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Buhari: Nigeria has no business with D-8

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Presidency frowns at ‘revolution’ marchers, describes the organizers as faceless

…Nigeria’s oil sales suffer, US exports rise***

President Muhammadu Buhari’s attendance, late last month, at the ninth summit of the D-8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation, entrenched the Nigerian government’s disconcerting penchant for mixing governance with religion at all levels. Though couching its goals in economic aspirations, the D-8 remains an exclusive club of Islamic countries.

Since Nigeria’s constitution expressly forbids the promotion of any faith, it is time Nigeria reconsidered its membership of this and other overtly religious bodies.

The meeting was held in Istanbul, Turkey, with ministerial conferences scheduled for Nigeria this week. The summit’s theme, Expanding Opportunities through Cooperation, focused on mutual cooperation in agriculture, trade, transport, energy, and promotion of private sector activities in member countries.

Buhari reminded member heads of government at the event of the need to establish “integrated manufacturing structures” and attracting investment.

Even the official nomenclature of the group alluringly speaks of economic cooperation. For a country like Nigeria that seeks economic links, partners and investments wherever it can obtain favourable terms, it is tempting to view the D-8 as a laudable part of the country’s economic diplomacy.

But it is not. Past and contemporary realities tell a more nuanced story and dictate that we disengage from such organisations. Nigeria is not an Islamic state, nor is it tied to any other faith. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution declares: “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.”

The identity of the D-8 is not in doubt. It was the Sani Abacha military junta that dragged Nigeria into D-8, an organisation that expressly declared itself as “cooperation among major Muslim developing countries.”

The first step towards the establishment of D-8 was the “Conference on Cooperation for Development” organised in Istanbul on October, 22 1996 with the participation of Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria upon the invitation of Turkey. All these countries, except Nigeria, are Islamic republics.

It was officially established by the Summit of Heads of State/Government in Istanbul on 15 June 1997. It lists among its objectives “to improve developing countries’ positions in the world economy, diversify and create new opportunities in trade relations, enhance participation in decision-making at the international level, and provide better standard of living.

” It seeks to allay any apprehension by declaring: “D-8 is an economic-grouping with no adverse impact on bilateral and multilateral commitments of the member countries, emanating from their membership to other international or regional organisations.”

Certainly, whatever may be its declared objectives, the fact that it runs contrary to the Constitution renders Nigeria’s membership indefensible. According to the Pew Research Centre, a United States think tank, Bangladesh’s population of 163 million is 90 per cent Muslim, the same percentage as Egypt’s 95.69 million people; Indonesia’s 261.1 million people boast a Muslim majority of 87 per cent; Iran’s 80.28 million 98 per cent; Malaysia’s 31.19 million 61 per cent; Pakistan’s 193.2 million 97 per cent; and Turkey’s 79.51 million 99 per cent.

They are decidedly Muslim countries. Nigeria is the odd one in this group. Citing United Nations estimates (2011), the Global Christianity Index puts Nigeria’s population at 50.8 per cent Christian and 48 per cent Muslim.

The impunity started with the surreptitious ascension to full membership of the OIC in 1986 that provoked acrimony across the land. Nigeria has no business in a 57-member organisation that bills itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world” with a mission to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world…” Continued membership of these two bodies is a gross violation of the rights of the over 90 million Nigerians who are not Muslims.

In the meantime, more than two dozen Nigerian crude oil cargoes were left unsold on Monday amid a supply glut of light sweet crude in the market.

Reuters reported that tenders to buy oil from companies in India and Indonesia helped to absorb some excess, but there were roughly 30 unsold Nigerian cargoes and a handful from Angola.

While Qua Iboe, Nigeria’s largest export grade, was offered at dated Brent plus $1.30, buyers said traded levels were likely to be lower because of an overall excess of light sweet oil.

There were also at least five cargoes of Forcados left, though several were partial cargoes.

Bonny Light, which had struggled with loading delays owing to pipeline issues, was offered at a premium of closer to $1 a barrel above dated Brent.

There were several cargoes of Agbami and Bonga left.

