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The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) has reported Nigeria’s Air Peace to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for allegedly violating aviation safety regulations. This comes just three months after Air Peace began operating its Lagos-London route.

The UK CAA has sent two mandatory occurrence reports concerning Air Peace, which have now been forwarded to the NCAA. The complaints were detailed in a letter titled "United Kingdom SAFA Ramp Inspection Report" (reference number: CAA-UK-2024-0217) and "NATS Management System Safety Report."

In response, the NCAA has requested clarification from Air Peace on the issues raised. The NCAA’s letter, with reference number NCAA/DOLTS/APL/Vol.11/03624, was titled "United Kingdom SAFA Ramp Inspection Report," dated May 14, 2024, and signed by NCAA General Manager of Operations, O.O. Lawani.

The NCAA highlighted concerns from the UK CAA about the lack of operational approval for Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) functions, which are critical for the safe operation of the aircraft. The UK CAA noted that the flight captain admitted to using an EFB for navigation without proper mounting devices, charging points, or battery backups.

Air Peace recently started its service to London Gatwick from Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Nigeria and the UK.

Attempts to reach Air Peace spokesperson Stanley Olisa for comments were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.

Manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods, FMCG are in dire agony over the continued rise in unsold goods in their warehouses, a development which would lead to a further significant decline in output level in the sector.
The continued rise in unsold goods is caused by two factors namely the rising cost of living and the declining purchasing power of the citizens.

Financial Vanguard’s findings show that due to the downturn in the consumers’ disposable income, the stock of unsold goods for manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer good, FMCG, sector of the economy rose Year-on-Year (YoY) by 27 per cent during the financial year ended December 31, 2023. The sector operators also indicated that the situation is worsening in 2024 as they expect to report over a 30 per cent rise in unsold goods in the first quarter of the year, Q1’24.

Consequently, they hinted that the output levels have been going down steadily since mid-last year, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the report showed that capacity utilisation in the food and beverages sector fell to 49 per cent from 61 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022, indicating a 20 percentage point decline.

Nigerians have been battling with inflationary pressures with its curtailing effect on consumers’ purchasing power in the last eighteen months.

The headline inflation rate has been on a constant increase, rising to 28.82 percent in December 2023 from 21.34 per cent in December 2022, triggered by various factors including high energy cost, and insecurity, especially in the farming communities in Nigeria, among others.

Within the same period also, food inflation surged to 33.93 percent from 23.75 percent a year ago.
The trend has continued unabated in 2024 with headline and food inflation moving further up to 33.69 per cent and 40.53 percent in April from 29.90 percent and 35.41 percent at the beginning of the year respectively.

A combination of the massive increase in inflation coupled with naira devaluation had resulted in price mark up by manufacturers to cover high input costs.

But this cost coverage measure has also alienated many of their consumers, thereby slowing down sales.
Financial Vanguard’s findings from the operations of 15 major FMCGs clearly show a burdensome price index escalating the stock of unsold goods amounting to N104.45 billion despite the huge cut in production quantity.

The companies are BUA Foods Plc, Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, Nestle Nigeria Plc, Presco Plc, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Okomu Oil Nigeria Plc, NASCON Allied Industries Plc, May & Baker Nigeria Plc, Fidson Healthcare Plc, and Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc.

Others are Guinness Nigeria Plc, Champion Breweries Plc, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc.

Companies’ records

The breakdown shows that while a number of the companies recorded a reduction in the level of their stock of unsold goods, palm oil producers – Okomu Oil Palm Plc and Presco – took the biggest hit. Industry observers believe the oil palm industry should not be recording such poor performance given how essential the product is to the average Nigerian family.

Presco, the leading palm oil producer, recorded the highest stockpile of unsold goods as the inventory of finished unsold goods rose by 249.4 per cent to N1.45 billion, followed by May & Baker Plc and Okomu Oil Palm, the second largest palm oil producer, with 160.2 per cent and 124 percent increase in their inventory of unsold goods respectively.

Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Cadbury Nigeria Plc also ranked among the worst with record increases of 92.9 percent to N9.76 billion, 74.1 percent to N30.75 billion and 71.5 per cent to N3.55 billion in their stock of unsold goods respectively.

Strangely, all brewers in the report recorded reduction in their unsold goods.

Until economic indices stabilise, situation may persist —NACCIMA

Reacting, Director General of the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Sola Obadimu, said the findings are not surprising, adding that until economic indices are stable, the situation may persist.

His words: “As I always say, we’re in a ‘stagflation’ situation, meaning – persistent rising inflation and high unemployment rates in a static wage situation. The wages are not just static, they’re declining in value in real terms as a result of inflation. Consumers (and industries as well) are also vulnerable/defenceless victims of rising energy costs, unstable forex rates and debilitating infrastructure generally, etc. So, it’s no surprise that inventories are growing.

“We’re all aware of the fact that some major multinationals declared losses for 2023 as a result of the unfavourable economic climate and some chose to leave while others are contemplating. It’s easier for local industries and businesses whose owners can quickly take decisions in the face of constantly changing critical economic indices. These multinationals sometimes have to seek aporovals for some major situations from their global Head Offices which may take a while to come due to lack of adequate understanding of the local environment.

“So, unless we get some sort of stability in critical economic indices and consumer purchasing power increases in value terms, the story may not agreeably be too different in 2024.”

