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Senate Summons Fashola Over Alleged $35m Spendings

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  • Senate Summons Fashola Over Alleged $35m Spendings

The Senate on Wednesday began an investigation into the alleged plan by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to secure the release of $350m domiciled in the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority to finance electricity projects.

The lawmakers specifically criticised the ministry for allegedly spending $35m out of the money on power projects without approval by the National Assembly.

The decision followed the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi-West), at the plenary on Wednesday, which was entitled, ‘Monumental Fraud in the Power Sector.’

Granting a prayer of the motion, the Senate mandated its Senate committees on Power; and Public Accounts to invite the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), “to render a detailed account in terms of public funds spent on the Fast Power Projects (Afam Fast Power Project in particular); evidence of feasibility study indicating the viability of the projects; requisite appropriation by the National Assembly as required by the constitution; and the controversial presidential approval for the projects.”

Another prayer was also granted to mandate same committees “to investigate and consider summoning the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trading Company, etc., to generally establish the status of the funds ($350m) and to report back to the Senate within two weeks.”

The Senate also unanimously granted the prayer to “direct the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to stop or suspend all attempts or efforts to pressurise the NSIA to release $350m meant for NBET to the ministry for use on the controversial fast power projects.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, noted that the issues had previously been raised concerning the power sector in the chamber. He also noted that the law establishing the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority was due for a review.

Saraki’s suggestion on the review of the NSIA Establishment Act was presented as an additional prayer and it was unanimously granted.

In the motion, Melaye recalled that the Federal Government raised $1bn through a Eurobond issue in July 2013, while the government released $350m out of the sum to the Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trading Company Plc as shareholder contribution to shore up its capitalisation.

Melaye said, “The Senate observes that this fund has been with the NSlA since 2014 and has helped build market confidence especially among new investors in the electricity market who see NBET’s positive balance sheet as a form of security that their investments are safe and that NBET has the wherewithal to meet its payment obligations.

“The Senate is alarmed that there is now a desperate attempt by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to retrieve this fund ($350m) and divert same to fund the so-called Fast Power Projects, which the ministry has already spent $35m of public funds not appropriated by the National Assembly.”

“The Senate is further alarmed that since the introduction of the Fast Power Project by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, a total sum of $35m has been spent by the ministry on Afam Power Project alone to pay $29m to General Electric as cost for turbines and $6m in consultancy fees to other entities respectively, all without requisite feasibility study of the projects and appropriation by the National Assembly as required by the constitution.”

The senator said “a lot of questions are begging for answers” as regards the $29m paid to General Electric and the $6m paid to other consultants.

He asked who the consultants were and how were they procured. He also asked if there was observance of due process in the award of the contracts. He further asked why the transaction was cloaked in secrecy and what was the true value of Afam Fast Power?

Melaye added, “Why is the ministry engaging in constructing new power plant while the government has several idle plants that is seeking buyers for? Why is the ministry that is supposed to be making policies, dabbling into constructing new power plants that we have all agreed is better handled by the private sector?”

He added, “The Senate is concerned that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is determined to persist in this brazen violation of the Constitution and extant laws on due process by insisting that the NSIA should release the $350m meant for NBET on the pretext of acting under a purported presidential approval.

“The Senate is convinced that there is an urgent need to bring the .ministry to order regarding its planned diversion of the sum of $350m meant for NBET and further demand a detailed account of unappropriated public funds spent on the controversial fast power projects.”

Seconding the motion, Senator Mohammed Hassan (Yobe-South) noted that apart from the $350m released to NBET, the Transmission Company of Nigeria also got $150m and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation got $500m for some gas projects.

He said, “These monies will be maturing and they will be due for return by next year. Our concern is on these contracts that were awarded; I think that is the area that the Senate should look at. I will want to recommend that the Senate Committee on Power should look at that, not only ascertaining the credit balance of the $350m, we need to find out what is the status of the $500m with NNPC and $150m with TCN. I think that is the way to go.”

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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Minister of Power Pledges 6,000 Megawatts Electricity Generation in Six Months

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Adebayo Adelabu has made a bold pledge to ramp up electricity generation to 6,000 megawatts (MW) within the next six months.

This announcement comes amidst ongoing efforts to tackle the longstanding issue of inadequate power supply that has plagued the country for years.

During an appearance on Channel Television’s Politics Today program, Adelabu said the government is committed to resolving the issues hindering the power sector’s efficiency.

He expressed confidence in the administration’s ability to overcome the challenges and deliver tangible results to the Nigerian populace.

Currently, Nigeria generates and transmits over 4,000MW of electricity with distribution bottlenecks being identified as a major obstacle.

Adelabu assured that steps are being taken to address these distribution challenges and ensure that the generated power reaches consumers across the country effectively.

The minister highlighted that the government has been proactive in seeking the expertise of professionals and engaging stakeholders to identify the root causes of the power sector’s problems and devise appropriate solutions.

Adelabu acknowledged the existing gap between Nigeria’s installed capacity of 13,000MW and the actual generation output, attributing it to various factors that have impeded optimal performance.

