Senators yesterday rejected the projections upon which the 2018 budget is based, declaring the projections as unrealistic.
The lawmakers, who commenced the debate on the general principle of the budget said that the implementation of the 2017 budget left so much to be desired.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) who opened the floor of the debate caused an uproar when he declared that the 2018 budget was ‘fictitious, adding that the budget is not consolidating on the 2017 budget.
The Senator said that the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget does not consolidate on the 2017 and 2016 budgets as claimed by President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2018 budget presentation.
The lawmakers also decried what they called the abysmal implementation of the N1.2 trillion capital component of the 2017 budget. The Senators also faulted the parameters contained in the 2018 budget especially the oil benchmark of $45 per barrel, adding that it should be jerked up to about $50. Senator Abaribe drew the ire of some senators, especially Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan who stated that the use of the word ‘fictitious’ was unparliamentary.
The Abia Senator then agreed to withdraw the contentious word but replaced the same with the word ‘imaginary’ even as he maintained that the implementation of the budget was very low.
He said: “I am just quoting the Senate Leader from his speech, which said the 2018 budget was designed to consolidate on the achievements of the 2016 and 2017 budgets. What was done in 2017 when less than 15 per cent of that budget was released? Nothing was done and that was why I called it (2018 budget proposal) fictitious. I am very sorry if that is the word he is bothered about. I will withdraw the word ‘fictitious’ and use ‘totally imaginary.” According to Abaribe, the receivables (revenue) in the budget were being exaggerated, adding that the revenues were only one-tenth of the figures being claimed by the government. He stated that the budget was being predicated on parameters that have been destroyed by facts available.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (PDP Bayelsa East) in his own contribution said that the 2018 budget proposal is a “budget of active imagination,” as according to him, the budget is already committing 25 percent to debt servicing.
He said: “We have to decide what the exchange rate really is. Is it N305 (to US$1) or N365?” Murray Bruce stated that the cost of governance in Nigeria remains very high, adding that agencies that have outlived their usefulness still remain on government’s payroll.
He said: “FRCN (Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria) has 8000 workers. Sell it to the staff. Who listens to the Voice of Nigeria (VoN)?” He said that while it was commendable that the Ministry of Transport and Chinese Firms were working on the multi-billion dollar rail projects, the Senate should take deep looks at the intricate details.
“We have steel, Ajaokuta is there. Why don’t we use that facility and create jobs through that,” he said.
Senator George Akume, who also contributed said that the oil benchmark should be increased to $50 because crude oil price has increased to between 58-$62 per barrel.
Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Francis Alimekhena (APC Edo North) told the Senate that the 2016 and 2017 budgets were bloated, adding that they lacked impact on the people.
He stated that it was unrealistic to assume that about N2 trillion would be realised from oil revenue and N4 trillion from non-oil revenue.
He also supported the increase of the budget benchmark to $50 while output is maintained at 2million barrels per day as in the 2017 budget.
The senator said: “There is no need to raise the hope of Nigerians and execution is zero. Let’s cut our coat according to our cloth. If the budget size is N3 trillion and execution is N3 trillion (100 percent), we will be happier than to say it is N8 trillion and execution is just N2 trillion.”
Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) who also contributed said that only the sum of N450 billion has so far been released in the capital votes of 2017 budget.
He stated that the key issue with the 2016 and 2017 budgets was the question of funding which he said made the budgets less impactful.
He said: “A budget can be big and bloated, but when you do not have enough funds for capital projects which are more impactful, then the budget is going nowhere.” The senator cited the example of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), which he said only N800 million has so far been released out of its 2017 appropriation of N25 billion.
Ashafa said: “What impact would that make on roads,” adding that only N500 million has so far been released out of the N11 billion budget of the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC).
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, said that there is an urgent need to reconsider the budget deficit projections.
He said: “I thank everyone for their contributions, I commend my colleagues for keeping their language clean and speaking their mind on the 2018 budget debate. “Some research agencies are not researching anything and are still being funded, we need to point them out so we don’t spend money on them.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has announced that it will suspend plenary from tomorrow.
This is to allow members proceed on oversight assessment of the 2017 budget and hold defence sessions for the 2018 budget.
The suspension will last for three weeks.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, who presided over proceedings, yesterday, made the announcement as debate on the budget began at the floor of the House, yesterday.
Rivers LG To Give Grants To 80 Post-Graduate Candidates
The Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, has concluded process of giving grants to 80 indigenes of the area to pursue Masters and Doctorate degree programmes in universities in the state.
The council Chairman, Barrister George Ariolu, disclosed this, yesterday, when the leadership of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) visited him in his office at Rumuodomaya, near Port Harcourt.
