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FG Misapplied N1.04trn Special Fund –Senate

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The Senate Committee on Public Accounts alleged yesterday that the Federal Government misapplied N1.04 trillion from the Special Funds Accounts (SFA) to unrelated purposes.

The committee’s finding is contained in a report on the status inquiry into the SFA, which was presented on the floor of the Senate in Abuja.

Presenting the report, Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Senator Ahmed Lawan (ANPP-Yobe),  said the infractions were made between 2002 and June 2012.

Lawan said that several approvals of funds from the SFA during the period did not conform with the purposes for which the funds were established.

The SFA was established in 2002 as an interventionist fund for the development of the solid minerals sector, ecology and other critical areas of the economy.

The SFA, managed by the Federal Government, comprises the three per cent Development of Natural Resources Account, 1.46 per cent Derivation and Ecology Account, and 0.72 per cent Stabilisation Account.

Those deductions came from the federation account, said the report.

According to the report, N1.51 trillion accrued to the SFA as at June 30, 2012, from figures obtained from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF).

Out of the amount, N1.23 trillion was recorded as total payments to beneficiaries from the account, the report said.

However, the report noted that the operation of the natural resources, ecology and stabilisation accounts were grossly abused.

It said several releases under this account were not related to the intendment of the account.

On natural resources account, the report detailed 16 abuses under this account, which amounted to N701.4 billon in 10 years, representing 100 per cent of the total amount released under the period.

Some of the infractions included a N2 billion loan granted for payment to Gitto Costruzioni General Nigeria Limited on September 19, 2005.

Also, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs was granted a loan of N3.7 billion in 2004 to purchase a chancery in Tokyo.

Ostensibly, the loan to the ministry came from the account that was meant to assist states develop alternative mineral resources to oil and gas.

On other infractions to the natural resources account, the report noted that N5.7 billion loan was granted to the Ministry of Power and Steel in 2005 for the payment of severance package to disengaged steel workers.

Similarly, in October 2007, the Ministry of Finance also withdrew N10 billion for the payment of arrears of monetisation benefits owed Federal Government’s parastatals.

On the ecology account, the report said that out of N329.8 billion released during the period under review, N149.8 billion was abused, representing 45 per cent.

The report revealed that N750 million was released for the development of the Abuja Downtown Mall in 2007 from the fund meant to assist states ravaged by ecological problems.

Also misappropriated from the ecological funds was a N1 billion loan to Edo State Government, released in November 2002 and March 2003, respectively.

The Presidential Research and Communication Unit also received N200 million loan from the ecological fund in November 2002.

On the stabilisation account, created to provide for unforeseen contingencies and economic downturn, the report noted that N191.7 billion from the account was misapplied.

A total of N255 billion was released to the account between 2002 and 2012, and the report put its “level of abuse’’ at 75 per cent.

From the account, a loan of N309.2 million was granted to the Inspector-General of Police for purchase of vehicles for the United Nation (UN) peacekeeping operations in Haiti in 2006.

Also, N2.8 billion loan was granted to pay Federal Government of Nigeria 50 per cent contribution to the Phase 1 of the pioneer car finance scheme for public servants in paramilitary agencies in 2007.

The report by the committee also observed that out of N580 billion loans granted from the three accounts, N347.9 billion had yet to be recovered from various beneficiaries several years after.

It also noted that there was no regular reconciliation between the OAGF and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Our correspondent reports that the committee’s recommendation for the Federal Government to recover all outstanding loans within six months did not pass through at the Senate.

Also, a recommendation for a legislation to be passed by the National Assembly to establish and regulate the SFA was also not passed.

In his explanation, Senate President David Mark said some of the recommendations by the committee had already been captured in a bill before the Senate to regulate the operations of the SFA.

Mark, however, said the report was a “wake-up call’’ to the legislators to be active in their oversight functions.

The Senate, therefore, directed its Public Accounts Committee to investigate further the disbursement and repayment of loans from the SFA.

Earlier, several Senators, who spoke after the presentation of the report, commended the committee for a painstaking work.

The senators were unanimous in their outrage over the revelations from the report and they conceded blame over their lax oversight functions of government agencies.

In his contribution, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba (PDP-Cross River) said the report had shown that “nothing has changed between when this Senate did the investigation into the PTDF and now’’.

Also speaking, Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP-Enugu) said a major lesson from the report was for the Senate to insist that the executive must present a revenue profile before subsequent debates on the budget

“Much as everybody is indicted, the legislature should rise up to its responsibility of overseeing the management of public funds,’’ he said.

On his part, Senator Bukar Ibrahim (ANPP-Yobe) noted that “these abuses have been going on for as long as we have been having governments in Nigeria’’.

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Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road

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No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.

By: Taneh Beemene

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Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank

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The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.

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Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms

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Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.

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