Cameroonian children who fled the fighting in their country’s English-speaking regions are taking refuge in Adagom community in south-central Nigeria, where some have been exploited by people looking to take advantage of their vulnerability. [Photograph: Philip Obaji Jr.]
By Philip Obaji Jr.
The Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, United Kingdom, and Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection, Nigeria, have criticised Facebook following revelations that children, especially girls, were being trafficked from a refugee camp in Ogoja, Cross Rivers State, after being advertised for labour exploitation on the popular social networking platform.
The groups slammed Facebook for permitting child trafficking to take place on its service and also being slack to take action when such incidents happen.
In a joint statement, the non-profit organisations expressed dismay that it took Facebook 29 hours to suspend the account of the suspect, after investigative journalist, Philip Obaji Jr, had reported the account in contravention of the company’s policies of responding to enquiries within 24 hours.
The report revealed details of a named person, who had used his Facebook page to advertise photos of Cameroonian girls fleeing the ongoing conflict in Southern Cameroon’s Anglophone region.
This conflict has so far displaced millions of people with several thousand staying in refugee camps across Southern Nigeria.
The NGOs were exceptionally concerned that despite this case being reported to Facebook, it took the online platform hours to take action, thereby putting the victims at further risk of harm.
In one of the Facebook posts cited, the person had uploaded an image of a girl he claimed was “intelligent, hardworking and about 17,” and asked persons “interested in hiring her as a maid to inbox me.”
The organisations recalled that this would not be the first time Facebook would be accused of enabling child trafficking on its platforms.
“In 2018, Facebook was severely criticised by NGOs in South Sudan and across the world that its site had been used for the auctioning of a child bride in the country.
“Human trafficking is a growing global problem with over 40 million people at risk, according to the International Labour Organisation.
“Nigeria is known as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking victims with over one million trafficked each year, according to the Global Slavery Index.
“Human trafficking and slavery is illegal in most countries around the world, including Nigeria,” the NGOs said.
Debbie Ariyo, Chief Executive Officer of UK-based AFRUCA, an anti-child trafficking organisation, said, “It is concerning that social media platforms are increasingly being used by human traffickers to facilitate the sale of human beings, with little being done to address this. Social media platforms have become the 21st century slave markets. This has to stop.”
Betty Abah, Executive Director of CEE-HOPE Nigeria, stated that it appears Facebook has a discriminatory approach to addressing crimes against vulnerable children in Africa than other more advanced parts of the world.
“I do not believe Facebook would have failed to act if this was happening in a European country,” she added.
Both organisations urged the relevant government agencies in Nigeria to act to secure the well-being of refugee children in the country, and investigate the child trafficking allegations to ensure all perpetrators are brought to book.
They also called on Facebook to investigate the case as well as tighten its safeguard mechanisms to ensure that crimes such as human trafficking are completely eradicated on its platforms.
Every year, thousands of women and children become victims of sex trafficking in their own countries and abroad.
Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution.
Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders – women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.
The quest to make it big in life coupled with the harsh living condition in the country forced these women to jump into the prospects of travelling abroad at any single opportunity not minding the consequences.
Many of these distraught and sometimes desperate Nigerians believe that the streets overseas are paved with gold, pounds and dollars that once you step into those countries it will be bye-bye to poverty and hardship.
Unfortunately, as it is said, not all that glitters is gold. To escape the hardship at home, many take great risks to travel abroad only to enter into a more harrowing experience.
Some die in the process while others escape with scars that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. While some were victims of circumstances, having been tricked and deceived into such journey, others take the risk of opting to travel abroad by land and sea routes knowing that they cannot afford the normal process of getting visas and honouring several embassy appointments. Some of the girls deceived into this route end up as sex slaves with so much regret and consequences.
reporter encountered two young women in Anambra, Amarachi Ojene, 23, and Tobechukwu Igboeri, who shared the chilling experiences of their near-death journey to get greener pastures overseas. Years after such ‘journey to hell’, their lives have never been the same again.
Amarachi, from Nibo, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State was an SS2 student in 2012 when she encountered a devil in human skin who not only took advantage of her naivety and innocence, but also exploited her poor parental background to trick her into a sex slavery trip abroad.
Having lost her dad when she was seven years, Amarachi relied on her mother who eked out a living by hawking cooked Okpa (a local delicacy) around the Awka metropolis. They also augmented the proceeds by engaging in manual labour in local farms for people at a fee.
So, she was so excited when she met her friends who told her that their aunt was looking for a house help that would live with her overseas. She reasoned that going abroad with the woman would ease a lot of load for her suffering mother as she would be paid in dollars, which she would send home to alleviate the family sufferings.
