“How can we be washing our hands with saliva by the riverbank?” – NLC asks.
The Federal Government on Tuesday was scolded by the Nigeria Labour Congress over additional loan-seeking from the World Bank.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, urged the Federal Government to focus on the recovery of more than $100bn the international oil companies owed the country. He made the call barely two days after the World Bank approved Nigeria’s request for $3bn loan for the expansion of the power transmission and distribution networks.
Wabba made this known at the opening of the congress’ 2019 national leadership retreat in Enugu. He also called for a review of the country’s taxation system so that the rich would be compelled to pay more taxes.
According to the Debt Management Office, the nation’s total public debt rose by N3.32tn in one year to N25.7tn as of the end of June 2019.
The Federal Government owed N20.42tn as of June 30, 2019, while 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory had a total debt portfolio of N5.28tn.
In 2017, the revenue target was N5.08tn out of which N2.7tn was realised. The Federal Government’s revenue projection for 2018 was N7.16tn out of which only N3.96tn was achieved. In 2019, the Federal Government’s projected revenue was put at N6.98tn. As of June this year, about N2.04tn had been realised.
A quarter (N2.5trn) of the N10.3trn 2020 budget will be spent on debt servicing, while non-debt recurrent expenditure will gulp N4.88trn. Only N2.14trn was allocated for capital projects in spite of the huge infrastructural deficit in the country.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had on Thursday at the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meeting in the United States, admitted that the country was finding it difficult to service its debts.
Ahmed spoke 24 hours after the IMF advised Nigeria to increase tax to raise more revenue, saying the country needed a comprehensive reform to hike non-oil tax so as to get funds to build infrastructure.
A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, had on Sunday asked the Federal Government not to accept additional loans from the World Bank, but recover money IOCs were owing Nigeria.
At the NLC retreat in Enugu, Wabba backed Falana, saying the Federal Government’s request for additional loans was unjustifiable.
He stated, “A few days ago, Femi Falana urged the Federal Government to reject an additional loan from the World Bank and instead pursue the payment of funds accruable to Nigeria from periodic adjustments in remittances by the International Oil Companies subject to increases in the price of crude oil above $US20 per barrel. Nigerian government officials failed to activate this clause for more than 20 years thus allowing the IOCs to stash away more than $US100 billion in unpaid royalties to Nigeria. It is incredible to imagine that we have this much stolen from us and we are going cap in hand to the World Bank for loans. How can we be washing our hands with saliva by the riverbank?”
The NLC president said the Federal Government should not only recover the $
He stated, “We call on the Federal Government not to rest on its laurels until it recovers every kobo owed us by the IOCs. Government officials behind this criminal neglect must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We call for a tax system that captures many businesses and rich people and compel them to pay more taxes in commensuration to their incomes.”
He said, “It is no longer discussed in hushed tones that the government is struggling with liquidity. As we know, this crisis is rooted in bad governance. Two things define bad governance in this respect – institutionalisation of corruption in public expenditure and weaknesses cum sabotage in internal revenues accruable to government. On corruption in public expenditure, the issue of humongous salaries and allowances paid to elected public officials and contract inflation top the list of our concerns.
“On the other hand, the loss in government revenue due to internal sabotage by unpatriotic public officials is very alarming and worrisome.”
Wabba also stated, “We are faced with a situation where we are forced to bargain too hard and wait for too long for meager increases in the minimum wage and adjustments in salaries.
“Let me also inform you that there is a difference between the law we have and the law that had existed from 1981 till date. In 1981, when the first minimum wage was enacted, there were no provisions for sanctions.
“In this one we negotiated, there are provisions for sanctions because it is already a law. Any state or person that violates the provisions of the law, there are three ways to address it: one is that the worker can report to his union.
“Once you report, we can look at the means and avenues including a court to enforce the provisions of the law. So now there is a clout to enforce the provisions of the law. So clearly speaking, once there is an understanding or an agreement on the issue of consequential adjustments, the issue is settled and where there is an issue of none respect for the law, it can be enforced legally in a court of law.”
The NLC president criticised employers, who were reluctant to allow their workers to join unions. This, he said, had exposed millions of workers to indecent conditions of casual work status, “slave wages, long hours of work without due compensation, and denial of social security cover.”
CBN to Offer Single-digit Loans to Rice Farmers
The Central Bank of Nigeria has announced it would begin to offer single-digit loan to rice farmers in the Niger Delta area and provide index insurance for participating farmers.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Head, Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Patricia Deworitshe.
It was issued after a second collaborative meeting between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswil Akpabio, and representatives of the CBN in Abuja.
The meeting focused on how to develop the Niger Delta area, using farming as a tool on Friday.
According to Deworitshe, the representative of the CBN Governor at the meeting, Mr Anthony Ifechukwu, said that the CBN in 2018 identified cassava, rice, oil palm and cocoa farming as those with comparative advantage in the region, adding that the apex bank was also making an effort to intervene in livestock and fishery production in the region.
