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Recession: Senate Tables 14-Point Roadmap to Turn Around Economy




In a bid to find quick solutions to the economic recession in the country, the Senate yesterday commenced debate on the issue, with Senate President Bukola Saraki presenting a 14-point plan to the federal government on how to make the crisis the shortest ever in history.

The Senate’s roadmap out of the recession was contained in Saraki’s speech to welcome his colleagues back from their annual vacation.

Going by the importance attached to finding urgent solutions to the recession, the Senate plenary commenced at 10.10 a.m. after the presiding and principal officers of the Senate filed into the chamber.

 The recommendations by Saraki, which will form the basis for an elaborate debate today by his colleagues include:
• The executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector.
• Government must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves.

• Consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.

• The federal government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policies until economic recovery is attained.

• Re-tool its export promotion policy scheme with incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), and introduce export-financing initiatives.
• Engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region.

• Consider the immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.
• Similarly, the agricultural sector and agro-allied businesses should be directly supported to boost value addition and jobs creation.

• While government works on the medium to long-term plans, immediate strategies must be devised that would ease the suffering of the ordinary people across the country.

• The legislature and executive must co-operate to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law as soon as possible to stimulate new investment and boost oil revenue.

Saraki added that while the executive is working on the recommendations enumerated above, the National Assembly should support it with the necessary legislations and oversight activities such as:

• Accelerate bills aimed at reforming the mortgage sub-sector for growth and accessibility in a manner that deepens people’s access to housing, jobs and economic activities.

• Work on the National Development Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2015 which will provide long term cheaper source of funds to the private sector.

• Quickly commence work on the amendment of the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill 2016; National Road Fund (Establishment, etc); National Transport Commission Act 2001; Warehouse Receipts Act Bill 2016; Review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill 2016; and the National Road Authority. These bills and some of the other economic reform bills will be considered in the coming days.

• Explore the possibility of backing certain key government policies with legislations that have time limitations. This will help give confidence to investors to go into certain areas of the economy and invest without the fear that such policies will suffer reversals and loss of investment.

Elaborating on the proposals from the Senate, Saraki lamented the current economic recession, recalling the contraction of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in the second quarter of 2016 to 2.06 per cent following a decline to -0.36 per cent in the first quarter.

He pointed out that with the current trend, “the Nigerian economy has had two consecutive quarters of economic contraction”.

Saraki advised the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately put the machinery in place to raise capital from the sale of assets and other sources with a view to raising foreign reserves, encouraging investors and discouraging currency speculation.

He said the federal government, in its search for economic recovery, should sell some of its assets including its holdings in the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) Company; reduce government shares in upstream joint venture operations; sell government stakes in financial institutions; and concession and privatise major airports and refineries.

Saraki also suggested the need to situate pension funds within the international best practices to boost infrastructure investment, adding that both the federal government and the CBN must evolve uniform policies to stimulate the economy and ensure that local borrowing does not overshadow credit for the private sector.

“The executive must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilise the economy. The measures should include part sale of NLNG holdings; reduction of government share in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stake in financial institutions e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatisation and concession of major/regional refineries and airports.

However, Saraki talked tough, warning all who choose to introduce politics into the Senate’s roadmap to assist the government in salvaging the system by accusing it of disloyalty to steer clear, pointing out that the Senate would not be cowed by such insinuations to jettison its constitutional responsibilities.

He insisted that the Senate would take tough decisions capable of repositioning the economy irrespective of whose ox is gored.

He said: “Distinguished colleagues, let me also state clearly that we shall not hide under the cloak of partisan solidarity to abdicate our constitutional responsibility under the principles of checks and balances.

“We shall make critical interventions whenever they become necessary and undertake emergency actions whenever they are required, within the confines of the constitution.

“The task at hand requires us to take tough decisions and do all that is necessary to dig our economy out of this recession. This imperative must take precedence over partisan loyalty. This is what the people expect of us and it is the only way we can continue to justify our presence here.