Consumers preference has shifted — Muda Yusuf

Muda Yusuf, Director General, Center for the Promotion of Public Enterprise (CCPE), who blamed the mounting inventory of unsold goods on depreciation in the value of the naira, and high energy cost among others, said that consumers are now reviewing their preferences and are shifting to cheaper substitutes where available.

He said there’s a need to bring down the exchange rate and energy cost to effect a reduction in companies’ cost of production.

He said: “The high level of inventory of finished goods, particularly the unsold inventory, are the consequences of high production cost and the high operating cost that the manufacturers in the FMCG sector have been grappling with over the last one to two years.

“There have been challenges of escalation of cost arising from exchange rate depreciation, high energy cost, high cost of logistics and challenges around the high cost of funds.

“These are the key issues and, naturally, when the production and operating costs increase, the natural thing is for the increase in cost to be passed on to the consumers in the form of high prices.

“So, what we are seeing is that the prices of some of these products have gone up significantly and some by as high as 50% and in some cases, even 100% in the last year.

“And in an environment where the purchasing power is also weak, where the level of poverty is also high, naturally, these inventories will be very slow in terms of outflow from the warehouses because of the weak purchasing power of the consumers.

“There’s also an element of consumer resistance due to this high cost of production. There is also an element of substitution. For some of those products that have substitutes, consumers may decide to go for cheaper substitutes because of the high prices.

“So, basically, these are the factors that are responsible for the high level of inventory of finished goods that we have seen in recent times.”

Speaking on the way out, Yusuf said there’s a need to put strategies in place to ensure a reduction in operating cost, a reduction in logistics costs and a strengthening of the purchasing power of the citizens.

Need to stabilize FX market

He expressed the need to stabilize and boost supply in the foreign exchange (FX) market in order to moderate the depreciation of the currency.

According to him, this will result in a reduction in operating and production cost.

“Once the currency strengthens, the cost of production will, naturally, be less; the cost of logistics, if the energy crisis goes down, will also begin to decelerate.

“Then, of course, there’s also the element of the cost of clearance of cargo.

“These cargoes could be raw materials, it could be intermediate products, and it could be machinery that is used by any of these manufacturers.

“The current methodology of determining the exchange rate for the computation of import duty has made the cost of cargo clearance very prohibitive.

“So, if the government through the fiscal and monetary authorities could do an adjustment to this by fixing the exchange rate for the computation of import duty to between N800 – N1,000/$ and this is fixed for may be three months, that will also help to bring down some of this cost and make the products a lot more affordable because the key issue here is the affordability of these products.

The more affordable they are, the lesser the level of unsold goods,” Yusuf added.

According to him, “The danger in the level of this unsold inventory is that some of these products have expiry dates, which is another risk to these businesses.

It is a good thing that the government is talking about minimum wage. If the workers are empowered, we are likely to see an improvement in demand for some of these products.

“So, there’s a supply side issue to bring down the costs of production, operation and logistics and cost of funds.

“There’s also the demand side issue of empowering the consumer to have the purchasing power to buy these products.”

Rise in unsold goods weakens profitability — FSL Securities

Commenting also, Victor Chiazor, Head, Research at FSL Securities, said: “The 27% rise in inventory for players in the fast-moving consumer goods sector could be attributed to two factors.
“The first could be that the rise is a result of the company’s inability to drive sales due to the rising cost of goods which may have slowed down the volume of goods sold during the period, leading to a rise in inventory.

“Also the second reason for the increase in inventory could be deliberate and the company may decide to increase its inventory position to enable it to plan around the significant volatility in the cost of goods which has remained unpredictable in recent times.

“This helps the company manage the risk around a possible increase in production cost.
“However, whatever the case may be, it has a terrible effect on the course of operation for the business as a slowdown in sales will weaken profitability and a deliberate strategy to increase inventory also ties down capital which could have been raised via borrowing at a high-interest rate given the interest rate environment.

“The government will have to deal with issues around FX volatility, rising energy cost, rising cost of borrowing, bad infrastructure amongst other issues, all of which increase input cost for the manufacturer.”

 

Vanguard

Airstrike kills 27 in central Gaza and fighting rages as Israel's leaders are increasingly divided

An Israeli airstrike killed 27 people in central Gaza, mostly women and children, and fighting with Hamas raged across the north on Sunday as Israel’s leaders aired divisions over who should govern Gaza after the war, now in its eighth month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism from the other members of his War Cabinet, with main political rival Benny Gantz threatening to leave the government if a plan is not created by June 8 that includes an international administration for postwar Gaza. His departure would leave Netanyahu more reliant on far-right allies who support full military occupation of Gaza and rebuilding of Jewish settlements there.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Netanyahu to discuss an ambitious U.S. plan for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel and help the Palestinian Authority govern Gaza in exchange for a path to eventual statehood. Netanyahu’s office in a statement said they focused on Israel’s military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, humanitarian aid and hostages held in Gaza.

Netanyahu opposes Palestinian statehood, saying Israel will maintain open-ended security control over Gaza and partner with local Palestinians unaffiliated with Hamas or the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. said Sullivan said Israel should “connect its military operations to a political strategy” and proposed measures to ensure more aid “surges” into Gaza.

In recent weeks, Hamas militants have regrouped in parts of northern Gaza that were heavily bombed in the war’s early days.

The airstrike in Nuseirat, a built-up Palestinian refugee camp in central Gaza dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, killed 27 people, including 10 women and seven children, according to records at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, which received the bodies.

