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IMF supports Nigeria’s border closure —Minister

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, says the International Monetary Fund supports Nigeria’s closure of its land borders because it understands that the action is not punitive.

Addressing newsmen in Washington on Sunday, Ahmed explained that the measure was intended to restore Nigeria’s relationship with its neighbours, based on commitments made.

She said that President Muhammadu Buhari did not want to approve the closure because he was mindful of the adverse effect it would have on the economies of neighbours.

According to her, there were several engagements between Nigeria and the neighbouring countries toward securing compliance to the rules, “but things got worse”.

“Of course, there will be economic impact on the side of our neighbours due to the border closure, that is a consequence of it.

“In a manner of speaking, IMF supports the border closure that we have done because they understand that the closure was not meant to be punitive.

“It was meant for us to restore our relationship with our neighbours back to the commitments that we made.

“The commitment that we have among these countries is that goods can come through their ports to Nigeria.

“They are supposed to come in sealed containers escorted to Nigeria for the Nigeria Customs Service to inspect the goods and charge them.

“But that is not what is happening. They allow containers to be opened, and also allow goods to be smuggled beyond the formal borders through several illegal routes,’’ she fumed.

The minister reiterated that Nigeria would ensure that rules were obeyed now that it had committed itself to the African Continental Free Trade Area,“ otherwise local industries will suffer.”

She said that a lot of discussions were ongoing between Nigeria and the affected countries toward securing their re-commitment to the rules governing cross-border trade.

(NAN)

Buhari: Nigeria will prosper if we get infrastructure right

President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will get better if needed infrastructure is put in place.

In a series of tweets on Friday, the president said good infrastructure will lead the country towards prosperity.

He reiterated his commitment to providing infrastructure, saying it will be a priority of his administration.

“I firmly believe that if we get infrastructure right in Nigeria, our roads, rail, ports; Nigerians will mind their businesses, many people will not even care who is in government. A country like ours, full of entrepreneurial energy and potential, will prosper,” he tweeted.

“This is why Infrastructure will continue to be one of our primary focus areas. We must & will rewrite the story, for this dear country of ours. I wish we had even more resources,and we are working on this, but we are doing our best within the resources currently available to us.”

Muhammadu Buhari

@MBuhari

I firmly believe that if we get infrastructure right in Nigeria, our roads, rail, ports; Nigerians will mind their businesses, many people will not even care who is in government. A country like ours, full of entrepreneurial energy and potential, will prosper.

Muhammadu Buhari

@MBuhari

This is why Infrastructure will continue to be one of our primary focus areas. We must & will rewrite the story, for this dear country of ours. I wish we had even more resources,and we are working on this, but we are doing our best within the resources currently available to us.

729 people are talking about this

On Thursday, Buhari approved the sum of N10 billion as intervention fund or the rehabilitation of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu state said his administration will continue to prioritise infrastructural development in the country despite limited funds available.

We have difficulty servicing debts, says FG

Barely 24 hours after the International Monetary Fund advised Nigeria to increase tax to raise more revenue, the Federal Government on Thursday said its low revenue was affecting its ability to service debts and fund day-to-day recurrent expenditure.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington DC, United States, noted that although Nigeria did not have a debt problem, she said, “underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt.”

She also justified the $3bn loan the country was seeking from the World Bank, saying the money would be used to finance the power sector.

A quarter (N2.5trn)of N10.3trn budget President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly on October 8 would be spent on debt servicing.

While the Federal Government voted N4.88trn for non-debt recurrent expenditure, only N2.14trn was allocated to capital projects in spite of the huge infrastructural deficit in the country.

The finance minister, Ahmed, however, said the fresh $3bn loan Nigeria was seeking from the World Bank would be spent on reforms in the power sector.

The Debt Management Office had said that the nation’s total public debt rose by N3.32tn in one year to N25.7tn as of the end of June 2019.

The Federal Government owed N20.42tn as of June 30, 2019 while the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory had a total debt portfolio of N5.28tn.

In 2017, the revenue target was N5.08tn out of which N2.7tn was realised. The Federal Government’s revenue projection for 2018 was N7.16tn out of which only N3.96tn was achieved. In 2019, the Federal Government’s projected revenue was put at N6.98tn. As of June this year, about N2.04tn had been realised.

The Deputy Chief , Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Evan Papageorgiou, had at a press conference during the meeting in the United States on Wednesday said, “While Nigeria has a large exposure to domestic debt, it is important to effectively manage those risks associated with debts incurred in local currency.

He said, “Local currency borrowing could be preferred in some cases but it is not a panacea. The guiding principle is prudent debt management. Local currency flows have been more volatile ad Nigeria was not an exception to that. Nigeria has a large exposure to domestic debt particularly from Central Bank bills.

“And then as we understand the Central Bank bills, there are a lot of higher redemption and more roll-overs going forward. So managing those risks, particularly with respect to local currency debt managing debts and behaviour of non-resident debt is very important.”

