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NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- An African elephant and its cub are seen at the world’s famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, on Nov. 29, 2016. More than 600 species of both birds and wildlife are found here including elephant, lion, cheetah, giraffe, hyena and vulture. XINHUA PHOTO: PAN SIWEI

Kenya police issue alert over Al-Shabaab attack plans  

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan police have issued an alert and tightened security, saying Somalia-based Islamist group Al-Shabaab is planning to launch attacks in the country ahead of the festive season.

Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet, said on Tuesday Al-Shabaab militants were planning to launch attack in the border region and the tourist resort coastal region of Mombasa, with targets including security personnel and public service vehicles.

“We are also aware Al-Shabaab is planning to amass its militants in Jedahaley area in Somalia with intention of infiltrating into the country for attacks,” Boinett said.

“Some are hiding in small groups pretending to be herders around Hida and Dambala in Somalia while plotting to sneak into the country,” he added.

The police chief said Al-Shabaab remains the major threat, particularly in areas along the border with Somalia.

“We have since heightened security alertness to avert any attacks and equally appeal to the public to continue cooperating with security agencies and remain vigilant,” he said.

Al-Shabaab has carried out a series of attacks in Kenya since Kenyan peacekeeping troops entered Somalia to battle the group in 2011. 


Relative calm returns to Somalia town after clashes

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- Relative calm has returned to the central Somali city of Galkayo, where clashes between rival state forces have killed more than 45 people and displaced 90,000 others since early October, a UN body said.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report received on Wednesday that about 40 percent of the displaced people in Galkayo have begun to return to their homes.

“Most of those who have returned are from the host communities. Learning has also resumed for at least 20,000 learners who were affected by the conflict,” the OCHA said.

Fighting broke out in Oct. 7 between forces from Galmudug state and Puntland state, and continued despite a ceasefire agreed between the state leaders and signed on Nov. 1.

A fragile calm has prevailed in the central town and its environs over the past three weeks after the international community pushed for the implementation of the ceasefire, and talks are now underway to agree on a reconciliation process.

The OCHA said some settlements for internally displaced people in Galkayo now remained deserted after the clashes.

“Based on the inter-agency rapid assessment conducted in October, up to 60 percent of IDPs residing in the town have been forced into secondary displacement,” said OCHA, noting that more than 80 percent of the displaced were women, children and the elderly.

Galkayo is currently divided into two parts, which are governed by Galmudug and Puntland respectively.

The town has been plagued by recurrent clashes between the neighboring federal states that are fighting for its control. 


Roundup: Uganda hails China’s skilling of gov’t officials

By Ronald Ssekandi, Yuan Qing KAMPALA, (Xinhua) -- China’s training programs of skilling African government officials are critical in improving service delivery that will fast track development on the continent, a senior government official has said.

Geoffrey Turyamhika, assistant Commissioner at Uganda’s ministry of finance, told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday that over time there has been an improvement in service delivery by officials who have attended short courses in China.

He said the exposure they get from China, which fast tracked its development over the last 30 years, is important when applied in the local context.

“Once you have exposed someone to new technologies, skills of doing business, then you expect to see better results. We have seen more commitment from our officers, they are more committed and inclined to work with a result-oriented attitude,” Turyamhika said.

He was speaking shortly after a welcome reception of government officials who had returned from China from short trainings in various sectors.

He said Uganda and China this year piloted the first overseas training program where China sent experts to Uganda instead of sending trainees to China.

He said this saves money and many people can benefit from the training.

“Instead of having two participants going to China, we would rather get two technical officers from China to train 30 people here. We are hoping that for the future we would adopt that same methodology to hold more training in Uganda,” he said.

Proscovia Nagayi, one of the beneficiaries, said the training course show how China is interested in having Africa develop. Another beneficiary Innocent Mugisha, who trained in Shanghai noted that in order to fast track development, a country must have enough electricity and must be able to produce for its citizens.

Every year Uganda sends over 300 government officials to attend short training courses in China ranging from finance, agriculture, education, health among others.

