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JUST IN: EFCC grills Supo Shasore, former Lagos Commissioner, over P&ID Scam

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are currently grilling a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr Olasupo Shasore, (SAN).

An impeccable source at the commission told Daily Trust that the senior lawyer arrived the headquarters of the anti-graft agency on Tuesday afternoon.

The source said he is being quizzed over his role in the Process & Industrial Development scam.

Spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, promised to get back to our correspondent when contacted.

BARELY IN: Troops rescue kidnapped Plateau monarch, arrest two suspects

Kidnapped traditional ruler in Plateau State, Da Gyang Balak, has been rescued by troops of Operation Safe Haven.

The PUNCH had reported that Balak, who is the paramount ruler of Vwang District in Jos South Local Governement Area, was abducted on Sunday night while driving home along the road close to the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in the locality.

It was learnt the kidnapped monarch was freed on Monday night.

The Military Information Officer of Operation Safe Haven, Major Ishaku Takwa, confirmed the release of the traditional ruler in a statement on Tuesday.

Takwa said, “Immediately the incidence was reported, the commander Operation SAFE HAVEN Major General Ibrahim Ali placed the troops of Sector 6 deployed at Riyom on red alert and to embark on hot trail of the perpetrators.

“Consequently, the troops in conjuction with other security agencies, Vigilante group and Hunters conducted clearance operations in the mountenious region of Sabon Gida Kanal, Gero and Dahol general area. Two suspects were arrested at an abandoned building during the operation.

“This development led to the release of the paramount ruler by his abductors. He has been united with his family.

“While commending the troops for their swift response, the commander operation SAFE HAVEN, Maj Gen Ibrahim Ali, appreciate the efforts of the Vigilante, the Hunters group and all who provided useful information to security agencies during the operation.

He further urged the law abiding citizens to be security conscious and always observe and report any suspicious movement of persons in their area.”

China’s economy expanded 8.1% in 2021, but growth is slowing

China’s economy expanded 8.1% last year, far exceeding the government’s targets. But weakening growth in the closing months of 2021 suggests that trouble is still on the horizon as the country contends with a depending on real estate crises,  renewed covid outbreak  and Beijing’s strict no tolerance approach to controlling the virus. The 2021 growth figure is roughly in line with the expectations set by many economists. And it outstrips the Chinese government’s target last year for its economy to expand at least 6%. But GDP expanded just 4% in the last quarter of the year compared to a year prior, according to government figures released Monday, the slowest pace in a year and a half. The world’s second-biggest economy may struggle to grow much faster than that through 2022, and China’s central bank on Monday cut a key interest rate for the first time since April 2020 in a bid to boost activity.

“As everyone has seen, domestic growth is under pressure,” said Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, at a press conference in Beijing on Monday

Growth in the fourth quarter was bolstered by industrial production, which rose 4.3% in December from a year earlier — accelerating from November’s 3.8% growth.That was thanks in part to the continued strength of exports. Shipments from China beat forecasts and jumped 21% in December, bringing the value of China’s exports for the year to nearly $3.4 trillion.But consumption dramatically weakened amid renewed Covid-related disruptions, such as the massive outbreaks in Zhejiang and Xi’an that caused authorities to close entertainment venues, shut down factories, and put thousands of people in quarantine. Retail sales increased just 1.7% in December from a year earlier, sharply lower than November’s 3.9% uptick.Property investment and new housing projects that have started construction also declined.While the final quarter was “better than expected,” according to Larry Hu, head of China economics for Macquarie Group, the economy faces “multiple headwinds” this year, especially from Omicron and the real estate sector.Hu said in a research note that Monday’s interest rate cut indicated that the People’s Bank of China was now ready to loosen monetary policy further. He suspected that China’s loan prime rate — a benchmark rate at which commercial banks lend to their best customers — could be next.”Downward pressure on growth will persist in 2022,” wrote Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, in a Monday research report. While he expects real estate activity to eventually start recovering in the second half of the year, Kuijs also suspects that China is unlikely to relax its zero-tolerance approach to Covid until late in the year.”As a result, we project disappointing consumption growth this year, especially” in the first half of 2022, Kuijs added.