A separate strike on a Nuseirat street killed five people, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service. In Deir al-Balah, a strike killed Zahed al-Houli, a senior officer in the Hamas-run police, and another man, according to the hospital.

Palestinians reported more airstrikes and heavy fighting in northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli troops for months and where the World Food Program says a famine is underway.

The Civil Defense said strikes hit several homes near Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, killing at least 10 people. And in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp nearby, residents reported a heavy wave of artillery and airstrikes.

Abdel-Kareem Radwan, 48, said the whole eastern side has become a battle zone where the Israeli fighter jets “strike anything that moves.”

Mahmoud Bassal, a spokesman for the Civil Defense, said rescuers had recovered at least 150 bodies, more than half of them women and children, since Israel launched the operation in Jabaliya last week.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250. Mourners gathered Sunday for the funeral of one of four hostages killed in the attack whose bodies were recently found by Israeli troops in Gaza.

The war has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Around 80% of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have been displaced within the territory, often multiple times.

“We need a decent life to live,” said Reem Al-Bayed, who left Gaza City and shelters with thousands in the gritty coastal Muwasi camp in the south without basic facilities like wells. “All countries live a decent life except us.”

She took a quick mouthful of bread before tearing the rest into pieces for half a dozen children, then poured them a can of beans.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high death toll on Hamas, which it says operates in dense residential areas.

Netanyahu’s critics, including thousands of Israeli protesters, accuse him of prolonging the war and rejecting a cease-fire deal so he can avoid a reckoning over security failures. They also seek early elections in which polls show that Gantz, a political centrist, would likely succeed Netanyahu. That would expose Netanyahu to prosecution on longstanding corruption allegations.

Netanyahu denies any political motives and says the offensive must continue until Hamas is dismantled and the estimated 100 hostages still held with the remains of more than 30 others are returned.

Netanyahu also faces pressure from Israel’s closest ally, the United States, which has provided military aid and diplomatic cover for the offensive while expressing growing frustration with Israel’s conduct of the war and the humanitarian crisis.

President Joe Biden’s administration recently held up a shipment of 3,500 bombs and said the U.S. would not provide offensive weapons for a full-scale invasion of Rafah, citing fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

But last week, after Israel launched what it called a limited operation in Rafah, the Biden administration told legislators it would move forward with the sale of $1 billion worth of arms, according to congressional aides.

The Palestinian Crossings Authority in a statement said humanitarian aid has not entered through the vital Rafah border crossing with Egypt since the military operation began almost two weeks ago.

 

AP

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Russian strikes on Ukraine's Kharkiv region kill at least 11

Russia struck a busy lakeside resort on the edge of Ukraine's second largest city on Sunday and attacked villages in the surrounding region, killing at least 11 people and wounding scores.

The missile strikes were the latest in what have been constant Russian attacks in recent weeks on the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, where Russian troops have launched an offensive.

Valentyna, 69, had blood running down her face at the lakeside resort area where her home had been destroyed and a busy restaurant nearby was obliterated. Her husband was killed near the lake, she said, gesturing to an area close to the shore that now was the site of a crater, rubble and corpses.

"To lose my husband, to lose my house, to lose everything in the world, it hurts, it hurts me," she shouted through tears "They (the Russians) are animals. Why do they need to kill people?"

Prosecutors said six people were killed there, one was missing and 27 were wounded. Rescuers said the initial strike was followed by a second strike around 20 minutes later, targeting emergency crews at the scene in a "double tap".

"There were never any soldiers here," said Yaroslav Trofimko, a police inspector who arrived after the first strike and was then caught up in the second. "It was a Sunday, people were supposed to be here to rest, children were supposed to he here, pregnant women resting, enjoying a normal way of life."

Another five people were killed and nine injured later in the day in two villages in Kupiansk district. Local Governor Oleh Syniehubov said Russian forces shelled two villages of the district with a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher.

Prosecutors said one person was killed in Russian shelling in Vovchansk, a town in Kharkiv region 5 km (three miles) inside the border at the centre of a Russian incursion launched just over a week ago. Three people were wounded.

Russian forces pushed their way into northern areas of Kharkiv region last week and the Russian military says they have captured at least 12 villages. Ukrainian shelling across the border injured 13 on Sunday in Russia's Belgorod region.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy again called on Western allies to supply Kyiv with additional air defence systems to protect Kharkiv and other cities.

"The world can stop Russian terror - and to do so, the lack of political will among leaders must be overcome," Zelenskiy said on Telegram.

"Two Patriots for Kharkiv will make a fundamental difference," he said, referring to Patriot missile defence systems. Air defence systems for other cities and sufficient support for soldiers on the front line would ensure Russia's defeat, the president added.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Air defenses down 103 Ukrainian drones, 12 ATACMS missiles, 4 Hammer bombs over day

Russian air defenses downed 104 Ukrainian drones, as well as 12 ATACMS missiles and four Hammer bombs over the past 24 hours, the Defense Ministry reported.

"The air defenses shot down 103 drones, including 62 fixed-wing drones destroyed over the territory of Russia at night, one Tochka-U tactical missile, 12 ATACMS operational-tactical missiles produced by the United States, four French-made Hammer guided aerial bombs, two US-made HARM anti-radar missiles, as well as nine US-made HIMARS rockets," the military said.

