Securitize N7.3trn ways and means loan – Tinubu asks Senate

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has asked the Nigerian Senate to approve the securitization of the outstanding debit balance of N7.3 trillion in the consolidated revenue fund also known as Ways and Means advance.

The president sought this approval in a letter read on the floor of the Senate by Senate President Godswill Akpabio during plenary on Saturday.

The President, in his letter, said although the federal government was considering various measures to forestall the use of ways and means advances for domestic debt servicing, it has, however, become highly imperative to securitize the outstanding ways and means advance to the federal government before the end of 2023.

Tinubu said his request was in line with the Provision of Section 38 of the Central Bank Of Nigeria Act 2017, which grants temporary advances to the federal government to fill up the budget deficit.

He said data from the CBN indicates that the consolidated revenue fund stood at N7.3 trillion as of December 11 2023, largely due to domestic debt servicing, principal and interest.

Tinubu emphasized that the securitization of the ways and means will lead to the realization of several benefits, including the reduction of debt service cost.

The President added that the savings arising from the lower interest rate will reduce the deficit in the budget.

“Given the preceding, the Senate is invited to consider and approve securitization of the outstanding debit balance of N7.3 trillion in the CNRF as of December 11 2023”, the letter read.

Recall that in May 2023, the Senate approved the N22.7 trillion loans the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, extended to the federal government under its Ways and Means provision.

(Daily Post)

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Nigerian oil firms mandated to supply 483,000 bpd of crude oil to local refineries

The Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Council has issued new regulations requiring oil producers to send around 483,000 barrels per day of crude oil to nearby refineries during the first half of 2024.

This program is part of the efforts of Africa’s largest crude oil exporter to secure a steady supply for domestic processing.

The Dangote oil refinery and at least three government-run refineries are among the local refineries set to begin operations in 2024.

According to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission’s recently announced Domestic Crude Supply Obligation criteria, the 650,000-barrel-per-day Dangote refinery is slated to earn the largest portion, with a volume of 325,000 bpd.

According to the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Council, six refineries with a combined refining capacity of 864,500 barrels per day are expected to begin operations in 2024. As a result, oil producers will be required to supply somewhat more than half of the crude required to meet these processing capacities.

Warri and Port-Harcourt refineries, for example, are expected to receive 75,000 and 54,000 barrels of crude oil daily, respectively, from the crude oil supply. Meanwhile, refineries like Waltersmith, OPAC, and Niger Delta Petroleum Refinery, among others, are expected to get 10,000 bpd or less.

The Petroleum Industry Act, adopted in 2021, included a provision requiring Nigerian oil producers to allocate a percentage of their crude to domestic refineries to avoid shortages. This regulation, however, has not yet been applied.

Following the termination of the fuel subsidy in June, Nigeria has been attempting to reduce imports of petroleum products while keeping prices reasonably low. After the subsidy was removed in June, the price of petrol increased by more than 200%.

Despite the fact that the NNPCL’s CEO claimed in a June interview that local refining will not considerably cut fuel prices across the country post-subsidy. He expressly said that the cut will range from N20 to N30 from the imported fuel.

Since 2021, the country has used foreign contractors to renovate its state-owned refineries and has assisted the private sector in the construction of others. The Dangote refinery was inaugurated in May, but it has yet to begin refining despite receiving oil earlier this month.

In addition, the former Port-Harcourt refinery’s turnaround maintenance has been finished, and it will begin refining 60,000 barrels of oil per day in January 2024.

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Elon Musk closes 2023 with $92bn profit

Elon Musk ends the year with a whopping $92 billion in year-to-date earnings in 2023, indicating a comeback for the world’s wealthiest person.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his puts Elon Musk at the top of the list, leading the pack of the combined net worth of the 500 richest people, which totals $1.5 trillion, a $1.4 trillion gain from the previous year.

These individuals’ fortunes closely paralleled the performance of technology stocks, which reached historic highs despite fears of an approaching recession, persistent inflation, high interest rates, and geopolitical uncertainty.