Hear Amarachi’s gory story:
“I vividly remember the day that two girls in my town, Chioma and Miracle, met me at the Eke Awka market, where I had gone to buy palm fruits for my mum’s Okpa business. They asked if I would like to travel abroad; they said their relation living in a foreign land was looking for a house-help to take along.
I was excited as I thought that a bright prospect for higher education and escape from poverty had come not knowing that I was walking into a death trap. They told me that the same relation was also taking them with her, so that they could be fixed into money-yielding ventures over there.
When I went home, I didn’t tell my mum immediately because I was afraid of her reaction, but when I eventually told her, she was also excited more so when she heard that the woman taking me abroad is from Awka. One week later, they came back and told me that we would leave in a few days.
They never told me the main thing we were going to do there and it was later that I realized that those girls were her agents who recruit unsuspecting ladies for her in the organized sex pimp business she does.
They took me to the woman called Aunty Ebube and I was surprised when I got there and saw many young girls there too. She asked me probing questions, wanting to know if I was aware of the business I had come to do and said no. We slept that night and the next morning she took us to a shrine at Umubelu Awka to take oath of allegiance and commitment.
The native doctor welcomed us saying that the expected guests had arrived. We were 19 girls in all and I was the youngest and the most immature among them, barely 16 years old then. Everything started happening in a jiffy as the man gave us white cloth to tie on our body.
The native doctor warned Ebube when we got there that I was going to spoil things for her, but I didn’t understand what was going on. I fainted there and they sprinkled water on me, but that didn’t deter them from administering the oath of secrecy.
Ebube said that we were going to pay her N450,000 each when we get to our destination and the native doctor warned us of the dire consequences of reneging in the deal as he told us that the deity of the shrine would strike any defaulter dead.
With a shaking body yet lacking the requisite courage to extricate myself from their grip, we got initiated there. We drank and chewed some substances there and were given a small calabash each. We danced round the shrine to complete the ritual.
The next day, we moved to Onitsha and boarded a luxury bus travelling to the North. She told us to tell any policeman we see on the road that we were going on holidays in the North to see our parents based there. She told us never to accept that we were together in the journey and that if we implicate ourselves, she would not hesitate to disown us.”
Hijab for all of us
“When we reached the northern part of the country, she told us to change into hijab and pretend that we are northern Muslim girls. A vehicle, which she had pre-arranged, was already waiting for us by the time we arrived. We were squeezed into the vehicle.
She kept picking more people on the road, which showed that a syndicate was involved. We slept in Zendel and by 3:00a.m we left for another route until we got to a place they called Agadez. She told us to stay there for the meantime and find our destiny pending when those who will take us overseas arrive.”
“When she told us that we should stay and test our destiny briefly, I never knew that it was a kick off for the prostitution business until I was handed over to some clients in a hotel. She forced us to wear skimpy dresses and singled me out having seen my demeanour.
She told me that I’m now in a no-man’s land and I should cooperate if I still wanted to remain alive. I was crying knowing that I had walked into a trap that would take divine intervention for me to wriggle out of it. I was deep in thought when she landed me a deafening slap. She told me to be ready to die if I won’t allow men to sleep with me.
My first time was a man old enough to be my father. The man was given option to make a choice among the bevy of girls quartered there and he picked me knowing that I was a fresh virgin. I told him that it was over my dead body that he would sleep with me. I stubbornly refused to succumb to their threats.
Short time sex there goes for 5,000 CFAs while full time is 10,000 CFA. We kept on arguing and she told me that I should not join issues with her. I was made to know that our batch of girls was the fourth trip for her while the final destination is Libya. Usually she would just sell the girls at Agadez and return to the Southeast to recruit more for the same purpose.”
How my Igbo dialect saved me
“On that fateful night, two men came to look for female companions. She spoke with them in the local language, which I did not understand. As I was about to be handed over to them, I exclaimed in Igbo language, ‘Ewooh, o kam si jee (Is this how I have ended up)?’ When the supposed sex customers heard my exclamation, they became more interested in taking me to their home at all costs that night. They offered Madam Ebube 15,000CFA and took me.
On our way, they started asking me probing questions and I opened up and told them my predicament and identity. They were shocked and also told me they were from Enugu State. Instead of taking advantage of me that night, they treated me like a sister.
One of the boys, Anayo, told me that perhaps God made them come to the brothel that night for my sake because they had already retired after the day’s business, but on a second thought decided to stroll to a happening joint.
The two boys kept me safe, took pity on me, refused to sleep with me and offered me a mattress where I slept in the sitting room and they retired to the bedroom. They took me back to the hotel the next morning and Madam asked me whether I enjoyed my night with those boys and I said yes.
I told her that I want to go home and she started another round of threats. She told me that I could go if I repay her N450, 000. She sold one girl there and told me that I would be the next; she also reminded us that the oath we took spelt out death or madness on anyone who attempted to leave the place secretly.”
