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Coronavirus: FG To Cut Budget, Seeks New Oil Benchmark

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Amid tumbling prices of crude oil, the Federal Government is set to cut the country’s 2020 budget.
President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to get a report, yesterday on what the government can do to salvage the N10.59tn budget.
The budget review committee, which was set up by Buhari on Monday, is chaired by the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, with a mandate to review the $57 oil benchmark for the budget and ultimately recommend an appropriate size, down from the current N10.59tn.
Other members of the committee include Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr Mele Kyari.
The President had handed the assignment to the committee on Monday after he held a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with the government officials.
Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting, Ahmed said the committee would determine the new benchmark for the budget.
She said, “Our mandate is to make a very quick assessment of the impact of this coronavirus on the economy, especially as it affects the crude oil price.
“We will be writing a report and briefing Mr President tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday morning. After that, we will also have more substantial information for the press.
“It is very clear that we will have to revisit the crude oil benchmark price that we have of $57 per barrel. We have to revisit it and lower the price.”
She added, “Where it will be lowered (benchmark) is the subject of this committee. What the impact will be on that is that there will be reduced revenue to the budget as it will cut the size of the budget.
“The quantum of the cut is what we are supposed to assess as a committee.”
The Federal Governement gave its first hint on a possible cut of the budget after last week’s Federal Executive Council meeting.
Sylva spoke on the reported disagreement between the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and OPEC+ member states on how both sides would respond to the impact of coronavirus on oil prices.
He said it was not a matter Nigeria could handle unilaterally, but would be handled at the level of OPEC versus OPEC+ bodies.
Global oil prices have been unstable since January, worsening with the outbreak of coronavirus in China and its rapid spread to many countries.
In December, 2019 when Buhari signed the 2020 budget, Nigeria’s Brent crude was well above $60 per barrel. But, it soon began a free fall since January, dropping below the budgeted $57.
Recall that in 2015, oil price crashed to as low as $27 per barrel, forcing the economy into recession. The economy later exited recession as oil prices climbed again.
The steep fall in crude oil prices on Monday stoked fears of fresh economic recession that Nigeria suffered in 2016 and has yet to recover from more than two years after a shaky exit.
The global oil benchmark, Brent crude, plummeted by as much as 31 per cent to $31.02 on Monday, its lowest since mid-February 2016, but recovered slightly to $36.29 per barrel as of 6.15pm Nigerian time.
Brent, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, fell by over $4 to $45.72 per barrel last Friday following the failure of OPEC and its 10 allies, led by Russia, to broker a deal.

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ICT Skills’ll Deliver Economic Independence To Nigerian Girls – NITDA

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said that if Nigerian girls are taught relevant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills at a young age, they will be set up for economic independence in future.
The Agency who made this remark through a press release signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, joined the global community to mark the “Girls in ICT Day.” The day which is marked annually on the fourth Thursday in April falls on the 23rd April this year.
In the statement, Mrs Umar said that the Agency is highlighting the need to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women in ICT, the world’s fastest growing sector.
She said, “During this year’s celebration, NITDA is drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women to participate actively in the ICT sector of our economy. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) had estimated skills shortfall of over two million jobs in the ICT sector within the next few years. This opens a huge opportunity for girls and young women who have the ability to learn Coding, Apps Development, Computer Science and other ICT related courses.
“This will not only make them ready for a successful career in the ICT sector, but ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in just about any other field they might choose to pursue. With technology playing vital role in all manner of careers, from Arts to Social Sciences, and from Law to History, to Graphic Design, learning ICT skills at a young age will set girls up for economic independence. Furthermore, the ICT sector needs more girls and women and celebrating a day like this reminds us that ICT helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.
“It contributes significantly towards better healthcare, better environmental management, better communication, and better educational systems that transform the way children and adults learn. NITDA, in its proactive manner and in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as well as in furtherance of bridging the gender imbalance in ICT in Nigeria, has embarked on series of Capacity Building programmes for women and girls across the country. Girls with ICT skills can expect to earn good wages and enjoy huge career opportunities.

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Keystone Bank Disowns Ex-staff, Fake Investment Company

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Keystone Bank Limited has alerted customers of the activities of one Mr. Obinna Onuselogu, who parades a company, Triple C Investment Limited, as an affiliate of the bank with the aim of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
The bank, in a statement yesterday, said Onuselogu, who used to be a staff, was no longer in its employ.
It added that anyone who transacts any business with him purportedly in the name of the bank does so at his/her own risk.
“Please note further that Keystone Bank is neither related nor affiliated to any company known as Triple C Investment Limited, which Mr. Onuselogu claims to be its chief executive officer.
“Anyone who transacts any business with him purportedly in the name of Keystone Bank does so at his/her own risk,” the statement said.
It was learnt that the ex-staff has been using the name of the bank and its executives claiming to be in partnership with the bank with the intent of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
The bank said it was working on a legal process and security agents to put an end to the unscrupulous activities of the so-called Tripple C Investment and its agents.

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Fishermen Union Warn Against Dead Floating Fish Consumption

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The Bonny Indigenous Fishermen’s Cooperative Union has set up a 20-man task force to work with the police and arrest any person or group of persons found with the polluted floating fish along Bonny sea and creeks.
President of the union, comrade Promise Bristol, made this known in a chat with newsmen in Bonny.
Bristol observed that a large quantity of different species of fish were found dead, floating on the sea, from the Atlantic Ocean to the communities and fishing ports in Andoni and Bonny Local Government Areas.
According to him, the species of fish included croaker, popularly known as “broke marriage”, “shine nose”, mackerel, among others.
Bristol lamented that the incident had brought untold hardship to the fishermen in the areas, saying that fishing is their only source of livelihood and appealed to government at all levels to come to their aid.
Bristol said the cause of the death of the fishes was unknown and warned members of the public against their consumption, pointing out that consumption of such fishes could be detrimental to human health.

 

Tonye Nria-Dappa

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