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Catholic Bishop Tells Politicians To Expect More Beating, Harassment From Nigerians

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Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Reverend Paulinus Ezeokafor, has called on the federal government and politicians across Nigeria to expect a revolution from Nigerian populace soon.

According to the Bishop, politicians should expect a revolution, more beatings and manhandling from citizens if nothing is done to address the hardship in the country.

Recall that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, recently attacked a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany for his alleged silence during the 2017 ‘Operation Python Dance’ which led to the death of some members of the pro-Biafra group.

Speaking on Tuesday during his maiden pastoral visit at the St. James Catholic Church, Neni, in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, Ezeokafor said, “Politicians must either sit up or be ready to face the wrath of hungry and angry Nigerians.

“Nigerians are hungry and angry. You cannot beat a child and stop him from crying. People have the right to protest, provided they are not armed.

“It is done all over the world. Once something is not going on well, you reserve the right to speak up. People have the right to voice out their grievances,” Ezeokafor said.

Noting that Nigerians all over the country are dying daily due to the effects of bad leadership, the cleric said the political class must do all it takes to douse tension among citizens.

“They have the right to express displeasure over certain matters. I think what the political class should do to douse the tension is to face governance and lawmaking squarely and work for the common good of the masses. ‘I see more and more greedy politicians being manhandled,”

“Nigerians are dying on a daily basis because of bad governance. No good roads, no healthcare, no electricity, cost of living is so high. Yet, these people are busy siphoning our common patrimony,” he added.

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Panic Grips Residents As Lion Escapes From Kano Zoo

Peter Okunoren

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A lion on Saturday was said to have escaped from its cage at the Kano Zoo.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s media aide, Salihu Tanko Yakasai, disclosed this on his Twitter page on Saturday.

Yakassai warned Nigerians living around the zoo to be vigilant and careful.

He, however, added that the lion was still within the premises of the zoo as authorities were working to capture wild cat.

The post read: “It is true that a Lion in Kano Zoo has escaped and the authorities are doing everything humanly possible to capture it.

“So far, there is no cause for alarm as the lion is still within the premises of the Kano Zoo, but those living within the area are advised to be vigilant.”

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Fed Govt, Labour Seal New Minimum Wage Agreement

Peter Okunoren

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Nigeria Labour Congress and the Federal Government last night reached an agreement on the consequential adjustment to the salaries of senior civil servants towards the full implementation of the new minimum wage.

The agreement, after two days of talks, ended the strike threat.

In addition to Federal Government workers on Levels 1-6, who already enjoy the N30,000 minimum wage, Grade Level 07 workers, will now have 23% addition to their pay.

The other categories of federal workers will get the following increment: 20 per cent for GL 08; 19 per cent for GL 09; 16 per cent for GL 10 to 14 and 14 per cent for workers on GL 15 to 17.

At yesterday’s meeting on the side of organised Labour were: Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba, Trade Union Congress (TUC) General-Secretary Musa Lawal Ozigi; NLC’s General Secretary Emmanuel Ugbaoja; Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) Chairman Simon Achaver; JNPSNC Secretary Alade Lawal; Nigeria Union of Civil Service President Amaechi Lawrence (JNPSNC member) and General Secretary Issa Aremu.

The government team was led by the Head of Service of the Federation (HoCSF) Mrs. Folashade Yemi- Esan; Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Employment Festus Keyamo; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Williams Alo and the Acting Chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.

The TUC confirmed the agreement in a statement by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, and Secretary-General, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi.

They said: “We commend the Head of Service of the federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan and her team for their sincerity.

“Though they argued that government cannot afford to meet our earlier demand of N30, 000 minimum wage across the board because of the economic situation in the country, we made them understand that some people cannot be more Nigerian than others.

“If we are tightening our belts, the government should also do so.

“By the agreement reached, the core civil servants:- GL 7 (23.2%), GL 8 -(20%), GL 9 – (19%), GL 10-14 – (16%) and GL 15-17 (14%).

“Others, GL -7 (23.2%) like above; 8-14 shall earn (16%) and 15-17 (10.5).

“As an organization and a major stakeholder in the Nigerian project, we believe that the parties have done well. We shifted grounds and that is why we were able to resolve things without major injuries. It is a win-win situation.

“This is a unique agreement and we promise to build on that by God’s grace.”

Speaking before the resumption of talks yesterday, Ngige urged both parties to conclude negotiations on the consequential adjustment for the full implementation of N30, 000 minimum wage to workers.

He urged them to fast track discussions and put an end to the minimum wage discussion.

The minister addressed reporters before the meeting started at about 8: 30pm.

Ngige said: “We have often repeated that the essence of that law was for the President to lift the vulnerable working force both in the private and public service.

“This is a national law and it must be obeyed by all, state government, local government and all persons concerned that employ more than 25 per cent in their organisation.

“We have decided to fast track discussions. We are fast-tracking it because we need to put an end to the issue of minimum wage till the next five year when it will come up again.

“We need to finalise this today (yesterday). The suspense is too much for the people. Even your constituency- workers, if we don’t conclude today, they will be thinking otherwise. They will start thinking that you have been compromised. Even on the government side, if we don’t conclude today, they will start saying you people are influencing us.

“This negotiation should be, in the spirit of give and take, in the spirit of one nation, end this thing. If we decide to empty the purse so that the nation will go broke, it will affect all of us. If we do give and take, look at government purse and know that this purse has been badly depleted, make some concession, it will be in the interest of Nigeria.”

Wabba said organised labour was ready to ensure that the negotiation on the consequential adjustment came to an end.

He said: “We are trying to see how we can conclude what we started yesterday. We on this side of the table we are ready to ensure that we bring the entire process to a conclusion.

