The Kaduna-Abuja train service has resumed passenger operations, nearly four months after services were stopped due to the nationwide lockdown imposed as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The railway opened bookings for passenger services on Wednesday morning with four trains a day connecting Kaduna to Abuja.
Railway health officials at the Rigasa Train station told Channels Television that coaches and the premises have been decontaminated before the resumption of passenger service.
Passengers were also mandated to wash their hands with soap at the entry point, their luggages were decontaminated, while their body temperatures were screened before being allowed to move to the ticket point.
In line with social distancing guidelines, the number of passengers per couch has also been cut down by half while the railway management has made the wearing of face mask and use of hand sanitizers compulsory.
…Bear with us, no better time than now, says Fashola
Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic (PDP), Chief Olabode George, has said that the six months closure of Third Mainland Bridge for maintenance work will create serious economic and social havoc to residents.
George, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, yesterday, decried the sufferings motorists and commuters were subjected to in the last two days since the repairs started.
He, therefore, urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his predecessor, the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to ensure that one side of the bridge is opened and be temporarily converted to a dual carriageway for motorists while the repair work continues on the other side.
In a similar vein, the Publicity Secretary of PDP in Lagos, Mr. Taofik Gani, said while the repair work on the bridge is necessary, he faulted the governor for haphazard preparation, stressing that Sanwo-Olu and his advisers failed to plan ahead of the pains and agony that the closure would inflict on the people.
MEANWHILE, Fashola has described the ongoing repair work on the Third Mainland Bridge and other Federal Government projects in the state as a result of a long time of neglect by successive governments in Nigeria.
He, therefore, appealed to Lagosians to bear the pain, which the sudden closure may have caused, saying that there is no better time to repair the bridge than now.
The minister spoke in Lagos yesterday when he paid an official inspection visit to the on-going repair work on the Third Mainland Bridge to ascertain the status of work done and the impact of the partial closure on traffic movement.
“We hear you all the residents and commuters saying this road has not been done and some roads need attention. What we are doing now is responding essentially to all the issues you have raised. I hear people say ‘why are you doing everything at the same time.’ We wish there is another way,” he said.
He said that the major cause of delay since 2018 was as a result of being sensitive to the plight of motorists seeking a better time.
Earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said about 650 LASTMA personnel had been deployed by his ministry to support FRSC officials on the ground to direct traffic and ensure less congestion.
He said that the state government through the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure had done palliative work to ensure alternative routes are motorable.
The Bayelsa Governor, Douye Diri, has cut the state’s 2020 budget by 24 percent.
The bill, which was N242bn, has been cut to N183bn.
Governor Diri said that the decision was reached following a drop in monthly revenue occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He disclosed this on Tuesday while speaking at a Public Forum to review the 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget in Yenagoa.
He said the anticipated projections of the initial budget had to be re-evaluated to reflect the current realities of the global economic downturn occasioned by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 challenge.
He also noted that the sharp drop in the international price of crude oil from $55 per barrel benchmark to $20 crippled the country’s economy that is largely dependent on proceeds from oil.
According to the governor, all the parameters used in the previous budget, which was presented to the state assembly on April 22, had been overtaken by the effects of the health crisis.
“The 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget was passed with certain assumptions that have been negatively altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The effect of the global lockdown has resulted in low demand for crude oil, which is Nigeria’s major earner. The price of oil dropped to as low as $20 per barrel in some months as against the $55 per barrel benchmark.
“Consequently, there is need to revise the budget to face the existing realities. The proposed budget size is now N183.16billion as against N242.19billion that was in the original budget”, Governor Diri added.
Reacting to questions, the governor stressed that given his administration’s priority on workers’ welfare, the slashing of the budget would not affect civil servants’ salaries.
“From the revised budget figure, you can see that nothing affected the personnel cost and salaries. There is no intention to reduce workers salaries. We should even be thinking of increasing the salaries once our resources improve”, he further added.
The Presidency on Tuesday said Nigeria exports power to neighbouring countries in order to prevent the damming of water that feeds the nation’s major power plants.
On Monday, a Nigerian newspaper, Punch, had published a report describing how Nigeria has continued to export electricity to other countries on credit while blackouts persist within its borders.
As a response to the report, the Presidency, via a statement signed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu, described the report as “hyperbolic and terribly misleading.”
The Presidency said the newspaper’s credit figures were “far from accurate, out-dated and therefore not reflective of the current reality.”
It also added that over 90 percent of the electricity generated in the country was distributed and consumed by Nigerians.
The Presidency revealed that as of the last review in 2019, the amount of indebtedness to Niger, Benin, and Togo stood at $69 million.
According to it, Niger owes $16 million and Benin, $4 million as of today, adding up to the naira equivalent of about N1.2 billion.
Read the full statement below:
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PUNCH’S INACCURATE REPORTING ON THE SALE OF POWER TO NEIGHBORING NATIONS NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED
It is most disappointing that sensationalism has dominated the thinking and ethos of institutions that citizens look up to with trust, confidence and reliability. Monday edition of the Punch checks all the boxes in terms of an abject failure to honour these time-tested traditions with its news piece: “NIGERIA EXPORTS USD81.48bn ELECTRICITY ON CREDIT AS COUNTRY’S BLACKOUT PERSISTS,” is, to say the least, hyperbolic and terribly misleading.
Apart from the fact that the figure quoted is far from accurate, out-dated and therefore not reflective of the current reality, the overall cost of power generated and sold by Nigeria in the period covered by the report is not anywhere close to what was mentioned by the paper.