A troubled real estate sector

China has been contending with a slew of problems recently, including tumult in its property sector.Troubled Chinese real estate developer Evergrande — which has some $300 billion of total liabilities — has been struggling to pay it’s debts and was recently ordered to demolish a few dozen buildings  in the country. Analysts have been long concerned that a collapse by Evergrande could trigger wider risks  for China’s property market, hurting homeowners and the broader financial system.

December marked a significant downturn, though: Investment plunged 13.2% in that month alone, according to an estimate by Chaoping Zhu, chief global strategist for JP Morgan Asset Management.And the amount of floor area covered by newly started housing projects plummeted more than 11% in 2021 from the prior year, government data showed.”We expect further weakness [of the housing sector] over the coming quarters amid tight financing constraints for developers,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist for Capital Economics, in a Monday research note.

China’s Zero-Covid policy will persist

Beijing’s unwavering insistence on stamping out any trace of the coronavirus, meanwhile, is facing a huge test as authorities grapple with stubborn outbreaks and lock down large swaths of the population to contain them.Economists have warned that China’s zero-Covid approach to containing the virus could spell serious problems for the economy in 2022. Goldman Sachs, for example, slashed its projection for Chinese economic growth in 2022 to 4.3% from 4.8%, just over half of last year’s figure. They expect consumption to be worst hit as a result of the strict Covid curbs.December’s weak retail sales data is already showing evidence of how disruptive the coronavirus is becoming in China.

The resurgence of regional outbreak and lockdowns, as well as supply bottlenecks in the automobile industry, all weighed on consumption,” said Zhu from JP Morgan Asset Management.Now the threat that Omicron poses to factories and supply chains is compounding the problem.Ship congestion at Chinese ports has worsened recently as more cities implement strict Covid restrictions because of the outbreaks. Some places are also tightening testing policies ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday season starting January 31.The Shekou terminal in Shenzhen, for example, has begun restricting truckers bringing in loaded containers. As of Friday, truckers can only enter the terminal if they have bookings for export-bound containers on vessels arriving within three days, according to a recent statement from the operator.

More easing expected

Those economic challenges likely mean, though, that the Chinese government is going to have to take more drastic steps to keep things running smoothly.Before the central bank cut interest rates on Monday, it had already started loosening its purse strings. Last month, it slashed both the the reserve requirement ratio — which determines how much cash banks must hold in reserve — and the loan prime rate.The Central Economic Work Conference — an event held by top Chinese leaders in December to decide the direction of policy in 2022 — also signaled that authorities are willing to take more aggressive actions this year. At that meeting, the government signaled that it would be proactive about policy, and expects to prioritize infrastructure investment and support commercial housing markets.But Zhu from JP Morgan Asset Management pointed out that these measures don’t seem to have been enough just yet. Bank lending to the private sector, for example, has yet to meaningfully rebound.”This suggests that business confidence has not been restored,” he wrote. “Therefore further policy easing at a longer time horizon is essential.”

Zhu expects the central bank to make further cuts to the loan prime rate in the coming months. China could also allow local governments to issue more special bonds in 2022. Such bonds mainly fund infrastructure projects, which can help spur investment and create more jobs.”With these policies in sight, China’s growth outlook may stabilize, and a 5% GDP growth may be achievable in 2022,” Zhu said.

Kaduna earmarks N118.8m for tree planting in 2022

In its bid to encourage afforestation, the Kaduna State Government has earmarked N118.8 million for state-wide tree planning in the 2022 budget.

The copy of the budget obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna on Monday showed that the amount was part of the N3.1 billion allocated to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources for capital projects.

A breakdown of the capital projects showed that N28.5 million was allocated for greening and urban renewal planting, and N27.6 million for raising seedlings in the state’s nurseries.

It also showed that N23.7 million was allocated for monitoring and enforcement of solid waste, N281.7 million for construction of three dumpsites and N38.2 million for shelterbelts management.

