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Minister: I’ll resign if Abuja airport deadline fails

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Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said he was ready to resign if the Abuja airport runway is not fixed within the six weeks slated for completion of work on the facility. Sirika also disclosed that the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos is in line for certification in May while that of Abuja is expected to be the next in line for certification, December 2017.

Sirika spoke yesterday when he and the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, met with the apex aviation think-tank comprising highly respected aviation veterans.

He said work on the Abuja airport was going smoothly, stressing that he staked his reputation and everything he has to ensure that the facility is ready by April 19.

The minister explained that the decision to close the runway for repair was a painful one, stressing that safety was what the President looked at to agree that the runway be closed for total repairs.

His words: “I will resign if the deadline for completion of that runway is not finished in six weeks. I put all my integrity and commitment to get that runway ready in six weeks. I told people that this may rank as another eighth wonder of the world. “Already, they have done three weeks of work on the runway and work has reached about 50 per cent of work. I told anybody that if we must close the runway, it has to be for six weeks.

We cut down the time from 13 weeks to six weeks. People are working night and day to complete this job.” Sirika explained that to make the job faster, the Federal Government chartered two cargo airplanes that gulped N150 million to transport equipment that would make the job faster.

The minister denied report in the media (not in New Telegraph) that government had extended the completion of the job by another four weeks, describing it as false.

“That we allow the runway to deteriorate so badly showed irresponsibility on the part of people whom should have taken action to remedy the situation.

“How can we allow the Abuja airport to deteriorate so badly? That is highly irresponsible of us. I knew that one day, that runway would be closed.The entire architecture of the runway was almost gone. Mr. President was particularly worried about the situation and it was very easy to allow for the shutdown of the facility,” he said. Speaking at the event, Mohammed refuted reports in a section of the media that the ongoing reconstruction of the runway has been extended from six to 18 weeks.

The minister said the six-week timeline for the reopening of the airport would be adhered to. “Let me use this opportunity to debunk the erroneous report making the rounds that the closure of the Abuja airport has been extended to 18 weeks. This is not true. The six-week timeline for the closure remains. After six weeks, the Abuja airport will be reopened.

The remaining work on the runway will not necessitate the closure of the airport,” he said. Mohammed said the reconstruction of the Abuja airport runway is nearing its halfway mark, adding: “We are on course to reopen the Abuja airport for flight operations on schedule.”

He said the government would continue to engage Nigerians, including the critical stakeholders in the aviation industry, and give them up-to-date and factual information concerning the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

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Senate to FG: Rescue missing Yobe schoolgirls

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…warns against Chibok girls’ experience

 

The Senate, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to speedily rescue the remaining missing students of Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State, who were abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Monday.

The Senate also condemned, in strong terms, the attack by the insurgents and wondered why the Chibok girls’ abduction in 2014 by the same group had not served a lesson for the Federal Government as far as security of schools are concerned.

The resolutions of the Chamber on the Yobe school incident followed a motion sponsored by Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East). Ibrahim, who raised the motion through orders 42 and 52 of the Senate standing rules as a matter of urgent public importance, said that as at the time the insurgents attacked the school on Monday night, 926 students were in the school, but as at Wednesday, 46 were still missing. He said that the missing 46 students could not be said to be abducted yet, since the 880 rescued ones either came by themselves from the bushes around the school or brought by villagers from villages they ran to.

He said: “Nobody can categorically say or conclude now that the still missing 46 students of the school were abducted by the attackers or still trapped where they ran to, but the problem of such attacks needs to be critically looked into, to save the lives of school children generally and sustain their interest in education.

“For now, the situation on ground, as far as the attack was concerned, has not taken full dimension of the Chibok schoolgirls experience of April 2014, many of whom are still in captivity till today and we pray it doesn’t get to that stage.”

Contributing, the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, said that after the Chibok incident, it was the prayer and hope of every Nigerian that such should not happen again in any part of the country. Lawan commended both the federal and Yobe State governments for immediate action toward rescuing the girls, stressing the need to be proactive in protecting the schools in the country.

