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Poultry farms across the country are currently shutting down operations due to the persistent hike in the price of maize – a major feed for birds in the subsector, the Poultry Association of Nigeria said on Monday.

Based on this, PAN stated that the poultry subsector in Nigeria was heading for a crash if the government failed to salvage the industry.

In a statement on Monday, the association said, “At the moment, the poultry industry in Nigeria is on the verge of total collapse if urgent intervention is not channelled to it without further delay.

“We are aware that the government has declared a state of emergency on the food security situation of the country, but the situation of the poultry industry calls for an urgent intervention to save the industry from total collapse.”

The statement, which was jointly signed by PAN’s National President, Sunday Ezeobiora, and Director-General, Onallo Akpa, stated that there had been an upward surge in the cost of maize, forcing farmers to shut down their operations.

It said, “The high surge in the price of maize and the near absence or scarcity of the product is causing farmers to close down their poultry farms at the moment because it is no longer sustainable to feed the birds and be in business.

“This is threatening the further development of the Nigerian poultry industry.”

Findings also revealed that the price of eggs, a daily protein source for many Nigerians, had soared by over 118.34 per cent after maize importation fell by 97.91 per cent.

According to data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics, the price of one agric egg medium size rose to N89.17 as of May 2023 from N40.84 as of May 2020. This was as the importation of maize, a major component of poultry feeds, fell to $1.82m as of the end of 2022 from $87.08m as of the end of 2020 according to data from the International Trade Center.

According to farmers who spoke with our correspondent, maize is a major component (60 per cent to 70 per cent) of poultry feed, and the increase in the cause of maize because of an import ban had translated to a rise in the price of eggs for the average Nigerian.

In 2020, the Federal Government banned the importation of maize into the country as the CBN added maize to the list of items restricted from accessing foreign exchange.

While Nigeria had banned the importation of maize, its local production has also suffered due to sustained banditry in the north.

A circular signed by the Director, Trade and Exchange Department, CBN, OS Nnaji, in 2020 stated, “As part of efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase local production, stimulate a rapid economic recovery, safeguard rural livelihoods and increase jobs which were lost as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, authorised dealers are hereby directed to discontinue the processing of Forms M for the importation of maize/corn with immediate effect.”

The FG later gave concessions to four companies (Premier Feeds, Mills Wacot, Chi Farms, and Crown Flour) to import 262,000 tonnes of maize because of the importance of maize to the poultry industry. Nigeria has 400,000 metric tonnes of maize production shortfall.

According to a farmer, Azeez Gbadamosi, the continued increase in the price of eggs was directly related to the increase in feeds. He said, “The increase in the price of eggs is due to the cost of feeds. Almost every week, the cost of feeds rises.

“Also, there is the cost of medication, transportation, and others too. The cost of feeds is majorly increasing because of the cost of maize; you know maize makes up more than 50 per cent of the feed. The cost of maize is on the rise because local production has really been hindered.”

Another farmer, who is also a veterinary doctor, Akintade Akintayo, said that the price of feeds was the major reason why egg prices were rising. He lamented that in the last two weeks, the price of New Hope feeds, a poultry feed, had increased thrice.

The farmer,  who operates Atade Farms, said, “Maize is like 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the whole feeds. The increase in the price of maize is one of the major factors. Maize is expensive because a few years ago, the importation of maize was limited. And the bulk of the maize we use for many of our general activities, including human consumption, is imported.”

 

Punch

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Russia launches drones, missiles on Ukraine's south and east - Ukraine's Air Force

Russia launched overnight air attacks on Ukraine's south and east using drones and possibly ballistic missiles, Ukraine's Air Force and officials said early on Tuesday.

A fire broke out at one of the "facilities" in the port of Mykolaiv late on Monday, the city mayor said. The port city provides Ukraine with access to the Black Sea.

"It's quite serious," Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said on the Telegram messaging app of the fire, adding that more detail will come in the morning.

The southern port of Odesa and the Mykolaiv, Donetsk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions were under threat of Russian drone attacks, the Air Force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It added that Russia may be using ballistic weaponry to attack the regions of Poltava, Cherkasy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Kirovohrad.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Air raid alerts blared in many Ukrainian regions for hours, before being called off at around 04:30 a.m. local time (0130 GMT).

Oleh Kiper, head of the Odesa region's military administration, said air defence systems there were engaged in repelling several waves of Russian drone attacks.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Odesa military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app that details of the attack will come later in the morning.

"Thank you all for your endurance," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Russia on the attack.

Early on Monday, a blast knocked out the Crimean Bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, in what Moscow called a strike by Ukrainian sea drones and vowed retaliation

** Road traffic partially restored on Crimean Bridge - Russia deputy PM

Partial road traffic opened on one lane of the Crimean Bridge late on Monday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said on his Telegram channel.

"Motor transport on the Crimean Bridge has been restored in reverse mode on the most outer right lane," Khusnullin wrote on Monday.

However, ferry operations were suspended early on Tuesday, due to bad weather, Russian agencies reported, citing the Moscow-backed emergency situations ministry of Crimea.

Early on Monday, a blast knocked out the bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, in what Moscow called a strike by Ukrainian sea drones.

** Russia halts grain deal in what UN calls blow to needy people everywhere

Russia halted participation on Monday in the year-old U.N.-brokered deal that lets Ukraine export grain through the Black Sea, causing concern in poorer countries that price rises will put food out of reach.

