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Saraki kicks against use of $1.05bn NLNG dividends for fuel subsidy

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Senate President Bukola Saraki has faulted reported use of $1.05billion, by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), from its dividends from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) for fuel subsidy.

Bukola Saraki

Saraki said the Senate would, therefore, on resumption of plenary today investigate the claims made before the Senator Ahmad Lawan’s Ad-hoc Committee by the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Maikanti Baru, on how and why the corporation diverted the dividend from the NLNG to defray the cost of under-recovery in the importation of fuel.

The Senate president, who was quoted as saying this while speaking with newsmen at the Ilorin airport on Monday, according to a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, admitted that he had received series of telephone calls on the issue by many concerned Nigerians, “Who wanted to know the position of the Senate on the issues raised by the NNPC’s GMD before the Ahmad Lawan’s Ad-hoc Committee.”

Saraki expressed grave concern that the NNPC GMD was claiming that the illegal diversion of dividends from the NLNG, which should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation for the purpose of funding the fuel subsidy “was done ‘in compliance with the National Assembly directive that NNPC as the supplier of last resort should, and has, maintained robust petrol supply”.

He wondered what “so if the National Assembly called on NNPC to carry out its legitimate duty of ensuring adequate fuel supply to Nigerians, the GMD logically thinks the corporation by that call has the licence to perpetuate illegality, spend money without approval and violate appropriation laws”.

“It is my belief that if the National Assembly said the corporation should perform its duty effectively as a supplier of fuel to Nigerians without exposing people to needless suffering, that ought to be done within the ambit of the law.”

Saraki added that Senate probe of the unauthorised spending by NNPC will require the GMD to produce the approval given by the National Assembly and other necessary approving bodies authorising the NNPC to divert the dividend from the NLNG investment, “which ought to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund belonging to the three tiers of government, for the payment of fuel subsidy”.

According to him, the disclosure by the NNPC boss in response to enquiries by the Senate ad-hoc committee probing the issue of illegal payment of subsidy on fuel, called for further investigation by the Senate and also showed that as alleged in a motion moved earlier by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, a lot of illegal and unapproved spendings are going on in the petroleum corporation.

He, therefore, assured Nigerians that Senate would thoroughly investigate this matter saying “there will be no cover-up.”
Saraki also expressed confidence that the ad-hoc committee would do a thorough job.
“All the issues will be unearthed. That is why when the Senate set up investigative committees on issues, we want Nigerians to have confidence in us that we do not act because we want to embark on a wild goose chase. There must be some serious issues to be looked into. The revelations by the NNPC’s GMD have justified the need for this investigation and they have shown that we are acting in good faith.

“When in my ruling on the motion raised by Senator Olujimi, I insisted that we want a transparent, honest and non-partisan investigation on the fuel subsidy issue, it was clear to me and my colleagues that there are certain irregularities being perpetrated and we should let Nigerians know the truth. That is why we set up the committee in the first place and to demonstrate the seriousness we attach to the issue, we decided that the ad-hoc committee should be led by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad,” Senate President further said.
Baru had last Thursday told the Senator Lawan-led ad-hoc committee that the corporation spent $1.05billion to defray the under-recovery cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from October 2017 to date.

He emphasised that what the corporation did in the wake of a shortfall in fuel supply between October 2017 and January 2018″ was to devise other means of securing PMS on the advice of the National Assembly.”
According to him, NNPC utilised $1.05billion from its dividends in NLNG to finance the additional landing and other expenses of PMS.

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2019 Elections: Atiku is set to officially address Nigerians on Facebook on Monday

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Following the official commencement of presidential campaigns by November 18, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will kick-start his campaign with a special address to Nigeria.

Abubakar Atiku waving after emerging as PDP Presidential Candidate

This will be done on Facebook at 12 noon on Monday. This will also mark the launch his policy document.

