakzaky’s son cries out

As the second wave of COVID-19 continues to rage in the country, Zeenat, wife of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, has tested positive for the virus, fuelling fears of mass infection at the Kaduna Correctional Centre, where the couple are currently being held in custody.

Their son, Mohammed, disclosed this in a statement he personally signed and sent to  Newsmen on Thursday.

He, however, lamented that his mother was yet to be either isolated, hospitalized or given proper care in the detention facility.

Mohammed said: “Six days ago after a routine visit to the Kaduna State prison by my parent’s doctors, my mother complained of fatigue, fever and a complete loss of the ability to smell.

“The doctors decided to carry out a number of standard tests in order to understand what the problem was. Among the tests that were carried out was a test for the novel coronavirus.

“This was a routine procedure and it is important to state that she has been denied treatment for acute medical conditions including severe arthritis of the knee for years now.

“Meanwhile, the COVID-19 test came back positive. I imagined that due to the diligent way in which the prison management had been conducting and managing the facility, a COVID-19 outbreak would be extremely unlikely.

“Because we have also been doing our own due diligence and taking all possible measures at all times, we imagined that they were safe from the clear and present danger of COVID-19.

“But once I heard of the test result, my first action was to ensure that it was tried, tested and confirmed. I expected that following our risky entrance into the predictable petri dish of Kaduna State prison for what it is; the person in charge of Kaduna State prison would officially do his job and inform the State Governor Nasir El-Rufai and the chain of command that the current campaign of torture, extortion, corruption and murder has come to this and my mother Zeenah Ibraheem El-Zakzaky needs to be immediately hospitalized.

“Unfortunately, this has not been done and so I have no choice but to scream the following details to the public.

“NOTE: This most horrific news was delivered to the deputy controller of prisons (DC) and his most immediate superior (CP). He granted unrestricted access for all medical staff to deliver primary care to my mother, Zeenah Ibraheem.

“But on the first day after she tested positive, the medical team that came to grant her attention was harassed in their efforts to deliver immediate primary care.

“On day two, apparently an order came down on the controller of prisons (CP) to test again. And so we did, because apparently they wanted to double check the veracity of medical results that were from the same labs following the same protocols.

“On day three, my mother Zeenah Ibraheem was yet to be hospitalized. Instead, there seemed to be a commotion of people bent on using the COVID-19 virus as an assassination tool.

“I want to ask; why is my mother not in a hospital? Why are you doing this? We all know that COVID-19 requires an immediate response of urgent adherence to medical advice. Why are the rules being bent against my mother, Zeenah Ibraheem, and my father, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky?

“On day four, the idea of following appropriate treatment protocols as required for every patient was ignored.

“On day five, at the 11th hour, I am completely helpless and powerless to do anything to save my mother who is currently down with COVID-19.

“Today is day six since I heard about her COVID-19 status. This is the Nigeria in which I was born, in which I live, in which my brothers have been murdered, where I am allowed to take care of even my own mother.

“The testing of all primary contacts associated with the positive patient, who is, in this case, is my mother, Zeenah Ibraheem, and also my father’s primary contact has been done.

“However, this disruptive plague is not a joke. It has not disappeared, it will not miraculously disappear and it is not a conspiracy theory.

“My mother is still in Kaduna prison at the moment yet to be hospitalized and to receive proper health care.”

​How we improved broadband service ― NCC

The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, says it has increased third-generation (3G) and fourth-generation (4G) base transceiver stations (BTS) deployment in Nigeria from 30,000 to 53,460 through an effective regulatory framework.

The Commission also disclosed that Fibre Optic Transmission cables in the country have expanded from 47,000km to 54,725km in the last five years, resulting in improved broadband/telecoms service delivery to Nigerians.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta disclosed this while reeling out industry growth data at a briefing for the new Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Engr. Festus Yusuf Daudu, on the functions and regulatory activities of the Commission in Abuja.

The EVC, who spoke on NCC’s enabling laws, mandates of NCC, the structure of NCC, implementation approach of its mandates and methodology, key focus and targets, scorecards, the new soon-to-be-unveiled Strategic Management Vision (SVP), NCC’s contributions to the economy, said that the various regulatory frameworks are aimed at improving service delivery, challenges confronting the sector and proposed solutions, among others.

According to Danbatta, the effective regulatory regime put in place by his leadership has resulted in increased deployment of infrastructure by telecoms operators, which in turn, helped to improve broadband penetration and other related service delivery in the telecoms industry.

