Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Thursday, 22 March, 2018.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
The Federal Government yesterday explained that the release of 104 out of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls abducted last month by the Boko Haram sect was secured through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country.

It was learnt that the girls were let go by their abductors around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday. They were brought and dumped in a village by suspected Boko Haram terrorists. But five died while one is still being held because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who confirmed the release of the girls in a statement in Abuja, said it was unconditional.

According to the minister, the number of freed girls increased from 76 earlier announced to 101 as more of them regained freedom and were registered by the security agencies. But later it was learnt that the number of those rescued rose to 104.

He said the development was the outcome of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to all security agencies to do everything possible to secure the release of the pupils who were abducted on February 19, 2018.

“Within the period when the girls were being brought back, operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also ensure that lives are not lost,’’ he said.

Initially, the Nigerian Army could not confirm the report of the release.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu, told The Guardian in Abuja that “We are yet to confirm the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls, but I will make contact with Damaturu to confirm if the report is true and I will get back to you,” he said.

Later, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed that the Department of State Service (DSS) led the negotiations for the release of the girls.

Acting Director, Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen John Agim, in a text message to The Guardian in Abuja yesterday said: “The girls were released through negotiations led by the DSS.”

The chairman of the school’s parents and teachers association, Bashir confirmed the release of the girls to an online medium in Yobe State. He said the abducted students were brought to Dapchi.

“My relatives and colleagues in Dapchi just informed me that the girls were brought this morning. I am heading to Dapchi now from Damaturu. When I get there, we will do a head count to see if all of them have been released, “ he said.

The freedom regained by the girls has elicited mixed reactions from eminent Nigerians and groups.

Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose described the abduction as an indictment on the Federal Government and their release as “drama scripted by the government and its agents to swindle Nigerians.”

“This appears like an arranged abduction and an arranged release, but we thank God that the innocent girls have returned home.
We condole with parents of those that died.”

In a statement yesterday, by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said it was strange that the girls could be brought back to Dapchi by their abductors without the security agents knowing when they were returned and who returned them.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
Forty-four African countries yesterday proceeded with the signing of the agreement that established the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) without the two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, and nine others.

Although a minimum of 22 countries were required to sign to get the project started, 44 nations okayed the pact to establish the free trade bloc within 18 months. The other countries that did not sign are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

The African Union (AU) started talks in 2015 to establish a 55-nation bloc that would be the biggest in the world, in a bid to increase intra-regional trade, which is currently 15 percent of the continent’s total commerce.

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that his administration was not disposed to entering into any agreement that would make the country a dumping ground and jeopardise its security architecture.

Consequently, the Federal Government announced the setting up of a committee to review the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) framework agreement which was signed in Kigali, Rwanda.

Nigeria had pulled out from the ongoing African Union extraordinary meeting as a result of protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) among other stakeholders who argued that the free trade agreement would not augur well for the country.

Briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said it was expected that the minister of labour would call for a stakeholders meeting with labour movement to brainstorm on the implications of the CFTA framework agreement.

“The explanation from the president which the FEC bought was that he would not want to agree to anything that would hinder local entrepreneurs. And on the surface, except if proven wrong, is that that agreement has the capacity to affect local entrepreneurship.

“He also said that anything that could encourage the dumping of finished goods in Nigeria was going to be contrary to our interest. So, it is one of the reasons he declined. Then he said the country was yet to fully understand the economic and security implications of the agreement.

“So, there has to be further consultations with different stakeholders and the final position was that a committee be set up to meet and review the contents of that proposal. They will do it within two weeks and get back to the Federal Executive Council.”

The FEC presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, penultimate Wednesday gave approval to President Buhari to sign the CFTA on behalf of Nigeria. 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has revealed that the need to boost the nation’s hydrocarbon reserves remained the primary reason the corporation has launched exploration activities across the country, especially in the northern region.

Speaking shortly after being conferred with honorary fellowship of the Nigerian Mining & Geosciences Society (NMGS), Baru, who said the corporation was ready to work with the association to reinvigorate efforts towards growing the nation’s hydrocarbon reserves, said the search is targeted at boosting proven reserves.

“Our search is primarily targeted at increasing the hydrocarbon reserves of the country and also to harness these resources which may be in other parts of the country.

“NNPC pledges to continue to work with you and every willing partner in the search for more hydrocarbon deposits in the country,” he said.

Regretting the unfortunate incident, which claimed the lives of some University of Maiduguri staff, who were working on the Chad basin exploration as well as the loss of one of the corporation’s staff working on the Benue Trough exploration, Baru said the corporation planned to drill four wells in areas that it has acquired 1, 961kmsq 3D seismic data out of 3,550kmsq planned in the Chad Basin.

The GMD said: “I pledge on behalf of the NNPC that their sacrifice shall not be in vain. There is no better way to honour the efforts of our gallant heroes than to continue the good work they died for,

“While waiting for normalcy to return to the Chad Basin, we have stepped up efforts in the Lower Benue trough. So far, we have acquired 20km of 2D data out of the planned 455km 2d seismic data,” he added.

He disclosed that NNPC would be going into the deeper Maiduguri sub-basin to acquire more 3D seismic data as soon as normalcy returns to the Chad basin.

On the Gongola Basin, Baru said four wells were also being planned for drilling to further test the prospects identified around Kolmani River-1, Nasara-1 and Kuzari-1 in 2018.

President of NMGS, Prof. Silas Dada said the society was honoured the GMD for his commitment and service to the growth of the country’s oil and gas industry.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
Everton attacker, Henry Onyekuru has returned to the training pitch after extensive time out with a knee injury. 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
A charge has gone out to civil servants in Lagos State, to ensure the development of soft skills as indispensable tools in the state's civil service. 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
The Lagos State University (LASU) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with five leading firms to train student's in entrepreneurial skills. 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
The Global Initiative for Harmony in Nigeria (GIHN) has appointed its Ogun State Coordinator, Bishop Solomon Rotimi Adewumi, as new national public relations officer (PRO). 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
A 34-year-old man, Maaruf Sarki, has been arrested by the police in Niger State for killing his landlord, Tasiu Shittu in Kontagora area of the state. 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
As Nigerian students continue to blaze academic trails abroad, an American institution, Dayton University, Ohio, United States has announced a global partnership... 

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has appointed Barr. Banji Alabi, as the Chairman of the Governing Council, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic (RUGIPO) Owo, Ondo State. 
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