Zhao Xiufen, Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Chinese Embassy who hosted the event, said the trainings signify a deepening bond between the two countries, noting that since the 1950s, nearly 3,000 Ugandans have trained in China through different kinds of seminars.

“I hope that all the participants shall play a more important role in the future and make more contributions to the economic cooperation between China and Uganda,” she said.

She said the trade volume between China and Uganda has kept increasing and reached 641 million U.S. dollars last year. China is now Uganda’s third major trading partner and the second major source of imports.

“Until now, Chinese companies have totally invested about 4 billion dollars in Uganda. In terms of foreign direct investment, China now ranks number one in Uganda,” she added.

China is currently undertaking major transport and energy infrastructure projects in the country.

The training programs are part of the 10 major plans announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year to boost cooperation between China and Africa over the next three years.

Xi, in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), said China will establish a number of regional vocational education centers and several capacity-building colleges for Africa, train 200,000 technicians for African countries, and provide the continent with 40,000 training opportunities in China.

China will also offer African students 2,000 education opportunities with degrees or diplomas and 30,000 government scholarships. The country will also every year invite 200 African scholars to visit, 500 African youths to study and train 1,000 media professionals from Africa. 


Chinese miner killed in Nigeria gunmen attack

ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- A Chinese miner has been identified as one of those killed in an attack by gunmen in central Nigeria’s Nasarawa State early this week, a police spokesman told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Kennedy Idirisu, spokesman of Nasarawa State police said another Chinese who sustained gunshot injury is recuperating in a local hospital.

The Chinese, working for a mining company, were returning from a site in a company truck at Alongani village in Nasarawa Eggon local district when the gunmen opened fire on them Monday.

A police escort and two other local people were also killed during the ambush, Idirisu said.

He told Xinhua a police investigation is underway to track down the assailants.


Nigeria orders closure of college due to herdsmen attacks

ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria has ordered the closure of a college in the northwestern state of Kaduna due to recent attacks on villages bordering the location of the academic institution.

The Kaduna State College of Education was ordered shut indefinitely, said a statement reaching Xinhua on Tuesday from the school’s spokesman, Danlami Aduwu.

He said the decision to suspend academic activities in the college was informed by the need to safeguard the lives and property of staff and students.

Aduwu said the students and teaching staff had been told to vacate the campus with immediate effect.

More than 40 people were killed in attacks caused by suspected nomadic herdsmen in Godogodo town and other villages in the southern part of Kaduna last month.

Local officials said the attackers wreaked maximum havoc and destruction, razing virtually all houses in that locality.

The Kaduna State government had made efforts to quell the violence, describing it as “unjustifiable”.


Stowaway’s body found on Nigerian airline aircraft

LAGOS, (Xinhua) --  Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, said Wednesday a body of a stowaway was found in the main wheel well of its A330-200 aircraft at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.

Spokesperson for the airline Ola Adebanji, who confirmed the incident in a statement to Xinhua, said the body was found on a Lagos-Johannesburg flight that departed from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at 3:55 p.m., local time on Tuesday and arrived in Johannesburg shortly before 11 p.m., local time.

He said engineers at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, where the aircraft was scheduled for a routine maintenance check, discovered the body during the inspection.

Investigations were ongoing to determine how the stowaway found his way into the aircraft’s main wheel well, he added.


Zambia drafts law to curb revenue leakages

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government has drafted a law aimed at curtailing revenue leakages and enforcing punitive measures for public fund abusers, state media reported on Wednesday.

Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said the Public Finance Act once enacted by the Parliament would eliminate revenue leakages and wastage of public resources.

In remarks delivered at the start of a corporate governance convention organized by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Directors of Zambia (IODZ), the minister said the Act will also address issues raised in the Auditor-General’s Report on misappropriation of public resources and financial irregularities.

“We are going to carry out the necessary arrangement to the Public Finance Act in order to make it stronger so that as the Auditor’s report comes out we are able to take those actions from it,” he was quoted saying by the Times of Zambia.

According to him, the Auditor General’s Report has been saturated with misappropriation of public resources, adding that the Public Finance Act would curtail such particular behavior of misappropriation of funds.


