THE Federal Government has said it would no longer succumb to any form of blackmail and intimidation that will make it enter into agreement with unions that will be difficult to implement.
The government’s position is coming on the heels of the face-off between it and the four university based unions that culminated in a strike which has lingered for about six months.
Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had commenced a month warning strike on February 14, 2022, over the alleged inability of the federal government to attend to some of the concerns it raised and had continuously been rolling over the strike after its expiration.
The three non-teaching staff unions, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, also proceeded on strike a few weeks after ASUU downed tools.
Some of the contentious issues yet to be resolved between the federal government and the unions include the non-release of the revitalization fund, non-payment of earned allowance, and renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, among others.
To resolve the impasse, the government set up the Professor Nimi Briggs Renegotiation Committee to interface with the four unions.
However, Vanguard was told that the Federal Government has vowed not to enter any agreement that would be unimplementable.
Multiple sources at the Ministry of Finance, National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission as well as the Accountant General Office of the Federation told Vanguard that the government wanted to be careful in order not to sign an agreement that will be difficult to implement.
One of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The Federal Government will no longer be blackmailed to sign any agreement that will be unimplementable.
“Before we put pen on paper, all the necessary government advisory team, including the Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission, will sit together and take a decision that would not lead to another crisis.”
A Magistrate’s Court sitting at Ebute Metta, Lagos State, has sentenced a 31-year-old former Fidelity Bank worker, Adenike Okuneye, to six months’ imprisonment for fraudulently obtaining N50,000 from customers of the bank.
Magistrate A.T. Omoyele convicted and sentenced her after finding her guilty of impersonation and obtaining by false pretences.
Omoyele, who delivered the judgment on August 1, sentenced the convict without an option of a fine.
Okuneye was accused of committing the offences between March and August 2017 in Lagos.
The police prosecutor, Cyriacus Osuji, during her arraignment on August 21, 2017, told the court that Okuneye falsely represented herself to be a worker with the bank by wearing a Fidelity Bank’s T-shirt.
CONFERENCE of South-South Youth Organisations, weekend, said the All Progressives Congress, APC, had been displaying apparent lack of experience to run the affairs of the country, adding that the party cannot deceive Nigerians into another journey of doom in 2023.
Interacting with newsmen at Ughelli, Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, Convener of the group, Mr David Ebrunu, said the APC lacked the ideology to stir the ship of a complex country like Nigeria.
Lamenting the worsening spate of insecurity and economic quagmire, which he said had been foisted on the country by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration, Ebrunu advised the party to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians for failing woefully to keep to its 2015 electioneering promises.
He said: “Nigerians are groaning under the harsh economic realities where they can neither afford the prices of foodstuffs nor that of materials required to make life better for them.
“The alarming insecurity has taken over the entire country, including the government’s inability to practically tackle the issues of neglect of the oil-rich Niger Delta, with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, ceded to cronies that have been holding the collective destines of the generality of Niger Delta people down.
“The nation’s tertiary institutions’ student being at home for well over five months running, clearly show that the APC lacks the ideology to stir the ship of a complex country like Nigeria.”
He called on Nigerians to be ready to reject the APC and its presidential candidate, come 2023 and embrace the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he said had sufficiently displayed the ability to make things better in the country.
“Nigerians are faced with the singular option of throwing support behind the candidacy of Atiku Abukakar and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for the 2023 presidency,” he said.
An actress, Cynthia Okereke, who was recently kidnapped and released, has said her abduction was a mistake, as she was not the target of the kidnappers.
Recall that Okereke and a colleague, Clemson Cornell, were kidnapped in Enugu State, and their kidnappers were said to have demanded a ransom of $100,000.
In an interview with Sunday Scoop, Okereke said, “They told me I was not the one they were looking for. They stated that since they could not get who they originally wanted, they had to take me. It was a coincidence.”
She also stated that contrary to some reports, a ransom was paid before she was released. She said, “It is a lie.”
Asked how much was paid to secure her freedom, the actress said, “That is what I won’t tell you, but a ransom was paid. I don’t want it to go viral but ransom was paid. My husband was the one who took the ransom to Ngwa in Abia State.”
Recounting her experience in the kidnappers’ den, she said, “They did not give me anything. For the first two days I was there, I was not given any food. It was on the third day they gave me milk and a malt drink. Because my stomach was empty, I knew that I would vomit if I took it, so I declined.”
