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21 May 2018

What My Prison Experience Did To Me - Obasanjo Reveals

Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo has spoken out on what his excruciating prison experience did to him.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former President, said his incarceration by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, was a sort of a blessing in disguise as it shaped his thought profoundly and aided his performance while he was the President of the country, Punch Metro reports.

He said this on Saturday while speaking at the maiden edition of ASIS International, ASIS 206 Lagos Annual Leadership Retreat, held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.

The former President said his prison experience enriched him and it was one of the factors which immensely contributed to his achievements as President.

The event was organised by ASIS to fashion out ways of bringing all the private security outfits in the country under one umbrella.

He said, “My prison experience enriched me. In fact, it contributed to my performance while I was in office. A leader must learn from every situation.

“Although nobody wants to go to prison, I was in prison when I started learning and keeping myself occupied. I wrote four books while I was in prison rather than become a moron and doing nothing.

“But I was sure that the man who kept me in prison would not bring me out and I was as well sure that I would get out of prison. Honestly, the prison experience has enriched my life.”

He expressed his support for a move to review the Act setting up the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, to check security threats in the country.

Obasanjo, whose administration in 2005, was instrumental to the transformation of the NSCDC from a voluntary organisation to a para-military group, said there was nothing wrong in seeking improvement for the NSCDC, especially in accommodating the private security professionals in the country.

He, however, cautioned that such a review should be supported by effective monitoring and control, adding that it would have to go through the National Assembly.

The Chairman of ASIS 206, Lagos Chapter, Oluwaseyi Adetayo, said the review of the NSCDC Act would guarantee the professionalism of security practice in the country and create employment opportunities.

Adetayo said, “ASIS International has been providing the platform for networking, education, information on new technology and training for all security professionals all over the world on an annual basis in the United States.”

Ex-APC Spokesman, Timi Frank Apologises To Jonathan, Says 'Life Is Worthless Under Buhari'

A former spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has alleged that life is worthless under President Muhammadu Buhari, and apologised to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in open letter.
Timi Frank
A former member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, has publicly apologised to former President Goodluck Jonathan claiming that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has battered and bruised Nigeria’s economy.

Frank who was suspended in 2016 as deputy spokesperson of the ruling APC disclosed this on Sunday in an open letter.

“I would first of all like to use this opportunity to formally apologise to the immediate past President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for all the tantrums and mistreatment orchestrated by me against his person while he held sway at the helm of affairs of our great country.

“Indeed, I and many others may have misunderstood Jonathan’s silence for weakness and thus pushed harder to malign his person and portray him as a weak leader. Having achieved the Change Agenda, it is now crystal clear, that the change we had clamoured for is not the change we got,” he said.

Frank added that Nigeria’s current situation may appear as a rude shock to many including himself who preached the change mantra assiduously, he is consoled by the fact that, Nigeria will get to the promise land someday.

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take steps to fix the current state of Nigeria’s economy which according to him is faced with challenges of impunity and lack of transparency.

“I am sure that the current state of our dear country should be a cause of genuine concern. The damning assessment of Nigeria under your (Buhari) leadership as released by the United States Department of State in its 2017 country reports on Human Rights, cited impunity as being widespread at all levels of government and lack of transparency by your administration.

“It may also interest you to know that the economy under your (Buhari) watch has been terribly battered, with all the economic indices indicating that we are yet to recover from the recession of 2016.

“Today there is hardship everywhere with the price of fuel now N145 per as against the N85 that it was being sold when you assumed office – the over N1.4trillion already paid by your government as fuel subsidy notwithstanding,” Frank said in his letter.

He also lamented at the level of insecurity in the country adding that the farmers/herders crises have continued to claim precious lives as if the nation is in a state of war.

Citing the examples of El-Zakzaky and Dasuki, the APC chieftain also alleged that the present administration has been disobedient to court orders.

“El-Zakzaky and Dasuki will not be in jail today but for the present rule of force under this government. It is a pity that today democracy and freedom have become scarce.

“Killings take place on a daily basis across the country either by kidnappers, Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen, and other criminal elements having a free reign around the country. Life has become worthless and uncertain and people cannot speak out for fear of being labelled anti-government,” Frank wrote in hs letter.

Don Jazzy reacts to Linda Ikeji's Pregnancy

Don Jazzy has reacted to the news of Popular Blogger, Linda Ikeji’s pregnancy.. and the music producer and boss of Mavins Records has confirmed that he isn’t responsible for the pregnancy.
Don Jazzy (credit: Instagram.com/donjazzy)
Taking to his Twitter page, the 35-year-old music veteran simply wrote, “It wasn’t me”.

Also, his tweet got the attention of many user throwing in their own hilarious tweets.

According to a user: @missysofty So thats how u dash anty Linda belle @DONJAZZY issoral

also, @lookmanadebiyi Don the Don...........e ku ise other room

see other tweets below:

20 May 2018

Education, key to unlocking Nigeria’s potentials - Atiku Abubakar reveals

Former Vice President and founder of American University of Nigeria (AUN), Atiku Abubakar, says education is the master key that will unlock the huge potentials in Nigeria and set her on the path to full socio-economic development.
Atiku Abubakar
Abubakar made the observation while speaking to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the end of events marking the 10th Commencement and Presidential Inauguration of the American University of Nigeria, Yola.

The former Vice President said in order to achieve this, there must be the right mix of adequate funding of the education sector and a curriculum that promotes entrepreneurship among undergraduates, as is the practice at AUN.

Abubakar noted that with the diminishing role of crude oil as the mainstay of the national economy, it has become expedient for Nigeria to focus on the development of her most important resources, human capital, which he said was far much more sustainable than oil or any other resource.

“It is becoming evident by the day that the future of Nigeria lies not in the bowels of the earth, but in what is in the head of our people, that is, the human capital,” Atiku said.

He noted that there is a nexus between education, development, and security, as an enlightened, multi-ethnic society would be more tolerant leading to social cohesion and harmony.

“An educated citizenry will be less prone to being willing tools in the hands of divisive elements who exploit existing fault lines. Consequently, we will have fewer crises that are inimical to national unity and stability.”

The PDP presidential hopeful who is also the Waziri of Adamawa Emirate Council said that he is made more by the education he received than anything else.

According to him, his investment in AUN has generated dividends in terms of raising men and women who are problem solvers.

“This (AUN) is my most fulfilling investment, not just because it provides jobs like my other endeavours, but more importantly because its graduates are change agents needed for transforming our great country to the benefit of all,” Abubakar said. (NAN)

EPL: Courtois wants Chelsea to declare position on Conte

Chelsea goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, has called for clarity over the future of manager Antonio Conte.
Chelsea goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois
Conte won this year’s FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Saturday, but there are rumours he could still leave the Blues, after a frustrating title defence.

“It’s not a question for players it’s a question for the board,” Courtois said in the Daily Mirror.

“We train well with him. There needs to be a clear line from the club, either they continue or stop.

“You cannot have him one more year and you don’t know if the next year he will go away or not because you need some clarity and then everyone knows what way the club is going forward

“I think this season there were always rumours about everyone and it’s not easy to then defend a title with criticism but we are happy to win a trophy today.

“I never read papers but you get questions by journalists after games and before games and eventually it turns around the group.

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“We felt it inside Cobham where we train. There was always kind of a negative spirit sometimes and it’s hard to sometimes raise above ourselves.”

