The Federal Government has threatened to withdraw funding for the suspended N120billion Bonny-Bodo Road project as a result of lack of cooperation by host communities meant to benefit from the project in Rivers State.
It called on leaders of the affected communities to unite, adding that the N60billion fund released for the project by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) might be refunded, if the host communities failed to agree on specified terms.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, gave the warning to leaders of the communities at a meeting in Abuja, which had prominent traditional rulers from the Niger Delta region, officials of Julius Berger Plc, NLNG and council of elders from Ataba and Gokana, among others, in attendance.
Fashola begged the leaders of the communities to forget their differences, and stated that if the discord persisted, he might petition President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue and ask him to withdraw the N60billion contract sum already released for the project.
He explained that the Bonny-Bodo road project had enjoyed the largest funding, as the NLNG was providing N60billion with additional N60billion counterpart funding from the Federal Government.
The minister told his guests that the contractor handling the project had been mobilised, yet the project was suspended due to lack of cooperation from the benefitting communities.
Fashola expressed worry over the position of the elders, who insisted that the project would not be implemented except they were carried along, and an additional route constructed in Ataba.
He said, “You must work this peace. Today is Thursday, since you said you know the permanent secretary, I will leave you with him. All I want is a peace accord and an invitation to Julius Berger not later than Wednesday, February 28. Otherwise, I will write a report to Mr. President that it doesn’t seem that this project is ready to go, but we can move the money to another project.
“Whether it is Ataba, Ogoni or Gokana, you must own this project. The people you call militants are not spirits. They take their cue from how you react. You are leaders there. If you go back home today, and say it is over, the militants too will calm down. They don’t do anything without alerting the leaders.”
Fashola added, “For us, we can’t keep the money down. The contractor has received his money but now he can’t work. There are projects where contractors are waiting for money, but they don’t have it. That is a contradiction that will not last long.
“So, I will leave you. You know where we stand. We have an idea of where you stand. For me, it is a compromise that holds the project. The NLNG will not be there forever. It took time to even beg them to release this money. So, if you don’t take ownership of the project and put it to use, we might as well tell them to take their money back, and that the project is not ready,” the minister added.
“We need to have a position within two weeks for MoU of compromise to be signed assuring us that there will be peace in that place.
“You must invite the contractor back to site and ensure that you suggest to them anything you want the contractor to do because you can’t take over their business,” he said.
“I must emphasise at this time very clearly that it is in your hands as people who will be affected to either own this project or turn your back on it.
“I am sad to hear that the contractor is being attacked, his property in Gitto yard being vandalised, topographic survey and other works being stopped in your communities.
“My sense is that if a major Federal Government project is coming to your area, you put your differences aside, particularly for the fact that the project is a potential live changing assets,” he added.
Fashola added that the commencement of the project was conceived by the Federal Government within the context of agitation for better quality of life in the Niger Delta.
Strike: OPS Warns FG, Labour Against Socio-Economic Disruption
The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has called on the Federal Government and the organised labour to take all necessary steps to avert the disruption of socio-economic activities in the country.
This call was coming on the heels of the intended plans by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on an indefinite strike, following a stalemate between the Federal Government and the organised labour on the removal of fuel subsidy and minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
The call was contained in a statement made available to newsmen by the Director General of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, yesterday.
According to him, the position of OPSN on the impending protest/strike by the labour unions is that of deep concern, if not anxiety.
OPSN is comprised of five business membership organisations (BMOs) namely, MAN; Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA); Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).
Ajayi-Kadir stated: “OPSN is reiterating its call on the Federal Government and the labour unions to work sedulously to avert the looming disruption of socio-economic activities in the country.
“The economic indicators are not good and simply put, the economy cannot afford a nationwide strike at this time.
“We have keenly watched the back and forth consultations between the government on the one hand and NLC and TUC on the other. It is evident that the series of consultations have not yielded positive results and the latter has resolved, in one way or the other, to go ahead with the protest/strike.
“We are worried that adequate consideration is not given to the dire situation of the economy and the devastating/disruptive impact that a nationwide strike will have on the country at this time.
“The government and labour need to understand that our economy is being de-marketed and the livelihood of the average Nigerian is being diminished by these incessant bickering.
“While recognizing the right of the labour union to pursue the welfare of its members, we continue to implore the government to employ its best endeavours to re-engage the leadership of the unions and find an amicable ground to avert the imminent disruption in business activities that will attend the protest and nationwide strike.
“We opine that adequate consideration should be given to the grim state of the economy and the possible unintended consequences of social unrest that may result from the protests.
“Meanwhile, it is important to begin to have a conversation around how the labour unions and the government can resolve their issues without jeopardizing the livelihood of the average Nigerian and truncating our business projection and activities.
“There should be some innovation around how the conversation between the government and labour will not always end up in holding the economy hostage. The unintended consequence on the fortune of the average business and people of Nigeria is unwarranted and becoming too high.
“Government should demonstrate good faith in keeping to its promises during the negotiations with labour and abstain from making promises they cannot or do not intend to keep.
“On the other hand, labour should do a realistic assessment of its demands, within the context of prevailing economic realities and possibilities, while going the extra mile to indicate how its demands could be met.”
