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Use Lenten season to reconcile differences, pray for peace for Nigeria , clerics advise faithful




Some Catholic clerics and faithful, on Thursday urged Nigerians to use the Lent season to reconcile with God and their fellow citizens.

“Let us pray for our leaders in Nigeria so that God will bless us, grant us his peace, bless the Church and also bless our country, Nigeria,” he said.

They gave the advice in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos following the commencement of the Christians’ annual Lenten period on Ash Wednesday.

They are expected during the 40–day period to fast, do penitence and charity for the less privileged.

Rev Fr. Tony Onyebuchi of St. Thomas Catholic Church, Papa-Ibafo, Ogun, advised the faithful to use the period for the renewal of their spiritual lives.

“It must be a period we put things right first with our God, do away with evils thoughts against our neighbours.

“ We should seek solutions to our faith where we have challenges and understand what we are doing regarding the faith we professed.’’

He also advised the faithful to abstain from those things they love most and assist the less privileged in the society.

Onyebuchi added that for people to change for the better, it had to start from the individual by being remorseful and sober.

Also, Rev. Fr. Clement Oddiah of Christ the King Parish, Akure, said Christians should use the Lenten season to reconcile with God and with one another.

“Lent is a time we journey back to ourselves in order to evaluate the purpose of life, which is to know, serve, and love God, who is the universal symbol of unity.

“It is a time of purification, a time of reconciliation and a time of reconnection, a time to grow in virtue and kill the bad vices in us,  a special time to be spiritually re-invigorated,” he said.

According to him, the three pillars of Lent observances are: prayers, abstinence and almsgiving.

It is not just a time to stay away from sins but a period to do more good to others.

Similarly, Rev. Fr. Pius Eluka, currently on mission outside the country, said that Lent is a period of evaluation of one’s self, especially, as it falls within the election period this year in Nigeria.

“Periods of elections are periods of trial for us Nigerians, but consistency and determination and payers will always help us make the right choices.

“We need to still make sacrifices to participate in the electoral processes and do everything humanly possible to see that we have credible elections and results that satisfy the majority,” he said.

According to Eluka, it may take time and energy, but it is part of the sacrifices we need to make today in order to have better life tomorrow.

Rev. Fr. Gabriel Udoh of Saint Maria Gorreti Catholic Church, Abaranje near Ikotun,a suburb of Lagos, said that Lenten period meant staying away from sinful acts and vices.

“Let Nigerians run away from their sinful ways and embrace God, they should take advantage of this Lenten period and its daily messages and calling to change their ways,” he said.

He said that the Lenten period and the general elections were holding in Nigeria at the same time was a sign that all should exercise civil rights in truth and fear.

“Let us give room for a free and fair election. Let the people’s votes count so that they can begin to have confidence in the Nigerian project.

“Election is not and must not be a do or die thing for any reason. Let us, therefore, as Christians pray fervently during this Lent, offering our fast, abstinence and almsgiving to God in atonement for our sins.

“Let us pray for our leaders in Nigeria so that God will bless us, bless the Church and also bless our country, Nigeria,” he said.

Rev. Fr. Andrew Abhulime, the parish priest of Saints Joachim and Anne, Ijegun in Ikotun, urged the faithful to use the season to mortify the flesh so that the body could control the desired passion.

“The season expects us to bring down this passion of the flesh, ensuring that we fast along with charity for the less privileged.

“ Fasting without charity is fruitless because others should benefit from us so that we can store our riches in heaven and not on earth,” he said.

Abhulime noted that the 40 days observance was supposed to prepare Christians for greater season, striving to remain consistent to the end.

He said that the period had great significance in the scriptures, starting with the Israelites who spent 40 years in the wilderness and went through mortification of their lives in atonement for their sins then.

“Moses also spent 40 days on the mountain, preparing himself for a spiritual battle. Likewise, Elijah spent 40 days preparing for the mission of God,” he said.

He then called on Nigerians to avoid all occasions of sin and return to God just as the prodigal son did.

The president of the Christian Fathers, Saints Joachim and Anne,  Mr Andy Odogwu, advised Nigerians to emulate the lessons of change and meekness in dealing with their fellow citizens.

“My advice to Nigerians as we commence this year’s Lenten Season is that we should actually reflect on our lives and see those areas that are not in conformity with the Gospel and seek change.

“Engaging in corrupt practices is inimical to transparency which Christ stood for while he was on earth,” he told NNN.

The Christians father advised Nigerians to turn away from hate speeches which could create mutual suspicion among selves rather than learn to love.

Also, a Nollywood member,  Ifeanyi Dike noted that the whole sector should get involved in this practice of spiritual rebirth for greater achievement.

