By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the National Assembly to reject the fresh loan request of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Last week, at the resumption of plenary on the Senate after a break, Mr Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, read a letter from Mr Buhari requesting to borrow $4 billion and €710 million.
But in a letter, SERAP said both chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives, should not grant this request until the publication of details of spending of all loans obtained since the Buhari-led administration took office on May 29, 2015.
In the open letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the group expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said: “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.”
According to SERAP, “Accumulation of excessive debts and unsustainable debt-servicing are inconsistent with the government’s international obligations to use the country’s maximum available resources to progressively achieve the realisation of economic and social rights, and access of Nigerians to basic public services.”
The letter read in part: “The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for a constitutional amendment on debt limit, with the intent of reducing national debt and deficits. This recommendation is entirely consistent with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.
“Indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of Nigerians’ economic and social rights. Spending a large portion of the country’s yearly budget to service debts has limited the ability of the government to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to minimal health care, education, clean water, and other human needs.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“The National Assembly under your leadership has a constitutional responsibility to urgently address the country’s debt crisis, which is exacerbated by overspending on lavish allowances for high-ranking public officials, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as the absence of political will to recover trillions of naira reported to be missing or mismanaged by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“The National Assembly should stop the government from borrowing behind the people’s backs. Lack of information about details of specific projects on which loans are spent, and on loan conditions creates incentives for corruption, and limits citizens’ ability to scrutinise the legality and consistency of loans with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as well as to hold authorities to account.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35 trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679 trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31 trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education.”
FG Threatens CCECC Over Drawback in Rail Contract
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has threatened to sanction the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for not meeting up with the agreement of providing 85 per cent of rail project costs in a move that could signify friction.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Mu’azu Sambo, at the inspection of the Lekki Deep Seaport on Saturday in Lagos.
According to Mr Sambo, the projects are the Kano-Kaduna and the Maiduguri-Port Harcourt rail lines.
“The CCECC has not brought anything to the table. I gave them a deadline which is October 30, if I don’t get that money on the ground, I know what to advise Mr President to do,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction with the Lekki Deep Seaport project, noting that the initiatives were to ensure the smooth evacuation of cargo at the port.
He said that for part-time, the road was being expanded, adding that the government was looking into it, and for medium-term, barges would take care of it.
“I am impressed and happy to be back here. This we know is the pride of all Nigerians, the first deep seaport in West Africa that will take the largest ship in the world has 16.5 meters deep, and will give us hundreds and thousands of jobs.
“Almost automated not fully but automated enough to make life easy for port operations.
“It is initiatives like this we want to encourage, that is why I did not hesitate when I came to the ministry and I saw a proposal of the Badagry Deep Seaport sitting on my table and took it immediately for approval.
“Also, the president is concerned about cargo evacuation at the port and does not want a repeat of the Apapa and TinCan port and so we cannot rely on the road alone which is not the best option.
“There is a need to sit down with stakeholders to see how to tackle this,” he said.
He pointed out that cargo evacuation was not just within the port but outside the port, as goods must reach the final destination.
“First of all, you save a lot of time at the port because of automation and modern technology and equipment.
“After the port what happens, it only makes sense when the goods get to the shipper or owner. And to do that, you need to move either by rail, water, or road,” he said.
Mr Sambo urged the management of the port to employ as many Nigerians as possible as this was the only way citizens could put food on the table for their families.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, noted that the Lekki Deep Seaport was one of the first solutions to reducing traffic at Apapa and TinCan.
According to Mr Bello-Koko, the automation deployed at the port is commendable and fantastic as the processes will be free of human interference.
He said that the Apapa and TinCan port would still be viable, adding that what they had done was to create alternatives for importers and exporters as to where they would decide to do business.
“The operators of those ports should also up their game, and improve their speed in terms of cargo clearance or otherwise.
“Feasibility studies have shown that these ports will still be viable in future like 10, 15 years, the government can decide to turn some of these ports into a real estate, we have some of them in Europe,” Mr Bello-Koko said.
Mr Du Ruogang, the Managing Director, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Ltd. (Lekki Port), said that the port was 95 per cent completed, adding that they would meet the targeted time.
Mr Ruogang appreciated the NPA for deploying marine services such as tug, pilot, lines, boats and harbour master before the operations of the port.
Verification of Bank of Agriculture Pensioners Begins
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Pensioners of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) who missed the previous verification exercises under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) now have the opportunity to be verified.
This is because the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has fixed Monday, August 22 to Wednesday, August 24, 2022, for their verification.
In a statement signed by the management of the agency, it was stated that the verification exercise is also for pensioners of other organisations who could not appear for the previous ones.
In the statement, PTAD said Bank of Agriculture pensioners and others should appear at the Afficient Event Centre located on No. 74, Sultan Road, Nassarawa G.R.A. Kano State and at the PTAD Marquee, tucked in 22 Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama, Abuja between 8 am and 4 pm for the three days.
PTAD emphasised that pensioners with incomplete documents should obtain a Letter of Introduction from the management of their agencies and an affidavit for the loss of documents.
The documents they are expected to present for verification include the original and photocopies of their career documents, stamped and signed BVN with a picture, one month stamped and signed bank statement, NIN or any other valid identification.
Ikeja Electric Signs Deal for Better Power Supply to Ayobo
By Adedapo Adesanya
A tripartite interconnected mini-grid agreement has been signed by Ikeja Electric Plc, Enaro Energy Limited and the Ayobo community for the provision of reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply to Ishokan Phase 1 Estate, Mercy Land Estate, and Mercy Land Phase1 residents in Ayobo, Lagos State.
The initiative is in line with the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission’s (NERC) goal of ensuring there is a reliable and steady power supply across communities in the country through partnerships between distribution companies (DisCos) and independent power generators.
The agreement, which was signed on Wednesday at Ikeja Electric’s corporate headquarters in Alausa, Lagos, will rely on the interconnected mini-grid initiative of the power sector to provide the customers with an uninterrupted power supply.
Speaking on this, Mrs Seqinah Adewunmi, the Chief Finance Officer of Ikeja Electric, who represented the Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Folake Soetan, during the signing of the agreements, stated that the initiative was a landmark in the history of the power sector in the state.
She added that those communities will be the first to experience uninterrupted power supply via a blend of grid and off-grid generation and distribution of power.
According to her, “it will demonstrate the possibility that our customers can enjoy 24 hours power supply which is in line with the core mission of Ikeja Electric to be the provider of choice wherever power is consumed.”
She congratulated everyone that has been part of the process, revealing that the initiative will transform the ways in which electricity is being distributed in Nigeria.
She further stated that this initiative will set the pace for bigger things to happen as the plan is to expand to other communities within the Ikeja Electric Franchise area.
On his part, Mr Oluwaseun Smith, the Managing Director of Enaro Energy, expressed his appreciation that the project was finally coming to fruition, adding that the journey began about two and half years ago and was glad that all the efforts towards ensuring the signing of the contract were worth it.
He stated that Enaro Energy was committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure the success of the project.
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