Ariolu stated that grants will be given to 50 candidates to pursue Masters degree programme and another 30 to those pursuing Doctorate degree programmes in University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University and the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education.
He said: “Our main focus as we promised our people is the area of human capacity development. Not that we don’t have interest in infrastructures, we do.
“As it stands today, we are giving grants to our people, those who are interested in advancing their academic qualifications by taking up Ph.D and Masters degree programmes.
“For Masters degree, we have grants for 50 while Ph.D is 30 for now. But because of pressure, we will likely take it up to 50. We set up a committee made up three professors, an academic doctor, who is a senior lecturer and a lawyer. Today, they are conducting interviews for the applicants at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
“Our catchment areas are University of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State University and the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education. Those are universities in Rivers State so that little money we will give will be of immense benefit to them.”
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the NUJ, Amaechi Okonkwo, assured the Council Chairman of the support of journalists throughout duration of his tenure in office.
Okonkwo said: “We have had a relationship with you before now and we are happy with that relationship because we were getting quality service and advise from you.
“So, we deemed it fit and necessary to come to say congratulations to you and to assure you of our support through your stay as Chairman of Council.”
Insecurity: Address Nigeria’s Descent Into Chaos, Nigerians Tell UN Assembly
The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance (NINAS), yesterday, urged the United Nations General Assembly to take urgent steps to address the country’s alleged descent into chaos, saying that Nigeria has failed as a state.
This was contained in a letter addressed to United Nations Security Council, the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly by NINAS at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The letter was signed by Chairman of NINAS and Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof Banji Akintoye; Prof Yusuf Turaki of Middle-Belt Movement; and Secretary-General, NINAS and Lower Niger Congress, Tony Nnadi.
The letter reads, “We, the Indigenous Peoples of Nigeria at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York to alert the United Nations, and the rest of the global community that the union of Nigeria has failed irredeemably; and is now at the verge of a violent disintegration with catastrophic consequences for global peace, and security as our population of over 200million would become an instant global refugee nightmare.
“Amidst the extraordinary difficulties inflicted by the imposition and enforcement of Sharia by a section of Nigeria in a supposedly secular union, the immediate reason for this looming catastrophe is the cocktail of mass killing, kidnapping and general banditry being orchestrated against the indigenous peoples of Nigeria by an invading Fulani militia masquerading as herdsmen in an undisguised ethnic cleansing campaign that progressively demonstrate the complicity of the Federal Government of Nigeria headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, who as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria is also the Life Grand Patron of the notorious Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), that proudly takes responsibility for the murderous exploits of the Fulani herdsmen militia designated the fourth most deadly terror group.
“Compounding their impunity, the same Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association at a recent press conference organised to mock the planned NINAS million-man freedom march to the UN boasted to be in control of the UN through their daughter, the Deputy Secretary-General at the UN, Amina Mohammed.
“An indication that (Amina Mohammed) nominated to that exalted UN position by President of Buhari, is in some way a part of the grand protection design for the Fulani herdsmen in their bloody, onslaught against the indigenous peoples of Nigeria.
“It will be recalled that following widespread extrajudicial killings in Nigeria, the UN in August of 2019, dispatched a Special Rapporteur Mission to Nigeria led by Agnes Callamard. The damning verdict of that Rapporteur Mission was that the widespread extrajudicial killings were flowing from the unitary constitutional arrangements of Nigeria, which operates as a pressure-cooker for injustice and that Nigeria under that Constitution is a danger to global peace and security.
“The report warned that unless something is done urgently, Nigeria would snap, plunging its 200million population into turmoil that will trigger a large-scale refugee crisis of unprecedented magnitude at a time the global terror networks, ISIS, ISWAP and AL-Qaeda are already converging in Nigeria.
“That Nigeria has failed as a State is no longer a subject for debate, having emerged the global poverty capital, and playing host to two of the world’s top four most deadly terrorists’ organisation, with three-quarters of the constituent components (South and Middle-Belt), seeking urgent extrication by way of referendums from what has become a union of death.
“Looking back at the recent turn of events in Afghanistan, this freedom march to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, is to alert the global community of the rapidly degenerating situation of Nigeria, and to invite United Nations, particularly the Security Council, and Trusteeship Council, to initiate urgent steps to arrest Nigeria’s descent into chaos, as besieged communities drift dangerously to self-help.”
Power Sector Revenue Declines By 4.54% In Q2’21
Gross revenue of Nigeria’s electricity market declined by 4.45per cent in the second quarter of 2021, Q2’21, to N176.27billion against N184.27billion generated in the first quarter, Q1’21, latest data from the sector has shown.
