Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo yesterday, revealed that Nigeria was looking up to America and other countries of the world for a loan of up to $140 billion to tackle the infrastructure decay in the country.
Osinbajo said this is after the present government has spent up to N3.5 trillion in the last four years to fix infrastructure decay and still has not scratched the surface.
The Vice President, represented by the Minister of Trade and Investments, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah spoke at the opening ceremony of the trade and investment expo exclusively for Nigeria and America, tagged USA Fair 2019 in Lagos.
He said government was making infrastructure revamping a priority in the next four years, just as it would also try to deploy modern infrastructure within same time frame, for job creation and ease of doing business in the country.
His words: “We are interested in building modern infrastructures. Our president has pointed that if we build infrastructure, Nigerians will do well.
It is the singular most important thing we can do to create jobs. “We spent over N3.5 trillion in the last three years. We are trying to figure out how to raise $140billion that Nigeria needs to catch up with infrastructure deficit over the next four years.
This is what the government is taking a hard look at and thinking of how to partner great countries like America and other nations around the world”.
Osinbajo also stated that partnership with the USA, in this instance is so strategic, considering that the US has remained the largest economy in the world that cannot be ignored by any forward looking economy.
He added that “Nigeria also remained the largest economy in Africa and one that the USA cannot also ignore. So we both have responsibility to work together for the greater good of not just our two countries but the world at large.
“We are committed to nurturing and building this relationship. We want the best for both countries. This is the reason we have worked with our partners in Commercial Department to launch the commercial and investment dialogue.
“This is a high level engagement to our government and businesses for both Nigeria and US to eliminate critical hindrances to bilateral trade and investment.
“Last year, there was over 90 billion worth of investment interest to Nigeria. This year, we need to exceed that because we need a steady growth in investors’ confidence but this investor confidence must be converted. We are seeing some good signs, like Jumia listing on New York exchange, MTN on the Nigeria Stock Exchange and Microsoft announcing plans to launch a development centre in Lagos. While all these are refreshing, we don’t think we are near our potential at all; we really need more, that is why this Fair is important and I have to tell you that we are extremely hungry to achieve more for the people”.
Meanwhile, the US Ambassador, Mr. Stuart Symington, said the American and Nigerian economies have much in common, including an intense entrepreneurial drive, a firm commitment to free market principles and a clear vision for doing well by doing good.
He said: “USA Fair 2019 is a prime opportunity to celebrate these mutual ideals and to drive both our economies forward through increasing trade and investment that have already put more people to work in both nations.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma yesterday said the Muhammadu Buhari administration disbursed a total of N4.33 trillion to execute its capital projects for 2016, 2017 and 2018.
At a valedictory press conference in Abuja, Udoma said “Ministry of Finance was able to release, for capital spending, the sum of N1.2 trillion under the 2016 budget, the sum of N1.58 trillion under the 2017 budget and, as at 8th May 2019 the sum of N1.55 trillion has been released under the 2018 budget.”
“We increased budgetary allocations to capital expenditure – from 16.1% in 2015 to 30.2% in 2016, 31.7% in 2017, 315% in 2018 and 26% in 2019- with priority given to the key execution priorities of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP. We were also able to increase our capital releases,” Udoma said.
The Minister, regrettably during question and answer with the reporters admitted that the projection of growing economy by 7% a forecast of ERGP by 2020 is threatened and seems unrealisable.
He explained that the administration was unable to achieve the January to December budget cycle due to the absence of harmony between the executive and legislative arms of government.
While insisting that there was no legal requirement for the budget year to run from January to December, he, however, admitted January to December fiscal year is more predictable and would help the private sector and other economic players in planning because most economic players run a January to December fiscal year.
“Also, it would be much easier to track budget performance if both the recurrent and the capital budgets run from the same dates.
“However, to return to the January to December fiscal year for a budget when the operation of the current budget only commenced in June or July is a very challenging assignment.
“In order to achieve a return to a 1st of January commencement date the budget must ideally be delivered to the National Assembly by September.
