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Nigeria Is On Auto-pilot And Drifting To The Precipe, PDP Tells Lai Mohammed |RN

 

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Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reacted to a statement credited to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed. The minister had said that Nigeria is in “very safe and competent hands,” with President Muhammadu Buhari piloting the affairs of the country.

Mr Mohammed, who addressed a mini town hall meeting with the staff of the Nigerian Embassy in Madrid, Spain over the weekend, had also assured the gathering that “there is no cause for alarm.”

The PDP, however, criticised the Federal Government over the statement, saying the reality on the ground shows that the nation was on auto-pilot and drifting to the precipice.

In a statement issued on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the opposition party claimed that Nigerians have suffered untold hardship due to the incompetence and corrupt proclivities of the All Progressives Congress (led) government.

They further noted that it was either the minister had lost touch with the reality or was trying to play with words to defend the government.

The statement read in part: “If a minister of information who ought to give the correct state of affairs can announce that a government which collapsed the nation’s once robust economy and plagued it with political tension, is indeed a safe hand, then our nation is in much more trouble under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“How can anybody say that the same Presidency whose incompetence and bad policies are directly responsible for the massive unemployment and job losses, the collapse of businesses and even the lingering fuel crisis which has brought untold hardship in the land, is indeed a safe hand?

“This is a government, under whose watch, the nation has become heavily polarised along dangerous fault lines and where citizens now live in fear and mutual suspicion; where citizens are slaughtered by the day by marauders; where hunger and strange diseases ravage the people.

“The reasonable takeaway from the statement of the information minister is that this government has come to its wit’s end and has no solution for the troubles it caused the nation.

“More so, the minister’s statement has further exposed the fact that this failed administration is not the least remorseful for the pain it has caused the people, which underpins its arrogance and disdain towards Nigerians.

“We, however, urge Nigerians not to despair as the repositioned PDP stands with them in the collective quest to end the misrule of the APC in 2019.”           (DailyTimes)

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Buhari Came To Power At Difficult Time, Says Orji Kalu |The Republican News

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Former Governor of Abia state, CEO SLOK Group, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu

•Says Nigeria will exit recession in 2019

Sunday Ani

Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has said that President Muhammadu Buhari came to power at a time there was recession all over the world, adding that the situation was made worse by the fact that the president equally met an empty treasury.
Kalu, who spoke on AIT monitored programme said the President was putting every necessary stimulus into the economy to ensure that the country exits recession by 2019. He disagreed with those who said that the country was already out of recession, saying, “When I see people who said they are economists saying we are out of recession, I say they don’t understand what they are talking about because we are not out of recession. Government already has a roadmap to be out of recession and I can assure you that this government is determined to see it happen. But, you can’t just tell people that we are out of recession; you can’t do that because the indices are there. What the president and the government are doing is to continue to pump in stimulus, which is what the economy needs to come out of recession. And I can see us moving out of recession in 2019.”
The former governor also said that the president is under pressure from the international intelligence communities not to say more of what he had seen about looting in Nigeria. “The president is restraining himself because if he opens his mouth to say what happened in NNPC or central bank, Nigerians will not feel good about governance,” he said.
Kalu equally said that the problem in Libya, which led to upsurge of emigrants into Nigeria and the president’s health challenges, caused a lot of havoc on his plan for the country. He said: “And secondly, with the world recession, you also had problem of people migrating into the country from Libya because of the problem there, and some of them came in with a lot of arms. You also see that the president became sick and the medical attention also caused a lot of havoc on his plan. I am not speaking for him because I am not his spokesman but as a party man, I believe he has done well in some areas.”
He noted that the president has not done very well in terms of economy, but added that “he is grappling with it. There is a lot of stimulus going into the economy.”
On why he ventured into politics, having achieved so much before the age of 29, he said he went into politics to help communities and serve the people. “That is why when people talk, I laugh at them because by the time I was going into politics, I have worked anywhere I liked. I was a member of First Bank, Hallmark BanK and Oando boards. I was also chairman of two banks and I was solidly a cocoa trader, a rice trader and a successful industrialist. I have one of the largest furniture factory in Maiduguri and the Happy Home furniture in Kirikiri, Lagos,” he said.
As the governor of Abia State, he said his major achievement was giving education to the people of Abia and its environs. “I was able to give education to our people; they had no education and I am very proud to say that. The kids get excited when they see me on the road today,” he said.
He also narrated an incident where a young lady openly accepted that what she got in Abia State under his administration was real free education. He also stated that Abia State under his administration had started with free education up to the secondary school level even before former President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme.
“People were paying N7000 in Abia State university because I was paying N93,000 for 35 students. We wrote cheques every month to give back to the university. They pay N7000 and we made it up to N100,000 by paying N93,000. Even before Obasanjo came up with the UBE programme in primary and secondary schools, we had full free education for secondary schools in Abia State. People from other states enjoyed it. The greatest investment we made was in education. We also built a lot of roads but those roads have collapsed today,” he stated.
When asked the rationale behind his eating akara on the road side with common people, Kalu said: “It is not about common people; it is to practice what I started with. It is only fools who think that they have arrived and that they cannot go back.”
He said that during the last Christmas festivities, he visited many houses to dine and wine with them in his Igbere community. “In a day we visited almost 50 houses. That is how I started and I can’t stop. Even if you make me president tomorrow, I will still do the same thing because that is the right thing to do.”
He argued that when the rich interact with the poor and give back to society, there would be peace. He also said that there is zero percent robbery and violent crimes in Igbere because as a community, the rich have decided to associate and socialize with the poor and give back to the community.
“In Igbere, there are good people who are sociable and religious. We are trying to portray our community for what it is. There are so many people who do community service; they give back to community. We agreed as a community that we must be giving back to the people. Our last cultural festival was superb. We don’t do medicine in my community. In Igbere, there is no native doctor because we don’t believe in it. We believe in God,” he submitted.   (The Sun)

