Tag Archives: economy

Budget’21: We shall ensure insecurity, corruption be tackled – Buhari

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Last year was very tough and we know how difficult it was for many families to put food on their table.

As Nigeria joins nations of the world to mark the dawn of the Year 2021 today, President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the setback the country and its citizens suffered as a result of many challenges in 2020, with a promise to tackle them in the new year, prominent among which are insecurity, poor economy, and corruption.

This came as the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki also lamented the frustration in the land.

Governors of Benue State, Samuel Ortom; Taraba State, Darius Dickson Ishaku; Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Oyo State, Seyi Makinde; Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, also bemoaned the 2020 experiences with promises to tackle them.

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Buhari described 2020 as a very tough year, with a promise to effect changes.
The President’s comment is contained in his address to the nation to commemorate New Year Day.

He urged Nigerians as they celebrate to acknowledge the passing of “our brothers and sisters who didn’t make it into this New Year.”

On security, he promised to re-energise and reorganise the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police with a view to enhance their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against communities in some parts of the country.

He said he would focus on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency.

While stating that his government recorded substantial gains in 2020, he pledged to continue “along the path of eradicating corruption, through collaboration with all the arms of government to effectively prosecute this fight.

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The woes associated with the country, notwithstanding, the President urged Nigerians to remember the good things that came with the outgone year, like the attainment of 60 years of independence by the country.

“We must remember that we also celebrated the historic occasion of our sixty years as an independent and sovereign country on October 1st, 2020. In the spirit of hope and gratitude, I would like to remind us again that as a country on the difficult journey to nationhood and greatness, we have confounded the many pundits at home and around the world who never gave the newly-born country that emerged unto the world stage on October 1, 1960, a chance of surviving much longer than a few years.”

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Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, stressed the need for nations to embrace peace and cooperation in 2021 towards finding solutions to global challenges.

In his New Year message yesterday, Guterres said working together would help tackle the climate crisis, stop the spread of COVID-19, and make 2021 a year of healing. “Healing from the impact of a deadly virus, healing broken economies and societies, healing divisions, and starting to heal the planet. That must be our New Year’s Resolution for 2021,” he said.

He described 2020 as the year of trials, tragedies, and tears.

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He, however, expressed optimism that the New Year would erase the bad memory of 2020, saying: ‘But a New Year lies ahead. And with it, we see rays of hope: people extending a helping hand to neighbours and strangers; frontline workers giving their all; scientists developing vaccines in record time; countries making new commitments to prevent climate catastrophe. If we work together in unity and solidarity, these rays of hope can reach around the world. Both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are crises that can only be addressed by everyone together – as part of a transition to an inclusive and sustainable future.”

Lawan had earlier said that Nigeria had every reason to thank God that the impact of the global health emergency and economic recession on Nigeria was not as catastrophic as was predicted by experts.

This was contained in a message signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Yomi Awoniyi, in Abuja yesterday.

He attributed the low impact to prompt response by the government and stressed the need to remain proactive in the New Year.

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On what to expect in 2021, he said critical legislations the Senate could not enact in 2020 are on the priority list of the National Assembly for 2021.

“Topmost on the priority list is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which we need, to boost activities in our oil and gas sector. The PIB has defied passage for about two decades but we are determined this time around to break that jinx and pass the Bill by the end of the first quarter of the New Year.

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Gbajabiamila urged Nigerians to use the experiences of 2020, which he described as very challenging, to work towards a better 2021.

He said he was optimistic 2021 “holds a lot of positives for Nigeria and Nigerians, hence the need for citizens to remain positive.”

He expressed the need for the populace to remain resolute towards the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation.

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“Yes, we may be going through challenges as a nation, but with our collective determination, we shall overcome,” he said.

Atiku lamented the devastating effects of crises in the outgone year, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, even as he blamed “lazy and uninspiring leadership at the centre for poor management of the challenges.”

He expressed sadness that many lives had been lost to insecurity, poverty because of “a poor management of our national economy.”

He described the outgone year as quite harrowing and attributed Nigerians’ survival to the grace of God.

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“It is cheering we are entering the New Year with refreshing news of a handful of certified vaccines against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. And better still is news of commencement of vaccination in some parts of the world.”

Ortom, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said, though the year 2020 came with numerous challenges such as COVID-19, increased insecurity, and economic hardships, praises, and glory must be given to God for His grace and protection through the year.

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He noted that the economic pressures and fiscal constraints of the outgoing year that prompted the 2020 downward budget revision also necessitated the adoption of new measures by governments at all levels to curtail the high rate of unemployment and poverty, insecurity, youth restiveness, and breakdown in citizens’ trust of government as demonstrated at the END SARS protests.

He reminded indigenous entrepreneurs in particular of the existing opportunities such as the state partnership with Bank of Industry, BOI, to give loans at only 5 per cent interest rate to boost farming.

He said the government was conscious of the need to strengthen the resolve of the people to recover from the economic and coronavirus crisis.

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Ishaku, in a statement by his Senior Adviser on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, congratulated the people for surviving COVID-19 and economic hardship in 2020.

He predicted the end of the virus in the New Year if the people would play their roles by observing COVID-19 protocols put in place by the government.

Besides planning to make life better in 2021 by boosting rice production, providing potable water, he assured the people that ongoing road projects would be completed, adding:

“Government remains unequivocally committed to the pursuit of peace and would not relent in its desire to ensure the safety of lives and property.”
Okowa called on Nigerians to approach 2021 with great optimism.

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In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, in Asaba, Okowa reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to providing quality and enhanced service to residents.

He said: “I salute our collective resolve to continue to live together in peace in spite of the economic and health challenges posed by the vagaries of climate and other indices, especially COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ravaging our country and the rest of the world.

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“For COVID-19, which is making a rather unfortunate ‘return’ after what appeared as a respite in its ravaging effect on our people and the nation, I appeal to all residents to eschew complacence and resume full compliance with the protocols to check the spread of the virus as prescribed by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).”

He urged citizens to remain peaceful and live in peace with their neighbours which, according to him, is the core element of the Stronger Delta agenda.

Uzodimma in his message titled ‘A Year of Promise and Divine Accomplishments,’ said:

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“It should never be lost on us that the economic growth of the world and our country was negatively impacted as a result of dwindling oil prices occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. But I believe God designed everything to bring out the tested leadership endowments he bestowed on us.”

Makinde described 2020 as a tough one, which was only survived by God’s grace.

He noted that though 2020 was characterised by a drop in oil prices, which led to a huge drop in revenue from federal allocations and the attendant economic meltdown, the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, among other challenges, residents of the state could still count their blessings.

