President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday justified government borrowing to finance infrastructure, asserting that his government took loans in the interest of the country to solve the dire shortfall in infrastructure.
Speaking at a virtual meeting with members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) at the State House, in Abuja, President Buhari said the country must fix its roads to save lives from soaring road accidents.
“We have so many challenges with infrastructure. We just have to take loans to do roads, rail and power, so that investors will find us attractive and come here to put their money,’’ the president said after listening to a presentation by PEAC chaired by a professor, Ayo Salami.
He regretted that the failure to provide the infrastructure for effective transportation deprived the country of its well-deserved status as the West African hub for Air cargo transportation and trans-shipment of goods.
On the issue of the economy, President Buhari noted the challenges posed by the “collapse of the oil market” and the decision of government to abide by the reduced oil production quota allocated by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“We have to accept that decision; otherwise they (Middle-East producers) can flood the market and make the product unviable. So we have cooperated with what we get. With oil, we are in a difficult situation. The politics of oil is that the less you produce, the less you earn,” he said.
President Buhari also stressed the position of agriculture in the government’s scheme to reduce joblessness and poverty.
“For us to bounce back to productivity, especially in agriculture, the unemployed with many of them uneducated had to be persuaded to go into agriculture.
‘‘If we hadn’t gone back to the lands we would have been in trouble by now. That is why we virtually stopped the importation of food thereby saving jobs and foreign exchange.”
The president also broached the issue of COVID-19 pandemic and how it necessitated the recent government policies as they relate to energy (electricity) and fuel.
He said the federal government took such decisions because it places the country above politics.
“COVID has reduced us to the same level as developed countries.
“We are lucky we went back to the land. We eat what we produce. We are doing our best to secure the country and provide infrastructure for investment to be viable in the country,” he said.
Commending the chairman and the members of the council for their patriotism and service to the nation, President Buhari pledged to continue to draw from their wisdom, knowledge and experiences as the nation deals with challenging economic times.
Earlier, Prof Salami had in his presentation highlighted the council’s recommendations on poverty reduction and stimulation of non-debt investment inflows, as promised at their last meeting.
The council recommended steps for the effective implementation of government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, as well as measures to curb poverty disparity in Nigeria.
The council promised to set out a full policy paper that would, in the first instance, stop more Nigerians from falling into poverty and thereafter, further plans on reducing the poverty headcount in the country.
The PEAC also outlined a number of measures aimed at aggressively increasing the country’s non-debt investment inflow, including measures to improve investor perception of the country and the proposed establishment of a 5 billion – 10 billion dollars investment and growth fund to invest in.
The PEAC used the opportunity of the meeting to express support and solidarity with the administration on its recent policies.
It listed the implementation of reforms encapsulated in the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 recently signed into law, the reforms in the energy sector, bringing electricity and fuel prices in line with the market, and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to merge the exchange rate of the naira versus other foreign currencies.
Obaseki Accuses FG, Finance Minister of Playing the Ostrich, APC Kicks
The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has reacted to the Nigerian government’s denial that it printed money in March to support allocations to states.
The governor said the Federal Government must act quickly to end the “current monetary rascality”.
Obaseki, on Monday had lamented the fiscal state of the nation, saying by the country was effectively broke.
“When we got FAAC for March, the federal government printed additional N50-N60 billion to top-up for us to share,” he said.
But the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Wednesday said the claim was “untrue”.
“The issue that was raised by the Edo State governor for me is very, very sad, because it is not a fact,” Mrs Ahmed claimed.
Mrs Ahmed insisted that FAAC allocation was from revenues from different agencies of the Federal Government.
“What we distribute at FAAC is a revenue that is generated and in fact distribution revenue is a public information. We publish revenue generated by FIRS, the customs and the NNPC and we distribute at FAAC. So, it is not true to say we printed money to distribute at FAAC, it is not true,” she said.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also tackled Mr Obaseki, and rejected his claim that the Nigerian economy was in a critical situation due to a huge debt burden.
“The true position is that under Obaseki’s watch, the economy of Edo is in dire straits with the governor bereft of ideas on how to get it out,” the APC said.
“The state is engulfed in a foreign debt of 300 million dollars and a domestic debt including loans from commercial banks, the capital market, and other doubtful sources, approaching N120 billion as at March, for non-existent projects,” it said.
Mr Obaseki in a tweet on Thursday said, “We believe it is our duty to offer useful advice for the benefit of our country.”
“The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, @ZShamsuna should rally Nigerians to stem the obvious fiscal slide facing our country,” the governor said.
“Rather than play the Ostrich, we urge the government to take urgent steps to end the current monetary rascality so as to prevent the prevailing economic challenge from degenerating further.
“We believe it is imperative to approach the Nigerian project with all sense of responsibility and commitment and not play to the gallery because ultimately time shall be the judge of us all.”
JUSUN Strike: Governors, Speakers, Buhari’s CoS Meet
Representatives of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies, on Thursday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, in Abuja, over the ongoing nationwide strike of judiciary workers.
