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Govt, World Bank Discuss $1b Power Sector Loan

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The Federal Government and the World Bank Power Sector team yesterday met on the possibility of Nigeria accessing a $1 billion Performance Based Loan (PBL) from multilateral institutions.

Finance Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed dropped the hint at a joint news conference with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele at the end of the 2019 World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings in the United States.

The minister cleared the air on fuel subsidy, saying removing it is not on the cards. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been advocating the removal of fuel subsidy to free more money for infrastructural development. The Federal Government believes doing so will increase the burden of the poor.

Mrs. Ahmed said: “We met with the World Bank Power Sector team and discussed the way forward on the proposed $1 billion PBL. We agreed to bring relevant MDAs together to ensure that we advance this operation in a timely manner. We will also discuss the Country Portfolio Performance of Nigeria, which currently stands at $9.8 billion, with the Nigerian Country team at the World Bank and how we could manage the portfolio for optimum results.”

She spoke of plans by the Debt Management Office (DMO) to issue N15 billion Green Bond to fund agriculture, power, health and water amenities to make life better for the people, saying the Green Bond will be the second one and would be used to finance agriculture, power sector – mostly solar projects – as well as some projects in the water sector.

She pointed out that the projects for which the funds will be applied “must be green. They must be projects that are not contributing to carbon dioxide emissions to society. The first green bond issuance was successful and all the projects that were scheduled to have been financed have been done and the projects are at various levels of completion.”

On fuel subsidy, Mrs. Ahmed said there was no plan by the government to remove fossil fuel subsidies. “We are here to discuss with the global community on various policy issues. One of the issues that always come up, especially in the IMF Article IV is how we handle fuel subsidy.

“So, in principle, the IMF would say fuel subsidies are better removed so that you can use the resources for other important sectors, which is good advice, but in Nigeria, we do not have any plans to remove fuel subsidies at this time because we have not yet designed buffers that will enable us to remove the subsidy and provide cushions for our people.

“So, there is no plan to remove fuel subsidy. We will be working with various groups to find out the best approach if we have to. We discussed this very frequently at the Economic Management Team but what is the alternative? We haven’t yet found viable alternatives. So, we are not yet at the point of removing fuel subsidies.”

On Brexit, Emefiele attributed ongoing Brexit controversy in the United Kingdom (UK) to immigration and trade opportunities.

The CBN governor said: “I would say that though Britain and Nigeria have a trade relationship, it is not as strong as what we have with China and the United States (U.S.) For instance, China is Nigeria’s largest trading partner, followed by the U.S. And I had imagined that Britain comes quite low on the scale.

“So, if you look at that, you would find that, in my view, there is not going to be any adverse consequences on Nigeria, but we are reviewing it to see the implication, which I expect, would naturally be positive.”

Giving an overview of the meetings, Mrs. Ahmed said they provided an opportunity to review developments in the global economy, examine emerging and associated risks. They also offered a potential policy menu to ameliorate the situations, going forward, she added.

The meeting noted the slowing down of the global economy with a revised global growth from 3.3 per cent in 2019 to 3.6 per cent in 2020, mainly due to the heightened trade tensions, tightening financial market conditions, softening industrial activity, dampening global investment, monetary policy normalisation and geopolitical tensions, such as uncertainties over Brexit, all resulting in policy uncertainty.

In terms of fiscal policy, Mrs. Ahmed said government debts to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratios had reached unprecedented levels and this limits the capacity of some of these countries to provide countercyclical policies; consequently, potential growth remains subdued in most of these countries, partly as other factors, such as aging populations, declining birth rates and raising barriers to immigration weigh in.

Mrs. Ahmed said the key takeaway was that the IMF requested for a mandate to pursue some negotiations with governors for temporary financing options for ensuring that the Fund remains adequately resourced by maintaining the current resource envelope through borrowed resources.