At the crossroads
“At this point, my heart was pounding and I excused her and ran back in the direction to Anayo’s house, but he was not in. I wrote a notice on their gate telling him that if he doesn’t come to rescue me immediately, I would be either dead or sold off into slavery the next day.
As God would have it, I was apprehensive that night knowing that time was ticking away for me when suddenly Anayo showed up and told our madam that he needs me for another night again. Madam thought I treated him well and handed me to him, but he took me to the house of one of the villagers and hid me there.
I was hidden for three days and madam had to suspend her trip and kept searching for me. Anayo gave me a phone and was relating all that was happening to me until the fourth day that he took me to the park. If not that he hid me, I would have died in the desert en route Libya.
Of all the 19 girls, I was the only one who returned home. I have not set eyes again on Ifunanya, who she sold first. (Begins to sob). I don’t know their fate till today. Whether they eventually reached Libya, died of hunger or were devoured by wild beasts.
“Anayo and his brother bought a ticket for me, took me by 3:00 a.m from Zendel and landed in Kano. I boarded a vehicle to Abuja, but I didn’t know anybody there.”
Ran into kidnapper’s vehicle
“In Abuja, I entered a cab that promised to take me to Kuje where some of our brothers resided, but I never knew I had boarded the wrong vehicle. The man took me on a wrong route and headed towards a thick bush. I raised the alarm, but nobody could answer me.
The man showed me his undies and I saw all manner of weapons, guns, knife and other things he had on him. He told me to say my last prayer because he would kill me and take my body parts. He used the short knife to slash my clothes to pieces and I was stark naked.
He raped me and wanted to take my body parts fresh and I ran and he gave me a hot chase. I saw a vehicle laden with tomatoes and lay flat for the vehicle to crush me. The driver stopped abruptly, picked me naked like that and I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I saw myself in the military barracks, Abuja.”
She never knew I was still alive
Under the custody of the military, Amarachi was taken to the scene where she boarded the evil man’s cab, but the man could not be traced. The army later handed her to NAPTIP who documented her case and made efforts to rehabilitate her and also seek ways of punishing her trafficker. She was later sent home in Anambra where she reunited with her family. She later saw her trafficker and got her arrested.
“The day I saw her at Eke Awka, she was shocked because she thought I was dead. Because we reported to DSS and NAPTIP when I came home, they gave me a number to call them any day I sight her and that was what I did. When I called the phone line, she was picked up. They raided her home, detained her and the native doctor (he is dead now) and were also charged to court.”
Picking up the pieces of her life
Settling down to a normal life after the harrowing experience for Amarachi has not been easy. Though she managed to go back to school and finally wrote her senior school certificate exams, Amarachi’s problems are far from being over. Her mother suddenly collapsed and died from high blood pressure leaving her and the siblings as orphans.
She also fell in love with a man who is not financially buoyant. The uncle who now acts as her father insisted that all the traditional rites of marriage would be completed before she is pronounced married. Along the line, she got pregnant for the fiancé and had to give birth in her home. Now nursing a 10-month-old baby boy, life has remained tough and harsh for her.
“My uncle refused to allow the man take me home because he couldn’t fulfill the long list of requirements presented to him. My mother died heartbroken for all these shocks and now without both parents, we find it even difficult to feed,” she lamented.
Appeal and words of advice
“I still thank God I’m alive today. My advice is that people should not allow anybody deceiving them with fairy tale promises about travelling abroad. I need urgent help presently. Helpless without mum or dad and also nursing a baby, I desire to go back to school and upgrade my life, but now even to feed is a serious problem. Government and public-spirited individuals should help me,” she pleaded.
By most measures, it would be absurd to call $1,515,000 for four walls of Sheetrock a bargain.
In Manhattan’s flagging real estate market, that was the median sale price of a two-bedroom apartment last quarter — an 8 percent drop from the same period last year, and the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos, according to the brokerage Douglas Elliman. Only the four-bedroom-and-up market fell further, with a 17 percent drop.
After years of softness at the top, it is finally becoming a buyers’ market for people who intend to actually live and work in New York. Case in point: deep bargains across the wide spectrum of two-bedrooms, the most common apartment for sale in the city.
Median Sales Price by Size
Manhattan’s two-bedroom market had the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos last quarter.
Source: Douglas Elliman
By The New York Times
Yes, prices are still out of reach for many New Yorkers, but there are increasing options for first-time and move-up buyers at far lower prices than the median sales price suggests. Coupled with historically low interest rates, two-bedroom buyers are stretching their dollars further with everything from income-restricted co-ops to shiny new condos.
