The Federal Government says it has rid its payroll of 50,000 ghost workers and saved Nigeria 200 billion Naira.
The government also disclosed that 13 billion Naira has been taken off the payroll monthly from February to December 2016.
The spokesman to the President, Mr Garba Shehu, made the announcement at an interactive meeting with reporters on Tuesday to mark the end the year.
Mr Garba revealed that 11 persons championing the syndicate of ghost workers have been handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for interrogation.
“The flagship programme of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to rid the system of fraud and instill good governance is on course. Through a notable initiative, the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government has embarked on the continuous auditing of the salaries and wages of government departments.
“When the committee was constituted in February 2016, the Federal Government monthly salary bill was 151 billion Naira, excluding pensions. Now the monthly salary warrant is 138 billion Naira, excluding pensions. Which means that the government is making a monthly saving of about 13 billion Naira (that is from February 2016 till date),” said the President’s spokesman.
Mr Shehu added that “the pension bill was 15.5 billion Naira monthly as at February. Now it is down to 14.4 billion Naira, which means average monthly saving made is of about 1.1 billion Naira”.
He said that the total number of ghost workers so far removed from the payroll was about 50,000, stressing that some of those allegedly championing the syndicate of the ghost workers were already undergoing trial.
Federal Government Adoptees
Mr Shehu further noted that the recently-released 21 Chibok girls were being treated as adoptees of the Federal Government, but revealed that there was a lot of local and international interest in the future plans of the girls.
“A black American billionaire, Mr Robert Smith, who is currently sponsoring the education of 24 girls from Chibok, among them the first set of escapees from Boko Haram at the American University of Nigeria, Yola has offered to pay for the education of the 21 released through negotiations and is offering to take responsibility for all the others who will hopefully be eventually set free. The Murtala Mohammed Foundation in the country is equally interested,” he said.
Shehu also responded to complaints by some of the parents of the 21 Chibok Girls that they did not have enough room for interaction with their daughters brought home for Christmas by the Department of State Services (DSS).
He admitted that there were some hitches arising from a lack of understanding of the objective of the trip on the part of some security operatives but that following the receipt of the complaint, a directive had been given from the headquarters for the access by the parents to be eased.
“If the situation persists, please let us know so that the higher authorities will make a further intercession,” he stated.
Issue Of Interest In APC
The President’s aide also addressed an issue of interest to a lot of the members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) concerning appointments into boards.
He assured the public that the process would be fully back on track at the beginning of the new year.
“You know that the reconstitution began methodically, from sector by sector. You should expect that to resume at the beginning of the New Year. The President has given directions on what to do,” he told reporters.
Favorable Environment For Diversification
On the agricultural programmes of the administration, Mr Shehu said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s persistent call for a return to farming was yielding good results.
“The talk about agriculture has driven people to the farm. This year, there is a huge boom in the rural economy. We have witnessed an excellent harvest. Farmers are getting value for their output. What has encouraged farmers the more is the increasing availability of extension services. New farming techniques are helping farmers to do their occupation better. The readiness of off takers to buy the produce is also a major boost.
“When you put all these together with the systematic move to curb importation, as they boost local production through the restriction of the available foreign exchange to critically important sectors of the economy, you have favorable environment for the diversification of the economy.
“As we speak, several of the country’s major manufacturing industries are actively backward-integrating- Nestle, Unilever, the breweries are using what we have as local materials, changing their formulations to maintain production levels and keep their share of the market.
“Manufacturers, who are hooked on import of raw materials, are advised to re-strategise and take full advantage of local raw materials. The future belongs to those who employ the use of local raw materials,” the spokesman added.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has demanded a fair tax justice system that will make it mandatory for business organisations to pay tax that is equal to their investment.
The union says at least 50 billion Naira is taken out of Africa annually and that the time to arrest the trend is now.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, believes Africa is being impoverished by the local and multi-national companies which enjoy a tax haven without contributing their profits to the development of the continent.
