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FG, NLC reach agreement on minimum wage

The Federal Government and organised labour on Thursday finally agreed on the percentage increase on the consequential adjustment in workers’ salaries as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000.

As the meeting reached an advanced stage, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, tweeted from the venue that both parties had reached an agreement, but he did not give details.

The tweet read, “After some delicate negotiations (with both ministers as conciliators), the government and labour have finally reached an agreement on the consequential adjustment of other wages following the implementation of the enhanced minimum wage of N30,000. We are working on the communiqué.”

In a statement, the President of the Trade Union Congress, Quadri, and the Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, confirmed the peace pact, commending the Federal Government and labour for their patience while the National Minimum Wage negotiations lasted.

The statement read, “We commend the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, and her team for their sincerity. Though they argued that the government could not afford to meet our earlier demand of N30,000 minimum wage across board because of the economic situation in the country, we made them understand that some people could not be more Nigerian than others. If we are tightening our belts, government should also do so.”

The secretary of the JNCSNC, Alade Lawal, also confirmed the figure to our correspondent through a text message after confirmation on what was agreed with the FG was sought from him.

Lawal had earlier told our correspondent that the parties had reached an agreement on the wage crisis.

He said both parties agreed on 23.2 percentage increase for workers at grade level 07; 20 per cent for those at grade level 08; 19 per cent for workers at grade level 09; 16 per cent for those on levels 10 to 14; and 14 per cent for workers at grade levels 15 to 17.

The meeting was still going on as of the time of filing this report (12.56am) on Friday.

JUST IN: Fuel tanker burning on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

A fuel tanker was seen burning along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Friday morning.

According to a Twitter user, Jojo Amiegbe, who shared the video of the burning tanker on the social media platform, the tanker was burning just before Redeemed Camp on the Lagos-bound traffic side of the road.

In the video, the presence of emergency services was not seen.

The Federal Road Safety Corps has confirmed the tanker fire.

This is the third fire incident involving tankers this week.

Details later.

Jojo Amiegbe@JojoAmiegbe

Tanker burning at Lagos Ibadan Express way, en route to Lagos before Redeemed.

If you’re driving on that route, best be careful.

Fire fighters, assistance needed.

Embedded video

725 people are talking about this

FAAC: FG, States, LGAs share N693.529bn for September

The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) on Thursday in Abuja, shared a total of N693.529 billion to the three tiers of government for the month of September, 2019.

The N693.529 billion comprised revenue from Value Added Tax(VAT), Exchange Gain and Gross Statutory Revenue in the month.

A communiqué read by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris, confirmed that the gross statutory revenue for the month of September was N599.701billion.

The amount was less than the N631.796 billion received in the previous month by N32.095 billion.

For the month, gross revenue of N92.874 billion was generated from VAT as against N88.082 billion distributed in the previous month, indicating an increase of N4.792 billion.

According to the communique, N0.954 billion was also realised from Exchange Gain for the month.

A breakdown of the allocation showed that from the total revenue of N693.529 billion shared, the Federal Government received N293.801 billion, the States received N186.816 billion, and the Local Government Council received N140.864 billion.

The Oil Producing States shared N51.532 billion as 13 per cent derivation, while the Revenue Generating Agencies received N20.517 billion as cost of revenue collection.

The communique also stated that in September 2019, revenue from Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) and Company Income Tax (CIT) decreased while Royalties, Import and Excise Duties and Value Added Tax increased considerably.

However, the AGF said that as at Oct. 17, the balance in the Excess Crude Account was $323.692million.

Some Nigerians can’t recite the national anthem, says Lai Mohammed

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says some Nigerians cannot recite the national anthem.

Mohammed spoke on Thursday in Abuja at the public presentation of the “Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative”, a campaign for value-reorientation and attitudinal change among Nigerians.

The minister, who was represented by Samuel Soughul, a director in the ministry, said as patriotic citizens, Nigerians are expected to love everything associated with the country.

He explained that “change begins with me” is not just a slogan but a “value-orientation campaign”.

“I think we are making progress. I won’t say all, there are few bad eggs in our society that are forming the clog in the wheel of our progress. Let’s start from basics,” he said.

“If you love your country, you must love anything that is associated with your country. You love your country and you love your countrymen, you love the paraphernalia of the state.

“The national anthem, some of us cannot read, cannot recite, cannot write. Is it the currency of the country, Naira, that we abuse? Is it the constitution that we do not obey its provisions? We have a lot to say but the future is still bright.