Also at the press conference, the Assistant Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF, Mrs Cathy Pattillo, had said Nigeria needed a comprehensive reform to increase non-oil tax so as to get funds to build infrastructure and human development.

Justifying the $3bn loan from the World Bank, 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 power project.

The World Bank had in September disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria was seeking a loan in the region of $2.5bn.

The Vice President for Africa, Hafez Ghanem, disclosed this in an interview with Bloomberg in Abuja. He added that in the past year, Nigeria received $2.4 bn.

On Thursday, the minister 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 delivery of electricity.

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country was 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 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 that the $3bn facility be disbursed 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 insisted that Nigeria did not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do was 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 the GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, its underperformance is significantly straining 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 the GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It is about 19 per cent of the GDP and what the World Bank and the IMF recommend 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 was less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures were being put in place to correct the problem.

For instance, in expanding the revenue base, Ahmed said VAT increase had been proposed, adding that other streams of revenue such as excise duties on carbonated drinks were being introduced.

The minister said, “The fact that our revenue is underperforming is not an excuse to bring down our revenue that is required to fund the national budget.

“In 2018, our revenue performed at the level of 58 per cent. Half year 2019, our performance moved up slightly to 58 per cent. But that is not an excuse to reduce the revenue. Because it means we are all sanctioning underperformance.

“So we have to push the agencies. We have to push ourselves to meet those targets. Those targets are not designed by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the agencies proposed those targets.

“But we sit down with them and interrogate them. For example, the NNPC has a production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day.

“In 2019, they wanted a target of 2.5 million barrels per day but we insisted to be prudent and scaled it down to 2.3 million. And the performance is 1.98 million effectively including 100,000 per day that is used to settle cash call earnings but the capacity is there.

She added, “So why should we not be looking at what do we have to do to make sure the capacity utilisation is attained.

“Why do we want to reduce it because we are underperforming? We are lucky that crude oil in 2018, out-performed the budget because we budgeted $60 per barrel and we ended up with an average of $67 per barrel.

“Otherwise, if we had lower prices, the 55 per cent performance wouldn’t have been achieved.”

She said going forward, what the government would do was to make sure the agencies that have responsibility to generate revenue actually generated the revenues.

On the issue of border closure, she said the action was taken because the Federal Government was not getting the right cooperation with neigbouring countries.

She said going by the fact the Nigeria had signed onto the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, there was the need for government to ensure that those bilateral agreements with other countries were respected.

She added, “We have over the years committed to some alliances and bilateral agreements but our neigbours are not respecting those bilateral agreements and at this time when the President has signed Nigeria up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“It becomes more importantly for us to make sure everybody complies with the commitments that are made.”

She said over the years, the practice where goods were smuggled into Nigeria from neigbouring countries had done lots of damage to the Nigerian economy.

Also in Washington, the minister said the Federal Government would be implementing what she described as a “bold and audacious” reform to increase revenue to finance developmental programmes.

Ahmed, who spoke on the topic “Strengthening domestic revenue mobilization,” explained that with numerous complex issues at hand, Nigeria must do things differently “which requires robust, tough, well-coordinated and multi-faceted reforms.”

She said Nigeria when compared with its peers was lagging behind on most revenue streams including VAT and excise revenues.

The minister said the country did not only have one of the lowest VAT rates in the world but weak collection method.

She added that there were a lot of incentives and deductions that further constrained the fiscal space and reduced the hope of stimulating growth of industries.

She said, “The key question is why do we keep performing poorly? And what can we do differently this time to effectively turn around without any relapse even in successive governments?

“Simply put, we have very low effective tax rates, archaic tax laws that are not evolving at commensurate pace with businesses, leakages in our revenue collection systems, low tax compliance rates and poor tax morale to mention a few.

“With numerous complex issues at hand, Nigeria must do things differently which requires robust, tough, well-coordinated and multi-faceted reforms.”

Speaking on some of the reforms that would be implemented to grow revenue, she said the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative which was launched last year would be reviewed

On what would be different this time with the SRGI, she said, “This time round, there are performance targets with consequences for non-performance including the members of the cabinet.

“For example, I have signed to deliver the 15 per cent revenue to the GDP in a performance contract and this will be cascaded down to heads of revenue generating entities to align them with our mission of turning around revenues. We are in the process of developing a second version of the SRGI.”

“The SRGI 2.0 will be informed by data so we are able to better allocate resources and focus on the high impact initiatives as revealed by analysis.

“In tune with the fourth industrial revolution, we want a technological led reform. For example, in a bid to leverage available big data in our public sector domain, Project Light House is driven centrally at the Ministry of Finance to provide intelligence to the FIRS, state tax authorities and other revenue collecting agencies.”

“On the customs front, we are in the process of developing our national single window.” On tax laws, she said the Federal Government had submitted a finance bill alongside the 2020 budget proposal to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.