However, Senator Mohammed Hassan (Yobe South) disagreed with Lawan in commending the state government, saying that the Yobe government deserved no commendation, accusing it of neglecting the primary responsibility of protecting lives of its citizens. Senator Joshua Lidani said that the Chibok incident should have sent a signal to the country that secondary schools, especially girls, were most vulnerable.

“This spate of kidnapping happens whenever the insurgents are being severely attacked or they are on the run. They will devise a means to abduct people so that they will negotiate with the Federal Government for ransom and this empowers them. If government continues to pay ransom, it means that the insurgents will continue with this kind of attack,” Lidan said. In his remark, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the incident provided a reason for another level of policing.

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NNPC facing political interference towards 2019

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Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, (NNRC), yesterday, declared that commercial decisions and operational activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be subjected to more political interference as the “2019 elections are looming.”

The Charter, which declared this in its 2017 Benchmarking Exercise Report, launched in Lagos, scored NNPC low on transparency and accountability. Using its 12 Precepts as measurement, the NNRC also scored the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and Federal Government “so low” on local impacts.

“Policies to ensure meaningful participation by the affected communities are absent and the negative effect outweighs extraction benefits. The government agencies responsible for monitoring Environment Impacts Assessments lack the technical and financial capacity to enforce compliance,” the Precepts 5 of the Report read. On the State-Owned Enterprises, the NNRC said that the government still muddle in the NNPC’s businesses. “The observed muddling of the corporation’s business roles with its non-commercial and auxiliary regulatory functions continues.

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$1.2bn debt: 20m 9mobile subscribers face network cut off in 2022

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Consequent upon complications arising from the $1.2billion loan default by 9mobile (Etisalat) to a consortium of banks, about 20 million Nigerians who are subscribers of the telecoms company would be cut off from the network services of the company in 2022.

That is even as over four thousand staff of the company risk being laid off in the same year. This was revealed during the investigative hearing by the Senate Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Communications and two others, which was mandated to investigate the loan default which is threatening the existence of the 9Mobile.

This, according to the Committee, can only be averted if a new buyer emerges, takes over the company and pays off the debt before the 15 years operational license given to the company expires in 2022. Speaking at the investigative session, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), represented by the Director of Legal Services, Yetunde Akinoye, stated that the 9Mobile was given a 15 year license in 2007, to operate in Nigeria, which according to her, will expire in 2022.

She said that, given the financial crisis facing 9mobile, the hope was that a new investor (buyer) would emerge to take over the company, pay back the consortium of banks the loans which the original owners of the telecom company collected, and also pay for the renewal of the license to retain the services and subscribers. She said if this was not possible, the banks, in alliance with their security trustees, might push to enforce the loan conditions on the 9Mobile, which she explained, might involve stripping the telecoms company to recover their investment.

Akinoye further recalled that although she was not privy to the loan agreements, the NCC got a letter on the 21st of June, 2017, from the Security Trustee of 9Mobile, notifying them that there was a loan default and that the lenders (banks) wanted to enforce the legal implication.

She said the banks, which had already taken over the telecoms company, wanted the board of the 9mobile to be dissolved and a neutral person brought in, to which they wanted the CBN to takeover. She said the CBN governor who did not want the apex bank to become involved, however dissolved the old board and constituted a new board chaired by the CBN Deputy Governor, to ensure that the 20 million subscribers and four thousand staff were not left high and dry.

On why the NCC could not allow the banks to take full ownership of the company, the NCC representative said “the transfer of license is not allowed by NCC except under certain condition but they can transfer the shares. The banks were only interested in getting their money but not to run the company”.

She also said the NCC, unlike the CBN in the case of banks, does not have powers by the Act establishing it, to take over telecoms company that are collapsing. Akinoye also said that given the way Mubadala and the associate paid $250 million to get the Etisalat license, NCC never suspected that anything would go wrong, adding that the NCC was already doing a forensic investigation.

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