Asked if the kidnappers recognised her as an actress, Okereke said, “When they captured us at Centenary Junction in Enugu, they said, ‘Cynthia Okereke, you think we don’t know you’? So, I asked them what they wanted and pleaded that they should take my car when they shot into the air. They said they did not need the car.”
On how they were transported to the criminal’s lair, the actress said, “We were wrapped with a trampoline and taken to an unknown destination. It was the following morning that one of them asked me if I know where I was. I said I didn’t no, and told me we were in Ebonyi State.”
Recalling some of the things the kidnappers told her while in their camp, she said, “They said Nollywood is not supporting Nnamdi Kanu (founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra), that we should come out en masse to support him. According to them, ‘Kanu is fighting for every one (Igbo people).”
Meanwhile, when Sunday Scoop put a call through to the other kidnapped actor, Clemson Cornel, the person who answered the phone stated that he was receiving treatment in the hospital.
- Economists slam FG’s debt proclivity
The Federal Government has projected that debt servicing will cost N10.43tn by 2025, according to the 2023-2035 Medium Term Expenditure Framework & Fiscal Strategy Paper.
This is a 182.66 per cent increase from the N3.69tn budgeted for debt service in 2022.
Multilateral agencies and economists have constantly warned the Federal Government about the rising cost of debt service, which can trigger a crisis for the country.
However, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, and the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, have insisted that the country does not have a debt problem but a revenue challenge.
In a document by the DMO DG recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.
According to the DMO DG, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”
In the document, she stressed the need for debt sustainability, which she defined as the ability to service all current and future obligations, while maintaining the capacity to finance policy objectives without resort to unduly large adjustments or exceptional financing such as arrears accumulation, debt restructuring, which could otherwise compromise the economy’s stability.
Speaking at the launch of the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update titled, ‘The urgency for business unusual,’ held recently in Abuja, the finance minister had admitted that Nigeria was struggling to service its debt.
She said, “Already, we are struggling with being able to service debt because even though revenue is increasing, the expenditure has been increasing at a much higher rate, so it is a very difficult situation.”
The International Monetary Fund had earlier warned that debt servicing might gulp 100 per cent of the Federal Government’s revenue by 2026 if the government failed to implement adequate measures to improve revenue generation.
According to the IMF’s Resident Representative for Nigeria, Ari Aisen, based on a macro-fiscal stress test that was conducted on Nigeria, interest payments on debts might wipe up the country’s entire earnings in the next four years.
Aisen said, “The biggest critical aspect for Nigeria is that we have done a macro-fiscal stress test, and what you observe is the interest payments as a share of revenue, and as you see us in terms of the baseline from the federal government of Nigeria, the revenue of almost 100 per cent is projected by 2026 to be taken by debt service.
“So, the fiscal space or the amount of revenues that will be needed and this, without considering any shock, is that most of the revenues of the Federal Government are now, in fact, 89 per cent and it will continue if nothing is done to be taken by debt service.”
Less than two months after Aisen’s warning, the finance minister disclosed that Nigeria’s debt service cost surpassed its revenue in the first four months of this year.
Debt service gulped N1.94tn between January and April 2022, as against a retained revenue of N1.63tn.
According to a recent PUNCH report, the Federal Government exceeded its debt service allocation by N1.15tn for the period between January and November 2021.
A copy of the public presentation of the 2022 approved budget by the finance minister showed that the Federal Government allocated N3.32tn for debt servicing in 2021.
However, the minister’s presentation document showed that a total of N4.2tn was spent on debt servicing in 11 months, indicating a difference of N1.15tn or 37.9 per cent of the money allocated for debt servicing for the period.
The PUNCH also reported that Nigeria’s debt servicing bill increased by 109 per cent, from N429bn in December 2021 to N896bn in March 2022.
A report by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa has disclosed that Nigeria and 10 other Economic Community of West African States countries are currently in debt distress based on debt sustainability analysis.
The 10 other countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
It was further disclosed in the report that public debt accumulation for these countries was becoming unsustainable and needed to be addressed to avert the looming debt crisis.
The report warned that the possibility of a debt crisis in Nigeria would adversely affect public and private investments, as well as other sectors of the country.
The World Bank recently said that Nigeria’s debt, which might be considered sustainable for now, was vulnerable and costly.
According to the Washington-based global financial institution, the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.
