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NNPC must prove how it spent $10.8bn – Okonjo-Iweala

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Culled from THE PUNCH

Ngozi_okonjo_iwealaThe Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation needs to provide evidence that the unremitted $10.8bn has been judiciously spent.

She said the NNPC claimed to have used the unremitted funds for key operational costs.

The minister said this in Lagos on Sunday, while responding to questions about the unremitted funds to the Federation Account by the NNPC and other economic issues.

She spoke at a dinner organised in her honour by South-East and South-South Professionals.

“If the money was spent on operational costs, let us see evidence that it was spent in an authorised way. And if not, let the amount be remitted to the Federation Account,” she said.

To ensure that the issue is properly resolved, Okonjo-Iweala said the services of auditors might be required.

“I am not the auditor of the NNPC account,” she added.

There had been disagreements over the actual amount unremitted by the NNPC, but the finance minister explained that it was not unusual to have conflicts over the amount to be remitted by an agency.

She said the government, however, had structures in place to resolve that.

According to her, every month, all those involved in revenue management meet at the FAAC Committee level to review what has been paid into the Federation Account by agencies such as the Nigerian Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service. And they ask questions when figures conflict.

Okonjo-Iweala also said people were beginning to misunderstand her role as the Coordinating Minister of the Economy.

“I am the Coordinating Minister of the Economy; not the superintending minister… I cannot do the job of the NNPC,” she said.

She, however, said apart from ensuring that all Federal Executive Council members did not work at cross-purpose, her job involved ensuring that every amount that should get to the Federation Account was remitted.

Okonjo-Iweala also said the government was working to boost the non-oil revenue to compensate for revenue short falls as a result of sectoral incentives provided to encourage local production.

She added that the government had, apart from working hard to block leakages in the oil subsidy management, set up teams to block leakages in the old pension scheme and address the problem of multiple taxation.

According to her, the government will continue with its integrated personnel management scheme, which together with other leakage-blocking efforts, had saved the country hundreds of millions of Naira.

She said, “Multiple taxation is a major problem and we are looking at it to see how we can get rid of minor multiple taxes and focus on the main taxes.”

The minister has come under heavy criticism in recent times with regards to some of government policies, but she said she remained undaunted.

She said while there were still many things to be done in the economy, the government was clear about its plans.

She said, “When you understand what you have to do, you are undaunted… All the attacks make me strong. I am a fighter by nature and we are on the right track.

“I am not saying that we have all the right answers, but allow us to work; I am going to keep working and I enjoy a good challenge.”

Meanwhile, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, has said the NNPC has no right to retain $10.8bn in income, which has contributed to a drop in savings and exposed the nation to possible price shocks.

Bloomberg quoted Sanusi in an interview at the CBN headquarters, as saying, “Given where the oil price is, we should have more in terms of reserves and savings, and because we don’t have that, we are susceptible to shocks in the event of a decline in the oil price.”

CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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NATIONAL NEWS

CAMA: Bishop blasts Christian lawmakers

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CAMA: Bishop blasts Christian lawmakers

The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah, has blamed Christians in the National Assembly (NASS), for the passage of the 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Bill (CAMA), signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.

Bishop Onah, said in a remark during the Sunday Mass that if Christians in NASS had opposed the bill, it would not have been passed into law.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Aug. 7, signed the CAMA bill into law, giving provision for religious bodies and charity organizations to be regulated by the registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and a supervising minister.

“The question many Christians have been asking is, where were Christian legislators during the debate of this bill and its passage in the National Assembly?

“Because, if they had opposed this bill on the floor of the house, it would not have been passed and sent to the president for assent.

“I blame Christian legislators for doing nothing and allowing the passage of the 2020 CAMA Act,” he said.

“When I say that Christians are too divided and too selfish, don’t forget that the second in command in this country is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a professor of Law and a pastor.”

Onah, however, wondered what the Federal Government wanted to achieve in monitoring how the finances of churches in the country are managed when it contributed no dime to the church, NAN reports.

“Government should focus and monitor its ministries, agencies and other government institutions where it budgets billions of Naira annually and not church offerings.

“Had it been that the government gave allocations to churches and decided to monitor its usage, nobody will question the government,” he said.

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NATIONAL NEWS

Nigerians spit fire over fuel, electricity prices hike

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Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

Anger and condemnations, across the country, have continued to trail last week’s take off, of new increases in pump price of petroleum products and electricity tariffs, as directed by Federal Government.

Recall that the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) official, D.O. Abalaka announced on Wednesday September 3, on behalf of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that the new price of petroleum is now N151.56k per litre instead of N149 – N150 per litre which it was previously.

The new electricity tariff which the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) tagged “Service Reflective Tariff” has also come into effect. It requires consumers to pay N53.87 – N66.422 per kwh of electricity.

Outraged consumers of fuel and electricity have therefore warned government to get ready for collision with the masses if it fails to rescind these new prices.

Those who have expressed outrage over the new prices regimes include, the Organized Labour, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Nigerian main opposition political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).

Others are: Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce (NACCIMA).

The NLC said, “The frequent fuel price increase will no longer be accepted. We will not allow Nigerians fall victim of government ineptitude and negligence to make the country self-sufficient in terms of refining petroleum products at home.”

On its part, the PDP has described the price hike as “callous, cruel and punishing” and demanded an immediate reversal to avert a national crisis.

The All Industrial Global sees the incessant increase as a confirmation that deregulation means just price increase.

“This is unacceptable! Under a pandemic, we should put money in the pockets of citizens to revive collapsed livelihoods and preserve lives.” In its reaction, NECA said it has always urged Federal Government to adopt deregulation policy in the oil and gas downstream sector.

The MOMAN in its statement insists that monthly price variation of fuel was no longer sustainable. It urged PPRA to adopt quarterly price mechanism which would save the market the hassles of price volatility. The statements by IPMAN and NACCIMA also followed along the same line that the hike “…serves only to increase the severity and duration of the looming economic recession.”

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