Kogi State Police Command yesterday confirmed that gunmen attacked the secretary of the state governorship election tribunal, David Umar Mike, and made away with sensitive petition documents on the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state.
The state police command’s spokesman, William Aya, who disclosed this in Lokoja on Wednesday, said the attackers carted away all the petition documents filed by four political parties at gunpoint.
The documents carted away by the attackers included petitions filed by the Action Alliance (AA), Action People’s Party (APP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) as well as two record books and a bag containing his personal item.
The police added that the incident happened just before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office at about 1320hrs on Monday, while the victims were on their way to the tribunal venue at the state High Court complex, Lokoja.
The police said, “On Monday, 04/12/2023 at about 1820hrs, one David Umar Mike ‘m’ Secretary to Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal along with Labode Apreala (f) Confidential Secretary and Hassimu Adamu Assistant Secretary, came to State Criminal Investigation Department, Kogi State Police Headquarters and reported that on the said date, three of them left their Hotel rooms in Lokoja about 1300hrs, heading to their Office at the High Court Complex driving in his (David’s) Peugeot 406 car.
“That just before the CBN at about 1320hrs, one SUV vehicle which had earlier overtaken him blocked his car with two other SUVs following behind.
“All of them surrounded and blocked him as he attempted to reverse. That he saw about seven hooded men all heavily armed and dressed in black attire who shot severally into the air and dragged him and his two other colleagues out of their car, ransacked the car and made away with all the petition documents.”
SP Aya added that the state Commissioner of Police, Onuoha Benthrand, had ordered a thorough and diligent investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the police command has advised the general public to avoid statements that may prejudice the ongoing investigation into the matter even as the command appealed to anyone with useful information on the incident to provide the same to it.
While INEC had declared Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the keenly contested poll, his runner-up, Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) alleged foul play and vowed to challenge the outcome before the tribunal.
Fighting between Israel and Hamas rages in Gaza's second-largest city, blocking aid from population
Israeli troops battled Hamas militants Wednesday in the center of the Gaza Strip’s second-largest city, the military said, pressing a ground offensive that has sent tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing to the territory’s southernmost edge and prevented aid groups from delivering food, water and other supplies.
Two months into the war, Israel’s offensive into southern Gaza was bringing to Khan Younis the same fierce urban fighting and intensified bombardment that obliterated much of Gaza City and the north of the territory in past weeks.
But in the south, the areas where Palestinians can seek safety are rapidly shrinking. Ahead of the assault, Israel urged residents to evacuate Khan Younis, the childhood home of two top Hamas leaders. But much of the city’s population remains in place, along with large numbers who were displaced from northern Gaza and are unable to leave or wary of fleeing to the disastrously overcrowded far south.
Cut off from outside aid, people in U.N.-run shelters in Khan Younis are fighting over food, said Nawraz Abu Libdeh, a shelter resident who has been displaced six times. “The hunger war has started,” he said. “This is the worst of all wars.”
The U.N. says some 1.87 million people — over 80% of the population of 2.3 million — have already fled their homes, many of them displaced multiple times. Almost the entire population is now crowded into southern and central Gaza, dependent on aid. International officials escalated warnings over the worsening humanitarian calamity.
“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said at a news conference in Geneva. “My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic.”
Israel’s campaign has killed more than 16,200 people in Gaza — most of them women and children — and wounded more than 42,000, the territory’s Health Ministry said late Tuesday. The agency has said many are also trapped under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.
Israel has vowed to fight on, saying it can no longer accept Hamas rule or the group’s military presence in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took captive some 240 men, women and children in that attack.
An estimated 138 hostages remain in Gaza after more than 100 were freed during a cease-fire last week. Their plight and accounts of rape and other atrocities committed during the rampage have deepened Israel’s outrage and further galvanized support for the war.
URBAN WARFARE NORTH AND SOUTH
The refugee camp within Khan Younis was the childhood home of Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, and the group’s military chief, Mohammed Deif, as well as other Hamas leaders — giving it major symbolic importance in Israel’s offensive.
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Sinwar is “not above ground, he is underground,” but would not elaborate on where Israel believes him to be. ”Our job is to find Sinwar and kill him.”
The military said its special forces at Khan Younis had broken through defense lines of Hamas fighters and were assaulting their positions in the city center. It said warplanes destroyed tunnel shafts and troops seized a Hamas outpost as well as several weapons caches. The Israeli accounts of the battle could not be independently confirmed.
Video released by the military showed commandos and troops moving amid sounds of gunfire down city streets strewn with wreckage and buildings with giant holes punched into them. Some took positions behind an earthen berm, while others inside a home fired out through a window, its flowered curtains fluttering around them.
Hagari said heavy fighting was also continuing in the north, in the Jabaliya refugee camp and the district of Shujaiya.
Hamas posted video it said showed its fighters in Shujaiya moving through narrow alleys and wrecked buildings and opening fire with rocket-propelled grenades on Israel armored vehicles. Several of the vehicles are shown bursting into flames.
Its account could not be independently confirmed. But Hamas’ continuing ability to fight in areas where Israel entered with overwhelming force weeks ago signals that eradicating the group while avoiding further mass casualties and displacement — as Israel’s top ally, the U.S., has requested — could prove elusive.
Israel accuses Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years, of using civilians as human shields when the militants operate in residential areas and blames that for the high civilian death toll. But Israel has not given detailed accounts of its individual strikes, some of which have leveled entire city blocks.
The military says 88 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive. It also says some 5,000 militants have been killed, without saying how it arrived at its count.
PUSHED TO THE EDGE
Tens of thousands of people have fled from Khan Younis and other areas to Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, the U.N. said. Rafah, normally home to around 280,000 people, has already been packed with more than 470,000 who fled from other parts of Gaza.