The actual cost of electricity generated within the said timeframe (2018-2019) by all the electricity generation companies in Nigeria was about N1.2 trillion ($4 billion).
Over 90% of the electricity generated was distributed and consumed by consumers across the 11 electricity distribution companies in the country.
Power exported to Niger, Benin and Togo based on Multilateral Energy Sales Agreement with the Government of Nigeria is on the basis that they would not dam the waters that feed our major power plants in Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba.
As of the last review in 2019, the amount of indebtedness to all three customers stood at $69 million, subsequent upon which several payments were made to NBET. Much of this has been repaid by the debtor nations.
As of today, Niger owes only USD 16 million and Benin, USD 4 million, adding up to the Naira equivalent of about N1.2bn.
The essence of said bilateral agreements, by which we give them power and they do not build dams on the River Niger means that Nigeria and her brotherly neighbours had avoided the unfolding situation of the Nile River between the sovereign states of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
In the future, we advise the newspaper to seek clarity from the market operator which is the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN. This process of fact-checking only improves your standing in the public arena.
A protest movement that has sprung up in Mali, shaking President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s grip on power, on Tuesday rejected a compromise put forward by regional leaders and insisted that he quit.
In a statement, the so-called June 5 Movement said it “demands the resignation of Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and his regime more than ever,” accusing them of bearing “full responsibility” for Mali’s crisis.
The announcement came a day after heads of the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS stood by Keita and urged him to forge a unity government and resolve an election dispute that has fuelled the protests.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday commenced an inspection tour of the Federal Government’s road projects in Lagos State.
The minister kicked off the inspection at the Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki Expressway reconstruction project, then moved to the Third Mainland Bridge which has been partially shut for repairs.
The bridge was shut on Friday, and will remain shut for the next six months as the repairs continue.
According to the Federal Controller of Works, Olukayode Popoola, a diversion has been created for the contractor handling the repairs to commence work on the outward lane of the island.
Popoola also explained that the inward lane has been left open to enable motorists to ply the road with ease while going about their businesses.
Commuters have, however, already begun to experience increased gridlock on the axis.
In August 2018, the Third Mainland Bridge was shut for a three-day investigative maintenance; an underwater confirmatory test was also carried out in March 2019.
Also in 2019, a viral video indicating an unusual vibration of the bridge raised concerns over the bridge’s safety, but the Federal Government dispelled the rumours insisting that the bridge was structurally fit and poses no danger to users.
Meanwhile, further investigation revealed that the worn-out expansion joints of the cantilever bridge may not be posing an immediate threat to the structure at the time, but consistent use without carrying out the required maintenance work has left the bridge in bad shape.
While doing the inspection, Fashola urged Nigerians to endure the hardship and cooperate with the construction workers.
According to him, there is no better time than now, to begin the reconstruction.
The Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, has signed the revised N107.3billion 2020 budget into law.
Signing the budget on Monday, Governor Yahaya said the downward review of the budget was due to the global economic shocks occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected national and personal incomes.
According to him, despite the downwards review of the budget, the state government ensured that health, education, agriculture and other critical sectors remain the top priorities of the state.
The governor explained that the health sector’s budget, in particular, has been increased as a demonstration of the administration’s resolve to combat the virus and its socio-economic impact on the lives and means of livelihood of the people.
The Federal Government says it is making efforts to review the ban imposed on international flights in the country.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, revealed this on Monday at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja.
He stated that the government was planning to reopen the airports for international flights as soon as possible but would do so at a time considered to be safe.
“Certainly, aviation is the worst hit in this (pandemic). There must be passenger movements, especially international passenger for us to be able to survive… so, we want to open more than you want to open,” the minister said.
He explained, “But this is subject to so many factors and all of the sacrifices the aviation is making is in the interest of the public; in the interest of all of us to stay safe.
“So, therefore, the government will not abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all of us stay safe. We definitely will open. We will open very soon when everything seems to be okay and is safe.”
Sooner Than Later Sirika lamented that the closure of the airports for international fights has seriously affected the aviation sector as employers were struggling to pay salaries.
He noted that effort towards the resumption of international flights was not just the work of the sector but some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) have various roles to play.
The minister explained that the purpose of the delay was to identify the best way to ensure that the people were not exposed to the risk of contracting the disease.
He said, “If it is us, we will open yesterday because when we open, the ministry will make more money, we will be able to carry on our activities, we will pay our salaries and provide the service.
“We know that some people are cut away from their families, they are cut away from their businesses but this is an act of God; so please bear with the situation, we are very responsible people and we will open when it is the right time to open and I am sure it will be sooner than later.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has named train stations along the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri corridors after “deserving Nigerians”, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said.
According to Ogunlesi, the Apapa station was named after Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while the Agege station was conferred on the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
Other personalities conferred with train station names include Lateef Jakande (Agbado station), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola station), and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Papalanto station).’
Earlier in June, the President had approved the naming of the Railway Complex in Agbor – the operational hub of the Itakpe-Warri line – after former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, Buhari conferred the names on the “deserving citizens” because of their contribution to “the progress and development of their respective communities and the nation at large.”
Below is a full list of the Nigerians who were conferred with names of train stations:
The Lagos-Ibadan with extension to the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa railway station
Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Apapa station)
Mobolaji Johnson (Ebute Metta Station)
Babatunde Raji Fashola (Agege station)
Lateef Jakande (Agbado station)
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola station).
