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Palliative: Seyi Makinde, Other Governors Tackle Akpabio, Deny Receiving FG N1tn “Food Crisis” Lifeline

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Governors on Thursday denied a claim by Senate President Godswill Akpabio that the Federal Government disbursed N1.08tn to states to address the food crisis in the country.

During the inauguration of the renovated central mosque in the Iseyin area of Oyo State on Thursday, the state Governor, Seyi Makinde, said as the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, he could attest to the fact that state governors did not receive N30bn each as claimed by the Senate President.

Also, officials of Lagos, Zamfara, Benue, Osun, Katsina, and Enugu states told The PUNCH on Thursday that their state governments did not receive N30bn.

State governments had in September 2023 received N2bn each out of the N5bn loan offered to them by the Federal Government as a palliative to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy.

The economic reforms, including the subsidy removal implemented by the Federal Government, had precipitated a cost of living crisis across the country following higher transport costs, food inflation, and the plummeting value of the naira.

Speaking during the plenary on Tuesday, Akpabio said an unconfirmed report indicated that state governors received N30bn each from the Federation Account to ameliorate inflation and the high cost of food in their respective states.

“I must say that unverified report has it that each of the state governments in the last few months has received additional N30bn from Federal Inland Revenue Service outside their normal allocations from the Federation Account to assist them in ameliorating the food situation,” he reportedly said.

  • Akpabio Challenges Governors

The senate president, Akpabio, advised the governors to utilise the funds judiciously to reduce the high cost of food items and other challenges facing the country.

“We believe that every state government should utilise the funds received towards ensuring that food is available in the country.

“So, the state governments have a lot to do. They are closer to the people and I do not want to mention local government because most of the local governments are controlled by the state governors.

“My belief is that if the state government does what is needed, then the local government will be involved in sharing to make sure that these things get to the people. But we must not overlook the fact that Nigerians are not going to be interested in stories.

“Nigerians want to see action. Nigerians want to eat and we will provide food for them, there is no excuse. Despite what we met on the ground,” Akpabio added.

However, the Vice-Chairman of the NGF, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, at Iseyin, denied receiving N30bn from the central government.

Speaking on behalf of other governors, Makinde, wondered why the President of the Senate would rely on an unconfirmed report.

Makinde said he could speak for himself and other state governors said no such money was disbursed to any state.

According to him, the FIRS could not give such funds to any state, adding that all revenues go directly into the federation account, where allocations will be given to all the tiers of government.

  • Seyi Makinde Tackles Akpabio

Makinde said, “I can speak for Oyo State, and I can also speak for any of my colleagues because I am the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. I know when things happen. And if we want to play politics, we will keep quiet and say, let it slide, but we are not going to let this slide.

“First, the FIRS cannot give any money to any state; it is not possible. All revenues accruing to our country go into the federation account, and the money is distributed to all the tiers of government. The Federal Government does not give money to the state; the money in the federation account belongs to all of us, and it is not only to the Federal Government.

“We need to engage with our people; if our policies are not working, we need to listen to them and amend them. If the number three citizen says this is an unverified report, why does he need to say it? Does that give confidence to our people, or does it solve the problem of hunger and anger in our land?’’

“Let me say it clearly: for Oyo State and my colleagues, there is nothing like N30bn being given for food security to the states, and I stand to be challenged,’’ he declared.

Corroborating Makinde’s statement, Lagos, Osun, Benue, Katsina, and Sokoto States also denied receiving N30bn each from the Federal Government.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, refuted the claim that Lagos received N30bn.

“It’s not true. Our government, the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr Obafemi Hamzat, didn’t get N30bn from anybody to do anything. All of the things we are doing are in the people’s interest and we’re open and transparent. Anybody making such an allegation should put the facts on the table. Our governor didn’t get N30bn from anywhere.”

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the Osun State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr Kolapo Alimi, similarly dismissed Akpabio’s claims.

Alimi, who said Osun did not receive N30b as claimed by Akpabio, added that the state account books were open to scrutiny.

He simply said, “Osun did not receive N30bn. Our account books are open.”

The Benue State Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba also faulted the statement attributed to the senate president.

