#Budget2018: 10 Major Takeaways From Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Speech


“I must commend Mr. President, the Economic Management Team, my Distinguished colleagues and Honourable members of the House of Representatives as well as all Nigerians, for working together to make the necessary sacrifices to get the economy out of recession. Without doubt, this recovery benefitted from greater policy coordination, prioritization and passage of economic reform bills, but more importantly, the resilience of the Nigerian people.”


“It is pertinent to note that the implementation of the 2018 Budget – how it is implemented – will be a defining element of this Administration. We must therefore continue to work together to steady the ship of this recovery.”


“As the country gradually recovers, it is important to reset the fundamentals that drive our economy – so we do not slide back into recession. We must reassess the relationship between oil and our economy. Oil prices are gradually inching up, but that is no reason for complacency in our diversification drive. We must grow our economy away from oil – as well as the need to increase non-oil revenue generation and collection.”


“Revenue from taxes as well as independent revenues from State Owned Enterprises must be taken seriously. If the budget is to be funded, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to revenue under-performance. While there is a need to review extant laws guiding the operation of some Government enterprises, I would urge for more determined effort on the part of the Executive, to plug leakages.”


“…We must ensure that our borrowing is targeted at productive projects that will stimulate the economy. We must ensure real value-for-money in projects funded by borrowing, and make doubly sure that the projects are not overpriced.”


“As the country emerges from that period of uncertainty, the question on the lips of many Nigerians has been this: How does the recovery translate into tangible economic benefits for me? We must remember that the real gains must be felt on a personal level by the individual, for economic recovery to have meaning. People are seeking to get back to work but cannot find jobs.”


“While I commend your current efforts at tackling unemployment – especially among the youth through Federal Youth Programmes such as YouWin, N-Power, and YES-Programme – deliberate steps must be taken to make the 2018 budget a job oriented one.”


“…we must see to the implementation of the Procurement law, with particular relevance to the part that has to do with support for Made-In-Nigeria goods. The implementation of the 2018 budget must anchor on the Made-In-Nigeria project. This should be reflected in government procurements in 2018.”


“We must never lose sight of the need for equity and balanced development across the entire spread of our country. Infrastructural development should be seen to be well distributed, to create growth pools away from the major city centres and drive the regeneration of our rural areas. Agriculture, for instance, is meaningless without those that will engage in farming in the countryside. The current rate of rural-to-urban migration is alarming and unsustainable – congesting the cities and stretching resources to breaking point, while undermining the economic viability of some states. People must be able to see a future for themselves in every corner of this country, not just in the big cities.”


“As I close, Mr. President, I would like to advise and caution that there is no better time in this Administration than now for a rigorous drive for good working relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. The early passage of the 2018 budget will depend on this good working relationship.”

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How President Buhari Surpassed The Achievements Of Past Nigerian Leaders In Just Two Years – BMSG

… As He Continues To Blaze The Trail

After careful, data-based and incisive research, the Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG) has affirmed that since the return of Nigeria to democratic rule in 1999, no Nigerian President has measured up to the level of achievements recorded by President Buhari in just two years his tenure.

In the past two years, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has launched unprecedented programmes, reforms and policies and has attained landmark achievements on implementing them all.

We point out that President Buhari has towered above his predecessors, riding on the crest of integrity, commitment to the national cause and deep sense of responsibility laced with intent to leave Nigeria a better place for all.

Coming from decades of corruption, and complacency in which case, Nigeria all through, depended solely on oil resources, hence a mono economy, President Buhari administration took off by changing the narrative and laying the foundation for diversification of the Nigeria’s economy.

After inheriting a near collapsed economy at the instance of phenomenal looting of treasury by officials of past government, the government of President Buhari displayed ingenuity and wisdom, setting up an economy diversification agenda, which melted the grim recession that confronted Nigeria when it took off two years ago.

Efforts by the President to rescue the economy have since been trailed by successes. In less than two years, Nigeria is already taking its pride of place among industrialized countries; whereas, in just two years, the agricultural sector has produced over 40,000 farmers who are now in the league of millionaires, while the number keeps growing.

In just two years security in the North East has been restored, while similar unrest in other section of Nigeria, most especially the south-south and the south-east had been effectively addressed.

Under President Buhari, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and other law enforcement agencies have been strengthened and emboldened to fight treasury looters while recovering stolen funds and fraudulently acquired properties that run into trillions of naira along with other foreign currencies. The achievements of the anti-graft agencies are unprecedented this time around.

The Nigerian military under President Buhari have given good account of themselves after yielding positively to command in ending unrest in the Niger Delta. The feat by the military has eventually set the tone for growth of national economy with resumption of oil exploration in the zone. The military also squarely addressed the agitation for secession in the south-east zone, making it possible for Nigeria to regain its rhythm as a nation with all component units now having sense of belonging.

For us in BMSG, it is apt to conclude that no Nigerian President has rivaled the standard of dedication, hard work and results that the President Buhari administration has landmarked so far. In this regard, sky is the limit for the President who means well for Nigeria.

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Profile Of New Secretary To The Government Of The Federation, Boss Mustapha

President Buhari has appointed Boss Mustapha as the new Secretary General of the Federation.

