FG Okays Finance Bill 2020, Insists Tax Won’t Be Raised [LEADERSHIP]

The federal government has approved Finance Bill 2020 designed to engender incremental changes in the nation’s tax laws and support the 2021 fiscal year.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that Value Added Taxes (VAT) will not be increased.

The minister further explained that the new bill seeks to make incremental changes to tax laws relating to Customs and Excise as well as other fiscal laws to support the implementation of the annual budget.

She said, “When the President presented the 2021 budget to the parliament, he did direct that the 2020 Finance Bill will also follow to support the budget proposals.”

She said the government was working on implementing current fiscal reforms in line with the Multi-year Medium Term framework and over time, even as she expressed hope that the Finance Bill will reform the fiscal space on an incremental basis.

She said, “So, this Finance Bill for 2020 was developed as a result of a very large multi-stakeholder effort under Fiscal Policy Reform Committee that has several ministries, departments and agencies as members as well as the private sector, experienced tax practitioners and academics.

“During the process, we received a lot of suggestions from different stakeholders but we had to limit what we could take because we are by three principles – to adopt appropriate counter fiscal measures to manage the economic slowdown, incrementally reforming the fiscal incentive policies of government and ensuring closer coordination between the monetary trade as well as fiscal authorities.

“A few of the provisions of the 2020 Finance Bill: the broad principle is to consider how we will have adequate macroeconomic strategies to attract investment, to be able to grow the economy on a sustainable basis but also to create jobs as the immediate fiscal strategies to put in place accelerate domestic revenue mobilization in response to COVID-19 pandemic and the recent decline in the economy.

“In producing this bill, what we were inadvertently doing was amending provisions in 13 different taxes which include the Capital Gains Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (IIDITRA), Personal Income Tax Act (PITA), Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, Customs & Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act, Value Added Tax Act (VATA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Public Procurement Act.”

Ahmed listed some highlights of these provisions to include: “amendments that we have had to make to provide incremental changes to tax laws”.

She said, “These amendments include providing fiscal relief for corporate tax payers, for instance by reducing the applicable minimum tax rate for two consecutive years.

“These reforms will commence and will also be closely followed by the cessation rules for small businesses as well as providing incentive for mass transits by reducing import duties and the levies for large tractors, buses and other motor vehicles. The reason for us is to reduce the cost of transportation which is a major driver of inflation especially food production.

 

Umahi’s Defection Heightens Agitation For Igbo Presidency [LEADERSHIP]

The South-East geopolitical zone is presently on the spotlight with the defection of Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a development that has intensified agitation for Igbo presidency in 2023.

While the Progressive Governors’ Forum are presently converging today in Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State, for the formal declaration of the former Peoples Democratic Party governor as APC member, top political leaders, particularly from the South-East, have been reacting to Umahi’s defection, insisting that the ‘Igbo Presidency’ is not negotiable.

Governor Umahi who is also the chairman of the South-East PDP governors on Tuesday said he defected to the ruling APC because the PDP has not being fair to the zone since inception in 1999.

He also said his decision to defect should be seen as sacrificial and not for any personal gain.

But the Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Abia South at the National Assembly, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while dismissing the argument proffered by the governor stressed that Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is not negotiable come 2023.

He also vowed to remain in the Vanguard for the agitation of Justice, equity and fairness for the South-East in national affairs despite all odds.

He argued that giving up the agitation to accord the zone equal opportunities with other parts of the country would deepen their already existing pitiable condition and thus subject her people to second class citizens.

The Senator who stated this after being presented with a legacy merit Award as the “most outstanding performing senator in the Southeast 2020” by the NUJ, Imo state council insisted that the quest for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 was non- negotiable.

Represented by his Aide, Chief Chijioke Ukoh, the senator however enjoined the Igbo not to relent but to remain firm, resolute and undaunted in the face of legions of challenges, assuring that light would definitely appear at the end of the tunnel one day.

