Scientists attack Home Secretary’s student exit plan

Theresa May
The home secretary has backed a proposal to send foreign students straight home

Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan to expel foreign graduates from the UK has drawn strong criticism from scientists.

They say the plan would hamper recruitment of top researchers and harm the international reputation of UK universities.

Mrs May has backed a proposal to make those on student visas return home immediately after graduating.

The Home Office has said the “brightest and best” could still apply for UK jobs but must return home first.

The proposal backed by Mrs May would scrap the current four-month period that allows graduates to seek skilled work in the UK.

It sits at odds with commitments made last week in the government’s Science and Innovation Strategy, critics say.

The director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), Dr Sarah Main, said: “I am dismayed that the Government seems intent on thwarting its commitment to make ‘Britain the best place in the world to do science’ with immigration proposals that threaten to put off the exceptional scientists and engineers who wish to come here.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor have been unequivocal in their intent to make the UK a world-leading scientific nation. That requires the world’s top talent to be attracted here.

“Theresa May’s proposition… directly undermines that goal.”


Prof Stephen Curry from Imperial College London wrote a response for The Guardian and told the BBC he was surprised and frustrated by the Home Secretary’s stance.

“It was kind of thoughtless,” said Prof Curry, a structural biologist who has worked on science policy issues with both CaSE and the group Science is Vital, of which he is vice-chair.

He pointed out that the scientific community, with some reservations, had welcomed the government’s strategy announcement last week:

“It was all about trying to put the pieces in place, and it’s a public document and they’d consulted widely on it beforehand – that’s all healthy. That was a good move.”

As Prof Curry pointed out, the strategy document makes specific mention of overseas students and their ability to stay and work – the very opportunity Mrs May wants to close down.

“It was just depressing, from someone so senior in government, to be so off-message,” he told BBC News, adding that it “causes reputational damage internationally”.

Overseas students represent an important source of income for UK universities, and the nation as a whole.

laboratoryResearchers are worried their labs would lose out to foreign competitors

The Home Office has said that the “brightest and best” would still be able to apply for work in the UK after their studies, but they would have to return home to do so.

Dr Main said this was impractical and risked turning precisely those brightest and best students away.

“Forcing students to return home to apply for a work visa would put significant barriers of time and money in their way when they can least afford them,” she said.

‘Unfortunate timing’

Countries like the US, Australia and Canada have a post-study work visa of 12 months – already longer than the four months currently offered under UK policy.

Prof Martyn Poliakoff from the University of Nottingham told BBC News that international students “contribute a lot” to the UK if they are permitted to stay.

“It seems to me that it’s reaping the benefits of the efforts that we’ve put into the training,” said Prof Poliakoff, an eminent chemist who is foreign secretary and vice-president of the Royal Society.

“Certainly I think in the area of science and engineering, allowing these bright young students who we’ve trained to participate in research for a few years is very beneficial to our country.”

Prof Poliakoff said he was “very much in agreement” with former science minister David Willetts MP, who wrote in the Times that May’s plan was “mean-spirited and inward-looking”.

Mr Willetts said he had been thanked by a former Australian minister because the UK’s tightened rules for post-study work visas had boosted Australia’s market share of international students.

Prof Poliakoff said the new proposal of even tighter restrictions was misguided and poorly timed.

“Just raising this possibility may discourage students, and it’s come at just the time of year when students will be deciding whether to apply to the UK or elsewhere,” he said.

“The timing is unfortunate.”

Roger Federer: I will not be a pushy parent

Federer celebrates Madrid Masters final win with wife and daughter
Roger Federer regularly climbs into the crowd to celebrate tournament victories with his family

Roger Federer’s drive to succeed has landed him seven Wimbledon singles titles and a legion of fans. But when it comes to his children taking up sport, he is determined not to be a pushy parent.

It was an unlikely meeting on the face of it – the Speaker of the House of Commons and the man who is considered by many as the greatest tennis player ever to grace the men’s game.

But when John Bercow, formerly Britain’s top-ranking junior tennis player, was given the chance to edit Radio 4’s Today programme and interview guests of his choosing, Roger Federer was top of his list.

Mr Bercow has watched the Swiss player in action no fewer than 65 times this year and was keen to get to the source of the unwavering ambition that has led him to remain at the pinnacle of his profession.

Roger Federer and John Bercow
Roger Federer and John Bercow – a future doubles partnership?

“I realised very quickly that it’s an entirely different thing winning something for the first time and then having to come back the following year and defend it,” explains Federer.

“Once I reached a certain level… I looked up to the great other athletes out there [for motivation], like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Valentino Rossi and Michael Schumacher – people who did it so long, so many times and make you wonder ‘How did they do that?’.

“Next thing you know,” he adds, “it’s like you’re part of that in a small way, and every year that goes by you get closer to those people. They were definitely a big inspiration for me to keep working hard.”

Roger Federer joins Tiger Woods during a practice round at the CA Championship
Roger Federer joins Tiger Woods during a practice round at the CA Championship

This continued passion for the game has led Federer to a record 302 weeks as world number one, surpassing Pete Sampras’s mark of 286.

And after a difficult year in 2013, when he struggled with a back injury, Federer returned in impressive form this season to win more matches – 73 – than any other player on the men’s tour.

