The Federal Government has commenced the verification of its monthly Budget Support Facility to the states.
The importance of the exercise is to ensure that benefiting state governments comply with the mutually agreed Fiscal Sustainability Plan prescribed by the National Economic Council (NEC).
The resolution was reached at the first NEC meeting in 2017, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said that eight accounting firms have been appointed and had already begun the audit process.
She also told the council that the balance in excess crude account stands at $2,458,382,844.03 as at February 15, 2017.
The minister hinted that the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) plans to increase domestic infrastructure investment in 2017, as there are compelling opportunities in the environment.
She explained that the focus would be on social infrastructure, including affordable housing and healthcare through the development of specialist hospitals and to this end, the council has decided to inject a fresh $250 million into the Sovereign Wealth Fund sourced from the excess crude account.
On agriculture, the council was informed of the massive wheat production in Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi and Zamfara states among others.
The State Governors at the meeting, however, appealed to the Federal Government to make plans for the purchase of excess wheat to ensure price stability and sustainable production.
The council subsequently agreed to discuss and make adequate buy-back arrangements in order to support price stability.
After a brief presentation on foreign exchange policy options by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, members of the council generally expressed concern over the current situation of the exchange rate.
They called for an urgent review of the current policy, especially the gap between interbank and the parallel market rates.
In his response, Mr Emefiele sued for patience and understanding, assuring the council that the situation was being closely managed.
The Nigerian government says it will do all in its powers to overcome the setbacks in the power sector.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, gave the assurance while briefing reporters after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
One of the strategies that the government has adopted, according to the Minister, is the approval made by the Council for the completion of the Odogunyan Transmission Sub-station in Ikorodu in Lagos at the cost of 3.5 billion Naira.
According to Mr Fashola, the contract was awarded in 2009 and abandoned for lack of payment.
He said the cost was reversed, as a result of the economic reality of the times so that the project could be completed and put into use as an addition to the expansion capacity of the national grid.
After 55 years of independence Nigeria still depends on imported generators for electricity.
The cost of running these generators is high, forcing most businesses in the oil-rich nation to close down.
Nigeria with a populations of over 180 million people has electricity that fluctuates between 5,000 megawatts and zero megawatts. Electricity experts said Nigeria needed about 100,000 megawatts of electricity to boast of constant power supply to its population.
Latest report has it that electricity generation in the nation has dropped to less than 2,500 megawatts.
Blame the drop on vandalism of gas pipelines and huge debts to DISCOS and GENCOS, a source of worry to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
One step the government is sure will help expand the capacity of power in the country is the completion of the sub-station in Ikorodu which has been lying fallow since 2009.
When completed, the minister said it would add extra capacity to the national grid.
Concerned citizens have continued to ask; can there be a time when Nigeria will generate at least 40,000 megawatts of power, for its citizens like other countries of the world without failure?
Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazzau, also disclosed that the Council approved over 4 billion Naira for the purchase of firefighting equipment to enable firemen in the country perform their functions well.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has asked political leaders, especially Northern governors, to join the campaign against child marriage by creating educate opportunities for the girl child instead of rushing them into early marriage.
Mr Ortom made the call in Makurdi, the Benue state capital at a meeting organised by the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, to mobilise support for sound educational and economic base for women in the state.
The Minister, who sought Governor Ortom’s support against child marriage said that the Federal Government had prepared a 1.6 billion Naira empowerment fund for women in 2017.
She also told the women at the gathering that 40 women had been trained in key areas of trade.
She encouraged them to be prudent with the fund, to enable the government increase the allocation subsequently.
Child marriage has assumed alarming rate in Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria where the practice created national outcry in Katsina State recently.
The campaign against child marriage and women empowerment enjoys massive support in Benue, but it remains to be seen if the support will spread across the entire Northern Nigeria, where child marriage practice is high.
Deadline For Child Marriage
In November, the Canadian government appealed to the Nigerian government to come out with concrete plans to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.
Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.
According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.
“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.
“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told a gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.
After that appeal, the Nigerian government launched a campaign to protect the girl child, setting a deadline to end child marriage.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo explained that all departments and agencies would be made to ensure compliance as the country has set a 2030 target to totally end child marriage.
The campaign, which is launched alongside 15 other African Union member countries, is to highlight the physical, mental and social effects of marrying a girl before the age of 18.
The Nigerian government has promised more support for farmers and small business owners to aid growth of their farms and businesses.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo gave the assurance on Tuesday at a one-day economic empowerment programme organised for youths and women in Kano State.
He told the gathering that the economic recession the nation was facing was a fallout of so much dependency on foreign goods including food items.
Professor Osinbajo said that the Federal Government was working tirelessly to reverse in no distant time what he called “ugly trend, threatening the future of the nation’s economy”.
According to Professor Osinbajo, with the current global recession, Nigeria’s economy has continued to be threatened.
