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Oshiomhole to FG: Don’t Use PENCOM Funds to Finance Budget Deficits

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APC Chairman, Adam Oshiomohole
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  • Urges President to rejig security apparatus
  • We’ll consolidate on our achievements – Buhari 

By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole on Wednesday, warned against the use of Pension Commission’s(PENCOM) funds to tackle budget deficits, since it was meant to address the critical issues of the masses who contributed the money.

 

The APC National Chairman said this in a remark at the first Presidential Policy Retreat organized by the APC administration.

 

Oshiomhole, therefore, called for a complete overhaul of the President’s economic policies to address inequalities and tackle poverty.

Oshiomhole who lamented that poverty has continued to ravaged Nigerians despite efforts by the current administration to address the scourge, urged governments to stop the use of PENCOM funds as stop gap measures to fund budget deficits and facility for infrastructure development by both Federal and State governments.

President Muhammadu Buhari had declared the retreat open.

Oshiomhole also called for rejig of security architecture in the country. 

He urged the retreat to brainstorm towards getting practical solutions to the problems facing Nigeria. 

On corruption, he urged the government to effectively plug leakages with all the Ministries Departments and Agencies reviewing ‘how’s to achieve it. 

Oshiomhole also recommended long term national economy plan to replace the current Economic Growth and Recovery Plan. 

Acknowledging that so much progress has been made in the past four years in the fight against corruption, economy and security, he said there were still huge challenges and room for improvement. 

“The logic behind introducing the pension scheme under PENCOM, was that the workers’ social capital that they deducted every month which they would not need to draw on until they retire about 30 years  or 35 years later, provide a basis for long term fund,” he explained.

Oshiomhole while speaking further, said: Happily, PENCOM has generated over five to six trillion naira since it commenced operation. Unfortunately, the money is borrowed by government both federal and state and unfortunately it is not available to address the social purpose of the working people whose contributions the pension fund evolved. 

“I asked our expert to recognize that the primary purpose of the workers social capital is that it would be creatively managed and deployed to workers social needs including housing, education and all the other factors. 

“It wasn’t meant to fund government’s deficit, it wasn’t meant to support federal government deficit it was meant to address the primary social purpose of those who work, so that they are sure that by the time they finished their employment that they are retired, they have a modest home to retire to. 

“I think we must visit these issues, address them because this President if he has opposition he is among the rich, if he has supporters he is among the poor. The poor people’s money must be used to addressed the critical challenges of the poor. 

“May God drive our thoughts, our processes and rejig everything so that at the end of the day, those people would say yes sai Baba! We elected him, we trusted him and he has delivered.” he said 

On the economy, he noted that there is the challenge of high rate of poverty in spite of all the efforts and in spite of coming out of recession.

He also pointed out that the rate of economic growth is still far less than the rate of population growth. 

“If our economic growth rate is still lower than the rate of population growth poverty would remain endemic. On the economy, there is the challenge of high rate of poverty, inequality, access to credit and mortgage. 

“Mr President, I know deep in your heart and assessing the basis of our campaign the issue of inequality is primary. We don’t just want to grow the economy, create more wealth, we are also interested in who is benefiting from this wealth and what policy instruments are required to ensure that inequality is addressed and that the average Nigerian people particularly the masses that constitutes the electorate, benefit from the fruit of growth.”

This, he said, will require a review of access to credit and access to mortgage, unemployment, low level of manufacturing cost and the need for diversification of the economy.

He said there is also need to increase revenue, block leakages and ensure budgets deliver services to the citizens. 

He added “I am happy that the National Assembly is here because part of the challenges we have faced over the past five years, is that even though we had control in terms of membership of the National Assembly but we had our budgets been passed five months into the new year. 

“Even that fact alone by itself explained challenges at the level of execution of budget.”

