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Labour Stages Nationwide Protest Over Electricity Tariff

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The organised labour on Monday paralysed business activities of the electricity distribution firms as it led a nationwide protest against the over 45 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, demanding an immediate reversal of the hike.

Leaders and members of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress were joined in the simultaneous demonstrations in different parts of the country by those in the civil societies and students of tertiary institutions.

According to Punch, the protesters stormed the various offices of the power firms nationwide as early as 8am, chasing out some officials of the companies who had resumed for work.

Armed with placards that bore various inscriptions such as ‘No to increase in electricity tariff’ and ‘No meter, no payment’, the protesters said there was no justification for the hike, with the organised labour warning that if the decision was not rescinded, it could be forced to order an indefinite strike.

In Abuja, the NLC and the TUC led the protesters to the offices of the Abuja Electricity Development Company, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the National Assembly.

The President, TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, said the labour movement would continue with the protest against the tariff hike until its reversal.

Similarly, the President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, accused the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, of conniving with the electricity firms to fleece Nigerians.

The protesters insisted that policies of the government, which created room for Nigerians to be subjected to unjustified charges, would be resisted.

Wabba called on President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the privation of the power sector as it was marred by corruption, lamenting that the current increase would make it the fifth time the tariffs would go up since the privatisation exercise was concluded.

Wabba, who said that the current tariff increase would not be accepted, added that it was the standard practice all over the world for people to only pay for what they consumed.

He said, “We will not allow a situation where a few will collaborate, including our Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatubde Fashola; we are really disappointed because he did not even respond to all the letters we wrote to him.

“This protest is to tell the Discos and Gencos that we will not allow a situation where they will continue to fleece Nigerians.”

Kaigama, who observed that NERC had been ineffective, called on the government to appoint a substantive board for the commission.

The representative of the civil societies, Mr. Jaiye Gasikya, said the observed deficiencies in the sector only showed that the investors were not ready to add any value to what they met on the ground.

He said that the power firms had refused repeated calls by the organised labour and civil societies to publish their financial statements.

In Lagos, the protesters occupied the head office of the Ikeja Electric in Alausa.

Amidst shouts of ole, ole (meaning thief), they demanded the immediate reversal of the new tariffs, which took effect on February 1. They also asked that prepaid meters should be made available to every consumer free of charge before any tariff hike could be implemented.

The Vice President, NLC, Mr. Amechi Asugwuni, argued that there was no consultation with the consumers before announcing the new tariffs.

“This is unacceptable because it did not take into consideration the welfare of Nigerians,” he said.

In Akure, Ondo State, some protesters marched to the office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company where they chased out its workers and shut the premises before moving to the Airways and Leo areas of the state capital.

The Chairman of the NLC in the state, Mrs. Bosede Daramola, said there had been no significant improvement in the service delivery by the BEDC and that most consumers were not metered in line with the signed Memorandum of Understanding of November 1, 2013, which stipulated that within 18 months, all consumers must be metered.

A member of the Civil Liberty Organisation and Director of Research, Planning and Statistics, Christian Association of Nigeria, Nelson Fadoju, expressed displeasure at the rise in tariffs, which he said came when the times were already hard for the citizens of the country.

In Osogbo, Osun State, the protesting workers invaded the office of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in the city and locked up officials of the company from around 9am until around noon.

In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the NLC and TUC members, who picketed the head office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution on Moscow Road, decried what they called arbitrary increase in electricity tariffs.

The state TUC Chairman, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said the people would not sit and watch the government inflict pains on them through the increase in electricity tariffs.

He lamented that the Federal Government failed to save when the price of crude oil was above $140 per barrel and wondered why the masses should be forced to pay for their inaction.

Also, the state Chairman of the NLC, Beatrice Itubo, described the picketing of the PHED head office as a warning to the electricity distribution company.

Reacting, the Corporate Communication Manager, PHED, Mr. Jonah Iboma, said the power sector had been neglected over the past 50 years, expressing the need for more investment in the sector.