The appointment follows the sack of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

His Profile:

Mr, Boss Gida Mustapha is a lawyer, management consultant, politician, business man and boardroom guru of considerable repute. His appointment.

Born in Adamawa State, Mr Mustapha attended Hong Secondary School, in Hong Adamawa state and North East College of Arts and Sciences Maiduguri Borno state, crowning it with WASC and HSC in 1976. He earned his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and was called to bar in 1980. From 1980 to 1981, Mr Mustapha did the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) – Directorate of Legal of legal Services at the Army Headquarters and was in charge of review of Court Marshall Proceedings.

After his National Service, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an Executive Director in charge of Administration, leaving in 1983 to join the prestigious law firm Messrs Onagoruwa & Co in Lagos.

With his law practice fully taken off, Mustapha was appointed Principal Counsel in the firm Messrs Mustapha & Associates, His legal interests and expertise included privatization commercialization and Liberalization of Public Companies/Corporate and Government Parastatals. He was also involved in preparation of varied and miscellaneous banking documents such as Debentures, Guarantees, Mortgages, Bonds and Loan Syndications.

One of Mr. Mustapha’s career highlights was his appointment as a member of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), serving meritoriously from 2000 to 2007. At the PTF, he was responsible for production of an up-to-date comprehensive project and programme report, including location, coverage and whether performed, performing or abandoned production of final report of Assets and Liabilities, examination of the Administrative structure and cost effectiveness of pf Projects and Services among other duties.

Mr. Mustapha also played key leadership roles at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) serving as Social Secretary and Chairman at the Yola branch.

After his stint at the PTF in 2007, Mr. Mustapha was appointed Principal Partner of the law firm, Adroit Lex. His law practice and the burning desire to serve the larger society conspired to attract him into politics, at various times, he was member Federal Republic of Nigeria Constituent Assembly (1988-1989), Chairman People’s Solidarity Party-Gongola State (1989-1990), state chairman, Social Democratic Party-Gongola State (1990-1991); he was even a gubernatorial candidate for SDP in Adamawa state in 1991.

He was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria from 2010 to 2013. In 2007, he again played a prominent role, serving as the Deputy Director General of the party’s Presidential campaign Organization. His services remained in high demand after the fusing of ACN joined forces with other parties to form the All Progressive Congress (APC).

He was a member of NCC and Secretary APC Presidential Campaign Organization Mobilization (2015) and member, APC Transition Committee (2015). He is also a member, APC Board of Trustees.

Until his appointment, Boss Mustapha was the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).

In addition to the NBA, Boss Mustapha is a member of various professional bodies including African Bar Association (ABA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association, International Bar Association (IBA) and Human Rights Institute (HRI). But Mr. Mustapha’s accomplishments go beyond politics and the Bar; he is respected boardroom guru, having been appointed into the boards of several companies in the manufacturing financial services as well as oil and gas sectors. He is the National Vice President, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship international Nigeria.

He has travelled extensively visiting no fewer than 30 countries, and always taken interest in how waterways assets are managed in those countries. His address to management staff on assuming office set the tone style and direction of his administration.

Mr. Mustapha who is married with children, enjoys golf, lawn tennis, travelling, documentary films, charity work and meeting people

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In Kenya, 6.2 Per Cent Of Donated Blood Has HIV, Syphilis, Report Says

The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) has released  a report that part of blood its bank is contaminated with HIV and syphilis. The report published three weeks ago in a foreign journal shows 6.2 per cent of donated blood had high levels of HIV, with as high as 15 per cent in some counties.

The authors of the report, published in the Journal of Blood Disorders and Transfusion of India, are said to have had access KNBTS data. They had also analysed part of the blood collected from 32 of the 47 counties last year.

Other than HIV and syphilis, the report also showed significant contamination of donated blood with hepatitis.  In a written response to our enquiries over the publication, KNBTS director Margaret Oduor termed the report alarmist and sensational.

“This research was not sanctioned by KNBTS and therefore we disown the content of the article in its entirety,” Dr Oduor said. She said only about 0.5 per cent of blood collected annually is contaminated with HIV. “It is possible the authors of the report have other interests unknown to us,” Oduor said, noting only about 0.4 per cent of the annual blood collection is contaminated with syphilis. But hours after The Standard made inquiries over the report, two of its authors disowned it. They said it should be withdraw saying its findings are inaccurate.

Dr Oduor said they had allowed the authors and employees of a health organisation, mHealth Kenya, access to their blood banks and data of at least 20,230 donors. mHealth Kenya provides links between public and private to support, improve, optimise and sustain provision of quality health services.

The organisation was supposed to help KNBTS, through its blood bank, to get blood donations through an initiative called Text4Life. The plan was funded by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. “Our work was to help the blood bank utilise mobile phone platform in communicating with its donors countrywide,” mHealth Kenya Limited CEO Cathy Mwangi said.

And now, Oduor is angry that mHealth employers, three of whom participated in authoring the damning report, may have used their data illegally. Also, she said the officials published the report without the consent of KNBTS. “I stand by the results we published as a true reflection of the quality of donated blood to KNBTS within the study period,” lead author Gerald Mahuro said. He is a former employee of mHealth.

