By Adedapo Adesanya
The Rivers State Executive Council has authorised the state government to access the N15 billion Infrastructure Support Fund of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the completion of three critical projects.
This was disclosed by Mr Isaac Kamalu, the state Commissioner for Finance, to newsmen after the meeting in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
He said that the three major projects are the Oyigbo-Okoloma Road; Chokocho-Igbodo Road and construction of the 10th flyover by the administration at Rumuokwurushi-Elimgbu.
The Commissioner said that accessing the fund could fast track the completion of these projects, considering the benefit of the facility, at a very low-interest rate of 5 per cent repayable within 20 years, with three years moratorium.
“In her deliberations at the Executive Council meeting today, Council approved that the Rivers state government should access the Central Bank of Nigeria Infrastructure Support Facility to the tune of N15 billion.
“You will recall that prior to now, the Rivers state government had accessed funds for these projects.
“However, these funds, even if put together, will not be able to accomplish these three critical projects mentioned,” he said.
Mr Kamalu expressed optimism that the N15 billion facility would be a very good support to ensure that these projects were delivered on time and served the interest of the state.
The council also took the decision to recover dilapidated government quarters from civil servants and illegal occupants, within the old and new Government Residential Area (GRA), Port Harcourt, and reallocate them to competent private individuals.
On his part, Mr Paulinus Nsirim, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, further explained that the Council took this decision because some of the properties were fraudulently acquired by retired civil servants, through dubious processes of allocation and sale.
According to Mr Nsirim, some of the properties had deteriorated due to the abject neglect and lack of maintenance by the occupants.
“The properties were totally in uninhabitable condition and were converted into commercial and business uses; in some cases, they were sublet to private tenants or were used as poultries, fish ponds, barbing saloons, and other unauthorized uses.
“The Task Force set up by the Rivers state government to look into this matter found that some of these properties were illegally occupied by non-civil servants, some of whom were even non-indigenes.
“This has, therefore, necessitated the recovery of these properties as part of government’s urban renewal programme, with the civil servant – occupants being reallocated to alternative private properties, through financial support provided by the state government,” he said.
He said the recovery of the properties and their subsequent reallocation would form part of the first phase of the ongoing urban renewal programme of the state government within the old and New GRA, Port Harcourt.
Pensioners Only Experience Few Payment Issues—PTAD
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has claimed that pensioners only witness a few payment issues, which it said should become a thing of the past very soon.
The Executive Secretary of the agency, Ms Chioma Ejikeme, while speaking at a Sensitization and Collaboration Forum, which had critical stakeholders in attendance, said efforts are being made to make the process seamless.
She explained that the event was put together to carry stakeholders along, especially security officials, so as to weed out fraud from the system.
Ms Ejikeme said PTAD was ready to collaborate with other agencies to curb pension fraud and resolve issues regarding pension payments to the pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS).
“The Directorate has deemed it fit and important to engage these group of stakeholders in order to continually re-strategize and come to terms with the realities of pension payments and its attendant challenges.
“The pension industry had been swamped with complaints of extortion by fraudsters and phone calls demanding for money in order to quicken computation and payment of outstanding liabilities,” she said.
“It is important for agencies that like ICPC, and EFCC to really understand what we do, because of the perception of pension admiration out there as many people think PTAD keeps pensioners’ funds, which is not true.
“As such, we want to make sure that our processes and the way we conduct our payments is very well known to these agencies not just them, but also the general public,” she disclosed.
“Certainly, there are challenges in payment arising from the Government Integrated Financial Management Systems (GIFMIS), but the magnitude is really not significant.
“Consequently, we are here today to look at some of the minor challenges while we sit with the relevant stakeholders and look at how to address them and also get input from the financial managers of the government,” Ms Ejikeme stated.
On his part, the President of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Mr Godwin Abumisi, lauded the efforts of PTAD in managing their pension and stated that they had never had it so good.
“Indeed the union and its teeming members will be eternally grateful to the federal government and the National Assembly for the establishment of PTAD via the Pension Reform Act of 2014 (as amended). The establishment and operations of PTAD is far better than where we are coming from,” he said.
EU Provides €70,000 to Tackle Floods in Ondo, Four Others
By Adedapo Adesanya
The European Union (EU) has announced the provision of €70,000 to reduce the impact of floods in Nigeria as the country anticipates the high flooding period.
The EU funding supports the Nigerian Red Cross Society to increase capacity and preparedness to reduce the impact of likely floods in Ondo, Kogi, Kebbi, Anambra and Cross River States.
This will be done through increased community awareness, prepositioning of stocks, mapping of evacuation centres and hygiene promotion.
It is expected that this support directly benefits 10,000 people and, indirectly, around 25,000 more.
The funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
In the past decade, especially during the last three years, there has been an observed pattern of flooding in Nigeria, with floods becoming the second most recurrent hazard affecting the country, after the epidemics.