The finance bill, according to her, will promote fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation; reform domestic tax laws to align with global best practices; and introduce tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and capital markets.

She added, “The draft Finance Bill proposes an increase of the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent. As such, the 2020 Appropriation Bill is based on this new VAT rate. The additional revenues will be used to fund health, education and infrastructure programmes.

“As the states and local governments are allocated 85 per cent of all VAT revenues, we expect to see greater quality and efficiency in their spending in these areas as well.

“Additionally, our proposals also raise the threshold for VAT registration to N25m in turnover per annum, such that the revenue authorities can focus their compliance efforts on larger businesses thereby bringing relief for our Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses.

“The VAT reform is meant to improve Nigeria’s VAT as a share of the GDP in Nigeria which has declined from one per cent in 2010-2013 to 0.8 per cent in the last four years (2015 – 2018).”

She put the country’s efficiency of VAT collection, at 0.2 per cent adding that this was well below the African regional average of 0.33 per cent.

The inefficiency in VAT collection, the finance minister stated was partly due to challenges in tax administration system.

She also said this reflected the high level of items currently exempted from VAT, including the consumption of basic food, pharmaceuticals and educational items.

She also said, “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.”

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.

2020 Budget: Fresh borrowing to raise Nigeria’s public debt to N27 trillion

The Federal Government’s plan to borrow an additional N1.92 trillion in 2020 will take Nigeria’s total public debt portfolio to about N27.62 trillion, an additional N15.5 trillion borrowed since the first swearing-in of the Muhammadu Buhari administration four years ago.

In the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said his government will take new loans during the year.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said on Monday, during the public presentation of the details of the budget, that the borrowings would come from domestic and external sources.

She said about N745 billion would be expected from domestic lenders, while about N850 billion come from foreign borrowing.

Additional projects-tied loans totaling about N328.1 billion, the minister said, are also being expected during the year from various multi-lateral and bi-lateral.

The Minister said the additional borrowing was designed to help government finance part of the over N2.2 trillion deficit in the 2020 budget.

The total fiscal deficit in this year’s budget includes project-tied loans by government-owned enterprises.

Besides, Mrs Ahmed said the deficit also resulted from the inability of the government to realize over N710 billion as proceeds from the oil assets ownership restructuring earmarked for this year.

On Tuesday, the Debt Management Office said in an update posted on its website that the country’s debt portfolio rose to about N25.7 trillion as of June 30 this year.

With the latest plan to borrow another N1.92 trillion in 2020, Nigeria’s debt profile would have risen by over 128 percent in five years, from N12.12 trillion on June 30, 2015 to about N27.62 trillion on June 30 this year.

When the present administration came to office, the federal government’s total domestic debt stock was about N8.4trillion, while states’ domestic debts stood at about N1.7trillion.

The external debt stock of the federal and state governments was about N2.03 trillion.

Details published in Abuja on Tuesday by the DMO showed the Federal Government’s debt as at June 30 this year climbed by about 60 percent to N13.4 trillion, while the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory debt also rose to N3.97 billion.

Of the total debt portfolio, the federal government accounts for 79 per cent, about N20.4 trillion of the N25.7 trillion outlay. This consists of external (N7.02 trillion) and domestic (N13.97 trillion).

Also, the States and the FCT account for about N5.28 trillion, consisting of external N1.31 trillion and domestic N3.97 trillion.

Despite growing concerns by Nigerians, the government has insisted its debt-to-gross domestic product is not only one of the lowest among its peers but also within an acceptable threshold.

Data from tradingeconomics.com show Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP stands at 21.30 per cent as of December 2017.

But the International Monetary Fund has continued to criticize the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio as low, saying it can hardly guarantee the risk in the event of a global economic downturn.

Chatham House: $582bn stolen from Nigeria since independence

An estimated $582 billion has been stolen from Nigeria since independence in 1960.

The estimate, which was attributed to Chatham House, was quoted in an article published by The Economist titled, ‘Catch me if you can, African kleptocrats are finding it tougher to stash cash in the West,’ published in its online edition.

Corruption is known to be one of Nigeria’s major problem and at least N11 trillion is said to have been diverted in the power sector alone since 1999, while N1.3 trillion public funds were reportedly laundered between 2011 and 2015.

In the article which talks about illicit financial flows in Africa, The Economist said so much has been pilfered from the continent that “tracking it all is tricky”.

It quoted Britain’s International Corruption unit as saying it has confiscated £76m ($117m) loot from Nigeria since 2006.

“Another £791m has been frozen worldwide thanks to its work,” it said, adding that “it barely makes a dent in the £100bn of illicit funds which Steve Goodrich at Transparency International, a watchdog, reckons enters Britain every year”.

The Economist said African leaders’ best way of hiding and moving stolen funds is to set up “a raft of anonymous shell companies and bank accounts”.

It spoke of how Sani Abacha, the former military head of state stole Nigeria blind and “deposited billions of dollars in banks across the rich world, no questions asked”.