Authors claimed they had permission from KNBTS blood bank to publish the report. “Being employees of mHealth Kenya Ltd, authors of the report had permission, from KNBTS, to use the data in the publication,” says the study. However, on Saturday afternoon, the authors wrote to the editor of the Indian journal requesting that the report be withdrawn temporarily because it had been submitted non-procedurally. Dr Mwangi and her employee N Kipkorir said they were included as co-authors without their input or consent. “Mahuro published data he took away with him upon his dismissal,” she said in a letter to the editor of the journal.

However, Mahuro told The Standard he stood by the report and maintained the data he used was accurate even the procedure for publishing may not have been followed. The fourth author and the most qualified on the subject matter, Peter Gichangi of the University of Nairobi, said the data as presented in their paper was plausible. Prof Gichangi is also the Country Director at International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRHK), which is affiliated to the Ghent University of Belgium. He is also at the centre of another controversy where UK’s University of Manchester is fighting with Kenyatta National Hospital over ownership of a cervical cancer treatment developed in Kenya. However, this is not the only independent study showing high rates of infectious agents in donated blood in Kenya.

A study published last year by a team led by Magdaline Wairimu Kamande of Kenya Methodist University showed 5.2 per cent of blood at KNBTS bank at the Nyeri Centre was contaminated with HIV. Kamande’s study, appearing in the IOSR Journal of Pharmacy, was said to have been approved by KNBTS. An audit of KNBTS laboratories in April showed the agency was performing poorly as far as safety was concerned. But Odour assured Kenyans they effective screening systems and that all donated blood is safe.

Standard Digital Kenya

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Competition In Nigeria’s Pay Tv Industry Just Got Stiff-er, As StarTimes Announces Daily, Weekly Subscription

StarTimes today announced daily and weekly subscription package via its Twitter handle @StarTimes_Ng which they call pay per day.

Details of the new announcement are yet to be released but this comes as a good development for an industry that many Nigerians believe is in need of more competitors.


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Insights Into The NPA INTELS Contract Agreement

By Abdullahi Abubakar
I read in some quarters that because of 2019 politics, Buhari has directed NPA to cancel Atiku’s INTELS agreement. To be very clear on this, the first letter challenging this agreement was initiated by past administration with a letter dated June 2016 written by former Executive Director of Finance to INTELS for a review of the Service Boats Pilotage Revenue.
This present management came into office in July, 2017. In essence, this is administration is only following up on the initial call for review. I will take you through the contract agreement between the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and INTELS Logistics which is in two folds for you to judge the party that is being short-changed. The NPA engaged the services of INTELS basically;
1. As Managing Agent for monitoring and collections of revenue from Service Boats Operations in the pilotage districts.
2. Development of Port infrastructure at Onne Ports Complex.
Summarily, the first fold is a 10year contract agreement to manage, especially, logistics of vessels of Oil and Gas related activities amongst others (and over the years, INTELS have monopolized logistics of Oil and Gas related activities). To also collect all money invoiced for service boats operations and other relevant dues invoiced against vessels owners.
In view of the above, the NPA pays INTELS a commission of 28% of total revenue generated. Withholding tax, inclusive. This pricing is outrageous but quite surprising, the NPA hasn’t made it a major issue of contention. For a better perspective, commercial Banks also collect tax on behalf of the government and charge between 0.25% to 1% as commission.
NB: the 28% is deducted at source as dictated in the terms of the contract.
The second fold which is development of Ports Infrastructure at Onne Ports where in August 2013, the Authority, through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) engaged Deep Offshore Services Nig Limited, a sister agency of INTELS, to construct Port infrastructure at Onne Ports Phase 4B for the sum of $2.7bn for a 6years period. Term of this contract is that, recovery of project cost is through amortization process from port charges and Service Boats Operations revenue.
This means, NPA will also remit 60% balance of the 72% left (100% – 28%) for this port development.
Meanwhile, capacity of Phase 3 and 4A earlier constructed by INTELS is evaluated at less than 60% but at a cost 20% higher than initial contract sum because NPA pays cost of funds of Libor + 6 percent.
Important to note, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and Dredging International Asia Pacific – Daelim Joint Venture signed a contract for $1.8bn for a new port wharf terminal Phase 1. This entails the construction of a new port terminal with 20 deep-water berths having a total capacity of 20million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUS) per annum.
On the flip side, Deep Offshore Services are constructing only 8 deep-water berths for the Phase 4B at $2.7bn. This is almost a billion dollar extra for less number of deep-water berths. Ridiculous!
Perhaps deliberate, there is no clause mandating INTELS to remit any percentage of the Service Boats Operations revenue collections to NPA and on a stipulated date. Hence remittances are based on mutual understanding between both parties. So from 2013, INTELS remitted an average of $3m monthly which represents only about 18% of average revenue collected. Remittance went all-time high in 2014 to an average of $5.6m monthly. It is a cause of worry to NPA that this remittance dropped to an average of $3.6m monthly in 2016. This called for a review by the former management which was followed through until recent approval to terminate the contract.
After reconciliation, Service Boats Operations revenue collected by INTELS from January 2014 when execution of Phase 4B commenced to September 2016 was $510m while sum of $162m which represents about 29% of the total revenue was remitted to NPA within the period.
Worthy of note also, the LAST remittance made by INTELS to NPA was in October of 2016 ?—? one year ago. However, INTELS is owed $674.8m as at December 2016 for executed project cost not yet amortized. The Managing Agent, INTELS is as well holding on to the sum of $128.3m being jointly reconciled revenue as at December 31st, 2016.
Since the Managing Agents, INTELS control the revenue, they went ahead to execute a project at the Onne Ports Complex worth $109m without any recourse to their principal, the NPA. Another thing is, the Managing Agent keep the balance at their disposal for, sometimes, months, with no interest element paid to the principal.
What is it in the reviewed agreement that INTELS is declining to affirm to? The following Standard Operating Procedures were drafted and reviewed for adoption;
1. The NPA is suggesting the balance of 72% be shared between NPA and INTELS in the ratio of 30:70.
2. Two transit accounts be opened with two commercial banks where individual boat operators pay their charges and funds be swept into the TSA account with CBN daily. INTELS get their 28% Commission within 7 days. In the event that NPA fails to pay the commission within the stipulated time, it shall pay INTELS a 0.15% for the outstanding.
3. Since capacity utilization of the completed phase 4B is very low, that further execution be formally stopped and the completed section be put to commercial use to generate revenue for the Authority.
Nothing spurs us to action, else the Civil Society Organizations and other pressure groups would be at the fore front demanding a repeal of this agreement and perhaps, demand a downright payment of outstanding balances.
Abdullahi K. Abubakar is on twitter as @abubakar47i
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Meet The 41-year-old Newly Appointed CBN Deputy Governor, Aisha Ahmad