Patience Jonathan will be the happiest person if PDP regains power in 2019 - says Garba Shehu

Former First Lady of Federal republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Patience Jonathan
‘The former First Lady would not anymore need lawyers to keep her mountain of gifts, counted in huge millions of dollars, billions of Naira, hotels and buildings’ Presidential Spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Shehu Gruba has said in an an article titled ‘The Real Price of Changing the Change (1)

Garba Shehu, further said if the Peoples Democartic Party (PDP) take over power come 2019:

‘The hidden owner of the Lagos cash shop may then step forward to reclaim their N449.6 million; the ex-Naval Chiefs will have returned to them the already forfeited N1.8 billion;

the Governors Forum paid back their N1.4 billion and the major oil marketers, from whom the EFCC has so far seized N328.9 billion will smile their ways to the bank.

The banks themselves will equally join the party, happily getting back N27.7 billion they “ate” from taxes they failed to remit; the scion of the Akinjides, Jumoke will have N650 million awarded to her while those scammers in INEC who coughed out N1 billion will equally get money back and charges standing against them in court may be dropped.

Democracy walk: Buhari to lead 1m Nigerians

The National Democracy Stakeholders Group (NSDG), a pro-democracy and non-profit organisation, says President Muhammadu Buhari will lead the 2018 edition of Democracy Solidarity Walk.
Pic.1. From left: Convener Country First , Movement ,Mr Chris Nwaokobia, Chief Executive officer, National Democracy Stakeholders Group, (NDSG) Mr Kletsaint Akor; and Nigeria Youth Ambassador to Commonwealth, Chioma Ifemenam during a News Conference on Democracy Solidarity Walk: Walk for Credible, Free and Fair 2019 General Elections in Abuja on Sunday (20/5/18). 20/5/2018/Albert Otu/NAN
NSDG’ Convener, Mr Kletsaint Akor, who briefed newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, said that Buhari would lead the walk which would be held on May 29 at Eagles Square, Abuja.

He said that the walk, organised by NSDG in collaboration with state and non-state partners, would also be led by governors in the 36 state capitals across Nigeria.

According to Akor, the walk, which is the fourth edition with the theme “Walk for Credible, Free and Fair 2019 Elections”, is expected to attract over 1 million people nationwide.

Akor said that the aim of the exercise was to moblise Nigerians to take ownership of the 2019 electoral process through participation, enlightenment and protections of Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

“The 2018 edition of the annual Democracy Solidarity Walk will be led by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and the governors in each of the 36 states.

“It is expected to draw participation from all Nigerian democracy stakeholders, including representatives of the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC), Trade Union Congress(TUC), political parites, National Orientation Agency, aspirants to elective political offices.

“Others expected to participate are the media, pro-democracy groups, civil society groups, development partners, students union representatives, Non-Governmental Organisations and ordinary Nigerian citizens whose best interests are served by credible elections,’’ he said.

He said that the first Democracy Walk, which took place in May 2009 to celebrate Nigeria’s first ever 10 years of uninterrupted democratic governance since independence in 1960, drew a huge participation.

Akor said that the event was marked again in 2013 and 2017 and had grown into a major component of Nigeria’s annual Democracy Day celebrations as Nigerians had realized that there was no alternative to democracy.

The NSDG convener said that adequate security would be provided by the Nigeria police and other security agencies throughout the walk.

Texas residents seek spiritual aid as mass murder rocks school

Grief-stricken families in southwestern Texas gathered in churches throughout Santa Fe on Sunday seeking spiritual succour following a massacre at the town’s high school, the nation’s latest mass shooting.

As federal investigators search for a motive in the assault by a student who murdered eight of his classmates and two teachers, and wounded 13 others, the first funeral service for one of the victims — an exchange student from Pakistan — was set for later in the afternoon.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott attended a service at the Arcadia First Baptist Church just down the road from Santa Fe High School, where students and residents have placed flowers, messages and stuffed animals in honor of those who died there.

“We’re here to support you,” Abbott told members of the congregation in exchanges before the service.

“Anything you guys need, let us know. God bless you.”

Abbott took time to talk with and hug several survivors of the shooting, and parents, and urged them to remain strong.

“I’m just glad he wants to worship together (with us.) It’s important that after a tragic event like this we just come together and worship,” said Santa Fe 10th grader Joshua Stevens, 15.

As services began, interim Pastor Jerald Watkins offered prayers to the roughly 500 congregants.

“Lord, sometimes we forget you’re even here,” he said, as worshippers bowed their heads and nodded.

“It’s time like this when all of us realize how fragile our lives really are.”


- AFP

The real price of changing the change (1) - Garba Shehu

Top opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members have been granting press interviews and addressing zonal political rallies talking about “CHANGING THE CHANGE” in next year’s general elections, without defining what exactly that means.
Garba Shehu
As the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) gears up to celebrate the completion of three years of the Buhari government in the centre on May 29th, Nigerians need to be reminded of what the reversal of the achievements of this administration will amount to.

The real meaning and cost of the “Changing the Change,” is that if they win the next election, they will not take us back to where we were in 2015, they will mostly reverse the progress the APC has brought to the nation. The main reason for the defeat of the PDP in 2015 was corruption. The present administration at the centre led by President Muhammadu Buhari has so far presented a corrupt-free image of itself. It has also succeeded in abolishing grand corruption at the top and as attested to by the American President, Donald Trump. The government has significantly brought down the level of corruption in the whole country. It has, however, warned over and again that corruption was fighting back.

Many who are discerning would have read this from President Buhari’s speech when he inaugurated the impressive new headquarters building of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a week ago. He narrated how and why he was overthrown as a military Head of State in the 80s.

In that speech, he said not only was he kicked out because he fought corruption, the ones who took power freed all those that he had jailed, and whatever they stole was returned to them. He took their place in prison and stayed there without trial for 36 months, until that day when a journalist in Benin, now in Edo, broke the story that he had lost his mother. That was when he was allowed to go home.

The real difference between the PDP and the current APC administration is that although they mouthed a flood of rhetoric against corruption, in fact rightfully lay the claim of founding the institutions now in the forefront of fighting corruption as a government, the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, they had intended to keep them as toys, or bulldogs which teeth had been removed. No, they never intended that the war against corruption would be taken this far.

To change the change would mean that the teeth of the bulldog will be removed. It would then only bark but not bite.

In this country, politics is often considered as synonym of corruption. The previous government came under huge criticism for scandals like that discovered in arms procurements in the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA which transformed itself into a major source of funding of the PDP; NNPC crude oil thefts, broadband spectrum licensing scandal, oil subsidy scam and so many others but the present government has not faced any such corruption allegations.

Although he said he was unafraid and would not bend, the President’s concern, and fear on the part of many is that if a corrupt leader takes over, it will be happy days all over again for former Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Maduekwe who has so far forfeited USD 153 million, N23.4 billion, and USD 4m and USD 5m in separate accounts. “Change the Change” would mean she will get the money back. So would the former Managing Director of the maritime agency, NIMASA get back GBP 578,080 seized from him and the Ikoyi apartment owners have back their USD43.4m; N23m and GBP 27,800.

The hidden owner of the Lagos cash shop may then step forward to reclaim their N449.6 million; the ex-Naval Chiefs will have returned to them the already forfeited N1.8 billion; the Governors Forum paid back their N1.4 billion and the major oil marketers, from whom the EFCC has so far seized N328.9 billion will smile their ways to the bank.

