- FG May Begin 2018 Capital Releases This Week
About two months after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Appropriation Act, the federal government may begin the release of funds for the implementation of the capital component of the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget this week.
The 2018 budget provides N2.01 trillion for debt service, N3.51 trillion for recurrent expenditure and N2.87 trillion for capital expenditure, an increase over the N2.36 trillion provisioned for 2017.
Feelers indicate that the monetary committee of the Ministry of Finance, which is saddled with the responsibility of releasing funds to various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), is meeting to take stock and decide on the first tranche of the capital vote to be released this week.
A top government official said that besides procurement issues, the major cause of the delay in commencing the release of the capital vote centred on the recurring controversy over the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) vis-à-vis remittances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into the Federation Account.
Remittances by the NNPC had ignited a major disagreement among the FAAC members, with the 36 states of the federation represented by their commissioners for finance refusing to share May and June allocations until issues around an acceptable template by the NNPC were resolved.
With the controversy, May and June allocations were only disbursed among the three tiers of government only about two weeks ago.
The FAAC stalemate created some fiscal challenges at the federal and state levels as they could not pay workers’ salary.
To resolve the recurring controversy over NNPC remittances, the president, last week, approved the creation of a new template for NNPC remittances.
According to a reliable source, the FAAC stalemate contributed to the delay in the release of the first tranche of the 2018 capital vote.
She noted that without the three tiers of government sharing the May and June allocations, it would have been near impossible for the monetary committee of the finance ministry to meet and decide on what to release as the initial tranche of the capital budget.
The source disclosed with the FAAC issue resolved, the first tranche of the capital vote would be released this week, barring any hitch.
However, even without the FAAC controversy, the first tranche N336 billion of the capital vote for the 2017 budget was released at the end of August, although the budget was signed by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on June 12.
Buhari signed this year’s budget on June 19, amid lamentations that the National Assembly removed close to N600 billion provisioned for some critical projects.
Analysts have continued to express doubt over the ability of the government to implement the capital component of the 2018 Budget with election around the corner and about four months to the end of the year.
Moody’s Investors Services Limited, one of the leading global rating agencies, had also pointed out that the capital expenditure portion of the fiscal plan is unrealisable.
There are also fears around the expansionary impact of the 2018 budget, coming at a time when election spending has almost commenced.
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.
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 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.
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns
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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