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Katsina attack: Military considers external help to rescue abducted schoolboys

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The military is considering the option of seeking external help to rescue over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, Katsina State abducted last Friday by bandits.

A top military officer was quoted by THISDAY as saying one of the options being considered is for the Federal Government to seek assistance from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

This is to launch a rescue bid leveraging its sophisticated technology for such operation.

The military also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it masterminded the abduction of the pupils last Friday.

It described the claim of the terror organisation, made by its acclaimed leader, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, as mere propaganda.

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, said 17 pupils had escaped from their captors.

Another report, however, claimed that two of the abductees might have been killed.

The Senate has summoned the defence minister and security chiefs over the abduction.

A military source said rescuing the pupils would be faster with help from US AFRICOM.

AFRICOM had recently alerted Nigeria and other West African nations that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups were making inroads into the West African sub-region, exploiting local differences and collaborating with affiliates.

The United States Special Forces recently rescued an American kidnapped from a farm in Niger Republic in Sokoto State.

During the operations, the Special Forces killed six of the kidnappers, four from Niger and two from Nigeria.

THISDAY gathered that the Federal Government could be reaching out to the US government (AFRICOM) in view of its recent intelligence alert on the movement of terror groups to the sub-region.

“At many levels, strategic levels there is a flurry of activities to rescue the children safely and keep the peace of the nation,” the source added.

The source said the military was looking at many options irrespective of ongoing negotiations with the kidnappers.

The source also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it staged the kidnap of the Katsina students as propaganda.

He said, “We have our constitutional mandate, which we are pursuing. We are not discouraging other options, be it negotiations or any other thing.

“We are focused on the rescue of the children, having established location. The issue of collateral damage is also being looked at. The safety of the children is paramount.”

On the claim by Boko Haram that it kidnapped the pupils, the source, who asked not to be named, said, “It is in their character to make such bogus claims in situations like this. It is part of their propaganda. Anything that happens in Nigeria is linked to Boko Haram.

“The fact that they have collaborators is not in doubt but this is propaganda.”

17 students escaped from captivity, says Masari

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, in an interview with journalists late on Monday after he briefed President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura on efforts made to rescue the students, said 17 out of the 333 abducted schoolchildren had returned home.

Masari had earlier told the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Salihi Magashi (rtd), who on Sunday led security chiefs on a sympathy visit to the people of the state that 333 pupils were missing after the invasion of the school.

The governor, who said frantic efforts were ongoing to rescue the remaining captives, added that the 17 freed students were released “unconditionally” and had since been reunited with their family members.

He said: “As at today (Monday), information available to me shows that 17 of the missing children have been found. Fifteen of them were found around Dinya in Danmusa. I was informed by the DPO. One other was found through them and the last, the father called that his son has returned home.

“All these missing children who have been found have been reunited with their families since we have shut down the schools. Majority of the missing children are in the forest in Zamfara. But God willing, the children will be returned safely.

“I was told that they spoke with a teacher whose son was also kidnapped that the bandits said the helicopter should stop roving and that they will collect ransom but they didn’t specify. And so they ended the call.”

Masari explained that one of the abducted children’s fathers, who is also a teacher at the school, was contacted by the bandits who warned that security forces should stop aerial patrol of their hideouts.

He added that the bandits demanded that adequate money should be set aside pending the completion of the ongoing rescue mission.
However, two of the abducted students have been reportedly killed by their abductors.

A parent, whose son is among those kidnapped by the bandits, told THISDAY yesterday on condition of anonymity that one of the students who escaped from the kidnappers’ den said the hoodlums killed two of the schoolboys in his presence.

He said the student told them that while in captivity, they were made to go through inhumane experiences, including being flogged like animals and fed with wild flora.

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Atiku’s ex-aide ‘mocks’ Peter Obi, says he’s Twitter president

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Daniel Bwala, Peter Obi

Atiku’s ex-aide ‘mocks’ Peter Obi, says he’s Twitter president

A former spokesman of the Atiku-Okowa 2023 presidential campaign, Daniel Bwala, has described ex-Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi as Twitter president.

