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Reps Protest as Buhari Seeks to Present 2018 Budget

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  • Reps Protest as Buhari Seeks to Present 2018 Budget

Members of the House of Representatives on Thursday protested as President Muhammadu Buhari requested their permission to present the estimates of the 2018 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly.

The President asked to be allowed to lay the estimates on Tuesday, November 7.

His request was contained in a letter that the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, read to members during plenary in Abuja.

At the Senate, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read the letter to senators.

“Pursuant to Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution, may I crave the kind indulgence of the National Assembly to grant me the slot of 1400hrs (2pm) on Tuesday, 7th of November, 2017 to formally address a joint session and lay before the National Assembly the estimates of the 2018 budget proposal,” Buhari wrote.

However, at the House, Dogara had hardly completed reading the letter when lawmakers started protesting.

Amid the shouts of “no,” “no,” some members were heard asking, “What about the 2017 budget? Have they implemented the 2017 budget? No, take it (letter) back.”

Others also said they would prefer to receive the President by 11am and not 2pm.

But, Dogara reminded the lawmakers that under the constitution, they could not refuse to receive the appropriation bill from the President.

He noted that while the constitution provided that the President “shall cause the estimates of the budget to be prepared and laid” before the legislature, it did not provide that lawmakers could refuse to receive it.

“Honourable colleagues, unfortunately, the constitution does not provide that we can refuse to receive the budget estimates,” the speaker added and admitted Buhari’s letter.

The Federal Government plans to spend about N8.6tn next year, a jump of about 15 per cent from the N7.44tn budgeted for the current year.

The figures were contained in the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, which Buhari had earlier sent to the National Assembly in compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.

The House also asked the Federal Government to stop the proposed restructuring of the Growth and Employment Project and the alleged diversion of the remaining $35m from its account to other uses.

The resolution followed a motion moved by a member from Benue State, Mr. Teseer Mark-Gbillah.

The GEM is an empowerment project conceptualised by the government under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment aimed at job creation and increased non-oil growth through the empowerment of 4,000 Small and Medium Enterprises across the country.

The House noted that in only three months of appointing a coordinator to run the project, the officer was being paid $4.9m per month.

Besides, the coordinator is alleged to be initiating to restructure the project to move the balance of $35m into the funding of a parallel SME fund.

The House specifically directed the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the GEM Project Team and the World Bank to halt the planned withdrawal of the $35m.

The House also ordered an investigation into the matter to be conducted within six weeks.

A second motion moved by Mr. Gabriel Kolawole and passed by the House, sought to investigate the “non-remittance of Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund contributions by the federal, state and local governments and several government statutory bodies.

Meanwhile, the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, on Thursday said the nature of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to be presented to the National Assembly next week would determine how soon it would be passed into law.

Lawan said this in an interview with State House correspondents shortly after he and Senator Sola Adeyeye met President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said although it was the desire of all stakeholders that the bill be passed latest by December 31, 2017, the federal lawmakers would carry out a thorough job on the document.

Lawan said, “It (passage of the budget by December 31) depends on how it goes; you know we are supposed to be working on the same page, working for the same people of Nigeria and we will like to see the National Assembly working in tandem with the executive arm of government.

“You know these things will be determined by what the budget looks like, the estimates presented to us, because naturally we always try to do a very thorough job, a very patriotic job to ensure that the budget is implementable, to ensure there is equity and there is fairness and justice in the distribution of projects across the country.”

He added, “We will like to see that done but we shouldn’t just do that at all costs, we should be looking at the benefits that could accrue from doing that and whether it is possible to just do it at once or maybe reduce the period in two phases or even more.”

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 long experience in the global financial market.

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Economy

Brent Crude Oil Maintains $43 Per Barrel Despite Surge in US Inventories

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Oil

Brent Crude Oil Sustains Upsurge Despite Rising US Inventories

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, sustained its upsurge at $43 per barrel on Wednesday during the London trading session despite a report showing a build-up in the U.S. crude inventories in the week ended July 3, 2020.