Experts have kicked against the Federal Government’s proclivity for debt, which they have described as unsustainable.
Economists slam FG’s debt proclivity
The Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said that the Nigerian economy had been characterised by diverse economic vulnerabilities, which included rising public debt and debt service burden.
He said, “Debt service to revenue ratio for the first four months of the current year is over 100 per cent. The implication of this is that the actual revenue of the government over the period is not sufficient to service debt. Therefore, financing of the operations of government – personnel cost, overhead cost, capital expenditure, and even part of the servicing of the debt – will have to come from additional borrowing. These portend severe vulnerabilities for the Nigerian economy.”
A Professor of Development Macroeconomics at the University of Lagos, Prof Olufemi Saibu, criticised the government for over-borrowing.
He said, “I think we are over-borrowing. We continue to rely on international benchmarks, which make us lazy in terms of revenue generation.”
Prof Saibu urged the government to lessen its huge expenditure costs and channel money into more productive sectors of the economy.
“With our current heavy infrastructure debt financing and the low productivity in the local economy, the government needs to find a way of reducing its expenditures. We need to redirect the government’s finances to areas that are productive and borrow less for consumption,” he said.
In addition, Prof Saibu said that the government needed to look inwardly and borrow domestically rather than externally, which would lessen the burden of debt service.
He said the government should stop saying the country had the capacity to borrow more, and refrain from ballooning already outsized debts.
Prof Saibu advised that the government should engage the private sector in the area of infrastructure development to reduce the weight on the public sector.
A Professor of Development Economics at Babcock University, Prof Adegbemi Onakoya, said that borrowing was not an issue but the value obtained from it.
He also said that Nigeria had a revenue problem, which had made the country rely more on debt financing.
Prof Onakoya also said that there was a problem when money borrowed was not judiciously applied for productive purposes or programmes that would help production.
…Say presiding officers in both chambers president’s ‘yes men’
By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
Some opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives have said they were not interested in the impeachment threats against President Muhammadu Buhari.
While some cited the timing as a major factor, others said the presiding officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, were Buhari’s henchmen who would strongly frustrate the plan to remove him.
It will be recalled that the minority caucus in the Senate, led by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on July 26, 2022 staged a walkout from plenary as the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, frustrated their efforts to trigger impeachment moves against Buhari in protest against the high level insecurity in the country.
They, subsequently, handed down a 6-week ultimatum on the President to quell the situation or face impeachment.
In quick succession, the minority caucus in the House of Representatives also joined in the call, saying the process of impeachment would begin in the Green Chamber at the expiration of the ultimatum given by the Senate.
But reacting to the development, some of the opposition lawmakers told Vanguard, yesterday, that they were not interested, stressing that the timing was wrong because of the length of time it would take to actualise the impeachment.
The current administration has barely nine months to round off and quit office.
One of the lawmakers said: “We called on members of NASS to commence impeachment of Mr. President two years ago and we also urged Nigerians to call on their Representatives to commence impeachment.
“We did so because we identified the incompetence of the present administration and its unresponsive posture to the yearnings of the people and its glaring inability to protect the lives of Nigerians which is a fundamental constitutional breach.
“Perhaps members were then either too busy or just laid back to appreciate what we were saying. It was branded a personal call. Both Nigerians and parliamentarians, including the press, played it down.
“The present call for impeachment only vindicates us and very sincerely is coming late in the day and not much benefit will come to the masses.
“I respect the parliament for even rising at all but I will not be surprised to hear that the call has been dropped.
“I pray that Nigerian lives matter to all of us in various public offices. This insecurity is like rainfall, it doesn’t discriminate on grounds of political leaning, tribe or religion. It falls on all roofs.
Another lawmaker who craved anonymity, said: “I am not aware. I was never in support of the impeachment, considering the time it will require to see the process through, more so that the presiding officers in both chambers are the president’s ‘’yes men.”
A member representing Daura/Sandamu/Mai’adua federal constituency of Katsina state, Fatuhu Muhammed has resigned from the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Fatuhu disclosed this in a letter addressed to the ward chairman of Sarkin Yara A ward in Daura
Fatuhu is the son of President Muhammadu Buhari’s late elder brother.
The letter reads: “This is to notify you that I have resigned my membership from the All Progressives Congress (APC) with immediate effect commencing from Wednesday the 13th day of July, 2022,” he wrote.
