Press focuses on continued opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s bid for DG of WTO by US, others

The suggestion by the United States to reopen the process of selecting a new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation…

The suggestion by the United States to reopen the process of selecting a new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and the warning by the United States Embassy in Nigeria to its citizens to exercise caution while travelling and residing in Nigeria are some of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Friday.ThisDay reports that the United States has suggested that the process to find a new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs to be reopened, in what would be an unprecedented move.

US President, Donald Trump’s trade chief, Robert Lighthizer, told the BBC News that the WTO needs “someone with real experience in trade”.

The US had earlier opposed former World Bank economist and Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the job and a consensus still hasn’t been reached.

The doubling down on the rejection of Okonjo-Iweala, despite widespread support from other countries, escalates one of the most pressing global trade issues Joe Biden will have to solve as US President.

The other finalist for one of the top jobs in international trade is South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, and the pair have been left in limbo for more than five weeks.

The newspaper says that the United States Embassy in Nigeria has again asked American citizens to exercise caution while travelling and residing in Nigeria.

In a security alert published on the Embassy’s website on Wednesday, the mission said “crime was endemic throughout Nigeria ranging from petty street crime to carjacking, and crime levels tend to increase during the holidays”.

It noted, “Terrorist organisations and individuals inspired by extremist ideology exist throughout Nigeria.

“Shopping centres, airports, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation hubs, street markets, and other public venues frequented by Westerners are common attack targets.”

The statement titled, ‘Holiday security alert,’ further said that criminal and other elements often infiltrate large gatherings.

The mission admonished Americans to be aware of their surroundings, keep a low profile and carry proper identification.

The Guardian reports that Katsina State Governor, Mr. Aminu Masari, yesterday, confirmed release of 340 students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, who were abducted by gunmen a week ago.

Masari, in an interview aired on the Nigeria Television Network (NTA) 9 p.m. news, said the students initially held hostage in a forest in Zamfara State were released after negotiations with their abductors. He said they were on their way to Katsina on Thursday night.

According to him, it was agreed that military operatives should not use force to rescue the students to avoid casualties. The Director-General, Media to the Governor, Mr. Abdul Labaran, in a phone interview, also corroborated Masari’s claim.

“Yes, the students have been released by their abductors. 340 of them are currently being transported from Zamfara forest to Katsina State Government House this night (Thursday). The governor’s spokesman was, however, silent on whether ransom was paid for the release of the schoolboys.

The Punch says that the oil and gas sector is going to face a substantially reduced demand for a prolonged period as its recovery is not likely any time soon, the Federal Government said on Thursday.

It also announced the resolve of the Nigerian government to continue meeting the gas supply demand of countries in the West African sub-region.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said these in separate virtual and physical functions. In his virtual address at the international conference of the Nigerian Association for Energy Economics in Abuja, the minister said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil sector was still devastating.

He said the curtailment of crude oil production by OPEC and non-OPEC members was what helped in rebalancing global crude oil prices. Sylva said, “This has been the major rescue from the precarious situation in the oil and gas industry to date.

“Coupled with the discoveries of COVID-19 vaccines in Europe, Russia, North America, China and various parts of the world recently, we are poised for game changers. “With the foregoing, there is a clear evidence that the global economy will eventually recover.”

The Sun reports that Nigeria’s private sector debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio rose by 14 per cent as of the third quarter of 2020, a sharp rise from 11.8 percent reported at the end of 2019.

The figure was contained in the report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which revealed that the country’s Real GDP Growth rate contracted by 3.62 per cent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2020, while adding that its private sector loans as of Q3 2020 stood at N19.86 trillion compared to a GDP of N146.69 trillion in the previous quarter.

Private sector debt to GDP compares the total number of bank lending to the private sector with the gross domestic product of the country.

The sharp rise in the private sector debt to GDP ratio reflects increased lending by deposit money banks in the country.

Despite the pandemic and the fall in crude oil prices, banks in Nigeria have been coerced by the Central Bank to increase lending to the private sector.

The newspaper says that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami has approved the licensing of 173 private sector agents as well as 30 state institutions to help conduct enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB) on behalf of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

This approval follows the directive by the Minister who ordered that all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards without valid National Identification Numbers (NIN) should be blocked.

The Director General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja. Aziz explained that the licensed agents were approved after successfully fulfilling all the conditions in the advertised Expression of Interest (EOI) which was done in 2019 as a first step towards the take-off the National Digital Identity Ecosystem project.

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