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Reps Probe N3.45bn Abandoned Solar Power Project

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday unveiled plans to investigate the N3.45 billion approved for Solar Powered Grid Project in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2013.

The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Honourable Aniekan Umanah who called for the intervention of the House.

In his lead debate, Umanah stressed the need for Federal Ministry of Power to account for the roll out an Off Grid Renewable Solar Energy Project code named Operation Light up Rural Nigeria (OLRN) with a budget of N3.446 billion for four years, from 2013 to 2016.

According to him, the project was targeted at four communities of Durumi-Mpape, Waru, Shape in the FCT as pilot scheme with plans to expand the scope later to other states of the federation.

“The House observes that with the coming of the present administration in 2015, the solar power project was rechristened Renewable Energy (Solar) Micro Utility (REMU) by the then Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and was expanded to provide additional 18 mini grids with three in each geopolitical zone.

“The House is aware that the sum of N1.4 billion was released in 2014 to fund the pilot projects, where N40.6 billion was earmarked for periodic maintenance in 2015, and another N40.1 billion for maintenance of each of the 18 grids.

“The House is also aware that Messrs Schneider Electric Nigeria Ltd was awarded the Durumi grid in the sum of N228.4 million in 2014; Mesers Lordzetech got Waru grid for N228.4 million and also won Shape grid, all in the FCT for N218.9 million, according to records at the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

“The House is further aware that the sum of N382.6 million was fully released in 2015 to fund the 18 mini grids, while another N305.3 million meant to construct a grid in Pakau, Kaduna State was also fully released.

“The House is worried that the sum of N625.5 million has been expended on OLRN alone, while N687.9 million has also gone into funding REMU as at 2017 according to budget records.

EFCC re-arraigns ex-Lagos speaker, Ikuforiji for allegedly laundering…
“The House is also concerned that despite the huge investments on the projects, most of them were found, shortly after their commissioning in 2014 not to have been properly implemented while others were outrightly abandoned till date with some of the equipment already vandalised.

“The House is further concerned that the overall intention of government to power up the rural areas in order to create jobs and assist in the springing up of small businesses for the local populace, thereby bringing development closer to the people and checkmating rural-urban migration has been defeated by the inefficient handling of the projects since inception,” he noted.

To this end, the House mandated its Committee on Power to investigate the abandonment of the projects by the Federal Ministry of Power since 2018 despite the huge amounts of money expended and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

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FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020

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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.

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FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b

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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.

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Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria

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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.”

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