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Why FG Chose N800/Dollar Exchange Rate For 2024 Budget – Minister

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The Federal Government, on Thursday, said it settled for N800 to dollar exchange rate in the 2024 Appropriation Act after considering the average performance of the naira.

It said it avoided basing the foreign exchange benchmark in the 2024 budget on a spot rate, to avoid eventualities and uncertainties.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu, who spoke with State House correspondents explained that the FG had earlier chosen the projected exchange rate of N750 to the dollar in the 2024 budget which the National Assembly raised to N800 to the dollar,

Bagudu said, “For budgeting purposes, you don’t use the spot rate of anything. Oil prices can go to 120 today, maybe there is a shortage, or maybe there is a collision between two ships that will block a channel.

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“It would be foolish to use that as a reference price, I should take a period maybe six months to one year and say let me observe this average behaviour, so you don’t use spot prices. So even with the exchange rate, it is like that.”

He explained further, “Much as we are hoping that it would soon come below, but at the time you are doing the budget, you will take a view on average performance. And that’s what we took.

“We took an average performance of N750 on the executive side and we proposed it to the National Assembly.”

The minister also said that Tinubu regarded the National Assembly’s decision to raise the rate further considering his respect for institutions and democracy.

READ ALSO: Hope Rises For FG’s N26trn Budget As Oil Price Jumps To $81.11

“So, he respected democracy that even though it was higher than what he submitted, but the institution that says so has the authority to say so and even at the time they say 100 because it’s not an official rate it’s tidal because, with the deregulated market, you no longer have an official rate, it is much lower than even the way the markets are bidding,” the minister said.

The minister noted that the FG is positive that its current measures would soon yield a significant increase in the supply of foreign exchange in the economy.

Bagudu also spoke on the level of borrowing to fund the deficit in the 2024 budget, saying there is a significant difference between 2024 borrowing compared to last year’s.

“In 2023, the budget anticipated a borrowing of close to N14tn. This year’s budget is N9.1 trillion. So we think that is significant.

“Because it’s 2023 took us to about 6.11 per cent of our GDP as borrowing. This one is 3.8 per cent. So the quantum had decreased,” Bagudu added.

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The former Kebbi State Governor said the FG will operate strictly within the dictates of fiscal responsibility law in the new year, which provides for the Central Bank of Nigeria to lend to the government through its Ways and Means window, only 5 per cent of the total budget.

He explained, “We will not go outside the law and borrow from ways and means, what is outside the law. So the fiscal responsibility law says, that every year, the central bank can lend the government up to 5 per cent of its budget for the year.

“So if you go out of that, you’re going outside the lawful limit, and that’s what the minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy was very clear we are not going to do. We are not going to resort to borrowing outside the law.

“And secondly, as much as possible, we will even borrow away from the central bank because sometimes it’s even cheaper to borrow. So, those are the two elements. So the quantum has decreased, then we will go by the book.”

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Terrorism: Court Frees Rivers APC Chieftain After Two Years

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A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has discharged and acquitted a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Deputy Chairman of Youth Movement in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief Fubara Ohaka, of charges filed against him by the Federal government.

Ohaka had been standing trial on six counts of alleged involvement in illegal oil bunkering, terrorism, dealing in illegal refining products without a licence, and conspiracy among other charges preferred against him since 2022 by the Federal government through the Department of State Services.

Delivering judgment in the matter, the trial judge, Justice Stephen Dalyop-Pam, held that the Federal Government failed to provide evidence to back its claims, hence failing to prove its allegations against the defendant.

READ ALSO: Rivers Eders Drag Tinubu, Others To Court Over Peace Agreement

Our correspondent reports that Justice Dalyop-Pam agreed on no-case submission by the counsel for the defendant and thereby discharged and acquitted him.

Speaking to newsmen outside the courtroom, Ohaka expressed happiness that he has been vindicated, saying the judgment has put shame on the faces of all those who conspired to tarnish his image.

He said, “I’m happy that the judiciary has vindicated me today. I told the world that I never had any idea of the allegations against me, I am not a bunker, I have never sponsored any person to do bunkering,

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“Thanks to the judiciary who in its wisdom have reached to the root of the matter and proven to be the last hope of the common man.

