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Labour Kicks as Saraki Joins Call For Sale of Oil Assets

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The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday itemised measures he said the Executive must take to take Nigeria out of recession.

The measures include the partial sale of the Nigeria LNG Limited and the reduction of government shares in upstream oil joint venture operations.

He also recommended the sale of government’s stakes in financial institutions like the Africa Finance Corporation and the privatisation and concession of major/regional airports and refineries to private operators.

Saraki made the suggestions in his address of welcome, which he read to his colleagues at the resumption of plenary.

According to him, the current economic recession transcends political parties, as well as religious and socio-cultural divides.

The Senate president noted that the economic problem facing the nation was a collective problem and should be treated as such.

He stressed that the Executive must begin to take steps to show not only Nigerians but the international community as well as local and foreign investors that the nation was ready to reform and do business.

Saraki said, “The Executive must immediately put in place a leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that the government is ready to partner the private sector towards economic revival. This is a critical signpost towards market confidence, which is a key ingredient to help us revamp the economy out of recession.

“The Executive must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up the foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilise the economy.

“The measures should include part sale of the NLNG Limited; reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government’s stake in financial institutions e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatisation and concession of major/regional airports and refineries.”

The Senate President also insisted that the Executive should consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.

He stated, “The Executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policies until economic recovery is attained. We must ensure that local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector.

“The Executive must re-tool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant; and introduce export-financing initiatives. The Executive is urged to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region.

“The National Assembly is very ready to play any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win in order to move the region and the economy forward.

“The Executive must as a deliberate response consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.”

However, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress faulted the call by Saraki and other prominent Nigerians for the sale of some national assets.

The General-Secretary, NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, and President, TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, stated this in separate telephone interviews with our correspondents on Tuesday, while reacting to the call.

Ozo-Eson and Kaigama said that those in the forefront of the move to sell the national assets were being motivated by a desire to acquire them.

Ozo-Eson advised the key players in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to avoid taking advantage of the economic situation to loot the remaining national assets in the country.

He insisted that acquisition of national assets by those in power was partly responsible for the current economic situation in the country.

He added that selling the NLNG, airports and other assets would only compound the nation’s economic woes as had been demonstrated by the woeful performance of the power sector.

The NLC general-secretary said, “Selling national assets is not going cure the economy. Part of the crisis we are in is as a result of the national assets they distributed to themselves.

“They should not use the economic situation as a pretext for looting what is left of the public assets. Selling the NLNG, airports and all those other assets will not be the way to bail out the economy from this crisis. It will rather compound it as has been demonstrated by what they did with power, and other assets.

“We are opposed to the sale of those assets because they just want to take them over the way they have taken over the power sector and it is not functioning. So, that cannot be the excuse. We are opposed to it. What we will do if they go ahead is a matter that we will discuss at that point in time.”

Kaigama said that those behind the clamour for the sale of the national assets would only distribute them to their cronies.

He said that the administration should concern itself with the provision of a road map to get the economy out of recession rather than the ploy to sell the assets.

Kaigama stated “Well, I don’t know what they mean by that because these are very vital national assets. Are they saying that as soon as we sell these assets, we will be out of recession?

“Otherwise, why don’t we work out a plan that will get the economy out of recession and not this kind of fire brigade approach? Obviously, that is what it is going to head to because they will sell them to their cronies. The TUC is not in support of this.”

Rather than sell the assets, the Federal Government should borrow from the International Monetary Fund, according to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

The Acting Chairman of RMAFC, Mr. Umar Gana, said this in a statement made available in Abuja on Tuesday.

Gana said the opinion of the agency was different from that of business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who had in an interview with a cable television, CNBC Africa, advocated the sale of NLNG and other federation assets as a way of augmenting government revenue shortfall as a result of the current economic recession.

He said, “It is the considered view of the commission that Nigeria’s assets such as the NLNG and other strategic national resources should not be sold to meet short-term financial obligations.