On anti corruption, Oshiomhole said “I believe that we can commendably beat our chests as to the extent to which we have gone in implementing our anti-corruption war but there is need to ensure that our range of actions covers prevention – that is system, involvement of the Nigerian citizens, the society, and the prosecution of offenders. 

“There are many who have said that we should not just pursue corruption, we should deal with how to even prevent it. Many wondered how can a salary earner who desire to have a house but who is paid in 30 days interval where they are paid regularly and he earns a million a month that is even to put the number generously. How can he own a house, if a house cost as much as 10 million naira?” he queried 

Stressing that the banking system is not delivery to the ordinary people, adding access to credit remained a major issue. 

“Let me share my own ignorance, I am unable to understand for example as a worker why in Europe when they are in economic recession they reduce their interest rate, in Nigeria when we are in recession we increase our interest rate. How do we price money at such level and expect that the ordinary people can borrow to set up businesses? 

“We do need practical solutions beyond theories. We need to re-examining our condition what we saw different from what we see elsewhere in the world. 

“If you want to buy a car Mr President, you must have twenty million to pay cash, to have twenty million to pay cash if you are not a big businessman it cannot possibly come from a legitimate salary given the known salary structure in the Nigerian public sector and even the disclosed portion of the Nigerian private sector. 

“So if people desire to buy a car and the banking system is not open to credit the only way is to steal in order to purchase. But we have all travelled round the world, ten percent is enough to own a car if you have  verifiable job and a banking history and you pay in installment, month by month until you deferred the car. 

“As a worker you know the benefit of that if you don’t work and you are fired that car would be recovered by insurance company or whoever is the lender. 

So we do need to review all of these so that in dealing with corruption, we deal with the preventive part. 

“This retreat should critically review our achievements in the first term and map out strategy for the second term. What we  hope to achieve in this Next Level Agenda is clear – challenges, how it should be done. This is why I want to challenge us to look at the following issues amongst others.” he said 

Oshiomhole went on “The need for a long term national development plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which is expected to end in the next few years. 

“The need to improve our revenue through blocking leakages and ensuring that every revenue agency remits to the federation account what is due in a timely manner. 

“Of course, in this we must commend the President for introducing the Treasury Single Account (TSA). But as operators would tell you this policy is there but we must improve our strategy to ensure that leakages that are still there are effectively blocked. 

“So the issue is how? The need for every ministry, departments and agencies to have a strategy plan to review the question of how because to be honest, everybody knows what is wrong. Even more importantly everybody knows what we ought to do, the challenge is one word – how? 

“We know we have a huge number of unemployed people we know there is a need to have them back to work but the question is how?

So the need to put an effective coordinating mechanism to ensure policy coherence and coordination between arms and tiers of government. 

“We need to radically change the budget contents, we need to do everything possible to reduce the recurrent expenditure from the current 70 percent and increase the budgetary allocation to the four sectors that are part of the life of citizens. Namely the health sector, education, agriculture, infrastructure. 

“The more money we spend on recurrent, the less that is available for these critical areas.

It is not acceptable that we spend 80 percent on recurrent and we have some of our children in some states being taught under the tree even during this raining season. 

“There is need for radical decisions to change this so that those millions of poor people who we saw across the states who fanatically believe in the person of our president and through the president, connect with our party, we must put appropriate policies in place to ensure that at the end of the day we can measure how all of the things we have done or we are going to do at the end of the four years has impact on their quality of lives. 

“We need to implement anticorruption strategy in a comprehensive manner that would evolve the system, society and sanction.”

On security architecture, he said “The need to rejig the security apparatus and operational use community policing which is already being discussed but I think we need to go into the specific on the issue of “how.” 

“Because every minute, every second is going as a party founded on the philosophy of social democracy we need to expand programmes that touch on the lives of such as the social housing, social investment programme, access to public healthcare, access to public education and support to small scale industries.” he said.

“The outcomes of this Policy Dialogue will be wholly advisory and implementation will be left to the federal machinery of Government.” he said 

Those at the retreat included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn. 