Hours earlier, a blast knocked out Russia's bridge to Crimea in what Moscow called a strike by Ukrainian sea drones, killing two people. Moscow said it was a terrorist attack on the road bridge, a major artery for Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said there was no link between the attack and its decision to suspend the grain deal, over what it called a failure to meet its demands to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for its own food and fertilizer exports.

"Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signalled that Russia's withdrawal meant that the related pact to assist Russia's grain and fertilizer exports was also terminated.

"Today's decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere," he told reporters.

Moscow said it would consider rejoining the grain deal if it saw "concrete results" on its demands but that its guarantees for the safety of navigation would meanwhile be revoked.

In Washington, the White House said Russia's suspension of the pact "will worsen food security and harm millions" and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it unconscionable.

IMPACT COULD BE PROFOUND IN AFRICA

Ukraine and Russia are some of the world's biggest exporters of grain and other foodstuffs and any interruption could drive up food prices across the globe.

Shashwat Saraf, the emergency director in East Africa for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said the impact would be profound in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, which have been facing the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades.

"I don't know how we will survive," said Halima Hussein, a mother of five living in a crowded camp in Somalia's capital Mogadishu for people displaced by years of failed rains and violence.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy raised the prospect of resuming grain exports without Russia's participation, suggesting Kyiv would seek Turkey's support to effectively negate the Russian de facto blockade imposed last year.

"Ukraine, the U.N. and Turkey together can ensure the operation of a food corridor and vessel inspections, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video message, saying said the world "has the opportunity to show that blackmail is not allowed ... We must all ensure security, protection from Russian madness."

RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE

Ukrainian forces have been striking Russian supply lines as it pursues a counteroffensive to drive Russian forces out of its south and east. On Monday it reported two more civilians killed by Russian forces, which it said had begun a major push in the northeast.

"For two days running, the enemy has been actively on the offensive in the Kupiansk sector in Kharkiv region. We are defending. Heavy fighting is going on and the positions of both sides change dynamically several times a day," Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar, wrote on Telegram.

The armed forces said Russia had amassed a huge array of forces.

"In the Lyman-Kupiansk sector the enemy has concentrated a very powerful grouping. More than 100,000 personnel, more than 900 tanks, more than 555 artillery systems, and 370 multiple launch rocket systems," Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces East group, said on national TV.

Reuters was not able to verify the accounts and there was no immediate comment from Russia.

The blast on the road bridge to Crimea could limit Moscow's ability to supply its troops in southern Ukraine, although Russian President Vladimir Putin said the bridge had not been used for military transports for a long time. Partial road traffic had been restored, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said on Telegram.

Earlier, images showed part of the road bridge had come down and traffic halted in both directions, although a parallel railway bridge was still operational. Blasts were reported before dawn on the 19-km (12-mile) bridge, which Putin ordered built after seizing and annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Putin told officials Russia would respond to the "senseless" attack.

Ukrainian media quoted unidentified officials as saying Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) had deployed maritime drones against the bridge. SBU spokesperson Artem Dekhtyarenko alluded to the idea that the agency would reveal details after Ukraine won the war, without directly claiming responsibility.

Ukraine says the bridge is illegal. It was hit by a massive explosion and fire in October.

The grain deal was hailed as preventing a global food emergency when brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last year.

Global commodity food prices rose on Monday, though the increase was limited, suggesting traders did not yet anticipate a severe supply crisis.

Western countries say Russia is trying to use its leverage over the grain deal to weaken financial sanctions, which do not apply to Russia's agricultural exports.

Russia has extended the Black Sea deal three times, despite repeated threats to quit. It suspended participation after an attack on its fleet by seaborne Ukrainian drones in October, leading to a few days when Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations kept exports going without Moscow.

Any resumption of shipments without Russia's blessing would probably depend on insurers. Industry sources told Reuters they were studying whether to freeze their coverage.

"The (key) question is whether Russia mines the area which would effectively cease any form of cover being offered," one insurance industry source said.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

No more security guarantees for Black Sea navigation – Russian FM

Russia will no longer provide security guarantees for civilian vessels traversing the formerly exempted corridor in the Black Sea, the country’s foreign ministry has announced. Earlier on Monday, the Kremlin stated that it would not extend the Black Sea grain agreement since its own food and fertilizer exports are still being blocked.  

In a statement released on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said that this latest decision “means the recall of maritime navigation security guarantees, the discontinuation of the maritime humanitarian corridor [and] the reinstatement of the ‘temporarily dangerous area’ regime in the north-western Black Sea.” Russian diplomats went on to accuse Ukraine of using the humanitarian corridor to carry out attacks on Russian targets.  

As for the Ukrainian grain shipments that were facilitated by the deal, the ministry claimed that the vast majority of those ended up in Europe, with several countries there allegedly lining their pockets.  

The statement pointed out that the whole mechanism, which was launched last summer, had ostensibly been designed to help avert famine in poorer nations.  

According to Moscow, key points in the Russia-UN memorandum, which was signed in lockstep with the Black Sea Initiative, have remained unfulfilled to date.  

As a result, the ministry explained, Russian bank transactions, insurance and logistics were effectively paralyzed, meaning that Moscow could not sell its own produce and fertilizers on the international market. In one case cited in the statement, a shipment of Russian fertilizers donated free of charge to several African countries was blocked in the EU.   