Meanwhile, US crude oil is flooding into Asia and may continue to do so as the arbitrage window that was initially created by Hurricane Harvey remains open, even though the disruption from the costliest storm to hit the Gulf of Mexico has faded, a columnist for Reuters, Clyde Russell, wrote on Monday.

A record amount of US crude is scheduled to arrive in Asia in November, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts.

The data show 19.7 million barrels of US oil is due to arrive across Asia in November, equivalent to about 657,000 barrels per day.

This is more than a 50 per cent jump on the 427,000 bpd that was offloaded in Asia in October, and also above the previous record-high month for US crude shipments to Asia of 541,000 bpd from June.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistics arm of the US Energy Department, said the crude oil exports in the first half of 2017 increased by more than 300,000 bpd from the first half of 2016, reaching a record high of 900,000 bpd.

It said following the removal of restrictions on exporting US crude oil in December 2015, total volumes of crude oil exports and the number of destinations for those exports both increased. The US exported crude oil to 27 countries in the first half of 2017 compared with 19 countries in the first half of 2016.

Canada remained the largest recipient of US crude oil exports at 307,000 bpd, but imported an average of 63,000 bpd less compared with the first half of 2016. China increased its crude imports from the US by 178,000 bpd and became the second largest importer of US crude oil, averaging 186,000 bpd in the first half of the year.

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Troops Destroy 51 Illegal Refining Sites, Recover Stolen Crude Oil – DHQ

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….Destroy 7 dugout pits, 25 boats, 47 storage tanks, five vehicles, one outboard engine, others

The Defence Headquarters says  troops of Operation Delta Safe have  destroyed 51 illegal oil refining sites and recovered stolen crude oil and refined products in the Niger Delta in the last one week.

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, disclosed  in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

Buba said the troops also apprehended 58 perpetrators of oil theft and denied them of  estimated sum of N668.7 million

He said the troops destroyed seven dugout pits, 25 boats, 47 storage tanks, five vehicles, 141 cooking ovens, one pumping machine, one outboard engine, one tricycle, one speedboat and one tugboat.

According to him, troops recovered 267,700 litres of stolen crude oil, 567,700 litres of illegally refined AGO and 5,000 litres of DPK.

“Troops has maintained momentum against oil theft and arrested persons involved in oil theft in Bonny and Ikpoba Local Government Areas of Rivers and Edo States respectively.

“Troops also arrested suspected armed robbers and foiled illegal bunkering activities in Oshimili South and Ukwa West of Delta and Abia States respectively,” he said.

In the South East, Buba said  troops of Operation UDO KA arrested 15 suspected criminals and repelled attacks by IPOB/ESN criminals in Anambra, Abia and Imo States.

He said the troops conducted raids and rescued kidnapped hostages in Ishielu and Igbo Eze North Local Government Areas of Ebonyi and Enugu States respectively.

He said the troops neutralised three criminals, rescued five kidnapped hostages and recovered 14 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammo.

In the South West, Buba said  troops of Operation AWATSE foiled armed robbery attacks in Orelope and Olorunsogo Local Government Areas of Oyo State and arrested a gunrunner in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun.

According to him, troops rescued 15 kidnapped hostages and recovered two vehicles.

“All recovered items, arrested suspects and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authority for further action,” he added.

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NEPZA Boss Says Nation’s Free Trade Zones Not Really `Free’

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The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) says the country’s Free Trade Zones are business anchorages that have for decades been used to generate revenues for the Federal Government.

Dr Olufemi Ogunyemi, the Managing Director of NEPZA, said this in a statement by the authority’s
Head of Corporate Communications, Martins Odeh, on Monday in Abuja, stressing that the the widely held notion that the scheme is a `free meal ticket’ for investors and not a means for the government to generate revenue is incorrect.

Ogunyemi said this public statement was essential to clarify the misunderstanding by various individuals and entities, in and out of government, on the nature of the scheme.

He reiterated the authority’s commitment to enhancing public knowledge of the principal reason for the country’s adoption of the scheme by the NEPZA Act 63 of 1992.