On the other side of the border, Egypt has deployed thousands of troops and erected earthen barriers to prevent any mass influx of refugees. It says an influx would undermine its decades-old peace treaty with Israel, and it doubts Israel will let them back into Gaza.
Overcrowded shelters and homes are now overflowing, residents say.
“You find displaced people in the streets, in schools, in mosques, in hospitals … everywhere,” said Hamza Abu Mustafa, a teacher who lives near a school-turned-shelter in Rafah and is hosting three families himself.
For the past three days, aid groups have only been able to distribute supplies in and around Rafah — and mainly just flour and water, the U.N.’s humanitarian aid office said. Access farther north has been cut off by fighting and road closures by Israeli forces. The World Food Program warned of the worsening of “the catastrophic hunger crisis that already threatens to overwhelm the civilian population.”
Israeli strikes continued in Rafah, where the military has told evacuees to take refuge. One strike Wednesday evening leveled a home in the town’s Shaboura district, where hours earlier the military had announced a pause in operations to allow delivery of aid. A wave of wounded flowed into a nearby hospital, including at least six children. Medics carried in the limp form of one little girl, her face bloodied.
“We live in fear every moment, for our children, ourselves, our families,” said Dalia Abu Samhadaneh, now living in Shaboura with her family after fleeing Khan Younis. “We live with the anxiety of expulsion.” She said diarrhea was rampant among children, with little clean water available.
A Palestinian woman who identified herself as Umm Ahmed said the harsh conditions and limited access to toilets are especially difficult for women who are pregnant or menstruating. Some have taken to social media to request menstrual pads, which are increasingly hard to find.
“For women and girls, the suffering is double,” Umm Ahmed said. “It’s more humiliation.”
Gaza has been without electricity since the first week of the war, and several hospitals have been forced to shut down for lack of fuel to operate emergency generators. Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine, fuel and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid from Egypt.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his Security Cabinet has approved small deliveries of fuel into the southern Gaza Strip “from time to time” to prevent a humanitarian crisis and the spread of disease. The “minimal amount” of fuel will be set by the war cabinet, a three-member authority in charge of managing the war against Hamas, Netanyahu said.
The decision comes as Israel faces mounting pressure from the United States to ramp up aid to Gaza.
Israel has greatly restricted shipments of fuel, saying Hamas diverts it for military purposes.
Zelenskiy assures Ukrainians of victory with US aid in the balance
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians on Wednesday that Kyiv would defeat Russia and win a fair peace "against all odds" as the future of vital U.S. military and financial aid hung in the balance.
Zelenskiy delivered his defiant message in an unusual early-morning video that showed him walking through Kyiv on his way to pay his respects to fallen soldiers on what Ukraine marks as Armed Forces Day.
"It has been difficult, but we have persevered," said Zelenskiy, who filmed himself on a mobile phone as he walked from his office down the central Hrushevskoho street towards central Kyiv's "wall of remembrance".
"It is not easy now, but we are moving. No matter how difficult it is, we will get there. To our borders, to our people. To our peace. Fair peace. Free peace. Against all odds."
His remarks appeared to respond to uncertainty over the future of a $60-billion aid package being debated in U.S. Congress that has been stuck for weeks.
On the streets of Kyiv, residents said they were worried and already felt the pain from delays in Western military aid.
"I'm scared that if Ukraine is left without help, the war will drag on longer and longer and it will be difficult to say when it could end,” Olha Starostenko, a 33-year-old economist, told Reuters TV.
"A friend of mine recently died fighting. We need to get the help as soon as possible, every day of delay means loss of human lives," said Tymur Dushko, 51, who works as an adviser on labour security.
"These are power games that are going on... But I’m convinced that we will receive aid," he added.
Kyiv has relied heavily on assistance from its Western allies against Russia's much bigger army in the biggest war in Europe since World War Two, now in its 22nd month.
A proposed European Union military aid package has also run into resistance from some members of the bloc.
On Tuesday, Zelenskiy cancelled plans to address U.S. lawmakers to appeal directly for the aid as Congress wrangles over Republican demands to tie the assistance to a revamp of U.S. immigration and border policies.
In one of the bleakest assessments yet by a senior Ukrainian official, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Tuesday that postponement of the U.S. aid created a "big risk" that Ukraine would lose the war.
Moscow controls about 17.5% of Ukraine's territory, and Ukrainian forces are now facing a new Russian offensive on the eastern front, with especially fierce fighting around the towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka.
In his video, Zelenskiy greeted people as he walked down the slippery, winter streets. He said Ukraine had no alternative except to liberate its territories occupied by Russia.
"These are our lands. These are our people. Is there an alternative? No. Nine years and 651 days of the war are behind us. Victory is ahead. And how else? Could there be an alternative? We all know: no," Zelenskiy said.
He was later shown paying his respects at the wall of remembrance created in 2014 to commemorate victims of Russia's war against Ukraine. Moscow seized the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed a militant insurgency in the east.
While the original panels were neatly structured with orderly military pictures, that changed after Russia's invasion in February 2022. Grieving families placed hundreds of personal photos there.
Zelenskiy said the wall would help strengthen Ukrainians' spirit against "fear, mistrust, despair, discord and thoughts of giving up."
UK special forces secretly operated in Ukraine – media
British special forces operators were embedded with Ukrainian troops in the early days of the conflict, Declassified UK reported on Wednesday, citing the newly published book by Polish journalist Zbigniew Parafianowicz.
Parafianowicz is the Ukraine correspondent for the Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (DGP). His latest work, ‘Polska na Wojnie’ (Poland at War), examines Warsaw’s role in the neighboring conflict.