He stated that contrary to the claim that the recent increase in electricity tariffs was up to 45 per cent, the hike was between 12 per cent and 21 per cent.

Members of the labour groups in Ekiti State also shut the office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company in Ado-Ekiti.

The workers were led by the state Chairman of the TUC, Odunayo Adesoye, and his counterpart in the NLC, Ade Adesanmi.

They rebuffed entreaties by men and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps not to enter the building.

Other groups that joined in the protest included the Non-Academic Staff Union of the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti; Ekiti State Public Service Joint Negotiating Council, the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools and the Nigerian Civil Service Union.

In Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the unions said there was no need to increase the tariffs since the state government had been subsidising the cost of electricity consumed by the people.

In Ogun State, the protest was staged by members of the NLC in conjunction with the civil society groups, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Electricity Consumers’ Forum in Abeokuta, Sango-Ota and Sagamu.

But NERC urged the labour unions to exercise restraint in the protest against the hike in electricty tariffs.

It said in a statement by its Head of Public Affairs Department, Dr. Usman Arabi, that the existing electricity tariff order was carried out after a wide consultation with different shades of opinion, and in strict compliance with extant rules and judicial pronouncements.

It stated that the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005 empowers any party aggrieved or dissatisfied by the decision of the commission to appeal to it within 60 days from the date of the decision, adding that it was still open to further consultation.

Fashola also described the electricity tariff increase as “a painful pill” and appealed to consumers to “swallow” it.

He, however, said the new tariffs were cheaper than using diesel or petrol-fired generators or inverters.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, assured the leadership of the organised labour that the National Assembly would act to ensure that the electricity tariff hike was resolved in the interest of the people.

He stated this while addressing a rally jointly organised by the labour unions and electricity consumers at the National Assembly.

Saraki said, “Even before now, we have observed that this issue of tariff increase and some of the policies were not palatable. We have summoned NERC even before now. We are with you, we will stand with you and ensure that no policy will in any way exist that is not palatable to the Nigerian people.

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.

Government

FG Puts Nine-year Presidential Jet Up For Sale

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The Federal Government has put up for sale a jet in the presidential fleet, Hawker 4000 aircraft with registration number, 5N-FGX/: RC 066.

The business-size jet which entered into service in December 2011, has capacity for nine passengers and three crew members.

Findings indicate that only 73 Hawker 4000 aircraft were manufactured by Hawker Beechcraft between 2001 and 2013 and they were sold for $22.91m each as of 2012.

The FG in a published advert on Wednesday disclosed that the aircraft with a range of 3,190-nautical mile had flown for 1,768 hours.

It said the aircraft could be inspected at the Presidential Air Fleet’s hangar located at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Interested buyers were requested to submit their closed bid to the Chairman, Committee for Sale of Aircraft, Office of the National Security Adviser, care of Special Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

In an advertisement published in some national dailies on Wednesday, prospective buyers were directed to submit a refundable bank draft for $50,000 to the committee with the bid.

It also said that all the bids should be quoted in dollars.

The notice read, “Please note that all bids must be submitted within one week of this publication.

“Background check is required as a pre-qualification for the bid. Prospective bidders who want to inspect the aircraft will be granted access within one week from this advertisement.”

The Presidency had similarly in 2016 put up for sale two presidential aircraft, a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000, in line with the directive of the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet should be reduced to cut down on waste.

The government also said some aircraft in the fleet would be handed over to the Nigeria Air Force for its operations. It could not be confirmed if this had been done.

According to the Presidency, the PAF has 10 aircraft and they include Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or Air Force One), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Reports said each of the two Falcon 7X jets were purchased in 2010 for $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m.

The Senior Special Assistant, (Media and Publicity) to the President, Garba Shehu, had yet to respond to inquiries on the number of presidential aircraft sold so far, as of the time of filing this report.

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Coronavirus – Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the shock from the falling price of oil have put severe pressure on Angola since the country’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in December 2019.

Only months after the conclusion of the second review in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Angola, ushering in economic and health crises. The decline in oil prices further strained the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector.

A swift response to the crisis

The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.

