The country’s external reserves dipped by $56 million from $36.198 billion as of 1 February, to $35.633 billion as of 15 February, Central Bank of Nigeria data showed on Wednesday. The reserves which had gained in recent weeks started a downward trend on January 26 on which date it declined to $36.34 billion. A year-to-date analysis of CBN’s data showed that the reserves, which started the year at $35.65 billion rose to $36.52 billion as of 25 January, buoyed in part by a bump in crude prices. At the last Monetary Policy Meeting in January, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said, “On the external reserves position, the committee noted the increase in the level of external reserves, which stood at $36.23 billion as of 21 January 2021 compared with $34.94 billion at the end of November 2020. “This reflected improvements in crude oil prices, partial global economic recovery amid optimism over the discovery and distributions of COVID-19 vaccines by most developed economies.” However, the CBN’s latest monthly economic report said that despite the increase in economic activities globally and positive news of a COVID-19 vaccine, the external reserves declined due to lower foreign exchange receipts and sustained interventions to stabilise the exchange rate. Consequently, it added, the external reserves fell by 1.7% to $34.97 billion at end-November 2020, below the levels of $35.58 billion at end-October 2020 and by 9.9%, when compared with $38.8 billion at end-November 2019. The external reserves position could cover 6.7 months of import for goods and services or 8.1 months of import for goods only, using the import figure for Q3 2020.

Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), Wednesday said Nigerians should defend themselves against bandits who have turned kidnapping into a thriving business. Mr Magashi, speaking against the backdrop of the abduction of 42 people, including pupils, from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State in the wee hours of yesterday, told reporters in Abuja that bandits were having a field day because they knew people in communities they attack would not fight back. The bandits said to be numbering about 300, in a daring raid, had staged attacks on the school, and abducted 27 pupils, three members of staff of the school and 12 members of families of the kidnapped staff. The Kagara abduction came barely two months after gunmen, in commando attack, invaded the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, on 11 December 2020, and abducted over 300 pupils, all of whom were subsequently freed about a week later from where they were being held in a forest in neighbouring Zamfara State. Mr Magashi, while fielding questions from reporters in Abuja, urged Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits and stop being cowardly. According to him, tackling the increasing insecurity in the country is the responsibility of all. Reacting to the abduction of the Kagara pupils, Mr Magashi said: “Well, is it the responsibility of the military alone? It is the responsibility of everybody to be alert and ensure safety when necessary. We shouldn’t be cowards. Sometimes the bandits come with about three rounds of ammunition and when they fire shots everybody will run. “In our younger days, we stand to fight any form of aggression. Why should people run away from minor aggression? We should stand and face them. If these people know that the people have the competence and capability to defend themselves, they will run away.” Mr Magashi, however, said the government would protect the territorial integrity of the county and its people. Despite saying that Nigerians should stand up to the bandits, Mr Magashi opposed the clamour for the federal government to allow Nigerians to bear arms for self-defence.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has prohibited open grazing of cattle in the FCT, including Abuja, the country’s capital. The Administration said it had communicated the directive to the leadership of the herdsmen in the territory. A director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency, Dr Hassan Abubakar, said the one-month ultimatum issued to the pastoralists had expired, adding that violators would be sanctioned henceforth. The decision of the FCTA comes against the backdrop of the ban on open grazing by the Northern Governors’ Forum, which described the practice as outdated. The AEPB director said over 100 cattle confiscated earlier were returned after their owners were fined by courts, adding that any herdsman found grazing animals on Abuja streets would be penalised heavily. Abubakar said the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello had earmarked five locations for cattle grazing in Abaji, Kuje and Kwali Area Councils. He said, “We held meetings with the leadership of Fulani herdsmen in the FCT and they have agreed on so many issues. We have given them time, which they asked for, and when the time lapses, we will strike. They are not allowed to graze inside the city; that’s prohibited. “Even the minister has approved some grazing areas where RUGA is going to be created; about five areas. We have one around Kwali; another one in Abaji and one in Kuje.

The United Arab Emirates is dismantling parts of a military base it runs in the East African nation of Eritrea after it pulled back from the grinding war in nearby Yemen, satellite photos analysed by The Associated Press show. The UAE built a port and expanded an airstrip in Assab beginning in September 2015, using the facility as a base to ferry heavy weaponry and Sudanese troops into Yemen as it fought alongside a Saudi-led coalition against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there. But the country once praised as “Little Sparta” by former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears to have found the limits of its military expansion in Yemen’s stalemate conflict, experts say. After it withdrew troops from the conflict, the satellite photos show it began shipping off equipment and tearing down even newly built structures. “The Emiratis are paring back their strategic ambitions and are pulling out of places where they had presences,” said Ryan Bohl, an analyst at the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. “Having that hard-power deployment exposed them to more risk than the Emiratis are now willing to tolerate.” Emirati officials did not respond to questions from the AP. Eritrea, which gave a 30-year lease to the Emiratis for the base, similarly did not respond to questions sent to its embassy in Washington. The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, poured millions of dollars into improving the facility at Assab, only some 70 kilometres (40 miles) from Yemen. It dredged a port and improved the dusty airstrip’s roughly 3,500-meter (11,500-foot) runway to allow for heavy support aircraft. The Emiratis also built barracks, aircraft canopies and fencing across the 9-square-kilometre (3.5-square-mile) facility initially built in the 1930s by colonial power Italy.