Once dismissed by many critics as a player in perpetual decline, the 33-year-old remains a serious contender for Grand Slam victory in 2015. Which is just as well, as he admits it would be difficult for him to turn up to a tournament as a sideshow to the main event.

“I definitely am fortunate to always be playing on Centre Court and very often prime time,” he says.

Roger Federer plays on Centre Court at Wimbledon
Playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon has become second nature to Federer

“I must say – and this is honest – I don’t know if I would still be playing if they would put me on Court 4 every day.

“That would be difficult for me, having played on all these wonderful courts around the world and now playing in front of a fraction of those people – that would be rough.”

John Bercow guest edits BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday 26 December, 06:00-09:00 GMT.

Other guest editors across the festive period include Lenny Henry, Mervyn King and Tracey Thorn.

The will to succeed is clearly a theme of his unrivalled longevity at the top of the game, and Mr Bercow – David Cameron’s former doubles partner in the Commons and Lords tennis team – is keen to know whether similar expectations will be pressed on his children.

“I don’t know if the kids are ever going to play tennis at a high level like that,” says Federer, whose wife Mirka gave birth to their second set of twins this May.

“Honestly, I think it all depends on how things are going to be when we settle in Switzerland, and what sport they are going to take up.

“But I think for any kid it’s important for them… to enjoy what they’re doing, whatever sport that is.”

Federer, however, is keen to make clear the distinction between supportive and pushy parents, especially given the role his father Robert and mother Lynette have played in his success.

Roger Federer with his father Robert Federer
Roger Federer’s father Robert is a regular fixture at his son’s matches

“Parental support and advice is very important…to make you understand that it’s a privilege to be able to go to tennis lessons and play tennis tournaments. So the least a kid can do is give it their best effort and best attitude,” he explains.

“At the same time, the parents also need to give space to the kid and the coaches so they can work and… travel by themselves – the parents don’t always need to babysit them through their entire career.

“That’s why today when my parents tell me ‘You know what, we want to come to every single tournament you play on the tour’, I would say ‘Yes please, come see me. I don’t mind spending every day with you guys for the year.’

“But if they tell me ‘We don’t want to come see you play because we really don’t enjoy it’ that’s cool too. And that’s what I hope every parent can look forward to with their kid,” he adds.

“It needs to be both ways and for me that worked very well – I got the space, but I also felt the pressure, the need to perform,” he adds.

Life choices ‘behind more than four in 10 cancers’

unhealthy habits

More than four in 10 cancers – 600,000 in the UK alone – could be prevented if people led healthier lives, say experts.

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK show smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor, followed by unhealthy diets.

The charity is urging people to consider their health when making New Year resolutions.

Limiting alcohol intake and doing regular exercise is also good advice.

According to the figures spanning five years from 2007 to 2011, more than 300,000 cases of cancer recorded were linked to smoking.

Key risk factors

A further 145,000 were linked to unhealthy diets containing too much processed food.

Obesity contributed to 88,000 cases and alcohol to 62,200.

Sun damage to the skin and physical inactivity were also contributing factors.

Man using weighing scales

Prof Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK statistician based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors.

“Of course everyone enjoys some extra treats during the Christmas holidays so we don’t want to ban mince pies and wine but it’s a good time to think about taking up some healthy habits for 2015.

“Leading a healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee someone won’t get cancer but we can stack the odds in our favour by taking positive steps now that will help decrease our cancer risk in future.”

Public Health England says a healthy lifestyle can play a vital role in reducing cancer risk. It says campaigns such as Smokefree, Dry January and Change4Life Sugar Swaps all aim to raise public awareness.

Digging for diversity in diamond rich Botswana

Diamonds being checked
Diamond production continues to dominate Botswana’s economy

In Africa, Botswana is often seen as a diamond in the rough.

It’s perceived as the least corrupt country, with the longest surviving multiparty democracy on the continent, and boasts one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

But, following the global economic downturn in 2008, and increasingly volatile commodity prices, the country’s reliance on diamonds has come into question.

For the first time Botswana finds itself cash strapped, in negative growth, and having to go to international donors.

The country is looking to diversify its economy by strengthening existing sectors like tourism and cattle farming, and investing in burgeoning industries spawning from technology and entrepreneurship.

Yet diamonds by far outshine any other industry in Botswana, accounting for one-third of GDP, 70% of export earnings, and about one-third of the government’s revenues.

However, production has peaked, and experts believe reserves of the precious stone may run out by 2030.

Unemployment is also on the rise, with official jobless rates nearing 20%, and an estimated 45% of Botswana’s population living below the poverty line.

Economic growth was also negative in 2009, and the industrial sector shrank by 30%.

Signs of labour unrest have also began showing following public sector strikes in recent years.

As Linah Mohohlo, who has been governor of the Bank of Botswana for 15 years, put it in a recent interview with BBC Africa Business Report: “It is a serious concern to government, for many years now strategies have been put in place to diversify the economy away from mining.”

Linah Mohohlo
Ms Mohohlo says Botswana is widening the number of minerals it extracts

Rough neighbourhood

In many ways Botswana is seen as becoming a victim of its own making.

Policies have favoured and protected the diamond industry, and strategies and institutions that assisted and protected its growth for decades have made implementation and expansion of newer, alternative industries difficult.

The strong role of the state in the economy, plus bloated bureaucracy, often also makes it difficult for investors to enter the market.

