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AGOA: Expert urges stronger synergy between Govt and Nigerian exporters



A textile value chain expert, Mr Emmanuel Odonkor, says Nigeria needs more public education and synergy between government and manufacturers to fully tap the opportunities of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Odonkor, who is the co-Chief Executive Officer of Global Apparel Consultancy (GAC), gave the advice on Wednesday in Abuja while speaking with the the Nigeria News Agency .

AGOA is a trade legislation approved by the United States Congress in 2000 to, among others, improve economic relations between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

Specifically, the law allows exporters from sub-Saharan Africa countries to export some goods to the United States duty-free.

Under the policy, 38 African countries in the sub-region, including Nigeria, are eligible to export 7,000 product lines free of tariff and quota to the U.S. market.

Initially designed to last from 2000 to 2020, the tenure was extended to 2025.

Recently, Nigeria got the AGOA Textile Visa Stamp, which is an endorsement of the country’s textile and garment products meant for exporters of the products to the U.S.

However, Nigeria has not been able to take full advantage of the opportunity due to poor infrastructure, lack of industrial capacity by producers and poor quality of exports, among others.

Odonkor, a Ghanaian, said that many producers and exporters were either not aware of AGOA or ignorant of its operations.

This, he said, called for more public sensitisation and collaboration between relevant government agencies and exporters.

“Essentially, I always tell people that AGOA is a facility, but taking advantage of it is another thing.

“Producers must be ready to collaborate with government. Government has to identify potential exporters to guide into the international market, that is U.S. market in this case to enable them export successfully.

“When this happens, it will lead to job creation, revenue generation and poverty alleviation.

“This is a good facility that needs the intervention and support of government to the private sector to be utilised for economic development,” Odonkor said.

The GAC executive also urged the country to step up its infrastructure and industrial development efforts.

“The industry we see here are not really encouraging. Most of the settings we have seen are workshops with little machines and very low technical skills.

“This is a little challenge in terms of getting them in the export market which requires certain standards and qualities to enable you meet the demand of buyers,” he said.

Oil & Gas

COVID-19: NNPC-Agip begins construction of 200-bed infectious diseases hospital in Yenagoa



The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)-Agip Joint Venture, on Saturday inaugurated the construction of a 200-bed capacity infectious diseases hospital for the South-South Zone.

Speaking at the event, Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum, said that the project was part of the Nigerian Oil Industry Coalition led by the NNPC to support the nation’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sylva said that the oil industry was contributing about N21 billion worth of support provided through the internal procurement processes of contributing companies.

Sylva said that Bayelsa was considered a suitable site for the project given its pioneering role in the history of the region and the contribution of about 40 per cent to onshore crude oil output.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, said that the Corporation was working with its Joint Venture partners, across the upstream, Midstream and Downstream Sectors to support the health sector.

He said that the NNPC-led intervention had allocated the N21 billion worth of support to various International Oil Companies, Indegenous operators with Joint Venture stakes across the oil sector.

Kyari explained that the infectious diseases hospital sited on 1,586 square meter space would serve as zonal isolation centre for the COVID-19 and would serve as reference hospital for communicable diseases after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his speech, Mr Lorenzo Fiorillo, Managing Director, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), said that the outbreak of the corona virus had put a lot of strain globally on health care systems and personnel.

Fiorillo who spoke through Mr Macwon Jitubo, Head of Community Relations, NAOC, said that the company remained sympathetic to the threat posed by the coronavirus resulting to millions of deaths worldwide.

“Eni, the parent company of NAOC considers people to be at the core of its culture and fundamental to its business, aware that creation of reciprocal values is possible through the sharing of objectives.

“We are certain that the Oil and Gas industry as a whole shares in these values.

“It is for this reason that we are here today at this difficult period to perform the ceremony which will engender a valuable medical asset to the South South region of the country,” he said.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa, who earlier applauded Sylva for attracting the project to Bayelsa performed the ground breaking ceremony with dignitaries.

Mr Chukwuemaka Nwajiobi, Minister of State for Education, represented the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha at the occasion.

Edited By: Fela Fashoro/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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COVID-19: Rotary Club of Yenagoa donates preventive kits to health centres in Bayelsa



The Rotary Club of Yenagoa has donated preventive kits to the Amarata Primary Healthcare Centre and Family Support Programme Clinic in Ovom as part of efforts to prevent the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in Bayelsa.

The President, Rotary Club of Yenagoa, Mr James Peretu, said this while making the donation to the health facilities on Wednesday in Yenagoa.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the preventive kits includes 28 bottles of hand sanitisers, 10 packs of surgical face masks and 60 tablets of antiseptic soap.

“We are here to present this little items toward the fight against COVID-19 in our little ways.

“I think this is not much but it can go a little way to assist in the fight, as other NGOs will still present theirs,” he said.

