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$5.8bn Loan: SERAP Petitions Buhari

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “issue an immediate moratorium on borrowing by the Federal Government and the 36 states to address a systemic debt crisis, prevent retrogressive economic measures, and the disproportionately negative impact of unsustainable debt on the poor Nigerians.”
The request followed the recent approval by the National Assembly of Buhari’s request for a $5.8billion loan and grant of $10billion.
Previous approvals in 2021 alone include $8.3billion; €490million, and $6.1billion.
The foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 states, and Federal Capital Territory reportedly stands at $37.9billion.
In an open letter dated December 18, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “A moratorium on borrowing would create a temporary debt standstill, and free up fiscal space for investment in Nigerians’ needs, as well as ensure sustainable economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
SERAP said, “Without a moratorium on borrowing, your government and many of the 36 states may be caught in a process driven mostly by creditors’ needs. This will result in an exorbitant social cost for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of the population.”
According to SERAP, “Long-term unsustainable debt can be a barrier to the government’s ability to mobilise resources for human rights, and may lead to taxes and user fees that impact negatively on vulnerable and marginalised Nigerians.”
The letter, read in part: “SERAP is concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained, and opacity around the terms and conditions, including repayment details of these loans.
“While the National Assembly has asked for these details in future loan requests, it ought to have seen and assessed the terms and conditions of these loans before approving them, in line with its oversight responsibility under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).
“If not urgently addressed, the escalating borrowing and looming debt crisis would cripple the ability of both the Federal Government and the 36 states to deliver essential public services such as quality healthcare, education, and clean water to the most vulnerable and marginalised sectors of the population.
“SERAP notes that governments’ ability to protect human rights is inextricably related to the ability to spend needed resources. Growing debt burdens and debt repayment difficulties will have negative impacts on the ability of your government and many of the 36 states to fulfill the basic socio-economic rights of poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
“Sustainable debt management by the Federal Government and state governments will contribute to mobilising resources for human rights and essential public services, and promote a culture of responsible borrowing.
“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress. According to reports, the Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5,803,364,553.50 and a grant component of $10million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.
“This followed previous approvals this year by the National Assembly of $16.2billion ($16,230,077,718) loan; €1million (€1,020,000,000) loan; and a grant component of $125million loan; $36.8billion, €910million loans, and a grant component of $10million; $8.3billion and €490million loans; $6.1billion, $1.5billion and $995million loans; and $4million ($4,054,476,863), €710million and grant component of $125million.
“Several of the 36 states are also facing a debt crisis, and vicious debt cycles. According to the Debt Management Office, the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9billion.
“The loans from China alone amount to $3.59billion. According to the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Nigeria faces debt service relative to tax revenues that exceed 20per cent, with escalating social tensions linked to poverty and inequality.
“The growing level of borrowing by your government and the 36 states is clearly a human rights issue because when the entire country is burdened by unsustainable debts, there will be little money left to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services.
“While it is critical for the Federal Government and state governments to have sufficient resources to fund their budgets, it is equally critical for governments to substantially cut the cost of governance. Persistent borrowing is neither sustainable nor fair to the Nigerian people.
“SERAP urges you to conduct a human rights assessment of the borrowing by governments since 1999 to address the dire consequences of unsustainable debts on people and communities across the country, and to ensure that borrowing at all levels of government considers the human rights impacts.
“Any such assessment should be conducted in harmony with existing safeguards and mechanisms in order to contribute to informed decision-making and to complement findings from a human rights perspective.
“A human rights impact analysis should serve to ascertain the debts that can be repaid, and the resources necessary to ensure compliance with the obligation of using the maximum available resources for the protection and fulfilment of human rights.
“As the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has noted, states parties including Nigeria are under an obligation to devote their maximum available resources to the full realisation of all economic and social rights, including the rights to health, education and water.
“SERAP also urges you to adopt effective measures to address transparency and accountability gaps in spending of loans, and the systemic and widespread corruption in ministries, departments and agencies, as documented by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“We would, therefore, be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government and the 36 states to comply with our requests.”

