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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that approximately 60% of public sector workers were hired through nepotism, bribery, or both between 2020 and 2023. The findings are part of the "Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends" report, based on a survey conducted with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The survey showed that 27% of respondents used bribery, 13% relied on nepotism, and 19% used both methods to secure employment. Additionally, 46% of those hired admitted to paying a bribe, a significant increase from the 31% reported in 2019.

In a video on social media, Amarachi makes a stew that replaces pricey tomatoes with more affordable watermelon chunks. “Today we say bye-bye to tomatoes,” she says. As Nigerians adjust to soaring food prices, the video has gone viral.

Tomato prices that fluctuate with the seasons are normal in Nigeria, but the record annual pace of food inflation, which hit 41% in May, is not. Most pinched are the poor. Staples such as beans and maize cost 400% more than they did a year ago, while a 100kg bag of sorghum has more than tripled in price. Since wages have barely moved, the result is a deepening food crisis. Whereas hunger was once concentrated in conflict-ridden areas in northern Nigeria, now it affects poorer households nationwide. Of the 44m people in west Africa and the Sahel who do not get enough to eat, more than half are Nigerian.

Much of the blame should be heaped on the government. A haphazard introduction of new banknotes under the previous administration led to a shortage of legal tender. This caused most hardship in the countryside, where penetration of bank or mobile-money accounts is lowest. With cash scarce, farmers charged middlemen a premium if they used electronic payments, pushing up prices in the markets.

A weakening naira dealt another blow—its 40% fall against the dollar made it the worst-performing currency in the world in the first half of this year. That has pushed up the cost not only of imported foods, but also of seeds and fertiliser. The government’s removal of fuel subsidies, though necessary, further raised the cost of running farming machinery and taking harvests to markets.

Even after the effects of these short-term problems have passed, Nigeria will still face the longer-term challenges posed by climate change. Most crops in Nigeria are rain-fed, which makes them vulnerable to drought. Meanwhile desertification is causing nomadic pastoralists to move their herds onto arable land, where the animals trample or eat crops, leading to conflict with farmers. Terrorism in the north-east, farmer-herder conflict in the north-west and criminality in Nigeria’s “middle belt” have all kept farmers away from their lands in the country’s breadbasket.

To ease the suffering, the UN’s World Food Programme is helping more than 1m of the most vulnerable people a month in northern Nigeria. And the World Bank has provided $800m for a conditional cash-transfer programme targeting 15m households. Though the programme has been launched and then relaunched, it remains stalled by bureaucratic inertia.

A year ago Bola Tinubu, the president, declared a state of emergency for food insecurity. Yet promises that savings from the fuel-subsidy removal would be reinvested into farming have not materialised. A programme to give free fertiliser to farmers to boost production was subverted by politicians, who put their faces on the sacks and gave them to loyal voters.

This week the government announced plans to waive import duties on maize and wheat and to set a recommended retail price. The government itself also plans to import 500,000 tonnes of grain. But so far Tinubu’s administration has been unable to stop prices from soaring. Last year Nigerians were already spending 59% of household incomes on food, a higher share than in any other country. How much harder can they be squeezed?

The Plateau government says 22 people died and 132 were injured in the collapsed building of Saints Academy in Jos, the state capital.

On Friday, the two-storey school building, which is located in the Busa Buji community of Jos north LGA, collapsed while students and teachers were in classes for the third term examination.

Speaking at the scene of the incident, Musa Ashoms, Plateau commissioner for information and communication, said the school had a population of about 400, adding that the section that collapsed was accommodating 200 students.

The commissioner said the collapsed school building was built on a waterlogged area, which did not meet construction standards.

Providing an update on the incident, Ashoms, in a statement, said the incident recorded 154 casualties, out of which 22 have lost their lives.

The Plateau commissioner said 132 victims are currently receiving medical treatment at various hospitals in the state.

“The collapse resulted in 154 fatalities and injuries. Emergency responders are currently at the scene conducting search and rescue operations,” the commissioner said.

“As of 6:00 pm, 154 people have been rescued from the debris. Sadly, 22 individuals have been confirmed deceased. Injured students and staff are receiving medical treatment at various hospitals across Jos.

“The Plateau state government activated emergency response protocols immediately upon notification of the incident.”

 

The Cable

Gaza talks explore alternative to Israeli troops on Gaza-Egypt border

Israeli and Egyptian ceasefire negotiators are in talks about an electronic surveillance system along the border between Gaza and Egypt that could allow Israel to pull back its troops from the area if a ceasefire is agreed, according to two Egyptian sources and a third source familiar with the matter.

