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Senate Okays N348bn Subsidy Payment to Oil Marketers

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  • Senate Okays N348bn Subsidy Payment to Oil Marketers

The Senate has approved the payment of subsidy claims totalling N348bn to oil marketing companies based on a request by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The approval was made at the plenary on Wednesday following the adoption of the interim report by the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) on ‘Promissory Note Programme and Bond Issuance to Settle Inherited Local Debts and Contractual Obligations to Petroleum Marketers’.

While approving that 55 oil marketers be paid verified figures totalling N275,750,415,108, the upper chamber of the National Assembly asked that 19 marketers with contentious claims and verified figures be paid 65 per cent of their claims, amounting to N73,452,639,866, pending further investigation and verification by the committee.

Some of the notable marketers to get full payment are Aiteo, Bovas, Capital Oil, Eternal, Folawiyo Energy, Hyden, Integrated Oil, Mobil Oil Nigeria, MRS, NIPCO, NNPC Retail, Obat Oil, Sahara Energy and Total Nigeria.

Notable among those to get part payment are Conoil, Forte Oil, Honeywell, IPMAN Investment, Matrix Energy and Oando.

The request by Buhari, which was considered on May 31, 2018, was referred to the committee with the mandate to determine all outstanding subsidy arrears, interests accrued and forex differentials, as well as to compute a harmonised figure as the outstanding indebtedness of the government to the marketers for consideration and approval.

In the report, the committee noted the irregularities in the subsidy claim figures presented by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the marketers.

According the report, which was presented by Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency verified and sent the sum of N429,054,203,228 to the Federal Ministry of Finance as subsidy claims. The marketers, however, claimed N670,497,543,158 as of June 30, 2018.

The committee said the ministry got the approval of the Federal Executive Council to pay the amount presented by the PPPRA as the verified subsidy claims.

The ministry was said to have sent the approved figure of N429,054,203,228 to the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit for further verification, which did a downward review of the amount to N407,255,263,288.

The report read in part, “The Federal Ministry of Finance indicates that the verified figures in respect of 19 oil marketing companies were either higher or very close to their claims, while those of the OMCs with higher claims got lesser figures.

“This issue, including the determination of the terminal date of the subsidy programme, amount paid to the OMCs and the interest accrued from 30th of June, 2017 to date will be taken up and resolved in the final report this committee will be submitting to the Senate in due course. This submission should be able to reconcile and bring to a conclusion all issues in respect of petroleum subsidy programme implementation and payments.

“Further verification needs to be made to ascertain the discrepancies between the OMCs and the recommendations for payment made by the FMoF (PICA) in this respect; the committee is of the opinion that interim payments should be effected to the OMCs pending full verification of PICA’s recommendation and updating of the full implication of interest accruals from 30th of June, 2017 to date. Continuous delay of the approval of the promissory note request will affect the liquidity of the OMCs and undermine their crucial role in the development of the economy.”

The committee added that the government’s inability to pay the OMCs as of June 30, 2017 had further increased its liability since the interest continued running, hence, the need for further work by the panel to compile and update the level of indebtedness and the interest accruals.

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.

Economy

Labour Says Nationwide Strike Will Commence on Monday, Shuns Court Order

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NLC, TUC to Embark on Nationwide Strike on Monday, Shuns Court Order

Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress has dismissed ruling of the National Industrial Court restraining them from embarking on a Nationwide strike on Monday 28, 2020.

The NLC and TUC disclosed this on Thursday after the meeting held with the Government ended in a deadlock.

Labour had engaged the government to reverse the recent increase in petrol price and the hike in electricity tariffs. However, after failing to get labour unions to back down on planned industrial action, a group likely sponsored by the government or one of it agents approached the industrial court in Abuja on Thursday to secure a restrain order against the planned strike.

Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association through their counsel, Sunusi Musa, had filed an ex-parte application to halt the protest.

But, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President, dismissed court ruling, saying he has not been served and the group did not employ him.

He asked, “How does that (injunction) affect me if I have not been served? Have I been served? Are they our employers? What relationship do I have with any group?”