Senior UN official voices concern about humanitarian access in South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) -- The UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Eugene Owusu, said on Wednesday that he was deeply concerned about “bureaucratic impediments and access constraints” that have negatively impacted aid in the country, a UN spokesman said here.

Some 91 humanitarian access incidents were recorded on Nov. 1-28 in the country, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing here.  

Of these, 70 percent involved violence against humanitarian personnel or assets, Haq said.

“Aid workers were also denied access to areas outside of Yei town in Central Equatoria and Wau town in Western Bahr El Ghazal, where tens of thousands of people are in need of assistance and protection.”

“Mr. Owusu stressed that it is vital that the commitments made in high-level fora to tackle these impediments fully translate into real, tangible and immediate improvements in the operating environment for aid workers on the frontlines of humanitarian action,” Haq added.

Humanitarian needs in South Sudan continue to rise as a result of conflict and economic decline.

Nearly 3 million people have now been displaced since fighting first broke out in December 2013, including 1.9 million who are internally displaced and more than 1.1 million who have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees.

To date in 2016, humanitarian organizations in South Sudan have reached more than 4.1 million people with assistance and protection across the country, including in some of the most remote areas.

“I am tremendously proud of the aid workers across this country who are working tirelessly day-in and day-out to help people in need,” said Owusu.

“I call on all parties to allow free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access so that our colleagues can reach and assist people whose lives have been torn apart by this crisis.”

“Regardless of where they are in the country, civilians in need have a right to receive help,” Owusu added. 


Egypt military court jails 296 Islamists up to 25 years over violence

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- An Egyptian military court sentenced on Wednesday 296 loyalists of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from one to 25 years over inciting violence and storming a judicial complex in Ismailia province northeast of the capital Cairo, state-run Al-Ahram news website reported.

Mohamed Badie, top chief of Morsi’s now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, along with three other Islamists, have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

One among the total 302 defendants has been sentenced to 25 years in jail, another to one year, two to two years, 15 to three years and 273 to 15 years, while six others have been acquitted of the charges of violence, vandalism, murder and resistance of the authorities.

The case dates back to mid-August 2013 when Morsi’s supporters violently stormed Ismailia Court Complex following a deadly security dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza that left about 1,000 people dead. The clashes then between Morsi’s loyalists and security forces in Ismailia killed about 10 people.

Morsi was removed by the military in July 2013 in response to mass protests against his one-year rule and his currently-blacklisted Brotherhood group.

Most of Morsi’s loyalists, as well as the ousted president himself, are currently in custody facing various charges varying from inciting violence to espionage.

In October, the Court of Cassation confirmed a 20-year prison sentence against Morsi over inciting clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in late 2012 that left 10 people dead.

The same court later in two separate sessions in November overturned Morsi’s death sentence in a 2011 jailbreak case and his 25-year jail term in the case of espionage in favor of the Palestinian Hamas movement, ordering the ex-president’s retrial.

Since Morsi’s ouster, the new leadership of former army chief and current President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has been facing a rising wave of anti-government terrorist attacks that left hundreds of police and military men dead, which led Sisi to declare “a war against terrorism.” 


Playing racquet sports linked to lower death risks: study

LONDON, (Xinhua) -- Racquet sports, swimming and aerobics might be associated with reducing the risk of death from heart disease and stroke, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of Oxford.

The study, conducted by a team of international researchers, is based on data from 11 annual health surveys for England and Scotland carried out between 1994 and 2008. The surveys included 80,306 adults of an average age of 52. Participants were asked about their physical activities.

In terms of risk of death from heart disease and stroke, the team found that playing racquet sports, including badminton, tennis and squash, was linked to a 56-percent lower risk, with equivalent figures of 41 percent for swimming and 36 percent for aerobics, compared with those who did not participate in these sports, according to the study.

As for the risk of death from any cause, those who played racquet sports had a 47-percent reduced risk; while the risks for swimmers and those who do aerobics were reduced by 28 percent and 27 percent respectively.

These findings show that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health, said the researchers.

However, they also cautioned that this was just an observational study so no firm conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect.


