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SERAP to Block Use of N17trn Pension Funds by Governors

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SERAP

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The plan by the 36 state governors to borrow N17 trillion from the pension funds is not going down well with the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The group has now written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to block this move, arguing that this would be “detrimental to the interest of the beneficiaries of the funds, especially given the vulnerability of pension funds to corruption in Nigeria, and the transparency and accountability deficits in several states.”

In a letter dated December 5, 2020, SERAP, through its deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, described this proposed plan by the governors as “patently unjust and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the Pension Reform Act.

According to the organisation, “This proposed borrowing faces the risks of corruption and mismanagement, and would ultimately deny pensioners the right to an adequate standard of living and trap more pensioners in poverty.”

“Rather than devising ways to address pensioner poverty, governments at all levels would seem to be pushing to exacerbate it,” the letter said.

SERAP, which copied the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, expressed “serious concerns that the proposed borrowing by the 36 state governors from the pension funds would lead to serious losses of retirement savings of millions of Nigerians.”

According to the group, “Many state governors have repeatedly failed to pay workers’ salaries and pensions; several states are failing to pay contributory pension.

“Therefore, allowing state governors to collect a windfall of pension funds at the expense of pensioners who continue to be denied the fruit of their labour would amount to double jeopardy.”

“Fiduciary duties require public officers to ensure that pension funds are managed solely and exclusively for the benefit of pensioners, and to consider the socio-economic and human rights impact of pension investment decisions on the intended beneficiaries,” it added.

SERAP said President Buhari must urgently instruct the Director-General and board of the National Pension Commission (NPC) to stop this move because “it would also be very difficult to hold state governors to account for the spending of pension funds, as states have persistently failed to account for the spending of public funds including security votes.”

“Transparency is a key instrument in the spending of any pension fund investment, as it is necessary to ensure the accountability of the funds. However, several states routinely claim that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable within their states.”

“Pension funds should not be used to make up for the failure of governments at all levels to cut the cost of governance, and the persistent refusal to reduce wastage and corruption in MDAs, as well as failure to obey court orders to recover life pensions collected by former governors and their deputies, and public funds collected by corrupt electricity contractors who disappeared with the money without executing any power projects,” the group submitted.

Recall that recently, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mr Nasir el-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds for Investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), stated that N17 trillion could be sourced from the pension funds for projects in the states.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Heifer Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss Youth Empowerment

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Youth Empowerment Agric

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Agribusiness firm, Heifer Nigeria, in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), will hold a youth empowerment programme on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

The event is mainly to gather stakeholders in the agriculture sector to discuss how youth could be given the necessary support to succeed in the industry.

The program, which is themed Youth and Technology: The Future of Africa’s Agriculture, will also serve as an avenue for key players to examine the various roles of youth and technology in the transformation and future of Nigeria’s agriculture.

It will be held for two days at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, and is in line with the 27th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) tagged Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.

Speaking on the scheduled event, the Country Director, Heifer Nigeria, Mr Rufus Idris, noted that agriculture in Africa greatly relies on the shoulder of the youths which is in need of enhanced innovation to allow for a sustainable farming system among Africans.

“Heifer International is committed to supporting a business ecosystem that enables youths to drive innovation in the sector, growing their incomes through sustainable and scalable food, and farming practices.

“Leveraging technology and modern practices will create a pathway for Nigeria to increase productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector to curb food insecurity and poverty,” he averred.

According to the company, agriculture already accounts for about 35 per cent of employment in Nigeria, making the sector mature enough for innovation to become a major domestic employer.

Hence, the program will be an interactive session where youth innovators, incubators, farmers and agribusinesses, government agencies, and investors will converge to come up with innovative solutions with the potential of scaling Nigeria’s agricultural sector and strengthening food security across the nation.

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Fashola Tasks States to Prioritize Housing Challenges

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housing challenges

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has called on state governments to renew their commitment to housing development in order to increase access to affordable housing to the citizenry.

Mr Fashola made the call in his keynote address at the meeting of the States’ Commissioners responsible for housing matters during the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development held in Lagos State.

Speaking at the event themed Housing Development as a Catalyst for Job Creation, Social Inclusion and Economic Development, he explained that the inequality among the nations and people can be reduced drastically if the housing need of the poor is considerably addressed in the states.

“These are some of the reasons why I seek to persuade all of you to go back to your states to persuade your Governors to re-commit to housing development.

