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Lawan advocates deployment of drones, high tech equipments to tackle smuggling of fuel

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***As he pallies with paramilitary chiefs over border security

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday advocated for the use of drones and other technology for surveillance against smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigerian borders to neighboring countries.
This was just as he decried the daily consumption figures of 100m litres per day most part of which end up in the neighboring countries because of the activities of smugglers.
He said it is more worrisome as the smuggled products adds to the burden of the subsidy payments that the federal government has been bearing

“The figures of what we consume in the country continue to fluctuate. At one point it was almost 100 million litres per day and surely this is difficult to believe that we consume almost 100 million litres per day within our borders. Certainly, a good percentage of it goes out.

“I believe there is a need for deployment of drones and other technologies that are available these days and probably the office of the National Security Adviser should be able to be in charge of that and make the information and data available to all the agencies that need them.
“I believe at one point, we will need the participation of the NCC being the major Institution in our country in charge of the enhancement of technology, the ICT particularly.
met with heads of security and paramilitary agencies and tasked them to do more to checkmate smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria.

Lawan made the observations when he pallied with some of the security chiefs concerned with border surveillance.
In attendance at the meeting were the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali(rtd), Commandant General, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Abubakar Audi, representative of the Director General of the State Security Service, San Gesto and representative of the Comptroller General of Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Ishaka Abdulmumini

Lawan said in his opening remarks that the meeting was a follow up to the Monday meeting with Finance and Petroleum Ministers which was to find a way forward on the administration and Management of fuel subsidy in Nigeria

The Senate President told his guests: “We are all aware that some of the products particularly the PMS is smuggled out and yet we paid subsidy on what is smuggled out.

“So this meeting is to look into the ways and means of controlling the smuggling of the petroleum products with a view to minimising the cost of fuel subsidy to our country.

“I know individually, these organisations have been carrying out their responsibilities on this but I think that we are coming into a special moment. Our situation is such that we cannot afford anymore to allow this smuggling business to continue because the cost is very huge and debilitating to our people.

“At a point I will hold a meeting with the National Security Adviser who is supposed to coordinate the entire security apparatus for protecting our borders.

“I will also hold some engagement with the military especially the Navy because a lot of our products are shipped out to other countries through the water ways.

“At the end of the day what we hope to achieve is to minimise or where possible eliminate the incidents of smuggling of petroleum products that we import into the country for our people.

“This will be the first engagement but certainly this is not the last. We need to look at the strategy, maybe how we undertake our activities at the borders, the different agencies, the inter-agency cooperation that is so essential between the agencies. The application of technology in surveillance and who should host that technology.

“I want to assure you this is going to be a special partnership between the National Assembly and the executive arm of government because today’s situation demands that we do things differently.

“Our Committees in the Senate that supervise the Customs, the security agencies, will be up to date with their oversight. We need to see in the next six months, what different strategies will bring to us.

“We want to see also our citizens participating in the surveillance. We have to mobilise our citizens especially those at the borders. That when they see trucks conveying petroleum products to our neibouring countries, they should not only say something, they should say it to those who need to know. And that is to our security agencies.

“So we need to mobilise our citizens as well because this is something that affect all of us. Not about government. And anyway, government is about the people. 

“What we are trying to do is to reduce the level of snuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria and that will translate into reducing the bill that we pay as petroleum subsidy.”

Responding, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali said his agency had been doing a lot in trying to ensure that the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria was minimised to the bearest level.

He however complained of porous borders and absence of governance at the border communities which made their job difficult.

“Let me say here generally speaking, that we have a porous border. You also know we do not have all those equipments you have made mention of in ensuring the surveillance of our borders.

“And one more critical thing is that, within our border communities, there is no presence of governance. Our border communities completely lack presence of governance.

“Therefore, those of us who are shouldered with the responsibility of ensuring that we gate keep, we find it difficult because the ordinary man in Some border does not see reason why he should be compliant, does not see reason why he should work with the security in Nigeria to protect the border.

“This is simply because there is no presence of governance. In some areas, this border community cross to other country to get basic amenities,” Ali said.

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Legislature

Kogi Assembly, CSO partner on HIV/AIDS anti-stigma legislation

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By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja

Kogi State House of Assembly has assured that the bill for a Law to provide for the prevention of HIV and AIDS Based Discrimination and stigmatization will be accorded smooth and accelerated passage for full implementation in the state.

Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rt Hon. Comfort Nwuchiola Egwaba, disclosed this at a One-day Capacity Building And Media Round Table on the Proposed Anti-stigma Bill For HIV With Kogi State Assembly members.

