The federal government is spending at least N2.7 billion to sponsor delegates to attend the United Nations’ annual climate summit, COP28, which started in Dubai last Thursday and will continue until at least 12 December.
Nigeria has 1,411 delegates, ranking third among countries with the highest numbers of delegates at the meeting. Only the host country, UAE (4,409), and Brazil (3,081) have more participants than Africa’s most populous country.
Other delegations surpassing 1,000 participants include China which registered 1,411 people just like Nigeria, followed by Indonesia with 1,229, Japan with 1,067 and Turkey with 1,045.
Parties to this Convention from Nigeria include government officials, representatives from the private sector, civil society, the voluntary sector, state governments, media, multilateral institutions, representatives of marginalised communities, and many others.
Nigerians, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, have been outraged by the size of the government’s large delegations at a time the country’s inflation rate is 27.33 per cent and the government is planning to borrow more than $9 billion to fund its N27.5 trillion 2024 budget.
As the outrage grew, Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, released a statement on Monday saying the federal government-sponsored delegation “is made up of a total of 422 persons,” not 1,411 as widely speculated.
He broke down the figure as 167 participants from all Ministries and 73 persons from Federal Parastatals/Agencies. The Presidency has 67 officials – the National Assembly – 40; the Federal Ministry of Environment – 34; the National Council on Climate Change – 32; and nine participants from the Office of the Vice President.
PREMIUM TIMES analysis shows that the government will spend an estimated N2.7 billion to sponsor these delegates while the citizens grapple with a cost-of-living crisis. Nigerians are yet to recover from the shocks of petrol subsidy removal and devaluation of the local currency, the naira, which has pushed it to record lows against the dollar, leading to even more price spikes and greater hardships.
The N2.7 billion estimate
Of the 1,411 delegates, 422 were sponsored to attend the conference by the federal government, according to the minister of information. On average, the estimated cost of a to-and-fro flight ticket from Nigeria to Dubai is N2 million.
At this rate, the cost of a two-way flight ticket for 412 people will amount to N824 million. President Tinubu and at least 10 officials travelled with the presidential jet while the rest of the 412 delegates are estimated to have taken commercial flights. The figure could be higher given that a number of officers travelled on business-class tickets, which are more expensive than economy class tickets used for our computation.
PREMIUM TIMES arrived at the cost using flight rates from airline operator Wakanow.
Sources in the aviation sector also told this newspaper that some senior government officials sponsored by the federal government used private jets to travel to Dubai. But this claim could not be verified by our reporter as of press time.
Leadership newspaper reported that the main delegation of the federal government travelled to Dubai in three planeloads – chartered flights. Sources say the federal government rarely charter local carriers when attending conferences outside the country. The government prefers to contract international flight operators and pay them in foreign currency for charter services. This is despite having local operators with approvals to fly directly to some of the countries.
According to data released by organisers, the list of the Nigerian delegation includes the president and two of his children, 26 ministers, the chief of staff, 14 director generals, several directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and several officials with different titles. Gilbert Chagouri is part of the delegation listed as ‘Confidante of the President.’
“This number of aides and officials is too many for just a meeting. Tinubu keeps wasting our resources on frivolities. How many people will speak on behalf of Nigeria, that is if Mr President will be allowed to climb the podium,” Adewale Damilare said on his X (formerly known as Twitter).
Billions spent on Estacode
Aside from the cost of a flight ticket, the federal government gives estacode to each traveller depending on their level. Ministers are paid $900 per day as estacode which amounts to $11,700 per minister for the 13-day period the conference would last.
At the official market, one dollar is currently exchanged for N816. This means a minister will get N9.5 million as estacode during the conference. About 26 ministers are attending the conference, according to official data from the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This means the government will spend at least N248 million on allowances to ministers.
The federal government is also sponsoring 40 members of the National Assembly to Dubai. The estacode for a senator is $950 per night while that of a Member of the House Representatives is $900.
On average, this also amounts to $11,700 per lawmaker for the 13 days the conference would be held. This will cost the government N381 million on estacode for the National Assembly participants.
Then, there are 13 Special Advisers to the president on the delegation. The president’s advisers are entitled to $800 estacode per night, meaning each of the special advisers attending the conference will receive $10,400 for the period of the conference. Using the official rate of N816 per dollar, this amount is equivalent to N110 million.
The list contains 14 Director-Generals of various agencies including the National Council on Climate Change, the National Intelligence Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the National Emergency Management Agency, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, and the National Agency for Great Green Wall.
The estacode of a Director General is $500 per night. This means each of the 14 DGs attending COP28 will receive $6,500 for 13 days, totalling $91,000. At current prices, this amount is equivalent to N74 million.
Permanent secretaries get estacode of $500 per night; Officers of levels 15-17 receive $425; Levels 7-14 get $381; and levels 1-6 get $206, according to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, which determines and fixes public officials’ remuneration.