“Light-fingered tyrants are looking back wistfully. In past decades they could stash their illicit wealth in the West,” it said.

“Friendly lawyers, banks and middlemen were on hand to park the loot. Western governments often seemed equally unfussed.”

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

The article, however, said gone are the days when stealing public funds was easy as it is “becoming a bit harder to get away with”.

“Anti-corruption campaigners and muckraking journalists have busied themselves trying to uncover stolen assets,” it said.

“Western governments, tired of seeing aid money stolen, have toughened up money-laundering and bribery laws.”

Similarly, an anti-corruption tool in the form of a mobile application was recently launched by the Akin Fadeyi Foundation to enable Nigerians to report corrupt practices.

Nigeria’s population is a liability, says Sanusi

The Emir of Kano, Mohammadu Sanusi (II) on Monday said that Nigeria’s huge population is currently a liability to the country.

He said this during a panel session of the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit currently holding in Abuja.

The session was attended by the Founder of the Kukah Centre, Bishop Mathew Kukah and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi.

The session focussed on how demographic realities can be transformed into social and business opportunities and what the implications are on internal migration, sustainable peace and security.

The Emir said that the potentials of the country’s huge population had yet to be tapped as the right policies to harness the future of the young people are still lacking.

Sanusi attributed the spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, insurgency, farmers-herders crisis to the level of population growth.

He said, “People talk that our population is an asset but we are yet to get there. Nigeria’s population is currently a liability because most of the root cause of problems such as kidnapping, armed robbery, Boko Haram, drug addiction are all tied to the population that we have and the question is how do you turn that into a productive one.”

Keep borders closed until neighbours comply with ECOWAS protocols —Oshiomhole

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomole, has said that Nigerian borders with neighbouring countries should remain closed until they comply with ECOWAS protocols.

Oshiomole stated this when he paid a solidarity visit to the office of the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali on Thursday in Abuja.

He explained that his party is strongly in support of the border closure and all other reforms being carried out by the service.

He added that such action should be sustained for the economic growth of the country.

He said the APC under his leadership is impressed and has resolved to identify with the NCS on the feat recorded so far.

“The state must have control over the economy and Nigeria is absolutely right in taking the decision having been victims of expired rice brought in through the porous borders.

“It is a shame that after spending much to reposition agriculture, we still allow people to import expired rice into our country.

“We are lucky to have a president who told us to consume what we produce in the country in order to grow our economy.

“People are complaining that the prices of food commodities have gone up. Our farmers should make money from their sweat.

“Over the years, farmers got a good harvest, sometimes with right prices but smugglers often crash the prices,” he said.

The chairman urged Nigerians to go into farming and take advantage of the current good price of food produce.

He said the policy of the Buhari-led government would eradicate poverty and take prosperity to the rural people.

According to him, Nigeria as a country comes first, second and third before any other thing, there are rules of the game and the rules must be followed.

“NCS is a critical organisation to ensure we do not export prosperity abroad and import poverty to the country.

“Yes, Nigeria is a big brother to other African countries, but the big brother should not be poisoned through the importation of expired rice to the country.

“Buhari’s support base is the masses, the commoners and this policy is for them, that is why we are supporting it,” he added.

Ali while responding thanked the APC chairman for identifying with the service in the step taken to boost the economy of the country.

He said the border closure had boosted the nation’s revenue and also reduced the rate of insecurity in the country.

Ali stated that the borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries comply with the ECOWAS protocols on the transit of goods and services, which they have all signed

(NAN)

World Bank ranks Nigeria among ‘Top 20 Improvers’ in ease of doing business

Nigeria has been named among the “top 20 improvers” in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings for 2019.

Renowned Indian-American experts on strategy, globalisation, and entrepreneurship, Anil Gupta, disclosed this in Lagos on Tuesday.

The World Bank is expected to release the full report later this month. But Mr Gupta said a preliminary report showed Nigeria was ranked along with China and India among countries that recorded significant improvements in their systems towards ease of doing business.

Mr Gupta was one of the special guest speakers at the Platform, a biennial economic summit organised by the Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos to commemorate Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary celebrations.

He said the areas the World Bank report pointed out in which Nigeria has shown the most improvement in the last one year include creating new electronic platforms for taxes and corporate affairs for starting new businesses, registering property as well as the issuance of construction permits.

In 2018, Nigeria was ranked 146 out of 190 countries on the Ease of Doing Business globally. The country dropped by a spot from the 145th position in 2017 after moving 24 places from 169 in the previous year.

The philosopher ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s “most influential living management thinkers” said Nigeria is making progress in economic development.

Apart from the official approval of the Bakassi Deep-seaport by the Federal Government, Mr Gupta also noted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s push towards a cashless economy, describing it as a significant boost to the economy, particularly financial inclusion.

“Nigeria has come a long way. It has been a still democracy for many years. Today, it is Africa’s largest economy. It is the sixth in the world in terms of internet users, behind China, India, U.S., Brazil and Indonesia. Nigeria remains a role model for other countries in Africa,” he said.