Contruction work in Gaborone
Despite economic concerns, Botswana’s capital Gaborone is seeing continuing construction work

Most contracts are also government sponsored, making it hard for entrepreneurs to set up shop and compete.

Despite being in the relatively stable southern African region, an electricity crisis in South Africa, and political uncertainty in Zimbabwe makes it a bit of a rough neighbourhood.

In response Ms Mohohlo says she’s more worried about competition from the country’s neighbours, especially for foreign direct investment, and says Botswana needs to “sharpen its pencils”.

The manufacturing industry, for example, has “not done what we expected it to do”, she says. The sector accounts for an estimated 5% of Botswana’s GDP, and employs more labour than mining.

In addition, Botswana has a small domestic market of only two million people and having to compete head-to-head with South Africa is a challenge.


Botswana needs to come up with unique enterprises to compete effectively with South Africa, says Dr Tebogo Seleka, executive director of the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (Bidpa).

“We are both in SACU (Southern African Customs Union), that means goods can enter freely, so if we chose those enterprises that South Africa is more competitive at, that puts us at a disadvantage,” he says.

The key to Botswana’s future diversity, many believe, lies in private sector development, and attracting foreign direct investment.

Dr Seleka also believes that due to the country’s proximity, combined with its diminutive population, investors tend to set up shop next door.

Cattle outnumber humans in Botswana by over one million

“If a firm from overseas wants to locate in southern Africa, because of Botswana’s market size we are at a disadvantage,” Dr Seleka says.

“We also need to look at technology readiness, if you look at the types of technologies firms use, and the rate of adoption of new technologies in Botswana it is still not up to scratch.”

Cattle farmers

One of the solutions to beefing up diversity in the country’s economy may lie with its most abundant animal population.

Cattle outnumber the human population by over a million, and beef is the country’s third-largest earner.

But despite this, agriculture, in its entirety, only makes up 3% of Botswana’s economy.

Bakang Tsheboagae
Bakang Tsheboagae wants an easier way to count his cattle

Bakang Tsheboagae, a cattle farmer from Dutlwe, a village in the Kweneng District of Botswana, says the techniques his family have used for generations to manage their cattle herds have hindered his growth.

Historically our way of tracking cattle are earmarks, which are identical, and you can only brand them once they reach a certain age,” he says.

“Livestock multiply, and as you multiply it becomes so difficult to count them, or to know which one is where.”

Botswana’s cattle and beef industry is driven by exports to Europe, and in order export their beef, farmers must produce traceability records.

“I would say whoever has livestock; small, medium or large scale, ultimately you need a tool that will help you account for whatever you are doing,” says Mr Tsheboagae.

Building entrepreneurship

Enter a new breed of entrepreneur, using technology to modernise the sector.

Thuto Gaotingwe, 26, has developed cattle tracking software Modisar – named after the Tswana word for a herd boy.

Mr Gaotingwe has managed to realise his vision through the help of a one of the government’s new entrepreneurial incubators, the Botswana Innovation Hub.

Thuto GaotingweThuto Gaotingwe has developed his app at an incubation centre for entrepreneurs

Known as a “quasi government institution”, the innovation hub is described on its website as part of the state’s “national strategic goal for the diversification of the country’s economy… set up to support new ventures and existing companies.”

Modisar is a productivity software application that can be installed on a farmer’s computer or laptop, and allows the farmer to capture information about his or her farm faster.

Mr Gaotingwe explains: “We are trying to say, ‘look you can make money off livestock farming, only if you do it the right way’.

“So we have built Modisar, and it allows farmers to keep records of his farm assets. Then it allows farmers to know more about livestock diseases.”

Although criticised for being reactive as opposed to proactive, the government has implemented a number of policies, strategies and incentive schemes to encourage diversification.

An Economic Diversifiation Drive (EDD), for example, has been implemented to strengthen the private sector.

The EDD plans to leverage the government’s purchasing power, estimated at $2.1bn (£1.3bn) per annum, to stimulate local production and consumption by buying from locally based manufacturers and service providers.

Linah Mohohlo also explains that government has also begun exploring diversification options with in mining sector.

“You are now seeing other minerals, such as coal, uranium, copper, nickel coming on-stream,” says Ms Mohohlo.

Despite facing obstacles, with the right long-term developmental strategies, Botswana has huge potential to diversify.

Obasanjo And The Burden Of History

As with “My Command”, his civil war memoirs, General Olusegun Obasanjo who served as head of the Nigerian state in uniform, and years later, in mufti (agbada), has managed to get many hopping mad with his new memoirs reflecting on political life. He seems determined that whether you love him or hate him, you could not ignore him.

Let us forget for a second that he is an attention-junkie and that he is judgmental about others in a way that bothers on the indecent, the question his new excursion into memoirs writing raises for me is whether there are points in what he is saying that we can ignore only at our own peril.

This is important because with the Obasanjo nature, it is easy to get so taken by the messenger that the message is forgotten. This course of action is made easier by Obasanjo’s evident split-personality which makes it easy to say of him, “Look, the kettle is calling the pot black”.

Take corruption,for example. No one is in doubt that corruption was widespread when Obasanjo was president and that there is ample evidence or perception of his use of corrupt means to either secure the impeachment of an unfavoured senate president or seek a change in constitution to allow him a third term. But is Obasanjo wrong to say corruption is on the increase?