Aside from the categories mentioned above (ministers, special advisers, director generals, and members of the National Assembly), more than 300 other government officials will receive estacode including the chief of staff, ambassadors, permanent secretaries, several directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and other officials with different titles on the attendance list.
Assuming we have 100 officials on levels 15 – 17 attending the conference in Dubai, the government will spend $5,525 on each of them in estacode for the period. The total of this amount when converted to naira is equivalent to N450 million.
Then, if there are 100 officials on levels 7 – 14, the government will give each of them $381 per night, totalling $4,953 for the period of the conference. The total amount for this category is equivalent to N404 million.
If there are 100 officials on levels 1-6 as part of the delegates, then each of them will also get $206 per night, totalling $2,678 for the 13 days of COP28. This amount is equalled to about N218 million.
The Federal Government has since defended the large delegation, dismissing the protests by opposition parties and citizens.
In 2012, Aruma Oteh, former director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) while appearing before a committee of the House of Representatives, accused Herman Hembe, former chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, and his deputy, Chris Azubogu, of converting $4,095 to personal use.
The money was given to Hembe as an estacode to attend a conference in the Dominican Republic, but he failed to attend the conference, thereby allegedly committing an offence contrary to section 308 of the Penal Code Act Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Abuja) 2004 and punishable under section 309 of the same code.
Hembe was absolved of any wrongdoing because, in his testimony, he travelled to the United States but returned when he could not get a connecting flight to the conference in the Dominican Republic. The EFCC would later go to court to get a judgment but the Appeal Court in 2015 said Hembe had no case to answer because the incident was an administrative oversight for which he should have been asked to make a refund. The SEC never disclosed whether they made a request for a refund or they let him go.
Estacode, also known as travel allowance, is money paid to workers while on official duty outside their place of domicile to cover expenditures during travels. It covers expenses for feeding, hotel accommodation, and other incidental expenses while on official engagements.
Under the current arrangements, ministers are entitled to $900; special advisers, $800; directors-general of MDAs, $900; chief justice of Nigeria, $2,000; justices of the Supreme Court, $1,300; Appeal Court president, $1,300; judges of the court, $1,100/$600; Senate president, $1,300; deputy Senate president, $1,100; senators, $950; House of Rep speaker, $1,200; deputy speaker, $1,000, permanent secretaries, $600; officers of level 15-17, $425; levels 7-14, $381 and those on levels 1 to 6, get $206.
Over the years, the public domain had been inundated with reports of abuse of the estacode policy, with top government officials dumping trips, after collecting their estacode allowances. This has become even more pertinent in light of the economic turmoil the country is currently undergoing which some experts say calls for an urgent cut in the cost of governance.
Recent reports had heavily criticised the Nigerian government for carrying large numbers of delegates to COP28, currently going on in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the expense of taxpayers. The delegation is made up of 1,411 people from Nigeria, with 590 sponsored by the government, although the Federal Government claimed it sponsored 422. The government delegation will stay 13 days or more in Dubai.
Mohammed Idris, information minister has categorised Nigeria’s delegation to the COP-28 as comprising of government-sponsored (federal and state governments) and non-government-sponsored participants (from private companies, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, media, and academia.
According to Idris, the Federal Government-funded delegation is made up of 422 persons, comprising staff of the National Council on Climate Change, 32; Federal Ministry of Environment, 34; and representatives of other ministries, 167.
Others include 67 from the Presidency, nine from the Office of the Vice President, 40 from the National Assembly and federal parastatals/agencies, numbering, 73.
“As the biggest economy and most populous country in Africa, with a substantial extractive economy and extensive vulnerability to climate change, Nigeria has a significant stake in climate action, and our active and robust participation at COP is therefore not unwarranted,” he said.
Tope Ajayi, another presidential spokesman, said delegates to the event came from all countries whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups, as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin.
“It does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must be said also that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone that registered is physically present,” Ajayi said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had between 2016 and August 2018, made over 37 international trips, visiting about 22 different countries, on investment drive.
In his first four years, the former president visited over 33 nations, some of them, twice, spending a total of 404 days, mostly on investment drive.
On average, the cost of each trip hovered between $400,000 to $500,000 per trip, with the average estacode for accompanying presidency officials amounting to $110,000.
The transportation cost is estimated at $35,000, accommodation at $220,000, and $10,00 for honorarium,
Others include $20, 000 for contingencies and media coverage at $10, 000, totalling $405,000.
These are, however, limited to those costs affecting only personnel from Aso Rock Villa, aides, protocol officers, members of the press, security personnel, a cook, a luggage officer and a steward.
The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) has a separate budget for fueling the planes as well as allowances for the presidential air fleet commander, pilots, and air stewards, so also does the Office of the National Security Adviser, all of which must be provided for, anytime the president makes a trip outside Nigeria.