The Presidency on Thursday announced the nomination of Aisha Ahmad, to take over as Deputy Governor Central Bank of Nigeria from Sarah Alade who retired in March.

President Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said in a statement that the president had urged the Senate to expedite the confirmation of Ms Ahmad.

“In accordance with the provisions of Section 8(1) (2) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act 2007, President Buhari urged the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to consider the expeditious confirmation of Mrs. Ahmad, who would then resume work immediately,” the statement read.

Mr Adesina added that Mr Buhari had written the Senate, seeking the confirmation of appointment of members of the Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN.

He said the appointees were to replace four members, whose tenure expires at the end of this year.

“The nominees are: Prof. Adeola Festus Adenikinju; Dr. Aliyu Rafindadi Sanusi; Dr. Robert Chikwendu Asogwa and Dr. Asheikh A. Maidugu.

“After Senate clearance, the new members of the Monetary Policy Committee are to resume duties next January,” the statement added.


Banking industry feelers say with over 20 years experience with global financial institutions such as Stanbic IBTC Bank, Zenith Bank PLC and Bank of New York Mellon, Diamond Bank PLC, the new CBN deputy governor-nominee, Aishah Ahmad, seems fully prepared for the position.

Mrs Ahmad was born on October 26, 1976, and hails from Niger State.

According to her profile in the most recent annual report of Diamond Bank, Mrs Ahmad was the Head, Consumer and Privilege Banking at the bank. She was previously the Head, Retail Banking Directorate.

She joined Diamond Bank in June 2014 as a Deputy General Manager and the Head, Retail Financial Services Division, overseeing Privilege Banking, Consumer Banking Group, Retail Assets, Cards and Customer Engagement & Insight.

Prior to joining Diamond Bank, Aishah worked with Stanbic IBTC Holdings where she served in various capacities as Head, High Net-worth Individuals; Head, Private Client Services and Deputy Head, Private Client Services between 2009 – 2014.

She had also worked with other companies such as Zenith Capital Limited as Head, Business Development, Bank of New York Mellon (UK), Synesix Financial Limited (UK), Zenith Bank Plc as Head, Retail Banking Unit, and NAL Bank Plc as Head, Private Banking.

She also worked with First Interstate Bank Plc as Executive Assistant, Treasury Group, Manstructs Group Nigeria Limited as Group Accountant and Z. O. Ososanya & Co.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Abuja, an MBA (Finance) from the University of Lagos and an M.Sc. Finance and Management from the Cran?eld School of Management (UK).

She is a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) and she holds the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Mrs Ahmad is currently the Chairperson of Women in Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, and a board member of the SOS Children’s hospital.

She is renowned for her experience in the private banking space having managed many High Net-worth Individuals (HNI’s) throughout her career.

Mrs Ahmad is married to Abdallah Ahmad, a retired brigadier-general, and has two children.

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Jail Time Or Death: Pregnant Women In Nigeria Face Unlikely Sentence In Their Hospitals

Mrs Audu, 33, had just given birth to her first child at the Asokoro General Hospital. She was ecstatic and could not wait to take her newborn home but her joy was short-lived.

“We’ve been asked to stay here until we can pay”, looking at her newborn, she said, feigning indifference.

“I need Nigerians to help me out”, she said into the voice recorder and looked resigned again. Audu is a low-grade civil servant in the nation’s capital.