Bwala said Obi likes to grandstand, adding that he loves to approbate and reprobate.

He was reacting to Obi’s reaction to the withdrawal of Nigeria’s senior men’s basketball team, D’Tigers from the International Basketball Federation, FIBA, Afrobasket 2025 Qualifiers due to lack of funds.

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Obi had posted on X: “I read, with dismay, the reports of the withdrawal of Nigeria’s senior men’s national basketball team, D’Tigers, from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Afrobasket 2025 Qualifiers due to lack of funds.”

But, Bwala in a post reminded Obi of an old post where he said “We must stop this unproductive habit of throwing scarce and borrowed money at immediate problem….. ”

Bwala criticized the former Anambra State governor for alleged grandstanding.

Posting on X, Bwala wrote: “You just like to approbate and reprobate Pitobi. Didn’t you say the below? Nothing Dey sweet you like grandstanding. Twitter President.”

Atiku’s ex-aide ‘mocks’ Peter Obi, says he’s Twitter president

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Hardship: 15 million households to receive N25,000 monthly – Finance Minister

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Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun

Hardship: 15 million households to receive N25,000 monthly – Finance Minister

Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, says the federal government is making efforts to minimise the level of economic hardship faced by Nigerians.

Edun spoke on how President Bola Tinubu will alleviate the difficulties in the country during an interview on Channels Television on Friday.

Since the removal of fuel subsidy and the increasing rate in the foreign exchange market, the cost of living in the country has been unbearable for many households.

Speaking on the measures put in place to provide succour, the minister said the president is introducing intervention programmes that will be delivered directly to households.

He said the programmes, which have been revamped, will now “be immediately implemented”.

“Mr president is bringing an intervention programme, which has direct payments of N75,000 each, over three months, that is N25,000 a month to 15 million households and each household is about five people. So that effectively provides funding for 75 million people,” Edun said.

“That all-important programme has been revamped to make sure that it is robust and to make sure that each beneficiary has a NIN number and a BVN number or access to mobile money accounts so that we are sure that the right people are paid and that the system is fraud-free.

“In addition, and this is really in addition to the intervention, to put food on people’s tables to make access to folk food affordable for the average Nigeria and that is the intervention to provide greens, for food and even for feed females. All in an effort to increase the availability of food in the markets.

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“Earlier, there was the release from the strategic greens; more recently there was a 42,000 metric tonne release from the strategic reserves and with another 60,000 metric tonnes to come. This is all in a bid to make sure there is food in the marketplace but more importantly, the emphasis now is on making sure food. The purchasing power to buy food is in the hands of the poor and the vulnerable in our society in particular.

To improve productivity, Edun said the government is also planning to give artisans, traders, women, and youth, a grant of N50,000 to start nano businesses.

“In this particular case there will be digital verification, just like with the direct payments, direct transfer procedure and in this particular case, it will cover at least 1000 people in all 774 local governments,” he said.

“So that programme will now be another N50 billion. The important thing is to know that to the extent that this is the most direct way to help people at this time, it can be expanded it can be continued until we find a more stable environment in terms of food production, food prices, and affordability through increased spending power of the poor people.”

According to Edun, the reason for the economic situation at the moment is as a result of eight years of a buildup of money supply, liquidity in the system, and money which was not matched with increased production.

“Therefore we had excess demand and an excess supply of money without having the goods on the other hand to match it. That is what the reform measures are correcting and they are well on the way to doing that,” he said.

Edun said the microeconomic put in place would go a long way to provide relief, adding that technology would be deployed to ensure payments and revenues paid would go directly to desired places without any intermediary.

Hardship: 15 million households to receive N25,000 monthly – Finance Minister

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We got N313.4bn, spent $6.72 per voter for 2023 elections – INEC

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INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

We got N313.4bn, spent $6.72 per voter for 2023 elections – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the Federal Government released N313.4 billion for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

The commission in its 2023 General Election Report released on Friday, said that out of the N355.b approved for the conduct of the elections, the sum of N313.4 billion was only released as at September 2023,.

According to the report, based on the key activities in the approved Election Project Plan for the 2023 general election, INEC proposed a budget of N305 billion for the conduct of the elections.

