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2023: Buhari Agreed To Support Tinubu For President – Buba Galadima

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Alhaji Buba Galadima, a signatory to the 2013 merger of the All Progressives Congress, tells ENIOLA AKINKUOTU and TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN (of The Punch) about the agreements between Muhammadu Buhari and former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State.

As a former associate of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, do you think the President will impose his candidate or leave it open for all aspirants to contest in the Presidential primary of the APC?

You don’t need to be a prophet or soothsayer to know that the President will indeed anoint whosoever he wants to be the candidate of the APC. But what one needs to look at is whether he could do that with some sense of decorum, with some sense of decency, with some sense of consideration for the opinion of the majority members of his party. My answer is No. Therefore, whoever he anoints will cause bickering, infighting, and a lot of anti-party activities. This will bedevil the APC.

As one of the founding members of the APC, was there any agreement at any time that Tinubu would succeed Buhari?

Not perfectly an agreement, but there was an understanding because Tinubu with one other person and the President also with another person sat down and the information we got was that they agreed that if Tinubu would help Buhari win, he would become the Vice-President. When that was not possible, they called him to ask him to assist because of the exigencies of the time, which wouldn’t have allowed for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

They said that whatever he does, he should deploy and make sure that Buhari becomes President and that when he (Buhari) is going, he would also do whatever he would in his powers to assist Tinubu to become President. It looks like they are now going back on that understanding. And a promise is a promise whether written or unwritten because if you can subvert it, God knows your heart. And God never accepts betrayal. When you are committed, whether it is sour or bitter, or tasty, you have to swallow it.

Now, it looks like they want to go back on that understanding with Tinubu. This is why Tinubu is bitter and I understand this bitterness, because of what has happened to him, which I told him years back. I told him what was going to happen to him. And everything that I predicted those years is now happening. My prayer for him (Tinubu) is that he should come out of this unscathed and healthy. That is my biggest prayer for him.

But for him, it looks like he has already been subverted. The only way he can get his momentum is if the party agrees to do primaries. If the party agrees to go to the primaries, I do not doubt in my mind that Tinubu may emerge victorious, but as far as the consensus which they want to adopt is concerned, he is out of the game.

Who were those present when Buhari and Tinubu reached this agreement you claimed?

I won’t tell you but the people involved know. Tinubu came to the meeting with a former governor while Buhari came with a sitting governor. That is why that governor is solidly behind Tinubu today and because of the fear of God. But I wouldn’t want to mention the names of the two of them, because, Tinubu himself has alluded to this kind of understanding.

So are you saying that Buhari is the kind of person that does not honor promises?

Well, I don’t know. You should be the judge or ask Tinubu to whom he made the verbal promise.

So you foresee a situation whereby the party can have some crises or can even break if Tinubu is schemed out?

Well, the truth of the matter is that Nigerian politicians are cowards. Nigerian politicians are unprincipled. If they are courageous and principled, the APC would have broken into pieces a long time ago. But because of betrayals, God will never allow the APC to succeed, and even if they succeed, they will never have peace.

So what do you think of Tinubu’s outburst in Abeokuta last week and the threat by the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, to punish him?

Well, who is the APC chairman? Where was he when some of us were fighting for Buhari? Where was he? He should remember what he did to us in 2003. Is it because Buhari has forgotten?

If Buhari recollects what the APC national chairman did to him, he would not even ever allow him to shake his hand, let alone make him chairman.

What did the APC chairman do in 2003?

Well, you can ask him (Adamu Abdullahi) that Buba Galadima said that you did something to Buhari in 2003. And that it is abominable to the extent that he (Buhari) shouldn’t even shake hands with you or stay under one roof with you. Let him tell you what he did to Buhari during our campaigns.

But some may argue that in politics, alliances change. What would you say of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who was Tinubu’s protégé but is now running against his former boss?

So, politics does not connote decency or respect at all? Is that what you are trying to tell me? I am a principled person. I am with Rabiu Kwankwaso, for example now, even if you give me the whole of the Central Bank of Nigeria, that cannot change me. And you can ask Goodluck Jonathan’s people about me. In 2015, they tried to induce Sule Yahaya, who was our director-general; Mustapha Saliu, the man from Kwara State who was Deputy National Chairman of the CPC, and me, just for us to make an appearance and endorse the candidacy of Jonathan but we refused to take it.