“Definitely, the Lenten season calls for sober attitude s from all and sundry.  If the show must go on, we must realise that we have a creator that we need to worship,” he said.

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Lagos BRT operator to roll out 50 more buses



The operator of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Lagos, Primero Transport Services Limited, says it will roll out 50 more buses before the end of the year, to reduce the waiting time of commuters at bus stops in the state.

The Managing Director of the firm, Mr Fola Tinubu, told the Nigeria News Agency in Lagos on Thursday that the firm was committed to making life easier for commuters.

According to him, the firm engages 300 buses daily to serve residents of the state in ensuring that they reach their destinations on time.

He said efforts were, however, being made to improve the services and that part of such efforts was to increase the number of buses engaged from 300 to 350 daily.

“We move an average of 150,000 passengers in Lagos daily, and we intend to increase that to 200,000 daily.

“We roll out 300 buses each day, and we intend to add another 50 buses to make life easier for people.

“We have done a lot in fulfilling the goals of the scheme and we are constantly working to improve our services. We will not fail or disappoint the teeming commuters in Lagos who rely on our services,” Tinubu said.

He said that the company was committed to reducing the waiting time at bus stops to a maximum of 10 minutes and did not want anyone to be stranded at bus stops.

The managing director said that the company had good maintenance mechanisms for its buses, which made many of them, though four years old, to be looking new.

Tinubu said the firm had 600 drivers aside other staff on its payroll.

The drivers, he said, undergo quarterly training to provide the best of services to the people.

He said this had become imperative to ensure commuters at bus stops and onboard were safe and secure.

According to him, the company has zero tolerance for any form of misbehaviour, disregard to safety, speed, recklessness and use of drugs or alcohol by its drivers and other staff.

He said that those who had been caught in such acts had been shown the way out of the firm.

“Our rule is that no driver should engage in drugs and alcohol, and we check randomly for this.

“We do computerised selection of 20 drivers in the morning and 20 drivers in the afternoon for drug and alcohol tests.

“No driver, not even me, knows who will be selected for the daily drug test. We do this to further strengthen safety onboard,” he said.

Tinubu commended the Lagos State Government for its efforts to stop commercial motorcyclists and other road users from encroaching into the BRT dedicated  lanes.

He assured commuters that the company would continue to improve on its services and mitigate their suffering in terms of movement from one destination to another in the state.

Edited by Moses Solanke/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Ooni of Ife, group set to showcase tourist attractions in Ile-Ife



A Group, Ife Tourism Reloaded and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, will begin a two-day tourism drive in Ile-Ife and its environs to showcase tourist attractions in the ancient city.

The Chairman of the group, Mr Oluwagbenga Ayilola, made this known while speaking with newsmen in Okitipupa, Ondo State on Thursday.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the two-day programme will begin on Nov. 23.

Ayilola said that the programme, in its second edition, would not only promote tourism in Nigeria but would also open up economic activities in Ile-Ife and Osun at large.

He said that the country was blessed with many tourist attractions, many of which were yet to be unveiled to the world.

According to Ayilola, who is also the Mr Tourism Nigeria, the group is working assiduously with other stakeholders to explore various tourist sites in Ile-Ife and other parts of the country.

“Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife, will be leading us and other interested parties on a two-day tour to showcase the tourist attractions in the ancient city of Ife from a new perspective to the entire world.

“We will tour the Erin-Ijesha Waterfalls and other tourist centres, because we want the world to know that Ile-Ife and its environs have lots of tourist sites, exotic locations and great artistic structures.

”The event will not only promote the tourism industry in Nigeria but it will also boost the economic activities of Ile-Ife and indirectly advertise Osun State to tourist investors across the world,” he said.

Edited by Moses Solanke/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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Ikotun market traders lament poor road network



Market groups in Lagos have appealed to the Ikotun- Igando Local Government Council Development Area (LCDA) on Thursday, to help fix road networks in the market.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the incessant downpour has made it difficult for customers to shop at Ikotun Market.

Mrs Janet Owolabi, a trader who sells condiments, told NAN that the roads hampers market women to carry out their trade, which has also affected sales.

“If you are not physically fit you can’t shop. The roads are so bad you have to be jumping like a frog, and we take turns on the walkway.

“It has affected sales, because on a good day some people don’t enjoy coming to the market, this has further discouraged them, they will rather go to convenient stores, leaving us in the market,’’ she said.

NAN reports that there are three gates that lead to the market, the first gate close to Synagogue is in a deplorable state, and the second gate close to the council was being devoured by erosion, while the third gate is the only road that is fair.

Mr Friday Njoku, who sells foodstuffs in the market, also told NAN that the bad roads have turned everyone coming to the market into `Atilogu’ dancer.