The government also earmarked N18.2 million for climate change mitigation and adaptation project, N8.9 million for forest reserve management and monitoring using geographic information system applications.

Also, N13.5 million was earmarked for sustainable fuelwood management project, N23.8 million for enrichment planting in the forest reserves and N9.5 million for patrol of forest reserves.

It further showed that N2.0 billion was earmarked as counterpart for Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project and N17.5 million for research and development in the environment sector.

A total of N40.9 million was allocated for the construction of the weather station and installation of equipment, N64.2 million for construction of geological museum and laboratory.

The government equally allocated N10.6 million for mining and environmental degradation control and N139.3 million for the identification, assessment and addressing of ecological problem areas.

Also, N19 million was allocated for the procurement, installation, and management of hospital waste, N6.7 million for the procurement of geological field and onsite equipment and N93.4 million for procurement of geological laboratory and museum equipment.

Other allocations include N35.7 million for community engagement on alternative sources of cooking fuel, and N100 million as counterpart fund for reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation.

The ministry also intends to spend N26.6 million on global events on environmental activities.

The budget document also showed that N955.6 million was earmarked for Kaduna State Environmental Protection Authority for capital projects.

A breakdown of the allocation showed that N120.9 million would be spent on solid waste management and refuse evacuation exercise and dumpsite management and N5.5 million for plastic mop-up programme.

It also showed that N10.4 million was earmarked for mobile court operations, N2.5 million for mining and environmental compliance monitoring, and N5.6 million for monitoring and enforcement of medical waste.

Similarly, N6.9 million was set aside for monitoring of liquid waste, N36.2 million for provision of sustainable air quality equipment, N747.5 million for incineration and procurement of accessories and N20 million for procurement of weight bridge accessories.

Beijing locks down office building with workers still inside over single Omicron case

At an office building in China’s capital on Sunday, Covid control personnel lugged boxes of pillows and bedding through the closely guarded entrance for workers stuck inside, preparing for what may be days of lockdown as Beijing rushes to prevent the spread of Omicron ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The building in the west of the city has been sealed off, with everybody inside subject to compulsory mass Covid testing, since an employee tested positive for Omicron on Saturday — the city’s first recorded case of the highly transmissible variant.

For the past week, officials in Beijing had been on high alert as an Omicron outbreak spread in Tianjin, a major port city just 30 minutes away by high-speed rail. The cluster had already spread to two other cities hundreds of miles away.

According to detailed surveillance data collected by officials, the Beijing woman infected with Omicron had not been in contact with any confirmed cases and hadn’t left the capital in the past 14 days, raising fears the variant may already be spreading in the community.

Unlike most of the world, China is pursuing a zero-Covid strategy that relies on stringent restrictions including mass testing, lockdowns and long quarantine for international arrivals.

The single case in Beijing has been identified at the worst possible time for the city, as it prepares to welcome thousands of athletes for the Olympics — including from countries where Omicron is raging.

The risk of the variant spreading among the local Beijing population outside its so-called Olympic bubble — intended to keep participants separate from the wider public — comes as authorities warned of the “double pressure of domestic and imported cases.”

After the woman’s case was confirmed, authorities sprang into action, imposing uncompromising snap lockdowns — trapping people in places such as office blocks — and extensive contact tracing and testing in high-risk areas.

The residential compound where the confirmed case lives is just 15 minutes’ drive from Olympic Park. The entire community has since been sealed off while people get tested and authorities conduct environmental sampling. CNN staff who drove past the complex over the weekend saw large barriers in place to prevent anybody from coming or going.

The residents inside are allowed fresh air, in contrast to stricter lockdowns in other parts of the country that confine people to their apartments — but they can’t leave the community limits. Trash is beginning to pile up inside the complex, with only specially-designated disposal teams permitted to handle it. Many nearby businesses are closed.

The woman’s workplace has been similarly locked down, with large tents set up outside to conduct and process Covid tests for everybody inside until the building is declared safe to reopen.

