Olympic officials shoot down cancellation rumours amid coronavirus outbreak | Stuff.co.nz

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Tokyo Olympic organisers are trying to shoot down rumours that this year’s 2020 Games might be cancelled or postponed because of the spread of a new virus.

Japan has so far reported no deaths from the coronavirus that has killed more than 200 people in China. Japanese organisers have hesitated to say much for several days, but on Friday they addressed the rumours. So did the International Olympic Committee, which also has said little.

Olympic organisers have finally addressed rumours that the Tokyo Games could be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The Olympics open on July 24, just under six months away.

“We have never discussed cancelling the games,” Tokyo organisers said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary.”

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Rumours of a cancellation have spread in Japan with reports that the Swiss-based IOC has met with the World Health Organisation about the outbreak. The WHO has called the virus a global emergency.

“Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned,” the IOC said in a statement. “It is normal practice for the IOC to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO.”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, speaking earlier in the week to the heads of 62 municipalities, warned about the dangers. Japan has also urged citizens not to travel to China.

“We must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” she said.

Rumours have spread online with thousands of comments on Twitter under the hashtag in Japanese “Tokyo Olympic Cancelled”.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, is pressing ahead with the construction of two purpose-built hospitals.

The IOC has faced challenges like this before, and carries insurance for such possibilities. It has cancelled Olympics during wartime, and faced boycotts in 1980 and 1984. It also held the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City just months after the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus also cast a shadow over the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The larger problem for the Olympics could come with qualifying events in China and elsewhere being cancelled or postponed. International federations will have to reschedule events and Chinese athletes could present extra challenges and screening.

World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, announced earlier in the week it was postponing the world indoor championships in Nanjing, China, until next year. The event had been scheduled for March 13-15.

Travel, screening and allaying fears are certain to be more complicated if the outbreak continues. The 11,000 athletes expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics will also face pressure to stay safe.

Sponsors and television networks who have invested billions of dollars will also try to keep the games on track.

Demand for Olympic tickets in Japan is unprecedented, exceeding supply by at least 10 times. Organisers say 7.8 million tickets are being issued for the Olympics.

Organisers say they are spending about US$12.6 billion to put on the games. But a national audit bureau says the costs are twice that much.

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Persecution of Muslims in China and India Reveals Important Facts About Religion and Geopolitics

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India, China and Myanmar are three Asian countries currently engrossed in carrying out physical and cultural genocides on their Muslim populations. While the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Uighur Muslims is well known, the recent introduction of a new law expressly aimed at dispossessing Muslims of Indian citizenship has alerted many to the reality that India’s ruling BJP government sees itself as Hindu first and foremost.

Questions such as “Why aren’t the rich Arab countries saying anything?” have come up, with the implicit inference that Muslim-dominated countries are supposed to stick up for Muslims everywhere in the world. Others have pointed out that despite suffering oppression in some parts of the world, Muslims are also responsible for brutal acts of oppression against other minority groups elsewhere, which allegedly negates the sufferings of the prior group.

In this article, I will pick through these questions and viewpoints with a goal of isolating some useful truths about how religion, geopolitics and human nature constantly interplay and produce much of the world around us.

Oppression is a Matter of Perspective

Which religion is the most oppressed? I like to troll my Christian friends with the image below whenever the topic comes up about some religion or the other allegedly imposing its will at their expense.

The truth is however, that this image could apply to just about every religion on earth. As a general rule of thumb, the only limiting factor on whether or not a religion functions as an oppressive tyranny in a particular jurisdiction is the proportion of the population that practises it there. Similarly, the only thing stopping any religion from being an oppressed and downtrodden identity is whether it is a small enough minority for that to be possible.

While Muslims in India, Myanmar and China are going through untold degrees of horror because of their religious identities, Muslims in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Northern Nigeria are simultaneously visiting very similar horrors on Bah’ai, Shia Muslims, Christians, Budhists and other minorities in those areas. It turns out that the mere fact of belonging to a religious identity does not in fact, confer unrestricted global victimhood.

This point is important because it disproves the notion held by every major religion that its adherents follow a single set of standards and do things in the manner of a global “brotherhood.” In reality, Islam according to a Rohingya Muslim hiding from the Burmese military, and the same religion according to an itinerant herder in Kogi State bear almost no similarity to each other save for the most basic tenets. Environmental factors in fact have a bigger influence on how religions are practised than their own holy books. 

The current antics of India’s ruling BJP and its Hindu fundamentalist support base provide an important case in point as to how this works. Looking at the evolution of Hinduism from a passive philosophy into an openly militant ideology gives an important insight into how religion is in fact, a thoroughly contrived and amorphous set of ideas that can be changed, adjusted, aligned and revised at a moment’s notice in justification of anything at all. 

Hinduism traditionally sees itself as a religion of thoughtful, considered spirituality as against the angry dogmas of its Abrahamic neighbours, but something interesting is happening. Some argue that it started in the days of Gandhi, and some ascribe it to current Prime Minister Nanendra Modi, but whoever started it is a side note. The key point to note is that based on political factors, i.e anticolonial senitment against the British and anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by India’s national rivalry with Pakistan, Hinduism has somehow been coopted into the narrative of a jingoistic, monotheistic, mono-ethnic state which is  historical nonsense.

India has always been a pointedly pluralistic society, and in fact the geographical area now known as “India” does not even cover the geographical area of the India of antiquity. That India was a place of Hindus, Budhists, Muslims, Zoroastrians and everything in between. Hinduism never saw a problem with pluralism because Hinduism itself is a very plural religion – it has at least 13 major deities. The conversion of the Hindu identity into a political identity movement is a recent and contrived phenomenon first exploited by Gandhi as a means of opposing British colonialism, and now by Modi to oppose the Pakistanis/Muslims – it is a historical falsity.

The creation of Hindu fundamentalist movements like the RSS (which PM Modi belongs to) is something done in response to environmental factors. Spectacles like the RSS march below are evidence of yet another religion undergoing constant and ongoing evolution into whatever suits its purposes.

Something similar happened when medieval Europe turned into colonial Europe and European Christianity transitioned into a peaceful and pacifist ideology after centuries of being a bloodthirsty doctrine. The environmental factors that created the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, book burnings and witch hunts went away with the introduction of an industrial society, and thus the religion too transitioned.

In plain English, what all this means is that nobody actually practises a religion in the pure sense they imagine they do. Everyone who subscribes to a religion merely practises a version of it that is subject to the culture and circumstances of their environment and era. This is directly connected to the next major insight raised by these events.

Geopolitics is all About Self-Interest…Everyone Gets it Except Africa

While anti-Muslim violence has continued apace for years in China, Mynammar and India, the question has often been asked: “Why are the wealthy Arab nations not saying anything?” There is a perception that since the Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of Islam and Arabs – particularly Saudis – are viewed as the global gatekeepers of the faith, they must be at the forefront of promoting the interests of Muslims worldwide.

To many, the fabulous wealth and international influence that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE enjoy, in addition to the presence of two of Islam’s holiest cities – Mecca and Meddinah – in Saudi Arabia, means that they have a responsibility to speak for the global Muslim Ummah and stand up for them when they are unfairly targeted and mistreated. Unfortunately for such people, the wealthy nations of the Arab Gulf region tend to respond to such questions with little more than an irritated silence – and with good reason.

To begin with, these countries are not democracies led by the wishes of their almost uniformly Muslim populations. They are autocracies led by royal families who came to power in the colonially-influenced 20th century scramble for power and influence. Saudi Arabia, which houses Islam’s holiest sites, is named after the House of Saud, its royal family which came into power in its current form at the turn of the 19th century. The priority of the regimes in these countries first and foremost is self-preservation.

Self-preservation means that before throwing their significant diplomatic and economic weight behind any attempt to help out fellow Muslims, the first consideration is how doing so will benefit them. India for example, is a country that has close diplomatic ties with the UAE, and supplies most of their cheap labour for construction and low-skilled functions. India has even coordinated with UAE special forces to repatriate the dissident Princess Latika when she made an audacious escape attempt in 2018.

What does the UAE stand to gain if it napalms its diplomatic relationship with India by criticising Modi’s blatantly anti-Muslim policy direction? It might win a few brownie points with Islamic hardliners and possibly buy some goodwill among poor Muslims in South Asia, but how much is that worth? The regime and nation’s self-interest is best served by looking the other way, so that is exactly what they will do.

The Saudis make a similar calculation. At a time when they are investing heavily in military hardware to keep up with their eternal rivals Turkey and Iran, and simultaneously preparing for the end of oil by liberalising their society and economy, does it pay them to jump into an issue in India that does not particularly affect them? As the status of their diplomatic relationship with the U.S. remains unclear following the Jamal Khasshoggi incident, are they going to risk pissing off the Chinese because of Uighur Muslims?

In fact self-interest like that mentioned here is the basis of the considerations that underpin all international relations. Well I say “all,” but what I really meant to say was “all except African countries.” It is only African countries that take diplomatic decisions based on little more than flimsy emotions and feelings of religious affinity. Gambia for example, has dragged Myanmar before the UN and filed a genocide case against it on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims.

This would be commendable and great were it not that Gambia itself is hardly a human rights luminary, and generally has little business fighting an Asian battle when its own worse African battles lie unfought. The only thing Gambia stands to gain from fighting a diplomatic war that the rest of the world seems unwilling to touch is the temporary goodwill of a few Muslims in Asia and around the world – goodwill that cannot translate into something tangible for it.

To coin an aphorism from social media lingo, you could call it ”diplomatic clout chasing.’

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Death, Diarrhea and Late Night Sackings: The Inside Story of an Unfolding Staff Nightmare at UBA and Dangote

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Last November, thousands of Lagosians including hundreds of UBA Bank employees attended what was billed as the ‘party of the year’ at the Lekki Special Events Centre on Admiralty Way.