According to a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the governor gave the assurance while presenting his New Year address to newsmen in Ibadan.

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He quoted the governor as saying: “As 2020 closes, I am reminded of the words of the very popular 1897 hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr, ‘Count your Blessings.’ This song encourages us to take stock of the good things that happened in our lives. When we do this, we often find that we have overlooked many positives.”

He urged residents to maintain a positive outlook for the New Year.

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Wike described 2020 as a very challenging year, saying it was made worse by a mismanaged national economy in recession, the coronavirus pandemic, escalated insecurity, corruption, and socio-political tensions.

The governor said, “these made life horrible for millions of struggling families and ordinary Nigerians in the face of dwindling revenues, rising inflation, poverty, and unemployment.”

He, however, pledged that his administration would create a more robust business environment that would stimulate economic growth, empowerment and create tangible jobs for Rivers people in 2021.

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Saraki, the immediate past Senate President, urged Nigerians to devote the New Year to sourcing and administering solutions to the multifarious problems confronting the country.

In his message released in Abuja, Saraki congratulated Nigerians, who survived various difficulties in the just-ended year. Yusuph Olaniyonu of Abubakar Saraki Media Office signed the statement.

It said: “Congratulations to those of us who benefitted from the mercy of Almighty God and are alive today. Yet, surviving all the difficulties that we witnessed in 2020 is a testimony to the kindness of God and we deserve to celebrate and praise God for the New Year. Happy New Year to all of us”, he stated.

The former Senate President advised further that both leaders and the rest of citizens should focus on how to generate ideas towards solving the problems of insecurity, economic recession, the dearth of necessary infrastructure, the collapse of national values, a threat to national unity, lack of social welfare, and youth restiveness.

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He added that the period of lamenting about the problems or trading blames between leaders and followers, between people of different faiths, ethnicity, and age groups had gone with 2020.

“We should all focus on finding solutions. We should build conversations on what needs to be done to ensure that our security agencies can work together and have the necessary facilities to eliminate insurgency, kidnapping, robbery, and harassment of innocent citizens and foreigners engaged in genuine businesses,” he said.

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#Newsworthy

Senate, Lawan assures completion of legislative actions on PIB, other

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Lawan stated this when he fielded questions from State House correspondents shortly after the signing of the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja on Thursday.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan says the National Assembly will ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), amendment of the Electoral Act as well as Constitution review between January and December 2021.

He said that efforts would be intensified by NASS to ensure the passage of the PIB before the end of the first quarter of 2021.

He stated that the issue of security would also receive serious legislative attention with a view to finding lasting solutions to the security challenges facing the country.

He said, “In the National Assembly, we have three or four critical things to do from January.

“First of all, the Petroleum Industry Bill, the PIB which we intend to work so assiduously to ensure that we pass it within the first quarter of next year, but if we can’t, then, before the end of 2021.

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“Similarly and equally important is to pass the Electoral Act Amendment, this is also to ensure that we continue to refine our electoral processes so that Nigerians when they vote, their votes will continue to count, and of course, the Constitution Amendment that we always undertake.

“Security is a major issue and it is something that the executive and the legislature will continue to work together to ensure that we address it. In fact, there is nothing more important than security today in this country.

We need to work hard and of course resources will be made more available, we believe that with the kind of commitment we have so far shown in the National Assembly to work with the executive on addressing the security challenges of this country and with the commitment Mr President has also shown, I believe that at the end of the day, we will have a better security environment.”

According to the senate president, the National Assembly will continue to support the president to enable him function properly as the President of the country.

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Lawan said: “We are here to represent our people, we are in the National Assembly to represent the national interest, it doesn’t matter where that interest is coming from or which interest it is so long as it is a national interest.

“We will give Mr President the kind of support that he requires to make Nigeria a better place, to make Nigeria a safer place and to make the economy of Nigeria work for every Nigeria.”

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#Newsworthy

Just in: President Buhari signs 2021 budget. [Nigeria]

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The National Assembly also provided the sum of N3,324,380,000 (trillion) for debt servicing.

President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the 2021 Appropriation Act.

Buhari officially signed the document at a ceremony held in the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Noble Reporters Media reports

The National Assembly had on December 21, 2020, passed the 2021 Appropriation Bill with an aggregate expenditure of N13, 588, 027,886, 175 trillion.

It comprises total Capital Supplementation of N1,060,751,051,650 and total Capital Expenditure of N4,125,149,354,222, Statutory Transfer stands at N496,528,471,273; recurrent Expenditure of N5,641,970,060,680 and Gross Domestic Product, GDP growth rate of 3.00 Percent.

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The parliament increased the budget estimate by the sum of N505, 607,317,942 from the estimate of N13, 082, 420, 568,233 presented to the joint sitting of National Assembly by President Buhari on October 8, 2020.

Present to witness the ceremony were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed among other government officials.

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#Newsworthy

Buhari would get ‘no apology’ over summon on insecurity issues – Reps

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Twenty-hours later, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the president had agreed to address the lawmakers. Buhari later shunned the invitation.

Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Monday denied apologising to President Muhammadu Buhari for summoning him over the state of insecurity in the country.

“The president or the Presidency as the case may be never sought an apology from the House of Representatives for carrying out her constitutional responsibility to the Nigeria electorate,” House of Representatives spokesman Benjamin Kalu said in a statement.

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“For the avoidance of doubt, the House never apologised to anyone for excercising her constitutional mandate.”

The denial by the House of Representatives was in response to media reports during the weekend that the legislative arm of government apologised to Buhari for summoning him over insecurity in the northern region.

One of the reports claimed that the House has dropped both “immediate and future” plans of inviting Buhari to address the lawmakers on rising insecurity in the country.

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 1 passed a resolution and summoned Buhari to address the country over the killing of more than 40 farmers in Borno state.

The motion was moved by Satomi Ahmad, lawmaker representing Jere federal constituency, and nine others from Borno State. The lawmakers insisted that Buhari had to address the lower legislative chamber of the National Assembly.

Nigeria’s attorney-general Abubakar Malami argued that the House lacked the constitutional powers to summon the president.

While the House is yet to speak on Buhari’s refusal to honour the lawmakers’ invitation, House of Representatives spokesman Kalu said it will “not do anything to desecrate or destroy the critical institution of democracy.”

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“We strongly believe that President Muhammadu Buhari subscribes to these democratic ethos and ideals as well.

“Media professionals are advised to uphold the ethics of their profession.”

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#Newsworthy

Investors ‘not certain’ of Banks’ growth

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Reacting to the performance, the Chief Research Officer of Investdata Consulting Limited, Ambrose Omordion, said the banking sector’s Q3 numbers were mixed and flat.

