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.
Land Racketeering: Group Wants FCT Administration To Intervene
A group; the Housing Development Advocacy Network, has called on the Federal Capital Territory administration to provide details of existing approved layouts in the territory, in order to prevent land racketeering in the capital city.
The group noted that land racketeering was on the rise in the FCT and that the government needed to be aware of this to avoid losing investments.
Regardless of the high number of fake and political developers and land racketeers, there are also many genuine investors who wish to invest in the FCT, but are at risk from land racketeers, the group noted.
Executive Director of the advocacy group, Festus Adebayo, who made the call while speaking to journalists, further called on the FCT Minister to declare a state of emergency on land racketeering.
“The master plan of the FCT is in disarray. It requires surgical operation and the FCT minister must declare a state of emergency on the FCT urban planning system.
“So much damage has been done. The system is no more going in line with those who saw the vision of the FCT and gave the master plan.
“Firstly, there is no detailed information on existing approved layouts, resulting in fake layouts overlapping it.
“This information, if made public, would enable investors to know the right information that would save them from falling victim to land racketeers.” he said.
According to him, if there was inadequate information about the existing layout, the public would no longer fall victim to sharp practices resulting in demolition all the time in some areas.
“Some officials in government are supporting the business of those who are engaging in land racketeering and destroying the FCT master plan for selfish reasons, which is why the real estate sector in the nation’s capital is at a risk”, he explained.
Adebayo further explained that even with the suspension of the issuance of building plan approvals to area council plots, people were still erecting substandard buildings and the government was grossly losing revenue.
“Normally, before a demolition exercise is carried out, there has to be an order from the FCT urban and regional planning tribunal. However, the demolition is now at the discretion of the task force.
“Most demolitions are supposed to be followed by implementing a use or activity on the reclaimed land. However, nothing is done after demolition, hence after some time, the illegal activity gradually creeps back again. Other areas have been marked for action and nothing is being done about them. Almost 70 per cent of area council plots do not have building plan approvals”, he said.
Naira Redesign: CBN Recovers N1.9trn In Two Months
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it recovered N1.9 trillion worth of currency in two months outside of the banking system following its naira notes redesign and cash swap policy.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this, last Sunday, as part of his updates following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Emefiele noted that the apex bank had been able to reduce the currency outside the banking system to N900 billion from a whopping N2.7 trillion following the announcement of new naira notes.
President Buhari in November 2022 had launched the new naira notes of N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations, which are aimed at combating counterfeiting, improving the effectiveness of monetary policy tools on inflation, as well as mopping excess liquidity.
Emefiele said, “Ladies and gentlemen, available data at the CBN has shown that in 2015, currency in circulation was only N1.4 trillion.
“As of October 2022, currency in circulation had risen to N3.23 trillion out of which only N500 billion was within the banking industry and N2.7 trillion held permanently in people’s homes.
“Ordinarily, when the CBN releases currency into circulation, it is meant to be used and after effluxion of time, it returns to the CBN thereby keeping the volume of currency in circulation under the firm control of the CBN.
“So far and since the commencement of this programme, we have collected about N1.9 trillion.”
The CBN Governor also added that the initiative recorded over 75 per cent success rate, out of the N2.7 trillion held outside the banking system.
Emefiele noted that Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable had had the opportunity to swap their old notes; leveraging the naira swap initiative as well as the CBN senior staff nationwide sensitisation team exercise.
The CBN Governor also announced the extension of the deadline by 10 days to February 10, 2023, to allow for the remaining old notes in the economy to be returned to the banks.
“A 10-day extension of the deadline from January 31, 2023, to February 10, 2023 is to allow for the collection of more old notes legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swap in our rural communities after which all old notes outside the CBN lose their legal tender status.” the CBN boss said.
Contributory Pension Assets Rise To N14.9trn
The total assets of the Contributory Pension Scheme has risen by N1.56 trillionn as at the end of December, 2022, according to figures obtained from the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
PenCom, in its latest “Report on pension industry portfolio for the period ended 31 December 2022″ disclosed that the funds, which ended December 31, 2021, at N13.42 trillion, rose to N14.99 trillion by the end of December 2022.
It added that Contributors in the scheme rose slightly by 333,002 from 9,529,127 as at the end of 2021 to 9,862,129 in the corresponding period of 2022.
In the figures, the sum of N9.64 trillion or 64.33 per cent of the assets was invested in the Federal Government of Nigeria’s securities, N1.66 trillion was invested in corporate debt securities, N1.98 trillion was invested in money market securities, and N82.8 billion in mutual funds among other investment portfolios.
According to the 2022 third quarter report of the pension industry, the Director-General, PenCom, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said despite the overwhelming head-winds in the global economic climate and the country’s challenging macroeconomic environment, the pension fund assets under her management increased.
She said this laudable performance in the growth points to the fact that the pension industry will continue to deliver value and benefit to its stakeholders and the nation’s economy.
During the period under review, the Director-General, said PenCom steadily pursued increased diversification of pension fund portfolios by ramping up efforts aimed at ensuring sustained investment of pension fund in alternative asset classes and structured infrastructure projects that meet the stringent requirements as enshrined in the regulation for the investment of pension fund assets.
She said PenCom’s efforts at diversifying investments of pension funds and hedging against inflation had gradually begun to yield results.
According to her, efforts were on going to ensure that the annualised average rates of return of pension funds across Retirement Savings Account (RSA) and legacy funds were above headline inflation rates.
“Perhaps, the most significant achievement recorded in the third quarter of 2022 was the successful issuance of guidelines on accessing RSA.
“Balance towards payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage. The guidelines give effect to Section 89(2) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, which allows eligible RSA holders to apply a percentage of the balances in their Retirement Savings Accounts for payment of equity contribution towards residential mortgage for employees of the public, private and the informal sectors”, she said.
Dahir-Umar noted that the achievement in the Nigerian pension industry could not have been possible without the right people, strategy, culture and governance structures that supported the delivery of consistent and sustained value for all its stakeholders.
By: Corlins Walter
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