Despite these challenges, he expressed optimism that the government’s initiatives would lead to a substantial increase in electricity generation, marking a significant milestone in Nigeria’s energy sector.

Addressing concerns about the recent decline in power generation due to low gas supply, Adelabu assured Nigerians that measures are being taken to rectify the situation.

He acknowledged the impact of power outages on citizens’ daily lives and reiterated the government’s commitment to providing stable electricity supply within the stipulated timeframe.

The Minister’s assurance of achieving 6,000MW of electricity generation in the next six months comes as a ray of hope for millions of Nigerians who have long endured the consequences of inadequate power supply.

With ongoing reforms and targeted interventions, there is optimism that Nigeria’s power sector will witness a transformative change, ushering in an era of improved access to electricity for all citizens.

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Nigeria’s Economic Woes to Drag Down Sub-Saharan Growth, World Bank Forecasts

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The World Bank’s latest report on the economic outlook for Western and Central Africa has highlighted Nigeria’s sluggish economic growth as a significant factor impeding the sub-region’s overall performance.

According to the report, while economic activities in the region are expected to increase, Nigeria’s lower-than-average growth trajectory will act as a hindrance to broader economic expansion.

The report indicates that economic activity in Western and Central Africa is set to rise from 3.2 percent in 2023 to 3.7 percent in 2024 and further accelerate to 4.2 percent in 2025–2026.

However, Nigeria’s growth, projected at 3.3 percent in 2024 and 3.6 percent in 2025–2026, falls below the sub-region’s average.

The World Bank underscores the importance of macroeconomic and fiscal reforms in Nigeria, which it anticipates will gradually yield results.

It expects the oil sector to stabilize with a recovery in production and slightly lower prices, contributing to a more stable macroeconomic environment.

Despite these measures, the report emphasizes the need for structural reforms to foster higher growth rates.

In contrast, economic activities in the West African Economic and Monetary Union are projected to increase significantly, with growth rates of 5.9 percent in 2024 and 6.2 percent in 2025.

Solid performances from countries like Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and Senegal are cited as key drivers of growth in the region.

The report also highlights the importance of monetary policy adjustments and reforms in supporting economic growth.

For instance, a more accommodative monetary policy by the Central Bank of West African States is expected to bolster private consumption in Côte d’Ivoire.

Also, investments in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and telecommunications are anticipated to increase due to improvements in the business environment.

However, Nigeria continues to grapple with multidimensional poverty as highlighted by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Over half of Nigeria’s population is considered multidimensionally poor, with rural areas disproportionately affected. The World Bank underscores the need for concerted efforts to address poverty and inequality in the country.

Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole faces challenges in deepening and lengthening economic growth. Despite recent progress, growth remains volatile, and poverty rates remain high.

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Fitch Downgrades China’s Outlook to Negative Amid Real Estate Slump

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Fitch Ratings has downgraded China’s economic outlook to negative, citing concerns over the country’s mounting debt and the ongoing slump in its real estate sector.

This decision casts a shadow over China’s economic recovery efforts and raises questions about the resilience of its financial system in the face of mounting challenges.

The downgrade comes at a critical juncture for China as the government grapples with the fallout from a prolonged downturn in the real estate market, which has long been a cornerstone of the country’s economic growth.

Fitch’s decision underscores the severity of the challenges facing China’s economy and the urgent need for policymakers to implement effective measures to address the underlying issues.

Amid growing uncertainty about the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy, Fitch warned that the Chinese government is likely to accumulate more debt as it seeks to stimulate economic growth and mitigate the impact of the real estate slowdown.

The agency’s negative outlook reflects concerns that China’s debt burden could continue to rise, posing risks to the stability of its financial system.

The real estate sector, which has been a key driver of China’s economic growth in recent decades, has been experiencing a pronounced slowdown in recent months.

This downturn has been exacerbated by government measures aimed at curbing speculative investment and addressing housing affordability concerns. As property prices continue to decline and housing sales stagnate, fears of a broader economic slowdown have intensified.

China’s government has sought to downplay concerns about the impact of the real estate slump on the broader economy, emphasizing its commitment to maintaining stability and pursuing sustainable growth.

However, Fitch’s downgrade suggests that the challenges facing China’s economy may be more significant than previously thought and require a more comprehensive and coordinated policy response.

The negative outlook from Fitch follows a similar move by Moody’s Investors Service in December, highlighting the growing consensus among rating agencies about the risks facing China’s economy.

While financial markets initially showed little reaction to Fitch’s announcement, analysts warn that the downgrade could weigh on market sentiment in the near term, especially as investors await key economic indicators due to be released in the coming weeks.

China’s public debt has surged in recent years, fueled by government stimulus measures aimed at supporting economic growth and offsetting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With public debt nearing 80% of gross domestic product (GDP) as of mid-last year, according to the Bank for International Settlements, concerns about the sustainability of China’s debt levels have been mounting.

Despite these challenges, China’s sovereign bond market remains relatively insulated from external pressures, with foreign ownership accounting for a small fraction of total holdings.

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