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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.

See also  PenCom Pays N27bn to 109,284 Retirees

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. 

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“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. 

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“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.

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Banks’ll Accept Old Naira Notes after Deadline – Emefiele

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By Ubong Ukpong & Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, yesterday disclosed that commercial banks will continue to accept the old Naira notes even after the expiration of the February 10 deadline, even as the apex bank said the old currency would cease to be legal tender after February 10.

Emefiele disclosed this yesterday while appearing before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee looking into the implementation of the policy.

The CBN governor said he agreed with section 20(3) of the CBN Act, which provides that commercial banks must accept old notes after a deadline.

Section 20 (3) of the Act says: “Notwithstanding Sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section, the Bank shall have power, if directed to do so by the President and after giving reasonable notice in that behalf, to call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof and any note or coin with respect to which a notice has been given under this Sub-section, shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but, subject to section 22 of this Act, shall be redeemed by the Bank upon demand.

Mr Emefiele said commercial banks must accept the money even after the 10 February deadline.

Although Emefiele had on Sunday announced 17 February as the “grace period” for Nigerians to deposit the money, the lawmakers were insisting that it must be months, not days.

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In his speech, Mr Emefiele said “the law which says even after the old currency has lost its legal tender status that we are mandated to collect these money. And I stand with the House of Reps on this. What does that mean? It could have lost its legal tender status which means we have moved on.

“But if you have your money that you have not been able to send to the bank, we will certainly give you the opportunity to bring them back into the CBN to redeem it. Either you pay it to your bank account or you want to do an exchange—we will give you. You will not lose your money. This is the assurance I give to Nigerians.”

Emefiele, who was supposed to appear before the Committee last week, failed to do stating he was out of the country with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The House had threatened to invoke the provisions of section 89(1)(d) of the Constitution by issuing a warrant of arrest today to compel him to appear.

The CBN Governor, who appeared with some of his assistants, went into a brief Executive session with members of the committee.

Nigerians Can Only Redeem Face Value of Old Currency at CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has clarified its position on the legal tender status of the old series of the N1,000, N500, and N200 banknotes after the February 10, 2023, deadline for depositing the affected banknotes.

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Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, the Director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, explained that the old notes would cease to be legal tender after February 10, 2023, and can no longer be used for any form of transaction afterwards.

However, he stated that in line with the provision of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, Nigerians would have the opportunity to redeem the face value of the Naira only at the Central Bank, after the currency had lost its legal tender status, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Reiterating the pledge of the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, at the meeting with the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee yesterday, Nwanisobi said Nigerians would not lose their money, even as he urged citizens to take advantage of the extended deadline of February 10, 2023 to deposit the old banknotes currently in their possession at their banks or through mobile money agents.

Citing instances in other climes, Nwanisobi explained that banknotes that cease to be legal tender are only redeemable by the monetary authorities of such jurisdictions upon demand subject to conditions /processes as may be prescribed by that Central Bank.

Nwanisobi also used the opportunity to encourage Nigerians to adopt other payment channels for their transactions, saying that Nigeria’s payment system is robust enough and ranks amongst the first in the world.

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Reps Approve Buhari’s N1trn Loan Request, Defer Decision on N22.7trn

The House of Representatives has approved the request by President Muhammadu Buhari to secure an additional N1 trillion loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The loan will be used to fund the 2022 supplementary budget.

The lawmakers approved the request yesterday following the consideration and adoption of the committees on finance, banking and currency, and aids, loans and debts management.

The house, however, deferred the request to securitise the N22.7 trillion ways and means loans, pending “further engagement with the executive by the joint committee to allow for a thorough and detailed work and submissions”.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the N22.7 trillion request would be considered after the lawmakers resume from recess.

In 2022, the president had written to the national assembly, seeking approval for the ways and means advances.

“The ways and means advances by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit,” Buhari had said in the letter.

 “The ways and means balances as at 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion.”

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Nigeria’s Public Debt Stock Hits N44.06trn in Q3 2022 – NBS

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Nigeria’s public debt stock increased from N42.84 trillion (103.31 billion dollars) in the second quarter of 2022 to N44.06 trillion (101.91 billion dollars) in the third quarter of 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said this yesterday in its Nigerian Domestic and Foreign Debt Report for Q3 2022 released in Abuja.

The report said Nigeria’s public debt stock which includes external and domestic debt, grew by 2.

84 per cent in Q3 of 2022.

It said the External debt stood at N17.14 trillion (39.66 billion dollars) in Q3 2022, while domestic debt was N26.91 trillion (62.25 billion dollars).