“But when you are operating a budget which commenced only in June, or July, by September you would have had no idea how the existing budget is likely to perform.
“Indeed, given the procurement process, for a budget which starts running in June or July, there might have been little or no capital releases by September.
“In short, the only way to return to a January to December fiscal year, under those circumstances, is for there to be agreement between the Executive and the National Assembly to produce a budget on the basis of significant assumptions.
“This will require a very close working relationship of trust and synergy between the two arms of government.”
On the Social Investment Program ( SIP), the Minister said “as at March 2019, 1,707,932 loans been successfully disbursed under the Government Enterprise & Empowerment Programme (GEEP), with 1,374,192 of the loans given under the TraderMoni scheme; while 330,568 loans were for MarketMoni and 1,172 for FarmerMoni; over 9.5 million school children are currently being fed each day in 52,604 schools across 30 states under the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme.
“This programme has also provided direct jobs to 101,913 catering staff engaged under the scheme; 297,973 poor Nigerians across 20 States, have benefited from the N5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme and 3,517 community facilitators have been trained; 500,000 graduates are benefiting from the N-Power programme and are paid N30,000 monthly; while 20,000 non-graduates in the N-Build category are either currently in training or serving as intern,” Udoma explained.
In another development,the Federal Government has approved the establishment of a Secondary Education Commission to oversee the operations of secondary schools in the country.
Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, who made the disclosure in Abuja, yesterday, at a valedictory news conference, said President Muhammadu Buhari recently gave approval for the establishment of the commission.
He also said that the Federal Government also reviewed downwards the charges in Unity Colleges from N83,000 to N49,500.
The minister said the government had pegged PTA levy at N5,000 across the board, thereby ending arbitrary charges of N75,000, which nearly inhibited access to unity colleges.
According to Anwukah, unity schools in Nigeria will remain as long as the Buhari administration is in power.
‘‘Having taken this position, we embarked upon the rehabilitation of unity colleges in all the ramifications required.
“The Buhari administration had spent a total of N7billion on the provision of security infrastructure in the last four years.
‘‘Against the backdrop of insecurity in the North-East, affected by ‘Boko Haram’ as well as incidents of kidnapping in parts of the country, the Federal Government decided to provide basic security facilities in all unity schools,’’ he said.
On the development of infrastructure, Anwukah said that the government had embarked on the construction and rehabilitation of classrooms, hostels, laboratories, among others.
‘‘In spite of the economic downturn, we have done well in terms of investment in capital expenditure.
‘‘In terms of improving funding for the education sector, I am optimistic that the Federal Government will expeditiously look into the recommendations we have made in that respect.’’
The minister emphasised that if education could be adequately funded, the country would be able to compete with the world in the area of global knowledge.
2019 Rivers Guber Poll Tribunal: PDP Tenders Polling Units’ Results To Affirm Wike’s Victory …Election Held In Substantial Compliance With Electoral Act -Counsel …Conduct Of Poll Peaceful, Lawful, Akawor Affirms
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, yesterday, tendered strategic polling units’ results from different local government areas to the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to justify the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike.
The polling units’ results were tendered in respect of the petition filed against the election of Wike by the Governorship Candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi.
Tendering the polling units’ results from the Bar, counsel to the PDP, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) said the polling results were from 356 polling units.
Obla told the tribunal that the result sheets were from some of the polling units in Obio/Akpor, Khana, Ogu/Bolo, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Ahoada East, Opobo/Nkoro and others.
He informed the tribunal that the PDP resolved to tender results to prove that elections held across the state at the polling units and declarations made under very peaceful atmosphere.
The counsel added that since INEC and Wike have called witnesses to prove that the Governorship Election was conducted in line with the Electoral Act, the PDP chose to prove the conduct of the elections through documentary evidence.
Addressing journalists after closing the PDP defence, Godwin Obla said that from documentary evidence and oral testimonies of witnesses, it was clear that the 2019 Governorship Election in Rivers State was held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and that Wike emerged victorious.