According to him, “Igbo president of Nigeria of  extraction come 2023 is not negotiable and the time has come for the Igbos to close rank,  work as united force in collaboration with other geo-political zones of the country, so as to realize this ambition.”

The Minority Leader of the Senate, on another occasion, said the PDP was not in any way disturbed with the exit of Governor  Umahi.

In a statement issued by his media adviser, Uchenna Awom, in Abuja, Senator Abaribe said the party had before now adverted her mind to the fact that, Governor Umahi was already in his new party, the APC in spirit before his formal announcement on Tuesday.

He said while the PDP is unfazed and will surely not be affected negatively or its membership eroded, the fortunes of APC will not be enhanced by Umahi joining of the party.

He also faulted Umahi’s reasons of injustice and lack of fairness as the reason he left the party, saying that it is all glaring with clear indices that the PDP has been very fair to the South East in all its dealings since inception.

“It is not true and very unfortunate for the governor to characterise the PDP in such light. Examples are legion, which shows that our dear party has reciprocated severally the support of the South East, meaning that the party is not taking the support of Ndi-Igbo for granted. It is inconceivable to perceive the position of Presidential photographer, which Ndi-Igbo currently occupies in the villa as fairness,” Abaribe said.

Nonetheless, Senator Abaribe said Governor Umahi is well within his right as an individual to change position, but such in this circumstance must be hinged on very altruistic reasons other than allegations of injustice and unfair treatment of the South East by the PDP.

Also reacting to the issue of Igbo presidency in 2023, former governor of Imo State and Senator representing Imo West senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, said the Igbos alone cannot produce the president of the country.

Okorocha spoke when eminent Igbos, operating under the aegis of Movement for the Actualization of Nigeria President of Igbo Extraction (MANPIE) visited him at his Owerri residence to urge him to run for the office of President in 2023 and to also inform him that they had adopted him as a consensus candidate.

The former governor remarked that the Igbos need the supports of the rest of Nigerians to realise their dream or aspiration of seeing an Igbo man, woman elected the president of the country in 2023.

Okorocha stated that although he had run for the presidency on two occasions before 2015, he ran that of 2015 on the platform of APC to send out a message that the Igbos are major stakeholders in the new party, and that he achieved that goal, to a very large extent.

He explained that he has every reason to believe in the nation called Nigeria because he was born an Igbo man, brought up in the North and empowered economically by the West.

The former governor stated: “It is true that Igbos are highly misunderstood, but allow me to say that, Igbos are the most peaceful Nigerians and wherever you find them, they are building bridges of peace and economic developments. The Igbos are the only people that have invested more outside, than what they had invested in their own land.”

 

35 States Get World Bank’s N66.5bn COVID-19 Grant [LEADERSHIP]

The federal government yesterday said it has disbursed the sum of N66.5 billion ($175 million) to eligible states of the federation on the basis of the amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 budget results achievement.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this in a statement issued by the ministry’s director of Press, Mr Hassan Dodo, in Abuja, explained that the disbursement followed compliance with the amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget by 35 eligible states in the country.

The programme is wholly financed with a loan amount of $750million from the International Development Association (IDA), a member of the World Bank Group.

Each State received the total sum of N1.9billion equivalent of $5million.

According to the minister, the disbursement is under the performance-based grant component of the World Bank-assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme-for-results.

Rivers State is the only one that missed out on the grant due to what the federal government described as its inability to meet the eligibility criteria which required the state to have passed and published online on a state’s website by July 31,2020 credible, fiscally responsible COVID-19 responsive amended 2020 budgets duly approved by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the state governor.

According to Ahmed, the amended 2020 state budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.

The statement reads in part: “It must also significantly lower the gross statutory revenue projections – consistent with the revised medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) and federal government’s budget; reduced non-essential overhead and capital expenditures”.

“The budget must be tagged and found to have allocated at least 10 percent of the total expenditure of the amended budget for COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery programs; and identified credible sources to fully finance the budget deficit to avoid accumulation of arrears”.