“In 1976, there was a desire by Prof. Felicia Adewole to come up with a contract for citizens to sign with their country, Nigeria, and she made a draft which was proved right. That is what we have today as a national pledge.

“By following that pledge, we will not have turbulence around our homes, we will not need bullet-proof vehicles, we will be our brother’s keeper.

“Now, President Muhammadu Buhari, having viewed this with concerns launched a value-reorientation campaign ‘Change begins with me’. This campaign is not a slogan and it should not be associated with party slogan as such. It is a patriotic slogan and campaign – a value-reorientation campaign.

“What it means is that the change we want should start with us instead of pointing accusing fingers.”

Sylvanus Nsofor, Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, was unable to recite the national anthem during his screening at the national assembly in March 2017.

The then 82-year-old retired judge was nominated as a non-career ambassador by the president. He reportedly told the senate that there was no way he would recite the national anthem.

“Why should I do so?” he reportedly said. “You should have sent me a syllabus.”

Thereafter, the senate rejected his nomination because of his old age and his inability to respond to some issues raised.

“Although he was calm at the screening, he looked frail and tired. His responses to issues raised were not answered or devoid of details and mostly satirical,” the senate had said.

However, the president renominated him and he was later confirmed as an ambassador.

Magu says EFCC considering rehabilitating ‘Yahoo boys’

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is considering rehabilitating internet fraudsters, better known as Yahoo Yahoo boys.

Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the agency, made this known while delivering a paper entitled, ‘Strategic change administration and innovation to curb corruption in Nigeria’, at the third all administrators national conference of the Chartered Institute of Administration, in Lagos, on Thursday.

He said internet fraudsters can be useful to the agency in the future, adding that they will be rehabilitated.

Magu said the EFCC is collaborating with ECOWAS member-states to ensure that cross-border criminals are prosecuted.

“So if you carry money from Nigeria and escape to Ghana, we will just call the men in Ghana and say, ‘arrange this man and keep him for me’,” he said.

“This is what the Yahoo-Yahoo boys like to do. But we are planning to rehabilitate them because they can be useful to us in future.”

The acting chairman said increase in the agency’s zonal offices from seven in 2009 to eighteen in 2018, made the EFCC secure 614 convictions between January and September.

He also said the agency invested in its human capital by training more personnel in a bid to fight corruption across the country.

On Monday, operatives of the EFCC arrested 94 alleged internet fraudsters in a raid at a nightclub in Osogbo, Osun state capital.

One month to election, mass resignation hits Dickson’s cabinet in Bayelsa

At least 10 members of the cabinet of Seriake Dickson, governor of Bayelsa state, have resigned.

Their resignations come barely a month to the state’s governorship election scheduled to hold November 16.

Among those who resigned are Markson Fefegha, commissioner for mineral resources; Ombu Napoleon, senior special assistant to the governor on community development; Iniruo Ipogi, special assistant on student affairs; Stephen Diver, special adviser on inter-party affairs; and Natus Zebakame, special adviser on culture.

In his resignation letter dated October 2, Fefegha said he decided to quit the cabinet “after a period of deep reflection”.

Fefegha, who had been serving in the administration since 2012, said his exit from Dickson’s government will take effect from Friday, October 18, 2019.

Describing himself as one of the “first eleven” in the cabinet of Dickson, Fefgha blamed his exit on “political uncertainty and other reasons personal to me”.

He added that “as the Holy Book says; there is a season and a purpose for everything under the heaven.”

Fefegha is the first commissioner to leave Dickson’s cabinet since political appointees defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the governorship election.

In another letter dated October 16, Napoleon whose resignation appears most recent, said his reason is personal.

On Friday, the governor had appointed 60 aides which he said would “help his government finish well.”

CBN to continue to apply monetary policy tools to control Inflation

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it will continue to apply monetary policy tools to control the rising inflation.

The CBN made the promise in its 2018 financial stability report signed by its Governor, Godwin Emefiele which was released on Thursday.

Inflation increased to 11.24 per cent in September 2019, according to the latest inflation report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

According to the NBS  report , inflation rose by 0.22 per cent points, higher than the 11.02 per cent recorded in August and 11.08 per cent for July 2019.

The bank explained that its commitment was necessary following anticipation of increase in inflation in the coming months.