A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) fell sharply on Buhari’s watch from $1.45bn in 2015 to $698.7m in 2021 and dipped further to $468.08m in 2022, despite the huge funds invested in foreign trips, ostensibly to attract investment. But this did not stop the former president from approving an upward increase in estacodes.
In August 2022, Buhari approved an increase in duty tour allowances (DTAs) for ministers by 128 percent and those of permanent secretaries by as much as 250 percent.
Duty tour allowance refers to the amount paid by the government when a public servant embarks on an official trip.
The approval of the new allowances was conveyed in a circular dated August 31, 2022, issued by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, with reference SWC/C/04/S.6/II/333, and titled, “Review of Duty Tour Allowance in the Federal Public Service.”, signed by Ekpo Nta, chairman of the commission. Nta said the new allowances take effect from September 1.
The president approved the upward review of duty tour allowances applicable to permanent secretary/equivalent from N20,000 to N70,000, representing a 250 percent increase and minister/SGF/HCSF/equivalent from N35,000 to N80,000,”, or a 128 percent increase.
A breakdown of the new DTA as contained in the circular, also indicates that officers on grade level (GL) 01-04 and its equivalent, are now entitled to N10,000 per diem. This is just as those on GL 05-06 and its equivalent, will be receiving N15,000 per diem, while GL 07-10 and its equivalent, will get N17,500 per diem.
Similarly, those on GL 12-13 and its equivalent, are now entitled to N20,000 per diem, just as those on GL 14-15 and its equivalent, will get N25,000 per diem. Officers on the directorate levels from GL 16 to GL 17 and its equivalent, will receive N37,500 per diem.
Goddy Ehimikhuare, a legal practitioner, berated public servants for using the end-of-the-year opportunity to defraud the government through what he described as ”fictitious approvals”. According to him, flooding Dubai with Nigerians at this time of the year is in line with the regular practice for shopping by civil servants.
“Many of us who are used to them are not surprised by the development. This is the season many look forward to in their travelling arrangements. They used COP28 to get cheap visas, as many would have been denied entry visas on normal requests,” said Ehimikhuare.
President Bola Tinubu has made 12 foreign trips since he was sworn in on May 29, 2023, according to data from StatisSense. In all the trips, he has had to travel with a retinue of aides, mostly sponsored by the government. Apart from the president, several ministers have had occasions to travel with their aides outside the country since they were appointed. These trips cost the country significantly in per diem and other travel expenses.
“They also utilise the opportunity to use unspent funds, instead of returning them to the coffers of the Federal Government. You will be shocked to hear later that this president is not aware of this large number of delegates. We thank the media for exposing these things,” Ehimikhuare added.
Atedo Peterside, president and founder, Anap Foundation and Anap Jets, said investors who cherish the rule of law are being replaced by those who “partner with politicians”.
He made this known in a post via his X, formerly Twitter, account, on Thursday, while addressing a report by TheCable that Procter & Gamble (P&G) is halting local production.
On Tuesday, during a presentation at the Morgan Stanley global consumer & retail conference in New York, United States, Andre Schulten, chief financial officer, P&G, disclosed the company’s plan.
Schulten said P&G, producer of Pampers, Always, Oral B, Ariel and Gillette, will end local production in Nigeria and switch to an import-only model.
P&G’s change in operating model followed that of Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), both of which have also transitioned to a distribution model by winding down their production operation.
Peterside said the exiting investors favour the rule of law, policy consistency, macroeconomic stability and a level playing field to operate within a business environment.
The investment banker, also the founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, said the investors replacing those exiting Nigeria’s business environment are businesspeople who partner with politicians.
According to Peterside, the investors taking over know how to game the system through waivers and exemptions.
“Another way to look at this @ProcterGamble exit story from @thecableng is that multiple investors who cherish the rule of law, policy consistency, macroeconomic stability, a level playing field etc are running away from Nigeria,” he said.
“They are being “replaced” only partially by investors who know how to “partner” with politicians and/or game the system through waivers, exemptions etc.”
Master Sgt. (Res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, a combat soldier in the 551st reserve commando Brigade’s 699th Battalion, died in battle, the IDF said in a statement.
His father was chief of the general staff of the IDF from February 2015 to January 2018, and served in the military for more than four decades.
Gadi Eisenkot joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime cabinet as minister without portfolio in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack.
He was elected to the Knesset in 2022 and is a member of Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party.
Gantz paid tribute to Gal Meir Eisenkot, saying in a statement: “May the memory of Gal and the memory of all those who fell in the battle for the home of all of us be blessed. Also in his name, also in their name, we continue the mission.”
Netanyahu also expressed his condolences to Gadi Eisenkot.
“The government of Israel and the citizens of Israel mourn together with you. Our heroes did not fall in vain. We will continue to fight until victory,” Netanyahu wrote on X.
A total of 88 IDF soldiers have been killed in Gaza since October 7.