Therefore, we are not doing things for personal benefits. We do things hoping that it would be the best for Nigeria. That is why I don’t believe in sentiments; primordial sentiments of religion, tribe, or where one comes from. We have tried all these and we have failed as a nation. Why don’t we try for once capacity and capability to accommodate all Nigerians and deliver Nigeria from this present status instead of predicament?

Do you think Osinbajo should have given up his presidential ambition for loyalty to Tinubu?

If he doesn’t, can you now trust him? If you look at how Osinbajo came with Tinubu and he’s now contesting against Tinubu who brought him, how safe would you be to work with such a person?

If the man who did all this to someone who made him commissioner, made him this, made him that and he is now fighting him. You will now want to fight for him now, what would be your status later in life with him?

Now that you are in the NNPP…

(Cuts in) I am the national chairman of the Reformed APC, a faction that broke off from the APC and I am still one. But there is no law, either an act or the constitution of the party, or that of the country that prevents any member of any political party from supporting a candidate of other parties.

Maybe my knowledge is small, but if you think there is, please advise me on the law or in the section of the constitution that stops that so that I could stop parading myself as Chairman of the Reformed APC or supporting another candidate or aspirant of another political party.

Are you not afraid that they can expel you for anti-party activities?

What are they waiting for? Even if they expel me, that is physical. It is because of me that there’s the APC. Even, though the APC never held a Board of Trustees meeting since its inception. If I were chairman of INEC, I would de-register the party for that contravention of the article of BOT.

It is already indelibly written up to eternity that I was the number four person who signed the amalgamation treaty of the APC; you can’t take that away from me again. Anybody that is chopping or stealing in the APC now is to my foresight of signing to amalgamate the party to become APC.

The northern governors have all agreed that the presidential ticket will go to the South. So don’t you think that it’s almost automatic that at least the APC is going to come out with every southern presidential candidate?

You don’t know the reason they did that, and how powerful they can be. But that is the decision of their party. I don’t give a damn about it. Because every political party envies getting to a position where they can achieve success, it’s not about sentiment, if they think that a southern presidential candidate will give them victory? So be it.

If other people think that a northern presidential candidate will give them victory, so be it. That is democracy. But what we’re asking for is a level playing field, free, fair, transparent, processes, and election. So let he who has got the support of the majority of Nigerians win

What do you see emerging as the candidate for the APC?

That’s not my problem. We are not afraid of the person that the APC will pick because if Kwankwaso is given a proper atmosphere and leveled the playing field, he will defeat anyone who emerges on the platform of PDP or APC, even if they are put together.

Why do you think Kwankwaso will win when the NNPP doesn’t even have a single governor?

It’s because you don’t believe in yourself. You don’t believe in your capacity to organize and network Nigerians. Kwankwaso became the governor of Kano State for the second time without a councilor, without a local government chairman, without a member of the state or National Assembly. Without any elected person. He contested the election in 2011 and won the governorship of Kano. We can replicate that for Nigeria.

Credit: The Punch

BIG STORY

Federal Government Begins New Expatriate Job Policy Implementation, Violators Risk N3m Fine

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Companies that violate the recently implemented Expatriate Employment Levy (EEL) regulation would be fined N3 million for each infraction.

The infractions include failing to file an EEL, failing to register an employee, failing to renew an EEL within 30 days, and giving misleading information about an EEL.

An financial contribution known as the Expatriate Employment Levy is levied against employers who engage foreign labour.

By guaranteeing fair contributions from foreign employment, the levy, which is mostly levied on the offshore earnings of foreign workers in Nigeria, aims to strike a balance between workforce development and economic growth.

President Bola Tinubu launched the policy on February 28, 2024.

He stated that the EEL would close the wage gaps between expatriates and the Nigerian labour force while increasing employment opportunities for qualified Nigerians in foreign companies operating in the country.

However, the handbook sighted by our correspondent on Sunday said offences such as inaccurate or incomplete information could lead to penalties.

“Failure of a corporate entity to file EEL within 30 days is liable to a fine of N3,000,000.

“Failure to register an employee within 30 days will attract a fine of N3,000,000.

“Falsification of information on EEL is liable to a fine of N3,000,000.

“Failure of a corporate entity to renew EEL within 30 days attracts N3,000,000 fine.”

Also, according to the handbook, companies are expected to pay $15,000 for expatriates employed as directors, and $10,000 for other categories.