The high flooding period generally recorded from August to October is usually characterised by the collapse of major dams, overflow of riverbanks and heavy occupation of residential areas or the environment by large masses of water due to heavy flow of run-off rainwater, uprooting and washing away of residential buildings, and blowing away roofs of buildings.
The rainy season also brings with it landslides in which hills and high lands collapse, burying people’s buildings and farmlands. The menace of erosion also comes in to contribute to further deterioration of the condition of the people and environment.
These trends are showing the necessity to anticipate the forecasted hazard and contribute much earlier to the preparedness in the areas at risk.
As such, the Nigeria Red Cross Society will take preventive measures to prepare for the anticipated impact that these events could have on the humanitarian situation before the flood season hits the country.
The EU is a signatory to a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
Business Post understands that funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to small-scale disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF which was established in 1985.
LIRS Partners Deloitte to Deepen Transparency, Accountability
By Adedapo Adesanya
The desire to deepen transparency, and accountability and uphold a high standard in the administration of the tax system has made the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) collaborate with a globally recognised accounting and audit firm, Delloite Nigeria.
The partnership between both firms is majorly on the Whistle-Blower Initiative of the tax collecting organisation, according to a statement, which quoted its Executive Chairman, Mr Ayodele Subair.
Last Friday, LIRS launched the initiative to encourage the reporting of illegal actions or financial crimes through the appropriate channel, with a view to correcting the violations and optimally boosting the tax administration in the state.
He said the scheme, an initiative of the state government, will be driven by Delloite Anonymous and the Confidential Whistle-Blowing facility, adding that the whistle-blowing facility will promote the reporting of acts of commission or omission that borders on unethical conduct of the LIRS employees, management, and other stakeholders through the designated channels to the authorities.
“The facility is designed to ensure that concerns about wrongdoings or malpractice observed in the LIRS administrative and operational activities can be raised by any stakeholder without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage, or dismissal.
“This facility does not only provide the avenue to report but ensures the credibility of reports through investigation, feedback to the whistle-blower and ensures protection for such whistle-blower from possible reprisals or victimisation for all disclosures made in good faith.
“The whistle-blowing initiative is a two-way affair; even though it is aimed at exposing the LIRS staff involved with misconduct, employees of entities who want to report employers who circumvent tax laws or even members of the public who wants to raise the alarm on persons or entities who willfully commit financial crimes leading to revenue loss for the state can make use of the whistle-blowing platform,” he said.
Mr Subair said Deloitte’s engagement as an independent assessor was to ensure an objective and unbiased review of issues raised.
Also speaking at the event, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr Rabiu Onaolapo Olowo said the Whistle-Blower Initiative of the LIRS is a pilot scheme of the Lagos State Speak-Up programme aimed at encouraging feedback mechanism from the general public, boosting their confidence and trust in the operational activities of government.
Mr Olowo said it was logical to choose the LIRS as the pilot scheme for the initiative because it is responsible for more than half of the revenue generated by the state and due to its multifaceted interactions with the members of the public, the Lagos government could use the channel to boost its message of openness and transparency.
He said: “In our pursuit to make transparency, accountability, and openness count in governance in the last three and half years, this is one step to help us to wrap up some of the things we have been doing to take government down to the people. We have to appreciate Governor Babajide Sanwoolu for approving this Speak-Up initiative. It will further help us to effectively discharge the policy thrust of this government and we believe it will promote and engender trust and citizen engagement.
“The reason we have chosen the LIRS as the pilot MDA for this scheme is quite obvious because it is the major revenue-generating agency for the state. Today, LIRS accounts for almost 75 per cent of Lagos’s revenue and it engages with the public at multi-faceted levels. Thousands of people across the world see infractions every day but they decided to remain silent because they feel there is nothing they can do to change the situation, but today, we are launching a channel that will encourage and remind people of their civic responsibilities to speak up when they observe unethical behaviour, especially in the process of conducting their businesses with the government.”
Joining the conversation, the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr Samuel Egube, believes citizen participation in governance invariably stimulates public trust which consequently enables the government to make the right investment decision on behalf of the people.
He stated that the channel will further open the Lagos State government to scrutiny and the openness and transparency that the initiative generates will lead to more development.
“We believe this channel will enable citizen participation in governance which will surely stimulate the trust of the people in what we do with their investment. You cannot talk about development in South Korea, Singapore, or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates without working out how that is connected to the United Nations Citizen Participation Index which states the line of relationship between the citizens and government and this is what this channel has addressed. Since we have launched the 30-year development plan this is another attempt at making the people of Lagos State work together with the government to make the plan works,” he said.
On his part, Mr Beulah Adeoye, Partner, Deloitte Nigeria, said the whistle-blowing service provides multilingual, multiple reporting channels including a 24-Hour toll-free hotline (0800TIPOFFS and 0800 847 6337).
Users can also use Delloite’s web portal (https://tip-offs.deloitte.com.ng); Email (email@example.com) or download the app (Deloitte Tip-offs, and Anonymous App) on the mobile app store.
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