“I said re-commit because I am aware that many states are doing something, but you will agree that there is a scope to improve and scale-up.

“One reason why this will require an All of Government Action is the fact that land is a critical component of capital formation and it is controlled by the states.

“I am persuaded that appropriate, targeted and purposeful use of lands, such as for the development of housing by the states and private sector, will unleash prosperity in all states that aggregate to national prosperity,” Mr Fashola explained.

The Minister gave an example of Lagos State days of Lateef Jakande and added that the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu remained an example of what state governments could do to deepen housing supply and reap the benefits that come with it.

Mr Fashola stated that land and housing was a sub-national matter of jurisdictions, pointing out that what the states do to facilitate the processing of land titles, documentation, Certificate of Occupancy and other Geographic Information Services (GIS) details would go a long way in facilitating easy housing delivery.

He informed the meeting that the federal government was undertaking a National Housing Programme in 34 states aggregating to about 5,000 housing units, and trying to complete an inherited ministerial pilot housing scheme across the states which had a little over 6,000 units.

Mr Fashola said the decisions to recommit to housing development by state governments would facilitate the creation of a variety of jobs because the services of various professionals in the built industry such as town planners, architects would be required.

”Artisans like masons, plumbers, carpenters and food vendors will not be left out of the value chain of prosperity resulting from economic development.

“When construction actively starts, the economic explosion happens, supplies of sand, cement, reinforcements, roofing, plumbing, painting, and other components get to work.

“This drives a critical business in all our states, the micro small and medium enterprises who make or supply these building components,“ he said.

In the same vein, he explained that the Federal Housing Authority and Federal Mortgage Bank are also intervening as federal agencies in respective housing development directly through cooperative societies and the provision of development loans and mortgage loans.

In his remarks, Governor Sanwo-Olu, while assuring participants at the council of implementing the recommendations of the meeting, disclosed that the state had begun to implement the commendations agreed on at the 9th National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

On making land available for building by providing lands to build a mini-city at Imota in Ikorodu Division of Lagos State.

He said the state would develop about 3,500 housing units of 2 and 3 bedrooms in phases for civil servants and those in the informal sector, who fall within the category of low-income earners and to be acquired at a single-digit interest rate mortgage plan that could span a period of 15 years.

He added that his administration was determined to develop decent homes within the states as well as meet the housing needs of the citizens irrespective of their location.

Mr Sanwo-Olu, who said that homeownership was a vital tool for taking people out of poverty, assured the council that Lagos State would collaborate with the private sector to adopt the monthly rent payment as proposed by the Minister of Works and Housing.

In his vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, FMWH, Mr Babangida Hussaini, commended the excellent leadership of the works and housing sectors.

He also noted the commitment of council members to the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development and urged them to go back and implement the council resolutions.

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Group Reports Lagos Government to Buhari

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Shangisha Magodo group

By Mohammed Kerimu

The Shangisha/Magodo Landlords Association of Nigeria has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the refusal of the Lagos State Government to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of 549 plots of land to its original owners by the state.

In a document submitted to the Presidency and sighted by this reporter, the association expressed optimism that Mr Buhari would do justice to the matter he has demonstrated that a strong judiciary is a sine qua non for the operation and sustenance of democracy which he had vowed to defend.

The group further noted that since their story is similar to that of Mr President, who faced several denials in his electoral victories before God intervened in his fourth outing, he will finally lay their matter to rest since he was the Head of States about 37 years ago when they were forcefully evicted from their land.

It will be recalled that after its first judgement, the Supreme Court on March 1, 2016, again voiced out its displeasure with Lagos State Government and the state Chief Judge over their refusal to execute its earlier judgement; warning of the dangers it portends for the state to deliberately refuse to carry out its order concerning the Shangisha/Magodo land.

However, analysts are of the view that the refusal by the Lagos State Government to execute the judgement of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, is sending wrong signals to foreign investors who needed assurance of a strong judicial system before committing their resources for investment in the country.

They warned that if nothing was done to compel the state to toe the line of law and order, the country may be up for doom as no serious investor will consider a country with a weak legal system in their investment decisions.

Following the refusal of Lagos State to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of Shangisha/Magodo land which it forcefully acquired from its owners without building any public interest institution on it, the question many are asking is when did Lagos State secede from Nigeria that the ruling of the country’s apex court could no longer be binding on it?

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