She said that the partnership between the House and Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), a Civil Society Organization (CSO,) had yielded fruits with the resounding support of members for the bill.

The meeting aimed at building capacity of Kogi State Assembly members and Media personalities on the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination among others, was organized by INGRA with support from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Lokoja.

The Deputy Speaker said that the private member Bill before the House had had its first and second readings and was being primed for Public Hearing and Third Reading by the House Committees on Health and Judiciary.

Nwuchiola-Egwaba said, “We have done more than justice to the Bill. This bill will scale through and will see the light of day. We are not living any stone unturned. We are doing this for our people.”

Also speaking, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Bin Ebaiya Shehu-Tijjani (APC-Lokoja I) thanked his colleagues for the fervour with which they rallied support round him for the Bill to scale through the legislative mills and urged them to sustain the tempo until it is finally assented to by the governor.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Ochidi Usman (APC-Idah) decried the spate of discrimination and stigmatization against people living with the virus saying that they did not bargain for it.

He described them as victims of circumstances as he thanked the sponsor of the Bill and pledged to stand by him to provide support for the Bill to have accelerated passage.

Speaking earlier, Mr Hamza Aliyu Executive Director of INGRA who described the bill as a “Policy Bill” said it was not just for HIV/AIDS alone but against every form of discrimination and stigmatization against affected persons in the state.

He hinted that available statistics showed that over 28,000 persons are living with the virus in the state adding that they could be more as many are not aware of their status and are quite unwilling to get tested for fear of discrimination and stigmatization.

Aliyu said the Bill had been passed in 16 states of the Federation and would only be fair for the Act to be domesticated in Kogi through the legislation to ensure that affected persons are not unnecessarily discriminated against.

Executive Secretary, Kogi State Agency for Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Dr Sheidu Yunusa, who explained some of the provisions of the law, the offences and punishment said stigmatization and discrimination had the potency to destroy all the efforts being made to end the HIV scourge.

Dr Yunusa gave examples of stigmatization and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PL-HIV) to include health care professionals refusing to provide care or services to an affected person, Refusing casual contact with someone living with HIV.

It also include among others, socially isolating a member of a community on account of HIV positive status, referring to people as HiVers or Positives, Unlawful disclosure of an affected person’s status.

Amb. Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairman, Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET) said, “we should not see this law as draconian but an attempt to squelch discrimination against out affected brothers and sisters.”

Comrade Jimoh Audu, Kogi State Coordinator of Persons Living With HIV AIDS (PLWHA) commended INGRA and the House of Assembly for their determination to get the Bill passed.

“We appreciate the meeting of our leaders, we believe in you. All we are asking it to reduce to the barest minimum the issue of discrimination against us. The medical practitioners should be more professional in their conduct”, he said.

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Legislature

Senate moves to probe 11, 856 abandoned projects across Nigeria

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***sets up ad-hoc panel

The Senate has pun in place an ad-panel to investigate the number of viable projects abandoned across Nigeria in all sectors.

The committee is also to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to reduce project abandonment in Nigeria and how most of the projects can be recovered.

The member Ad-hoc committee comprised Senators Lola Shiru (chairman), Jimoh Ibrahim, Mpigi Barinada, Abdullahi Yahaya, Victor Umeh and Isah Jibrin, members.

This came following the adoption of a motion on “Urgent need to look into the 11, 856 mega projects abandoned by the Federal Government” sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South).

The Senate noted that in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Presidential committee on federal government- abandoned projects in Nigeria and the committee visited the 36 states in Nigeria and identified 11,866 projects abandoned by the Federal Government since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
According to Senator Ibrahim, reports have it that about 63% of the entire projects since independence were abandoned, adding that the 63% of projects abandoned in Nigeria is worse than any country under comparison”.

“The abandonment of the project is of significant concern because of project costs which constitute a significant part of the GDP. While spending on a public project in the UK is now about one trillion British pounds Nigeria has no idea of the total amount spent on public projects either successful or unsuccessful since independence,

He observed, for instance that in the investigation carried out at the University of Cambridge doctorate in management science between 2018 and 2022, the value of the 38 projects investigated cost Nigeria over $40 billion”.

“What is now key to this investigation is the need to look inward at our infrastructural development as Foreign Direct investment declined from$8.8b in 2011 to $3.3 billion in 2019, and the current account balances in that year from $10.6 billion to 5-17 billion, while the population was growing around 5% about 86% of the citizen, were living under $2 between 2011 and 2019. Public debt increased from 17% of the GDP in 2011 to 29% in 2019.

