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Coup attempt in Niger two days to new president’s inauguration

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An attempted coup has been reported in Niger Republic following heavy gunfire close to the presidential palace.

The coup attempt was, however, foiled and a group of soldiers behind the assault has been arrested, AFP reports.

The attack came two days ahead of President-elect Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration.

It will be the first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents in Niger since the country became independent in 1960.

There have been increasing attacks by jihadist groups since Bazoum’s election in February, creating political tensions in the country, the BBC’s Lalla Sy reports.

His rival, Mahamane Ousmane, has rejected the result and his supporters were earlier banned from holding a protest on Wednesday in the capital, Niamey.

Former US Sahel envoy J Peter Pham tweeted that both the President-elect and outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou were safe.

“Reports tonight of gunfire and rumors of mutiny in #Niamey, just a week after terrorists killed 100+ & just days before ��#Niger is to have its first-ever handover from one elected president to another. Alhamdulillah, @IssoufouMhm & @mohamedbazoum are safe & the incident is over,” he tweeted.

The gunfire reportedly started around 03:00 local time (02:00 GMT), with people in the capital saying it lasted between 15 and 30 minutes.

“We heard shots from heavy and light weapons and it lasted 15 minutes before stopping, followed by shots from light weapons,” a resident told the AFP news agency.

A security source told Reuters that it was a unit from a nearby air base that had tried to seize the presidential palace in Niamey.

The assailants were pushed back amid shelling and gunfire by the presidential guard, security sources told both AFP and Reuters.

President Issoufou is stepping down after two five-year terms. His successor, Mr Bazoum, is a former interior minister from the governing party.

But Ousmane, who was elected president 1993 and overthrown in a military coup three years later, had alleged February’s poll was rigged and some violent protests followed.

The US embassy issued a statement following the unrest overnight.

Location: Niger

Event: U.S. Embassy Niamey will be closed on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 due to gunshots heard near our neighborhood. Consular services are suspended until further notice. All personnel are encouraged to stay home until further notice.

The security situation throughout Niger remains fluid in the post-election period with the possibility of unrest and/or intercommunal clashes around the country. There may be a corresponding increase in police presence and traffic delays on major roads. Please exercise caution.

The Embassy will continue to review the security situation and provide additional information, as appropriate.

The armed forces in the coup-prone West African are poorly equipped and trained, and number about 25,000 in a country twice the size of the US state of Texas, AFP reports.

Niger is the world’s poorest nation, according to the UN’s development rankings for 189 countries.

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Osinbajo picks holes in naira redesign policy, says scarcity of notes ‘is disturbing’

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Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo

Osinbajo on Friday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage financial technology companies (fintechs) as well as mobile money agents to address the issue of getting new naira notes across the country.

Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, the second man in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has described as “disturbing” the inability of Nigerians to have access to the new naira notes and the ongoing naira scarcity which has caused protest nationwide.

Osinbajo on Friday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage financial technology companies (fintechs) as well as mobile money agents to address the issue of getting new naira notes across the country.

Osibanjo, in a meeting with some fintech stakeholders, expressed worries over the difficulty in getting new naira notes and advised the CBN and commercial banks to address the situation immediately.

“You need cash to pay for transport. For instance, in Abuja, how do you take ‘drop or along’ or use a Keke NAPEP without cash, or buy foodstuff on the road or in canteens, or even buy recharge cards?” Osinbajo said, according to a release by Laolu Akande, his spokesperson.

“Parents with kids in public schools give money daily to their children for lunch, most commerce is informal, so you need cash for most things.

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“It seems to me that banks must engage their mobile money operators. Fintechs with mobile money licenses and many of them have micro-finance bank licenses now and already have a network of mobile money agents or human banks or human ATMs (as they are sometimes called) who are responsible for them and they can supervise themselves. They can do currency swaps and open bank accounts.”

Speaking further on the redesign of the naira notes, Osinbajo lamented the scarcity of the new notes.

“More disturbing is the fact that after depositing your old notes, there are no new notes, so people everywhere in the urban areas and rural areas simply have no money,” he said.

“There are logistical challenges that have to be addressed by the CBN and the banks, especially from the point of view of the average Nigerian and those in the hinterland who hardly use any electronic platforms.”

Osinbajo also said while there has always been a certain failure rate in online banking and money transactions, they have become even more difficult now with the increase in the number of transactions congesting the system.

 “So where in the past you used POS or any of the electronic platforms, you had maybe 20 percent to 30 percent failure rate, now because everyone is trying to get on those platforms, obviously, the failure rate is much more and the problems are much more pronounced,” the Vice President noted.

“We really need to make progress even as we make efforts to deal with some of these issues confronting us today,” he said. SR

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Senate gives Aregbesola 24hrs to defend N700m collected to monitor Edo, Ondo elections

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Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

THE Senate has given the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola twenty- four hours ultimatum to appear before it and defend the N700 million the ministry  collected from Service Wide Votes, SWV for the monitoring of Ondo and Edo Governorship elections.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide gave the directive to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry , Dr Shuaib  Belgore due to excuse by the Ministry that the N700 million would  be accounted for by the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NSDC).

According to the Committee, from the record, the money was released in two batches, N400 million for Ondo Governorship election and N300 million for Edo Governorship Election.

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This is contained in the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE), a document produced by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation which shows that  N400 million was released  to the Ministry of Interior for logistics and operational support in respect of forthcoming Ondo state gubernatorial election.

The second release read that N300 million was released to the Ministry of Interior for logistics and operational support in respect of forthcoming Edo state gubernatorial election.

According to the Permanent Secretary, it is the NSDC that will account for the money, we only make request on behalf of the NSDC.

Not satisfied with the defence of the Permanent Secretary, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Urhoghide  said that the excuse was  not tenable because the NSDC did not collect the money , it was the Ministry that collected the money.

Urhoghide who noted that the NSDC will only come before the Committee to account for the money requested personally from Service Wide Votes, said, ” NSDC has their own queries , they are coming before the Panel to respond to the one that bears their names, they have the money given to them directly.

“From our records, it is your ministry that will defend the expenditures not NSDC.”

The Chairman who  thereafter gave the Ministry 24 hours to defend the N700 million for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, said, ” You have 24 hours to make your report available to us, we must get explanation from you.”

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Obi to Nigerians: Currency redesign has socio-economic benefits, bear with FG, CBN

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Peter Obi

Labour Party president candidate and former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, has urged Nigerians to bear with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government in the naira redesigning programme, saying it is not perculiar to the country.

Obi, in a message yesterday, said that despite the fact the currency redesign comes with some inconveniences, it has long-term benefits.

He urged the CBN and banks to do everything possible to make  the new notes available.

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Obi’s statement reads: “The currency redesign is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is an exercise that comes with some inconvenience and pain, but it has significant longterm  economic and social benefits.

 “Even though there are improvements that can be made, I urge Nigerians to bear with the CBN and Federal Government with the hope that the general populace and Nigeria will harvest the gains that will come with the reforms.

“We equally implore the CBN and the banks to expedite efforts to make the new currency available to small depositors and the unbanked in order to reduce the pains of my fellow Nigerians, especially the underprivileged and those living far away from banks in the rural areas.”

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