The report indicated that the apex bank would continue to intensify efforts at strengthening the existing synergy between the fiscal and monetary authorities.

According to the report, this will help to ensure policies are complementary in engendering growth and development.

The bank said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate sustained its upward trend, largely driven by strong performance in the non oil sector.

The bank also attributed the GDP’s growth to government’s efforts at diversifying the economy and boosting alternative revenue sources.

“The CBN will continue to implement programmes towards supporting the real sector to ensure that the economy remains on a steady trajectory of recovery towards the achievement of its growth projections.

“The report recalls that the bank maintained its non-expansionary monetary policy stance in the second half of 2018 to rein in inflationary pressure,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the bank noted that the potential risks to the stability of the banking system was as a result of high exposure to the oil and gas sector.

The CBN added that though cyber-crime and trade tensions remained.

The report stated that the apex bank had implemented appropriate policies and regulatory measures to significantly minimise the impact of such risks on the Nigerian financial system.

I’m not quitting APC, says Obaseki

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has reaffirmed that he has no plans to leave the All Progressives Congress (APC) for another political party.

The governor spoke when he received members of the Godwin Obaseki Support Group (GOSG), during a courtesy visit at Government House in Benin City on Wednesday.

“If a handful of individuals start misbehaving and feel we will leave the party for them; they will be the ones to leave,” he said.

Obaseki described the APC as a party for the youths and the next generation, adding that his administration is focused on infrastructural and institutional reforms that would stand the test of time.

“This is a government of real change, which is concerned about youths and the future. This government has performed beyond people’s expectations and we are proud of the things we have done so far.”

Obaseki commended the GOSG for supporting his administration, urging members of the group to intensify their activities in the state and collaborate with other groups with the same ideology.

The governor urged the group to collaborate with the state government in the campaign to kick out thuggery in the state.

Earlier, the Director-General of the group, Henry Idogun, said the group was formed during the 2016 governorship election to bridge the information gap, which existed on the governor’s profile.

“The group was happy with the developmental strides of the Obaseki led-administration which include massive and sustained infrastructural development and deep-rooted institutional reforms, noting that the award presented to the governor by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) was well-deserved as the governor has made Edo State a reference point in transforming education in the country.”

Idogun said GOSG exists to add value to governance and leverages the party machinery and other relevant stakeholders in the areas of voters’ education and mobilisation, creation of more polling units and election monitoring.

He added that members of the group, numbering over 18,000, are in support of the second term bid of the governor.

Sex toy shop assault: Police tender another CCTV footage against Abbo

The police have tendered another CCTV footage against Elisha Abbo, senator representing Adamawa north.

Abbo was arraigned at a magistrate court in Zuba, on a one-count charge for allegedly assaulting a woman at a sex toy shop in Abuja.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, James Idachaba, prosecution counsel, informed the court that they have retrieved another CCTV footage that captured the incident and that they intend to tender it as additional proof of evidence.

He also informed the court that the second prosecution witness was in court to testify.

However, the witness could not testify because Adegbite Adeniyi, Abbo’s counsel, applied for an adjournment.

He said they had just been served with the additional proof of evidence and he would need time to study it.

“The law gives us the right to be given time to go through such proof of evidence before the case can continue,” he said.

Idachaba did not object to the application for adjournment.

Abdullahi Ilellah, the magistrate, adjourned the case till November 19 for continuation of trial.

GenCos failed to generate 2,352.5mw due to distribution infrastructure deficit

Electricity Generation Companies (GenCos), comprising gas-fired and hydro stations said that they could not generate 2,352.5 megawatts of electricity on Wednesday due to unavailability of distribution infrastructure.

This is contained in a daily energy report by the Advisory Power Team, office of the Vice President, a copy of which was obtained in Abuja on Thursday.

The report also attributed the 2,352 .5 megawatts not generated to high frequency.

It also noted that 1.55 megawatts of electricity was not generated due to unavailability of transmission infrastructure during the period.

Similarly, it said that 1,551 megawatts was not generated due to unavailability of gas.

The report, however, said that the GenCos released an average of 3,500 MegaWatts-Hour of electricity into the national grid.

It said that the electricity sent out by the GenCos was up by 98.87 megawatts from the 3,401 released on Tuesday.

The report said zero megawatts was recorded as losses due to water management procedures.

The report revealed that the power sector lost an estimated over N1.94 billion due to insufficient gas supply, distribution and transmission infrastructure.