The wealth of tech billionaires increased by 48%, totaling $658 billion, fueled by the excitement surrounding artificial intelligence.

Among this select group, Elon Musk reclaimed the title of world’s richest person, edging out French luxury billionaire, Bernard Arnault.

By the end of Thursday, Tesla Inc.’s CEO had amassed an additional $95.4 billion, fueled by the triumphs of both Tesla and SpaceX, effectively recovering from a $138 billion loss in 2022.

Musk’s net worth now exceeds Arnault’s by more than $50 billion, as LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE shares fell due to a global drop in luxury goods demand.

Elon Musk’s notable $92 billion fortune increase year-to-date, reaching a valuation of $229 billion, occurred against the backdrop of controversy surrounding his social media activities, including an antisemitic remark that forced big sponsors such as Walt Disney, Sony, and IBM to sever ties with the platform.

Despite obstacles, Musk’s Tesla reached significant milestones in the first three quarters, tripling its shares and breaking its previous annual sales record.

However, the business suffered setbacks due to lowered prices to encourage demand in the face of increased competition in the electric vehicle sector, placing pressure on Tesla’s profit margins.

Simultaneously, the founder of Inc.,  Jeff Bezos, increased his fortune by more than $70 billion, putting him in a close competition with Arnault for second place.

The CEO of Meta Platforms Inc., Mark Zuckerberg, saw his wealth rise by more than $80 billion.

However, not everyone enjoyed an increase in wealth. Following the devaluation of the Adani Group by short-seller Hindenburg Research, Indian billionaire Gautam Adani had a severe setback, losing $21 billion on January 27 alone and a total of $37.3 billion for the year. Despite this, Adani still controls a sizable 11-figure fortune.

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Dangote, two other Nigerian billionaires lost $9.3bn in 2023 – Report

The Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires list has revealed that three Nigerian billionaires – Aliko Dangote, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and Mike Adenuga’s combined wealth would fall by $9.3 billion in 2023.

The Forbes’ wealth-tracking tool gives ongoing updates on each individual confirmed to be a billionaire’s net worth and ranking.

When relevant stock markets are open, the value of individuals’ public holdings is updated every five minutes.

Dangote, Rabiu, and Adenuga’s fortunes fell 33.9 percent to $18.1 billion as of 3 p.m. on December 29, 2023, down from $27.4 billion on January 30.

According to the data, Dangote’s fortune has plummeted by $4.1 billion to $9.4 billion, Rabiu’s fortune has dropped by $1.9 billion to $5.7 billion, and Adenuga’s fortune has dropped by $3.3 billion to $3 billion.

“The devaluation of the naira would have affected their wealth because the currency has lost its value against the dollar,” said managing director of Afrinvest Consulting Limited, Abiodun Keripe.

He went on to say that the billionaires have the majority of their enterprises in Nigeria and that converting the worth of their businesses from naira to dollar will result in a loss of value.

The liberalization of the foreign exchange rules in June as part of economic stimulus measures resulted in a significant depreciation of the naira.

The Central Bank of Nigeria consolidated all components of the foreign exchange market into the Investors and Exporters window and reinstated the willing buyer, willing seller model.

Since then, the naira has continued to fall in value versus the US dollar and other major foreign currencies.

As of December 28, the official exchange rate has dropped from N463.38/$ to N1,043.09/$. On the parallel market, the naira fell from 762/$ to 1,210/$.

In June, Forbes claimed that Dangote had lost his position as Africa’s richest person for the first time in 12 years. It was reported that Johann Rupert of South Africa, who amassed a fortune in luxury products and other areas, had surpassed the Nigerian industrialist.

“The decline of Dangote’s fortune came in the wake of the CBN’s decision to float its currency, the naira, on June 14, abandoning the fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar,” the report said.

According to the newest 2023 Billionaires Ambitious report, billionaires in Nigeria raised the country’s wealth by 19.7 percent in one year, three weeks ago.

According to a research by a major investment bank and financial services firm, UBS, their total worth increased to $28.5 billion in April 2023 from $23.8 billion the previous year.