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2018 Budget Will Be Tough To Implement, Says FG |The Republican News

Boss-Gida-Mustapha

SGF, Boss Mustapha

Fred Itua, Abuja

Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, on Thursday, said that the Federal Government might not fully implement the 2018 budget if the National Assembly fails to pass it on time.

He also revealed that early preparation for the 2019 general elections, which he said, will commence by end of February, will further pose a challenge.

Mustapha stated that serious government business will end by November, when political parties will commence campaigns and conduct primaries.

To avoid possible poor implementation, Mustapha appealed to the National Assembly to pass the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law as soon as possible.

The SGF spoke when he appeared before the Senate committee on Federal Character.

Said he, “I will make an appeal that the 2018 budget must be passed on time. We do not have time. If you consider the time left for us as politicians and in line with the timetable released by INEC, you will realise that we have till November 2018 to do what we have to do.

“By then, politicians will be engaged in political activities. There will be no time. I am appealing that we pass this budget on time. This is the last budget we will have to deliver on the dividends of democracy. For those of you coming back, promises will not work. What will work will be the scorecard.

“I am begging that it should be passed as quickly as possible. I am also appealing to the executive arm to appear for budget defence. Intense political activities will begin in this February and as public officials, we have to quickly deliver.”

The SGF told lawmakers that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the setting up of a monitoring unit in his office, to track budget implementation by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Mustapha said ministers have been given a template to collate projects executed since 2015, when Buhari came into office. He added that the outcome of the exercise will assist Nigerians in assessing Buhari’s government at the end of his administration.

He explained: “Let me assure you that whatever the National Assembly budgets for the MDAs, Ministers will give detailed reports on what they have done since 2015. From now till the end of February, they will give briefings. We have given them the template they need to use to carry out this exercise. At the end of the exercise, the entire tenure of the President will be assessed at a glance. The exercise is ongoing.

“At the end of the day, we might seek government’s approval to create a unit that will monitor projects. In some countries like the United Kingdom, there is such a unit in the office of the Prime Minister.”

He also explained why his office opted for monetisation of vehicles for former presidents and former Vice presidents. He said though the Appropriation Act clearly stipulates that vehicles should be bought for them, his office opted for the second option since it was a better choice.

He said: “A decision was taken that instead of buying them vehicles, the money should be given to them so that they can buy themselves. The purchase of these vehicles is tenured. It is done after every four years.

“The issue of the purchase of vehicles, I agree is an Appropriation Act. The issue of monetisation is done in the MDAs. It is also done in the National Assembly. Some of these former leaders may not even want to buy Prado jeeps which the law says. But many of them may not like it. They may prefer saloon cars which maybe more comfortable for them. That was why we released a memo for them to do that.”

Explaining the performance of the 2017 budget of his office, he said: “The office of SGF is the think-tank of the government. We coordinate activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Approved for capital was N2 billion. For personal cost, N2 billion. Overhead cost is N3 billion. Total is N9.5 billion.