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Papalanto station)
Prof. Wole Soyinka (Abeokuta station)
Aremo Segun Osoba(Olodo station)
Chief Ladoka Akintola (Omio-Adio station)
Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Ibadan station)
Chief Alex Ekwueme (Operation Control Centre)
The Itakpe-Ajaokuta/Aladja-Warri Railway
Alhaji Adamu Attah (Itakpe station)
Dr. Olushola Saraki (Ajaokuta station)
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (Itogbo station)
Brigadier General George Innih (Agenebode station)
Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (Uromi station)
Chief Tom Ikimi (Ekehen station)
Brig. Gen. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (rtd) (Igbanke station)
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Agbor Station Complex)
Brigadier General David Ejoor (Abraka station)
Micheal Ibru (Opara station)
Alfred Rewane (Ujevwu station)
Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (Railway Village, Agbor)
Government, in March this year, announced total deregulation of petrol across the country, but Nigerians still pay average of N11.9 billion every month to ensure the uniform price of fuel across the country.
Following forced removal of subsidy in the last four months, a total of N47.7 billion was paid by consumers, in what stakeholders likened to “forcing payment from Nigerians to ensure prices of Coke, Maggi and salt remain the same in all parts of the country.”
The payment was generated through the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) management board, between March and June this year when the Federal Government announced the deregulation of the downstream sector of the nation’s oil industry.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had insisted that the government would no longer subsidise Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), because the sector had been deregulated.
But against what should obtain under a deregulated regime, the Federal Government charged an average N7.51 on every litre of petrol that citizens buy to keep PEF in operation amid criticisms. But contrary to the purpose of the ‘pump price tax,’ per litre cost of the product failed to become uniform. Nigerians who live between 100km to 450km away from depots pay above pump price due to transport cost.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had stated that about 52 million litres of petrol was consumed daily in Nigeria, bringing the figure from March to June to about 6.4 billion litres.
So, while the official pump price of petrol was N121.50 per litre in June, data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the country was unable to keep to uniform price as petrol was sold in Gombe for N139.33; Adamawa, N138.00; and Taraba N135.50.The development defeated the reasons for setting up PEF. NBS disclosed that the products sold lower in states like Kwara (N123.86), Ogun (N124.38) and Oyo (N124.39).
While bridging cost hovers between N6 and N10, the monthly pricing template released by Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), dated June 30, showed that Nigerians were charged N7.51 as additional cost from the core variables that determined how much should be paid on a litre of petrol.
CREATED by Decree 9 of 1975 and amended by Decree 32 of 1989, the fund was charged with the primary responsibility of reimbursing petroleum marketing companies for any losses suffered by them, solely and exclusively, as a result of sale of petroleum products at uniform prices throughout the nation.
As justified by the then government, bridging of transportation cost was introduced as a temporary measure, when turnaround maintenance (TAM) of the nation’s refineries was to be conducted. However, the scheme remained for decades as the state of the refineries has worsened.
PEF has stated that, while the initial projection was to have maximum of 10 per cent of total petroleum products bridged, while the remaining portion would be pumped through pipelines, the transportation scheme has consistently increased to about 40 per cent.
Besides, with poor state of refineries and ports in the Southeast and South-south, PEF wrote on its website that products were bridged from Lagos to the areas to address availability problems from the refineries in Port Harcourt and Warri.
Like other obsolete laws in the sector, fresh agitations have greeted the scheme, since government embarked on deregulation as marketers of the product and other stakeholders have insisted that the fund is a drainpipe and not needed in a market expected to survive on realities.
Coming at a time when labour unions are also warming up for showdown should the price of the product continue to increase, some industry players noted that removing the bridging cost would not only reduce the pump but allow investment into the different regions of the country.
A lawyer, Ameh Madaki, who specialises in energy matters, sees the scheme as a wasteful subsidy that achieves absolutely nothing for the downstream sector.
“Whatever informed its setting up originally is no longer relevant to the dictates of today’s economics and it deserves to be scrapped or merged with the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which itself needs to be restructured and re-engineered for greater relevance and efficiency,” Madaki said.
He said PEF would remain a corrupt drainpipe with no value to the Nigerian economy, arguing that since nobody paid transporters of food products to bridge the prices of food items for them to remain stable throughout the country, doing such for petrol remained senseless.
Former President, Nigerian Association for Energy Economists (NAEE), Prof. Wunmi Iledare, stated that the country could not pretend to deregulate and set the price at the same time, nor keep an equalisation agency.
“This is what we refer to as transfer payment syndrome. The way out is complex but doable.”Another expert with the Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform (FOSTER), Michael Faniran, says the much-talked about deregulation was not holistic
“We are still operating a semi-deregulated market but even at that, the current banded pricing regime allows marketers to sell at different prices at different geographical areas based on their cost.
UNDER the new deregulation policy, PPPRA, central bank of Nigeria (CBN), NNPC, Budget Office, Federal Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Finance would determine the prices of petroleum products.
According to a document exclusively obtained in the presidency yesterday, the Federal Government said under the new guidelines for the deregulation of the downstream sector in its bid to incentivize the sector, it has set up a Price Review Committee (PRC), whose duty is to meet once a month to review prevailing price of petrol for each month.
The PRC began work in early April this year after the Federal Government pronounced the commencement of deregulation of the downstream sector on March 19, 2020. Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu said “the agency no longer fixes prices but rather provides a guiding price band within which the operators are expected to operate. This takes into account prevailing market conditions by monitoring petroleum products prices daily, using the average price of the previous month and other components like foreign exchange rates to determine prices for the following month, while ensuring reasonable returns to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
But the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), yesterday, said crisis was looming in the sub sector over pressure on government to scrap the PEF.The IPMAN position was contained in a statement issued, in Jos the Pleateu State capital, by its National Secretary Alhaji Danladi Garba Pasali.
Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing his administration of failing to tackle insecurity and attempting to sweep allegations of corruption under the carpet.
The National Chairman of the Party, Mr Uche Secondus, made the call at a news briefing in the nation’s capital Abuja on Friday.
At the briefing, titled Nigeria on a free fall as corruption, insecurity engulfs our nation,’ Mr Secondus said rising insecurity in the country across the country has exposed the poor leadership in the military and ruling class.
He said, “What we are witnessing in our country today is a total collapse of the nation, the country is on a ventilator gasping for air, under such circumstance. President Buhari should do the honourable thing required of an elder statesman in situations like this, throw in the towel and save the country from ruins.”
Read the full statement by Mr Secondus below:
Being Address of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus at a media briefing on the state of the Nation at the PDP National Secretariat, Wadata, House, Abuja. On July 24, 2020.
“Nigeria in a free fall, as corruption, insecurity engulfs the Nation”
Preamble. Gentlemen of the press, I have had to call you again to discuss the frightening developments in our country. As an opposition party, the PDP has screamed endlessly to high heavens but it’s becoming very clear to all that the ears we are targeting are deaf as nothing on ground shows that there is a government in this country. No attempt is being made from any corner to stem the freighting tide in our land. No effort is being made from any angle to halt the on-going free fall being witnessed in all fronts in the country. Nigerians have become helpless and have come to accept and live like citizens of nations without leader and with no direction. Where do we start looking at the state of the nation when all segments of governance have collapsed.
Insecurity. Nothing establishes the fact that there is no governance in the country more than the worsening state of insecurity. Having exhausted their propaganda of winning the war on terrorism only in their press releases, as reality endowed on all, both the military and political leaders are now helpless and confused. What the Nigerian Senate did on Tuesday when it asked the service chiefs to resign was to show to the World that there is no executive arm of government in place. Having few months back advised the executive to sack the service chiefs for having outlived their relevance and re-engineer the military for the emerging challenges, and having watched the security situation in the country grow from worse to worse, the legislators have limited option but to do what they did at least to show the people they represent that they are sensitive to their plights. Not even during the three-year brutal civil war did we witness as much as over 300 soldiers absconding their duties and pouring abuses on their commander. Only poor leadership from the military and the polity can drag down morale of soldiers to such a pitiable level. The Presidency rising immediately to challenge the Senate shows also the level of confusion in the system.
Corruption. Since transparency International said few years ago that the worst corruption was going-on in Nigeria under this regime, the situation has continued to worsen. It has now become a bazar with no pretense about it with all critical agencies of government including the anti-graft body themselves grossly engulfed in it.
The nation’s economy is walking to depression because we are least in recession and it’s being fast-tracked by the widening scope of corruption involving operatives at the high places.
The free for all corruption going on all over the place leaves us with the impression that the country is dying and there has been a scramble for what one can get out of it before the final demise.
It’s very disheartening that as the looting and the re-looting of the nation’s resources are going on under the watch of the acclaimed anti-corruption President no serious reactions is coming from government that prides itself to be fighting corruption.
Rather than confront the already exposed corruption cases, the government deliberately takes cautious steps to play it down with a view to protecting their members who are neck-deep in the growing sleaze.
“After providence decided to expose the massive fraud going on in the nation’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the last five years, rather than bring it to the fore, the Presidency in the great cover-up decided to take the investigation including the interrogation of suspects to Aso Rock Villa behind camera where all the exposed issues are kept away from the public glare.
We are aware that after the massive fraud exposition involving critical members of the administration, subtle moves are on behind the scene to free culprits and save the face of the government at the expense of the nation.
This has been the case since this administration came in 2015 disguising as an anti-corruption regime while in reality looting the country dry.
“After their double speak on fuel subsidy and prizing, they have recorded the highest amount of subsidy in the petroleum sector while running the show in utmost secrecy with the President presiding as both the President and the Petroleum Minister.
As we speak, the big corruption cover-up is on-going in critical sectors, the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, the Maritime Sector, the Customs, the Federal inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Nigeria Social Insurance a Trust Fund, NSITF, North East Development Commission, NNPC crude Oil sale to China, etc.
Nothing brings out the exact character of President Buhari’s administration to corruption than the on-going free for all fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, where the so-called forensic auditors sent in by the President to unearth a fraud are themselves becoming visible accomplice to the crime. The Senate has already indicted the Interim Management Committee, IMC, and the supervising Minister Senator Godswill Akpabio. A commission set up to helping the suffering people of Niger Delta has become a bank for APCmembers.
Fraud at a glance.
100mb crude oil sales to China by Sahara energy as reported over 2.5b dollars
Over N1.3 trillion spent between 2015 and 2019 with N4.923b of NDDC spent outside the budget.
NSITF N3.4b fraud
The growing fresh fuel Subsidy fraud
Unaccounted for N100b for North East commission.
Not to talk of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in the name of covid-19 palliatives
Fraudulent acquisition of banks, telecom companies amounting to billions of dollars by cabals in this administration.
Efcc blockage of N100b tax laundering petition involving a high profile person in APC
Gentlemen of the press, the state of our nation today requires that all hands must be on deck especially you media practitioners who should not relent in holding public officers accountable.
Nigerians should not be distracted by the drama playing out at the various fraud case hearings whether in Aso Villa with Ibrahim Magu or at the National Assembly with two Ministers Akpabio and Chris Ngige, entertaining Nigerians, they are designs to remove public attention to the real issue. In this country under the watch of President Buhari and his APC, we have found ourselves in the environment as the French economist, Federico Bastiat said that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it” .This regime has found a code for corruption and they now glorify it and make fun of it.
