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NASS Passes N8.916tn Budget, Proposes N23.7bn for Lawmakers’ Severance

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The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill, raising the size by about N17bn from the N8.83tn proposed by the Executive to N8.916tn, with N23.7bn earmarked for lawmakers’ severance gratuities and allowances.

The key components of the budget, as passed by the parliament, include N502,058,892,965 for statutory transfers, against the N492.36bn proposed; N2,254,014,113,092 for debt service, against the proposed N2.14tn; N4,055,940,383,684 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, against the proposed N4.04tn.

Although a sinking fund of N120bn was proposed for the retirement of maturing bonds to local contractors, the lawmakers approved N110bn.

While the sum of N2.031tn (including capital supplementation but excluding the capital component of statutory transfers) was proposed, the lawmakers approved N2,094,950,709,632 “for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2019.”

The Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations, in their reports considered concurrently by the chambers, had recommended a total budget estimate of N8,906,964,099,373.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, resolved to add N10bn to the Service Wide Vote for the rehabilitation of Zamfara State over the destructions caused by bandits in the North-West state.

The lawmakers also raised the amounts voted to other items in the budget, raising the total proposed amount of N8,826,636,578,915 to N8,916,964,099,373, a difference of about N90.3bn.

A close observation of the estimates passed by the House showed that under Statutory Transfers, the National Assembly raised its budget from the proposed N125bn to N128bn. The legislature got N139.5bn appropriation in 2018.

Under Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, N1bn was voted for severance benefits to retired heads of government agencies and parastatals, and N2.3bn for the entitlements of former Presidents/Heads of State, Vice-Presidents and Chiefs of General Staff.

Also, about N23.7bn will be spent on “severance gratuity for outgoing legislators and legislative aides, allowances for incoming legislators and legislative aides, and induction programme/inauguration of the Ninth Assembly.”

The sum of N22,682,832,166 was appropriated for the payment of outstanding terminal benefits of Nigerian Airways’ ex-workers.

Operation Lafiya Dole and other special operations by the Armed Forces got N75bn.

Under the executive sub-column, the Presidency will get N430.8bn for recurrent and N18bn for capital expenditures.

Earlier during consideration of the bill at the House, a member from Kano State, Mr Damburam Nuhu, noted the large amount allocated to the Office of the National Security Adviser as against what came to sections of the National Assembly. He said it was important for Nigerians to note that one office got as much as N86bn.

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Financial Inclusion: FirstBank Promotes Virtual Bank Account Opening

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that it has reinforced its technology infrastructure to enable anyone in the country open a FirstBank account through their mobile phones, without visiting any of its branches nationwide.

The investment in the Bank’s mobile banking infrastructure is in furtherance of the need to deepen financial inclusion in the country, enabling account opening to be carried out on its *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile (self-service telephone banking), its website – www.firstbanknigeria.com – as well as the Bank’s staff, through the Direct Sales Executive (DSE) application installed on their mobile phone, ATMs and the bank’s over 55,000 FirstMonie Agents spread across the country. Opening an account with FirstBank through any of these means is seamless, convenient, fast, and user-friendly.

The DSE App is an end to end encrypted mobile application installed on the phone(s) of FirstBank staff which enables them to open an account for to-be customers. Upon the completion of the account opening process via the DSE App, the customer is notified of his or her account number through a text message on the mobile phone used to register the account.

With FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking, various banking activities are carried out on a mobile phone – across the four major GSM network operators in the country – without the use of the internet. To open an account via this means, dial *894# then select ‘open an account’ to provide the information required or by simply dialling *894*0#. The Bank currently has over 9.5 million of its nearly 20 million customers on its USSD banking platform.

The FirstMonie Agent Banking is an agent banking initiative from the bank that is designed to take banking closer to people, thereby bridging the gap between the banked and unbanked. FirstMonie is a channel through which various banking activities like FirstBank account opening, funds transfer, bill payments, data and call credit recharge services, amongst others are carried out. The Agent Banking initiative has also contributed to reducing poverty, being responsible for the indirect employment of over 150,000 people across the country.

According to Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, “beyond opening an account in any of our over 700 branches, we are delighted with the investments at reinventing our business processes over the years, especially with the use of technology. This has been critical to staying relevant in the industry for over 126 years and being the financial partner of the first choice to all our customers and Nigerians, irrespective of where they are.”

Creating these virtual ways of opening a bank account with us – thus; the staff DSE App, ATMs, FirstMonie Agents, *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile and our website – reinforces our resolve to ensure that more Nigerians and residents have access to banking, especially through our state of the art financial services and we remain resolute to being the key to banking, enabling business and financial activities that would continue to propel the country’s economic growth and development.

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Just In: FG Reduces Petrol Pump Price to N121.50

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The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency has announced a new pump price band of N121.50 to N123.50 per litre for Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol.

The PPPRA, which is an agency of the Federal Government, disclosed this in a circular to fuel marketers dated May 31, 2020, which was obtained by our correspondent on Monday.

The sharp drop in crude oil prices on the back of the spread of coronavirus saw the landing cost of petrol hitting a record low in March, wiping off subsidy on the product.

The pump price of petrol, which is still being regulated by the Federal Government, was reduced to N125 per litre from N145 per litre on March 18, 2020, effective March 19.

The PPPRA further announced on March 31 a price band of N123.50 to N125 per litre, effective April 1.

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Buhari Writes Reps for Another $5.513bn Loan

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President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the House of Representatives to request for the approval of fresh external borrowings totaling $5.513bn.

Buhari, in the letter read by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the plenary on Thursday, said the funds were for 2020 budget deficit, financing of critical projects, and some states of the federation.

The President also presented a revised 2020 Appropriation Bill and 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The National Assembly had recently approved a loan of N850bn for the Federal Government, while another of $22.79bn, which the Senate has already approved, is pending before the House.

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