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Senate queries Lai Mohammed’s N19m int’l trip expenses during lockdown

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The Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation has queried the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, over the ministry’s spending of N19m on international travel during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The minister appeared before the Senate Committee on Tuesday to defend the 2021 budget estimates of his ministry.

Senator representing Imo East, Ezennwa Onyewuchi, had asked Mohammed how N19m out of the N43m meant for international travels in 2020 was utilised during the period of lockdown.

Onyewuchi said, “On international travels and transport you had N43m and you expended N19m.

“So, I am wondering this period of lockdown where nobody was able to go to any country during the 2020 appropriation. How were you able to embark on international travels and you expended N19m.”

The minister said the international travels were undertaken before the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said, “You will notice that N43m was budgeted but less than 40 per cent was spent precisely because of the COVID-19 and before then.

“Remember that we had travelled to attend several international summits starting UNWTO conference, UNESCO in Spain and in the UK. We also did advocacy in the UK at the same time. These were all before the lockdown.

“I think our last trip was actually in Addis Ababa, when we accompanied the President to the AU summit, and that was about March 2020 before the lockdown.

“The lockdown came at the end of March. So whatever we spent here was before the lockdown.”

The Senate panel also tackled the minister on a controversial project fully funded by the Ministry of Finance for execution by his ministry in the 2020 fiscal year.

The project was tagged ERPG 10145116, and was listed as “completion of NTA Gashua sub-station ongoing.”

The project had its allocation of N250m fully released to the ministry.

Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Abdullahi Sankara, said the minister had a lot of explanation to make over the project.

He said it was 100 per cent releases without any work commensurate to the full releases.

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Nigerians To Pay More For Beverages, Sweetened Drinks As FG Enforces Sugar Tax

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The Federal Government has commenced the implementation of the N10 per litre sugar tax on carbonated sugar drinks and beverages.

According to the Chief Superintendent of Customs, Department of Excise, Free Trade Zone and Industrial Incentives, Dennis Ituma, the tax would help combat Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs).

He spoke at a Policy Breakfast Meeting which held in Abuja this weekend.

The event was organised by the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) to proffer ways to implement tax and other interventions to reduce consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) in Nigeria.

The implementation is coming despite pleas by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and some related stakeholders who asked the government to halt the policy introduced in the Finance Act, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 31, 2021.

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In a statement, the Coalition Representative of the 12-member NASR, Omei Bongos-Ikwue, quoted  the Customs official as saying the services had commenced.

“The N10 per litre of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages has been implemented on June 1, by July 21, all excise duties must have been collected and paid into the federation account. It should interest you that taxation on SSBs was a policy of the Federal Government in 1984 but was stopped in January 2009.

“Previously both SSBs, alcoholic drinks and tobacco were all taxed until 2009 when SSBs was removed from taxable beverages,” he said.

Members of the NASR are Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Nigeria Cancer Society, Breast Without Spot, Lafiya Wealth Initiative, TalkHealth9ja, Nigeria Health Watch, Project PINK BLUE, Sustainable Development Initiative, African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD), Bundies Care Initiative, and Nigerian Heart Foundation.

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Ekweremadu: Immigration says Ukpo birthday certificate shows he’s 21 not 15

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Birth certificate of Ekweremadu ‘kidney donor’ shows he’s 21, says immigration

The Nigeria Immigration Service says David Ukpo, the “kidney donor” at the centre of the organ harvesting allegation against Ike Ekweremadu, is 21 years old — not 15.

Spokesman for the NIS, Amos Okpu, disclosed this in a statement released on Sunday.

Okpu said the birth certificate presented by Ukpo during his international passport registration showed that he is 21 years old.

Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, were arrested last Thursday and arraigned in court for allegedly bringing a child to the UK for organ harvesting.

They were subsequently remanded in custody till July 7 while investigations are still ongoing.

The senator had written to the UK high commission to support a visa application of a “donor”.

Although the UK police said the donor was 15, Ukpo was listed as 21 years old on his international passport and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) portal.

The immigration spokesman said the birth certificate issued by the National Population Commission (NPC) and the national identity number (NIN) slip presented by Ukpo indicated that he is 21.

He explained that Ukpo’s date of birth was listed as October 12, 2000 — meaning he will be 22 years old in October 2022.

“The facts of the matter concerning the case above, therefore, are that the said Mr David Ukpo Nwamina applied and paid for the enhanced standard passport using the NIS portal after which he approached the Gwagwalada Passport Office, FCT Abuja, on the 2nd November 2021 for his interview,” the statement reads.

“To support his application, Mr. Nwamina presented all the necessary documents required, including his National Population Commission (NPC) issued Birth Certificate, showing 12 October, 2000, as his date of birth; his National Identity Number (NIN) corroborating the date of birth on his birth certificate, issued by NIMC; a letter of introduction issued by Ebonyi State Government Liaison Office situated at Maitama District Abuja, and a Guarantor’s form duly signed by one Mr. Uchechukwu Chukwuma Ogbonno.
“In view of the above, the general public may wish to be informed that the date of birth, or any other information for that matter, on any Nigerian passport is printed on the document only after a thorough vetting process that involves both physical and forensic examination of the applicant’s breeder documents. Mr. Nwamina’s case, therefore, was not different.”

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South African police investigate death of 20 in nightclub 

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South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning.

According to AP, it is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.

Local newspaper Daily Dispatch reported that bodies were strewn across tables and chairs without any visible signs of injuries.

“At this point we cannot confirm the cause of death,” said health department spokesperson Siyanda Manana.

“We are going to conduct autopsies as soon as possible to establish the probable cause of death. The deceased have been taken to state mortuaries,” Manana added.

The owner of the club, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local broadcaster eNCA that he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.

“I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern,” he said.

“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Ndevu added.

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