“An obvious reason for the uptick in wealth would be the benefit of the stronger oil price, given that Nigeria is usually Africa’s biggest oil producer,” according to analysts at UBS.

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Nigeria, others most affected by high food inflation – W’Bank

The World Bank has revealed that domestic food price inflation has had the greatest impact on Nigeria and other African, North American, and Latin American countries.

According to The PUNCH, the multilateral lender’s recently released Food Security Update revealed that while domestic food price inflation remained high, 61.9 per cent of low-income nations faced inflation more than 5 per cent.

It said that since the last FSU update, the agriculture, cereal, and export price indices closed 2%, 6%, and 1% higher, respectively, while maize and wheat prices jumped 8% and 14%, respectively.

It went on to say that, despite a slowing global economy, demand for agricultural products was expected to hit new highs in the 2023/24 marketing season.

“The inflation of food prices in the country is still significant. In 61.9 per cent of low-income nations, 76.1 per cent of lower-middle-income countries, 50 per cent of upper-middle-income countries, and 57.4 per cent of high-income countries, inflation exceeds 5%.

“Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia are the most affected. Food price rise outpaced general inflation in 74 per cent of the 167 nations where data is available,” according to the research.

According to the report, trade-related measures enforced by countries increased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It went on to say that the global food crisis had been exacerbated in part by the increased number of food trade restrictions imposed by countries with a goal of increasing domestic supply and reducing prices.

The latest Consumer Price Index: November 2023′ report released by the National Bureau of Statistics two weeks ago stated that Nigeria’s food inflation rate jumped to 32.84 per cent.

Food inflation was highest in Kogi, Kwara, and Rivers, where it reached 41.29 per cent, 40.72 per cent, and 40.22 per cent, respectively.

The November food inflation rate was 8.72 per cent points higher than the November 2022 figure (24.13 per cent).

According to the research, the increase in food prices was caused by price rises in bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, and coffee, tea, and cocoa.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported, “On a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate in November 2023 was 2.42 per cent this was 0.51 per cent higher compared to the rate recorded in October 2023 (1.91 per cent).”

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Naira drops 11.4% to N927/$1 on official market

The Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market, the official FX window, saw a 11.4 per cent depreciation of the Naira against the Dollar on Friday, December 1, closing at N927.19/$1, from Thursday’s exchange rate of N832.32/$1.

This depreciation put the Naira on the back burner for the first trading session of the final month of 2023.

The domestic currency declined in the spot market on Sunday as a result of the December rush for foreign exchange, as the supply of foreign currency could not keep up with demand.

According to data, the value of FX transactions that were recorded at the market during the trading day was $110.14 million, down from $115.41 million the day before, indicating a decline of 4.6 per cent or $5.27 million.

The unregulated foreign exchange market experienced pressure on Friday due to the official market’s incapacity to meet the demand of customers. The local currency lost N5 in value against the US dollar in the parallel market, closing at N1,165/$1, as opposed to N1,160/$1, on Thursday.

However on Sunday, in the Peer-to-Peer window, the value of the Nigerian Naira increased by N8 relative to that of the US dollar, selling for N1,148/$1 as opposed to N1,156/$1.

During the session at NAFEM, the Naira fell N158.01 against the Pound Sterling to settle at N1,204.10/£1, down from N1,046.09/£1 the day before. Against the Euro, it fell N95.37 to sell at N1,036.06/€1, down from N940.69/€1 on Thursday.

The cryptocurrency market, meanwhile, saw mixed results, with Bitcoin rising by 1.9% to $38,112.80, and Dogecoin gained 3.1 per cent to sell at $0.0839.

Additionally, Litecoin gained 0.4% to $70.09, Binance Coin gained 0.4% to $228.88, Cardano expanded by 0.1% to $0.378 and Ethereum increased by 2.7% to $2,090.27. Ripple saw an increase of 0.8% to $0.6105.

Solana saw a slight decline of less than 0.3 percent to close at $60.34, whereas US Dollar Coin and US Dollar Tether ended the day unchanged at $1.00 each.