The banks themselves will equally join the party, happily getting back N27.7 billion they “ate” from taxes they failed to remit; the scion of the Akinjides, Jumoke will have N650 million awarded to her while those scammers in INEC who coughed out N1 billion will equally get money back and charges standing against them in court may be dropped.

But the happiest of them all will be Mrs. Jonathan, who will get the first priority when the refunds start coming for obvious reasons. The former First Lady would not anymore need lawyers to keep her mountain of gifts, counted in huge millions of dollars, billions of Naira, hotels and buildings.

The list of people who oppose the Buhari government and yearning to ‘‘change the change’’ include a number of parliamentarians, policemen, customs officials, immigration officials, civil servants now rooting for other political parties, not leaving out those various businesses and platforms owned by these political parties directly or indirectly.

The Buhari win in 2015, and the possibility of four more years have crumbled their dreams of endlessly looting the state and the growing list of achievements of the administration is not doing any good for them.

“Change the change” means also that the biggest tax revolution since independence, the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) now being implemented, and about which many of our rich citizens are unhappy may be scrapped. A recent report shows that there are four million new taxpayers, including companies and individuals, resulting in N700 billion increase in tax revenue in 2017.

The early casualties of ‘‘changing the change’’ may include initiatives like the Whistle Blower policy by which the government is able to recover stolen or concealed assets through information provided by citizens. This has changed the ethical and moral tone of the business transaction space in the country. The whistle blower is entitled to between 2.5%-5.0% of amount recovered.

Sometime last year, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, told the world, “we are going after those who have stolen our money. We have put in place a very successful whistle-blower programme that is delivering results and allows those who report illicit activity to receive up to five per cent of any funds that we recover.” The response has been so fabulous that in just four months, it yielded N17bn, as revealed by the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.

Another formidable group unhappy with the change and wish it reversed are the importers of diesel and generators. Nigeria ranks as the second biggest importer of generators all over the world.

Buhari is bad business for them because he has raised electric power availability from 2,600 MW in 2015 to 7,000 MW and is targeting 10,000 megawatts by the year’s end. Increased power availability means less purchase of generators and less consumption of diesel. Noticeably, they are rooting for parties that are bent on changing the change. Rooters of ‘‘Changing the Change’’ campaign also include the beneficiaries of the malaria economy which costs Nigeria N132 billion and 300,000 lives annually, an economy now threatened by the administration’s National Malaria Elimination Programme, NMEP, by which tens of millions of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (ITN) are being freely distributed. A part of this order is now made in Aba, Nigeria.

The government’s moves on ease of doing business which has attracted international attention and investment and significantly improved the ranking of Nigeria as a place of doing business, in fact achieving a place in the World Bank’s top 10 reforming economies would suffer a hit from those bent on proving that on-going change is not working. But this is how the World Bank saw Nigeria: “Overall, the 10 top improvers implemented the most regulatory reforms in the area of getting credit, starting a business, dealing with construction permits and paying taxes,” the report said.

It’s really hard for the beneficiaries of the old order to see and appreciate what the Buhari government is doing considering that they ran an economy based purely on oil, the price of which was as high as US$140 per barrel. They reticulated oil revenue through personal spending and corruption, wasteful expenses and salaries. Nigeria did not record a single major infrastructural project in the 10 years before the Buhari administration. The money was mismanaged. No savings were made. To compound the problem, they borrowed heavily and owed contractors, and international oil companies.

The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II and Professor Chukwuma Soludo, both eminent former Central Bank Governors had had occasion to warn the government of the day about the wrongful way of doing things and the accompanying wastage but they were clobbered. The dire warnings of the dangers to economic health and the wellbeing of the people were both ignored.

Increase in government spending in infrastructure which is beginning to show results with sectors like employment, and returning growth to the recessed economy may equally suffer. Under the 2017 appropriation budget which is about to lapse, government’s capital spending is expected to hit N1.5 trillion. In the PDP years, the highest this got to was N450 billion or 21 per cent of the capital allocation in 2014. Doing more with less.

The Railways, on which the common man travels, is being changed for the better. The 3,500 monorail that had existed has been leased to the American company, General Electric. They are to refurbish it and are bringing new locomotives and hundreds of coaches. All trains and coaches are being modernized. New standard railway tracks are being laid linking Ibadan and Lagos. Kaduna-Abuja, partly completed when President Buhari took over is now in use and contracts for the entire stretch, Lagos to Kano have been awarded. Lagos-Port Harcourt will follow and by the Presidential directive, all state capitals are to be linked by the new, standard gauge railway.

“Changing the Change” means that we will go back to the old ways of doing things. A strong and diversified economy has been on top of President Buhari’s achievements. Key drivers of the economy such as agriculture and solid minerals have been progressing with over 7% growth rate, an indication of positive signs for the future. Is everyone happy with this? No. We cannot say this of the importers of rice who have seen their import business go down following the tremendous success of the home-grown rice schemes. Over two billion USD have been saved as a consequence.

Then, you must also count those who got USD 200 million every year from the Central Bank and ended up bringing in low standard fertilizers. They lapped a government subsidy of N60,000 annually and sold a bag each for between N10,000-N13,000. Now, a government-approved price, by the common consent of local producers is N5,500 per bag. Those who fed fat on the perennial shortages and the subsidy regime would desire nothing but “Changing the Change.”

There are many today who take for granted the declared victory over the Boko Haram terrorists, forgetting the reign of the bomber who made it almost impossible for regular attendance in markets, Churches and Mosques in many of our cities, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

But again, as we have seen from the heist in the national security establishment, even Boko Haram was an industry from which money was scooped. Boko Haram was the hallmark of a flourishing business of corruption. The beneficiaries won’t like that the security threat is eliminated. Yes, for them, “Changing the Change” is an opportunity for a resumption of business as usual.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity)
May 20, 2018

PSG president speaks on move for Buffon

Paris Saint-Germain president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has dismissed speculation that they are about to make a move for Gianluigi Buffon.

Buffon has left Juventus after 22 years at the club and is being linked with the Ligue 1 champions, as replacement for Alphonse Areola.

On whether the French capital could be the 40-year-old’s next destination, Al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe sports daily on Sunday: “We have Areola, he’s our number one.”

When asked if that would also be the case next season, Al-Khelaifi replied: “Yes, for sure.

“He (Buffon) is a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s very charismatic and is a true gentleman. I’m sure all the clubs want him.”

Areola underlined his feelings about the situation yesterday, making it clear he wanted to “remain number one” at PSG and would leave the club if that were not to be the case next season.

“Because if I’m not the number one anymore, it would mean the season I’ve just finished has all counted for nothing,” Areola said.

41 items still banned under Nigeria-China currency swap deal, CBN warns

The Central Bank of Nigeria said that the Nigeria-China currency swap deal would not cover the importation of the 41 items banned in its 2015 circular on items not valid for foreign exchange.
Bilateral currency swap agreement between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC)
CBN’s acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

According to him, this will ensure that the currency deal does not stifle local companies and make Nigeria a dumping ground for Chinese goods.

Okorafor said that the CBN had already taken adequate measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“The fear is unfounded and I’ll give you reasons why. The first one is that we are going to focus on exports to China.

