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FG Releases N42.68bn to Public Varsities, Nigerian Airways Retirees

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  • FG Releases N42.68bn to Public Varsities, Nigerian Airways Retirees

The Federal Government has approved the payment of N42.68bn for the payment of retirement benefits to ex-workers of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited and the revitalisation of public universities in the country.

Out of the amount, N20bn was released to the education sector as part of the government’s promise to revitalise the public universities and ensure smooth running of the tertiary education system in the country.

The approval for the release of the amount was given by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said in Abuja that the release of N20bn was part of the implementation of a bilateral agreement signed in 2013 by the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

She stated, “Regarding funding measures for revitalisation of public universities, you may recall that ASUU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government sometimes in 2013 on the terms and conditions on which the government would improve funding for staff welfare and the provision of critical infrastructure in our public universities.

“However, the implementation of this bilateral agreement has had certain challenges due to revenue shortages and other reasons.

“This, our administration, in its determination to revitalise the public universities and ensure smooth running of its education tertiary system in the country, has decided to approve the sum of N20bn for immediate release for the public universities through the revitalisation scheme.

“These funds will be released to the beneficiary universities in line with the established criteria used by the National Universities Commission.”

Ahmed added that the Federal Government would monitor the progress of the implementation of the disbursement with a view to resolving emerging issues and keeping its promises to relevant stakeholders.

Ahmed stated, “Upon my assumption of office as the minister of finance, some pending fiscal issues in the aviation and education sectors were immediately brought to my attention. As such, I took it as a challenge to quickly address key issues regarding the settlement of existing claims in both sectors.

“Consequently, upon this, I am happy to inform you that Mr President has graciously approved the sums of N22.68bn and N20bn to aviation and education sectors, respectively.”

The minister said the initial outstanding retirement benefits due to the ex-workers of the former national carrier based on their submission amounted to N78bn.

She explained that after verification by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit and other relevant stakeholders in line with the condition of service of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, the sum of N45bn was agreed as the total retirement benefits to the affected workers.

The minister stated, “The ex-workers of Nigeria Airways Limited in liquidation were not paid their retirement benefits for the past 15 years despite the liquidation. As a result of the delays in settlement of these benefits, many ex-workers have been thrown out of their houses, their children have been unable to attend schools and others have lost their businesses, fallen ill or indeed, passed on

“This unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration.”

To ensure that the presidential directives are duly implemented, the minister has constituted a committee to be headed by the Secretary of PICA, Mohammed Dikwa.

She said the committee would also have representation from the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Finance and the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

Others are Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate and Budget Office of the Federation.

While reacting to the development, the ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, told one of our correspondents that the union did not usually receive any money from the government, but such funds were usually given to the institutions.

He noted that the N20bn ought to have come since September 2017, but the government was not committed to its agreement with the union.

Ogunyemi said, “Let me correct that impression. ASUU does not collect the money given to universities from the government. We don’t spend or collect any government money. We don’t manage the universities. We only advocate for proper funding. That money was not given to our union.

“That N20bn ought to have been released since September and October 2017. That was why we went on our action for six weeks. We suspended it on September 14, 2017, after signing a memorandum and part of the items was this issue of the N20bn to be released in two tranches.

“There should have been N10bn in September 2017 and N10bn in October 2017, but the government reneged. That N20bn was just to demonstrate the government’s commitment to the agreement as far back as 2013, which brought about our strike action last year.

“Nigerians should not be deceived. It is a way of taking us back to tokenism. Let us just give them something to pacify and placate them; the government’s attitude is wrong.”

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.

Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Approaches $70 Per Barrel on Friday

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Nigerian Oil Approaches $70 Per Barrel Following OPEC+ Production Cuts Extension

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $69 on Friday at 3:55 pm Nigerian time.

Oil price jumped after OPEC and allies, known as OPEC plus, agreed to role-over crude oil production cuts to further reduce global oil supplies and artificially sustain oil price in a move experts said could stoke inflationary pressure.

Brent crude oil rose from $63.86 per barrel on Wednesday to $69 per barrel on Friday as energy investors became more optimistic about the oil outlook.

While certain experts are worried that U.S crude oil production will eventually hurt OPEC strategy once the economy fully opens, few experts are saying production in the world’s largest economy won’t hit pre-pandemic highs.

According to Vicki Hollub, the CEO of Occidental, U.S oil production may not return to pre-pandemic levels given a shift in corporates’ value.

“I do believe that most companies have committed to value growth, rather than production growth,” she said during a CNBC Evolve conversation with Brian Sullivan. “And so I do believe that that’s going to be part of the reason that oil production in the United States does not get back to 13 million barrels a day.”

Hollub believes corporate organisations will focus on optimizing present operations and facilities, rather than seeking growth at all costs. She, however, noted that oil prices rebounded faster than expected, largely due to China, India and United States’ growing consumption.

The recovery looks more V-shaped than we had originally thought it would be,” she said. Occidental previous projection had oil production recovering to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2022. The CEO Now believes demand will return by the end of this year or the first few months of 2022.

I do believe we’re headed for a much healthier supply and demand environment” she said.

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Crude Oil

Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts

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Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $67.70 per barrel on Thursday following the decision of OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, to extend production cuts.

OPEC and allies are presently debating whether to restore as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil in April, according to people with the knowledge of the meeting.

Experts have said OPEC+ continuous production cuts could increase global inflationary pressure with the rising price of could oil. However, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said “I don’t think it will overheat.”

Last year “we suffered alone, we as OPEC+” and now “it’s about being vigilant and being careful,” he said.

Saudi minister added that the additional 1 million barrel-a-day voluntary production cut the kingdom introduced in February was now open-ended. Meaning, OPEC+ will be withholding 7 million barrels a day or 7 percent of global demand from the market– even as fuel consumption recovers in many nations.

Experts have started predicting $75 a barrel by April.

“We expect oil prices to rise toward $70 to $75 a barrel during April,” said Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president of macro oils at consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “The risk is these higher prices will dampen the tentative global recovery. But the Saudi energy minister is adamant OPEC+ must watch for concrete signs of a demand rise before he moves on production.”

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Gold

Gold Hits Eight-Month Low as Global Optimism Grows Amid Rising Demand for Bitcoin

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Gold Struggles Ahead of Economic Recovery as Bitcoin, New Gold, Surges

Global haven asset, gold, declined to the lowest in more than eight months on Tuesday as signs of global economic recovery became glaring with rising bond yields.

The price of the precious metal declined to $1,718 per ounce during London trading on Thursday, down from $2,072 it traded in August as more investors continue to cut down on their holdings of the metal.

The previous metal usually performs poorly with rising yields on other assets like bonds, especially given the fact that gold does not provide streams of interest payments. Investors have been jumping on US bonds ahead of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, expected to stoke stronger US price growth.

We see the rising bond yields as a sign of economic optimism, which has also prompted gold investors to sell some of their positions,” said Carsten Menke of Julius Baer.

Another analyst from Commerzbank, Carsten Fritsch, said that “gold’s reputation appears to have been tarnished considerably by the heavy losses of recent weeks, as evidenced by the ongoing outflows from gold ETFs”.

Experts at Investors King believed the growing demand for Bitcoin, now called the new gold, and other cryptocurrencies in recent months by institutional investors is hurting gold attractiveness.

In a recent report, analysts at Citigroup have started projecting mainstream acceptance for the unregulated dominant cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.

The price of Bitcoin has rallied by 60 percent to $52,000 this year alone. While Ethereum has risen by over 660 percent in 2021.

 

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