He identified the gross domestic product (GDP) and the per capita income of the citizens as the most important economic measures that define the economic success or health of any society.

The GDP, which is the aggregate value of goods and services over a period, mirrors the employment levels of the economy, while the per capita income reflects the average income earned per person in an economy.

‘We’re allies in fight against terrorism’ — Trump congratulates Nigeria at independence

President Donald Trump has congratulated the Nigerian government on the nation’s 59th independence anniversary.

In a statement issued on Monday, Trump said Nigeria is one of its strongest partners and wished the country success in its endeavours.

Trump said the US and Nigeria are allies in the fight against terrorism and expressed his wish to see Boko Haram and other insurgent groups dismantled in Nigeria.

“On behalf of the American people, I extend our warmest greetings and congratulate you on the 59th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence,” the statement read.

“Nigeria is among our strongest partners in Africa. We share common goals of expanding trade and growing our economic relationship.

“We are allies in the global battle against terrorism, and we want to see Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa driven out of the region and other insurgencies like them dismantled.

“The United States welcomes efforts by your administration to diversify opportunities for your talented, creative, and hardworking people to the benefit of both our countries, Africa and the world.

“I am pleased that following our meeting last year, our Vice Presidents are also building on our longstanding history of cooperation.

“I wish the people of Nigeria continued success as you mark another year of independence.”

 

ECOWAS to Nigeria: Border closure not solution to your smuggling problems

Officials of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has advised the Nigerian government to find a permanent solution to the challenge of smuggling.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the bloc said the border closure might hamper the implementation of free trade movement within the region.

Addressing parliamentarians at the ongoing 2nd extraordinary session of the ECOWAS parliament in Monrovia, Moustapha Lo, speaker of the ECOWAS parliament, requested that the Nigerian government reopens its borders.

Lo said the closure happened at a time when Africa was working to intensify efforts for the effective abolition of barriers within the member-states.

The Nigerian government had closed its borders since August with President Muhammadu Buhari saying the move was to check smuggling.

The ECOWAS parliament said the closure is a hindrance to the achievement of the regional bloc’s main objective, which includes “achieving the creation of a prosperous, borderless West African region where peace and harmony prevail”.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls for compliance with Community provisions and thus calls for the reopening of borders and a coordinated fight against smuggling in the region,” the statement said.

“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.”

 

Why corruption thrives in Nigeria — Buhari

Corruption will continue to thrive in the country when accountability is ignored, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

The president was speaking on Tuesday in Abuja at the 49th annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

Before declaring the conference open, the president said because of the damaging effects of corruption on the country’s economy, his administration was doing everything possible to curb the malaise.

Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, President Buhari said corruption and impunity grow when accountability is disregarded.

He also said “people get away with all manner of questionable things when accountants are unable to check them”.

Urging accountants to always see corruption as a gross violation of human right, he described his administration’s fight against graft as a “struggle for nation building for the future generation.”

“For the majority of our people, the millions that are in hardship, the sick, the helpless, corruption is the major reason why they cannot go to school, why we have few equipments and doctors in our hospitals,” he said.

“Corruption diverts public resources, thereby causing much suffering, deprivation and unnecessary deaths in the country.”

He said if his government does not slay corruption with the passion it deserves, the people will not get the result they need.

The president said government will continue to provide the desired leadership to the fight with the optimism that the glorious days will soon come.

“Corruption, our greatest enemy will certainly fight back. But, we must continue to fight to effect a change to our value system,” he said.

He expressed confidence that the initiative of ICAN would greatly assist government at all levels to be more transparent and accountable to the people.

Meanwhile, a former Director of the Kenyan anti-corruption agency, Patrick Lumumba, said “it appears corruption is thriving, because Nigerians are not yet tired of it.”

Mr Lumumba, who was the guest speaker at the occasion, said “the day Nigerians become tired of corrupt practices, the actions that would follow would put an end to graft in the country.”

He lamented that in a society where people celebrate those that fraudulently enrich themselves, corruption will continue to thrive.

“Corruption is a crime against humanity. Experiences have demonstrated that if a people in a country are sufficiently fed up, they will rise up.

“If we think the international community will solve our problems, then we have shown that we are incapable of solving them,” he said.

“The day Nigerians and many Africans are fed up with corruption, things will begin to change. But as long as we celebrate thieves and money, no matter how they are got, everybody don’t care about how it is got. The day we begin to get angry, the country will change within a month,” Mr Lumumba said.

Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, denied allegations that the anti-graft agency “usually sweeps corruption cases involving members of ruling party under the carpet”.

He said the biggest conviction the agency secured under his leadership were those involving two former governors: Jolly Nyame of Taraba and Joshua Dariye of Plateau.

“We are (were) created to fight corruption. The biggest conviction we have is of two governors that have been convicted. You know their political affiliations and we don’t stop cases,” he said.

