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I’ve kept my pact with Imo, next is consolidation – Uzodimma *Picks female deputy

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It was a day of chest-beating for Hope Uzodimma, Governor of Imo State, as he took a look back to the three years he became the resident at Douglas House, the seat of power in the state, giving himself the full marks in keeping his promise of bettering the life of the people.

Uzodimma, who spoke at the unveiling of Lady Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru as his running mate for the November 11, 2023 governorship election, while reminding the people of his oath of office during his inauguration, told the cheering crowd at the Event Centre New, Owerri on Saturday, where he also refreshed their minds his Three-Rs, said he had not deviated from the concept.

A statement by Oguwike Nwachukwu, his spokesman, quoted the governor as maintaining that within the period, the government, anchored its policies and programmes on bulwark of reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery, which he marshalled out during his inauguration on January 15, 2020 till date.

“On our part, I can boldly reiterate that we have indeed walked our talks: We have kept faith with Imo people on our promises. We have laid the solid foundation for growth in all sectors of the economy and we shall consolidate on them to deliver an industrial, prosperous and safe Imo state in the coming years.”

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Welcoming the stakeholders for joining him to unveil his running mate and being part of another four years of history in the making, he said he was happy to “welcome all of you to this special stakeholders meeting whose main purpose is to introduce our deputy governorship candidate, Lady Chinyere Ekomaru in our consolidation march to build a safer, more functional and more prosperous Imo State.”

He reminded his audience that included party members that his numerous achievements are there to speak for him and his government as another election beckons, adding: “We have so much to campaign with. Our works speak for us. So today, we are here to reinforce our genuine claim to re-election. I have picked a female deputy governorship candidate in the person of Lady Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru.

“I believe she will add value to this ticket. I expect Imo women to appreciate this gesture as my genuine appreciation of their innate strength and capacity to make contribution to the growth of our state. The stakeholders are aware of why this particular decision was taken because the process of choosing her was all inclusive. I plead with all of us to accept and make peace with it.”

Uzodimma, who also had kind words for his outgoing Deputy Governor, Placid Njoku, informing his audience of how they both shared a good working relationship, said: “Let me use this opportunity to make it clear that I don’t have any problem with my deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku. If anything he is a very loyal and committed partner in progress.

“My confidence in him has not waned in any way. I want to assure you that he is still very relevant in our political family. His political career is not by any means over.  The truth is that as representative of the people, we need to be sensitive to the ecumenical nature of the environment.”

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Njoku, who corroborated the sentiments of the governor, drew applause from the crowd when he rose to take a bow, to underscore that they indeed had mutual feelings of goodwill.

“It is important to recall the situation we met on assumption of office, as this will enable us to appreciate where we are currently. This would also help us to dream and imagine what the future of Imo State will look like in the next four years under our prosperity administration which is encapsulated in Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. Looking back, I can rightly and proudly claim that I kept the social contact I entered into with Imo people when I assumed office in January 2020.

“In spite of the fact that the opposition elements in the state are to be held responsible for the messy situation we inherited, they were still not happy with our determined efforts to recover the wasted years and opportunities. Recall that we took over, – without any handover note, without a functional government house, without a functional civil service – they were alarmed at the speed with which we tackled the challenges of governance. Obviously, this was why they vowed to distract, stop or slow us down with the security challenges that they created and unleashed on the state.

“Fortunately, I foresaw their desperation and arrived prepared and  ready to face them and their mischief. The more they tried to stop me, the more determined and emboldened I became in changing the narrative of the state. I was determined from day one to replace the rancid corruption and ineptitude that characterized their regime with a new era of transparency and good governance. In their desperation, the instigation of violence and insecurity became their last card in the chess game of deceitful politics.

“You may want to ask what our offence really are, it is that we have shown capacity to turn things around, to build durable economic roads, to empower our youth with skills, to recover our lost glory in the health and education sectors, and more importantly, to outline an audacious vision for the industrialization of Imo State with its promise with massive job creation opportunities.

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“As you all know, we have successfully check-mated them in their devilish plans. We are all witnesses to the fact that the security situation in Imo has greatly improved from what it was between 2020 and 2021. The wanton and unprovoked killing of citizens by mercenary criminals has abated. The indiscriminate attacks on security agencies have been checked while the burning of houses of Imo citizens is no longer an everyday occurrence. Contrary to the wishes of those enemies of the state, who never condemned the carnage while it raged, people are no longer afraid to come to Imo state for business.