“The way people jump in this market one will think they are upcoming Atilogu dancers. The bad condition of the roads, coupled with the rain, has worsened the state of the roads.

“They should just declare state of emergency for our roads; they have to do something urgently to fix these roads. Our customers now prefer to patronise Igando market,’’ he said.

Ibrahim Sokunmi, a meat seller told NAN that in order to make sales, most people have to bring their goods to the road side, to attract customers that would not enter the market.

“Some customers just can’t stand dipping their legs inside mud, that’s why we need to come out to the roadside, and we also have to keep running from law enforcement officers to avoid arrest and fine.

“All these ‘white collar job’ people find it difficult to enter the market and there is no way they will enter the market without messing up their shoes,’’ he said.

Antonia Samson, who owns a provision store, urged the council to fix the roads, and make tax payers’ money count.

“We pay tax and as such it should count for something, we have to enjoy the dividend of paying tax in this market, the levies we pay is something,’’ she said.

The council’s market supervisor, Mr Lekan Komolafe, told NAN that the council would soon commence the rehabilitation of the roads.

“It is true the roads are bad as it is now, but the council will ensure immediate rehabilitation of the roads. There are procedures to be followed. I want to appeal to our traders to please exercise a little more patience,’’ he said.

Edited by Zainab Garba/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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NAN photographer Jones, others win UNDP photo contest



News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) photographers, Jones Bamidele as well as Obasa Olatunji and Emmanuella Madu have clinched the 2019 Photography Competition award organized by UNDP, Art for Humanity and Federal Ministry of Environment. Olatunji, a senior photojournalist with the Punch newspaper received the first prize, Bamidele got the second prize, while Madu, an architect went away with the third prize.

The UNDP Resident Representative, Mohamed Yahya, while presenting the prizes to the winners at the UN House in Abuja, urged them to continue to take photographs that contribute to development.

He said that there were over 200 entries in the national photo contest and each entry was given thorough scrutiny to ensure it speaks about environmental issues, taken recently and accompanied by a story that really conveys the message that enlightens the public.

NAN Photographer Jones, Others Win UNDP Photo Contest

NAN reports that in October, UNDP working with the Art for Humanity and the Federal Ministry of Environment organized the first photo contest for professional and amateur photographers.

The photographs were to speak specifically on pollution, deforestation, climate change and waste management; and entries by the three winners were adjudged best by the jury.

Musonda Lucky, the UNDP Head of Communication and Partnership in Nigeria, said the aim of the competition was to encourage photographers to use their skills to tell stories around critical development related issues.

“This is because as they say, ‘A picture says a thousand words’, we also think a picture will expose a lot of potential areas of intervention that we as UNDP are working on.

“If we engage photographers and encourage them to help us tell a story, it will amplify some of the work we (UNDP) are doing here and of course it will bring to the public what issues they are in the country, which are related to development in general and environment in particular,” he said.

He explained that the 2019 Photography Competition involved analyzing hundreds of photographs submitted by a lot of photographers across the country, and the selection went through two levels of evaluation looking at many factors.

“The contest was about looking at environmental issues through the eyes of photographers. So, we found it very interesting because we then learned from the photographers that people look at environmental issues from different angles and they are willing to tell their stories from their angles.

From left: First prize winner, Obasa Olatunji; third prize winner, Emmanuela Madu; NDP Resident Representative, Mohamed Yahya; and second prize winner, Jones Bamidele, during the awards ceremony for the 2019 Photography Competition organized by UNDP in conjunction with Art for Humanity and Federal Ministry of Environment, at the United Nations House in Abuja.

“We appreciate photographers who are out there in the fields, in the communities, engaging with the public, engaging with the environment and they want to share with us their stories using their cameras.

“So, it was very interesting and interactive, which we wanted to try out for the first time and I think with the response we got, there are a lot of potentials to collaborate with photographers and also to engage them more in telling the stories that the environmental issues or the general development issues that the country faces can be told by the people with skill in photography,” he said.

Similarly, Ossai Efe, the Executive Director of Art for Humanity, a co-organiser of the photo contest was happy for the opportunity the contest has provided photographers to showcase their skills.

“For us, it was an opportunity not just to reward creativity but most importantly, to see how great issues that we face as a nation are being put in pictorial stories in a way that calls for global attention.

“So, it is win-win both for the participants, for us as organizers; being able to create that platform that makes visual stories to be relevant to national development and the nation at large.

‘’With these visual stories, we hope that beyond this competition, action at the policymaking and implementation levels will be taken to see that we live in a better environment,” he said.

Olatunji, first prize winner, said the award would spur him to think about photography and eat photography.

He also advised other photographers to be creative and also take the invitation for entry into photo contests seriously.

