ECOWAS Activates Standby Force in Response to Niger Coup; Increased Petrol Price Fears Intensify as Naira Dips in Parallel Market | 5 Things That Should Matter Today

  • ECOWAS Activates Standby Force in Response to Niger Coup
  • Increased Petrol Price Fears Intensify as Naira Dips in Parallel Market
  • Kano State Tribunal Nullifies Election of NNPP Rep Over Alleged Forgery
  • Court Adjourns Hearing in Emefiele’s Applications to Aug 15
  • Arrest Warrant Issued by Reps for Former FCC Staff Amid Job Racketeering Probe

Across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, these are the five top Nigerian news stories you shouldn’t miss

ECOWAS Activates Standby Force in Response to Niger Coup

In a resolute move towards addressing the political turmoil that has gripped Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) has rallied international support for the rapid restoration of constitutional order in the West African nation. This decisive call emerged from the summit held in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday.

The urgent convening of this high-stakes summit follows the tumultuous events of July 26, when Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted and detained by the military, culminating in what ECOWAS strongly condemned as an “attempted coup d’état and the continued illegal detention of President Mohammed Bouzum, his family, and members of his government.”

Addressing the press while reading the communiqué, Omar Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission, lamented that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the crisis have been met with defiant resistance from the military leadership of Niger Republic.

In a display of unwavering determination, the ECOWAS Commission has pledged to uphold the measures and principles agreed upon during the preceding extraordinary summit held in Niger on July 30th, 2023. Additionally, the Commission has activated the Committee of the Chiefs of Defence Staff to set the wheels in motion for the immediate deployment of the ECOWAS standby force.

This decision, fraught with significance, underscores ECOWAS’s commitment to the restoration of constitutional order in Niger Republic. The bloc’s stand remains that all options are on the table, a sentiment echoed by Nigeria’s President and Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority.

“No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as the last resort,” emphasized the Nigerian leader. The resolve to employ force if necessary stems from the understanding that the stability and democratic future of Niger Republic are paramount. The Nigerian President articulated, “If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger towards peaceful and democratic stability in the country.”

Despite the arduous path that lies ahead, the leaders of ECOWAS stand united in their belief that collective determination will surmount any obstacles encountered in the pursuit of peace and prosperity for Niger Republic and other member states. The summit witnessed a display of commendable dedication to the sub-region’s welfare, as Nigeria’s President extended gratitude to fellow leaders for their unwavering commitment.

In the words of Nigeria’s President, “The road ahead will undoubtedly have challenges, but I firmly believe that with our collective resolve, we can navigate these obstacles and chart a path towards lasting peace and prosperity for Nigeriens and ECOWAS.”

Increased Petrol Price Fears Intensify as Naira Dips in Parallel Market

As the Nigerian naira experiences a downward spiral against the US dollar and global crude oil prices surge, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the minds of Nigerians, fearful of an imminent uptick in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol.

Although the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and other oil marketers have yet to formally declare an increase in petrol prices, they confirm that the scarcity of foreign exchange and the surge in crude oil prices are pivotal in shaping PMS pricing.

The price of petrol has witnessed a stark ascent, soaring from N198 per litre in May to over N500 per litre in June, subsequent to President Bola Tinubu’s removal of the PMS subsidy. This cost escalation persisted, with prices exceeding N600 per litre in July, fueling concerns that August might usher in another surge. The slide of the naira against the dollar is instrumental in this price volatility.

On Thursday, the naira plummeted below N900 against the dollar on the parallel market, while also experiencing a decline in value against the US dollar at the official Importers and Exporters forex window. Concurrently, Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, saw trading values hovering around $87 per barrel—a stark contrast to its sub-$80 per barrel valuation just weeks prior.

Inhabitants of Abuja, such as Collins Nnabude, express their trepidation, with Nnabude stating, “The depreciation of the naira against the dollar and the recent surge in crude oil prices create unease, especially when contemplating the repercussions on petrol prices in Nigeria. There’s a distinct possibility that fuel prices will climb again this month.”