The minister said this arose partly due to the delay in completing the 15th general review of quotas, adding that while governors endorsed this position, “we called for an ambitious timetable for the 16th General Review of quota which should result in increased quota shares for dynamic economies in line with their relative positions in the world economy while protecting the voice and representation of the poorest members.”

Mrs. Ahmed said: “I issued a statement calling for normalization of trade relations among the contending parties and called for concerted efforts to support multilateralism and avoid protectionist sentiments.”

She said Nigeria used the Spring Meetings to showcase what the government had been doing in human capital development.

The minister said: “We have set up an inter-ministerial working group with representatives of the state governors and are currently piloting some initiatives in health, education and, of course, you are all aware of the social safety nets programmes of the Federal Government where we have 15 million people already on the register.

“The World Bank Group was pleased with our efforts and promised to offer some assistance. Nigeria endorsed the Coalition Principles as one of the founding members.”

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53.37 % Pay Rise: SSAUTHRIAI Demands N8.32 Billion Arrears

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The Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) has demanded from the Federal Government the fulfilment of its agreement and payment of 12 months arrears of 53.37 per cent salary increase estimated at N8.32 billion.

The agreement, according to SSAUTHRIAI, was reached with its Joint Research and Allied Institutions Sector Union since January 2011.

Although SSAUTHRIAI also congratulated the Federal Government on the successful conduct of the 2019 general elections, the trade union however, “frowns at the spate of killing of innocent Nigerians during the election period.”

“Therefore, the Federal Government should put in place maximum security measures that will guarantee right of citizens to vote without fear of being molested. We sympathise with the Federal Government on the recent killings in various parts of the country. However, the council-in-session calls for maximum security of lives and property in the country”, SSAUTHRIAI stated.

The organisation also called for “the total review of Pension Reform Act 2014, to allow retirees access their lump sum (100 per cent) as well as prompt payment on retirement.”

While appreciating the efforts of the National Assembly and other stakeholders in the passage of the new National Minimum Wage Bill, the organisation frowned at the delay in signing it into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The position of SSAUTHRIAI was contained in a communique signed by its sectoral chairman, Felix Uwadiae and secretary, Ademola Olajire, and issued after its sectoral council meeting held at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Ibadan in Oyo State.

The communique reads: “The council-in-session implores the Federal Government to honour the agreement reached with JORAISU since January 2011, which includes the payment of 12 months’ arrears of 53.37 per cent salary increase estimated at N8.32 billion; retirement age of 65 years, release of conditions and schemes of service; increased funding of research institutes; establishment of National Research Institutes Commission and peculiar and earned allowance.

“The council-in-session observed with dismay that despite the favourable the National Industrial Court judgment on the skipping of CONRAISS 10, management of some research institutes are yet comply. The council therefore calls for total compliance with the court judgment”, SSAUTHRIAI stated.

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Onnoghen Appeals CCT Conviction

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The embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Premium Times reports.

In his appeal, Onnoghen identified sixteen grounds on which basis he wants the appellate court to upturn his conviction.

He also sought seven reliefs from the court including “an order setting aside the conviction of the appellant (Mr Onnoghen)

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NBC: Expert Fingers Top Govt Officials in Modibbo’s Travails