According to Declassified, at one point, a Polish government minister – who is not named – told Parafianowicz about a time in March 2022 when he was traveling from Kiev to Zhitomir.
“It was a time when the Russians were still standing in Bucha, and the route was a gray zone. It was possible to run into Russians. We passed the last checkpoint. The Ukrainians told us that we continue at our own risk,”the unnamed minister reportedly said. “Well, and who did we meet next? Ukrainian soldiers and … British special forces. Uniformed. With weapons.”
According to Parafianowicz’s source, the British and the Ukrainians worked together, driving around the countryside with artillery tracking radars, “learning about this war.”
The same official also said that Polish special forces based in Lublin had been in Brovary, a suburb of Kiev, “on the first day” of the hostilities. Poles – along with Brits and Americans – had been training the Ukrainian special forces since 2014, the minister said. According to Parafianowicz, Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) had trained President Vladimir Zelensky’s security detail as well.
Another source, identified only as a high-ranking Polish officer, said that these commandos did not return to Poland, but “went in the opposite direction” – to Kharkov and parts of Donbass controlled by Ukrainians.
“They cooperated with the British,” the officer said. “Later, we worked out a formula for our presence in Ukraine … we were simply sent on paid leave. Politicians pretended not to see this.”
According to Declassified, some of these Polish commandos may have trained members of the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ movement – specifically the ‘Kraken’ unit based in Kharkov – in the use of British-supplied NLAW rocket launchers. Social media posts identified them only as “instructors from NATO countries.”
Parafianowicz’s book appears to confirm previous media reports about NATO commandos fighting alongside Ukrainian troops. In April 2022, the French daily Le Figaro claimed that SAS and Delta Force operators had waged a “secret war” on behalf of Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s military operation. Shortly after those revelations, The Times said a number of SAS operators had returned to Ukraine to teach Kiev’s soldiers how to operate British-made anti-tank rockets. Last December, a British military publication admitted that up to 300 Royal Marines had been deployed to Ukraine for “discrete operations.”
Classified Pentagon documents that were leaked in April this year also showed at least 50 British special forces operators were still active in Ukraine as of March.
** Zelensky critic shot dead near Moscow
The body of a former Ukrainian opposition lawmaker, Ilya Kiva, has been found in Moscow Region, Russian media reported on Wednesday. The politician was known as a staunch critic of President Vladimir Zelensky.
Kiva’s body was reportedly found on the grounds of the ‘Velich Country Club’ hotel near a cottage where he was residing. He was allegedly lying face down in a pool of blood in deep snow, several Russian media outlets reported, citing law enforcement sources. The man suffered a wound to the head according to TASS, citing its source.
Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman, Andrey Yusov, later stated that Ukrainian security services were behind the attack, news outlet 'Strana' reported. Other media claimed that country's domestic security service, the SBU, orchestrated the assault.
Russian officials have not commented on the incident so far.
Kiva was a Ukrainian MP from 2019 to 2022 and a member of the ‘Opposition Platform – For Life’ party, which was officially banned by Kiev in June 2022. Kiva himself was a fierce critic of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and the government’s pro-NATO policies. In a 2022 interview, he slammed the US and NATO for, as he said, using Ukraine as “bait” to provoke Russia into a conflict.
The politician left Ukraine not long before the start of Russian military action in February 2022, moving first to Spain and then to Russia. Ukraine stripped him of his mandate in mid-March 2022, less than a month after the start of Moscow’s operation. Ukrainian law enforcement also charged him with state treason the same month, accusing him of “doing everything” to invite the “Russian aggressors” to the country.
He was eventually sentenced in absentia to 14 years behind bars in Ukraine. In his last social media post, dated Wednesday morning, Kiva accused Zelensky of “drowning the [Ukrainian] people in blood,” adding that fleeing abroad or committing suicide would be the only two options for him since the US Senate has yet to approve a bill to fund further Ukraine military aid.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a probe into the murder of the former Ukrainian legislator, the law enforcement agency said in a statement on Wednesday. The committee confirmed the identity of the politician and said he had been killed on Tuesday evening by an unknown assailant, who shot him with a gun. It did not name any suspects in the case and said that all possible avenues of inquiry were being pursued.
Twenty months ago, after Vladimir Putin had launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many high-ranking Russians believed that the end was near. The economy faced disaster, as they saw it, and the Putin regime was on the brink of collapse. Today, the mood has changed dramatically, writes Mikhail Zygar.
Business leaders, officials and ordinary people tell me that the economy has stabilized, defying the Western sanctions that were once expected to have a devastating effect. Putin’s regime, they say, looks more stable than at any other time in the past two years.
Restaurants in Moscow are packed. “The restaurant market is growing, not only in Moscow, but throughout Russia, facilitated by the development of domestic tourism,” said a top Russian restaurateur. “And the quality of food is also changing for the better. Sure, panic struck the industry in early 2022, but it quickly passed.”
Real estate prices are rising, and construction is booming. At the beginning of 2022, most global brands left Russia, leaving empty storefronts in malls and streets. Now, the gaps have been filled by Russian counterparts, as the chief executive of one retail network told me. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, recently admitted that the Russian economy had faced “a threat of collapse” in the months after the invasion but said the country is now over the worst.
Before the war, Russian business executives generally kept their savings in the West. They also bought real estate, properties that sometimes served as second homes for their families. Now, as one Russian oligarch told me, that door has been slammed shut, sparking an investment boom at home. The only option left is for tycoons to put their money into domestic investments. Major building projects are now under way in places ranging from the Altai Mountains in eastern Siberia to Karelia on the border with Finland. In September, Bloomberg reported that Russian oligarchs had returned at least $50 billion to Russia since the invasion. According to those I interviewed, that estimate is very modest.