Russian forces also hit concentrations of Ukrainian manpower and equipment in 112 areas over the past 24 hours.

TASS has summarized the main successes of the Russian armed forces in the special military operation zone.

Battlegroup North

Russia’s battlegroup North continues advancing deep into the Ukrainian defenses in the Kharkov Region, defeating the forces of the Foreign Legion and three Ukrainian brigades, the Defense Ministry said.

"The northern battlegroup continues to advance deep into the enemy's defenses. It defeated the manpower and equipment of the Foreign Legion, the Ukrainian 24th, 42nd mechanized brigades, the 125th territorial defense brigade near Lukyantsy, Veseloye, Radgospnoye in the Kharkov Region. The battlegroup also repelled five enemy counterattacks near Volchansk, Liptsy and Tikhoye in Kharkov Region," the ministry said, adding that the Ukrainian military lost up to 230 servicemen, a tank, two armored fighting vehicles, 10 pickup trucks, a 122 mm Gvozdika howitzer, as well as a Grad MLRS.

Battlegroup West

Russia’s battlegroup West has taken more favorable positions and destroyed up to 440 Ukrainian servicemen and eight units of equipment, the military said.

"The western battlegroup occupied more favorable positions and defeated the 63rd Ukrainian mechanized brigade near Torskoye in the Donetsk People's Republic. The Ukrainian forces lost up to 440 servicemen, two vehicles, three US-made 155 mm M777 howitzers, a 152 mm Msta-B howitzer and two 122 mm Gvozdika howitzers," the ministry pointed out.

Battlegroup East

The Ukrainian armed forces lost up to 105 servicemen and a Marder infantry fighting vehicle in the zone of responsibility of Russia’s battlegroup East, the ministry emphasized.

"The battlegroup repelled two counterattacks by assault groups of the 123rd Ukrainian territorial defense brigade and the 21st National Guardd brigade near Urozhaynoye and Staromayorskoye in the Donetsk People's Republic. The Ukrainian forces lost up to 105 servicemen, two infantry fighting vehicles, three vehicles, a UK-made 155 mm FH-70 howitzer, as well as a 122 mm Gvozdika howitzer," the Russian military said, adding that the battlegroup also occupied more favorable positions, as well as defeated the manpower and equipment of the 128th territorial defense brigade near Velikaya Novoselka and Makarovka in the Donetsk People's Republic.

Battlegroup South

Russia’s battlegroup South has improved its positions along the front line and repelled a Ukrainian attack near Novomikhailovka, the ministry reported.

"The southern battlegroup improved its frontline positions, defeating the manpower and equipment of the 79th Ukrainian airborne assault, 93rd mechanized, and 81staAirmobile brigades near Antonovka and Belogorovka in the Donetsk People's Republic. In addition, a Ukrainian attack was repelled near Novomikhailovka in the Donetsk People's Republic. The enemy lost more than 680 servicemen, two tanks, two infantry fighting vehicles and 10 vehicles," the ministry said, adding that the Russian forces also destroyed Ukrainian equipment and two warehouses with enemy ammunition.

Battlegroup Center

Russia’s battlegroup Center has improved its tactical positions and repelled seven Ukrainian counterattacks, wiping out up to 345 servicemen, the Defense Ministry said.

"The central battlegroup improved the tactical positions and defeated the 71st Ukrainian infantry, 47th, 100th mechanized brigades near Yevgenovka, Novoalexandrovka, Rozovka and Novgorodskoye of the Donetsk People's Republic. The battlegroup also repelled seven counterattacks of the 59th motorized infantry, 24th, 47th mechanized, 142nd, 143rd infantry brigades near Shumy, Netailovo, Novokalinovo, Umanskoye and Solovyevo of the Donetsk People's Republic," the military said, adding that the Ukrainian forces lost up to 345 servicemen, two armored combat vehicles, two cars, as well as a 152 mm Msta-B howitzer.

 

Reuters/Tass

President Bola Tinubu’s first year in office has been one like no other. He has willfully turned Nigerians into destitute in their land of plenty. In a country that is officially not at war and has not experienced failure of rainfall, and drought, it is very painful to see citizens, predominantly women and children, go through the humiliation of queuing up for cups of rice as one sees in war-torn Sudan or Gaza Strip.

This harsh and intolerable condition is a result of Tinubu’s inhumane, World Bank-prescribed economic policies of sudden removal of fuel subsidy, massive devaluation of the naira, and interest rate and electricity tariff hikes. These misguided policies have resulted in galloping inflation now at a 28-year high of 33 per cent, and food inflation rate of 40 per cent.

In a country with 133 million, 65 per cent of its population, already in multidimensional poverty and over 20 million children out of school, these policies have added millions more citizens into multidimensional poverty and millions more children into out-of-school kids because their parents cannot pay for their school fees.

Millions of Nigerians, predominantly women and children, go to bed hungry with no certainty of anything to eat when they wake up. Heads of households are absconding from their homes, abandoning mothers with children because they cannot feed their families.

The government’s answer to this self-imposed hardship is to provide food palliatives. On February 8, 2024, Tinubu directed the release of 42,000 metric tons of grains from the strategic grains reserve to be distributed free of charge to vulnerable Nigerians. It is now almost four months but no vulnerable Nigerian has received anything.