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Senate endorses Tinubu’s request to borrow $7.8bn, €100m

The Senate has approved President Tinubu’s request to borrow $7.8bn and €100 million as part of the 2022-2024 borrowing plan of the Federal Government.

The request was approved after the Senate considered and adopted the report of its committee on Local and Foreign Debt during Saturday’s plenary.

Tinubu had said that the Federal Executive Council under former President Muhammadu Buhari approved the loan facility on May 15, 2023 to finance infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, insecurity and other sectors.

He further explained that the foreign loan had become necessary to bridge the financial gap and return the economic activities of the country to normalcy.

The funds, he said, would be used to develop infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, security and employment as well as financial management reforms.

Similarly, the Red Chamber also okayed Tinubu’s request to securitise the Central Bank of Nigeria N7.3tn Ways and Means advances to the Federal Government.

Tinubu had, in a letter read by the Senate President on Saturday, said the securitisation was targeted at reducing debt service cost and extend the repayment period of the existing loans.

The Ways and Means provision allows the government to borrow from the Central Bank in the event that it requires short-term or emergency financing to support delayed government projected cash receipts of fiscal shortfalls.


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Our expectations from Tinubu govt in 2024 – Labour, business owners, others list demands

As 2023 comes to an end, Nigerians from different walks of life have urged the Federal Government to improve the economic conditions and security outlook of the country in the New Year.

Across several sectors, stakeholders, including the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigerian Medical Association, Association of Small Business Owners, National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, and All Farmers Association of Nigeria, among others, have made their demands for 2024 known to President Bola Tinubu.

They asked the government to stabilise the falling naira, make the economy attractive to foreign investors and friendly to small businesses, and improve the living conditions of citizens, among other demands.

The year 2023 saw Nigeria elect a new leader to run the affairs of the nation for another four years.

It was also the year the country saw the end of petrol subsidy after the declaration of the President during his inauguration on May 29.

This caused unprecedented hardship for Nigerians, as the pump price of petrol skyrocketed, making transport fares, food and other essential goods’ prices to jump astronomically.

The economy, according to experts, is currently at a very low ebb.

For instance, the naira, on Friday, traded at 907.11/$ on the official Investors and Exporters’ foreign exchange window after falling to 1,043.09/$ on Thursday.

This is a 13.04 per cent appreciation from Thursday’s figure, according to data from the FMDQ Securities Exchange.

Trading on the last working day of 2023 began at N911.67/$, it rose to a high of N1,224.10/$ and fell to N700/$, before closing at N907.11/$. Forex turnover improved marginally to $89.30m, a 6.78 per cent increase from the $83.63m it was the previous day.

At the parallel market, the naira closed the year at N1,195/$. A Bureau de Change operator, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “The dollar is N1,195. The difference between the buying and selling rates today is about N6/N7.”

On Thursday, the currency fell to a low of N1,043.09/$, its second time hovering above N1,000 at the official FX window. On December 8, it fell to an all-time low of N1,099.05/$ on the I&E window.

Since the apex bank declared that it was reintroducing the ‘willing buyer and willing seller’ model for the currency, the naira has continued to be volatile due to supply issues.

The foreign exchange reserves dipped to a six-year low of $32.87bn at the end of December, according to the CBN data, with the naira becoming the third worst-performing global currency in 2023 due to a backlog of unsettled forwards, undelivered promises of dollar inflows and a two-decade peak in inflation, according to Kyle Chapman, FX markets analyst at London-based Ballinger and Co.

Inflation, poverty

Inflation, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, surged to 28.20 per cent in November from 27.33 per cent in October, underscoring a worsening cost of living crisis in the country.

In its new ‘Consumer Price Index: November 2023’ released on Friday, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that headline inflation surged by 0.87 percentage points in November to a new record high in almost two decades.

Nigeria’s inflation rate is now poised to close 2023 at about 30 per cent, aligning with recent predictions by KPMG and Stears Business.

Nigeria, according to official data from the World Bank and United Nations, is the second largest host of persons living in extreme poverty.