With the current harsh operating environment, exacerbated by impact of COVID-19 on businesses, investors have expressed worry that the banking sector might record rise in Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) and erode profitability, if government failed to provide support to boost performance and sustain growth.

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This is because banks play critical role of mobilising savings from surplus economic units to deficit areas to stimulate investments.

Investors argue that banks’ shares are currently selling on discount in the stock market, considering their book value per share, following economic turmoil occasioned by COVID-19 shutdown and other socio-political crisis.

This means that market value of banks are below the book value per share. For instance, the book value of one of the leading banks is 32.94, while market value is N22.60 kobo as of December 14, 2020.

According to analysts, the banking sector, which has been the most liquid in the Nigerian equity market over the years, has come under significant headwind in recent months.

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From strict regulatory guidelines to the current systemic risk, COVID-19 and the drop in oil price have triggered a spate of sell-offs in the market, further affecting the banking sector. The pandemic has severely affected businesses; causing low patronage, dip in revenues, higher cost of operations, and crushing debts.

The situation has impacted negatively on the third quarter (Q3) result of some biggest banks, especially as several events in the country point to an uncertain 2021 for businesses.

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According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), total banking sector credit to the economy stood at about N18.8 trillion in the second quarter of 2020, up from N17.1 trillion at the end of 2019. However, NPLs at the end of the second quarter of 2020 rose by 2.27 per cent to N1.2 trillion.

Although a recent release by the NBS showed the total amount of NPLs in Nigerian banks fell from N1.21 trillion in second quarter of 2020 (Q2 2020) to N1.17 trillion as of Q3 2020; the investors maintained that increase in banks’ Loan-to-Deposit Ratio (LDR) to 65 percent last year, was to improve lending to the real sector, but has pulled a large chunk of money from the banking system.

Although, they affirmed that the market has recorded unprecedented growth in the past few months, it is argued that government’s inability to provide an enabling environment that would boost operations of companies under the real sector and improve their profits would ultimately depress the market, shore up bank’s Non-Performing Loans (NPLs), and erode their profitability.

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Presently, the five big banks (FUGAZ) — FBN Holdings, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), Access Bank and Zenith Bank— are currently trading at values described by operators as very low, compared to their fundamentals.

A look at the third quarter (Q3), 2020 performance of the banks revealed that despite efforts to cope with the pandemic, profit of some Tier one banks, especially GTBank and UBA, dropped.

For the Q3 ended September 2020, United Bank for Africa’s (UBA) unaudited result showed 5.99 percent growth in gross earnings, from N428.7 billion in September 2019 to N454.4 billion in 2020.

However, its profit before tax fell from N98.2 billion to N90.4 billion, while Profit After Tax (PAT) stood at N77.1 billion; thus putting the annualised return on average equity at 16.4 percent.

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The bank’s total assets grew to N7.1 trillion, a 26 percent increase from the N5.6 trillion recorded at the end of December 2019.

UBA also said shareholders’ funds grew by 9.6 percent to N655.3 billion from N598 billion recorded in December 2019, thus reflecting strong capacity for internal capital generation and growth.

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Similarly, Guaranty Trust Bank Q3 result showed that the group reported a PAT of 167.4 billion, representing a decrease of 1.9 per cent over 170.7 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2019 and an improvement on the 5.2 per cent dip posted in H1-2020, relative to H1-2019.

The bank’s loan and deposit book, however, grew by 4.5 per cent and 25.1 per cent from ₦1.502 trillion and 2.640 trillion recorded as of December 2019, to ₦1.569 trillion and ₦3.303 trillion in September 2020 respectively.

The bank’s balance sheet remained well- structured, diversified, and resilient with total assets and shareholders’ funds closing at ₦4.574 trillion and ₦755.5 billion respectively.

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Zenith Bank ‘s unaudited results for the third quarter ended 30 September 2020 showed four per cent rise in gross earnings to N509 billion, from N491 billion posted in the corresponding period in 2019.

According to the unaudited account, which was presented to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the growth was driven by non-interest income, which grew by 11 per cent to N173 billion from N157 billion recorded at the end of Q3 2019.

The Group’s Profit Before Tax (PBT) rose marginally to N177 billion at the end of Q3 2020, representing a growth of one per cent over theN176 billion posted in the corresponding period of 2019.

FBN Holdings gross earnings grew by 5.1 per cent to N439 billion from N418 billion in the previous quarter.

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The bank’s PBT grew by 16.1 per cent to N63.3 billion while PAT grew by 31.9 per cent to N68.2 billion. Access Bank Plc Q3 2020 Unaudited results showed 15.4 per cent increase in gross earnings to N593 billion from N514 billion achieved in 2019. PBT grew by 15.7 per cent to N117 billion, while PAT grew by 15.7 per cent to N102 billion.

He argued that, aside GTBank that seemed to be selling at premium price, the banks were underpriced and currently selling at a discount in the stock market.

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However, he pointed out that some scorecards were outstanding to give insight of dividend possibility.

“The tier one banks have the earnings capacity to pay investors dividend at the end of the current financial year-end. These banks are underpriced, except for GTBank that seems to be selling at a premium, while others are selling at a discount with high margin of safety, considering their book value.

“But the sector looks good and attractive for income investors and traders. They should keep their gaze on banks with earnings capacity to pay dividend.

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The future of Nigerian banks are stable. The sector has shown resilience during the pandemic. The improving macro-economic indices indicate that business environment is becoming stable. This is expected to support the banks,” he said.

A stockbroker with APT Securities, Jamiu Kayode, said: “All the tier one banks have improved when you compare Q3 2020 to that of 2019, except GTBank and UBA whose profit dropped from N146 billion to N142 billion and N81 billion to N77 billion.”

Although he said the share prices had increased significantly, he, however, noted that the stocks were still undervalued.

An independent investor, Amaechi Egbo, said the 65 per cent LDR of banks and low interest rates had supported economic recovery, despite the economic recession.

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He stated that government must continue to create the enabling environment for companies to thrive so that loan facilities from banks would be properly utilised.

According to him, if government will remain focused, in addition to good regulations and improved business environment, the issue of rising NPLs would be checked in the banking sector, while banks would continue to expand operations and increase profitability.

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#Newsworthy

Budget’21: Govs sign ‘money laden’ budget into law

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Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom also signed the 2021 appropriation bill of N134 billion into law.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and his counterparts from Katsina, Gombe and Benue have signed the their respective states’ appropriation bill into law.

Ganduje had submitted the N147.9 billion ‘Budget of Reality’ to the House of Assembly in October 2020 for scrutiny.