In another sign of the zealous official response, the woman’s travel history was published in state media, with extensive detail on everywhere she went within a two-week period. The long list includes subway stations, public bathrooms, a supermarket, a luxury shopping center and Dior store, a famous Peking duck restaurant, a cinema, a hair salon, a stand-up comedy venue, and even a ski park.

More than 16,000 people linked to those locations have been tested with all results coming back negative so far, authorities said on Monday — and the city has yet to report any further cases. At a news conference, authorities raised the possibility the woman might have contracted the virus after handling international mail.

Chinese officials have repeatedly blamed imported goods for causing local outbreaks. However, the risk of surface transmission of Covid-19 is low in comparison to airborne transmission, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus dies “rapidly” on porous surfaces but can persist longer on hard, indoor surfaces, the CDC said last year.

After news of the single Beijing case emerged, many schools in affected districts moved students to online learning this week, and the city has closed a number of scenic spots and temples. Starting January 22, all arrivals to the capital must undergo Covid testing both in advance and after arrival.

And despite the imminent arrival of thousands of Winter Olympians for the start of the Games on February 4, Beijing has moved to suspend dozens of international flights. From Wednesday, all flights from the United States to China have been either

canceled or are likely to be suspended.

Athletes and staff are mostly taking special flights restricted to people with Olympic credentials as part of the “closed loop” bubble, which covers all stadiums, competition venues, accommodation and catering, and has its own transport system.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, said the situation was still difficult to gauge since authorities don’t know where the woman was infected. “It is very possible that new cases will emerge if the cause is unclear,” he said, according to state-run tabloid Global Times.

Though any additional infections could spark more restrictions in the coming days, there is no need to overreact to a single case, which wouldn’t impact the Olympics, Wang added.

The Beijing public seemed to share his sentiments, with crowds turning out for winter festivities over the weekend in sharp contrast to the localized lockdowns in some districts. On Sunday, many families flocked to a popular lake to ice skate on its frozen waters.

In addition to Beijing, a growing list of cities across China are also struggling to tamp down Covid outbreaks and the Omicron threat. The variant was first detected in the community in Tianjin on January 8 and has since been found in seven other cities, including Beijing.

Many cities are now imposing restrictions such as shutting down public spaces and banning dine-in services at restaurants, as well as suspending air travel to the capital.

Posts and videos on Chinese social media show several targeted snap lockdowns in Shanghai last week, trapping whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. In one mall, shoppers were stuck for two days, with officials testing everybody inside and ordering a deep clean before reopening.

One video posted on social media showed a woman outside the mall, crying and reaching out to a small toddler staring back from behind its glass doors.

The measures may seem extreme — but they remain broadly popular among much of the Chinese public, the vast majority of whom are able to enjoy life as normal.

And with such high stakes, authorities aren’t taking any chances, knowing all eyes are focused on Beijing as the Games approach.

Continue reading Beijing locks down office building with workers still inside over single Omicron case

A couple of youngsters has been arrested in England as part of the investigation into a hostage-taking incident at a synagogue in Texas on Saturday.

British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn, was shot dead after a standoff with police in Colleyville.

Details of the ages or genders of the pair arrested in south Manchester on Sunday evening were not revealed.

Greater Manchester Police said it was liaising with local communities and continuing to assist in the US inquiry.

The force said the two teenagers were arrested “as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack” and were being held in custody for questioning.

According to US police sources, Akram arrived in the country via New York’s JFK International Airport two weeks ago.

Akram’s brother Gulbar confirmed his death in a statement carried on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page. He apologised to the victims and said his brother had been suffering from mental health issues.

The Metropolitan Police earlier confirmed counter-terror officers were in contact with US authorities and the FBI.

The siege began at around 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT) when police were called to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in the suburb of Dallas.

Akram gained initial access to the synagogue during the service by claiming to be a homeless man, according to a police source quoted by CBS.

Among the hostages was the synagogue’s rabbi. One was released after six hours with the other three being led to safety by police several hours later.

All of the hostages at the were freed unharmed.

US President Joe Biden called the hostage-taking an “act of terror” and the UK condemned the attack.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described it as an “act of terrorism and anti-Semitism”.

Ms Truss said: “We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.”

