As the week comes to a close, PUNCH Online presents the nation’s top news stories.

Naira staged a comeback as the Federal Government decided to disclose the list of individuals involved in financing terrorism in the country.

Following the killing of soldiers in Okuama, Delta State, there have been debates and speculations surrounding a potential retaliatory attack.

Access Bank acquired the National Bank of Kenya, a significant development in the business sector that has been met with positive reception.

Here are highlights from the week’s biggest news stories, from March 17 to March 23, 2024.

Naira and Dollar
Naira and Dollar

Naira showed resilience on Thursday, appreciating by N18 to close at 1,382/$ in the official market. This followed a significant gain at both the official and parallel markets the previous day, with the naira closing at N1,400/$ on Wednesday. The intraday high on Thursday reached N1,598/$, while the intraday low strengthened to N1,300/$. Increased dollar supply at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market contributed to the naira’s 1.3 percent appreciation. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s successful resolution of foreign exchange backlogs, totalling $7 billion, further boosted confidence in the FX market.

Additionally, Nigeria’s external reserves grew to $34.37 billion as of March 12, 2024, and Diaspora remittances surged by 433 per cent to $1.3 billion in February. Speculators were urged to sell off their dollar holdings, as the naira is expected to appreciate further amidst CBN interventions and clampdowns on illegal currency activities.

The Nigerian Sanctions Committee, in compliance with a directive from the Federal Government, disclosed the identities of entities on Monday, March 18, allegedly linked to terrorism financing. Among the nine individuals sanctioned, Kaduna-based publisher Tukur Mamu, accused of aiding terrorists in the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, was prominently listed.

Also identified were individuals suspected of terrorist activities such as attacks on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, and the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja. Six Bureau De Change firms, including West and East Africa General Trading Company Limited and Desert Exchange Ventures Limited, were implicated. The sanctions follow revelations from the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, urging immediate asset freezing and reporting obligations on designated persons and entities as per the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.

Access Bank announced its acquisition of the National Bank of Kenya Limited from the KCB Group Plc, as part of its expansion strategy into key African markets.

Access Bank to acquire National Bank of Kenya

The acquisition of NBK, a well-established bank in Kenya with a substantial balance sheet, presents a significant opportunity for Access Bank to strengthen its presence in the East African market. Upon completion of the transaction, NBK will merge with Access Bank Kenya Plc, creating an enlarged franchise. This acquisition aligns with Access Bank’s broader objective of becoming a leading player in the Kenyan and East African markets.

Tragedy struck at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, as two female students lost their lives in a stampede during a palliative distribution event at the university’s convocation square. The state government had organised the distribution of bags of rice to alleviate students’ suffering, but chaos ensued as students stormed the venue, resulting in injuries to at least 10 others.

Nasarawa State University
Nasarawa State University

The National President of the Nasarawa State Students Association, Yunusa Baduku, confirmed the incident, stating that many students were rushed to hospitals for medical attention.

Governor Abdullahi Sule expressed shock over the incident and ordered a thorough investigation to identify those responsible. The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Suleiman Bala, also lamented the loss of lives and announced plans for investigations by both the university management and the state government.

This is the second stampede in a month. The Nigeria Customs Service had in February said it was selling seized food items at N10,000 per 25kg to alleviate the people’s suffering. A pregnant woman and six others died in the stampede at the Yaba Customs office compound, Lagos.

 

The Nigerian Labour Congress and the Labour Party have been involved in a dispute that has many Nigerians questioning the reason for the union and the opposition party’s disagreement. A former President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, asserted that the Labour Party was established by the NLC to serve as a platform for members to advocate for their rights.

Former NLC President, Ayuba Wabba
Former NLC President, Ayuba Wabba

The NLC instructed its state councils and political commissions to picket LP secretariats nationwide following a virtual meeting. The NLC also protested at the LP’s national secretariat, demanding the removal of the National Chairman, Julius Abure, and opposing the LP’s planned national convention.

Wabba clarified that the LP was formed by the NLC and accused the party of not honouring a consent agreement signed in June 2022, leading to the dispute and picketing actions by the NLC.

This is still a developing story.

 

The Nigerian Army has denied engaging in reprisal attacks in the Okuama community of Delta State, where 17 military personnel were killed during a communal clash. The Army accused the community of spreading propaganda and stressed its commitment to apprehending the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, tension remains high in Okuama as military personnel continue to maintain a presence, with residents fleeing and houses reportedly being set ablaze. The Defence Headquarters released the names of the slain personnel and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice while respecting human rights laws.

Meanwhile, soldiers reportedly invaded the Igbomotoru community in Bayelsa State, causing panic and destruction. Although it could not be ascertained if the soldiers’ mission was in connection with the killing of military personnel in neighbouring Delta State, a community source told PUNCH Online that they stormed Igbomotoru in five gunboats.