By Dipo Olowookere
Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, has been warned by the Senate to “stop spreading wrong information and half-truth about the 2017 budget.”
A statement issued on Saturday by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, noted that the legislators worked to ensure equity across the country on all new and outstanding projects.
Mr Fashola was reported to have accused the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly of cutting funds appropriated for critical infrastructural projects across the country and allocating such for boreholes and other as constituency projects by the Senators.
But in the statement by Mr Abdullahi, the Senate claimed the Minister did not give members of the public full details about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which has been on a private finance initiative from the beginning because he would prefer an arrangement that allows the Ministry to continue to award contracts and fund the project through government budgetary allocation at a time when the nation’s revenue is dwindling and at an all-time low.
Mr Abdullahi stated that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had in 2013, approved the reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project using the Private Finance Initiative, with the Federal Government providing about 30 percent of the funding while the balance shall be provided by the private sector.
The project was on course for completion by end of 2017 when the private finance initiative was being implemented, with over 30 percent completion rate attained as at early 2015.
Mr Abdullahi further noted that in a blatant disregard for existing agreements, constituted authorities and extant laws, Mr Fashola on assumption of office got government through the Ministry to start voting money for the implementation of the project.
“Even as at last year, the 2016 Appropriation Act voted N40 billion for the project on the insistence of the Ministry and only N26 billion was released. If we had known, the rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country,” he said.
“In the spirit of consensus building and effective stakeholder engagement, the leadership of the Senate met with key relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works and Finance. It was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure assets across the country.
“Hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the government and private sector groups who have assured that they will resume funding of the project.
“So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in.
“What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimate was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso road in the South-west, Enugu-Onitsha road in the South-east, and two other critical roads in the North-east and North-west; and this was done to achieve equity.
“The Minister should realise he is Minister for the entire country and not just that of Lagos State.
“It is our view that the Federal Government cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance of all the 34,000 kilometres of roads under its care.
“We are looking for private funds for some of these roads, particularly those with high potentials of attracting private investors.
“These include the Enugu-Onitsha road, Kano-Abuja road and Abuja-Lokoja road. It has been our hope that the Lagos -Ibadan road would be a model for private sector funding of infrastructure in the country,” the Senate’s spokesman stated.
He added that Mr Fashola knew that Federal Government cannot fully fund this road for completion by 2019 as he is promising Nigerians.
“It’s deceit of the highest order. Just going by the last two years of funding where an average of about N30b per annum was released then the nation would have to wait for the next six years for completion of the work.
“But with Private sector Finance Initiative, this project can be completed on time because full funding will be provided and there will be more certainty,” he stated.
Mr Abdullahi noted that since government did not have enough money and/or unlimited resources to provide all the needed road infrastructure on a sustainable basis, the use of funds from the private sector to complement government’s resources would ease pressure on the annual budgetary provisions for infrastructure provision, as more money will be spent on less commercially viable roads that would not ordinarily attract private sector investment as well as other social services like education, health and human capital development.
“The Minister’s statement is in bad taste and we believe he has been quoted out of context as an experienced public servant with over 15 years of high level responsibility will not be uttering such statements.
“He should desist from spreading half-truths. When he said the National Assembly imported projects into the 2017 budget, he did not mention that these include the 26 projects which the Federal Government approved in the 2016 budget, awarded contract for them in January 2016, but totally omitted them in the 2017 budget.
“One of them is the Abuja-Kaduna road. These ones would have become abandoned projects. We reduced funds across board to make provision for these omitted projects that are of critical importance to the socio-economic development of the country in line with equity and fair play.
“Mr Fashola obviously wants the Federal Ministry of Works to have many construction projects it can award contracts for and that is why he would always oppose any attempt to allow the private sector financing initiatives through Public Private Partnerships or other levels of government to fund construction of roads under the control of the Federal Government.
“That was why he waited until he was arm-twisted on the Lagos Airport road before he allowed the Lagos State government take up the reconstruction, using private funds.
“Same thing happened to the proposal for the Apapa Wharf road, which was frustrated for over a year before the stakeholders reined in the Ministry to grudgingly approve that Dangote and Flour Mills should take over the project.
“It should also be explained that nobody introduced budgetary provisions for the sinking of boreholes and construction of clinics under the budget of the Works division of the Ministry.
“However, the Housing division would ordinarily have provision for such facilities in its estimate, so as to meet the Sustainable Development Goals as provided for by the United Nations. This is aimed at reducing slums and improve the well-being of our citizenry.
“The National Assembly already have an agreement with the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, that if for example, the Private Finance Initiative does not materialize to provide the needed funds for the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, just as in other areas where government has issues with the budget, the instruments of Virement and supplementary budget can be used.
“This is as a result of our belief that it is one Government and we all share the gains of the successes and pains of the failure.
“However, with all these blackmail game and backbiting going on, they are already laying the foundation for the failure of the agreement with the Executive,” he stated.