He says of policy formulation is one aspect the government is exploring to support farmers and small business owners to boost the economy.
The Naira has continued to weaken against the dollar and prices of food items and other commodities are skyrocketing partly because of over reliance on imported goods.
“Let us grow what we eat. You should not import rice when we can grow rice. We should not be importing tomato puree or paste when we can manufacture it. We should not import wheat when we can grow it. We must grow what we eat. If we don’t grow what we eat we will end up in trouble and that is one of the major things the president has been re-emphasising.
“From now on, we are going to make sure that we promote policies that encourage those who are growing – farmers and small scale industrialists who are processing what we grow here in Nigeria,” Professor Osinbajo pointed out.
The programme was organised in conjunction with Kano State government to educate farmers and small business owners on how best they can access and utilise the Federal Government’s intervention fund.
With an estimated population of over 15 million people most of whom are small, medium and micro traders, Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, said he had so far empowered over 6,000 women and youths.
Governor Ganduje told the Vice President that preparations for the establishment of Kanawa Economic City had reached advance stage in addition with various programmes to revive the state agricultural sector.
“Your excellency, because our markets are so congested, we have succeeded in establishing a Public, Private Partnership arrangement to develop the Kanawa Economic City estimated to cost over 500 billion Naira and your excellency we will soon sign an agreement with a Dubai based construction company and by January next year we hope to begin with construction work,” the Governor said.
Although Kano State government has initiated various women and youth intervention programmes, drop in revenue generated from crude oil sales has continued to pose a threat to the nation’s social investment programme.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment Programme, Mrs Maryam Uwais, “the challenges have been that there are over 58 million Nigerians who are considered extremely poor and we have a very wide disparity between the rich and the poor”.
She highlighted the need to spread resources across all the different disparities, saying there were at least 28 social programmes in the past ran by the government, but lack of proper synergy between Federal and States government has been a major challenge.
Just few weeks after meeting with some representatives of Niger Delta communities and groups, the Nigerian government has again received fresh demands towards ensuring peace in the Niger Delta region.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received the fresh demands on Tuesday on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari from the Niger Delta Peoples Congress led by Amanyanabo of Ton-Brass Bayelsa State, King Alfred Diete Spiff.
The Congress Secretary, Professor Benjamin Okaba, told the Vice President that the group had come to re-affirm the submissions made earlier and to prioritise their concerns.
Some of the demands presented to the Vice President include; political reconstruction and fiscal federalism with management of resources by the constituents and a derivation principle that should allow the different unit annex and control its resources and pay appropriate and agreed tax to the centre.
They are also asking for the demilitarisation of the Niger Delta region, building of peace and confidence, funding interventionist agencies and a guarantee of environmental and human right protection.
The meeting with the Niger Delta Peoples Congress came barely two weeks after traditional leaders and some other indigenes of the Niger Delta presented 16 things they are confident will end militancy and bring development in the region if the government will consider them.
They presented the requests to President Muhammadu Buhari at a meeting held in Abuja.
Addressing reporters after the two-hour meeting, the leaders of the group, the traditional ruler of Amanyanobo Kingdom, King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Mr Edwin Clark decried the lack of infrastructure, human resource, manpower and welfare of the people years after oil exploration began in the Niger Delta.
Part of their demands are that the government should empower its people through training, open up the economy of the region through adequate investment in infrastructure and clean-up oil spills that have affected their farmlands and waters among others.
Militancy had resurged in the Niger Delta region in the second quarter of 2015, with militant groups seeking emancipation of the region and more control of the natural resources.
To push their demands, oil facilities have been attacked in the region forcing some companies to declare force majeure, with the nation’s crude oil output and power supply largely affected.
At a time the nation is struggling to rise above the drop in the price of crude oil that has affected its revenue, the activities of the militants dipped crude oil production, with the output dropping by over one million barrels per day, according to figures given by the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed.
Any solution to the militant attacks on oil facilities presented to the Nigerian government could go a long way in boosting crude oil output and revenue to enable the nation wriggle out of economic recession officially declared after the second quarter of 2016.
The nation’s Gross Domestic Product had contracted by 2.06%, according to a second quarter report of the National bureau of Statistics.
The Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the fight against corruption in the judiciary is aimed at safeguarding the independence of the judiciary, which is the foundation of the Nigerian policy.
According to the Vice President, the independence of the judiciary is not a favour, but the essence of any system of justice that must be protected by all players in the sector.
The VP was speaking at 2016 fellows’ lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
The guest lecturer Mr. Adegboyega Awomolo advised the government to stop playing a supervisory roll over the judiciary, he insisted that the committee is an interference that should not be allowed to continue.
The VP further agreed that the executive has no reason to interfere with the judiciary, however says that the fight against corruption in the justice sector is for the good of the judiciary and the nation at large.