The World Poverty Clock estimates the number of its extremely poor Nigerians at 71 million. Using the UN threshold of $1.9 per day, Statista says 12 per cent of the global population in extreme poverty lived in Nigeria in 2023.

The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund has warned that 25 million Nigerians are at risk of hunger in the New Year.

NLC lists demand

The Head of Information, NKC, Benson Upah, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said the congress was expecting the dividends of good governance from the Tinubu administration in the New Year.

“Our expectations are good governance, strong institutions, more accountability, less corruption, respect for law and order by the government, more citizen participation in governance, lower exchange and inflation rates, higher standard of living for the citizens, and renewed hope in the country,” Upah said.

He noted that the government must resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state, adding that such would have dire consequences for the country.

“Government should resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state. Our history teaches us that there are usually dire consequences for such political greed or inordinate political ambition,” Upah added.

‘Fix forex issues’

The President, Association of Small Business Owners, Femi Egbesola, demanded an improvement in power generation across the country.

He also said he expected the government to construct new roads and repair existing ones to make transportation of goods and services easier.

Egbesola said, “We hope that there will be an improvement in the country’s fiscal policy. To improve the economy, we expect that the government will work more with critical stakeholders.

“The government should not be the one formulating policies and implementing them. Policies should be developed in collaboration with stakeholders.

“We also expect the government to fix critical infrastructure, particularly power. All businesses depend on power. Having invested billions of naira in power and privatising it, the government should make sure that it works. We expect that power should have improved by now, but it is rather getting worse.

“We also expect the government to be able to make more funds accessible to MSMEs. One of the critical challenges of MSMEs is that they are unable to access affordable funds. This will help to awaken ailing and almost dead businesses.”

He also begged the government to make forex available, adding that MSMEs were currently buying foreign currencies from the black market at exorbitant rates.

Egbesola said, “The banks sell only to big companies at the detriment of micro and small businesses. Our economy will improve if we do more export and we will do more export if we have access to funding and forex.

“We also expect that the committee on tax and fiscal reforms established by the government will be able to bring out solutions that will mitigate against multiple taxes and other arbitrary charges by the government.  We also expect that the government will do more on intervention funds. One thing is to make funds available through commercial banks. Another thing is for the government to create more intervention funds for small businesses.”

‘End brain drain’

The Oyo State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Wale Lasisi, urged the Federal Government to improve the health infrastructure across the country and end the exodus of doctors from the country in droves.

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors revealed that no fewer than 1,417 doctors had left the country in 2023, compounding the doctor shortage.

Lasisi said, “We expect the government to invest more in the health sector and see to the proper implementation of the health sector policies.

“The government should also improve the primary healthcare centres and infrastructure across the country. Also, new teaching hospitals being proposed should be cited in places with wide coverage and population.

“We also expect the government to improve the remuneration of healthcare workers in a bid to retain the manpower and make available necessary equipment and gadgets that will make work easy.

“Health is wealth, so the government at all levels must prioritise delivering quality healthcare. Considering that most of the populace cannot afford the exorbitant costs of healthcare, and most cannot afford medical tourism.

“For a government that has the agenda of renewed hope, we expect that the renewed hope will also affect health and should be as quick and effective as they can do it.”

‘Reduce petrol price’

The National President, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, Magaji Sani, said, “We are all aware that many Nigerians are suffering currently, and the main issue is the petrol pump price. As long as it remains on the high side, the price of every other thing will increase.

“Motor parts will be high, and as you are aware, a lot of people have parked their cars. If that is the case, many of our members will not have jobs to do.

“We expect that more attention will be paid to reviving the refineries in 2024. The price of petrol should be reduced, and the cost of other products should also be reduced so that Nigerians can experience relief in the New Year.

“Our sector is very important in the alleviation of poverty because we are very close to the people. After all, those young ones who leave secondary school and can’t further their education are trained by us and this contributes to the area of job provision. So, we expect the government to help us ensure ease of doing our jobs in 2024.”

‘Ensure farmers’ safety’

Between January and June 2023, armed groups killed no fewer than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across the country, according to the Nigerian Security Tracker.