Mrs Audu is one of many new mothers under detention in Nigerian hospitals as a result of inability to settle their medical bills. Her case was quite serious. She suffered postpartum hemorrhage and had received two pints of blood shortly after giving birth.

Up the aisle to the maternity ward of the Asokoro Hospital, a stretch of pregnant women are seen groaning under labour pains and awaiting available beds for delivery.  “All the beds have been occupied in this hospital, the women queue until there’s a bed space available”, a matron who asked to remain anonymous told me.

“As soon as you birth your baby, you are discharged to go home, we need space for others”, the matron added.

The non-implementation of the 2014 National Health Act is a major drawback and reason for the collapse of health facilities, which have turned into trauma centers for most pregnant women. The Act mandates a 1% contribution by the Federal Government from the Consolidated Revenue Fund that will help guarantee a basic minimum health package, which includes free health coverage for pregnant women and children less than 5 years.

A coalition of about 30 civil society organisations and the ONE Campaign, in an open letter to Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari called for more investment in the healthcare sector in Nigeria.

“There is an urgent need to make a quantum leap investment into the health sector in the 2018 budget to at least 7.5% of the national budget and demonstrate good faith in implementing the 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund towards the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), as stipulated by the National Health Act 2014.”

Nana Aisha, 34, would be spending her third night at Asher hospital, where she was delivered of twin babies. The hospital, which was situated in Kubwa Abuja, the largest satellite town in Nigeria, and under Bwari Area Council in Abuja has an emergency ward, a maternity ward and a small pharmacy unit.

She is being held against her will due to her inability to pay after a cesarean section arising from complications. She has been abandoned, and yet to hear from her husband ever since he pledged to return to make payments.

Nana Aisha eventually got bailed through the contributions of a female empowerment group, called Ejilogwu women association, she has ceased to become a member of, for about four months before the incident. This was due to her inability to keep up with the required monthly contributions.

Hajiya Jummai who runs the women empowerment group bailed Nana through a micro-finance model where women contribute on a monthly basis to help each other finance their individual businesses or problems.

“We see a lot of this type of situations, that is why we organized ourselves to help each other. We raise money for naming ceremonies, burials and other problems that women face”

The hospital was charging her for the equipment used during her treatment such as bandages, bed-space, hand-gloves and gown. The total amount reached N16,000 (less than $50). The doctor had instructed the gateman and the night nurse on duty not to let her out of the hospital. Nana realized this when she tried to escape.

“We heard that she was detained and her husband had run away because he could not pay the four-thousand-naira hospital bill after her delivery, so we gathered money that afternoon and went to bail her.”

At the Gwagwalada specialist hospital, a government owned facility, I spoke to Ifeanyi Anih, a medical intern who told me that the hospital management has created a deferral scheme.

“We handle all female genital tract issues, and there are a lot of cases where women come in pregnant and require surgery. We have a system that allows them do it on credit to enable them pay afterwards, but the more prevalent case is that they don’t return so we turn it into a bad debt. The finance department actually raises some money as a provision for this.”

This is not the same for private hospitals. Folake Animashaun (real name withheld) who works at one of the private clinics tells me that sometimes they gauge the patient before treatment.

“When we give the patient the cost of the treatment, and we realize the patient cannot pay, we don’t treat them. Sometimes you can tell by their body language, the way they begin to look at each other or complain. In cases like this, we just refer them to a general hospital. Sometimes it’s a critical emergency, we pad the patient, give them pain-killers and wait for them to leave. It’s easier to bear a cost of roughly N2,000 free medications than to conduct a N150,000 surgery and not get the money back.”

Ifeanyi explained to me that the most prevalent cases are pregnant women with complications who have been turned away by the privately owned health centers.
“The largest cases we face here are mostly obstructions during pregnancy. Like when the baby is in the wrong position. We asked them if they can pay for it and they started looking at themselves. The challenge here is that you really can’t treat them for free. There is a framework that comes from the Ministry of health which serves as a guideline for billing patients, and a surgery like that costs about N85,000. Private hospitals collect almost three times that rate.
“The private clinics don’t handle patients who cannot pay. In one case we faced here, they went as far as padding the bleeding woman, gave her one pint of blood and waited for her to leave. She still came here, and yet had no money.”

Nigeria has one of the worst health coverage indicators in the world with less than four percent of the population insured. A far cry from countries like Rwanda where only about 4% are not insured.

Currently, health insurance covers a number of government workers and big private sector organisations. Hospitals charge the people in this category only 10% of the cost of treatment, but the larger population of Nigeria are denied this benefit.

On a daily, Nigerian mothers are detained all over the country; the situation poses a grave threat to the country’s ambitions to achieve universal health coverage (UCH) by 2030, a key aspect of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the terms of UCH, access to safe, quality and essential, affordable health-care services including medicines and vaccines should be available for all.

While Nigeria’s President Buhari enjoys medical treatment abroad, Nigerian government hospitals remain detention facilities for new mothers across the country. The irony is that it has become common to see high-ranking public officials bail out detained mothers in what is pitched to the public as an act of compassion.