The UBA RedTV Rave had everyone from Wizkid to Olamide to Jidenna to Burna Boy thrilling the festive crowd as UBA chairman Tony Elumelu and CEO Kennedy Uzoka mingled with the artists and guests.

On the surface, this was the best of times, as a bank that was clearly in rude health celebrated a successful year with thousands of employees, friends and family. The bank had also recently concluded a recruitment exercise that would add nearly 4,000 new employees to its staff strength, so the year ahead looked to be a promising one for most employees present. 

Unknown to them, while senior executives danced with Wizkid in the VIP area, one of the most brutal staff layoffs in Nigerian banking history was just around the corner. They partied well into the night and then showed up for work the following week as usual. A week went by. Two weeks. Four weeks. Then right at the start of the new year – a shocker.

Closed at 5.30PM, Terminated at 10.30PM

Ifunanya (name has been changed) was asked to wait behind at work on Friday January 3. As a 12-year UBA veteran including a long stint in her role as a Branch Operations Manager at a branch in Ojodu, Lagos, this was not an unusual request to receive. She was even used to working weekends so that the ATMs could remain functional and she could troubleshoot other onsite customer-facing issues. This time however, was different. 

Along with other staff members at the branch, she was asked to wait for a board meeting. By 10.30PM, the assembled staff were informed that their services were no longer required. They were then told verbally to write out their resignation letters on the spot and leave voluntarily or be forced out. At this point, her security pass was taken, and along with the other affected staff, her profile was unceremoniously deactivated from the bank’s internal system. She was reminded to drop her work ID on the way out, and thus ended a 12-year association with the bank.

When a relative of hers reached out to tell the story, he was keen to make the point that she was not an agency employee, but a full UBA employee on a monthly salary of N153,000. He could not understand why the bank would treat her that way. I heard similar stories from two other sources who insisted that they were coerced into resigning after being told that their services were no longer required right at the start of the new year.

Shocking and callous as these stories may have sounded, one of the first things you are taught in any professional journalism program is to always balance the story. So I sought an alternate account of what transpired, with the goal of putting the picture together to tell a complete story. There were conflicting accounts of the events of January 3 flying around, with some accounts describing a recruitment and promotion exercise without mentioning any firings, while others reported a purported “restructuring” at UBA, which is a well-known euphemism for “mass sack.”

I managed to establish contact with a current senior employee at UBA who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak about such matters. This was his account of what happened at UBA bank at the start of this year:

“Usually when anyone joins UBA with a Bachelor’s degree, they are put on a GT1 level (N80,000). After one year, they are promoted to GT2 (N100,000), then after another year ET1 (N140,000) which is where a lot of people get stuck on. If you are lucky, you get to ET2 (N165,000). So what UBA did was to meld those 4 levels into one (ET) so any one who was on GT1 and GT2 gets automatically promoted to ET2. Those that were on ET1 and ET2 got promoted to SET (Senior Executive Trainee). 

So it was a promotion of sorts, but honestly it was long overdue because compared to other banks, N80,000 for entry level staff is quite low. About the layoffs: I only know 4 people personally who got affected. The people affected were on manager grades and worked at the head office, they all reportedly got 6 months arrears.”

According to this source, he was not personally aware of the fate of any branch staff or what he termed ‘OND staff.’ He did however say that in his opinion, the bank handled the situation poorly and that Nigeria does need stronger labour laws to protect young graduates fresh out of school from exploitation for cheap labor at the hands of corporates like UBA. He also mentioned that he knows current UBA staff have not had a salary increase in ten years – a remarkable situation for workers in a country whose currency has declined 195 percent over the same period.

As it later emerged, more than 2,000 staff were affected by the shocking late-night cull at UBA. It also became increasingly clear that the firings had nothing to do with a harsh operating environment or decreased profitability. The bank which had brought together Nigeria’s most expensive music stars to perform at its end of year shindig was anything but struggling – it actually hired more people than if fired. What the sackings did though, was clear out a number of people in roles that the bank considered obsolete, particularly within branch operations.

It can definitely be argued that such restructuring is inevitable in the face of rapidly changing technology, which is hardly a terrible thing. What is also true however, is that the bank that paid huge sums of money to bring Burna Boy and Jidenna to an annual vanity event that adds nothing to its bottom line could also afford to retrain its redundant staff to fit into new roles –  instead of just sacking them and instantly bringing in thousands of readymade replacements.

Yet again, the actions of a Nigerian corporate made the point that Nigerian labour law, in addition to be being poorly enforced is also woefully inadequate and unfit for purpose. If after 12 years of useful service to a bank, Ifunanya could be dumped out onto the street without even a few hours of notice – and no regulatory action was forthcoming – then clearly, Nigerian employees working for Nigerian companies have a problem on their hands.

As much as the UBA situation made that point, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to unearth about another Nigerian corporate behemoth.

Diarrhea in India, Death in Ibeju-Lekki: The Unbelievable Story of Dangote Refinery

While senior executives at UBA House were going over the finer points of their plan to log 2,000 employees out of their work systems and force them to resign on the spot, a different level of labour exploitation was entering its fourth year about 73KM east of the Marina. There, at the site of the Dangote Refinery at the Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the refinery was taking delivery of the world’s largest crude oil refining tower.

While this was predictably being celebrated across local and foreign media as the start of a glorious new chapter in Nigeria’s industrial history, I was speaking to a whistleblower with close and detailed knowledge of the project. What he had to say about the refinery project, the Indian project managers, the company’s internal culture and its much-publicised trainee program left me absolutely floored. Naturally I reached out to Dangote Group for a comment, but at press time I have received no response or acknowledgment.

My source, whom I shall call “Mukhtar” worked in and around the refinery project between 2016 and 2018, and what I found most distressing amidst everything he said was the revelation that deaths due to onsite accidents are not just known to happen at the refinery site, but are effectively covered up by Dangote. This he said, is because the people who die are mostly site labourers who are hired through staffing agencies instead of directly. When they die, it becomes the staffing company’s problem and the Dangote brand distances itself from it – even though the site owner is legally responsible for all safety-related incidents onsite.

Something else that struck me was that he implied that – contrary to all its public posturing – the company actually has no intention of using Nigerian engineers to run the refinery anytime soon. The trainee program that sent dozens of Engineering graduates for a one-year training program in India? “Strictly PR,” he said.

Accidents
The first batch of Dangote Refinery trainees head off to India in March 2016

For full effect, I have decided to reproduce the full and unredacted transcript of our conversation instead of using quotes and reported speech. Here is the conversation below:

ME: When we started this conversation, you mentioned that Dangote Refinery is exempt from Nigerian labour laws. What were you referencing?

Mukhtar: Because the refinery is in the FTZ, it is not subject to certain laws like local content laws. As such, even mundane jobs are given to non-Nigerian companies. Even the refinery’s fence wall was handled by a Chinese company. This didn’t stop long stretches of the fence from collapsing sometime in 2017. The FTZ affects Labour laws too. The company is not really under any obligation to employ Nigerians. They do so mostly for PR. All key decision makers are Indians (say 98%).

ME: There have been several horror stories about Indian-run businesses in Nigeria. Was this one of them?

Mukhtar: Yes, the Indians are quite racist. Some even demand to be referred to as “master”. To be fair, when this is reported, the HR unit makes a show of cautioning them. But I dont think anyone has ever been dismissed for it or seriously punished. Most of workers who meet their death on site are labourers. So their names might be known to many staff. I’ll see what I can get. It happens. It’s kept under wraps but it happens.

ME: Now you mentioned onsite deaths earlier. I want to know all about this. Why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Mukhtar: The refinery site is not really the best place to work. Mortality rate on site is quite high. People falling from heights or getting crushed by heavy vehicles/machines is quite common. These numbers are not reported because most staff are contract staff (or outsourced) so the company gets to wash its hands off such cases. But safety on site is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the project. The construction site has a board that is supposed to display the safety statistics but it is never displays the truth. According to that board, there has never been a fatality on site. But in reality, I think 2018 had about 5 fatalities between January and March. If I were to guess, I’d say there have been over 25 fatalities since construction started in 2016/17.

ME: Now you said earlier that the trainee program was a washout and a disappointment. Fill me in on that.

Mukhtar: I was one of the first batch of engineers sent to India for training in 2016. In my opinion, the whole scheme was either poorly thought out or the company was somehow compelled to do it, and did so for PR. Our salaries were being paid into our accounts in Nigeria, so we were using our debit cards to access our Nigerian accounts for expenses over there) Around July 2016 when the naira went from around 160 per dollar to nearly double that number, our spending power was effectively halved.

ME: I also remember that there was a forex shortage crisis in 2016 and Nigerian bank cards stopped working outside the country.

Mukhtar: So when the banks eventually stopped all cards from functioning abroad, we were stranded. The company resorted to selling us dollars or rupees at the black market rate.They deducted the money from our salaries. We had accommodation (two adults per room) and feeding (Indian food which many of us did not like). Some of had to buy intercontinental dishes regularly, because Indian food is really not nice if you’re not into many smelly spices. It was crazy. Meanwhile we were told categorically that we would have Nigerian food and Nigerian cooks. It was a blatant lie by the Indian HR director.

Also, no arrangement was made for our medical care. Those who fell ill had to treat themselves from their pockets. During the currency crisis, those who fell ill had to rely on the rest of us to put together our spare change to pay for their treatment. The company promised to refund medical expenses, but this shouldn’t have been the situation in the first place.

ME: Tell me about the training program. What was the course content and the experience like? Was it what you were expecting?