The statement said, “Ifechukwu also assured participating farmers of a guaranteed market price for their produce, explaining that the bank would give a single-digit interest loan for five years.
“He advised eligible farmers willing to participate in the scheme to procure quality seedlings from reputable companies and plant their crops in clusters, adding that CBN will do index insurance for participating farmers.”
Speaking at the meeting, Akpabio, who was represented by Permanent Secretary at the ministry, Adesola Olusade, reiterated the resolve of the ministry to key into the agricultural revolution in partnership with the CBN.
He said the ministry would focus on land acquisition for the project by approaching governors of the nine states in the region to address the issue (land acquisition) under the Land Use Act.
Akpabio stated that discussion on land acquisition would form part of the agenda for the next national council meeting, which would be held in Rivers State.
The minister spoke on the need for the programme to leverage the capacity of the private sector and the resuscitated National Agricultural Land Development Authority in the area of land preparation for the success of the scheme.
Greif Steels to Delist from NSE
The Nigerian Stock Exchange will experience a delisting of Greif Nigeria Plc, a manufacturer of steel drums and plastic containers.
The company said in a statement on Wednesday that the delisting would go through if approved at its Extraordinary General Meeting slated for January 23, 2020.
Greif Nigeria had in February decided to suspend its operations due to the low performance of the company and challenging market conditions.
The Chairman of the company, Mr Adedayo Olowoniyi, had said the company was performing below operating and material costs.
He said the company was working assiduously to prevail through the challenging business environment but still had issues in cost-recovery through several price increases in the market, despite adopting cost reduction measures and driving efficient methods.
Olowoniyi said, “As a result of increased competition and a stagnant market for steel drums, we do not see improvement happening soon. Greif Nigeria has been operating well below operating costs, even below direct material costs, and sees no signs of improved market conditions.
“Therefore, we have decided to stop operations with immediate effect. The coming months we will investigate if and/or how we can continue with Greif Nigeria.”
However, the company announced on Wednesday that sequel to the board meeting held on December 12, the company was also planning a sale of its assets, which means liquidation is in view.
The statement read in part, “The company’s land and buildings known and designated as the factory at No. 1, Alapata Road, Apapa, Lagos and residence at No. 3/5 Barracks Road, Apapa, Lagos be sold at a price and upon such terms and conditions negotiated and determined by the board.
“The company’s shares would also be delisted from the Nigerian Stock Exchange as the board has been authorised to take such steps or actions and to do all things as may be necessary to give full effect to the resolutions mentioned above.”
It added that its nominees recommended that the register of members and transfer books be closed from December 23 to 24, 2019 with both dates inclusive.
Nigerian Saviour and Air Peace CEO Indicted for Bank Fraud by US Govt
On Friday, the United States Department of Justice charged the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20m from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
In a statement, the American government said the airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, had also been charged with bank fraud and “aggravated identity theft” in connection with the scheme.
“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” US Attorney Byung Pak, was quoted to have said.
“We will diligently protect the integrity of our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business,” he added.
According to Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court, beginning in 2010, Onyema began ttravelingfrequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9m was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.
“Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20m into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema.
“The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace. The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia,” the statement reads in part.
It stated that, however, the supporting documents were fake as Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.
“Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud.
“After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16m of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts,” it added.
Onyema, however, denied the allegations, describing them as false.
In a statement, Onyema said, “I confirm to you that all allegations are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a bbusinessmanwhose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictments that only contain charges.
“I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.”
Onyema said his lawyers had taken over the case.
“I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.
“The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank.
“I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” Onyema said.
FEC Okays N200bn Loan for Bank of Industry.
The Federal Government Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the sourcing of €500 million loan for the Bank of Industry from external creditors.
Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly FEC meeting at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa Abuja, the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba explained that the loan was meant to support industrialization and agriculture, in addition to creating up to 1.2 million new jobs.
The 500 million Euro Sovereign Guarantee loan he said would be sourced for the Bank of Industry from external creditors. Agba said that the facility would be repaid in five (5) years and that the Federal Government guaranteed the loan.
According to him, ”Council today (yesterday) approved the issuance of a Sovereign Guarantee of 500 million Euros from the Credit Suisse AG London Branch and a syndicate of international lenders as collateral for 500m Euro facility to the Bank of Industry.
He further stated that the loan will be swapped to Naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to mitigate the foreign exchange risk and the fund will therefore be available to Nigerian enterprises at a more affordable rate and in local currency.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said council approved a Justice Sector Policy for the country essentially to reform the sector by simplifying access to justice.
He explained that the policy would ensure “speedy determination of justice”, “quality of justice” and “access to justice.”
He said: “It is a blue print that set out a shared vision, objectives and interventions for the reform of justice sector to engender fair, efficient and transparent administration of justice
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