Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Monday, 12 February, 2018.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
The planned review and removal of the mandatory Value Added Tax (VAT) on all air travel tickets issued in the aviation sector will save local airlines at least N11.55 billion in revenue yearly.

The tax, which is five per cent of every ticket fare paid only by local passengers, has been scheduled for consideration and withdrawal at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

Stakeholders have commended the proposed move, describing it as a step in the right direction to save the local airlines from the burden of multiple charges allegedly suffocating the carriers.

The operators have consistently raised concerns on the perennial challenges occasioned by multiple taxation in the system, especially VAT, that is rare in global aviation and even in other modes of transportation in Nigeria. Besides VAT and Passenger Service Charge (PSC) that cost 10 per cent of every fare, the airlines alleged payment of 35 other sundry charges that cumulatively rake off about 65 per cent of revenue made in the sector.

The relentless campaign against the “killing” taxes and charges regime, however, paid off at the weekend when the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed that a plan to remove the VAT, among others, had reached an advanced stage.

Sirika said in Lagos that the special committee of all stakeholders set up by the Federal Government to review multiple charges had submitted its report with a proposal for the removal VAT to align the industry with its counterparts in the world.

“We have gone very far. The report has been submitted and we are presenting the same to the government. One of the things we are considering is VAT. Since it is not chargeable on transportation, we are working hard to convince the government and I’m sure the government will be convinced to remove it and a few other things. We are preparing the final report for the government to take a final decision,” Sirika said.

Figures made available by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) show that local carriers transported no fewer than 7.7 million passengers in 2017. At an average of N30, 000 per ticket, the carriers accumulated N231 billion of which five per cent VAT was in excess of N11.55 billion.

One of the agencies represented in the taxes and charges review committee is the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said the proposal became necessary to align with international best practices.

The Chairman, Aircraft Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Mohammed Joji, said the scrap of VAT in air transport sector was long overdue.

Joji recalled that VAT and its removal from air travel had been addressed since the era of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1947 and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) that came into force in 1995. That explains why international carriers do not charge VAT on their ticket sales based on international agreements.

Joji, who is also the Managing Director of Skypower Express Airways Nigeria Limited, claimed that VAT Decree 102 of 1993, schedule three, under “Goods Except” actually exempted transportation by road, rail and water from VAT deductions.

“Erroneously, they (government of the day) left air transportation on the VAT list. When we demanded to know the reason, they said because aviation was high- profile, unlike other sub-sectors. But that is a bad argument. They don’t know that aviation is a catalyst for the economy. That is what we have been telling them all these years,” Joji said.

According to him, the removal of VAT will be in the best interest of not only the passengers but the airlines in the areas of spare parts importation, payment of charges to regulatory agencies like NCAA and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and helping the airlines to compete favourably with their counterparts on the African continent.

Other stakeholders toed the path of Joji, though stressed the need for more taxes and charges to be taken off the airlines or properly harmonised without duplications.

Among the charges for further review are passenger service charge of N1000 per ticket on local route, charter sales charge, aircraft inspection fees, simulator inspection fees, landing charges, parking charges and terminal navigational charge.

Others are enroute charge, fuel surcharge, airport space rent, electricity charges, apron pass, ODC, registration fee, service recovery charge, processing fee, avio bridge, aircraft registration and processing fee.

The airlines also pay toll gate fee, VIP lounge, trolley service, clearance fee, check-in counter charge, courier/tarmac/pre-release charges, import charge (Dom), export charge (Dom), import royalty, export royalty, ports charge, exports charge, transhipment, and concession Fee.

Together, these charges eat deep into earnings, leaving the airlines with less than N10,000 on a passenger ticket sold at an average price of N30,000.

The Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, who confirmed the heavy toll, said: “If this current regime of taxation is not removed, no airline will survive.”

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Except the seven-day and one-month maturity deposit rates, all other forms of deposits in the banking industry lost values in the fourth quarter of 2017, when compared with the third quarter records.

The development showed a continuation of the long-standing wide gap between interest rates that customers receive for keeping their money in the bank and what they pay to banks to borrow the same money.

An analysis of the fourth quarter Economic Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showed that the average savings rate remain unchanged at 4.08 per cent, while the average term deposit rate fell by 0.05 percentage point to 8.82 per cent.

On the other hand, the average prime lending rate rose by 0.04 percentage point to close at 17.78 per cent, while the maximum lending rate fell by 0.07 percentage point to close at 31.11 per cent in the review quarter.

Consequently, the spread between the weighted average term deposit and maximum lending rates, although narrowed to 22.29 percentage points from 22.31 percentage points in the preceding quarter, still remain high for borrowers.