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We Need President Who Believes In Unity Of Nigeria -Wike

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Rivers State Governor and presidential aspirant under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Nyesom Wike, has urged Nigerians to take the opportunity that the 2023 general election would offer them to elect a Nigerian who believes in the unity of the country and its people.
Speaking to leaders and delegates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State, yesterday, Wike emphasised that Nigeria was more divided now under the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government than ever.
Wike pointed to the need why the country requires a president that would be in charge of things, including issues of security and the economy.
He described as sad that Nigerian farmers cannot go to farm conveniently or go about their trading activities because of insecurity.
“We need a Nigerian who believes in the unity of this country. We have never been divided the way we are divided now. If God gives us (PDP) the opportunity, we will form a government of national unity where everybody will be involved.”
Wike told the delegates that he was the best PDP aspirant that has the capacity to secure electoral victory for the party and implement policies that will truly rescue Nigeria.
According to him, PDP and indeed, Nigerians need somebody who can face the APC squarely in the 2023 general election and give the country a new direction in which safety of life is guaranteed.
“There is a war you go and you know the kind of soldiers you send and the general that will be the commander. In this kind of fight now, it is me that can fight it.
“What PDP is looking for is who can make us win the election. If we don’t win this election, PDP is gone. I’m tired of this opposition. I am the only aspirant who has what it takes to win this election for PDP.
“And when we win the presidential election in February, 2023, we will win Kebbi in March. And I am going to give you all the support that you require.”
The Rivers State governor reminded the delegates that first of all, there has to be a party before anybody can run election, and most of those seeking to fly the party’s presidential flag had in the past abandoned it to die, but people like him stayed back to build the party and make it once again formidable.
“I was one of the people who stood firm, who made sure that this party didn’t die. There are those who fought this party in 2015 to make us lose the election. If we didn’t lose the election, will we not be in opposition now?
“We have worked hard and a labourer deserves his wages as it is in the holy book. I have worked for this party. So, nobody will say that I did not work for this party.”
In his remarks, Kebbi State PDP chieftain and Chairman of Forum of former PDP Ministers, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, SAN, noted the enormous burden of insecurity on Nigeria that requires a courageous leader to handle.
“Today in Nigeria, we have problem of insecurity. We have problem with the economy. We have poverty. We have hunger. We have restlessness. We have joblessness. There is problem of lack of justice. There is a problem of lack of fairness.
“In short, there is leadership failure and so when we talk of 2023, we should be talking of the survival of Nigeria as one united and indissoluble nation.
“We need a leader that has capacity to take very decisive decisions. Wike has that capacity. We need a leader that is capable of building the diverse and strong bridges of friendship across the divide, Wike has that capacity.
“We need a leader that is consummate and cosmopolitan, Wike is the person. We need a leader that is educated. Wike is educated.”

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ASUU Strike: Protests Rock South West, Edo

