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Tensions flare as food rations to Refugees slashed by half in Uganda

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  • As DG says GMOs are improvements on conventional crops – D-G

The flood of people fleeing South Sudan, coupled with delays and constraints on funding, has lead to food rations to refugees being slashed by half.

According to agencies working on the ground in Uganda, where most of the refugees have been arriving from the conflict across the border, food supply lines are being shut down and distribution of aid becoming increasing irregular.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it was forced to cut the amount of grain it was handing out due to delayed payments.

“When the funding comes late it takes a bit longer to secure the cereals. It means that you have to go to the markets to procure, transport, store and distribute,” said El Khidir Daloum, WFP director for Uganda.

In the last fortnight, South Sudanese refugees at Nyumanzi settlement in Adjumani, which hosts about 20,000 people, protested in front of officials from the prime minister’s office.

Titus Jogo, refugee desk officer in Adjumani, said that they had to calm people down and explain that WFP did not have enough stock this month.

Andie Lambe, executive director at International Refugee Rights Initiative, said: “Our understanding is that the ration cuts this month were as a result of a break in the food pipeline within WFP and that these cuts are both temporary and that the gap was substituted with a cash equivalent of the missing ration.

In addition, WFP assured us that this would not be applied to recent arrivals and vulnerable households.

“The refugees are dependent on handouts due to the lack of alternatives for them to support themselves. When rumours of rations being permanently cut or stopped altogether are combined with actual cuts and without clear explanation being given for this, tensions will increase and it is not unreasonable for refugees to voice their disquiet.”

The sheer scale of the disaster, in which more than 86% of refugees are women and children, means that strains have been put on already scarce resources.

“Uganda is dealing with a refugee crisis of historic proportions and the country and its humanitarian partners have not been able to meet the needs of one million South Sudanese who have sought protection from violence in a relatively short amount of time,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh of Refugees International.

“Uganda has an exemplary refugee policy and has done what it can to provide safe harbour and land to refugees, but the needs of refugees outstrip the capacity of humanitarian responders, given that the funding simply isn’t there,” she said.

In May this year, WFP was forced to cut food rations to refugees in the east African nation by 50% due to severe funding shortages. The agency need an estimated $167m (£126m) to provide aid through to the end of the year, but donors contributed only $30m as of September.

WFP needs $62m to help scale up, sustain and expand life-saving assistance and protection for the next six months of more than 1.3 million refugees.

“Every month we need $20m to feed the refugees in Uganda. For the next six months we have a shortage of $62m to $85m for refugees,” said Daloum. “We know what it takes to secure those resources, but at the same time, this is a life-saving issue.”

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres, hosted a summit in June in Kampala to call for action for South Sudanese refugees, with $674m needed to support them in 2017. However by August, only 21% of that sum had been raised.

In the meantime, the National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA) says Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are the same conventional crops but improved versions for the purpose of sustainability and improved yields.

Dr Rufus Egbegba, the Director-General of the agency made the clarification in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.

According to him, GMOs are not new crops invented by scientists but the same conventional crops that are improved on to tackle persistent issues such as shortage of food and insect infestation on crops.

“Genetically modified organisms are not different from their conventional counterparts.

“The difference is that, for instance like sugarcane, if you can discover what makes sugarcane to be sweet, you can sequence it.

“Pick that particular gene, the material of inheritance of the sugarcane and it you put it into plantain, the plantain will have the sweetness of sugarcane.

“You can even put it into orange and it will have the same sweetness.

“In genetically modified corn, there is this bacterium, it is always in the soil and it has been confirmed not to have any harm when you consume it.

“So, they discovered that it has a particular gene that can kill a particular insect that attacks corn; so, they put that gene in the corn and when the insect tries to bite the corn, it dies.

“So, the corn will now be protected, that is how it is. It is not necessarily a new crop.

“They are not new crops; it is the normal crops you have, just because they added something to it,’’ he said.

Egbegba said that cowpea and sorghum were presently being tried at the Institute of Agricultural Research in Zaria.

According to him, the cowpea is modified for insect resistance, and sorghum is modified for the availability of nutrients.

“Guinea corn naturally has iron zinc and protein, but there is a particular enzyme that makes those nutrients unavailable to humans and animals when they consume it naturally.

“But science can break down that barrier so, that is the modification that is being carried out and it is on trial in the field to make sure it is sustained because it takes a long process.’’

Egbegba said that there was also another product under trial called the `newest rice’ by the National Cereal Research Institute, Badegi.

He said that the rice had been modified to use less nitrogen fertiliser, less water, and could flourish even if the soil was a little salty.

Egbegba said that the modification was good because rice naturally would not survive in a salty environment.

According to him, nitrogen fertiliser creates one of the green house gases for ozone layer reduction, which contributes to climate change.