According to him, government has the responsibility to set up a professional system that will deliver the critical value from major infrastructure development for its citizens, adding that for 66% of projects to be abandoned since 1960 is “nothing less than a calamity that reduces our pride as a ‘Giant of Africa’ if we are still one”.

He said three abandoned projects out of the 11,886 projects such as Ajaokuta Steel Company, where billion of dollars was spent without any production, Second Niger Bridge, etc are over 30% of the national debt.

In his contribution, Senator Orji Kalu (Abia North) said Nigeria cannot industrialize without steel production.

The former Abia governor said “we should face steel production. If we don’t face it, we are wasting our time. If you check our debt repayment, it is coming on this project.

“Why would Nigeria be suffering on what ought to have been done? We supposed to convert that our money and build these industries for debt repayment on them and save the interest we pay?

“We should appeal to President Bola Tinubu, may be 2026, 2027 budget we dedicate all these industries. They are our own. If we do not do it we will not move forward”, he said.

Senator Isah Jibrin said the abandoned projects should be properly profiled and the viable ones be sold to bring return on investment.

In his remarks, the Senate President Godswill Akpabio said Nigeria cannot be using over 90% of its resources to pay interest on loans.

The committee was given one month to report back to the Senate.

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Legislature

Convert Oloibiri Shell Airstrip to Airforce Base, Senate tells Aviation Ministry, Airforce

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Senate has urged Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Airforce to take possession and convert the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri oil well in Bayelsa state to modern Airforce base.

This followed adoption of a motion on urgent need for transformation of the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri Oil Well 1 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to an Air Force Base.
The senator representing Bayelsa East SundayAgadaga (PDP) who sponsored the motion said Shell airstrip was constructed in 1958 following the first discovery of crude oil in 1956 at Oloibiri Oil well one.
According to him the airstrip, sitting on over 25 hecters of land has long been abandoned.
Agadaga said that the airstrip, while in effective operation, was a very valuable asset in the company’s oil exploration and exploitation activities in airlifting of personnel and equipment.
He said during the years of its functionality, heavy duty equipment, company workers, captains of Industry, top government functionaries and diplomats resorted to the route for easy access to the Niger Delta region.

He expressed regret that since the gradual decline of Shell’s operations in the area and final departure from Oloibiri oil field, the airstrip and the land where it operated has been abandoned and left desolate.

“The land itself appears to have been sentenced to perpetual condemnation as no agricultural activity which is the economic mainstay of the local dwellers can be carried out anymore due to the concretized topography of the soil.”

According to him, the abandoned airstrip poses environmental challenges and serious ecological complications to the Host Community as Shell has left the people in deprivation, squalor and lamentation after decades of operation.

He observed that upgrading the abandoned airstrip to an airforce base would bring renewed hope to the people, restore life to the area and attract the following benefits to the country:

“It will strengthen the security architecture of Nigeria as the creeks of Bayelsa up to Brass Island and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the gulf of guinea where the oil export terminal is located will be easily monitored and protected.”
Agadaga
said its evental upgrade would reduce the rate of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

This, he said would enhance surveillance activities in the numerous oil producing communities that constitute hub of oil industry activities in Nigeria.

He said the airstrip ,if converted to an airforce base would attract more business opportunities in the area thereby creating additional jobs to boost economic growth of Nigeriaa and ease the cost of living of the people.

Senator representing Kogi East Isah Jibrin (APC) said he was neither in support or against the motion pointing out that the cost implications of converting the airstrip to an airforce base would be huge, adding that government may not be dispose to consider the cost involved.

He said government may decide to confine the project on a long term basis, saying that he do not see the urgency in converting the airstrip to an airforce base at this period.

Sen. Adams Oshiomole (APC-Edo) said the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base holds great benefits for Nigerians and people of the region especially on quick intervention on insecurity issues.

Sen. Maidoki Garuba (PDP-Kebbi) said the conversion would help strengthen security of the nation, check crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

Sen.Victor Umeh (LP-Anambra) said there was need to preserve certain historical monuments like Oloibiri, adding that the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base would make Oloibiri a national monument, given its contribution as the first oil well in Nigeria.

He said the conversion would also ensure further economic prosperity for the nation.

President of Senate, Godswill Akpabio said efforts should be made to preserve historical monuments, like the Oloibiri Shell airstrip via its conversion to an airforce base.

He also said the conversion to an airforce base would also ensure improved security in terms of emergency, given its closeness to the golf of guinea.

Akpabio expressed hope that the government would see the need for the reconstruction of the airstrip to an airforce base to forestall challenges in the event of any mishaps.

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