The foreign ministry concluded that in light of all these issues, the agreement no longer makes sense. 

Moscow has suggested European nations should allow Ukraine to transfer its grain via their territory and potentially face the wrath of local farmers, or take action and address Russia’s grievances.  

Should this happen, Moscow would be ready to return to the implementation of the agreement, the statement noted.  

Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced the termination of the deal. He also reiterated Russia’s readiness to return to the mechanism; however, he added that this would only happen if its interests were respected.  

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would “suspend participation in this deal,” describing the arrangement as a “one-sided game all along.”

** No mercy for terrorists – Medvedev

Terrorist attacks cannot be prevented with the help of negotiations, and only tough and decisive measures can guarantee success, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday.

His comments came after Moscow accused Ukraine of staging a drone attack on the Crimean Bridge, killing two people, and injuring a child.

Writing on Telegram, Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that experience had shown that it is impossible to fight terrorists with “international sanctions, intimidation, and lecturing.”

They [terrorists] understand only the language of force. Only personal and quite inhumane methods.

Against this backdrop, the ex-president suggested targeting the perpetrators in their own homes, and “searching and liquidating their accomplices” without much regard for legal proceedings.

“The main thing is to destroy the top leadership of terrorist groups, no matter in what cracks these insects hide,” he said, adding that such policies are difficult but still possible to implement.

Medvedev's fiery post was an apparent response to a Ukrainian maritime drone attack on Monday targeting the strategic Crimean Bridge, which damaged one of the roadways and claimed the lives of a married couple from Belgorod and injured their daughter, according to Russian officials.

Responding to the incident, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova labeled Ukraine a “terrorist regime,” adding that all of Kiev’s decisions are to a large extent controlled by US and British special services and policymakers.

Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility for the attack but cheered the incident. Mikhail Podoliak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, said that “any illegal structures” used by Russia to supply its troops are “necessarily short-lived... regardless of the reasons for the destruction.”

In early February, Medvedev warned Ukraine that should it conduct a strike on Crimea, it would lead to the escalation of the conflict, while Kiev would face “inevitable retaliation using weapons of any kind.” He also said that such actions would preclude any possibility of talks with the Ukrainian government.

** Russian forces wipe out Ukrainian ammo depots in LPR and DPR — top brass

Russian forces destroyed Ukrainian ammunition depots in the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR) over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov reported on Monday.

"Ammunition depots of the Ukrainian army’s battlegroup Liman, 53rd mechanized and 25th air assault brigades were destroyed in areas near the settlements of Novoyegorovka in the Lugansk People’s Republic, Kramatorsk and Vodyanoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the spokesman said.

 

Reuters/RT/Tass

Attacks and displacement spread in Sudan's Darfur

The paramilitary force battling the army in Sudan has taken control of a town in South Darfur, triggering clashes, looting and a new wave of displacement, conflict monitors and a witness said on Monday.

Clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army around the town of Kas had caused up to 5,000 households to flee, some of them from camps for displaced people, according to a tracking system run by the International Organization for Migration.

The war that erupted between the army and the RSF in the capital Khartoum has led to a surge of ethnically-charged violence and displacement in Darfur, the RSF's powerbase and a region already suffering from long-running conflict.

The RSF said on Sunday that it had taken control of an army base in Kas, seizing vehicles and weapons and capturing 30 soldiers as part of the wider conflict.

The Darfur Bar Association, an activist group that monitors the conflict, condemned what it called an attack on Kas by the RSF that had led to looting and theft.

Alfadil Mohamed, a witness, told Reuters there had been heavy clashes in the town, resulting in at least three deaths and the displacement of residents towards the east.

On Friday the U.S.-based Sudan Conflict Observatory reported that the RSF and aligned forces had allegedly carried out the targeted destruction of at least 26 communities in Darfur, forcibly displacing at least 668,000 civilians, since mid-April.

It said that the pattern of the attacks primarily against non-Arab communities was identical to those deployed by Sudan's government and the allied Janjaweed militias in 2003-2004, when mass atrocities were committed as they fought to crush a rebellion.

The RSF developed from the Janjaweed militias into a large and well-equipped fighting force with official status. It has said that recent violence against civilians in Darfur was tribal, and that it was not party to it.

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The current war, which erupted amid disputes over a planned transition towards civilian rule, has led to the displacement of more than 3 million people, including more than 700,000 who have crossed into neighbouring countries.

Fighting has continued in the capital, where the army said that on Saturday and Sunday the RSF had hit the Medical Corps complex and the military-owned Aliaa hospital in Omdurman, one of Khartoum's twin cities.

Aliaa, which treats both military and civilian patients, had also been hosting former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was transferred there from prison before the start of the conflict along with other prominent detainees. The army did not give an update on Bashir's current whereabouts.

Beginning on Friday, intense clashes were seen in the city of Bahri, across the Nile from Omdurman and the capital Khartoum.

RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo claimed a victory for his forces there in an audio note on Monday.

"The choice of peace and stability in Sudan has always been and still is our choice... Yet, we are prepared for the choice of war and ready to sacrifice ourselves to ensure a decent life for our people," said Dagalo, widely known in Sudan as Hemedti, in an audio statement.

While the two sides have shown openness towards mediation efforts led by regional and international actors, none have resulted in a sustained ceasefire.

