Finance Minister Clears Air On N424bn Budget Padding
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has cleared the air over the N424bn that was said to have been padded by the minister into the 2023 Appropriation Bill.
Ahmed has been accused by the Humanitarian, Health, Power and Education to have inserted, N206bn, N8.6bn, N195.468bn, and N2.250bn respectively.
The Finance Minister, however, got a clean slate before the senate when she appeared to defend herself over cases of puddings in the proposed N20.51 trillion 2023 budget from the Senate Committee on Appropriation when she made clarifications on them.
She explained to the committee that the various sums were sent to the ministries for perusal before approval by the Federal Executive Council, before the budget presentation itself by the President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari, ( Retd.) on Friday, October 7, 2022.
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She stated, “This project in question under the Humanitarian Affairs ministry is a project that was called National Social Safety Net project.
“This is a total sum of $473.5m which translates to N296bn. This project was correctly described by the IR departments that collated the report but in the –process of collating the at the budget office, the wrong code was selected. This code that was selected resulted in the description showing as purchase and security weapons.
“The same project was correctly captured in the MTEF because it was also presented in the MTEF.
“She noted that the amount was correct and “it is correctly provided for in the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs disaster management, and social development because they are the agency implementing this national social safety net scale-up the programme.”
She added, “This project is also described as refurbishment and procurement of Harris RF 578 100 military communications equipment in the sum of N8.6 billion.
“The Honourable Minister of Defence wrote to his Excellency Mr President, requesting the immediate release of $1.36 3m, and N158.92 8m for the implementation of phase one of this project.
“The Honourable Minister of Defence also requested the sum of $2.27 8m and N11.9 4 billion to implement phases two and three of the project, all of which Mr President graciously approved and was conveyed to us.”
Ahmed added, “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, etc, were all captured before the presentation by Mr President.
“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency.
“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.
“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinisation of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all, a realisation of which made the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6 billion in his Ministry’s budget during an interface with Senate Committee on Defence,” she said.
Ahmed noted that it was evident that there were internal coordination issues between the project of implementation units in some ministries, departments and agencies, with their CEOs and their accounting officers of the implementing ministry.
She stressed, “And also there’s also a gap of coordination even with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. We will be taking necessary measures to make sure that going forward these gaps are addressed on our site and also work with the ministers to make sure that the gaps that they have between the Project Implementation units on the CEOs are also bridged.
“Specifically for multilateral bilateral funded projects, the PIUs are domiciled in the designated implementing MDS and the lenders will not deal with any other agency but that beneficiary agency including the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on procurements and as well as on several other aspects of the project implementation.”
Satisfied by her submission, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), said the clarifications made by the Minister were well understood by all the committee members and commended her for ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.
Earlier at an interface with the Senate Ad-hoc committee on uneven disbursement of a N500 billion Development fund by the Development Bank of Nigeria, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, failed to supply the committee with verifiable evidence of beneficiaries.
She said about 9.8 million pupils nationwide are already benefiting from the school feeding programme at the rate of N100 per meal, aside from beneficiaries of other clusters of the programme.
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But the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sani Musa and other members like Ayo Akinyekure, Uche Ekwunife, Mathew Urhoghide, etc, told the Minister that her presentation and that of the Coordinator of the program, Dr Umar Bindir, were beautiful on paper but lacked substance.
The implementation of the program according to them is a nullity.
Consequently, the Committee directed her to furnish it with the names of beneficiaries of different clusters of the program, their contact address, and telephone numbers on the basis of states, local governments and wards within the week.
NLC Protests: CBN To Flood Banks With Old Naira Notes
The Central Bank of Nigeria has finally concluded plans to release all N1,000, N500 and N200 notes in its custody to Deposit Money Banks.
This decision is expected to end months of hardships and pains Nigerians have been going through following a controversial CBN naira redesign policy that has caused a severe shortage of old and new naira notes across the country.
The CBN’s latest decision came several weeks after the Supreme Court ordered that old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes should remain legal tender until December 31, 2023.
On Wednesday night, top officials of the CBN and commercial banks confirmed to The PUNCH that the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had directed DMBs to begin the disbursement of old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to members of the public effective Thursday (today).
According to him, the CBN will also start releasing old notes to commercial banks from Thursday.
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According to The PUNCH, Emefiele met with the chief executive officers of DMBs on Wednesday evening where he told them that the central bank would start releasing all old notes in its custody to commercial banks effective Thursday (today).
Sources at the meeting said the CBN would also be cancelling all the controversial cash withdrawal limits it put in place in recent months.
Also, it was learnt the CBN would start by releasing crisp old notes to DMBS after which the ones deposited by commercial banks will also be released.
Furthermore, the CBN stated at the meeting that bank customers would no longer be required to generate any code before depositing their old notes.
One of the bank CEOs at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The CBN governor met with bank CEOs this evening virtually. It was a short meeting that lasted for just about 15 minutes. The governor said all old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes will be released to commercial banks beginning from Thursday. The CBN will start with crisp old notes after which the ones deposited by DMBs will be returned. The plan is to flood the economy with cash and ameliorate the challenges Nigerians have been passing through.“
Top bank chief
The top bank chief added, “Also, the CBN will be cancelling cash withdrawal limits it put in place recently. This means that individuals can now withdraw up to N500,000 across the counter while corporate bodies can do N5m. The CBN is expected to release a circular to this effect later tonight or tomorrow morning (today). But effectively, things should be back to normal as far the cashless policy is concerned.”