Speaking with State House reporters at the end of the meeting which held at Mr Gambari’s office at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who is also the Deputy Chair of the NGF, appealed to the striking workers to call off their strike in the interest of the nation.
The governors along with the Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, had earlier postponed a meeting scheduled to be held with the leadership of the striking workers indefinitely on Thursday.
Judiciary workers had embarked on the indefinite nationwide strike on April 6 in protest against the denial of the judiciary of financial autonomy especially by state level.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Tambuwal told reporters that the governors had met with the speakers and the Chief Judges of various states, and would continue to engage the leadership of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria over the strike
“We’ve just finished talking to the Speakers, and indeed the State Chief Judges, and the Judiciary, to continue to engage and the Minister of Labour is also engaging with the striking bodies to appeal to them, to appreciate the fact that we have made progress.
“We’re appealing to them in the interest of this country, they should call off the strike”, he said.
According to the governor, a lot of progress had been made in the negotiations and hopefully the matter would be put to rest by next week.
“We’re here with the chairman and leadership of the Speakers’ Conference. The Solicitor General of the Federation, and SSA to Mr President on Niger Delta, who has been a member of the Technical Committee on the implementation of the autonomy of state legislatures and the judiciary.
“Together with the Chief of Staff to the President, we have just finished a meeting on how to put finishing touches and dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, on the final implementation of the financial autonomy of the state legislatures and the judiciary.
“We have made reasonable progress and we have agreed, after receiving the final report of the technical committee, to meet on Monday, because of the urgency of the matter and finally, resolve whatever issues are there,” he said.
He also expressed the commitment of those in leadership positions to build viable institutions for the country.
“Well, I can assure you that all of us are committed to building institutions, particularly our parliaments and the judiciary in our respective states, as democratically elected governors, and we are doing whatever it takes to make sure that the issues are resolved.
“As I told you before, some of the issues are constitutional and when matters have to do with the constitution, you have to be sure of what you’re doing that you’re actually following the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Tambuwal said the governors had always been in support of the autonomy of state legislature and judiciary.
He added, “From the very beginning, during the 8th Assembly, under the leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Dogara, the NGF under Abdulaziz Yari then, met with them and supported the financial autonomy for the state legislatures and the judiciary.
“And that is why with that support, we were able to achieve the passage of this amendment by the National Assembly and the state legislatures across the country.
“So, the governors are unequivocally in support of the autonomy of these institutions.’’
JUSUN had scaled up its battle for financial autonomy after it obtained a court judgment affirming the constitutional provisions granting financial autonomy to the judiciary in January 2014.
In their bid to ensure compliance with the judgment, the workers embarked on a protracted three weeks nationwide strike in January 2015.
They had called off the strike after governors and other stakeholders made commitments to meet workers’ demands, pledges that were largely jettisoned.
London Trip: When is Buhari Due Back As Two Weeks Expire?
By Eric Elezuo
On March 30, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari left the shores for Nigeria for London, where he was supposedly gone for medical attention. He had described the trip as specifically for a ‘short rest’ in a letter to Abdullah ll Bin Al-Hussein, the king of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan.
Earlier on March 29, Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, had notified Nigerians in a tweet that Buhari will proceed “to London, the United Kingdom, Tuesday, March 30, 2021, for a routine medical check-up.”
Before departing Nigeria, Shehu said Buhari will meet with Security Chiefs first in the morning, after which he will embark on the journey. He did.
The presidential spokesman disclosed that Buhari “is due back in the country during the second week of April 2021” and gave no specific date for Buhari’s return to Nigeria.
However, two weeks after the president embarked on the journey, he is still out there in London, and no one seems to much about what is happening with the president.
A day after the president arrived at the Abuja House in London, he was persecuted by avalanche of protests from Nigerians resident in England, and led by activist, Reno Omokri. They had said that their intention was to drive Buhari to Nigeria, where he had expressed insensitivity even as the health system in the country is in comatose, and the doctors were embarking on strike.
Omokri and his co-travellers’ argument has been hinged on why Buhari will leave the nation’s health sector in a mess, and travel to another’s country to seek medical care. The protests have been sustained, leading to the emergence of pro-Buhari/government protesters to counter the protests.
It will be recalled that some major cabinet decisions have been taken even as the president is absent. The decisions and pronouncements were however, credited to him. Top of such decisions was the immediate removal of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and replaced by Usman Baba.
This is not the first time Mr President will stay beyond his advertised period of London trips which is in its 12th time since he assumed office in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, while addressing newsmen on Wednesday failed to disclose the exact date President Muhammadu Buhari would return to Nigeria. The Minister was of the view that second week of April as announced before the President’s departure has not ended. He insisted that the timeframe extends to Saturday, April 17.
When he travelled on March 30, the presidency had said he will return during the second week of April 2021.
There is “no big issue” yet regarding Buhari’s expected return, the Minister had told correspondents.
“Today is Wednesday, this week finishes on Saturday. So, what’s the big issue in that one?” he defended.
While Nigerians expect the president’s return by the ‘second week of April’, which technically ends on Saturday, according to Lai Mohammed, it is imperative to note that any extension will raise eyebrows as is currently happening.
The Boss Newspaper