Hajiya Ahmed stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic and fiscal shocks have put significant pressure on States’ fiscal resources and undermined the reality and credibility of the States’ original 2020 Annual Budgets.

She noted that a transparent, accountable and sustainable state-level fiscal/budget framework is a pre-requisite for a robust COVID-19 response, enabling necessary health, social protection and livelihood interventions during the COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery phases.

The minister expressed optimism that the achievement of results by the 35 out of 36 states would further strengthen the national fiscal response to COVID-19 and align efforts at both the federal and state-levels.

She noted that the World Bank-assisted SFTAS Programme is principally meant to strengthen fiscal management at the state level, so as to ensure effective mobilisation and utilisation of financial resources to the benefit of the citizens in a transparent, accountable and sustainable manner, thereby reducing fiscal risks and encouraging a common set of fiscal behaviours.

Ahmed observed that the SFTAS programme could not have come at a better time, given the dwindling government revenue occasioned by oil price volatility coupled with the current impact of COVID-19 which has further intensified the need for improved practices in fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability as enunciated in the SFTAS ideals.

It would be recalled that the federal government had earlier in April, 2020 disbursed the total sum of N43, 416,000,000 billion ($120.6 million) to the qualified 24 States, based on their performance under the same programme.

 

Bandits demand N100m for six ASPs in Katsina kidnappers’ den [PUNCH]

The bandits holding six Assistant Superintendents of Police captive in Katsina State for over one week are demanding N100m ransom for their release.

The PUNCH gathered that the ASPs were among the nine who were just promoted to their current rank. They were attached to the Mobile Police Squadron 6, Maiduguri, Borno State.

Findings on Wednesday indicated that they were demobilised from the riot unit and eight of them were on their way to the Zamfara State Police Command on transfer when they were ambushed in the Dogondaji area of Katsina State and taken into the forest.

A reliable police source explained that the nine ASPs were planning to go to Zamfara State together but one of them changed his mind at the last minute while the others embarked on the trip in a commercial bus.

On getting to Kano, the driver was said to have asked them to join another vehicle as his bus had developed a fault.

The source said, “When they were released to go to Zamfara, they scheduled a day for the trip from Maiduguri, but one of them said he wasn’t comfortable with the trip and declined to join them. He said he had something to do and promised to join them in Zamfara later.

“So, the eight others left, but on getting to Kano, the driver said he couldn’t continue the journey to Zamfara, because his vehicle had developed a fault. They joined another vehicle and on their way around Dongodaji in Katsina State, the bandits accosted and kidnapped them.

“While being taken away, two of them escaped and one of them was shot in the leg though he didn’t die. He found himself at a village and the villagers took him to a police station and he was taken to a hospital. The other six officers are still with the bandits who are demanding N100m ransom.”

A senior police officer said the Commander, Mopol 6, could not account for the men when asked about their abduction, adding that he referred inquiries on the missing men to the Zamfara State Police Command.

The officer explained that the normal procedure was for the commander to send a signal to the Zamfara command informing it that he had released the nine ASPs, but he allegedly failed to follow the official procedure.

The source stated, “The problem came from the Commander, Mopol 6, their former squadron leader, who released them on transfer to Zamfara. He was supposed to relay the information on the kidnap incident, but he said he didn’t know about it when he was asked; instead, he referred inquiries to the Zamfara State Police Command.

“The commander should have sent a signal that the men had been released to go to Zamfara, but he didn’t do that. Normally, the Zamfara command would send a signal to Borno confirming that the men had resumed.”

Findings indicated that the families of the missing police officers were anxious about the safety of their breadwinners following the N100m ransom demanded by the bandits.

It was learnt that the families were attempting to raise N3m for the release of the captives or N500,000 each.

The Force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, had yet to respond to inquiries on the incident as he did not respond to calls and SMS sent to his mobile telephone as of the time of filing in this report.

