Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, says President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the engagement of 774,000 Nigerians on Special Public Works programme in the country to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahmed disclosed this at a press conference on fiscal stimulus measures in response to COVID-19 pandemic and oil prices fiscal shock, on Monday in Abuja.
She explained that 1, 000 people were expected to be recruited from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
According to her, the sum of N60 billion for allowances and operational cost has been earmarked from the COVID-19 crisis intervention fund for the initiative.
She disclosed that President Buhari had previously approved a pilot special public works programme in eight states to be implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
She added that Buhari had now approved that this programme be extended to all 36 States and the FCT from October to December 2020 and the selected time-frame was to ensure that it was implemented after the planting season.
“The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning is also evaluating how best to extend the Special Public Works Programme, to provide modest stipends for itinerant workers to undertake Roads Rehabilitation and Social Housing Construction.
Ahmed said: “And also Urban and Rural Sanitation, Health Extension and other critical services. This intervention will be undertaken in conjunction with the key federal ministries responsible for Agriculture, Environment, Health and Infrastructure, as well as the states, to financially empower individuals who lose their jobs due to the economic crisis.
“Mr. President has approved the establishment of a-N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund. The establishment of the Fund will involve drawing much-needed cash resources from various Special Funds and Accounts, in consultation with and with the approval of the National Assembly.
“The N500 billion is proposed to be utilized to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and approved by Mr. President.
“This will help to finance the Federal Government’s Interventions to support states in improving healthcare facilities, finance the creation of a Special Public Works programme and Fund any additional interventions that may be approved by Mr. President”.
The minister noted that although similar challenges were experienced in 2008/2009 as well as in 2015/2016, Nigeria had considerably lower fiscal buffers now than in previous economic downturns.
According to her, the decline in international oil prices and domestic production may be magnified if a severe outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, despite ongoing efforts to curtail the spread of the pandemic through compulsory lockdown of Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the FCT.
The minister said to directly address these health and economic challenges, the president approved the Fiscal Stimulus Package among others as part of an Integrated Policy Framework to ensure that Nigeria’s healthcare system, fiscal position and economy were sufficiently supported to weather these shocks.
FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it received the highest consumer related complaints from the electricity sector in 2020.
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Babatunde Irukera (pictured), chief executive officer of FCCPC, said the banking and telecommunication sectors ranked second and third respectively on the complaints chart.
He added that the aviation sector was ranked fourth.
“Our complaints resolution team is still a very small team of people and they are dealing with thousands of complaints,” Irukera said.
“We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints but the real game changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.
“The person who has the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors and that is one person. If you multiply it by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.
“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training, leveraging technology, the more we leverage technology, the more efficiently we can do our work.”
The commission was established by the 2018 Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, facilitate access by all citizens to safe products, and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said on Wednesday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the ministry of information and culture for the renovation of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.
He spoke at the end the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The federal government, on July 12, 2020, handed over the national theatre to CBN and the bankers’ committee to signify the kick-start of the renovation process.
“This is a landmark approval because, it has paved the way for investment in the creative industry as part of the resolve of this government to create at least one million jobs in the next three years in the creative industry,” Mohammed said.
“The CBN and banker’s committee are willing to invest N21.894 billion to renovate, refurbish and commercialization (run it profitably) of the national theatre complex. The MoU has a life span of 21 years after which it will revert back to government.”
The minister assured that no job will be lost after the national theatre is renovated, adding that the “brand new national theatre, an event centre” will instead create more jobs.
Asides from this, FEC approved about N9.43 billion to complete the digital switch over (DSO) in broadcasting; N8.98 billion for a new national ICT park in the federal capital territory (FCT) to coordinate public and private ICT hubs in Nigeria.
The council also approved a new national policy on aging which would take care of the needs of the aged people across Nigeria; approved the ministry of water resources memo to construct Damaturu water supply project in Yobe state worth N8.43 billion.
Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned that debt service is Nigeria’s greatest risk, even as he urged the federal government to take steps to increase tax revenue in the face of dwindling oil income.
The Director of Communications and Liaison of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, stated that he spoke virtually at the recently held First Annual National Tax Dialogue .
Dr. Adesina was quoted as saying that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy shrank “by 3% in 2020 on account of falling oil prices and the effects of the lockdowns on economic activities,” adding, “with shrinkage in oil revenues, debt service payments pose the greatest risk to Nigeria.”
He stressed further that for Nigeria to overcome the pandemic, “taxes must form a significant percentage of government revenue. Digitalization of tax collection and tax administration is critical to ensure greater transparency of the tax system, widening of the tax base, while mitigating compliance risks and encouraging voluntary tax compliance.”
Tax experts and stakeholders at the event called for the automation of tax collection by the FIRS through data and intelligence in order to ease tax collection, as well as, improve revenue.
Executive Secretary, African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Mr. Logan Wort, harped on the place of technology in generating revenue for the country in a post-Covid economy.
Mr. Wort, who joined the dialogue virtually from South Africa, stated, “Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) is expected to contribute at least 75% to 90% on average per country” in the post-Covid era, adding that Nigeria and other African countries should note, “improved tax revenue will have to take prime position” in the scheme of things.
He urged Nigeria to pay serious attention to e-commerce and the digital economy sector where big, trans-national digital conglomerates like Google, Netflix and Uber operate and make huge, tax-free profits as a possible way of increasing tax revenue generation.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana in e-commerce taxation, projected to fetch Ghana $450 million in annual tax revenue.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was chairman of the Dialogue, was quoted as lauding the FIRS “for its performance in the 2020 fiscal year, despite operating in the most challenging period. The Service not only collected N4.9 trillion in taxes, achieving 98% of its target; only 30.6% of this was attributed to Petroleum Profits Tax, from what used to be over 50%”.
He urged participants to, “interrogate how Nigeria can further deepen the use of technology to improve tax compliance nationally and across sub-nationals.”