Israel designates safe zone in Gaza. Palestinians and aid groups say it offers little relief
Israel has designated a small slice of mostly undeveloped land along Gaza’s Mediterranean coast as a safe zone — a place where waves of people fleeing the war can find protection from airstrikes and receive humanitarian supplies for their families.
The reality? The area of Muwasi is a makeshift tent camp where thousands of dazed Palestinians live in squalid conditions in scattered farm fields and waterlogged dirt roads. Their numbers have swelled in recent days as people flee an Israeli military offensive in nearby areas of the southern Gaza Strip.
Roughly 20 square kilometers (8 square miles) in southwest Gaza, Muwasi lies at the heart of a heated debate between Israel and international humanitarian organizations over the safety of the territory’s civilians.
Israel has offered Muwasi as a solution for protecting people uprooted from their homes and seeking safety from the heavy fighting between its troops and Hamas militants. The United Nations and relief groups say Muwasi is a poorly planned attempt to impose a solution for people who have been displaced and offers no guarantee of safety in a territory where people have faced the dangers of continued airstrikes in other areas where the army ordered them to go.
“How can a zone be safe in a war zone if it is only unilaterally decided by one part of the conflict?” said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA. “It can only promote the false feeling that it will be safe.”
The area has no running water or bathrooms, assistance and international humanitarian groups are nowhere to be found, and the tents provide little protection from the coming winter’s cool, rainy weather.
“It is very cold and there are no necessities of life,” said Moneer Nabrees, who fled Gaza City with some 30 family members. He recently arrived in Muwasi and now lives in a nylon tent with displaced family members. “There are lines for everything, even to get drinking water,” he said.
Some don’t even have enough materials to build a tent.
“At night we were freezing,” said Saada Hothut, a mother of four from Gaza City who faced another night with little protection from the elements. “We were covering ourselves with nylon.”
UNRWA and other international aid organizations do not recognize the camp and are not providing services there.
Yet Muwasi is poised to play an increasingly important role in the protection of Gaza’s civilians, something Israel’s allies have implored it to do as it tries to eradicate Hamas.
Some three-quarters of the territory’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, in some cases multiple times, since Israel launched its war in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 cross-border attack that left some 1,200 dead. More than 17,000 people in Gaza have died in the war, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.
Hundreds of thousands of people relocated to southern Gaza from the north after Israeli ground troops entered the area. Now, as Israel widens its ground offensive to the south, tens of thousands of people have found themselves on the move yet again — with few safe places to go.
Israel first mentioned Muwasi as a humanitarian zone in late October. It’s not clear how many people Israel believes can live there, and it blames the United Nations for the poor conditions.
Col. Elad Goren, a senior official in the military body overseeing Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel has been allowing the entry of temporary shelters and winter gear.
“At the end of the day, these are U.N. goods. It’s their responsibility to collect the goods and distribute it to the people,” he said.
He said Israel does not expect Gaza’s entire population to crowd into Muwasi and that there are an additional 150 “shelter areas,” including schools and medical clinics, that are coordinated with the U.N. and other organizations. But the army considers Muwasi a permanent safe zone. He noted that the army did not respond to a pair of Hamas rocket launches from Muwasi on Wednesday.
“We understand the population needs a solution of where to be. We want to encourage the population to go to this zone where assistance will be delivered,” he said.
But international aid officials have warned that Israel has done nothing to create a true safe zone. Even the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has repeatedly said Palestinian civilians need more protection.
A joint statement signed by the leaders of some of the world’s largest humanitarian groups, including the top U.N. agencies, Care International, Mercy Corps, and the World Health Organization, said the area could not function as a safe zone until all sides pledge to refrain from fighting there.
“Without the right conditions, concentrating civilians in such zones in the context of active hostilities can raise the risk of attack and additional harm,” said the Nov. 16 statement.
In Muwasi, there’s little sign that any of that is happening, at least in a way that could support hundreds of thousands of people.
A group of international aid groups on Thursday condemned Israel’s calls for displaced Palestinians to head to Muwasi, describing it as unfit.
“Seventy percent of the surface of that area is deserted,” said Danila Zizi, from Handicap International’s office in the Palestinian territories. “There are no services, there are no schools, there is no health services. There is nothing.”
Instead, people are fending for themselves. Many sleep in their cars or set up their own tents. Like nearly everywhere in Gaza, the aid is not enough for everyone and many are forced to buy their own food, water and firewood.
As Israel has intensified its ground operation in recent days, there has been a sharp rise in the number of displaced people heading to this coastal area. Many have fled nearby Khan Younis and other southern areas that have become front lines of the conflict.
Despite being declared a humanitarian zone, nothing in Muwasi is now given away for free and a black market has sprouted up. Many basic food items cost 13 or 14 times more than they did before Oct. 7.