 

Reuters

Threads reached 100 million sign-ups within just five days of launch, with Mark Zuckerberg celebrating every step of the way, but the actual usage of Meta’s Twitter clone appears to have fallen off the proverbial cliff, data analysis has shown. 

Zuckerberg chose to launch Threads as an Instagram spinoff, prompting the photo platform’s user base to register for the text app when it launched on July 6. The cross-promotion helped the new platform reach ten million users in just seven hours, with Zuckerberg excitedly live-posting the growth. 

Within a week, Threads made it to 150 million downloads globally, with India accounting for 33% of the new users and Brazil another 22%, according to Data.ai. Americans made up just 16% of downloads, with Mexico (8%) and Japan (5%) following suit.

In the same time frame, however, Threads saw its daily active users (DAU) collapse by 40% and the average daily time per user dropping fourfold, according to data from SensorTower. Only 16% of users came back on the seventh day after downloading, and time spent on Threads over the weekend was down 60% from its July 6 launch high.

Despite Threads strong sign-ups/DAUs, ST data shows engagement remains low. Weekend time spent declined 60% from Jul 6 highs; this was 60% & 85% lower than avg time spent on Twitter & Insta, resp.

Even at its peak, on July 6, Threads had 85% lower user engagement than Instagram, and underperformed Twitter by 60% in the same metric, SensorTower analysts Abraham Yousef and Seema Shah told The Atlantic last week.

Additional data showed Threads usage collapsing from neatly 20 minutes a day on launch to just five after a week. Meanwhile, Twitter and Instagram both held steady at 30 and 60 minutes, respectively.

“I think there should be a public conversation app with 1 billion+ people on it,” Zuckerberg boasted after the launch of Threads. He also said Meta would be “focusing on kindness and making this a friendly place.”

In practice, this has translated into the kind of censorship already practiced on Facebook and Instagram, with the added prospect of people losing their Instagram accounts if they get banned for Threads posts.

Online data analysts have speculated that an audience interested in photos may not cross over well to text posts, while the Instagram integration has discouraged the anonymous meme accounts that have traditionally been the lifeblood of Twitter.

Fleeting user interest is not the only teething problem affecting Threads. Zuckerberg has already received a cease-and-desist letter from Twitter accusing him of plagiarizing their platform. On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee notified Zuckerberg that all of its subpoenas pertaining to Meta colluding with the government to censor people should be considered applicable to Threads as well.

The Atlantic also poured cold water on Threads’ 100-million milestone, noting that the first social network to reach it was Google+, which launched in 2011 but was shuttered in 2019 due to lack of interest.

 

Russia Today

Let's just admit it right off the bat: We hate meetings. 

Research has shown that meetings have increased in both length and frequency over the past 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s, leaders spent roughly 10 hours a week in meetings; now it's upward of 25.

Meeting for meeting's sake happen all too often. It's begun to negatively impact individual productivity and organizational performance.

Busy knowledge workers can't afford to waste time in meetings, nor can their company's bottom line. The ones know this. So they schedule their days and weeks wisely. They build systems using intelligent emotional design.

That is, they plan, schedule and run meetings knowing how human emotions work. They meet with emotional intelligence. Decades of research in behavioral science and psychology shows that emotions work in ways you'd least expect them to. Knowing this is important to create positive meeting experiences.

Here are the two best habits people high in emotional intelligence use when optimizing for meetings in their day. 

Set the meeting location wisely

The first thing to realize is that the conversation during meetings happens long before you actually meet and begin talking. Most people don't know this.

Doing so requires a bit of foresight and planning, but the effort pays off down the road in terms of getting the most out of the meetings.

People high in emotional intelligence choose the location of these meetings wisely. They have in mind a few key spots they can suggest for an in-person gathering.

Choosing a more stimulating environment works wonders. Here are just three easy examples:

  1. A unique and trendy coffee shop over your standard Starbucks.
  2. A room with an outside view of some greenery. Or, better yet, a "green" room with lots of natural sunlight and plants (side note: Green rooms boost cognitive performance).
  3. A "walking" meeting in which you can get these benefits on top of the added bonus of stimulating creative thinking and fostering a sense of trust and cooperation through effective nonverbal communication.

An exciting environment makes everything else seem more exciting to another person, including the other people in the meeting.

It's the result of what psychologists call the misattribution of emotions – humans are pretty bad at pinpointing the exact source of what's affecting their mood, whether good or bad.

In other words, having a meeting in an interesting place will lead those present to feel greater excitement and be in a more positive mood.

Due to mental misattribution, the attendees might not be able to identify the exact cause of that pleasant feeling state. But the brain needs answers. So it takes a shortcut – called heuristics – and says the positive feelings must be the result of what's immediately in front of them: the person and her words.

Start the meeting by priming it with positivity

Meetings require a bit of a ramp-up before jumping in. Though small talk is often seen as a time-waster, research has found that it is important for building rapport and trust.

This seemingly irrelevant element of a meeting actually increases the chances that it will lead to a positive outcome.

Not just any kind of small talk will do, though. Emotionally intelligent people are careful to stay away from common topics.