Russian industry is booming. Defence companies are leading the way, of course, with some expected to show growth of more than 30 percent this year. Moscow is continuing to sell oil and gas to foreign buyers — not only China and India but European countries, too; most of these customers simply purchase Russian petroleum through intermediaries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan or Egypt. The West might have succeeded in cutting most of its ties with Russia, but Moscow’s trade with the rest of the world is picking up.
The Soviet Union’s Cold War isolation has not repeated itself. Putin’s Russia can get many of the supplies it needs from China. For many Moscow residents, perhaps the most striking change on the streets is the near-wholesale replacement of Western cars with Chinese models.
After the invasion, the International Monetary Fund estimated that the Russian economy would fall by 2.3 percent in 2023. In January 2023, the IMF changed its forecast, predicting growth of 0.3 percent. It changed its forecasts at least two more times during the year; in October, it finally settled on a figure of 2.2 percent.
The sanctions have left Russian business leaders with no option but to stay at home. Even those who wanted to remain in the West and help Ukraine were punished – such as banker Oleg Tinkov, who condemned the war and even renounced his Russian citizenship but was hit by sanctions nonetheless. (He finally succeeded in getting them lifted only a few months ago.) Tycoon Mikhail Fridman, co-founder of Russia’s largest private bank, cautiously criticized the war, only to find himself briefly arrested by British authorities and hit by American sanctions. A few weeks ago, Fridman gave up, initially leaving his London home for Tel Aviv, then finally returning to Moscow.
Fridman’s return had a symbolic effect on the Russian business elite: It convinced them that the West sees them only as enemies. That means the only way to survive is to co-operate with the Kremlin, because Putin, unlike the West, has not yet punished any business leaders, even those who spoke out against the war.
It is the war in the Middle East, however, that has convinced Russian business leaders that Putin is winning. In their view, public opinion in the West is shifting away from Ukraine. Putin, meanwhile, will strengthen his standing in the eyes of the Global South. His claims that the United States is to blame for the crisis in Gaza resonate with millions of people around the world.
As for the war, the authorities are finding recruits by focusing their efforts on the poorest, most depressed regions of Russia and promising salaries 10 times the average. Putin still has money in his coffers, meaning that he is not going to run out of cannon fodder any time soon.
Russian elites are well aware that the regime still has many weaknesses. Russia still can’t produce many of the goods it needs, and getting them from its friends is complicated. One businessman told me that airlines will soon have to close because of a lack of spare parts for their passenger planes.
Even so, the shift in public opinion is unmistakable. Twenty months ago, Russian elites were convinced that the long-unassailable Putin had finally overplayed his hand and that he would likely have to pay a harsh price for his miscalculation.
Now, most of them seem to have changed their minds. The Russian president, as they see it, has shown that he’s here to stay.
The Washington Post
There's an ever-changing landscape in today's business world. It's vital for companies to constantly stay ahead of the curve for consistent growth. Failure to do so can render your business practices outdated at best and obsolete at worst.
One of my favorite events to attend each year is Ernst and Young's Strategic Growth Forum. In 2016, I was an award winner and have attended every year since.
It's fascinating to meet the individuals and companies who also attend and to note the changing trends in growth and innovation each year.
With that being said, here are a few innovative trends that stood out to me among a variety of businesses, as well as how these businesses are using them as they progress into 2024.
Having Purpose-Aligned Goals
A notable aspect of the event is the focus on supporting minority entrepreneurs with EY's Entrepreneur Access Network. One of the members, Ravi Norman, inspired me with his commitment to solving two critical challenges: Sustaining innovation through a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem and ensuring more resilient communities through energy and water efficiency and conservation.
His company, Sagiliti, uses data intelligence to reduce utility costs and improve sustainability metrics, while still prioritizing supplier diversity spend and job creation. There are companies that specialize in one – or many – of these areas, but Sagiliti makes it a priority to satisfy all facets of the ESG journey.
More of the award recipients this year had these concentric goals for improving economic, social, and governance outcomes in a more comprehensive way. To me, this signals that an increasing number of companies are beginning to see success with these goals in mind.
While it's difficult to accomplish every one of these goals, consistent progress is an attractive company attribute that future business partners and clients alike will respect into 2024 and beyond.
Expanding Business Ecosystems Into Communities
When Apple first released the iPod and iPhone, it marked the beginning of one of the most successful ecosystems that has since attained a genuine following for their products. Some companies have an amazing flagship product that can catapult growth to new levels.
One example of this phenomenon that I encountered at the event was The Elf on the Shelf, which is a product my kids have adored over the years.
Now, my 10-year-old practices The Elf on the Shelf tradition for our younger kids. Their prior success in launching an Elf Pets line proved that an ecosystem could be created.
So, it was no surprise to hear that they plan to expand their reach even further by launching the Santaverse, a storytelling universe around the enchanted world of Santa Claus, with the hero brand The Elf on the Shelf at its center.
Needless to say, any company that has a dedicated following of users can easily expand into different service lines related to their flagship product.
Sometimes, growth is already on a trajectory with the main product, which indicates that it's time to look at the supporting areas that can be built around it.
Few brands have evolved into true massive communities. But, with today's tools like data, technology and platforms that can help you engage a large target audience, this kind of progression is much more achievable.
Integrating AI While Still Prioritizing People
In attending recent business events, I would occasionally worry about what would be discussed regarding AI becoming dominant in the world – and business in particular. However, this time I felt more confident about it, as many of the sessions were embracing AI. Additionally, they centered their focus on using AI as a resource when scaling your business.
The calculator didn't replace our brains, but it has certainly changed the way people accomplish work in various career fields. It's a tool that can be used to make things more efficient.