In the address, the PDP flag bearer will present his vision for Nigeria and his action plan to achieve it as encapsulated in his policy document. The document will promptly be uploaded on his website (www.atiku.org) for all Nigerians to access at no cost, a statement by the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation revealed yesterday.

“The decision of Atiku Abubakar to kick-start his Presidential campaign with the launch of his policy document is to reiterate his commitment to run an issue based campaign.

“The intention is to take our policy directly to Nigerians and to register the belief of Atiku that it will take the collective efforts of every Nigerian to rebuild the country. That is why we want Nigerians to access the policy directly and ultimately take ownership of it.

“Our campaign offers a simple message: united, the people of Nigeria can begin anew, creating a prosperous and secure future and a better life for every Nigerian.

“On the first working day of the campaign, the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar will put forward his plan to get Nigeria working again.

“We have chosen to do this by having the PDP Presidential candidate speaking directly to the Nigerian people on Facebook. This medium came about as part of the telecommunications revolution that he helped start as Vice President in 1999-2007.

“We have also chosen to have our candidate speak online as it facilitates the ability for anyone to download a copy of his policy document at no cost, as we intend this to be the policy of every Nigerian,” the statesment read in part.

Atiku, the statement added, will focus on creating jobs, ensuring security, growing business, developing power and water infrastructure, agriculture and education and how we will empower women.

“Our policies outline the goals and methods for developing and revitalising Nigeria as the foundation of our campaign.

“This policy document is being launched to encourage a dialogue with the people of Nigeria, inviting everyone to join us in helping to get Nigeria working again.

“The PDP presidential candidate looks forward to conducting vital discussions as he travels across the length and breadth of Nigeria, meeting and talking with stakeholders: famers, small business people, workers, students, mothers, and children,” the statement continued.

While acknowledging the long route to victory, the campaign organization said it was confident of its chances nonetheless at the polls.

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Campaigns for presidential and National Assembly elections begin on November 18 – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that campaigns for presidential and National Assembly elections will begin on Sunday, November 18, 2018.

This was disclosed in a statement by the commission on Saturday.

According to INEC, campaign for governorship and state Houses of Assembly will commence on December 1, 2018.

The statement read: “Political parties who have fielded candidates for the February 16th, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will by Sunday, 18th November 2018, commence campaigns across the country.

“This is in line with the Timetable and Schedule of Activities issued by the Commission and in accordance with Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) which provides that ‘the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day’.

“Political Parties are expected to conduct their activities in an organized and peaceful manner, devoid of rancor, hate and/or inflammatory speeches.

“Campaign for Governorship and State Houses of Assembly will commence 1st December 2018.”

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Why $2.7bn Railway Concession Talks with GE Stalled

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The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has clarified that the federal government did not sign any agreement with General Electric (GE) on the planned $2.7 billion deal to concession and rehabilitate Nigeria’s narrow gauge railway, stressing that the American company was still negotiating with the federal government when it backed out of the deal.

According to him, GE was no longer in the business of transportation and had to hand over its interest in the deal to another firm.

Amaechi said prior to GE backing out of the deal, it had not signed any concession agreement with it or any of the firms involved but was still negotiating with them.

“General Electric did not pull out. One thing that thrives heavily in Nigeria is rumour, I don’t know where you got that information, no concession agreement has been signed, none. We have been negotiating, there is no way you will get a concession agreement in one year,” Amaechi said.

He explained, “What happened is that most of their business activities, they have dropped a lot of (them), I don’t know if it includes energy, transportation and all that. When they found out that they couldn’t continue in that line of business…because they were no longer in transportation business, the next company took over the lease, they didn’t pull out, it has nothing to do with our economy, they were excited about this thing.”

Amaechi revealed that GE had told him that they had for 11 years approached successive administrations in Nigeria to do the railway concession but the company was not successful because previous administrations wanted to award contracts for the railway while that of Muhammadu Buhari, preferred the concession model.

He stated that South African firm, Transnet SOC Limited, which deals in pipeline, port, and rail construction would now take over from GE, adding that a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be set up with Transnet and other firms to do the job.