“Attached herewith is my Party Membership Registration slip with slip No.KT/DRA/10/00002, while I thank you and the Party for the opportunity given to me to serve the interest of the people of Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua federal constituency while working with the party, accept my best wishes please.”
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested a trans-border drug dealer, Pastor Anietie Okon Effiong, with three drums of crystal methamphetamine, locally called Mkpuru Mmiri.
The consignment, believed to have been imported from India, weighing 90 kilograms and loaded into a commercial bus with registration number RSH 691XC at Ojuelegba in Lagos, was intercepted during a stop and search operation along Umuahia – Ikot Ekpene highway on Saturday, August 6, 2022.
NDLEA spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, said the drug packed 30kg in each drum was meant for Pastor Effiong, who was arrested in a follow-up operation at Oron beach in Oron, Akwa Ibom State.
The recovered Meth drums were meant for onward delivery to the Republic of Cameroon.
Also, in Sokoto State, a 90-year-old retired soldier, Usman Adamu, was arrested on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 in Mailalle, Sabon Birni LGA of the State for supplying bandits illicit drugs.
At the time of his arrest, the suspect was caught with 5.1kg cannabis sativa.
In another development, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, a 37-year-old indigene of Ovia LGA, Edo State and resident in Italy; Solo Osamede, was arrested for ingesting 41 wraps of heroin.
He was nabbed and taken into custody for excretion while attempting to board a Turkish Airline flight to Milan, Italy via Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday, July 30, 2022.
The swallowed wraps of the illicit drug were recovered in four excretions, which the suspect completed on Monday, August 1.
In the same vein, a female passenger, Jatau Lydia Lami, was arrested at the Lagos Airport for attempting to export 1,700 tablets of Tramadol 225mg concealed in her luggage to Istanbul, Turkey via a Turkish Airline flight on Sunday, July 31.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect, a mother of three, hails from Zango Kataf LGA of Kaduna State and lives in Istanbul, Turkey with her family.
She blamed her action on pressure to raise N5million ransom to free her mother from the captivity of bandits, who kidnapped her since June, 2022.
Troops of the Air Task Force (ATF), Operation Hadin Kai, have neutralised another notorious commander of Boko Haram terrorist group, Alhaji Modu, also known as ‘Bem Bem’.
Modu was killed alongside 27 other terrorists in Borno State.
This comes as the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, charged Nigerian Air Force (NAF) operational Commanders to ‘show no mercy’ and ensure they employ maximum firepower against terrorists posing security threats in the country.
‘Bem Bem’ and his fighters were killed on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 by the military airstrikes on Mandara Mountain in Gwoza local government area of Borno State.
An Intelligence report obtained by Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency expert and Security Analyst in the Lake Chad region from top military sources and made available to LEADERSHIP on Sunday, said a battle damage assessment has indicated that the air interdiction had recorded devastating impact as many jihadists were killed while others were severely wounded.
Sources reportedly said the the operation followed credible intelligence reports indicating that the Boko Haram fighters were converging in large numbers with the intention to conduct attacks.
‘Bem Bem’ was a popular drug baron who rose from an armed robber to Boko Haram kingpin.
He took part in the displacement of Bama town in 2014 and the killing of hundreds of people before declaring it as the town as a caliphate.
Biggie surprised fans and viewers of Nigeria’s most-watched reality TV show, Big Brother Naija, on Sunday night, when he introduced another two new housemates, Rachel and Chizzy.
The new housemates are called Riders. What this means is that they will never be evicted from the show as they are just Biggie’s trusted allies.
They will be nominated for eviction but will never get evicted. They also get to play the game till the finale.
The new development came shortly after Biggie disqualified Beauty from the show over her violent behaviour.
For the Riders, Rachel believed that she’s in the House to give viewers a show they would enjoy.
She said she has the heart of a mother and sometimes have conversations with herself when she’s alone. She believes in love at first sight. Rachael is from Edo State.
On the other hand, Chizzy said he has the ability to adapt to any situation and he is a go-getter.
He loves to party, eat and dance. He doesn’t believe in falling in love at fight sight. He hails from Anambra State.
Recall that earlier last week on Sunday, July 31, Big Brother had introduced two fake housemates into the House.
Deji and Modella were introduced to the game when the reality TV show reached Day 7.
Deji who is from Lagos State is the 25th housemate while Modella from Osun State is the #BBNaija Housemate number 26.