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Reps put N26bn industry ministry’s budget on hold

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  • Reps put N26bn industry ministry’s budget on hold

The House of Representatives Committee on Commerce on Thursday put on hold the defence of the 2018 budget proposal of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

The primary reason was the failure of the Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr.Okechukwu Enelamah, to personally attend the budget defence session before the committee at the National Assembly in Abuja.

Enelamah sent a message that he was out of the country.

The ministry’s budget for 2017 was N21.5bn. The lion’s share of N19.1bn was appropriated for capital projects.

However, as of Thursday, lawmakers were informed that only N3bn or 16 per cent had been released so far, leaving the huge balance of N16.1bn yet to be released.

The committee, which is chaired by a member from Ebonyi State, Mr. Sylvester Ogbaga, had invited Enelamah to explain the performance of the budget.

This was meant to be done before the commencement of his defence of the budget proposals for 2018, but he was absent.

Enelamah has asked the Minister of State, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, to appear before the committee.

Although, lawmakers allowed her to read a speech containing the proposals for 2018, no further actions were taken on the budget.

Members resolved to put the budget on hold pending when Enelamah would be “less busy” to appear before the committee.

The committee explained that the minister was the head of the ministry and must be the one to answer all the questions relating to the 2018 proposals.

From the total of N21.5bn appropriated in 2017, the total budget proposals for 2018 were raised to N26.1bn.

In the new proposals, allocations to capital projects were increased to N23bn from the N19.1bn budgeted in 2017.

Members observed that in seven months, the performance for capital releases in 2017 was 16 per cent.

They noted that this raised questions on why the budget size was increased when the budgeted funds for the 2017 had yet to be released.

Members also expressed displeasure over the conduct of the two ministers, whom they accused of ignoring many invitations by the committee to appear and explain the government’s policies to the people.

After Abubakar ended her presentation of the estimates, Ogbaga asked her to leave to attend to other official matters because the committee would not touch the budget until Enelamah was ready to appear in person.

He stated, “After your presentation, that will be all. You may go. You are very busy in the office. Tell the minister that we are here at the National Assembly. We are ready to work.

“If he is out of the country, any time that he is in the country and ready to come and defend the budget, he should communicate to us.

“We will not fix the date; let him contact the secretariat of the committee to fix a date that is convenient to him.”

Members were generally unhappy over what they perceived to be the unwillingness of top officials in the executive arm to work speedily on the 2018 budget proposal.

“The same executive has been mounting pressure on us to pass the budget in haste.

“Here we are. We are ready to work. If members are ready, we don’t see why the ministers will be the ones who are not ready”, Ogbaga added.

Abubakar apologised to the lawmakers for the absence of Enelamah and the inability of the top officials of the ministry to honour previous invitations.

However, she said the problem was mostly caused by short notices given by the committee to the ministry.

She said, “What we did was to try and send representations because of the short notices. But I promise the committee that from 2018, there will be a change in this regard. We will work more together with the committee and the House.

“We have never given the impression that the ministry can work alone without the Senate or the House.”

The budget was later stepped down.

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

Economy

Electricity Consumers Get 611,231 Meters Under MAP Scheme

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Electricity Consumers Get 611,231 Meters Under MAP Scheme

A total of 611,231 meters have been deployed as at January 31, 2021 under the Meter Asset Provider initiative since its full operation despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other extraneous factors, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has said.

NERC disclosed this in a consultation paper on the review of the MAP Regulations.

The proposed review of the MAP scheme is coming nearly four months after the Federal Government launched a new initiative called National Mass Metering Programme aimed at distributing six million meters to consumers free of charge.

“The existence of a huge metering gap and the need to ensure successful implementation of the MYTO 2020 Service-Based Tariff resulted in the approval of the NMMP, a policy of the Federal Government anchored on the provision of long-term low interest financing to the Discos,” NERC said.

The commission had in March 2018 approved the MAP Regulations with the aim of fast-tracking the closure of the metering gap in the sector through the engagement of third-party investors (called meter asset providers) for the financing, procurement, supply, installation and maintenance of meters.

It set a target of providing meters to all customers within three years, and directed the Discos and the approved MAPs to commence the rollout of meters not later than May 1, 2019.

But in February 2020, NERC said several constraints, including changes in fiscal policy and the limited availability of long-term funding, had led to limited success in meter rollout.

NERC, in the consultation paper, highlighted three proposed options for metering implementation going forward.

The first option is to allow the implementation of both the NMMP and MAP metering frameworks to run concurrently; the second is to continue with the current MAP framework with meters procured under the NMMP supplied only through MAPs (by being off-takers from the local manufacturers/assemblers).

