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Paris Club Refund: Malami Slams g\Governors for Objecting $418m Deduction

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said state governors have no basis to complain about the $418 million deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to consultants they hired.

The minister said that the noise making arising from the Governors Forum was not only unjustified but “a clear case of absence of defense.

He spoke when he featured on the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The AGF also disclosed that a total of 648 cases instituted against the president, federal government and its agencies, before states, federal and ECOWAS Court were served on the Ministry, adding diligent defences of these cases in the year 2022 alone has saved the government from huge judgment debt liability to the tune of N54,888,343,888.

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The Ministry has made appreciable progress in the actions being taken to challenge the $10 billion case between Nigeria and the Process & Industrial Development(P&ID) and was able to convince the court to set aside the case which he said may soon commence. 

The AGF reflected on the governors that they created the liability whose payment they have also indemnified.

Fielding question on why despite a presidential directive to suspend the deduction from the Paris Club refund, he has not deemed it fit to enforce the directive as some deductions were been said to be made, he affirmed that when the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) requested the refund, one of the component was the settlement of the consultants who were engaged by the forum.

The Minister recalled that when the refund was paid to the states, the governors initially made to states, and part payment was also made to the consultants.

However, Malami said the governors later decided to stop payment while asking for an out-of-court settlement.

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He said this resulted in to request to the President to make the payment, a request he said, was then passed on to the Office of the AGF for a legal opinion.

The minister noted that after being subjected to necessary checks, it was found that there was no element of fraud involved.

The indemnity of the governors was also sought and received, he disclosed.

“On the issue of Paris club that is raised. You mentioned that there exists a presidential directive that payments should not be made and then in breach of that position directives payments were perhaps maybe arising from the conspiracy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice payments have been made. 

“I think you need to be informed first, as to the antecedents, prevailing circumstances and how the liability arose but one thing I’m happy to state, which I want to reiterate having stated the same earlier, is the fact that the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has not indeed incurred any major judgment debt for seven years it has been on. 

“Now, coming to the antecedents background of the Paris Club. The liability or judgement debts related to pirates Club was indeed a liability created by the governor’s forum in their own right.”

“The Governor’s forum comprising of all the governors sat down commonly agreed on the engagement of a consultant to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the governor’s forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultant.

“Two, when eventually, successes were recorded associated with the refund, associated with Paris Club, the governors collectively and individually presented a request to the federal government for the fund. And among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the federal government was a component related to the payment of these consultants that are now constituting the subject of contention. So the implication of that is that the governors in their own right recognized the consultant, recognized their claim and presented a such claim to the federal government.

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“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the governor’s forum. They indeed on their own, without the intervention of the federal government took steps to make part payments to the consultants, acknowledging their liability over the same.

“And then four, when eventually they made such payments at a point they decided to stop the payment. The consultants instituted an action in court against the governors’ forum.  They submitted to consent judgment. They asked and urged the Court to allow them to settle out of court. 

“The court granted them an opportunity to settle. They commit terms of settlement in writing, they signed  the terms of settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultant.

“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was requested to comply with the judgment and effect payment. 

“The President passed all the requests of the governors to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. I suggested to the President the face value of the judgment and the undertones associated with the consultancy services. 

“It was my opinion, the same treatment we meted to P&ID, that let us subject this claim, the consent judgment to an investigation by the agencies of the government. Mr President approved, I directed the EFCC and DSS to look into these claims and report back to the office of the Attorney General. 

“And these agencies reported and concluded that there is no problem undertone associated with it. The government may continue to sanction the payment dependent. Now, that was the background.

“Even at that, we took further steps after receiving these reports from the EFCC among others, to demand indemnity from the governors. You, as a forum, incurred  this liability, as a forum you submitted to consent judgment. We have subjected these claims to investigation and we have a report, but even at that, we need independent indemnity from you, establishing that it is with your consent and understanding that these payments should be made, in writing. 

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“And I’m happy to report to you that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to the Office of the Attorney General, conceding, agreeing and submitting, that the payment should be made.

“Yes, and that was the ground and the basis on which we eventually decided by advising the president that the payment should be made. And then along the line, there was a change of leadership of the governors’ forum. And all the noise-making that is now being generated arising from the Governors forum is not only unjustified but indeed, a clear case of absence of defense.

“But one other point of interest you may wish to note is the fact that the new leadership of the governors’ forum instituted an action, even when the federal government was indeed acting based on the judgment of the Supreme Court. They now embarked on a fresh legal suit, challenging the payment, challenging the previous agreement, challenging the indemnity and the court dismissed the application. Their case was dismissed by the Federal High Court.

“So that is the foundation and I’m happy to report one, that the judgment and contention was a judgment that was obtained long before the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami came into office, long before the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into office. 

“It was a product of their own doing and they had it submitted to judicial proceeding, judgment was entered against them. They have committed to the payment of the money, they have on their own indeed effected part payment. I closed my case and I will not like to answer any further questions on that,” the minister explained. 

Economy

CBN Moves to Save Naira, Raises Interest Rate to 15.5%

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday raised the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), also known as interest rate, from 13.5% to 15.5% as a way of tackling inflation.

 CBN Governor Mr Godwin Emefiele made the annoucement at a media briefing after that Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja. 

This is the highest rates adopted by the CBN after it held the Minimum Rediscounted Rate (MRR) at 15 per cent on August 17, 2003.

The MRR was the rate adopted by the CBN until it introduced a new Monetary policy framework in 2006 which replaced MRR with Monetary Policy Rate (MPR).