“Also, remember that we already export cassava products to China as well as leather, hides and skin to China, among others. So, this deal will open further the export market to China.

“Also, I want Nigerians to know that the items that will come in are not necessarily finished goods, so the issue of Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for China does not arise.

“This is because the 41 items that had initially been banned from the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market will still not qualify under the deal,” he said.

The CBN recently signed a bilateral currency swap agreement with the People’s Republic of China worth about N720bn.

On June 23, 2015, the CBN placed a ban on accessing foreign exchange in the official foreign exchange market for the importation of some goods and services.The aim, it said, was to encourage local production of these items, conserve foreign reserves, resuscitate domestic industries and improve employment.

Some of the items banned were rice, cement, poultry, tinned fish, furniture, toothpicks, kitchen utensils, table wares, textiles, clothes, tomato pastes, soap and cosmetics.

Also banned were private jets, roofing sheets, metal boxes, wire rods, steel nails, security and razor nails, ceramic tiles, glassware, cellophane, plastic and rubber products.

Okorafor said with the Nigeria-China currency swap deal, the Naira was expected to appreciate against the US dollars as the demand for dollar eases.

“China accounts for a quarter or more of imports into Nigeria. The exchange of currencies between the Nigerian Central Bank and the Chinese Central Bank will make it easier for our entrepreneurs to have direct access to foreign exchange in Renminbi (Chinese currency).

“Before now, when importing necessary machinery or merchandise from China, you first exchange Naira to the dollar before changing it again to Renminbi and this puts pressure on the Naira.

“Now what it means is that a large portion of the demand for dollars in Nigeria has been lifted off the back of the Naira and put directly on the Chinese Renminbi.

“And so it is a positive development as it will enhance the value of the Naira and reduce our dependence on the dollar for imports,” he said.

Okorafor explained that the two central banks were still working on the exchange rates between the Naira and Renminbi.

“As we speak, the modalities, the operational manual and the guidelines are being developed. But I can assure you that the exchange rate will be such that it will be competitive, fair to all and will not hurt our local producers and importers,” he said.

According to Okorafor him, once everything has been fine tuned, Nigerian entrepreneurs will be able to access Renminbi through money deposit banks, using similar rules for the dollar.

He, however, stated that a clearing bank would be appointed for the transaction.

He said one of requirements for the appointment was that the bank must have a branch in China, which some Nigerian banks already have.

Okorafor said one of the advantages of the deal was that it would encourage Chinese companies to set up factories in Nigeria, which would lead to industralisation and job creation.

“Chinese investors are interested in setting up shop here. And that is because if they produce here, it will be better for them.

“The cost of transportation, shipping, and all that, will be eliminated. We have a good environment, so a good number of them are interested in setting up production lines here.

“Also, when they do that, they are not going to employ only Chinese workers. A greater portion of the job opportunities in these plants will be filled up by Nigerians.

“So for us, it’s a good deal,” he said.

- NAN

Governor Yahaya Bello Blames Past Administration, Reveals Why He Is Not Able To Pay Salaries Regularly

The reason why Kogi state government has been unable to pay salaries of workers regularly has been revealed by the government.
Governor Yahaya Bello
The Kogi State Government says huge loan servicing is responsible for its inability to pay the salaries of its workers regularly.

The state Director-General, Media and Publicity, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Lokoja.

Fanwo said that the loans were taken by the two previous administrations for projects that did not add value to the state.

“Sometimes, we repay between N400m and N500m monthly as loans that add no value to the state.

“These loans were taken by the last two administrations and some of them were invested on projects that were never completed.

“When you go out, you will see Kogi Hotels. Billions of naira was collected for that project and it was not completed, and it is not adding any value to the state.

“Also, the Kogi House in Abuja has gulped billions of naira, yet, it is not completed, and also not adding any value to the state,’’ he said.

The DG said the previous administrations collected N200m from the Central Bank of Nigeria for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises development, which was not used for the purpose intended.

According to him, rather than using the money for SMEs development, some people just shared the money.

“There is no record of anybody given loan and now we are repaying. So, all of these have taken its toll on the resources and finances of the state,” Fanwo said.

He said that despite the poor resources accruing to the state, the government still strives to pay workers’ salary.

“We cannot shy away from the fact that the resources coming to the state now have dwindled due to the loans we are repaying.

“It is increasingly difficult to muster enough resources to pay salary regularly.

“As I speak with you, we are still owing March and April salaries,’’ Fanwo said.

He added that despite the dwindling resources, the state government will remain committed in the payment of salary, even if not as when due.

“When you do a comparative analysis of wages in the North Central geopolitical zone, Kogi pays the highest and we have been very faithful,’’ Fanwo said.

The DG denied allegations that workers were being owed 24 months’ salary.

He said those peddling the falsehood were the people that benefited from the rot in the state in the past.

On bailout funds received from the Federal Government, Fanwo said that it was used to pay workers’ salaries.

He, however, noted that the bail out funds were not free gifts.

“The bailout funds were not gifts from the Federal Government, it was more or less a loan; so, you have to prioritise what you use your bailout funds for.

“So, we used it basically for salaries and we were the only state in the federation that published how we used that bailout funds,’’ he said.

- NAN

Exposing My Boobs In BBNaija, An Honest Mistake - Alex Talks Relationship, Abortion, Lessons & More

Big Brother Naija former housemate, Alex, who has been rumoured to be in a relationship with fellow ex-housemate, Tobi, has opened up on nudity, abortion, relationship and more.
Alex Asogwa
While speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH Newspaper, Alex Asogwa, one of the housemates in the just-concluded Big Brother Naija reality TV show, Alex has opened up about her career, life and other sundry issues.

Recall that during the BBNaija TV show, Alex experienced what could pass for a wardrobe malfunction but a lot of viewers across the internet believe she intentionally flashed her boobs to attract more fans, perhaps from the male folks.

However, the Enugu State indigene in a recent interview had debunked the claims and explained that it was an honest mistake just like some people felt.

Here are excerpts from the chat;

Background

My original name is Asogwa Amuche Sandra. However, I didn’t like the name, Sandra, so I changed it to Alexandra though I prefer Alex because it is an uncommon name for a girl. I am from Nsukka in Enugu State. I am the first of my parents’ three children.

One of the childhood memories I cherish was when I celebrated my birthday at a place called Mr Fans in Lagos. It was really nice and I think I still have some pictures. I also remember my experience during the Ikeja Cantonment bomb blasts in 2001.  It was a very terrible experience for me because we had a family outing that day. Till this day, I still have goose pimples whenever I think about that incident.  My childhood ambition was to become a celebrity.

Entertainment

I am a model, writer, actress, dancer and I am also involved in fashion. People keep attacking the fact that I don’t want to be like every other person. I can only be myself because every other person is taken. I don’t think anyone should want to be like me, so why I should want to be like any other person? The world is big enough for everyone and there should be something unique about everybody. By God’s grace, everyone should watch out for me in a movie soon.

Big Brother Naija

When I told my parents that I was going to partake in Big Brother Naija, they were surprised but they supported me. I am sure if I had told my dad earlier, he would have expressed concern about my education. My time in the house was lovely. I treated people the same way they treated me. Everyone saw my relationship with Tobi and we are still very close; I can tell him anything that bothers me. We are very good friends. If it leads to a romantic relationship in future, then our foundation would have been strong.