With no aid shipments of food arriving, people are forced to venture out and buy whatever they can find. What remains is mostly canned items like tuna, but also rice and tomatoes that people cook over fires back at the camp.
Tents must be built from scratch, at a cost. Displaced families must purchase wood and nylon, then assemble their new home. Those who have no money hope that UNRWA and other organizations will bring aid.
Residents say that one of the most humiliating aspects of life is the lack of privacy and poor hygiene. There are no toilets, so people relieve themselves wherever they can. Some leave the camp and head to nearby hospitals to use their facilities.
The tents will provide little shelter during the coming winter months, when temperatures can dip into the single digits Celsius (mid-40s Fahrenheit).
Tent camps will also revive memories of the Palestinians’ greatest trauma — the mass uprooting they call the “nakba” or catastrophe — when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.
For now, the people living in Muwasi are simply trying to get by.
One woman, who fled the town of Beit Hanoun in Gaza’s north and did not want to give her name, had already rebuilt her tent after it collapsed in the rain. Her children have diarrhea. She’s terrified airstrikes will hit Muwasi.
Constantly, she worries about family and friends.
“I hope to hear their voices,” she said, the defeat clear in her voice.
But when she sends them messages, no one responds.
Western aid to Ukraine falls off a cliff – German monitor
New commitments of weapons and money to Ukraine by the US and its allies have reached a new low in the past three months, down to almost one tenth of what they were a year ago, Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) reported on Thursday.
The research institution updated this week its Ukraine Support Tracker, a database of public aid pledges, which it has been tracking since January last year. Between August and October, the value of new packages dropped to just €2.11 billion ($2.28 bn), marking an 87% decrease year by year.
Of the 42 donor nations monitored, only 20 committed new assistance in the three months. The active group was the smallest in the entire almost two-year period, IfW Kiel said. The majority of aid actually delivered was sent under multi-year programs pledged previously.
European nations for the first time surpassed the US as the largest source of heavy weapons for Ukraine, mainly due to the pledges of F-16 fighter jets and Patriot and IRIS-T air defense systems by Germany and the Nordic countries. Military aid accounted for 58% of what the top ten donors offered, the institute reported.
IfW Kiel stressed that aid outlook was “unclear” for Kiev, considering the latest snags in the US Congress and the EU’s failure so far to approve the promised €50 billion ($54 bn) under the so-called Ukraine Facility.
The US Senate this week blocked a vote on a White House appropriation request, which would have funded Ukraine assistance programs to the tune of over $60 billion. Senior officials have warned that previously approved spending will run out within weeks.
President Joe Biden implied that other Western nations would follow the US lead, if it stops funding Kiev, as he pleaded with Congress to approve more spending on Wednesday.
“If we don’t support Ukraine, what’s the rest of the world going to do? What’s Japan going to do, which is supporting Ukraine now? What’s going to happen in terms of the G7? What’s going to happen in terms of our NATO Allies?” he asked.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has blamed shortage of Western arms for the largely unsuccessful counteroffensive against Russia, which his troops conducted between June and November. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has estimated Ukrainian losses over that period at over 125,000 troops and 16,000 heavy weapons.
Ukraine says Russian forces use aviation, keep pushing on Avdiivka
Russian forces relied heavily on aerial attacks on Thursday in their slow-moving campaign to win control of eastern Ukraine and resorted to new smaller attack groups in pressing to capture the beleaguered town of Avdiivka.
Moscow has focused its attention on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since failing to advance on Kyiv in the early days of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
It has set its sights since mid-October on Avdiivka, a gateway to the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk -- 20 km (12 miles) to the east. The town has resisted capture while coming under sustained enemy fire.
"For the second day in a row, occupying forces have been actively using kamikaze drones and aviation. And the number of combat clashes has significantly increased," Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun told national television.
Russian losses were mounting sharply in terms of both men and equipment in the southern theatre of operations, he said.
Ukraine's General Staff, in its evening bulletin, said its forces had rebuffed 15 attacks in Avdiivka and nearby villages, in addition to 34 attacks reported in its morning account.
Media outlet Espreso TV said Russian forces were pressing from the north but had made no inroads into the "industrial zone" outside the city centre.
Ukrainian serviceman Andriy Shyshuk said the new Russian tactic involved sending groups of up to five men into action and, with the backing of armoured vehicles and air cover, opening up bursts of heavy fire as they advance.
Shyshuk said the Russian forces had made little progress. He echoed President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's call for more fortifications around towns and other defensive points, but said this should be done by "engineering units, not assault units".
Fortifications were erected around Avdiivka after Ukrainian forces recaptured the town from Russian-financed separatists who seized it briefly in 2014 as they captured chunks of eastern Ukraine.
Official Russian accounts rarely mention Avdiivka. Russian war bloggers on Thursday said Moscow's forces had made progress near the village of Stepove, north of the town, and "stabilised" the situation in the industrial zone.
Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Kyiv's forces have recaptured a swathe of occupied territory in a lightning push through the northeast a year ago. But they have made only marginal gains in a counteroffensive launched in the east and south in June.
Ondo is one of Nigeria’s most enlightened states. It is, perhaps, side-by-side with Oyo, one of the most significant political bellwethers of the South-West. Apart from Olusegun Agagu’s four-year spell as governor, that state has maintained its progressive credentials in the last 24 years. But that illustrious tradition has fallen on bad times.
And you know this when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has governed the state for only four of the last 24 years, begins to suggest to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) how to manage what is obviously a delicate intra-party power transition. With nothing left to do in the wilderness, PDP is pleased to hold the beer while APC turns on itself.
It’s not the opposition’s fault, though. The tenure of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu will not expire till 2024, but his illness, especially in the last six months, during which he has been virtually absent from the state, has created an opening for forces within and without.
There are suggestions that Akeredolu who has reportedly been in Oyo State since he returned from a medical trip abroad in September, is terminally ill. No one is sure. The suggestions, worsened by his physical absence from the state, has fueled a proxy war between his loyalists and those of the Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa. There are already comparisons to similar dark episodes in the country’s not-too-distant past.
Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency, for example, was a troubled one. Whether or not Yar’Adua had properly transmitted power before he went abroad for medical treatment, as is required by law, and whether he had the presence of mind to continue discharging his duties as his condition deteriorated, remained a matter of feverish speculation traded on by vested interests.
The National Assembly had to improvise the “Doctrine of Necessity,” to remove him, paving the way for his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to become acting president.
Two years after the death of Yar’Adua, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, who, like Yar’Adua, was elected in 2007, survived an air crash that, sadly, incapacitated him. But power brokers in Taraba preserved him like a sacrificial totem, exploiting his mummified image. As long as he could still be wheeled around and papers shuffled in his name, it was good business. Suntai, who had spent less than two years into his second term, was shunted between German and US hospitals at considerable expense for 10 months, while the state was left stranded.
When the puppeteers could no longer sustain the hideous drama, or perhaps they had just about made enough out of it, they wheeled the governor back into the country and left him in a limbo. His estranged deputy remained “acting governor” until Suntai’s tenure officially ended in 2015. Two years later, Suntai died.
I have been reliably informed that Akeredolu’s relationship with Aiyedatiwa is not, ordinarily, one that should warrant the insane stalemate that has made fools of the state’s wise men and women. After Akeredolu fell out with his former deputy, Agboola Ajayi – who remained in position even though he switched parties, following a failed attempt to impeach him – he chose Aiyedatiwa as his running-mate for his second term. The pair have been like six and seven.
Although cloak-and-dagger is a popular currency in politics, anyone who saw Aiyedatiwa’s pictures until June this year, would remember how difficult it was to spot the difference in physical appearance between him and the governor. With every inch of carefully manicured grey stubble, caps, glasses, and even posture, both of them looked like political Siamese twins.
But the remoter the chances of Akeredolu’s return seemed, the greater the pressure Aiyedatiwa came under to discard his beard and nurture his own path to power. How long before he would step out of the shadows and live up to his name, Aiyedatiwa (the world shall become ours)?
“Loyalty is at the heart of the matter,” one source close to both parties told me on Tuesday. “People began to suggest to Aiyedatiwa that he could actually get power if only he could be his own man, and soon enough. To plot his way, he began to hobnob with Abuja politicians and some of Akeredolu’s arch enemies.”
But “loyalty” to who? To a person or to the constitution and the law of the land? Anyone who remembers former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s words when, during his ministerial nomination screening, he was asked about his spectacular fallout with then former Governor Bola Tinubu, might agree that “loyalty” is one point on which politicians pray never to be tested.
“May your loyalty not be tested,” Fashola replied to uproarious laughter from senators. But what is happening in Ondo is not a laughing matter. Especially the suspicion by Akeredolu’s camp that the deputy governor is in cahoots with some notoriously dangerous politicians in Abuja and elsewhere.
It’s fair to ask why Akeredolu – or those who claim to speak for him – cannot set aside personal grudges and put the interest of the state first?
Why? Some personal grudges run deep. I’ll mention two shared by insiders.
One, in June, the governor was said to have signed some papers and returned them to his deputy for action. Upon receiving the papers, his deputy was alleged to have said, flat out, that Akeredolu could not have signed the papers; not in the mental state he was believed, or suspected, to be in at the time. The buzz from then on, magnified, repurposed and retailed in several salacious versions, was that there was no further need of proof that Aiyedatiwa wanted the governor dead. The world was, indeed, nearly his.
The second point, according to sources, has nothing to do with Aiyedatiwa directly, but with his new company. The governor’s wife, Betty Anyanwu, a most robustly active political wife, if ever there was one, had set her sights on the Senate in the February general elections in her native Imo State.