“Basically, I have won several awards such as the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, Nigeria Breweries Golden Pen Award, Nigeria Media Merit Award, PMAN Award, Diamond Merit Award, and this UNDP award,” he said.

Bamidele, the second prize winner, said he had won many awards in graphics and photography but cherished the UNDP award above all.

“I always tell my colleagues that award winning photographs are not gotten from press conferences. We should be very diligent and creative, as we pride our trade. We should also find time to put in for competitions and stage photo exhibitions to showcase our talents at every given opportunity,” he advised.

Madu, the third prize winner said she reluctantly entered the competition because she thought it was a waste of time.

She said it was her friends’ encouragement that made search through her photo gallery from which she submitted her winning entry.

She was glad she entered the competition and was grateful to the organisers for finding a place for her entry in the first three.

Edited by Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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Don calls for adequate investments in agriculture to end poverty



Prof. Tunji Arokoyo, an Agricultural Extension Development Communications Specialist, says only adequate investments in agriculture will surely take Nigeria out of poverty.

Arokoyo made this known at a Stakeholders’ Forum organised by Ogun Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) in Abeokuta on Thursday.

He noted that the Federal and State Governments should prioritise agricultural development in the country by committing the right money to the sector.

“Let me give you an example. The Maputo Agreement way back in 2003 says we’re all (all heads of state in AU) going to put 10 per cent of our budgets into agricultural development.

“We now came back again and went to Malabo 2014 and we reaffirmed that we were going to be committed to agriculture with the 10 per cent budgetary allocation.

“Only three countries have done that in the whole of Africa. I don’t know what happens to them when they sign all these MoUs and declarations.

“Oil is drying off; we should look at what is happening in other climes. UK has said that from 2025, no more fossil fuel-powered vehicles. What is Nigeria doing about it?

“There’s no car you’ll find in Brazil today that’s not hybrid using bio-fuel from cassava, sugarcane and jetropha and so on. What have we done with our zero hunger project,’’ he said.

Arokoyo urged government to pay adequate attention to agriculture, saying that the sector remained the only magic that could take Nigeria out of poverty.

The State Project Coordinator of VCDP, Mr Samuel Adeogun, explained that one of the issues, particularly with youths and women was access to land.

Adeogun said that one of the interventions of the programme was to be able to clear land for the farmers in specific locations.

He said: “When that is done, it assists youths, women and other farmers who do not have direct access to land to be able to have direct access to land to farm.

“This is because we’re working in just eight local governments and we’re working with some of the farmers’ groups. We’re looking forward to be able to have up to 20,000 hectares.

“This is because as we speak to you, we have more than 12,000 farmers in our database across eight local governments in the state.’’

Edited by Shittu Obassa/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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Oil drops amid new concern over prospects for U.S.-China trade deal



Oil prices edged lower on Thursday as fresh tensions between the United States and China over ongoing protests in Hong Kong fueled concern that a long hoped-for deal to end a trade war between the world’s top two economies may be further delayed.

Trade experts have warned the first phase of a deal could slide into next year, while markets are wary negotiations might take a hit as the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to back protesters in Hong Kong, much to the disapproval of China.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 dipped 22 cents or 0.35 per cent to 62.18 dollars a barrel by 0611 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 fell 20 cents or 0.35 per cent to 56.81 dollars per barrel.

Both benchmarks had risen strongly on Wednesday on bullish U.S. crude inventory data.

“Overnight, we saw a rebound of about three per cent in crude futures after a reduction in U.S. inventories,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

“The volatility today can be attributed to concerns surrounding the ‘phase one’ of the U.S.-China trade deal being delayed into 2020.”

The trade war has hit global growth prospects and dominated the outlook for future oil demand, and U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is inclined to raise tariffs on Chinese imports if a trade deal is not reached.

“Market participants … hope that the slowdown in global growth will subside if a deal is struck,” said portfolio manager Frame.

“If (the deal is) delayed, they would more than likely sell off crude with the expectation that global demand for oil will decline during 2020 and beyond.”

The subdued mood took over from optimism after U.S. crude stocks rose by a less-than-expected 1.4 million barrels in the week to Nov. 15, data from the Energy Information Administration showed.

“It was a fall in stockpiles at the key pricing point of Cushing that drove prices higher (on Wednesday),” ANZ Research said. Crude stocks at the U.S. delivery hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, fell by 2.3 million barrels.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have “a common goal” of keeping the oil market balanced and predictable, and Moscow will continue cooperation under a global supply curbs deal.

The impact of that on the market was welcome, but limited, sector watchers said.

“Russian commitment on an extended supply curb deal, though supportive of oil prices, will continue to struggle against headwinds on global trade issues,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Singapore-based brokerage Phillip Futures.

Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Tajudeen Atitebi (NAN)

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