Oglegba stated that the meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee was ongoing in Abuja as of the time one of our correspondents spoke with him on the phone.

When asked about the disbursement of N30bn to each state, the commissioner said, “That is not true; I hope the Senate president was not misquoted because I have not seen that report. I’m presently at a FAAC meeting in Abuja.’’

  • N30bn Hunger Fund

He further said, “We have received many things but definitely not tackle hunger.’’

When asked to elaborate on the things received and for what purpose, Oglegba said, “I don’t have those things off-hand now.’’

The Director-General in charge of Media in Katsina State, Maiwada Dammallam, said he was not aware of any disbursement of the fund to the state government.

“I’m not aware that the Federal Government has given any governor N30bn,” he stressed.

Similarly, the Special Assistant to the Zamfara State Governor Dauda Lawal on Media and Communications, Mustafa Kaura, said he was not aware of the N30bn said to have been given to each state.

Kaura (in a phone chat with The Punch) said, “I am not aware of the money you are talking about. I am not aware of the N30bn said to have been given to each state by the Federal Government.”

Also commenting on the controversial disbursement by Akpabio, the Enugu State government said it did not know anything about the fund.

The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Peter Mbah on media, Mr Dan Nwomeh, stated, “We are not aware of that.”

Meanwhile, the Sokoto State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party has challenged the All Progressive Congress administration in the state on wage awards for civil servants and to be transparent in the management of the state resources.

The party described as ‘uninspiring’ and ‘empty words’ the speech delivered by Governor Ahmed Aliyu to a gathering of interest groups and stakeholders invited to brainstorm on how to address the problems of the high cost of foodstuffs and poverty ravaging the people of the state.

This was contained in a statement by the Publicity Secretary of the party, Hassan Sanyinnawal.

The statement said the governor’s speech should have dwelt on hope and assurances and the readiness of his administration to deploy optimally and transparently ‘’the recent humongous financial allocation/aid amounting to N30bn to the state.’’

The fund, it added, could assuage the challenges of galloping inflation, poverty, and hunger among the people due to the elimination of the subsidy on fuel and devaluation of the nation’s currency, which have caused untold hardships to the common man.

Instead of addressing these issues, the PDP said the governor’s speech merely ended up rehearsing the government’s past ‘minute amount of endeavour’ on the distribution of bags of grains to disabled persons and the enhancement of their monthly stipends.

The party stated, “All through the speech, the governor did not disclose how his administration intends to utilize the ‘subsidy windfall’ provided, particularly in ameliorating hunger, support to local councils and provision of Federal Government’s sanctioned wage awards to civil servants, which a number of states had done and are still doing.”

It noted that the governor’s speech left many attendees of the meeting including local government council sole administrators and civil servants disillusioned and disappointed.

The PDP, therefore, challenged Aliyu to toe the examples of his counterparts in Kaduna and Borno states, ‘’who with an air of openness told their people their monies will be solely utilized for the purpose of eradicating hunger and provision of other welfare packages as prescribed by the President.’’

Also, the party described as an ‘eye service’ the live coverage of the event on national television, saying it’s an attempt to hoodwink ‘Abuja People’ on the supposed sincerity and seriousness of the governor, ‘’which are in all senses a pseudo tackling of the myriads of socio-economic problems plaguing his state.’’

The statement read partly, ‘’The PDP in Sokoto State deeply appreciates the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, for his boldness in telling the citizens that each and every state of the federation received from the federation account N30b as part of the determined effort to neutralize the effects of poverty, hunger and high cost of foodstuffs faced by Nigerians.

“All eyes are now on Governor Aliyu on whether or not he will justify the confidence of the people of Sokoto State, especially civil servants who are gasping in horror by their not-so-good relationship with his administration.’’

The governor’s spokesman, Abubakar Bawa, could not be reached on the phone for comment on Thursday but a top official denied that the state received any funds from the Federal Government.

Also, the Chief Press Secretary to the Kebbi State Governor, Ahmed Idris, said, “Honestly, I’m not aware of such money and my boss is not around now for me to get information from him.”