Kenyan tribunal strengthens legal protection of people with AIDS

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s HIV/AIDS tribunal has enacted sweeping legislation to shield people living with the virus from stigma and discrimination, an official said Wednesday ahead of World AIDS Day to be marked on Thursday.

Jotham Arwa, chairman of Kenya’s HIV/AIDS Tribunal, said the agency had partnered with the judiciary to enforce laws that protect the rights of HIV-positive individuals in the country.

“We have strengthened legal response to HIV/AIDS against a backdrop of rampant stigma and discrimination of people living with the disease in the community and workplace,” Arwa told reporters in the capital Nairobi.

He said Kenya had domesticated global instruments to advance the rights and welfare of people living with HIV/AIDS, however the tribunal had documented dozens of cases regarding violation of rights and dignity of these people and had recommended prosecution of offenders.

“These cases will be prosecuted soon to serve as a warning to would-be perpetrators of crimes against people living with AIDS,” Arwa said.

While Kenya has made significant progress in reducing the burden of AIDS, stigma has undermined the war against the disease that affects an estimated 6 percent of the population, according to the official.

Director of the National AIDS Control Council, Nduku Kilonzo, said attitude change and law enforcement are key to minimizing such stigma and discrimination.


Nigeria promises transparency to win funding for HIV/AIDS programs

LAGOS, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria is seeking to enhance transparency and accountability to win confidence of foreign donors of its HIV/AIDS programs in the country, a top official said Wednesday.

Speaking in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, ahead of the World AIDS Day, Sani Aliyu, Director-General of National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA) said the key priority of the agency was transparency and accountability in all its activities.

He said the agency will strengthen its system at the moment to deepen access to HIV/AIDS services at the government level.

He added that the partners still have confidence in the agency and expressed optimism that the agency will achieve its target.

The doctor told reporters that the agency would adopt “Option B+”, which refers to testing and treating pregnant women who are HIV positive after her delivery and post partum period.

He added that there is scientific evidence showing that women who are kept on treatment have better health outcomes.

Aliyu said there would be financial pressure on the program, but it does not mean that it is not the right thing to do.

According to him, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the disease will not be possible without having other agencies on board like National Primary Health Care Development Agency.


Kenya’s public debt swells on currency volatility, more loans

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s gross public debt swelled to 36 billion U.S. dollars at the end of September, pushed up by currency fluctuations and increased borrowing, the Treasury said Wednesday.

The debt increased from 29 billion dollars at end of September 2015 to 36 billion dollars, an equivalent of 48 percent of the gross domestic product.

“The overall increase is attributed to increased external debt due to exchange rate fluctuations, disbursements from external loans and more uptake of domestic debt during the period,” the Treasury said in the Quarterly Economic and Budgetary Review for the period ending September.

The surge, however, was mainly contributed by increased domestic borrowing, with the internal loans standing at 52 percent of the total debt while external 48 percent.

“External debt stock during the period increased from 14.7 billion dollars in September 2015 to 16.9 billion dollars,” the Treasury said.

On the other hand, gross domestic debt increased by 4.7 billion dollars from 13.8 billion dollars in September 2015 to 18.5 billion dollars.

Analysts expect the debt to continue growing in the coming months as the government seeks to cover a budget deficit and fund several infrastructure projects in the energy, water and transport sectors.

Kenya will also be holding an expensive general election in August next year, with the government expected to seek for cash to fund the exercise. 


Kenya’s mobile money use swells amid Treasury warning

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyans transacted some 8.5 billion U.S. dollars on mobile money in the third quarter, up from 7.3 billion dollars in a similar period last year as usage hit a new high, data from the Central Bank showed Wednesday.

The surge in use, however, comes as the Treasury cautioned that the entrenched use of mobile money in the country posed fiscal risks to the economy if the service collapses.

Between January and September, Kenyan citizens moved 22 billion dollars, an indication that usage of the service will surpass last year’s transactions that stood at 26 billion dollars.

The number of subscribers stood at 33.4 million in September, up from 32.3 million in July and 29 million in January, the apex bank data showed.