Many business men I interact with say corruption, described in the Hope and Chukulo book on corruption and Development in Africa, as systemic in Nigeria compared to widespread in Ghana and, rare, in Botswana, has truly reached a point of shameless “legitimisation’’ in these times. I sat once with a fairly depressed lawyer, who described a sad meeting he had just come out of with a minister and some American Business men.

The minister had promised to write a simple letter which would have facilitated commitment to an investment initiative. He dictated the letter in their presence. For weeks, they went to the minister’s office to pick up the letter but were unsuccessful. On the day in question, the lawyer returned to the minister. They were warmly welcomed. The issue was raised and the minister, after a while, simply asked the lawyer if he was not able to read the tea leaves. He needed his bribe. Lawyer tells minister he cannot advice his clients to do that as they would be liable to a jail term back in their home country for that. All attempts to sell the upside for the country and even personally to the minister got strong push back from the minister who said such talk was the reason some of his predecessors were languishing in poverty. He wanted his return upfront, not in nominating partners down the value chain.

Bottom line in corruption has had a more crippling effect on economic life today than a few years ago when things were considered quite bad. Inspite of a climb in the transparency index, where Nigeria is up two notches, the consensus in corruption is more rampant now. That is what President Obasanjo was speaking on and most would agree on that.

Under Obasanjo, a high powered team was empanelled by the presidency to study and propose a structure for the institutions of transparency and accountability in government. The team included a Deputy Inspector General of Police, heads of Transparency in Nigeria, Convention on Business Integrity, past president of NACCIMA, Dr Ngozi Okeke, Prof Asisi Asobie of ASUU and even, a representative of Transparency International from London, Neville Linton. I was privileged to chair that committee managed by Ambassador Emeka Azikiwe then SA to the president. Little was seen of the report after it went to Obasanjo, yet, the truth is that impunity did not harm transparency as much then as it now seems.

Another issue Chief Obasanjo raised in his book in the criticism of Jonathan was the attitude of the incumbent, and their party, the PDP, to criticism. He lashed out in his reflections at a PDP and presidency that sponsors discredited people to smear honest critics, saying a democracy is nothing without critics.

He is quite right in that criticism. The amusing thing for me, as one, who has experienced this reaction, from both parties, is that Obasanjo here well describes both now and the time of his watch with those lines.

I had the pleasure of being part, indeed head, of the policy advisory team that worked with candidate Obasanjo in 1998. As president, he lapped up all kinds of gossips stemming from my critical views on matters. This is how I had previously come face to face with why it is easy to push back on Obasanjo without listening to him, an irony, because he has poor listening skills, like he never heard of Stephen R Covey, and seek first to understand then to be understood.

Obasanjo is not wrong in his accusing Jonathan on the quality of people around him gossiping. The irony is he is guilty of same.

Another accusation in the book was of killer squads from the Presidency. Being a targeted survivor of the Abacha killer squad, that accusation was hair – raising for me. I hope it proves to be incorrect or unfounded, if not, the road feared, which leads to Somalia, may be beckoning. Knowing the chill from reading state security files on how I escaped being target of shooting practice by the Sgt Rogers squad makes me feel for those who could be current targets.

Naira rain as PDP raises billions for Jonathan

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan giv 

Donors at the fund raising ceremony held in Abuja included the various sectors of the economy, PDP governors, businessmen/women and organizations.

A prominent business woman Bola Shagaya and her friends donated N5billion. An equal amount of N5billion came from friends of Professor Jerry Gana, chairman of the funds raising committee while the 21 PDP governors gave N1.05billion, while those who called themselves friends donated N3 billion.

Other high profile donors were construction sector with N310m, transport N1 billion, real estate N4b, the energy sector-N500million, PDP Rivers State stakeholders-N50million.

Others were food and agriculture N5b, Cifex N10m, power sector N500m , Shelter Development Limited N250m, Emzor N50m, the NDDC governing board N15m, auto sector N450m and PDP youth group N50m.

Present at the event were President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, PDP governors, Ministers, PDP National Chairman Adamu Muazu    and the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Antony Anenih.

The ceremony was still in progress at press time.

The huge donation according to the Electoral Act runs foul of the law. Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution prohibits a State Government from contributing to the election expenses of any candidate or aspirant.

The Electoral Act Section 91 (90 of the Code of conduct for Political Parties and Elections limits individual donations and contributions to a maximum of N1m.Electoral Act, Section 91 of the Act criminalizes contravention of limitation on election expenses. A Presidential Candidate who knowingly contravenes it is liable to a maximum fine of N1, 000,000.00 or imprisonment for a period of12 months or both.

2015 budget proposal threatens infrastructure projects

Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Federal Government may find it difficult to implement key infrastructure projects next year going by the details of the 2015 budget proposal, which was presented to the National Assembly on Wednesday, findings have shown.

This came just as the Federal Government had said the proposed austerity measures would not affect its key infrastructure projects in 2015, which according to her, is critical to economic growth, development and job creation.

The 2015 budget proposal, however, showed that the government had slashed capital expenditure by about 43 per cent to N634bn, compared to about N1.1tn spent in 2014.

This is expected to significantly affect government’s ability to executive major capital projects in the coming year.

According to the document, the share of capital vote to total expenditure has also reduced to 14.6 per cent, up from 23.8 per cent recorded in the 2014 fiscal year.