State governors included those of Kebbi, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Imo, Bauchi, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Lagos. 

President Buhari, while declaring the retreated open, noted that his administration came into office in 2015 at a period of economic recession following sharp drop in the global oil price and years of economic and financial mismanagement.

He maintained that his administration would consolidate on the successes achieved in his first term.

The president said his administration restored economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves through various monetary and fiscal measures.

He said that his administration has witnessed eight quarters of consistent marginal growth of the economy over the past two and a half years.

“We have made progress in the agricultural sector especially in food production and processing through our Food Security and Anchors Borrowers Programmes, which provide concessionary credit facilities to farmers in crop production as well as large-scale investors in food processing and manufacturing.

“To consolidate on these and other successes, we will continue to provide incentives that will facilitate investments and create jobs in key import substitution programmes.

“In line with the “Next Level Strategy” of our party, the All Progressives Congress, which seeks to consolidate on our achievements over the past four years, this policy dialogue session has been conceived to; “Advise the government over the next four years to deliver on our promises in a manner that reflects true changes to the livelihood of the people.

“Discuss and propose for Federal Government’s approval, key strategies and high impact initiatives to stimulate economic growth and development.”

Concerted effort, he said, requires the convergence of various stakeholders cutting across the private sector, developmental partners, industry experts to dialogue and forge a way forward.

He said his administration is committed to consolidating the successes of the first term and creating an avenue where the Nation’s investments and resources are geared towards sustainable development. 

“We will implement structures that will accelerate speedy execution of these initiatives.

Economy

We Currently have $30bn Investment Commitments – FG

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The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite, says Nigeria currently has about 30 billion dollars investment committment from various investors.

Uzoka-Anite said this at the ongoing Ministerial Media briefing in Abuja on Friday.

According to her, the commitments will be redeemed over the course of five to eight years.

She said investments, commitments, and pledges were also received from our oil and gas free zone, adding that last week, some of them committed an additional 10 billion dollars in investments.

“I hosted the managing director of SHELL who explained to me about the investment plans of shell.

“ I know a lot of us are aware that shell is leaving; he came to explain to me what they mean by that.

And I can tell you that they are not leaving.

“Rather, they are expanding and increasing their investments in Nigeria; they are selling their onshore assets and increasing their investment in gas and offshore assets.” she said.

Uzoka-Anite, who envisaged more investments into the country, said  it would not have been possible without the commitment of President Bola Tinubu led administration.

She said that with increased investments comes job opportunities and economic growth, which wss part of the priority of the government. (NAN)

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Economy

Nigerian Breweries Records N106bn Loss in 2023

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Nigerian Breweries Plc has recorded a net loss of N106 billion for the year ended 2023, as against N13.93 billion posted in its 2022 financials, indicating 860 per cent loss.

Mr Uaboi Agbebaku, Company Secretary, Nigerian Breweries stated this in the audited financial result of the company for the year ended 2023 sent to the Nigerian Exchange Ltd.

(NGX)

Agbebaku said the gross profit of the company for the year under review also fell by 0.

3 percent to N212.5 billion, compared to N213.20 billion posted in the previous year.

He stated that the operating profit of the company declined by 15.

3 per cent to 45 billion, as against N53 billion recorded in the corresponding year.

The company secretary said that the firm recorded loss in its operating profit due to higher input cost and one-off reorganisation cost despite strong and aggressive cost savings and other efficiency measures.

According to him, the company however was able to grow its revenue by nine per cent to N599 billion, compared to N551 billion posted in the previous year, which was aided by positive price mix.

Agbebaku stated that the Nigeria business landscape experienced significant shifts in 2023, with substantial impact on businesses and livelihoods nationwide.

He explained that the Naira notes redesign which resulted in cash shortage that severely hampered social and economic activities nationwide set the tone for a turbulent year.