Before I went to the house, I was popular because in school, we always had a Miss Popular Award Programme. However, BBN has made me more popular. There was a time I had to run away from greeting people because I almost missed my flight.

Lessons

We can all be whatever we want to be, irrespective of who you think you are. With prayers to God, you can make it to anywhere. You can go through anything with the right people around you. I remember there was a time I almost gave up in the house but I had positive people around me.

Challenges

My challenge lies in not knowing the right way to go about what I want to do. Everyone is trying to change me; though I don’t see it as a challenge. I just feel that people should not judge me for not living my life the way they chose to live theirs. It is also not fair for people to say that I am not a lady because I dress in a certain way.

Background

I really don’t have much to say about that but I think it is a very wrong for anyone to say that I am from a poor background. I won’t describe my family as poor because I haven’t suffered all my life. At some point, we had financial issues but that was in the past. I wasn’t supposed to say it in the house but that is okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinions about my background because a person’s background doesn’t determine where he or she is going to end up. Coming from a poor background and being where I am today is something I should be proud of. Also, the issue of my father’s illness is personal. I didn’t win the money but right now, I am going to work hard to ensure he gets proper treatment.

Abortion

That is something I haven’t even discussed. I think that issue was grossly misinterpreted and it is something I don’t even want to explain right now. I want everyone to believe whatever they want to believe. I was close to Princess’ brother but there was never a story like that about him.

Nudity

Showing my breast while I was in the house was an honest mistake. It was unintentional and it was not done because I wanted to have more fans

Relationship

I am single. I was single before going to the house and I am still single. I like a man who can understand me. Honestly, I would say ‘no’ to any man I am taller than. Generally, I like good people that understand me and are good to me.

Relaxation

Whenever I want to relax, I would dance. It is something I love so much and I can do that the whole day.

Fashion

I love to wear anything stylish and I can do without fashion accessories.  I love to dress nicely and I am not a party to nudity. A lot of people see me as a tomboy but I am not. I just feel that I can rock any style.

News In Pictures: So Romantic! Former EFCC Twitter Handler, F.Shaw Proposes To Longtime Sweetheart

Nigerian rapper and well known social media influencer who became famous as the handler of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, has engaged his girlfriend.
The romantic moment
The former popular Twitter handler of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Olufemi Adeyemi, better known as F.Shaw, has just announced that he has engaged his longtime girlfriend.

The rapper and social media influencer took to his Twitter page to share photos from the engagement and wrote;

"Kings don’t kneel. But for his Queen, he must. The diamond is of the IF class, first grade, internally flawless and it is a representation of how I see you."

He added; "We’ve come a long way you beautiful piece of heaven. Hi QueenFisher. #TheKingFishers."

News In Pictures: Nigerian Man Visits British Museum, Spots Stolen Benin Kingdom Artifacts Since 1897

Nigerian man who visited the British Museum has revealed that the Benin artifacts in the museum were stolen in 1897 and requested that they be returned back.
Nigerian man spotted in British museum (Photo source: Facebook user, Dion Osagie)
A Facebook user identified as Ambassador Dion Osagie, who is from Edo state, has taken to the social networking platform to reveal that he recently visited the British Museum and saw some stolen artifacts belonging to Nigeria.

The entrepreneur and philanthropist, who stated that he made the visit during the days leading to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, said that the artifacts were stolen in 1897, and requested that the Benin artifacts should be returned to Nigeria.

He posted photos from his visit to the museum and wrote: "In the process leading to the royal wedding of Prince Harry, I visited the British Museum to request that our Benin kingdom artifacts stolen since 1897 to be returned with immediate effect.

"If I didn’t not achieve anything on my tour. My visit to the museum was worth more than anything to me. We will continue to speak and take proper or legal action about it."

See his facebook post below:

Svitolina thrashes Halep for Italian Open title

Elina Svitolina underlined her status as a top favourite for the French Open by sweeping Simona Halep aside 6-0, 6-4 to successfully defend her Italian Open crown on Sunday.

In a repeat of last year’s final at the Foro Italico, Ukrainian Svitolina, seeded fourth, was up against Halep a day after the Romanian top seed had ousted Russian Maria Sharapova.

But Halep’s hopes of overturning last year’s defeat to her 23-year-old opponent quickly evaporated in a completely one-sided encounter that saw the Romanian fail to produce a real challenge.

Svitolina, the world number four, has now successfully defended three career titles, in Baku, Dubai and also Rome; she also won in Brisbane and Dubai this season to take her 2018 title total to three.

The win also marked Svitolina’s 12th career title on what was her eighth final in succession.

“It’s amazing that I could do this here a second time and defend,” said Svitolina. “This is something very, very special.

“Congratulations to Simona, she had a great week of tennis.”

The French Open at Roland Garros starts in just over a week, and Svitolina added: “Roland Garros is still a week away, but this gives me confidence.

“I can’t make any predictions as it’s very tricky in Paris, but I’m sure I will enjoy the next tournament.”

Halep, who was broken four times and lost the opening set in 19 minutes, did not win a game until the start of the second, 24 minutes in.

The world number one saved match point before bowing out after 67 minutes.

“Congrats to Elina, she played amazing,” Halep said.

“It’s like this court is now her home. But I didn’t do so badly, reaching the final again. I hope to be back next year.

“Maybe third time is lucky for me.”

Thanks to reaching the final in Rome Halep will take the top seeding for Roland Garros.

Details emerge from Harry, Meghan Markle’s star-studded wedding reception

Details have emerged from the star-studded evening reception to celebrate the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The world watched as Harry and Meghan tied the knot at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in front of guests including the Queen, more than 30 royals and Hollywood royalty including Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, the Clooneys and the Beckhams.

More than 100,000 people turned out to see the couple ride through Windsor in an open-top carriage before a lunchtime reception with 600 guests in St George’s Hall hosted by the Queen, which included a performance by Sir Elton John.

Later, the couple changed for an evening reception with 200 guests at nearby Frogmore House hosted by Prince Charles.

For the black-tie do, Meghan changed from wedding gown designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, to a lily white halter neck by Stella McCartney.

She was spotted wearing an emerald cut aquamarine ring which belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales – believed to be a poignant wedding day gift from Harry.

Harry drove his new wife from Windsor Castle in a silver blue classic convertible Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero with a number plate bearing the date of the wedding – E190518.

The car was originally manufactured in 1968 and has been converted to electric power.

The newlyweds were joined by 200 guests at the glamorous reception, reportedly compered by James Corden.

The evening reportedly included a speech by Prince Charles in which he spoke about feeding Harry a bottle and changing his nappy, before culminating in a huge firework display that lit up the sky.

On Sunday morning, the Queen left Windsor Castle to go to church.

Earlier, the Royal family thanked all those who had enjoyed the wedding, tweeting: “Thank you to everyone who came to Windsor and those who followed from around the UK, the Commonwealth, and the world today. Congratulations once again to the newly-married Duke and Duchess of Sussex. #royalwedding.”

Meghan’s friends Jessica Mulroney and Priyanka Chopra sent touching messages to the bride after the big day.

Mulroney, whose seven-year-old twins were the page boys who carried Meghan’s veil into St George’s Chapel, posted a picture of the bride walking up the steps of St George’s Chapel with her sons, saying: “Proud friend. Proud mom.”

And Chopra said the wedding “stood for change and hope.”