Also, the non-debt recurrent expenditure for 2015 is proposed to increase by 6.6 per cent to N2.6tn, down from N2.4tn in the current year.

Analysts said the development was contrary to government’s plan to cut unnecessary expenses in the public service.

Analysts at Afrinvest, a research and investment advisory firm, noted that the dwindling crude oil prices had led to 7.2 per cent reduction in the 2015 budget proposal, compared to 2014 fiscal year.

They, however, said the proposed reduction in the fiscal expenditure was not broad-based, pointing out that “the cut in total expenditure will only be majorly effected in the capital expenditure component of the budget, while the recurrent is expected to increase.

“With the pressure on existing infrastructure persist, we are of the view that the allocation to the capital expenditure is relatively low, hence it will hamper growth and development in 2015.”

The firm agreed with the government on the 1.8 per cent increase in the defence and security component of the budget proposal, citing the need to tackle the security challenges in the North East.

It however, said, “The controversial component of the proposed 2015 budget may likely be the decision of the fiscal authorities to stick to the crude oil benchmark assumption of $65 per barrel despite the persistent slide in the price of crude which is already below the budget benchmark. With a new floor yet to be established, the possibility of crude oil prices further declining is imminent.

“This will pose budget performance challenges on fiscal authorities in fiscal 2015. In the scenario that oil prices do not recover to a minimum of $65 per barrel, we anticipate that the federal government may overshoot the proposed budget deficit of N755.”

The Head, Research and Intelligence, BGL Plc, Mr. Femi Ademola, said, “I am not sure how much reliability we place on the budget since the current oil price is already lower than the budget benchmark. The cut in capital budget by about half is not very apt. I am also not sure how successful the bridging policies would be in covering the gap in revenue loss.”

Fayose only gave us N200,000 each for fuel, we never took bribe from him –Omirin

Embattled Speaker of the Ekiti State Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin,

In this interview with KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE, the embattled Speaker of the Ekiti House of Assembly, Adewale Omirin, talks about his face-off with the governor, Ayodele Fayose

The factional speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dele Olugbemi, said your impeachment was constitutional because the House had the number of people required to impeach you, which was 10. What do you say to that?

I’m disappointed in him because it shows he is not a legislator. He doesn’t know what the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says. The constitution says the speaker of the assembly could only be impeached by two-thirds of the members of the entire house. In a house of 26, it will take 18 members of the assembly to impeach the speaker. So it was an illegal impeachment in the first instance because they did not form a quorum. You need at least nine members to form a quorum in a house of 26 and they were just seven. So the sitting was illegal let alone the actions that were carried out.

He alleged that after Fayose’s victory at the polls, the former governor of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, asked you lawmakers to frustrate him and not to give him any support. Is that why you tried to frustrate him?

I’m a medical doctor and we have people in the house who are learned; people with their own minds. So nobody can tele-guide us. We believe in the rule of law, and we believe the governor should do things the right way because as far as we are concerned, what is paramount to us is the peace of the state and we are all out to develop Ekiti State in conjunction with him. Nobody is out to frustrate him, but I think he has a very bad hatred for the APC. It is that hatred that is pushing him against members of the APC in the house, which I don’t think we need in Ekiti State. Before his inauguration as governor, I listened to him telling the entire world that I did not want him to be inaugurated and that I wanted to become the acting governor. He even went to the market place to tell the market women that they should help him to beg me. So, with this kind of picture in his mind, I don’t know what he is set to achieve by that. I was elected to be a member of the Assembly before becoming the speaker, I never contested to be the governor. The idea of being an acting governor did not even occur to me. They are liars. You can see the series of lies that the governor has been churning out to people on daily basis since he assumed the position. If he didn’t accuse us of demanding for N135m, he would say we are demanding for N200m. I’m not going to join issues with Olugbemi. Politically, he is empty; educationally, he is empty. So I can’t join issues with him.

He also said that Fayemi in a last minute rush approved funds for constituency projects and a N140m foreign trip that had not been previously approved, did they also get to the house of assembly under your leadership for approval?

We have not been receiving constituency allowance for the past three and half years. After the election, they gave us constituency intervention fund which we all collected including Olugbemi. We have a budgetary allocation that we should travel out once in a year. So getting the approval from Dr. Fayemi, I don’t think it was a wrong step. It is left for the new governor to honour or reject it. So, this allegation is all mischief.

Did the governor say he will not bankroll the approval?

Yes, he said so and we didn’t quarrel with him over that. Nobody is forcing him to do that.

Was there a predetermined plan to humiliate Governor Fayose which was instigated by the former governor?

Why did we have to humiliate him? He was elected by the people of Ekiti State as the Governor of Ekiti State, why do we have to humiliate him? There was no such plan in the house.

Is it true that within two weeks that Fayose became governor, you had collected N25m from him?

That is part of the lies we are talking about. The only money he has released to the house is our regular statutory allocation per month which is N45m and that is what we have been taking since three and half years ago for the running grant of honourable members and civil servants. He has not approved any money outside this for the house.

Olugbemi has said that you can’t return to the office of the speaker, are you going to force your way in like the federal lawmakers did?

I’m not going to force my way in. Olugbemi and others are just making the joke of the year. My impeachment can only be carried out by 18 members and not seven. So the purported impeachment was the greatest joke of the century. As of today, I’m still the Speaker of that House legally by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I’m the authentic Speaker of that House.