The event also featured the conferment of honorary fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies on the Vice-President, Justice Amina Augie of the Supreme Court, a former Director -General of the Institute Professor Amaze Gbudadia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Gadzama .
The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday asked the Executive Arm of Government to provide the National Assembly with a clear framework that would allow for proper administration of the 500 billion Naira Special Intervention Fund, staying action on the executive’s requests for funds.
The request, according to the Senate, would enable the lawmakers ensure that the failure of the past social intervention schemes was avoided.
President Buhari on September 25 forwarded a request to the lawmakers, seeking the approval of the National Assembly for virement of funds appropriated for special intervention to be used to fund some recurrent and capital items.
He is seeking a total of 180 billion Naira to cover the shortfalls in recurrent and capital expenditures.
In the letter read on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, President Buhari said the request is necessary because of the shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs and inadequate provision for the Amnesty Programme.
‘Discriminates Against Rural Dwellers’
Deliberations on the request opened on Tuesday with Senator Ndume pointing out some flaws in the initiative.
He insisted that the directive that all the beneficiaries should register online had the tendency of excluding and marginalising the targeted population.
Pointing out that the request by the Senate was not targeted at stopping the initiative, Senator Ndume stated that the Senate fully approved the request of the executive in the 2016 Budget to facilitate the 500 billion Naira fund.
Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who opened the debate on the motion he raised on the need to avoid the mismanagement of the 500 billion Naira intervention funds, further observed that current economic situation and the need to have a social intervention scheme that could lift people out of poverty, was the overriding concern of the National Assembly when it did not insist on having a proper framework before approval.
“But I expect the social intervention fund to get to all the 9,572 Wards of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he says.
He further highlighted a variable in the initiative – MPOWER – which he said required people to register online, saying “it is faulty and discriminates against rural dwellers”.
Giving his opinion on the issue, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he could not find any beneficiary of the programmes of the Social Intervention Funds in his LG.
On his part, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said the aspects of the implementation of the Social Intervention Funds run afoul of the Constitution.
Senator Na’Allah questioned how the people in the hinterland and localities without internet services that are supposed to get online to register on the website.
Before the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, asked Senator Ali Wakili to shed light on some of these concerns, Senators Hope Uzodinma and Biodun Olujimi condemned the implementation plan, saying it was not far-reaching to all nooks and corners of Nigeria.
Explaining the Social Intervention Plans of the Executive Arm of Government Senator Wakili said the fund was not domiciled in any ministry but managed in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office through consultants.
Senator Wakili told the Senate that he expected that the National Assembly, as the representative of the people, ought to be carried along “but this isn’t the case”.
Push For Manual Registration
Another issue that Senator Dino Melaye raised was that Nigeriens, Beninoise and Camerounians could as well claim being Nigerians and apply since it was online.
He concluded that a programme of action on the implementation of the Intervention Fund had to be brought to the Senate.
After the deliberations, the Senate resolved that manual registration of beneficiary from all Wards & LGs in Nigeria be incorporated in the 500 billion Naira Intervention Programme.
The Senate also resolved that a clear accountability channel must be created, continuously audited and submitted to the National Assembly.
Giving his final words on the issue, the Senate President said that despite the good intentions, the 500 billion Naira might not achieve what it was supposed to achieve with the current implementation.
Dr. Saraki further asked the appropriate committee to work with the executive to ensure the success of the Social Intervention Fund.
The Federal Government is seeking more support from Nigerians for the anti-corruption fight aimed at recovering stolen funds from persons that looted the nation’s treasury.
The government further assured law abiding Nigerians that they have nothing to fear, as the government’s fight against corruption is aimed at retrieving the commonwealth of Nigerians from persons who have illegally appropriated such wealth to themselves and their families.
Addressing participants at a national conference on Tuesday on the role of the legislature in the fight against corruption, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said “Nigeria stands the risk of perpetually remaining under-developed if nothing is done to stem the tide of corruption”.
Respect The Rule Of Law
He appealed to Nigerians to team up with the Federal Government in its effort to rid the nation of corrupt persons.
The issue of corruption again took centre stage, at the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption and the National Assembly conference.
Participants had gathered to brainstorm on how to tackle corruption.
While the Vice President, who declared the conference open, lamented the state of corruption in Nigeria, a former Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, Patrick Lumumba, in a keynote address recommended severe sanctions to deter corrupt persons.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, berated the legislature for its failure to fight corruption just as the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, advised the Federal Government to respect the rule of law.
The two-day conference will among other subjects examine the role of the legislature as the champion of anti-corruption reforms, reform of the anti-corruption legal framework and compliance with international standards.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has approved a change in the management of the humanitarian crisis in the northeast, putting cabinet ministers in direct charge of sectoral coordination.
He said the decision was to ensure that the situation was confronted more effectively.