Mukhtar: The training itself was a mess too. We were supposed to be trained to operate the refinery (at the time, it was said that it will be completed by mid 2017), but we were sent to a design company. These (designing a refinery and operating it) are two very, very different things. The trainers did not want us there in the first place. It was not a part of their initial contract with Dangote. Plus, they didn’t know what to teach us because designers are not operators. They were confused, several times, they asked us what we wanted to learn. But we could not know what we wanted to learn cos we knew nothing about the entire business. In the end, they reluctantly settled for teaching us design (skills we were/are unlikely to use cos the refinery was already 90% designed). 

ME: If you say that the refinery was “already 90% designed,” and you were learning design in India, that sounds like your presence was superfluous. Was the company really serious about sending you to learn skills to run a refinery?

Mukhtar: Indians will run the refinery. It will take many many many years before that refinery will be populated by just Nigerians. It was strictly PR. Anyways, the training with that design company was suddenly terminated on December 31st. Apparently, Dangote had not paid them a dime for all the months were were being taught design. They didn’t want to send us back to Nigeria so they moved us to the Dangote office in India. The office housed the Indian engineers (around 150 – 200 in number) who were supervising the design work being done by the design company. Now, it is interesting that these guys were working and earning as expatriates within their own country.

But realising that the “training” was a blunder, the company sent back some engineers to train in an actual refinery. So what was supposed to be a 1 year training became 2 years.

ME: Since returning to Nigeria, is there anything else you have noticed about the project that worries or disturbs you?

Mukhtar: Yes. So we have only the refinery at the FTZ, but the company gets to import things meant for other branches of the company duty-free. As a matter of fact, with the Dangote jetty in place and a customs office right there, the company no longer needs to clear stuff at Apapa. Dangote empire effectively has its own customs and port, because we cannot assume that the custom officers stationed at Dangote’s jetty/FTZ are extremely meticulous in checking what comes in and goes out. Personally, I find this disturbing. No non-military entity should be able to import stuff that easily into any country. This is bigger than just skipping custom duty payment.

–Ends–

Between bank staff being fired at 10.30PM and refinery site labourers being killed by workplace accidents without accountability, the sheer grimness of the picture facing Nigerian workers comes into stark relief. It is afterall, an employer’s market, with several thousand qualified people jostling for every job opening, which creates the possibility and incentive to treat staff like battery animals.

Whether the Labour Ministry is willing or able to do anything about such blatant labour exploitation is anybody’s guess. Nigeria’s government is increasingly weak and unable to impose its will on the country even territorially. In the event that the government did take interest, there is a valid fear that it would go to the other extreme and adopt a lazy anti-business Hugo Chavez approach, as it so often does. The real solution if there is to be one, must come from Nigerian labour having a stronger bargaining position through an improved economy. Anything else as it stands, is little more than a sticking plaster.

As Mukhtar mentioned, even inside the ridiculous situation of being financially stranded in a foreign country at the behest of an irresponsible and insincere Nigerian corporate, the vast majority of the group chose to suffer in silence. They did so because spending a year abroad learning useless information, suffering deprivation and experiencing diarrhea after being forced to eat unfamiliar food was still preferable to whatever alternative was at home.

Ultimately, that is the biggest problem facing Nigerian labour. 

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Christ Embassy Church probe in UK: The Full report | P.M. News

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Pastor Chris Oyakhilome: heads the Christ Embassy Church in UK

Christ Embassy Church, owned by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and registered in the UK in 1996 as a charity came under probe of the Charity Commission in 2013, following complaints about the use of charitable funds on large connected party payments.

Truly, investigators discovered numerous failings in its management. They established that a number of informal grants and payments were made, including over £1.2 million* to a broadcasting company, Loveworld Television Ministry, which was wholly owned by a trustee of the charity.

Also, for six years the charity had allowed Loveworld free use of a £1.8 million property it had purchased, and was subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills. The inquiry found a lack of formal contracts or appropriate record keeping, and a lack of evidence of proper decision-making or of conflicts of interest being appropriately managed.

Financial management at the charity was also found to be poor. The trustees claimed 9 bank accounts held funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria, and that 3 UK properties belonged to Christ Embassy Nigeria, however the inquiry concluded that all of these in fact belonged to the charity.

Oyakhilome’s ex-wife Anita Ebodaghe: was on the charity board at the time

The inquiry considered that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity, and took action to remove two of the trustees of the charity, however the individuals resigned before the sanction was applied. The Commission has since been granted new powers to address this loophole, which it secured under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016.

As a result of the inquiry, a new board of trustees was set up to strengthen the administration and management of the charity.

Amy Spiller head of the investigation team spoke on how the investigation was able to dissect the complex web of entities connected with the Christ Embassy Church:

“This was a complex inquiry that unveiled numerous failings by those running Christ Embassy over a number of years, which exposed the charity to undue risk. I am pleased that these issues have been resolved and that the new board of trustees has shown a clear commitment to move the charity forward responsibly.

“Those running a charity should always be guided by their charitable purpose. Trustees have an important responsibility to ensure that they act in the best interests of their charity at all times, and take care to safeguard their charity’s assets. Our guidance around governance arrangements is there to help trustees ensure they do just that.

“Charities are trusted in a way that is unique, and people often put a lot of faith in religious charities. It is therefore vital that trustees, particularly those with a large following, do all that they can to inspire public trust”.

Christ Embassy operates over 90 churches in the UK, providing religious services to over 5000 people, and has a substantial international following.

Here is the full report released 14 November, 2019 as culled from www.gov.uk

The Charity
Christ Embassy (the charity) was registered on 19 November 1996. It is governed by a Declaration of Trust dated 23 October 1996.

The charity’s entry can be found on the register of charities.

Charity Structure
The charity was established in South London in 1996. The charity’s Headquarters is located at the Loveworld Conference Centre (commonly referred to as the “Christ Embassy International Office”), in Folkestone, Kent and is supported by three sub offices situated in Bermondsey, Croydon and Hendon. The sub-offices operate in excess of ninety churches throughout the country, providing religious services to in excess of five thousand beneficiaries.

The charity has a trading subsidiary company called Christ Embassy Limited (Company Registration No. 05862298) which became a subsidiary in 2012. The trading subsidiary shares the charity’s UK headquarter premises. The trading business involves the production, sale and distribution of religious books and media products.

The charity’s reported income in the year ending 31 December 2013 was £14,055,229 and its expenditure was £15,923,977.

Trustees
During the Commission’s engagement with the charity (since 2012) there have been numerous trustees in office. The table below only lists the trustees who were in office for a part of the inquiry.

Trustee From To
A (Reverend Christian Oyakhilome) 23 October 1996 17 May 2014
B (Reverend Anita Oyakhilome) 6 April 1999 2 June 2015
C (Pastor Obioma Chiemeka) 6 October 2009 13 October 2015
D (Pastor Nkemakonam Odiakah) 6 October 2009 15 February 2016
E (Pastor Ifeoma Onubogu) 6 October 2009 12 February 2016
F (Pastor Uche Onubogu) 17 May 2014 26 January 2015
G (Pastor Tony Obi) 17 May 2014 16 October 2015
H (Reverend Raymond Okocha) 17 May 2014 8 August 2017

Trustee A resided in Nigeria and was the founder and international leader of the charity. His wife, trustee B, resided in the UK and was leader of the UK based charity.

Trustees B, D and F were also paid employees of the charity during periods of their trusteeships, which was permitted by their governing document in particular circumstances.

Following the appointment of an Interim Manager and full governance review, a new board of trustees (the new board of trustees) was appointed on 12 April 2016 who are now responsible for the administration and management of the charity going forward. Significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new board of trustees.

Issues under Investigation

On 29 July 2013, the Commission opened a statutory inquiry (the Inquiry) into the charity under section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 (the Act).

The Inquiry closed with the publication of this report.

The scope of the Inquiry was to examine a number of issues including:

*the transactions between the charity and “partner organisations” that include grants made to a number of unidentified entities and Loveworld Television Ministry, Healing School, International School of Ministry, Christ Embassy France, Christ Embassy Canada, IPCC Conference and Rhapsody of Realities

*the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees with specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payments to Loveworld Limited and the management of conflicts of interest

*the financial controls and management of the charity

*whether or not the trustees had complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

Findings
Transactions between the Charity & “partner organisations”
The Inquiry team examined the accounts of the charity, for the period 2009-2011 which showed that the charity had paid substantial grants to organisations classified as “partner organisations”.

During 2009-2011, the charity’s accounts show grants amounting to £1,281,666 were paid to Loveworld Television Ministry; £118,995 to Healing School, £186,616 to International School of Ministry, £10,000 to Christ Embassy Canada, £10,566 to Christ Embassy France, £37,216 to IPPC Conference and £77,266 to Rhapsody of Realities.

The trustees provided the Commission with a copy of their grant making policy, and admitted to the Inquiry that “Prior to the involvement of the Charity Commission the grant making practice consisted of a discussion by the Trustees at a Trustee meeting regarding who should receive grant”.

Following his appointment on 6 August 2014, the Interim Manager (the IM) examined the charity’s records and found no evidence of compliance with the Grant Making Policy. Documents examined, by the IM, demonstrated a lack of records and receipts to account for grants made and there appeared to be little consideration given to whether the receiving parties had expended grants appropriately and for intended purposes, as was required by the policy.

This demonstrates failure to comply with its grant making policy and inadequate recording of decision making by the trustees which is misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Administration, governance and management of Charity by trustees-specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payment to Loveworld Limited (also known as Loveworld Television Ministry – registered number 4691981) and management of conflict of interest
The inquiry had serious concerns regarding the trustees’ decision making relating to the charity’s relationship with Loveworld Limited.

It was established that Trustee C, was the sole shareholder of Loveworld Limited since its incorporation in March 2003. Trustee C had also been trustee of the charity between October 2009 and October 2015. The primary objective of the Loveworld Limited was to advance Christian programming in the UK and to provide entertaining and educational programmes for the diverse demographics of the UK, which it did by carrying out both radio and television broadcasting services.