However, the N177,936,737.540 budget passed into law indicated N30 billion increase to the estimate submitted by Ganduje in October.

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The governor also signed N52.1 billion supplementary budget for 2020 into law. Education, health and infrastructure took top priority in the 2021 budget, among other sectorial allocations.

Assenting to the appropriation at the Government House, Kano, Ganduje declared his determination to ensure 90 per cent implementation of capital projects slated for 2021.

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In the same vein, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, yesterday, signed into law the state’s appropriation bill of N286.6 billion.

The budget is an increase of N3.8 billion over the N282 billion estimate earlier presented by the governor to the House of Assembly a few weeks ago.

Masari commended the lawmakers for the speedy passage of the bill, more than a week before the end of the year.

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Also, Governor Muhammad Yahaya of Gombe State signed the state’s 2021 budget bill into law.

The N119 billion ‘Budget of Resilience’ was signed in the Executive Council Chamber, Government House, yesterday, in the presence of the Speaker, Chairman House Committee on appropriation, Clerk of the House, Majority Leader among others.

Yahaya thanked the lawmakers for their “usual prompt attention to executive matters, which had nurtured peace, harmony and enviable relationship between the two arms of government.”

Earlier, the speaker had disclosed that 52 per cent of the budget was earmarked for capital projects and 48 per cent for recurrent expenditure.

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Performing the state function at Government House, Makurdi, Ortom expressed gratitude to the House of Assembly and Benue people for standing by him in the face of threats to the state’s corporate existence during the enactment of the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law of 2017.

He lauded the assembly for passing the bill without delay and said it would fast-track government business in the state.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: President Buhari approves reopening of Land borders

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The borders opened for now include Seme Border in the Southwest, Ilela Border in the Northwest, Mfun Border in the Southsouth and Maigatari Border in the Northwest.

Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the reopening of four land borders with immediate effect, while others will be reopened subsequently.

The Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed after the week’s virtual FEC meeting, also said restriction on the importation of some commodities, like rice and other products, would continue to be enforced.

Details shortly…

Why we seize advising Buhari on security issues in Nigeria – ACF

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The ACF spokesperson disclosed that the forum had called on government severally and kept on saying that they were not going to allow banditry to take over the country.

Rising from its Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting yesterday, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said it is tired of advising President Muhammadu Buhari on security matters because the government appears not to be serious in taking proactive measures to end the ugly situation.

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Speaking to journalists shortly after the meeting, the National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, lamented that the Federal Government had failed to heed its advice on how to tackle insecurity in the country, thereby leaving citizens at the mercy of bandits.

Yawe charged the nation’s leaders to tell Nigerians what would happen if their own children were kidnapped too.

He, however, added that massive employment of youths by governments at all levels would reduce crime rate and check rising insecurity across the country.

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“Today’s (Tuesday) meeting is very crucial to the operations of ACF because it is the first meeting of the newly-constituted BOT. We discussed security, and we are worried because Nigerians are not secure. We are not happy about insecurity in the country. We are looking at the immediate and long term ways of improving security.

“It has been in the news that over 300 students were kidnapped and taken away in Katsina, and the government is saying they are negotiating with the kidnappers to free the students. These are some of the things that are very distressful and disturbing to all members of ACF,” he said.

“Bandits went to the school, packed students on bikes and took them to the forest. Whatever is happening to them in the forest, nobody knows.

The situation is very distressful. Our leaders should tell us what would happen if their children were among those kidnapped.

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“ACF complained about this insecurity in its October meeting, and nothing was done. We are in December with the same complaint, and nothing is being done.”

We are even tired of complaining,” Yawe said.

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#Newsworthy

Femi Gbaja ensures speedy passage of 2021 budget

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The third major reform, according to her, is the alignment of the Company Income Tax and the Capital Gains Tax rates, aimed at eliminating the current abuse the two are being subjected to.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has reiterated the commitment of the House to speedily pass the 2020 Finance Bill.

Speaking at a one-day public hearing organised by the James Faleke led House Committee on Finance, the speaker underlined the need to ensure the passage of the finance bill to achieve the goal.

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According to him, “​The Finance Bill which we have gathered here to consider and to contribute to, will determine amongst other things, our ability as a nation to fund the 2021 budget, meet the obligations of government and implement policies to build infrastructure, address the problem of insecurity, grow the economy, and provide jobs that pay a living wage and lift families out of poverty.

“It is an important piece of legislation, deserving of thorough consideration, and reasoned debate by the parliament of the people, acting in the best interests of the people.

“We have a responsibility as legislators to meticulously review and examine every aspect of this Bill to ensure that we produce a legislative document that is clear in its objectives, thoughtful in the mandates it imposes and reflective of the best aspirations of all our citizens.”

Gbajabiamila said that the public hearing provided an opportunity for a broad-based discussion on the bill, urging full participation from major stakeholders.

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He stated that, “​This public hearing moves us closer to that laudable objective by providing an opportunity for citizens and legislators to jointly consider the contents of the Bill.

“It is expected that over the course of this public hearing, citizens will advance ideas and make recommendations that will improve the quality of the legislation and ensure the varied interests and considerations of all Nigerians are taken into view before final enactment into law of this essential legislation.”

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In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Usman, said the major reason behind the bill was to address issues that were lacking in the 2019 Finance Bill as well as deepen the innovations it had started.

However, she said the 2020 proposal dealt largely with taxation and tax administration.

“There are four major priority reforms that are in this bill.

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“The first is the reform in the Customs and Excise Tariff Act, which is the proposal to provide fiscal support for mass transit by reviewing import duties and levies downwards.

“Second is the reform in Stamp Duty Act which is not to remove the tax but change it to a new legislation to conform with present times.”

She also said the bill sought to address the federal issue of division of taxation power so that opportunities would no longer be lost as presently being experienced.

In his opening remarks, the chairman, House Committee on Finance, James Faleke, said the proposed amendments to 18 tax-related and dividend laws were in line with the Legislative Agenda of the 9th House.

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“The 9th House of Representatives in its legislative Agenda clearly identified as priority to “Conduct a review of all Federal tax laws to encourage investment; to incentivize enterprise; ensure fairness and curb tax avoidance and evasion through the use of ICT in tax collection and administration,” Faleke said.

“As encapsulated in the 9th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, the priority economic strategic goals for the House of Representatives include: creation of an inclusive, thriving and resilient economy for Nigerians, attainment of substantive reduction in the percentage of poor and unemployed Nigerians.”

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#Newsworthy

Insecurities: Buhari urges state Govs to work with traditional rulers

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Buhari said violent demonstrations would no longer be allowed, saying “democracy does not mean confusion or lack of accountability’’.