He appealed to other organisations to also support the government by equipping primary healthcare centres with drugs and needed equipment to ensure availability and accessibility.

On his part, the immediate past President of the organisation and Chairman, COVID-19 Response Committee, Dr Obioma Obikeze, said the items and materials donated would enable the health facilities to enhance preventive measures and control.

“We are happy that they are doing those things we wanted them to do, so it is a way of support to the residents of Bayelsa,” he said.

Obikeze advised residents to practice and maintain personal hygiene, saying that by doing all those necessary preventive measures, “Bayelsa will never have any case till when it will come to an end”.

NAN reports that the items were received on behalf of the Primary Healthcare Centre, Amarata by Dr Bekesuo Martins, the Executive Secretary Primary Healthcare Board.

Dr Benjamin Tabowei, Chief Medical Director, Bayelsa State Management Board, received on behalf of Family Support Programme Clinic, Ovom.

They both thanked the organisation for extending its contribution to healthcare delivery and called on other non-governmental organisations to emulate the initiative.

“We are honoured and grateful to have received such gesture from Rotary Club, in this trying time of COVID-19, ravaging the whole world,” they said.

Edited By: Folasade Adeniran/Peter Ejiofor) (NAN)

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Police trail suspected kidnappers of 80-year-old woman in Yenagoa



The Police Command in Bayelsa said on Friday that it was doing everything possible to rescue an 80-year-old woman, Beauty Nimiyigha, abducted by suspected kidnappers on Thursday night.

SP Asinim Butswat, Spokesman for the command, told the Nigeria News Agency in Yenagoa that the command had launched a manhunt for the masterminds of the crime.

Butswat said that the command’s anti-kidnap unit was already trailing the suspects and gave the assurance that the woman would soon be freed unhurt.

“On Thursday at about 2340 hours, five gunmen went to Agudama Ekpetiama community in Yenagoa Local Government Area (LGA) in a Pathfinder jeep without a registration number.

“They kidnapped one Mrs Beauty Nimiyigha aged 80 years, abandoned the jeep and escaped into the creek.

“The command has launched a manhunt for the kidnappers in order to rescue the victim,’’ Butswat said.

Edited By: Johnson Eyiangho/Ejike Obeta (NAN)







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Landlords protest planned demolition of houses by Navy in Yenagoa



Houses owners in Okoria community in Agudama-Epie, a suburb in Yenagoa,  have protested against alleged planned demolition of their property by the Central Naval Command.

The aggrieved protesters on Thursday marched through the Melford Okilo Road terminating at the Government House in Yenagoa to appeal to Bayelsa  Gov, Douye Diri, to intervene and prevail on the Naval Authorities to stop the planned demolition of their houses.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the protesting residents, comprised property of owners of buildings around the Okoria community in Agudama-Epie, close to the Central Naval Command in Yenagoa.

They carried placards with different inscriptions reading: ‘We no go gree , our sweat no go go in vain’,’”they want to destroy our property,” Mr President and Governor, please save us’, and ‘we say no to oppression, Nigeria Navy you can’t destroy our houses without compensation’ amongst others.

Two members of the group, Asaye Ebikebina and Emmanuel Efrisou, told NAN that the men of Central Naval Command had given them until  Saturday, March 7, to demolish their property without compensation in spite that he matter was in court.

A mother of six, Mrs Sokore Blokore, who is in her 60s, said she lost her husband recently and had no where to go to if the house built by her daughter, also now late was demolished.

Another property owner, Mr Christopher Brik, whose house had already been demolished, narrated the harrowing experience he had been subjected to since then.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Domestic Matters, Mr Lucky Yubogha, while addressing  the protesting landlords commended them for their peaceful and orderly conduct, promising to table the issue before the governor.

The Spokesperson for the Central Naval Command, Sub Lieutenant Patricia Dike, when contacted by NAN, said that she was working on getting a reaction to the development.

As at the time of filing this report, no official response has been received from the  Central Naval Command.

Edited By: Bola Akingbehin/Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)



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Lorry crushes 5 in commercial tricycle to death in Yenagoa



Four passengers in a commercial tricycle and the operator died  in a fatal accident on Tombia-Amasoma road in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria News Agency reports..

The accident victims were crushed by a tipper driver along the Tombia-Amassoma Road in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Mr Ikechukwu Igwe, Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Bayelsa, who confirmed the incident to  NAN Correspondent on Tuesday,  said the incident occurred on Monday night.

He said  the prompt intervention of the Police led to the recovery of the remains of the victims and clearance of the mangled tricycle and lorry.

“The incident occurred late on Monday night and we deployed our operational team to the incident site.

“By the time they got there, the Police had responded and cleared the road and we are closely working with them on the accident.

“That is the beauty of the inter-service cooperation amongst security agencies in Bayelsa at work,” Igwe said.