Police proceeded their inquiry at the scene of the hostage incident in Colleyville, Texas, on 16 January 2022

The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is currently serving an 86-year term in a prison in Forth Worth, Texas, about 20 miles away from the synagogue, law enforcement officials told local media.

President Biden appeared to confirm the attacker had been seeking her release, saying the Texas attack was related to “someone who was arrested 15 years ago and has been in jail for 10 years”.

The president said the attacker had apparently bought weapons after he landed in the US.

Police sources say that no explosive material was found on Akram and US federal courts do not show he had any criminal history.

Akram’s brother said he had liaised “with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI etc” during the siege but “there was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender”.

Gulbar added: “We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.”

“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned.”

Leakages proceed despite TSA execution

How agency heads, civil servants bypass system

FG sets up review committee

‘Why govt should strengthen TSA’

Six years into the full-scale implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) aimed at ensuring greater accountability of government resources and blocking leakages, the revenue accruing to the government still bleeds Daily Trust findings show.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 7, 2015, directed that every Federal Government Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) pay into a Treasury Single Account (TSA) for all government revenues, incomes, and other receipts.

According to the directive, this measure was specifically aimed at promoting transparency and facilitating compliance with sections 80 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution.

The directive said all receipts due to the federal government or any of its agencies must be paid into TSA or designated accounts maintained and operated in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), except otherwise expressly approved.

Thus, the TSA is a unified structure of government bank accounts that gives a consolidated view of government cash resources.

The TSA is part of the Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms under the World Bank-funded Economic Reforms and Governance Project (ERGP) adopted in 2004 but could not be fully implemented until when President Buhari took over.

The PFM reforms were in part designed to address impediments to effective cash management within the federal government.

Daily Trust reports that before the implementation of the TSA came into effect, many government agencies maintained dozens of accounts in different banks.

Also, heads of such agencies had absolute control over such accounts and spend with executive feat. In some cases, some of them used such accounts as conduits for syphoning monies they generated from the services they offered or statutory funds received.

It was also difficult for anti-corruption agencies or external auditors to track such infractions.

However, the framers of the TSA said when fully implemented, it will block such leakages, enhance transparency and help government track incomes and expenditures for the betterment of the citizens.

Long way to go

Our correspondent reports that in spite of the optimism over its efficacy, the TSA has not completely stopped the leakages in government finances as evident in the way some government officials admitted.

If anything, the leakages still happen, and on a large scale too.

Some MDAs officials who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity said civil servants have found dubious means of circumventing the TSA especially in the manner they handle expenditure.

Majority of them said the popular way the heads of agencies and civil servants breach the TSA system is by approving and paying money into private accounts of civil servants to pay for services provided to the MDAs rather than direct transfer to beneficiaries.

“A lot of civil servants have their accounts registered in the GIFMISS payment system authorized by the government. These accounts are usually to bring out money from government coffers for services provided to the government. Some payment runs into millions of naira,” one of our sources said.

According to him, this situation has given room for corruption as government officials inflate the payments.

He also said the TSA has not significantly improved public finance management and accountability.

“What the TSA is doing so far is just aggregating the government incomes but the expenditure is still mired with corruption,” the source said.

A staff in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) who also didn’t want to be identified said they have noticed the infractions and abuse of the TSA.

He also said they have received reports of some directors and permanent secretaries being part of the racket.

He said except for capital expenditure and big talent transactions, the bulk of payments for services are done through private accounts of civil servants.

He said with this system, it was easy to inflate payments.

According to him, it was easy to even withdraw funds for jobs not done once there was a memo and approval for the payments.

He alleged that people in authority were aware of some these infractions but haven’t had the courage to stop the racket.

What FG has done

Daily Trust reports that mindful of the obvious leakages, the federal government recently inaugurated the Reconstituted Treasury Single Account Implementation Structures; namely, TSA Supervisory Board and Inter-Ministerial TSA Implementation Committee.

TSA Supervisory Board had the minister of finance, budget, and national planning as the chairman while the accountant-general of the federation is the deputy chairman.