Since the city’s real estate sales market peaked around 2016, observers have focused on the shrinking price tags of ultraluxury three- and four-bedroom apartments, thousands of which remain vacant and unsold. The causes are many: investor speculation, oversupply, shrinking tax breaks, rising transfer taxes, economic uncertainty and downright hubris.
The current declining prices in smaller apartments, though, represents a significant shift and the return of more reasonable pricing. Two-bedrooms made up 31.5 percent of Manhattan’s for-sale inventory last quarter, the most of any category, according to the Elliman report, and has long been the bread-and-butter of both developers and agents. The two-bedroom market accounted for half of all sales at one point in the 1990s, but in more recent years, the ultraluxury condo boom in Manhattan has prompted a move to bigger and more lavish apartments — many of which were targeted to investors and second-home buyers, said Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants and author of the report.
Still, upgrading from a smaller apartment to a two-bedroom remains cost prohibitive for many New Yorkers, Mr. Miller said. Last quarter, it cost a median $685,000 more to move up from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom in Manhattan.
Those forces — too expensive for many move-up buyers, too small for the affluent jet set — have squeezed the two-bedroom market into an awkward position for many sellers, said Tyler Whitman, an agent with Triplemint and cast member on the reality series “Million Dollar Listing.”
“Twenty-five hundred options in the city is a lot of options,” he said, referring to an estimate of how many two-bedrooms are listed in Manhattan. Owners of standard cookie-cutter two-bedrooms would face the toughest challenge, he said.
Of course, the lower prices may be discounts without distinction for many New Yorkers. The median household income in Manhattan was $79,781 in 2017. Assuming a 20 percent down payment and spending 35 percent of their monthly income on a mortgage and additional housing costs, such a buyer could comfortably afford a $358,896 apartment, according to StreetEasy. Citywide, the household income was $57,782, enough for a $259,933 home.
To highlight potential bargains across the extensive two-bedroom market, we looked at income-restricted units for first-time buyers, prewar co-ops with deep discounts, new condos with back-end sweeteners, and options beyond Manhattan.
Many look to the glut of new high-rise, luxury condos for what ails the city’s real estate market, but ambitious pricing at the top also set unrealistic expectations in the comparatively modest co-op market.
“Sooner or later what was happening in the luxury market was likely to catch up with the two-bed market,” said Frederick Warburg Peters, the chief executive of Warburg Realty, who added that one-beds and small two-bedrooms have “sunk into the doldrums” since about four months ago.
Compared to the same period in the previous year, the median price of co-ops declined for the first time in 13 straight quarters, according to the Elliman report.
Frances Katzen, an agent with Douglas Elliman, recently listed in Sutton Place, on the east side of Manhattan, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with plenty of natural light and prewar bona fides for $599,000 — a 20 percent markdown from its previous price of $750,000. Two years ago, it listed and languished on the market with another brokerage for $995,000.
“People are cannibalizing each other, to usurp a buyer from one another,” said Ms. Katzen, who believes the true value of the apartment is around $625,000 — but she listed lower in the hopes of standing out from a growing number of co-ops for sale.
The biggest discounts for two-bedroom resale apartments were downtown, south of 14th Street, where the median sales price fell 15 percent to $1,568,750 compared to the same quarter last year, according to the brokerage Halstead. Midtown had the second deepest discount for resales in that period, a 10 percent drop to $1,217,500.
Even among apartments specifically reserved for middle-income buyers in Housing Development Fund Corporation co-ops, prices have softened.
In Upper Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights, Allison Jaffe and Linda Mancini listed in October a $325,000 two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, 24 percent less than when it was listed earlier this year for $430,000 with another brokerage.
Because the apartment is in an H.F.D.C. co-op, there are income limits for buyers (up to $57,600 for a family of two, $67,200 for three or more), as well as restrictions at resale designed to keep the unit affordable.
“The phone’s been ringing every day,” said Ms. Mancini, who is an agent with Key Real Estate Services. So far they have had about 18 showings and six offers, she said.
The lower price was well advised. Upper Manhattan just had the fewest third-quarter sales of co-ops and condos in a decade, said Mr. Miller, the appraiser, in part because of a surge of new expensive inventory and ambitious resale pricing that followed.
One of the difficulties with H.D.F.C co-ops is that the income caps can leave buyers little room to save for a down payment. But with the price cut, they hope to have expanded the buyer pool for their listing, Ms. Jaffe said.
The city has about 28,500 H.D.F.C. units across 1,333 buildings, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But there were only 230 income-restricted apartments listed for sale in the five boroughs as of late October, according to StreetEasy.
Two-bedrooms need not be million-dollar investments in New York, especially outside of Manhattan. In the Kingsbridge Heights section of the Bronx, Daniel D’Amico of Damico Group Real Estate, is listing an 878-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in a 2006 condo for $349,000.