The third option is to wind down the MAP framework and allow the Discos to procure meters directly from local manufacturers/assemblers (or as procured by the World Bank), and enter into new contracts for the installation and maintenance of such meters.

“Customers who choose not to wait to receive meters based on the deployment schedule of the NMMP shall continue to have the option of making upfront payments for meters which will be installed within a maximum period of 10 working days,” NERC said.

The regulator said such customers would be refunded by the Discos through energy credits, adding that there would be no option for meter acquisition through the payment of a monthly meter service charge.

“Where meters have already been deployed under the meter service charge option, Discos shall make one-off repayment to affected customers and associated MAPs. Such meters shall be recognised in the rate base of the Discos,” it added.

NERC urged stakeholders to provide comments, objections, and representations on the proposed amendments within 21 days of the publication of the consultation paper.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Economy Moving in Right Direction but Slow – Amina Mohammed

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Nigeria’s Economy Moving in Right Direction but Slow – Amina Mohammed

Nigeria is moving in the right direction economically but its movement is not fast, the United Nations stated on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, said this during a meeting at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Abuja.

She said the challenges in Nigeria were huge, its population large but described the country’s economy as great with lots of opportunities.

The UN scribe stated that after traveling by train and through various roads in the Northern parts of Nigeria, she discovered that the roads were motorable, although there were ongoing repairs on some of them.

Mohammed said, “This is a country that is diverse in nature, ethnicity, religious backgrounds and opportunities. But these are its strengths, not weaknesses.

“And I think the narrative for Nigeria has to change to one that is very much the reality.”

Speaking on her trips across parts of Nigeria, she said, “What I saw along the way is really a country that is growing, that is moving in the right direction economically. Is it fast enough? No. Is it in the right direction? Yes it is.

“And the challenges still remain with security, our social cohesion and social contract between government and the people. But I know that people are working on these issues.”

She said the UN recognised the reforms in Nigeria and other nations, adding that the common global agenda was the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mohammad commended Nigeria’s quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as she expressed hope that the arrival of vaccines would be the beginning of the end of COVID-19.

On his part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, told his guest that the Federal Government was working hard to make Nigeria the entrepreneurial hub of Africa.

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Economy

N10.7tn Spent on Fuel Subsidy in 10 Years – MOMAN

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N10.7tn Spent on Fuel Subsidy in 10 Years – MOMAN

Nigeria spent a total of N10.7tn on fuel subsidy in the last 10 years, the Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, has said.

Oyebanji, who was the guest speaker at the 18th Aret Adams Lecture on Thursday, said N750bn was spent on subsidy in 2019.

He highlighted the need for a transition to a market-driven environment through policy-backed legislative and commercial frameworks, enabling the sustainability of the downstream petroleum sector.

“Total deregulation is more than just the removal of price subsidies; it is aimed at improving business operations, increasing the investments in the oil and gas sector value chain, resulting in the growth in the nation’s downstream petroleum sector as a whole,” he said.

The managing director of 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc) said steps had been taken, “but larger and faster leaps are now required.”

According to him, deregulation requires the creation of a competitive market environment, and will guarantee the supply of products at commercial and market prices.

“It requires unrestricted and profitable investments in infrastructure, earning reasonable returns to investors. It requires a strong regulator to enable transparency and fair competition among players, and not to regulate prices,” Oyebanji said.

He noted that MOMAN had recently called for a national debate by stakeholders to share pragmatic and realistic initiatives to ease the impact of the subsidy removal on society – especially on the most vulnerable.

He said, “A shift from crude oil production to crude oil full value realisation through deliberate investment in domestic refining and refined products distribution, creates the opportunity to transform the dynamics of the downstream sector from one of ‘net importer’ to one of ‘net exporter’, spurring the growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Effective reforms and regulations are key drivers for the growth within the refining sector. Non-functional refineries cost Nigeria over $13bn in 2019. If the NNPC refineries were operating at optimal capacity, Nigeria would have imported only 40 per cent of what it consumed in 2019.”

Full deregulation of the downstream sector remains the most glaring boost to potential investors in this space, according to Oyebanji.

He said, “As crude oil prices will fluctuate depending on the prevailing exchange rates, it will be astute to trade in naira to avoid inevitable price swings.

“There needs to be a balance between ensuring the sustainable growth of the crude oil value chain (upstream through downstream) and providing value for the Nigerian consumer and the Nigerian economy.”

He said the philosophy should be for the government to put the legislative and commercial framework in place and let the market develop by itself.

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