When contacted by one of our correspondents, one of the officers, who escaped from the abductors, said he was too weak to recount the incident.

“I have high BP (blood pressure); I just came back from a check-up. I cannot remember everything now. The incident happened on Sunday along the Katsina-Gusau Road,” he simply said.

The Public Relations Officer, Borno State Police Command, DSP Edet Okon, said there was no reported case of policemen from the command being abducted, adding that the alleged victims were no longer serving at the command because they had been transferred.

“The Borno State Police Command has not received any signal in respect of her officers being abducted. The alleged abduction of officers is still unknown to us as we have yet to receive any alert on the matter. That is the official position of the command as of this moment,” Okon stated.

When one of our correspondents visited the Mopol 6 base in Maiduguri, he observed that police personnel were overwhelmed by the kidnap of their colleagues, which came weeks after some of their men were killed and several others injured during an attack on the convoy of the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum.

The mood in the barracks was very sober with little or no activity going on except for a few anti-riot policemen in uniform clustered in groups obviously discussing the incident.

It was gathered that some personnel of the command were recently attacked at the Bama Local Government Area of the state and the latest development had dampened the morale of the policemen.

The PUNCH did not see women and children in the barracks except for a few at the market square.

Except for the command headquarters, where some cops were sighted sitting under trees and in other strategic locations, the entire barracks, which houses a police training college, state police command and Mopol 6 base, was scanty.

 

Makinde inaugurates Amotekun, confident on state police [PUNCH]

GOVERNOR Seyi Makinde on Tuesday inaugurated the Oyo State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun, warning them against harassment, extortion and other vices.

Speaking at the passing-out parade of the corps in Oyo town, the governor, who said the Amotekun corps would work with the Nigeria Police Force, added that the security outfit was establish to fight kidnappers, cultists and those destroying the means of livelihoods of others.

The governor expressed the hope that someday, there would be support at the federal level for the review of the constitution needed for the establishment of state police.

He said the first batch of 1,500 Amotekun corps would be deployed in all the wards in the state so that residents at every nook and cranny of the state would feel their impact.

Makinde said, “The Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun, is an independent outfit. Members will answer to the state governors, but they will be working with the federal security agencies.”

 

Wike says another PDP governor defecting [PUNCH]

GOVERNOR Nyesom Wike of Rivers State says another Peoples Democratic Party governor is planning to join Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, in the All Progressives Congress.

Wike said this on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme on Wednesday.

The governor said, “I can tell you there is one PDP governor that will leave. He is not leaving because of anything but he will come up with an excuse.

“The point is that these are the people who have been playing anti-party, who have been romancing with the APC in the night and coming to the PDP in the daytime. My problem with our party is that when you speak the truth, they will want to crucify you. I have raised this issue several times.”

When asked to reveal the identity of the PDP governor planning to defect, Wike said, “I won’t tell you that. But you journalists know.”

The Rivers State governor said Umahi, who recently defected to the APC had always been disloyal to the PDP.

He stated that during a particular virtual meeting of PDP governors, Umahi boasted that he helped the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to garner votes in the 2019 presidential election.

The Rivers governor added, “All of us are aware that Governor Umahi has been romancing with APC for long. We had a virtual meeting of PDP governors. I have never seen that in my life.

“Governor Umahi in that meeting, to the surprise of many governors, said ‘there is nothing anybody can do to stop me’. I promised President Buhari I would give him 35 per cent votes’.

“I never knew that people never voted in Ebonyi; that votes were allocated and Governor Umahi determined who gets what percentage.”

Wike reiterated his position that Umahi left because he wanted to be President and not because the PDP marginalised the South-East as he claimed.

He said the PDP gave the South-East key positions while it was in power, including the Senate Presidency and the Chief of Army Staff which it had never had before.

The governor said the PDP also nominated Peter Obi from the South-East as its Vice-Presidential candidate in 2019 but the APC had not even come close to such.