The trustees informed the Inquiry, payments made by the charity to Loveworld Limited were not grants/donations as indicated in their accounts but represented payments for broadcasting services provided by the company to the charity. On 28 March 2013, the trustees were asked to provide all documentation held by the charity or its trustees that recorded the decisions made in respect of the payments by the charity to Loveworld Limited. On 19 September 2013, the trustees provided only two sets of minutes of trustee meetings (minutes of trustees meeting dated 6 January and 6 April 2012) that appeared relevant to the issue. However, neither set of minutes included any decision or resolution to make payments to a company of which one trustee was sole shareholder.

The trustees did not have any formal contracts in place, or indeed rationale for using Loveworld Limited as opposed to any other broadcaster. Additionally the IM, during his inspection of books and records found no evidence to suggest that any of the trustees considered whether the costs charged by Loveworld Limited were better value than the costs charged by any other service provider. The trustees have failed to take, or have failed to record, any proper decisions as to why such payments are in the best interests of the Charity.

The IM confirmed that as early as 2009, the Audit Report highlighted to trustees that transactions with organisations and companies controlled by trustees were required to be disclosed in the financial statements as related party transactions. Auditors also recommended that trustees seek professional advice on whether these payments were permitted under their governing document, discuss and decide whether the payments were in the best interests of the charity and minute those discussions, ensuring that any conflicted parties withdraw from the meeting during discussions. The IM’s investigation into these matters found that this advice had not been followed and in particular there was no evidence that the trustees had sought legal advice.

The IM’s scrutiny of charity records and documents demonstrated that the trustees had failed to comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document and that they failed to comply with the requirements of section 185 of the Act in paying for services by a company owned by a trustee.

Additionally, the Inquiry identified that the charity had purchased a property in March 2006, costing £1.8 million and allowed Loveworld Limited free use of the property from 2006 until September 2012. The trustees informed the Inquiry that Loveworld Limited had only occupied a “small part of the premises”, on an informal basis, with the charity using the premises themselves until February 2014. They informed the Inquiry that the arrangement had been formalised since 2012 and the company was charged £75,000 per year for use of the property. The Inquiry considers that this level of rent indicates that Loveworld Limited occupied a substantial proportion of the building.

The trustees failed to demonstrate that rent for occupation of the premises was a properly assessed market rent which would cover the charity’s overheads. The trustees stated, that the yearly rental income covered all mortgage costs incurred by the charity, however later stated that the charity’s annual mortgage payment was higher than this.

It was unclear to the Inquiry how the permitted, free use of the premises to Loveworld Limited between 2006 -2012 was in the best interests of the charity and was properly authorised.

This indicates that the trustees failed to act in the charity’s best interests or with reasonable care and skill in terms of their decision-making and in the negotiation of the arrangements with Loveworld Limited and in not seeking appropriate advice regarding formalising occupation of premises by the company. In addition, the fact that the charity was also subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills indicates a lack of reasonable care and skill and a failure to use the charity’s resources responsibly. These actions were not in the charity’s best interest or in furtherance of its objects and were misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Ventaja Limited
An audit conducted by the IM on appointment also identified purchases in excess of £30,000 by the charity from Ventaja Limited – trustees’ reports and financial statements for year ending 31 December 2013: the charity declared £44,925 of purchases made from Ventaja Limited for decorating and the construction of a stage. The company was wholly owned by Trustee G. The payments were made while, Trustee G was church pastor and zonal pastor (prior to being appointed trustee in May 2014). His wife was also director of the company, church pastor and a salaried employee of the charity. The IM found evidence indicating that Trustee G had employed the services of Ventaja Limited to provide services to the charity but it was unclear from the charity’s records what considerations were made regarding potential conflicts of interest. It is unclear to the Commission that the decision making trustees, in position at the time payments were made, were acting only in the interests of the charity.

The trustees failed to provide any records to evidence that conflicts of interest had been identified or correctly managed prior to the opening of the Inquiry. Although the trustees provided the inquiry with a copy of their new “Conflicts of Interest Policy” in their 2013 response, they did not have any policy which covered the conflict which arose as a result of Trustee G, being a church pastor and trustee, authorising payments from his church to his company and therefore effectively paying his own company. The trustees failed to demonstrate that they had recognised or properly managed conflicts of interest. Consequently the Inquiry found this was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Financial control & management of the Charity
When interviewed by the Inquiry in October 2013, the trustees explained the structure and administration of the charity to the Commission. The structure involved Chapters (also known as churches) within the charity which were spread across the UK with the use of over 100 premises. The IM found that cash collection and payment recording processes were not uniform across the charity, with a number of basic key controls (for example timely bank reconciliations or maintenance of the SAGE records ) found to be lacking.

Bank Accounts/Assets
The inquiry identified nine active bank accounts that the trustees identified as holding funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria (Christ Embassy Nigeria is a separate company to the charity). The inquiry found no evidence to suggest that any of the banking institutions were aware that they were holding funds controlled by Christ Embassy Nigeria. In addition, the accounts were not named in such a way as would indicate the funds are controlled from Nigeria: for example, two of the active accounts are named Christ Embassy East London.

The inquiry, not being satisfied that the funds held in these accounts were owned by Christ Embassy Nigeria, exercised legal powers and issued orders dated 8 august 2014, under section 76(3)(d) of the Act, freezing six of these nine bank accounts, protecting funds to a value of £615,420.

In the absence of clear evidence to support the trustees’ position, the Inquiry concluded that funds held in the accounts belonged to the charity and these accounts remained frozen until the order was revoked on 24 August 2016. The Inquiry being satisfied that the new board of trustees had assumed control of the charity’s property discharged the freezing order on 24 August 2016.

This demonstrates the trustees’ failure to deal with the bank accounts appropriately and their lack of understanding of financial management and the importance of clearly identifying the charity’s property and/or assets held on behalf of another entity and is mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration and governance of the charity by the trustees.

Tax related issues
The IM informed the Inquiry that the trustees’ failed to submit the charity’s 2010-11 and 2012-13 Self-Assessment Tax returns on time to HMRC thereby incurring penalties for late submissions. In addition, the IM found that the trustees had failed to comply with information Notices issued by HMRC thus incurring further penalties.

The trustees’ non-compliance and failure to submit the charity’s Self-Assessment forms within statutory deadlines resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk to the charity’s assets in regard to financial penalties incurred and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.

Gift Aid is available on donations made by UK tax payers such that the charity can reclaim the tax already paid on the donation by the donor. This means the charity can receive an extra 25p for every £1 donated. It is the trustees’ responsibility to ensure that the charity has effective systems and internal controls in place to ensure complete and accurate returns are made, reducing the risk of amounts being reclaimed by HMRC and ensuring that the charity receives the Gift Aid promptly and with confidence.

The IM established that the charity had failed to maintain:

*sufficient records or processes to show that expenditure by employees had not been an employee benefit and therefore subject to tax
*sufficient records to show that charity vehicles were being used solely for charitable purposes and not used by trustees/employees for private use
*sufficient records to support the charity’s claim to Gift Aid and to demonstrate the expenditure was in fact charitable

The IM dealt with these inquiries and agreed a settlement with HMRC. During discussions with HMRC, the IM made payments on account of £250,000 in order to minimise interest/penalty charges.

The IM informed the Inquiry, in excess of £1.4m of expenditure was disallowed by HMRC and became subject to tax.

The IM reached final settlement over these matters prior to his discharge.

The trustees’ failure to maintain sufficient records and processes to account for expenditure resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk of criminal proceedings and loss to the charity’s assets in regard to tax liabilities and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.


Whether complied and fulfilled duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

The Inquiry found a number of breaches of their legal duties by the trustees as evidenced in the previous sections of this report. Additionally the Inquiry found evidence that the trustees exposed the charity, its assets and/or its beneficiaries to harm or undue risk for example:

Property Related matters
The charity is unincorporated, and as such does not have legal personality and cannot hold property in its own name. Instead property must be held on behalf of the charity by nominated individuals (known as holding trustees, and often in practice one or more of the charity’s trustees). From time to time these individuals will change for example due to retirement or death, and the legal ownership of the property will need to be transferred to the new trustees to ensure that the Land Registry records are accurate.

The charity’s main asset other than cash was its ownership of a number of properties. The Inquiry identified 3 UK properties that were not disclosed to the Commission in the trustees’ first responses or during the October 2013 meeting. The trustees asserted that despite the legal title of the properties being vested in the name of two of the charity’s trustees, the properties “were acquired on behalf of, and held in trust for, Christ Embassy Nigeria”.

The Inquiry noted that the Land Registry entries in respect of the 3 properties made no reference to the beneficial owner being Christ Embassy Nigeria and documentation supplied by the trustees provided no evidence to support their assertions. None of the Land Registry proprietorship registers differed in any material way from those of the properties originally disclosed to the Commission as belonging to the charity. These matters were explored further by the IM. His investigations confirmed that the properties were held legally and beneficially by the charity and that there was no trust in place suggesting they were held on behalf Christ Embassy Nigeria.

The Inquiry obtained evidence that the trustees’ failed to ensure land registry details for charity properties were amended once trustees resigned. This was raised a number of times by Auditors in their reports from 2009 onwards and as a result the trustees failed in their duties and responsibilities as trustees to act in the charity’s best interests.

Insurance
The Inquiry found that the trustees failed to secure adequate insurance to protect charity assets and protect against claims for accidental damage to property/or compensation for accidental injury to third parties. The IM was made aware of an outstanding claim in February 2015, brought by a member of the congregation who was injured at a charity premises in 2012. The IM sought to identify whether any relevant insurant was in place. The trustees confirmed that there was no relevant insurance cover and following legal advice obtained by the IM, he settled the claim, in order to avoid lengthy and costly litigation.

