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Insurgency Confrontation Leaves 4 Soldiers, 63 Unknown Gunmen Killed in Niger Republic

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The Nigerien Army lost four soldiers in the fight against insurgency but vanquished sixty-three armed men suspected to be affiliated with major terrorist cells in the Sahel region of Africa.

“After a fierce fight” on Thursday in the Tillaberi region near the border with Mali, the soldiers who had been on an anti-terrorist operation put the attackers “on the run” and recovered dozens of motorcycles and weapons, and the Nigerien Defence Ministry said in a statement read on public television.

The Tillaberi region is in close to the borders of both Mali and Burkina Faso.

Use of motorcycles has been banned there since January to curb attacks by jihadists who are active there.

According to an official report, 174 soldiers were killed in three attacks in the area in January and December. Two were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The entire Sahel has become blighted by jihadist violence — often interspersed by conflicts between communities — which left 4,000 dead in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, according to the United Nations.

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Africa

Buhari Appointed by ECOWAS to Champion COVID-19 Response

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President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has been appointed the mantle of the COVID-19 response leadership by presidents under the Economic Community of West African States.

A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said the appointment took place on Thursday, at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19, which was held via teleconference under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.

During the teleconference, Buhari was said to have called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities that it presents for the betterment of lives in member states.

Buhari was quoted as saying, “In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities. Our region must therefore seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which, before now, will be difficult to accept.”

While calling on his colleagues to intensify collaboration to save the region from “this deadly pandemic through sharing our experiences and best practices,” Buhari outlined some measures taken by his regime in response to the pandemic.

They include reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria interventions from nine per cent to five per cent and introduction of a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities. The inauguration of a presidential task force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security.

The President also stated that unprecedented economic uncertainties, including severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slowdown in global economic growth that most nations are grappling with, had made it imperative for “our sub-region to refocus on accelerating the implementation of our popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting progressive regional policies aimed at providing relief to our citizens.”

Buhari added, “At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the member states as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic.

“I am greatly saddened by the loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery.”

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COVID-19: AU on Nigeria’s Behalf Seeks Debt Relief

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The African Union, Nigeria office, has urged China, France, Japan and India to write off Nigeria’s debt or allow two-year abeyance on repayments.

It commended the International Monetary Fund for granting relief to 25 nations under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to tackle the novel coronavirus.

The AU agency’s Nigeria Representative, Oba Olasunkanmi, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, explained that as major lenders, they should also grant a reprieve to the Federal Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said, “Certainly, this will further assist the benefiting countries to significantly cushion the impact of the dreaded disease on their economies. Nigeria, at this time, needs support to enable it to recover from the financial impact.”

The AU further  noted that it would be difficult for the nation to service the debts in the face of the economic realities imposed by COVID-19 “as the United Nations had projected that the world would need $1 trillion for continual existence.”

It noted, “Nigeria needs China’s support at this trying time, with the long and fruitful bilateral relationship between both countries which has led to Nigerian government owing China the debt of about $3.2 billion.

“We are faithful in payment of service charges. In 2019, Nigeria paid $138.8 million (N53.7billion) to EXIM Bank of China in settlement, the highest amount paid to any bilateral institution for the year.”

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COVID-19 May Claim 300,000 Africans — UNECA

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
has disclosed due to deductions, 300,000 Africans may lose their lives due to COVID-19.

UNECA Communications Section, the ECA said the scenario would also push close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.

The report, which was launched virtually on Friday and titled: “COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies”, the ECA said Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them.

The UN agency explained that this is because of the growing crisis that has, to date, resulted in over 16,000 infected Africans and claimed over 800 lives at the time of the report’s launch.

Ms Vera Songwe, UN Executive Secretary, ECA, said that to protect and build toward the continent’s shared prosperity, 100 billion dollars is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries.

She said this is to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations

Songwe noted that Africa is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of its urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings, and only 34 per cent of African households have access to necessary handwashing facilities.

“The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the COVID-19.

“Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies.

“The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” she said.

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Togo, Niger, Benin Owe Nigeria N30bn for Electricity

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission announced that the Republics of Togo, Niger and Benin owe Nigeria a total of N29.97bn for the electricity supplied to them from January to September 2019.

Nigeria, through its electricity transmission company, supplies power to these countries, which are classified as international customers in the Nigerian power sector.

Niger’s power firm, Societe Nigerienne d’electricite, failed to pay a total invoice of N3.01bn it received in the first quarter of 2019; N3.69bn in Q2; and N4.1bn in Q3.

Communaute Electrique du Benin, a power firm owned by Togo and Benin, did not pay N9.74bn for the power supplied to it in Q1; N7.16bn in Q2; and N2.27bn in Q3.

NERC said in its latest quarterly report released on Friday that the international customers made no payment for the total outstanding debt in Q3.

“The Nigerian government has continued to engage the governments of neighbouring countries benefitting from the export supply to ensure timely payments for the electricity purchased from Nigeria,” it said.

The regulator said the financial viability and economic performance of the Nigerian electricity supply industry continued to be a significant challenge.

According to the report, a total invoice of N179.66bn was issued to the power distribution companies for energy received from the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc and for service charge by the Market Operator in Q3, but only a sum of N58.81bn was settled.

The government-owned NBET buys electricity in bulk from generation companies through Power Purchase Agreements and sells through vesting contracts to the Discos, which then supply it to the consumers, while the MO is an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

NERC said, “Although the Discos fully met the minimum remittance for MO, the average aggregate remittance performance to NBET was 32.73 per cent, with performance level ranging from 19.43 per cent (Jos) to 50.03 per cent.

“This is slightly lower than the minimum remittance threshold prescribed in the orders on minimum remittance issued to all Discos in July 2019 with Enugu and Ikeja failing to meet their remittance obligation during the period.”

The regulator added that following the commencement of enforcement of the minimum remittance order, all Discos had since fully complied with their respective minimum remittance thresholds.

“Notwithstanding the slight progress recorded in the third quarter of 2019, the financial viability of the Nigerian electricity supply industry is still a major challenge threatening its sustainability,” it added.

Last month, the West African Gas Pipeline Company Limited said it was resuming its supply of natural gas from Nigeria to its customers in Republic of Benin, Togo and Ghana.

WAPCo disclosed this while announcing the successful completion of the cleaning and inspection of its 20’’ offshore pipeline from Badagry in Nigeria to Takoradi in Ghana.

WAPCo is the operator of the West African Gas Pipeline, which was built to supply natural gas from Nigeria to customers in Republics of Benin, Togo and Ghana.

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