President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the 36 state governors of the federation to work more with traditional rulers and community members to improve local intelligence gathering that will aid the work of security agencies.

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The president’s spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari gave the charge at the of a security meeting with the 36 governors in Abuja on Tuesday.

According to the presidential aide, Buhari listened to presentations by a governor from each of the six Geo-Political Zones on their specific security challenges.

The president recalled that in the old order communities identified new comers and passed the information to constituted authority.

He said: “The sub-region is no longer safe, more so with the collapse of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and the cross border movement of weapons and criminals.

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“Governors must work with traditional rulers. Try and work with traditional rulers to boost intelligence gathering.’’

While giving an overview of the security situation in each of the zones, the president said his administration had done well in the North East and South South, adding that the South South situation was still worrisome.

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“Every day I get situation reports about illegal refineries and the blowing up of pipelines. You must stop local rogues from sabotaging oil installations,’’he said.

Addressing the issue of banditry and kidnapping reported in each of the geo-political zones, Buhari said:

“Security is important and we must secure the whole country.

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”We are thinking very hard on the issue of kidnapping.

”We will make it possible for the military to get to the bandits and kidnappers and eliminate them.’’

He explained that the closure of the nation’s land borders was partly an attempt to control the smuggling in of weapons and drugs.

“Now that the message has sunk in with our neighbours, we are looking into reopening the borders as soon as possible.’’

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Buhari gave assurances that the country’s military would continue to get the support they needed to fight criminals.

“I am not going to the public to speak about the vehicles and equipment we have ordered.

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”What I can say is that the military received armoured cars and other equipment and they are training the trainers.

”More of such equipment, including military aircrafts will come in,’’he added.

On the issues raised on #ENDSARS protest and its hijack by hoodlums to cause mayhem and destroy private and public property, Buhari sounded a strong warning about a reccurrence, saying that no responsible government would allow that to happen.

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“We do not stop anyone from demonstrating, but you don’t set up roadblocks and smash windscreens. Which government will allow that?’’

He noted that the foreign press coverage of the #ENDSARS violence was not balanced, citing specifically the CNN and BBC, for omitting the number of policemen killed, police stations that were razed, and the prisons that were thrown open for inmates to escape.

“I was disgusted by the coverage, which did not give attention to the policemen that were killed, the stations that were burnt, and prisons that were opened. (They said we are all at fault. We don’t have the sympathy of anyone. We are on our own).’’

On the eight-month long strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, the president said lecturers had not taken into consideration the larger challenges facing the country.

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“Government conceded something. The problem is that they refused to look at the problem of the whole country. The Minister of Labour is working hard at it.

”It is amazing how ASUU will stay out of classrooms for so long. There’s a need for our elites to understand the challenges facing the country.’’

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#Newsworthy

Nigerian Gov’t reduces fuel price amid pressure from Labour

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The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold by the PPMC to marketers at the depots.

The Federal Government has reduced the pump price of premium motor spirit otherwise know as petrol from N168 per litre to N162.44 per litre effective from December 14, 2020.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige told reporters at the end of a meeting with labour leaders which began at 9pm on Monday and ended at 1:30am on Tuesday.

The product presently sells at N168, following the decision of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the Federal Government – owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to increase the ex-depot price of petrol from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 per litre in November.

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The minister said a technical committee has been set up by the larger house to ensure price stability in the industry.

Ngige stated that the committee, which will report back to the lager house on the 25 of January next year, will be appraising the market forces and every other thing that will make for stability in the industry.

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#Newsworthy

Dapo Abiodun presents N339BN budget to Ogun Assembly

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The budget comprises recurrent expenditure of N162 billion (48 per cent of the total budget) and a capital expenditure of N177 billion (52 per cent).

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, yesterday, presented a budget proposal of N339 billion for the 2021 fiscal year to the State House of Assembly for consideration and approval.

The governor, while presenting the proposed budget at the state House of Assembly Complex in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the state capital, said the budget represented N110.974 billion reduction from the 2020 budget of N449.974 billion.

He stressed that the budget was meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic, #EndSARS protests, general feeling of disenchantment in the polity, socio-economic yearnings of the Ogun State people for good governance, as well as the stringent calls in all societal spheres for a more representative democracy that speaks to the issues of economic growth, consistent progress and equitable quality of life.

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Abiodun said that the 2021 Appropriation Bill tagged “Budget of Recovery and Sustainability,” would be financed with the monthly Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) and the federal allocation

Highlights of the budget include infrastructure, N61 billion; social welfare and well-being N93 billion (includes health, housing, environment, physical planning, women affairs, etc); education, N58 billion; youth empowerment, N6 billion; agriculture, N15 billion and Enablers N106 billion.

Abiodun said the state would also set aside N12 billion for Stabilisation Fund and N10 billion for Public Debt Charges.

The governor reiterated his administration’s firm commitment to a legacy of hope, financial stability, and fiscal prudence, as he promised a drastic reduction in the discriminatory impact of poverty by strengthening all regulatory and institutional frameworks that are crucial to the preservation of the state’s rich cultural, financial and historical heritage.

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“We have resolved to keep exploring Public-Private Partnership strategies in provision of infrastructure, social services, and conversion of our challenges to opportunities within the context,” he stated.

Speaker of the House, Olakunle Oluomo, in his remarks, pledged that the legislature would give the proposal expedited passage to ensure prompt implementation of the budget.

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#Newsworthy

Economist debate price war against imported rice

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The economic expert said the high cost of rice in some parts of Nigeria was not caused by any government but as a result of lack of honesty, greed and inordinate ambition of some Nigerians.

An economist, Prof. AbdulGafar ljaya, has called for a price war against imported rice.

Ijaya, who teaches economics at the University of llorin, made the call on Monday in llorin in an interview with the Noble Reporters Media

He said the price war would crash the price at which smuggled rice is being sold in Nigeria,

The don, who was reacting to the more than N30,000 which a bag of rice is sold in llorin and some other parts of the country, noted that with a price war the price of the rice would drop and affordable.

“There must be a price war to crash the price of imported rice being smuggled into our country so that the downtrodden can afford it,” ljaya said.

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He noted that the Federal government had spent so much to improve the local production of rice which, he said, was being ridiculed by some unpatriotic Nigerians.

“Some traders will travel to the northern part of the country to buy rice at cheap price only to re-bag it in bags with foreign names and later sell them at triple the price,’’ he said.

Ijaya called for attitudinal change, discipline, patriotism, honesty to allow the price war against imported, smuggled rice to succeed.

