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How 3 Nigerian migrants died after jumping from 10-storey building to escape fire in France

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The lives of three Nigerian migrants were cut short after they jumped out of the windows of a building to escape a fire in the southern French city of Marseille.

The incident happened shortly after 5 a.m on Saturday, July 17, when a fire broke out of the building in the housing estate “Les Flamants” where migrants from Nigeria are known to squat.

A two-year-old and an adult were also seriously hurt in the blaze inside the ten-floor building, Marseille public prosecutor, Dominique Laurens, said.

READ ALSO: Mali president, Assimi Goita escapes assassination in..

The child was very seriously burned. Nine other people reportedly sustained less serious injuries.

The three victims, aged 20 to 30, apparently desperate amid the flames spreading in the building, jumped out of windows.

Knotted bed sheets hanging from the facade indicated how desperate the victims had become on noticing the fire, according to the AFP news agency.

Speaking during a press briefing, Laurens said the fire spread quickly through the technical shafts, but did not reach the apartments which are “free of smoke penetration,” suggesting the blaze was started deliberately.

“The existence of two fires, one on the sixth floor, the other in the stairwell” prompted investigators to launch a criminal investigation,” the public prosecutor added.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian community of Marseille accused drug dealers of causing the tragedy.

“The dealers terrify us. They have guns. They prevent us from sleeping,” Azeke Endurance, 30, told AFP.

According to the police chief, Frederique Camilleri, there indeed is “a notorious degree of drug dealing here” as well as “tensions between the inhabitants and the traffickers.”

Echoing Camilleri’s statement, the public prosecutor, also described the situation on the ground as extremely tense, adding that the prices of drugs are written on the walls in the stairwell of the building.

A 31-year-old Nigerian man had been living there for a year with his wife, now six months pregnant. Every month, the couple had to pay illegal rent to drug dealers who deal in the building.

“Sometimes they would hit my wife because they came to collect the money. Sometimes they would take €200, sometimes €300,” the asylum seeker told France Bleu radio network.

“If you tell them you don’t have money, they hit you several times.” The man has decided to sleep in the streets with his pregnant wife where it’s “less dangerous than the squat.”

The dilapidation of the building, which was set to be demolished, is apparent.

Lionel Royer-Perreault, president of public housing management company Habitat 13, which owns the building, said the structure was on a list to eventually be demolished.

According to a statement by Marseille’s city hall, “91 people, including 28 women and 27 children, were taken by municipal services to two gymnasiums for emergency shelter” on Saturday evening.

The officials called on the state to offer dignified accommodation to all affected people.

“If the cause of the fire has yet to be determined…what is clear is that the unlivable situation of the squatters here and elsewhere in Marseille’s public housing blocs creates a dangerous situation and serious risk for everyone,” said Samia Ghali, Marseille deputy mayor.

Marseille politicians faced accusations of ignoring warnings about unsafe housing in 2018, when eight people were killed when two buildings collapsed in the center of the port city, AFP reported.



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Nigeria loses N851bn to oil theft, sabotage

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Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said that the country lost N851.84bn ($2.78bn) to oil theft and pipeline sabotage in 2019. This was contained in NEITI’s latest oil and gas industry audit report. NEITI said that it arrived at the estimate after using an average price of $65.61 per barrel and an average exchange […]

The post Nigeria loses N851bn to oil theft, sabotage appeared first on Daily Times Nigeria. Nigeria News from Nigeria Newspapers



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Mortgage defaults hit Sh70bn, auctions jump

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Economy

Mortgage defaults hit Sh70bn, auctions jump


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The Central bank of Kenya, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Latest Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that mortgages recorded the highest growth in non-performing loans (NPLs) f.om Sh47.5 billion in March last year.
  • Unpaid mortgages increased by Sh9.1 billion or 14.8 percent in the three months to March, a rise that outpaced other segments like manufacturing (three percent), agriculture (10.7 per cent) and personal loans (three percent).

Defaults on mortgages jumped 48 percent to Sh70.5 billion in the year to March, pointing to widespread distress in real estate in the wake of Covid-19 economic hardships as property auctions pick up.

Latest Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that mortgages recorded the highest growth in non-performing loans (NPLs) from Sh47.5 billion in March last year, reflecting the struggle by investors to find buyers for their houses amid dwindling returns.

Unpaid mortgages increased by Sh9.1 billion or 14.8 percent in the three months to March, a rise that outpaced other segments like manufacturing (three percent), agriculture (10.7 per cent) and personal loans (three percent) in growth of default on loans, the CBK said.

The mounting defaults in the property market are a reflection of the struggles that mortgage holders are undergoing in an economy that has witnessed a string of job losses across nearly all sectors since the onset of Covid-19 in Kenya in March last year as corporates intensify austerity measures to protect profits.

This has seen workers who took mortgages on the strength of their pay slips default. The slowdown in real estate is hurting property developers who are finding it difficult to sell units that were built on loans.

Banks that had gone slow on property seizures last year following the pandemic

have stepped up debt recovery efforts to clean up their loan books, leading to a spike in auctions.

Thousands of defaulters have since January been appearing in the books of Kenya’s three CRBs — Metropol, TransUnion and Creditinfo International—after the CBK lifted the suspension of listing for loans that were defaulted after April 1 last year.

The CBK has linked the sharp rise in mortgage defaults — credit that goes unpaid for 90 days — to skipped repayments on covid-19 disruptions.

“The real estate sector registered the highest increase in non-performing loans by 14.9 percent (Sh9.1 billion) as a result of disruptions by Covid-19 pandemic,” said the CBK in the banking sector review of first quarter of the year.

Real estate has been one of the country’s fastest growing sectors in the last 15 years, with returns from property outpacing equities and government securities.