Further findings by The PUNCH confirmed the CBN would begin to release the old notes into circulation by Thursday. It was also gathered that banks would begin to pay their customers the old notes immediately to ensure the cash circulate across the country.
According to reliable sources in the CBN, banks have been also been directed to report to the old offices to collect the old naira notes they deposited with the apex bank.
They noted that before the end of the week, the country would be awash with naira notes.
Meanwhile, a top source close to the CBN said the apex bank took the decision to avert the planned picketing of the CBN offices nationwide by supporters and leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
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Earlier, The PUCH had gathered that the NLC would on Wednesday picket the CBN headquarters and state offices in protest against the lingering naira crisis and fuel scarcity in the country.
The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, who disclosed this at a press conference on Wednesday, lamented that people’s hardships over the naira crisis had worsened.
The union had penultimate Monday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to address the scarcity of naira notes and fuel which had compounded the hardships being faced by Nigerians.
Though the CBN said then that it had complied with the Supreme Court judgment which directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes should remain legal tender till December 31, banks have continued to ration the amount of cash issued to customers, indicating that they have not received cash supplies from the apex bank.
The three states of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara which sued the Federal Government over the naira redesign policy had threatened to file contempt charges against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN and the CBN governor, Emefiele for not fully complying with the Supreme Court judgment.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, Ajaero said the planned picketing of CBN offices became imperative following the apex bank’s failure to comply with the one-week ultimatum given to it to make cash available for Nigerians.
Ajaero explained that the union took the decision when it noticed that the situation appeared to be getting worse despite the Supreme Court order allowing the old N500 and N1000 notes to circulate with the new notes till December 31.
He directed all NLC’s affiliate unions and their state councils to begin mobilisation on Friday for the nationwide mass action, saying the Federal Government and the CBN have not shown any commitment to address the situation.
Giving an update about the ultimatum at the briefing which was held at Labour House, Ajaero said workers could no longer access cash to pay fares to their respective workplaces or buy food for their families.
He said, “Last week at the end of our CWC (Central Working Committee) meeting, we gave a one-week ultimatum for the Federal Government to address immediately, among other issues, the issue of cash crunch that was caused by the policy. As of this morning when the CWC met again to review the situation, we discovered that not much improvement has been made.
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“The situation is still almost the same. People are still buying our currency with our currencies. People no longer have access to the currency and the government seems to be very adamant about this. No moves have been made to reduce the suffering of Nigerians.
“Consequently, the CWC-in-session resolved to go into the process of actualising the one-week notice. From Friday, there will be a mobilisation of all state councils through a NEC meeting. All unions have already been directed to mobilise all their organs and their branches.
“By Wednesday, next week, all Central Bank of Nigeria offices nationwide will be picketed. All central banks from the CBN headquarters will be shut till further notice. Workers are directed to stay at home and join in the picketing exercise.
“We call on Nigerians to understand the circumstances we are operating in. People will be telling you about the political situation. The political situation is self-inflicted and the economic situation is worse than the political situation because people cannot eat.”
The labour leader described the proposed demonstration as “total”, saying the workers have been pushed to the wall.
He added, “Workers can no longer go to the office and nothing is happening. So, we have been pushed to the wall having given one week (ultimatum) and we thought they could address the situation which is not addressed.
“We have decided to take our destiny into our hands. So, comrades, the mobilisation commences immediately and when we talk of action from Wednesday, it’s total; until further notice.’’
The labour leader explained that the lingering fuel scarcity and cash crunch were important issues for the NLC as they affected every Nigerian.
The Secretary-General of the National Union of Aviation Transport Employees, Ocheme Abah disclosed that the unions would comply with the NLC’s directive on the picketing action.
Responding to inquiries from The PUNCH, he said,” Yes, of course, we will comply as NLC directed. Yes, all the unions in all airports.
Meanwhile, the Acting Director of Corporate Communications at CBN, Mr Isa Abdulmumin, said he could not immediately comment on whether the CBN would be releasing the old notes to commercial banks.
He said the apex bank would communicate its position on the matter on Thursday.
Naira Appreciates At Investors, Exporters Window
The Naira on Wednesday appreciated against the dollar at the Investors’ and Exporters’ window, exchanging at N461.50.
The rate represented an increase of 0.11 per cent, compared to the N462 for which it exchanged to the dollar on Tuesday.
The open indicative rate closed at N461.59 to the dollar on Wednesday.
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An exchange rate of N544.50 to the dollar was the highest rate recorded within the day’s trading before it settled at N461.50.
The Naira sold for as low as N460 to the dollar within the day’s trading.
A total of US$ 431.77 million was traded at the official Investors’ and Exporters’ window.
JUST IN: CBN Raises Interest Rate To 18%
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria has voted to increase the benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 18. per cent, The PUNCH reports.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this while reading the communiqué of the second MPC meeting of the year on Tuesday.
Addressing journalists at the end of the two-day meeting in Abuja, Mr Emefiele, said the committee voted to keep the asymmetric corridor at +100 and -500 basis points around the MPR.
Analysts in the country had predicted the Central Bank of Nigeria and the MPC may not raise the lending rates at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee.
However, the governor stated the slight increase is to mitigate the effect of inflation and other economic issues.
The MPR has been on the rise since April 2022, when it was 11.50 per cent.
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The rate impacts lending and inflation rates, and, when jacked up, consequently affects upward movement of prices of goods and services.
He said, The MPC committee voted to raise the MPR by 50 basis point to 18 per cent, retain asymmetric corridor at +100 and -500 basis points around the MPR.”
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