“While there is no doubt that the security situation has tremendously improved, it is clear to me that our people are still afraid from the security scars of yesteryears. The real issue now is the fear of the unpleasant occurrences of the past. This is understandable.  However I want to assure our people that there is nothing to fear anymore. Shake off the scars of the sad events of the past, and feel free to go about your legitimate businesses. Enough measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of our people, going forward.

“We should all be emboldened by the fact that If anything, Imo has regained its pride of place as the hub of hospitality. In the last couple of months, the state has hosted high profile events and conferences, including those by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Guild of Editors. Those in the hospitality business will testify to increased patronage, signaling the return of normalcy in our state. Certainly, it can only get better. To God be the glory.

“However, when I hear those who created this spate of insecurity talk glibly about making the state safe, again, I laugh. Except they have decided to call-off their goons, seeing that the security agencies have given them a bloody nose. It is really curious that the only campaign agenda they have is the promise to battle insecurity in the state. By saying they will make Imo safe if elected, they are directly telling the people that the only way Imo can be safe is by them coming into power, what a poor strategy.

“They are only confirming their earlier threat to make Imo ungovernable for my Government. When the witch cries in the night and the baby dies in the morning, we don’t need to look far in seeking answers. Those who said Imo is now like Afghanistan are still safe in their villages. I don’t really understand what someone gains by de-marketing the state he wishes to govern.

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“After politics, we shall all remain Imo sons and daughters. We have no other state than this. In this regard, let us treasure and protect what we have. Our only regret is that we were compelled to spend substantial amount of money on security, which could have been deployed to providing more infrastructure and other dividends of Democracy.

“But it is remarkable that in spite of the distractions by the opposition through the contrived security challenges, this administration has truly made the difference in the lives of Imo citizens in the last 43 months. Through prudent management of resources, a vision backed up with determination, and the support of patriotic Imo indigenes, including officials of this administration, Imo is certainly far better today than it was in January, 2020. This applies to all indices by which governance and development can be measured.

“First and foremost, I met a disorganized and disoriented civil service. Today we have a fully automated system in place in the civil service. In addition,  we have eliminated corruption and abolished the menace of ghost workers, which was a major drain on our commonwealth. The environment within the secretariat complex has changed. Apart from the renovation of the entire 10 blocks and provision of relevant equipment, the morale of the civil servants is now sky high because of the regular payment of salaries, including the 13th month salary and other welfare services.

“Our roads which were mere death traps when I assumed office, are now motorable. I am sure all of you drove through these motorable roads to come here today, courtesy of your responsive 3R government. At the last count, this administration has done more than 100 good quality roads across the entire state, including the dual carriageway of Owerri — Okigwe road and Owerri -Orlu road. Construction of five kilometers of roads in the 27 local government areas of the state are at the various stages of completion.

“Let me use this opportunity to appeal to all indigenous Contractors handling the local roads to complete the roads as awarded. The reconstruction of Owerri -Mbaise- Obowo – Umuahia, and Orlu- Mgbee – Akokwa- UGA road is also on-going. Before then, we had dualized the MCC-Toronto road and built balloon technology for the drainage at Chukwuma Nwoha road to effectively check flooding in that area. Several houses were recovered for the owners in the process while movement to the popular IMSU junction from there is now seamless.

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“In education, Imo is probably the only state in the South- East that is funding three universities. Yes, after we recovered the KO MBADIWE UNIVERSITY, we also established Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Umuagwo to ensure that our children are availed more admission spaces and at the same time creating employment and boosting the economy of the state. We are also effectively funding a polytechnic and a college of education. Our primary and secondary schools are enjoying equal attention. Our vision is to ensure that Imo maintains her enviable leadership position in education in the country.

“Such efforts are being replicated in health where we have recovered the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu from decay ensuring that medical students graduate from the institution after eight (8) years of stagnation. Today, IMSUTH remains a truly tertiary health institution with the requisite experts and consultants. Through our collaboration with the Federal Government, the FMC, Owerri has been converted to Federal University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Owerri.

“Thus, we now have two tertiary health institutions in the state. We had earlier recovered the various schools of nursing and midwifery which lost accreditation before I assumed office. We have also embarked on the renovation of general hospitals across the state. Three new well equipped general Hospitals will be commissioned in the next couple of days. Also, a total of 305 health centers are being renovated and to be equipped to offer comprehensive health care coverage to our citizens in the rural areas. This is in addition to the free mobile clinics which we provided. The same zeal with which we fought COVID -19 in the state is what we have replicated to tackle the health needs of our citizens.

“Based on the foregoing, it is obvious that we have never lost focus, and this is because the template and vision formulated under the 3R agenda are being implemented strictly.  When I promised the people of Imo state that I will run a transparent administration, I meant every word of it. Today, even the World Bank has given us an award and prize money for transparency in governance. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria has followed suit with an award to us on transparency and accountability in governance.