He said that on more than three occasions, you collected money from the governor. On one occasion, you collected N5.4m and that you took N400,000 while your colleagues took N200,000 each. On another occasion, you collected N500,000 while your colleagues took N200,000 and so on like that.

It is just a gift from the governor when we visited him. He said he was giving us money for fuel. Nobody demanded gift from him, he gave out of his own free will. He has not even given up to N400,000 since he became the governor. It is all about the political drama going on in Ekiti State. Even from what you told me now, does it amount to N25m. If you calculate it, you will know everything is a lie.

Is it true that the House of Assembly under your leadership demanded for N135m from commissioner nominees to approve them as commissioners?

That is not true! We have been in that house for the past three and half years, we have screened commissioners, we have passed many laws and we never asked Fayemi for money. And we never demanded money from any commissioner to screen them. I’m telling you clearly, if you meet Olugbemi, ask him to swear by his children if any member asked the governor or the commissioners for any money to screen them. If he can swear by his children, then know he is telling the truth. Nobody asked for a kobo. I have any even seen any of the commissioners in my life before. So if anybody is asking for money it is the PDP members and not members of the APC.

Is it also true that you claimed you needed to make as much money from the system as possible before the expiration of your tenure when he visited you in the lodge?

How do I make such money? And who did I tell that? If they have their fact, they should bring it. The APC members are not money mongers. The money mongers are those that defected. They felt the best way to make money is to cause disharmony in the house, so that the governor would continue to give them money. That is the problem. They are the people who want to make money and that is why they don’t want the house to settle. As far as I’m concerned, they are the problems the governor is having in the house. They are the people causing problems in the state, particularly, Olugbemi. There was never a time Olugbemi came to the Speaker’s lodge to discuss with me. The last time he visited me in the lodge was before Fayose came to me (before his inauguration) to promise that he would look after us (lawmakers) and send us abroad. I told him my loyalty was for Dr. Fayemi and that when he left office, if he (Fayose) behaved like a governor, I would work with him. That was my last discussion with Olugbemi. He cannot be trusted. Dr. Fayemi gave Toyota Camry to lawmakers, he was the only one who sold his own. He collected money from Fayemi more than any of us.

What if you lose the court case, what will be your next line of action?

I can’t lose in court, even the Chief Justice of Nigeria said it was a wrong action to impeach me. He said it openly that the impeachment was illegal. There is no way I can lose in court unless you want to tell me that the constitution is faulty. If there is justice in this country, no court of law, not even in Ekiti State, can rule against me because even primary school pupils know that what they did is illegal.

The factional lawmakers have said that you are free to return if you will be peaceful, are you considering that?

As I have said most times, I’m a peace -loving person. If you asked about me, people would tell you the kind of person I am. I don’t want to put Ekiti State in unnecessary problems. I don’t want Ekiti State to lose anybody because of the House of Assembly. If I’m coming to Ekiti, I will come under the law. If I really wanted to cause trouble, I would have gone back to the state. There is no way 19 of us will go back and seven of them would say they want to sit. We don’t want problems in Ekiti State, that is why we are still out to make sure we settle things so that there won’t be problems when we return.

Are you likely to return soon?

Very-very soon. I can assure you of that.

We hear that some APC lawmakers may soon be joining the PDP, are you also planning to do so?

(Laughs) That has always been the story everyday. It is either they are 10 today, 14 tomorrow or 13 another day. I can assure you that the 19 of us are solidly together. Nothing can separate us. None of our members is ready to move to their camp. Nobody is planning to defect.

Is it true that while you were in the House of Assembly, the former governor had a strong influence over the affairs of the house?

The governor did not have any influence over the Assembly. We believe we should work in synergy to move Ekiti forward. Some people have said the Assembly was a rubber stamp and I told them if we were rubber stamps, could Fayemi have achieved all he did during his tenure? I owe no one any apology for saying this. Any state where the House of Assembly is at loggerheads with the governor would not move forward. With our disposition to the former governor, we were able to achieve so much for the state and people can see it. During the past three and half years, we passed 71 bills into law and there was never a time there was a quarrel between the executive and the legislature. Not that he had any undue influence over us, but we were on the same page throughout.

Is it also true that APC lawmakers were striking deals with the former governor without the knowledge of the lawmakers from other parties?

There was no contract awarded to the house for three and half years. All these people that are now in PDP were together with us in APC, so if there were deals, they should expose them.

It was also alleged that under your leadership, the House of Assembly turned into a buying and selling place, based on ‘I rub your back, you rub mine’ kind of legislation. Is this the case?

What are we selling in the house? There was no such thing.

You have also been accused of being after your own selfish interest and not driven by the general interest of the house or the state, how true is this?

I challenge anybody who has such information in the house to bring it out. I’m a medical doctor with a successful medical practice. My hospital is still functioning even though I’m not there. They make money in my hospital on daily basis. I’m not on the same level with some of them. Secondly, I took a loan of N20m from two banks. So, if I have embezzled any money, by now, they would have published it for people to see it.

Is it true that the welfare of lawmakers was neglected under Fayemi?

What welfare were they looking for? Now that Fayose has become governor what has he done for the house. The N200,000 he gave to each member is what they are announcing on the radio. Is that welfare?

Is it true that there was a tentative plan by Fayemi to install you as the Acting Governor of the state?