“Performance for capital is N1.2 billion released as at end of December, 2017. It represents 50 per cent. We are hoping that the National Assembly will extend the lifespan of the budget so that we can handle other procurement processes.

“My office had issues with poor releases when I came in. We are hoping that as we move forward, we will be properly and adequately funded so that we can carry out our duties effectively.”

Responding, chairman of the committee, Senator Tijjani Kaura, promised that the leadership of the National Assembly will pass the budget as soon as possible.

He told the SGF that lawmakers had to cut short their holidays so as to consider the 2018 budget.

“The leadership is keen on passing the budget on time. That is why we cut our vacation short to be here to attend to budget defence. This is to tell you the importance of this issue. If you look at the 2017 budget, you will see that this committee did not tamper with the figure submitted to us. We did that because we know the enormous responsibility attached to that office,” he said.

Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi from Kaduna State, complained about underfunding of the office of the SGF. He said as a critical unit of the Federal Government, the office should get more funds to run its operations.

“I agree with the SGF on the need to fasten the budget process. This year is different from all the other two years. I agree with you. I will wish to note some observations. The issue of allocation under the Appropriation Act are three. During an oversight visit to the office of the SGF, we identified the issue of underfunding. Even after the provisions, the releases have been abysmal.

“The National Assembly may provide, but it has always on the other side of the divide. It has always the inability of the Ministry of Finance to cash back these allocations,” he said.  (The Sun)

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Nigeria Still Investors’ Destination, IMF Says |The Republican News

Adeosun-Kemi

Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said Nigeria remained a destination for investors.

The Senior Financial Sector Expert, Debt and Capital Market Instruments Division, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Miriam Tamene, said this in a statement issued by Securities and Exchange Commission’s management in Abuja.

Tamene said this when she led a team on a visit to the SEC office in Abuja.

She noted that the IMF was pleasantly surprised to receive numerous indications of interests by investors eager to invest in Nigeria.

She, however, said many of them still nursed the fear that they might not be able to retrieve their funds anytime they decide to exit.

She urged monetary and regulatory authorities in Nigeria to formulate policies that would bring down the inflation rate in the country as well as increase access to domestic funds.

This, Tamene noted, would ensure that the economy attain further growth in 2018.

“At the annual meetings of IMF, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw many investors interested in the Securities Market in Nigeria.

“A lot of people thought that Nigeria is still investors’ destination, the main concerns most of them had was the fear that they may not be able to take out their money anytime they want to, hence they are being very watchful.

“Investors are interested in Nigeria, but with difficulties they had in getting their money out recently, that confidence is not there yet.

“It has improved though, but they are still watching. It is still so much fragile and not what they can take for granted just yet,” she added.

The statement also quoted the Acting Director-General of SEC, Dr. Abdul Zubair, as saying, “The future outlook appears good, as several initiatives have been floated by the SEC to help grow the capital market.”

Zubair said the initiatives would increase investors’ confidence and more initiatives would be introduced subsequently to ensure the Nigerian capital market remained one of the best in the world.

The IMF team was in Nigeria for consultations to get update on developments covering all financial transactions as well as key sectors of the Nigerian economy.

The report of their consultations is expected to be presented to the IMF Board in February 2018. (NAN)

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58 Million Nigerians Live Below Poverty Line, Says NASSP |The Republican News

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…….FG targets 108 poor and vulnerable communities in Nasarawa

From: Linus Oota, Lafia

No fewer than 58 million Nigerians still live below the poverty line, so says National Social Safety net program (NASSP), the office of the vice president.

This is in spite of Federal Government’s efforts to reposition the economy through various programmes.

Coordinator of NASSP, Mr Peter Papka, stated this in Lafia, Nasarawa State, during a three-day training programme on community-based targeting for identification of the poor and vulnerable people in Nasarawa organise by NASSP in partnership with Nasarawa State Government.

Papka said that the distribution of the nation’s resource has not translated into the diversification of the sources of income for most families, adding that the community-based single register of the poor and vulnerable is aimed at reducing extreme poverty in the country.

Represented by the head of National Social registry, Mr Vicent Oriokpa, Papka said the single register was established on the basis of a well-thought out community-based targeting approach where communities would be able to identify poor households in the communities.