“In the normal practice of collective bargaining, you look at issues from both sides, you look at the situation with workers, vis a viz their pockets and what will make the workers happy and very productive.

“If wishes were horses, we would have wished that this entire negotiation was concluded yesterday.”

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Brace Up Nigerians! New Taxes Coming On Soft Drinks, Others —- FG

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Nigerians should brace for new taxes for soft drinks, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said on Thursday.

Responding to reporters’ inquisitions on the sidelines of the ongoing Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington DC, the minister said the new tax is part of plans by the government to widen the revenue net.

She, however, disagreed that revenue generation was the motive behind the closure of Nigeria’s land borders with its West African neighbours.

Rather, she said the lack of cooperation from the neighboring countries in checking the influx of goods into Nigeria through authorized routes triggered the border closure policy.

Mrs. Ahmed, who spoke on “Strengthening domestic revenue mobilization” at a forum tagged “Governor Talk’, explaining the inevitability of introducing a tax for soft drinks and other imported food-related items.

The minister explained that the government plans to introduce excise on specific items such as carbonated drinks as well as impose Value Added Tax (VAT) on some items imported into the country.

She said: “We are also looking at introducing excise duties on some categories of products, especially carbonated drinks and VAT on some categories of imports into the country. But, it is not all tax increases; there is also a proposal to build tax rates for SMEs. We also increase the minimum tax level to make it easy for people to plan their taxes.”

Stressing the need to re-establish the social contract between the government and the citizens. Ahmed said: ”Nigeria, we don’t have an adequate social contract. The government was not asking for or enforcing tax collection and, therefore, taxpayers also were not taking up their civic responsibilities. This is because we are largely dependent on oil revenue and people are not used to paying taxes.

“Very recently at the Nigeria economic summit, they shared a citizens survey and 75 percent of people that were surveyed said ‘we don’t think there is anything wrong in not paying taxes and it is not a problem’ and there was a few that said ‘I don’t see what the taxes are used for. So, why should I pay tax’?

“We have very low tax morale. We are planning a strong strategic communications process to educate people on why they need to pay taxes. Because we rely heavily on oil and it is not going to be there forever. So, we have to boost domestic revenue generation and use tax revenue to develop their economies and Nigeria should not be an exception.

“We currently have a pervasive revenue generation problem that must change to successfully finance our development plans. Speaking to the facts, our current revenue to GDP of eight percent is sub-optimal and a comparison of oil revenue to oil GDP and non-oil revenue to non-oil GDP performance reveals the significant area that requires immediate and dire intervention in the non-oil sector. This performance attests to the realities of our inability to efficiently and to a reasonable degree, completely collect taxes from our non-oil economic activities.

“Nigeria, when compared with its peers, shows that we are lagging on most revenue streams, including VAT and excise revenues, as we not only by far have, one of the lowest VAT rates in the world, but weak collection efficiencies.

“Also, do we have a lot of incentives and deductions that further constrain the fiscal space that is given in hope of stimulating the growth of our industries and to reduce hardship for the poor and vulnerable.”

According to her, the government is working with the National Assembly to review its joint venture contract of 1989, “which had a position that once the oil price goes beyond $20, there is opportunity to renegotiate and increase the royalties that come to the government, so that in the future, we have incremental revenue coming from the crude oil.

”In tune with the fourth industrial revolution, we want a technological reform. For example, in a bid to leverage available big data in our public sector domain, Project Light House was launched last year and driven centrally at the Ministry of Finance to provide intelligence to the FIRS, state tax authorities and other revenue collecting agencies.

“On the Customs front, we are in the process of developing our national single window and customs is using block chain technology to improve revenue.”

On border closure, I disagreed the insinuations that revenue generation was behind the decision.

She said: “No. Nigeria needed to close the borders because we were not getting cooperation from our neigbouring countries.”

The minister said the failure of the neighbouring states to abide by bilateral agreements they reached with Nigeria was responsible.

She said: “We have over the years been committed to some alliances and bilateral agreements, but our neigbbours were not respecting those bilateral agreements and at this time when the President has signed Nigeria up to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, it becomes more important for us to make sure everybody complies with the commitments that are made.”

She stressed: “The practice our neighbors have engaged in is hurting our economy. It’s hurting our local businesses and we have to make sure that stops.

“That is the purpose of the border closure and not generating revenue,” she said, adding that “if revenues are generated, it’s a consequence, but that’s not the purpose.”

She, however, gave assurance that “the moment the neighboring countries show readiness to comply with the commitments that they have signed to, there will be discussions at the level of the Presidents where we will extract strong commitments from our neighbours and the issue would be resolved.”

On debt profile and management, Ahmed insisted that Nigeria has no debt problem.

“What we have is a revenue problem. Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 percent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 percent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem,” she said.

The minister, however, admitted that the underperformance of the country’s revenue was causing a significant strain in Nigeria’s ability to service its debt and government’s day-to-day recurrent expenditure, saying “that is why all the work we are doing at the Ministry of Finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

Ahmed said there would be a discussion on the proposed $2.5 billion to $3 billion facilities for the power sector development programme in Nigeria, including the development of the transmission and distribution networks that will involve removing the challenges that are currently bedeviling the electricity sector.

She said: “We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme, and back home, we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented. So, we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.

“So, the funding could be as much as $3bn and we are going to be pushing for it to be provided in phases. Phase one will be $1.5 billion and Phase II will be another $1.5 billion.”

On the 2020 budget proposal, Ahmed said it was an abnormality that Nigeria has not been focusing on tax revenues in funding its budgets, adding that this time around, what the government is “trying to do in the 2020 budget is to harness the full potential of revenue mobilization within our country.”

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