“What we’re seeing right now, in the Bronx at least, is the market is super hot,” Mr. D’Amico said. “If it’s priced right, it’s going to sell in the first week or so.” The apartment was listed in late September and already has an accepted offer, he said.
While sales volume is down across the city and prices are down in Manhattan, prices have been steadily rising in the other boroughs. In Queens, the number of sales dropped 7 percent compared to the same period last year, but the median sales price rose to $600,000, a recordsince at least 2003, according to a Douglas Elliman report. In Brooklyn, despite rising inventory and falling prices in the luxury segment, co-ops sold for a median $485,000, a new third-quarter record.
None of the major brokerages release boroughwide sales reports for the Bronx, the most affordable borough in the city, but its perception is changing, with a major development boom underway and a growing share of market-rate housing for sale.
Some of the most attractive deals for two-bedrooms can be found in new buildings, and for good reason: a glut of empty luxury condos. About 4,100 of 16,200 condo units completed since 2013, roughly one in four, remained unsold in September, according to an analysis of StreetEasy data.
Developers are loathe to lower their prices directly, in part because of obligations to lenders and for fear of devaluing the rest of their stock. Instead, buyers are getting discounts on the back end.
In East Harlem, Patricia Weber, a bio-tech start-up consultant, recently closed on a two-bedroom apartment at 1399 Park, a new 23-story condo tower, for $995,000. That was, ostensibly, the full asking price, but Ms. Weber’s agent, Rob Taub with CORE, also negotiated that the developer pay for her transfer taxes, a discount of about $25,000.
Ms. Weber, who is moving from Bucks County, Pa., had been considering a New York purchase for a decade, but only started looking in earnest six months ago. There was no shortage of choices, she said, but she and her husband liked the East Harlem building because of its attended lobby, its proximity to transit, and the neighborhood’s culture and restaurants. She will use the second bedroom as an office, because she works remotely.
The price is also notable, because it falls just short of triggering the so-called “mansion tax” on the purchase price of homes over $1 million. In July, the flat 1 percent tax was changed to a staggered rate of 1.25 percent for $2 million sales, and up to 3.9 percent above $25 million.
The changes spurred many buyers to close their purchases before the summer deadline, and as a result the pace of sales in the latest quarter plummeted, especially for larger, more expensive apartments. But the two-bedroom market was also affected, in part because they can cost well above $2 million, and even those below the new tax threshold suffered from negative market sentiment, agents said.
“I think, potentially, we’re near the bottom of the market for everything,” said Shaun Osher, the chief executive of CORE.
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times
Elsewhere, new projects are offering far more than closing cost rebates. At One Manhattan Square, a new 815-unit skyscraper south of Chinatown, the developer Extell recently offered to pay for seven years of common charges on the purchase of a two-bedroom apartment. Two-beds make up about 40 percent of the inventory and prices for those now start around $2.1 million, which would mean more than $100,000 of forgiven common charges, paid for by the developer.
That promotion is no longer being offered, said Raizy Haas, a senior vice president with Extell, but “the truth is, we’re reasonable.” The developer is now testing a rarely seen model in luxury condos: rent-to-own plans, in which a tenant can apply the rent toward the purchase of the unit.
As of Oct 24., there were 209 closed sales at the building, or about a quarter of the total inventory, according to an updated StreetEasy analysis. Ms. Haas said there were “hundreds more that have not yet closed.”
How a discount is derived can vary, but increasingly, it’s becoming the rule in new development, said Mr. Peters of Warburg Realty.
“There’s practically nowhere where you can’t negotiate the price, and the transfer taxes, and the mansion tax, and the legal fees, and who knows what else,” he said. Where to draw the line in the sand is another thing.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a client say ‘O.K., if I drop the price, can you guarantee me a quick sale?’ And my response is no,” he said. “All I can guarantee you is no sale, if you don’t.”
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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.
If you qualify for Bank of America Preferred Rewards, the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card has the potential to be quite a lucrative card to use on everyday spending. For those who prefer other banks, there are better earning travel cards available. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
I’ll be honest. I haven’t always been a fan of Bank of America credit cards. Though affordable with low or nonexistent annual fees, most lacked the perks that I’ve always associated with my favorite cards. However, the more familiar I get with the Preferred Banking Rewards program (and the more useful fixed-value points currencies become), the more I see the benefits of having a Bank of America card.
This card isn’t like other products that have $450 annual fees and a ton of perks; this card has a modest $95 annual fee and a more modest selection of benefits. Still, it offers great flexibility in redeeming points and yields extraordinary earn rates if you can maximize BofA’s Preferred Banking Rewards program.
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Who is this card for?