AI, on the other hand, is a different beast. In one of the sessions led by Hank Prybylski, EY Global Vice Chair - Transformation, he emphasized the trend of putting people and machines together to create new possibilities.
My experience aligns with this AI trend. With our companies, it's more about a blend of AI and people, rather than AI completely taking over.
As worried as I've been about AI, I'm now starting to see the opportunity it can present for businesses to scale. That is if it's used the right way, with human influence involved.
The trends shaping the business landscape in 2024 are certainly diverse and dynamic. From aligning purpose goals to expanding products into communities, successful businesses are those that adapt to different trends and leverage them to their advantage.
By staying attuned to the ever-changing business environment and implementing new innovative strategies, entrepreneurs can position their businesses for sustained growth in the future.
Nigeria’s foreign reserves dropped by $4.07 billion in 11 months of 2023 amid Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention in the foreign exchange market.
Nigeria’s foreign exchange buffer closed November 30, 2023 at $33 billion; dropping by nearly 11 per cent or $4.07 billion from $37.069 billion it opened this year.
CBN governor, Olayemi Cardoso, recently disclosed that it responded to the backlog of foreign exchange forward obligations with payments made to 31 banks.
According to him, “We have been subjecting these payments to detailed verification to ensure only valid transactions are honoured. In a properly functioning market, it is reasonable to expect significant FX liquidity, with daily trade potentially exceeding $1 billion. We envision that, with discipline and focused commitment, foreign exchange reserves can be rebuilt to comparable levels with similar economies.”
Nigeria’s foreign reserves, recorded one of its highest decline in November 2023, dropping by 1.17 per cent or $392.08 million to $33 billion as of November 2023 from $33.396 billion it closed October 2023.
In October 2023, the foreign reserves had gained 0.48 per cent or $158.5 million to $33.396 billion.
The downward trend in foreign reserves continued to mount pressure on the naira at the official market closing November 2023 at N942.117 against the dollar from N448.55 against the dollar it opened this year.
Analysts attributed the depletion of the foreign reserves to CBN clearing backlog in the aviation sector, and among other sectors.
Vice President, Highcap Securities Limited, David Adnori noted that continuous intervention, external debt servicing and the lower foreign exchange inflow from oil exports contributed to the dwindled foreign reserves in 11 months of 2023.
He added, “The country has struggled to meet the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil production quota in the past few years, robbing it the opportunity to benefit from the elevated oil prices, which should shove up the external reserves.”
On their part, analysts at Cordros Research described the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reserve liabilities as all foreign exchange liabilities to residents and non-residents, including commitments to sell foreign exchange arising from derivatives (such as futures, forwards, swaps, and options) and all credit outstanding from the Fund.
“Also, the following are excluded from reserve assets: any assets that are pledged, collateralized, or otherwise encumbered, claims on residents, claims in foreign exchange arising from derivatives in foreign currencies vis-a-vis domestic currency (such as futures, forwards, swaps, and options), precious metals other than gold, assets in nonconvertible currencies, and illiquid assets.
“Based on the methods above and using data from the CBN’s 2022 financial statement, Nigeria’s international foreign exchange liquidity position and (2) net foreign reserves as of the end of 2022. In line with the CBN’s guidance, N461.50 against the dollar is the exchange rate we used in converting the naira balances to US dollars.
“Based on the analysis above, the CBN’s foreign currency liquidity position is exceptionally lower than the gross FX reserves as of the end of 2022. Using the gross FX reserve ($ 33.88 billion) as of 10 August and holding the FCD constant, we estimate that the CBN’s liquid reserves are currently at $11.87 billion (or 35.0 percent of gross foreign exchange reserves as of 10 August), ”Cordros explained.
They added that the low international liquidity position clarifies why the CBN’s FX supply to the official windows has been underwhelming in the past three years even when the gross FX reserves settled as high as $41.57 billion in September 2021.”
“The significant implication of the low CBN’s international FX liquidity position is that the apex bank’s FX intervention to support the domestic currency will remain underwhelming until there is a significant FX inflow to the CBN and the economy. The preceding will also likely erode foreign investors’ confidence in the economy. Asides from the aforementioned, given that (1) foreign investors have chosen to remain on the sidelines amid the current prohibitively low domestic interest rates and (2) export earnings remain low, we expect the naira to remain on the backfoot and depreciate further against the US dollar in the near term.
“The expected lingering exchange rate pressure also implies that domestic inflationary pressures will be sustained over the rest of the year, more so that PMS prices are expected to remain high. Given the CBN’s low international foreign currency liquidity position, foreign investors may demand higher yields on Nigeria’s sovereign instruments, making the country’s external borrowing costs remain prohibitively high.
“Asides from the lack of will to approach the IMF for funding assistance, Nigeria’s unwillingness to embark on currency and fiscal reforms has been at the core of the reasons the country has been unwilling to meet the IMF for funding support. Thus, given that the government is rapidly churning out reforms after embarking on FX and PMS subsidy reforms, we believe this is the perfect opportunity for the country to approach the IMF for funding support”, they said.
“In this instance, the government will not need to do much as the majority of what the IMF will demand, as conditions are what the country is already embarking upon. In our view, removing gasoline subsidies and floating the currency without plans to boost the FX supply in the short term will take the country back to where it was before the reforms. Indeed, recent developments in the FX space suggest the CBN is managing closing rates at the official FX market, given that the exchange rate, in recent times, has been trading within the N740.00 – N780.00/USD band despite the meagre FX supply relative to demand.
“Over the medium term, diversifying the economy’s export base is paramount to solving the reoccurring exchange rate issues. Nigeria needs to look beyond crude oil and earn more from stable exports – it is non-negotiable,” the report added.
