How I met Ulli Biere, Duro Ladipo —Ifa priest, Elebuibon

Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon has recounted how he first met Prof. Ulli Biere and playwright Duro Ladipo which marked a turning point in his life.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, Elebuibon said he met both men at an event where he performed to the amazement of the professor.

He said, “February 1962 was the year when the Mbari Mbayo Cultural Centre was established by Prof. Ulli Biere, Ginas Nwoku, Wole Soyinka, Duro Ladipo and others. Ulli was a professor at the University of Ibadan in the Department of Extramural, but he did not like the atmosphere of urban centre; he preferred living in a rural area so as to know more about the indigenous setting. He left Ibadan and lived at Ilobu for a while before moving to Ede. From Ede, he came to Osogbo where he settled down. He used to attend all traditional festivals, where he would take pictures, ask questions for further research. We had all-night sessions chanting Ifa at the king’s family house. One day, the trio of Ulli Beier, Prof. Armstrong of the Institute of African Studies and Duro Ladipo attended the event. A friend of mine, who was my age-mate, and I both performed so excellently well, chanting Ifa poetry along with our seniors. Ulli Beier was so impressed and loved our performance.

Elebuibon who said the meeting led to a turning point in his life, added that he began working with the men and assisting them in their art.

“Yes, that was the turning point in my life. Ulli told Duro Ladipo that I must work with them. Duro told me that the white man said that I must work with them. Before then, each time I told people I was going to see Ulli Beier people believed I was going there to learn the art of magic. That year, Duro performed Obakoso and was emitting fire from his mouth on the stage. That made people to believe that going to work with Duro and others, I would become a magician and abandon my Ifa study. Whereas, what I was doing with Ulli and Duro was just assisting them to get poems relevant to their plays. They wanted to know the traditional songs that would go along with each scene in their plays,” he said.

The Ifa priest said he assisted Ulli by providing all the information he needed in both his journals and articles.

“At times, he would give me money to travel down to Otan to see Baba Sango and ask him about the deity. My international exposure started from that point. In 1967, I completed my Ifa study and gained freedom from my master. It pleased him to release me. When I had my freedom, Ulli was no longer around, as he used to, because he stayed in Osogbo for close to 15 years without travelling back home. I had an opportunity to continue with Duro Ladipo and we started travelling overseas for performances.”

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Why older people die of COVID-19 more than other populations -Ex-commissioner

A former Commissioner of Health in Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, says older population comprising people age 65 and over die of COVID-19 because of the peculiarities associated with their age.

The World Health Organisation says although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older people face significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.

The United States Centres for Disease Control also note that older persons are at greater risk of requiring hospitalisation or dying if diagnosed with COVID-19.

The CDC said the risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.

“For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s.

“Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.

“The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.

“Severe illness means that a person with COVID-19 may require: hospitalization,
intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die,” the CDC said.

It added that age increases risk for hospitalisation, as older adults are at greater risk of requiring hospitalisation or dying if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

“As you get older, your risk of being hospitalised for COVID-19 increases,” CDC warned.

Again, experts at online portal Biomed Central say persons age 65 or older had 7.7 times higher COVID-19 death rates than those between the ages of 55 and 64 years; just as researchers at online peer-reviewed journal, Nature, warn that the risk of dying from COVID-19 increases significantly with age.

“studies reveal that age is by far the strongest predictor of an infected person’s risk of dying — a metric known as the infection fatality ratio (IFR), which is the proportion of people infected with the virus, including those who didn’t get tested or show symptoms, who will die as a result.

“COVID-19 is not just hazardous for elderly people, it is extremely dangerous for people in their mid-fifties, sixties and seventies,” says Andrew Levin, an economist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who has estimated that getting COVID-19 is more than 50 times more likely to be fatal for a 60-year-old than is driving a car.

Speaking during a radio programme Discuss With Jimi Disu on Saturday, ex-commissioner Idris noted that COVID has been politicised globally, laying emphasis on the ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the WHO’s attempt to unravel the pandemic’s origin in China, as well as other issues surrounding the vaccine development and attempts by rich country to appropriate as much of the vaccine as possible.