Instead of starting with, "How about those [insert local sports team her]" emotionally intelligent people are more strategic and creative in their pre-meeting chitchat. What they do is prime the attendee to enter into a positive mental state. They use the pliability of these feel-good states to their advantage.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. An internal meeting can begin with a conversation around a recent success story in the company, one in which the person you're meeting with had a direct hand in things.
  2. An external meeting can start by addressing a person's recent wins and accomplishments. In both cases, the key to a successful outcome for both parties lies in the attendee's willingness to disclose and share the positive experience. Get him or her to talk.

Priming people with feel-good emotions at the beginning of a meeting gets them (and their brains) into a favorable state called broaden and build. The brain state leads people to broaden their perceptual experience and see other things, though unrelated, through a glow of positivity.

The result: When the actual meeting begins, the halo effect of the initial small talk makes bad things good and good things great. High emotional intelligence people apply this knowledge and steer the meeting topics accordingly.

 

Inc

Central Bank of Nigeria has slashed the mandatory cash reserve requirement for merchant banks by 70% to increase their liquidity and ability to extend loans to companies.

The cash reserve ratio for merchant banks has been reduced to 10% from 32.5% “to boost the banks’ ability to avail increased infrastructure, real sector and other long-term financing,” the Abuja-based bank said in circular to the banks.

The “measure is in recognition of the nuanced business model of the merchant banks, in particular their wholesale funding structure,” it said.

The cash reserve ratio is the share of a bank’s customer funds that must be deposited with the CBN. The regulator deploys the ratio to regulate money supply and credit in the economy. It increased the ratio for merchant and commercial lenders in September to 32.5% from 27.5% to curb credit and inflationary pressure on the economy.

The new merchant banks’ cash reserve requirement takes effect Aug. 1, the CBN said. There are six institutions licensed to operate as merchant banks in the country, according to the regulator’s website.

 

Bloomberg

Despite several measures taken by both the Zamfara State and the Federal Government to end banditry activities in the state, the menace has worsened with bandits raging free and wild, kidnapping, and killing innocent people.

Bandits are becoming stronger with the passage of time and have made about 14 local government areas of the state their home.

Recently bandits abducted at least 80 children in the Tsafe Local Government area of the state. This happened as 31 villagers were recently killed by bandits in Janbako and Sakida villages in the Maradun Local Government Area of the state. Zamafara is a hotbed for banditry activities, and about 498 people in the state lost their lives to the activities of the terrorists in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to a report from SBM Intelligence.

The bandits, who now move freely in large numbers on motorcycles, recently issued a strong warning to farmers particularly those in the rural areas that there would be no farming activities this year unless the state government negotiated with them.

At of the time of filing this report, more than 70 per cent of farmlands in the state are currently abandoned due to fear of bandit attacks.

Many farmers, who spoke to our correspondents, expressed worries that they would not be able to farm this year, considering the security challenges affecting the state.

One of the farmers, Musa Garba, who is a resident of Dansadau town in the Maru Local Government area, said he used to get over 100 bags of rice, and 50 bags of millet every year.

He lamented he did not plant any crop this farming season due to fear of the bandits who are always going around the farmlands to kidnap or kill farmers.

He said, “I used to get enough food to feed my family and even sell some bags to buy other commodities. But in the last two years, I stopped going to the farm.”

Another farmer, Abubakar Dauda, also from Dansadau town in the Maru Local Government Area, narrated how the lingering banditry in the area had become worrisome and dangerous, with farmers  losing hope in this year’s farming season.

He said, “Last year, we only cultivated our nearby small farms as we could not go far due to fear of the miscreants. There were instances when the bandits told us that farming could only be done with their approval.”

He explained that even though the rainy season has already started, farmers are afraid to visit their farms.

Another farmer, Sani Musa, said he went ahead to plant some crops this year thinking that the present administration under the leadership of Governor Dauda Lawal would do something urgent on security. He, however, lamented that bandits have destroyed the crops.

Musa said, “The armed bandits usually drive their cattle into our farms and eat everything on the farm. This situation has really put us in serious trouble and we now resort to begging for food on the streets.”

He called on both the state and the Federal Government to deploy adequate troops in some areas to enable farmers to return to their farms.

Another farmer, Garba Ibrahim, from the Shinkafi Local Government Area, said he was no longer thinking of resuming farming in this farming season.

He said this was due to consistent attacks by bandits. This, he said, had led to the deaths of many villagers and the burning of major parts of the village.

He said, “I am not even talking about how to go back to the farm but rather I am thinking of where to get something to eat. Nobody is talking about farming here again because despite the government’s efforts we still can’t access our farms.

“We are going to see a new chapter in poverty if all stakeholders do not come to our rescue and put things in order to make us go back to our villages.”

A resident of Yanwaren daji in the Tsafe Local Government area, Sirajo Umar, said, “Tension is high among most farming communities. Many of us will not go to farm this year except something serious is being done to protect our lives.”

Umar stressed bandits are angrier with farmers, thinking they were leaking information about their whereabouts to security agents.

He noted that he was supposed to have planted rice, millets, soya beans, and sorghum this farming season, but could not because he was unsure of his safety.

Another farmer, Umar, stated that his farmlands have been seized by bandits two years ago and no effort has been made by security agents to retrieve them.

He, however, expressed optimism that with the recent deployment of soldiers of Operation Hadarin Daji to Mada and Wonaka areas, the bandits would soon be forced to move into the forest areas.

This, he said, could provide opportunities for some farmers who own lands not far from the town to access them.