Finally, gentlemen of the press what we are witnessing in our country today is a total collapse of the nation, the country is on ventilator gasping for air, under such circumstance, President Buhari should do the honourable thing required of an elder statesman in situations like this, THROW IN THE TOWEL because Nigeria is on and save the country from ruins. Thanks for your attention and God bless.
South Africa’s central bank on Thursday cut its key interest rate for the fifth time this year in a bid to breathe life into the coronavirus-stricken economy.
Along with other central banks around the world to aggressively lower borrowing costs in a bid to soften economic blow from COVID-19, the South African Reserve Bank cut its repurchase or “repo” rate by 0.25 percentage points to a record low of 3.5 percent.
Already this year, the bank had previously cut the rate by a total 2.75 percentage points to provide relief to indebted consumers as the negative effects from the coronavirus pandemic make themselves felt.
President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, but began loosening some of the restrictions in June to allow for economic activity to resume.
But the country’s economy was already in tatters before the onset of the pandemic, with credit ratings agencies downgrading South Africa’s sovereign debt.
Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago warned that even as the lockdown is relaxed in coming months, investment, exports and imports are expected to decline sharply across the year as a whole.
Job losses and unemployment, already at record highs of above 30 percent, are also expected to climb further.
The central bank also downgraded its growth estimate for the second quarter and said it expected gross domestic product to contract by 7.3 percent in 2020, instead of the 7.0 percent forecast in May.
“The deepest contractions are expected in the second quarter of 2020, with gradual recoveries in the third and fourth quarters of the year,” Kganyago said.
The rate decision comes at a time when consumer inflation is at a 15-year low at 2.1 percent.
Since January, the rand has depreciated by 15.2 percent against the dollar, the governor said.
The Senate ad hoc committee investigating financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday said the agency had spent N1.3 trillion within four years, with some of the spending unlawful.
The committee revealed the figure during the presentation of its investigative report before the Senate days after the acting NDDC Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped at a public hearing.
In the report read by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the NDDC spent the N1.3 trillion between 2015 and May 31, 2019.
Many of the expenses, Adetunmbu said, were extra-budgetary.
He added that the Committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.
He said the committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.
The investigation further revealed that the NDDC paid 4.9 billion Naira to staff for numerous allowances including COVID-19 relief, tour duty allowances, overseas travel, and international scholarships.
Curiously, the payment for overseas travel and scholarship was during the lockdown and cessation of flights abroad.
The committee also observed that the ministry of Niger delta is culpable if negligent supervision of the NDDC.
It further noted that the performance of the interim management committee IMC is a major issue as the record of the IMC has not shown any record of prudence and it should be dissolved.
The committee also raised an alarm over the forensic audit called for by President Buhari, stating that it is at a rudimentary level with the recruitment of the auditors still underway even after eight months.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has charged the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to engage relevant stakeholders with a view to reforming Nigeria’s Electoral Process.
Lawan gave the charge in his remark after referring the confirmation of the nomination of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu for an appointment as a Resident Electoral Commissioner to the INEC Committee.
According to Lawan, the reform of the country’s electoral process by the National Assembly must be carried out with a view to meeting the expectations of Nigerians.
“We must ensure that we work so hard and assiduously on the electoral reforms.
“This is one way of ensuring that we collect all the different submissions from different stakeholders.
“Our Committee on INEC together with major stakeholders should start working on this as quickly as possible, to ensure that we are able to meet the expectations of Nigerians regarding electoral reforms,” Lawan said.
The Senate President also gave the Committee four weeks to submit its report on the appointment of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu as a Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a similar vein, Senator Lawan, on Tuesday, urged the Executive arm of Government to work on the estimates for the 2021 budget to ensure its timely presentation to the National Assembly by the end of September this year.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after referring President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper request to the Senate Committees on Finance; and National Planning for further legislative work.
The Senate President while charging both Committees to engage the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on the MTEF/FSP request, stressed the need for the panel to lend its support where necessary to Revenue Generating Agencies towards meeting expected revenue targets.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, urged the Executive arm of Government to work on the estimates for the 2021 budget to ensure its timely presentation to the National Assembly by the end of September this year.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after referring President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper request to the Senate Committees on Finance; and National Planning for further legislative work.
The Senate President while charging both Committees to engage the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on the MTEF/FSP request, stressed the need for the panel to lend its support where necessary to Revenue Generating Agencies towards meeting expected revenue targets.
The Committees were given four weeks to report back to the Senate.
“The request of Mr. President C-in-C is referred to the two committees, Senate Committees on Finance; Budget and National Planning, with Finance as the lead Committee.
“This Senate is giving the Committee four weeks within which to work very closely with the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, and particularly engagement with the revenue-generating agencies where we are expecting them to meet their targets.
“We need to ensure that they have all the support that they require from the National Assembly, particularly the Senate to meet their targets.
“Meanwhile, the executive should continue to work on the preparations for the 2021 budget, and by this, we are also equally committed to ensuring that we receive the budget estimates at the end of September and that we are able to consider the budget and get it passed before the end of December to repeat what we did for budget 2020,” Lawan said.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange revised way of compilation of the Shanghai Composite Index, effective from Wednesday, a move market analysts say will make the benchmark better reflect listed companies’ business performance and help lay the foundation for a long-term bull run.
A statement from the Shanghai Stock Exchange Tuesday said that the new index will kick out companies that have been subject to risk warnings. The change also prolonged the time for new company inclusions to the index to one year.
Also, newly listed companies whose valuations climb to the top 10 will be included in the index within three months after they went public. In the past, new lists were included in the index just 11 trading days after they were listed.