As the class divide deepens, public hospitals have become exclusive preserve of the Nigerian middle class while the rich turn to medical facilities abroad. The poor have nowhere to run. The inability of government to provide free maternal services contribute to the grave maternal mortality indicators in Nigeria as pregnant women seek unorthodox medical options or stay at home leading to major complications and death when they eventually make it to the hospitals.
Audu and Aisha consider themselves lucky to be alive in debt as other women in similar situations are never admitted. Most of them die from complications trying to birth their babies.

This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

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Defying The Odds: A 14 Year Old Nana Yaa With Autism Turns Model

Across the world, we are looking for inspiring stories that defy the odds, ones which can show us that challenges are just catalysts to discover our true self.

One of such stories can be told of our very own, 14 year old Nana Yaa Ohenewaa Kuffour, who is nonverbal and has autism but despite her condition is determined to become one of the most inspiring people on earth.

With a condition such as autism, Nana Yaa has turned her life around with the support of her family, discovering an inner potential that could also earn her spots among super photo models to have lived in this part of the world.

With a special photo session directed by celebrated Ghanaian Photographer Kwaku David & Photo Model, Afi Antonio, Nana Yaa churned out amazing poses that could make for that of a supermodel.

With an inspiring mum and mentor, Mrs. Mary Kuffour, who is a Professional teacher, now a special needs teacher and an early interventionist for children with speech and language difficulties, Nana Yaa is ready to turn her hobby into a career.

Born a healthy baby, her mother shared how difficult it was for her to discover the health condition of her daughter when she turned 5 but now their story is about to turn a new face of glory.

Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is popularly referred to as Autism, is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. It is now known that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental factors.

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FULL TEXT: President Buhari’s Speech At The Ongoing UN General Assembly #UNGA

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has addressed the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) in New York, United States.

Read the President’s speech below:……………….


Mr. President,

Fellow Heads of State and Government,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of my country, Nigeria, I congratulate you Mr. President on your election and Mr. Gutteres on his first General Assembly outing as our Secretary-General. I assure you both of my country’s solidarity and cooperation. You will indeed need the cooperation of all member States as we are meeting during extra-ordinarily troubled and dangerous times. Let me also thank former Secretary-General Mr. Ban ki Moon for his service to the United Nations and wish him peaceful retirement.

Mr. President,

The previous year has witnessed many far-reaching developments. Some of the most significant events include the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and, of grave concern, the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Mr. President,

I must also commend the UN’s role in helping to settle thousands of innocent civilians caught in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, we must collectively thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany under the commendable leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Governments of Italy, Greece and Turkey for assisting hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In an exemplary show of solidarity, the international community came together within my own region to assist the countries and communities in the Sahel and the Lake Chad regions to contain the threats posed by Al Qaida and Boko Haram.

We thank the Security Council for visiting the countries of the Lake Chad Basin to assess the security situation and humanitarian needs, and for pledging assistance to rebuild lives and livelihoods. Indeed, in Nigeria we are providing relief and humanitarian assistance to millions in camps and those afflicted by terrorism, drought, floods and other natural disasters.

In the last year, the international community came together to focus on the need for gender equality, youth empowerment, social inclusion, and the promotion of education, creativity and innovation. The frontiers of good governance, democracy including holding free and fair elections, and enthronement of the rule of law are expanding everywhere, especially in Africa.

Our faith in democracy remains firm and unshaken. Our regional organisation ECOWAS came together to uphold democratic principles in The Gambia – as we had done previously in Cote D’Ivoire.

Through our individual national efforts, state institutions are being strengthened to promote accountability, and to combat corruption and asset recovery. These can only be achieved through the international community cooperating and providing critical assistance and material support. We shall also cooperate in addressing the growing transnational crimes such as forced labour, modern day slavery, human trafficking and cybercrime.

Mr. President,

These cooperative efforts should be sustained. We must collectively devise strategies and mobilise the required responses to stop fleeing ISIS fighters from mutating and infiltrating into the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, where there are insufficient resources and response capacity is weak.

This will require strong UN cooperation with regional organisations, such as the African Union, in conflict prevention and management. The UN should continue to take primary leadership of the maintenance of international peace and security by providing, in a predictable and sustainable manner, adequate funding and other enablers to regional initiatives and peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council.

Mr. President,

New conflicts should not make us lose focus on ongoing unresolved old conflicts. For example, several UN Security Council Resolutions from 1967 on the Middle East crisis remain unimplemented. Meanwhile, the suffering of the Palestinian people and the blockade of Gaza continue.

Additionally, we are now confronted by the desperate human rights and humanitarian situations in Yemen and most tragically in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. The Myanmar crisis is very reminiscent of what happened in Bosnia in 1995 and in Rwanda in 1994.

The international community cannot remain silent and not condemn the horrendous suffering caused by what, from all indications is a state-backed programme of brutal depopulation of the Rohingya inhabited areas in Myanmar on the bases of ethnicity and religion. We fully endorse the call by the Secretary-General on the Government of Myanmar to order a halt to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and ensure the safe return of the displaced Rohingya to their homes in safety and dignity.

In all these crises, the primary victims are the people, the most vulnerable being women and children. That is why the theme of this session: Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet” is most apposite.