The CBN governor, who spoke after the 287th MPC meeting, said its decision was a move to save the naira and curb inflation, adding that the members voted unanimously to raise the rates.

Benchmark lending rate was as low as six per cent thirteen years ago in 2009.

When Covid-19 struck in 2020, the MPC reduced the MPR by 100 basis points from 12.5 to 11.5 per cent.

But this was increased to 13.0 per cent and by another 100 basis points to 14 per cent in May and July 2022 respectively.

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Currently, Nigeria’s inflation is at 20.52 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index for in August 2022.

During the meeting, the apex bank governor said high energy cost and electricity tariff pushed the inflation upwards.

According to him, the increase in US rates has also pressured the naira and making investors exit the Nigerian market.

Emefiele said broad outlook remains clouded due to headwinds of the Ukraine war and residual impacts of Covid-19.

He said the Nigerian economy will grow but at a “much subdued rate” due to the increased demand for money driven by the 2023 general election.

According to him, the rise in inflation over the past four months has been worrisome  stressing that loosening inflation would worsen Nigeria’s economic condition as well as naira depreciation.

He said a tight policy stand would help appreciate the naira.

According to analysts, the hike in interest rate for three consecutive times is a way of luring foreign inflows into the country and easing the pressure on the naira.

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Economy

FG to Deploy PPP Solution to Boost Excise, Tax Revenue

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The Federal Government says it is set to deploy an Integrated Secure Track and Trace Solution to boost revenue earnings through excise and tax collection.

The Director-General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Michael Ohiani, said this while presenting the Outline Business Case (OBC) Compliance Certificate to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

A statement issued by Ms Manji Yarling, the Acting Head Media and Publicity, ICRC in Abuja on Tuesday, said the project was aimed at mitigating the country’s dwindling revenue and foster more non-oil revenue streams.

“The PPP solution will adopt the Build, Operate, and Transfer option.

“It will allow the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, to establish an effective and non-intrusive control on a broad range of goods and services subject to excise duty, safety, and standards,” Yarlling said.

While receiving the OBC certificate, the minister said the proposed solution was important at this time, as the government was currently constrained in terms of revenue and required an urgent boost.

According to Ahmed, the purpose of the project is to enable the ministry to have visibility over some key products that are made in Nigeria, in terms of the quantity and companies that produce them.

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“It is also to differentiate between the same products produced in Nigeria and the ones that are imported, the bottom line is for us to be able to maximise our revenue potential.

“Having had several meetings with the proposing company, we thought that the best way to do this is through a PPP model and I am glad that the OBC Compliance Certificate has been issued,” the minister said.

Ahmed said that as the fiscal authority of the government, the ministry of Finance had the responsibility to ensure that duties and taxes were paid.

She said the ministry’s responsibility was also to assist relevant agencies to make their work more seamless, hence the need to deploy the solution.

The minister promised that the solution was not going to put more burden on companies, as the duties to be collected were not going to disrupt manufacturing in any way.

“I am assuring that the manufacturing companies’ businesses will not be disrupted, they are not going to incur any additional cost, the excise duty that will be charged will be a pass-through cost.

‘We are convinced that this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Ahmed expressed confidence in the solution citing that the same infrastructure had been deployed by the same company in South Africa and Morocco to boost their revenue accruals.

Ohiani while presenting the OBC, said that the solution would bring about many benefits to Nigeria including stemming illicit trade and revenue leakages; and improving revenue generation for government.

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Other benefits he said include ensuring the circulation of high-quality goods and services; achieving economies of scale and synergies among ministry’s agencies; enhancing technology and knowledge transfer and generating employment opportunities.

“The proposed solution when implemented will allow the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish effective and non-intrusive controls on a broad range of markets.

“Markets such as goods and services subject to excise duty, and goods subject to conformity with health, safety, and quality standards.

“Additionally, the solution aims to reduce the levels of counterfeiting, sub-standard quality, tax evasion, and under-declaration in these markets,” Ohiani said.

He pointed out that the ICRC and the ministry would now proceed to the procurement stage.

“A Full Business Case (FBC) Compliance Certificate would be issued for onward submission to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for project approval,) (NAN)

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Economy

World Maritime Day: Nigeria Committed to Greener Shipping – Sambo

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The Minister of Transportation Mu’ azu Sambo says Nigeria is committed to achieving greener shipping to attain sustainable development in the maritime industry.

Sambo said this in a statement on Monday in Lagos.

The statement was signed by Mr Osagie Edward, the Assistant Director, Public Relations, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

He added that Nigeria would join the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to commemorate the 2022 World Maritime Day.

Sambo noted that Nigeria would not be left behind in the global move toward greener shipping.

“There is a need for stakeholders in the maritime sector to begin exploring ways to transition into a greener and more sustainable future,” he said.

On his part, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, noted that the theme for this year’s world Maritime Day celebration was in line with the Agency’s mission of achieving cleaner oceans in developing shipping in Nigeria.

Jamoh said that NIMASA was already working in line with the call by the IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, for developing countries to adopt green technology.

Jamoh quoted the IMO Secretary General as saying, “The theme for 2022 World Maritime Day: New technologies for Greener Shipping,” reflects the need to support a green transition of the maritime sector into a sustainable future, while leaving no one behind.

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“The theme provides an opportunity to focus on the importance of sustainable maritime sector and the need to build back better and greener in a post pandemic world.

“Nigeria, represented by NIMASA, as an active member state of the IMO is involved in the processes of creating new international agreements and protocols to address environmental issues such as marine pollution, oil spills and emissions from the shipping industry,” he said.

This year’s World Maritime Day theme is linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDGs 13 and 14 on climate action and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.(NAN)

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