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Disquiet In Aso Rock As ‘Starboy’ Osinbajo’s Fate Hangs

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The fate of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who President Muhammadu Buhari once described as a loyal deputy was hanging in the balance last night.

Prof. Osinbajo has been more than just a number two; he has been the poster boy of the administration.

A man of intellectual depth, Osinbajo speaks eloquently about the administration’s economic policies.

But on Monday, the Presidency announced the replacement of the Economic Management Team (EMT), which Osinbajo chairs, with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC), to be chaired by Prof Doyin Salami.

Other members of the new body are Dr. Mohammed Sagagi (Vice-Chairman), Prof Ode Ojowu, Dr Shehu Yahaya, Dr Iyabo Masha, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Mr Bismark Rewane, and Dr Mohammed Adaya Salisu (Secretary).

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the advisory council “will be reporting directly to the President”.

Barely 24 hours after constituting the EAC, there is disquiet within the government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), over alleged plans to relocate some top aides of the Vice President from the Presidential Villa to some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).

The developments fueled the claims that some forces were out to “curtail” the VP’s powers by excising some agencies under his supervision.

Deepening the fears was the alleged memo from President Muhammadu Buhari directing the Vice President to henceforth seek presidential approvals in the running of the agencies under his supervision.

But Osinbajo denied any rift in the Presidency.

He said agencies under his supervision are acting constitutionally.

A statement by his spokesman Laolu Akande said: “Our attention has been drawn to a sensational report by The Cable which claims that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to seek approvals for agencies under him.

“The report suggests, falsely, that agencies under the supervision of the Vice President do not normally comply with established rules where presidential approvals are required.

“This is obviously misleading and aims only to plant seeds of discord in the Presidency while attempting to create unnecessary national hysteria.

“The agencies in question are established by law and the Vice President has always insisted on due compliance with the enabling statutes and other established regulations.

“Depending on the particular scope of activity in question, agencies may require management approval only, at the level of the Director-General or Chief Executive Officer. In this category fall the great majority of their day-to-day activities.

“However, other activities, or procurements, with a value exceeding a certain threshold, require Board approval. These may get to the agency Board chaired by the Vice President.

“In a few cases where Presidential approval is required, the Director-General must seek such approval from the President, through the Vice President.

“These rules have always guided the activities of statutory agencies and the ones under the Vice President’s supervision have always been so guided.”

The Vice President said he never failed to comply with the law.

He cautioned against moves to cause disaffection in the presidency especially between him and the President.

He said he has an effective and mutually respectful relationship with the President.

He said: “To claim that in the first term of the Buhari administration, agencies of government have not been complying with the provisions (of getting final approvals from the President) is false, and the attempt to suggest the Vice President’s complicity in such irregularities is simply mischievous and reprehensible.

“The effective and mutually respecting relationship between the President and the Vice President is well known to Nigerians and it is futile to insinuate otherwise.

“Even though the Vice President has a statutory role as Board Chairman of some government agencies under his office, with appropriate approval limits, which often do not include contract approvals; it is ludicrous to even insinuate that a Board Chairman approves contracts.

“Evidently, the Federal Executive Council, which oversees Federal ministries and agencies of government, is chaired by the President, and it is in its purview to approve or ratify award of contracts within the prescribed threshold.

“The Vice President remains committed to the service of his fatherland and will continue to do so despite the purveyors of fake news. We urge media organisations, as gatekeepers to uphold truth, balance, fairness and objectivity in their reports.”

The agencies being supervised by the Vice President are the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Boundary Commission (NBC), the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and the Social Investment Programmes (SIP).

It was gathered that the SIP may now operate under the newly created Ministry of Social Development, Humanitarian Affairs & Disaster Management.

A top source said: “A proposal has now been forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari seeking his approval for the dispersal of most of the Presidential advisers and aides in the Vice President’s office outside the Presidential Villa.

“If the President consents, all the VP’s key aides and advisers covering a variety of briefs would then be posted out of the Villa to the MDAs.

Sources last night spoke of an alleged plot to “muzzle” the Vice President ahead of permutations for 2023.

But a government source said: “I am not aware of political animosity in the Presidency. The reality is that the resources available to the government are shrinking and we have to realign some MDAs within the scarce resources.

“Go and read the report of Ahmed Joda transition committee in 2015 when this government was being put in place. Restructuring bureaucracy has no tribal or religious colour.

“No matter what you do, no one can put a wedge between the President and the Vice President. They have mutual respect for each other.”

Observers believe there will be conflict in the roles of the EAC and the statutory National Economic Council (NEC), headed by the VP.

The constitution gives NEC the power to “advise” the President on economic affairs.

Section H of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution says: “The National Economic Council shall comprise the following members – (a) the Vice President (b) the Governor of each state of the Federation; and (c) the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria established under the Central Bank of Nigeria Decree 1991 or any enactment replacing that Decree.

“The National Economic Council shall have the power to advise the President concerning economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the coordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various governments of the Federation.”

Presidential spokesman Adesina said in the statement announcing the formation of the EAC that it “will advise the President on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.