In Nasarawa State, Papka said six poorest local government areas were selected base on poverty index, while 18 participants representing 108 communities in those councils are participating in the training. He noted that the programme would enable the Federal Government to fulfil its obligation of providing succour to the citizenry, especially the poorest and vulnerable ones.

The selected local governments for the program in the state are Kokona, Akwanga, Nasarawa, Awe, Lafia and Wamba.

He added that the Federal Government, through NASSP, was building strong institutions and systems to sustain poverty reduction interventions.

Speaking while declaring the training open, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura said the social intervention programme as articulated by the Federal Government was in conformity with his quest to liberate the people of the state, especially the downtrodden from excruciating poverty.

Represented by the commissioner for information, Alhaji Abdulramid Kwara, Governor Almakura said his administration had designed a welfare programme aimed at achieving social safety nets in the state, noting that free education from primary to secondary school his government has offered among other programs is a step towards poverty reduction. (The Sun)

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Economic Legacy: APC Chief, Balarabe Musa Tackle Goodluck Jonathan |RN

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Former President, Goodluck Jonathan

Niyi Odebode,  John Alechenu,  Olusola Fabiyi and Olaleye Aluko

The National Vice-Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (South-East), Chief Emma Eneukwu, and a  former governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, have berated former President Goodluck Jonathan over his claim that his government had good economic programmes.

Jonathan had, at the Non-Elective National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party held in Abuja on Saturday, said his government had a sound economic team.

Related: Corruption: We Didn’t Plug All Loopholes, I Did Well, Had Good Economic Team, Says Jonathan

He recalled that in 2012, there were flood disasters in many parts of the country, stressing that the floods damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and River Benue, adding that despite the devastating effects of the natural disaster, there were no food shortages or arbitrary increase in prices.

On the economic front, he said his government provided focused leadership through institutional reforms which he said impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years of his time in power.

But Eneukwu, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, accused the former President of throwing the country into a mess.

He said, “Even a blind man in Nigeria knows that (Goodluck) Jonathan threw this country into a mess. Billions and billions of naira are being refunded and found in private houses. Is the money not being refunded by people who served under Jonathan?

“The man shouldn’t talk, he should bury his head in shame; his administration is almost the worst I can think of.  He never checked people who worked under him; it was free-for-all corruption.”

Also commenting on Jonathan’s statement, Balarabe Musa, said past presidents, including Goodluck Jonathan, played on Nigerians’ short memories.

Describing Jonathan’s handling of the economy as worse, Balarabe said, “Of course, Nigerians have short memories. What is our attitude to all the former presidents, particularly as to how they handled our economy?

“We seem not to have realised that they did less than the present. They are now heroes in a way. They are almost now gloating and trying to decide the fate of the country.

“The ex-President is not only to blame for our failures, his own was even worse. In the present, we have seen competence in a few things, but in his own (Jonathan) case, he showed competence in nothing. He allowed corruption to fester during his own time. But we are not sure if the present administration is not doing worse. This is because the state of the economy can only be reasonably determined by the state of the people.”

Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress has asked the Peoples Democratic Party to forget its idea of returning to power in 2019.

It alleged that the damage caused the country by the PDP when it was in power for 16 years was enough testimony of its alleged ineptitude.

The PDP had said during its Non-Elective National Convention that it was ready to take over the government at the centre in 2019.

Different members of the party who spoke at the event asked members of the former ruling party to get set to return to power in 2019.

But the spokesperson for the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, told our correspondent that the PDP was merely dreaming.

He said while there was nothing wrong in dreaming, it was wrong for the PDP leaders to think that Nigerians would trust them with power again.

He said what “Nigerians are thinking now is restructuring,” which he said, was not the focus of the PDP.

Abdullahi, who was a former minister of sports, said, “The PDP will not come back to power in 2019. For me, it is a mere expression of a wish, which will not come to pass.

“They are talking about what they wish and not what is on the ground. The biggest issue now that Nigerians want is the restructuring of the country. The PDP does not think that way.

“Does the PDP, which was in power for 16 years, has anything like that in its manifesto, the answer is no. So, the party should forget it.”

When reminded that something close to it was in the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference which the present APC government had refused to implement, Abdullahi said the last administration was also not ready for the implementation.