He urged the Federal Government to reduce the burden of taxation imposed on the average Nigerian worker who ‘compulsorily pays tax regularly’.
Mr Wabba made the call on Wednesday at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, where he led some workers to submit a letter of protest at the Federal Ministry of Finance.
He asked the Nigerian Government to protect Africa’s wealth through an effective tax regime that would provide a tax haven for some people.
The Director of Special Duties at the ministry, Mohammed Dikur, received the protest letter with a promise to ensure it gets to the Minister of Finance.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has ordered the immediate cancellation of the tendering process for the engagement of Pre-Shipment Inspection and Monitoring Agents for Oil and Gas.
The decision was necessitated by the receipt of numerous complaints and a petition regarding alleged irregularities in the process, she said.
A statement by the spokesperson for the Ministry read: “In June 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari mandated the Federal Ministry of Finance, under the then Permanent Secretary, Mrs Anastasia Nwoabia, to commence the process of engaging Pre-Shipment Inspection and Monitoring Agents. Upon the approval of the Bureau of Public Procurement, a selective tendering process was initiated under which 65 companies were selected and invited to bid”.
However, since the inception of the process, numerous complaints were sent to the Federal Ministry of Finance, suggesting that the method by which the 65 companies were selected was faulty and lacked transparency.
Additionally, a formal petition was received by the Bureau of Public Procurement, making specific allegations about the process.
Under Public Procurement rules, the receipt of a formal petition requires a suspension of the tendering process to allow an investigation. However, in this instance, the Minister has taken the decision to cancel the process.
The Minister said that, “the sheer volume of complaints and the wide range of sources they emanated from, had raised a sufficient level of concern around the process to warrant a full cancellation rather than a suspension.
“This administration stands for transparency and accountability and it is therefore important that all procurement and tendering exercises must be undertaken in accordance with best practices”.
Pre-Ship Inspection of Oil and Gas Exports commenced in 2015 and requires a Clean Certificate of Inspection to be issued, confirming the volume and the value of all exports.
The programme is believed to have enhanced government revenues by preventing misstatement and understatement by exporters.
The Ministry of Finance stated that it was in consultation with the Bureau of Public Procurement to commence a new process and to ensure interim arrangements for service provision.
The Ministry further stated that details of the new process would be communicated shortly.
The Federal Ministry of Finance has debunked claims that President Goodluck Jonathan has squandered the Nigeria’s reserves, insisting that it was used appropriately in the course of normal transactions required for the development of the Nigerian economy.
In a statement released to clarify the facts of the recent history and status of Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account and foreign reserves, the Ministry said “it is important to restate the true position in the interest of the Nigerian public as well as local and international investors.
“It is absolutely not true that the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has squandered the nation’s reserves”, it said, maintaining that “at the end of May 2007, Nigeria’s gross reserves stood at $43.13 billion – comprising the CBN’s external reserves of $31.5 billion, $9.43 billion in the Excess Crude Account, and $2.18 billion in Federal Government’s savings. These figures can be independently verified from the CBN’s records”, insisting that “the figure of $67 billion cited in some recent commentary is therefore factually incorrect”.
The statement further added that “it is a misconception to think that reserves are immutable or cast in stone. The reality is that since May 2007, the reserves have fluctuated in line with developments in the international oil market, rising from $43.13 billion at that time, peaking at $62 billion in September 2008 during the Yar’adua/Jonathan Administration when oil prices reached a peak of $147 per barrel, and falling subsequently to a low of $31.7 billion in September 2011”.
“This fall in reserves was largely a result of the vicissitudes of the global economy and oil market which caused the CBN to intervene, using some of the reserves, to defend the value of the naira.
“The Excess Crude savings, which it should be noted is a component of the reserves, was largely used to cushion the economy at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008-2009. As a result, Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world that did not seek assistance from international financial institutions at that time.
