The Nigerian Government announced on Friday that it has scrapped the Petroleum Support Fund, also known as fuel subsidy.
Speaking to journalists at the Port Harcourt refinery where he had spent Christmas inspecting the facility, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, said the government could no longer pay the subsidy due to the fraud tainting the scheme.
Mr. Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), also added that the government could no longer afford the payment due to the dip in its revenue, caused by the drop in crude oil prices.
He said a new pricing template he signed off on Thursday effectively removed the payment of subsidy on petrol and that oil marketers would be informed of the development in the coming days.
The official price of petrol is N87 but it is sold for higher prices in many states of the federation.
When pressed on what the new price of petrol would be following the removal of the subsidy, Mr Kachikwu said it would sell for below the current official price, maybe as low as N85 per litre.
“It (new pricing regime) is out,” the minister said. ”I signed off on it yesterday (Thursday). I imagined that in the next couple of days the marketers would get advice on that. The nice thing about the PPPRA, where I signed up on it yesterday is that the price will be far below N87,” he said.
“So for the first time, people will understand that the pricing modulation I was talking about is not a gimmick. It is for real. We have gone to find out how we will be able to fluctuate this market to reflect what the reality of the crude market is. The objective is that one, we cannot afford to continue to subsidise.
“We can’t even understand where those subsidies were going to. There are a lot of fraud elements in it so we need to cut that off.
“The second is the earning capacity of the Federal Government is deteriorating by the day with lower prices of crude and come out more,” he said.
The call for government to scrap the payment of subsidy on petrol has become louder recently following the drop in crude oil prices.
Last week, a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress and former Governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, joined the call for the government to scrap the subsidy regime.
Mr. Tinubu, who had opposed the removal of the subsidy under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, said subsidy was originally a good idea, but it had since been “perverted”.
He, therefore, urged the government to divert the money it is currently paying on subsidy to other social programmes and infrastructure that would have more rewarding impacts on the people.
“In a perfect world, I wish we could sanitize the subsidy regime and thus continue (with) it. However, I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for this hell to be converted into good earth let alone heaven,” he said while speaking at the 10th memorial anniversary of left-wing politician and scholar, Bala Usman, in Kaduna.
“I would choose to remove the subsidy and use the money to help people – let us feed our school children, with our local produce promote agriculture, create jobs and start erecting a social safety net for the vulnerable among us in true need,” he added.
On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari told a joint session of the National Assembly that he had directed “the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to adjust its pricing template to reflect competitive and market driven components” that would keep the price of petrol selling at “N87 per litre for now.”
According to Mr Kachikwu, the President’s comment was informed by the analysis that was done that put the price at below the official price of N87.
“But in applying that where we landed when we did the analysis for the very first time was about N85 or N86 so it is below N87.
“And maybe the first price that will come will reflect it. That was why Mr. President said that prices will be N87 for now. And that is what we have in mind,” he said.
The announcement on fuel subsidy removal came two days after the Nigerian Labour Congress threatened it would vehemently oppose any cut on the subsidy regime.
At the end of its Central Working Committee meeting in Abuja, the NLC said the discordant pronouncements from government officials on plans to cut subsidy was creating panic and confusion in the system, even as it reaffirmed its opposition to any fuel price increase.
An attempt by the government to cut fuel subsidy in 2012 led to what came to be known as the #OccupyNigeria protest.
Nigerians were outraged when in the early hours of January 1, 2012, then President Jonathan announced the removal of subsidy from petroleum products.
The then president’s New Year announcement meant that PMS, which sold for N65 a litre – with subsidy – would go for N141, more than a hundred per cent increase.
This action translated into more than one hundred per cent increase in fares, food, rents and virtually every all goods and services in Nigeria.
Petrol is central to Nigeria’s economy and literally close to every Nigerian’s heart.
Expectedly, that announcement immediately drew Nigerians to the streets, sparking spontaneous protests across the country.
But it soon became clear that the subsidy regime was characterised by monumental fraud.
For instance, to benefit from the 2011 fuel subsidy largesse, some oil companies “manufactured” fictional oil ships (vessels) they claimed traversed seas and oceans of the world carrying imaginary petrol, with Nigeria the final destination of the product, a Technical Committee set up by the Federal Government discovered.
For supplying this phantom product to Nigeria, some seven companies pocketed a princely N13 billion naira from the 2011 fuel subsidy payments, the committee’s report, exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES at the time, showed.
Some other companies, not wanting to create fictional vessels, decided to space- travel existing ones; such that real vessels, which were definitely in countries like China and UAE, were purported to have discharged petrol into storage depots in Nigeria at the exact time they were in those other countries. The 11 companies involved in this category of fraud pocketed N21 billion from the 2011 subsidy payments, the report said.
Sources in the oil industry revealed at the time that those companies were able to perpetuate the crime with the help of field officers of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory agency (PPPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), men of the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Custom officers, banks and others involved in the various stages of fuel importation.
The companies and their owners are still being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
FG Puts Nine-year Presidential Jet Up For Sale
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.
Coronavirus – Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock
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.
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.
• 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.
Republic of Korea Contributes Rice and Cash to Assist Ugandans threatened by locusts
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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