“However, the share of external debt to total public debt stood at 38.92 per cent in Q3 2022, while recorded domestic debt at 61.08 per cent.”

In addition, the report showed that the Federal Government’s share of domestic debt was 80.

07 per cent in Q3 of 2022.

In a breakdown by states, the bureau said Lagos State recorded the highest domestic debt of N877.03 billion in the third quarter of 2022.

Delta followed it with N272.61 billion and Ogun with N241.78 billion.

The report showed Jigawa recorded the lowest debt at N44.40 billion, followed by Kebbi and Katsina at N60.13 billion and N62.37 billion.

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Nigeria Attains 100% Broadband Penetration—Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said that the Federal Government had achieved 100 per cent broadband penetration across Nigeria.

The president said this in Abuja at a Digital Economy Conference tagged ‘Promoting a Vibrant Digital Economy, A Catalyst for Economic Growth in Nigeria’.

Newsmen report that the conference was organised by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

Represented by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isah Patami, the president said the figure was contrary to reports that the country had achieved 43 per cent penetration only.

According to him, reports on 43 per cent penetration is obsolete.

“One of the richest persons in the world announced that Nigeria out of the 54 African countries has outstanding broadband.

“As I speak to you today, the broadband penetration in Nigeria is 100 per cent,” Buhari said.

He said that the Federal Government performed excellently in terms of achieving wider broadband for Nigerians.

According to him, from 23 per cent coverage in 2019, this administration increased the broadband by 77 per cent in 2022 and 100 per cent in 2023.

“As at today, the broadband can be accessed everywhere in the country  whether in the urban area, rural area or desert.

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“We are the first African country to attain this and the only one so far,” the president said.

Buhari said the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy had been rated very high by an independent assessment.

He said, “70 per cent is distinction and the digital sector has surpassed it.

“We delivered excellently in all the eight priority areas in the sector.

“For instance on pillar number one, which is broadband penetration, we achieved 134 per cent,  pillar number two, which is 4G penetration we achieved 127 per cent.

“Furthermore, we delivered 99 per cent on the third pillar, the fourth pillar, which  has to do with national Identity we achieved 94 per cent.

“On the fifth pillar which is quarterly revenue generation, we moved from generating N51 billion in three months to N408 billion in three months.”

According to him, on the sixth pillar we achieved 103 per cent result, seventh pillar we achieved 111 per cent and the eight pillar we achieved 137 per cent.

On call by the President of NACCIMA for inclusion of the organised private sector in the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the president said the provision had been made.

He asked NACCIMA to forward the names of their representatives for consideration.

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Mr Ide Udeagbala, the National President of NACCIMA, said the conference was to among other things promote the technology ecosystem in Nigeria and establish potential of the digital economy for job creation.

He also said the conference was organised to identify the opportunities that existed in the technology industry and grow them by attracting local and foreign investments to Nigeria.

Udeagbala further said the conference would help identify challenges impeding development of the technology industry and encourage government to enunciate policies that would build on existing laws among others.

He said part of the discussions at the conference would also centre around establishing digital hubs in the six geo-political zones.

This, according to him will give opportunities to the rural areas, promote start-ups and encourage innovations in the industry while discovering technology savvy experts.

“The top five biggest technology companies in the world are managed and run by Indians.

“Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is Satya Nadella, an Indian; Google CEO is Sundar Pichai, an Indian; Twitter CEO is Parag Agrawal, an Indian.

“Also, IBM CEO is Arvind Krishna, an Indian; and then Adobe CEO is Shantanu Narayen, also an Indian.

“This is besides the fact that Indian technology sector works with over 75 per cent of the fortune of 500 companies, with most of them having their Headquarters in the U.S.

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“The question begging for answers is what stops Nigerian youths who distinguish themselves academically in every institution of the world from attaining this,“ he said.

Udeagbala said it was time to move away from the narrative where some Nigerian youths were using technology for fraudulent activities commonly called ‘yahoo-yahoo’.

He called for the inclusion of the organised private sector in the  National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo commended NACCIMA for organising the conference.

The minister, who was represented by the Director of Trade in the ministry, Mr Sulaiman Audu, said the ministry would collaborate with NACCIMA to explore the potential of digital economy.

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Pauline Tallen said there was the need to improve women and people living with disabilities in the digital economy.

She said the ministry would be willing to collaborate with actors in the digital world to mainstream women and other challenged persons in the society.

Newsmen report that the event was attended by foreign nationals,  captains of industry and other stakeholders.(NAN)

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