He added: “The EAC will have monthly technical sessions as well as scheduled quarterly meetings with the president. The chairman may, however, request for unscheduled meetings if the need arises.”

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We see the two bodies as one with EAC comprised of economic experts and NEC composed of political leaders. Even the advisory council has no constitutional backing.”

Another APC chief said: “We are worried because the advisory council is suggesting that the APC administration has run out of ideas such that we are now recruiting some experts used by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the past.”

Text (Excluding Headline) courtesy of The Nation)

BIG STORY

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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Mindshift Advocacy Unveils Powerful Initiative to Create a New Nigeria

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In its determination and resolve to foster a new mindset among Nigerians, the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative has unveiled a new blueprint to get Nigerians to think differently, believe differently and to act differently, so as to generate a mindset geared towards development. The event which was attended by dignitaries and the media held Thursday, October 17, 2019, at the prestigious Benue Hall of the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

In his address, Mr. Joko Okupe, the Founder and Board of Trustee member of the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative said that “the bane of Nigeria and by extension Africa’s problems is the mindset of Africans as individuals, communities and nations, about themselves and the mindset of the rest of the world about Africa. The wrong mindset of Nigerians and Africans in general which influences the way we do things, has created problems such as lack of visionary and purposeful leadership, bad governance standards, erosion and loss of good value systems, corruption, poor understanding of global issues and how it impacts their lives; unprecedented never-ending poverty, heavy debt burdens, over-dependence on international aids, endless conflicts, inadequate education etc.” According to him, the Initiative was incorporated on November 28, 2016, as a non-partisan, non-governmental organization aimed at re-directing citizens’ mindsets from negative mindsets in private lives, societies and nations to positive mindsets that foster meaningful holistic personal, social and national development. The initiative also seeks to activate a radical and positive change in the mindset of the Nigerian youth – and by extension, African youth.

According to Mr. Okupe, Mindshift Advocacy is actually focused on shifting mindsets from negative to positive. The movement is focused on redirecting the mindset of Nigerians from negative, unproductive and unprogressive mindsets to positive, productive and progressive mindsets. A destructive person has a destructive mindset and a destructive thinking pattern. There is so much capacity in the power of the mind that the way and manner that the mind is directed, determines the outcome of a man’s action. When you look at the great nations of the world, you will discover that their people have mindsets of greatness. The average Nigerian’s mindset is anti-progress and anti-development. How can we have progress and development when the majority of our citizens have the wrong mindset? We cannot achieve any meaningful transformation without a re-orientation of the citizens’ mindsets.  Even when the Government decides to run a campaign on changing attitudes, the success will depend on whether the mindsets of the citizens have changed or not. We cannot but pay attention to how people think. We must have that clear understanding. That essentially is the crux of the Mindshift Advocacy.

 

He stressed that every effort geared at re-orientating the citizens with a view to making them develop positive and progressive mindsets as individuals, society and at national levels, would put us on the road to the meaningful and effective transformation of the continent for sustainable growth and development. This is why: “The changes we wish to make have more to do with how we think than what we actually do, because thinking patterns ultimately influence actions. We need to get our citizens to embrace positive mindsets that can impact thought and action for our progress and development. We must also lead by example by thinking and acting differently.”

He cited Mr. Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, who once said that Africa’s transformational change will first happen at the level of mindsets before it is translated into concrete actions. Okupe firmly believes that Africa’s journey of transformation starts with changing how people think. “It is vital for citizens of all ages and social classes to have the right mindset because they are the ones who would be actively involved in the day-to-day actions that bring about sustainable transformation.”

In order to achieve these, the initiative has in place well-articulated key focus areas toward its agenda. These areas are family and society, government and politics, education, business and economy, media, arts and entertainment, innovation and technology, religion, culture, and health and wellness. Additionally, it will approach this systematically through social research, targeted issues campaigns, action-oriented initiatives, knowledge sharing, events, and public discourse platforms.

Fielding questions to reporters at the launch event on what methods Mindshift Advocacy will deploy to achieve its goal, Joko responded, “It is all a matter of approach and method. Our initiatives would be determined by research and insight. There is a reason or rationale behind every mindset. How much have we researched into why we behave the way we do?  Why do we think the way we do? We will make efforts to dig into the foundation to understand the issues and gain necessary insights before we develop initiatives.  A man whose mind is conditioned to darkness tends to acclimatize to the situation and live in it. People’s eyes can only be opened through enlightenment which will serve as an illumination to the thick, engulfing darkness and ignorance around us. Adequate exposure to realities will compel them to see and think differently. If we continue at the current pace, we are definitely on a suicide mission as a nation, though we may be fully aware of this”.

Earlier in her welcome address Mrs. Debo Onabowale, a core member of the Mindshift Advocacy for development Initiative said that “Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative is set to do a new thing in Nigeria by approaching the Nigerian problem from a different perspective. We believe that Nigerians, both leaders, and followers, rich and poor, young and old need a different orientation to be able to chart a new direction and behaviour to propel peace and development.”

For further information, please contact

Agbo 0803 377 8406 0r Desmond 0817 919 3195

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