Describing her friend as “the epitome of grace, love and beauty”, she wrote: “Every choice made at this wedding by you both will go down in history, not just because it was your wedding but because this incredible wedding stood for change and hope. Both things that the world needs desperately.”

It’s thought the couple won’t immediately leave for their honeymoon but will stay in the UK for a while, though it is rumoured they may spend a few days in Ireland.
On Tuesday they will join Charles and Camilla on the lawns of Buckingham Palace for a Prince of Wales

70th Birthday Patronage Celebration.

(Yahoo News UK)

NEWS IN PICTURE: Linda Ikeji Is Pregnant, Flaunts Her Baby Bump In Adorable Photos

Millionaire blogger, Linda Ikeji, who might be walking down the aisle this year after finding love in the hands of an ex-lover who just returned from abroad, is pregnant, and has released the photos.
Self acclaimed richest blogger in Africa, Linda Ifeoma Ikeji, who was engaged by her longtime boyfriend, is pregnant.

The Imo State-born top blogger and enterprenuer who obviously could not contain her joy, broke the news herself on Sunday afternoon with a lengthy post on her blog.

Linda, whom according to her post is in her second trimester will be having a baby boy!

Read her post in full below:

************

Did you guys read the title of this post? Should I write it again? Oh God, I can’t breath…lol. So let me say that again…I, Linda Ikeji, is going to be a mum. Somebody, please pinch me! Gosh, I can’t get over it.

2018 started with me finding out I was pregnant. When I missed my period and my friend and I did a home pregnancy test and it read positive, my friend began to cry with happiness but I was just there staring at the stick like, you’re not messing with me, are you? This is real and not a joke on me, right? I refused to believe it and asked my friend to drive me to a lab for another test. And there it was confirmed, I was pregnant. Me, Linda, I am going to have my own child. Please don’t wake me up from this lovely dream..lol

So many women have had children, so what’s the big deal, huh? Lol. Well, you see me, I’m somewhat of a different case. There’s something about me that I have never talked about publicly before and that’s the fact that I love children so much (I took that from my dad), and I am particularly obsessed with babies, and I mean that literally. Their pureness, innocence, little beautiful faces, tiny hands and soft cheeks make me just want to be around them.

I grew up in a compound with a lot of neighbours and believe it or not, as a teenager/young woman, I was the unofficial resident babysitter. I swear, ask my siblings. I literally carried all the newborn babies born in that compound at a period of time until they grew up to a certain age. Their mums used to come drop the babies at our house whenever they were tired or wanted to go out, this was, of course, to the annoyance of my family…lol.

The first baby I carried was a boy named Makoba (wonder where he is now, this was about 20 years ago, he will be a big boy now). From the first day I carried him, I didn’t want to let him go…so every time I had free time, and his mum hadn’t brought him to me, I would walk two floors up, knock on his family’s door and ask them if they wanted me to take the child off them for a while. I was always happy when they said yes. After him, other mums started dropping their kids with me.

Back then my sisters and I used to take turns to cook every day of the week. So whenever it was my turn to cook and I was babysitting and they insisted I go, cook, I’d tell my sisters to either hold the baby for me so I could go cook or they go cook. They always chose the latter. Lol.

Then my siblings started having children and I started to feel more joy. These were no longer neighbours’ or friends’ children, these were my nephews and nieces. My family! And carrying them brought me even more joy. Like for example, whenever I see my sister Laura’s son, Ryan, I shriek with happiness. He’s the love of my life…lol. If I was planning to go out and I heard my beautiful nephews and niece were coming over to the house, most times, I change plans and just stay home with them. I’m a homebody, I like to stay home (that’s why I bought a big house…lol).

So now imagine that in a few months, I will look down at a baby, and it won’t be a neighbour’s child, a friend’s child, a sister’s child, but my own child, my own flesh and blood, carried in my womb. My own son. It’s surreal. I can’t get over it.

You guys think DJ Khaled is obsessed with his son, Asahd? Wait until this one gets here. He’s not even here yet and I already ordered a Bentley Mulsanne for us. I swear! Lol. Like, I can’t keep calm. Oh and please, nannies, stay away from me. I’ve got this covered! Thank you. Lol.

Sometimes when I’m lying down and I feel him moving around inside me (he’s so hyper already, constantly moving around…lol), I just get up and cradle my tummy and smile. Lol. I can’t wait for these months to go by so I can meet him. My own son!

Dear son, of every dream I have had, every achievement, every milestone, out of all my accomplishments and titles, all the money and worldly possession I have, nothing compares to you. You are my greatest blessing, my gift from heaven, my greatest dream realized. I love you more than life itself and I can’t wait to meet you and give you so many kisses. And of course, spoil you! You will hear ‘I love you’ loud and clear so many times, you will beg me to stop. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms.

I know I’m going to be the best mum ever! I was born for this and I am finally ready! And now I want to do more, achieve more, so lil man will be proud of his mama.

Considering how much I love children, sometimes I wonder why I didn’t have them earlier. But like my dad said, miracles like this finally happen when God is ready to share you.

Anyway, as you all know, I’ve always shared every milestone, every good thing that’s happened to me over the years with you guys and I definitely wanted to also share this joy with you. I’ve been wanting to scream about this since I found out many months ago but my family and friends have been telling me to ‘calm down Linda, calm down’…lol. I’m now way into my second trimester, so I guess it’s okay to share my joy.

May God grant you what you desire the most and may all your dreams come true.

Oh, by the way, I’ll be having a baby shower in a few weeks and I will definitely love for some of you amazing, loyal female readers to come celebrate with me. Will communicate when the time comes.

Plenty kisses and God bless

Linda

Muslim beaten to death for allegedly killing cow

A Muslim man accused of killing a cow was beaten to death by a mob in central India, police said Sunday, the latest vigilante murder over the animal considered sacred by Hindus.
File photo
Siraj Khan, a 45-year-old tailor, was attacked in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh state early Friday and died at the scene, local police official Arvind Tiwari told AFP.

Kahn’s friend Shakeel Maqbool, who was also attacked, was admitted to hospital with critical injuries.

As details of the violent assault emerged at the weekend 400 additional police were deployed to the district late Saturday as inquiries widened, the Press Trust of India reported.

“We have arrested four people, and they have been sent to judicial custody. We are investigating what prompted the attack,” Tiwari said.

He added that meat and a bull carcass was found at the scene, but did not elaborate as investigations were ongoing.

Hindus consider cows sacred and slaughtering the animals, or possessing or consuming beef, is banned in most Indian states.

Cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh carries a maximum seven-year jail term but many other parts of India impose life sentences for infringements.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised to completely outlaw cow slaughter in India.

The right-wing Hindu BJP has been accused of turning a blind eye to a rising number of vigilante attacks in the name of cow protection.

Rights groups say Hindu mobs have been emboldened under the party, who stormed to power in 2014. Many of the victims are Muslims.

In two prominent cases last year, a dairy farmer was killed on a roadside for transporting cows and a Muslim teenager accused of carrying beef was stabbed to death on a crowded train.

AFP.

Abbas Palestinian leader hospitalised, 3rd time in 7 days

The 82 year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been hospitalised in a West Bank hospital, a Palestinian official said on Sunday, providing no further details on his condition.
Palestine leader Abbas hospitalised third time in a week
It was the third time Abbas had been hospitalied in a week.