The physician noted that COVID-19 mortality rate is still lower than that of Ebola, having killed between one and three percent of those infected so far.

“People dying are mostly affluent,” Idris noted.

“Is it a spiritual attack” host Jimi Disu asked, to which Mr. Idris said, “The infection was
brought in from outside, and the same set of people mingle together, they go to specialist hospitals because are borders locked, otherwise, they would have opted for overseas treatment.”

Continuing, Idris noted that people aged 65 and over are far fewer in number compared to young generation and that the age group experiences higher number of mortalities because of their probable health conditions.

“They also have comorbidities because of their health issues,” Idris said.

Discussing why Nigeria’s COVID-19 mortality rate is rather low ehen compared to what is going on globally, Idris said it might not be unconnected to people’s overexposure to infectious environment.

“We are subjected to biological insults because of dirty environment. Nigerians have immunity because of exposure to environmental pollutants.

“More people die of TB and malaria than COVID-19. More children die of malnutrition than COVID-19.

“Lassa fever is killing more people than COVID-19 is doing,” Idris said.

Asked by host Jimi Disu if the fatality rate wasn’t alarming, Idris said, “It is alarming; even one death must worry us because our job as leaders or physicians is to prevent citizens from dying.”

He commended that Lagos State Government’s management of the pandemic so far.

“Lagos has done extremely well in controlling COVID-19, having had experience in disaster management, including building collapse, pipeline fires, etc.”

He, however, noted that nationally, the situation is different.

“Nigeria wasn’t prepared for the pandemic,” Idris said.

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Elumelu’s firm buys IOCs’ stakes in oil block for $1.1bn

’Femi Asu

Three international oil companies operating in Nigeria have sold their combined 45 per cent interest in Oil Mining Lease 17 and related assets in the Eastern Niger Delta to TNOG Oil and Gas Limited, an integrated energy company founded by Mr Tony Elumelu.

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Total E&P Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited assigned their interests of 30 per cent, 10 per cent and five per cent respectively in the lease to TNOG Oil and Gas.

SPDC announced in a statement on Friday the completion of the sale of its 30 per cent interest in OML 17 and associated infrastructure to TNOG Oil and Gas for a consideration of $533m.

The oil major said the completion followed the receipt of all approvals from the relevant authorities of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Experts blame insecurity, others as inflation hits 15.75%, 37-month high

TNOG Oil and Gas is a related company of Heirs Holdings Limited and Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, both of which have Elumelu as their chairman.

“A total of $453m was paid at completion with the balance to be paid over an agreed period. SPDC will retain its interest in the Port Harcourt Industrial and Residential Areas, which fall within the lease area,” the SPDC said.

The company said it was committed to transfer OML 17 in an orderly and responsible manner to the new owner, which would help to provide a sustainable long-term plan to unlock its full potential.

“As with previous divestments, we will facilitate a successful transition to new ownership. Shell has been in Nigeria for over 60 years and remains committed to a long-term presence here,” said the Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chairman of Shell companies in Nigeria, Mr Osagie Okunbor.

Heirs Holdings said in a statement that TNOG Oil and Gas would have sole operatorship of the asset.

It described the transaction as one of the largest oil and gas financings in Africa in more than a decade, with a financing component of $1.1bn provided by a consortium of global and regional banks and investors.

It said the deal also involved Schlumberger as a technical partner and the trading arm of Shell as an offtaker.

OML 17 has a current production capacity of 27,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and, 2P reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with an additional one billion barrels of oil equivalent resources of further exploration potential, according to the statement.

The Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Elumelu, said, “We have a very clear vision: creating Africa’s first integrated energy multinational, a global quality business, uniquely focused on Africa and Africa’s energy needs.

“The acquisition of such a high-quality asset, with significant potential for further growth, is a strong statement of our confidence in Nigeria, the Nigerian oil and gas sector and a tribute to the extremely high-quality management team that we have assembled.

