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NCDC Bill scales through second reading in Senate

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The bill seeking the establishment of North Central Development Commission (NCDC), being sponsored by the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District and Senate Minority Leader, Comrade Abba Moro and co-sponsored by all the senators from North Central, on Wednesday, passed Second Reading on the floor of the senate.

The bill, which passed First Reading on the 5th of October, 2023, was first sponsored in the 9th Senate by Senator Moro where it passed First and Second Readings but could not get presidential assent before the expiration of the 9th Senate.

In his lead debate, the Senate Minority Leader said the Commission, when established would be saddled with the responsibility of receiving and managing funds from the federal government and donors for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of flood and farmers/herders clashes, communal clashes, construction of large format drainage systems, dredging of rivers Niger and Benue to control flood and incidental matters, as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy and other related environmental or developmental challenges facing the North Central Nigeria.

The Lead debate reads;

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“Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues.

“May I humbly seek your leave to lead the debate on this very important Bill.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria, in no particular order, comprises the following geopolitical States of the Federation; Kogi, Niger, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

“Over the past years, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria has been devastated and left in bollix by the noxious antics of terrorists, incidents of flood and erosion, insurgency, kidnapping, herder/farmer clashes, poverty, high rate of illiteracy, to mention but a few.

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“The Zone is blessed with several mineral resources that can boost the economy of Nigeria if properly harnessed. However, because of the breeding aforementioned, the North Central Zone is handicapped and cannot do much in this regard.

“May I mention here, Mr. President, that the North Central Zone of Nigeria hosts two of West Africa’s great rivers;(a) The River Niger and (b) The River Benue, which flows into Nigeria from The Republic of Cameroon. The two rivers meet in North central Nigeria and flow as one river on to the Atlantic Ocean. However, the presence of these two rivers has made flood a perennial challenge in the region with increasing intensity every year, leaving not just the North Central Zone but the entire Country with great losses and trauma.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, according to statistics from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, In 2012 and very recently, devastating flooding forced two million Nigerians from their homes and over 363 people died in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

“Between 2016 and 2023, more than 92,000 people were displaced and over 578 died from incidents of flood in Benue, Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa States, and other parts of Nigeria.

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“Annually, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmlands are damaged in the North Central Zone of Nigeria where the people are largely agrarian as a result of flood, and this happens, Mr. President, whenever there is a heavy precipitation upstream on the Benue and Niger Rivers. On the Benue River, the main problem is Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, which usually causes the river to swell when water is released. Flood has caused a lot of damage to the North Central Zone. In Agatu, Benue state, farmers continue to lose their crops and farmland to flood and erosion. This is applicable to states like Niger, Nasarawa and Plateau, which have suffered loses and trauma because of flood and erosion.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, it is no longer news that over the years, herder/farmer clashes in North Central Nigeria, especially in Benue State, have continuously made headlines. Consequently, infrastructure ranging from places of worship, roads, hospitals, schools, houses, recreational centres, etc, have been left tattered, shattered and pierced by bullets. Women, children, pregnant women and in fact the entire population is a victim of the atrocities perpetrated by suspected herders and bandits in the North Central Zone of Nigeria. Even animals and the environment are not spared the chaos and conundrum imparted on the Zone by the perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.

“Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, between February 24, 2016 and January 2024, rural dwellers in 45 villages of Agatu LGA were awakened by sound of gunshots and flicks of matchets as suspected militias swept into the area unleashing an orgy of violence. The unfortunate incident left, in its wake, more than 800 persons dead, among which were children and women, with more than 59,000 persons displaced from their ancestral homes. The displaced communities have been scattered with many seeking refuge in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered across Benue and Nasarawa states.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, this Bill seeks, therefore, to; establish the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) saddled with the responsibility of receiving and managing funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (International and Local Donors) for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses, farmlands and business premises affected by flood, erosion and farmer/herder clashes, terrorist activities, construction of large format drainage systems, dredging of rivers Benue and Niger to control flood, erosion and other incidental matters, as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy and other related environmental and developmental challenges in the North Central Nigeria.

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“Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, we all know the bond and attachment a man has with his ancestral home, and the psychological effects of being displaced from same. The funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (Local and International) will be used to rehabilitate displaced persons, and to indeminify them to their former economic status.