The question of whether Israeli forces stay on the border is one of the issues blocking a potential ceasefire deal because both Palestinian militant group Hamas and Egypt, a mediator in the talks, are opposed to Israel keeping its forces there.

Israel is worried that if its troops leave the border zone, referred to by Israel as the Philadelphi corridor, Hamas' armed wing could smuggle in weapons and supplies from Egypt into Gaza via tunnels that would allow it to re-arm and again threaten Israel.

A surveillance system, if the parties to the negotiations agree on the details, could therefore smooth the path to agreeing a ceasefire - though numerous other stumbling blocks remain.

Discussions around a surveillance system on the border have been reported before, but Reuters is reporting for the first time that Israel is engaging in the discussions as part of the current round of talks, with a view to pulling back forces from the border area.

The source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the discussions are about "basically sensors that would be built on the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi (corridor)."

"The idea is obviously to detect tunnels, to detect any other ways that they'd be trying to smuggle weapons or people into Gaza. Obviously this would be a significant element in a hostage agreement."

Asked if this would be significant for a ceasefire deal because it would mean Israeli soldiers would not have to be on the Philadelphi corridor, the source said: "Correct."

After Reuters published this article, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying it was "absolute fake news" that Israel is discussing withdrawing from the Philadelphi corridor.

"The prime minister insists that Israel remain on the Philadelphi corridor. He has instructed the negotiating teams accordingly, made this clear to U.S. representatives this week, and updated the Security Cabinet to this effect last night," the statement said.

The statement from Netanyahu's office appeared to diverge from remarks made on Tuesday by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Gallant said, according to his office: "A solution is required that will stop smuggling attempts and will cut off potential supply for Hamas, and will enable the withdrawal of IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) troops from the corridor, as part of a framework for the release of hostages."

The two Egyptian security sources, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israeli negotiators had spoken about a high-tech surveillance system.

Egypt was not opposed to that, if it was supported and paid for by the United States, according to the two Egyptian sources. They said though Egypt would not agree to anything that would change border arrangements between Israel and Egypt set out in a prior peace treaty.

At a military event on Thursday, Netanyahu said he could only agree to a deal that preserved Israeli control of the Gaza-Egypt border, but he did not spell out if that meant having troops physically present there.

Talks are underway in Qatar and Egypt on a deal, backed by Washington, that would allow a pause in the fighting in Gaza, now in its 10th month, and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Israel started its assault on the Gaza Strip last October after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, its forces have killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, according to medical authorities in Gaza.

Israeli officials have said during the war that Hamas used tunnels running under the border into Egypt's Sinai region to smuggle arms. Egypt says it destroyed tunnel networks leading to Gaza years ago and created a buffer zone and border fortifications that prevent smuggling.

Israel's advance into southern Gaza's Rafah area in early May led to the closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and a sharp reduction in the amount of international aid entering the Palestinian territory. Egypt says it wants aid deliveries to Gaza to resume, but that a Palestinian presence should be restored at the Rafah crossing for it to reopen.

 

Reuters

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Russia strikes Ukrainian military-industrial sites, air bases over week

Russian forces delivered 39 strikes by precision weapons and attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against Ukrainian military-industrial sites and air bases over the past week in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Friday.

"On July 6-12, the Russian Armed Forces delivered 39 combined strikes by air-launched and seaborne long-range precision weapons and attack unmanned aerial vehicles, hitting enemy air bases, Ukrainian military-industrial enterprises and their energy facilities, military hardware assembly workshops and warehouses storing naval drones and strike UAVs. The goals of the strikes were achieved. All the designated targets were destroyed," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia’s Battlegroup North inflicts 1,800 casualties on Ukrainian army over week

Russia’s Battlegroup North improved its frontline positions and inflicted roughly 1,800 casualties on Ukrainian troops in its area of responsibility over the week, the ministry reported.

"During the week, Battlegroup North units improved their forward edge positions and inflicted damage on manpower and equipment of four Ukrainian army formations, a marine infantry brigade and three territorial defense brigades. They repelled 26 counterattacks by enemy assault groups," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in that frontline area over the week amounted to 1,800 personnel, two tanks, four armored combat vehicles, 22 motor vehicles, 34 field artillery guns, including eight US-made M777 howitzers, and three electronic warfare stations, it specified.