He called on ICAN to continue to support the fight against corruption adding that this would help stimulate economic development.

No provision for compensation, says South African minister on xenophobia

Naledi Pandor, South African minister of foreign affairs, says there is no provision for compensating those affected in the fresh attacks in the country.

In an interview with Reuters, Pandor said her country’s laws do not have provision for such.

Last week, angry mob went on rampage in South Africa, targetting foreign nationals, including Nigerians.

Adetola Olubajo, president of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, said Nigerians lost property worth millions of dollars in the attacks.

In its response, the federal government summoned Bobby Moroe, South African high commissioner to Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari also sent a special envoy to Cyril Ramaphosa, his South African counterpart, to convey his displeasure over the attacks.

The federal government also pulled out of the ongoing World Economic Forum in South Africa and recalled its high commissioner to the country.

It also demanded that its citizens involved in the attacks should be fully compensated.

“Full compensation has to be paid because as we have discovered from previous experience, a lot of these Nigerians loss their property and it is a long drawn out process and very often are not compensated for it. But on this occasion, the Nigerian government is going to fight for full compensation and hold the government of South Africa to count,” Geofrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, said at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday.

The South African high commission in Nigeria suspended operations on Thursday morning following attacks on MTN, Shoprite and some South Africa-owned businesses across Nigeria.

Commenting on this, Pandor said she was in touch with Nigerian authorities to try to restore calm.

She also efforts were in place to address the unrest in South Africa.

“There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Reuters quoted Pandor to have said.

South Africa shuts down high commission in Nigeria

The South African high commission in Nigeria has shut down operations in the country.

Lunga Ngqengelele of South Africa’s department of international relations and co-operations, told ENCA, a South African broadcaster, that the high commission is temporarily shutting down following reports of attempted attacks on it.

Ngqengelele said: “We received reports that some of the people in Nigeria and Zambia have tried to attack some of the businesses belonging to South Africans in their countries.”

“Out of safety and of course concerns for the employees of the embassy, a decision was taken that we temporarily shut down while we are assessing the situation and ensure that no one is injured in the process.”

The official said South Africa is in communication with the Nigerian government and “we have been assured of the protection of the businesses belonging to SA”.

“Nigerian police quelled the uprising from the Nigerians attacking SA business, we understand that arrests were made. We are pleased that there was no loss of life,” he added.

Many Nigerians were affected in the fresh xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

In what could be considered a reprisal, some Nigerians looted business outlets owned by South Africans including Shoprite, a retail store.

The Nigeria police force said 125 suspects have been arrested over the attacks while the inspector-general of police has ordered tight security around foreign missions and businesses.

The attacks forced Nigeria to pull out of the ongoing World Economic Forum in South Africa. The country also recalled Kabiru Bala, its high commissioner to that country.

In its initial response to the fresh attacks, the federal government summoned Bobby Monroe, South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari also dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Cyril Ramaphosa his concerns on the attacks.

Nigeria has demanded full compensation for its citizens affected in the latest attacks.

Nigeria draws Red Line for S’Africa…demands compensation

The Federal Government, on Wednesday, dismissed media reports that Nigerians were being killed in South Africa, saying only their properties and those of other nationals were being destroyed following the Xenophobic attacks in that country.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this when he addressed State House correspondents after a closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Onyeama regretted that the reports had distorted the situation and impacted on the federal government response on the incident.
“Of course a lot of things have been circulating in social media which have not helped matters. Some of them have really distorted the situation and because of that have impacted in our response.

“So, number one is that the information we have from the High Commission, from the Consul General in South Africa is that no Nigerian life has been lost during this crisis.

“And I think that is very important because on social media, there is a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case.

“What we know is that premises, shops of Nigerians have been looted and property destroyed,’’ he said.
According to Onyeama, a red line has been drawn between Nigeria and South Africa over the lingering attacks, noting that African countries have built consensus against the attacks.

“We want to assure all Nigerians that this government is determined, that red line has been drawn and that we will not cave in on this occasion.

“The South African government has to assume its responsibilities and protect Nigerians in South Africa and we have to hold them to account and they have to do that as well as pay full compensation,’’ he added.

The minister confirmed that the Ambassador of Nigeria to South Africa would soon be recalled for consultation, adding ““Enough is enough – we are going to address it once and for all this time. This is the position of government”.

Nigeria pulls out of World Economic Forum in S’Africa, ‘to recall’ high commissioner

Nigeria has pulled out of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, over fresh xenophobic attacks.

The country is also making plans to recall Kabiru Bala, its high commissioner to South Africa, according to a presidential source.

The source said the decisions were taken at a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, at the presidential villa in Abuja, on Tuesday.

Osinbajo was to represent Nigeria at the three-day forum ending on Friday.

In its initial response to the fresh attacks, the federal government had summoned Bobby Monroe, South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria.

Buhari also dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Cyril Ramaphosa, his concerns on the attacks.