Similarly, the margin between the average savings and the maximum lending rates also narrowed by 0.3 percentage point to 26.56 percentage points, while the weighted average inter-bank call rate rose to 24.02 per cent from 18.45 per cent in the preceeding quarter.

Meanwhile, the banks accumulated more wealth within the period as the industry’s total assets and liabilities stood at N34.59 trillion at end-December 2017, representing 3.9 per cent increase over the level at the end of September 2017.

The funds were sourced, mainly, from reduction of claims on the Federal Government and mobilisation of demand, time, savings and foreign currency deposits.

The funds were used to increase claims on the central bank (like treasury bills) and the private sector, acquire foreign assets, increase accretion to reserves and reduce unclassified liabilities.

Still, the banks were 5.5 per cent below the level of credit granted to the domestic economy at end-September 2017, with a total of N20.4 trillion at the end of fourth quarter.

Also, the loans-to-deposit ratio, at 72.84 per cent, was 6.77 percentage points and 7.16 percentage points below the level at the end of the preceding quarter and the prescribed maximum of 80 per cent.

Within the period under review, a sectoral foreign exchange utilisation recorded $7.45 billion, indicating 5.5 per cent increase above the level in third quarter, on the back of 7.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent rise in disbursement/utilisation for invisible and visible imports, respectively.

Specifically, the invisible sector accounted for the bulk of utilisation at 47.7 per cent of total foreign exchange disbursed in the fourth quarter of 2017, followed by the industrial sector at 27 per cent.

The minerals and oil sector utilised 9.1 per cent; manufactured products, 7.6 per cent; food products, six per cent; transport sector, 1.4 per cent; and agricultural products, 1.2 per cent.

A total of $5.08 billion was sold by the CBN to authorised dealers in the fourth quarter of 2017, representing 21.6 per cent decline below the level in the third quarter of 2017, but 75.3 per cent above the level in the corresponding period of 2016.

The development relative to the preceding quarter reflected the decline in swaps transactions, sales to BDCs and foreign exchange forwards disbursed at maturity.

Of the total, foreign exchange forwards disbursed at maturity amounted to $2.80 billion or 55.1 per cent, while bureau de change sales and swap transactions were $1.19 billion or 23.4 per cent and $190 million or 3.8 per cent, respectively.

At the inter-bank market, sales however, rose by 30.5 per cent to $90 million or 17.7 per cent of the total.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Violence continued in Benue State at the weekend as suspected Fulani herdsmen ambushed a police patrol team at Tse-Akpam Azege in Logo Local Government Area.

The patrol van was burnt while two of the police officers have been declared missing after the attack that on Saturday afternoon.

A source from the area, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that the herdsmen took the security agents unawares, forcing them to flee, leaving their Hilux van.

The Chairman of Logo Local Government Area, Mr. Richard Nyajo, who confirmed the incident, lamented the seemingly intractable attacks on his people. He expressed worry that the attackers now focus on security agents posted to ensure peace in the area. Nyajo said one of the attacked policemen was receiving treatment in a hospital at Ayilamo.

According to him, the commissioner of police in charge of mobile officers arrived in the state yesterday morning to lead the search and rescue efforts.

Nyajo said two motorcycles were carted away by the suspected herdsmen who also attacked Udu village in the local government.

The Benue State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who also confirmed the incident said the policemen were returning from a confidence-building mission in remote villages of the local council when the suspected herdsmen opened fire on them at Tse Akpam village.

“When my men were coming back, at a point in Azege, they started hearing gunfire from inside the bush by suspected herdsmen. There was a serious exchange of gunfire. The attackers burnt the police Toyota Hilux van after the officers inside fled into nearby bushes.

“As a result, four policemen were missing, but two were later found unhurt. The two officers had rejoined their colleagues, hoping to see the remaining two,” the commissioner said.

The Saturday attack on policemen in the local government was the second of its kind since the renewed invasion of communities in the area by the herdsmen on January 1, 2018.

Also, gunmen attacked Bakin Kogi village in Southern Kaduna at the weekend, killings four persons.

The victims were said to be palm wine tappers who came from another community to conduct their business Barkin Kogi. They were attacked in the bush and one managed to escape with serious injuries.

A source from the area, who preferred anonymity, said: “Those that were killed were not members of Bakin Kogi community but they were palm wine tappers from another community.

“They were in the bush tapping palm wine when they were attacked by the gunmen. For now, I cannot tell you where the attackers came from, but they are not from our community here.

“Policemen have visited the place and evacuated the bodies. The area is calm as I speak with you.” 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Could the International Space Station become a commercial venture run by private industry?