On sector reform/activities, it said that the dominant constraint for Wednesday was high frequency resulting from unavailability of distribution infrastructure.

The report said that the peak generation attained on Monday was 4, 140 megawatts.

Seven banks fail CBN’s stress test

The funding positions of seven commercial banks are inadequate, the result of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stress test released on Thursday, has shown.

The financial stability report signed by CBN Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Kelvin Amugo, showed that in the less than 30-day period analysis, seven banks were not adequately funded, while in the 31 to 90-day period, nine banks had funding gaps.

The report, however, said the cumulative position for the industry showed an excess of N4.8 trillion assets over liabilities.

The seven banks were, however, not named by the apex bank. Nigeria has 24 banks.

The report, which covered the period ended December 2018, showed that six banks accounted for 82 per cent (N252.00 billion) of total placements and 86 per cent (N 266 billion) of total takings, of which 71 per cent (N190 billion) was provided by the top four placers of funds.

The stress test result revealed that, after a one-day run scenario, the liquidity ratio for the industry declined to 34.69 per cent from the 51.87 per cent pre-shock position and to 17.55 and 13.48 per cent after a five-day and cumulative 30-day scenarios.

The result also revealed that, under five-day and cumulative 30-day run scenarios on the banking industry, liquidity shortfalls declined to N1.58 trillion and N1.98 trillion.

The results of the stress test of default in exposure to the oil and gas sector showed that the banking industry could withstand up to 50.00 per cent default as the post-shock Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) remained at 10.24 per cent.

The results of the stress tests on the net position of interest sensitive instruments showed that the banking industry would maintain a stable solvency position to interest rate shock of up to 1000 basis points downward shift in yield curve as the post-shock CAR declined marginally from 15.26 to 13.41 per cent.

The industry pre-shock assets and liabilities maturity profile at end-December 2018 revealed that the shorter end of the market less than 90 day buckets were adequately funded.

Contagion risk from the unsecured transactions in the interbank market was moderate at end- December 2018. The results of simulated conditional counter-party default from unsecured interbank loans indicated low risk as the banks, except two, maintained post-shock CAR above 10 per cent.

The Implied Cash Flow Analysis (ICFA) assessed the ability of the banking system to withstand unanticipated substantial withdrawals of deposits, short-term wholesale and long-term funding over five days and cumulative 30 days, with specific assumptions on fire sale of assets.

The test assumed gradual average outflows of 3.8, 5.0 and 1.5 per cent of total deposits, short-term funding and long-term funding respectively, over a 5-day period and a cumulative average outflow of 22.0, 11.0 and 1.5 per cent of total deposits, short-term funding and long-term funding respectively, on a 30-day balance. It also assumed that the assets in Table 3.10 would remain unencumbered after a fire sale.

Also, reported cases of fraud and forgeries by banks increased to 25,029 at end-December 2018 from 20, 774 at end-June 2018. However, the total amount involved decreased to N18.94 billion at end- December 2018 from N19.77 billion at end-June 2018.

Similarly, actual losses declined to N2.21 billion at end-December 2018 from N12.10 billion in the first half of 2018.The total number of reported fraud cases in OFIs stood at 754 at end-December 2018, while the actual loss of N120.98 million was recorded during the same period.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and mobile channels recorded the highest incidence of fraud. To tackle this trend, bank customers were continually sensitised on safe banking practices while banks were encouraged to implement strong authentication controls and carry out comprehensive infrastructure risk assessments.

A total of 1,612 complaints from consumers of financial services were received in the period under review, indicating an increase of 173 complaints or 12.02 per cent over the 1,439 received in the first half of 2018. Of this number, 1,602 complaints or 99.38 per cent were against banks, while 10 complaints or 0.62 per cent were against OFIs. The complaints were in various categories, such as Excess/Unauthorised charges, Frauds, Guarantees, Dispense errors, Funds Transfers.

A total of 1,496 complaints were successfully resolved or closed in the period under review, compared with 4,723 in the first half of 2018, indicating a decrease of 3,227 or 215.71 per cent. Total claims made by complainants during the period amounted to N7.995 billion and US$1.767 million, while the sums of N3.093 billion and US$1.724 million were refunded to customers.

Amugo said the banking industry’s outlook is positive, given the expected enhanced capital base for most banks arising from the capitalisation of year 2018 profits in the first half of 2019.