He said, “Those who have farms near the forest have given up. They no longer go to their farms because of abductions and killings by bandits. Some farmers who did not heed the warnings of the bandits and returned to their farms were chased away by bandits and warned not to return to their farms.”

A retired civil servant who gave his name as Salihu Shehu said he ventured into farming after he retired two years ago.

He said he recently gave up because of bandits.

Shehu said, “We cannot farm because bandits have continued to attack us due to lack of security personnel in the farms. We want the security personnel to be stationed in our community so that we can return home and prepare for the farming season.”

According to an indigene of Faru town in the Maradun local government area of the state, Mohammed Abubakar, bandits have recently killed five farmers on their farmlands, kidnapped 21 others, and threatened to destroy the crops already planted in the area.

Abubakar said the bandits had sent a warning letter to the farmers in the area that if they kidnapped anybody on the farm, they would not negotiate for ransom but would kill him instantly.

He said, “We have received a warning letter from the bandits that, henceforth, they will kill any farmer who dares to go to his farmland as they are not interested in collecting ransom.

“We reported the issue to both the state government and the security agents, but nothing has been done.”

Ostensibly because bandits will not allow farming this year, Abubakar said farmers had fled to neighbouring states and Niger Republic.

Another farmer from Kizira village in the Tsafe Local Government, Salihu Garba, noted that farmers were fleeing to other states because bandits were harassing them, threatening to kill anybody who went to the farm.

He said, “You know that our people here depend largely on farming activities for survival, and if the bandits said we should not go to the farm, I think we will have no option but to leave the state.”

In 2022, farmers under the umbrella of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Zamfara State chapter, said that they would be meeting with bandits to discuss their farming activities with a view to getting permission to cultivate their farmlands.

AFAN Public Relations Officer, Abdulhafiz Alkali, said, “What I know about protection with the farmers is just the negotiation between the bandits and the farmers. I am living in Zamfara State now. I know that there will be a meeting by this coming Saturday between the farmers and the bandits.

“We lost a lot of things in Zamfara State. We sent letters to the Federal Government to secure us five years ago after complaining that the bandits were disturbing us.

“We needed the intervention of the Federal Government, but it never came. What we lost in the past seven to six years is between N30bn to N50bn on commodities only.”

Secretary to Zamfara State Government, Abubakar Nakwada, recently said the governor, Dauda Lawal, was making efforts to get farmers back to their farms this season.

He said, “The administration of Governor Dauda Lawal has no plan to reconcile with the bandits. The state government will squarely face them and deal with them so that the security would be restored by the grace of God.”

 

Punch

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine having ‘no success’ with counteroffensive – Putin

The much-touted Ukrainian counteroffensive has seen no success more than a month after it was launched, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired on Sunday. Putin praised Russia’s “heroic” troops and insisted that the direction of Moscow’s military campaign was “positive.”

“All attempts by the enemy to breach our defenses… including through the use of strategic reserves have fallen flat throughout the counteroffensive. Our enemy remains unsuccessful,” the Russian leader told journalist Pavel Zarubin.

According to Putin, Russian troops are launching counterattacks of their own in some sections of the front line and are “taking the most advantageous positions.” The Russian Defense Ministry previously reported that Ukraine has suffered heavy losses and has failed to reach even Russia’s first line of defense on most fronts. The Defense Ministry has also published numerous videos showing damaged or destroyed Ukrainian heavy military equipment, including Western-made tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

According to the ministry, the Ukrainian military has lost 26,000 men advancing through minefields and without air support during its counteroffensive. The Western media has also acknowledged heavy losses among Ukrainian troops, with Forbes describing them as “disastrous” in late June. The New York Times reported this week that the Ukrainian military lost 20% of the equipment it sent into battle during the first two weeks of the operation.

According to Putin, Russian forces have destroyed 311 Ukrainian tanks since June 4. “At least a third of them, I believe, were Western-made tanks, including Leopards,” Putin told the Russia 24 TV channel on Thursday.

The slow pace of the counteroffensive has led to friction between Kiev and its Western backers. In June, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky blamed the lack of progress on the West’s hesitancy to send more weapons to Kiev.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley warned in early July that there should be no illusions about the operation, and that it would be “difficult” and “very, very bloody.”

** Russia reserves the right to use cluster munitions as tit-for-tat response – Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia reserves the right to use cluster munitions in response to Ukraine's use of these weapons.

"Russia has a sufficient reserve of various kinds of cluster munitions, various kinds. So far we have not done it, we have not used them, and we have not had such a need, despite a certain shortage in munitions at a certain point of time. But we didn’t do this," the president said in an interview with the "Moscow. Kremlin. Putin" program on Rossiya-1 TV channel, a fragment of which was posted on its host Pavel Zarubin’s Telegram channel.

"But of course, if they (cluster munitions) are used against us, we reserve the right to tit-for-tat actions," the president said.

Putin expressed confidence that that the supplies of cluster munitions to Ukraine and their use should be treated as a crime. "As for cluster munitions, the US administration itself through its staff gave its opinion on these munitions a while ago, when the use of cluster munitions was called a crime by the US administration itself. So, I think, this is how it should be treated," the president went on to say.

Putin believes that the US is supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine due to a general shortage of shells. "They (the US) are doing this (supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine - TASS) not out of the goodness of their heart, but because they have a shortage of munitions in general," the president said.

