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Buhari Resends Request for $29.96bn Loan to Senate

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday re-sent the $29.96bn 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the Senate for its consideration and approval.

Buhari made the request a day after the International Monetary Fund warned Nigeria against rising debts. The Debt Management Office has said out of Nigeria’s total debt profile of N25.7tn as of June 2019, external borrowing accounts for about 32 per cent while the 68 per cent is domestic.

The President’s  financial plan was approved by the Federal Executive Council in August 2016 and sent to the 8th Assembly in September 2016.

The leadership of the federal parliament led by Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara,  invariably rejected the request in November 2016.

Buhari had asked the 8th Assembly  to approve plans to borrow the amount abroad to fund infrastructure plans from 2016 to 2018.

The President of the Senate,  Ahmad Lawan,  who read the fresh request sent by Buhari during plenary,  did not give details of the executive communication.

In the letter, dated November 26, 2019, Buhari said the 8th National Assembly approved only a part of the External Borrowing request forwarded to it in September 2016.

This, according to him, stalled the Federal Government’s implementation of critical projects spanning across the mining, power, health, agricultural, water and educational sectors.

The letter reads, “Pursuant to Section 21 and 27 of the Debt Management Office (Establishment) Act, I hereby request for Resolutions of the Senate to approve the Federal Government’s 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing plan, as well as relevant projects under this plan.

“Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that: While I had transmitted the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan to the 8th National Assembly in September, 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the Legislature.

“Only the Federal Government’s Emergency projects for the North East, (Four (4) States’ projects and one (1) China Exam Bank Assisted Railway Modernisation Projects for Lagos – Ibadan Segment) were approved, out of a total of thirty-nine (39) projects.

“The Outstanding projects in the plan that were not approved by the Legislature are, nevertheless, critical to the delivery of the Government’s policies and programmes relating to power, mining, roads, agriculture, health, water and educational sectors.

“These outstanding projects are well advanced in terms of their preparation, consistent with the 2016 Debt Sustainability Analysis undertaken by the Debt Management Office and were approved by the Federal Executive Council in August 2016 under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan.

“Accordingly, I have attached, for your kind consideration, relevant information from the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning the specific outstanding projects under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing plan for which legislative approval is currently sought.

“I have also directed the Minister to make herself available to provide any additional information or clarification which you may require to facilitate prompt approval of the outstanding projects under this plan.”

According to the President’s letter, the total cost of implementing the projects is $29.960bn consisting of a Projects and Programme loan of $11.274bn.

Others are, Special National Infrastructure Projects of $10.686bn, Euro Bonds of $4.5bn and Federal Government Budget Support of $3.5bn.

The letter also revealed that the projects and programmes were selected after positive technical economic evaluation and presumed contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.

The projects he said, would be implemented across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The President explained that it was necessary to resort to external borrowing to fund the financial gap required to address the huge infrastructural deficit in the country such as power, railway, road projects and assured lawmakers of its resolve to implement the projects in a financially sustainable manner.

The President also admitted  that the World Bank had provided the sum of $575m for the purpose of reconstructing and rehabilitating the North East.

He said the amount, which was outside the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan had been earmarked for urgent implementation in the region.

Some of the areas of intervention according to him are,  Polio Eradication support and routine immunization project- ($125m); Community and Social Development Project ($75m).

Others are the Nigeria States Health Programme Investment project ($125m); State Education Programme Investment Project ($100m); Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support Project ($100m) and the Fadama III Project ($50m).

The President therefore urged the Senate  to immediately approve the $575m grant by the World Bank to enable its immediate disbursement before further consideration and authorization of the 2016-2018 borrowing plan.

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Edo 2020: Obaseki, Seven APC Govs Seek Audience with Buhari after Meeting Tinubu

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Eight governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, on Sunday, held a meeting with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, at the state House Marina, Lagos to make a case for the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

Although details of the meeting were still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, it was gathered that the governors were at the closed-door meeting to seek Tinubu’s intervention in the search for truce in the political conflict between Obaseki and his godfather, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.

Governors who attended the meeting included the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Babajide Sanwu-Olu (Lagos), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Adeboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).

Others are Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa) and Obaseki.

Five of the governors, including Obaseki, then proceeded to Abuja, preparatory to a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

A source privy to the meeting who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said, “The governors met with our national leader, they laid their cards on the table and plainly asked for his intervention.

“They admitted that mistakes had been made especially with the governor’s refusal to pave the way for the swearing in of 14 elected APC members as members of the state Assembly.

“They also noted that the meeting ought to have held earlier and that the governor who was present at the meeting should have reached out to seek help much earlier before the situation degenerated to the level of a public spat between the governor and the national chairman.

“And being the kind of person, he is, our leader listened patiently and he is not one to rush into judgment before hearing from the other party. He will look at what is in the party’s best interest after consulting widely with other stakeholders before taking a final stand.”

The National Working Committee of the party had approved the direct primary as the mode of selecting the party’s standard bearer for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

Loyalists of the governor are opposed to the mode arguing that it was meant to frustrate his chances of standing as the party’s standard bearer.

Obaseki and his estranged political godfather have been at odds over the former’s bid for a second term in office following a long-drawn battle for the political control of the state.

Pundits accuse the governor of working with his fellow governors opposed to Oshiomhole leadership style in an earlier attempt to force Oshiomhole out of office.