When asked if he would be running alongside Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, for the Presidency in 2023, he responded, “Am I not a human being? Am I not supposed to have ambition? I am a human being.”

 

States, capital market to partner on privatization [THE NATION]

State governments and capital market stakeholders on Wednesday held a strategy session on the enabling rules and frameworks for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as critical factors in economic growth.

At a webinar on “Privatization in Nigeria and the Outlook for Sub-national Economic Development” organised by the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), in collaboration with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Governors, capital market regulators, operators, finance and investment experts agreed that privatisation would unlock potential value in SOEs.

Participants were unanimous that privatisation and other forms of public private partnerships (PPPs) would not only assist governments to overcome funding challenges in the face of dwindling resources, but also enhance efficiency of the SOEs to deliver better services to the citizenry.

The chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who delivered a keynote speech, said privatisation would create a symbiotic partnership enabling private sector operators to manage critical areas of the sub-national economy while government concentrates on key social infrastructure, including education and health.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the NGF to work with the NSE and other stakeholders to channel long-term funding for the infrastructural development of the states.

According to him, federal and state governments are experiencing fiscal and economic consequences triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has culminated in significant vulnerabilities in their capacity to increase investment and protect business and livelihood.

“Privatisation will, therefore, not only include private sector investments but also participation in health service delivery and public governance. We believe that if private sector takes over critical segments of the economy, governors can focus on social investment initiatives such as health care and education,” Fayemi said.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the state has been working on securitisation of dormant building assets to unlock them and make them productive.

He acknowledged the need to address policy imbalances due to malfunction in the federal structure , pointing out that central government policies should take into consideration of the peculiarities of each federating unit rather than a one-size- fits-all approach that tends to place a state like Lagos at disadvantage .

According to him, Lagos State understands the importance of private sector in the management of the state economy, adding that the government gives precedence to private ownership and management while the government provides enabling regulation and operating environment.

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun also spoke on the importance of a working partnership between the central government and sub-national authorities, which allows the states to take over critical assets and unlock these for economic growth through PPPs and privatisation.

He said the state government has already identified possible assets for PPPs and privatisation and would be willing to work with capital market stakeholders to further deepen the development of the state.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said privatisation of SOEs in line with due process, could bring more benefits, stressing that appropriate legal and regulatory framework.

He said Kaduna State would be considering accessing the capital market to fund some of its development projects.

He urged the capital market regulators to provide flexible regulatory framework that will encourage state governments to access the capital market and use it for implementation of their economic plans.

Governor of Bauchi State Alhaji Bala Mohammed expressed the willingness of the state to partner with private investors, pointing out that his administration has been working to provide enabling environment for private investments to thrive.

 

Dokpesi urges Fed Govt to release #EndSARS protesters and unfreeze their accounts [THE NATION]

DAAR Communications Plc Founder High Chief Raymond Dokpesi on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to release all detained #EndSARS protesters. He also called for the unfreezing of their accounts by banks, an action taken on the order of the court.

He alleged that the protests were peaceful until the government-sponsored hoodlums attacked protesters.

He said: “The #EndSARS protest started in a quiet and proper manner. Overzealous elements of the government went to recruit hoodlums to overtake the legitimate protest organised by those that are graduates and well-educated.

“When the protest started, nobody saw any gun; nobody saw anything until an effort was made to quell it. In Abuja, where I was, we saw trucks of people they brought in, uneducated, to overpower the educated. Those people carried cutlasses and sticks and that was the beginning of it. If they had not brought in the hoodlums, it’s possible we would have had a peaceful protest.”

Dokpesi spoke during his sympathy visit to The Nation headquarters in Lagos over last month attack on this newspaper’s facility.

According to him, #EndSARS has not ended.

He described #EndSARS as the beginning of a long struggle to appraise and restructure the country.