Mobile money agents stood at 173,731 at the end of the quarter, surging from 146,710 in January and highlighting how critical the sector is in creating jobs.

Kenya has several mobile money service providers. M-Pesa, operated by Safaricom, is the dominant player, transacting over 92 percent of all the cash moved on mobile money.

The huge volumes of cash moved on the platforms have made the Treasury to flag down mobile money as a risk to the economy.

According to the Treasury, information technology accounted for about 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 driven by financial innovation in mobile money transfer services.

Various financial products have been leveraged on the payment channel, increasing the inter-linkages between the technology and the banking sector.

“If this system was to be compromised, the impact would be substantial considering the linkages and the corporate tax revenue for government,” said the Treasury in its newly-released budget policy statement.

“Were this risk to materialise, the impact on government including loss of deposits, loss of potential revenue and market confidence would put pressure on the government to compensate the losses,” it said.

“Technological innovation via the mobile money transfer services and its pivotal role in the economy should therefore be given due consideration as a plausible fiscal risk,” the Treasury said.


Kenya’s overall inflation rises in November

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s overall monthly inflation rose to 6.68 percent in November from 6.47 percent in October, driven by an increase in the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks, the statistics bureau said Wednesday.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 0.71 percent from 172.62 in October to 173.85 in November.

“Between October and November, Food and Non-Alcoholic Drinks’ Index increased by 1.17 percent. This was attributed to increase in prices of several food items which outweighed the decreases of others. The year-on-year food inflation stood at 11.13 percent in November,” the bureau said in a statement.

Over the same review period, the index of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels increased by 0.11 percent.

“This was partly due to increases in house rents and kerosene which outweighed notable falls in the cost of cooking gas,” it said.

“The transport index increased by 0.55 per cent in November compared to October mainly due to increases in the pump prices of petrol and diesel,” it added.

Analysts say the increase in inflation could be partly attributed to heavy rains pounding most parts of the country, which are hampering transportation of food even as crops are destroyed in the farms.


China’s StarTimes launches digital TV project in rural Kenya

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Chinese media company StarTimes on Wednesday launched a satellite digital television project in Kenya as part of its long-term agenda to bridge rural-urban information gap in the East African nation.

According to StarTimes, the southwestern Kenyan county of Kajiado will pilot the project that has given over 120 households in Saina Village free access to the StarTimes digital television service. The project will seek to benefit over 30 percent of Kenyans living in areas with limited or no access to the digital terrestrial signal.

Sun Zhijun, vice minister of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, attended the launching ceremony of the project.

Senior executives from StarTimes and Kajiado county officials also witnessed the launch of the project.

In his opening remarks, Sun hailed the project’s launch, terming it a significant milestone in cultural diplomacy between the two countries.

“The satellite television program will build a new bridge that will connect Kenya and China in many aspects. It will enable local people to access content that enriches their cultural and spiritual awareness,” Sun said.

“Digital broadcasting platforms will expose Chinese culture to Kenyan people,” Sun remarked, adding that StarTimes satellite television will also boost Sino-Kenya friendship.

StarTimes has been at the frontline of Kenya’s digital broadcasting endeavor since it launched its operations in the east African nation in 2012.

Vice President of StarTimes Group Ltd Guo Ziqi said the Chinese firm had invested significant resources to support Kenya’s transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.

She noted that the launch of StarTimes’ digital television project for rural Kenya will boost access to high-value content on current affairs and entertainment in villages.

“We are honored to be part of this project that will drive access to StarTimes digital television across rural households in Kenya,” said Guo.

Deputy Governor of Kajiado County Paul Ntiati thanked China for the initiative, noting that it will go a long way toward transforming the lives of Kenyan people through increased access to information and entertainment.

“It is our hope that more people will continue to access the same as the project extends to other regions,” said Ntiati.

KAJIADO,  (Xinhua) -- Sun Zhijun (3rd, L), vice minister of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, attends the launching ceremony of the satellite digital television project in Kajiado County, Kenya, on Nov. 30, 2016. Chinese media company StarTimes on Wednesday launched a satellite digital television project in Kenya as part of its long-term agenda to bridge rural-urban information gap in the East African nation. XINHUA PHOTO: LI BAISHUN

Huge investment in infrastructure best way to
end Nigeria’s economic recession: minister

By Olatunji Saliu ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria’s best way out of its present economic recession is to invest hugely in infrastructure, the country’s Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma has said.