“It is this push for excellence that gave us the impetus to recover our moribund industries so as to create jobs and stimulate the economy. We started with Adapalm Nigeria limited. We are now in the process of doing the same at IMO SHOE INDUSTRY and the Rubber Company. Thereafter, We shall move to Avutu Poultry, Nsu Ceramic Industry, etc.

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“Through a friendly tax regime and creation of new business opportunities, we have also created the enabling environment for investors to establish industries and create employment opportunities in the state.

“Ladies and gentlemen, few months ago, the creme de la creme of Nigerian society were here in imo State for the flag-off ceremony of the dredging of Oguta to Orashi to Degema to the Atlantic ocean project. That is the game changer in the economic rejuvenation of the entire South-East. With a promise of a sea port at Oguta and an industrial cluster, we are on the verge of economic renaissance in our state.  I wish to once again appreciate the federal government for the approval granted Imo state to execute this project. When it is completed, our state shall experience a new lease of economic life.

“I have enumerated few of our achievements today to let Imo people know that the APC government remains their best bet to the attainment of improved life and the economic progress we all are yearning for. Our transporters and farmers can testify to increased patronage and boost to their economy as a result of the new roads. Those working at Adapalm Nigeria limited know where their help came from. The residents of Owerri Capital city enjoying potable water from the rehabilitated Otamiri Water works know we are working, including those beholding the results of our urban renewal efforts.

“What it means is that Imo people are appreciative of what we have done in the last 43 months. We don’t need to employ subterranean tactics, subterfuge, propaganda and deceitful politics to achieve re-election. That belongs to the opposition who have nothing concrete to show to the people. In other words, they have nothing to campaign with. I challenge them to publish their programme for Imo People that will outline their development agenda.

“On our part, I can boldly reiterate that we have indeed walked our talks. We have kept faith with Imo people on our promises. We have laid the solid foundation for growth in all sectors of the economy and we shall consolidate on them to deliver an industrial, prosperous and safe Imo state in the coming years.

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“We have so much to campaign with. Our works speak for us. So today,we are here to reinforce our genuine claim to reelection.  I have picked a female deputy governorship candidate in the person of Lady Chinyere Ihuoma  Ekomaru. I believe she will add value to this ticket. I expect Imo women to appreciate this gesture as my genuine appreciation of their innate strength and capacity to make contribution to the growth of our state. The stakeholders are aware of why this particular decision was taken because the process of choosing her was all inclusive. I plead with all of us to accept and make peace with it.

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“Let me use this opportunity to make it clear that I don’t have any problem with my deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku. If anything he is a very loyal and committed partner in progress. My confidence in him has not waned in any way. I want to assure you that he is still very relevant in our political family. His political career is not by any means over.  The truth is that as representative of the People, we need to be sensitive to the ecumenical nature of the environment.

On that note, it is my honour and privilege to present Lady Ekomaru as the APC deputy governorship candidate in Imo state for the forthcoming November election.”

Earlier in his address, the APC Chairman in Imo State, Dr Macdonald Ebere, acknowledged the good works done by Governor Uzodimma’s administration and reiterated the need for continuity.

Ebere said: “We are not unmindful of the fact, that the increasing strength , popularity and visibility of our party in the state as reflected in the just concluded election, the litany of defections from major political parties is attributed to your pacesetting infrastructural development and economic re-engineering of our state.

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“At the national scene, we are proud of your sterling and diligent display of rare leadership disposition and administrative prowess, which has earned you the confidence of your brother governors and other critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Just recently you won your election as the Chairman of the Progressive Governors forum of Nigeria, you also won your election as the Chairman of the South East Governors forum, you were decorated with one of the prestigious National honour in Nigeria as the Commander of the Order of the Niger  and was conferred with the highest honour in Rivers State as GSSRS Just to mention but a few. All these achievements and shine are not unconnected to your uncommon service to humanity and God, your philanthropy to Churches and human capital development.

“Today we have gathered here once again to reaffirm our commitment and dedication as a political party to the actualization of your re-election come November 11, 2023.

“We are already in high spirit, our Party is strong and popular, with the current state of cohesion and sense of purpose amongst our leaders and party men and women, APC is firmly position to take advantage of the achievement of the shared prosperity administration to secure once again the mandate of our people.

“We are very optimistic that our people will once again speak through their votes, to revalidate their implicit vote of confidence in our party and the Shared Prosperity administration of our governor.

