From Attah Ede, Makurdi
Benue State Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia on Saturday, said his administration would soon commence full construction of rural roads across the local government areas of the State to ease transportation challenges facing people especially farmers in conveying their farm produce to the markets.
He stated this during the funeral mass of His Royal Highness (HRH), the Tor Sankara, Abu King Shuluwa held at Saint Gerald’s Majella Cathedral, Katsina-Ala, Benue State.
Governor Alia assured that the ongoing construction of Makurdi township roads would be completed before Easter for the contractor to move to other Local Government Areas of the State.
He disclosed that the Makurdi-Gboko, Yandev-Ugbema-Katsina Ala, Yandev-Buruku crossing point and Kastina-Ala-Wukari highways have been captured in the 2024 budget, stating that he would continue to press on the Minister of Works, Senator Dave Umahi to commence work on the road projects already earmarked by federal government for construction in the state.
Earlier, in his sermon, Catholic Bishop of Katsina-Ala Diocese, Most Reverend Isaac Dugu, called on traditional leaders and other stakeholders in the State to join hands with those in Sankera axis to end banditry, kidnappings and other forms of criminality in the area.
Bishop Dugu urged the Tor Tiv, King Makers and the Governor to ensure that those who would be selected to fill the vacant stool of Ter Katsina-Ala and Tor Sankera are of proven integrity and fear of God.
Also in his funeral oration, Sen. Emmanuel Udende, the Senate Committee Chairman on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, representing Benue North East (APC) described Chief Shuluwa as a forthright king.
He said the late monarch never harboured negative feelings against people as always true to resolve any supposed impasse with people he encountered.
On the insecurity in Sankera, Sen Udende, reiterated the call that the teething problem was everyone’s responsibility to tackle and called for a roundtable discussion.
Sen Udende disclosed that the late monarch nurtured his political life.
In her vote of thanks, wife of the Tor Sankara, Chief Mrs. Lady Elizabeth Shuluwa, said in a build up to the burial of her husband, the late king, she received series of calls and messages from the group of militia in Sankara axis, demanding for the burial program.
“I don’t know how they got my phone number, and they keep pressuring me to release the program.
“They told me that my late husband Tor Sankara, late chief Abu King Shuluwa was their king and was very nice to them and they wanted to be part of the event and provide support, hence my husband was very close to them and gave them fatherly love.
“I then became perplexed because I don’t know any of them in person and how to get the program to them was my worry. I pleaded with them and they agreed. Therefore, the governor must do something about the insecurity situation in the Sankara axis. My husband did his best to address the situation,” Lady Shuluwa said.
PenCom Recovers N25.45bn from Defaulting Employers in 11 Years
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The National Pension Commission (PenCom) has successfully recovered a total sum of successfully recovered a total of N25.45 billion in unremitted pension contributions from defaulting employers between the years 2012 and 2023.
This substantial amount encompasses the principal contributions of N12.
The disclosure was made by the Head of Corporate Communications of PenCom, Mr Ibrahim Buwai during the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) Annual General Meeting held in Abuja at the weekend.
Buwai highlighted the importance of the Pension Reforms Act, noting that the legislation mandates penalties for late remittances, accruing interest at a rate of 2% per month.
He emphasised the nearly equal distribution between recovered principal contributions and penalties, underscoring the comprehensive efforts to enforce compliance.
He said: “From the inception of these recovery agents’ programmes in 2012 to December 31, 2023, the principal contributions that were recovered were about N12.9 billion while the penalty was about N12.5 billion.
“So, you can see that it’s almost 50-50. All this is what has been recovered from employers and paid into RSAs. The good thing is that all this penalty and principal goes into the individual RSA account.
“Nobody takes a penny, not PFAs, not PenCom, nobody. All these money recovered were for RSA holders and it goes into RSA. What you can help us by way of employers is that it is not in their interests not to remit because it is cheaper to remit than not to remit.”
Addressing Compliance Challenges
PenCom’s recovery efforts are not without challenges. Buwai pointed out two major issues: employers failing to remit pension contributions and the lack of proper schedules accompanying remittances to Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), which hampers the allocation of funds to RSA holders.
PenCom has taken proactive measures to combat these issues, including publicising a list of uncredited remittances and urging concerned parties to ensure compliance.
Buwai said, “We have the issue of employers not remitting. The second issue is that employers remitted but if there is no company schedule that shows the employers that these monies belong to Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), they cannot apportion to RSA holders.
“We are not happy and that is why in 2023, we put out a statement on it and on our website, we have a long list of remittances that we saw were uncredited, calling on the people concerned to come forward and make sure the remittances are done.”
Ensuring Pension Fund Safety
Reiterating PenCom’s commitment to the safety of pension funds, Buwai assured that the regulatory body maintains strict guidelines to safeguard pension assets. These guidelines are meticulously designed to protect pension funds against potential investment risks.
He said:, “We are not wavering, we have not made it lax or easy. All those stringent guidelines that were thoroughly outlined so that pension funds might be protected in the event that these investment instruments might be available – those stringent requirements remain.