Quadri Olaleye, the TUC President, stated that the mobilisation of workers for the strike can not be stopped, noting that the government failed to reverse or suspend the fuel price hike and electricity tariff adjustment.

He stated, “We were not the one that adjourned the meeting; the government adjourned it till Monday. Monday is the expiration of the ultimatum and we are still very much focused on that. It is a deadlock now.

“Of course, that (adjournment) will not stop the action that has been put in place. We have told them to reverse or to suspend, while the discussion goes on Monday. So, labour is left with no option but to go our way.

Speaking on offers or concessions made by the government’s team, the union leader said, “We are coming with an open mind to find a solution to the problems in the country, especially on the price hike. They have made their proposal, but we are saying let us suspend or reverse, then we can now continue to discuss but they have adjourned. But labour will continue with the mobilisation of workers.

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Access Bank Partners Lagos to Improve Oniru Road Network

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Following the improvement of the road network around the Oniru-Victoria Island and Lekki axis, where its head office is located, Access Bank Plc in partnership with the Lagos State government yesterday inaugurated the project.

The road network project measuring around 1.8 kilometers was inaugurated by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and had in attendance his Deputy, Mr. Femi Hamzat, the Oniru of Iruland, Oba Abdul-Wasiu Omogbolahan Lawal and array of distinguished persons.

Speaking during the ceremony, Sanwo-Olu said the most critical challenge being experienced on daily basis by residents and road users along the axis was the heavy traffic, saying delivering the project has improved traffic flow, reduced travel time and eliminated perennial flooding issues.

According to the governor, the Victoria Island – Lekki Traffic Circulation Project commenced in December last year, under a Public Infrastructure Improvement Partnership (PIIP) Programme in conjunction with Access Bank.

It involved the dualisation, expansion, construction and rehabilitation of some roads, junction and turning radius. In addition, it included the provision of new drainage system, re-routing some roads as one way and signalization.

Sanwo-Olu added: “Over the years, one of the critical challenges being experienced on a daily basis by residences and road users along this axis has been heavy traffic, congestion occasioned by the geometric increase by the traffic of this area. The traffic congestion has been responsible for the decline in productivity and it discourages growth in this highly commercial location.

“As a responsible government, we resolved to work in partnership with public spirited corporate organisation to embark on this project and our aim was to improve on the traffic linkage and time of our people. Specifically, we sought to reduce the untold hardship our citizens pass through at this axis and this project was executed through the public infrastructure improvement partnership PIIP arrangement.

“Today I have the pleasure to stand before you and can confirm that we have improved network connectivity and traffic flow and we have reduced travel time. We have eliminated perennial flooding issues, enhanced transportation and we have improved the health and social economic wellbeing of our people through this Victoria island-lekki circulation around the Oniru axis from Muri Okunola extension down to Ligali Ayoyinde and along other 7 junctions.”

Speaking further, he praised the Group Managing Director Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, describing him as, “a true believer of our government, a real partner and somebody you can truly depend on and rely on as a friend.”

Some of the roads delivered under the project are Ligali Ayorinde Muri Okunola – Aboyade Cole, Yesufu Abiodun Oniru, Ligali Ayorinde/Akinbolagbe/Okene amongst others

He said the partnership with Access Bank reinforced the importance of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in delivering public infrastructure.

He said government was willing to give incentives such as tax holidays and branding and advertisement concession to corporate organisations that are ready to partner with government.

Commenting on the project, Wigwe said: “At the heart of Access Bank’s business operations is our commitment to offering ‘More’ to our customers and more extensively, positively affecting the communities in which we operate.

“Our track record speaks for itself as we have successfully executed similar projects in Oyin Jolayemi Street, Danmole Street and other areas. Indeed, community and social impact have become enshrined parts of our DNA as a bank.

“We appreciate the Lagos State Government, led by Dr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the incredible support received during the execution of this project. Our commitment to facilitating a greater Lagos will not end here and I am truly excited about the infrastructural, technological and social advancements that our partnership will foster.”