The sector has, however, suffered slow growth in sales and rental prices recently due to a huge stock of unsold units, which has seen developers who tapped loans to build and sell houses default.

Low occupancy rates have meant that developers who were dependent on rent collections to repay loans are also struggling.

Industries and other businesses have since cut down their activities in response to the infectious disease, leading to job cuts and unpaid leave for retained staff as profitable firms move into losses.

Businesses that tapped loans based on their projected cash flows are also struggling to meet the loan obligations.

CBK data to April shows that net domestic credit to the real estate sector grew by 5.8 percent to Sh409 billion, the slowest in nine months.

Auctioneers reckon they are holding more forced sales in 2021 linked to mortgage defaults compared to previous years, with banks moving much faster to seize properties from defaulters since the cap was put in place.

But the auctioneers are not selling as fast as they are repossessing due to the minimum bid price, leaving a glut of repossessed vehicles, land, houses and office equipment as cash-strapped buyers seek to buy the properties cheaply and at outsized discounts.

The Land Act, 2012 bars banks from auctioning seized assets at below 75 percent of the prevailing market value.

This has led banks to eye private settlements.

Under private treaties, distressed borrowers agree with banks to look for the best available price for their properties and sell to repay loans as opposed to relying on the auctioneer’s hammer.



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Moi allies seek end of InterCon hotel business

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Moi allies seek end of InterCon hotel business


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InterContinental Hotel. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Hotel Properties (KHP) is seeking a consultant to advise on change of business model for the hotel, which closed permanently in August last year.
  • It is also open to selling or leasing the InterContinental hotel building to the government, which owns several buildings in the vicinity including Parliament, KICC and Sheria House.
  • The permanent closure and the decision of global chain InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to stop running the Nairobi hotel has downgraded its value.

The owners of InterContinental Hotel, including allies of former president Daniel arap Moi, are considering leasing out the building or converting it into a mixed-used property, complicating the State’s efforts to sell its 33.8 percent stake in the five-star hotel.

Kenya Hotel Properties (KHP) is seeking a consultant to advise on change of business model for the hotel, which closed permanently in August last year, to include a mixed-use approach —signalling the hotel building could be converted to office blocks, shops and mini-hotels.

It is also open to selling or leasing the InterContinental hotel building to the government, which owns several buildings in the vicinity including Parliament, KICC and Sheria House.

The permanent closure and the decision of global chain InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to stop running the Nairobi hotel has downgraded its value.

“Define the various strategic options available for the company premises and adjacent parking silo to repurpose the property to ensure maximum returns on investment,” said KHP in a notice seeking consultants.

“To envision and evaluate a mixed-use approach to the premises together with the pros and cons associated therewith.”

This signals that KHP is keen on earning leasing fees from the 389-room InterContinental Hotel, whose sale of the government stake has dragged for more than a decade.

An investment banker close to the Moi-linked Sovereign Group told the Business Daily earlier that the firm had little interest in purchasing the government stake amid the slump in the travel sector and the exit of the anchor partner — the IHG.

“There is little value for Sovereign to run the hotel. The land where the hotel sits is more important compared to the hotel,” said the investment banker who requested not to be identified.

The Privatisation Commission was expected to start talks with Sovereign Group to buy the stake that the government holds in the hotel.

But the commission, which is in charge of sale of government firms, sad it had yet to receive offers from local or foreign buyers willing to acquire the stake in the hotel, which closed in August at the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

Sovereign Group is the largest individual local investor in the hotel with a 19.2 percent stake while Development Bank of Kenya has a 12.99 percent stake.

Joshua Kulei, former President Moi’s former private secretary, Rodger Kacou and Ahmed Jibril own a combined stake of less than one percent in the firm.

The Intercontinental Hotels Corporation Group, which is listed in both the UK and the USA, has a 33.8 percent stake in the hotel group.

InterContinental Hotel in August announced plans to end its lease agreements with KHP, the holding company for the five-star hotel, and shut down the facility amid the coronavirus economic fallout.

This had made Sovereign Group the likely candidate to acquire the 33.8 percent stake ahead of sale to outsiders.

The InterContinental Hotels Corporation has been running and managing the 389-room InterContinental Hotel Nairobi under a 99-year lease since April 1967.

Kenya lost over Sh100 billion in tourism revenue last year, when the number of foreign visitors fell by two thirds due to Covid-19.

The sector brought in the equivalent of Sh163.5 billion in 2018, and the government had initially expected that figure to grow one percent in 2020.

Analysts forecast that global travel will take more than three years to recover, cutting investors’ appetite for expansion in the sector.

Besides the effects of Covid-19 on the hotel industry, KHP is fretful of the impact of real estate developments near the InterContinental building, including the Nairobi Expressway and the soon to be opened bus park.

It wants the consultant to review if the building could be used by the government, signalling its open to sale or lease of the hotel building to the State.

“The analysis should review and advise on the potential strategic re-evaluations for hospitality and commercial real estate for utilisation by the government and private sector,” said the KHP notice.

The exit of InterContinental Hotels Group came amid financial struggles at the Nairobi facility.

InterContinental Hotel was already struggling before the pandemic and was last year declared technically insolvent since it could not service its debts that stood at Sh717 million. The debt was owed to Stanbic Bank.

Talk of an ownership shift at the hotel began in August 2011 when the then President Mwai Kibaki’s Cabinet gave the green light to the sale of the Tourism Finance Corporation’s (TFC’s) stake with pre-emptive rights to existing shareholders.

TFC, formerly known as Kenya Tourist Development Corporation, was offloading the shares in an exercise meant to transfer government-owned businesses, including underperforming sugar mills, to the private sector.



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