He said: “This morning on behalf of the 3rd respondent, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we tendered a total of 356 exhibits in support of our case. We feel satisfied that the requirements of the law required of us, have been fully met and that is why we decided to close our case today.
“Don’t forget that the 1st respondent, INEC, called witnesses, the 2nd respondent, Governor Nyesom Wike, who is the candidate of the 3rd respondent, PDP, also called witnesses and tendered a lot of documents that relate to this same subject matter. The interests of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents are actually the same”.
Also speaking, counsel to ADP, Mr Dolapo-Telle Attoni, said “The PDP presented from the Bar a bundle of electoral documents they claimed INEC used in conducting the governorship election. They tendered about 356 alleged polling units’ results. We had asked for few minutes to study these same documents, and also obtain Certified True Copy of the said documents which was not complied with by INEC”.
Following the PDP closing its case, the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal has adjourned till September 16, 2019 for the adoption of addresses by parties in the petition filed by Action Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi.
Earlier, the Director-General of Rivers State PDP Campaign Council, Amb. Desmond Akawor, had said that the 2019 Governorship Election held throughout the state with Governor Nyesom Wike emerging victorious.
Testifying at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, last Wednesday, as the last witness for Wike in a petition filed by the candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi, Akawor said that the governor won the election by the lawful votes cast on March 9, 2019.
The former Nigerian Ambassador to South Korea told the tribunal that he received his party’s duplicate certified copies of election result sheets for all the units, wards and the 23 local government areas.
Responding to a question by counsel to the ADP governorship candidate on why the state government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 Elections, Akawor said that the commission of inquiry was established to find out what happened at the collation centres, because voting took place peacefully at all polling units.
However, after closing his case on cross-examination of DW31 (Akawor), the ADP counsel sought to tender an application which is a certified copy of The Tide Newspaper of April 29 in respect of the commission of inquiry.
But Counsel to the governor, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) urged the court to refuse the application, arguing that the petitioner voluntarily closed his matter on July 16 with 23 witnesses.
Ukala noted that in accordance with the rules of the tribunal, each witness was cross-examined within the time given; adding that conduct of proceedings was guided by truth and not by sympathy.
Ruling on the application after hearing arguments from the counsels, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Orjiako, stated that “this application in our view cannot be allowed, the implication being that it should have been tendered within the time allocated to him, therefore, the application is overruled and refused”.
Justice Orjiako had adjourned the matter till yesterday for further cross examination.
In an interview, counsel for Governor Nyesom Wike, Emmanuel Ukala, explained that the ADP application was refused as a result of improper filing.
He said, “The 2nd respondent (Governor Wike) called all together 20 witnesses, and we closed our case. So, it is left to the PDP, if they wish to call any other witness. They may call, and thereafter, we will all address the court”.
Stop Deducting Money From Rivers Statutory Allocation, Court Orders FG
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court in respect of OML112 offshore and stop the deduction of the sum of N502, 298,943.03 or any sum whatsoever, forming the proprietary rights of the Rivers State Government.
The presiding Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, also ordered the defendants to make full refund of the accruable 13 per cent derivation illegally denied the plaintiff from crude oil and gas production within OML 112 and sale from September, 2018 till the determination of the suit; and thereafter.
The judge equally ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, the Accountant General of the Federation and the RMAFC to pay monthly interests at the various commercial rates at no less than 15 per cent per annum on the illegally deducted 13 per cent derivation due to the plaintiff from OML 112 until the liquidation of all outstanding and accruing debt.
Justice Taiwo further restrained the defendants, their agents, assigns, representatives, privies or howsoever called from disregarding the finality of the Supreme Court judgment delivered on March 18, 2011 in Suit No: SC/27/2010, between: Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State & Anor as it relates to the proprietary rights of the plaintiff in respect of OML 112.
The suit was instituted by the Attorney General of Rivers State to challenge the deduction of the sum of N502, 298,943.03 accruing from OML 112 from the statutory allocation of the state by the defendants.