The failings of trustees to act appropriately left the charity open to financial and reputational risk and losses, as well as to risk of litigation.

Planning & Building
The trustees failed to ensure that a property purchased by the charity had the necessary planning permission for use as a place of worship – D1 use as Non-Residential institutions, which include a place of worship and church hall. The previous owner had applied for permission to use the property as a place of worship, in 2003 but the planning application had been refused by the local authority. The charity appealed the decision unsuccessfully. Enforcement action was commenced by Southwark Council (18 April 2011). This was also unsuccessfully appealed by the charity. The continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship by the charity, exposed it to enforcement action by the Council. The IM team liaised with the Council to permit a planned exit from the premised which was vacated in January 2015.

The existence of the enforcement notice is a criminal matter. Any breach of the enforcement notice and continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship exposed the charity to prosecution by Southwark Council. Legal advice obtained by the IM confirmed that the breach could have led to criminal sanctions being imposed against the charity and potentially exposed the charity to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

This demonstrates the trustees’ lack of understanding regarding planning law and regulations which exposed the charity to substantial financial risk as well as legal costs.

Conclusions
The Inquiry concluded that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration. The former trustees, at the relevant times had not complied with or fulfilled their duties as trustees under charity law. They failed to:

*exercise reasonable care and skill in the execution of their roles and as a result exposed the charity to risk and financial loss
*ensure sufficient financial controls and procedures to protect the charity’s property file their annual accounting information, in accordance with their statutory obligations, on time
*ensure that conflicts of interest were effectively managed comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document in relation to remuneration of trustees
*obtain professional advice during their decision making process and to properly record their decision-making
*comply with planning law and regulations and adhere to enforcement notices, causing the charity substantial financial loss
*address the need for Health & Safety compliance and the lack of adequate property insurance exposed the charity to considerable losses which could have been avoided or minimized with proper management and prompt action

In light of the findings and evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement, the Inquiry exercised its legal powers under section 79(2)(a) of the Act to remove two of the trustees of the charity.

However the trustees subject to regulatory action resigned prior to the Commission being able to complete the process. Section 79(5) and 82 of The Charities (Protection and Social Investment ) Act 2016 has closed this loophole, thereby allowing the Commission to proceed to remove a charity trustee who has resigned following the Commission having given notice to the charity trustees of its intention to make a removal order. The law has since been amended so that resignations following the Commission issuing a notice of intention to remove a trustee would not prohibit the trustee’s removal and consequent disqualification from action as a trustee in the future.

Regulatory Action Taken
During the course of the Inquiry the Commission exercised its legal powers (Sections 47, 52 and 54 Charities Act 2011), provided by the Act, to issue various orders and directions for the purposes of information gathering from local authorities, private individuals and companies, including financial institutions.

The Inquiry directed trustees to a meeting on 18 October 2013 to discuss regulatory concerns and seek further explanation from the trustees. The charity’s books and records were also inspected on 13/14 November 2013.

The Inquiry, being satisfied in accordance with section 76(1) of the Act, that there had been misconduct and / or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and that it was necessary or desirable to act for the protection of the property of the charity, used a number of regulatory powers, under the following sections of the Act:

*section 76(3)(d) orders (8 August 2014), directing the banks not to part with the charity’s property without the Commission’s prior written consent, protecting £615,420 of the charity’s funds

*section 76(3)(g) appointing an Interim Manager on 6 August 2014 (appointment to take effect from 11 August 2014) and then under 337(6) varying the order (25 January 2016) to authorise the
*Interim Manager to appoint a new board of trustees
section 337(6) discharging (18 November 2014) the order not to part by further order, once the

*Interim Manager assumed control of the charity’s property

The former trustees exercised their right to appeal (8 August 2014) to the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber (Charity) against the order appointing the Interim Manager. The appeal was withdrawn on 20 January 2015 with the charity’s legal representatives, notifying the Commission that the trustees were “now willing to accept that the statutory threshold under section 76 of the Act was met in the present case”.

Appointment of an interim manager
The Inquiry appointed an interim manager, Rod Weston of Mazars LLP, (the IM) on 6 August 2014 under section 76(3)(g) of the Act to take over the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees. The trustees were not excluded from performing the religious and/or spiritual functions connected with their roles as Pastors within the charity.

The scope of the IM’s appointment included:

*taking control of the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees and taking steps to secure and protect charity property

*reviewing the governance and administration of the charity and taking remedial action in the best interests of the charity

*reviewing the charity’s financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, safeguarding funds and ensuring proper expenditure controls and governance
consider whether any of the decision making trustees were personally liable for any breach of duty/loss of the charity, taking remedial action to regularise any breaches of duty in the best interest of the charity

The costs of the IM’s appointment, including legal advice and fees that would have been necessary and incurred by any trustee, amounted to £1,244,983.50 excluding VAT. The costs of the IM’s appointment were met out of the charity’s funds and are itemised as follows:

*fees directly related to work as IM – £390,358.40
*professional fees – £854,625.10 (relating to work conducted by 3rd parties on behalf of the IM)
*In addition £208,000 of work was undertaken by the IM on a pro bono basis.

As part of his appointment, the IM completed a full governance and infrastructure review of the charity and its activities. His initial findings, on 9 October 2014, corroborated the Commission’s regulatory concerns relating to the charity, reporting that “the board of trustees appears to be fragmented” and “appear to have little appreciation of their roles, duties and obligations as Trustees”. He identified a number of Health and Safety risks and concerns as well as legal issues relating to property matters which had failed to be dealt with by the trustees and which posed financial risks to the charity. The IM’s investigations found failings in the charity’s governance, leadership and management structures and personnel, including identifying that the charity had insufficient financial controls and procedures.

Remedial actions were taken to regularise the charity’s governance to ensure it was fit for purpose. This encompassed the following:

*establishing a central record of all properties leased and/or rented by the charity to ensure that the terms of leases were being met appropriately and suitable exit plans were in place where leases were due to expire
*establishing an accurate record of assets (ownership of a number of properties, motor vehicles and a range of fixed assets ) owned by the charity, gaining control of the charity’s property portfolio and cash reserves – the IM reduced the number of bank accounts in operation from approximately 40 to 8 and in September 2015 took control of just under £12,000,000

*introduction and implementation of financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, regularising the management of income and expenditure

*Health and Safety audits and fire risk assessments were carried out; training provided to staff and implementation of suitable Health & Safety policies and procedures
extensive liaison with HMRC resulting in settlement of the charity’s tax liabilities
recruitment of new board of trustees

*induction and training of new trustees

Restitution
On 18 November 2015, the IM considered professional advice and the particular circumstances of this case and decided that restitution (by way of civil claims against former trustees for breaches of duties and losses to the charity was not in the best interests of the charity.

Following the appointment of a new Board of Trustees on 12 April 2016, significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new trustees, as a result of which the IM was discharged on 12 April 2016.

Issues for the wider sector
Financial Controls & Accounting Records
Proper financial controls are a necessary feature of any well-run organisation. Because of the special characteristics of the charitable sector, they play an essential part in helping to show potential donors and beneficiaries that a charity’s property is safeguarded, and that its management is efficient.

Trustees are equally responsible for the overall management and administration of the charity. Every charity’s accounting records must be sufficient to show and explain its transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy its financial position. Trustees should ensure that financial controls are not only adequate but provide sufficient information to satisfy the trustees that the controls are being observed. If, due to the nature of the charity, its work, location and /or set up the trustees delegate supervision of financial arrangements to one or a small number of trustees or employees, they need to ensure that there are arrangements in place for proper reporting back to the whole trustee body. In this way, system failures or issues can be identified at an early stage.

Therefore, in order to show that they are complying with their legal duties, trustees must keep records and an adequate audit trail to show that the Charity’s money has been properly spent on furthering the Charity’s purposes for the benefit of the public.

Conflicts of Interest Policy
Charity trustees should ensure that they have a conflicts of interest policy in place to ensure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and that any conflicts that do arise are appropriately managed.

Where a charity trustee has a conflict of interest they should follow the basic checklist set out in the Commission publication Conflicts of interest: a guide for charity trustees (CC29) and where necessary or appropriate take professional advice.

The law states that trustees cannot receive any benefit from their charity in return for any service they provide to it or enter into any self-dealing transactions unless they have the legal authority to do so. This may come from the charity’s governing document or, if there is no such provision in the governing document, the Commission or the Courts. Further information is available from Trustee expenses and payments (CC11).

Charity Property
Charity trustees have a general duty to manage their charity’s resources responsibly, reasonably and honestly. This means not exposing their charity’s assets, beneficiaries or reputation to undue risk. It is about exercising sound judgement and then taking decisions that a reasonable body of trustees would do.

Trustees must put appropriate policies, procedures and safeguards in place and take all reasonable steps to ensure that these are followed.

If a charity owns land or buildings, trustees need to know on a continuing basis what condition it is in, that it is being properly used, and that adequate insurance is in place. The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do (CC3) makes clear that decisions about charity land and property are important. If the charity owns or rents land or buildings, the trustees need to:

*make sure the property is recorded as belonging to the charity
know on what terms it is held
*ensure it is properly maintained and being correctly used
*make sure the charity has sufficient insurance

A charity’s governing document or the general law can provide a ‘power to insure’. If the governing document imposes a positive duty to insure, if trustees then fail to insure property, this will be a breach of trust. More details are available in the Commission’s guidance Charities and insurance (CC49).

