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Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Fund’s Assets Rise To $3.5B -Minister of Finance

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Zainab Ahmed

Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund now has around $3.5 billion in assets under management, up from $1 billion when the current administration took office in 2015, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said on Wednesday.

The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) launched in 2013 saying it would invest in infrastructure as well as building up a savings pot for future generations and another to protect the oil-dependent economy against commodity price shocks.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday inaugurated a new NSIA board, saying it should focus on investments that support economic diversification.

“This administration took the very difficult decision to invest for the long term. We avoided taking shortcuts knowing very well that the full impact of most of the projects we started will only be felt long after we have left office,” he said, according to a statement from his spokesman.

Buhari cited public works on the Second Niger Bridge in southeast Nigeria, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in the southwest and the Abuja-Kano road in the north as examples of investments by the NSIA whose effects would be felt in the future.

He also cited projects in areas such as fertilizers, artisanal gold mining and healthcare.

Ahmed, who also spoke at the inauguration of the new board, gave no further details about the NSIA’s financial position, according to the statement from Buhari’s spokesman.

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Economy

FG Plans To Deliver 15 Projects Across The Country With $4B Foreign Loans

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Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s Presidency has explained that a total of 15 projects, spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, are to be financed with more than $4 billion from multilateral institutions.

Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity stated on Saturday in Abuja that the loan is under the 2018-2021 medium-term (rolling) external borrowing plan.

He revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had already requested the Senate to approve sovereign loans of $4.054billion and €710million as well as grant components of $125million for the proposed projects.

He quoted the letter by the president as saying that the sovereign loans will be sourced from the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD), China-Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE).

He said: “The President’s request to the Senate listed 15 proposed pipeline projects, the objectives, the implementation period, benefiting states, as well as the implementing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“A breakdown of the Addendum to the Proposed Pipeline Projects for the 2018-2021 Medium Term (rolling) External Borrowing Plan shows that the World Bank is expected to finance seven projects including the $125million grant for ‘Better Education Services for All’.’’

According to him, the Global Partnership for Education grant is expected to increase equitable access for out-of-school children and improve literacy in focus states.

He expressed the hope that the grant, which would be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), would strengthen accountability for results in basic Education in Katsina, Oyo and Adamawa States.

Other projects to be financed by the World Bank, according to Shehu, are the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Results as well as the Agro-Processing, Productivity, Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project.

He said the benefiting states for the agro-processing project included, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano, Cross River, Enugu and Lagos with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as the implementing ministry.

The presidential aide stated that the objective of the project was to enhance the agricultural productivity of small and medium-scale farmers and improve value addition along priority value chains in the participating states.

Shehu added that the World Bank would also be financing the Nigeria Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Imo and Plateau States, for the next five years.

According to him, the project, when completed, is expected to improve rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene nationwide towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for water supply and sanitation by 2030.

“Under the external borrowing plan, the World Bank-supported projects also include Nigeria’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project (COPREP), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“The project, which has an implementation period of five years, will respond to threats posed by COVID-19 through the procurement of vaccines.

“Furthermore, no fewer than 29 states are listed as beneficiaries of the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Arid Zone Landscape project, which is expected to reduce natural resource management conflicts in dry and semi-arid ecosystems in Nigeria,’’ he said.

He gave the names of the benefiting states for the project to be co-financed by the World Bank and European Investment Bank (EIB) to include: Akwa Ibom, Borno, Oyo, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Edo, Plateau, Abia and Nasarawa.

Others are; Delta, Niger, Gombe, Imo, Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Niger, Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi, Ekiti, Ogun, Benue, Yobe and Kwara.

He said the World Bank would also be funding the Livestock Productivity and Resilience project in no fewer than 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while the China EXIM Bank is expected to finance the construction of the branch line of Apapa-TinCan Island Port, under the Lagos-Ibadan Railway modernisation project.

Shehu said: “The French Development Agency will finance two projects, which include the National Digital Identity Management project and the Kaduna Bus Rapid Transport Project.

“The digital identity project will be co-financed with World Bank and EIB.

“The Value Chain Development Programme to be financed by IFAD and implemented in Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Nasarawa, Enugu and the Kogi States will empower 100,000 farmers, including over 6,000 and 3,000 processors and traders, respectively.

“The loan facility to be provided by European ECA/KfW/IPEX/APC will be spent on the construction of the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) linking Nigeria with Niger Republic from Kano-Katsina-Daura-Jibiya-Maradi with branch to Dutse.

“The specific project title, Kano-Maradi SGR with a branch to Dutse, has an implementation period of 30 months and will be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transport.

“The Chinese African Development Fund through the Bank of China is expected to provide a loan facility of $325 million for the establishment of three power and renewable energy projects including solar cells production facility Phase 1 & II, electric power transformer production, Plants 1, II, III and high voltage testing laboratory.