“The Free Trade Zones are not hot spots for revenue generation. Instead, they exist to support socioeconomic development.

“These include but are not limited to industrialisation, infrastructure development, employment generation, skills acquisition, foreign exchange earnings, and Foreign Direct Investments(FDI) inflows,” Ogunyemi said.

The managing director said the NEPZA Act provided exemption from all federal, state, and local government taxes, rates, levies, and charges for FZE, of which duty and VAT were part.

“However, goods and services exported into Nigeria attract duty, which includes VAT and other charges.

“In addition, NEPZA collects over 20 types of revenues, ranging from 500,000 dollars-Declaration fees, 60,000 dollars for Operation License (OPL) Renewal Fees between three and five years.

“There is also the 100-300 dollar Examination and Documentation fees per transaction, which occurs daily.

“There are other periodic revenues derived from vehicle registration and visas, among others.

“The operations within the free trade zones are not free in the context of the word,” he said.

Ogunyemi said the global business space had contracted significantly, adding that to win a sizable space would require the ingenuity of the government to either expand or maintain the promised incentives.

“These incentives will encourage more multinational corporations and local investors to leverage on the scheme, which has a cumulative investment valued at 30 billion dollars.

“The scheme has caused an influx of FDIs; it has also brought advanced technologies, managerial expertise, and access to global markets.

“For instance, the 52 FTZs with 612 enterprises have and will continue to facilitate the creation of numerous direct and indirect jobs, currently estimated to be within the region of 170,000,” he said.

Ogunyemi said an adjustment in title and introduction of current global business practices would significantly advance the scheme, increasing forward and backward linkages.

“This is with a more significant market offered by the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA).

“We have commenced negotiations across the board to ensure that the NEPZA Act is amended to give room for adjusting the scheme’s title from `Free Trade Zones to Special Economic Zones respectively.

“This will open up the system for the benefit of all citizens,” he said.

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2023 CLPA: Policy Cohesion Imperative For Implementation Of AfCFTA Agreements, Others

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Some policy experts and stakeholders have called for policy cohesion across Africa for the successful implementation of multilateral policy decisions.

They spoke on Wednesday during one of the plenaries at the 2023 Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA), held in Addis Ababa.

The CLPA, the fifth in the series, is organised by the tripartite consortium consisting of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The 2023 edition has the theme, ‘Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation’.

Dr Medhat El-Helepi (ECA), chaired the plenary with the sub-theme: ‘Land Governance, Regional Integration, and Intra-Africa Trade: Opportunities and Challenges’.

Panelists at the plenary included Dr Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade, ECA; Mr Tsotetsi Makong, Head of Capacity Building and Technical Assistance, AfCFTA Secretariat.

Others were Mr Kebur Ghenna, CEO, of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) and Ms Eileen Wakesho, Director of Community Land Protection at Namati, Kenya.

The event also attracted various stakeholders, including traditional leaders, Civil Society Organisations, and policy decision-makers.

Makong expressed worries over the reluctance of some participants to openly discuss some matters, pleading ‘no go areas of domestic affairs’.

He, however, noted that the issues of land were within the limit of domestic regulations, adding that tenure land security was the solution that would allow intra-African investment that is still low in Africa.

Makong pointed out that the success of the investment protocol under the AfCFTA would depend on countries’ domestic laws that should be in line with the AfCFTA.

“There are guidelines on land reforms that need to be turned into regulations within the domestic systems.

“Policy coherence has to be at the heart of what we do. This can be achieved by engaging everyone including women and youth at the grassroots level.

“Also, you cannot be talking of AfCFTA as of it is just about Ministers of Trade, Economy or Investment. The idea is a totality of the entire governance structure. This is very important,” he said.

Speakers also noted that inclusive land governance was one of the key pillars to enhance Africa’s drive to improve intra-African trade, food security, and sustainable food systems.

They said an inclusive governance system would allow stakeholders to create transparency, subsidiarity, inclusiveness, prior informed participation, and social acceptance by affected communities in land-based initiatives beyond their borders.

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