Russia’s Battlegroup West inflicts 3,440 casualties on Ukrainian army over week

Russia’s Battlegroup West improved its tactical position and inflicted roughly 3,440 casualties on Ukrainian troops in its area of responsibility over the week, the ministry reported.

"Battlegroup West units improved their tactical position as a result of successful operations and inflicted casualties on formations of four mechanized brigades, a tank brigade, an assault brigade and an airmobile brigade of the Ukrainian army and also three territorial defense brigades. They repelled three counterattacks by enemy assault groups," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in that frontline area over the week amounted to "3,440 personnel, five tanks, 14 armored combat vehicles, among them two US-made M113 armored personnel carriers, 47 motor vehicles and 32 field artillery guns," it specified.

In addition, Russian troops destroyed 14 field ammunition depots of the Ukrainian army, it said.

Russia’s Battlegroup South inflicts 4,380 casualties on Ukrainian army over week

Russia’s Battlegroup South inflicted roughly 4,380 casualties on Ukrainian troops in its area of responsibility over the week, the ministry reported.

"Battlegroup South units inflicted damage on manpower and equipment of five mechanized brigades, a motorized infantry brigade, an assault brigade, a mountain assault brigade and two air assault brigades of the Ukrainian army. They repulsed six counterattacks by enemy assault groups," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in that frontline area over the week amounted to 4,380 personnel, three tanks, four armored combat vehicles, 90 motor vehicles and 59 field artillery guns, including 27 Western-made weapons, it specified.

Russian troops also destroyed nine electronic warfare stations and 29 field ammunition depots of the Ukrainian army, the ministry said.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Six killed, 13 hurt in Russian attacks on Ukraine's Donetsk region, officials say

Russian attacks killed at least six people and injured 13 in Ukraine's eastern frontline Donetsk region on Friday, regional prosecutors said.

A Russian missile landed near an administrative building and a bus stop in the town of Myrnohrad, northwest of the Russian-held city of Donetsk, killing four people and injuring 10.

Donetsk region Governor Vadym Filashkin posted images from the impact sites showing badly damaged building facades and a bus with shattered windows. There was also a burnt car that appeared to have been thrown to the side by a blast.

A separate attack on an unnamed enterprise in the town of Kostiantynivka, northwest of Bakhmut, seized by Russian forces last year after months of battles, killed two civilians and injured three.

Another attack, on the town of Lyman, further north, injured seven people.

Reuters could not independently confirm the accounts. Donetsk region, which Russian troops partially occupy, regularly comes under Russian shelling and air strikes.

Moscow denies targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure in its invasion of Ukraine, although thousands of people have been killed.

 

Tass/Reuters

Milk, corn, gopher, Texas rat, and Western hognose snakes are some of the most common snake species in the US. In other parts of the world like China, however, the non-native reptiles are illegal due to their potential to become invasive species. Unfortunately, this has also created a highly lucrative trade on the exotic pet black market. But despite this, it’s unclear just how much potential profits would drive someone to stuff 104 live snakes into their trousers.

That’s what an unnamed man recently attempted after stating he had “nothing to declare” while traveling from Hong Kong into mainland China. As The Washington Post noted on July 11, Chinese authorities announced the arrest after apprehending the alleged smuggler at the Futian Port—one of the busiest land crossings in the world.

According to a Chinese Customs statement from July 9, officers recently discovered six drawstring canvas bags sealed with tape and shoved into the suspect’s pants pockets containing “a number of colorful and various living snakes.”

Despite the statement’s headline auto-translated to “Western Poison,” it’s worth noting none of the five species are actually venomous. But just because they aren’t poisonous doesn’t mean they don’t pose a legitimate threat to the region. Exotic critters often accidentally become invasive species and cause problems for local communities, disrupting already delicate food chains and ecosystems.

The US is no stranger to such issues. Burmese ball pythons, for example, have inundated the Florida Everglades ever since pet owners began releasing them into the wild in the 1980s. South American nutria continue to decimate vegetation across Louisiana, California, and throughout the Atlantic coast, as well.

There’s also public health to consider. China banned the transport, trade, and poaching of wild animals in January 2020 during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic—a prohibition that currently remains in effect. Meanwhile, the Biosafety Law of the People’s Republic of China forbids the introduction of any foreign species without official approval.