The Premium Rewards credit card has wide appeal to both points fans and credit card novices. It might not have the most lucrative points or numerous transfer partners, but what it does offer is flexibility.
I think of it as a stress-free travel card, since points are worth 1 cent apiece no matter what you redeem them for — you don’t have to worry about getting the maximum value out of every point, which can sometimes be time-consuming and frustrating.
If you like the idea of redeeming your points as a statement credit against big purchases that aren’t covered by points — such as new luggage or a TV — then this would be the card to get. You can redeem points for any purchase, whether it’s a flight, a new car or an over-the-top dinner. The points function essentially like cash.
The Premium Rewards card is also a strong option for those who tend to spend in broad bonus categories like travel and dining (2x and up with this card), but who also want solid rewards (1.5x and up) for non-category bonus spend.
The earning rate is even better if you’re already a Bank of America customer and can maximize the Preferred Rewards Program (more on that later).
It’s also a great choice for semi-frequent travelers since it comes with valuable perks like an up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, an up to $100 airline credit, trip delay/cancellation insurance, baggage loss/delay insurance and no foreign transaction fees, so you won’t be hit with any surprise charges when using your card abroad.
With the Premium Rewards card, you’ll receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. These points have a fixed value of 1 cent each, meaning that 50,000 points are worth $500. This far from the most lucrative bonus out there, but $500 can go a long way towards airfare, hotel costs or anything in between.
When you consider that BofA is essentially paying you $5 every year (after you redeem the up to $100 airline credit) to have this card, you’re basically getting $500 for free just for signing up and meeting the minimum spend. Use the sign-up bonus to treat yourself to something extravagant, like a helicopter or private jet ride on Blade.
While Bank of America doesn’t have any published restrictions that apply specifically to earning welcome bonuses, remember that it does have a 2/3/4 rule when it comes to card applications. You can only get approved for two Bank of America cards in a two-month period, three cards in a 12-month period and four cards in a 24-month period.
There have also been recent reports of a threshold similar to Chase’s 5/24 rule that limits how many cards across issuers you can get within a year in order to be approved for a new BoA card, though the exact threshold is uncertain and Bank of America has not confirmed the existence of a set policy.
Perks and benefits
While the Premium Rewards card doesn’t hold a candle to top-tier cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, it does come with a nice set of perks for the low annual fee — a lot more than basically any other mid-tier card out there. Here are my favorite perks and their value:
$100 airline incidental credit. This credit works like the Amex airline fee credit in that you can only use it for purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services and lounge fees (though not airfare). You receive the credit every year and if you’re able to use the full amount, you’re essentially getting paid $5 a year to be a cardholder. Unfortunately, it’s not as flexible as the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit or the Citi Prestige’s air travel credit, but it’s still a great benefit for someone who travels a few times a year. It only works on certain domestic airlines but it’s processed automatically, so you don’t have to call in and apply it to a certain purchase.
Global Entry. I love having Global Entry — it’s saved me from standing in countless hours of security and customs lines. Premium Rewards cardmembers get an up to $100 credit (every four years) that can be applied toward purchasing Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. It’s surprising that this card offers a Global Entry credit, as that’s usually only offered by top-tier rewards cards with higher annual fees (although the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is another mid-tier card that offers this benefit). And if you’re already part of the program, you can still use the credit for a friend or family member’s application.
Trip insurance. It’s always important to have trip insurance since you never know when your travel plans will go awry. This card provides reimbursement of up to $5,000 per person, per trip, for any unused, prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses including passenger fares, tours and hotels if you have to cancel due to a covered reason. And if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours, you’re eligible for reimbursement of $500 in expenses per ticket. With many issuers ditching trip insurance, this benefit continues to be a compelling reason to use this card to book travel.
Baggage delay/loss insurance: Similar to trip insurance, you’ll be eligible for protection if your baggage is lost, stolen or damaged. This provides up to $100 per day (up to five days) when your bag is delayed for more than six hours. If your luggage is stolen or lost by a travel provider, you’ll be eligible for reimbursement for the contents of the bag.
Purchase protection. I’ve used purchased protection many times and it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the last year — Amex paid me $1,400 for a broken watch and my Sapphire Reserve reimbursed me $2,600 for a painting that was damaged in transit. You’ll get similar protection with the Premium Rewards card, which will repair, replace or reimburse you up to $10,000 for lost or damaged items purchased on the card. If you want to return an item within 90 days of purchase but the retailer won’t accept the return, you can submit your receipt and be reimbursed up to $250 (up to $1,000 annually).
Rental car insurance. Last, this card will give you secondary coverage when renting a car — meaning it will kick in only after you’ve filed a claim with your personal insurance. While not as good as many of Chase’s cards that offer primary coverage, it’s pretty good for a no-annual fee card (after maximizing the airline credit).