While the international community grapples to resolve these conflicts, we must be mindful and focus on the widening inequalities within societies, and the gap between the rich and the poor nations. These inequalities and gaps are part of the underlining root causes of competition for resources, frustration and anger leading to spiralling instability.

The most pressing threat to international peace and security today is the accelerated nuclear weapons development programme by North Korea. Since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, we have never come so close to the threat of nuclear war as we have now.

All necessary pressure and diplomatic efforts must be brought to bear on North Korea to accept peaceful resolution of the crisis. As Hiroshima and Nagasaki painfully remind us, if we fail, the catastrophic and devastating human loss and environmental degradation cannot be imagined.

Mr. President,

Nigeria proposes a strong UN delegation to urgently engage the North Korean Leader. The delegation, led by the Security Council, should include members from all the regions.

The crisis in the Korean peninsula underscores the urgency for all member states, guided by the spirit of enthroning a safer and more peaceful world, to ratify without delay the Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which will be open for signature here tomorrow.

Mr. President,

I end my remarks by reiterating Nigeria’s abiding commitment to the foundational principles and goals of the United Nations. Since our admission as a member state in 1960, we have always participated in all efforts to bring about global peace, security and development. Nigeria will continue to support the UN in all its efforts, including the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

I thank you.

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Triggered By Poverty & Fear: Maiduguri Mother Willing To Donate Her Daughter To Boko Haram

By Mercy Abang

Over 134 suicide bombings have occurred since 2009 when Boko Haram unleashed a campaign of terror on Nigeria’s northeast region. According to research by Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and Yale University, at least 244 of the 338 attacks since 2011 where gender is identifiable, have been young girls under the age of 7 – 13.

And the trend does not seem to be ending soon.  On August 6th, 2017, the Nigerian Army issued a statement appealing to religious and traditional leaders in communities within the region to help dissuade people from donating their daughters or female wards, to the terrorists for indoctrination and suicide bombing missions.

It came off as one of the many announcements made to the media that the public has become numb to over time because of the series of unabated killings by Boko Haram.

Beyond the surface however, it reflected the disturbing state of situation in Northern Nigeria and Nigerians moved on like everyday tales in recent years since the beginning of insurgency. “The statement became expedient in view of recent revelations by some intercepted female suicide bombers during interrogations”, the military wrote.

37-year old Hadiza is a mother to three girls and a missing boy; she loves her children but is willing to offer her teenage daughter to the insurgents for the monetary benefit.

“I can’t say NO to the insurgents, can you?” she asks, speaking in Hausa with the help of a local interpreter who doubled as a fixer. “What has government done for us since we’ve been displaced?”

Hadiza is a nervous wreck, uncoordinated for most of the interview.  Hadiza and her husband were displaced after the deadly attacks on Biu in July 2015 that left 78 persons killed including the insurgents.

Hadiza’s home was raided along with other residents but they hid themselves in the bush as the terrorists looted and torched houses, carting away food produce. That attack forced them out of their home and they walked kilometres from home and slept in the bush for more than six nights to avoid being killed – that journey led them to finally move and settle in Maiduguri.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million others including her family to flee their homes since 2009.

Like every other woman in the neighbourhood, she has been through trauma and is a victim of the crisis that has forced her out of her home.   She lights a smoke while seated in the wooden chair shaking her legs constantly and can easily be mistaken for a crackhead.

“I have lost everything, I can’t feed these kids – we hear accounts of stolen foods and items sent to those of us suffering but who are those taking it back? The wealthy”.  Aisha sobs.

“And you think Boko Haram will come here (pointing to the other lady by her side) and any one of us will say NO”?

As disturbing as her accounts may sound, the remarks by Aisha are not so much in contrast to the statement issued by Brigadier General, Sani Kukasheka Usman- Director Army Public Relations.

The military described the motive for some parents donating children to Boko Haram as barbaric and unacceptable, but not for Hadiza. Cases abound like hers, where the insurgents paid off the parents in exchange for their daughters and in less diplomatic situations, threatened with death. At every point of questioning Hadiza, she kept asking who is protecting them from the insurgents?

“It was discovered that most of these hapless minors were “donated” to the terrorists sect by their heartless and misguided parents and guardians, as part of their contribution to the perpetuation of the Boko Haram terrorists’ dastardly acts against the Nigerian society and humanity” – The army statement read.

It appealed to Nigerians to have a responsibility and obligation to “collectively mold our children and wards and define a better future for them rather than condemning them to death by the criminal Boko Haram terrorists and their sympathizers through suicide bombings”.

For Hadiza , the conversation isn’t much about a home, care, or future, it is about the perils of living in the present “It is a war zone here, you survive”, she tears up.

The story of Hadiza can be likened to most of the families in the community, with no breadwinner; she begs to survive along with her kids and refused to move to the IDP camp miles away. She says “staying out here means I can eat whenever I want to but in there you eat once in a day and you’re not sure when the food will be served”

“The place is chaotic” she added.

According to her, she was a one time Biu resident before moving to Maiduguri. Hadiza said her family narrowly escaped the night the insurgents raided their community sometime in 2015 –“they burnt all the houses and left with our farm produce”.  Speaking through an interpreter, Hadiza recounts, as she shrugs, in attempts to put up resistance ignoring the stare from her husband who looks on from the window of the crudely built shack where they reside.