In a statement reaching Xinhua on Wednesday, Udoma said, having realized that massive investment in infrastructure is now the way to go out of recession, government has begun to strategize on how to close the infrastructure deficit in the West African country.

“We are looking at ways to restore our revenues and get the economy out of recession and back on the path of sustainable growth,” the official said.

Nigeria’s economy officially entered recession in September. Figures released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics further showed a weak macroeconomic performance when the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real terms contracted by 2.24 percent year-on-year in Q3.

Recession, which is a major decline in sector-by-sector economic activities lasting more than a few months, is technically indicated by two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth as measured by the country’s GDP.

The present recession has left Nigeria with a bevy of recalcitrant problems, which range from surging inflation to depleted foreign reserves and weaker Naira.

The oil sector, which is Nigeria’s mainstay, is dented by the vagaries of global oil price, the drop in local production of crude oil and the violent activities of militants in the southern region of the country.

With the drastic drop in oil revenues, Nigeria is facing additional challenge in financing gap in public revenues estimated at about 20 billion U.S. dollars every year amid its present economic downturn.

In spite of the revenue shortfalls experienced during the 2016 budget year, the Nigerian government has so far released about 2.4 billion U.S. dollars (753.6 billion naira) for capital expenditure in the country, Udoma said, adding that the money was targeted at the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, as well as the Ministry of Transportation, to boost infrastructure.

The official confirmed that the government had been having difficulties funding its budget because of the disruptions of oil production in the Niger Delta region.

“At one time, almost half our production was shut in because of pipeline vandalism. This compounded our economic situation and pushed us into the current recession we are experiencing in the country,” he said.

The Nigerian government would open its doors to welcome every genuine idea from experts on how to address the economic challenges and return the country to a path of sustainable development, he added.

On Nov. 1, the Nigerian Senate voted against a request by President Muhammadu Buhari for its approval to source a loan up to 29.9 billion U.S. dollars from the World Bank.

Buhari, in a letter to the Nigerian Senate, had requested the upper legislative chamber to approve borrowing of the money from the world apex bank, stating it was meant for the prompt implementation of projects which cut across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety net programs, governance and financial management reforms, among others.

The Nigerian leader had explained the 2016-2018 borrowing plan was considered following the huge infrastructure deficit currently being experienced in the country, and the enormous financial resources required to fill the gap in the face of dwindling resources and the inability of annual budgetary provisions to bridge the infrastructure deficit.

However, without considering it for a debate, members of the Senate overwhelmingly voted against the loan request, claiming the paper work submitted for approval “was not properly worked on.” 


Nigeria suspends plan to introduce telecom price floor

ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- Nigerian authorities on Wednesday said a plan to introduce price floor for data segment of the country’s telecommunication sector has been suspended.

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s telecoms regulator, had planned to introduce an interim price floor for data services beginning from Dec. 1.

In a statement made available to Xinhua, the regulatory body said it made the decision after another consultation with industry stakeholders and due to complaints by consumers across the country.

Nigerian netizens had complained bitterly about the NCC’s decision to introduce the price floor, with the view that the development would cause a huge tariff on internet data usage and an impediment on their daily activities.

According to the statement, the decision to have a price floor was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.

The statement said the decision was also taken in order to protect the consumers at the receiving end and save the smaller operators from predatory services.

“The price floor is not an increase in price but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators,” the statement added.

Contrary to this claim, however, some telecoms operators in the country had already increased the price of their Internet data services by 300 percent ahead of Dec. 1, causing the outburst by internet data users in the country.

An estimated 100 million users are subscribed to Nigeria’s telecoms networks, according to statistics by the NCC. 


Nigerian union warns against plant closure amid recession

LAGOS, (Xinhua) --  Nigeria’s economic recession had raised unemployment, an official with the National Union of Iron and Steel Workers (NUISW) said Wednesday, blaming continuous closure of plants.