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A broadcast industry expert who doesn’t want his name in print, has said the current travails of NBC’s Director General, Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, is not unconnected with the top level politics playing out in the highest echelon of the nation’s leadership. He noted that the issues has all sorts of dimensions to it with various actor playing their roles. He said the goal is to remove the current DG to pave way for a total control of the broadcast industry by powerful politicians. KWARARAFA REPORTERS has not independently verified the claims but present here the views expressed by the expert. ” When DIrector General National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, was called into the dock, at the Federal High Court, on Wednesday this week, it was the culmination of high wire politics, of the dirtiest type. For most people, the more they saw, the less they understood; and that was precisely the whole idea. Those who schemed the plot, have a central agenda. It was to REMOVE Modibbo Kawu as DG of NBC, by all means, but most especially, the most foul, but with a complicit media, but most especially one major online publication that had a very important government leader in attendance, when it’s publisher celebrated his birthday recently, as the preferred social media outlet. The NBC drama started, not in 2018, but actually in 2016. When President Buhari announced the DGs to head media parastatals and the NBC, he caused the first level of shock in power cycles. The announcement of Modibbo Kawu in particular as NBC DG shocked the political team from the Southwest, that had primed the position for a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State. A top level minister from the same state as Mr Kawu was said to have shouted in his office, that: “this is unacceptable. Modibbo Kawu is not one of us”! He was very unhappy that he had no imput whatsoever, in the appointment of all the DGs announced on that occasion: DG NBC; DG FRCN; DG NTA; DG VON; DG NOA and MD NAN. He then vowed that he was going to make life difficult for all these appointees. This background is very vital to understand what is unfolding at the NBC.

A former DG of NBC, had actually been the writer of the petition that an anti graft agency had used, as the basis for questioning the payment that NBC made to Pinnacle Communications Limited, using a set of members of staff of the NBC, to get official papers of the Commission, for his petition to the agency. The said former DG had been a very good benefactor of a current top level minister, in the few months that he was still DG NBC, after the 2015 elections and the inauguration of the Buhari administration. He had reportedly used NBC’s funds to finance the Jonathan campaign and he looked the other way, when NTA and AIT, were broadcasting hate materials, against then candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. But soon as the APC won it’s victory, like a chameleon, he began to change his posture. He immediately handed over a brand new Toyota LandCruiser Jeep to his benefactor who now had power over the NBC, and began to pay oil the relationship with steady cash inducements. He also got access to a powerful political leader through his friend, whose company, he had unilaterally appointed as the middleware provider for the Nigerian Digital Switchover (DSO). The company had been DISQUALIFIED in the bid process; but the said ex DG met his pal in London, and agreed that he would set aside the thorough work that DIGITEAM NIGERIA did in its search for a middleware provider. He dropped the Nigerian company that won the bid, and appointed the disqualified company. Not only that, he paid the said disqualified company the sum of N1.7b, three months BEFORE it was registered to do business in Nigeria. It should not be forgotten this former DG had received presidential approval to sell frequency, which fetched NBC N35billion from MTN. He then went on a spending spree, encouraging his friends and associates, to set up shell companies, through which the money could be taken out. The NBC had initially emphatically stated, that Set Top Boxes would not be subsidized. But the ex DG and friends, needed to corner the funds, so he got a well known lobbyist, to lead an elaborate process of a subsidy regime, not known to the White Paper on the Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting. Billions of Naira went into that. His lobbyist was later to confess that the ex DG owned 100,000 of the 200,000 boxes that he fronted, that took billions of Naira from the N35billion.

In the meantime, this ex DG had a major battle on his hands, and that was the stubborn resistance of Pinnacle Communications Limited. They had won an open, transparent and competitive bid, in 2014, and were subsequently licensed as the Second National Signal Distributors for the Nigerian DSO, after paying the bid sum of N685 million. The former DG extracted all the money-making elements from the license he gave Pinnacle Communications. He then licensed CCNL, partly owned by himself and his friends. Pinnacle Communications Limited went to court, and were in court, till the Jonathan administration was defeated. In the heydays of Diezani Allison-Maduekwe’s powers, this former DG would brag that he had Diezani’s backing; and vowing to turn Pinnacle Communications Limited’s license, to a worthless piece of paper! It became a condition to get any look in at the NBC, by strictly following his order that they must NEVER have anything to do with Pinnacle Communications Limited. The broadcast stakeholders were encouraged/threatened to treat Pinnacle like a leper, and at the forefront of the propaganda machinery that he oiled with NBC’s funds, was his Man Friday. He was regularly on television and the pages of newspapers, extolling the former DG “ingenuity “. It was clear, that he, a man of very limited financial means, had suddenly hit a jackpot, through his boss the ex DG. He had to protect his new found wealth. At the IBC conference in Amsterdam, he saw Dipo Onifade of Pinnacle Communications Limited, and told him that the gravy train had left Pinnacle behind.