He advised Nigerians to always patronise “Made-in-Nigeria’’ goods to enhance the nation’s economic growth and development.


#Newsworthy…

Nigeria’s debt profile surpasses N31trn

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Nigeria’s total debt profile rose to N31. 009 trillion ($85.897 billion) as of June 30, 2020, says the Debt Management Office (DMO) on Wednesday.

According to the statement, the figure comprises debt stock of the Federal government, 36 states of the federation and the Federal capital Territory.

“The corresponding figures for March 31, 2020 were N28.628 trillion or USD79.303 billion. The increase in the Debt Stock by N2.381 Trillion or USD6.593 Billion was accounted for by the USD3.36 Billion Budget Support Loan from the International Monetary Fund, New Domestic Borrowing to finance the Revised 2020 Appropriation Act including the issuance of the N162.557 Billion Sukuk, and Promissory Notes issued to settle Claims of Exporters,” said DMO.

DMO expects “the public debt stock to grow as the balance of the new domestic borrowing is raised and expected disbursements are made by the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank which were arranged to finance the 2020 Budget.”

A debt service payment document also released by DMO showed that a total of $287.04 million was spent servicing external debt in the three months. Payment of principal took 70.27 million while the remaining was spread on fees and interest.


#Newsworthy…

[Nigeria] Outrage over increased fuel price reasonable but not well placed – NNPC.

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The Group Marketing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, has reacted to the outburst over the recent increase in fuel price.

During an interview on Wednesday, he said: “the outburst is very understandable but I also believe very strongly that it is misplaced because Nigerians are not aware of the opportunities lost”.

He further explained that the issue of subsidy has been a big issue in the country for many years but the government can no longer afford it because of the economic problems facing the country.

“And not only that, every corruption that you are aware of in the downstream industry is one way or the other connected to fuel subsidy,” the NNPC boss added.

“It is very understandable for people to get angry that prices have gone up. Just like the prices of every commodity, when it goes up, there can be difficulties and challenges that people will naturally face but once prices go up, the other natural thing that must happen is that your income needs to increase so that you are able to procure the things that are now delivered at higher prices.

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“You can’t do this anywhere in the world if there is no productivity.

“And there will be no productivity except there is growth in infrastructural development, industries are able to work, therefore, and there is a connection between production and consumption.

“When people get angry, this is coming from people who practically are not aware of this situation and they are not aware of the loss that they have and most importantly they are being engineered into making those statements, and we understand this perfectly.

“We are the national oil company, it’s our role to ensure energy security. But you can’t do this until you are able to deliver cost. And that cost is lost daily as prices of crude oil goes up and you are unable to do many things.

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On the state of the nation’s refinery, Mr Kyari explained that plans are on the way to rehabilitate the four major refineries to maximum capacity.

According to him, this plan is expected to place Nigeria as the world’s biggest exporter of oil in the next three years.

The increase of fuel price and electricity tariff has sparked outrage with various groups holding nationwide protests across the country.

On Tuesday, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) said it was no longer going to be releasing price bands for the sale of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS/petrol) at filling stations.

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The agency reiterated that the price will now be fully based on the forces of demand and supply.

“It is based on bargain power,” the General Manager (Admin and Human Resources) of the PPPRA, Victor Shidok, said. “It is based on where you source your products.”

However, he noted that the government will ensure customers are protected from price-gouging and other ills associated with free markets.

“You could have a regulator that always stand and remain a watchdog to see how these forces are being played out, how the interest if both operators and consumers are being taken care of,” he said


#Newsworthy…

Market forces to now determine petrol price in Nigeria.

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The price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly referred to as petrol, will now be fully based on the forces of demand and supply, the Federal Government reiterated on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the General Manager (Admin and Human Resources) of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Victor Shidok, said the market is now open.

“It is based on bargain power,” he said. “It is based on where you source your products.”

However, he noted that the government will ensure customers are protected from price-gouging and other ills associated with free markets.

“You could have a regulator that always stand and remain a watchdog to see how these forces are being played out, how the interest if both operators and consumers are being taken care of,” he said.

PPPRA is a Federal Government agency established in 2003 to monitor and regulate the supply, distribution and prices of petroleum products in the country.

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Last Thursday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva said the nation has gone into full deregulation and market forces now determine the price of the product.

The deregulation has been singled out as the reason behind the recent hike in the price of petrol.

According to Sylvia, deregulation will be difficult for Nigerians at the initial stage but will get better in the long run.

He added that since the announcement of full deregulation in March, the Federal Government has saved over N1 trillion.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Brazil dives into recession by 9.7% drop.

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Brazil’s economy, the biggest in Latin America, contracted by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, plunging into recession as coronavirus lockdowns hit home, the official statistics agency said Tuesday.

Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the second-highest number of infections and deaths worldwide after the United States, and stay-at-home measures to contain the virus have taken a heavy toll.

“GDP is now at the same level as late 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis,” the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said in a statement.

It was the biggest drop since the current system of records began in 1996, it said.

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There were record contractions of 12.3 percent in the industrial sector and 9.7 percent in the services sector, which together account for 95 percent of the Brazilian economy, IBGE said.

“These results refer to the peak of social distancing, when many economic activities were partially or totally paralyzed to fight the pandemic,” IBGE national accounts coordinator Rebeca Palis said in the statement.

The contraction was worse than the 9.2 percent average forecast by 49 economists polled by business daily Valor.

However, it was better than the 11.1 percent drop economists were predicting in May.

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Brazil fared better in the second quarter than many other economies, including Britain (-20.4 percent), France (-13.8 percent), Mexico (-17.1 percent) and Chile (-13.4 percent).

“The country suffered one of the more modest downturns in Latin America,” consulting firm Capital Economics said in a note.

“But with fiscal policy set to turn from a tailwind to a headwind, the pace of the recovery is likely to lose momentum.”

Stimulus extended, but halved
Analysts say Brazil’s improvement was largely thanks to the decision by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to launch a massive stimulus program that has been paying 600 reals ($110) a month to 66.4 million Brazilians hit hardest by lockdown measures.

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That is nearly one-third of the population.

Bolsonaro, who faces pressure from deficit hawks to rein emergency spending back in, announced Tuesday the government would extend the measure for four more months, but halve the payout to 300 reals.

“The Brazilian fiscal package was brutal, it was absolutely enormous,” Margarida Gutierrez, an economist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

Brazil’s economy shrank a revised 2.5 percent in the first quarter, as the impact of the pandemic began to hit, IBGE said.

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Since then, Covid-19 has exploded in Brazil: the country has now registered more than 3.9 million infections and 121,000 deaths.