“What did that government do with the report which was submitted to it about a year before the election? Nothing. So, how can they be talking about restructuring,” he asked. (Punchng.com)

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N19trn Debt: NESG, Utomi, Rewane Others Call For Caution

Kemi-Adeosun-Ogun

                              Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun

Everest Amaefule and ’Femi Asu

Economic and financial experts have raised the alarm over the nation’s rising debt burden, calling on the Federal Government to spend more on capital expenditure and exercise care in its quest for more borrowing.

The experts, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondents on Tuesday, reacted to the N7.1tn increase in the nation’s total debt in two years to N19.16tn as of March 2017.

A professor of Political Economy and management expert, Pat Utomi, said, “A country is not different from a household, more or less generally, in terms of how it manages its finances. So, if your personal debt profile is going up at that rate, will you be comfortable?

“However, there are times that you need to spend your way, literally speaking, out of a challenge of output; recession being one of those. But I think that even at that, you need a certain level of care to make sure that you don’t get into an unsustainable debt scenario.”

Utomi expressed hope that the government would be more careful even if the recession required spending.

“My big worry is that the impact of the borrowing may not be reflected on output, in the sense that if we get into a double whammy where our debt balloons, but we don’t have the necessary stimulation of production, especially when our consumption is very external in its orientation, we need be very careful to watch all of those,” he added.

The Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane, said it was wrong for the government to be mainly borrowing to support recurrent expenditure.

He said, “We need to move away from debts for recurrent expenditure to debts for capital expenditure, which is projects-specific. The debt level itself is not dangerous, but the debt service level – the debt burden – is very high.

“We are using 66 percent of our independent revenue to pay interest. So, interest rates must come down substantially, or else, we are in trouble.”

The Board Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, a private sector think tank and policy advocacy group, Mr Kyari Bukar, said the amount of debt should not be a cause for concern considering the low debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio of the country.

“What one needs to pay attention to is the debt service amount versus the capital expenditure of the budget. The debt servicing and the ability to service the debts are the key areas of concerns that we should pay attention to,” he said.

The 2017 Appropriation Bill, which was passed into law by the National Assembly recently, provided N1.84tn for debt servicing compared to the N2.17tn provided for capital expenditure for all sectors of the economy.

“The kind of debt I will like to see happen is the debt where the money that is borrowed goes into productive sectors such as investment in railways, health care, education and other critical infrastructure. However, if we borrow to pay salaries, it starts to become a problem,” Bukar added.

A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Sheriffdeen Tella, said, “It is not healthy to continue to increase our debts. In fact, the growth in the last two years has been quite alarming, and so there is a need for us to slow down on it. It is not the debt itself that is important, but the interest rates that you pay on such debt and the usage of the debt.

“If the government is going to spend more, as people have advised, the normal thing is that when you have a problem of depression, you go into expansionary fiscal and monetary policies. The expansionary fiscal policy, which is government spending more, must be based on the budget.

“When we say the government should spend more, the budget must be approved early enough; and so, when the government is spending on time, even if it is not much, the economy will expand on the basis of that.”

Some other stakeholders called for the appropriate utilisation of the N7.1tn borrowed by the Federal Government and the 36 states of the federation in the last two years.

The Managing Director, SHI-Logistics Limited, Dr Mike Omotosho, said the increasing debt meant that the burden of servicing it would increase.

Doubting the correct use of borrowed funds, Omotosho said it was wrong for the government to use debt to finance routine government expenses.

He stated, “First if we compare the percentage of our debt to our Gross Domestic Product, it is foolhardy to think we will not feel the negative effects in the long run.

“Borrowing in itself is not the main problem but what we spent the money on. In the last two years, I doubt if we have spent up to N2.5tn on infrastructure and other key policies that can help the economy and the people.”

He added, “This means that over 60 percent of the debt has gone into recurrent expenditure. There is no way the nation will not pay for this pretty soon. We had the N6tn budget in 2016 and about N2.4tn, representing about 40 percent, went into debt servicing. Now, that the debt profile has jumped up, imagine what will go into debt servicing.

“Our policymakers hardly consider the negative impact of debt when they go on a borrowing spree. I would have preferred we take the right way out of our quagmire rather than a decoy easy way that is filled with traps.”

An associate professor of Finance at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Uche Uwaleke, said there was no problem if the government utilised the loans to finance projects that would pay back the monies borrowed.

However, he added, if the funds were utilised to fund consumption, then the government had succeeded in mortgaging the future of the nation.

Uwaleke said, “A country like Nigeria with huge infrastructure deficit will have to borrow if it must develop at a fast pace.”              (Punchng.com)

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