“As a Nigerian, and more particularly an indigene of the Niger Delta region, I understand well our responsibilities that come with stewardship of the asset, our engagement with communities and the strategic importance of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. We see significant benefits from integrating our production, with our ability to power Nigeria, through Transcorp, and deliver value across the energy value chain.”

Elumelu thanked Shell, Total and ENI for the professionalism of the process, the Federal Government, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and the NNPC for the confidence placed in the company.

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Experts blame insecurity, others as inflation hits 15.75%, 37-month high

Nike Popoola and ’Femi Asu

Economic experts have identified the lingering insecurity challenges in food-producing parts of Nigeria as one of the major factors fuelling the surge in food inflation as the country’s inflation rate jumped to its highest level in more than three years.

Inflation rose to 15.75 per cent in December from 14.89 per cent in December, marking the 16th straight month of increases, data released on Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

The consumer inflation rate in December was the highest since November 2017 when it stood at 15.90 per cent.

The NBS said the composite food index rose by 19.56 per cent in December from 18.30 per cent in November.

“This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fruits, vegetable, fish and oils and fats,” it added.

The core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce, stood at 11.37 per cent in December, compared with 11.05 per cent in November.

The highest increases were recorded in prices of passenger transport by air, medical services, hospital services, shoes and other footwear, and passenger transport by road, among others, according to the NBS.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr Johnson Chukwu, said the inflationary pressures were coming particularly from volatile food items.

He said, “We must recognise that the disruption we have had in the northern part of the country in terms of food production has a direct impact on food inflation.

“We should expect these pressures to continue in the next couple of months. We should expect that the price of diesel will further increase because crude oil price has moved up and exchange rate has also deteriorated.”

A professor of capital market at the Nasarawa State University Keffi, Uche Uwaleke, said the inflation rate for December was exacerbated by the lingering effects of border closure, increase in Value Added Tax, electricity tariffs and the pump price of fuel.

“Insecurity may have also accounted for why the food inflation was highest in a state like Edo. The rate of increase in urban inflation gives cause for worry. This may not be unconnected with the rise in rural-urban migration,” he said.

According to him, given that food inflation remains the major challenge, the inflation rate is expected to moderate this year following the intensification of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s interventions in agriculture and improvements in forex supply, the implementation of the 2021 agriculture budget and transport infrastructure, border reopening as well as improvements in security.

“It is important that the relevant agencies of government plans ahead to tackle flooding issues detrimental to the farming season.”

Analysts at the Financial Derivatives Company Limited, led by foremost economist Bismarck Rewane, had last week predicted that headline inflation would increase by 0.51 per cent to 15.4 per cent in December, describing it as “a hydra-headed monster that has eroded the disposable and discretionary income of consumers”.

“The continued rise in the general price level is driven largely by forex rationing, output and productivity constraints, higher logistics and distribution costs,” they said.

The analysts noted that consumer disposable income had been negatively affected by the hike in electricity tariffs, general reductions in subsidies and improved tax mobilisation.

“We believe the sustained pressure in the food basket is reflective of the impact of the underwhelming harvest season, persistent security challenges in the food-producing regions, and festive induced demand which further widened the demand-supply imbalance,” Cordros Capital Limited said in an emailed note on Friday.

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PTAD postpones resumption of walk-in verification for pensioners

Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja

The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate has postponed the January 19, 2021 resumption date for walk-in verification for pensioners at its offices nationwide.

It announced the postponement on Friday but gave no new date for the resumption of walk-in verification, adding that the decision was to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The agency disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja by its spokesperson, Olugbenga Ajayi, and signed by the management of PTAD.

It said, “PTAD hereby informs the general public that the proposed resumption of the walk-in verification of pensioners at its headquarters and state liaison offices for all pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme earlier scheduled for January 19, 2021 has been postponed till further notice.

“The postponement is in line with the Federal Government’s directive on ensuring safe practice of the COVID-19 protocols, through the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.”

The agency stated that pensioners under the Civil Service Pension Department and Police Pensions Department and the Customs would be affected by this suspension.

Others to be affected include pensioners under the Immigration, Prisons Pension Department, as well as the Parastatal Pension Department.