The economy was only just recovering from its longest recession in history, driven by the fallout of a massive corruption scandal centered on state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Reeling from the scandal, which felled a laundry list of top political leaders and business executives, the economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016.

Economists polled by the central bank are forecasting a contraction of 5.28 percent for the year in 2020.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Poland enters first recession since over three decades.

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Poland is experiencing its first recession since the end of the communist era more than three decades ago, an estimate by Poland’s statistics office showed on Friday.

The economy shrank by 8.9 percent in the second quarter because of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, after a contraction of 0.4 percent in the first quarter.

Recession is defined two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Poland was the only European Union member state to avoid recession during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and has enjoyed healthy growth rates until now.

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The gross domestic product grew by 4.1 percent in 2019, slightly lower than the 5.3 percent rate in 2018.

File photo: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attend the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

The economy “should recover” in the next quarters, the Polish Economic Institute, an independent research centre, was quoted by PAP news agency as saying.

The government is forecasting 3.4 percent contraction this year, down from a previous prognosis of 3.7 percent growth.

The European Commission forecast in May that the Polish economy would shrink by 4.3 percent overall in 2020 and bounce back with 4.1 percent expansion in 2021.


#Newsworthy…

Stunning New Genoa bridge ‘inaugurated’ two years after collapse

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Italy inaugurates a sleek new bridge in Genoa on Monday, though relatives of the 43 people killed when the old viaduct collapsed say the pomp and ceremony risk overshadowing the tragedy.

Jets trailing the colours of the Italian flag will roar overhead as the national anthem plays, almost two years to the day the Morandi highway gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of cars and several trucks onto railway tracks below.

President Sergio Mattarella will be the first to officially cross the new bridge, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who gave it a curved, gleaming underbelly evoking the hull of a ship in tribute to Genoa’s maritime history.

The names of the victims will be read aloud — though many of their loved ones will not be present.

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“We won’t be at the inauguration, we don’t want the tragedy to be transformed into a carnival,” said Egle Possetti, whose sister died in the August 14, 2018 disaster along with her husband and their two children.

“You can have this sort of big party if you knock down the bridge because it’s old, you build a new one, and no one’s died.”

The Morandi bridge had been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance, and its collapse threw the spotlight on Italy’s creaking infrastructure.

The tragedy also ended the longstanding concession of highway maintenance by a company majority-owned by the powerful Benetton family.

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The new high-tech structure will have four maintenance robots running along its length to spot weathering or erosion, as well as a special dehumidification system to limit corrosion.

It is expected to open to traffic on Tuesday or Wednesday.

– ‘An atrocious sight’ –

Architect Piano, a Genoa native whose building designs include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, has described his new creation as a “child born of tragedy”.

The Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) perform past the new San Giorgio bridge on the inauguration day on August 3 , 2020 in Genoa. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

“It was horrific. I remember the sounds, the smells, terrible things,” said Silvano Ruffoni, one of the first paramedics on the scene when, at just after 11:30 am, some 250 metres (820 feet) of the vast concrete structure crumbled into the void.

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“We were met by such an atrocious sight. The bridge was gone. We were thunderstruck,” he said in an interview with the local daily Il Secolo XIX last week.

The new viaduct, he said, was “a sign of rebirth”.

But Possetti, who is a spokeswoman for a victims’ relatives group, said she would “never cross that bridge”.

“How could you be there and not think of everything that happened, and that destroyed your family,” she told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

The Morandi was hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, but an investigation into the disaster found it was neglected.

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Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy’s motorway network, has been accused of failing to maintain it properly, amid allegations of falsified safety reports and in-house pressure to slash maintenance costs.

A wide angle view shows the Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) performing over the new San Giorgio bridge on its inauguration day on August 3, 2020 in Genoa. 
Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Atlantia, the parent group of Autostrade, is controlled by the wealthy Benetton family, which finally bowed to pressure last month to relinquish control of its besmirched toll-road operator, which will be nationalised.

Autostrade is under investigation, along with several transport ministry officials, for culpable homicide.

The preliminary probe is due to wind up in October, before a trial begins early next year, Possetti said.


#Newsworthy…

Order Buhari to publish loan details since 2015 – SERAP tells Court

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to publish the details of loans that have been obtained by his administration since May 29, 2015.

In a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP also sought the details of the interest rate on such loans, the total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by the government, and details of the projects on which the loans have been spent.

It made the request in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 filed before the court in the nation’s capital.

Also joined as respondents include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha.

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However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

The National Assembly had approved a loan of N850 billion and another $22.79 billion loan requested by the President for government projects and others.

Stolen Loans?
In its reaction, SERAP sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”

It also asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians if he would instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.”

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The group believes the opacity in the spending of loans will continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.

It, however, stressed that transparency would ensure that the loans were not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that such loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

“This suit is permitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.

“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name, but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape, or form,” the group said.

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It explained that the suit followed its FoI request dated May 30, 2020 and addressed to the President in which it raised concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay such loans.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read,

The massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.

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Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by the government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, and reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.

SERAP is seeking an order to direct and compel President Buhari to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific conditions of repayment of the loans.

Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.

The Nigeria Government has signed on to the Open Government Partnership [OGP], and the country is a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.


#Newsworthy…

News+: FAAN rises salary toll by 300%.

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The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has hiked the toll rate of pre-paid users accessing the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, by 300 per cent. The one-off yearly renewal that erstwhile cost N10, 000 per private vehicle, now costs N40, 000.

Meanwhile, the authority has paid workers on grade level eight and above half salary for the month of July, raising speculations that the management may have slashed salary of senior workers by 50 per cent.

The workers, who got paid some days ago, received half of their monthly salary, while the junior workers got their full remuneration. The authority, which caters for about 10000 workforce nationwide, has been cash-strapped since COVID-19 restricted both local and international commercial flights, with attendant revenue loss.

Operators at the airport and other regular users of the Lagos access toll plaza found that a section of the tolling has increased, while the regular pay-as-you-go booth rates remain the same.

A visit to Room 501 at the international terminal of the airport confirmed the development. An official of FAAN, saddled with the processing, Mrs. Musa, said N40, 000 was the new flat rate per vehicle, coupled with official letter of request from the company and details of the beneficiary vehicle.

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“All I can tell you is, that is the rate now,” she said. Recall that a coalition of unions – Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) – on February 4, 2020 took over the toll plaza, citing the expiration of Integrated Intelligent Imaging West Africa Limited’s (I-Cube) five-year contract since February 2019.

I-Cube had earlier collected N10, 000 for renewal and N15, 000 for new applicants, remitting N68m to FAAN every month. With FAAN directly collecting toll at the plaza, the unions lately pegged the monthly earnings of the facility at N100.