The truth is that the Federal Government knows well that all its silos are literally empty. A Northern governor that was co-opted into this ruse went as far as declaring five work-free days for distribution of what he very well knew were non-existent palliatives. It is depressing that 64 years after independence, Nigerians are being turned into beggars by their leaders.

Our children’s education has never been more imperiled than now because of the return of mass school abductions by terrorists. Ten years after the tragic abduction of 276 school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents, Nigeria has witnessed five mass school abductions (in Gusau, Dutsinma, Gada, Ekiti and Kuriga) in the first eight months of this administration. In spite of these school abductions, neither the state nor federal governments are doing anything to secure our schools because only the children of the poor are at risk.

Nigeria’s healthcare system is in shambles, with many hospital wards across the country looking distressingly like abattoir. The Primary Healthcare Clinics have been abandoned. The healthcare financing system has been hijacked by “middlemen” called Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to the detriment of patients and healthcare providers.

The recent hike in electricity tariff poses an existential threat to the survival of healthcare services in Nigeria. Many hospitals will not be able to pay the new tariffs, as exemplified by a video clip of a Doctor lamenting after receiving an electricity bill of N25.3 million.

There has been a mass exodus of healthcare workers out of Nigeria because of the conditions of our healthcare facilities, lack of work tools and poor pay for healthcare workers. Recent report by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) revealed that there are 130,000 registered doctors in Nigeria serving a population of 200 million, giving a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 Doctor serving 1,500 patients (1:1,500).

The WHO’s recommendation is that one Doctor should serve 600 patients (1:600). This ratio is much higher in many states, signifying that all Nigerians, regardless of their station in life, live in a very high-risk medical environment.

Millions of Nigerians have simply stopped taking their medications because they cannot afford them and have resorted to traditional medicines and prayers, resulting in increased disease-related complications and deaths.

Recent data from the Nigerian Hypertension Society suggests that of the 70 million Nigerian adults with hypertension, half (35 million) are not on treatment due to the skyrocketing drug prices, consequently, Doctors are now seeing more and more hypertension-related complications like stroke, kidney failures, heart failures and deaths.

Last year, hospitals across the country recorded an exponential rise in the number of children admitted with diseases of severe malnutrition (Marasmus and Kwashiorkor). Children of the poor continue to die needlessly from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, diphtheria, diarrhea, pneumonia and meningitis due to lack of access to healthcare.

Contrary to the official propaganda and half-truths about improvements in Nigeria’s national security, the reality on the ground, particularly in the Northwest and North Central part of the country, is different. Terrorists still control a large swath of the country’s rural areas years into the wars against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

The land is still drenched in the blood of innocent people. Villages are being ransacked and pillaged while thousands of the villagers have been chased out of their homes or abducted for ransom. Farmers are chased out of their farmlands or levied on their harvests. Major highways still remain unsafe from terrorists who attack travelers, killing and abducting passengers at will for ransom. Ethno- religious conflicts and killings continue unabated.

The 400 women and children abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from IDP camps in Gamboru Ngala, Borno State on March 3, 2024 have been forgotten by the government.

The morale of members of the military is at its lowest because active duty personnel are increasingly being ambushed and killed by terrorists all across the country. In the last eight months, over 500 officers and soldiers have been reported killed in such attacks.

The recent unplanned withdrawal of the military from two terrorists-infested areas in Maru Local Council, Zamfara State and Shiroro Local Council, Niger State, where the military suffered unfortunate losses, could very well be a sign of frustration and battle fatigue in our soldiers.

While their house is on fire, 10 northern Nigeria governors went to America looking for solutions to problems they are complicit in creating because they control the drivers of insecurity in their states. I have said it again and again that all our security problems are local, and their solutions must be found locally, not in Abuja, New York, Washington DC or anywhere else. The armed militias created by some of these governors in their states have done nothing but worsened the bloodshed.

It is no secret that both the American and French governments have been lobbying the Nigerian government to open bases and station their troops on Nigerian soil following their expulsion from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. The real concern is that the timing of the invitation to the 10 northern governors by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) may not be unconnected with this lobby.

Addressing Nigeria’s intractable security challenges will require a sincere, strategic, holistic approach involving all stakeholders, instead of the disjointed fire brigade approach currently employed.

Tinubu’s economic policies have caused a cost of living crisis in Nigeria, resulting in unbearable hardship on all citizens. Workers’ salaries cannot pay for rent, water, food, clothing, school fees, transportation, and other basic necessities of life.

Runaway inflation has pauperised citizens and worsened hunger in the land. Managers of the economy are at a loss as to what to do. Their attempt at borrowing and hiking the interest rates to artificially prop up the value of the Naira against the Dollar has not and will never work.

It is voodoo economics to think that taxing citizens beyond their capacity to pay will revive Nigeria’s comatose economy. Taxes do not grow economies, production does.

The Federal Government has quietly resumed paying for the same fuel subsidy it removed on May29, 2023. The simple questions to ask are, why is the pump price not back to where it was before the removal of subsidy, were these payments provided for in the 2024 budget, and who are the new Cabals benefiting from these payments?

The attempt by Tinubu’s administration to impose this so-called cyber security tax on citizens is nothing but a desperate effort to elevate the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to a level that was never intended by the authors of our constitution.

The National Assembly saw through this desperation when it defeated a bill presented to the Senate seeking to grant additional powers and creation of armed agencies under the National Security Adviser (NSA).