Amaechi explained further, “I said I wasn’t going to award any contract because railway is too expensive. The total investment is supposed to be $2.7 billion, which is N1 trillion. No government can pull out N1 trillion to rehabilitate the entire narrow gauge.

“Now, the South African company has continued, they want to do the rehabilitation, we are at the point of setting up the SPV before we can sign the concession agreement.

“Have we finished negotiations? The answer is yes; the problem we have is that they want another six months to get their ministers in South Africa to give them approval to set up an SPV and we can’t sign without that because there are four companies involved.

“The four companies will form an SPV with which they will come to the table to sign. Each company, especially the one in China, say they will need six months to be able to convince their government to go into the concession. We are good to go, we are waiting for our partners,” he added.

The minister also talked about the status of work on the Lagos-to-Kano rail line, stating that bad weather and not lack of funds had contributed to the slow pace of work on the line.

According to him, “The weather is the problem, unlike the past government that could not pay counterpart fund, this time we paid 100 per cent counterpart funding. The president insisted that we must pay 100 per cent and get going.

“The problem at this time wasn’t funding, it was the weather – the rain was heavy and the construction of railway is like construction of roads. We are already laying tracks; our target is to get to Ebute Metta by February.”

He noted that the line had not experienced any Right of Way (RoW) challenges in Oyo; Ogun; and Lagos States.
Amaechi added that contractors were working out how to deal with RoW in Lagos, which he said was built up with gas and water pipelines to deal with.

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NLC reads riot act to governors

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NLC yesterday rejected the governors’ claim that states cannot pay N30,000 minimum wage if it is eventually approved. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) condemned  the threat by the govermors to sack workers should the new wage come into effect.

To NLC President Ayuba Wabba, the threat is not new in the struggle for review of the national minimum wage.

He said workers might be prevailed upon not to vote for governors who fail to pay the new wage.

“Therefore, the current one by the governor of Zamfara (Abdulaziz Yari) cannot be used to intimidate labour,” Wabba said in a statement, reiterating the directive that workers should vote out anti-labour governors and politicians.

“The consequences of workers’ retrenchment are too grievous for any political office holder truly elected by the people to contemplate.

“Few political office holders are bent on enslaving Nigerian workers with peanuts mislabelled as salaries.

“We urge such elected public officials to subject their humongous salaries and allowances, reputed to be among the highest in the world to public perusal. Pro rata with the minimum wage, they want to force down the throats of Nigerian workers,” he said.

Wabba urged each of the governors to go to their state and inform workers on their individual position on the new national minimum wage of N30, 000.

”To the oppressors, we have only one answer for you, we will never sleep on our rights.

“We hereby reiterate our directive to Nigerian workers to vote out any politician or political party that refuses to pay the new national minimum wage of N30, 000.

“We shall continue to consolidate our efforts to strengthen already existing platforms and structures to give teeth to our resolve to vote out anti-labor governors and politicians in the forthcoming 2019 general election, ‘’Wabba said.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to speedily present to the National Assembly the bill on the National Minimum Wage for appropriate amendment and implementation.

“It would interest Nigerians to know that the new national minimum wage of N30,000 was a product of intense and robust negotiations at the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Committee that lasted for one year.

“At the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Committee, state governments were represented by six states, one state from each of the six geo-political zones.

The statement added: “The 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) recognizes individual states in the Collective Bargaining Process not Nigeria Governors Forum. The states, like the other social partners, have already defended their positions during negotiations at the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Committee vis-à-vis counter proposals.

“Alhaji Yari should desist from using the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum to seek political relevance. His tactics of blackmail against workers is already time worn and the stench is already offensive.

“We hereby reiterate our directive to Nigerian workers to vote out any politician or political party that refuses to pay the new national minimum wage of N30,000. We shall continue to consolidate our efforts to strengthen already existing platforms and structures to give teeth to our resolve to vote out anti-labour governors and politicians in the forthcoming 2019 general election.

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