He reiterated that "the Ukrainian army spends up to 5,000-6,000 155mm caliber shells per day of fighting, while the US produces 15,000 a month." "They have a shortage, and Europe already doesn't have enough [shells]," Putin stated. "So, they didn’t find anything better than to propose the use of cluster munitions," he pointed out.

** Russian forces have knocked out one-third of Ukraine’s Bradleys – media

The BFV is a tracked and lightly armored vehicle with the capability to transport about ten soldiers and mount weaponry such as a 25mm cannon and a TOW anti-tank missile launcher.

When the administration of President Joe Biden agreed in January to send BFVs to Kiev, the Pentagon touted the vehicles as “tank-killers” and claimed they would provide “a level of firepower and armor that will bring advantages on the battlefield.” US media outlets such as Newsweek cited military experts as saying the Bradleys “could become a game-changer,”potentially even enabling Ukraine to retake Crimea. Russian officials warned that the BFVs and other Western-supplied weaponry would “only prolong the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”

With dozens of Bradleys and other hardware being knocked out of action by Russian forces, Ukrainian units have been forced to abandon their armored vehicles and advance slowly on foot, the Washington Post reported on Saturday. “You can no longer do anything with just a tank with some armor because the minefield is too deep, and sooner or later, it will stop, and then it will be destroyed by concentrated fire,” Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, told the newspaper.

Nevertheless, a new $800 military aid package for Ukraine announced by the Biden administration earlier this month includes an additional 32 BFVs. The US also agreed to send cluster bombs to Kiev, citing disappointment with the counteroffensive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that US shipments of cluster munitions to Ukraine would constitute a war crime. As for captured Western weaponry, such as BFVs, Russian specialists will use “reverse engineering”to adopt any military technology that might be useful to Moscow, Putin said in an interview aired on Sunday.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine reports casualties in Russian shelling of city of Kharkiv

One man was killed and several people were injured on Sunday in Russian shelling of a district of Kharkiv, the biggest city in eastern Ukraine, local officials said.

Oleh Sinehubov, Kharkiv's governor, said on Telegram that one civilian man born in 1999 was killed in the attack on a southern part of Kharkiv. In an earlier post he said a fire had broken out at the site, and medics had hospitalized three men with shrapnel wounds and treated one person on the spot.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said a total of seven people were injured in the shelling of the southern Osnovyanskyi district of the city. Reuters could not independently confirm details of the attack and casualty figures.

Ukraine recaptured much of the eastern Kharkiv region in September, with Russian forces occupying now only a small strip of land there.

** Ukraine says fighting in east has intensified

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has "somewhat intensified" as Ukrainian and Russian forces clash in at least three areas on the eastern front, a senior Ukrainian defence official said on Sunday.

Separately, the Ukrainian military indicated it had taken control of part of a southeastern village in Donetsk region, near a string of small settlements Ukraine recaptured in June.

"The enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to regain lost positions in the northern part of Staromayorske," the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said in a regular update.

It was the first official acknowledgment of progress at the village since Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June, aiming to retake occupied territory and seize the initiative in Russia's full-scale invasion, now in its 17th month.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram that Russian forces have been attacking in the direction of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region for two successive days.

"We are on the defensive," Maliar wrote. "There are fierce battles. The positions of both sides change dynamically several times a day."

Maliar also said the two armies were pummelling one another around the ruined city of Bakhmut but that Ukrainian forces were "gradually moving forward" along its southern flank.

She added that Kyiv's troops were also fending off Russian attacks near Avdiivka and Maryinka.

A spokesman for the military's southern command said in a separate statement on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had advanced more than a kilometre (0.6 miles) in one part of the southern front.

Kyiv has made incremental gains in parts of the east and south since launching its long-awaited counteroffensive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with state television, part of which was released on Sunday, that the operation was "not succeeding" and that attempts to break through Russian defences had failed.

 

RT/Tass/Reuters

Who has not had an old car before? The type of car that makes you become a friend to the mechanic? This is because when one issue is resolved, another rears its head, necessitating you to visit again. Sometimes the problem may be those of “rings”. Repair them and the gearbox seeks your notice. Pacify it, the brake pad packs up. Change it, the shock absorber begins to get shocked.

All these and more make you a regular, visiting the mechanics again. And again. And again. Sometimes you have to leave the car with the mechanics for a day or more.

Being a regular sight in a mechanic’s workshop has its own peculiar experience. You find an engine oil-soaked bench conveniently placed under a tree and you make it your resting place. Hawkers of chewable items like groundnuts, boiled or roasted corn, cooked beans and sachet water have no better place than a mechanic’s workshop to catch the trapped who want to break the boredom of waiting.

As a regular, you can develop relationships with the mechanics and other regulars. And sometimes their problems become yours. This situation normally affects those with old vehicles that must have surpassed their shelf life. Cars reach their shelf lives faster here than in Europe, though.

It is not out of place for neighbours, friends and family to gather and celebrate with a person who just got a 2007 Honda car. They gather to “wash it”. People who want to escape this informal welcoming of a “trophy” jokingly say they had taken it to the car wash already.

Well, the point is that a 2007 car acquired today from Europe is deemed new after 16 years of being in use across the continent notwithstanding. However, the most it can last here without turning the owner into an auto mechanic workshop tourist is three years. I can attest to this.