The recent snake-laden traveler is only one of the most recent in a long line of similar situations, especially since China initiated its three-year crackdown campaign on wildlife smuggling in 2023. Customs officers discovered one woman hiding 15 snakes and four giant Amazonian centipedes in her clothes, and another attempting to sneak five snakeswithin her tank top over the past year. Chinese law states smugglers such as the recent snake-laden traveler can face fines as large as 50,000 yuan (nearly $7,000) along with potential additional criminal charges.

China is far from the only nation combating wildlife smuggling. In 2022, US officials caught a man attempting to enter the country with 52 lizards and snakes in his clothes.

 

Popsci

Once upon a time, in the bustling markets and humble kitchens of Nigeria, there were two steadfast friends: Garri and Beans. These culinary comrades, adored by the masses and cherished by the destitute, provided solace in times of need. They were the loyal sentinels of the supper table, the reliable pillars of the pantry, the unassuming saviours of countless Nigerian stomachs. Alas, how times have changed. Our once-faithful friends have turned into avaricious adversaries, leaving us to ponder the cruel ironies of life.

In an era where loyalty should be more than just a marketing slogan, Garri, the ever-affordable carbohydrate king, has staged a coup. Once the darling of the downtrodden, Garri has decided to climb the social ladder, no doubt influenced by the ostentatious display of riches in Nollywood films. Gone are the days when a humble handful of this cassava flour could sustain a family. Today, even the meager morsels of Garri come with a hefty price tag, prompting us to wonder if it has developed a taste for the finer things in life – truffle-infused Eba, perhaps?

Then we have Beans, the protein-packed stalwart that once swore to "hold the stomach for longer, for cheaper." Our trusty legume, once the Robin Hood of the Nigerian diet, now dances to the tune of N5,000 per ‘kongo.’ What has caused this treacherous transformation? Perhaps Beans has been fraternizing with the bourgeoisie, sipping champagne in fancy restaurants while reminiscing about the days when it was a humble hero of the masses. It seems Beans has forgotten its roots – quite literally – and now revels in its newfound status as a luxury item.

Let us not forget the plight of Nigeria’s indigent students and casual labourers, those valiant souls who once relied on Garri and Beans to see them through the day. With a minimum wage that can barely stretch to buy six measures of Beans, not nearly enough to feed a family of pigeons, let alone hardworking Nigerians, one must wonder: what next? Shall we expect water to demand royalties, or air to start charging rent? The very idea is laughable, yet here we are, betrayed by our oldest allies.

Oh, Garri and Beans, how could you turn your backs on us in our darkest hour? Nigeria is enduring the harshest economic crisis in a generation, a time when true friends should stand by us, not abandon us for the allure of inflated prices and elitist status. You were our comfort in times of despair, our sustenance in times of scarcity. Now, you mock us with your unattainable cost, leaving us to fend for ourselves in a country where even the simplest sustenance is beyond reach.

In the grand theater of Nigeria’s economic tragedy, Garri and Beans have taken on new roles – no longer the heroes, but the villains. They have joined the ranks of the untrustworthy and unreliable, leaving us to seek out new allies in our quest for survival. Perhaps, one day, they will remember their true purpose and return to the side of the poor and needy. Until then, we bid them a sardonic farewell and brace ourselves for the next act in this unfolding drama.

A new report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that Nigerian public officials received bribes amounting to N721 billion in 2023. The report, titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends,” states that this sum is equivalent to about 0.35 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The findings are based on a survey conducted in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The survey revealed that the average cash bribe paid in 2023 was N8,284, an increase from N5,754 in 2019. However, when adjusted for inflation, the real value of the average bribe decreased by 29 percent compared to 2019.

"Overall, it is estimated that approximately N721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 percent of the entire GDP of Nigeria," the report stated.

Corruption was identified as the fourth most pressing issue in Nigeria in 2023, following the cost of living, insecurity, and unemployment. Confidence in the government’s anti-corruption efforts has declined significantly, with only less than a third of citizens in 2023 believing in the effectiveness of these efforts, compared to over half in 2019.

The survey found that 56 percent of Nigerians interacted with a public official in 2023, down from 63 percent in 2019. Despite this reduction, bribery remains widespread, with an average of 5.1 bribes paid per bribe payer, totaling approximately 87 million bribes nationwide. This is a decrease from the 117 million bribes estimated in 2019.

Bribery was more prevalent in rural areas, where residents paid an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 in urban areas. Over 95 percent of bribes in 2023 were paid in monetary form, either cash or money transfer. Public officials were more likely to demand bribes, though private sector actors such as doctors in private hospitals also saw an increase in bribery requests from 6 percent in 2019 to 14 percent in 2023.

