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FG Risks Paying N1.8trn Interest On N23.7trn Loan 

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President Muhammadu Buhari stated yesterday that if the National Assembly did not approve N23.7 trillion in extra-budgetary spending, it would cost the federal government N1.8 trillion in interest.

Fidel Info reports that the President added that his administration has included sufficient funding in the 2023 budget to ensure the smooth running of the upcoming general elections and the transition plan.

Recall that Buhari had asked the National Assembly to approve a certain amount that he said came from loans made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over a ten-year period for emergencies.

After a boisterous session last week, the Senate put the President’s proposal on hold because Senators Betty Apiafi and Thompson Sekibo claimed it was unconstitutional.

Additionally, they required that the Senate receive information on how the money was used before it could approve the request.

Buhari, however, stated that he had no plan to challenge the lawmakers’ decision while addressing during the signing ceremony for the N21.83 trillion 2023 budget at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said:  “I also urge the National Assembly to reconsider its position on my proposal to securitize the federal government’s outstanding Ways and Means balance at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

“As I stated, the balance has accumulated over several years and represents funding provided by the CBN as lender of last resort to the government to enable it to meet obligations to lenders, as well as cover budgetary shortfalls in projected revenues and/or borrowings.

“I have no intention to fetter the right of the national assembly to interrogate the composition of this balance, which can still be done even after granting the requested approval.”

“Failure to grant the securitization approval will however cost the government about N1.8 trillion in additional interest in 2023 given the differential between the applicable interest rates which is currently MPR plus three percent and the negotiated interest rate of nine percent and a 40-year repayment period on the securitized debt of the Ways and Means.”

The President also accused the National Assembly of introducing N770.72 billion new projects into the 2023 budget proposal he submitted, adding that the national legislative body increased the provisions made by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, by N58.55 billion.

He said the aggregate expenditure of N21.83 trillion was an increase of N1.32 trillion over the initial executive proposal for a total expenditure of N20.51 trillion.

He explained that the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act would enable the administration respond to the havoc caused by the recent nationwide floods on infrastructure and agriculture sectors, and asked the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to subsequently provide more details of the approved budget and the supporting 2022 Finance Act.

”We have examined the changes made by the National Assembly to the 2023 Executive Budget proposal.  The amended fiscal framework for 2023 as approved by the National Assembly, showed additional revenue of N765.79 billion, and an unfunded deficit of N553.46 billion.”

”It is clear that the National Assembly and the executive need to capture some of the proposed additional revenue sources in the fiscal framework. This must be rectified.”

”I have also noted that the National Assembly introduced new projects into the 2023 budget proposal for which it has appropriated N770.72 billion. The National Assembly also increased the provisions made by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) by N58.55 billion,” he said.

Buhari said his decision to sign the 2023 Appropriation Bill into law as passed by the National Assembly was to enable its implementation to commence without delay, considering the imminent transition process to another democratically elected government.

He, however, directed the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to engage with the legislature to revisit some of the changes made to the executive budget proposal, expressing the hope that the National Assembly would cooperate with the executive arm of government in this regard.

He urged the National Assembly to reconsider its position on his proposal to securitize the Federal Government’s outstanding Ways and Means of balance at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

Buhari thanked the National Assembly for approving his request for an extension of its validity date to March 31, 2023.

He directed the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to work towards the early release of the 2023 capital votes to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies to commence the implementation of their capital projects in good time to support efforts to deliver key projects and public services as well as improve the living conditions of Nigerians.

Reiterating that the 2023 Budget was developed to promote fiscal sustainability, macroeconomic stability and ensure a smooth transition to the incoming administration, the President said it was also designed to promote social inclusion and strengthen the resilience of the economy.

He pledged that adequate provisions had been made in the budget for the successful conduct of the forthcoming general elections and the transition program.

According to him, “As I mentioned during the presentation of the 2023 Appropriation Bill, the budget was developed to promote fiscal sustainability, macroeconomic stability, and ensure smooth transition to the incoming administration.

“The budget was also designed to promote social inclusion and strengthen the resilience of the economy. Adequate provisions have been made in the 2023 Budget for the successful conduct of the forth-coming general elections and the transition program.”

On achieving revenue targets for the budget, the President directed MDAs and Government Owned Enterprises, GOEs, to intensify their revenue mobilization efforts, including ensuring that all taxable organizations and individuals pay taxes due.

To achieve the objectives of the 2023 Budget, he said relevant agencies must sustain current efforts toward the realization of crude oil production and export targets.

”To augment available fiscal resources, MDAs are to accelerate the implementation of Public Private Partnership initiatives, especially those designed to fast-track the pace of our infrastructure development.”

On the Finance Bill 2022, the President expressed regrets that its review, as passed by the National Assembly, was yet to be finalized.

”This is because some of the changes made by the National Assembly need to be reviewed by the relevant agencies of government. I urge that this should be done speedily to enable me assent law,” he said.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, assured that the National Assembly would work to ensure increased funds for the government and reduce the rate of deficit in the budget.