Probe Missing $15bn, N200bn Oil Revenues, SERAP Tells Tinubu
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu to set up a presidential panel of enquiry to promptly probe the grim allegations that over US$15 billion of oil revenues, and N200 billion budgeted to repair the refineries are missing and unaccounted for between 2020 and 2021, as documented by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
SERAP urged the President to “name and shame anyone suspected to be responsible for the missing and unaccounted for public funds and to ensure their effective prosecution as well as the full recovery of any proceeds of crime.”
SERAP also urged Tinubu “to fully implement all the recommendations by NEITI in its 2021 report, and to use any recovered proceeds of crime.”
In the letter dated 23 September 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said there was a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations, adding that taking these important measures would end the impunity of perpetrators.
SERAP said, “As President and Minister of Petroleum Resources, your office ought to be concerned about these damning revelations, by getting to the bottom of the allegations and ensuring that suspected perpetrators are promptly brought to justice, and any missing public funds fully recovered.”
The letter read in part: “Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any missing public funds would have serious resource allocation and exacerbate the country’s debt burden.
“It would also create cynicism, suspicion, and eventually citizens’ distrust about the ability of your government to combat high-level official corruption, as well as deter foreign investment and limit growth and development.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The findings by NEITI suggest a grave violation of the public trust and the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], national anticorruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.
“The allegations of corruption documented by NEITI undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities.
“Your government has a constitutional duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s wealth and resources.
“According to the 2021 report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), government agencies including the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NNPC) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPDC) failed to remit $13.591 million and $8.251 billion to the public treasury.
“The NNPC and NPDC failed to remit over 70% of these public funds. NEITI wants both the NNPC and NPDC to be investigated, and for the missing public funds to be fully recovered.
“The report also shows that in 2021, the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and its subsidiaries (the NNPC Group) reportedly spent US$6.931billion on behalf of the Federal Government but without appropriation by the National Assembly. The money may be missing.
“The NNPC also reportedly obtained a loan of $3 billion in 2012 purportedly to settle subsidy payments due to petroleum product marketers but there is no disclosure of the details of the loan, subsidy and the beneficiaries of the payments.
“The report also shows that N9.73 billion was paid to the NNPC as pipeline transportation revenue earned from Joint Venture operations but the money was neither remitted to the Federation nor properly accounted for. The NPDC in 2021 also failed to remit $7.61 million realized from the sale of crude oil.
“The report documents that about N200 billion was spent on refineries rehabilitation between 2020 and 2021 but “none of the refineries was operational in 2021 despite the spending.’ NEITI wants the spending to be investigated, as the money may be missing.
“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on your government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.
“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.
“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party obligate your government to effectively prevent and investigate the plundering of the country’s wealth and natural resources and hold public officials and non-state actors to account for any violations.
“Specifically, article 26 of the UN convention requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.
“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.
“Nigeria is also a participating state of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which aims to foster greater governmental accountability for the use of natural resource wealth through the creation of a set of international norms on revenue transparency.
“EITI also aims to tackle corruption, poverty and conflict associated with natural resource wealth. Nigeria has the obligations to implement the EITI Standard, which sets out the transparency norms with which participating States including Nigeria must comply.
Global Index Ranks US Top Debtor At $20.27trn, Nigeria $27bn
The Global Index (TGI) has released its ranking of countries’ external debts categorised in trillions and billions of Dollars.
In the trillion Dollar category, according to the debt figures posted on its verified X handle @TheGlobal_Index on Saturday, the United States topped the chart of most indebted nations with $20.27trillion, followed by the UK, and France with $8.72trillion, and $6.35trillion, respectively.
In that same trillion category, China, Switzerland, and Singapore were the least with $2.02trillion, $2trillion, and $1.55trillion, respectively.
The ranking shows USA: $20.27trillion; UK: $8.72trillion; France: $6.35trillion; Germany: $5.67trillion; Netherlands: $4.34trillion; Luxembourg: $4.30trillion; Japan: $4.25trillion; and Australia: $3.15trillion.
Others in the trillion category include, Ireland: $3trillion; Italy: $2.5trillion; Spain: $2.33trillion; Canada: $2.12 trillion; China: $2.02trillion; Switzerland: $2trillion; and Singapore: $1.55trillion.
The Global Index also rated other countries in the billion Dollar category.
They include Brazil, Norway, and India ranking first, second, and third with $700billion; $651billion; and $555billion; respectively.
In the same billion Dollar category, Nigeria, Iran and North Korea were the least with $27billion; $8billion; and $5billion; respectively.
The full ranking shows Brazil: $700billion; Norway: $651billion;India: $555billion; Russia: $500billion; South Korea: $457billion; Mexico: $456billion; Turkey: $455billion; Portugal: $401billion; Indonesia: $400billion; Argentina: $280billion; UAE: $240billion; Saudi Arabia: $205billion; and South Africa: $180billion.
The rest are, Qatar: $170billion; Colombia: $135billion; Israel: $135billion; Ukraine: $120billion; Pakistan: $110billion; Vietnam: $100billion; Philippines: $82billion; Bangladesh: $50billion; Kenya: $30billion; Nigeria: $27billion; Iran: $8billion; and North Korea: $5billion.
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