A sand dealer in the area, Tobis Diseye, said the tipper driver was trying to evade a heap of chippings on his lane when he ran over the tricycle operator and his passengers on the opposite lane..

In reaction,  tricycle operators under the aegis  of Tombia Along Keke Unit (TAKU) on Tuesday, protested the killing of their member by the tipper driver.

They blocked a section of the Tombia-Amassoma Road and stopped other operators from plying the road during the protest.

A former chairman of TAKU, Henry Mbu, said in an interview with newsmen that they were saddened by the incident.

Mbu, who stated that his successor died two weeks ago, said:  “We are not happy. We are not happy. After the day’s work, yesterday, in the evening, we saw one of our drivers and four passengers dead.

“Their bodies were scattered. If you saw the dead bodies, you would pity them. It was a tipper driver that caused the accident yesterday.

“We are doing this protest to tell the whole world that we are not happy about the killing of our member and his passengers by the tipper driver,” he said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Donald Ugwu

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General news

Nigeria should lead Africa on AGOA, says U.S.-based trade promoter



A U.S.-based African trade promoter, Ms Toyin Umesiri, has urged Nigeria to maximise the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Umesiri told the Nigerian News Agency in New York that with five years left, the instrument remained a viable opportunity for Nigeria to boost its non-oil exports.

AGOA is a preferential trade agreement initiated by the United States government in 2000 to establish stronger commercial ties between it and sub-Saharan Africa.

Specifically, the agreement allowed qualifying African countries to export over 6,000 products to the U.S. free of duty.

It initially approved for 15 years, AGOA was reauthorised for ten years by the Barack Obama administration on June 25, 2015, extending it to Sept. 30, 2025.

However, many African countries, including Nigeria, have not been able to maximise its benefits due to several factors including lack of capacity for mass production.

Umesiri, who is the founder and convener of the Trade with Africa Business Summit held annually in the U.S., said Nigeria should “lead Africa in taking advantage of AGOA’’.

This, according to her, has become very important especially now that the trade war between the U.S. and China gradually comes to an end.

Analysts see an increase in the demand for commodities at the international market as production activities rebound in both world’s largest economies.

Umesiri urged government at all levels to step up investment in infrastructure, develop a “solid export strategy’’ and closely engage with Nigerian exporters.

She also advised manufacturers of products covered by AGOA to improve on the quality of their products and form clusters to be able to meet huge demand from U.S. companies.

“When we are talking to a buyer, we are saying, `oh, buyer we have moringa; we have shea butter’, but guess what the shea butter is not aggregated.

“The volume is not ready, the quality is not ready, and we are inviting the buyer to come and do the work for us.

“That is not going to happen. That is something we need to work out internally in order to prepare for global buyers,’’ she said.

Umesiri also advised the country to look at ways to engage export trading companies as was the case in the past.

“I know that many years ago the cocoa industry in Nigeria was quite sophisticated, when you think about export trading and the role of export trading companies. That is something that we need to bring back.

“I really think that the lack of trading companies that aggregate and manage the middle market is why we are underperforming at the moment,’’ she added.

Edited by: Josephine Obute/Ekemini Ladejobi

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Police nab 4 cultists for alleged initiation of minors in Yenagoa



The Bayelsa Police Command says it has arrested four suspected cultists who allegedly initiated some minors into banned secret society.

Spokesman for the command, SP Asinim Butswat, told Nigeria News Agency that operatives of its anti cult unit effected the arrest of the suspects on Friday.

He said the arrest followed credible information from residents of Okutukutu, a suburb in Yenagoa where the initiation took place.

Butswat said that at least three minors aged between 13 and 17, had so far been identified as new initiates.

“Following a tip off,  operatives of Bayelsa State Police Command in collaboration with the vigilante of Okutukutu community, Yenagoa, arrested four suspected cultists on Jan. 10, 2020, at about 0530 hours.

“Their arrest is for allegedly initiating minors into cultism.

“The suspected cultists of ages 29, 21, 23 and 20,  all male, are residents of Okutukutu Community, Yenagoa, Bayelsa..

“The suspects were arrested when one of the minors they had initiated informed his elder brother of the alleged initiation.

“All the suspects confessed to the crime and are being interrogated, for further investigation at the Anti-Cultism Unit, State Criminal Investigation Department, Yenagoa,” Butswat said.

NAN recalls that as part of efforts to stem the menace of cultism in Bayelsa, Gov. Seriake Dickson, on March 26, 2018, signed the Secret Cult, Societies and Similar Activities Prohibition Amendment Law 2018.

The new law makes it mandatory for offenders to be jailed upon conviction, for not less than 20 years, without any option of fine.

The Bayelsa House of Assembly had passed the amended bill into law, following increased rate of cultism in the state, especially among secondary and primary school students.