Initially, Buhari was contemplating turning down the invitation of his South African counterpart over the violence against Nigerians in South Africa.

Ramaphosa had invited the Nigerian leader to his country on October 3 for discussions on strengthening the unity between both countries.

When both men met on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference for Africa Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, Japan, last week, they pledged commitment to the meeting which is now less likely to hold.

The latest incident in South Africa has sparked a nationwide outrage, with mobs invading MTN, Shoprite, PEP Stores and other South Africa-owned businesses across the country.

In Ibadan, Oyo state capital aggrieved individuals set MTN office on fire. The offices of the telecommunications giant were also attacked in Abuja and Akwa Ibom.

In Lagos, suspected hoodlums broke into a Shoprite outlet in Ajah, carting away items such as grocery, electronics and bicycles.

Nigeria restates commitment to.oil production quotas

Nigeria has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to production adjustments agreed upon under the Declaration of Cooperation (DoC) between member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Non-OPEC Countries at the last Ministerial Meeting of what is known as OPEC Plus, held on July 2, 2019, Vienna, Austria.

Nigeria’s Representatives on the OPEC Economic Commission Board and Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, made this known in a statement issued on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to the statement signed by the OPEC Representative, Nigeria is totally committed to full compliance with the agreement reached by the parties to the DoC.

“Right now we are not only committed to the agreement but we have elevated our attitude towards it to the point of complete devotion to the adjustments and we urge other parties to follow suit,” the OPEC Rep stated.

Kyari expressed strong optimism that the momentary and artificially induced bearish trends would naturally correct itself based on the strong market fundamentals which have remained steadfast despite the price slid.

He pointed out that with a visible steady decline in commercial stock overhang propelled by healthy demand, it is only logical for all advocates of oil price stability like the OPEC Plus allies to comply strictly with the agreed production adjustments.

He concluded that with the increasing volatility of the oil market, it has become commonsensical for Nigeria and all other parties to the agreement to entrench an attitude of unwavering devotion to the deal anchored on full and timely conformity to their obligations.

Corruption fuelling insecurity in Nigeria – Forum

Citizens, civil society leaders and other stakeholders have raised “serious concerns about the escalating series of kidnappings, killings and insecurity across the country, which are clearly fuelled by years of grand corruption and impunity of perpetrators,” and stated that, “only ambitious and robust anti-corruption fight can end the insecurity in the country.”

This was stated Wednesday at a townhall meeting held at the Barcelona Hotel in Abuja and organized by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with UKaid.

Professor Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, in his paper titled Practical Strategies to Mobilise Citizens to Participate in the Fight against Corruption, said: “Corruption is the greatest obstacle to security, development and equality in the Nigerian society. Corruption affects all aspects of human endeavour and permeates all strata of the Nigerian society, starting from the government down to the average citizen.

This threatens the existence of the country as one entity by weakening institutions, rendering obsolete the rule of law, undermining good governance and impoverishing the citizenry through a diminishing economy.”

According to Akinseye-George: “The most visible impact of corruption in the Nigerian society today can be viewed through the lens of the myriad of security challenges the country has to face, which extends from the activities of bandits on almost all major road networks to insurgency in the North. Despite millions allocated to the defence sector, the average Nigerian can hardly travel inter-state without fear for one’s safety.”

He said: “One wonders what the various governors do with the security votes allocated to them every month. The fact that security votes are generally not accounted for should be no excuse to divert such funds for purposes unrelated to security.”

Hassan Hafiz Mohammed, who represented the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said: Official oath of secrecy cannot and should never be used as a pretext by public officials not to disclose information on corruption matters within their ministries, departments and agencies.”

According to Mr Saminu Amadin, representative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC): “The fight against corruption cannot be left for government alone as the citizens have a critical role to play in preventing and combating corruption in Nigeria. We should deploy all means to fight corruption.”

Mrs R Hassan Ahmed, who represented the National Judicial Council (NJC) on her part stated that: “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act should be fully implemented by all the states, as it will help to fight corruption including in the judiciary and help to address the chronic delay in judicial processes.”

Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP deputy director, said before the group discussions: “Good governance, respect for human rights and total commitment to obey court orders are critically important to the stability and growth of Nigeria, and to preventing and combating the security challenges in many parts of the country. Federal and state governments should focus their attention on the human rights dimension of insecurity in the country, as an honest government is a basic right of all citizens.”

According to him, “Citizens bring a missing component to the anti-corruption struggle. They bring extra-institutional pressure to push for change when power holders are corrupt and are unaccountable, and when institutional channels are blocked or ineffective. Nigerians should therefore exert their collective power to get involved in the fight against corruption including cases of corruption that directly affect them.”

Oluwadare also said: “While corruption brings out the worst in people, fighting corruption can bring out the best. Citizens don’t fight corruption in the abstract. They do so to overcome poor and unaccountable governance, poverty, displacement, organized crime and other forms of oppression and injustice.”