The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Kabiru Ibrahim, said the President needed to declare a state of emergency on food security, adding that the lives of farmers were now endangered.

He said, “We don’t have standard security for farmers; and without securing the farms, more farmers will lose their lives.

“We are expecting that security actions will be taken to make sure that they protect all farmers across the country.”

Ibrahim urged the Federal Government to give “proper subsidies to farmers for fertilisers,” adding that such should be made available for farmers in the New Year.

“We also expect the availability of all inputs so that we will be able to produce food at reasonable prices for the citizens,” he added.

No strike – NANS

The Senate President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr Afeez Babatunde, said students did not need any episode of strike in the New Year.

He said, “We are not expecting any strike in 2024 as we are on our toes to make sure the government fulfils all its promises and do more.

“However, we are expecting the government loan promised to students and also the buses promised to all tertiary institutions in the country starting from January. Moreover, we want a year that will be full of activities on our campuses where students will go to school and perform their activities comfortably.”

Babatunde added that the students were still expecting the promised bursary scheme and the increment of government subvention to universities.

He noted, “We were present during the budget public hearing, and we told the lawmakers to increase the allocation to education to raise the standard of education in the country.

“So, we are expecting them to adjust the budget, and also deliver on the promise of the student loan scheme. The welfare of students and all academic and non-academic staff of varsities, polytechnics and colleges of education must be a major priority so that there will be a peaceful academic calendar.”

Increase salaries – Workers

A civil servant, Mr Segun Ajagbe, urged the Federal Government to consider salary adjustment and welfare improvement in 2024.

He added that civil servants would anticipate such reviews from the government and implement measures to enhance their overall welfare, considering the current realities of inflation and the high cost of living.

He said, “We want the government to review and adjust the salary structure because of the current inflation and the high cost of living. We also want them to implement policies that will improve our welfare, including healthcare and housing benefits.”

Another civil servant, who identified herself only as Atinuke, suggested continuous training and capacity building for workers at all levels of government.

She also noted that opportunities must be created to enhance the skills and capabilities of civil servants and ensure that they were well-equipped.

Another civil servant, Fiyin Akanmu, told one of our correspondents that the government should increase salaries and regularise the prices of commodities.

She said, “Things are so expensive. The government should, please, regularise the prices of commodities, and invest in infrastructure, particularly roads.”

An Information Technology expert, Mr Adekunle Oyelakin, said the Federal Government should enforce more stringent regulations and standards to boost cyber security and tame the current rise in the rate of cyber threats.

He noted that the government should work on expanding technology infrastructure like broadband connectivity to support the growth of the digital economy.

He added, “Our expectations include increased government investment in improving and expanding technology infrastructure, such as broadband connectivity to support the growth of our digital economy.

“The government should also foster a more tech-savvy population by promoting digital literacy initiatives to empower the people.”

Another IT expert, Chidinma Uche, corroborated Oyelakin’s stance, saying their expectation from the government was to introduce policies and programmes to enhance further innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of tech start-ups, adding that this would contribute to job creation and economic development in the technology sector.

Mr Kehinde Mukhtar, who is also an IT expert, said the Federal Government should ensure that pressing issues were addressed in the country.

He said, “My expectations from the Federal Government in 2024 revolve around fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

“I anticipate a commitment to addressing pressing issues such as healthcare, education, and environmental concerns. Specifically, I hope for policies that promote accessible and quality healthcare for all, initiatives to enhance educational opportunities, and a strong dedication to environmental conservation.

“Additionally, I look forward to transparent governance, economic policies that prioritise job creation, and efforts to bridge socio-economic disparities. Ultimately, my expectation is for a government that actively engages with the diverse needs of its citizens, ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for the nation.”

A schoolteacher, Alimo Anifowose, said the welfare of the masses should be the main focus of the government in the New Year.

She said, “In 2024, the Federal Government should pay attention to the welfare of the masses. First, there should be a significant increase in the salaries of civil servants and government workers.

“Security in the country should also be improved so that Nigerians can sleep well at night. The Federal government should also make sure that commodities become affordable.”