Fiscal measures

On relief to help vulnerable people:

• Tax exemptions of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on goods imported under humanitarian aid and donations.

• VAT tax credit for imported capital goods and raw materials for producing essential consumption goods.

• Interest-free, deferred payment option for social security contributions.

• Regulation of prices for a list of medical goods.

On government spending:

• Freeze of 30 percent of purchases on nonessential goods and services.

• Reduction in the number of ministries from 28 to 21.

• Suspension of selected, nonessential capital expenditures.

• Decrease in travel and real estate investments.

Monetary measures

• Additional liquidity support to banks and a liquidity line to buy government securities from nonfinancial corporations.

• A credit-stimulus program.

• Temporary suspension for debt service payments.

• Requirement for banks to provide credit to importers of essential goods.

A proactive external debt management

The government needs to safeguard its ability to continue to service its debt on schedule, even under the current trying circumstances. The government has therefore availed itself of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. They have also secured selected debt reprofiling operations with some of their large creditors.

Financial support from the IMF

On September 16, 2020, the IMF’s Executive Board approved the third review under the EFF and additional financial support to Angola to help mitigate the impact of the crises. Accordingly, the IMF has provided $1 billion to Angola, bringing its total expected financial support to about $4.5 billion under the three-year program. The authorities are strengthening their public financial management to improve accountability for the funds received from the IMF and debt relief from creditors.

The path to recovery

It is important for Angola to continue to stabilize the economy, control inflation, keep the reform momentum, and safeguard financial stability. It is also crucial to persevere with structural reforms, such as privatization, improvement in governance in state-owned enterprises, and strengthened legal frameworks. These reforms will help improve the business environment and pave the way for foreign direct investment and growth-enhancing economic diversification.

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Republic of Korea Contributes Rice and Cash to Assist Ugandans threatened by locusts

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed 5,000 metric tons of rice and US$300,000 in cash from the Republic of Korea to provide much-needed relief assistance to 781,000 people including refugees and Ugandans threatened by locusts.

“WFP is extremely grateful for the continued generosity of the Republic of Korea since 2018 and its appreciation of the immense humanitarian needs in Uganda, which were suddenly made even more complicated by COVID-19,” said WFP Officer in Charge Ryan Anderson.

”This contribution of 5,000 metric tons of rice found us at a crossroads when we were considering whether to make deeper ration cuts for refugees because of a shortage of funding, even as we have evidence that they already face high food insecurity,” he added.

Combined with other contributions, the rice may allow WFP to maintain rations for 1.26 million refugees at the current 70 percent of a full ration for a while. Valued at US$4.3 million, it will also meet cereal needs of 614,000 refugees in seven settlements towards the end of the year.

The additional US$300,000 in cash will enable WFP to meet the relief needs of 167,000 people in the northeastern region of Karamoja, which is the most food-insecure region in the country and is threatened by a combination of malnutrition among its residents, locusts, floods and animal diseases.

“The Republic of Korea is committed to supporting vulnerable groups of people in Uganda, especially refugees fleeing conflict and nationals faced by chronic food shortages and malnutrition,” said Ambassador Ha Byung-Kyoo.

“We also are very pleased to continue making contributions of rice, which we have heard is appreciated by the refugees and contributes to much needed dietary diversity,” he added.

WFP was forced to reduce rations for refugees in April to 70 percent of a full ration because of funding shortages. The economic pressures that COVID-19 has brought on donor capitals has further complicated funding to feed refugees. WFP is putting in place safety measures in 13 refugee settlements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during food and cash distributions.

The Republic of Korea has contributed rice to WFP in Uganda annually since 2018 in support of 1.43 million refugees – the highest number of refugees hosted by any country in Africa.

The US$300,000 contribution will also contribute to supporting WFP assistance in Karamoja. Even though families in the region were able to harvest some crops in August, despite repeated sightings of locusts between February and July, the very presence of the pests in the region threatens both agriculture and vegetation needed for animals. Relief food helps to cushion families as the government and UN partners work to control the impact of locusts.

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