The Bayelsa Police Command had also taken the anti cultism sensitization to schools across the state and urged parents to take their roles seriously to discourage drug abuse and cultism among the youths.

Edited by: Kevin Okunzuwa/Maureen Atuonwu

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Corps members not victims in Yenagoa shooting, says NYSC Coordinator



The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Bayelsa said on Tuesday that the scheme did not record any casualty in the shooting of a commercial bus driver and another person by a policeman in Yenagoa.

Nigeria News Agency recalls that a mobile policeman on Monday evening shot a driver with Peace Mass Transit and one person at Ekeki in Yenagoa.

In a statement in Yenagoa on Tuesday, Mrs Elizabeth Ojugo, the state Coordinator of NYSC,  stated that no corps member in the state was involved, contrary to the report in a section of the media that a corps member was shot.

“We wish to inform the public that contrary to reports that a corps member was among the victims of the shooting in Yenagoa on Monday, nothing of such happened to any corps member serving in the state.

“It is pertinent to state that a visit to the Commissioner of Police by the NYSC state coordinator to find out the true identity of the victims indicated that no corps member was involved.

“A similar visit by the coordinator to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, where the victims were receiving treatment, also showed that no corps member was among.

“Accordingly, the public, particularly NYSC stakeholders, should disregard the phantom story in its entirety as it is very misleading,” the statement added.

The management of the scheme in Bayelsa assured NYSC stakeholders that it shall continue to ensure the security of the lives and property of corps members in the state.

It further urged the media to always cross-check their information before going to press.

“We must learn to put issues in proper perspective – the media, security personnel and the general public,” it also stated.

(Edited by: Chioma Ugboma/Sam Oditah)




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Shutdown of PHEDC operations in Yenagoa over N16.5bn debt, blackout enters Day 10




The electricity outage occasioned by the face-off between the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) has entered the 10th day with unpleasant impacts.

The IYC had, on Dec.23, besieged the offices of the PHEDC and forced the staff to shut down operations, occupying the premises to protest perceived poor power supply to residents.

The development, which resulted in a total power outage in Yenagoa and its environs, as well as Ahoada and some parts of Rivers, has made the residents to rely wholly on power generators with resultant increase in petrol demand and cost of living.

The Nigeria News Agency checks in Yenagoa indicate that filling stations struggle to cope with long lines of residents who throng the stations and wait for hours to buy fuel in jerry cans.

NAN learnt that dialogues and other efforts to resolve the conflict hit a brick wall, as the power distribution company claimed that it was grappling with a debt burden of N16.5 billion as at November, 2019, which hampered its operations.

The IYC subsequently challenged PHEDC to substantiate its claim that customers in Bayelsa owed it N16.5 billion.

Mr Kenedy Olorogun, Central Zone Chairman of IYC who gave NAN an update on a dialogue sought by Bayelsa Government to resolve the face-off, said the debt claim was a ‘fairy tale’ to cover up incompetence.

According to him, information from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed that there was sufficient power at the substation at Gbarain, Yenagoa, but the PHEDC was not taking the power to homes.

NAN investigation showed that TCN, on Aug. 20, 2019, announced the lifting of a suspension order from the electricity market it placed on the PHEDC on July 27, for breach of ‘Market Conditions/Participation Agreement.

According to a notice available on TCN’s portal, the lifting of the sanction was a regulatory measure to ensure that distribution companies evacuate available power.

TCN said that lifting of the sanction followed PHEDC’s compliance, and took effect on August 19, 2019.

The PHEDC and TCN had been shifting blames on the poor power supply in Bayelsa, with TCN saying that the PHEDC was unable to take up available power at its substation, while the PHEDC alleged that it was not getting enough power from the TCN’s grid.

Olorogun said that the N16.5 billion debt had no bearing with power supply to Bayelsa which was the basis of the protest, adding that the claim was cheap blackmail.

“The leadership of IYC Central Zone is challenging the claim made by the PHEDC that Bayelsa people owe electricity Bill of Sixteen Billion, Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N16.5 billion).

“The people of Bayelsa have not been enjoying uninterrupted power supply over the years; that is the reason we are protesting.

“How did we get such a huge amount when we are saying that we do not see power?

electricity consumers in Bayelsa owed PHEDC about N16.5 billion, thereby hampering its operations.

PHEDC is not at war with any of its customers or indeed the IYC, but where some people decide to take laws into their hands by chasing staff away from performing their legitimate duties, it calls for a serious concern.

“We, therefore, call on relevant government functionaries and security agencies to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHEDC offices.

“On the other hand, Ahoada Community did not only shut down our office, it also damaged items including office materials in addition to seizing its operational vehicles,” Onyi said.

He said that PHEDC had witnessed series of protests in its franchise area in spite of its efforts at improving service delivery by introducing several initiatives.

Edited by: Emmanuel Okara/Ijeoma Popoola

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