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Give Nigerians meters before tariff hike, Lawan tells DisCos

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The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has urged electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to install functional meters for their customers before planning any tariff increase.

Lawan spoke on Tuesday after he and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila met with President, Major General (retd.) Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on the proposed increase in electricity tariff.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had announced that the new price regime for electricity consumers would start today.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Osinbajo heads the Power Sector Reform Coordination Working Group.

In a statement on Monday, the National Assembly had said its leadership had agreed with the DisCos to suspend the planned increase.

Lawan, who addressed State House correspondents after meeting, said the increase was untimely as necessary parameters should be on ground before such hike.

“The joint leadership of the National Assembly sat yesterday with the DisCos and Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and we believe that it is not the right time to increase the tariffs in the electricity today.

“Nigerians have a lot of challenges to bear because of COVID-19 pandemic and the situation requires that we should do everything possible to make life easy for our citizens. Of course, government is doing a lot in this respect.

“We believe that the DisCos should continue to engage with their consumers, find better cost reflective tariff. But before then, there must some steps to ensure that the consumers are properly metered.

“Otherwise, you will still be guessing what consumers are consuming; that is to say, let the billing be very scientifically based. It has to be based on what you actually consume.

“So, we had this discussion with the Vice-President and we are sure that the announcement of an increase in electricity tariff in Nigeria is untimely.

“We believe that we need to do more work to ensure that before any increase, there must be some measures; some steps and some line of actions that must be exhausted, including the metering. This is a welcome idea to the Vice-President as well,” he said.

Lawan noted that to stabilise power supply, the Share Purchase Agreement signed between the Federal Government and the DisCos at the point of privatisation must be adhered to.

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Gbajabiamila said all the parties agreed that there was need for cost reflective tariff, which must be done at the appropriate time.

The Speaker said when there is a major policy decision, it is always good that the Executive and Legislature are on the same page, hence the need to meet the Vice-President.

He said the National Assembly leadership had earlier met with President Muhammadu Buhari on the mater.

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The President agreed with the leadership of the National Assembly to prevail on the DisCos to suspend their planned electricity tariff hike.

The leaders of the federal legislature said they met with the President to make him consider the time factor in the price hike.

Gbajabiamila said President Buhari and Prof. Osinbajo were on the same page with the National Assembly leadership on the deferment of the tariff hike, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people.

“We have all agreed to suspend this for a while, tarry awhile and get the buy-in of the people, explain to the people why this has to be done, that it is, for the betterment of electricity to get stable.

“The DisCos and GenCos are businessmen and cannot be undercutting themselves.

“I think, it’s so far so good. The President listened attentively, the Vice-President listened attentively and I think everybody is on the same page. Hopefully, we will get some reprieve between now and whenever. But it’s not going to happen today,” he said.

Also, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) has said the suspension of proposed service reflective tariff was initiated by the National Assembly due to their concerns on its timing.

Its Executive Director for Research and Advocacy, Sunday Oduntan, announced this in a statement yesterday in Abuja.

“Members of the National Assembly are representatives of the people. Based on the feedback they had been getting from their constituents, mainly around the difficult financial realities, they called for a meeting which we attended, and during the meeting, they laid out their concerns.

“DisCos have spent the last couple of weeks carrying out massive sensitisation across different platforms, preparing their customers for the new service reflective tariff as instructed by the NERC.

“DisCos have also been at the forefront of the calls for a reviewed tariff for years,” Oduntan said.

He added:

“Based on the recommendation of the National Assembly leadership, the new regime should now take effect from the first quarter of 2021.”

The Senate on Tuesday asked the Federal Government to subsidise electricity for Nigerians to reduce the effect of the proposed hike in electricity tariff.

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The Chairman of its Committee on Power, Gabriel Suswam made the call while addressing reporters in Abuja.

He said:

“Nowhere in the world is power not subsidised, especially in developing economies, because there are genuine people, who, because of their income, are unable to pay what is called cost-reflective tariff.

“Nigerians are heavily burdened because of COVID-19. The economy has contracted by 3.2 per cent. That’s a lot.”

 

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Alumni association set to redevelop Unilag Cricket Pitch for N75m

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Mr Kwesi Sagoe, a former President, Nigerian Cricket Federation, says the construction of a cricket pitch of international standards in the University of Lagos will further project the institution as one of Africa’s best.

Sagoe, also a former Chairman, African Cricket Association, made the assertion on Saturday at the Sod Turning ceremony for the redevelopment of the Cricket Pitch of the University of Lagos Sports Centre.

The project is to cost at least N75 million.

The ceremony which was put together by the University of Lagos Cricket Alumni Association was in honour of a retired lecturer in the university, Prof. Adebola Kukoyi, who turned 80, on Thursday.

The Newsmen reports that Kukoyi, a Professor of French, was an active member of the association during his days as a student and as a lecturer in the university.

He retired from the university in 2005.

Sagoe said that beyond honouring Kukoyi on his 80th birthday anniversary, the association felt there was the need to give back to the University of Lagos, which moulded them.

”The whole idea is to give back to cricket and make sure that in Unilag, it remains the sport of first choice and must not disappear from the extracurricular activities of the institution.

”That is very important, and we stand by it.

”The English Football Federation has a high-performance centre at one of the universities in the UK.

”This is the kind of relationship we want the University of Lagos to have with the Nigerian Cricket Federation, whereby this place can be a high-performance centre for Nigerian cricket as a whole,” Sagoe said.