However, banks’ exposure to the oil and gas sector as well as the implementation of International Financial Reporting Standard 9 (IFRS 9) remains a threat to overall profitability.

“The CBN will continue to collaborate with the fiscal authority and other financial services regulators to address the observed challenges towards ensuring that the gains made are sustained to reinforce financial system stability,” he said.

During the review period, seven banks were categorised as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs). The banks were selected based on the D-SIB supervisory framework, given their size, interconnectedness, substitutability and complexity. The D-SIBs accounted for 63.80 per cent of the industry total assets of N35.10 trillion and 65.23 per cent of the industry total deposit of N21.73 trillion as well as 66.00 per cent of the industry total loans of N15.34 trillion.

The examination revealed that the D-SIBs were largely in compliance with the regulatory requirements, including capital adequacy and liquidity ratios. The average CAR for the D-SIBs stood at 19.82 per cent, while liquidity ratio stood at 46.29 per cent. There was an improvement in non-performing loans ratio from 11.31 per cent at end-June 2018 to 9.82 per cent at end- December 2018.

Senate kicks as NDDC allegedly ups water hyacinth clearing from N2.5bn to N65bn

The Senate says it is probing the award of Water Hyacinth Emergency and Desilting Contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2017 to 2019.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, made this known when the Director, Special Duties of the NDDC, Nosakhare Agbongiasede, appeared before the committee in Abuja on Thursday.

Urhoghide said investigation became imperative because the initial cost of the contract at N2.5bn was allegedly increased to N65bn.

“Of course, that is a very serious offence. What we are hearing or what we know is that N2.5bn was budgeted for this activity, that is, desilting and clearing of water hyacinths.

“We are hearing that the Commission has spent N65bn, so, we want to know if it is true.

“We had invited the acting Managing Director and Management of the NDDC to come and testify before this committee of the Senate on Public Accounts on an issue that has become of national importance.

“That is, the award of contracts that has to do with the clearing of water hyacinth in the Niger Delta region, and of course the desilting contracts that were awarded by the NDDC under its emergency programme.

“We want to be able to ascertain if due processes were followed in the award of these contracts, particularly with the information we have at our disposal that they exceeded budget limits.

“It is an allegation. It is still an assumption until they come to clear the air surrounding this.

“This is why the senate is particularly interested and has mandated this committee to carry out full investigation.

“So, we want the Acting MD to come. We are aware that the acting MD assumed duties a few weeks ago but government is a continuum.

“It is not a case of whether she is the one that was in office or not, and again we are very clear that this committee is not out to witch hunt anybody,” he said.

Ex EFCC boss urges govts to honour 5% whistle-blower commission

Prof. Abdullahi Shehu, former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has called on governments and anti-graft agencies to honour the five per cent whistle-blower commission to motivate people to give information.

Shehu made the call on Thursday in Abuja at the inauguration of the African Centre for Media and Information (AFRICMIL) Corruption Anonymous (CORA) second year report.

According to him, corruption is on the concurrent legislative list so it needs to be tackled with all hands on deck, thus the introduction of the whistle-blowing policy.

He said that it was unfortunate that whistle-blowers were not being motivated as promised.

“The whistle -blowing though is a policy, is as effective as a law. Just recently, I read that someone sued the Federal Government to court for refusing to pay the five per cent promised on account of blowing the whistle.

“I think this is where the main challenge is with respect to enforcing this policy, when you make a commitment that if you do this, I will do this, I think it should be honoured.

“Therefore, I will like to call on the governor and whosoever is involved that if the five per cent was promised as a motivation for people to report, then government agencies should honour it.

“This is in order to make the policy more effective and by having the masses contribute.’’

Shehu also expressed worry over the management of recovered funds, adding that over the years, millions had been recovered even though there was no concrete statistics on the actual recovery.

He said that it was important that the recovery process was transparent for Nigerians to know how much was recovered in order to strengthen their confidence to contribute to the anticorruption fight.

He commended the courage of AFRICMIL for putting the whistle blowing policy on the front burner of the ant-corruption fight and urged other stakeholders’ key into it.

Also speaking, Mr Oludare Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of Whistle Blowing, Federal Ministry of Finance, said whistle blowing policy order came through the Federal Executive Council and its three years now.

Oludare said that the concern still remained the absence of the legal framework for the protection of the whistle-blowers and this was hampering the anti-corruption fight.