Agbebaku said: “High double-digit inflation rates with food inflation at more than 30 per cent and removal of subsidy on fuel.

“Coupled with the impact of the devaluation of the naira which resulted in a foreign exchange loss of N153 billion further exacerbated the already difficult environment for the populace and businesses.

“In a difficult operating environment, the Board will ensure that the company builds on its more than 77 years’ experience of operating in Nigeria to cope with current realities.

He said the company would continue to be resilient and forward-thinking, leveraging on its broad portfolio, strong supply chain footprint and passionate workforce to drive long-term value creation for its shareholders and other stakeholders.(NAN)

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Economy

NDLEA Tincan Command Intercepted 876.453kg Illicit Drugs, others in 2023-Commander

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 The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Tincan Special Area Command,  says 876.453 kilograms of various illicit drugs and controlled substances were intercepted in 2023.

Commander Mohammed Abubakar of the command said this in a statement in Lagos on Thursday.

He listed the drugs as cocaine worth 24kg; Canabis – 852.

45KG; and Tramadol – 0.
003KG, all totalling 876.
453KG.

According to Abubakar, a total of 15 individuals were arrested and prosecuted during the period, out of which 10  were convicted.

He added that the feat was achieved through relentless efforts and meticulous investigation, which led to the dismantling of several drug trafficking networks and the subsequent prosecution of individuals involved.

“The Tincan special area command has been at the forefront of strategic operations in the area, targeting illicit drug smuggling activities and apprehending those responsible.

“In recent months, the efforts have culminated in multiple successful seizures and arrests, emphasising the agency’s commitment to eradicating drug-related crimes within our society.

“In one operation carried out at the Tincan port, a notable seizure of illicit drugs (Cannabis Indica also called Colorado) totalling 161.5kg was made, along with sum of 22,900 dollars offered as bribe to officers.

“The intercepted drugs, were concealed within cargo shipments of used vehicles from Montreal Canada, indicating the ingenuity of the involved drug traffickers,” he said.

Abubakar said that several investigations were conducted in collaboration with national and international law enforcement agencies, leading to the identification and apprehension of some of the key players in these drug networks.

The NDLEA boss noted that the combined efforts proved fruitful, resulting in the arrest of some of the persons directly involved in the importation, distribution, and sales of illicit drugs.

He said that throughout 2023, the command embarked on various sensitisation and enlightenment activities within and around the Tincan island port.

He listed them to include advocacy visit to all stakeholders in and around the port, public enlightenment and lectures, rallies and engagement of traditional rulers and non-governmental organisations around the port environment.

“All the activities were carried out under aegis of ‘War Against Drug Abuse’ (WADA) and  was designed to reduce demand and abuse of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances in Nigeria.

The NDLEA Tincan special area commander appreciated stakeholders in the maritime industry, and other relevant government agencies for their unwavering support and collaborative effort in these operations.

He added that their dedication and joint action had played a crucial role in the successes achieved thus far.

He also urged all licensed Customs clearing agents to stop the practice of authorising third party individuals to clear cargo under their company stamp.

He pointed out that the practice, automatically made the company liable to any cargo cleared,  using its name and stamp.

“This may become a real problem when illicit drugs are discovered and the company cannot provide any tangible information or whereabout of the owners of the cargo.

“Clearing agents have the responsibilities to not only adhere to laws but to cooperate with law enforcement agents undertaking an investigation.

“The NDLEA Tincan special area command sends a strong message to all those involved in drug trafficking and other illicit activities, we intend to use every available resource to bring them to justice and put an end to their illegal operations,” he said.

He said the command would continue to enhance their intelligence capabilities, invest in modern equipment, and provide training for its officers to combat drug trafficking effectively.

“The agency urges the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities related to drug trafficking to the NDLEA or relevant law enforcement agencies. Together, we can create a safer and drug-free environment for all Nigerians,” he said. (NAN)

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