“All we know is that if the pension funds are available, pension funds managers will review and take their decisions.
“I have to also clarify that PenCom does not partake in investment issues on the pension funds.
“All we do as regulators is that we set out general guidelines as contained in our investment regulations.”
The diligent efforts of PenCom to recover unremitted pension contributions reflect its unwavering commitment to protecting employees’ retirement savings and ensuring employers adhere to regulatory obligations.
FCTA Shuts Illegal Orphanage over Alleged Trafficking of 23 Children
By Laide Akinboade, Abuja
Mandate Secretary of the FCT Women Affairs Secretariat, Mrs Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi on Monday revealed that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has sealed off an orphanage in Karanmajigi, the Priesthood Orphanage after 23 children, aged one to 14 were trafficked from Plateau State.
Benjamins-Laniyi stated this at a press conference in Abuja, where she said that the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike had authorised the secretariat to profile and recertify orphanages operating within the FCT.
According to the Mandate Secretary, “There is no question, yesterday, with immediate effect, that ‘home’ was sealed, shut down.
“We have the name of the proprietor of the orphanage home, but we are not naming names now for obvious reasons.
“When the entire material investigation is concluded, there will be an official gazetted presentation of the facts, the findings and the delivery of this intervention we’ve started here today.
“NAPTIP, as we speak is already on it. Using this as an example, one of the first things I have done is to get approval for the recertification of orphanage homes in Abuja.
“The minister has approved that there should be a full thorough reprofiling of anything that has to do with orphanage and recertification status of all orphanages in Abuja.”
She noted that the Women’s Secretariat was already working with the office of the Commissioner of Women Affairs of Plateau State to reunite the children with their families, some of whom she said had been at the uncertified orphanage for five years, since 2019.
“We are working with the Plateau State government to reunite the children that I had earlier mentioned by name and by age, with their families in Plateau State. This is a transition arrangement,” she said.
The Plateau State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Caroline Dafur narrated that the proprietors of the orphanage home abandoned the children at the orphanage, under the care of one Pastor Abraham, in a terrible condition of hunger.
Three of the children had then escaped and were discovered by officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who reported the case to NAPTIP and took the children to the Human Rights Radio, who then notified the Plateau State government and the FCT Women’s Secretariat.
“We came in yesterday and on reaching here, we were told that they went to church.
We kept going from one church to another, looking for them until we found them in a Deeper Life Church, where we were able to pick them up, and we went to the home. We saw the place, in fact, it is not supposed to be called a home.
“The place is just so unkempt. I wonder how the children were sleeping in the small room.
“Nine girls were sleeping in a very small room with just two mattresses. And then for the boys, they were in a small room too, with two mattresses just on the floor.
“And I mean, it’s so pathetic the way human beings treat human beings in this country,” Dafur explained.
She expressed the displeasure of the Plateau State government, while appreciating the Mandate Secretary for the assistance in evacuating the children and relocating them to the Karu Childrens’ Home.
NARTO Strike Causes Fuel Scarcity in Abuja
By Laide Akinboade, Abuja
Many fillings stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were on Monday shut down, leading to long queues by motorists at the few outlets that were dispensing petrol.
Operators in the downstream oil sector confirmed that the development was due to the suspension of operations by the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), in fulfilment of their threat to down tools beginning from Monday.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) filling station on Arab Road in Kubwa, Abuja, was closed on Monday morning.
NNPCL retail outlet in the Central Business District of Abuja also had very long queues on Monday morning, as many other stations run by independent marketers closed shop due to the halt in the transportation of petroleum products by NARTO members.
On the airport road, all the filling stations on the corridor were not dispensing.
It was reported that the Federal Government had ordered oil marketers to negotiate with NARTO to avert the planned suspension of operations by it members.
The report stated that oil marketers and the executives of NARTO met about six times in between Saturday and Sunday, following the declaration of the petroleum products’ transporters to halt operations.
It also stated that the Federal Government through the downstream regulator and the petroleum ministry would meet with NARTO members, as well as other parties today (Monday) in Abuja to sort out the issues.
NARTO had vowed to stop lifting petroleum products beginning from today (Monday) due to the high cost of operations.
NARTO members have repeatedly raised concern over the high cost of diesel required to power their trucks for the transportation of petroleum products across the country.
Oil marketers had lamented that diesel price was between N1,250 to N1,400/litre depending on the area of purchase.
NARTO’s President, Yusuf Othman, had in a statement he issued in Abuja on Thursday, said the statement was an official announcement from the association’s headquarters that members of the group would park their trucks from Monday.
“Why? It is because what we spend on operations is more than what we get in total, both in local and bridging,” he stated.
While the tanker operators insisted that the suspension of operations was still in force, it was, however, gathered on Monday that the meeting between them and the Federal Government was ongoing at the time of filing this report.
This, according government sources, was aimed at halting the suspension of operations by NARTO in order to avert a nationwide scarcity of fuel.
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