Hadiza’s husband didn’t want her to grant this interview for fear of getting killed in the process, but she insisted.

Hadiza  and her husband were farmers back in Biu – the farm provided not only subsistence but also a little cash crop – now too scared to continue. She said the idea to begin a small farm to survive has again been suspended as a result of the resurgence of terrorist’s activities.

Poverty and Inequality have been blamed for most of the Boko Haram crisis in the Northeast and Hadiza, also a victim of the insurgency suffers same fate of poverty – willing to trade her child for same reasons.

Earlier in the year, the Borno State government warned of the massive baby boom factory in Gwande area of the state – women selling babies for money to survive.

Oxfam, in its 2017 latest report entitled, “Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers,” presented an alarming picture of the Nigerian economic situation, stating that 112 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty.

Presenting a picture of extreme inequality in Nigeria, Oxfam argued that the combined wealth of the five richest Nigerians, put at about $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country. According to the report, economic inequality was a key factor behind the conflict that had led to the severe food crisis in Nigeria’s North East states, especially as the UN estimates that about five million people in North East Nigeria will suffer from severe food shortages this year.

Analysts have suggested varied reasons for the Boko Haram crisis but poverty and inequality remain the prevalent factor. In Northern Nigeria for instance, unemployment and underemployment is still at the highest levels as compared to Southern Nigeria. According to UNICEF report released in year 2015, Nigeria accounts for 10.5 million out of school children, of which the North alone is responsible for 8 million of that number.  For instance, the former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, blamed the rise of Boko Haram partly on the way revenues from the nation’s Federation account are shared. Sanusi, now an Emir in Kano, argued that the sharing is done in such a manner that disadvantaged the North.

He maintained “there is clearly a direct link between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence”.

On 2nd August 2016 there was a crack in Boko Haram that led to two factions between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

Security analysts believe that al-Barnawi is the son of Boko Haram’s original founder, Mohammed Yusuf, and was previously the spokesman of Boko Haram under Shekau. He is said to have been responsible for most of the deadly attacks currently being carried out by the sect and the abduction and killings of oil workers and some lecturers from the University of Maiduguri.

“Al-Barnawi has the capacity to carry out attacks on a larger scale” according to an Abuja based security expert who doesn’t want his name mentioned in this report.

The resurgence of the terrorist activities forced 70 lecturers teaching at the University of Maiduguri to resign and also forced then Acting-President Yemi Osinbajo, to order military chiefs to move to Borno, in a bid to “scale up their efforts”.

Though the Nigerian Army is offering a reward of the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira  (N500,000.00) to anybody who provides information about suicide bombers. Young girls are allegedly still being used in carrying out deadly attacks in the troubled Northeast region.

This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

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Child Marriage Will Cost The World $4tn By 2030, Researchers Warn

Ending child marriage could add more than $4tn to the global economy, curb population growth and transform the lives of millions of young women worldwide, claim researchers.

A study by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women, the first to quantify the financial cost of the practice, suggests that eradicating child marriage would save governments money while enabling girls to complete their education and get better jobs.

“This research provides crucial evidence showing that child marriage doesn’t just impact the lives of the 15 million girls married every year, but also has a major negative impact on the economic development of the countries in which these girls live,” said Lakshmi Sundaram, executive director of Girls Not Brides, a coalition of organisations committed to ending child marriage.

Though the global child marriage rate is in decline, every two seconds a girl under the age of 18 becomes a bride. Niger has the world’s highest child marriage rate, with 76% of women married before reaching 18. In India, more than 26 million women became brides before 18.

Across the 25 countries with the highest number of child marriages, one in five women aged 18-22 had her first child before 18.

The researchers suggest gains in annual welfare costs from lower population growth could eventually reach more than $500bn a year.

Ending child marriage, a target of the sustainable development goals adopted by the UN in 2015, would have major benefits for governments and donors, said Suzanne Petroni, a senior director at the International Center for Research on women.

“One of the ways in which we thought we could potentially affect more significant change by governments and donors was by helping them understand the bottom line – what does child marriage cost to their economies?” said Petroni, one of the report’s authors.

“And as finance ministers and others saw the findings and realised there is actually a financial cost to our country’s development as a result of child marriage, they might take it more seriously and provide investments to end the practice.”

The report is based on three years’ research using national surveys, international statistics and interviews, and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

Looking at data from 15 countries with high child marriage rates, the report found that a girl marrying at 13 will have 26% more children over her lifetime than if she had married at 18 or later. Researchers calculated that ending child marriage would reduce national fertility rates by 11%.

The study estimated that ending child marriage would save billions of dollars each year, reaching $566bn by 2030 due to reduced population growth. Fewer deaths and reduced stunting among children under five years old would also save billions. Ending all early childbirths could save up to $708bn by 2030.

Ending child marriage would also improve women’s expected earnings, as girls are likely to leave school when they marry.

Benefits would be felt particularly strongly in poorer segments of populations, said the researchers, as young girls in poverty are more likely to marry early than girls from other socio-economic groups.

The Guardian

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