Other members included the deputy governor (Operations) of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the director-general, Debt Management Office (DMO), the representative of the secretary to the government of the federation, the chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the chief financial officer, NNPC, the director-general, Bureau for Public Service Reforms, the auditor-general for the federation while the director, Treasury Single Accounts OAGF is to serve as its secretary.

The committee’s terms of reference included providing overall broad policy guidance for the TSA, receiving and considering reports from Inter-Ministerial TSA Implementation Committee, considering and approving recommendations from TSA Implementation Committee, and resolving issues that may be escalated to it by the implementation committee.

While inaugurating the committees, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said the TSA was improving government revenue position.

She said “using the TSA platform, we have since automated direct deduction of operating surplus of eligible agencies. At the last count, 16 agencies are covered and more will be added in the coming months. The impact on government internally generated revenue performance has been impressive. Between January and October 2021, a total of N86 billion in revenue was generated through this means.

“Also, the aggregate collection of N7 trillion was made from 22 million transactions between January and November, 2021 while N19 trillion worth of payments were processed from 20 million transactions within the same period.”

However, the minister also conceded that gaps exist in the impletion of the TSA and also leakages exist which is one of the many mandates the committees have to address.

In addition to the leakages of funds, she also said the government is “aware of the challenges MDAs have been facing since early December 2020 with respect to access to TSA bank statement and creation of service types for collection.”

She tasked the Inter-Ministerial TSA Implementation Committee to prioritize solutions to these challenges so that MDAs could reconcile and prepare their end-of-year financial statements in good time.

The Account-General of the Federation Ahmed Idris also agreed revenue leakages exist but he declined to give specifics when our correspondent enquired.

When asked to speak to the specific gaps noticed in the implementation of the TSA, he said, “That is why the committee has been set up. The committee to review the TSA and give a comprehensive advice on the gaps that exist.

“So, it would be circumventing the committee if I give you details,” he had told our correspondent.

He, however, said whatever gaps exist, the committee will address them and proffer more watertight solutions that will safeguard revenues.

Both the minister and the AGF declined to give data of how much passed through the TSA platform since 2015.

Our correspondent reached out to both of them for the information but they both declined to comment on it.

However, the AGF had previously told our correspondent in an enquiry for a different report that the figures in the TSA accounts changes by the minute as funds come in and go out.

‘Why FG should strengthen TSA’

Based on the quantum of resources that passes through the TSA, experts say the monitoring mechanism needs to be strengthened.

Salawu Adeku Zubairu, in his book titled ‘Treasury Single Account Policy in Nigeria’ recommended that “the monitoring and evaluation mechanism for ensuring the effectiveness of the TSA policy should be strengthened to make it watertight, especially by the OAGF and CBN (the two government agencies that are deeply involved in the implementation of the TSA policy).”

Mr David Akwu, a lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka said whilst leakages might still exist in the TSA, it was evident that the initiative had improved public finances and helped the government to aggregate all its revenues in one pool.

Also commenting, Mr Paul Alaje, the Lead Economist and Enterprise Partner at SPM Professionals said, “the TSA policy has to a large extent helped to improve overall government revenue especially those that were lost at the pre-implementation of the policy. To some extent, leakages have been blocked even though we cannot say this is done completely,” he said. He also said the TSA had improved the revenue receipt of the government.”

He listed some benefits to include prompt collection, increase in government revenue and reduction in government idle funds.

Wisdom behind the TSA

Mr Sylva Okolieaboh, the director and coordinator, TSA/e-Collection, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation in a paper titled: ‘TSA in Nigeria: From concept to reality, reflection on the journey so far and vision for the future’, said TSA is a cash management tool rather than a revenue collection policy.

He said the TSA was intended to address the following impediments to FGN cash management: multiple bank accounts (over 17,000); countless dormant accounts with huge balances; inability to determine consolidated cash position of government; borrowing and incurring charges when there are idle balances in MDA accounts; lack of coordination among key fiscal agencies; poor cash planning; inability to fund government budget; non/delayed remittance of revenue/collections and over N70billion of FG funds lost to failed banks.”