Brent crude oil

According to the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) report released on Tuesday, crude oil production in the U.S is expected to decline by just 70,000 barrels per day from the 670,000 bpd previously predicted to 600,000 bpd.

While this was below the projected decline, it also points to a build-up in U.S stockpiles and suggested that oil production from the world’s largest economy may not decline as previously projected in 2020.

“The EIA’s forecast of a lower decline in U.S. output was partially offset by its outlook for firm demand recovery, which limited losses in oil markets,” Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities said.

“Still, expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies would taper oil output cuts from August and softer U.S. equities added to pressure,” he said.

The EIA projected that global oil demand will recover through the end of 2021 as demand was predicted to hit 101.1 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter of the year.

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Economy

Illegal Withdrawals: Rep To Investigate NNPC, NLNG Over $1.05bn

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Rep To Investigate NNPC, NLNG Over Illegal Withdrawal of $1.05bn from NLNG Account

The Nigerian House of Representatives has concluded plans to investigate illegal withdrawal of $1.05 billion from the account of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The decision followed the adoption of a motion titled ‘Need to Investigate the Illegal Withdrawals from the NLNG Dividends Account by the Management of NNPC’ moved by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, on Tuesday.

The House adopted the motion and mandated its Committee on Public Accounts to “invite the management of the NNPC as well as that of the NLNG, to conduct a thorough investigation on activities that have taken place on the dividends account and report back to the House in four weeks.”

Elumelu said, “The House is aware that the dividends from the NLNG are supposed to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Funds account of the Federal Government and to be shared amongst the three tiers of government.

“The House is worried that the NNPC, which represents the government of Nigeria on the board of the NLNG, had unilaterally, without the required consultations with states and the mandatory appropriation from the National Assembly, illegally tampered with the funds at the NLNG dividends account to the tune of $1.05bn, thereby violating the nation’s appropriation law.

“The House is disturbed that there was no transparency in this extra-budgetary spending, as only the Group Managing Director and the corporation’s Chief Financial Officer had the knowledge of how the $1.05bn was spent.

“The House is concerned that there are no records showing the audit and recovery of accrued funds from the NLNG by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, hence the need for a thorough investigation of the activities on the NLNG dividends account.”

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FG Gives Radio, Tv Stations Debt Relief, Writes Off 60 Percent Debt

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TSTV

FG Reduces Tv, Radio Stations Licence Fee by 30%, Writes Off 60% Debt

The Federal Government has reduced the existing licence fee paid by all open terrestrial radio and television stations by 30 percent.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Monday.

He said the Federal Government has also decided to write off 60 percent of the N7 billion loan owed the government by television and radio stations.

He explained that the N7 billion is the total outstanding from television and radio stations on the renewal of their operating licences.

Mohammed, however, said for any station to benefit from the 60 percent debt relief, such a station must be ready and willing to pay the remaining 40 percent within the next three months.

According to him, the debt relief offer would open on July 10th and close on the 6th of October.

Mohammed said, “According to the NBC, many Nigerian radio and television stations remain indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N7bn.

“Also, many of the stations are faced with the reality that their licences will not be renewed, in view of their indebtedness.

“Against this background, the management of the NBC has therefore recommended, and the Federal Government has accepted, the following measures to revamp the broadcast industry and to help reposition it for the challenges of business, post-COVID-19:

“(a) 60 per cent debt forgiveness for all debtor broadcast stations in the country; (b) the criterion for enjoying the debt forgiveness is for debtor stations to pay 40 per cent of their existing debt within the next three months.

“(c) Any station that is unable to pay the balance of 40 per cent indebtedness within the three-month window shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness.

“(d) The existing license fee is further discounted by 30 per cent for all open terrestrial radio and television services effective July 10, 2020.

“(e) The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional licensed terrestrial radio and television stations only. (f) The debt forgiveness and discount shall not apply to pay TV service operators in Nigeria.”

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