 

Credit: The Punch

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Report Excessive Price Increases, Unscrupulous Exploitation Of Consumers — FCCPC Urges Nigerians

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The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has said that business that engage in price-fixing will face swift legal action.

It called attention to the burden that this practice places on the financial security and well-being of consumers and exhorted them to denounce such acts.

This was revealed by the FCCPC in a statement that was published on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle on Sunday.

The statement read, “The FCCPC acknowledges that the rising cost of essential goods impacts consumers’ well-being and economic stability.

“While we recognise that the commission cannot directly control prices, we are committed to safeguarding consumers’ interests and ensuring fair market practices, necessitating fair pricing.

“Arbitrary price increases stemming from untoward practices like price gouging and conspiracy to manipulate supply violate existing laws.

“The commission will not hesitate to invoke Section 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) 2018 against any perpetrator of such acts. This section prohibits obnoxious trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.”

The statement urged Nigerians to stay vigilant and report any unfair trade practices they encounter.

It added, “We encourage consumers to remain vigilant and report unfair trade practices to the FCCPC.

“Consumers can provide details, including the conduct, location of perpetrators, and other relevant information for investigation, through [email protected].

“The FCCPC remains committed to promoting fair competition, protecting consumers, and fostering a regulated marketplace. We appreciate citizens’ vigilance and encourage active participation in reporting any violations.”

Earlier report in February had it that FCCPC closed a popular supermarket in the Garki area of Abuja, Sahad Store, for lack of transparency in products pricing.

Similarly, it also encouraged electricity consumers to report distribution companies that failed to comply with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

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NLC, TUC Demand N615,000 Minimum Wage For Workers In Fresh Proposal

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Organised labour, comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), has made a fresh demand of N615,000 as the new minimum wage for workers in the country.

According to The Punch, an impeccable source, who is an executive of organised labour, under anonymity, said that the new wage of N615,000 monthly was reached after consultations by the NLC and TUC.

The source, who was a member of one of the sub-committees set up by the government to work on getting a new minimum wage for the country, however, said the wage might still increase, following the recent hike in electricity tariff.

Furthermore, the source said, “We (NLC and TUC) have given our figures to the government (on the minimum wage), and it is N615,000. That is the position of the NLC and TUC on the matter. The government has been informed as well.”

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, had on January 30, set up a 37-member panel at the Council Chamber of the State House in Abuja.

With its membership cutting across federal and state governments, the private sector, and organised labour, the panel was tasked with recommending a new national minimum wage.

At the inaugural meeting of the panel, Shettima urged members to ‘speedily’ arrive at a resolution, and submit their reports early as the current N30,000 minimum wage expired at the end of March 2024.

Chairing the panel is a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Aji, who, at the inauguration ceremony, affirmed that its members would come up with a ‘fair, practical, implementable and sustainable’ minimum wage.

The inauguration followed months of agitation from organised labour over the FG’s failure to inaugurate the new national minimum wage committee as promised during negotiations last October.

From the government’s side, members include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, representing the Minister of Labour and Employment; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Lydia Jafiya; the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Yemi Esan; and Permanent Secretary, GSO/OSGF, Dr Nnamdi Mbaeri, among others.

Representing the Nigeria Governors Forum are Mohammed Bago of Niger State, representing the North Central; Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, representing the North East; Umar Radda of Katsina State, representing the North West; Charles Soludo of Anambra State, representing the South East; Senator Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, for the South West; and Otu Bassey of Cross River State, on behalf of the South-South.

From the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association is the Director-General of the association, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde; Chuma Nwankwo, Thompson Akpabio; as well as members from the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, including Michael Olawale-Cole, Ahmed Rabiu, and Humphrey Ngonadi.

From organised labour, the Nigeria Labour Congress is represented by its president, Joe Ajaero; as well as President of the TUC, Festus Osifo; and his deputy, Tommy Etim-Okon, among others.

Ajaero had announced N1m as the new minimum wage, owing to the rising inflation in the country which, according to him, had pushed many of his members into poverty.

This led to several controversies, with some experts stating that the wage was unrealisable or sustainable.