“The Victoria Island and Lekki axis are two of the most commercial areas in Lagos State, witnessing a huge daily exchange of economic activities and as a result, commuters. About 40 per cent of the employed population in the formal sector in Lagos work in Victoria Island, and a good percentage of these workers have their offices situated around the Oniru axis.”

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Economy

States Block from Accessing Debt from Capital Market After Accumulating N5.39tn in Unpaid Debt 

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5.39tn Debt Blocks States from Capital Market Borrowing

With a total debt burden of N5.39 trillion as at the end of December 2019, the 36 states of the federation are no longer eligible to borrow from the capital market, a new report, has said.

The 2020 edition of the BudgIT’s annual state of states report titled “Fiscal Sustainability and Epidemic Preparedness Financing at the State Level,” stated that the debt burden of the 36 state governments (excluding the Federal Capital Territory) stood at N5.39 trillion in 2019.

This is coming as the Osun State government has declared that it is not overwhelmed by the huge debt profile of the state, stressing that alternative means had been identified to meet the financial needs of the state.

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was the guest of honour at the unveiling of the report, also said that the state’s reliance on Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) has reduced to only 21 per cent as at August 2020.

The report added that the states are no longer qualified to borrow from the capital market as a result of the regulation put in place by Debt Management Office (DMO) to forestall debt crisis on sub-national public borrowings.

However, the data released by the DMO had indicated that Nigeria’s total debt stock as of December 2019 stood at N27.4 trillion.

This includes N21.7 trillion owed by the federal government and N5.6 trillion owed by the state governments.

But the Communications Associate of BudgIT, Ms. Iyanu Fatoba, told THISDAY yesterday that the difference between the DMO’s N5.6 trillion and the BudgIT’s figure of N5.39 trillion could be attributed to the foreign exchange rate differentials as at the time the reports were compiled.

The BudgIT Research Lead, Mr. Abel Akeni, who reviewed the report, said that in the light of this debt growth, all the state governments have reached the ceiling set for them by the DMO, which stipulated that state government’s total debt must not be more than 50 per cent of its last year’s total revenue.

“And in our analysis, we observed that all the 36 states have actually reached this particular ceiling. All of them now have debts that are larger than the 50 per cent of their last year’s total revenue. It is going to be a struggle if they will be allowed to access funds from the capital market in 2020,” Akeni said.

The annual report, which was unveiled yesterday in Lagos State, stated that state governments accumulated N3.34 trillion debts in five years from N2.05 trillion in 2014 to N5.39 trillion in 2019, representing 162.87 per cent increase during the period under review.

The report also said that Lagos State is the most exposed state to exchange rate volatility because of its foreign debts.

It noted that just by devaluing the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar from N305 in January to N380 in September, the Lagos State’s foreign debt obligations have ballooned.

The report also ranked Rivers State as number one in its 2020 States’ Fiscal Sustainability Index (FSI), and was followed closely by Anambra, Ogun and Lagos States while Bayelsa, Osun, Ekiti and Plateau States were ranked lowest in terms of sustainability index

The FSI was based on the ability of each state government to meet its recurrent obligations with its internally generated revenue (IGR) or total revenue, as well as the state’s ability to repay its debts considering its total revenue in a single year and the degree of the state’s investments in capital projects compared to its overhead costs and other recurrent expenditures.

The BudgIT’s Communications Lead, Mr. Damilola Ogundipe, said: “To achieve fiscal sustainability, states need to grow their IGRs as options for borrowing are reduced due to debt ceilings put in place by the federal government to prevent states from slipping into a debt crisis. Therefore, there has to be a shift from the culture of states’ overdependence on FAAC.”

The report stated that only 15 states in the country are in a good position to meet their recurrent expenditures and loan repayment obligations from their total revenues.

These states are Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Sokoto, Kaduna, Anambra, Kano and Ebonyi States.

Others are Enugu, Kebbi, Borno, Katsina, Yobe, Imo and Bayelsa State.

The report further showed that another set of eight states are fairly able to also meet the recurrent and debt repayment expenditures from their total revenues and still have a little left for capital expenditure. These states are Jigawa, Edo, Nasarawa, Ogun, Niger, Kwara, Ondo and Zamfara.