Several workers at federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are yet to receive their November salaries.
One of the affected civil servants who spoke with TheCable said some workers at the federal ministry of labour and employment have not been paid since October.
The staff, who asked not to be named, said they were told that the government is broke.
“Only a few members of staff have been paid half of their November salary while the previous two months are still outstanding,” the labour ministry worker said.
Some of the workers said they have received no explanation from the authorities regarding the reason for the delay.
Bawa Mokwa, director of press at the office of the accountant-general of the federation, said the delay in the payment of November salaries was due to a “glitch”.
Mokwa, who spoke on Tuesday via a phone call with TheCable, said the integrated personnel and payroll information system (IPPIS) unit, which is responsible for the payment, had technical issues.
The director of press said the issue had been sorted, assuring that all the workers would be paid.
“I just left the IPPIS office. It has been confirmed, the director in charge of the payment said they have done what they are supposed to do,” he said.
“It was a glitch and it has been settled today. All errors have also been corrected. You can quote me. All federal workers will receive their November salary tonight.”
TheCable had recently reported that the December salaries of over 5,000 federal civil servants may be delayed due to discrepancies in dates of first appointment and birth.
Tommy Okon, national president of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), had said the union was working with the head of civil service of the federation to resolve the issues.
After starting the week in the red zone, the Nigerian Exchange Limited on Tuesday, closed in the green zone with N166bn gain.
Losses recorded in the equities of some medium-cap companies dragged the market capitalisation of the Nigerian Exchange Limited to a loss of N259bn on Monday.
Recouping part of the previous day’s losses, both the market capitalisation and the All-Share Index rose by 0.43 per cent to close at N38.989tn and 71,250.17 respectively.
The drivers of the market trend were primarily the stocks of AccessCorp, United Bank for Africa, Zenith Bank Plc, FBNHoldings, and MTN Nigeria.
Transaction volume rose by 20.93 per cent to 433.57 million from 358.53 million traded on Monday. The units were valued at over N11.11bn, signalling a 56.53 per cent increase over Monday’s trade value. The shares were exchanged in 7,016 deals and the number of stocks that saw some action during the day’s trading stood at 122.
The number of gainers surged to 40, chiefly led by stocks of Secure Electronic Technology Plc, Multiverse, Sunu Assurance, FBNH, and Thomas Wyatt with 10.00 per cent, 9.95 per cent, and 9.92 per cent gains each to close at N0.77, N7.07, N1.33, N26.75 and N3.02 per unit respectively.
Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc led the decliners’ chart with a 9.88 per cent depreciation to N1.55. FTN Cocoa Processors Plc lost N9.09 per cent to close at N1.5, Daar Communications saw its shares decline by 8.82 per cent to close at N0.31 per unit, Coronation Insurance Plc, which is in the middle of acquiring the shares of minority shareholders and subsequently delisting from the NGX, had 7.14 per cent shaved off its share value to close at N0.65 and Veritas Kapital Assurance Plc, which just announced Dr Adaobi Nwakuche as its Managing Director lost 5.41 per cent to close at N0.35 per unit.
The value drivers of the day’s market trend were the Nigeria Infrastructure Debt Fund, managed by Chapel Hill Denham, which on Monday announced a special distribution to unit holders off the sale of an asset. It traded 20,517,592 units valued at N2.22bn in 54 trades.
Airtel Africa had 1,202,823 of its shares worth N2.12bn exchanged in 31 deals, MTN Nigeria saw 5,575,900 units of its shares amounting to N1.33bn exchanged hands in 249 deals. Over 58.297 million units of UBA’s shares worth N1.24bn were exchanged in 426 deals and UAC Nigeria had the highest volume traded at 61,710,833 units of its shares valued at N947.411m exchanged in 78 deals.
Israel moves into Gaza's second-largest city and intensifies strikes in bloody new phase of the war
Israel said Tuesday that its troops had entered Gaza’s second-largest city as intensified bombardment sent streams of ambulances and cars racing to hospitals with wounded and dead Palestinians, including children, in a bloody new phase of the war.
The military said its forces were “in the heart” of Khan Younis, which has emerged as the first target in the expanded ground offensive into southern Gaza that Israel says aims to destroy Hamas. Military officials said they were engaged in the “most intense day” of battles since the ground offensive began more than five weeks ago, with heavy firefights also taking place in northern Gaza.
The assault into the south threatens to fuel a new wave of displaced Palestinians and a worsening of Gaza’s humanitarian catastrophe. The U.N. said 1.87 million people — more than 80% of Gaza’s population — have been driven from their homes, and that fighting is now preventing distribution of food, water and medicine outside a tiny sliver of southern Gaza. New military evacuation orders are squeezing people into ever-smaller areas of the south.
Bombardment has grown fiercer across the territory, including areas where Palestinians are told to seek safety. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, just north of Khan Younis, a strike Tuesday destroyed a house where dozens of displaced people were sheltering. At least 34 people were killed, including at least six children, according to an Associated Press reporter at the hospital who counted the bodies.
Footage from the scene showed women screaming from an upper floor of a house shattered to a concrete shell. In the wreckage below, men pulled the limp body of a child from under a slab next to a burning car. At the nearby hospital, medics tried to resuscitate a young boy and girl, bloodied and unmoving on a stretcher.
Israel’s assault in retaliation for Hamas’s Oct 7 attack has killed more than 15,890 people in Gaza — 70% of them women and children — with more than 42,000 wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. It says hundreds have been killed or wounded since a weeklong cease-fire ended Friday, and many still are trapped under rubble.