That is the wish of the White House, which hopes to end funding for the costly program within a few years, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The US plan, the paper said, involves privatizing the ISS, a low-orbit space station piloted by the US space agency NASA and developed jointly with its Russian counterpart.

The station has allowed international crews — notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies — to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit.

“The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time,” says an internal NASA document obtained by the Post. “It is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform.”

“NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit,” the document says.

A budget request to be issued Monday by the Trump administration will call for $150 million to be spent on the ISS in the 2019 fiscal year, and more in succeeding years, “to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS… are operational when they are needed.”

To ensure a smooth transition, the White House would ask the private sector to provide market analyses and development plans, the Post reported.

The plan is expected to face stiff opposition. The United States has already spent some $100 billion to launch, operate and support the orbital station.

Beginning during the presidency of George W. Bush (2001-2009), NASA has subcontracted certain ISS support operations, starting with the supply flights now carried out by the SpaceX and Orbital ATK companies — a trend that gained speed during the Obama presidency.

It was not clear, however, how private companies might profit from taking over the aging station — its first section was launched in 1998.

NASA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Harcourt world silver medalist, Odunayo Adekuoroye, Africa’s champions, Aminat Adeniyi and Bisola Makanjuola, as well as Hannah Rueben won gold medals to brighten Team Nigeria’s chances of winning the African Wrestling Championship, which ended at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Port Harcourt yesterday.

Adekuoroye, fighting in the 57 kg, caged Cameroun’s Essombe Tiako Joseph 11-0, while Adeniyi (62kg) subdued Tunisia’s Lilia Mejri 10-0, just as Makanjuola defeated Egypt’s Eman Essam Guda Ebrahim 10-0 in the 59kg weight category. Rueben gave no breathing space to Kenya’s Emily Friday Karimi Mbogo in 10 -0 outcome.

At the start of the senior cadre of the championship, Team Nigeria picked four gold, four silver and a bronze medals in the men’s senior freestyle cadre to put it on top of the table on points.

Earlier, Olympian Amos Daniel put away the disappointment of Soso Tamarau to record a win over Tunisia’s Haithem Dakhlaoui 7-2 in the 65 kg to secure a gold medal. Tamarau had lost to South Africa’s Martin Erastus in a pinfall decision after the result had stood at 1-1, while Ogbonna Emmanuel John fighting in the 70kg weight category had a narrow 2-2 split decision over his tough opponent, Egypt’s Amr Reda Ramadan Hussein.

Old war horse, Melvin Bibo contesting in the 86kg gave the fans something to cheer about, as he overpowered South Africa’s Jakobus Janse Van Rensburg 10-0 to cart home the gold medal, while Ekerekeme Agiomor (79kg) defeated South Africa’s Fredylan George Marais whom he gave no space with an overwhelming 11-0 result to the delight of the cheering fans.

However, veteran Sinivie Boltic lost 1-2 to Egypt’s Khaled Omr Zaki Mohamed Abdalla to the disappointment of the fans to settle for the bronze medal, while Firstman Victor (61kg) beat South Africa’s Gert Cornelius Johannes Coetzee 7-5 in the fight for the bronze medal.

Speaking to The Guardian, John attributed his narrow win to God, promising not to let the nation down at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

“I am very happy and excited over the victory and the gold medal that I won. This is a back to back victory for me at the African championship. The match was close, but I want to say that God did it for me, as naturally it was not by my power. I assure the country that I will well at the Commonwealth Games by the grace of God,” he said.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Search giant, Google is working to ensure that big technology companies emerge from Nigeria, cum emerging markets. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State says the association of Fulani to the killer herdsmen in parts of the country by a couple of Nigerians is in bad taste. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Global Accelerex, Central Bank of Nigeria licensed payment terminal service provider has launched NEXGO N5, the first single unit android point of sale terminal to be certified for payment acceptance in Nigeria. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) President, Kelechukwu Mbagwu has declared that this year would witness a remarkable transformation in the country's rugby. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Keystone Bank has launched a new mobile banking application with many user-friendly features, which can be accessed from the convenience of a mobile phone, a move that shows... 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has sealed an illegal maternity and baby factory in Nyanya, Abuja. This was contained in a statement... 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Experts have cautioned against single-party and authoritarian rule in Africa. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
The United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said that declared Nigeria as one of 10 countries in the world where 45 per cent of all under-five deaths occur at infancy. 

Mon, 12 Feb 2018
President Muhammadu Buhari has extended best wishes to Team Nigeria as they begin their epoch-making representation of the country in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. 
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