He underwent minor ear surgery on Tuesday and was released a few hours later and hospitalised briefly again on Saturday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

In an official function on Friday, Abbas received the President of Panama Juan Carlos Varela in Ramallah.

Abbas briefed his guest on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and developments in the political process following the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of its embassy to the holy city.

The President stressed the need to find an international mechanism to achieve peace on the bases of relevant United Nations resolutions following the US steps in Jerusalem and after removing the refugee issue from the negotiating table.

In a joint press conference following their meeting, President Abbas said, “We are pleased to welcome you here in Palestine, and we are confident that this visit will have a positive impact on the development of friendly relations and cooperation between our peoples and our countries in the diplomatic and economic fields and at the level of investment between businessmen.”

He added: “We are proud of the contributions of hundreds of families from the Palestinian community in your country and the Panamanian community in our country, who were and continue to represent a bridge of friendship between our peoples and our two countries.”

Kemi Olunloyo Suffers Mental Breakdown, Releases Statement To Fans

Controversial media personality, Kemi Olunloyo has released a statement to her fans on social media, revealing to them that she has suffered a mental breakdown.

Nigeria's self acclaimed investigative journalist and social media personality, Kemi Olunloyo, who is the controversial daughter of former governor of Oyo State, Victor Omololu Olunloyo, has taken to her Twitter page to announce to her fans that she has suffered a mental breakdown.

Kemi posted a link of her statement on Twitter and wrote; "UPDATE: I have just suffered a mental breakdown. Please take time to READ this. My admin will take over Instagram @HNNAFRICA. Thank you to my fans for all your prayers and thank you @adeyanjudeji. May God bless everyone--KOO."

Here's the statement she released in full:

***************

"I just received some shocking sad news about my old criminal defamation case and detention in Port Harcourt prison. It is so sad that I just had a complete nervous breakdown. All I need now is your prayers for my recovery which is ongoing . I have silently been battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for over a year now since my initial release June 5th 2017 .

My book has been shelved right now as its been hard to focus. PLS subscribe to my YouTube channel where I will be doing occasional broadcasts about my progress from my recovery bed. My medical leave has now been extended indefinitely. They have still not released my passport and I need to activate my SSI benefits so I can be hospitalized in America with my accumulated disability benefits. I have not blogged for a year.

I lost my websites and domain and a total loss of $5M in wages, revenues, adverts, assignments, opportunities and 18 years of archives since 2000 because I was fairly detained 3 times in prison for 6months for doing my job. Now a confession does not change all that. My reputation was tarnished. Wikipedia has removed HNNAFRICA from my profile and even my profession as a pharmacist. I am a veteran US trained pharmacist of 30 years. They will be notified. I do not want to be recognized as a journalist who was arrested for defamation, not convicted or sentenced but charges were dropped when I shouldn't have been arrested in the first place.

Yes I am sad, bitter and helpless. PLS follow me @hnnafrica on all social platforms to see my updates if there is any. YouTube is @hnnafricatv. All I need is your prayers right now. I am seriously mentally damaged. My publicist will launch a fundraiser next week to help me leave the country and get the appropriate care I deserve. They are holding me back in a mental prison by still holding my passport which was a bail condition. The federal judge rescheduled the hearing to June 5th 2018 from April.

Thank you to all of you. I heard Bishop Michael Curry yesterday at the #royalwedding. I have known of Curry for so long when living in America. He is a champion of civil rights and first black preacher in the US Episcopalian church. He talked about LOVE. I started my American journey in the city of brotherly love Philadelphia where this LOVE statue sits. I used to look at it from my downtown apartment when I was at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1983.

If we had love in our lives, we would not have so much hate in Nigeria with killings and corruption. My children struggle daily with the American economy, gun violence and racism. They are ready to receive me. I have to leave everything behind now. PLS help me pray to help me get out of Nigeria and this mental torture. The people that did this to me have largely forgotten me. GOD HAS NOT."

News In Pictures: Heartbreaking! Mother Dies After Giving Birth To Triplets In Abuja

It is tears and mourning for the family members of a woman who died after giving birth to triplets.

A new set of triplets have been left stranded after their mum died shortly after their birth in an Abuja hospital, and the family is asking for help to raise them.

Relatives and friends are now struggling to care for the three boys and their older siblings — a boy and a girl — and are calling for help from the government and Nigerians.

Before her death, Nkechi Okonya, 32, was the family’s bread-winner, raising her two children and supporting her husband with the proceeds of her petty trade, neighbours said.

Jersey and Kimberly — seven and five years old — have now dropped out of school with no one to take care of their education.

Their mum bled to death shortly after birth at Bwari General Hospital, leaving behind the five children.
Burial poster of late Nkechinyere Blessing Oleh Okonya

Mrs Okonya was due for delivery on April 20 and was rushed to a Primary Health Centre in Bwari, a suburb of Abuja.

She was delivered of one of the children there prematurely at about 9:30 a.m.

“For hours they kept telling her to push thinking the baby left inside her was just one but nothing came out so they now referred her to Bwari General hospital,” her cousin, Chinwendu Ekwunife, told PREMIUM TIMES last Friday.

When she arrived the Bwari hospital, the health workers there further delayed the delivery process, thereby worsening her situation. She held on until 5 p.m.

“I don’t know what happened but the doctors and nurses there still held on until about 5 p.m. before they wheeled her into the theatre.

“She delivered the remaining two children but was now bleeding heavily. She took four pints of blood in less than 15 minutes.

“At a point they (doctors) said she was stable and after a while, she died. It was around 12 midnight,” Mrs Ekwunife who was with her cousin at the moment of explained.

She said one of the triplets was placed on oxygen throughout the night because he was very weak.

She described the services rendered by the hospital as “careless and inhuman”.

“Why would a general hospital keep a woman who already delivered a baby elsewhere from 12pm to 5pm without conducting an operation?” she questioned.

“Even when she finally delivered and died, they did not even weigh the kids. They just asked us to leave the hospital immediately that night. They don’t even have an ambulance.”

The triplets were released from the hospital later, and Mrs Ekwunife, still mourning her cousin, has relied on help from her husband and friends as she juggles taking care of the kids and holding down her job as a lawyer.

Who takes care of the triplets?
Emeka Okonya, the father of the triplets is an unemployed graduate, and is “financially unstable”, her sister said.

Mr Okonya’s younger sister, Mary, visibly troubled told PREMIUM TIMES during a visit to the family in Kubwa, “This is a very big challenge because my brother does not have anything doing at the moment, he is financially unstable.”

The responsibility of taking care of the triplets and the two other children has become a burden for relatives and friends.

Mrs Ekwunife said so far her husband and some generous individuals had been the ones footing all the bills as regards taking care of the five children.

“We raised some funds via Facebook in a group I belong to called Abuja Mums. It is from there that we got the fund to take care of them so far. They assist with clothings, diapers and all.”

The late mother’s elder sister, Ogonnaya Obasi, is the one carrying and nurturing the little infants.

However, the burden has even become heavier for the relatives.

Mrs Obasi said she was planning to take the five children down to Abakiliki, Ebonyi state, to know how she could handle the situation from there.

“I want to take them to Abakiliki. I don’t have any plan but I pray God will help us. I beg the government to come to our aid and give the children scholarships. I also beg civil societies and well-meaning Nigerians to assist in training thee triplets,” Ms Obasi said amidst tears.