“It will be recalled that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria indicated in a media report that the sum of $10bn would be realised from the sale of these assets. The commission is of the strong opinion that the same amount could be borrowed from the IMF and the revenue from these assets could be used to amortise the loans over an agreed period.

“It should be noted that after the amortisation of the loans, those assets would still be owned by the federation in addition to their regular dividends and revenues.”

Gana argued that it would be unwise for the Federal Government to dispose of its crown jewels that were generating revenues that keep the Federation Account healthy over the long-term.

He said since the assets were generating revenues, the government could borrow from the IMF and amortise the loan with revenues emanating from the assets.

Gana also counselled that instead of selling off vital assets generating funds for the federation, wealthy Nigerians should be encouraged to set up their own liquefied natural gas projects since was blessed with abundant natural gas reserves.

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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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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Nigeria Launches New National ID Card to Enhance Access to Social and Financial Services

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced the launch of a National Identity Card with integrated payment and social service functionalities.

This initiative, spearheaded by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), aims to provide Nigerians with a single, multifunctional card that combines identification, payment, and access to various government and private sector services.

The new National ID card backed by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 is poised to become the country’s default identity card, serving as a tangible proof of identity for citizens and legal residents alike.

With features aligned with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, including a Machine-readable Zone (MRZ) and biometric authentication capabilities, the card offers robust security and verification mechanisms.

One of the most significant aspects of the new ID card is its payment functionality. Cardholders will have the ability to link their cards to bank accounts, enabling them to conduct debit and prepaid transactions seamlessly.

This feature is expected to enhance financial inclusion efforts, particularly for the unbanked and underbanked populations in Nigeria.

Also, the card will grant holders access to a wide range of government interventions programs, including travel, health insurance, microloans, agriculture initiatives, food subsidies, transport benefits, and energy subsidies.

By consolidating these services onto a single platform, the government aims to streamline administrative processes and improve service delivery efficiency.

To ensure widespread accessibility, the NIMC has outlined various channels for obtaining the new ID card, including online applications, commercial banks, participating agencies, and NIMC offices nationwide.

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New York City Hit by 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake

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New York City, famously known as the “city that never sleeps” was hit by a 4.8 magnitude earthquake.

The tremors reverberated through the towering skyscrapers and bustling suburbs as it sent shockwaves across the densely populated metropolitan area and left residents feeling shaken.

The earthquake, with its epicenter approximately 45 miles west of New York City and 50 miles north of Philadelphia, caught many off guard.

Reports indicate that over 42 million people across the Northeast region may have felt the midmorning quake with reports coming in from as far as Baltimore to Boston and beyond.

The impact of the earthquake was not confined to mere tremors; it resulted in significant damage to several multifamily homes in Newark, New Jersey, displacing nearly 30 residents.

Officials immediately sprang into action, conducting checks on bridges and other major infrastructure to assess any potential structural damage.

Flights were diverted or delayed, Amtrak slowed trains throughout the busy Northeast Corridor, and a Philadelphia-area commuter rail line suspended service as a precautionary measure.

The experience was unsettling for many New Yorkers, with some likening it to the sensation of an explosion or construction accident.

Shawn Clark, an attorney working on the 26th floor of a midtown Manhattan office, described it as “pretty weird and scary,” echoing the sentiments of many who felt the earth move beneath them.

Aftershocks were reported hours later in a central New Jersey township, causing additional concern and producing reports of damage and items falling off shelves, according to Hunterdon County Public Safety Director Brayden Fahey.

The disruption caused by the earthquake extended beyond immediate safety concerns. Cellphone circuits were overloaded as people tried to reach loved ones, and phones blared with earthquake-related notifications during the New York Philharmonic’s morning performance, adding an unexpected twist to the day’s events.

Even as the seismic event rattled New York City, residents and officials alike drew comparisons to past earthquakes, particularly the memorable tremor of August 23, 2011. Registering a magnitude of 5.8, it was the strongest quake to hit the East Coast since World War II, leaving lasting impressions on those who experienced it.

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