“Employers of expatriates covered by the EEL are required to pay $15,000 for directors and $10,000 for other categories of expatriates,” it added.

The Ministry of Interior in a notice on its website stated that the EEL card is a mandatory document like a passport.

It added that it would be required for any expatriate to leave and enter the country.

The ministry, however, fixed April 15 for compliance with the policy.

The notice partly read, “For further details and registration of your company and expatriates working with you, kindly go through the Handbook and User Manual available on the portal.

“The last date of compliance with EEL is Monday, April 15, 2024.

“An EEL card is a mandatory document like a passport, and will be required at the time of lawful exit and entry into the country.”

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BIG STORY

Forex Crisis: FG Blows Hot, Threatens Sanctions As Foreign Airlines Stick To High Fares

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The Federal Government has threatened to sanction foreign airlines that fail to comply with the directive to release low inventory tickets within weeks.

The decision was delivered at a meeting held by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority last week in Abuja with airline operators, the NCAA, international airlines, and the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies.

At the meeting, the international airlines promised to provide low inventory tickets, which are much more inexpensive for Nigeria’s middle class, in order to improve transparency in the air ticketing operations.

This came when the Federal Government released a portion of the $700 million in embezzled airline ticket proceeds to overseas carriers.

However, findings by Press showed that not all the foreign airlines had complied with the directive.

The Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, NCAA, Michael Achimugu, said in an exclusive with Press that defaulting airlines risked sanctions.

The NCAA public affairs director stated in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, “The meeting between the NCAA and the foreign airlines had NANTA present.

“They confirmed the opening of those low inventory tickets. During our discussions with the airlines, we allowed them into the meeting one after the other and some claimed that in their agencies, low inventories were opened.

“We had NANTA confirm this in the meeting and discovered that some of the airlines were not being truthful about it. Consequently, we instructed them to open those low-inventory tickets.

“A majority of them are reported to have complied by opening low-inventory tickets. For those that are yet to do so, we have given them a week or thereabout. I will need to check with the chairman to confirm the exact number of weeks given to them to comply.

“Within the scope of the NCAA, there will be sanctions applicable to airlines that do not comply with these directives. We made that very clear. However, I need to confirm the deadline to comply with the committee.”

Investigations by Press showed that airlines had initiated the release of low-inventory tickets, however, there are concerns as certain carriers have yet to offer their lowest inventory tickets.

Airline operators, who spoke to Press, confirmed that the NCAA directive had not fully expanded the availability of economy-class tickets.

A reliable source in the industry told our correspondent that some of the airline operators were yet to fully open up the lowest inventory tickets, which cater significantly to the Nigerian middle class.

The source claimed that some of the operators withheld the lowest inventory tickets in a move to compel Nigerians to utilise their dollar cards to purchase air tickets.

“Some airlines did a partial opening, meaning that they didn’t release all of the low-inventory tickets. For example, if they have 10 economy class tickets with different fares, they will release around five,” the source revealed.

The Director-General of the NCAA, Chris Najomo, had called out Air France for non-compliance with the directive.

In response to this, Najomo set up a 10-member committee chaired by the Director of Special Duties at the NCAA, Horatius Egua.

The committee’s primary task is to oversee the full compliance by foreign airlines with the government directive regarding the unblocking of low-inventory tickets.

The committee is expected to propose suitable pricing strategies for tickets in Nigeria compared to other markets in the West African sub-region.

The President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokoma, confirmed to Press that some airlines had chosen to open their low-inventory tickets, while others were yet to follow suit.

The AFARN president believes this move will benefit everyone, as airline operators navigate market dynamics and competition by strategising accordingly.

Nwokoma stated that making decisions for airlines was challenging due to numerous variables that needed consideration.

According to him, the decisions by the airlines to open up inventory involve evaluating both commercial and technical aspects to determine the most suitable course of action.

The AFARN president explained that the increase in ticket prices was attributed to the high exchange rate and the challenge of accessing trapped funds.

He added that airlines were keen to recover these funds.

Nwokoma emphasized the ongoing conversations between the foreign airlines and the NCAA, shedding light on the complexities involved.

“The foreign airlines are having a conversation with the NCAA. So I’m sure as soon as that is sorted, they will look at all the dynamics,” he said.

Nwokoma added that it was important to resolve regulatory matters before proceeding with ticket releases, underscoring the need for alignment between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies.

