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10 Pensioners Die In Abia

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Ten pensioners died in Abia State last year on account of irregular payment of their monthly pensions. This disclosure is coming as aggrieved pensioners yesterday took to the streets of Umuahia, the Abia State capital, to protest non-payment of their pensions for the past three months.

Apart from the pension arrears, the pensioners also claimed that most of them were yet to receive their gratuity many years after retiring from service, while the arrears arising from the  harmonisation of pensions  were reportedly high.

The retirees numbering about 100 marched sluggishly along the streets of Bende Road, Aba Road, Akanu Ibiam Road and terminated at Okpara square. At the respective inter-sections of these roads, the senile men stopped and made supplications to God to touch the hearts of those in power  to pay their emoluments to forestall their untimely death.

The protest march affected traffic flow as the old men covered one lane of the road. However, after a frantic appeal by one of them, they created a little space for drivers to manouvre.

Speaking with The Tide, Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Umuahia Branch, Deacon Ama Ugo Daniel, lamented that their members had been exposed to untold hardship as they could no longer perform their role as bread winners of their families.

According to him, pensioners in Abia State received only  four month pay in a year. In a bitter voice, he said, “We put in 35 years of service and retired but now we have been rejected. We are not paid our entitlements as at when due. When they owe us for four months, they would offset just one month. They do not want us to train our children and honour our financial obligations as heads of our families”.

“Justifying their protest march, Daniel said “our march is to draw attention to our plights and press for the payment of our pension arrears now in the third month. As a result of the irregularity in paying our pensions, 10 of our members died last year when they could no longer put up with the hardship being imposed on us”.

Another aggrieved pensioner accused government of being insensitive to the welfare of pensioners. He said that they were tossed around each time they visit the Umuahia Sub-Treasury office for their pension at the end of every month.

“Officers at the Sub-treasury keep telling us come today, come tomorrow and in the end, we will not receive a dime. Instead of them to inform us that the there is no money, they continually raise our hopes only to dash it in the end. The government should be sensitive to our plight,” said the pensioner who craved anonymity. 

Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Nick Eleri, to speak on the matter proved abortive as he was said not to be on seat when The Tide called.

Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, on assumption of office, set aside N30million monthly for payment of gratuity and pensions. However, the practice was jettisoned after about three months.

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Implementation Of 7.5% VAT Begins, Feb 1

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The Federal Government will from February 1 begin the implementation of 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax espoused by the finance law.
The law, according to the government will take effect after all the necessary administrative procedures must have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, confirmed the development in Abuja at the inauguration of the board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, last Thursday.
She said the February 1 commencement date had put to rest every speculation regarding the take-off date of the new VAT regime.
The minister said once a bill is signed into law, it takes effect immediately, but noted that there were certain administrative procedures and formalities to be finalised before commencement.
The VAT increase which is meant to help government achieve its revenue projections for the 2020 budget is a part of the tax reforms included in the 2019 Finance Act.
She said with the Act, there would be more revenue to finance key government projects especially in the areas of health, education and critical infrastructure.
She said, “The implementation of the Value Added Tax is to take effect from February 1, 2020, after all the necessary administrative procedures have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”
The minister’s remark however, contradicts an earlier claim by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, who said the new VAT increment took effect from January 13 when the 2020 Finance Act was signed.
The minister told the members of the FIRS board that the responsibility bestowed on them was critical to the smooth operation of the various tiers and arms of government in Nigeria and, by implication, the well-being of the Nigerian people.
The newly appointed Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami, vowed to reposition the service for improved performance.
Nami said he would implement policies that would ensure maximum increase in tax revenue.
He said as tax administrators and custodians of the Nigerian tax system, the FIRS had a responsibility to implement all tax policies and laws in a manner that would ensure optimal benefits to the nation.
In achieving these objectives, he said his agenda to reposition the FIRS for better service to taxpayers would be anchored on four cardinal pillars.
These include rebuilding FIRS’ institutional framework by strengthening the capacity of departments and units to deliver on their mandates and robust collaboration with stakeholders to eliminate critical bottlenecks in the tax system.
Others are to build the FIRS into an institution that supports Nigeria’s longing to become an investment destination and to make the FIRS an agency in which its people, processes and technologies are all geared towards a clear goal.
In order to achieve these agenda, he said within the next three months, a lot of initiatives would be implemented.

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Nigeria’s Debt Profile Now Hits N26.22trn

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The Federal Government and the 36 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory owed a total N26.22tn as of September 30, 2019, the Debt Management Office has disclosed.
The amount indicated that the total public debt rose by 2.02 per cent in the 12 months from September 2018, when the federal government, the states and the FCT owed a total of N25.7tn.
The Director- General of the DMO, Patience Oniha said this at a ‘Presentation on Public Debt to Stakeholders’ in Abuja.
She explained that the figures for December 2019 were not ready, adding that the DMO saw the need to make some clarifications concerning the country’s debt profile.
“There has been so much about debt in the public forum and we want to clarify some of the issues,” Oniha said.
Noting that the National Assembly approved all the borrowings made by the federal government, the DMO boss suggested that all Nigerians were collectively responsible for the debt since they were represented at the National Assembly.
She said, “Borrowing is not approved by one man. It is not determined by one man.
“Borrowing is not ad hoc there are laws and laid down provisions for borrowing.”
She added that the public debt stock was cumulative, involving borrowings made by previous administrations.
According to Oniha, the devaluation of the exchange rate, brought about by the economic downturn, considerably hiked the country’s debt profile.
“Exchange rate devaluation increased external debt stock by over N1tn,” she noted.
Oniha explained that the total public debt as of September 2019 included promisory notes amounting to N821.65bn which had been issued to settle the Federal Government’s arrears to oil marketing companies and state governments.
According to her, the issuance of the promisory notes was in line with the promisory programme approved by the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly.
The DMO boss said out of total new borrowing of N1.61tn provided for in the 2019 Appropriation Act, only the domestic component of N802.82bn was raised due to the late passage of the budget.

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UK-Africa Investment Summit Begins In London, Today

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The maiden edition of UK-Africa Investment Summit begins today in London.
The event which will be hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, according to the organisers is expected to bring together African leaders, international business chief executives and heads of international organisations “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” to the benefit of people and businesses in African countries and the United Kingdom.
President Muhammadu Buhari arrived London last Friday to participate in the inaugural summit
A statement by Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina in Abuja, last Thursday said apart from highlighting new perspectives on UK-Africa Partnership for Prosperity, issues of Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Future African Growth Sectors and Clean Energy and Climate, are expected to dominate presentations and discussions during the summit.
“With the expected take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mid-2020, the London investment summit will provide Nigeria with the opportunity to project itself as a leading investment destination for new industries.
“In addition, the summit will deepen Nigeria-United Kingdom investment ties post-Brexit given that Africa currently represents just two per cent of British trade activity, with Nigeria accounting for only 10 per cent of that total,” the statement said.
Adesina said the Nigerian delegation to the investment meeting would further showcase what the federal government has gone through policies and legislations to improve the investment and business climate in the country.
While in the United Kingdom, President Buhari is expected to hold a meeting with the Head of the Commonwealth, Prince Charles in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The President and his delegation will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Johnson as well as heads of multilateral organisations”, Adesina added..
President Buhari is accompanied to the summit by Governors Yahaya Bello, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, and Gombe states, respectively.
Also on the presidential entourage are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd); and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.
President Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Thursday.

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