“A lot of impunity has happened in a very recent time. Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today. People have lost faith and confidence in the ability of Nigeria to remain as one united country.

“So, the time is fast approaching but we pray that God will raise a crop of Nigerians, who still believe strongly in the unity, progress and development of this country. Those who can sacrifice because the people who are supposed to be our servants – public servants, civil servants – have become our public masters.

“Until we re-orientate the people that public service is service to our people, that we are in the office to contribute to the well-being and good of our country, then, the #EndSARS has just started. It has emboldened quite a lot of people.  There is nothing to be hidden anymore…,” he said.

 

2023: Umahi’s defection raises presidential zoning stake [THE NATION]

This question has been taken to the front burner by the defection of Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Umahi is serving his second term having been elected on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Southeast Governors Forum Chairman said he defected from the PDP to safeguard the interest of the region which is taking a shot at the Presidency in 2023.

Umahi urged the APC and the PDP to zone their ticket to the Southeast in 2023.

“For fairness, equity and justice, the Southeast should be allowed to take a shot at the Presidency.

“It’s an appeal. It’s negotiation. We appeal to Nigerians to allow the Southeast to fly the flag of a major party,” he said.

Umahi said he would be happy if an Igbo man succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari even if he is not that person.

“If it is another Igbo man, I will be very happy,” he said, emphasising that he was not desperate to be president.

“I didn’t join APC because there was a promise made to the Southeast,” he said.

The governor, who spoke on Arise TV, said he left the PDP because of injustice in the party and because the APC “does more consultation”.

But Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike faulted Umahi’s claim, saying neither the APC nor the PDP had zoned their Presidential ticket.

He said Umahi’s claim that he left the PDP because he cannot realise his presidential ambition in the PDP was not tenable.

Wike, who spoke on a Channels programme Politics Today, said: “If there is any person, who has supported Umahi very well, he knows it is me. But he cannot threaten the party or dictate to the party.

“He came to me. He even spoke to me two days ago. He even sent me a text. He said he wants to run for President. He wants to be President of Nigeria, which he has the right. But do not threaten anybody that if we don’t give you this, this will happen.

“Politics is dialogue. Politics is diplomacy, discuss with people. Nobody threatens anybody because you want to be somebody.

“If he had not been working with APC, how will he know that there is more consultation in APC than in PDP?

“I am not saying that he shouldn’t be a President, nobody is God to say he will be President and who will not.”

 

12 police chiefs abducted in transit as 16 killed in Kaduna [THE NATION]

The worsening insecurity in the country has taken another dimension with more killings and abductions.

Suspected bandits abducted 12 senior police officers who were travelling to Zamfara State from Borno State.

The incident occurred along the Katsina-Zamfara highway about two weeks ago, the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported yesterday.

Police spokesman Frank Mba did not respond to calls and messages to his cellphone to confirm the incident.

The officers, all Assistant Superintendents of Police, were on their way to carry out a special assignment, the report said.

It was gathered that the kidnappers have demanded N800, 000 for each of the victims.

The wife of one of the victims said her husband had called to inform her of the abduction.

The abducted officer had reportedly instructed his wife to sell his house to raise the money.

The woman said she knew the families of eight other abducted officers.

The Katsina State Police Command said it is investigating the abduction.

Its spokesman Gambo Isah told our correspondent: “The Commissioner of Police Sunusi Buba has already ordered a thorough investigation, to find out where it happened and when it happened if it actually happened. We are not yet very sure of the facts.”

The Zamfara State Police Command spokesman Muhammad Shehu said they had no report of any such abduction.

 

Banks offer youths N2b agric loan at 5% interest [THE NATION]

THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has authorised commercial banks to give up to N2 billion maximum loan to youths interested in going into agriculture.

The loan, which comes under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS) at five per cent interest rate per annum was created by the apex bank in collaboration with state governments to engage 370,000 youth in agricultural production.