“As I had mentioned earlier, on our part, we will do the following: Go immediately to debate the state of the economy and come up with economic measures that we will submit to the executive. This, we will do, along with passing the necessary legislation we have identified.”

He urged his colleagues to put behind them ethnic, religious and political sentiments and confront the current challenges in the spirit of unity and oneness, pointing out that even though he is the most persecuted functionary by Buhari’s government, he would yet not be swayed by that to be indifferent to the current economic crisis.
In this regard, he encouraged his colleagues to imbibe the same spirit in the handling of the situation.

“I do not think anybody in this chamber has gone through more political persecution than myself since the inception of this government, but I will be the last to fold my arms and say that the current economic problem is not my problem. No, it is,” he said.

While further tasking his colleagues to brace up for the current challenges, Saraki said this was not the time to engage in a blame game or political horse-trading but rather the time to be deeply committed to ending the economic crisis, bearing in mind that Nigerians are desperate for solutions and so “don’t care about our politics; they don’t care about our political affiliations; they don’t care if we are APC or PDP, north or south, Christians or Muslims”.

“What they want is for us to lead the way out of this crisis and deliver on the promises that we made to them,” he stressed.

He added: “We will work in concert, not at cross-purposes. Our goal is clear; to work together with the executive to get our economy out of this recession.

“We will proffer our solutions on policy issues, and where necessary enact the necessary legislation to ensure that investors’ confidence returns to the market.”

He also said the National Assembly would back the executive with the necessary laws to boost investor confidence and restated the commitment of the Senate to hasten the passage of the necessary bills such as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), submitting that the passage of the PIB would stimulate fresh investments and boost oil revenue.
“The impasse of not passing the bill is doing great harm to the industry and the Nigerian economy as a whole,” he observed.

However, the Senate’s plan to dissolve into an executive session for a briefing by an expert on the true state of the recession was stalled by the need to observe the National Assembly’s tradition to adjourn plenary in honour of a late colleague.

Hence, yesterday’s plenary was adjourned after Saraki’s speech in honour of a member of the House of Representatives who represented Ifako-Ijaye federal constituency in Lagos State, Hon. Adewale Oluwatayo. Oluwatayo passed on in July while the National Assembly was on recess.

The executive session will now hold today.

Also speaking after yesterday’s plenary, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, said the current recession was not peculiar to only Nigeria but had also hit a number of other countries such as Venezuela whose mainstay is oil.

He described it as a blessing in disguise, saying it would provide the platform for the nation to explore other sources of revenue such as the solid minerals’ sector.

RMAFC Opposes Sale of NLNG Shares

However, as the Senate joined the clamour for the federal government to divest of some of its interest in the NLNG in order to augment the revenue shortfall and boost foreign exchange reserves, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has kicked against the recommendation.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, had advised the government to consider the partial sale of its oil assets as the recession bites harder.

But in a statement signed by the RMAFC’s acting Chairman, Shettima Umar Abba Gana, the commission argued that it would be unwise for the federal government to dispose of its crown jewels that generate revenue and keep the Federation Account healthy over the long term.

Citing the NEITI 2013 audit and financial report of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, RMAFC disclosed that the sum of $12.9 billion was received by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from the NLNG over an eight-year period which the corporation did not remit to the Federation Account.

The audit, according to the commission, also revealed that NLNG paid $1.289 billion as dividends in 2013.

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

RMAFC recalled that the CBN governor indicated that the sum of $10 billion could be realised from the sale of oil and gas sector assets held by the federal government.

It said: “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 revenue.”

RMAFC said instead of selling off such vital assets, which generate funds for the federation, wealthy Nigerians should be encouraged to set up their own LNG projects, since Nigeria is ranked seventh in the world and first in Africa with natural gas reserves base totalling 188 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) as at May 1, 2015.

In addition, Nigeria’s natural gas is regarded as one of the best in the world as it has low hydrogen sulphide (H2S) or carbon dioxide (CO2) impurity levels, the commission added.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.


COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations



African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations



China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns



President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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