“While we intend to take advantage of the numerous life saving projects of this administration, it is important that our eyes remain fixed on the ball, with zero internal distractions and infighting. We must remain focused and undistracted till victory is assured. We need undiluted unity, total collaboration, unalloyed collective support, symbiotic efforts and political consanguinity is pivotal at the various organs of the party. The supremacy of the party should be our watch word at this time. Let us eschew all political slumber, callous approach to grassroot campaign or devil-may-care-attitude in our efforts to victory. We shall never take any opposition for granted or treat them with kids gloves.”

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While thanking the Governor for his gender sensitivity that led to the choice of his running mate, Ebere encouraged Party faithful to rely on “the impressive scorecard of our governor… to be fishers of men, winning and converting souls for our governor and our victory come 11th of November is 100% guaranteed by the grace of God.”

In her acceptance speech after her resume was read out by the Chief Political Adviser/ Head of Political Bureau, Barr. Enyinnaya Onuegbu, Lady Ekomaru, accompanied by the husband, thanked the Governor for choosing her as his running mate and promised not to disappoint his expectations of her.

She recalled that she has been in politics for more than 40 years and assured the Governor that her choice meant

winning supporters from the Anglican Communion, academia and social groups where she belongs, from the Judiciary where the husband belongs, from the health sector where her child belongs, and more importantly, from the numerous women, social groups where she also belongs.

The event was witnessed by top politicians in the APC, including serving/ former senators and House of Representatives members, former ministers, retired security chiefs, ranking traditional rulers, business moguls, women and youth leaders, among others.

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Rebranding, customer-centric policy, paying off – Berger Paints MD

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The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Berger Paints Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Alaba Fagun, has ascribed the outstanding performance of the company for the financial year ended December 31, 2023, to the market appreciation of its rebranding, customer-centric policy, deployment of modern technology to ensure quality products and availability of strong human capital.

Despite the inclement operating environment, Berger Paints, a leading manufacturer of coated paints and allied products in Nigeria, has proposed a dividend of N231. 9 million for the 2023 financial year up from N202.9 million paid in 2022 and would be paying a dividend of N.80 kobo per share for its shareholders, subject to the ratification at its 64th Annual General Meeting (AGM), scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, in Lagos.

The dividend will bring the final dividend for the review period to N1 per share. At the AGM, the company shall seek ratification of payment of an interim dividend of 20 kobo per share, which amounts to N58.0 million.

Other performance indicators of Berger Paints include its profit for the financial year, which grew to N468,797 from N208,670 in 2022, and basic earnings per share, which jumped from 72 kobo to 162 kobo, an increase of 125 percent respectively.

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“Despite the myriad challenges in our operating environment, impacting both our business operations and the daily lives of our customers and team members, we achieved a remarkable 125% growth in our bottom-line figure compared to 2022.

A review of the company’s other performance indicators shows that its revenue hit N7.91 billion, an increase of 25 %, Year-on-Year, Operating Profit, N730.18, an increase of 84 %, and total assets, N6.61 billion, an increase of 20 % amongst others

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According to the Managing Director, the year 2023 underscored the enduring Nigerian love for vibrant experiences and Berger Paints rose to the occasion by exceeding customers’ expectations in the quality of products and service delivery. “With Berger Paints, you can never go wrong. Our commitment to customer satisfaction has been the bedrock of our success since 1959’, she added.

‘Throughout the year, we revitalized our corporate ethos by reshaping our brand. More than just a logo, our brand embodies a commitment to quality assurance and customer-centric values: Professionalism, Integrity, Innovation, customer focus, and Teamwork which helped us to achieve a strong position in the market’ the MD stated.

‘’Looking forward, we aspire to conquer the African market landscape with our products and services. Our dedicated team is poised to leverage resources efficiently, and innovate to deliver exceptional service to our customers,” explained Fagun.

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In March last year, Berger Paints took the Nigerian manufacturing sector and the financial market by storm, when it unveiled its new brand identity. The rebranding was prompted by the need to capture the younger demography especially those aged 25-45 to ensure business continuity and success.

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BREAKING: Why Ihedioha quit PDP *Weighs next political option

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Emeka Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State from May 29, 2015 to January 14, 2020, has finally ditched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform under which he became Deputy Speaker for eight years before he ran for the number one job in his state – one of the major outcomes of the current crisis in the nation’s main opposition party.

Ihedioha, announced his resignation in a letter to the ward Chairman in Mbutu, Aboh-Mbaise Local Government Area of the state, on Tuesday, five days after the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, citing his unhappiness with the way its affairs were being handled, which he could no longer live with.