With this card, you’re earning 2x points on travel and dining and 1.5x point on everything else. Travel and dining are defined broadly, meaning there are a lot of expenses that can qualify for double points. The real value for me personally is the 1.5x on everyday spending. As a member of the Preferred Rewards program, you can earn up an impressive 2.625x on non-bonus spending. That’s higher than any flat-rate card out there.
The Premium Rewards card doesn’t earn traditional points or miles that can be transferred and redeemed with travel partners but rather acts more like a cash-back card with huge earning potential. I honestly never thought I’d be thinking about cash back, but as airlines have devalued frequent flyer programs, the idea seems more appealing.
Although we value most airline miles at more than 1 cent each, that’s mainly based on being able to find premium cabin saver seats. With it becoming harder and harder to get good value out of points and miles, that’s where this card can come in handy.
As I mentioned earlier, points are flexible with the Premium Rewards card; you can use them on anything — airlines, the gym, etc. — essentially anywhere that accepts Visa. Your points can go toward paying for those purchases (as a statement credit) and the credit posts automatically.
Another thing I like about this card is that it’s zero stress and consumes very little time. You don’t need to jump through hoops to find award availability and you don’t have to go to a specific portal if you want to use your points to pay for your gym. Since points are worth the same no matter what you redeem for, you’re not penalized for redeeming for cash back. You just redeem for whatever you want.
There a few ways to redeem points:
Cash back — You can receive cash back as a statement credit or deposit it into an eligible BofA checking or savings, Merrill or 529 college savings account
Travel purchases — You can book flights directly through the BofA travel portal. This is a good way to redeem points because you’ll still be eligible to earn award miles and elite credits by flying on a paid ticket (although personally I’d recommend buying directly from the carrier because sometimes when buying through a travel portal you’ll get a lower fare class).
Gift cards — A final option allows for converting points into gift cards at popular merchants such as Amazon, Whole Foods and Starbucks. I wouldn’t plan on going this route since it’d be smarter to just purchase the items and redeem your points as a statement credit in case you have to return the item.
I especially love that you can convert points directly into cash that can go straight into a 529 college savings account. Last year, I converted the points from my sign-up bonus and deposited them directly into 529 accounts for my nieces and nephews. From there, I used my points as statement credits against BLADE trips to my office, which saved me hours of time.
And if you’re solely focused on travel rewards, this card can cover travel expenses that you can’t redeem miles for, like offsetting surcharges on an award ticket or amazing experiences on the ground.
Originally when I heard that points were worth only 1 cent each, I was a bit disappointed. But it’s honestly nice that I don’t have to jump through hoops to find award availability and I don’t have to feel bad about redeeming these points for maximum value. I can use them whenever and for whatever I want.
Using the Preferred Rewards program to your advantage
To get the best value out of your Bank of America cards, you need to understand Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. Those who hold considerable assets in eligible BofA or Merrill accounts — including retirement or investment accounts — are eligible for increased rewards when spending on the Premium Rewards card. To enroll in BofA Preferred Rewards you’ll need:
An eligible Bank of America personal checking account anda3-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in a Bank of America account and/or Merrill investment accounts.
There are three tiers in Preferred Rewards, and your tier is based on how much money you have in your accounts. This will determine your earning with the Premium Rewards card.
Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000)
Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000)
Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)
At the base level of 2x points on travel and dining and 1.5x points on everything else, the card is pretty standard. It’s good, but the Citi® Double Cash Card and Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Cardare cash-back cards with higher earning rates on everyday spend and no annual fees (though those cards don’t come with any perks).
But the numbers get pretty spectacular when you’re able to get 2.625x points on everyday spend and 3.5x points if you meet the highest banking threshold. That said, I’ll still probably put most of my travel and dining spend on my Sapphire Reserve because I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each — meaning I get 6x points (toward travel per dollar spent). But 3.5x points back on travel and dining and 2.625x points on everything else for those who don’t value travel as much as I do — and want flexibility when redeeming points — is quite strong.
The way I see it is that if you can maximize Preferred Rewards, you’re essentially getting a no-annual-fee card (after using the airline credit) that gives you 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625x on everything else. If you’re looking for a straight cash-back card, no other card comes close to that.
The moment I heard of this card, I immediately moved $100,000 into a Merrill investment account so I could start qualifying for Platinum Honors. BofA also allows the option to roll over an existing 401(k) account into a Merrill retirement account, so that this could be an easy way to qualify for Preferred Rewards.
In general, this card is about diversifying your stock of points and using them for the purchases that normal airline miles or credit card points can’t cover. It’s great if you want to use your points to splurge on a crazy watch or piece of jewelry. Or you can be generous and use the points to better your family.