Oil marketers too acknowledge the looming potential of yet another petrol price hike in the current climate.

Billy Gillis-Harry, President of the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, asserts that the trajectory of petrol prices is contingent upon the naira’s performance against the dollar. He calls upon President Tinubu to prioritize the restoration of Nigeria’s refineries to operational status, deeming it the decisive step towards regaining control over petroleum product pricing.

Gillis-Harry asserts, “We have proposed that the President declare a state of emergency for our refineries to expedite their rehabilitation. This is the definitive pathway to predictability in petroleum product pricing, as presently, every purchase of PMS from a retail outlet is pegged to the dollar.”

Chinedu Okonkwo, National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, emphasizes that the downstream oil sector’s full deregulation mandates fluctuating PMS prices. He states, “Deregulation and the absence of subsidies lead to fluid petrol pricing trends. While costs might rise or fall, attempts to exploit the situation by undercutting competitors may lead to commercial obsolescence.”

Signs of a potential government intervention loom on the horizon, as both crude oil prices and ex-depot petrol prices remain on an upward trajectory.

Mike Osatuyi, National Controller Operations of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, reveals President Tinubu’s assurance of intervention if circumstances demand it.

Osatuyi underscores, “Our gratitude extends to President Tinubu for the removal of fuel subsidies, a measure that has potentially averted substantial economic burdens. Amid the ascent in crude oil prices, we can observe a decline in petrol consumption. Yet, this is juxtaposed with the rising crude oil prices, indicating an inflow of revenue to Nigeria alongside subsidy removal savings. Consequently, as more funds flow into the nation, petrol prices adjust.”

He concludes, “The ex-depot price currently hovers between N585 and N590 per litre, contingent upon depot location, and is poised to oscillate in tandem with crude prices and exchange rates. President Tinubu has affirmed the readiness for potential interventions. The administration’s vigilance in this evolving scenario is evident.”

Kano State Tribunal Nullifies Election of NNPP Rep Over Alleged Forgery

The National and State House of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal in Kano State has delivered a momentous decision, striking down the election triumph of Muktar Umar Yerima from the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) as the House of Representatives member for Tarauni Federal Constituency.

The tribunal’s distinguished three-member panel, led by Justice I.P. Chima, has ruled the victory of Yerima to be null and void, citing alleged forgery of his primary school certificate – a document submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice I.P. Chima, presiding over the pronouncement of the tribunal’s judgment, declared, “Following a comprehensive scrutiny of the evidence presented before us, we have ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that Muktar Umar Yerima submitted a falsified primary school certificate to INEC. This transgression renders him ineligible for the office to which he was elected.”

The petitioner in this consequential case, Hafizu Kawu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), contested Yerima’s eligibility and substantiated the allegations of forgery with compelling evidence.

Ultimately, the tribunal ruled in favor of Kawu, underscoring a persuasive case against Yerima’s credibility. As a result, the tribunal concluded that the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) lacked a bona fide candidate in the election, rendering all votes cast for Yerima as “wasted votes.”

In an equally significant directive, the tribunal instructed INEC to rescind the certificate of return previously bestowed upon Yerima, effectively stripping him of the elected position he had held.

In his defense, Yerima asserted that he had undergone a legal name change in 2022.

Nevertheless, the tribunal rejected this contention, underscoring that Yerima’s inconsistent utilization of multiple names – Umar Mukhtar Zakari – on his passport since 2009 undermined his credibility substantially.

Further fortifying the tribunal’s verdict, the primary school at the heart of the controversy, Hausawa Primary School, disowned the certificate proffered by Yerima, lending potent weight to the tribunal’s deliberation.