“The fiscal stimulus used to shore up the economy during that period was shared by all 3-tiers of government. Similarly, savings in the ECA were also used to pay for fuel subsidies for the entire nation and that sharing continued after the crisis ended. Starting in 2012, such payments have been published each time they are made”, it said.
The Federal Ministry of Finance also explained that the savings in the ECA would have been higher but for the fact that “a number of Governors, against strong professional advice, actively kicked against continuous building up of the ECA and, indeed, pushed for its sharing” adding that they “took the Federal Government to court on this matter, and the case is still pending at the Supreme Court.
“It is also worth noting that the Jonathan administration built the first ever Sovereign Wealth Fund for the nation in which savings are being made for future generations of Nigerians and important infrastructure investments are being supported.
“It is also a matter of public knowledge that the Fund would have generated more savings and investments if the same sort of opposition that blocked savings in the ECA had also not been at work.
“Furthermore, by common agreement between the FGN and State Governors, in 2009, an amount of about $5.5 billion was drawn from the ECA and used for investment in Independent power projects. Today, various State governments are shareholders in the projects and hold share certificates confirming their stake in the projects” the said.
On the use of reserves, the Ministry maintained that “it is not correct to say that the nation’s external reserves were dipped into or misapplied by the Administration. Anyone familiar with foreign reserves management will be aware that the Federal Government cannot dip its hands into the external reserves.
“Like in other countries, the management of external reserves is one of the statutory mandates of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Section 2 sub-section (c) of the CBN Act (2007) states that the Bank shall maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender – in other words, to defend the value of the Naira. No President since the democratic dispensation has contravened this Act.
“The reserves are also used to settle both public and private sector foreign currency obligations, including the importation of goods such as equipment for power sector. Whenever an Agency of Government or a private individual/company needs to make a payment in foreign currency (e.g. payment of goods and services, settlement of external debt, etc) it must provide the naira equivalent to the CBN in exchange for the required foreign currency.
“From the above, it is clear that Nigeria’s reserves during the period were not squandered but used appropriately in the course of normal transactions required for the development of the Nigerian economy”.
He said that his administration left $25 billion in the excess crude accounts in 2007 which was shored up to about $35 billion by the Yar’Adua’s administration, while he left $45 billion in external reserve.
“Our economy should not have been this bad. When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost $25billion we kept in what they called excess crude. The excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for the rainy days. When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to $35billion,” he said.
“But today, that reserve has been depleted! Today, that reserve has been depleted. The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debts that was about 40billion dollars, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3billion. Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007, I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67billion before the end of the year. Our reserve now, learnt is left with around only $30billion.
“That is why the Naira has been falling against the dollar. What would now happen, I learnt if you want to buy a dollar now, it’s about 192 Naira or 195 Naira. What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing,”Mr Obasanjo said.
These funds, he said, had been mismanaged by the present administration.
The Federal Ministry of Finace has released a guideline for the payment of oil marketers in the country, a statement by the Special Adviser ot the Finance Minister on Media, Paul Nwabiukwu said on Wednesday.
The statement, which noted that the ministry has “received several enquiries regarding the status of payments to oil marketers for fuel imports”, urged marketers to “note the following”
“Only marketers whose claims have been cleared after they have gone through the verification processes are paid. This is to ensure that the unpleasant experiences of the recent past with regard to wrong and irregular payments are not repeated.
“The process for the latest batch of payments totalling N45 billion is currently on and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) has confirmed that some marketers who have submitted letters of indemnity to the OAGF have already been paid. Other claims are being attended to.
“The letters of indemnity are an additional requirement for payment because banks which financed imports by some marketers had written to the OAGF through their lawyers to complain that their clients (the marketers) are making interest payments through other banks contrary to the terms of agreements reached. The banks in question are insisting that the interest payments be made through them since they granted the facilities that attracted the interest.
“To ensure that the Federal Government is not held liable in the event of any litigation between these banks and their marketer-customers, the OAGF has instituted the new procedure.
“It is important to note that subsidy payments are made retroactively because claims must go through all the necessary processes before they are approved and paid”, it said.