Why would we be planning to impeach Fayose? What has he done to warrant that? These are some of the lies people are telling him. As governor, I expected him to call me. He believes the seven lawmakers so much that he told us to our faces that he will believe them even if they are telling lies. He even told us that he will tell lies against us because we don’t have radio and television to give us publicity. You know the governor was impeached in his first term, probably, he believes attack is the best form of defence; that is why he is attacking us. If he really wants to work with us, we are ready to work with him. But he must be ready to work with the rule of law and the fear of God in him. Secondly, he has stopped the salary of APC lawmakers. We didn’t receive salary for last month. He also released N12. 5m running grants for only the seven lawmakers, and nothing was paid to the APC members. I received alert for my November salary, but by the time I woke up the following morning, it had been removed from my account. The Accountant-General said he was directed to do so by the governor. I don’t think it is a right step. Fayemi came in when a PDP member was the Speaker and he worked with him. We have seen such leaders in the world. George Bush ruled the United States of America with democrats as the majority in the house, so I believe what we need is dialogue and understanding. The Assembly is a separate arm of government like the judiciary.

The governor has assured of your security, do you believe him?

I won’t say he is lying but I have to be careful. If my security is guaranteed, would he be putting thugs in the Assembly on daily basis?

They said the Assembly passed a law that the governor would appoint all the political aides including yours.

Let him bring out that law for the public to see. I have been in that house for three and half years, there was no such law passed by us.

Who appointed your aides for you?

I did that by myself. It is the House of Assembly that is paying them.

What has been the role of the police?

He is the governor of the state and I believe the police is working in conjunction with him. Otherwise, the police won’t provide security for seven lawmakers to impeach the Speaker. Members of the APC coming to the Assembly on that day were turned back by the police.

Have you been communicating with the police?

Well, we are communicating and I have been assured by the Commissioner of Police that he would provide security for me anytime I’m coming back. I will be coming with all other APC lawmakers.

Job losses loom as Naira sells 194 to dollar

Naira notes

The continuous fall in the price of crude oil in the international market and the recent devaluation of the nation’s currency, the naira, are putting serious pressure on the economy, with the currency experiencing a free fall.

The naira exchanged for between 192 and 194 to the United States dollar at the parallel or street market on Friday. Earlier in the week, it sold for N188 against the dollar at the same market.

Our correspondents similarly gathered that the pound and euro sold for between N294 and N296, and N236 to N238, respectively on the streets of Lagos on Friday.

The continued fall in crude oil price had forced the Central Bank of Nigeria to use a huge chunk of the nation’s external reserves to defend the naira.

The persistent depreciation of the naira, however, forced the CBN to on November 25 devalue the currency against the dollar by eight per cent from N155 to N168.

The central bank thus expected the naira to sell against the dollar for between N160 and N176.

However, the naira has been selling outside the CBN target band at the interbank forex market (where the banks sell to themselves and their customers), a situation that has fuelled speculation among analysts that the bank may be forced to devalue the currency soon again.

As of Friday, the naira closed against the dollar at N184.50 at the interbank market.

The continued fall in the value of the naira forced the CBN to on Thursday introduce new rules aimed at halting the slide. It barred banks from holding any amount of their funds in dollars.

It also directed the banks and members of the public who buy dollars from it to use them within 48 hours or return the unspent funds.

The implications of the fall in the value of the naira include the fact that manufacturers will have to spend more naira to buy foreign currencies with which they will import raw materials as well as purchase machineries and spare parts.

For Nigerian parents who send their children to schools abroad, paying for tuition in foreign currencies and sending upkeep money to their children will not come easy.

Analysts said the recent policy measures introduced into the forex market by the CBN had made many Nigerians, including importers who need dollars and other foreign currencies, to take to the parallel market.

According to them, parents who want to pay their children’s tuition overseas and importers will have to get their forex in the street rather than wait endlessly at the interbank market.

In a circular on November 6, the central bank said it would no longer sell dollars to importers of electronics, finished products, information technology equipment, generators, telecommunications equipment and invisible transactions at its Retail Dutch Auction System forex market.

School fees fall in the category of invisible transactions.

Consequently, parents who used to buy say $10,000 to pay their children’s tuition overseas for N1.68m, will now need to part with N1.94m, an increase of 15.4 per cent.

The Acting National President, Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, predicted on Friday that in the next one week, the dollar would likely sell for N200 to a dollar at the parallel market.

Aminu and other analysts, who spoke with our correspondents, linked the development to the continued fall in the prices of crude oil in the international market and recent developments in the nation’s financial regulatory environment.

The national currency has fallen by over 10 per cent against the dollar at the interbank forex market since the crude oil prices started tumbling in June.

Brent crude oil, which sold for over $110 per barrel in June, had fallen by over 40 per cent so far. As of Friday, it sold for $60 per barrel. The development has reduced the nation’s capacity to earn more foreign exchange to defend the naira.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest oil producer, receives 70 per cent of government revenue and 90 per cent of all foreign exchange earnings from oil.

Analysts have, however, criticised the directive, saying it would be counterproductive. They said the naira would keep falling because the CBN did not have adequate forex to defend the naira as a result of the falling crude oil prices.

With the recent tightening of the conditions that allow access to dollar by the CBN, experts expressed concern that it would increase the pressure on the cost of locally manufactured and imported goods, among others, as naira looks set to depreciate further.