The data from the Power Sector Working Group, however, showed that the N360.54billion generated in the first half of this year was 24.57per cent higher than the N271.96billion generated in the last six months of 2020.
A monthly analysis of the power sector financials in the first six months of 2021 showed that revenue has been fluctuating month-on-month.
A total of N64.98billion was generated in January, but revenue, however, fell by 13.30per cent in February to N57.35billion.
Further analysis showed that revenue in March rose by 7.41 per cent to N61.94billion but declined again in April by 8.76 per cent to N56.955billion.
In May, revenue rose by 8.24 per cent to N62.07billion.
It, however fell in June to N57.25billion, a drop of 8.42 per cent.
The Power Sector Working Group blamed poor power supply as well as glitches for the fall in revenue in the second quarter, especially in the month of June.
“June is a bit short due to glitches in the sweep mechanism and a low energy supply (there were gas payment challenges we have been working on).
“Through the collection discipline via CBN there is full visibility to DisCos collections. Collections over the past six months have stabilized at between N57billion to N65billion.
“The regulator and policymakers are focusing in the second half of the year on boosting electricity and rolling out phase 1 of Mass Metering to boost supply to reduce tariff and increase collections.
“Procurement is being completed for most of the CAPEX interventions that will help boost supply”, the group added.
Earlier, the group disclosed that the Federal Government has concluded arrangements for the commencement of the second phase of its metering program tagged National Mass Metering Program which it expects to drastically reduce estimated billing by DisCos, that will ensure consumers are billed appropriately for the electricity they consume by installing meters free of charge in household and business premises that are currently unmetered.
The Federal Government provided funding for the program through loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to DisCos.
“Meters are provided to customers free of charge. This is indeed unprecedented and has so far led to the tremendous success recorded so far”.
Speaking on how to grow the electricity market, a leading power sector expert and Managing Director of Target Energy Ltd, Abdullahi Umar, harped on the need to review some of the policies that may be hampering growth and development in the power sector.
Umar said at the weekend that the new Minister of Power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, needs to conduct a thorough review of the sector.
“I am part of those stakeholders who are of the view that the declaration of the transitional electricity market (TEM) in February 2015 was too ambitious and premature.
“What should have been was a phased transition into TEM or at the minimum a testing of the market before the full declaration of TEM.
“The errors of such declaration have continued to plague the power sector with a heightened liquidity crisis in 2016 and 2017, that saw a drastic decline of the revenue flows in the power sector, DisCos remittance went from 70 per cent to a sharp decline averaging about 28 per cent – 30 per cent for that period,” he said.
He pointed out that July, 2021, saw the end of Eligible Customer Regulation in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), adding that the decision by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to rescind the ECR, has sent mixed signals across the board.
Umar further stated that “we have seen the accusations and counter-accusations between the generating companies (GenCos) and distribution companies on the issue. The action by NERC has signalled the lack of preparedness of the market to accommodate direct sale between market players.
“It is a case of willing seller, willing buyer and an unwilling infrastructure; the market cannot accommodate any distortion at this time especially as the grid still operates at average capacity.”
The ECR allows GenCos and Independent Power Producers to bypass the Bulk Trader for excess un-contracted capacity within their portfolio and sell directly to eligible customers who can take a minimum of 2MW of power monthly.
“The ECR was issued on the 6th of November, 2017 by the then Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Barrister Babatunde Fashola”, Umar also averred that the “recent repeal of the ECR further demonstrates the weakness in the NESI and the need for more effective and consistent regulation.”
He further advised, “With a new Minister of Power in the saddle, I suggest that a cue is borrowed from the former Minister of Power, Work, and Housing; who commenced his tenure with sector-wide stakeholder consultation and monthly review meetings, it is important that new Minister of Power gets a proper briefing with all market participants in the same room to curtail self-serving suggestions and recommendations.”
“The frequent policy conflict is fast eroding the little gains of the NESI since the declaration of TEM and plunging the sector deeper into uncertainty.
“The new Minister of Power must pursue sector-wide collaboration and effective corporate governance to move the sector forward.
“It is time to go back to the drawing board,” he concluded.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has, however, denied that it has ended or suspended the Eligible Customer Regulations which allowed power generation companies, GenCos, to supply electricity directly to large demand customers.
NERC, in a statement by its General Manager, Public Affairs Department, Dr. Usman Abba Arabi, stated that the Eligible Customer Regulations has not been suspended and at no time has the commission issued a directive for discontinuation of service to any customer.
The commission explained that what it suspended was the unauthorized direct supply by GenCos to big consumers.
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