The report also highlighted a growing trend of Nigerians refusing to pay bribes. In 2023, 70 percent of those asked to pay a bribe refused at least once, with the highest refusal rates in the North-West zone at 76 percent. All regions recorded refusal rates above 60 percent, indicating a rising resistance to corruption among Nigerians.

Additionally, fewer citizens in 2023 viewed bribery requests as acceptable to expedite administrative procedures, with the percentage dropping from 29 percent in 2019 to 23 percent. The report noted that fewer citizens suffered negative consequences after refusing bribe requests in 2023, suggesting increased empowerment to confront corrupt officials.

Between 2020 and 2023, nepotism and bribery were rampant in public sector recruitment, with over 60 percent of public sector workers hired through these means. Specifically, 27 percent of successful candidates admitted to using bribery, 13 percent to nepotism, and 19 percent to both. In contrast, 40 percent of candidates claimed to have secured their positions without resorting to such means.

The report emphasized that the selection process used to recruit public officials plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of integrity in the civil service. It highlighted that the use of bribery was notably lower when the recruitment process included formal assessments. Among candidates who underwent written tests or oral interviews, 41 percent used unethical means, compared to 53 percent among those who were not formally assessed.

In summary, the 2023 NBS report underscores the pervasive nature of bribery and corruption in Nigeria, the decline in public trust in anti-corruption efforts, and the need for more stringent measures to promote transparency and integrity in both public and private sectors.

Nigeria's oil regulator has struck a deal with producers to allow sales of crude to domestic refiners at market prices, ending a supply dispute that had strained relations with international oil companies.

Nigeria relies on imports for most of its fuel needs due to inadequate refining capacity, although a 650,000 barrel-a-day refinery built by Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote and operational since February, should make it self-sufficient and able to export.

An agreement on Wednesday follows complaints from the Dangote Refinery that oil majors were hindering local crude purchases by demanding excessive premiums or saying they had no available supplies.

The regulator Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said in a statement it could not allow pricing to impede domestic refining.

"We will never allow price strangulation to disincentivise our domestic refining capacity optimisation," NUPRC's chief Gbenga Komolafe said following talks with oil companies grouped under the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS).

He said the regulator would work to ensure there was no "crude supply profiteering," although he also said it did not condone any loss-making in oil production.

To ensure transparency, Komolafe requested monthly cargo price quotes on crude oil supply and delivery from both producers and refiners and said it was up to the regulator to balance upstream development with a sustainable domestic energy supply chain.

In March, the NUPRC chief met with oil producers and refiners to addressrefineries' lack of access to locally produced crude oil.

The OPTS had no immediate comment.

 

Reuters

The supreme court has ruled that the federal government should henceforth pay allocations directly to local government councils from the federation account.

Delivering judgment in the suit on Thursday, a seven-member panel of justices held that state governments have continued to abuse their powers by retaining and using the funds meant for LGAs.

The apex court also ordered the federal government to withhold allocations of LGs governed by unelected officials appointed by the governor.

Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgment, said states are mandated to ensure that their local government councils are democratically elected, ⁠and that governors cannot use their powers to dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

“The amount standing to the credit of local government councils must be paid by the federation to the local government councils and not by any other person or body,” the judge said.

“The said amount must be paid to local government councils that are democratically elected.

“An order of injunction is hereby granted restraining the defendants from collecting funds belonging to the local government councils when no democratically elected local government councils are in place.

“An order that henceforth no state government should be paid monies standing to the credit of the local government councils.

“An order for immediate enforcement and compliance with these orders by the state governments and successive governments henceforth.”

BACKGROUND

In May, the federal government filed a suit at the supreme court against governors of the 36 states.

In the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, the federal government asked for full autonomy for the country’s 774 local governments.

In the suit filed by Lateef Fagbemi, attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, the federal government also requested the supreme court to authorise the direct transfer of funds from the federation account to local governments — in accordance with the constitution.

The suit was hinged on 27 grounds.

“That the constitution of Nigeria recognizes federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognized tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the federation account created by the constitution,” the originating summons had read.

“That all efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system, has not yielded any result and that to continue to disburse funds from the federation account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local governments is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 constitution.”

The federal government had asked the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the constitution to declare that the governors and state houses of assembly are under obligation to ensure democratically elected systems at the third tier.

 

The Cable

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