Mr Abdullahi added that the National Assembly acted in the national interest to ensure equity and fairness is achieved in the distribution of projects and to ensure that all sections of the country have representation in the national budget as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
Swiss Business School Honours Monument Distillers CEO
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
Mr Godwin Oche, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Monument Distillers Nigeria Limited (MDN), has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Swiss School of Business and Management, Geneva.
The Swiss faculty confirmed that the laurel was in recognition of his huge contributions to the development of the African manufacturing ecosystem and for his technological innovations.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Oche appreciated the institution and MDN for the recognition and honour.
“Few things have made me more proud and more grateful for my journey than this humbling recognition of my contributions to business and manufacturing by the esteemed Swiss School of Business and Management. I am truly honoured. Most especially, I am grateful.
“I am grateful to my wife and family for their dependable support through the years, to Monument Distillers for giving me the platform to shine, to our customers for their tremendous loyalty and support, and most especially to the good Lord who has blessed me with far more than I ever dreamed,” he said.
Mr Oche is a Chemical Engineer and holder of a Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in marketing from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUTECH).
He is a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultant (FIMC), a member of the Nigeria Institute of Marketing (MNIM), and also a member of the Nigeria Institute of Personnel Management (MIPM).
MDN is a fast-rising wine and spirit company that produces a wide range of global and local brands such as John Bannermans Scotch Whisky, 1960Rootz Bitters, 4 Horses Bitters, Les Damier Wine range and so much more.
The company also has distribution rights to brands such as Four Cousins Wines, Sazerac Southern Comfort Bourbon and other ranges of spirits. The company offers a broad range of collections for all occasions.
Kano Forex Trader in Trouble Over N197m
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A foreign exchange (forex) trader based in Kano State, Mr Yusuf Yakubu, may have bitten more than he can chew as he has found himself in murky water.
He was accused of diverting about N197.6 million belonging to his customers, who wanted him to exchange his Dollars to Naira.
It was alleged that in January 2021, the Kano forex trader collected $870,000 with the promise to pay the Naira equivalent, but he refused to fully honour this pledge.
Instead of returning the full amount, he only paid N220.3 million and allegedly diverted the balance of N197.6 million and efforts to make him pay were futile.
As a result, a petition was filed to the Kano Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which waded into the matter.
After interrogations, Mr Yakubu was arraigned before Justice Sanusi Ma’aji of the Kano State High Court on August 4, 2021, on a one-count charge of misappropriation.
“That Yakubu Yusuf on or about January 14, 2021, within the jurisdiction of this court, with intent to defraud dishonestly misappropriated the sum of N149,000,000 belonging to Oliver Ogokumaka and Obumnemi Okoli and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 308 and punishable under section 309 of the Penal Code,” the charge read.
When the charge was read to him, the defendant pleaded not guilty, which prompted the prosecution counsel, Mr Musa Isah, to ask for a trial date.
However, counsel for the defendant, Mr Abdul Adamu, informed the court that he had filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the judge consequently adjourned the matter till August 18 for argument on the motion.
Meanwhile, the defendant was granted bail in the sum of N50 million and two sureties in like sum, one of who must be a relative of the accused person and both must also be resident of Kano, with verified business addresses.
Stanbic IBTC Revamps Abeokuta BTI Correctional Centre
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
A top financial institution, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, through the Stanbic IBTC Finance Team, has reconstructed the vocational centre at Borstal Training Institute (BTI) located in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The BTI is an arm of the Nigerian Correctional Service where young offenders are remanded and given both educational and vocational training, used to be a deteriorated structure with very few tools.
The poor facility was not able to live up to the purpose of the institute in terms of equipping students with education and skill acquisition.
However, the intervention of the Stanbic IBTC Staff Volunteerism Initiative saw a complete overhauling of the Abeokuta BTI Correctional Centre to encourage the purpose as to which the BTI was built.
The reconstruction entailed the demolition of the existing dilapidated shed, construction of a new building which was demarcated into four segments, along with the establishment of an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) unit equipped with six desktop computers.
In addition, a tailoring section was also set up and provided with four sewing machines, a stitching machine, several tailoring tools, and fabrics for practice.
There was also a barbing section which was supplied with three clippers, a sterilising machine, and other necessary barbing tools.
The renovation also entailed the establishment of a carpentry section equipped with necessary equipment such as a drilling machine, spraying machine, and circular machine.
The water supply channel was also improved with an overhead water tank for the facility.
In his statement on the project, the Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Mr Demola Sogunle, pointed out that the provision of these necessary facilities will encourage easy reintegration of the students into the society as it will equip them with digital and vocational skills.
“I believe that this project will directly impact the lives of these young Nigerians. It enhances their easy integration into society as they are already equipped with either digital or vocational skills, based on their preference.
“Upon release, they will not be idle but will hopefully put the skills they have acquired to good use,” he said.
The reconstructed BTI vocational centre which houses about 330 students will now have about 182 of them engaged in school and computer skill acquisition, and 148 students equipped with vocational training.
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