Regarding the timeline for the release of low-inventory tickets, he expressed uncertainty, noting, “It is ongoing; we can’t give any timeframe as to when the release of low-inventory tickets will start.”

Price checks by our correspondents revealed significant discrepancies in ticket prices. While some tickets are sold at over N1m, others exceed N3m.

A round-trip economy class ticket from Lagos to London with Air France costs N2,482,138, while for Lufthansa, it is priced at N1,966,165. Qatar Airways offers the same ticket for N2,016,824, and KLM prices it at N2,448,740.

For the Lagos to New York route on Qatar Airways, the cost is N2,982,049. Meanwhile, KLM charges N3,158,314; Air France prices it at N3,148,308; and United Airlines lists it at N3,193,185. Delta Air Lines offers the ticket for N3,310,097.

The Lagos to London flight with Kenya Airways attracts N1,258,857. Asky Airlines prices it at N1,572,617, while Qatar Airways charges N1,639,602.

From Lagos to Canada, Delta Air Lines economy tickets cost N1,982,017. United Airlines charges N3,188,672; Qatar Airways, N2,511,041; and Air France, N2,660,376.

  • Exchange Rate Crisis

Nigerian passengers are grappling with challenges stemming from fluctuating exchange rates, resulting in increased travel costs and unpredictability.

The surge in Jet A1 fuel price further compounds the issue, with airfares across various airlines experiencing an increase in recent weeks.

The airlines have voiced their concerns about the detrimental impact of these factors on their operations, urging the government to intervene to avert the potential collapse of some of the carriers.

The President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Susan Akporiaye, told Press that the non-release of the low-inventory tickets was due to the problem of high foreign exchange rates.

Akporiaye said there was no need for the airlines to block the lower inventory tickets anymore as the prices were becoming exorbitant.

She stated, “Before the release of inventory, the economy-class ticket was going for N6m; that’s why you can see tickets priced at less than N2m. We can obtain fares as cheap as we used to before because of the exchange rate when it was $1/N400.

“Due to the reopening of the inventory, passengers can still purchase tickets at the rate of N1.6m and N1.8m, as opposed to what we used to have before.”

An agent at Travel and Tours Limited, Maureen Chimaobi, expressed the hope that all airlines would comply with Nigerian authorities by opening up their low-inventory tickets.

She told Press that the tickets might not always be available on airlines’ websites, with some airlines selling them to IATA agents at a lower cost.

Chimaobi stated that occasionally, these tickets can be found on the airline’s website.

She added that despite this availability, the prices remained high due to the exchange rate.

Another travel agent, Effiom Martins, said there were persistent high costs of airfares.

“As of yesterday (Friday), ticket prices remained exorbitant, even doubling in some cases, compared to just two weeks ago,” he said.

Martins emphasized that exchange rates played a significant role in determining ticket prices, but lamented the lack of immediate action by airlines following the directive by the NCAA.

He expressed frustration over the opacity of airline policies, noting the absence of clear communication regarding plans to lower fares.

“The foreign airlines won’t even give some of us any information on plans to reduce airfares. It will just be shown on their websites. Yesterday’s airfares and today’s fares are still the same,” Martins added.

An agent with Untamed Travels and Tours, Adediran Adewale, disputed claims of inventory release by the international airlines, labelling it “a capital lie.”

He pointed out pricing disparities, particularly with airlines like British Airways selling tickets in dollars for passengers in Nigeria.

Adewale criticised Turkish Airlines for selective inventory release and the cessation of commission for agents, which he noted was adversely affecting travel businesses. He emphasized the unequal treatment faced by Nigerian travellers, citing restrictive baggage allowances and pricing schemes.

A Travel Agent at T & T Concierge Services, Juliet Abah, acknowledged partial inventory releases by some airlines like Lufthansa and Virgin Air but lamented the lack of action from others such as KLM and Air France.

“Not all but some airlines have released cheaper classes of seats. The likes of Lufthansa, Virgin Air, KLM and Air France have yet to do the same,” Abah stated.

She highlighted the intricacies of fare determination, citing fluctuations in IATA dollar rates and disparities between Nigerian and international markets.

One of the biggest tasks currently before the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, is to ensure that more airlines do not suspend their operations from the Nigerian market.

Recently, the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo, expressed worry that operators were on the brink of collapse as operating costs continued to worsen, especially due to the high cost of aviation fuel, which is currently sold at N1,300 per litre.