Having spent so much money, and receiving the assurances of a top minister and friend’s support, that he would get a certain political godfather to ensure he was retained, the propaganda was spiked, that the DSO was going to collapse, if he was not retained as DG NBC. Even cabinet minister contact, whose greed for money had been lavishly indulged by the ex DG assured him that his tenure, was going to be protected. A notorious PDP financier, had spread so much money within a segment of the new APC administration, that the Minister and his political group, was prepared to forget all he (the former DG) did against President Muhammadu Buhari. The Pinnacle Communications Limited Chairman, Lucky Omoluwa, had supported the Buhari campaign, and had thought the change of administration, would offer an opportunity to rectify the injustice they faced under the ex DG. The minister pretended he was going to offer a platform of genuine settlement, while he was always on ex DG’s side. But the former DG was to prove his own worst enemy. The directive that all funds be put into the Federal Government’s TSA, became his Achilles Heel. He hid Ten Billion Naira, which was eventually revealed by a whistle blower. He became an orphan, because said minister and his Lagos based political machinery, quickly abandoned him to his own devices. He was removed from the NBC. And on his way out, he handed over to one of his most gung-ho minions; the only NBC Director that was part of all his secret schemes. He was so loyal to this former DG that he was reportedly given some of the shares of CCNL, and a few thousands of the Set Top Boxes, that the ex DG had turned into freebies.

This was the explosive situation that Modibbo Kawu inherited as Director General of the NBC. It was almost akin to a poisoned chalice. But he set out to systematically make the system serve Nigeria’s interest. Pinnacle Communications Limited that had been in court, was encouraged to accept an out-of-court settlement. They were appointed Signal Distributor for the Abuja Switchover. They delivered within 90 days, including airfreighting 9tons of equipment into Abuja. They provided the very best facilities that were commissioned by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, on December 22nd, 2016. Their Kaduna center was commissioned a year later, by Governor Nasir El-Rufai. These events were broadcast live on television, and attended by all the stakeholders in broadcasting. It was for their services, that five months after commissioning of the Abuja center, NBC paid them the N2.5billion, that has become the source of controversy, and the basis of the ICPC indictment. It should be noted that the Honourable Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, approved the payment; just as he approved all the payments made to Set Top Boxes manufacturers; CCNL; Call Center operators, and others. The White Paper is the instrument used to justify these payments. Yet, the anti corruption agency accepted the “petition” by an aggrieved ex DG. This ex DG had never reconciled himself to the fact that he is no longer the NBC DG, given the money he spent, to retain the position. And he still has the billions of Naira that came from the Set Top Boxes payments, that NBC made. Similarly, his team within and outside the NBC, all of a sudden, we’re no longer calling the shots, with Modibbo Kawu’s emergence as DG.

