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Buhari Speaks: How We Intend to Fund Nigeria’s N6 Trillion Budget

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has explained that despite the fall in the international price of crude oil, measures taken to block leakages in the nation’s revenue generating agencies would ensure enough cash to fund the N6 trillion budget he recently submitted to the National Assembly.

The president gave the explanation in an interview with Mansur Liman of the BBC Hausa service on Christmas eve. He also spoke on his government’s ‘success’ at defeating the Boko Haram insurgents.

PREMIUM TIMES’ Sani Tukur translated the interview;

Q: You recently submitted the biggest budget estimates in Nigeria’s history to the National Assembly, and this came at a time the price of oil has drastically gone down in world markets. How do you intend to get money to fund the budget?

Buhari: As a government, we inherited N1.5 trillion domestic debt and when foreign debt is added we have about N2.2 trillion. Everybody knows Nigeria is not a poor country, we are rich, and we have human resources, the problem had been that leadership did not take seriously, curbing corrupt tendencies.

Apart from highlighting our debt profile, we have also shown the changes we have made in the Customs for instance, how; much we are making from the Customs service, how much from petroleum, that is NNPC; how much we are making from the ports. There have been lots of leakages in these sectors. If we block these leakages, we would make much more money to run the country despite the fall in the price of oil.

Q: Are you sure you can block all the leakages? Because if one looks at it, it was just the leaders of these agencies that were changed while most of the lieutenants who were part of the system of the “leakages” are still in place. What do you think would change to make sure that “business as usual” does not continue and Nigeria would get those monies?

A: It is generally believed that a fish begins to rot from the head; once the head is rotten, the whole body is also rotten. We have tried to remove all the heads of the organisations, and most of the lieutenants have been changed. A lot is happening in this government that people do not appear to understand; many permanent secretaries of ministries have been changed; we used to have 42 ministers, now we have 36 because the constitution requires that each state of the federation must have a minister; we used to have 42 ministries, now we have 24.

Q: You have also allocated 30 per cent of the budget to capital projects; what informed that decision?

A: It is a must. Remember during the campaigns, we said Nigeria is facing three things and nobody disputed that assertion. Firstly; there was widespread insecurity, war in the north east, while the country’s oil was being stolen at random in the south; secondly; there is massive unemployment, 62 per cent of the nation’s population are youth from the age of 35 years downward; most of them are unemployed, including those who went to school and those who did not, that is a serious problem. Therefore, it has become necessary to restore peace and create employment.

That is why we are returning to agriculture and mineral resources. Thirdly, bribery and corruption was basically suffocating the country. If we don’t kill these monsters, this country would go down.

That is why those who stole monies meant for arms procurement and shared it among themselves are being arrested and are being shown documents, so that they would be asked to refund the money or face prosecution; we would use those documents to prove what they stole, collect all the assets acquired from the proceeds and then jail them.

Q: You have initiated a programme in which poor and vulnerable Nigerians would be paid N5,000 monthly; what have you put in place to ensure that there is justice and fairness in the running of this programme?

A: It is not possible for everyone needing it to get it; but the Federal Government has said it would collaborate with the states and local governments. At the local government level, almost everyone knows each other. It would be easy to identify those to give who would go into trading and how to get it back. It would be like a cooperative and we all know how it operates. Also, state governments would identify those who have capacity to employ more people and all we need to do is to empower them. Our people already know how to go about implementing these modalities to create employment for the citizens.

Q: You earlier mentioned Boko Haram. After your assumption of office, you gave a deadline of December to bring an end to Boko Haram insurgency. We are almost at the end of December, does it mean you and the armed forces have failed?

A: I want people to understand that after I settled down and got good grasp of what the country is going through, we removed all the service chiefs and appointed new ones. We also undertook an investigation and found out how the monies meant for arms procurement were diverted and shared by officials in the last administration. They sent the boys to the war front without arms and ammunition, leading some of them to mutiny after which they were arrested and detained.

We have been able to raise money and fund the war. Go and ask the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; how many of their local governments were under the control of insurgents? And how many are currently still under the insurgents?

May be we would not win the war completely by the end of the month, but the insurgents have now resorted to putting on explosive vests on young children, mostly girls aged 15 and below and then sending them to markets, mosques and churches to detonate. Boko Haram themselves know that the era of them taking over communities and local governments are over. If people would be fair to us, they would know that the Nigerian Army has basically met the deadline and are winning the war. You cannot find any significant number of Boko Haram members in Adamawa, and Yobe, only may be in about three local governments of Borno in the area around our borders with Chad Republic. They are not in a position to threaten Nigeria now, so we have won.

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Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Concerns Mount Over Security as National Identity Card Issuance Shifts to Banks

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NIMC enrolment

Amidst the National Identity Management Commission’s (NIMC) recent announcement that the issuance of the proposed new national identity card will be facilitated through applicants’ respective banks, concerns are escalating regarding the security implications of involving financial institutions in the distribution process.

The federal government, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), introduced a new identity card with payment functionality, aimed at streamlining access to social and financial services.

However, the decision to utilize banks as distribution channels has sparked apprehension among industry stakeholders.

Mr. Kayode Adegoke, Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, clarified that applicants would request the card by providing their National Identification Number (NIN) through various channels, including online portals, NIMC offices, or their respective banks.

Adegoke emphasized that the new National ID Card would serve as a single, multipurpose card, encompassing payment functionality, government services, and travel documentation.

Despite NIMC’s assurances, concerns have been raised regarding the necessity and security implications of introducing a new identity card system when an operational one already exists.

Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, questioned the rationale behind the new General Multipurpose Card (GMPC), citing NIMC’s existing mandate to issue such cards under Act No. 23 of 2007.

Ogunbanjo highlighted the successful implementation of MobileID by NIMC, which has provided identity verification for over 15 million individuals.

He expressed apprehension about integrating the new ID card with existing MobileID systems and raised concerns about data privacy and unauthorized duplication of ID cards.

Moreover, stakeholders are seeking clarification on the responsibilities for card blocking, replacement, and delivery in case of loss or theft, given the involvement of multiple parties, including banks, in the issuance process.

The shift towards utilizing banks for identity card issuance raises fundamental questions about data security, privacy, and the integrity of the identification process.

With financial institutions playing a pivotal role in distributing sensitive government documents, there are valid concerns about potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with this approach.

As the debate surrounding the security implications of the new national identity card continues to intensify, stakeholders are calling for greater transparency, accountability, and collaboration between government agencies and financial institutions to address these concerns effectively.

The paramount importance of safeguarding citizens’ personal information and ensuring the integrity of the identity verification process cannot be overstated, especially in an era of increasing digital interconnectedness and heightened cybersecurity threats.

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Israeli President Declares Iran’s Actions a ‘Declaration of War’

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Israel Gaza

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has characterized the recent series of attacks from Iran as nothing short of a “declaration of war” against the State of Israel.

This proclamation comes amidst escalating tensions between the two nations, with Iran’s aggressive actions prompting serious concerns within Israel and the international community.

The sequence of events leading to Herzog’s grave assessment began with a barrage of 300 ballistic missiles and drones launched by Iran towards Israel over the weekend.

While the Israeli defense forces managed to intercept a significant portion of these projectiles, the sheer scale of the assault sent shockwaves through the region.

President Herzog’s assertion of war was underscored by Israel’s careful consideration of its response options and ongoing discussions with its global partners.

The gravity of the situation prompted the convening of the G7, where member nations reaffirmed their commitment to Israel’s security, recognizing the severity of Iran’s actions.

However, the United States, a key ally of Israel, took a nuanced stance. President Joe Biden conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, given the limited casualties and damage resulting from the attacks, the US would not support retaliatory strikes against Iran.

This position, though strategic, reflects a delicate balancing act in maintaining stability in the volatile Middle East region.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian cautioned against further escalation, emphasizing the potential for heightened tensions and provocative acts to exacerbate the situation.

In response to the escalating crisis, the Nigerian government issued a call for restraint, urging both Iran and Israel to prioritize peaceful resolution and diplomatic efforts to ease tensions.

This appeal reflects the broader international consensus on the need to prevent further escalation and mitigate the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

As Israel grapples with the implications of Iran’s aggressive actions and weighs its response options, President Herzog reiterated Israel’s commitment to peace while emphasizing the need to defend its people.

Despite calls for restraint from global allies, Israel remains vigilant in safeguarding its security amidst the growing threat posed by Iran’s belligerent behavior.

The coming days are likely to be critical as Israel navigates the complexities of its response while international efforts intensify to defuse the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.

The specter of war looms large, underscoring the urgency of diplomatic engagement and concerted efforts to prevent further escalation in the region.

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NIMC Announces Launch of Three National ID Cards to Boost Identity Management

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has unveiled plans to launch three new national identity cards.

These cards are aimed at providing improved access to government services and bolstering identification systems across Nigeria.

The three new national identity cards, as disclosed by Ayodele Babalola, the Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of NIMC, will include a bank-enabled National ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

Babalola explained that these cards are tailored to meet the diverse needs of Nigerian citizens while fostering greater participation in nation-building initiatives.

In an interview, Babalola outlined the timeline for the rollout of these cards, indicating that Nigerians can expect to start receiving them within one or two months of the launch, pending approval from the Presidency.

The bank-enabled National ID card, designed to cater to the middle and upper segments of the population, will offer seamless access to banking services within the specified timeframe.

Also, the National Safety Net Card will serve as a crucial tool for authentication and secure platform provision for government services such as palliatives, with a focus on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians supported by current government intervention programs.

This initiative aims to streamline the distribution process and ensure efficient delivery of social services to those in need.

Furthermore, the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card will provide an optional identity verification solution, facilitating cross-border interactions and promoting regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The announcement comes on the heels of NIMC’s collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to develop a multipurpose national identity card equipped with payment capabilities for various social and financial services.

This collaborative effort underscores the commitment of key stakeholders to foster innovation, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness in service delivery.

Babalola stated that the new identity cards aim to address the need for physical identification, empower citizens, and promote financial inclusion for marginalized populations. With a target of providing these cards to approximately 104 million eligible applicants on the national identification number database by the end of December 2023, NIMC is poised to revolutionize the identity management landscape in Nigeria.

The implementation of these programs aligns with broader efforts to drive digital transformation and improve access to essential services for all Nigerians.

Babalola highlighted the multifaceted benefits of the new identity cards, including their potential to uplift millions out of poverty by facilitating access to government social programs and financial services.

While the launch date is set tentatively for May pending presidential approval, NIMC remains committed to finalizing the necessary details to ensure a smooth rollout of the new identity cards.

The introduction of these cards represents a significant step forward in NIMC’s mission to provide secure and reliable identity solutions that empower individuals and contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Efforts to reach Kayode Adegoke, the Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, for further insights on the initiative were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.

As Nigeria gears up for the launch of these innovative identity cards, stakeholders express optimism about the potential positive impact on identity management, financial inclusion, and socio-economic development across the country.

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