Biafra: Fresh Questions Over Future Of Campaign
Just as the recent physical attack on former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu in faraway Germany is trending globally for the bizarre affront it represents, so many questions are raging over the integrity and future of the campaign for the actualisation of the Biafra secessionist agenda. It is no more news that Ekweremadu was ambushed and attacked during his visit to Germany to participate as a guest speaker at a traditional Igbo ‘New Yam’ festival. The trailing reactions not only captured the wide divide between the proponents and the opponents of the ‘Biafra’ agenda across the world. It also betrayed and reinforced a more profound aspect being the unmasked, hysteric xenophobic mindset to which the most ardent proponents of the Biafra agenda subscribe to. Primary among these is the endorsement of the outrage of the assailants by Nnamdi Kanu, the now exiled leader of the IPOB, which is just one of the active groups canvassing for the actualisation of the Biafra dream.
From the now trending video clips of the incident,the aggrieved assailants could be heard lamenting about the killing of their kit and kin in the ‘Operation Python Dance’ military assaults on Iboland, at the peak of the IPOB domestic activism phase. Until that point, the German assault on Ekweremadu could easily have passed as a result of the bereaved lamenting and perhaps, over-reacting over the death of their loved ones at home. However, the intervention of IPOB especially with the claim that responsibility for the attack fell on its members changed the entire narrative. First of all, information in the public domain did not specifically mention that the occasion was organised by IPOB. Hence, the intervention of the organisation by persons later identified as IPOB operatives captures the event as having been hijacked by the IPOB for reasons strange to the organisers. Now, the blame or whatever ascription from the event goes to all Ibos, just as the proverb that when a finger picks up oil, it soon spreads it to all the other fingers.
And this is where the various stakeholders of the Biafra agenda, comprising the Igbo represented by the OhanaezeNdigbo, the Eastern minorities and even the entire country need to take the Ekweremadu attack with appropriate discretion. Whatever circumstances that will instigate members of a political pressure group to leave the shores of its home country and brazenly attack a home government official in public glare and in a foreign country, deserves more than a slap on the wrist. The situation calls for renewed discretion especially by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo which can be credited with the misfortune of living in a hut on which roof a snake has climbed. That is putting it in classical Igbo metaphor.
For anybody especially the leadership of the Ibos to see the situation otherwise, is to indulge in a mis-read of the festering situation, and expose Ndigbo to a future of miasma in the politics of Iboland as well as that between Ndigbo and the rest of the country. IPOB may remain a most divisive factor in the political calculus of the Ndigbo both at home and abroad as has been dramatically demonstrated in the German attack on Ike Ekweremadu, both for now and in the unknown future. And against the backdrop that not all Ibos and even Ohanaeze are members of IPOB, the need for the group to tread with care becomes most acute. Most Ibos simply want to be left alone to pursue their legitimate businesses in which they are already excelling, and do not want to be bothered by a pie in the sky called Biafra. After all, was it not the great novelist, Chinua Achebe who cited the Ibo proverb that all lizards lie on the ground making it difficult to know which one has stomach pain.
As for the Eastern minorities whose youth especially are being enamoured with flashes of paradise in the Biafra dream, all that needs to be said is that they should go and study the history of the previous Biafra, which occurred before they were even born. They will find out not only why it failed, but also why the mainstream of Ibo intelligentsia is not supporting the campaign – at least spiritedly. Fortunately for them, there are still some survivors of that failed exercise who can provide them valuable insights, to lead them aright. On a cautionary basis, let it be stated here that a child found toying with the very strain of mushrooms that killed his or her parents, is asking for nothing better than the very fate that befell the parents.
As structured today, the Nigerian federation cannot be restructured along secessionist lines without elaborate dialogue and negotiations, in place of a full scale war, no matter the grievances of its component ethnic parts. Meanwhile, IPOB has not demonstrated willingness or capacity for negotiations and the rest of the country is not ready for war. Until further notice therefore, Biafra and all it represents remain hanging in the balance.
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