Trustee Decision Making
Charity trustees are responsible for governing their charity and making decisions about how it should be run. Making decisions is one of the most important parts of the trustees’ role. Trustees can be confident about decision making if they understand their role and responsibilities, know how to make decisions effectively, are ready to be accountable to people with an interest in their charity, and follow the 7 principles that the courts have developed for reviewing decisions made by trustees. Trustees must:

*act within their powers
*act in good faith and only in the interests of the charity
*make sure they are sufficiently informed
*take account of all relevant factors
*ignore any irrelevant factors
*manage conflicts of interest
*make decisions that are within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make

It is important that charity trustees apply these 7 principles when making significant or strategic decisions, such as those affecting the charity’s beneficiaries, assets or future direction.

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Church collapse: Synagogue closes Defence case

Defendants in the Synagogue Church of All Nations( SCOAN) collapsed building trial on Thursday closed their case in the matter

This was after the cross examination of their last witness by the prosecution at a Lagos high court sitting at Igbosere.

During resumed proceedings, the court heard that the mode of collapse of SCOAN Guest House negated the characteristics of collapsed building with structural defects.

Professor of structural engineering, Patrick Nwankwo stated this while being crossed examined by the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Yhaqub Oshoala.

Nwankwo, a Professor of Structural Engineering and Construction, an expert witness brought in at the instance of Engr Oladele Ogundeji who is facing trial for the collapsed building before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.

“Any defective building whether emanating from under or over reinforcement, poor constructional materials among others will have a ductile type of collapse.

“That of Synagogue Guest House was too catastrophic and such could only have been caused by an external factor”.

Asked by counsel to first defendant, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) what he meant by “the type of collapse”, the professor of structural engineering clarified: “if defective or substandard materials were used, the mode of collapse would be ductile and gradual”.

He shared in the views of the prosecution that a building with defective structural and substandard materials could lead to collapse.

He however maintained: “different mode of types of collapse is dependent on types of materials used.

“The characteristics of a building coming down on itself are different. If it is structural defect or use of defective materials, the mode of collapse will be ductile and gradual.

“This is not the case with the collapsed Synagogue church guest house. This building has about 12 frames. The frames, beams, columns would not all have collapsed at the same time. It can only happen by some external forces,” he said.

While further responding to questions from the DPP, Professor Nwankwo said he was motivated to conduct investigation on the collapsed Synagogue church building by its unusual mode of collapse and professional and academic concern.

“Engr Ogundeji is a known competent professional colleague whom I have known over time,” he stressed.

Nwankwo, who said he conducted the investigation by visiting the place, asking questions, examining the various investigations already carried out and the technical drawings on the building stated that his reports submitted to the court was thorough in the integrity of the profession”.

The professor of structural engineering said he was not involved in the previous enquiries by Corona Inquest on the collapsed Synagogue church building.

Nwankwo, who is also a Master in Orion design Software operation, said what was earlier interpreted from the Orion output was completely wrong because “there’s usually a print out of whatever is rejected by Orion software which was not the case here.

“I used the same 750mm by 225mm and it was not rejected by same Orion design Software as can be seen evidentially in my report.”

Earlier in the cross examination by defence counsels, Mr Oluseye Diyan, Chief Efe Akpofure SAN and Mrs Titi Akinlawon SAN, Nwankwo stated that there were appropriate international standard codes guiding construction industry and he had examined the collapsed Synagogue church building’s structural elements, its design and construction works meeting all the required appropriate codes.

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo adjourned the case to January 24, 2020.

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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Christian Villagers In Pakistan Attacked, Beaten And Stopped from Constructing Church

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A mob of armed Muslims attacked, beat and stopped Christian villagers from constructing a church building in the village of Chak 211/EB, located near Arifwala, in the Pakpattan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province on November 4. According to local Christians, they are being denied their basic constitutional rights by village leaders.

Led by a local landlord named Chaudhry Saleem Gujar, the mob of armed Muslims confronted the Christians erecting a boundary wall and gate that would surround a new church building. The mob then demolished the wall and beat the Christians present.

A mason working on the church building said in a video post to Facebook, “I was working when Muslim men stopped me from completing my work. They said, ‘We cannot allow you to build the church because when you pray, we get disturbed,’” according to International Christian Concern.

“The Christian community has been struggling to build a church in the village for about 20 years,” Naseer, a local catechist, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “We had several meeting with local officials and the religious leadership of the Muslim community. We haven’t seen encouraging results.”

According to Naseer, local Muslims have told the Christians that they are not allowed to build a church in the village because Pakistan is an Islamic country. The Muslims went on to say that Christians should be content with merely being allowed to build their houses and live in the country.

Over 50 Christian families have lived in Chak 211/EB for decades. According to local reports, a Christian family donated a piece of land to the Christian leadership for the construction of what would be the village’s only church.

According to local Christians, the police are backing the Muslim landlord and have arrested eight Christian men. Other Christians have also been threatened if they continue to build the church. “Muslims have threatened us that if we do not stop building church, they will set our houses on fire,” a local Christian told ICC.

The District Superintendent Police has reportedly suggested the Christians get written permission from the authorities to resolve the conflict.

Muslims Turning To Christ In Great Numbers Through Dreams And Visions

According to Pakistan’s constitution, religious freedom is a protected right. Article 20 states, “a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion; and b) every religious denomination and every sect therefore shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.”

According to the Open Doors World Watch List, Pakistan is ranked the 5th most dangerous country in the world for Christians.

The post Christian Villagers In Pakistan Attacked, Beaten And Stopped from Constructing Church appeared first on Believers Portal.

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Bocas House Restaurant Owners File Lawsuit to Stop Enchufado Rumors | Miami New Times

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In Miami’s fast-growing Venezuelan community, there are few things worse than being known as an enchufado. It’s a scarlet letter worn by those believed to have enriched themselves through political connections to the regimes of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro and the late Hugo Chávez.

Ask enough Venezuelans expats in Florida, and they’ll tell you the state is practically crawling with them. A suspected enchufado‘s business ties, alleged wealth, and proximity to corruption in Venezuela are all fair game and scrutinized through social media, WhatsApp chats, and internet blogs — on certain occasions operating on little more than suspicion.

For years, enchufado rumors have been swirling around brothers Carmelo and Levin de Grazia, the owners of the Florida-based Bocas House restaurant chain. But the de Grazias appear to have finally reached their limit — earlier this month, the two filed a defamation lawsuit against three South Florida residents who allegedly spread gossip on blogs and social media accusing the pair of laundering money for corrupt Venezuelan officials through their restaurants.

According to the civil complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the ordeal began at the end of August when an anonymous Venezuelan blog, UltimaHora24, published an article claiming the de Grazia brothers and their cousin Horacio were using the restaurant chain to launder portions of the estimated $1.2 billion embezzled by officials in the Maduro regime from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. The article was then reposted and shared on social media by two more anonymous blogs, Expresa and VozDeAmerica. (The original article has been taken down from the UltimaHora24 website but is still available on internet archives.) The brothers claim “upon information and belief” that all three of the websites are owned and run by Doral resident Gerardo Jose Gils Dams.

Venezuelan journalist Angie Perez is also named as a defendant. The brothers’ suit says Perez shared the article on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and also uploaded her own Instagram post with a photo of a private jet in Opa-locka that she claims belongs to Levin de Grazia.

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The lawsuit claims the campaign to defame the restaurant owners was orchestrated by Cesar Gonzalez, a former co-owner of Bocas Group and former manager of a now-closed Bocas restaurant in Coral Gables. The civil complaint details an elaborate plot that supposedly involved Gonzalez paying Dams to make the posts and then, using intermediaries, requesting $70,000 from Levin de Grazia to take them down. (The suit suggests Perez’s alleged involvement was limited to reposting the articles and making her own social media posts and does not link her to any attempts at extortion.)

In a public statement, Levin de Grazia said the enchufado accusations are an attack on his livelihood.

“Bocas has never lent itself, nor will it ever, for money laundering. On the contrary, the origin of the funds used for the foundation and the growth of the restaurants is completely lawful, auditable, and has been fully declared to the competent authorities in the United States of America,” he wrote. “It is an unfortunate reality that entrepreneurs who work hard sometimes face attacks from disgruntled former partners.”

An administrator with Expresa tells New Times the site is run by a decentralized network of journalists who did not know or have any relation to Dams. Likewise, an administrator from VozDeAmerica says the site has no relation to Dams and did not even know about the lawsuit.

No contact information is provided on UltimaHora24’s website. Perez declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by New Times. Gonzalez has not responded to a message sent via Twitter, and Dams could not be reached for comment.

In 2015, Levin de Grazia opened the first Bocas restaurant, Bocas Grill, in Miami. In less than four years, Bocas Grill and its sister franchise, Bocas House, expanded to five other locations. Bocas Management Group also owns four other restaurants in the Miami area: Francisca, Kitchen of the World, Laborejo, and La Fontana. Additional Bocas Group restaurants are currently under construction.

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The de Grazias are expats from San Cristobal, Venezuela, where their father, Americo De Grazia, serves as an opposition lawmaker in the country’s national assembly. Carmelo de Grazia, Levin’s brother, lives in Caracas, according to the lawsuit.

The sudden success of the restauranteurs stirred suspicion among many Venezuelan expats, particularly on social media, where Venezuelans wondered publicly how Levin de Grazia got the funding to open so many restaurants in such little time. Levin de Grazia took notice. In a 2017 WLRN article, he likened an anonymous Instagram post accusing him of money laundering to a witch hunt and said the gossip could ruin his business. “No Venezuelans here want to go to a Chavista restaurant,” he said.

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The business grew, but the rumors kept spreading. The lawsuit claims the accusations have left the plaintiffs subject to “hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt or disgrace.”

The growth of whisper networks against suspected enchufados has coincided with a jump in federal indictments against former Venezuelan officials and individuals with Chavista ties residing in or hiding assets in the U.S. There’s no doubt there are plenty of enchufados around, but proving those accusations can be difficult.

The Miami-based Veppex group (an acronym for Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile, in Spanish) recently launched a platform where individuals can anonymously submit information on suspected enchufados. The group says they forward all credible-seeming accusations to the Department of Justice and other federal agencies.