However, the BudgIT stated that 13 states are in a delicate negative situation in terms of meeting their recurrent and debt obligations from their revenue without resorting to further borrowings to execute capital budget. These are Abia, Taraba, Benue, Cross River, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Oyo and Lagos states.

It also reported that 11 states, namely Taraba, Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau and Bayelsa, have overhead expenditures that are higher than their capital expenditures.

Akeni noted that recurrent expenditures, though not necessarily bad, could hamper the ability of a state to generate future revenues to invest in development projects, adding that some states used recurrent expenditures to prioritise certain items. For instance, Delta State has a miscellaneous budget of N33 billion under its recurrent items.

The report also put question mark on some capital expenditures like Akwa Ibom State Government House’s N22.61 billion budget while the state’s budget for health is N8.19 billion. Similarly, Adamawa State is spending N10.62 billion on reforms and governance alone higher than its expenditure for health or education.

The report listed five states that prioritised capital budget over recurrent expenses as Rivers, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi and Kebbi states.

The report stated that three states – Bayelsa, Borno and Katsina would be worst hit “by dwindling revenue as they relied on net Federation Account (FAAC) allocation for 89.56 per cent, 88.30 per cent and 88.16 per cent of their total revenues, respectively in 2019. Lagos, Ogun and Rivers state will be least affected as they relied on FAAC for only 22.82 per cent, 35.31 per cent and 53.02 per cent of their total revenues, respectively.”

The Lagos State Governor, Sanwo-Olu, who was the guest of honour at the unveiling of the report, in his keynote address said that the state’s reliance on FAAC has gone down to only 21 per cent as at August 2020.

BudgIT’s Principal Lead, Mr. Gabriel Okeowo, noted that though some states have seen some improvement in their IGR between 2014 and 2019, there is still a need to put systems in place for aggressive IGR growth within the sub-national economies, especially as falling crude oil prices, OPEC production cuts and other COVID-19 induced headwinds are set to impact Federal Allocations over the next two years.

This paints a bleak outlook for Nigerian states who depend on FAAC allocation for their survival, even though dwindling revenue will affect all states differently.

“On sub-national epidemic preparedness, it is important for states to prioritize health financing especially on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). While COVID-19 has garnered major attention in the last few months, it is worthy of note that states are currently battling at least six other deadly diseases, which already have vaccines or known treatment. In 2019, all 36 states recorded 94,500 cases of the deadly Cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM), measles, lassa fever, yellow fever, monkeypox and cholera combined. It is in the self-interest of state governments to grow their IGR and also invest in appropriate health systems through their budgets and other sustainable methods,” Okeowo explained.

Meanwhile, the Osun state government has declared that it is not in any way overwhelmed by the huge debt profile facing the state, stressing that alternative means had been identified to meet the financial needs of the state of the living spring.

The state deputy governor, Mr. Benedict Alabi, who made this disclosure in Abuja yesterday at the launch of a book “Life of a Quintessential Engineer: Biography of Oluyemi Oguntominiyi,” the immediate past Director of federal highways construction and rehabilitation.

Alabi, who spoke to reporters after the book presentation, emphasised that current administration in the state which will be two years old by December is not really bothered by the huge debt profile it inherited.

He said the ingenuity of Governor Gboyega Oyetola has created other avenues for the state to generate resources with a view to delivering the dividends of democracy to Osun people.

The deputy governor also hinted that the state government was currently tapping other revenue sources for the socio-economic development of the state.

“Osun State has great potentials. It is like a gold that is untapped. Last year November, we organised an economic and investment summit where we showcased the potentials of the state to the whole world. We rested on the three plaques of agriculture, mining and tourism where we have comparative advantages.

“In the last one year, if not for the COVID – 19 pandemic, 42 companies would have been established in Osun State. But as of now, we have 15. One was even inaugurated last week at Iragbiji area where the firm would convert cassava to ethanol. What we are trying to do is that we want to transform the state to an industrial state and to go into the exploration of our mineral resources”.

Alabi explained that despite the limited resources available to the state, Osun had been able to pay salaries as and when due as well as massive infrastructural development of the state.

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