“Recent advocacy has centered on the need to make Nigeria’s geopolitical zones centers of development, as intervening centers of development between the states and the Federal government. It is our hope that the aggregate of developments via the instrument of Zonal Development commissions will make Nigeria stronger and greater again. Mr President, unbundling the federal government now has become an imperative need given the development inertia of most states and the near emasculation of local government councils in Nigeria.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, may I mention that this Bill was actually initiated by my humble self in the 9th Senate , passed all necessary legislative processes and got a resounding support from every quarter of the nation. However, the Bill was unable to get to the presidency for further necessary action before the end of the 9th Senate.

“Today, Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, in the 10th Senate this Bill is co-sponsored by all senators from North Central Zone across party lines.

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“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, I humbly urge you all to support this Bill for the Establishment of the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) and pass it appropriately for a second reading for equity, fairness and the development of our country.

“Thank you all for your kind audience.”

The Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in his remarks thanked Senator Moro and all the co-sponsors of the bill for sponsoring the all-important bill. He said development in any part of the country was development for all Nigerians. He agreed with the sponsors of the bill that North Central deserved a development commission to address the myriads of challenges confronting the region.

The bill was refered to the committee on Special Duties to report back to the Senate within four weeks.

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Nigeria to export petroleum products by Dec, says NNPCL

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Nigeria’s oil industry will join the big league in December when it becomes a net exporter of refined petroleum products.

Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), Mele Kyari, said yesterday that ahead of this, the Port Harcourt Refinery will go into full operation and petrol supply from next month.

According to him, the Warri and Kaduna refineries will follow suit by December.

On Sunday, Alhaji Aliko Dangote said the Dangote Refinery will pump petrol in commercial quantity also from next month.

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These are expected to bring relief to Nigerians.

Kyari spoke when he appeared before the National Assembly Joint Committee on Finance.

He was part of the Federal Government’s finance team that shared ideas with the lawmakers on how the Executive is tackling the myriad of economic challenges.

Yesterday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the June headline inflation rate at 34.19 per cent, pushed up by the 40.87 per cent food inflation.

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Other members of the economic team at the parley led by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy Mr. Wale Edun were: Budget/National Planning Minister, Senator Atiku Bagudu; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Dr Yemi Cardoso, represented by Deputy Governor (Economic Policy) Muhammad Abdullahi and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Chairman, Mr. Zacch Adedeji.

Edun and Abdullahi joined the meeting during the closed-door session.

Relying on emerging indicators in the energy and gas sector, the NNPCL boss told the committee that Nigeria will become a net exporter of refined petroleum products by December.

Kyari told the committee that the Port Harcourt Refinery will start production early next month, adding that this will be followed by the one in Warri and Kaduna Refinery latest by December.

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He added that in a few months, the daily crude oil production will hit two million barrels with the logistics so far put in place.

Kyari said: “NNPCL and the oil and gas industry are very critical in bringing a turnaround in our current economic situation, and we understand the importance of this. We are taking every step that is practical for us to achieve this.

“We have already seen growth in our oil and gas production because of certain actions that Mr. President personally took, and also the very mere truth that we have also declared a war on production activities and this is yielding the required results.

“The combination of these two has now seen us restoring production in our country, and we believe that, as the minister has said, we will soon hit the target of two million barrels of oil production per day.

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“I’m aware that there are several comments in the public space around refining business and domestic production, including production that will come from the commissioned Dangote refinery.

“This country will be a net exporter of petroleum products by the end of this year. We’re very optimistic that by December, this country will be a net exporter.

“That means a combination of production coming from us, and also from Dangote refinery and other smaller producing companies are in line to do this.

“So, I can confirm to you, Mr. Chairman, that by the end of the year, this country will be a net exporter of petroleum products.

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“We have spoken to a number of your committees that it is impossible to have the Kaduna refinery come into operation before December, it will get to December. Both Warri and Kaduna but that of Port Harcourt, will commence production early August this year.”

The CBN Deputy Governor said the triple challenge of rising inflation, foreign exchange rate fluctuations and food inflation would soon be on the reverse trend as indicators to that effect are already emerging.

Bagudu said the 2024 Budget is already being implemented and that there is ongoing negotiation with Labour leaders on the new minimum wage.

Chairman of the joint Committee, Senator Sani Musa, appealed to Nigerians to persevere “as the government is working around the clock to stabilise the economy”.

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He added: “Our critical interactive session with you as managers of the economy is about economic growth. It’s about how we can get our policies to work. How we will support Nigerians.

“The National Assembly is very concerned because we are the representatives of the people. And we are obliged to ask what is happening and this is the reason for this meeting.

“We have heard from you, at least you have given us preambles of the activities going on, on how our economy can get back on track.