Okonkwo stated, “A Nigerian airline may meet their terms and all the standard criteria, but the aircraft owners consider country risk above other factors. Country risk supersedes everything and lessors have their obligations. So, there is nothing personal.

“Some airlines deposited money with the Central Bank of Nigeria, but they cannot provide us the needed dollars.

“We are not only faced with the problem of scarcity of dollars; even the aviation ecosystem is feeling the heat. Handling companies have increased the cost of their services, airports have increased their charges and those that service the aircraft have also increased the cost of their services.

“The funds for these payments are coming from the passengers who are already exhausted financially.”

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of Centurion Security Limited, Captain John Ojikutu, said aviation fuel accounted for approximately 60 per cent of airlines’ operational costs.

He highlighted the need for Nigeria to resume producing aviation fuel, as it did in the past, to alleviate the ongoing impact on both operators and passengers.

“Fuel plays a crucial role in commercial aviation. Could you provide information on the fuel prices in 1999 and the current rates? In the mid-1990s, fuel refining occurred in Nigeria, but for over two decades, we’ve been importing fuel, which is now impacting ticket prices,” Ojikutu stated.

He said it was challenging for airlines to continue to pay in dollars while they collect naira from travellers.

The Federal Government holds the highest amount of airline-trapped funds in the world, with over 27 foreign carriers operating in the country, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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BIG STORY

President Tinubu Signs Multi-Sectoral Investment Agreements With Qatar, Says “Nigerian Youths Are Reliable” [PHOTOS]

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  • Finance Minister Edun To Head Qatar Investment Implementation

 

Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has signed an agreement with Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, to improve cooperation in seven sectors of the economy.

The sectors include education, enterprise development, investment promotion, youth empowerment, mining, tourism, and sports.

According to a statement by Ajuri Ngelale, presidential aide on media and publicity, the two countries entered the agreement on Sunday in Doha.

Before the signing ceremony, Tinubu was said to have assured his host of Nigeria’s preparedness to welcome investors into the country, adding that the ongoing reforms favour innovation, return on investments, and multiculturalism.

“Our greatest strength is our people. Our strength lies in the capacity of Nigerian youths,” Tinubu said.

“They have energy, talent, and self-belief. They are quality partners for the Qatari industry. They are educated and reliable, and they are proactively seeking to add value wherever they are.

“A few cannot give a bad name to the many. Nigerian youths are ready to be unleashed for the mutual benefit of both nations.

“We have seen clearly the rapid pace and thorough quality of Qatar’s development process. It is impossible not to be moved by what you have accomplished. The leadership in the country has proven its mettle, and we are here to gain deeper insight.

“There is nowhere in the world where you will find return on investment at the level of what you will see in Nigeria. A massive market of over 200 million skilled Nigerians, always industrious and ready to work.

“We face some short-term turbulence at the moment, but we have a government today that reflects the dynamism and talent of the Nigerian people.

“We are implementing the right solutions. This team works collaboratively with each other and our partners. Nigeria is ready for serious business.”

On his part, Al Thani, emphasised that Qatar is open to Tinubu’s investment push.

He also recalled that he travelled to Nigeria in 2019 due to his belief that Nigeria is an important and strategic ally on its own and within the context of its role in regional affairs.

“I have no doubt about the great capacity of the Nigerian people. Everywhere in the world, they are known for their brilliance and hard work,” he said.

“We only need to ensure that this is happening inside of Nigeria rather than outside. The investments we have made around the world have been very fruitful.

“This is because we take our time and study opportunities before we invest in the commonwealth of our people. It is not my money. The money we invest belongs to the future generations of Qatar.

“Mr. President, I am very encouraged by your actions and your passion to create new opportunities. We are very open to this, and follow-up is everything at this point.

“The will is there for both of us, but we must follow up. I will send a team of officials to Nigeria after Ramadan, and we will advance discussions on what some of the actionable investment opportunities are.”

According to the statement, Tinubu named Wale Edun, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, as the leader of the government team that will interface with Qatari authorities on investment identification and implementation moving forward.

Ngelale said the agreements signed are; cooperation agreement in the field of education; regulation of employment of workers with the government of Qatar; establishment of a joint business council (JBC) between the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA); a cooperation agreement in the field of youths and sports.

Other agreements include: cooperation in the field of tourism and business events, and a memorandum of understanding combating illicit trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

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