Stabilise economy – Experts

In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, a financial expert, Oluwasegun Alli, said the government should devise methods to ease the country’s financial burdens in 2024.

He said, “I expect that the government will roll out ways to ease the financial burdens witnessed in 2023.

“I spend a significant part of my salary on transport and food. Despite cutting off unnecessary expenditures such as visitation to friends and families, my monthly income still can’t take me to the next month.

“The government should find means of reducing food inflation, which is estimated at 32.8 per cent as of November, to save people from dying of hunger. Also, the onus is on the government to implement measures to improve power supply so one can save money for buying fuel every night. I hope that the New Year will be a rewarding one.”

Another financial expert, Kehinde Adekoya, said Nigeria witnessed considerable changes in every sector in 2023, adding that the government must ease the masses’ woes in the New Year.

“Nigerians have witnessed an increase in fuel pump price and exchange rates, which have affected the prices of every other goods and services.

“Besides the above concerns, there is the safety and security issue. Although there has been an existing level of insecurity in the country, the recently inflicted hardship fuels the crime rate in the country as many take to crime as their last resort for a livelihood.

“The government should create more job opportunities through foreign investors, establishing new businesses or state-owned industries in the country. This will, in turn, reduce the high rate of unemployment. The government must ensure that it makes the country a producing country rather than a consuming one.”


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N37bn fraud: Buhari’s minister to face EFCC interrogators January 3

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has invited the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, over an ongoing probe into the N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered under her watch through a contractor, James Okwete.

The former minister was asked to appear before interrogators at the EFCC headquarters, Jabbi, Abuja on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, to explain the alleged fraud, an exclusive document seen by our correspondent on Saturday revealed.

The document read in part, “The commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development during your time as minister.

“In view of the above, you are requested to kindly report for an interview with the undersigned. Scheduled as follows: Wednesday, 3rd of January, 2024. Time: 10am. This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (I) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 & Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

The ex-minister could not be reached for comments on Saturday as her telephone indicated that it was switched off. When our correspondent contacted her former media aide, Nneka Ikem, over the development, she told our correspondent off and proceeded to switch off her phone.

“As you’re asking me? I’ll be asking you too, where did you learn that the EFCC has invited her, “ Ikem queried before ending the call. Subsequent calls indicated that her phone had been switched off.

Umar-Farouq had earlier denied knowledge of the contractor, James Okwete, who is still being held by the anti-graft agency.

The former minister tweeted on her X handle on Monday, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the activities of one James Okwete, someone completely unknown to me.

“James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious. While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my legal team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.

“I remain proud to have served my country as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend my actions, stewardship and programmes during my tenure whenever I am called upon to do so.”

The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comments on the ex-minister’s invitation when contacted by Sunday PUNCH.

“I’m not around at the moment, and I can’t speak on that, please,” Oyewale said.

Sunday PUNCH had earlier reported that the EFCC had arrested Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe into the N37.1bn allegedly laundered by the ministry under Umar-Farouq.

A top EFCC official, who confided in our correspondent, said the contractor had made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouq and former directors-general of agencies under the ministry.

The development coincides with the probe of three other ministers, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari for alleged graft estimated at N150bn.

“It is not only Umar-Farouk we are investigating. Three other former ministers are also under probe. They were allegedly involved in graft to the tune of N150bn,” a credible source in the EFCC had confided in our correspondent.

Sources revealed that Umar-Farouq and some former directors-general of agencies under the ministry might be arrested by the commission following the details of the alleged financial misappropriation so far revealed to interrogators by the contractor.

Investigations by the anti-graft agency allegedly revealed that the N37.1bn was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with Okwete.

Impeccable sources had earlier confirmed to Sunday PUNCH that Okwete was cooperating with investigators.

According to the EFCC officials, the contractor was arrested four days ago.

A source said, “The contractor, Mr Okwete, who was used in laundering the money, has been arrested by the commission. He is currently in our custody and has been giving investigators more details that have indicted the former minister and some DGs under the ministry, and they may be brought in anytime soon too.”