Court Adjourns Hearing in Emefiele’s Applications to Aug 15

The Federal High Court in Lagos has deferred hearings to August 15th regarding applications brought by the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Federal Government. The suspended governor’s applications seek to cease further prosecution and enforce compliance with court orders, while the government pursues an appeal against a bail order.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo, presiding over the case, deemed the application pertaining to the court’s jurisdiction of utmost importance. The ruling affirmed that this application would be considered alongside the government’s request for leave to appeal against the granted bail order for the suspended CBN governor.

Representing Godwin Emefiele, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Victor Opara, underscored the application’s significance due to the persistent defiance of the Department of State Services (DSS) towards a court order related to bail. Opara, addressing the court, requested a brief adjournment to facilitate his response to the prosecution’s reply concerning the application to halt the trial.

However, the Federal Government’s counsel, Kehinde Fagbemi, presented an opposing view. Fagbemi contended that the government’s application for leave to appeal and a stay of proceedings had been filed first, thus holding precedence. She emphasized, “On the principle of first in time, our motion comes first and it is ripe for hearing.”

Justice Oweibo, after deliberation, affirmed, “The business of the court today is the hearing of the motion of the prosecution. Filing is concluded and it is ripe for hearing. The court’s attention has, however, been drawn to the defendant’s motion.”

Recognizing the pertinence of the jurisdictional motion, the judge declared, “Considering the priority of the motion which is in a way challenging the prosecution and the jurisdiction of the court, I shall allow the defence to respond so that both applications will be taken together.”

This decision reflects the court’s commitment to balanced proceedings, addressing both parties’ concerns while ensuring a fair and transparent legal process.

Godwin Emefiele, the suspended CBN Governor, had earlier submitted an application on August 8th, urging the court to prevent further prosecution based on allegations of illegal firearm possession. The application also sought orders discharging him from offenses prosecuted by the Government, citing non-compliance with bail orders and seeking to limit the Government’s court privileges to its adherence to bail rulings.

Simultaneously, the Federal Government had filed its application on August 3rd, seeking leave to appeal against the bail order and requesting a change in custody from the Nigeria Correctional Services to the Department of State Services.

Arrest Warrant Issued by Reps for Former FCC Staff Amid Job Racketeering Probe

In a significant development, the House of Representatives has taken a decisive step by issuing an arrest warrant against Yusuf Kolo, a former staff member of the Federal Character Commission (FCC). The action was triggered by Kolo’s continued absence from the proceedings of an ad hoc committee investigating instances of job racketeering within ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).

Chairing the committee, Yusuf Gagdi, asserted the issuance of the arrest warrant on Thursday, signaling the gravity of Kolo’s non-compliance. Kolo’s failure to appear before the panel for a second time raised concerns, prompting Gagdi’s firm declaration.

Gagdi emphasized, “For Haruna Kolo, the position of this committee is that he would lose his freedom. We will issue a warrant of arrest in respect of Haruna Kolo and compel security agencies to present him before this committee at any given period if he is so arrested. So, this committee would communicate officially to the various security agencies.”

Earlier reports revealed Kolo’s alleged involvement in a job racketeering scheme, where job seekers purportedly deposited significant sums of money into his personal accounts for onward transfer to Muheeba Dankaka, the chairperson of the FCC. Kolo, who presently serves with the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), claimed that Dankaka appointed him as her chief protocol officer while he was still affiliated with the FCC.

Kolo’s assertions further underscored his stance that he was not directly engaged in the sale of job offers. He maintained that his actions were based on instructions from Dankaka.

Chairman Gagdi had previously voiced perplexity over Kolo’s repeated absence and expressed the committee’s intent to summon him. “It is better he listens to us unless he is acting a script and selling lies to us,” Gagdi had asserted. “He should come so we can interact with him. We owe everybody the duty of care.”

Gagdi had also issued a directive to AMCON to produce Kolo before the committee. The urgency of the matter was highlighted by the chairman’s insistence on Kolo’s appearance and the committee’s resolve to exercise its constitutional powers if necessary.

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