“SERAP encourages people to speak up against corruption at all levels of government—federal, state and local government as well as against corruption involving the private sector, and the impunity that has allowed corruption to flourish. Grand and petty corruption directly affect all of us as citizens, especially the socially and economically vulnerable among us. Nigerians can contact us at info@serap-nigeria.org if they wish to become a member of the Citizens United against Corruption”, Oluwadare said.

The event was attended by Engr. T.O. Dina, the Federal Ministry of Power; Emmanuel Ochum, Ministry of Health; Akpa Benjamin, Federal Ministry of Education; Musa Matoma, Federal Ministry of Health; Hanma Mohammed, Ministry of Interior; Shamm T. Kolo Director, Surveillance and Enforcement at the Federal Competitive and Consumer Protection Commission; and Mr Ogundumu, Ministry of Education.

Others at the event included the representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, civil society and the media.

Participants at the town hall meeting agreed to join ‘Citizens United against Corruption, to which everyone can become members and contribute to the fight against corruption in the country.

Akinseye-George’s paper read in part: “The citizens who are the greatest victims must mobilize efficiently to ensure transparency and accountability in government. This will necessitate making many difficult decisions which includes changing attitude and lifestyle patterns. The question however is, are Nigerians ready to make these changes and to respect the sanctity of the rule of law even when it is inconvenient?”

“Are we ready to face the sanctions for our wrongdoing when arrested by the police rather than offering a bribe? Are we ready to say ‘no’ when asked to pay a magistrate in order to win a case? Are the youths ready to work hard in order to secure good marks rather than taking the easy but corrupt route out by patronizing miracle exams centers? Are the citizens ready to pay the correct tariffs for electricity consumed rather than engaging unauthorized electricity officials or pay bribes to compromise electricity bills?”

“Are we ready as Nigerians to report doctors and nurses of public hospitals who spend most of the time pursing private practice to the detriment of poor patients who patronize public hospitals? When the citizens become conscious of the fact that power resides with the people and where purposes are aligned then significant progress will be made in the fight against corruption.

External debt rises by $15.3bn under Buhari

The nation’s external debt stock rose by 148 per cent in almost four years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, data from the Debt Management Office showed.

The external debt soared to $25.61bn on March 31, 2019 from $10.32bn on June 30, 2015, according to the DMO.

Eurobonds worth $10.87bn accounted for the largest chunk of the external debt, as it rose by 625 per cent from $1.5bn on June 30, 2015.

The debt owed to the World Bank rose to $8.90bn from $6.19bn in the period under review.

China, through its Export-Import Bank of China, is the third biggest lender to Nigeria with a loan of $2.55bn as of March 31, 2019, up from $1.39bn as of June 30, 2015.

Other lenders are African Development Bank ($1.25bn), African Development Fund ($834.18m), Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa ($5.88m), Export Development Fund ($59.15m), Islamic Development Bank (15.51m) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development ($176.19m).

Bilateral debts from France (Agence Française de Développement), Japan (Japan International Cooperation Agency), India Exim Banking of India and Germany (KfW) stood at $366.07m, $74.63m, $26.46m and $171.79m, respectively.

Financial and economic experts, who spoke with our correspondent in separate interviews, described the $15.3bn increase in the nation’s external debt as a cause for worry.

A former Director- General, West African Institute of Financial and Economic Management, Prof Akpan Ekpo, said the country’s debt profile had been increasing at an alarming rate.

He said, “The increase in external debt is something to worry about even though we have not exceeded the threshold and that was because we rebased our GDP. But what should worry us more is our debt servicing, which is increasing at a rate that is not comfortable. We should be cautious how we borrow, and let us know what we are borrowing for.

“I am not in support of Eurobond because it’s commercial and it has a higher rate. The World Bank and the ADB loans are flexible; if you cannot pay, you can renegotiate and the rates are lower. The multilateral institutions are better than Eurobonds because they will give you a long period of repayment. But we have to be very careful with the Chinese loans because the Chinese are very shrewd negotiators.”

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr Bismarck Rewane, said, “Part of our external reserves is borrowed money. We have borrowed but let us see the projects that the borrowings have been used to accomplish. But if they cannot show us the completed projects, then we have a problem.”

The DMO said last month that the Federal Government would borrow $2.7bn from foreign sources this year, adding that it planned to first access cheaper funding from multilateral and bilateral lenders while any balance would be raised from commercial sources, which might include securities issuance such as Eurobonds in the international capital market.

“As long as it is to finance projects, it is a good decision. But if it is to finance consumption, then we are in trouble,” Rewane said.

The nation’s external reserves stood at $45.109bn as of July 15, 2019, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, who also raised concern over the significant increase in the external debt, said the government should be cautious about further borrowing.

BREAKING: Nigeria beats South Africa 2-1..through to semis

Nigeria has defeated South Africa in a gruelling match ..2-1 to qualify for the Semi Finals of the African Cup of Nations football competition holding in Egypt.

Details later