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33 States May Not Pay Salaries As N172bn Deduction Grounds Revenue Disbursement

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Payment of salaries by about 33 states of the federation is uncertain as the decision of the federal government to debit local government accounts in commencement of a payment of $418 million (N172 billion) to private consultants on Paris Cub refund has pitched states and local governments against it (FG).

BudgIT, a civic group committed to government financial transparency, in its report, ‘State of States 2019’, said only three Nigerian state governments (Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom) can finance their recurrent expenditure without allocation from the federal government.

There had been pressure from the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the general public to stop the suspicious payments to the consultants.

However, in a dramatic twist, less than a month after a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari,, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has commenced deductions to pay the claimants.

The permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, told the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting on Friday that it has commenced the deductions to pay the consultants.

This information has irked the states which then refused to consider the revenue for the month of October 2021 until the FG comes clean with the deductions.

The Paris Club payments

In 2006, the federal government paid $12 billion to get an $18 billion debt write-off by the Paris Club of international creditors.

However, because the payment was made directly from the revenue accruing to the entire federation, states and LGAs that did not owe the Paris Club asked the federal government for a refund.

Some consultants had surfaced along the line to claim a percentage of the refunds as payment for their purported services to the states and LGAs.

Some contractors also claimed they were asked to execute projects across the country by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

Questions were, however, asked on why states would need consultants to negotiate with the federal government over the refund, while the projects said to have been awarded by ALGON turned out to be mostly non-existent.

The governors had asked for a forensic audit.

While the contractors and consultants went to court, the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, negotiated an out-of-court settlement with them and agreed to pay $418 million as judgment debt.

Meanwhile, despite opposition by the governors and activists, President Buhari went ahead to approve the payments.

Governors cautioned bank CEOs against payment

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had asked banks and their compliance officers to disregard the payment of the controversial $418,953,670.59 to consultants.

In a fresh letter dated September 3, signed by P. H. Ogbole, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the governors reiterated that the promissory notes should be disregarded.

The letter was addressed to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the finance minister, the director-general of the Debt Management Office and MDs/CEOs/compliance officers of all commercial banks in the country.

“The issuance of promissory notes of a humongous sum of over $418 million to private persons for alleged consultancy work demands not only caution but strict due diligence; particularly when the judgements which gave rise to the payments sought to be enforced are the subject of pending litigation.

“Matters that are sub judice must not be acted upon in a manner that will foist a situation of complete helplessness on the courts and render their decisions nugatory.

“This caveat is therefore issued as a further notice to the honourable minister of finance and the director-general, Debt Management Office to act in the interest of the public and refrain from foisting on the nation another case of P&ID in which but for due diligence, the nation would have been fleeced of billions of dollars.

Forum for Commissioners of Finance protest

A terse statement signed by Mr. David Olofu, chairman, Forum for Commissioners of Finance of Nigeria said the debit happened without notification of all concerned.

The statement indicated that “members declined approval after consideration of the reports for the disbursement of the available revenue because of deduction on funds belonging to the Local Government Councils in favour of some consultants for a $418 million judgment debt for consultancy services with respect to Paris Club Loans refund.”

It said: “Based on available information, the deduction will continue for 10 years (120 months). This is contrary to the provisions of Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”

Mr. Olofu also noted that “the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had objected to the execution of this judgment until full determination of ongoing litigation on the subject matter.”

He disclosed that the “Commissioners for Finance representing states and local government councils do not have prior knowledge of the deduction and coming at a time when states and LGCs are in dire straits will further worsen the fiscal position of these tiers of government.”

He added that “consequent upon these, the meeting was adjourned to allow for further consultations and resolution of all the issues that had been previously raised by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) regarding the assignment that gave rise to the claim and the judgment.”

Expert say FG is acting in contempt

Commenting, Barr Eze Onyekpere, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), said the federal government is acting in contempt of the court and disrespecting the rule of law.

The federal government is disrespectful of the rule of law. That’s not the way to go. If the FG has gone ahead to overreach the court, that means the FG isn’t waiting for the court to reach a decision,” he said.

He said, “That means as far as the federal government is concerned, the court case is immaterial. They don’t care about the judiciary. It’s improper,” he said.

He noted that “the states should insist that their matter be heard and bring it to the court that the federal government is in contempt of the court.” He also noted that “the minister or whosoever is in charge is acting in contempt of the powers of the court.”

“This is a dictatorship and it’s being executed by those in the corridors of power. This is totally unacceptable” he stated.

Barr Onyekpere also said the stalemate will impact the states’ capacity to pay their bills.

“It will impact the states. They are living on a shoestring budget. They don’t have the revenue to do their work. So the states should insist either amicably or through the judiciary. They shouldn’t accept whatever is shoved down their throats simply because the federal government is holding the money,” he said.

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Another Top Ranking Anambra Federal Law Maker Defects To APC

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The Yobe state Governor and Chairman APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, has received Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, a top ranking legislator representing Aguata (Anambra) federal Constituency who defected from APGA to APC.

Gov. Buni charged the legislator to be dedicated, faithful and loyal to the party.

“APC will stand for you and your supporters, and protect your political interests at all times.

“You will enjoy every privilege enjoyed by every member of the party” the Chairman Caretaker committee assured.

He urged the federal law maker and his supporters to work for the Party’s success in the forthcoming Anambra governorship election.

“We expect you to be part of the success story in the coming Anambra election as our victory in the election is getting much more clearer every day” Governor Buni said.

He assured the people of Aguta federal constituency that the decision of their representative to carry them along into the Nigeria project will attract more federal presence to the constituency.

Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, assured his loyalty, his political associates and the people of his constituency to the party.

“We shall contribute to the success awaiting the party in the Anambra election.

“We are part of the Nigeria project and will from now henceforth work and defend the interest of APC at all levels” he assured.

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Osun PDP Adopts Oyinlola For Party’s Deputy National Chairman Position

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Ahead of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Osun State chapter of the party has adopted Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of the State as their candidate for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South).

This decision formed part of the resolution arrived at after a meeting of the elected and statutory delegates of the PDP in Osun State on the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) micro zoned to Osun State.

In a statement signed by the Osun PDP Chairman, Sunday Bisi, former PDP candidate in the Osun 2018 gubernatorial election, Ademola Adeleke and a former National Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo, the party leaders insisted that the resolution that micro-zoned the position to Osun remained the same after a meeting with Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde.

The party described Prof. Oladipo’s exclusion from standing for election as Deputy National Chairman (South) as unwarranted, orchestrated, illegal and a rape of democracy, adding that the adoption of Taofeeq Arapaja for the position by Makinde was to short-change Osun.

According to the statement, “As a result of Professor Wale Oladipo’s exclusion. Governor Oyinlola remains the only aspirant from Osun state for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) of our party at the convention.

“We vehemently oppose the attempt by Governor Seyi Makinde to hijack what has been micro-zoned to Osun State, after all, Oyo State already occupies the South West Chairmanship of the party, in person of Ambassador Arapaja, who is a member of National Working Committee.

“We, therefore, unanimously agreed that, all elected and statutory delegates from Osun State to the PDP National Convention should cut our votes for Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the only candidate from Osun State for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South). We equally appeal to all the delegates from other states in Nigeria to support the candidature of Prince Oyinlola by voting massively for him at the convention.”

The party maintained that the position of Deputy National Chairman of PDP (South) that had been micro-zoned to Osun state at a meeting presided over by Governor Seyi Makinde in Abuja still stood.

The party also revealed that the reason behind the disqualification of Oladipo was to smuggle in a weak and pliable candidate into that exalted office knowing well that the Osun candidate had the national reach to get easily elected at the convention.

Recall that Osun PDP had earlier adopted Prof. Oladipo as its candidate for the position, while the faction of Olasoji Adagunodo, the embattled chairman of the party in the State put forward Olagunsoye Oyinlola as its preferred candidate.

Political watchers in the State had noted that this stance was a miscalculation on the part of Osun PDP as the confusion it would generate would make Oyo to jump into the race, which it finally did.

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JUST IN:Facebook Changes Company Name To Meta

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Facebook on Thursday announced that it has changed its company name to Meta.

The name change, which was announced at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference, reflects the company’s growing ambitions beyond social media.

The re-branding also comes after the company has dealt with a barrage of news reports over the past month stemming from whistleblower Frances Haugen’s trove of internal documents.

Facebook employees gather in front of a sign displaying a new logo and the name ‘Meta’ in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Facebook on Thursday announced that it has changed its company name to Meta.

The name change was announced at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference.

The new name reflects the company’s growing ambitions beyond social media. Facebook, now known as Meta, has adopted the new moniker, based on the sci-fi term metaverse, to describe its vision for working and playing in a virtual world.

“Today we are seen as a social media company, but in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people, and the metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

The company will also change its stock ticker from FB to MVRS, effective Dec. 1, the company said in the announcement of its name change.

Meta’s stock price was up more than 3% on Thursday.

In July, the company announced the formation of a team that would work on the metaverse. Two months later, the company said it would elevate Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who is currently the head of the company’s hardware division, to the role of chief technology officer in 2022. And in its third-quarter earnings results on Monday, the company announced that it will break out Reality Labs, its hardware division, into its own reporting segment, starting in the fourth quarter.

“Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” Zuckerberg wrote in a letter on Thursday.

Over the past few years, the company has ramped up its efforts in hardware, introducing a line of Portal video-calling devices, launching the Ray-Ban Stories glasses and rolling out various versions of the Oculus virtual-reality headsets. The company has indicated that augmented and virtual reality will be a key part of its strategy in the coming years.

The company also said this week it’d spend about $10 billion over the next year developing the technologies required for building the metaverse.

Zuckerberg on Thursday also provided a demonstration of the company’s ambitions for the metaverse.

The demo was a Pixar-like animation of software the company hopes to build some day. The demo included users hanging out in space as cartoon-like versions of themselves or fantastical characters, like a robot, that represent their virtual selves.

Zuckerberg said a lot of this is a long ways off but the company is starting to work on it. Elements of the metaverse could become mainstream in five to 10 years, Zuckerberg predicted. The company expects “to invest many billions of dollars for years to come before the metaverse reaches scale,” Zuckerberg added.

“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg said.

Additionally, Meta announced a new virtual reality headset named Project Cambria. The device will be a high-end product available at the “higher-end of the price spectrum” that will be released next year, Zuckerberg said.

Meta also announced the code name of its first fully AR-capable smart glasses is Project Nazare. The company did not say when the glasses will be released. Zuckerberg said “we still have a ways to go with Nazare, but we’re making good progress.”

The re-branding also comes after the company has dealt with a barrage of news reports over the past month. Those have stemmed from Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower who has released a trove of internal company documents to news outlets, lawmakers and regulators.

The reports show that the company is aware of many of the harms its apps and services cause but either doesn’t rectify the issues or struggles to address them. More documents are expected to be shared daily over the coming weeks.

In a call with analysts on Monday, Zuckerberg vehemently refuted the claims and critiques in news reports stemming from whistleblower Frances Haugen’s trove of internal company documents.

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