“But that is not to say that we should raise taxes that will be out of the roof to cause problems for our citizens. But I believe that as a National Assembly, in the next five months, we must be looking at increasing the funds available to the government and also ensuring that the deficit budget is minimized in the next assembly by the grace of God,” he said.

On his part, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, denied any padding or jerking up of the budget, explaining that the lawmakers had done very well in meeting their constitutional mandate.

“If you understand constitutional democracy, there are different layers of government and it’s called separation of powers. Ours is for us to receive proposals and that’s why they’re called proposals anywhere in the world.”

“The National Assembly has done very well in meeting its constitutional mandate. It takes all arms of government to be on board to give a true working document for the country. The executive did everything they could; and we have even a wider view, a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in all the agencies.”

”We have also complemented what the executive has done. It’s all for the good of the country and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.

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Governance

Governor AbdulRazaq Set To Commission Highest Number Of Modern Glass Squash Courts In West Africa

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Kwara State government is set to unveil 10 modern glass squash courts at the state’s stadium complex in Ilorin.

Fidel Info reports that according to the chairman of Kwara State Sports Commission, Bola Magaji, the modern arenas, which are the highest number situated in one location in Nigeria and West Africa, are currently being constructed by the state government to continue improving the standard of the sport in the state.

He noted that Kwara State, which has produced stars in squash and also dominated the sport across Nigeria in recent times, needed to upgrade its facilities and other sports arenas at the state stadium to meet modern athletics demands.

He added that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is focusing on transforming Kwara State to Nigeria’s hub of sports.

“The two courts initially at the stadium have been renovated and the government is adding eight more courts that would accommodate singles and doubles events. It will be ready for use very soon.

“This facility has not been seen at the moment in any state in Nigeria and West Africa. Kwara State is known for outstanding performance in squash. Most of our athletes were used by other states at the 2022 National Sports Festival at Asaba, which shows the state’s commitment to the sport.”

Magaji, a former national squash champion, said that apart from the squash courts, other facilities at the Ilorin Stadium are being renovated to help athletes hone their skills in an organised environment.

“We have 32 active sports in Kwara State and all facilities to make athletes excel is being put in place.

“The state government is also working hard to prepare the basketball team for continental engagements… we are not leaving out the welfare of players and coaches of Kwara United F.C, who are currently playing in the NPFL,” he said.

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Governance

Ex-President Obasanjo Lauds Governor AbdulRazaq Over Youth Inclusion In Governance

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Former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has commended Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq over his policy of including and engaging youths in governance.

Fidel Info reports that the former President said he is extremely proud of developments in the state under Governor AbdulRazaq as he gets many testimonies from different quarters on his efforts and strides.

He made these comments during a chat with the Governor when he was received to the state at the Ilorin International Airport over the weekend.

Chief Obasanjo had visited the state to attend the wedding ceremony between the children of popular businessman Alhaji Kamarudeen Yusuf (KAMWIRE) and Alhaji Adelodun Oba Adebayo SAN.

The ceremony which was also graced by the Governor had many other prominent dignitaries in the country in attendance, including Chief of Staff to the President Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Minister of Mines and Steel Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite; Emir of Kano Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, Olofa of Offa Oba Muftau Muhammed Gbadamosi; top businessman Alhaji Aliko Dangote; among others.

Governor AbdulRazaq has earned recognition for youth and women inclusion in government. His cabinet is peopled mostly by youths and women in what has never been witnessed in the state in the past.

Kwara currently holds the record of having the youngest commissioner in the whole of Nigeria. The state has produced two youngest commissioners under Governor AbdulRazaq.

In his remarks, Chief Obasanjo said, “I am proud and happy about the great testimonies that come from Kwara State. I have followed and observed your passion for youth inclusion in governance. It is very commendable because it is a way of securing the future of our country.

“These young people are being exposed to governance and administration at the early part of their lives. They will surely contribute their quota to national development through the experience they have gathered over the years.

“I hear a lot of positive stories about Kwara State under your administration. I follow the developmental strides, particularly the transformation and revolution you are bringing to the agricultural sector. I commend all these efforts. You are doing so well and I wish you success at the forthcoming polls.”

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RE: NG-CARES Fund: Kwara State Government Sets the Record Straight

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The attention of the Kwara State Government has been drawn to some false and malicious claims by some opposition elements that the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq siphoned over 20 Million Dollars NG-CARES Fund targeted at empowering more than three thousand small and medium scale businesses in Kwara State. This claim, which is a laughable copycat effort seen in some other states, is nothing but a theatrical display that is totally false. The agenda of these fake news purveyors is to misinform the public, malign, and smear the reputation of the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led government, which has invested resources and efforts into social safety programmes in Kwara State.

Fidel Info reports that this rejoinder therefore sets the record straight while offering the characters behind the malicious claims an opportunity to be properly informed on the concept, implementation, and achievements of the NG-CARES Programme in Kwara State.