The attempt to create a taxpayer-funded Cybersecurity fund appears to be a continuation of this effort that would make the ONSA far better funded than the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces, the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Intelligence Services. This will be a very dangerous development that will be fatal to our democracy.

We cannot elevate or give power to an appointee way beyond a representative elected by the people. So to create a fund in the name of whatever aspect of national security is to arm and empower an appointee of the President.

History should teach us of the dangers of allowing appointees of the President to amass so much unchecked powers as was the case with J. Edgar Hoover who became the most powerful FBI’s chief serving as Chief for 48 years under 8 United States Presidents.

Never in the 25-year history of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule have we seen such a brazen impunity by Tinubu in alleged unilateral award of a N15.6 trillion contract for Lagos-Calabar coastal highway to his longtime friend and business associate in violation of all procurement and due process laws and procedures. Such an amount could complete all the inland roads in the country with some change to spare.

This is a classic case of the term State Capture, which is defined as a situation where narrow interest groups take control of the institutions and processes through which public policy is made, directing public policy away from the public interest and instead shaping it to serve their own interests.

Tinubu is already setting his sights on his re-election bid in 2027. Consequently, he is aggressively cultivating five major constituencies: Members of the National Assembly, who refuse to ask the right questions as representatives of their people, Governors, who keep their people quiet by throwing at them palliatives of cups of rice, Religious Clerics, that supported his Muslim-Muslim ticket and the Security Services, whom he thinks will  protect him from citizens’ anger. The last constituency is Hausa Praise Singers, who have been contracted to sing his praises and songs that would distract restive northern youths from their daily sufferings.

It is unfortunate that by his actions and inactions, the lives, livelihoods and welfare of Nigerians do not matter to this President. Tinubu’s impulsive and amateurish handling of the aftermath of the July 2023 coup in Niger is largely responsible for the exit of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso from the ECOWAS, thereby jeopardizing the survival of the organization created 49 years ago. The exit of these three countries from the ECOWAS, acceptance of Russian troops on their soil and the frenzied lobby of the French and Americans to relocate their military bases to Nigeria are all harbingers of bad things to come.

It is concerning that while many Francophone African countries are breaking free from the shackles of oppression and exploitation of their colonial masters, Tinubu is dragging Nigeria blindly into the embrace of France.

Nigerians have lost faith and trust in this government due to continuing hardships, increasing cost of living, insecurity, corruption in government, youth unemployment and hopelessness. Leaders continue to live lives of vulgar opulence, corruption, and impunity while citizens live in penury.

Tinubu’s tenure has thus far been a catastrophic failure in governance. His policies have plunged the citizenry deeper into poverty, imperiled our national security and compromised the integrity of our institutions. Tinubunomics, under the guise of reforms, is only intensifying hardships in the land. The misallocation of resources and corruption reflect a leadership that prioritises personal enrichment over the public interests. This administration’s actions are disappointing, morally reprehensible and go against the principles of democracy and good governance. We cannot and will not remain silent.
** Yusuf is a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to promoting businesses, but there are strategies that can be used based on a business's unique needs. This CEO shares four effective and practical ways to promote SMBs.

Businesses in any industry invariably encounter marketing and advertising challenges. In the U.S., small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) wrestle with the top challenges of budget constraints and lead generation. Difficulties also arise when it comes to returns on investments (ROI), expertise and competition. In the AdTech sector, content creation, data privacy and ad fatigue are marketing pain points.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to promoting businesses, but there are strategies that can be used based on a business's unique needs. In this article, I'll share four effective and practical ways to promote SMBs based on my experience as the CEO of Mitgo Group.

Team up with a strategic partner to set up proper monetization

Publishers looking to monetize their projects should focus on setting up monetization correctly. This involves a dual approach: monetizing through users and monetizing through advertisers. While the latter is an old business model, it's still the biggest and most well-established. Conversely, the user-focused model is gaining traction with subscriptions, donations, and content sales.

To set up the monetization model correctly, SMBs must choose strategic partners. The primary value for SMBs working with such partnerships is to gain access to large webmasters (like loyalty programs, cashback services, coupon websites or content websites) who typically engage only with enterprise-level clients. This opens up new opportunities for growth and collaboration previously limited to larger businesses.

Embrace the control and transparency of partner marketing

Trust is the bedrock of success, and trust starts with transparency. Partner marketing, a collaborative strategy for businesses to promote each other's products, is built on transparency. In this mutually beneficial agreement, you know exactly what you're spending and the direct returns you're getting. This means you have control. When you have both the necessary knowledge and control, you can optimize your campaigns without overspending.

An affiliate program is a specific type of partner marketing. While trust in a new affiliate program takes time to develop, the long-term benefits, including clear expense tracking and controlled spending, make it a valuable strategy for SMBs.

Prioritize tools over marketplaces

Promoting on marketplaces like Amazon and Shopify, as well as on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, has pros and cons. Yes, these platforms can potentially generate traffic, but the operative word here is "potentially." You can't fully guarantee traffic and sales. You need to acquire that traffic, and you do that by shelling out money. However, any form of paid advertising is expensive. If that's the route a small business wants, it has to make many financial sacrifices.

I'm not saying that online marketplaces are a no-go. They also have many benefits like visibility, but don't rely solely on them. Instead, leverage tools and technologies to have more independence and control of your brand. Tools also give you more flexibility and customization. Best of all, you can choose a tool or a solution that fits best with your business.