“The BTS, fibre optic cables and other related infrastructure are central to the provision of improved service experience for Nigerians by their respective telecoms service providers,” he said, adding that the licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) are also expected to add 38,296km to optic fibre cables when they commence fully operations.

The EVC also informed that as at November 2020, active telephony subscribers stood at 208 million with teledensity standing at 108.92 per cent while active Internet subscriptions were 154.9 million and broadband penetration of 45.07 per cent, among others.

He also spoke on various initiatives undertaken by the Commission to ensure consumer protection and empowerment.

These, according to him, include the Declaration of 2017 as Year of the Telecom Consumer, introduction of the 622 Toll-Free Line for lodging and resolving consumer complaints and the provision of the 112 Emergency number and activation of 19 Emergency Communications Centre (ECCs).

Other such consumer-centric regulatory measures intervention, according to the EVC, include issuance of various directions to mobile network operators (MNOs) to protect the consumers from being short-changed, ensuring smooth transition of Etisalat to 9Mobile, consumer outreach programmes, introduction and enforcement of mobile number portability (MNP) as well as the introduction of the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 to check cases of unsolicited text messages.

The EVC further disclosed that the number of subscriptions to DND service has hit over 30 million as the service empowers Nigerians to be able to protect themselves from the menace of unsolicited text messages.

In recognition of the tremendous economic growth opportunities afforded by the deployment of broadband and its associated technologies, Danbatta said the Commission has positioned itself in government’s drive for a digital Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025), the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020 – 2030) and the Strategic Management Plan (2020 – 2024) of the Commission.

“The Commission will continue to put in its best in the discharge of its mandates, especially in facilitating the deployment of broadband, which is central to diversifying the Nigerian economy and national development.

“Also, it is our belief that the communications industry, under the leadership of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, will experience more quantum leaps and retain its current leadership role in the telecommunications space,” he said.

In his reaction, the Perm Secretary commended the leadership of the Commission, acknowledging the upward growth attributed to the effective regulatory regime, the central role NCC is playing in the digital transformation of the Nigerian economy as well as the impressive contribution of the sector to the country’s Gross Domestic (GDP).

“I want to thank NCC for its contribution to the Nigerian economy so far. I am not exaggerating about the achievements of NCC, in terms of contribution to GDP and how NCC’s effective regulatory role has been helping the economy in so many ways,” he said, adding that NCC leadership also contributed to his success as the Chairman of the World Radio Conference in 2015.

Engineer Daudu urged the Commission on the need for increased collaboration and teamwork with the Ministry, other agencies and industry stakeholders towards achieving the Federal Government’s objective of a digital economy.

He also promised to support the Commission in whatever ways possible towards achieving its regulatory mandates.

​FG blames #EndSARS protest, COVID-19 for rising cement prices

The Federal Government says last year’s #ENDSARS protests and the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted production flows were responsible for the skyrocketing of cement price in Nigeria.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo said this at an event in Abuja adding that the development affected the volume of stock levels in the supply chain due to reduction of cash flow of major distributors and high cost of transportation.

Market surveys show that prices of cement and associated products, such as blocks, in many states, including Abuja, have continued to rise.

For instance, the price of a 50-kilogramme bag now goes for N3, 700 in Lagos and Cross River states; N4,000 in Enugu and Imo states; Rivers state N4,300; Abuja N3,700; Kano and Oyo states N3,500.

Until the last quarter of the year, cement was sold for between N2400 and N2500 in many of the states.

While nine-inch block in Enugu is sold at N200, and a six-inch block goes for N160 per block, in Abuja, nine inches block sells for N180 and six inches for N160 as against the previous N150 and N130 respectively.

But speaking on the development, Sani-Gwarzo cautioned the general public against panic purchase of cement due to the recent price increase of products in some parts of the country.

He said the Ministry has been working assiduously to engage all the relevant stakeholders in the cement manufacturing sector to address the lingering situation.

The Permanent Secretary further noted that there has been a massive build-up of demand from public works contractors as they are in a hurry to meet milestones and deadlines on projects across the country.

To address the situation, he said the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, would be engaging with relevant stakeholders in the cement industry with a view to meeting the increased demand of the commodity.

He added, “We urge the public not to embark on panic buying and storage of the product as the current market price is temporary.”

He assured the general public that the government will continue to be on the alert to its responsibility of ensuring goods and services are available at reasonable prices.

He stated that the ministry will continue to monitor the situation while encouraging them to support market intelligence efforts by making relevant information available on the product.