The director-general, therefore, urged citizens to view genetically modified organisms from a knowledge angle and ignore statements that paint it as harmful.

Additional report from Guardian

Economy

Sanitary Pads: Reps Query Minister Over N65m Spent On New Year Party, Others

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 The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye has drawn the ire of the House of Representatives following the unguarded manner she allegedly spent monies which included expenditures of N45 million for a New Year party and, N20 million for sanitary pads.

The House of Representatives which has now queried the minister, also frowned on her other unrelated expenditure which includes N1.5 million for vehicle fuel.

Rep. Kafilat Ogbara, Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, led the interrogation of the Minister, over the non-payment of N1.5 billion to contractors despite the fund release in Abuja.

She said that the investigative hearing was aimed at uncovering the truth and not witch-hunting the Minister and the officials of the ministry.

The committee also investigated the alleged diversion of funds meant for contractor payments, following a petition from contractors.

The committee also sought clarification on funds appropriated for the African First Lady’s mission and the whereabouts of the N1.5 billion meant for contractor payments.

The minister however denied the allegations of misappropriation, overspending, and non-payment to contractors.

The procurement officer confirmed contractors’ claims, and the Director of Finance and Administration acknowledged only paying approved contracts.

It would be recalled that the committee had at its last sitting summoned the minister to appear before it to explain the rationale behind the non-payment.

The committee also ordered the stoppage of all 2024 contract processes by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs until the whereabouts of the money for the said contracts are determined

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Economy

LASU: Town, Meets Gown Next Tuesday, To Make Rails Transportation More Meaningful

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LASU: Town, Meets Gown Next Tuesday, To Make Rails Transportation More Meaning

…NRC Boss, Engr. Okhiria is Pointman

The Town and the Gown will on Tuesday converge at the Lagos State University (LASU), in a mutual fusion of quality and sustainable ideas, as the Managing Director, Nigeria Railways Corporation speaks on where the eggheads necessarily need to intervene, for the overall benefit of the nation.

NRC Boosts Passenger- Safety With  Strong Armed Forces Collaboration 
Engr. Fidet-Okhiria

Prof. Bamidele Badejo who is now back in LASU, confirmed this to the Maritime First, highlighting that Engr. Freeborn Okhiria would meticulously dissect a critical issue, titled: ‘From Exclusive Clause To Concurrent List: Potency for sustainable rail infrastructure development in Nigeria and the Lagos State example.

Oluwaseun Osiyemi, the Lagos State Commissioner of Transport, will be in attendance; at an event which will flag off by noon prompt, Tuesday 16th, July 2024, at the Femi Gbajabiamila Conference Centre.

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Reps Probe Cbn’s N1.12trn Anchor Borrowers Scheme, NIRSAL’s N215b Loan

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Reps Probe Cbn’s N1.12trn Anchor Borrowers Scheme, NIRSAL’s N215b Loan

The House of Representatives has ordered probes into the N1.12 trillion anchor borrowers scheme, an initiative of the Federal Government’s interventions and agricultural funding through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Also included in the probe are the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Bank of Industry (BoI) and other agencies.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion by Rep. Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) on the floor of the House in Abuja on Tuesday.

Presenting his motion, Okafor linked the growing food scarcity and malnutrition in Nigeria to the alleged mismanagement of agricultural funds intended for agricultural development in the country.

He said the Federal Government had expended N8 trillion in 8 years on various schemes and interventions in the last eight years with the view of making food available for millions of Nigerians.

He added that the alleged mismanagement, misapplication of funds and abuse of the programmes had left Nigeria with the twin challenges of food scarcity and malnutrition.

Okafor said that funds advanced to end users of the various Federal Government interventions had also been allegedly misused, misapplied and channelled to non-farming and non-agricultural purposes.

This, he said, was responsible for the current acute scarcity of food in the country.

Adopting the motion, the House mandated the Committee on Nutrition and Food Security as well as the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services; Agricultural Colleges and Institutions and Finance, to probe

The Committees were mandated to thoroughly investigate CBN’s alleged mismanagement of the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) for which ₦1.12 trillion was to be disbursed to 4.67 million farmers.

The farmers were said to be involved in either maize, rice or wheat farming through 563 anchors.

The committees are to look into NIRSAL’s disbursement of ₦215,066,980,274.52, to facilitate agriculture and agribusinesses.

The House gave the committees four weeks to report back to the House.

The house also mandated the committees to equally assess how the Bank of Industry (BOI) disbursed N3 billion to 22,120 smallholder farmers through the Agriculture Value Chain Financing (AVCF) Programme.

The committee is also to investigate the handling of the N5 billion loan facility to the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) for livestock farmers across the country.

This will include the management of the National Agricultural Development N1.6 billion Recovery Fund for the Ginger Blight Epidemics Central Taskforce (GBECT).

This is for the control of Blight disease in Ginger, among other interventions. 

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