“You are all aware of the obstructions our economy has had in the previous years and it is not going to be easy that overnight, in 365 days or in one year of the coming administration, things will change. It will be gradual.

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“I believe that Nigerians will persevere. This is the only time we can all come together as Nigerians to give His Excellency the President, all the needed support to get us out of all the trouble we have been.

“The indicators are showing that the economy is doing well. Things are a bit difficult because it is not easy for inflation that has gone up to go down like that. It takes time.”

Inflation rises to 34.19 per cent

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose marginally by 0.24 percentage points to 34.19 per cent last month from 33.95 per cent in May.

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Food inflation also increased to 40.87 per cent last month against 40.66 per cent the previous month.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest report, said: “In June 2024, the headline inflation rate increased to 34.19 per cent relative to the May 2024 headline inflation rate which was 33.95 per cent.

‘’Looking at the movement, the June 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.24 per cent points when compared to the May 2024 headline inflation rate.”

The NBS stated this in its Consumer Price Index (CPI) released yesterday.

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The CPI  measures the average change over time in the prices of goods and services consumed by people daily.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.40 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in June 2023, which was 22.79 per cent,’’ the report added.

However, the rate of increase (0.24 percentage points) is lower than that of  May and other months.

“On a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate in June 2024 was 2.55 per cent, which shows a 0.26 per cent increase compared to the rate recorded in May 2024 (2.28 per cent),” it said.

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The NBS attributed the development to a rise in the average prices of food items.

CPI had risen from 33.20 per cent in March to 33.69 per cent in April.

Nigeria has seen 19 months of consecutive inflationary pressure, pushing the inflation rate to a 28-year high.

Many experts at Cordros Capital Group, and CardinalStone Group, had expected a gradual and sustained decline in inflation in the months ahead, with some highlighting possible disinflation from July 2024.

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Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) predicted that average prices would rise further this month. It cited renewed inflationary pressure.

FDC particularly noted that imminent wage increases could trigger cost-push inflation.

President of the Association of Capital Market Academics in Nigeria, Prof. Uche Uwaleke, said recent fiscal measures by the Federal Government designed to address food shortages would manifest in a slowdown of costs.

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18.7m Nigerians under insurance cover, NHIA DG

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No fewer than 18.7 million Nigerians have been covered by health insurance as of this year’s second querter, the Nigerian Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) said yesterday.

The agency said it has made significant strides in expanding health insurance coverage across the country.

It’s Director-General, Dr. Kelechi Ohiri, dropped the hints in Abuja during the inaugural Quarterly Performance Dialogue between the Federal Government, 36 State Governments, and key health sector stakeholders.

According to him, the 18.7 million Nigerians covered by health insurance, surpassed the target set for the period by an impressive 11 per cent.

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He said that this achievement highlighted the NHIA’s dedication to achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

Ohiri said: “The authority’s vision is centered on bridging the gap in healthcare access for millions of Nigerians and enhancing the overall quality of care. Despite this progress, several challenges persist.”

He said that one of the significant challenges identified was the uneven distribution of coverage, particularly the disparity between the formal and informal sectors.

To tackle these challenges, Ohiri said that the NHIA had outlined a strategic plan for the future.

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He mentioned that the authority aimed to leverage on data and technology to enhance service delivery and patient outcomes.

He said that the NHIA was optimising operations and fostering citizen engagements in its commitment to improving healthcare access.

“The authority has set an ambitious target to cover 20 million Nigerians by 2027, a goal that underscores its comprehensive vision for universal health coverage in the country,” he said.

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Ex-VP Osinbajo Celebrates Wife’s Birthday With Heartfelt Message

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Former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has taken to social media to gush over his wife, Dolapo, as she marks her birthday anniversary on Monday.

Osinbajo took to his X handle (formerly Twitter) on Monday to pen down emotional messages with pictures of Dolapo appreciating arts and plants, to wish his wife well.

Osinbajo wrote: “Happy birthday my love @dolapoosinbajo.

“Your love, kindness, and generosity make all our lives so much happier.

“Love you always, Yemi xxx.”

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He continued, saying, “This year I decided to share my favorite photos of Dolly @dolapoosinbajo doing her favorite things.”

Taking to the comment section, veteran Nollywood actress Joke Silva said, “Happy birthday to the Jewel in the Crown. Have an incredible day.”

Also, a former Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., Ibukun Awosika, reacted: “Happy birthday to a most beautiful person, both inside and outside. You are a true treasure and a worthy example of Christ in us. God bless you richly. Love you lots.”

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