“In cases where one is looking to denounce an enchufado, the best thing to do is get in touch with U.S. authorities, so that they can investigate,” says Veppex president José Colina. “Because in the end, you’re going to need to have proof.”  

Manuel Madrid is a staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C., before moving back to South Florida.

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No respite yet on nation’s ‘death trap’ roads

The Ministry of Works and Housing has said the ongoing construction of many federal roads may suffer neglect if not adequately funded. ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE writes on the fresh threats by the Minister Babatunde Fashola

Good and motorable federal roads are becoming a rarity in this parts, no thanks to paucity of funds that continued to dog such dreams.

Achieving safe and motorable roads in the country, the bane of successive administration in the last three decades, has again reared its head and may put a cog in the wheel of the Buhari administration to bequeathe a motorable road across the country unless the National Assembly intervene and approve more funds for the works department.

Hinting of this grave reality, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, at his appearance before the House Committee on Works at the National Assembly urged the lawmakers to make more money available to the Ministry.

According to him, the N157 billion allocated to the Works Ministry in the 2020 budget, cannot give the nation any respite from death traps called roads.

According to him, the allocation is not enough to pay contractors for jobs already delivered. On the minimum, the Works Department, he said, needs N255 billion to fund new construction across the country, while N306 billion will be required to pay contractors for jobs.

Fashola also disclosed that N2.93 billion was pending in unpaid certificates under multilateral-funded projects.

The Federal Government is undertaking the reconstruction of 524 roads across the six geo-political zones in the country. Checks revealed that though some of the roads, like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, were inherited by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, it has continued to take on new road assignments in its determination to open the country to even development.

Fashola said all roads being handled by the government would help open up the economy. He said the focus was to make ease of doing business in the country less cumbersome.

Besides the 524 federal roads, four others are multilateral-funded road projects, while 81 roads are being embarked upon under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) and 45 others funded by the Sukuk bond.

Among other projects under the PIDF are Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Express Road, the Mambilla Hydro project and the East-West Road.

He, therefore, appealed to the lawmakers to make more money available to the ministry to ensure that none of the projects are stalled for lack of funds.

The lean budgetary allocation had also led to the stoppage of repayment to state governments for the repair of federal roads. Fashola said any government which embarked on such should not revert to it for payment as none would be paid. He advised the states to concentrate on state-funded roads.

He said: “When we came in, we inherited quite a number of such debts from states which repaired Federal roads and asked for refunds and the President directed that we pay all those that were approved by the previous government.”

Nigeria has 194,000 kilometres of road network and their neglect over the years, is posing grace danger to motorists, as bad roads has emerged as the major causes of deaths in the country.

More than 5000 deaths occur on Nigeria roads nationwide, a fact the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC) high command would squarely lay on the doorstep of recklessness of drivers, than they would admit are caused by the deplorable roads.

Over speeding, recklessness and vehicle defects ranked very high in the causative factors of fatalities on the roads, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi would readily admit.

But the government admits that the roads are crumbling faster than they can be fixed. The worse stage roads are in, the quicker cars and trucks deteriorate, rocketing, the cost of repairs and maintenance. For many the experience remains that the cost of fixing the cars are getting scarily higher than the cost of fueling it.

Checks showed that virtually all federal roads in the five southeastern states are in total ruin, making traveling an ordeal.

The swansong is similar in the Northeast and the remaining four geo-political zones are not left out. Sometimes in 2017, Fashola had said Nigeria may require about N7 trillion to fix all its road networks.

Among other roads being handled by the Federal Government in the Southeast are the rehabilitation of Sections 1 to 4 of the Enugu -Port Harcourt Expressway (Sukuk Bond; ongoing), rehabilitation of Amansea–Enugu Border section of Onitsha-Enugu Expressway (Sukuk Bond; ongoing), rehabilitation of 18km stretch of Onitsha–Awka Road (ongoing), construction of the Second Niger Bridge, rehabilitation of Arochukwu-Ohafia-Bende Road (ongoing). The Ikot Ekpene – Alaoji – Ugwuaji switching station has been completed.

Also ongoing is the emergency intervention on 63 roads which cut across the six geopolitical zones — Northeast, Northwest, Northcentral, Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth. In the Northeast, the construction of  Billiri Filiya in Taraba-Gombe Road through Potiskum-Agalda-Gombe State Border/bridge at Km 32, and Potiskum-Kari-Bauchi S/B Road in Yobe State are ongoing.

Also, undergoing rehabilitation are Tella Road and Bridge, Abutment and Apawa-Junction-Zing-Adamawa (State Border) in Taraba State. Bauch-Darazo-Kari Road in Bauchi State. Numan-Lafia-Gombe State Border Road, Numan-Jalingo Road.  Numan-Guyuk (Borno State Border. Ngurore-Mayobelwa Road in Adamawa State, all in the North East.

In the Northwest: Birnin Gwari Road in Kaduna, Kebbi-Argungu-Sokoto (State Border) Road in Kebbi State, Gusau-Chafe-Katsina Road in Zamfara, Rimawa-Sabonbirnin-Niger Republic Road (Section 1), Rimawa-Sabon-birnin-Niger Republic Road (Section 2) and bridge embankment in Sokoto State, Gumel-Mallam Madori-Hadeija Road, Birnin Kudu and Babaldu-Malumuwa-Bauchi S/B Road, among others in Jigawa,Yayasa Bridge in Kano and Dusinma-Kankara Road in Katsina State. North-central: Makurdi-Lafia Road and Makurdi-Gboko Road in Benue, Okene-Kabba Road and Kabba-Omuo Road in Kogi, Ajase-Offa-Erinle-Osun State Boundary Road in Kwara, Keffi Abuja Road and Keffi-Gittata-Kaduna S/b Road, Nassarawa-Toto-Abaji Road in Nassarawa and Jebba-Mokwa Road, Bida-Lapal-Lambata Road and Makera-Tegina Road in Niger State are listed for repairs. Southwest Ibillo-Isu-Epinmi-Akungba Road and Owo-Akure Road in Ondo, Ilesa-Ijebu-Ijesa Road, Ijebu-Ijesa-Ekiti S/B and Ibadan-Ile-Ife-Ilesa Road, Osun S/B-Ilesa in Osun, Ibadan-Ile-Ife-Ilesa Road in Oyo, Ijebu-Ode-Epe-Ibadan Road in Ogun and Ikorodu-Shagamu in Lagos. Southeast: Abakaliki-Oferekpe Road in Ebonyi, Nsukka-Adani-Anambra S/B Road in Enugu State, Umuokpor section of Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road in Abia and Ihiala-Orlu-Umuduru Road, Owerri-Okigwe, among others. Southsouth Ikot Ekpene-Ikot Umoessien-Abia S/B Road in Akwa Ibom, Ebiama-Yenegoa Road in Bayelsa, Auchi-Igarra-Ibillo-Ose Bridge Road and Benin-Ofosu-Shagamu Road in Edo, Ebouchichie-Gakem Road in Cross River, Benin-Asaba Dual Carriageway, Asaba-Illa-Ebu-Edo S/B Road, Igbodo, Benin-Asaba Expressway and Warrri-Sapele-Edo S/b Road in Delta State, among others. Over 45 bridges, according to the list, are slated for rehabilitation over the next three years. They include: 1. Two bridges along Sokoto-Gusau Road 2. Murtala Mohammed Bridge, Koton Karfe 3. River Ebba to Cheche Bridge. Jebba Bridge 5. 3rd Mainland Bridge. Nine Lagos Bridges and flyovers 7. Lagos Ring Road Bridge Abutment 8. Ijora 7-Up Bridge 9. Ijora-Apapa Bridge by Leventis 10. Burnt Marine Bridge.

They also include: 11. Utor Bridge 12. Niger Bridge at Onitsha/Asaba 13. Onitsha-Owerri Bridge 14. Ibagwa Bridge, Ikom Bridge 15. Itigidi, Makurdi Bridge 16. Quata Sule Bridge 17. Katsina Ala Bridge 18. Buruku Bridge 19. Abuja-Abaji Bridge Section 11 20.

Loko Owotu Bridge 21. Ibi Bridge 22. Kudzum Bridge 23. Gombe-Michika-Maraba Bridge 24. Gamboru Bridge 25. Katanko Bridge 26. Jaji Bridge 27. Borno/Adamawa State Border Bridge 28. Falani Bridge, Sumaila 29. Flyover Bridge at Silver Jubilee 30 Tambuwal Bridge.

In a paper by the research department of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Highways maintenance: Lessons from other countries, the CBN contends that the experience in developing world shows that adequate resources for highway maintenance cannot be sourced from the treasury alone.

The rules and regulations of the public administrative system do not allow for an effective and efficient management of road maintenance. Most countries have, therefore, resorted to the creation of autonomous authorities, which are given the responsibility for road maintenance. Generally, both the public and private sectors are represented on the boards, with the private sector dominating in many countries.

In almost all countries, the sources for revenue for road maintenance authority are levy on gasoline, toll gate fees, licence fees on motor vehicles, international transit fees, fees on over loaded vehicles and allocations by parliament.

It advocated for the creation of the Nigerian Road Maintenance Agency to source funding for the agency from grants, governments, organised private sector and international donors, – Toll gate collections; – Fees or services rendered by the Agency and monies accruing from road concession. These are also sources of funding in the other countries reviewed, with the exception of taxes on petroleum products in respect of the NRMA.

The grants from the Federal Government could be equated with the releases for road maintenance which totaled N470.9 million, N401.2 million, N474.5 million and N178.7 million in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, respectively. Toll gate collections, which exceeded the releases in all the years constituted the major source of funding. The other sources indicated above have not been explored. Aggregate toll gate collections were N569.29 million in 2000, N742.72 million in 2001 and N779.84 million in 2002. The collection, therefore, rose by 30.5 per cent in 2000 and by only five per cent in 2001.