Israel says it must remove Hamas from power to prevent a repeat of the attack that ignited the war, when Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took captive some 240 men, women and children.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday the military would have to retain open-ended security control over the Gaza Strip long after the war ends. His comments suggested a renewed direct Israeli occupation of Gaza, something the United States says it opposes.
Netanyahu said only the Israeli military can ensure Gaza remains demilitarized. “No international force can be responsible for this,” he said at a news conference. “I’m not ready to close my eyes and accept any other arrangement.”
Under U.S. pressure to prevent further mass casualties, Israel says it is being more precise as it widens its offensive and is taking extra steps to urge civilians to evacuate out of its path. Weeks of bombardment and a ground offensive obliterated much of northern Gaza.
The military accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields when the militants operate in dense residential areas. But Israel has not provided accounting for targeting in individual strikes, some of which have leveled entire city blocks and complexes of dozens of multi-story apartment towers.
Military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi acknowledged that Israeli forces use heavy force against civilian structures, saying militants keep weapons in houses and buildings so fighters in civilian clothes can use them to fire on troops.
“Striking them requires significant use of fire, both to target the enemy but also to, of course, protect our forces,” he said. “Therefore the forces operate powerfully.”
BATTLES IN KHAN YOUNIS AND NORTH GAZA
Halevi said his forces had begun the “third phase of the ground operations,” moving against Hamas in the south after seizing much of the north. Israel has not given specific details on troop movements.
Residents said troops advanced to Bani Suheila, on Khan Younis’ eastern edge. Israeli forces also appear to be moving to partially cut across the strip between Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah. Satellite photos from Sunday showed around 150 Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles on the main road between the two cities.
The past days brought some of the heaviest bombardment of the entire war, the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office OCHA said.
Witnesses said a strike Tuesday hit a school in Khan Younis where hundreds of displaced people were sheltering. Casualties overwhelmed the nearby Nasser Hospital, where wounded men and children were lain on a bloody floor amid a tangle of IV tubes. In the morgue, a woman draped herself over the stretcher where her dead husband and child lay among at least nine bodies.
“What’s happening here is unimaginable,” said Hamza al-Bursh, who lives near the school. “They strike indiscriminately.”
In northern Gaza, the military said its troops were battling Hamas militants in the Jabaliya refugee camp and the district of Shujaiya, capturing Hamas positions and destroying rocket launchers and underground infrastructure.
The battles in the north signaled the tough resistance from Hamas since Israeli forces moved in on Oct. 27. The military says 86 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza offensive and that thousands of Hamas fighters have been killed, though it has not produced evidence.
Even after weeks of bombardment, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar — whose location is unknown — was able to conduct complex cease-fire negotiations and orchestrate the release of more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners last week. Palestinian militants have also kept up their rocket fire into Israel.
FEWER PLACES TO GO
After the full-scale evacuation of northern Gaza ordered by Israel early in the war, most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is squeezed into the 90 square miles of central and southern Gaza.
Since moving into the south, the Israeli military has ordered people out of nearly two dozen neighborhoods in and around Khan Younis. That further reduced the area where civilians can seek refuge by more than a quarter. It was not clear how many people followed the evacuation call.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza, and there is nowhere left to go,” Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said Monday. “The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist. If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold.”
For the past two days, aid distribution — mainly just supplies of flour and water — has been possible only in the city of Rafah, at the far south by the border, the U.N. said. Locations deeper inside Gaza, including Khan Younis, Deir al-Balah and northern Gaza, could not be reached because of fighting.
Nasser Bolbol, head of neonatal intensive care at the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, said acute hunger was spreading, with some deaths of children from dehydration and undernourishment, after nearly two months with only limited aid entering the territory, under an Israeli seal.
“Gaza is entirely covered in death and darkness,” he said.
Family members of hostages still held in Gaza held tense talks with Netanyahu and the war cabinet Tuesday. Observers present said more than 100 people attended the nearly three-hour meeting. Some relatives shouted at cabinet members, perceiving they did not have any immediate plans to rescue some 138 hostages still captive. Nearly half the room left in disappointment before the meeting ended.
During the gathering, five hostages released during the truce shared harrowing details of their experience. One spoke of Hamas fighters “touching” female hostages, and another said militants shaved off a male hostage’s body hair to humiliate him, according to a group representing the hostages’ families. Others said they were deprived of water.
A doctor who treated some of the 110 released hostages told the AP separately that at least 10 women and men among those freed were sexually assaulted or abused, but did not provide further details. He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the hostages’ identities.
Noam Peri, whose 80-year-old father is still being held captive, said the meeting with Netanyahu and the war cabinet was not a relaxed discussion.
“After 60 days, people are tired and worried,” Peri said.
Ukraine sees 'big risk' of losing war if U.S. Congress postpones vital aid
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's chief of staff said on Tuesday that the postponement of U.S. assistance for Kyiv being debated in Congress would create a "big risk" of Ukraine losing the war with Russia.
The remarks by Andriy Yermak were some of the frankest yet from a senior Kyiv official as uncertainty swirls over the future of vital U.S and European Union assistance packages as Ukraine's war with Russia rages on.
If the aid is postponed, "it gives the big risk that we can be in the same position to which we're located now," he said, addressing the audience in English.
"And of course, it makes this very high possibility impossible to continually liberate and give the big risk to lose this war."
On Monday, White House officials said the U.S. was running out of time and money to help Ukraine fight its war against Russia.
President Joe Biden's administration asked Congress in October for nearly $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security but Republicans who control the House with a slim majority rejected the package.
U.S. officials hope they can still get a significant package approved.
Yermak singled out the threat of no more direct budgetary support as a problem. The Ukrainian government expects to have a $43 billion budget deficit next year.