It’s also an interesting option for small business owners — I know a lot of doctors and executives, and at a certain point there is mileage overload where they have too many Amex points and physically can’t redeem all of them for travel (because that is the best way to redeem MR points). So if you own your own business, this card can offer 2.625x points on all of your spend and 3.5x points on all travel and dining, which you can easily redeem for cold hard cash.
For those who have been eyeing a straight-up cash-back card, this could be your best option. Simply put, it’ll be improving your bottom line — either for you personally or for your business. You don’t have to waste time figuring out how to get the most value out of your points, as the stress-free redemptions make this an easy card to manage.
BofA is obviously telling customers that they will be rewarded with its Preferred Rewards program if they move their assets to BofA. On top of the earning and redeeming possibilities, it comes with a solid sign-up bonus and some pretty nice perks, which are worth far more than the card’s annual fee. For these reasons, I continue to be excited to have status with Preferred Rewards banking and the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card in my wallet.
(CNN)Here’s a look at the rebuilding of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks.
April 28, 2003 – The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition launches.
June 2003 – The Memorial Competition submission period closes. 5,201 submissions are received from 63 nations.
November 19, 2003 – Eight prospective plans chosen from the submissions are displayed for the public in the World Financial Center in New York.
January 6, 2004 – The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announces its choice of “Reflecting Absence” by Israeli-born architect Michael Arad.
September 10, 2005 – Supporters of the Take Back the Memorial campaign protest the inclusion of an International Freedom Center in plans for the memorial.
September 28, 2005 – In a written statement, Governor George Pataki announces that plans for the International Freedom Center adjacent to the planned memorial at the World Trade Center site have been abandoned.
July 12, 2011 – More than 42,000 passes to the memorial are reserved in the first 24 hours they are made available.
September 11, 2011 – The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the dedication of the memorial.
September 12, 2011 – The memorial opens to the public.
2012 – A dispute between the Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey delays construction of the 9/11 museum planned for the memorial site. The museum was originally supposed to open on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
September 10, 2012 – The budgetary dispute delaying the opening of the museum is resolved when all parties enter into a “memorandum of understanding,” an agreement that allows them to restart construction.
May 15, 2014 – The National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens its doors for the 9/11 community — survivors, families and rescuers. Within it are 12,500 objects, 1,995 oral histories and 580 hours of film and video.
The LMDC also administers the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, a separate process from that of rebuilding the World Trade Center area.
A 15-member board of directors governs the LMDC. The governor of New York and the mayor of New York City each appoint half of the members. The LMDC is also assisted by nine advisory councils.
According to an audit conducted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the rebuilding cost grew from approximately $11 billion in 2008 to $14.8 billion in 2012.
August 12, 2002– FEMA and the Federal Transit Administration announce $4.55 billion in federal aid for transportation improvements in Lower Manhattan.
September 26, 2002– Six design teams are hired, out of 407 submissions, to create land use plans for the 16-acre site.
December 18, 2002– An exhibit of nine possible designs opens at the World Financial Center.
February 27, 2003– Daniel Libeskind’s “Memory Foundations” is selected as the new design for the site.
September 17, 2003– The LMDC releases a revised Master Plan for the site.
November 23 2003 – PATH train service is restored, linking Lower Manhattan and New Jersey. Trains operate out of a temporary station in the area.
December 19, 2003– Plans for the Freedom Tower to be built at Ground Zero are revealed.
January 22, 2004 – Architect Santiago Calatrava unveils his plans for the area transportation hub.
July 4, 2004– Construction at Freedom Tower begins. A 20-ton slab of granite, inscribed “the enduring spirit of freedom,” is laid as the cornerstone of one of the new skyscrapers that will stand on the site.
May 4, 2005– Governor Pataki calls for a redesign of the new tower for safety reasons.
June 29, 2005 – New York officials release the latest design for the signature building at the site after revising it to make the tower more secure.
September 6, 2005– Architect Santiago Calatrava and public officials dedicate the first steel rail for the future transportation station.
December 15, 2005– Architect Lord Norman Foster agrees to design the next major building planned for the site. Foster will design a 65-story tower for the northeast corner of the 16-acre site.
April 26, 2006– The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and developer Larry Silverstein reach an agreement about the financing of Freedom Tower, resolving problems that had delayed construction.
April 27, 2006– The formal groundbreaking of Freedom Tower takes place.
March 26, 2009 – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announces dropping the name “Freedom Tower,” and that the first commercial lease in the building has been signed. Upon completion, the building will be named One World Trade Center.
May 10, 2013 – Construction workers bolt the last pieces of a 408-foot spire into place atop One World Trade Center, bringing the building to a height of 1,776 feet. This height references the year the United States declared its independence. It also makes the building the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest in the world.