Before the President’s decision, sectoral coordination of the humanitarian situation was managed by director-cadre ministry officials.
The cabinet ministers will now be in charge of governmental response to the humanitarian emergency caused by Boko Haram insurgency in the north eastern part of Nigeria.
A statement by Laolu Akande, a spokesman for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said an inter-ministerial task force had been established by President Buhari to coordinate the response and work with humanitarian agencies to support the governments and other structures in the affected states.
In the multi-sectoral task force, each sector will now be led by a minister while the entire task force is led by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
The ministry will now coordinate and mobilise the domestic, governmental and private sector resources necessary to effectively meet this challenge with the urgency it demands.
The ministers, who will now personally supervise their ministry’s role in the newly modified governance structure include ministers of health, interior, women affairs, agriculture and water resources.
Save Lives And Restore Normalcy
The National Security Adviser to the President and the Chief of Army Staff, National Emergency Management Agency and the Presidential Committee on Northeast Intervention would also be actively involved in the new elevated response model approved by the president.
After taking over power in May 2015, President Buhari’s administration has reiterated its commitment to defeating Boko Haram and countering violent extremism.
It has been difficult to send relief to people in the region due to activities of the terrorist group and military in the northeast, the UN agency said.
As the military forces move deeper into the core Boko Haram strongholds, they have discovered and freed several persons who are severely malnourished and in poor health.
This dire situation shows acute need for stronger coordination, oversight and direction of all northeast humanitarian interventions and resettlement efforts.
Non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies and other donor agencies have sent relief materials to the region but UNICEF said more nutritious foods are needed to save about 49,000 severely malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers at the risk of death before the end of the year.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has also expressed appreciation for the human and material resources already deployed by the United Nations agencies, international development partners, non-governmental organisations and other private companies and individuals who have been assisting to meet the urgent needs of the victims.
With the new management structure, the Federal Government has given assurances to the UN and all other partners, local and international, of its readiness to effectively lead the humanitarian response, deploy adequate resources and do everything possible to mobilise a rapid response in order to save lives and restore normalcy to the affected areas.
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured potential investors that Nigeria would soon be one of the most attractive places to invest as his administration has embarked on significant economic reforms to realise that goal.
The President gave the assurance to a large gathering of political and business leaders from the United States, Africa and other regions of the world at the Second United States-Africa Business Forum in the New York, on Wednesday, organised by the United States Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Nigerian leader said that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, would soon come out with wide-ranging business environment reforms on ports, visa-on arrival, improving the speed and efficiency of land titling and business registration.
Investment Destination In Africa
Some fiscal incentives he noted, include, up to five years tax holiday for activities classified as “pioneer”; tax-free operations; no restrictions on expatriate quotas in Free Trade Zones; and a low VAT regime of five per cent.
“We intend to make Nigeria one of the most attractive places to do business,” he declared, even as he noted that Nigeria remained the number one investment destination in Africa.
President Buhari told the gathering that his administration would continue to strengthen government institutions in order to address the concerns of investors and ease investments in the Nigerian economy.
“We are weaning ourselves from a historical dependence on crude oil, diversifying our economy, and putting it on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.
“To this end, we have embarked on policies aimed at establishing an open, rules-based and market-oriented economy.
“We will continue to actively engage with the private sector at the highest levels to listen to your concerns and to assure you of our commitment to creating enabling policies in which your businesses can survive and thrive,” President Buhari said.
He urged participants to “take advantage of this Forum to establish and strengthen business relationships, share valuable experience and collaborate for mutual benefits”.
President Buhari while stressing that enormous potential exists for foreign investment and for the local economy, listed sectors which had barely been exploited to include Nigeria’s 180-million population and abundance of labour; arable land; forest waters; oil and gas; solid minerals; livestock and huge tourist potential.
“These are no doubt challenging times for the Nigerian economy.
“But let me use this opportunity to boldly affirm our conviction that there is no crisis without an accompanying opportunity.
“In our case, we see Nigeria’s ongoing economic challenges – occasioned mainly by the fall in oil prices – as an opportunity to set the economy firmly on the path of true diversification, sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity,” he stated.
The President said that the reform measures taken by his administration since inception in 2015 had started yielding good fruits especially in the areas of security, anti-corruption and revamping the economy.
He emphasised that the priority investment sectors for his administration now were improving infrastructure, industrial productivity, agriculture, mining and digital economy where “young Nigerians are increasingly demonstrating that they have the talent and the passion to leverage”.
On United States-Nigeria business relations, he announced the commencement of the U.S.-Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue with a focus on the infrastructure, agriculture, digital economy, investment and regulatory reform to be jointly led by the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and his U.S. counterpart.
President Buhari said that after this Business Forum, he looked forward to increased trade and investment flows between Nigeria and the United States.