Another source stated, “The contractor involved in the fraud has been arrested and will spend Christmas in our custody. He has given some names, and the former humanitarian affairs minister and directors-general in the ministry were linked to the fraud.”

Sunday PUNCH reports that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs currently serves as the parent ministry to eight agencies, including the National Social Investment Office, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internationally Displaced Persons, among others.

Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.

Her work with Buhari dates back to his days as the leader and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change when she was the national treasurer of the party and later the national treasurer of the All Progressives Congress.

Documents obtained by Sunday PUNCH revealed that following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000 to Bureau De Change operators, withdrew N540m, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600 and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.

A total of 53 companies were reportedly traced to Okwete, who was also said to have used 47 of the firms to secure Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86.

He was also linked with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks of which 134 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.

Checks by our correspondent with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Okwete is a director in only 11 of the 53 companies, while the remaining 42 companies’ accounts are linked to his Bank Verification Number as a signatory to the accounts.

The document stated, “Between 2018 and 2023, the subject (Okwete) received the sum of N37,170,855,753.44 from the coffers of the Federal Government linked to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The money was sent to 38 bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks. The suspect transferred N6,746,034,000 to Bureau De Change operators, N540mn withdrawn in cash, N288,348,600 used to purchase cars, and used N2,195,115,000 to purchase choice properties within Abuja and Enugu State.

“Fifty-three companies were traced to the suspect. He used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86.

“Okwete is associated with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 of the 143 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.”

In 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission said it uncovered N2.67bn meant for the ministry’s school feeding programme in private bank accounts.

The former ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the commission unravelled N2.67bn in personal accounts, being payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Other discoveries by the ICPC include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January and August 15, 2020, of the 268 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, 72 had cumulative infractions of N90m.

The former ICPC chairman argued that the money was paid when children were not in school.


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Borno, Kaduna, four other states to suffer worse insecurity, economic hardship in 2024 –W’Bank

Persistent insecurity, armed conflict, and deteriorating livelihoods will continue to affect local government areas in Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara states, and the far north of Adamawa State in Nigeria until May 2024, the World Bank has predicted.

This is as it disclosed that poor macroeconomic conditions are restricting access to agricultural inputs in the country.

This is set to affect cereal production in the country. The global bank revealed this in its latest ‘Food Security Update.’

Estimated cereal production for the 2023/24 crop year is expected to be 76.5 million tons in West and Central Africa, which is a two per cent decrease from the previous season, but a three per cent rise from the average for the last five years.

Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria are expected to contribute the most to this decline.

The Bretton Woods institution said, “Projections indicate a decline in production from last year in Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. This decrease is attributed to dry spells during the growing season and insecurity that limited access to cropland in Chad, Mali, and Niger and to poor macroeconomic conditions that have restricted access to agricultural inputs in Nigeria.”

While overall, most of the sub-region’s areas will remain in the minimally food insecure (category from November to May 2024, some areas are classified as stressed and some in crisis.

It added, “Over the same period (November to May 2024), Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions, mainly caused by persistent insecurity and armed conflict, and deteriorating livelihoods, are projected to affect the following regions:

“Nigeria: Local government areas in Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara states, and the far north of Adamawa state.”

The other places this will affect include places in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Niger.

In its latest update, the World Bank noted that between August and November, many low- and middle-income countries were battling with high inflation.

It stated, “Information from the latest month between August and November 2023 for which food price inflation data are available shows high inflation in many low- and middle-income countries, with inflation higher than 5 per cent in 61.9 per cent of low-income countries (no change since the last update two weeks ago), 76.1 per cent of lower-middle-income countries (3.9-percentage-point decrease), 50.0 per cent of upper-middle-income countries (no change), and 57.4 per cent of high-income countries (2.6-percentage point decrease).”

It noted that the most-affected countries are in Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. It further highlighted that in real terms, food price inflation has exceeded overall inflation 74 per cent in 167 countries.

In November, Nigeria’s headline inflation rose to 28.20 per cent while food inflation soared to 32.84 per cent.


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