He also said the TSA had now afforded the government to determine consolidated FG cash position; reduction in ways & means charges from N7b billion /month to zero; significant improvement in FG liquidity position; better control and oversight over MDA operations; improved revenue collection mechanism through e-collection and elimination of cash handling costs.

Iraq tells nearly 4,000 repatriated from Belarus boundaries

Baghdad has repatriated almost 4,000 of its citizens stuck on the Belarus borders with European Union members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in recent weeks, Iraq’s foreign minister said Sunday.

Since November 18, the Iraqi government has organised “10 flights from Baghdad to Belarus” to repatriate its citizens, Fuad Hussein told a press conference in Baghdad with his Lithuanian counterpart.

“We have been able to repatriate around 4,000 Iraqis who were stuck on the Belarus borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia,” he said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf later told AFP that “3,817 Iraqi migrants have been repatriated from Belarus and 112 from Lithuania”.

The flights have generally arrived in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, where many of the would-be migrants are from, before continuing to Baghdad.

Sahaf said some Iraqis were still stuck in Belarus, but that “the difficult weather and complex environment do not allow rescuers to determine their numbers”.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who also met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, said he wanted “to bring in new cooperation ideas” with Iraq.

Since last summer, thousands of migrants, many from the Middle East and Iraq in particular, had been camped on the Belarus-EU border, often in bitter conditions, trying to enter the bloc.

The West has accused Belarus of luring the migrants to the border as revenge for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

Belarus has denied the claim and criticised the EU for not taking in the migrants.

Ondo women dispute half bare over insecurity

Hundreds of women from four local government areas of Ondo State staged protests on Saturday against the spate of insecurity in the area.

It was gathered that the peaceful protests were staged in Oka Akoko, Akungba Akoko and some other Akoko towns.

The protests were said to have been triggered by the recent kidnap of teachers by some terrorists in Auga Akoko, killing of a police officer by gunmen at Oka Akoko last week and the attack of 17 travellers on Ifira Akoko-Isua Akoko Road by armed robbers, among others.

Some of the protesters, who were holding brooms in their hands, were half naked, chanting various solidarity songs along the streets.

They called on the security agents and the state government to come to the rescue of the area from the attack of the bandits.

Addressing the protesting women,  the Chairman,  Akoko Divisional Traditional Council of the four local government areas and monarch of Oka Akoko, Oba Yusuf  Adeleye, said the security challenges facing the country, Ondo State and Akokoland would soon become a thing of the past, saying communal and traditional efforts would be applied as parts of solutions to the problems,.

The monarch appealed to various communities in Akokoland to “form vigilante groups while local hunters should be encouraged to compliment the efforts of regular security agencies.”

Sadness, a terrible kind of schooling —Chimamanda Adichie

Writer, Chimamanda Adichie has said grief is a cruel kind of education.

The ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ author held a reading for her recent work, ‘Notes on Grief’, on Saturday, January 15, 2022, at Alliance Francaise, Ikoyi, Lagos, where she reiterated that she did not think she could pass on the love she had for her late father to another person.

The book is dedicated to the writer’s late father, Prof James Adichie.

The event began with an opening address from the French ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Batman.

Adichie recalled how she and her siblings used to set up Zoom calls to talk with her father at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

She added that when her father passed away, her daughter became scared of how she (Chimamanda) reacted.

She said, “Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger you learn and how glib condolences can feel. The pain is not surprising but its physicality is. Grief is forcing new skins on me, scrapping scales from my eyes.”

The writer also thanked business mogul, Mike Adenuga, for his ‘extraordinary contribution that made all this happen’.

She maintained that since the centre was opened, it had supported the cultural vision of Lagos.

Another publisher and writer, Eghosa Imasuen, also revealed that when he lost his father in 2018, Adichie was among the first persons to call him from the United States of America.

He noted that there was no better way to grief with someone than to be there for the person, and Adichie was there for him.

He added, “It is one thing for us to say that our children should bury us; it is another thing for us to experience it. Nothing prepares you for this.”