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Finance Minister Presents N250bn Sukuk Cheque to Fashola, Akpabio, Bello

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By Joseph Amah, Abuja

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs.  Zainab Ahmed has handed the N250 billion 2021 Sukuk proceeds to the Ministers of Works and Housing, M r.Babatunde Fashola, Federal Capital Territory, Alh. Mohammed Bello and Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akapbio, for the implementation of various road projects, across the country.


The N250 billion was realized from the Sovereign Sukuk which was issued by the Debt Management Office (DMO), on behalf of the federal government, in December, 2021, as part of the Domestic Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act.


Last year’s N250 billion was the fourth in the series which began in 2017, with the total amount raised through Sukuk now standing at N612.

557 billion.  All have been applied to road infrastructure.
Out of the current N250 billion, Works and Housing received N 210. 56 billion; FCT, N29 billion; while Niger Delta got N10. 43 billion.   
In her address, Mrs. Ahmed disclosed that with today’s releases of N250 billion, total 2021 capital release stood at N3.65 trillion, representing 80 percent of the N4.56 trillion capital budget for last year.


She said, “This N250 billion will be released as part of the 2021 capital expenditure in the 2021 appropriation Act which has been extended by the National Assembly to March 31, 2022.
So with this additional N250 billion, the total capital releases will now move to N3.65 trillion representing 80 percent of the capital appropriation for 2021.
The Director-General of the DMO, Ms. Patience Oniha said, “The introduction of Sukuk as a source of raising funds for the government has improved road infrastructure across the six geo-political zones.  As you travel each time, it is impossible to travel up to 200 km or 300 km and not see a Sukuk road and even in some cities, as well.


“The acceptance of Sukuk by investors and the verifiable evidence as a means of financing roads has encouraged some state governments to also issue Sukuk, at the sub-national level.”
According to her, the symbolic presentation of the cheque was an indication that the federal government was ready to run with the projects to be funded with the proceeds, as the money was ready for utilization.
She said, “The Sukuk is tied to the development of road infrastructure which is very closely aligned with the strategic objectives of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari .  Needless to say , improvement in infrastructure, because of the multiplier effects it has, is accepted as one of the best ways of creating jobs, supporting and attracting new businesses and promoting overall growth and development.
Mr. Fashola commended the DMO for the Sukuk initiative, which was heavily criticized by some members of the public who alleged that the administration was adopting it to islamise Nigeria.
I think some calm came when we explained that the first N100 billion was going to be applied equally to all the six zones of Nigeria, meaning that each zone was going to get about N16. 6 billion and that any zone that felt that it was an attempt to islamise Nigeria should indicate that they don’t want the funds and that was the beginning of our journey.
He described the Sukuk option as a method of Public Private Partnership (PPP) that has become successful in the country.
According to the minister, “The first Sukuk of N100 billion was deployed to 25 roads and it delivered a total of N482 km; the second Sukuk in 2018 was deployed to 28 roads and it delivered a total of 643 km ; the third 2020, of N162 billion was deployed to 44 roads and delivered  757 km.  Many of these roads had been awarded before we came but were not funded.  Each year Sukuk came we were told the number of km that we must deliver with this money.   
“Part of the impact is that it created jobs for 97 construction and contraction companies “who are keeping people at work; who are demanding supplies of diesel, bitumen, asphalt and that is how the money is moving round the economy.
“When you pass any of these roads, say a prayer for DMO, say a prayer for the Ministry of Finance and say a prayer for the members of the National Assembly, because in government, nobody can do it alone.”
The Minister of the FCT, expressed gratitude that Abuja was allocated N29 billion from the N250 billion proceeds in order to fund six on-going road projects.
According to him, Sukuk has become a veritable means of funding infrastructure projects with private funds.
He assured that with the completion of those roads, the current traffic challenges in the FCT would ease significantly.
The Managing Director of Setraco Nigeria Limited, Engr. Ziad Mouannes, who spoke on behalf of the contractors pledged a judicious utilization of the funds.

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PenCom Recovers N25.45bn from Defaulting Employers in 11 Years

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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.

93 billion and penalties totalling N12.
52 billion in about 11 years.

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.

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FCTA Shuts Illegal Orphanage over Alleged Trafficking of 23 Children

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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.

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NARTO Strike Causes Fuel Scarcity in Abuja

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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.

The Conoil filling station along the Zuba-Kubwa expressway had long queues.

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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