The breakdown of this amount showed that the commission asked for N159.7 billion for electoral operations; N117. 3 billion for electoral technology; and N20.4 billion for electoral administrative costs.

It also showed that N7.4 billion representing 2.5 per cent of the election operation, technological and administrative costs was set aside for unforeseen electoral expenses.

The report stated that in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the commission’s budget proposal for the 2023 general election was submitted to the presidency and duly transmitted to the National Assembly for approval.

“Consequently, the commission appeared before Senate and House Committees on INEC as well as the Senate and House Appropriations Committee in a joint session during which the INEC Chairman presented the expenditure layout of the budget and answered all questions and queries from Committee members.

“The National Assembly approved and appropriated the sum of N303.1 billion for the conduct of the 2023 general election,” it stated.

It, however, stated that by January 2023, it was clear that the approved amount would not be enough for the conduct of the election due to the inflation rate and consumer price index as well as the widening differentials in the foreign exchange rate.

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It added that INEC was also faced the necessity to rebuild or relocate its operations from its buildings that were destroyed or burnt and replace lost election materials due to arson attacks and fire outbreak.

It also noted that INEC suffered more than 50 attacks on its facilities and vandalisation of properties and election material between 2019 and 2022.

These three factors, according to the report, negatively impacted on the procurement of domestic goods and services and the purchase of offshore electoral equipment and materials.

“The commission was therefore compelled to request for supplementary appropriation in the sum of N52.billion from the presidency.

“The request was duly considered and approved for appropriation by the National Assembly bringing the total funds approved and appropriated for the conduct of the 2023 general election to N355.2 billion.

“The breakdown of the appropriated amount on the basis of the Average Cost per Registered Voter Index (COVI), for the 93,469,008 registered voters in Nigeria is N3,801 (US$6.72) per voter.

“This is well within the internationally acceptable Average Cost per Registered Voter (ACRV) of $4 to $8 that is deemed adequate for the conduct of election in transitional democracies.

“In fact, the ACRV for the 2023 general election is less than the actual cost of $9.62 and US$7.38 cost per voter for the 2015 and 2019 general election respectively and very reasonable in comparison to the cost per voter in other transitional democracies such as Ghana and Kenya,” the report stated.

It added that consequent upon the appropriation of the election budget proposals by the National Assembly, INEC engaged with the Minister and officials of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for the release of funds as stipulated in Section 81(2,3&4) of the 1999 Constitution.

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“This led to the cumulative release of the sum of N293.4 billion in tranches between February 2022 and February 2023.

“A further amount of N20b was released to the Commission in August and September 2023.
“The sum of N61.8 billion is outstanding as of October 2023,” the report said.

It also stated that INEC also receives support from development partners for electoral activities.
The support according to the commission was tailored around training, capacity building, civic and voter education, production of information, education and communication materials and engagement with stakeholders.

These supports are directed at the provision of technical assistance, information dissemination, strengthening the integrity of the electoral process, promoting citizens’ participation, and enhancing advocacy for inclusivity with reference to women, youths, persons with disability and other marginalised groups.

“To be clear, the commission does not receive any direct cash transfer from development partners.

“Rather, these partners are required to hold on to their funds and undertake the direct implementation of any activity requested by the commission that are usually directed at meeting urgent and sometimes unanticipated needs or to augment the cost of enhancing electoral integrity, “ it stated.

Section 81(2,3&4) of the Constitution provides that the required funding to meet INEC expenditure be issued directly from the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation to the commission i.e on a first-line charge to the consolidated revenue.

The section also stipulated that any further funding required by the commission should be presented to the National Assembly for supplementary appropriation if the amount in the original budget is insufficient or if no amount was provided for in the original budget to meet unforeseen expenditure.

The Section also stipulated that funds due to the commission for any general election should be released not later than one year before the election and gave INEC the power to disburse such funds in accordance with its financial rules and regulations.

Also the Federal Government of Nigeria is solely responsible for providing funding to the Commission as a sovereign responsibility.

We got N313.4bn, spent $6.72 per voter for 2023 elections – INEC

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