Leverage on brand experience

The movie "The Intern" follows the story of an old widower who became a senior intern at an online fashion retailer. There is a scene in the film where the owner passionately explains to her senior intern how packaging is crucial for the overall customer experience. She takes pride that her small business ensures that each product is meticulously and aesthetically packaged.

I used the movie as an example because it accurately depicts the unique advantage of SMBs in providing personalized and memorable brand experiences. Small brands can focus on attention to detail and provide exceptional customer service, something you can't really get with marketplaces. Although they offer convenience, personalization for each transaction is out of the question. Meanwhile, SMBs can capitalize on their ability to provide a more personalized touch to develop positive brand perception and customer loyalty.

Expand your horizons

Promoting SMBs takes an assortment of strategies and a wider perspective. You can't have an "I'm only going to be here and nowhere else" attitude because that doesn't work. It limits your reach and eventually hurts your business. As a leader, I firmly believe that a multi-pronged approach gives SMBs (as well as larger enterprises) advantages across the board: expanded reach, achievable goals, increased opportunities, enhanced freedom, flexibility and all the elements that can propel the business forward.

List your business in marketplaces and compete for traffic there. Set up affiliate programs on your websites. Use tools for optimization. Create a more personalized approach. Adapt these strategies according to your needs to help you build a thriving and scalable business.

 

Entrepreneur

The Federal Government has dismissed the proposed alliance between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi.

According to the Presidency, President Bola Tinubu is not concerned about the potential alliance, stating that he is not losing sleep over the political maneuverings of Atiku and Obi. Atiku ran for president in 2023 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but lost, while Obi, representing the Labour Party (LP), came third in the election.

Recently, Obi held a private meeting with Atiku and other PDP leaders in Abuja. He also met separately with former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido and former Senate President Bukola Saraki, prompting speculation about a possible coalition for the 2027 general elections.

In an interview on Friday, Atiku expressed his willingness to support Obi if the PDP decided in 2027 that it was the South-East’s turn to field the presidential candidate and selected Obi. He reiterated, “I have said repeatedly that if the PDP zones the presidential ticket to the South or South-East specifically, I won’t contest it. If Peter Obi is chosen, I won’t hesitate to support him,” he told BBC Hausa Service.

Atiku suggested that a merger between the PDP and LP was possible and stressed that party members would decide their fate in the 2027 elections. He noted that his recent meeting with Obi might signal a possible alliance leading up to the elections. “It was just a normal friendly meeting, particularly among us in the opposition parties. Such meetings are healthy for Nigeria’s democracy,” he said.

When asked about the potential for a merger, Atiku confirmed, “Yes, it’s very much possible. We can merge to achieve a common goal. The choice of a presidential candidate will not be an issue.”

Tinubu Unbothered – FG

Reacting to the planned alliance, the Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, stated that the Federal Government was not worried. He emphasized that the government was focused on delivering on its mandate. “The government is not thinking about them at all. We are focused on delivering on the mandate handed over to Tinubu,” Idris said.

He highlighted recent achievements, including the inauguration of critical gas infrastructure projects in Imo and Delta states and ongoing social security and farming initiatives. “With the good works the government is doing, he [Tinubu] is already the toast of Nigerians,” Idris added.

A presidential aide, Bayo Onanuga, also dismissed the alliance, describing Atiku and Obi as sore losers. “We are only surprised that they are plotting just one year after an election they lost. They are still behaving like sore losers,” Onanuga said.

He stressed that President Tinubu remains focused on fulfilling his promises and resetting the economy. “President Tinubu is a true statesman who is concerned about fulfilling his promises to Nigerians,” he concluded.

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has asserted that Nigeria experienced a collapse following the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu on May 29, 2023. Speaking on Trust TV's Daily Politics, Lawal criticized Tinubu's sudden announcement of fuel subsidy removal on inauguration day, which he believes triggered a severe economic crisis before a cabinet was formed.

Lawal highlighted that the immediate removal of the fuel subsidy caused a significant increase in transportation costs, which is essential for both businesses and the general populace in Nigeria.

He argued that implementing such a drastic policy without having a cabinet or Federal Executive Council in place to manage its repercussions was a critical mistake by Tinubu, resulting in what he described as the collapse of the country.

Reflecting on the situation, Lawal remarked, "On the very day of inauguration, impactful policies were enacted like a cowboy move to remove the subsidy. However, there was no minister of planning to foresee the outcomes, no minister of finance to evaluate the impact, and no federal executive council to approve the measures. There was no one to advise on potential consequences."

Lawal shared his personal experiences as a farmer to illustrate the policy's effects, noting that transportation costs skyrocketed immediately. He recounted, "Before, I paid N270,000 per truck to transport animal feed from Zaria. Following the announcement, the cost jumped to N1 million. Similarly, transporting farm equipment from Kano, which previously was manageable, now costs N3 million for three tractors in a single trailer."

He concluded that the abrupt policy implementation led to widespread economic hardship, significantly inflating costs and effectively deflating the nation's economy.

The Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, has raised concerns that rising insecurity is compelling many manufacturers to cease operations. In a recent television interview reported by Thisday, Ajayi-Kadir disclosed that manufacturers are spending more on security than on government taxes.

Ajayi-Kadir also cited multiple taxation and high energy costs as significant challenges for manufacturers in Nigeria. He urged the federal government to mitigate the unintended consequences of its reform policies to improve the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector. “Insecurity is a major challenge. We have lost between 56 to 60 percent of our members in the North-East due to insecurity. They have stopped production,” he said.