The statement further added that “government will continue to discharge its obligations to marketers whose claims are approved”.
The federal government has denied allegations by Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state that $5 billion is missing from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), describing the allegation as “absolutely shocking and false”.
The federal government pointed out that the governor could not have denied knowledge of the status of the ECA, when his state benefitted handsomely from the share of the $5 billion, which was severally used to augment revenue shortfalls for sharing to the three tiers of government.
Amaechi had alleged during the retreat of a faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), which he chairs, in Sokoto at the weekend, that $5 billion had disappeared from the ECA and demanded explanations from the government agencies responsible.
However, in a press statement yesterday (Monday), the Federal Ministry of Finance said: “Amaechi cannot credibly deny knowledge of the status of the ECA,” insisting that “he has been closely involved and actively participated in making requests to the presidency for the ECA to be shared for the purpose of augmenting the regular allocations from the Federation Account whenever there was a shortfall.”
The statement further adds that the $5 billion in the ECA had been shared to the three tiers of government to make up for the revenue shortfalls during the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) process.
“Part of this fund also went for SURE-P payments and the balance for subsidy payments to oil marketers,” it added.
The ministry said Rivers State received N56.2 billion, the second highest share among the states, from January to September 2013 from the ECA, adding that the amount included N43 billion for shortfalls plus N12 billion released for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
“In fact, earlier this month (November 2013) Rivers State along with other states, benefitted from the sharing of $1 billion from the ECA to augment the allocations. “It is therefore curious that Governor Amaechi seems not to know the whereabouts of the N56.2 billion which Rivers State has received from the ECA this year,” the statement added
“The loan in question has been appraised but it is yet to be negotiated. Before the minister can sign it, it has to go through the negotiation process and be considered and cleared by both the Board of the African Development Bank and the Federal Executive Council. So the issue of the minister refusing to sign it simply does not arise.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala handles issues concerning the states on the basis of professionalism and equity,” the statement said.
In the aftermath of the budget crises between the executive and the National Assembly over the 2013 Budget, the Senate has moved to reduce the role of the federal Ministry of Finance in the budgeting process. A federal lawmaker, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, on Thursday, sponsored a motion which would make budget making a joint responsibility of the Budget Office and National Planning Commission.
He said the current annual incremental, envelope based budgeting being used by the Ministry of Finance is arbitrary and inimical to growth.
Senator Adetunmbi who moved the motion at the plenary session, called for a review of the country’s budgeting process and that the National Planning Commission should be involved in the budgeting process.
He said the current national budgeting process makes the legislature less involved and at best reactive, a motion some lawmakers agreed to.
The Senate President, David Mark said other government agencies have usurped the role of the National Planning Commission.
The Senate mandated its Committee on National Planning and Finance to review the current national planning and budgeting linkage and recommend amendment to the relevant laws.
But the Federal Ministry of Finance in a statement on Friday stated that the federal government has already paid out the sum of N42.666 billion in subsidy claims between the months of April – August this year to ‘genuine oil marketers.’
The statement which sought to apprise Nigerians on key developments in the management of fuel subsidy payments, claimed that “marketers with legitimate and unencumbered claims have been paid and will continue to be paid.”
Giving a breakdown of the payment made so far, the statement revealed that:
-Between April and May 2012, Batches D/12 and E/12 involving 14 oil marketers with a claim of N17 billion were fully settled.
– In addition, since early July 2012, N25.6 billion worth of claims have been fully settled.
– In all, between April – August this year, in respect of 2012 PMS claims, N42.666 billion have been paid to 31 oil marketers.
Affirming that the fuel scarcity in Abuja is a ploy by the indicted marketers to provoke Nigerians against the government, the Ministry of Finance alleged that “it is clear that those behind the strikes are marketers being investigated for possible fraud.”
“These elements have now resorted to hiding behind the unions to unnecessarily antagonize government and create hardship for Nigerians” the statement adds.