He said that presently, the Ministry of Finance was working with other stakeholders under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Justice to work on the bill.

This, he said would give it a robust bill that would guide the policy implementation because there had not been law backing the whistle-blowing policy and it had been a challenge for the past three years.

Earlier, Mr Chido Onumah, Coordinator AFRICMIL said that as part of its good governance initiative, the centre inaugurated the Corruption Anonymous (CORA) project in early 2017, especially to track the achievement of the policy.

Onumah said that though the path had not been an easy one due to victimisation of whistle blowers but AFRICMIL had in the last two years helped in getting three whistleblowers back to work.

“Going forward, the CORA project plans to transform its website (www.corruptionanonymous.org) into a platform to investigate and report on tips by whistleblowers that fall through the cracks.

“The aim is to put as many tips as possible by whistleblowers out in the public to reassure potential whistleblowers of the importance of their role, and provide tools for anti-corruption agencies.’’

Mr Kole Shettima, African Director Mc Arthur Foundation, said the organisation supported AFRICMIL to carry out the CORA project because it wanted to support Nigeria by contributing toward uplifting the poor people. (NAN)

Man sues in-laws for giving him already pregnant daughter

A 35 -year-old man, Ibrahim Adamu, on Thursday dragged both his parents-in-law before the Magajin Gari Shari’a Court in Kaduna State, accusing them of foisting their already pregnant daughter on him in marriage.

The defendants are Sani Dogon-Zikiri, his father-in-law and Laura Sani, his mother-in-law, both accused of deceit and breach of trust.

The plaintiff, who resides at Rijjana village, told the court through his counsel, Mr. Hussaini Yakubu, that the defendants had deceitfully gotten their daughter married to him knowing she was already pregnant.

The plaintiff also accused his wife, Nafisa Sani of allegedly conniving with her parents to deceive him.

“The complainant and his wife had conducted a pregnancy test shortly after marriage which confirmed that she was two weeks pregnant before the wedding. He then asked his wife about the pregnancy and she confirmed that the pregnancy wasn’t his”, the counsel to the plaintiff’ told the court.

The counsel prayed the court to compel the defendants to pay his client the sum of N100,000 as compensation for deception.

The defendants, through their lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, denied the allegations. Suleiman argued that the plaintiff ought to have raised alarm the very moment he discovered his wife’s alleged pregnancy rather than wait until the baby was born

Mob stopped us from accessing Onitsha fire scene – FFS

The Federal Fire Service (FFS) has said that a mob stopped its men from getting to the scene of Wednesday’s fire incident at Ochanja Market, Onitsha, in Anambra.

Spokesperson of the agency, Ugo Huan, said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

“The Federal Fire Service received a call about the fire outbreak around 2.00 p. m.

“The control room at the headquarters in Abuja immediately turned out its nearest station at Asaba, Delta State, to attend to the fire.

“Our men immediately headed to the scene but it was not possible to contend with the heavy traffic at the Niger bridge head, coupled with the behaviour of an angry mob who pelted stones at them.

“Thus, it was not possible for the firefighters to get to the scene and fight the fire in such a hostile environment”, Huan said.

Reports say that no fewer than five persons, including a woman and her child, died in the inferno caused by the explosion of a petrol tanker.

Many buildings and shops were also torched in the disaster, according to reports.

The spokesman said the FFS Controller General, Mr Liman Ibrahim, was deeply saddened by the incident, and had expressed his heart-felt condolences to the victims and their families.

“The Federal Fire Service is committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property, with the procurement of new state-of-the-art firefighting trucks distributed to the 12 zones of the service across the nation.

“The service is always ready to respond to fire outbreaks and other emergencies across the nation.

“It is worthy to note that similar situations in recent past in  Sokoto, Uyo, Minna, Ibadan, Osun and Lagos were prevented from escalating to a major disaster by the Federal Fire Service.

“The case of Ochanja market was an unfortunate one, as one will wonder why individuals will want to attack firefighters that came to help put out fire that was threatening lives and ravaging property,” he said.

Huan added that “the service will like to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that in as much as the fire service is prepared and committed to saving of lives and property in emergencies, their support and cooperation is highly needed to do that.”

He further explained that the service remained committed to its mandate of saving lives and property of Nigerians and others residing in the country. (NAN)

 

Buhari orders forensic audit of NDDC

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2001 to 2019.

The decision followed persistent criticisms of the operations of the commission.