While also calling for assistance for the family, Joseph Osuigwe, executive director of Devatop Centre for Africa Development, warned that such situation breeds human trafficking.

The organisation is a youth-led nonprofit group focused on combating human trafficking, gender-based violence, child abuse, and providing educational materials and welfare for vulnerable children.

“I am particularly bothered about the welfare of these children, because they should not in any way be made to suffer or bear the consequences of irresponsibility of the hospital to attend to their mother with sense of urgency and emergency; and of the father to ensure their welfare,” Mr Osuigwe said.

“It is such situation that breeds human trafficking. When children are subjected to such conditions, they are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.”

Mrs Ekwunife can be reached at 08100643284 for possible support to the family.

***
-Culled from Premium Times

New HIV infections among pregnant women raise concerns

Concerns and fears have arisen over the gradual spike in the number of women that have tested positive to Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Lagos State.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, recently disclosed that at least 2, 131 pregnant women have tested positive to HIV, while 3, 876 children were placed under antiretroviral therapy (ART) within the last one year.

Apart from fears that the deadly ailment could be experiencing a resurgence, stakeholders are worried about the downslide in funds for HIV programmes, as most donors have pulled out, and there is little or no provision in the national and state budgets to fight the scourge.

Consequently, not more than one-third of pregnant women and children living with the virus are receiving treatment.Lagos State Key Performance HIV Indicators for 2015 to 2017 made available to The Guardian by the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), showed that more women are getting tested for HIV in the state, just as more are receiving ARV through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme.

The HIV indicator for the state showed that the total number of pregnant women counseled, tested and given HIV test results in 2015 was 96, 306. The number fell to 82, 506 in 2016 and rose to 123, 118 in 2017.According to the report, despite the fact that more pregnant women were tested in 2017 for HIV (that is 123, 118), only 1, 252 tested positive compared to 1, 564 in 2015 when 96, 306 pregnant women were tested.

However, fewer women received PMTCT in 2017, that is 2, 167, compared to 2, 781 in 2015. But the 2017 figure was higher than the 1, 994 pregnant women receiving HIV treatment recorded in 2016.

Stakeholders are concerned that rising HIV infection figures are still being recorded, especially among pregnant mothers in a state like Lagos, with reasonable level of health awareness and budgetary allocation. They worry that if Lagos records such a surge, the situation in other states could be pathetic.

Director General of NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, while responding to The Guardian’s queries, through the agency’s communication manager, Mrs. Toyin Aderigbigbe, said: “Based on the data we have in our records, there is no evidence that the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is increasing, if anything, it’s lower than what we had in 2015 and earlier years.”

Aliyu further explained: “In Lagos State, the number of pregnant women tested for HIV increased from 82,506 in 2015 to 123,118 in 2017. Although the positivity rate for both years were the same (one per cent) and much lower than the positivity rate in earlier years (1.6 per cent in 2015 for instance), the fact that more women were tested meant that more positive cases were found (806 pregnant women with HIV in 2016, when compared to 1, 252 in 2017).”

The NACA boss said in the past few years, the agency has had about one in three pregnant women with HIV diagnosed placed on PMTCT, adding that the main difficulty with the programme has to do with getting pregnant women to attend ante-natal care.

According to Aliyu, a large number of our women do not access formal ante-natal care, which is the gateway to HIV testing and treatment.The physician said the Federal Government has already declared PMTCT as a priority and additional funds through Saving One Million Lives, and Global Fund NACA grant are being channelled towards eliminating transmission among babies.

“In the long, run we need integration of PMTCT with other maternal and child health programs, which NACA is already working on,” he said.Meanwhile, Dr. Idris, who reeled out the statistics at a media briefing on the activities of his ministry, explained that the $9.6m grant from donor agencies further assisted in the conduct of the AIDS indicator survey, implementation and provision of technical support in Epe, Ikorodu and Oshodi-Isolo councils.

He added that the number was discovered after conducting tests for the pregnant women during their visit to state-owned medical facilities.According to him, “At least 38, 791 pregnant women know their HIV status out of which about 2, 131 (HIV positive pregnant women) were enrolled for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme.

“By the end of 2017, the support provided through Global Fund was able to avail a minimum of 226, 768 persons, who were 15-years and above, with free tests.”
After the test, the commissioner said that 10, 623 persons were discovered to be living with HIV and placed on treatments in the three councils.

Latest figures from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), show that the country’s epidemic is generalised with the national average HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics (ANC), estimated to be around 3.0 per cent (compared with 4.1 per cent in 2010).

The ANC prevalence rates in sentinel sites range from 15.4 per cent in Benue State and 10.8 per cent in Akwa Ibom to 0.9 per cent in Zamfara State. HIV prevalence among key populations (KP) is much higher than the national average (19.4 per cent in brothel-based female sex workers (BBFSW), 8.6 per cent in non-brothel-based FSW (NBBFSW) and 22.9 per cent among men, who have sex with men (MSM).

HIV prevalence rates among sex workers and other identified vulnerable groups have been declining since 2007, but increasing among MSM within the same period.
Less than half of the female sex-workers (FSW) surveyed had comprehensive knowledge about HIV compared to 65 per cent of MSM and 51 per cent average for all survey participants. In total, about 3, 438, 442 people are currently estimated to be living with HIV in the country, which has the second highest burden of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world.

About 880, 668 PLHIV are currently receiving treatment and there has been a slow decline in the estimated incidence of HIV in the country, with the number of new infections decreasing from an estimated 316, 733 in 2003 to 239, 155, a decade later in 2013.

Coverage rates for PMTCT, ART, viral load and early infant diagnosis (EID) remain unacceptably low and the country accounts for about one-third of new HIV infections in children (about 60, 000 annually) due to high mother-to-child transmission rates. Only 12 per cent of children living with HIV are on ARVs.

Due to the high number of AIDS-related deaths, 174, 253 in 2014 (down from 210, 031 in 2013) per year, the population of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) is estimated at over 1, 736, 782.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), in 2016, Nigeria had 220, 000 (150, 000 – 310, 000) new HIV infections and 160,000 (110, 000 – 230, 000) AIDS-related deaths. There were 3,200,000 (2, 300, 000 – 4, 300, 000) people living with HIV in 2016, among which 30 per cent (19 per cent – 42 per cent) were accessing antiretroviral therapy.

Among pregnant women living with HIV, 32 per cent (22 per cent – 44 per cent) were accessing treatment or prophylaxis to prevent transmission of HIV to their children.

An estimated 37, 000 (22, 000 – 56, 000) children were newly infected with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission. Among people living with HIV, approximately 24 per cent (18 per cent – 32 per cent) had suppressed viral loads.

Nigeria’s HIV epidemic affects all population groups and geographic areas of the country. It is the second largest epidemic globally. Key populations are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic.

According to UNAIDS, Nigeria is a fast-track country and its response is guided by the National Strategic Framework 2017–2021, which aims at ending AIDS by achieving zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination. Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is a priority. Stigma and discrimination is a major challenge, especially towards key populations and people living with HIV.

Also, latest figures suggest that one-third (32 per cent) of all cases of mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the world happens in Nigeria. In 2013, just 30 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment. In 2016, just 32 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment. Despite yearly increases, the number of pregnant women visiting health facilities remains low, as does the number of health facilities providing PMTCT services.
 
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