The PTAD, however, assured all pensioners who had requested for the walk-in verification that they would be contacted and scheduled for the exercise when the walk-in verification resumed.

It said pensioners with urgent complaints should send their complaints as emails to the agency or should upload their complaints on PTAD’s website complaint link.

The agency had announced the suspension of its walk-in verification for pensioners on December 10, 2020, and had stated that the exercise would commence on January 19, 2021.

But with the latest announcement on Friday, the exercise had been postponed indefinitely as a result of the recent second outbreak of COVID-19.

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Passenger sues Dana, seeks N1bn damages

A passenger with disability, Dr Chike Okogwu, has sued Dana Air for alleged unlawful infringement of his fundamental human rights on December 20, 2020.

In a letter by the passenger’s solicitor, Wahab Egbewole & Co. dated January 11th, 2021, he sought N1bn damages for alleged unprofessional conduct of the airline that allegedly worsened Okogwu’s underlying health conditions.

The letter addressed to the airline’s managing director titled ‘Discriminatory and unprofessional conduct of Dana airlines against Dr Chike Churchill Okogwu’ outlined how the passenger’s flight was rescheduled on the morning of his flight to 9:15pm.

It read in part, “We are reliably informed by our client that on December 17, 2020,  he booked two business class tickets for his carer and himself for a flight from Abuja to Lagos scheduled for Sunday, December 20, 2020. However, in the morning of the scheduled flight, he received an email from Dana Air notifying him of a rescheduling of the flight to 9:15 pm on the same day.”

The solicitor explained that while his client arrived the airport by 7pm in anticipation of the flight, he was informed by a Dana staff that he could not travel after being earlier issued a boarding pass.

The staff allegedly added that a policy forbade the carrying the passenger in a wheelchair at night.

The letter stated that Okogwu did not plan for a night flight and that it was forced on him by Dana. It also added that it was not communicated to him before he was issued a boarding pass, noting that the policy was discriminatory. This forced the passenger to reach out to the duty manager. However, it was a futile effort.

The letter read, “Though, the duty manager asked our client to return the next day by 7pm in a very rude manner, she failed to give further assurance whether this would not happen again, and the demand by our client to be accommodated for the night in a hotel in line with Nigerian Civil Aviation Authorities regulations was bluntly turned down.

“Our client views the conduct of the duty manager as not only unprofessional, unconscionable but also a violation of his rights to freedom.”

When contacted, the spokesman for Dana, Mr Kingsley Ezenwa, promised to revert to our correspondent. At the time of filing this report, he was yet to respond to revert as promised.

However, in a press statement by the airline in December, the airline described the passenger’s conduct as violent, noting that he hurt the airline’s staff and destroyed their booking system in Abuja.

It also warned the passenger to be civil in his engagements as the airline would not tolerate any act of violence against any staff.

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The Experience concert goes virtual first time in 15 years

The 2020 edition of The Experience, an all-night gospel concert, will hold strictly online, says the organisers of the programme which has become a favourite annual event for gospel music lovers.

Now in its 15th year, the annual event hosted by the Senior Pastor of House On The Rock, Paul Adefarasin, showcases multi-talented and dynamic gospel artistes from different parts of the world.

The past 14 editions were held at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos and each gathering averaged an attendance of over 500,000 people, making it arguably the largest gospel concert in the world.

But the organisers of the programme announced this week that the event will not hold at the expansive space in the Tafawa Balewa Square, a decision taken to maintain physical distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Experience 15 (Global Edition), is scheduled to hold on Friday, 11th December, 2020 virtually, livestreamed around the world, serving as a platform to unify the global Church and establish God’s Kingdom here on earth,” the organisers wrote on the event website.

“Yes, we had the last 14 editions together mainly in one place, yet now we are not apart, we are still in this together as we go global with the #TE15G. There are no barriers and nothing can stop us, our God deserves our praise all the way, and He will have it,” @TheExperienceLG tweeted.

This year’s concert will showcase artistic musical performances, goodwill messages and intercessory prayers by internationally recognised artistes including Don Moen, Tope Alabi, William MCDowell, Tasha Cobbs, amongst others.

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