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Economy

Labour, Senate tackle Federal government over planned removal of oil subsidy.

— the whole arrangement is comical and queer—Ayuba Wabba

—We have no budgetary  provision for N5,000 monthly stipend for 40million Nigerians—Adeola Solomon

 

Eyewitness reporter

The Nigerian Senate and the Labour movement are set on a collision course with the Federal government over the planned removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit(PMS) otherwise called petrol.

The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, has said that petrol will be sold at between N320 to N340 per litre from early 2022 as the Federal government will exit the subsidy regime on petrol following the full deregulation of the downstream sector of the industry.

However, the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC) has reiterated its rejection of what it described as ”deregulation based on import-driven model”.

In the press statement signed by the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, the labour movement described the whole arrangement of subsidy removal and the planned palliative as ‘queer and comical” and a monologue of the federal government with neo-colonial powers.

“The response of the Nigeria Labour Congress is that what we are hearing is the conversation of the Federal government with neo-liberal international monetary institutions.

“The conversation between the government and the people of Nigeria, especially workers under the auspices of the trade union movement on the matter of fuel subsidy, was adjourned sine die so many months ago.

“Given the nationwide panic that has trailed the disclosure of the monologue within the corridors of government and foreign interests, the Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to posit that it continues to maintain its rejection of deregulation based on import driven model.

“It is difficult to convince Nigerian workers why our dear country is the only country among the OPEC member countries that cannot produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products.

“We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on the import-driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.

“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira, which currently goes for N560 to 1US$ in the parallel market.”

NLC said that any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise and such comparison would be like comparing apples with mangoes.

“The contemplation by the government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.

“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for.

“The argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalise the curve of demand and supply as is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel, and kerosene is very obtuse.

“The truth is that these commodities which Nigeria can easily produce have been priced out of the reach of most Nigerian families with the majority of our people resorting to tree felling and charcoal for their energy needs.

“Finally, we wish to warn that the bait by the government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5000 as a palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.

“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy.

“Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if the government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering?”

According to Congress, the government’s decision to remove the petrol subsidy is “cloudy”.

“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a ‘penny wise-pound foolish’ gamble.

“It is clear that the palliative offered by the government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.

“As we had done several times, we call on the Federal Government to consider various options that can help Nigeria navigate out of the quagmire constructed by the failure of successive governments to embrace developmental governance and accountable leadership. Some of the viable options that can help include:

“Insulate the domestic consumers from the market pressure brought about by the free fall of the naira by arranging with contiguous refineries not far from Nigeria to swap crude oil with refined petroleum products;

“Accelerate work on the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four major refineries which are all currently operating at near-zero installed capacity; and

“Establish empirical data on the quantity of refined petroleum products consumed daily by Nigerians.

“It is unfortunate that this record remains a myth and a huge crater for all manner of official sleaze and leakages in the downstream petroleum sub-sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.”, the NLC declared in its reaction.

However, the Senate Committee on Finance has questioned the rationale behind the government palliative to cushion the effect of removal of subsidy.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the federal government will pay a N5000 monthly stipend to 40million vulnerable Nigerians to alleviate the impact of the subsidy removal.

But the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Adeola Olamilekan Solomon, said there was no provision for monthly N5000 transport grant to 40 million poor Nigerians in the 2022 budget currently being considered by the National Assembly.

He disclosed that the 2022 budget proposal contains fuel subsidy, but no provision for the proposed N5000 transport grant, which amounts to N2.4 trillion annually.

Solomon stated this while speaking with newsmen after presenting his panel’s report on the 2022 budget to the Appropriations Committee. He said before the executive could embark on such intervention, a proposal to that effect must be sent to the National Assembly for approval.

“The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning was quoted to have said that 40 million Nigerians would be paid N5000 as transportation allowance in lieu of the fuel subsidy.

”I don’t want to go into details for now. I believe that if such a proposal is to come to pass, a document to that effect must be sent to National Assembly for us to see how possible it is and how do we identify the 40 million Nigerians that are going to benefit.

”There are still a lot of issues to be deliberated upon and looked into if eventually, this will come to pass. How do we raise this money to pay these 40 million Nigerians because I know that even the federal government revenues are from this so-called oil and other sources.

”We don’t have anywhere in the budget where 40 million Nigerians will collect N5000 monthly as transportation allowance totalling N2.4 trillion.

”I know that there must be a budgetary provision for this for us (National Assembly) to consider. That is why I said it is still news out there until it is formally sent to the National Assembly for either a virement to the budget or reordering of the budget,”he said.

Mrs Zainab has claimed that the Federal government could no longer bear the burden of monthly subsidy payment of N250billion which translates to N3trillion annually but will pay N5000 monthly to 40million poor Nigerians which translates to N2.4 trillion yearly, a logic which the NLC described as queer.

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Economy

N2.4 billion judgment debt: Supreme Court reverses itself, restores GTB’s appeal against Innoson Motors

The Supreme Court has set aside its earlier ruling which dismissed Guaranty Trust Bank’s (GTB) appeal against a N2.4 billion judgment in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited.

The apex court set aside its own decision on Friday while delivering judgment in an application by GTB seeking the re-listing of the appeal on the grounds that it was wrongly dismissed.

The apex court in reversing itself relied on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules that empowers it to set aside its decision in certain circumstances, like any other court.