Companies under investigation for fuel subsidy fraud
The statement further revealed the names of 20 companies that are currently under-going investigation based on their indictment by the Presidential Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments led by Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
According to the Ministry, the companies are been investigated “based on evidence that they may have engaged in fraudulent activities under the fuel subsidy regime.”
The report of the committee recommended that the oil marketers must refund various amounts to the national treasury.
1. ALMINNUR RESOURCES LTD
2. BRILLA ENERGY LED
3. CAADES OIL AND GAS LTD
4. CAPITAL OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY LTD
5. CONNOIL PLC
6. DOWNSTREAM ENERGY SOURCE LTD
7. ETERNA PLC
8. EURAAFRIC OIL AND GAS LTD
9. LUMEN SKIES LTD
10. MAJOPE INVESTMENT LTD
11. MATRIX ENERGY LTD
12. MENON OIL AND GAS LTD
13. MOB INTERNATIONAL SERVICES
14. M.R.S OIL AND GAS LTD
15. NASAMAN OIL SERVICES LTD
16. NATACEL PETROLEUM LTD
17. OCEAN ENERGY TRADING AND SERVICES
18. PINNACLE CONTRACTORS LTD
19. SIFAX OIL AND GAS COMPANY
20. TONIQUE OIL SERVICES LTD
The Finance Ministry also noted that there are other oil marketing companies with less severe cases to answer, adding that “these (companies) are in discussion with government for a quick resolution of their issues.”
Explaining the terms under which funds owed these companies will be sorted out, the statement said, that oil marketers under investigation for possible refunds to the government, will have their 2012 outstanding claims “netted out against their expected refunds to government and those with a positive net balance, i.e outstanding claims greater than expected refunds will be processed and paid.”
“For marketers with a negative balance with government, i.e they owe government more in refunds than government owes them, the Aig-imoukhuede committee will accelerate review of their documents after the Sallah break so that their claims can be processed and settled, if cleared, without further delay.”
“For others that may not be in the above categories but who have other issues or claims, their claims will also be attended to with the same despatch.”
In conclusion the Ministry of Finance vowed to investigation the alleged role of the oil marketers in the on-going crisis stating that “we want to make it clear that Government will fully investigate their activities and if found guilty, bring them to book and recover all public funds fraudulently obtained, in the guise of fuel subsidy claims.”
“No degree of blackmail will stop the Government from doing its work. Government will, therefore, pursue justice and ensure that those who are found guilty are appropriately sanctioned” it concluded.
The Federal Government has alleged that oil marketers planning to embark on a nationwide strike action are those who have been indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede’s report on fuel subsidy payments.
The allegation was made in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Paul C. Nwabiukwu, on Wednesday, which claimed the federal government has stopped paying the indicted oil marketers.
The statement said “it is clear that the strike was instigated mainly by marketers who were indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee which investigated fuel subsidy payments.”
The statement further said that the federal government has stopped payments of oil marketers that were penciled down for investigation “However, the claims by marketers who have been recommended for further investigation by the Aig-Imoukhuede Presidential Committee have not been paid”.
The statement also called on Nigerians not to be deceived “by their antics”.
It also highlighted the federal government’s zero tolerance to corrupt persons and organisations.
“The Federal Government is determined to ensure that persons and organisations which did the wrong things do not get away with wrong actions and wrong behavior”.
Corroborating the claim, Minister of state for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama said that a total of N42 billion has been paid to 31 one oil marketers as subsidy payments.
“In all, between April and August this year, in respect of 2012 PMS claims, Sovereign Debt Notes amounting to N42.666 billion have been issued to 31 oil marketers”.
The minister was speaking after the monthly Federations Account Allocation Committee meeting in Abuja.
Dr. Ngama said that the intention of the indicted oil marketers is to blackmail government and avoid sanctions on crimes committed.
He further stated that the sum of N522 billion is to be distributed to the Federal, State and Local government areas for the month of July.