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Students of different universities in Ondo State on Monday staged a protest to register their displeasure over the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The protesting students blocked the Ilesha-Akure Expressway in Akure, chanting different solidarity songs.
They wielded placards with different inscriptions such as ‘ End ASUU strike,’ ‘Save our future,’ and FG, we’ve had enough,’ among others.
The protesters included students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko; Olusegun Agagu University of Technology, Okitipupa; and the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The protest caused traffic gridlock on the highway with many travellers and motorists stranded while some motorists had to take alternative routes to their destinations.
Speaking on the protest, the Vice Chairman, National Association of University Students, Ondo Chapter, Shittu Afolarin, stated that the move became imperative after it was discovered that the Federal Government was not concerned about the plight of students.
Meanwhile, in  Osun State, protest by some students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, organised by Great Ife Concerned Students in collaboration with Fund Education Coalition against strike, resumed on Monday as the protesters blocked some major roads in the state.
The protesters had initially blocked Ife-Ede Road, and later moved to Ipetumodu and blocked Ife-Ibadan, Ilesa-Akure roads in front of Oduduwa University, thereby preventing vehicular movement.
The leader of the protesters, Omowumi Abraham, popularly known as Ewatee, said a vehicle conveying two soldiers heading towards Gbongan-Ibadan end from Ipetumodu, had forced its way through their barricade.
She said two other vehicles also conveying soldiers heading towards same direction were however prevented from going through and were forced to make a detour.
Students in Ogun State also on Monday blocked the Sagamu-Benin Expressway in protest against the ongoing strike.
The joint protest had in attendance students from OOU, Ago-Iwoye; Tai Solarin University of Education, Science and Technology, Ijagun and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
The students reportedly stormed the TASUED axis and blocked the expressway, leaving many motorists stranded and travellers trapped.
Speaking at the protest ground, the Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students in the state, Damilola Simeon, appealed to the Federal Government to respond urgently to the yearnings of ASUU.
The President, Student Union Government of TASUED, Don Ayomide, also said the protest was necessary to let the Federal Government and ASUU be aware of the plight of Nigerian students.
Reacting to the students’ protest, ASUU Chairman, FUNAAB, , Dr Gbenga Adeleye, told newsmen that the students had a right to quality education, saying that they were not happy with the ongoing strike.

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WASSCE 2022: WAEC Advises Principals, Supervisors To Shun Exam Malpractice

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The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) have advised principals and supervisors to shun any act capable of undermining the integrity of the ongoing May/June 2022 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Specifically, the principals and supervisors, who are in charge of the conduct of WASSCE 2022, were warned to eschew any form of examination malpractice.
The advise was given by the Deputy Registrar/Zonal Coordinator of WAEC, Abuja, Mr. Ambrose Okelezo, during the briefing of principals and supervisors on the conduct of WASSCE for school candidates.
The principals of recognized secondary schools and nominated senior teachers, who would serve as supervisors were briefed in the Federal Capital Territory FCT) in two locations ahead of the school exam at Gwagwalada and Maitama.
Okelezo informed the principals of their expected roles and warned them to eschew any form of examination malpractice.
He also advised them to educate their students on the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the school exam and teachers (invigilators) not to bring in GSM phones into the exam hall and to stay within the rules guiding invigilation of the examination.
Okelezo also pleaded with the principals and supervisors to be always available in their schools and provide sanitisers, nose masks and ensure strict compliance with all COVID- 19 protocols.
The WAEC zonal coordinator urged them to use the CIVAPEMS devices for the capturing of attendance of candidates.
He briefed the supervisors on their roles, which is the conduct of examination on behalf of the council, following certain guidelines as stipulated by WAEC.
The principals and supervisors were trained on the usage of CIVAPEMS, a device used in the verification of candidates Identities, capturing of attendance.
The deputy registrar also advised the supervisors to shun any act capable of undermining the integrity of the examination.
Various speakers at the workshop such the Director, Education Resource Centre (ERC) in the FCT, Hajia Neemart Abdulraham, ANCOPSS Chairman in the FCT, Adam Bello Gupa, thanked WAEC for organising the workshop and they took turns to admonish participants on the need to follow the rules and regulations as rolled out by WAEC and conduct a malpractice-free examination in the FCT.
A total of 777 participants, made up of 377 principals and 407 supervisors participated in the workshop.
The workshop was concluded with the information on some innovations rolled out by the council such WAEC Chatbox, the platform for gaining access to WAEC services online real-time through www.request.waec.org.
WAEC verify- which provides online access to tertiary institutions and other establishments to WAEC database for the verification of prospective students/applicants results.
Others include EDUSTAT- which enables interested stakeholders to access WAEC statistics online, Computer-Based Test Series- which offers a reliable and robust CBT and Aptitude Test Services.
The participants resolved to work together to ensure a successful conduct of the school exam in FCT.

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