2. The idea of NG-CARES came around May 2020 during the lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19 in Nigeria. The NG-CARES is a two-year emergency response intervention designed by the World Bank and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to assist the 36 States and FCT cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihood of the poor and the vulnerable. The core objective of the programme is to “expand access to livelihood support and food security services, and grants for vulnerable households and firms”.

3. The NG-CARES Programme is a state-budgeted intervention with support from the World Bank through a credit facility in the sum of $750 Million USD, with each participating State eligible to access an equal amount of $20 Million USD, depending on the results achieved. It is imperative to also educate the general public that the NG-CARES Programme is a Programme for Result (PforR), as opposed to the usual Independent Project Financing (IPF) approach adopted by the World Bank. This is a novel financing instrument developed by the World Bank that links the disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of specific programme results. It is also important to state that while the programme is a grant to beneficiaries, it is a credit facility to the State Governments.

To this effect, a Subsidiary Loan Agreement (SLA) was entered into by the State government with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on 30th August 2021. The programme was declared effective by the World Bank on 28th September 2021.

4. The NG-CARES Programme is being implemented in Kwara State by the following Delivery Platforms: the State Cash Transfer Unit (SCTU); Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW); Kwara State Community and Social Development Agency (KWCSDA), Kwara State FADAMA Coordinating Office; and Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP). The Kwara State CARES Coordinating Unit (SCCU) in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development provides institutional support to the implementing units.

5.  As a participating State, Kwara State, like other States, was expected to meet the eligibility criteria set by the World Bank. In the end, the State was eligible for a DLI advance of N900 Million, which was released in March 2022. Thus far, the total sum of N1,418,314,964 has been expended on the NG-CARES Programme in Kwara State, out of which only N900,000,000 was provided by the World Bank. The sum of N518,314,964 was provided by the State Government towards implementing the Programme.

6. It is apt to state at this point that being a programme designed by the World Bank, the NG-CARES Programme is being implemented in strict adherence to the domesticated Operations Manual of the Programme. The Kwara State CARES Operations Manual was cleared by the World Bank. Being a Programme For Result, any State that implements the programme outside of the dictate of the Operations Manual is at risk of forfeiting the reimbursement from the World Bank.

7. For the programme, Kwara State subscribed to 8 of the 11 programmes designed by the World Bank. The following are the results achieved so far by the Kwara State government under the implementing agencies:

S/N Implementing Agencies Achievement

1 State Cash Transfer Unit (SCTU) 1690 Beneficiaries receiving N20,000 Bi-Monthly

2. Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW) 1025 Youths Engaged in Social Service receiving N10,000 Monthly.

3 Kwara State Community and Social Development Agency (KWCSDA) 35 Micro-Projects has been executed in 9 Local Governments in areas of health, water and sanitation.

4.  Kwara State FADAMA Coordinating Office 6561 Farmers have benefitted from agric inputs and assets across the 16 LGAs of the State.

5. Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) 688 Small and Micro Businesses across the 16 LGAs supported with an operational grant in the range of N200,000 and N700,000.

8. The allegation by some opposition elements that the actual amount designed by the Federal Government was N3.2 Million or N3.5 million (as they variously claimed in self-contradiction) to MSMEs is false and concocted misinformation. This is nothing but a figment of their imagination. This falls under Result Area 3 being implemented by the Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) which supported a total number of 688 Small and Micro Businesses with operational grants size of between N200,000.00 and N700,000.00 in the 16 Local Government Areas of the State. This is in tandem with the World Bank approved NG-CARES Operations Manual. This is contrary to the false claims  that businesses were given peanuts of N15,000.00 each.

9. In addition, the NG-CARES Programme embraced transparency right from the application processes to the disbursement in collaboration with the Bank of Industry.

KWASSIP deployed an online portal where interested businesses provided documents and records of their businesses, while the Bank of Industry (BOI) was mandated with scrutinising their documents and disbursing to the eligible businesses. Through different news media, interested members of the public were adequately sensitized to register their businesses through the portal. The choice of BOI was to ensure that every application was treated based on their merit. All of the 688 businesses selected as first batch of beneficiaries were based on meeting the required eligibility criteria as stipulated in the Kwara State CARES Operations Manual.

10. At this juncture, it is germane to state that as one of the best-performing States, Kwara State was chosen by the World Bank for a Technical Support Mission to help other participating States learn from the modus operandi of the NG-CARES Programme in Kwara State.

11. Finally, we would like to enjoin members of the public to ignore the mischief being peddled by these opposition elements on the programme. The unfounded claim is an attempt to mislead the public as well as distract the good works of His Excellency Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, especially in the area of social safety investment. The first assessment by the Independent Verification Agents appointed by the World Bank was just recently concluded. Thereafter, the state government is expected to be reimbursed of its resources already invested into the programme in line with the verifications by the IVA.

However, the state government would not allow itself to be distracted by the noise of the mischief-makers in NG-CARES implementation since the programme implementation is expected to continue after the reimbursement.

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