He highlighted the financial burden of security expenses, noting that it surpasses tax payments. “Insecurity is a serious challenge. It is a disincentive to manufacturing and other businesses, and the government needs to intensify its efforts.”

Ajayi-Kadir remarked on the tough business environment in Nigeria and called for prompt action to address issues arising from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s reforms. “We needed to float the forex rate and remove the subsidy, but how do we manage the negative fallout? How do we ensure business survival?” he questioned. He emphasized the importance of effective and truthful engagement with industry operators to minimize the adjustment period and achieve reform objectives with less pain.

“These are tough times, and we need all hands on deck. Government cooperation with stakeholders is essential to navigate this challenging period, not only for businesses but for individuals as well,” he explained. Ajayi-Kadir stressed the necessity of a synergy between the private and public sectors to make progress, highlighting the government's duty to ensure adequate security policies and measures.

He noted that the manufacturing sector's underperformance is not due to a lack of competent entrepreneurs but due to environmental constraints. He pointed to electricity tariffs as a critical issue requiring resolution between the government and the private sector. “We understand that costs cannot remain static. We are not opposed to tariff increases, as all prices have risen. Power suppliers are businesses too, and their costs are increasing,” he said.

Ajayi-Kadir called for adherence to processes to ensure value for money. “Power is not charity; there must be engagement and adherence to laws and regulations. Following these processes will enable DISCOs to operate, manufacturers to produce competitively, and ordinary Nigerians to have access to power.”

He concluded, “It is essential for all parties—DISCOs, manufacturers, and consumers—to benefit. I must be able to buy power, produce, compete, be profitable, and operate effectively.”

Member of Israel's War Cabinet says he'll quit the government June 8 unless there's a new war plan

Benny Gantz, a popular centrist member of Israel’s three-member War Cabinet, threatened Saturday to resign from the government if it doesn’t adopt a new plan in three weeks’ time for the war in Gaza, a decision that would leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahumore reliant on far-right allies.

The announcement deepens a divide in Israel’s leadership more than seven months into a war in which Israel has yet to accomplish its goals of dismantling Hamas and returning scores of hostages abducted in the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack.

Gantz spelled out a six-point plan that includes the return of hostages, ending Hamas’ rule, demilitarizing the Gaza Strip and establishing an international administration of civilian affairs with American, European, Arab and Palestinian cooperation. The plan also supports efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia and widen military service to all Israelis.

He gave a June 8 deadline. “If you choose the path of fanatics and lead the entire nation to the abyss — we will be forced to quit the government,” he said.

Netanyahu in a statement responded by saying Gantz had chosen to issue an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of to Hamas, and called his conditions “euphemisms” for Israel’s defeat.

Gantz, a longtime political rival of Netanyahu, joined his coalition and the War Cabinet in the early days of the war in a gesture at national unity. His departure would leave Netanyahu more beholden to far-right allies who believe Israel should occupy Gaza and rebuild Jewish settlements there.

Gantz spoke days after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the third member of the War Cabinet, said he would not remain in his post if Israel elected to reoccupy Gaza, and called on the government to make plans for a Palestinian administration.

In what was seen as a swipe at Netanyahu, Gantz said “personal and political considerations have begun to penetrate into the holy of holies of Israel’s security.” Netanyahu’s critics accuse the prime minister of seeking to prolong the war to avoid new elections, allegations he denies.

Polls suggest Gantz as the most likely candidate to be the next prime minister. That would expose Netanyahu to prosecution on longstanding corruption charges.

Netanyahu is under growing pressure on multiple fronts. Hard-liners want the military offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah to press ahead. Top ally the U.S. and others warn against the offensive on a city where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million had sheltered — hundreds of thousands have now fled — and they threaten to scale back support over Gaza’s humanitarian and hunger crisis.

The U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will be in Saudi Arabia and Israel this weekend to discuss the war and is scheduled on Sunday to meet with Netanyahu, who has declared that Israel would “stand alone” if needed.

Many Israelis, anguished over the hostages and accusing Netanyahu of putting political interests ahead of all else, want a deal to stop the fighting. There was fresh frustration Friday when the military said its troops in Gaza found the bodies of three hostages killed by Hamas on Oct. 7. Israel on Saturday announced the discovery of the body of a fourth hostage.

Thousands of Israelis again rallied Saturday evening to demand a deal along with new elections. Some police in Tel Aviv responded with water cannons.

“This government is taking the country to places that I don’t want to see my country go,” said one protester, Noam Fagi.

The latest talks in pursuit of a cease-fire in Gaza, mediated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, have brought little.

A new effort to deliver desperately needed aid to Gaza appeared to falter Saturday. Several Israeli tanks fired warning shots in an apparent attempt to clear the way for trucks ferrying food supplies on their way from a new U.S.-built pier. One Palestinian was killed, according to Associated Press journalists at the scene. Hundreds of Palestinians gathered around the stopped trucks and carried away boxes.

The Hamas Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more. The Israeli offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, local health officials say.

Netanyahu has said Israel will maintain open-ended security control over Gaza and partner with local Palestinians who are not affiliated with Hamas or the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But Netanyahu said it is impossible to plan for such a postwar authority before Hamas is defeated.

 

AP

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