"Of course, without this direct budget support, it will be difficult to keep … in (the) same positions and... for the people to really survive...during the situation when the war will continue," he said.
"That is why it is extremely critically important that this support will be voted and will be voted as soon as possible."
Yermak was making his second visit to Washington in a matter of weeks. He said he planned to press lawmakers and administration officials on the critical importance that Congress approve the new aid package.
Ukraine conducted a major counteroffensive push this year, but was unable to break through Russian defensive lines. Russia is now on the offensive in the east.
Yermak said that Kyiv had a plan for the next year.
"We really have a plan and this plan...includes the military operations...includes diplomatic activity and of course it includes our cooperation in the communications and information," he said.
** Russia presses on with drive on Ukrainian town of Avdiivka
Russian forces pressed on with a long-running drive to capture the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on Tuesday and both sides said they had made gains.
Russian attacks killed four people in eastern and southern regions, including strikes on an aid centre and a medical building in the southern city of Kherson, the target of intensified Russian shelling in the 21-month-old war.
Ukraine said it had downed a Russian Su-24 fighter plane over the Black Sea near Snake Island as the aircraft was on its way to attack Odesa region.
Vitaliy Barabash, head of the military administration in Avdiivka, said Ukrainian forces had secured control of the village of Stepove on the northwestern approaches to the town.
"Yesterday and the day before yesterday, our side carried out very serious stabilisation actions," Barabash told U.S.-funded Radio Liberty. "Stepove is now fully controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
The popular Russian war blog Rybar said Russian forces had secured new areas around the village, 5 km (3 miles) north of Avdiivka. And the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, quoting geopolitical footage from Monday, said Russian forces were occupying improved positions.
Russian forces have been engaged in a slow-moving drive through eastern Ukraine since failing to advance on Kyiv in the early days of the February 2022 full-scale invasion. Since mid-October, they have focused on Avdiivka, a gateway to the Russian held regional centre of Donetsk and known for its vast coking plant.
HOLDING THE COKING PLANT
Barabash stood by his contention that Russian forces had been kept out of the plant, but acknowledged that fighting raged in the "industrial zone" outside the town centre.
Reuters could not confirm accounts from either side.
Fighting has also gripped two other largely devastated eastern towns, Ukrainian-held Maryinka and Russian-held Bakhmut.
Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets said Russian forces were trying to move on the northeastern town of Kupiansk, seized by Russian troops after the invasion, but later retaken by Ukraine.
Zgurets, writing on the website of media outlet Espreso TV, said fighting had been going on for several weeks near the village of Synkivka, 9 km from Kupiansk.
In Kherson, three people were killed and at least six injured in new Russian shelling.
"Today, the enemy destroyed one of the humanitarian centres," Yuri Sobolevskyi, deputy head of Kherson regional council, told national television. "One of our medical institutions was shelled. The shelling is continuing ...and the density is high."
Officials earlier said four doctors at the medical centre were injured. They said Russia fired two S-300 missiles, also damaging residential buildings nearby.
Russian forces used the "Grad" multiple launch rocket system for a two-hour-long attack on the eastern frontline city of Chasiv Yar, the General Prosecutor's Office said, killing one and injuring five. Residents, it said, were receiving water and bread from volunteers at the time of the attack.
Russia has denied targeting civilians in its invasion, although thousands have been killed in Russian air strikes.
US House Speaker issues Ukraine ultimatum to Biden
Getting the Republican-majority House of Representatives to approve additional funding for Ukraine would require first securing the US border with Mexico, Speaker Mike Johnson told the White House on Tuesday.
The Louisiana Republican was responding to Monday’s public letter from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young, who warned that the US was “out of money—and nearly out of time” in terms of aid to Ukraine and Israel. Young argued that cutting off US aid would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield” and increase the “likelihood of Russian military victories.”
Johnson first addressed Israel, noting that the House approved the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act (HR 6126) on November 2, but that Democrats who control the Senate “voted to block consideration of the bill.”
As for Ukraine, Johnson wrote, the Republican position has remained unchanged since his meeting with Young and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on October 26, when he laid out “two essential prerequisites: security at our border, and critical answers regarding the funds requested.”
Six days prior, President Joe Biden had announced the proposal to bundle the funding for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and immigration and border enforcement in a $106 billion package, of which about $60 billion would go to Kiev.
Additional funding for Ukraine is “dependent upon enactment of transformative change to our nation’s border security laws,” Johnson wrote on Tuesday. The House passed the Secure the Border Act of 2023 (HR 2), “more than six months ago,” he noted, but the Senate Democrats have “refused to act” on it.
Pointing to over 6.5 million “illegal alien encounters” along the southern US border since Biden took office, of which 294 involved people “on the terrorist watchlist,” Johnson called the situation “an unconscionable and unsustainable catastrophe.”
In addition to “madness” on the border, Johnson noted that the White House still owed Congress “a full accounting of how prior US military and humanitarian aid” to Ukraine was spent “and an explanation of the president’s strategy to ensure an accelerated path to victory.” He accused Biden of “failure thus far to present clearly defined objectives,” and to provide Kiev the weapons it needed on time.
“Rather than engaging with Congressional Republicans to discuss logical reforms, the Biden Administration has ignored reality, choosing instead to engage in political posturing,” the House speaker said.
Talks on a border security bill in the Senate collapsed earlier in the day, as Democrats denounced the Republican proposal as “extreme,” claiming it would “end asylum as we know it.”
** Russian forces wipe out Ukrainian arms depot near Kherson over past day
Russian forces destroyed a Ukrainian arms depot near Kherson over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday.
"An arms depot of the 124th territorial defense brigade was destroyed near the city of Kherson," the ministry said in a statement.