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Armed Herdsmen Occupy Benue State Highways, Instilling Fear Among Residents

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From Our Correspondent

Residents of villages along the Okpokwu to Ogbadibo Local Government Areas in Benue state have expressed deep concerns over the pervasive presence of armed herdsmen in the expansive forests along the Otukpo-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam highway.

According to locals, these marauders have taken control of the forests, using them as bases for launching brazen attacks and kidnappings on commuters traversing the Otukpo-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam road without facing any resistance.

Speaking anonymously, a member of the Orokam community and a journalist revealed, “The gang, comprised mainly of Fulani herdsmen, operates with impunity. The stretch of road between Ugbokolo and Otukpa, particularly the thick forest called Okungaga, serves as their stronghold.”

He further disclosed that, “Victims kidnapped and later released after ransom payment reported that these criminals wield sophisticated weaponry. They lead their captives on foot through forests for hours, hiding them in various parts of Idoma land, including Ado LGA and Otukpa in Ogbadibo LGA, while negotiating ransoms.”

Highlighting the perilous situation, he added, “The Otukpo-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam highway is now perilous, especially at night. Regrettably, the security agencies seem helpless, failing to take decisive action against these marauders.”

The journalist also emphasized the inadequacy of local vigilantes and the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards to confront the armed herdsmen due to their possession of automatic weapons, rendering them too formidable for any direct challenge.

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Detailing their modus operandi, he said, “They often don military camouflage, setting up roadblocks at night under the guise of security personnel to rob and abduct unsuspecting travelers.”

Another area under the siege of these armed groups is Owukpa, where extensive forests along the Benue-Enugu state border serve as their fortress, instilling fear and helplessness among the locals.

The traditional ruler of Ogbadibo LGA, HRH Chief Emmanuel Odeh, recently decried the dire security situation, highlighting the dominance of armed herdsmen in the vast forests. He lamented the lack of security presence, leaving citizens vulnerable to attacks in the area’s extensive forest cover.

Efforts to reach the Benue Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Catherine Anene, for comment on the armed herdsmen issue, remained unsuccessful.

Governance

Senate Hails Labour Unions for Accepting N70,000 Minimum Wage

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By Iyojo Ameh

Diket Plang, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour and Productivity, has lauded the labour unions for their acceptance of the federal government’s proposed minimum wage of N70,000.

In a statement issued to journalists in Jos on Sunday, Plang expressed appreciation for the unions’ patriotism and their constructive role during the negotiation process. He commended their collaborative approach, which he believes will foster positive economic outcomes for the country.
He noted the unions’ commitment to a peaceful resolution during discussions and the eventual agreement.

Plang also highlighted his personal involvement in extensive discussions with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). He facilitated multiple meetings between the legislative branch and the trade unions to achieve a consensus on the matter.

“I must thank them because they have a very patriotic approach to this issue. They were never violent at all.

“Our relationship is like a family, where dependents and children ask the father for more resources.

“The father, who loves the children, will look at them compassionately and explain his limitations.

“The ability to agree on a particular amount was commendable and shows understanding within the family.

“We must be careful to ensure that the federal, state, and local governments all pay the new minimum,” he said.

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Plang urged organised labour to meet the minimum wage requirements.

“May we also bring policies that favour the private sector so they can thrive, be productive, and be in a position to meet the minimum wage for our workers,” he said. 

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General News

First Lady Calls for Gender Parity, Applauds APC Initiatives, and Encourages West Africa to Follow Nordic Models

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By Iyojo Ameh

Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, has recognized the substantial barriers that women in the West African sub-region face in achieving gender parity.

Speaking at the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) event at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Monday, 22 July 2024, Tinubu emphasized the need for women’s active participation in politics, stating:

“Despite progress, significant barriers still exist. We must rethink women’s proportional representation in governance.”

Tinubu commended the All Progressives Congress (APC) for removing financial barriers for women in politics and highlighted the success of gender quotas in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Spain, which have led to more inclusive governance. She urged governments to enforce gender quotas through legal frameworks and monitoring systems, saying:

“Governments must take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

The First Lady expressed confidence in Nigerian women’s abilities, stating:

“Nigerian women are smart and intelligent and can work alongside our male counterparts, without friction, for the good and development of our country.”

She thanked ECOFEPA for its commitment to achieving 30% women representation in parliament, saying:

“The journey towards achieving 30% women representation in our parliament is achievable once we take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

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Legislature

House Committee Investigates Alleged Importation of Contaminated Fuel, Missing Crude

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By Iyojo Ameh

The Joint Committee of the House of Representatives, tasked with a forensic investigation into the challenges affecting the downstream and midstream petroleum sectors, has initiated a probe into allegations of the importation of contaminated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as fuel, into Nigeria.

Chairman of the committee, Ikenga Ugochinyere, made this announcement during the formal inauguration of the panel in Abuja on Monday.

Details of the investigation will focus on the circumstances surrounding the alleged importation of substandard fuel and the broader implications for the petroleum industry, including potential environmental and economic impacts.

This inquiry forms part of a broader effort to address persistent issues in the sector and ensure the integrity of fuel supplies in the country.

The committee’s probe aims to uncover the root causes of the problem, identify those responsible, and recommend measures to prevent future occurrences. It also seeks to restore public confidence in the petroleum sector, which has been marred by various challenges over the years.

More information is expected to emerge as the committee delves deeper into the investigation.

The investigative panel will also look into allegations of the non-availability of crude oil to domestic refineries, disruption in distribution and favouritism in the pro forma invoice regime, among others.

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Briefing newsmen at the event, Ugochinyere said, “The committee will conduct a legislative forensic investigation into the presence of middlemen in crude trading, indiscriminate issuance of licences and alleged unavailability of international standard laboratories to check adulterated products.”

He noted that the panel would also probe the possible influx of contaminated products into the country and “the allegation of non-domestication of profits realised from crude marketing sales in local banks, abuse of the PFI regime and importation of products already being produced in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the panel is set to visit petrol stations nationwide to take samples of their product for laboratory tests to ascertain their quality.

The mandate of the joint committee is sequel to the adoption of a motion on July 9, 2024, on the “Urgent need to carry out a legislative forensic investigation into the challenges affecting the downstream and midstream petroleum sectors in Nigeria and other related matters to find out a lasting solution to all challenges,” affecting the petroleum industry.

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