However, in an interview with one of our correspondents, another labour leader stated that the NLC and TUC had pegged the new wage at N615,000 tentatively.

Asked if the May 1 deadline was still on course, the labour leader said, “What I want you to know is that we are doing our best. Both the TUC and NLC have harmonised, and they have sent their position to the government.

“We are in the process. Be assured that once anything happens, I will, as usual, inform you. That is all I can tell you for now, because we have not met; even though we have submitted our unified positions to the Federal Government. We will be speaking with one voice.

“But, let me also hint you that with the removal of the electricity tariff subsidy, we are going to have another round of serious conversations with the government. Mind you, the tariff increase is also very good for us, because they (the government) did it when the new minimum wage process had not been concluded. So, it is going to be a good ground for us to ask for more.

“Our position will be defended based on the new price of N225 per kWh of electricity. Although we (the government and Labour) are not in agreement, we are waiting to meet and decide on the next point of action.”

The source added, “This is because if you look at the Electricity Act, it canvassed a position that before any increase at all, there must be stakeholders’ engagement. However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission unilaterally imposed the removal of the electricity tariff on the consumers, without recourse to stakeholders. That is in total defiance to the provisions of the Act.

“These are the issues that will be in the front burner of our next negotiation with the Federal Government.

“The new tariff will also give us another strategy to press the government on the need to move the minimum wage upward. This is because the government has not announced any new minimum wage yet, as we are still negotiating.

“As I said, the NLC and TUC have harmonised positions, which we have sent to the government. It is even now that the negotiation will start properly. All that we have done so far was to try to lay the foundation, and now that we have come up with our positions, the government will also come up with their own. We will then start a fresh negotiation.”

  • Economists Differ

Reacting, a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, said, “If internationally, they say there is poverty in Nigeria, what they mean is that Nigerians are earning less than two dollars per day. If you want to fix the minimum wage to end poverty, what you should do is fix the minimum wage above that.

“Whatever the labour unions have presented to the Federal Government is for negotiation and to serve as a benchmark. It is left for the Federal Government to negotiate.

“There is a law that has been established to make them comply. But, they (state governments) decide to flout the law. When it is agreed as minimum wage, that is what the private and public sectors should pay. If they don’t pay, they should be taken to court.”

A professor of Microeconomics at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Adeola Adenikinju, noted that while the Federal Government would bear a significant burden, it was imperative to recognise the involvement of state governments and the private sector in the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Adenikinju, who is also the President of the Nigerian Economic Society, harped on the importance of acknowledging the diverse economic landscapes across states, suggesting that a uniform minimum wage might not be feasible, due to varying levels of affordability.

He said, “The proposed minimum wage by the NLC should be looked at. It is not only the Federal Government that is going to pay this. The state government and private sector are also involved.

“It must be noted that the minimum wage varies by state, as some states are richer than others.”

In a similar vein, another economist, Paul Alaje, explained that there was a high possibility of President Bola Tinubu declaring between N100,000 and N200,000 as the minimum wages for both the private and public sectors if the exchange rate of naira improved to N1,000 per dollar by May.

He added that 30 out of the 36 states would struggle and might not align with the payment of the new minimum wage if it was pegged at N615,000.

According to him, getting special assistance from the Federal Government and intervention funds from international communities should be tied to states having zero clearance of previous salaries.

He also stated while the proposed minimum wage might not be so much of a challenge for the Federal Government and six states, the other 30 states will struggle to pay that amount.”

 

Credit: The Punch

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New National ID Card To Be Issued Through Banks — FG

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) states that applicants’ banks will provide them with the anticipated national ID card.

In order to provide the cards to applicants, NIMC stated that it is collaborating with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

“The card will be issued through the applicants’ respective banks in line with existing protocols with the issuance of the Debit/Credit cards,” the agency said in a Friday update on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle.

It said applicants need to request their cards with their NIN “through the self-service online portal, NIMC offices, or their respective banks”.

“The card will be powered by the AFRIGO card scheme, an indigenous scheme powered by NIBSS,” NIMC said.

“The card can be picked up by holders at the designated center or delivered to the applicants at the requested location at an extra cost to be borne by the applicants,” the update read.

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