FAAN earlier raised Passenger Service Charge (PSC) by 100 per cent. The management, in a memo, notified airlines that effective August 1, 2020, PSC rate would increase from N1000 to N2000 for domestic flight passengers and from the former $50 to $100 for international travellers. With the prospect of rise in revenue, some FAAN workers were surprised last Wednesday to receive 50 per cent of their salaries for July without prior notice.

The FAAN management had in May hinted on the plan to half salary, as part of measures of coping with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary General of ANAP, Abdulrazak Saidu, said the development was brought to their notice Wednesday night by affected staff. Saidu noted that staff on grade levels 1-7 received their full salaries, adding that the management had promised to pay others the 50 per cent balance next week. He, however, said they were displeased, as the management did not notify them of the plan before going ahead to execute it, adding that with the public holidays, there was nothing the unions could do than to wait till work resumes.
Saidu said: “Besides the economic constraints of the pandemic, FAAN management was insolvent, due to “the huge overhead of over N3b monthly for payment of salaries of staff and retirees.

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“The bill was jacked up last year with the employment of over 700 people into the aviation security and fire departments, as directed by the Ministry of Aviation. The FAAN work force was getting close to over 8,000-plus, which includes the current staff of about 5,000 and retirees, pensioners of over 4,000. The workers are so angry and asking why must FAAN be different? NAMA and NCAA have paid.”

The General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, said they were still in shock over the current action, as their members were agitated. He explained that FAAN management should have informed their branch chairmen about the decision, rather than pay before informing them.

“Last night, the information we heard was that they paid half salary because they didn’t want to delay payment, so that some people would have money for Salah and that they will pay the balance by Tuesday next week. That was the information that came from the Director of Finance.

“But they didn’t inform us earlier about it. I don’t just understand them. They were struggling to complete the money but it didn’t work, so they decided to pay 50 per cent. They should have informed us to avert misunderstanding. As I speak to you, because this information has not gone round, all FAAN branches nationwide are mobilising for shutdown next week. That is what would have happened because of lack of information,” Aba said.


#Newsworthy…

United Arab Emirates commences first ‘Nuclear Plant’

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The oil-rich United Arab Emirates on Saturday announced the startup of its Barakah nuclear power plant, scoring another first for the Arab world.

The announcement, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, comes hot on the heels of the UAE’s launch of the Arab world’s first probe to Mars.

“UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up,” tweeted Hamad Alkaabi, the country’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation,” he tweeted in English, along with a photograph of technicians raising their arms in celebration.

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The UAE premier and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted that work at Barakah had “succeeded in loading nuclear fuel packages, carrying out comprehensive tests and successfully completing the operation”.

A general view of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in the Gharbiya region of Abu Dhabi on the Gulf coastline about 50 kilometres west of Ruwais. STRINGER / WAM / AFP

“Congratulations on realising this historic achievement in the energy sector & marking this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the green light for the first of the plant’s four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.

The plant on the Gulf coast west of Abu Dhabi had been due to go online in late 2017 but faced a number of delays that officials attributed to safety and regulatory requirements.

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The Nawah Energy Company said at the time that Unit 1 would begin commercial operations after a “series of tests” leading to the start-up process.

During the process, the unit would be synchronised with the power grid and the first electricity produced.

The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.

Barakah, which means “blessing” in Arabic, is a regional first — Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the project has yet to materialise.

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Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.

Another view of the Gharbiya power plant. Barakah Nuclear Power Plant / AFP

When fully operational, its four reactors have the capacity to generate 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25 percent of the nation’s needs. The remaining three reactors are almost ready for operation.

As well as generating competitively priced electricity, the UAE also hopes the nuclear plant will elevate its status as a key regional player, building on its success as a hub for tourism, banking and services.

The fourth largest crude producer in the OPEC cartel, the country was built on oil and sits on a huge, recently discovered gas field.

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Nevertheless, it is spending billions to develop enough renewable energy to cover half of its needs by 2050.

“This is part of the UAE’s drive to diversify its energy economy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and project its image as a regional leader in science and technology,” a Gulf analyst told AFP.

No enrichment
On July 20, the first Arab space mission to Mars, an unmanned probe dubbed “Hope”, blasted off from Japan on a mission to reveal more about the atmosphere of the Red Planet.

The Barakah plant, on the coast facing Iran across the Gulf, stands just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Saudi border and closer to Qatar’s capital Doha than to Abu Dhabi.

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Amid a tense confrontation between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear programme, the UAE has said it will not be developing a uranium enrichment programme or nuclear reprocessing technologies.

A file photo taken on November 12, 2019 as a handout picture obtained from the media office of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant on February 13, shows a general view of the power plant in the Gharbiya region of Abu Dhabi on the Gulf coastline about 50 kilometres west of Ruwais. Barakah Nuclear Power Plant / AFP

Qatar, the target of a boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others since June 2017, last year said the Barakah plant poses a “flagrant threat to regional peace and environment”.

The UAE has repeatedly said its nuclear ambitions are for “peaceful purposes” and moved to dispel any concerns over safety.

It says it has welcomed more than 40 international reviews and inspection missions.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: US economy collapse by 32.9% in second quarter

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The US economy collapsed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the April-to-June period, contracting 32.9 percent in the second quarter, the government reported Thursday.

The decline, though slightly less bad than expected, was the worst on record for the world’s largest economy, dating back to 1947.

However, the Commerce Department figures are an annual rate so not comparable to the quarterly contractions reported in other advanced economies.

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Compared to the same quarter of 2019, economic activity fell 9.5 percent.

The plunge in GDP was driven largely by the drop in consumer spending, the largest component, which fell 34.6 percent annualized, according to the first estimate for the second quarter.

In this file photo taken on June 29, 2020, The “Fearless Girl” statue stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at Wall Street in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

After a 5.0 percent drop in the first three months of the year, economists had been expecting the damage from COVID-19 to contract activity by 35 percent or more amid the nationwide halt to travel and much business, which caused tens of millions of jobs to be destroyed.

The data show trade also took a huge hit, with exports falling just over 64 percent, and imports down 53.4 percent.

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But personal income got a boost of $1.4 trillion in the quarter from the government emergency spending measures that provided payroll funds for businesses and direct unemployment payments to workers.

The annualized data assumes the damage wrought in a single quarter will play out over the entire year, but economists expect a rebound in coming months.

However, the hopeful signs in May and June have given way amid a resurgence of virus cases in July that has forced authorities in some states to reimpose restrictions.

US stocks futures were down a bit less than one percent following the data.


#Newsworthy…