A member of the party’s National Working Committee who also pleaded anonymity for fear of retribution said, “Besides the feud between Obaseki and our National Chairman, we have to consider the overall interest of our party. The best thing to do for our party in Edo is to have direct primaries. This is why; it is the best for us even without the conflict between the two leaders. The last time we did primaries even for the election of Obaseki as governor, it was direct, we have done that there before, we can only improve on it than to go and try something new. Two, if we are learning from our past mishaps like what happened in Rivers State, there were litigations over the congresses we did before and we went into indirect and we used officials whose positions were being challenged in court as delegates and when the court nullified the congresses that brought the executives, everything done was nullified, we lost the opportunity to contest the elections in Rivers State.

“There are two chairmen in Edo, we have recognized the removal of the Anselem-led exco and the matter is still in court, whichever way the court rules, we may have a problem if we use the indirect using the executives as delegates.

“Then there is the issue of COVID-19 with the protocol of social distancing. It will be easier to manage a crowd in each ward instead of bringing four to five thousand people in one place as the indirect mode will require.”

When contacted, the APC National Vice-Chairman, South South, Hilliard Eta said, “As the governing political party, the APC will continue to lead by example when it comes to giving party members the right to choose candidates.

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said, “The APC will, as always, provide a level playing field for all aspirants to pursue their legitimate aspirations in line with the constitution on our party guidelines.”

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Nigeria Coronavirus Cases Exceed 10,000 with 307 New Infections

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Nigeria’s tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday rose to 10,162 as 307 new infections were announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Fourteen deaths were recorded from the virus on Sunday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 287.

Lagos recorded the highest figure of cases reported with 188 infections. The state also remains the epicentre for the disease.

There was a decline in the number of infections reported on Sunday (307) compared to the number reported on Saturday (553).

The country on Saturday had reported the highest daily figure of infections so far yet, since the beginning of the outbreak in Nigeria.

The agency in a tweet late Sunday night said the 307 new cases were reported in 15 states. These are Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ogun, Kaduna, Oyo, Bayelsa, Gombe, Kano, Delta, Imo, Rivers, Niger, Bauchi, Plateau and Kwara.

“Till date, 10162 cases have been confirmed, 3007 cases have been discharged and 287 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” it said.

The 307 new cases are reported from 15 states – Lagos – 188, FCT – 44, Ogun – 19, Kaduna – 14, Oyo – 12, Bayelsa – 9, Gombe – 5, Kano – 3, Delta – 3, Imo – 2, Rivers – 2, Niger – 2, Bauchi – 2, Plateau – 1 and Kwara – 1.

There are 6, 868 active COVID-19 cases in the country as 3,007 people have recovered and have been discharged, with 287 deaths recorded.

A breakdown of the 10,162 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 4,943 cases, followed by Kano – 954, FCT – 660, Katsina – 364, Edo – 284, Oyo – 292, Borno – 271,Jigawa – 270, Ogun – 278, Kaduna – 258, Bauchi – 238, Rivers – 206, Gombe – 161, Sokoto – 116, Plateau – 105, Kwara – 88, Delta – 83, Zamfara – 76, Nasarawa – 62, Yobe – 52, Akwa Ibom – 45, Osun – 45, Ebonyi – 40, Adamawa – 38, Imo – 36, Kebbi – 33, Niger – 32, Ondo – 25, Ekiti – 20, Enugu – 18, Taraba – 18, Bayelsa – 12, Anambra – 11, Abia – 10, Benue – 7 and Kogi – 2.

Despite the increasing figures, many Nigerians are alleging that Nigeria is not testing enough and the figures might not reflect the true situation in the country.

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Chris Okotie Slams CAN, Condemns Social Distancing Guilelines in Churches

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The Senior Pastor of the Household of God International Ministries, Chris Okotie, on Sunday kicked against the Christian Association of Nigeria’s (CAN) proposed social distancing guidelines for churches.

Mr Okotie, who was the presidential candidate of Fresh Democratic Party, frowned at CAN’s decision to allow what he described as the ‘Idol of Coronavirus’ determine the scope of congregational worship in churches in Nigeria.

This was contained in a statement he posted on his official Facebook page.

The cleric referenced a report published in the Sun Newspaper on Sunday wherein CAN unveiled guidelines for the reopening of churches in the first week of June.

He said, “Social distancing in the Church of Jesus Christ is tantamount to blasphemous infidelity and an impeachment of the integrity of the Word of God. Healing is fundamental to the redemptive work of Jesus.

“To allow the idol of Corona Virus to determine the scope of congregational worship in the house of God is an abomination of gargantuan proportions. No true minister of the gospel will succumb to such travesty of the faith. This is a summary of my objections.

“I have sent this message hoping that you would respond as one who bears the burden of the Cross of Jesus. I have restrained myself from making a public outcry of this desecration and profanation out of respect for you and the CAN hierarchy. But be assured that this position is transient.”

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Nigeria, a ban has been placed on social and religious gatherings in the country to curb the spread of the virus.

But some Nigerian pastors have challenged the directive.

A popular pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, recently berated his colleagues, (Nigerian pastors) that complied with the government’s ban on large gatherings because of coronavirus.

Mr Oyakhilome, who is the general overseer of Believers’ Love World, popularly known as Christ Embassy, said such leaders were not true Christians as they did not ask the government for time to pray and consult with their congregation.

CAN GUIDELINES

The Christian Association of Nigeria recently expressed hope that the ban on religious gatherings in the country may be lifted by the first Sunday of June.

CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, a reverend, gave the indication in a statement.

Mr. Ayokunle said churches will disinfect their premises, as well as make provisions for alcohol sanitisers, among others.

He also suggested the use of face masks and adherence to other social distancing measures.

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