Some 3,000 of its members lost jobs in the last quarter of 2015 following closure of steel companies in the West African country, Kasimu Kadiri, General Secretary of the union told reporters in Lagos.

Kadiri was reacting to plans to shut the biggest pipe factory, SCC Nigeria Limited, due to the economic recession.

The pipe factory inaugurated a 280,000-tonne modern steel pipe manufacturing in Oct, 2015 in Ushafa, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

However, after staying idle for months, the government announced plan to close it.

The union leader said continuous closure of steel companies had negatively affected the steel sector, especially its workers.

He appealed to the government to stop importation of finished steel products to allow local production to thrive.

According to him, government should also create an enabling environment for local producers to grow to reduce the number of unemployed people.

Nigeria’s economy officially entered recession in September. Figures released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics further showed a weak macroeconomic performance when the gross domestic product (GDP) in real terms contracted by 2.24 percent year-on-year in Q3.

The current recession has left Nigeria with a bevy of recalcitrant problems ranging from surging inflation to depleted foreign reserves to weaker Naira.

The oil sector, which is Nigeria’s mainstay, is dented by the vagaries of global oil price, the drop in local production of crude oil and militants’ activities in the oil-producing region.

With the drastic drop in oil revenues, Nigeria is facing additional challenge in financing gap in public revenues estimated at about 20 billion U.S. dollars every year. 


Ghana moves to make public facilities accessible to the disabled

ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Ghana on Wednesday launched a policy document to make public facilities accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs).

The Ghana Standards on Accessibility Design (GSAD) document provides specification on how buildings, roads and recreational centers should be designed so as to make them accessible to all, especially the PWDs.

Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Della Sowah, said addressing crucial challenges that affected the people was at the core of Ghana’s sustainable development.

Disability experts say though PWDs have a legal entitlement and a right to access mainstream opportunities, services, programs, public events and infrastructure, many in Ghana experience profound exclusion.

The situation leads to poor health service delivery, lower levels of education, poor training, lack of employment participation, social exclusion, and failure to access basic goods and facilities.


Algeria says oil prices to hit 60 USD a barrel after OPEC crucial decision

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- The Algerian energy minister said on Wednesday the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries’ (OPEC) decision to cut its oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day is likely to push oil prices to around 60 U.S. dollars a barrel by the end of this year.

“The decision taken today in Vienna is historic and great triumph for OPEC,” Noureddine Bouterfa was quoted as saying in Vienna by the Algerian state-owned television.

He said a committee composed of Algeria, Kuwait and Venezuela has been established to control the implementation of the freezing decision.

Bouterfa further predicted that the oil prices would bring stability to the global oil market by the end of the year. 

The meeting of OPEC held Wednesday in the Austrian capital reached a consensus decision between the cartel’s members to cut oil outputs by 1.2 million barrels per day, setting the ceiling of oil production at 32.5 million barrels per day. 

The reduction is effective from Jan. 1, 2017, and is the cartel’s first oil reduction since 2008. 


Nigeria eyes gold medal in Africa beach soccer tournament

ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria’s national beach soccer team said Tuesday it is fully prepared to win the 2016 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Beach Soccer championship next month.

Nigeria will host the five-day beach soccer championship at the Eko Atlantic arena in the coastal city of Lagos from Dec. 13-18.

Nigeria coach Audu Ejo told reporters his players were in top form for the competition.

“We are in high spirits. Our players have shown seriousness and commitment, they have the right attitude towards this competition and I sincerely hope luck shines on us,” the coach said.

A total of 23 local players from various clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League have been tuning up for the competition since Nov. 14.

Ejo said his team had prepared adequately to take on Egypt in its first match at the competition.

“We are ready for Egypt. We are facing them first, the first match is very important; it sets the pace for the other matches,” he said.

Winner of the tournament and its first runner-up will represent Africa at the 9th FIFA Beach Soccer Tournament in Nassau, Bahamas from April 27 to May 7, 2017.

Nigeria won the African championship twice, in 2007 and 2009 while Madagascar is the defending champion.

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