An acolyte of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and two-time presidential candidate of the party in 2019 and 2023, it is believed that the position of former Deputy Speaker had to do with the inability of the PDP NEC, the second highest organ to deal decisively with the issues that have been beleaguering its leadership since the 2023 elections, in which it was split down the middle.

One of the issues was the failure of the party to take action against some renegades, who worked against Atiku in the last election, particularly the G-5, a group of five governors on the platform of the party before the election, led by Nyesom Wike, former Governor of Rivers State, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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The group, which also included Samuel Ortom of Benue, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, whose tenures ended in 2023 and Seyin Makinde of Oyo, currently in his second and final term, had stood staunchly against Atiku on the ground that he did not support the removal of Iyorchia Ayu, as National Chairman of the party, since both of them came from the North.

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Against the backdrop that Wike and his group would be sanctioned with possible suspension or outright expulsion from the party, the NEC took a middle ground in what was not only seen as a slap in the wrist, but a victory for Wike against the Atiku camp, which had favoured full sanctions.

It is believed that this was what Ihedioha, was referring to when he lamented in his letter dated April 23, and delivered to the PDP headquarters on Tuesday, where he pointed out that he has no doubt whatsoever that his decision to quit was the right course of action, given that the party had deviated from its original character.

He wrote: “Since 1998, I have contributed my quota to the development and transformation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as one of the founding members. All these years, I have taken pride in the fact that the PDP is a party that will always look inward for internal reforms and provide credible leadership for the people, whether in power or outside power.

“I have had the benefit of serving and benefitting from the party at various levels. Regrettably, in recent times, the party has taken on a path that is at variance with my personal beliefs. Despite my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

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“It is in the light of the foregoing, that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party effective immediately. While this decision was difficult to take, I, however, believe that it is the right one. Despite this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

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It is however not certain where the former governor is headed, as one source is saying that he could be heading to the All Progressives Congress (APC), having helped Hope Uzodimma, the incumbent governor, who incidentally ousted him through the Supreme Court, in 2020 win his second term elections on the promise of a payback in 2027.

However, another source told Whirlwindnews.com.ng that the former Deputy Speaker, considered the ruling party too dirty and a no-go area to achieve his ambition, preferring the more popular Labour Party (LP) as the next destination.

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BREAKING: MAN celebrates, as Dangote crashes diesel price again

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Less than one week after Dangote Petroleum Refinery announced the reduction in the price of Automative Gas Oil (AGO), otherwise known as diesel from N1,200 to N1,000, the company, the first privately owned refinery in the country and one of the largest in the world, on Tuesday, moved further with another price crash this time with a reduction of N60, to bring the price per litre to N940.

It was also a day the company announced the decrease in the price of Aviation Turbine Kerosine (ATK), otherwise known as aviation fuel to N980 per litre, a move expected to further reduce the cost of air transportation, which has hit the roof and is now beyond the pockets of average Nigerians.

The price change of N940 is applicable to customers buying five million litres and above from the refinery, while the price of N970 is for customers buying one million litres and above, Anthony Chiejina, Head of Communication of Dangote Group, explained on Tuesday, saying the new price is in consonance with the company’s commitment to cushion the effect of economic hardship in Nigeria.

“I can confirm to you that Dangote Petroleum Refinery has entered a strategic partnership with MRS Oil and Gas stations, to ensure that consumers get to buy fuel at affordable price, in all their stations be it Lagos or Maiduguri. You can buy as low as 1 litre of diesel at N1,050 and aviation fuel at N980 at all major airports where MRS operates.”

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Informing that the partnership would be extended to other major oil marketers, he added: “The essence of this is to ensure that retail buyers do not buy at exorbitant prices. The Dangote Group is committed to ensuring that Nigerians have a better welfare and as such, we are happy to announce this new prices and hope that it would go a long way to cushion the effect of economic challenges in the country.”

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On April 5, the management of the company had announced reduction of the price of diesel from 1200 to 1,000 Naira per litre, the second time after initial reduction from the N1,700, the price stood at when the company commenced operation early in the year.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu had also commended Aliko Dangote, President of conglomerate for the initial price reduction, describing it as an “enterprising feat.”

Reacting to the latest development, The Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Ajayi Kadiri, said: “The decision of Dangote Refinery to first crash the price from about N1,750/litre to N1,200/litre, N1,000/litre and now N940 is an eloquent demonstration of the capacity of local industries to positively impact the fortunes of the national economy.

“The trickledown effect of this singular intervention promises to change the dynamics in the energy cost equation of the country, in the midst of inadequate and rising cost of electricity. The reduction will have far-reaching effects in critical sectors like industrial operations, transportation, logistics, and agriculture, contributing to easing the high inflation rate in the country; a lot of companies will be back in operation.”

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