Besides, stocks listed at the Science and Technology Board, or STAR, will be included in the sample space of the Shanghai Composite Index, the statement read.
By the close Wednesday, the Shanghai Composite Index edged up by 0.37 percent to 3,333.16 points. The Shenzhen Component Index rose 0.89 percent.
Amending how the Shanghai Composite Index is compiled could make the index more reflective of China’s capital market by excluding stocks under risk alert and introducing more technology companies, market analysts and experts said.
Yu Wenbing, assistant general manager of biopharmaceutical company Junshi Biosciences, which is a listed company on STAR bourse, said that including tech companies into the Shanghai Composite Index, as well as other reforms, will help increase liquidity of the market.
It will increase financial support to listed companies, whose business boom will help boost the capital market in a virtuous cycle. “Without direct funding support from the capital market, our company could not have pushed coronavirus-related research so quickly,” he said.
According to him, the Shanghai Composite Index is often considered the barometer of China’s capital market, but the index is old-fashioned and cannot objectively represent the general situation of China’s massive economy.
“The revision will enhance the index’s reputation for trying more methods to truly reflect listed companies’ performance and avoid misleading market investors, individual investors in particular,” Yu told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)
Some experts noted that the revised compilation method will help prop up the mainland stock markets.
Yang Delong, chief economist at the Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund Management Corp, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) that changes to the Shanghai Composite Index are not very radical, so the Shanghai market will be kept stable.
But in the long run, more and more new economy companies, whether they are listed on the STAR market or those companies returning from New York to the A-share market, will be included in the weighing of Shanghai Composite Index and will push the index up, steadily.
“The next decade will be golden years for the A-share markets, and the Shanghai Composite Index will hopefully go up in a ‘slow bull’ trend,” Yang said.
A stock investor based in Beijing told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) Wednesday that the reform could shore up the confidence of mainland and overseas investors in China’s increasingly complicated financial markets.
..Pegs budget on 40 dollars per barrel Oil Benchmark
President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that the Nigerian Government’s aggregate expenditure for the 2021 financial year is N12.66 trillion
He also said that the 2021 budget would be based on an oil benchmark of $40 per barrel of crude oil.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday read on the floor of the Senate, the 2021 – 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper from President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the document, the N12.66 trillion include “GOEs’ expenditure of N1.35 trillion and grants/donor-funded programme amounting to N337.06 billion.
The 2021 expenditure estimates, according to the MTEF/FSP document, include the statutory transfer of N481.41 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N5. 75 trillion, including N350 billion for the recurrent component of the Special Intervention Programme.
Debt Service is estimated at N3.12 trillion while N220 billion is for Sinking Fund. Also the sum of N4.31 trillion is provided for personel and pension. N3.33 trillion is for capital expenditure.
Budget deficit is projected at N5.16 trillion to be funded by fresh loan of N4.28 trillion.
In the letter attached to the document, President Buhari said the presentation of the 2021-2023 MTEF/ FSP was to give the lawmakers enough time to perform its important constitutional duty of reviewing the framework.
The letter read in part: “It is with pleasure that I forward the 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) for the kind consideration and approval of the Distinguished Senate.
“Let me seize this opportunity to express my deep gratitude for the cooperation, support and commitment of the leadership and distinguished members of the Senate in our collective efforts to sustain the restoration of the January – December financial year.
“In line with our commitment, we have worked very hard to achieve and earlier submission of the MTEF/FSP. This is to allow the National Assembly enough time to perform its important constitutional duty of reviewing the framework.
“I herewith forward the 2021 – 2023 MTEF/FSP as the 2021 budget of the Federal Government will be prepared based on the parameters and fiscal assumptions of the approved 2021 – 2023 MTEF/FSP. I seek the cooperation of the National Assembly for expeditious legislative action on the submission.”
President Buhari expressed concern on the effect of the rampaging pandemic, Coronavirus on revenue target.
But the document revealed that the federal government was determined “to using innovative ways to raise revenues required for financing its expenditures and diversifying its revenue sources thereby increasing the Revenue to GDP ratio. The medium-term target for this remains 15 per cent. ”
It noted that “higher revenue collections will enable Government to effectively deliver public services, enhance infrastructure investment and mitigate the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, on Monday, said most contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are awarded to National Assembly members.
The Minister made the comment as he was being grilled by members of the House of Representatives committee on NDDC in a public hearing.
The Minister had been invited by the lawmakers on Friday to defend his actions as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and shed more light on financial misappropriation within the NDDC.
Akpabio’s comment surfaced as he was responding to a question about NDDC expenditure amid a forensic audit.
“We cannot close down the Niger Delta Development Commission because of the fact that we are doing (a) forensic audit,” he said.
“The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region and 90 percent or more of the resources of the country come from there.
“If you close it down in totality all you will have is chaos. You will have a lot of, not just militancy, you will have a lot of insurrection.
“So it is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.”
A member of the committee took him up on his “you people” allegation and asked him to clarify.
The elections, originally scheduled for April, have been postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although several lists are running in the polls, real opposition to al-Assad’s Baath Party is absent in the election.
Opposition groups traditionally tolerated by the government are expected to boycott the polls and the Baath Party is guaranteed to monopolise the new parliament as it has done in previous elections.
In the last vote in 2016, the Baath and its allies took 200 of the 250-seat parliament while the remaining posts went to independent candidates.
Observers say the contest lacks credibility with the majority of candidates being either part of al-Assad’s Baath Party or loyal to his regime.
“The majority of Syrians believe the election is only a process controlled by the regime to represent itself as a legitimate authority in Syria,” said Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House and co-founder of the Syrian Centre for Policy Research.
