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COVID-19: Buhari Approves Withdrawal Of $150m From Sovereign Wealth Fund

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President Muhamadu Buhari has approved the withdrawal of $150 million from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for distribution to the three tiers of government.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this on Monday, in Abuja during a media briefing on the fiscal policy measures to tackle the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

She said the amount would be withdrawn from the stabilisation fund component of the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

The fund is currently being managed by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, The PUNCH reports.

Zainab said the need to withdraw the amount was to cushion the negative impact of the drop in revenue on the federation account.

She said, for instance, that since January, revenue inflow into the account has been on a decline – a situation that has affected the amount distributed to the three tiers of government by the Federation Account Allocation Committee.

The finance minister also said the government would be approaching international finance institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank among others to seek an additional fund to tackle the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria.

Buhari had last month set up a Special Ministerial Task Force to seek ways and advise on the general economic outlook, stimulus plans, and packages to save the Nigerian economy.

The task force headed by Ahmed is made up of the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba; Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emiefele, and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari.

The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the international oil price fall had led to an urgent call by many countries to find ways to keep their different economies from recession.

The coronavirus pandemic had led to unprecedented disruptions to global supply chains, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, turmoil in global stock and financial markets, lockdown of large swaths movements of persons in many countries among others.

These outcomes have had severe consequences on households’ livelihoods and business activities, resulting from a drop in global demand, declined consumer confidence and slowdown in production.

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Labour Warns FG Against Electricity Tariff Hike 

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The Nigeria Labour Congress faulted plans to allegedly sell the Transmission Company of Nigeria, saying it will lead to an increase in electricity tariff.

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this in a statement titled, “This Kite will not Fly’’ on Friday.

Wabba explained that instead of allegedly planning to sell the transmission company, FG should focus on improving the electricity supply.

He described the attempt to hand over the TCN to a few ‘privileged’ Nigerians as self-serving, obtuse, odious, morally reprehensible and criminal.

The NLC president said, “The TCN is a strategic economic asset of immense national security implications. This is because the TCN traverses all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“It will be wrong that our country will be deliberately exposed to an avoidable vulnerability and thus, provide an opportunity to others to restrain the Nigerian state.

“We apprehend that the planned sale of the TCN is only an attempt to further confound the people and concurrently raise electricity tariff. Unfortunately, this time around, Nigerians have had enough.

“The government cannot promise improved power supply to consumers by the planned sale of TCN. The under-the-table scheming as transparent privatisation cannot pass muster.

“It is an unsavoury narrative for our country, that even the privatised assets, which have survived the rapacity of the new owners, have been turned into unrealisable collaterals for unpayable loans.

“This constitutes a bone stuck in the throat of financial institutions and sundry creditors.”

Wabba explained that the plan would “fundamentally weaken the security of the nation and above all, deprive the people of their age-old investments in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”.

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FG To Consider Death Penalty For Rail Vandals – Amaechi

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The federal government says it may consider a death penalty for vandals of critical railway equipment in the country.

Rotimi Ameachi, minister of transportation, stated this on Monday, during a town hall meeting on “protecting public infrastructure” in Abuja.

On May 8, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the arrest of two persons suspected of vandalising rail tracks along the Kaduna-Zaria rail line.

Few days later, suspected vandals were arrested for destroying and carting away tracks and rail rods laid on a section of the Warri-Itakpe rail line.

On May 16, the Kaduna state police command said it arrested five suspected rail-trail vandals at Dalle Village of Jema’a LGA and recovered two trucks loaded with locomotive railway sleepers.

After the Warri-Itakpe incident, the senate asked the federal government and security agencies to ensure that those caught vandalising rail lines across Nigeria are given maximum punishment without a fine.

”I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost,” Ameachi said at the town hall meeting.

“Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed, what happens? It will derail.

“If it derails, can you quantify how many passengers that would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money?

”Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people, if an accident happens people will die, so we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but consequences should be death.”

The minister also said track vandalism is carried out in collaboration with foreign partners.

”In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those tracks from them, went to court and found them guilty and fined them N200, 000. So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough,” he added.

“Lagos and the Western District recorded one, North Western 31, Northern District 10, North Eastern 43, Eastern 36 and North Central 50 incidents of vandalism. Abuja-Kaduna has 13, Warri-Itakpe 2 and Lagos -Ibadan nill.”

Amaechi, who frowned at traders selling items on railway tracks, especially in Port Harcourt and Lagos, advised individuals engaging in the practice to desist or face the penalties.

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