Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Thursday, 8th March, 2018.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Nigeria’s economy remains vulnerable, though policies and favourable oil prices have helped it to overcome a recession.Disclosing this position yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that the economy is yet to receive boost from policy implementations that could make it withstand the shocks that previously pushed it into a recession.

The organisation described lower oil prices and high interest rates as the main downside risks, while insecurity, delayed fiscal policy response, and weak implementation of structural reforms make up the domestic perils.Explaining its verdict at the end of an economic review of the country, tagged ‘2018 Article IV,’ the IMF admitted that new reforms under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan have aided the business environment. It, however, said they have not impacted substantially on non-oil and non-agricultural activities, inflation, banking sector vulnerabilities, unemployment and poverty.

According to the review, Nigeria retains its higher fiscal deficit, driven by weak revenue mobilisation, amid continued tight domestic financing conditions that have raised bond yields, and crowded out private sector credit.

The fund’s directors warned that rising banking sector risks, possibly caused by huge non-performing loans, deserve attention. They also commended the Central Bank of Nigeria’s commitment to help banks increase capital buffers by stopping the dividend payments of weak and most affected ones.

They called for an asset quality review to identify potential capital needs and noted that an enhanced risk-based banking supervision, strict enforcement of prudential requirements, and a revamped resolution framework would help contain risks.

IMF’s Managing Director and Chairman, Christine Lagarde, in her summary of the directors’ views, said new foreign exchange measures, rising oil prices, attractive yields on government securities, and a tighter monetary policy have contributed to better foreign exchange availability, increased reserves to a four-year high and contained inflationary pressures.

“Economic growth reached 0.8 per cent in 2017, driven mainly by recovering oil production. Inflation declined to 15.4 per cent year-on-year by end-December, from 18.5 per cent at end-2016. Higher oil prices are supporting the near-term projections. But medium-term projections indicate that growth would remain relatively flat, with continuing declines in per capita real GDP under unchanged policies,” she said.

Noting that Nigeria would record a growth of 2.1 per cent in 2018, Lagarde said the improved outlook for oil prices is expected to provide relief for the country from pressures on external and fiscal accounts.

This would be helped by the full year impact of greater foreign exchange availability and recovering oil production, even as foreign reserves are tending towards $44 billion.The IMF projected a reduced growth of 1.9 per cent for the country in 2019. And the non-oil sector will record a marginal increase in Gross Domestic Product from 1.3 per cent in 2018 to 1.5 per cent in 2019, an indication of slow development in the sector.

The report notes that renewed import growth would reduce gross external reserves despite continued access to international markets. The IMF called for urgent comprehensive and coherent policy actions and a growth-friendly fiscal adjustment that focuses on non-oil revenue mobilisation and rationalises current expenditure, to reduce the ratio of interest payments to revenue.

It also urged the authorities to create space for priority social and infrastructure spending and warned that the ongoing efforts to improve tax administration must include ambitious tax policy measures and reforms in Value Added Tax, and rationalising of tax incentives.
The outlook may continue to look good as Indonesia has expressed willingness to become a major buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil.The United States had been one of the highest buyers of Nigeria’s sweet crude, demanding as high as 700,000 b/d in the 2000s and reaching a record figure of 1.31 million b/d in February 2006. The figure, however, has dropped significantly in recent times.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
The Senate warned yesterday that allegations of state-sponsored violence in Kaduna, Kano and Kogi States, could create conditions that would undermine democracy in the country.It also set up a panel to look into the allegations in Kogi, and to report back to it in two weeks.Senator Ahmed Salau Ogembe, representing Kogi Central, yesterday, sought the upper chamber’s intervention following his ordeal at the hands of hoodlums in Okene during an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents.

The lawmaker regretted that political violence, kidnappings, killings and assassinations have become commonplace in his state, while the police “choose to turn a blind eye.” He said: “The Nigeria Police Force Area Commander and the Divisional Police Officers of Okene, Okehi and Adavi, which are Local Government Areas under Kogi Central senatorial district, seem to be under undue influence and strong control of the local government area administrator. This political intimidation and violence has seemingly increased because of the 2019 general elections, which is less than a year away.”Ogembe claimed that many of his supporters who participated in the programme were beaten and that others were kidnapped and dumped in bushes and uncompleted buildings.

Some senators highlighted violent political situations in Kaduna and Kano states, recalling how they could not visit or organise meetings for fear of attacks. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said: “Last two weeks, we were talking about the house of a senator which was destroyed in Kaduna State. We were talking about how security operatives laid siege on Dino Melaye. We are talking about Kwankwaso, who was stopped from going to his state, which he had ruled for eight years.

“In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting, and we are talking of democracy. And somebody says this democracy is going to continue this way. It is not. People are holding meetings everyday on how to deal with each and every one of us here.“There is the need for the international community to know this because they helped restore democracy to Nigeria. Some people are trying to truncate that entire democracy. We are now second-class citizens, not just in Africa but also in West Africa.”

He said further: “The problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the army cannot take over in Nigeria? It is possible. So, let us not joke with our democracy, especially with the way things are going.”

Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki who presided over the session, said: “It is not really just about Kogi State. It is clear from what we are seeing that Kogi is coming to a point where it is becoming a threat to our democracy. And we are going to be very serious about it. It cannot be seen to be defying our democracy because this is not what our democracy is about.

“For the role that we continue to make in the comity of nations, we must be seen as making good examples for other parts of the world. We must get to the bottom of this. We must take actions to stop these things from happening. This cannot be the democracy that we should be talking about after 20 years. It is totally unacceptable.”

Besides, the Rivers State House of Assembly has said a directive by the police, barring vigilance groups from using firearms, could hamper the state’s efforts at enhancing security. The legislature, which recently passed into law the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill 2018, urged the police to reconsider their stance.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Equity transactions on the stock market closed on a downturn yesterday, following price losses suffered by major highly capitalised stocks, especially Dangote Cement, and Total, as investors’ wealth depreciated significantly by 1.53 per cent.

Yesterday, the All-share index, which measures the performance of listed firms dropped by 657.07 points 1.51 per cent, the biggest loss in the month so far to 42,952.70 points, from 43,609.77 recorded on Tuesday.

Similarly, market capitalisation of listed equities declined by N236billion or 1.53 per cent from N15.666trillion to N15.430trillion.The drop in indices may, however, be attributed to profit taking by investors to recoup the investment from price appreciation of the previous week.Precisely, analysts from Codros Capital, said: “The drop is due to investors booking profit on previous gains in major stocks. Despite loss in today’s session, we believe legroom for gains still exist; more so, as investors position ahead of Q4 2017 corporate earnings releases.”

About 23 stocks constituted the losers chart at the end of yesterday’s trading. Dangote Cement emerged the day’s highest price loser with 9.90 kobo to close at N265.00 per share.Total followed with 9.80 kobo to close at N240.20 per share. Nestle lost 5.00 kobo to close at N1375 per share. Nigerian Breweries dropped 1.30 kobo to close at N125.60 per share. Guaranty Trust Bank shed 0.90 kobo to close at N47.60 per share.

However, 26 stocks appreciated in price, as Flour Mills topped the gainers’ chart with 1.40 kobo to close at N36.00 per share while GlaxoSmithKline followed with 1.00 kobo to close at N22.00 per share.Eternal Oil gained 0.59 kobo to close at N6.40 per share. Unilever appreciated by 0.50 kobo to close at N60.10 per share. Cadbury also added 0.40 kobo to close at N16.00 per share.

Zenith Bank dominated in volume terms with 64 million shares worth N2billion. Japaul Oil followed with 17 million units valued at N14million. Sterling Bank accounted for 16 million units worth N30million.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Nigeria and African countries need to create 12 million new jobs every year over the next 20 years to confront halt ravaging unemployment on the continent, the Director General of the United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva has said.
He maintained that the prosperity of African countries lies in creating decent and attractive jobs for youths in the rural areas.He said although agriculture is a potential means of generating employment, he stressed the urgent need to explore other opportunities throughout the food chain to create enough jobs for youths especially those in rural areas.

He also stressed the need for countries to promote a rural and structural transformation that would foster synergies between farm and non-farm activities and reinforce the linkages between rural areas and cities.

Graziano da Silva who stated this at FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa held in Khartoum, Sudan highlighted such activities to include processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services.

A statement by the National Communication Officer of FAO, David Tsokar, said currently only 54 percent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

He said: “With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.”Graziano da Silva explained: “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs”, which goes beyond farm jobs and seeks to develop capacity and scale up successful approaches through programme formulation and partnerships.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners.”He warned, however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” Graziano da Silva added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production,” he added. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
The governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, has described workers in the state civil service as treasures deserved to be honoured and celebrated by his administration.Aregbesola, who commissioned 8km dual carriage road named 'Workers Drive' in Osogbo.... 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Secretary to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Dr. Musa Usman Abubakar, has taken over the body's leadership.The former Acting Chairman of the commission, Bako Abdullahi, handed over to him yesterday, at the end of his tenure. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Classification, plant sources and health benefits of flavonoids Flavonoids, otherwise known as bioflavonoids, are a group of secondary metabolites in plants. To explain further, secondary metabolites are organic compounds produced by plants for their defense against herbivores or as colours in flowers... 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, has called on military officers to embrace financial literacy to help them plan for befitting retirement.He made the call during a three-day workshop conducted for the Nigerian Armed Forces by ABO Services and Konsult, an investment and personal finance training company. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
The call for State Police has been resonating in Nigeria for years, due to the realization that the Nigeria Police, as presently constituted cannot handle the increased demands of law enforcement, in the criminal justice system. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
The new Maritime Industry report released by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), showed that the PIGB has stalled over $3billion that is expected to have been accrued from the increased bunkering activities in the maritime operations. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
The Arab Republic of Egypt is ready to demonstrate to the world its commitment towards good governance. We will open ourselves to the APRM process without interference and will maintain the integrity of the process. 

Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Nigeria realized N3.254trillion from crude oil export in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2017, representing 83.2 per cent of the highest proportion of the country's total exports during the period under review.Besides, the country spent N380.4billion on importation of mineral fuel in the same period. 
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