“People know that the majority of MPs are nominated by the Baath party and all of them need to have security approval based on loyalty and not qualifications,” he added.
Karam Shaar, an expert on Syria at the Middle East Institute, said: “The al-Assad regime uses parliamentary elections to reward loyalty. This time around, warlords and militiamen are expected to gain yet more seats for their contributions to the state over the past four years.”
Economic woes More than 7,000 polling stations have been set up across about 70 percent of the country where the al-Assad government maintains control.
Government forces have been pushing to regain control over areas overtaken by opposition and rebel groups since the start of the war.
Al-Assad’s troops regained control over Eastern Ghouta in 2018 and southern parts of Idlib after the launch of a Russian-backed offensive to retake the northwest province in late 2019.
Other parts of Idlib remain as the last rebel-held bastion in the country, while large swaths of land along the Turkey-Syria border house millions of internally displaced Syrians from the war.
Syrians living abroad, including millions of refugees forced to leave their homes because of fighting, will not be taking part in the election.
Citizens casting their ballots in Sunday’s vote are expected to focus on soaring living costs and the country’s dire economic situation.
“As nearly 90 percent of the country plunges into poverty, people are increasingly focusing on meeting their basic needs,” said Shaar.
Syria’s economy has been in freefall over the past few months with the pound losing about 70 percent of its value, making the price of basic commodities now unaffordable to many Syrians.
Still, observers say most Syrians believe the parliament is not the right channel to solve their economic problems.
“The economic situation is choking the average Syrian in both government and rebel areas,” said independent researcher Malak Chabkoun.
She explained a deteriorating economy and US sanctions will be at the forefront of the voting agenda, but people will be casting their ballots for candidates “they were told [by the government] to vote for”.
“The Baath Party candidates have [also] added US sanctions to their platform this time around to garner support and cry victim,” she added, referring to a range of newly-imposed US sanctions, known as the Caesar Act, that target companies, institutions, and individuals doing business with the al-Assad government.
While analysts say the legislation affects the al-Assad government and its local and foreign backers, humanitarian efforts and civilians in Syria, and neighbouring Lebanon, have also been affected by the sanctions.
Lack of international recognition After the vote, the new parliament plans to approve a new constitution, and al-Assad is expected to name a new prime minister. The new parliament will also be expected to approve candidates for the next presidential election.
But experts say the international community will not recognise the vote.
“The international community and political opposition groups will not recognise this parliament as a legitimate one,” said Mehchy.
“A new constitution can be only approved by a new parliament based on a transparent election in which refugees and Syrians outside the country have the right to vote,” he explained, adding the coming parliament will only approve candidates “nominated and approved by the security agencies”.
Al-Assad came to power at the age of 34 in 2000 after nearly 30 years of his father’s rule. He was elected for a third seven-year term in 2014, with the government claiming more than 88 percent of the votes were in his favour.
His time in power has been marred by a bloody civil war that has seen hundreds of thousands of people killed and millions of Syrians displaced inside and outside of the country.
Commenting on al-Assad’s 20 years in power, Chabkoun said: “Bashar has continued the same pattern [as his father’s] of quelling any opposition, disappearing people who speak out against his government, and continuing to control the goods and resources of the country for his family and friends’ own gain.”
According to Freedom House, the Syrian government is considered “one of the world’s most repressive regimes”, which along with “other belligerent forces”, has severely compromised Syrians’ political rights and civil liberties.
According to Mehchy, al-Assad’s rule has been “a catastrophic era, especially the years of conflict since 2011”, which he said the government’s policies during the first 10 years contributed towards as “root causes”.
“These policies neglected the economic and political exclusion that the majority of Syrians were suffering from,” said Mehchy.
The consumer price index which measures inflation increased by 12.56 per cent (year-on-year) in June 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics disclosed this in its June CPI and inflation report on Friday.
“This is 0.16 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in May 2020 (12.40 per cent)” it stated.
Increases were recorded in all COICOP divisions that yielded the headline index.
On a month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 1.21 per cent in June 2020.
This was 0.04 per cent rate higher than the rate recorded in May 2020 (1.17 per cent).
The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period ending June 2020, over the average of the CPI for the previous 12 months period was 11.90 per cent, representing a 0.11 per cent point increase from 11.79 per cent recorded in May 2020.
On a month-on-month basis, the urban index rose by 1.23 per cent in June 2020, up by 0.05 from 1.18 per cent recorded in May 2020, while the rural index also rose by 1.19 per cent in June 2020, up by 0.03 from the rate recorded in May 2020 (1.16) per cent.
The corresponding 12-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index was 12.50 per cent in June 2020.
This was higher than 12.36 per cent reported in May 2020, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in June 2020 was 11.36 per cent compared to 11.26 per cent recorded in May 2020.
The urban inflation rate increased by 13.18 per cent (year-on-year) in June 2020 from 13.03per cent recorded in May 2020, while the rural inflation rate increased by 11.99 per cent in June 2020 from 11.83 per cent in May 2020.
The World Bank Thursday revealed that around 42% of the Nigeria’s workforce lost their jobs between March and June following the shutdown of the economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ahmed Rostom, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank, made the disclosure at the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) Webinar Series’ virtual knowledge sharing series titled ‘Risk Sharing: A Key Driver for Increased Financial Access and Economic Development for MSMEs.’
He presented data from surveys executed by the World Bank between April and June 2020 on the economic growth constraints and the impact of COVID-19 in the country.
42 per cent of persons working before March 2020, particularly those in the hospitality and service industry, are out of job, Mr Rostom said.