A statement by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, said Buhari gave the directive after receiving governors of the states that make up the NCDC, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.

The President said what was presently on ground in the South-South region did not justify the huge resources that had been made available to the agency.

He said, “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent.”

Buhari admitted that developing the Niger Delta area required enormous resources compared to other parts of the country with firmer lands.

“I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants”, he said.

Buhari however said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the organisation.

Earlier, Dickson expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC which, they said, was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.

He, therefore, called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.

FG mulls new tax on soft drinks

Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, says the Federal Government is considering introducing excise duty on carbonated drinks.

The minister made this known while addressing the media on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.

Excise duty is a levy placed on the manufacture of locally produced goods.

Information on the Nigeria Customs Service website shows that excise is currently placed on non-alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, beer, stout and alcoholic beverages.

According to Ahmed, the government is working on maximising existing revenue streams while trying to identify new revenue streams.

“Our objective is to be able to harness the existing revenue streams that we have by ensuring that enforcement is effective to expand the tax base and also to identify new revenue streams that we can add to expand the revenue base,” she said.

“So in expanding the revenue base, we have proposed the increase of VAT but there are also other revenue streams that we are looking at and some of them include the introduction of excise duties on carbonated drinks but there is a process to doing these things.

“Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations.

“There are several cost-cutting measures also in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRGI) and also a number of cost-cutting initiatives such as innovation and automation as well as capacity building of our people.”

The minister described it as an anomaly that Nigeria’s previous budgets have been funded largely with oil revenue.

“The budget of countries is supposed to be based on taxes that the country is able to generate. It is an anomaly for us in Nigeria that our budgets have not been focusing on revenue,” she said.

“We can only develop in a manner that is sustainable when we are using tax revenues to fund our national and sub-national budgets. It is an anomaly that we are depending largely on oil and gas revenue, which is a resource that is finite. It is going to go out of existence before you know it. So we have to develop the domestic tax base. The main focus will be on expanding the tax base ensuring enforcement of the existing laws and then blocking leakages.

“What we are trying to do in 2020 is to harness the full potential of revenue mobilisation. The only increase in taxes in 2020 budget is just VAT. Everything else is just maximizing the potentials of existing tax streams that we have and we hope that we will be able to do this to be able to move our tax to GDP ratio from the current seven to eight per cent of GDP to 15 per cent.”

Ahmed also expressed hopes that the finance bill will be passed along with the 2020 budget so that the government’s capacity to finance the budget is enhanced.

 

 

Why Nigeria is borrowing fresh $3bn from World Bank —Ahmed

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has said the $3bn loan being sought by the Federal Government from the World Bank would be deployed for reforms in the power sector.

She said this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings holding in Washington DC, United States.

Ahmed, who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the Bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the project.

She said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance the delivery of electricity.

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country is currently facing in the power sector.

She said, “There is a proposed $2.5bn to $3bn facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have now in the electricity sector.

“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.

“So we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”

The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing for the disbursement of the $3bn facility in two tranches of $1.5bn each.

When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7tn the finance minister insists that Nigeria does not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do is to increase its revenue-generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, it’s underperformance is significantly straining the government’s ability to service its debt obligation.

The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem.

“Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.

“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9tn at a time when government revenue performance is less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures are being put in place to correct the anomaly.

I never indicted Ambode – Ex Commissioner

Olusegun Banjo, former commissioner for economic planning and budget, says he told the Lagos State House of Assembly that there was no provision for the purchase of 820 buses in the budget managed by his ministry at the time he assumed office.

Banjo was reacting to reports that he made statements before the assembly indicting Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of the state, under whom he served.

In separate statements issued on Tuesday by Banjo and Olawale Oluwo, former commissioner for energy and mineral resources, both men said the reports that they testified against Ambode was not true.

Banjo said he told the assembly that he was not informed about what transpired regarding the 820 buses because the matter preceded him.

“I informed the committee that I was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground. I also explained that the bus issues were not contained in the budget I managed but could have been in earlier budgets,” he said.

“Regarding the operations of the Ministry, I brought it to the attention of the house that the operating system need to be reviewed and also mentioned other weaknesses in a professional manner.

“It is pertinent to note that these observations had earlier been included in my handing over note to the new administration and as it affects all arms of Government and not the executive alone.

“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in Government when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the bus Steering committee on assumption of duty in February 2018.