“The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) will implement the project aimed at increasing local capacity and capability in the development of power and renewable energy technologies and infrastructure,’’ he further disclosed.

Shehu revealed that Credit Suisse would finance major industrialization projects as well as micro, small and medium enterprises schemes to be executed by the Bank of Industry.

He said the SINOSURE and Standard Chartered Bank would also provide funds for the provision of 17MW Hybrid Solar Power infrastructure for the National Assembly (NASS) complex. “The project, with an implementation period of five years, is expected to address NASS power supply deficit and reduce the higher overhead burdensome cost of running and maintaining fossil fuel generators (25MW installed capacity) to power the assembly complex,’’ he added.

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SERAP Urged House of Reps To Reject Buhari’s Fresh $4B, €710M Loan Request

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SERAP- Investors King

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow $4 billion and €710 million until the publication of details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015 by the government.

President Buhari recently sought the approval of the National Assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 billion and €710 million, on the grounds of “emerging needs.” The request was contained in a letter dated 24 August, 2021.

In an open letter dated 18 September 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”

SERAP said: “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.”

According to SERAP, “Accumulation of excessive debts and unsustainable debt-servicing are inconsistent with the government’s international obligations to use the country’s maximum available resources to achieve progressively the realisation of economic and social rights, and access of Nigerians to basic public services.”

The letter, read in part: “The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.”

“SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for constitutional amendment on debt limit, with the intent of reducing national debt and deficits. This recommendation is entirely consistent with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.”

“Indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of Nigerians’ economic and social rights. Spending large portion of the country’s yearly budget to service debts has limited the ability of the government to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to minimal health care, education, clean water, and other human needs.”

“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.

“The National Assembly under your leadership has a constitutional responsibility to urgently address the country’s debt crisis, which is exacerbated by overspending on lavish allowances for high-ranking public officials, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as the absence of political will to recover trillions of naira reported to be missing or mismanaged by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“The National Assembly should stop the government from borrowing behind the people’s backs. Lack of information about details of specific projects on which loans are spent, and on loan conditions creates incentives for corruption, and limits citizens’ ability to scrutinise the legality and consistency of loans with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as well as to hold authorities to account.

“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35 trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679 trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31 trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education.”

The letter was copied to chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

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Remittances To Africa Projected to Drop By 5.4% in 2021: UNECA

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Remittance-Investors king

According to a new report from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), remittances to Africa are projected to drop by 5.4 percent to $41 billion in 2021 from $44 billion last year.

The report notes that the bleak situation has been compounded by the high cost of sending money to Africa from abroad, as the cost of remittances to Africa remains the highest in the world at 8.9 percent.

Remittances are an essential part of economic activity in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), including Africa. Due to the economic crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, global remittances are projected to decline sharply by about 20 percent in 2020. For Africa, remittances are projected to drop by 5.4 percent to $41 billion in 2021 from $44 billion last year, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) projects remittances.

The report, titled “African regional review of the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”, notes that the projected fall is mainly due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable to loss of employment and wages amid the pandemic.

The report adds that the bleak situation has been compounded by the high cost of sending money to Africa from abroad as the cost of remittances to Africa remains the highest in the world at 8.9 percent.

“A migrant sending $200 to his/her family in Africa pays an estimated nine percent of the value of the transaction, indicating that the continent is still far from achieving the three percent target set out in Sustainable Development Goal 10,” the report stated.

This signals huge deficits in millions of African households depending on their friends and relatives abroad for a financial lifeline, thus threatening a perpetuation of macroeconomic imbalances on the continent.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and Sustainable Development Goal indicator 10(c) provides that countries should, by 2030, reduce to less than three percent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than five percent.

In response, some African countries have taken action to lower the costs of remittance transfers by offering diaspora bonds to investors and relaxing foreign exchange controls to allow for electronic and mobile money transfers at reduced costs.

“It should be noted, in that regard, that the use of digital money transfer platforms reduces transfer fees in Africa by an average of 7 percent,” says the report.

“Private financial institutions also offer incentives to encourage members of diaspora communities to use their services, including low transaction fees for remittances, and facilitate diaspora-initiated projects, especially in the real estate sector. These measures all promote the financial inclusion of migrants and their families.”

The report recommends that member States support migrants and their families through adopting laws and regulations to facilitate the sending and receiving of remittances, including by fostering competition among banks and other remittance handling agencies to establish low-cost transfer mechanisms.

In addition, the report recommends that African countries make every effort to reduce the transfer costs associated with remittance payments by making more extensive use of digital transfer solutions, such as MPESA, and by streamlining the regulatory constraints associated with international money transfers.

Finally, the report concludes that the African States should also engage with destination countries to identify ways to enhance the provision of basic services to migrants in those countries as remittances are a primary source of national income for at least 25 African countries, all of which have large diaspora populations.

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