He added that building a befitting cricket facility in honour of Kukoyi would be in appreciation to his immense contributions to the development of the sports in the institution.

”About seven weeks ago, when we put our heads together as a body of cricketers who played under his watch, for the upcoming birthday of Prof. Kukoyi who also imbibed some qualities in us, we felt the need to come up with what we are witnessing today.

”As at today, we have about 102 members, and we are still reaching out to others; the important thing about this is that all the members are happy that we got together to deliberate on how to celebrate Prof. Kukoyi.

”We thought deeply about the cricket facility here, that it will be good to renew it, and therefore we sought the consent of the university authorities to name it in his honour.

“We are very excited by the reception that we got from the vice-chancellor and his management team,” he said.

Mr Uyi Akpata, Vice President, Nigerian Cricket Federation and a member of the alumni association,   said at least N75 million would be needed to put in place a cricket pitch of international standards in the university.

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Akpata, also the Chairman, Edo Cricket Association, added that the institution’s cricket alumni association was looking at positioning the institution as one of the best on the African continent, considering its recent ranking by Forbes as the third productive university in Africa.

”For the pitch which is the main one, it has to be completed within the next two months. We need to take advantage of the rainy season to do it so that planting can be done.

”To do the pitch itself with the underground watering system, irrigation, turf wickets and others, we are looking at a range of between N50 million to N70 million, but it could be less if we would be assisted with equipment by other public-spirited individuals.

”Ultimately, it is a process, and we are targeting to do a formal opening ceremony around November.

”What we are looking at now is beyond this. It is about how we are going to support the university going forward, support female cricketers and attract foreigners here to play cricket,” he said.

In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, reiterated that part of his vision on the assumption of office was to bring in friends and alumni to assist in building the institution.

”Here, we are talking about the project, programme and person.

”In the last one or two weeks, there have been lots of activities; this is one of such activities that our vision has attracted to the university.

”This project, the cricket pitch, will be of international standards, and I can assure you that by next year, we shall begin to see foreigners come into the university to play cricket.

” We thank God for the life of Prof. Kukoyi who had been part of the cricket family since his days as a student and even when he was here as a lecturer and when he retired.

”He contributed to the development of these ‘boys’, and because of this, they want to honour him this way, not to him as an individual, but through him to the institution.

“I think I have taken some lessons from this,” Ogundipe said.

Also in his remarks, Kukoyi said he was overwhelmed and humbled by the gesture.

”I am indeed overwhelmed and surprised at this whole idea.

“I know a vice-chancellor is a remarkable person, a man of substance, just like all others who are behind this.

“When they want to do something, they put in all their energy to it.

”With all these efforts, we are going to turn this place to an academy of sports,” he said.

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China rebukes Canada over criticism of Hong Kong security law

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China fired back at Canada on Saturday for criticizing Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, the second rebuke in a week that has added to strains on their bilateral ties.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the law and Canada’s Foreign Minister called the legislation “a significant step back” for liberty.

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China’s embassy in Ottawa said in a statement on its website that Canada had “grossly interfered” in Chinese affairs, adding that the new legislation would safeguard security in Hong Kong.

“Some western countries, including Canada, have been meddling in Hong Kong affairs under the pretext of human rights, which seriously violates international law and basic norms of international relations,’’ a spokesperson said in the statement.

China imposed the legislation this week in spite of protests by Hong Kongers and criticism from Western nations, which said the legislation was setting the financial hub on an authoritarian track.

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Hong Kong officials said on Saturday they were “very disappointed” in Canada’s suspension of the extradition treaty.

Officials in the offices of Canada’s prime minister and deputy prime minister could not immediately be reached for comment.

Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been tense since 2018 when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Co, on a U.S. warrant.

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After Meng was detained, China arrested Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman on charges of espionage.

China also rebuked Canada a week ago over Ottawa’s criticism about the prosecution of the Canadians.

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Most former militants trained as divers jobless – expert

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Mr. Julius Ugwuala, Diving Inspector-elect, on Saturday said that most of the former militants trained as divers under the Federal Government Amnesty Programme had been jobless.

Ugwuala made the claim on an Instagram live program organized by Mrs. Ezinne Azunnah of the MaritimeTv.

The program had the theme, ”Code of Practice for Driving Operations in Nigeria”.

According to him, the situation is a security risk that needs to be addressed so that the ex-militants do not go back to their bad ways due to idleness.

“The Federal Government under the Amnesty initiative trained former militants, and some of them chose diving as a profession; they are back in the country and are qualified to work.

“Unfortunately, since they returned, they have not had the opportunity to work with the oil and gas sector.

“The security risk with them being jobless is that the training they had in diving will further enhance their former business if they decide to go back to it; so,” he said.

He suggested that the code of practice for diving should be implemented through the inauguration of a diving advisory board.

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He said that the absence of the code of practice had set the ex-militants back.

He urged the proper regulation of diving in Nigeria.

“Divers are not insured because we do not have the regulation that is working; this is part of the issues that the code of practice will address.

“For us to have an effective code of practice, we are looking at the most stringent one, to meet expectations or exceed international standards,” he said.

He suggested that to reduce accidents, no diving contractor should mobilize to the site without clearance from the advisory board, adding that inspectors should be deployed to check equipment to ascertain their suitability for operations.

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The advisory board will enforce the regulation, code of practice, and develop a policy for diving to thrive,” he said.

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