“My response to questions asked by the committee under oath was intended to explain technical issues pertaining to the operations of the Ministry and explain the anomalies they noted and seek explanations to, and nothing said by me there was intended to or said in any manner as to condemn or indict anyone.”

Also, Oluwo said he did not make any statement to indict his former principal.

“Suarau was asked questions on the Lagos State Rice Mill project in Imota while I was asked questions on the LED UK street lights installations (a UK Exim Bank funded project),” he said.

“I answered the committee’s questions to the best of the information available to me and at no time was anyone of us asked questions on Oshodi Interchange or any other projects outside the two mentioned above;

“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I DID NOT AND COULD NEVER HAVE INDICTED FORMER GOVERNOR AKINWUNMI AMBODE!!! I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility.”

 

Buhari inaugurates 2020 Armed Forces emblem with N10m donation

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, inaugurated the 2020 Emblem Appeal Launch for the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration with a donation of N10 million on behalf of the Federal Government.

The president made the donation shortly before the commencement of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Buhari encouraged all citizens to donate generously in support of veterans and dependents of the fallen heroes.

The president also called on Nigerians and others resident in Nigeria to procure and wear the emblem with pride, to identify with those who sacrificed their lives for the peace and security of the nation.

He enjoined government agencies at federal and state levels to continue to patronise services of Nigerian Legion Corps of Commissionaires in the provision of security services.

“I am happy to note that the Legion has continued to be a rallying point of veterans and has done its part in catering for the welfare of their ailing members.

“I enjoin the leadership of the Legion to continue in this spirit. I also urge Nigerians to accord them the needed support, friendship and patronage.

“As the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Legion, I wish to pledge my continued support and that of the Federal Government to the organisation.

“My appreciation goes to the State Governors who are patrons in their respective States for the support they are providing to the Legion.

“As I launch the emblem shortly, I wish to call on all Nigerians and others resident in Nigeria to procure and wear the emblems with pride to identify with those who laid down their lives for the peace and security of our fatherland,’’ he said.

According to the president, the potentials of the ex-servicemen are enormous and the economy can tap into this for national development.

Buhari charged the citizens not to forget those currently engaged in internal security operations, particularly the on-going war against insurgency in some parts of the country.

He said: “It is indeed befitting to honour the memory of the gallant officers and men who paid the supreme sacrifice to keep the country united.

“For those who survived with varying degrees of incapacitation, they require our attention and care and we will continue to provide and cater for them.”

According to the president, the nation is appreciative of the gallantry and sacrifices of officers and men of the armed forces in the campaign against insurgency and other internal security operations.

He noted that their efforts had led to the return of normalcy in affected parts of the nation.

“The Boko Haram terrorists have been substantially defeated and degraded to the extent that they are only daring soft targets.

“However, all hands must be on deck to check the attacks on soft targets, mostly innocent Nigerians.

“The peace and security of Nigeria is non-negotiable and the security agencies must continue to do their work diligently.”

Buhari reiterated his administration’s determination to continue to provide necessary logistical support to the military.

He said this was necessary to ensure that “the armed forces operate with the best modern warfare equipment, while at the same time adequately addressing the issues of their welfare’’.

Buhari said the government would remain steadfast in developing its alliances with neighbours and friends in the international community for the total defeat of the insurgents.

The president maintained that the task of resettling and rehabilitating victims of the insurgency as well as the reconstruction of territories affected by the war would continue to be one of the priorities of his administration.

“We shall not rest until all our displaced persons are safely resettled into their communities without fear of further attacks.

“It is for this reason that the North East Development Commission and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development were established.

“The Executive Arm of Government hereby commends the National Assembly for the passage of the Bill establishing the Commission.

“It is our hope that with prudent management of limited resources and support from well-meaning Nigerians and Corporate bodies, the Commission working in close collaboration with the Ministry and friends abroad will be able to deliver on their mandate,’’ he added.

Buhari commended the “rising trend, where business concerns offer discounted services to our men and women in the Armed Forces in appreciation of their selfless sacrifices to the fatherland’’.

“We commend these laudable initiatives and urge more of our business concerns to do likewise.

“Such gestures would no doubt encourage them in defence of our country and its people.’’

Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo were decorated with the emblem by the National Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, retired Brig.-Gen. Jones Akpa.

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who was at the event, was also decorated with the emblem by the Secretary of the legion.

Other personalities at the occasion included Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, ministers and security chiefs.