“I want to thank those who stood by me in the time of trial, I’m happy that I never disappeared from them when I was told I was innocent of the allegations against me.

“Let me also use this medium to advise government agencies to always carry out proper investigation before engaging in legal battles, because if they had I would not have spent the number of months I spent in detention before the legal action that turned out in my favour today.”

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NLC Insists On Planned Protest, Knocks DSS

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The Nigeria Labour Congress has insisted that the planned protests against the prevailing economic situation in the country will hold contrary to the warning issued by the Department of State Services to shelve its protests.

The organised labour, on Monday, began mobilising its members for a nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28 over the cost of living crisis in the country.

The Federal Government’s failure to fulfil its promises after the 14-day ultimatum by Labour, according to sources, will be met with a two-day nationwide protest already slated for February 27 and 28.

Reacting to the planned protests in a statement on Wednesday, the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, urged the union to shelve the plan in the interest of peace and public order.

READ ALSO: Economic Hardship: CSO Gives FG Ultimatum, Threatens Nationwide Protest

The Secret Service urged the union to pursue dialogue and negotiation rather than engage in conduct that could heighten tensions.

However, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in a statement he personally signed on Wednesday evening, noted that the protests will still hold and questioned why the DSS had yet to execute the arrest of those planning to disrupt the protests.

We are concerned by the unsolicited advice of the Department of State Security to shelve our planned protest against the unprecedented high cost of living despite the indescribable suffering in the land, spiralling inflation, deepening poverty and the Naira at an exchange rate of N1,900 to the US Dollar.

“According to the Service, the planned protest should be shelved ‘in the interest of peace and public order’, pre-supposing that the action is intended to be violent and disruptive even when we have a history of peaceful protests’.

“More worrying is the new role the Service has assigned to itself, the chief spokesperson of the government.

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“We are equally worried that although the “Service is aware that some elements are planning to use the opportunity of the protest to foment crisis and by extension, widespread violence and yet have not executed the arrest of these elements,” the NLC president said.

Ajaero noted that the NLC will not compromise the sovereignty or security of the country while assuring that the protests would be peaceful.

We are equally intrigued by the innuendos of the Service, their philosophy of “peace” and wild allegations and we want to reassure them that no one loves this country more than us and on our honour, we would never do anything that will compromise its sovereignty or security.

“Having said this, we would not have ourselves blackmailed or lied against by the Service. Our protest is a peaceful one against the unpardonable cost of living of which the unserviced personnel of the Service are also victims.

“We cannot fold our hands and pretend all is well. That will be a grievous conspiracy that history will not forgive,” he said.

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VIDEO: Give Tinubu Time To Get Things Done, Gowon Begs Nigerians

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A former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), has urged Nigerians to exercise patience with President Bola Tinubu’s administration, emphasizing that it’s premature to anticipate flawless outcomes at this stage.

Gowon spoke in an interview with State House correspondents after a meeting he had with Tinubu on Wednesday.

The former Head of State, who noted that he was visiting Tinubu for the first time after the latter’s inauguration, disclosed that discussions revolved around matters concerning peace and security within the West African sub-region.

Responding to inquiries about his advice to the President regarding the prevailing national circumstances, Gowon acknowledged the existing challenges but stressed that it’s too early to anticipate perfection.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: Tinubu In Talks with Gowon At Aso Rock Villa

He said, “I was telling him that there’s no Nigerian leader that can get there, that will not get all of these, all that is being said about him. But certainly, there is no doubt about all that one has heard and seen from various media. I think the government is trying its best to deal with the various problems of the country.

“But with Nigerians, don’t worry, you will get criticised but people who get there know better than you know. I think all one can say to Nigerians is that they have to give the President time to get things done and it is too early to sort of say a perfect result will be achieved. That is my opinion.

“At least, if I remembered, I was told that I was too slow, fighting the war and that probably Nigeria would not make it and we should seek for discussion. Well, did we do it or not? They probably did not know the problem there on the ground there.”

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