Specifically, the five-member panel, led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, in a unanimous decision, held that the apex court erred in its ruling of February 27, 2019, wherein it erroneously dismissed GTB’s appeal with number: SC/694/2014 against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The apex court, in the lead judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, but read by Justice Abdu Aboki, claimed that it was misled by its Registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, that GTB had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.

The apex court noted that had the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, been notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, it would not have given the ruling which dismissed GTB’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.

The apex court justices explained that the court has powers to reverse itself where there is any reason to do so, especially where any of the parties had obtained judgment by fraud, default, or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.

According to the judgment, the circumstances of the GTB case fall into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its own order on the grounds that the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.

“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.

“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive, and diligent litigant.

“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on February 27, 2019, that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.

“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court.

“Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on February 27, 2019, dismissing the applicant’s appeal.

“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds,” the apex court held.

He proceeded to set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019, dismissing GTB’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked: 694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of this court until its hearing and determination on the merit”.

Other members of the panel are John Okoro and Helen Ogunwumiju.

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Economy

AuGF Indicts NPA, Customs, 14 other MDAs over unremitted funds to consolidated accounts.

Eyewitness reporter

The Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation has indicted the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service and 14 other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) over their failure to remit accrued revenue into the Federation accounts.

According to his 2019 audited report titled ‘OAuGF Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weakness Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submitted to the National Assembly, the AuGf,   Mr Adolphus Aghughu , declared that the NPA, Nigeria Customs and other 24 Government agencies and parastatals committed these financial infractions in their 2019 financial transactions.
The NPA, in the report, was indicted over its failure to recover and remit N40.126 billion, $921.636 and £289,931.82 to the government’s treasury from various revenue sources in the 2019 financial fiscal year.
These were contained in 13 audit queries for the NPA signed by the Auditor-General and submitted to the National Assembly for further legislative action.

The report disclosed that an agreement signed between NPA and various terminal operators stated that, “a fixed annual payment of a sum as specified in the schedule be paid in 12 equal installments in each operating year.

 “The first installment to be paid on the first day of the month after the effective date and then, on the same date of every month thereafter.”
The report also stated that the terminal operators failed to comply with the lease agreements in terms of their obligations relating to the payment of fixed fees over the period, thereby holding back $852,093,730.77 and N1,878,560,509.57 that should have been remitted to the NPA for the period.

It stated further that estate tenants, shipping companies and service boats operating from the ports were hugely indebted to the NPA to the tune of $67.425 million and N32.266 billion outstanding as rent, shipping due and service boats.

The audit report further noted that sizeable percentages of the debts were non-performing or dormant due to a long period of non-settlement, leading to loss of revenue to the government and possible diversion of government revenue to unauthorised users.

The Audit report also queried the irregular payment for rehabilitation of Port Harcourt port road network and water distribution system to the tune of N1.847 billion, irregular payment for the restoration of power supply to Tin Can Island Port.

It frowned at the irregularity in the award of contract for the construction of delivery and commissioning of MDPE channel marking buoys in foreign currency, irregular payment for the supply for fire alarms communication and office equipment for Lagos port complex and irregular payment for the supply of fire alarms communication and office equipment for Ikorodu lighter terminal.

On Customs, the AuGF slammed the service for its failure to remit N125 billion into the Federation accounts.

But the NCS is not the only defaulting government establishment. There are about 14 others found culpable of similar allegations.

They are Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority (RBDA), Owerri; the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR); Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN): Kwali Area Council; Lagos State University (LASU); National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu; three Federal Medical Centres (FMC) and Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital.

Others are Council for Legal Studies and the National Industrial Court.

While the NCS allegedly failed to pay N125 billion Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) into the government coffers, the remaining 14 government establishments defaulted with N1.28 billion (N1,284,427,345.04).

The OAuGF also identified 12 MDAs, including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which failed to remit value-added tax (VAT), the With-holding Tax (WHT), among others, to the treasury.

The unremitted taxes were pegged at N5.83billion (N5,828,621,715.06), and NACA reportedly has the highest unpaid sum, which is N2.98billion (N2,984,887,250.00).

“Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa has the least amount of N1m.”

The offence is said to have breached paragraphs 234 (I) and 235 of the Financial Regulations Act respectively.

“It is mandatory for accounting officers to ensure full compliance with the dual roles of making provision for the VAT and WHT due on supply services contract and actual remittance,” Section 234 stated.

“Deduction of VAT, WHT and PAYE shall be remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, at the same time, the payee who is the subject of the deduction is paid…”

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly on September 15, 2021, Aghughu submitted two copies of the findings to the NASS for action.

With reference number AuGF/AR.2019/02, the Auditor-General said his action to the lawmakers was in line with Sections 85 (2), (4) and (5) of the constitution.

The lawmakers are, thus, expected to act on the federation’s annual report and the consolidated financial statements to prevent leakages in government spending.

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Economy

News Alert: Nigeria lifts suspension on Twitter

After seven months of face-off, , the Nigerian government has finally lifted the suspension of Twitter’s operations in the country.

The government announced the suspension of the social media platform in June 2021, after it deleted a controversial tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari. The government also accused Twitter of working against Nigeria’s interest.

The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, announced the lifting of the suspension in a statement.

Mr Abdullahi was also involved in the Nigerian government’s negotiation with Twitter.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12 am tonight, 13th January 2022.

“The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.

“In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.”

Since the suspension, millions of Twitter users have been unable to use the social media platform in Nigeria unless they use a Virtual Private Network.

Also, the owners of businesses on the platform have lost billions of Naira as a result of the face-off.
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