A financial analyst at Ecobank, Mr. Olukunle Ezun, said the real impact of the CBN’s Thursday circular would be far-reaching.

He said, “Looking at the fact that the Nigerian economy is mostly import dependent, if the naira is allowed to depreciate significantly, the impact is going to be on the goods being imported.

“I think the impact is quite huge on all imported goods, and if care is not taken, it can actually impact the inflation outlook. By and large, the cost of goods will go up and it can impact on the employment rate. We may start seeing downsizing or downgrading. The impact is going to be huge and that is why I believe the CBN will not allow the naira to weaken further.”

Prof. Sheriffadeen Tella of the Department of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, said there had been shortage of foreign exchange as a result of falling oil revenue amid the decline in prices, which were affecting the naira.

Tella said, “What the CBN should be doing is to find a way of reducing the pressure on the naira by making sure that importation is highly reduced. But the policy of the CBN alone can’t do the magic, it has to be with the support of the fiscal sector. The Ministry of Finance should make a policy to reduce importation and ensure that whatever is exported, the money should be repatriated on time.

“More importantly, the central bank should ensure that money being made by government agencies is domiciled within the CBN. A situation where other agencies like the NNPC are also acting as bankers to the Federal Government is not tidy. At this point, there must be serious control of the inflow and outflow of foreign currencies by the CBN.”

He said the depreciation of the naira had already increased the cost of production in the manufacturing sector as most of the raw materials being used were imported.

Tella said the increase in the cost of production would affect the prices of goods, adding that “cost of production will continue to increase if the naira deteriorates further. Even the producers will have to cut their level of production, which of course implies that we are going to be in a serious problem in terms of employment generation.”

The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said any offshore obligations, including payment of school fees of students outside the country, servicing foreign debts and going for vacation would be difficult at this period.

“The depreciation of the currency is already putting upward pressure on the cost of production and services because quite a lot of activities that take place here are dependent on imports. It will lead to a reduction in companies’ profit margins and some companies may be forced to downsize. We are also likely going to see inflation,” he said.

A report by Ecobank Research on Thursday stated, “Tightening the conditions that allow access to dollar while making no changes to how foreign exchange is supplied will further heighten the naira volatility with further depreciation most likely; as such, we expected the naira to trade between 190 and 195 to the dollar month-end December 2014.

“While the CBN’s reason for the circular is to maintain the stability of the naira, it is not clear how it intends to achieve this objective, given following recent sharp fall in Brent oil prices and uncertainty over the normalisation of the US monetary policy following the end of QE III in October.

“Overall, the circular will create more volatility that will require another set of CBN circulars to address the dollar supply and demand bottlenecks. As such, the CBN might need to continue to intervene in the interbank FX market.”

Kwara 2015: PDP Cannot Wrestle Power from APC, Says Saraki

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 Senator  Bukola Saraki

By Hammed Shittu

Former governor of Kwara State and chairman, Senate committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator  Bukola Saraki, has foreclosed any threat from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party of wrestling power from the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state come 2015.

Saraki stated this in Ilorin on Friday while speaking with journalists shortly after attending a special prayer organised to mark his 52nd birthday held at his home at Ilofa GRA, Ilorin, the state capital.

Saraki  decried conflicting statement from leadership of the PDP over the result of the party’s governorship primary elections.

Saraki, who was asked to comment on the chances of the APC with the conclusion of the PDP’s governorship primaries last week Friday, said, “I don’t know who the opposition party’s candidate is in the coming election.

“There’s conflicting statements on whom the candidate is as one faction of the state executives said the national leadership of the party will decide, while another one said the result is already out.

“It shows what they are. They are not ready to govern with the way they go about their activities. We are not concerned, we are rather concerned about delivering more of dividends of democracy to our people.

“That’s why I said that the best birthday gift they could give me is to use their voters cards to re-elect Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and vote in all our candidates in the 2015 general elections”.

Also, the Kwara State chapter of the APC has cautioned the opposition PDP from overheating the polity in the state with the way the result of last governorship election was being handled.

A statement by the publicity secretary of the party, Sulyman Buhari, made available to journalists in Ilorin at the weekend, alleged that there were reports of pockets of violence across the state including an attack on a former PDP governorship aspirant by some party thugs.

“The fact that the State Executive Committee (SEC) of Kwara PDP issued a communiqué and the Chairman of PDP, Mr Iyiola Oyedepo issued a contrary press statement yet on the same subject matter is a signal that Kwara PDP has been divided and destroyed beyond redemption.

“It is of particular concern to the people of Kwara State that Kwara PDP is being remote-controlled from Abuja and Otuoke as shown when PDP chairman said, “the state chapter of the PDP lacks the power to recognise any candidate except the ones duly announced as winners by the National Working Committee (NWC).

“It should surprise Kwarans that while our great party, the APC, conducted primary elections and made formal declaration of candidates’ names within the boundaries of Kwara State, PDP candidates will emerge not through elections but by mere announcement from Abuja”,  the  Chairman said.

“This again shows that the undemocratic PDP have dropped all its pretences about being democratic. If the new found jackboot politics and politics of announcement by the PDP is a ploy to impose candidates on its few members in Kwara State, it is PDP’s business but PDP should stop parading itself as being democratic or champion of ‘freedom’ from phantom bondage when it daily invites external aggression and conspiracy to destabilise the peace and stability of Kwara State”, he said.