The problem was how to get past her state governor, Hope Uzodimma, who before the presidential primaries had pitched tent with Ahmed Lawan against Akeredolu’s preferred candidate, Bola Tinubu. In fact, it was Uzodimma and Orji Uzor Kalu, who submitted Lawan’s nomination form.
As for the Owerri senatorial district, Uzodimma, an enigma, had other plans. He wanted Alex Mbata instead. Betty was forced to withdraw from the senatorial primaries in humiliation.
By the time Mbata lost to the Labour Party candidate, Ezenwa Onyewuchi, the damage had been done. The Akeredolus, still smarting from that defeat, are now also trying to get used to the fact that their man, Aiyedatiwa, is in bed with their foe, Uzodimma. Yet, if a politician sleeps with three women in one day, you can only thank God it was not four.
For a state with Ondo’s political sophistication, it’s a bit of a travesty to suggest that petty squabbles have held it hostage for months now. But that would be naïve. From the Spanish marriages to the Crimean War over the right of access to a church key, history is full of battles fought for the dumbest of reasons. Tinubu’s last-minute intervention has kept the fragile peace in Akure. But no one is sure how long.
The longer it takes for the parties to find a sensible, common ground, the worse it would be for citizens whose interest they claim to serve. All said, if Akeredolu were in a position to make the call today, I’m not sure he would take a position different from the principled one he took as president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) when Yar’Adua was in a similar situation. He should resign.
If Akeredolu cannot make this call, those who can should do so for the sake of his legacy and the wellbeing of the citizens of the state. That is the painful but proper and necessary thing to do.
** Ishiekwene is the Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP. Visit: www.azuishiekwene.com
On Wednesday, Time Magazine named Taylor Swift its Person of the Year, because, well, of course, she was. It's hard to think of anyone having a better year--or anyone who played a bigger role in influencing culture than Swift did this year.
There's the record-setting tour, the re-releasing of her most popular album ever--the new version of which set its own records--the concert movie, and the new boyfriend. That last one, to be clear, is less about her romantic life and more about Swift's complete dominance in terms of cultural influence. Her mere presence at NFL games, where she watches her boyfriend Travis Kelce play tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, has boosted ratings to record-setting levels. Never mind that Swift's tour was credited with revitalizing the hotel industry and increasing overall economic conditions.
And, so, she is the obvious choice for "Person of the Year."
In a profile by Sam Lansky, Swift shares a handful of stories about all the things you might expect: her career, the tour, and--for seemingly the first time--the new boyfriend. That's the part that a lot of people are focusing on, but I'd suggest that the article should be required reading for every entrepreneur and leader for a different reason. Here are three things every leader should learn from Swift's remarkable year--in her own words:
Show Up Prepared
Swift's concert performances lasted almost three hours. It should be obvious that three hours is a long time to sing, but Swift doesn't just sing. There are costume changes and choreography, and basically, a lot of things that could go wrong. And, so, Swift didn't just show up to sing her songs; she prepared relentlessly. She even worked out in training for the grueling schedule.
"I wanted to be so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans, and not lose my train of thought," Swift said.
Swift understands a thing that is easy to forget once you've achieved a particular level of success. She is an entertainer. Her job is to bring people joy by getting on a stage and performing. For that, she is very well compensated, but it's encouraging that she hasn't lost sight of the responsibility she has created for herself to her fans. More importantly, she understands the expectations they have, and she prepared accordingly.
"I know I'm going on that stage whether I'm sick, injured, heartbroken, uncomfortable, or stressed," she told Time. "That's part of my identity as a human being now. If someone buys a ticket to my show, I'm going to play it unless we have some sort of force majeure."
Expectations Are Everything
Second, Swift has--better than almost anyone--mastered the idea that the way you delight people isn't by giving them what they expect. It's by giving them more.
If you simply do what you said you were going to do, that's great, but, honestly, that's like the minimum required effort. After all, it's what you said you were going to do. No one is delighted because the airline lands in the right city, at the time it was scheduled to land. That's just the expectation.
On the other hand, you remember when someone goes above and beyond. You remember experiences that exceed your expectations. That's how Swift approaches her fans, many of whom went to great lengths and spent a lot of money to see her perform.
"They had to work really hard to get the tickets," Swift said. "I wanted to play a show that was longer than they ever thought it would be, because that makes me feel good leaving the stadium."
Perspective Goes a Long Way
Finally, Swift seems aware that her career is at a point most people will never experience. More importantly, she seems to understand that her career won't always look like this, and it helps her keep perspective:
"Nothing is permanent. So I'm very careful to be grateful every second that I get to be doing this at this level, because I've had it taken away from me before. There is one thing I've learned: My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art."
Over the past few years, Swift has consistently delivered what her fans want, whether that's music, concerts, or re-recorded albums. Even during the pandemic lockdowns, she recorded two new albums.
