The European Union has written a letter to the World Trade Organisation to complain about Nigeria’s milk and dairy restriction policy. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO’s Director-General told the Central Bank of Nigeria during a visit there on Tuesday. The CBN had in July 2019 included milk and dairy products on its list of items not eligible for foreign exchange. This led to restrictions in the importation of milk into Nigeria, as the commodity was classed among such agro-products as tomatoes, rice and others. Okonjo-Iweala told the CBN that the WTO would look into the complaint presented to it by the EU as she encouraged Nigeria to take advantage of global trade opportunities of being a WTO member. She also called for Nigeria to improve its share of global trade which currently stands at 0.33 percent. “Nigeria’s share in world trade is 0.33 percent, this is a small fraction of what we could do. Our share in Africa’s trade is 19 percent, which is below our share of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP). This means we can turn it around.”

The CBN has introduced new charges for customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data services. The regulator said effective 15 March 2021, customers will pay a flat fee of  ₦6.98 per transaction every time they use USSD services. It said the new charges were part of the agreement reached when banks and telecommunication operators met on Monday, 14 March to discuss the ₦42 billion debt owed mobile operators by banks. In a statement, the regulator said the new charges will come into effect on Tuesday and “replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion. This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.” The statement added that the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) directly from customers’ bank accounts. “Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel,” it said. The FG had last week asked telcos to put on hold their impending suspension of USSD services over the billion debt load. The statement jointly issued by the CBN and the NCC also said a settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by mobile network operators, was being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved. It said financial institutions and telcos will discuss and agree on the operational modalities for the implementation of the new USSD pricing framework, including sharing of Application Programme Interface to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing.

Militants from the Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram have released pictures of 15 soldiers killed by the group during an ambush on Nigerian soldiers in Monguno, Borno. This development contradicts a statement by the Nigerian army that four soldiers died in the attack. The Army’s spokesman, Brig-Gen Mohammed Yerima, had on Monday said the encounters, which took place on the Tumbus of Lake Chad’s fringes, led to the destruction of the terrorists’ gun trucks and recovery of a large cache of arms and ammunition. He added that the combined troops of Sector 2 advanced and cleared Daban Massara and Ali Sherifti villages among other settlements before they harboured for replenishment and retrofitting along the axis. But Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, in a statement claimed 33 soldiers were killed by the group during the attack. Attached to the statement were pictures showing about 15 bodies of dead soldiers. The group also released pictures showing an abducted soldier and vehicles captured from the Nigerian army and Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). Boko Haram and its offshoot, ISWAP, have killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria. The Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed that the insurgency has been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control is reviewing its guidance on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford after several European countries suspended its use amid concerns about possible adverse side effects. “The AstraZeneca vaccine was seen to be safe and efficacious and we would need to review the data. We should guide the response with strong science and evidence,” Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. “The Africa CDC will be convening an emergency meeting this afternoon with all the experts across the continent to look at the data and what we know, and then to provide appropriate guidance to the continent.” South Africa, which has Africa’s worst recorded Covid-19 outbreak, first sounded a note of caution on the AstraZeneca vaccine last month, suspending its planned roll-out after a small study indicated it had little impact on mild infections caused by a variant of the virus first identified in the country late last year. Several European countries fear the shot may increase the risk of blood clots, a concern the company says isn’t backed up by evidence. While developed countries have raced to inoculate their populations against Covid-19, fewer than half a million people have been vaccinated in sub-Saharan Africa, a region of 1.1 billion people. Nkengasong warned that the continent will remain a source of coronavirus mutations if efforts aren’t stepped up to keep the disease in check. “If we do what we have stated, that is vaccinate at least 60% of our population in the next two years, then this pandemic will be over,” he said. “If we vaccinate slowly it will take us more than five years to put this pandemic behind us and we would be living with the real prospect of moving toward an endemic situation on the continent with Covid-19.”