Panellists also acknowledged that Credit Guarantees Schemes were notable policy documents, created to alleviate credit constraints confronting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
Ayodele Olojede, Group Head Emerging Business at Access Bank said MSMEs did not have steady and sustained access to finance, adding that “risk sharing facilities will help increase access to finance which helps MSMEs grow, increases employment and output in the economy”.
Mali has been hit by an uprising following a protest movement seeking the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita over allegations of corruption and incompetence.
Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan is currently in the country as ECOWAS envoy to lead regional efforts in mediating in the turmoil that has reportedly led to the death of 11 people.
Obasanjo said the protest is different from previous ones because in addition to having the support of a wide range of actors notably political actors, civil society organisations and some security agencies, it also has the backing of a vast majority of the population.
“The current political turmoil in Mali is of grave concern considering the multidimensional impact of an escalation of the political impasse on about 19 million citizens and what a destabilized Mali will mean to West Africa,” he said in the article.
“The consequences will reverberate across the whole West Africa region, with the safety and security of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger directly at risk. If those countries stumble, the effects will ripple across coastal states such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Guinea. It will reverberate even to Nigeria.
“Mali is the levee that if breached, will create a wave of insecurity throughout Africa’s western region.”
He said for the crisis to be resolved, three things need to be done, first of which is negotiating a compromise to bring the protests to an end and immediate relief to the country “which will not compromise democracy, security and human rights”.
“Second, ensure the implementation of the Peace Accord in collaboration with other stakeholders crucial to peace and where necessary make needed adjustments to meet new realities through inclusive consultation with all stakeholders,” he said.
“This will foster inclusivity in conflict resolution governance and decision-making which has been at the core of the tensions in Mali.
“Finally, the actors and process must acknowledge the influence of geo and international politics in Mali and ensure the cooperation and commitment of the key external players to ensuring peace, stability and growth for the people of Mali.”
He, however, added that it will ultimately take the goodwill and patriotism of the people of Mali to resolve the impasse and “this is why political leaders and the elite must be willing to make compromises to find workable and lasting solutions”.
Here is the article in full.
ENSURING INCLUSIVE GOVERNANCE AND STABILITY IN MALI
Recent developments in Mali have brought international attention back to the lingering challenges of instability and distrust since the signing of Algiers Peace Accord in 2015. On 5th and 19th of June, thousands of people protested in the streets, demanding, among other things, the resignation of the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK). These protests were triggered by discontent about persistent allegations of corruption and incompetence of the IBK administration; slow progress in addressing insecurity in North and Central Mali, poverty and unemployment; and the recent controversy with the results of the April legislative elections.
This is not the first protest of this nature in Mali, but this time it is different for two reasons. First, in addition to Imam Dicko who is not a new actor to the scene in Mali, the protests have the support of a wide range of actors notably trade unions, political actors (including the main opposition party whose leader Soumaila Cisse, kidnapped in March 2020, is still missing), civil society organizations and some members of the security sector, including the police, who have publicly criticized the government for mismanaging security resources. Second, and most importantly, the protests have the support and participation of a vast majority of the population, especially the youth, with over 70% expressing dissatisfaction with IBK’s mandate, as a recent poll by Inferentielle Opinion Research indicates. This suggests wide-spread dissatisfaction with the trajectory in Mali which should worry the political leadership in Mali and the international community [who endorsed and have supported the implementation of the Peace Accord].
The current political turmoil in Mali is of grave concern considering the multidimensional impact of an escalation of the political impasse on about 19 million citizens and what a destabilized Mali will mean to West Africa. The consequences will reverberate across the whole West Africa region, with the safety and security of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger directly at risk. If those countries stumble, the effects will ripple across coastal states such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Guinea. It will reverberate even to Nigeria. Mali is the levee that if breached, will create a wave of insecurity throughout Africa’s western region.
Three things must be addressed urgently. First, negotiate a compromise to bring the protests to an end and immediate relief to the country which will not compromise democracy, security and human rights. I am encouraged that IBK and his political coalition, on one side and Imam Mahmoud Dicko and the M5-RFP on the other side have shown openness to dialogue and continue to interact with diplomats and mediators including the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Second, ensure the implementation of the Peace Accord in collaboration with other stakeholders crucial to peace and where necessary make needed adjustments to meet new realities through inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. This will foster inclusivity in conflict resolution governance and decision-making which has been at the core of the tensions in Mali. Finally, the actors and process must acknowledge the influence of geo and international politics in Mali and ensure the cooperation and commitment of the key external players to ensuring peace, stability and growth for the people of Mali.
While the world is distracted by Covid19, Africa must lead this process through our regional and pan African institutions and leaders, including ECOWAS, the African Union, and the UN Office for West Africa and Sahel through Dr. Ibn Chambas and the world should support these efforts. Ultimately, it will take the goodwill and patriotism of the people of Mali to resolve this impasse and this is why political leaders and the elite must be willing to make compromises to find workable and lasting solutions.
Peace and good governance in Mali will promote the establishment of a secular, democratic and economically stable country. While promoting security is key, it must not be done at the total expense of democracy and human rights. I believe the separation between state and religion must be protected at all times to ensure inclusive participation of all in the rebuilding of Mali. Mali must address corruption not just from a law and order perspective but as a collective aspiration of the people to enthrone accountability, responsiveness, and inclusive development. Ending the human suffering and the economic hardship requires an urgent and holistic regional response to the prevailing situation in the country. 2020 is the year the AU declared the period of ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa’, and expectations are high. Let the silencing start with Mali with solutions that put the welfare of Mali’s citizens above any other political or non-political consideration.