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OML 25 OCCUPATION: ‘Some of us gave birth to babies here!’ – Vanguard News

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…N-Deltans set new standard for prosecuting resource control

By Egufe Yafugborhi

For two years, resolute host communities to Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 in Akuku Toru Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State  sacked on duty personnel, shut down operations and occupied key assets.acquisition

Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), lead stakeholder in the OML 25 Joint Venture (JV) with Shell Petroleum Development Company as Operator, lamented  that the shutdown resulted in consequential “loss of 25, 000 to 35, 000 barrels of oil per day (bpd);  in monetary terms, that is about $1.7billion.”

The  fulcrum of the assets occupation by Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ngeje host communities was that, for four decades, such humongous accrued income as Kyari declared lost to the JV partners in two-year of shutdown failed to provide schools, hospitals, potable water, capacity building or meaningful employment for the host communities.

Mrs. Ogbumate Opumabo, among the womenfolk who occupied the flow station, narrated: “Since good things don’t come easy, as living conditions in our community got more pathetic, we subjected ourselves to suffering, even set up church where we fasted and prayed to God everyday at the occupied facility. Some of us gave birth to babies here where we also had our pots, plates, mats, everything needed to aid our occupation. Our experience there is unexplainable, but God answered us in the end”

October 10, as the teeming community protesters eventually pulled out of OML 25 for its formal reopening, following, the  win-win resolution of the conflict among stakeholders, the original demand to evict Shell was not met as set, but the protesters won even a bigger prize, an awakening of a new narrative for prosecuting the struggle for gainful resource control in the Niger Delta.

Checkered  history of long suffering

According to the communities, their hardship was rather aggravated by avoidable oil pollutions that degraded their land and aquatic environment, jeopardising their livelihood which depends on fishing on the rivers and cropping on the soils. Their clear demand was, “Shell must go”, relinquish OML 25 to preferred competitor, Belemaoil Producing Limited (BPL), to farm the assets.

Publicity Secretary, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, who hails from the OML 25 host communities, said, “We have been agitating for long. The flow station was shut down as far back as 2004. Government intervened and we let them re-open it. 2008, it was again shut, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, and we let them resume. In 2014, same thing happened, so in 2017, the communities said we have had enough.

“There was no time Shell provided us water. Infrastructure in our communities were poor. Government under military regime gave us water, but it was laden of iron, not healthy for consumption. Fetch it today, the following day the whole water will be coloured. So, we have not been using the water. In recent times, state government has not done anything for us.”

At the latest reopening of the assets, Sen Ita Enang, Presidential Adviser, Niger Delta, representing President Muhammadu Buhari, attested to the health dangers at ‘Opusuya”, the age-long pond water that sustains Belema people in the absence of functional modern taps from government and Shell, which was laden with crude oil when Enang scooped it with bare hands.

At the co-host communities of Offoin-Ama and Ngeye, the story of squalor, deprivations and neglect was pretty much same. At Offoin-Ama, the only educational institution present, a piteous makeshift basic school, made of wooden structure was said to be from communal effort. The European Union and Rivers State Government had erected in the village square, a water project five years back, but Amayanabo of Offoin-Ama, HRH King Sibia Sukubo Aaron, Kilima Diaba Offo XIII said, “It was never completed.”

King Sibia, in unison with his Belema counterpart, King Boudilion Ekine, Oko XXVIII, Amayanabo of Kula, alleged that SPDC had  always reneged on its agreements with the community.

However, the reality of pervasive emptiness and squalor in the community supported the perception of his Highness, Ibinabo Daniel Kiliya, Regent of Ngeje Community when he said, “Shell in 40 years never thought of tangible projects in the community.”

Belemaoil, Jack-Rick Jr as game changers

Before now, oil communities in the Niger Delta, even in the days of  the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, have hardly been taken serious by government and industry regulators in agitations for control of their oil and gas endowment chiefly because they prosecuted such struggles in the absence of adequate home capacity (technical or financial) to farm those oil fields on their own. The common approach was to call for eviction of one operating IOC whenever relationship are strained in the hope of patronizing another to take over.

The coming, into the oil and gas space, of Belemaoil changed that narrative. Founded by Jack-Rick Tein Jr, a son of the soil, who has felt the hardship among his Belema folks, Belemaoil wasted no time in building confidence among the host communities the moment it acquired 40% participating interest in neighboring OML-55 from Chevron Nigeria Limited in the Joint Venture (JV) with the NNPC.

Within a year of taking over OML 55 five years ago, the host communities in Kula claimed Belemaoil surpassed 40 years of both International Oil Companies (IOCs) Chevron and Shell interventions in their respective assets host communities through infrastructural transformation and human capital development among the people.

In  its  core business, Belemaoil also grew production from 7000bpd under Chevron to as much as 12000bpd, and  added to more than 70 MMscfd recoverable volume of gas, generating more revenue and sacrificing more funds to develop and carry the communities along in the process. The company through gainful engagement of community youths in facility surveillance has also eliminated rampant oil theft and vandalism on OML 55.

Today the company is reputed as the first upstream major to have began construction of its head office in its operating field while also constructing its own oil terminal, hitherto the exclusive preserve of the IOCs. So, beyond fraternal attachments, these attributes informed OML 25 host communities insistence on “Shell must go” for Belemaoil replicate the achievement in OML 55 in their communities.

A leader among the protesting youths, Iselema Ekini, said,

“We see how Belemaoil employed youths, built markets, clinics, in the places they operate, proving that an indigenous oil company would look after its host communities better. We therefore urged Shell not to seek renewal of OML-25 license, but allow Belemaoil to take over. All the IOCs have been doing is how to repatriate as much revenue to their home offices abroad while we suffer.

Win-win resolution of conflict

In the win win resolution of the OML 25 crisis, Shell, having renewed its ownership of the lease, wasn’t displaced, but Belemaoil with 7.7% stakes on that lease got the privilege of maintaining operations and earning the communities confidence to be the oil firm with right of first refusal to acquire Shell stakes at any point SPDC decides to divest her stakes.

Already Belemaoil has hit the ground running with the sustained commitment to make the difference, facilitating the groundbreaking for 1.5million liters potable water and 12Km treated water reticulation project for Oko-Ama and Belema by the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari. Kyari, represented by Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investments Management Services (NAPIMS), Musa Lawan who also hoisted the Nigerian Flag and those of key stakeholders at the OML 25 platform to signal its reopening.

HRM King Boudilion Ekiye Okor, Amayanabo of Belema, said in the occasion, “Today, I am the happiest man. Belemail, owned by our son is now in charge of maintaining operations. Now we know who to hold if we are disappointed. If he (Jack-Rich) fails us, we go to his mother and father’s house to complain, but he has given us so much confidence that we know he can’t fail.

Chief E K Clark, Leader of PANDEF which prominently provided motivation for shutdown of the OML25 thanked key stakeholders for the peaceful resolution. Clark represented by PANDEF’s Vice Chairman, Godknows Igali, particularly recognised the role of federal government, host communities, BelemaOil, NNPC and the Petroleum Ministry under Timipre Sylva.

“When the GMD NNPC, Kyari came 28 of last month, he promised to grant all your wishes. I am happy you are already attesting to some being meant already. PANDEF is grateful we are all winners. We have, by this struggle of the past two years, redefined the struggle for resource control”, Clark told the communities.

I am sorry, Buhari empathises with host communities

President Mohammadu Buhari, represented by Sen Ita Enang, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, tendered apology on behalf of the nation to the host communities over their long suffering in the midst of plenty all these years.

Buhari said at the formal reopening of OML 25 that, “We’ve been to the communities. I felt touched that they are asking for for a school, hospitals in 2019 after 40 years of oil and gas being taken from their soils. I scooped the water from pond which you people drink. It is smeared with oil.

“On behalf of the nation, I apologise to you. We will change for the better for you, for us all as a nation. We will not only build schools, hospitals for you, we will provide complete communities for you. Working with state government, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty, Ministry of Niger Delta Affair, we will ask to know what they are doing.

“We are coming here at a very good time. Just two days ago, the President presented the draft 2020 budget to National Assembly (NASS). Now that I have seen what you go through, we are going to take this message to the NASS, to redirect the budget to know what they are providing for you.”

At the OML25 Platform and Flow station where hundreds of community protesters, mainly women formally vacated the flow station and other key assets they have occupied and shutdown since August 2017, Sen Enang expressed Buhari’s gratitude for their peaceful disposition while it lasted.

He also cautioned, “The whole struggle has come to conclusion. We thank you for your peaceful disposition through the struggle. We can now vacate peacefully and allow work to continue, as the issues are being addressed. You are aware that some immediate demands have already been met.”

Lifting up the hand of Jackrich Jr, Enang also told the host communities, “Every community who has sons as Jackrick who care this much for his people should take care of him and pray for him to remain safe, healthy and blessed to continue to move your communities forwards.”

Founder of Belemaoil, Mr Jack-Rich Tein Jr, hardly involved in comments and speeches over the unfolded drama has maintained that, “If you engage the community and make the people an important element of your business, the communities and you will have mutual values and mutual gains.

“If the communities are happy, your business can thrive, but if the communities are not happy, you have lots of operational bottlenecks, sabotage and all that. The most important thing for us today is to see that the resolution, reconciliation has taken place.”

Already, stakeholders in Ogoni, Rivers are canvassing the Belemaoil CSR model to agitate for who takeovers OML 11 that had abandoned for years over the conflict conflict which claimed the lives and Ken Saro-Wiwa and co agitators under Movement For Survival of Ogoni People. Governor Wike, though, had already announced Rivers Government acquisition of Shell’s stakes on that lease.

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