According to the loan guideline released on Tuesday and signed by CBN Director Development Finance Department, Yusuf Yila Philip, the maximum loan accessible under the scheme shall be N2 billion per obligor.

Philip said the country’s population pyramid is bulging around the youth segment, with an estimated 75 per cent of the population identified to be aged below 35 years, saying a large segment of this population would have eked out a living if adequate opportunities were harnessed in agriculture given its potential of employing over 70 per cent of the nation’s workforce.

He listed agricultural commodities eligible for consideration under the scheme as rice,  maize, cassava, cotton, wheat , tomato, poultry and fish, among others.

Philip said obligors are to have a contiguous land of not less than 20 hectares  provided for specified agricultural commodities cultivation. Also, there should be evidence of land ownership in form of any acceptable title including lease of a minimum of 15 years.

He said the CBN will bear 50 per cent of the credit risk in the event of default by the participant while repayment of the facility will be made on installment basis through the participating banks and spread over the Economics of Production (EOP) of the cultivated commodities.

Participating banks are to conduct due diligence on prospective obligors, access funds from the CBN for on-lending and ensure that payments are made directly to mechanization service providers for the land clearing.

The participating banks are to remit repayments received to the CBN on quarterly or annual basis depending on the commodity financed

The Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (P-AADS) was also developed to complement AADS by exploring private sector partnership to facilitate more rapid land clearing for production of key agricultural commodities.

The facility shall be repaid from the Economics of Production (EOP) for cultivating on the cleared farmland.

“Interest rate under the intervention shall be five per cent per annum  (all inclusive) up to 28th February 2021. Interest on the facility from 1st March 2021 shall be nine per cent per annum (all inclusive),” the guidelines said.

 

COVID-19: FGN disburses N66.5bn to states to boost budget [SUN]

To tackle the COVID-19 pestilence, the Federal Government on Wednesday announced the disbursement of N66.5 billion to eligible states on the basis of the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget results achievement.

Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who disclosed this in a statement signed by Mr. Hassan Dodo, the Ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations in Abuja, explained that the disbursement followed compliance with the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget by 35 eligible states in the country.

Rivers is the only state that missed out on the grant due to its inability to meet the eligibility criteria which required the states to have passed and published online on a state’s website by July 31, 2020 credible, fiscally responsible COVID-19 Responsive Amended 2020 Budgets duly approved by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the state governor.

The programme is wholly-financed with a loan amount of $750 million from the International Development Association (IDA), a member of the World Bank Group. Each state received the total sum of N1.9billion equivalent of $5million. The disbursement, according to the minister, is under the performance-based grant component of the World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results.

According to Ahmed, the Amended 2020 State Budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.

 

Tension as task force, Okada riders clash again in Lagos [SUN]

For the second consecutive day, commercial motorcycle operators have clashed with the Lagos State task force. On Tuesday, at the Second Rainbow area of the Oshodi – Apapa Expressway, a patrol team of the agency was attacked by commercial motorcyclists.

Yesterday, the riders chased the patrol team and pelted them with stones at Ikeja Along bus stop, Lagos – Abeokuta  Expressway.

In a video that went viral, the riders were seen chasing the patrol team with dangerous weapons while armed policemen attached to the enforcement team of task force were seen running for safety.

The okada riders did not stop at attacking the task force officials, they also descended on BRT buses, which they also pelted with stones.

An official of task force, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not supposed to speak to the press, said: “We are doomed in Lagos. Criminals, who parade as okada riders, have deceived the genuine ones to cause havoc in the state. They ride against traffic, cause heavy gridlock and use the opportunity to rob people. There is no agency, including the police and Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) to checkmate them. If not for task force, the okada riders would have taken over the state.

“You could see how our armed policemen were running as if they were the criminals. If they don’t run and shoot anyone, the public will blame us. The problem is beyond us. But I learnt that the state government has taken over the issue. It is now a state government matter. It is left to the government to decide whether okada riders should take over the roads or not”.

 

 

 

 

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