Her level of output would be hard for anyone else, certainly for someone without her unique set of circumstances. Still, there is a lesson here: your job is to focus on what you can control and let go of everything else. Most of us focus on far too many things we can't control, but most of it is just noise to distract you from what matters. A little perspective can go a long way to help.
Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods, says it has plans to transition from local production to solely importing its products as the firm winds down its on-ground presence in Nigeria.
Andre Schulten, chief financial officer, P&G, disclosed this on Tuesday, during his presentation at the Morgan Stanley global consumer & retail conference in New York.
P&G is the manufacturer of common Nigerian household items such as Pampers, Always, Oral B, Ariel, Ambi-pur, SafeGuard, Olay and Gillette.
Schulten said the decision is a result of the challenging business environment in Nigeria, as well as the difficulty in creating US dollar value.
“The other reality that arises in some of these markets is that it gets increasingly difficult to operate and create U.S dollar value,” he said.
“So when you think about places like Nigeria and Argentina, it is difficult for us to operate because of the macroeconomic environment.
“So with that in mind, we are announcing a restructuring program with the intent to adjust the operating model and adjust the portfolio to ensure that we maintain the portfolio discipline that has brought us to this point.
“The restructuring program will largely focus on Nigeria and Argentina. We’ve announced that we will turn Nigeria into an import-only market, effectively dissolving our footprint on the ground in Nigeria and reverting to an import-only model.”
The development is coming less than one month after Sanofi exited the country.
In November 2023, Sanofi-Aventis Nigeria Limited, a French pharmaceutical company, said it would adopt a third-party model for the distribution of its products in Nigeria.
The company said the “exciting transformation of its business model in Nigeria”, would take effect in February 2024.
Similarly, in August, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Nigeria Plc announced plans to cease operations, transferring its business activities to a third-party organisation.
National Judicial Council, NJC, has recommended the elevation of 11 Justices to the Supreme Court.
The legal body took the decision at its 104 meeting that held in Abuja on Wednesday.
The Council, in a statement made available to newsmen through its Director, Information, Soji Oye, said it considered the list of candidates presented by its Interview Committee and at the end of deliberations, recommended the 11 Justices for the apex court bench.
It gave names of the successful candidates as: Jummai Hannatu Sankey; Chidiebere Nwaoma Uwa, Chioma Egondu Nwosu-Iheme; Haruna Simon Tsammani; Moore Aseimo A. Adumein; Obande Festus Ogbuinya; Stephen Jonah Adah; Habeeb Adewale O. Abiru; Jamilu Yammama Tukur; Abubakar Sadiq Umar, and Mohammed Baba Idris.
Likewise, the Council, approved the elevation of Mohammed Ahmed Ramat to the Court of Appeal, it also recommended the appointment of six Heads of Courts.
While Joel Filibus Agya was okayed as the Chief Judge of Taraba State, Umar Abubakar was recommended for appointment as the Chief Judge of Kebbi State.
Others are; Sadiq Usman Mukhtar as Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, Kebbi State; A. O. Femi-Segun as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Ogun State; Alfred Yakubu as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Taraba State and Tajudeen M. Abdulganiyu as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Oyo State.
The Council further recommended the appointment of Amaebi Ibomo Orukari and Akinyemi Martins Ayodele as High Court Judges in Bayelsa and Ogun State, respectively.
Ama Edet Ekpo, Theresa Ansa Agom and Jalarth Ogar Agim were recommended for appointment as High Court Judges in Cross River State; Aminu Abdullahi Gusau, Usman Hassan Gummi and Hadi Sani and Kadis, Sharia Court of Appeal, Zamfara State, while Abubakar Ahmad Tijjani and Aliyu Ibrahim Ebbema were okayed as Kadis, Sharia Court of Appeal, Nasarawa State.
According to the statement, Fatima Adamu, Hauwa Lawal Umar, Musa Ahmad, Musa Daihuru Mohammed, Farida Rabiu Danbappa, Halima Aliyu Nasir, Aisha Mahmoud, Adam Abdullahi and Hanif Sanusi Yusuf were recommended for appointment as High Court Judges, Kano State, Opokuma David Lawrence as a Judge for the Customary Court of Appeal, Bayelsa State; Esther Mami Ejeh, Ibrahim Dauda Shekarau, Musa Muhammad Dallah and Makama Tanze Benjamin as High Court Judges for Nasarawa State, while Awoyomi Bolanle Adenike and Lawal Adeniyi Olusanya were okayed as Judges, Customary Court of Appeal, Ogun State.
“All recommended candidates to the Supreme Court Bench would be sworn-in after the approval of their recommendation by President Bola Tinubu, and the subsequent confirmation of their appointment by the Senate.
“The various Heads of Court recommended would also be sworn-in upon the approval of their appointment by their various State Governors and subsequent confirmation of same by their respective State Houses of Assembly,” the statement further read.