Armed with this knowledge, and experience, of course, I likened my body to the jaded car last week.

My major complication was breathlessness. When I tried to manage it, something came up and as I tried to manage that one, another came up, and yet another.

The good thing about such experiences is that you come to appreciate, and indeed respect, older folks. Is it not a great marvel to see 70-year-olds and above walking, jogging, dancing and living a life full of energy and fun?

The human body, when tender, is marvellous: supple flesh, smooth skin, flexible joints, strong bones and oozing out the scent of youth.

As the years go by, ageing sets in and the strength associated with youthfulness wanes. One becomes a regular visitor to hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical outlets. Sometimes, one gets dignified by being visited at home by medical health practitioners.

But whichever it is, the fact remains that health issues keep shifting from one ailment or condition to another as the body gives in to the wear and tear that comes with time and usage.

Some people are diabetic, which entails that it has to be managed before other conditions can be treated. Some are hypertensive, which also calls for the same consideration given to the diabetic.

When 70, 80 or 90-year-olds can walk around without being exhausted or wheeled around, it can be impressive and one cannot argue against calling it an achievement.

It is with the benefit of ripened age that one will appreciate the advice of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for one to utilise five things before five other things set in.

He advised us to utilise our youth before old age sets in, our health before sickness overwhelms, our wealth before lack knocks on our doors, our free time before it (time) makes us its slave and our life before our death. The summary is: Make the most of your youth, health, wealth, and free time before they’re gone.

Yesterday’s new car quickly becomes a jalopy today, and its owner a frequent visitor to mechanics. Similarly, the strong, youthful body of today degrades, forcing its owner to regularly visit ‘mechanics’ who, this time, wield the stethoscope.

Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in God’s hands…” Truth is, we all are creatures of a supreme being who has us at the mercy of time, another of His creatures. And time leaves no one in one place and condition all the time.

And what’s this about ₦8,000 “palliative”?

Nigeria’s president wants to spend $800m (about ₦600b) to assuage hunger in the land. To do this, he intends to give ₦8,000 each to 12 million households for six months. According to statistics, a Nigerian household, as of 2019, comprises an average of 5.06 members. This will amount to an individual in a household getting ₦1,600 per month or N53 per day. What are they supposed to do with it, buy a biscuit? You do not even get biscuits of ₦50 these days, sadly.

And after six months, that household is supposed to be self-reliant because the six months of “palliatives” must have stabilised them. Is that what they are telling us?

In any case, who even said only 12 million are in desperate need? At the last count, even before the fuel subsidy removal plunged many more millions into penury, 133 million Nigerians were adjudged by the federal government’s statistics agency (NBS) to be multidimensional poor.

And now this: part of the president’s grand plan is to give ₦70bn to National Assembly lawmakers as palliatives. Somebody help do the math: ₦70bn divided by 469. Shared equally, each of them will smile home with ₦149.2 million!

Different strokes…

It is all about police work!

Nuhu Ribadu, with a rich police background, was appointed as the National Security Adviser by the president. He becomes the first police officer there since Gambo Jimeta and Sama’ila Gwarzo.

I think it is a superb move because if the police approach had been implemented earlier, we would not have been in this sorry pass. Most of the crimes now bedevilling us actually would have been nipped in the bud had the police been empowered, encouraged and left to do their job.

But because we have been so cowed by the military and all our thinking subsumed under that mentality, we thought only they can solve crimes that need simple policing. We ended up demystifying our military and compounding matters so much so that we are now at a loss as to how and where to begin.

But hopefully, with a crack police investigator in place, we may redirect the ship and sail out of the storm into calm waters, eventually reaching the harbour.

** Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

A genetically modified fruit fly could mean the (near) end of insect-related crop loss for berry farmers.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have been developing a genetically modified fruit fly to stop these pests from destroying produce. The scientists’ method involves modifying flies to have infertile female offspring and slowly reduce the population of the insect, reported Phys.org. 

This is huge news for farmers, who suffer 20-40% of crop loss due to pests every year. In fact, an estimated $470 billion of crops are lost annually to certain types of bugs.

The NC State University researchers are not the first to manipulate the genes of insects. 

Previously, scientists have experimented with moths only capable of producing male offspring to limit population and avoid crop loss. Others have modified mosquitos to have deformed mouths, rendering them unable to bite people to slow the spread of malaria. 

However, Luciano Matzkin, a professor of entomology, said this new method of sterilizing female fruit flies is very hopeful because it avoids the issue of offspring who evade the desired gene mutation.

Traditionally, farmers have turned to pesticides and traps to avoid crop loss due to insects. However, these methods are costly and time-consuming. Plus, pesticides come with their own set of downfalls. They can harm unintended wildlife, make their way into water sources, and damage soil, leading to vegetation issues down the line.

Plus, crop loss doesn’t only mean dollars down the drain for agriculturalists — it also means a waste of water. Strawberries, for example, require one to two inches of water per week. Tossing out the resulting berries due to pests is a huge waste of this natural resource.

The researchers are still in the lab test phase of trials and moving on to field tests next. They expect they’re years away from releasing their modified fruit flies into the real world, but the research is very promising. 

Eliminating problematic pests and thereby eliminating the need for pesticides could mean a win for the environment and for farmers. 

“We’re really excited about this,” said Max Scott, one of the authors of the study, according to Phys.org.

 

Phys


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