The NBC itself is an institution that is badly skewed, over the years. The majority of the staff recruited before Kawu came in, were from the Southeast, and for the majority of those, Modibbo Kawu is an alien, as far as they are concerned. They regularly release NBC’s secret papers, to external forces, while the former ex DG brags, that his boys inside keep him abreast of any, and every development. In the last elections, most NBC staff were reported to have voted for PDP, because they wanted President Muhammadu Buhari to lose, since that would mean that Modibbo Kawu would then be removed as DG. One of the most entrenched cabals inside the NBC, is the licensing cabal. It was the ruling mantra, that Southerners can, and must be given licenses in the North, but Northerners are ALWAYS denied licenses in the South, especially the lucrative Lagos market. Well, Modibbo Kawu ensured that for the first time, in the 25 year history of the NBC, Northerners got several licenses in Lagos, and there was a far more just and even spread of licenses, with the licensing round that President Muhammadu Buhari approved in September 2018: the single largest round of licensing in Nigerian history. But there were people who were also angry outside of the NBC about the licensing, and these include a top level minister and another top leader of the government. The applications that went to the NBC from his people, had initially requested for Ibadan, and these were offered. Unfortunately, he later wanted approval for Lagos, but NBC could not give him. The reason was simple. There were 45 approvals for Lagos, but there were only 15 available frequencies. NBC gave them out on a first come, first served basis. Similarly, the minister’s son was on the list that NBC took to the Presidency, but he was not given an approval. Even when he was the one that endorsed the list to the Villa, and was said to have endorsed, only when he was sure that his son was present on the list, he nevertheless blamed Modibbo Kawu, for being responsible for the fact that his son was denied a license. He then began a propaganda campaign against Modibbo Kawu. First, he told government insiders, that Modibbo Kawu deliberately denied the top government fuctionary licenses in Lagos, just as he denied his own son. Not only that, he began spreading the ludicrous tale, that Modibbo Kawu gave himself 65 licenses. With the least license being N15million, if true, Kawu would have needed almost a billion Naira, to pay the license fees for 65!

But the ex DG petition, suddenly took a life of its own. It became a very useful instrument to serve an original agenda: to get Modibbo Kawu out of the NBC. There’s a strong Lagos and Redeemed Church connection to this agenda. The first person that took on the battle was the Head of Operations, at the anti graft agency, a man from Lagos State. He was working directly on this project with a highly placed individual. They decided this was an opportunity too good to lose. To make things even better, the new Board of the anti graft agency is headed by another sidekick of Kawu’s traducers, who also belongs to the Redeemed Church. The plan is to bring into the NBC, after they might have removed Modibbo Kawu, their original candidate from Lagos the wanted, who also belongs to the Redeemed Church. Media power, including but especially, broadcast media power, MUST remain a Southern monopoly. With Modibbo Kawu in position, there’s danger. So Willy-Nilly, he must be removed, even if the basis is spurious. There’s a major social media outlet, to help spin the story, plus a complicit traditional media too.

The Ministry of Justice set up two committees to examine all the details of the NBC payment to Pinnacle Communications Limited. The committees reached a verdict that there was no wrongdoing in the process and the payment. They then issued an advice to the anti graft agency to step down the plan for indictment, and carry out further investigations, including visits to the Pinnacle DSO project sites, since their investigators have ever done so. The board refused to acknowledge the letter, nor listened to other members of the Board. He was on a mission to ensure that Modibbo Kawu is arraigned. And that actually is their simple plan: arraign Modibbo Kawu in court, then begin a campaign that he should step aside. But the first step was to leak the information to their preferred social media outlet, that the ministry of justice is pressuring the anti graft agency to drop the “corrupt payment” case against Modibbo Kawu. The idea is to ensure that the Ministry of Justice won’t then be able to intervene, in their well-orchestrated plan to remove Modibbo Kawu, and replace him with a fellow member of the Redeemed Church, like the promoter of this campaign.

The said minister has his own personal grouses against Modibbo Kawu. The most contemporary, had to do with the politics of Kwara. He was unhappy that Modibbo Kawu participated in the gubernatorial race last year. He vowed that he was going to ensure that Modibbo Kawu didn’t get the ticket, and at the same time, he would make sure he never returned as DG NBC. Well, Modibbo didn’t get the ticket, but the minister has not abandoned the plan to remove him, as NBC DG. In fact, the minister was said to have written the letter requesting Modibbo Kawu to step aside, until it was pointed out that only the SGF, could issue such a letter.

To sum up, what appears to be an issue of so-called “corrupt payment”, is actually high wire political intrigue. Those who have a genuine sense of justice, and especially Northerners, must “shine your eyes”; you are about to lose one of the best opportunities to have an equitable period in the history of the NBC. That is what Modibbo Kawu has worked for, in almost three years. If you don’t rally round him, and allow them to remove him, you would discover that the imbalance in broadcast media power, would be deepened.

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