FG Redeploys Nine Permanent Secretaries

The Federal Government on Friday approved the redeployment of nine Federal Permanent Secretaries.

The affected government officials include those who were inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.

“The processes for handing/taking over should be completed on or before Monday, 8th January, 2018,” the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winnifred Oyo-Ita, said in a statement announcing their redeployment.

According to her, Aminu Bisalla was redeployed from General Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, while Aliboh Lawrence was moved to the Special Duties Office, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

Other affected permanent secretaries are Odewale Olajide, who was moved from SDO-OHCSF to Budget and National Planning; and Dr. Umar Bello, who was retained in his Special Services Office, OSGF position.

Four of the newly appointed permanent secretaries, Sulaiman Lawal, was deployed to Career Management Office (OHCSF); Adekunle Adeyemi, GSO- OSGF; Ekaro Chukwumuebodo, Federal Civil Service Commission; Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu to Mines and Steel Development; and Osuji Marcellinus to Service Policy and Strategies Office.

VAID: No Going Back On March Deadline – FG

Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has declared that there will be no extension of the March 2018 deadline for individuals and companies to comply with Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAID).

This comes amidst calls by concerned stakeholders for the extension of the set deadline of granting tax amnesty to defaulters.

Fowler, who said the federal government was seemingly overwhelmed by the huge number of tax defaulters to prosecute, noted that extending the date would not make individuals and corporate organisations bent on not honouring the June 2017 directive comply.

Then acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had while inaugurating the FIRS-initiated VAID, given nine-month grace to defaulting taxpayers to regularise their tax status or face criminal prosecution for tax evasion.

“This programme will not be extended. It is the federal government’s initiative. It was adopted by the Senate, the House of Representatives,” he remarked yesterday at a one-day seminar for tax professionals.

“I think people who have an intention to do the right thing, even if you give them six months, they will perform within six months, three or four months. But for individuals and corporate organisations that have no intention to do the right thing, even if you give them 10 years, they will not conform within that period.”

Fowler’s statement was a response to the president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Mr. Cyril Ede, who had requested the federal government to extend the March deadline to September 2018 to enable more taxpayers to comply with the directive.

According to Mr Ede, “There is need for government to consider extending this programme, if need be, to allow for more individuals and corporate entities to comply. We, as an institute, are asking that the deadline of March 2018 be shifted to September 2018.”

He cited the case of South Africa between 2015 and 2016 which, he said, had a better tax compliance than Nigeria but still gave 11 months as grace period for compliance to tax amnesty.

However, the FIRS boss urged the participants who thronged NICON Luxury Hotel, venue of the event, to advise their clients that even if they declared their assets, it does not mean they have to make payment on the same day.

“They are still given time for them to prepare themselves. There are certain issues that would be discussed. There are possibilities of extending the payment plan subject to the approval of the taxing authority – whether it is federal or the state. There are also different ways that you can cushion the effect of these payments. And we have to realise and remember that you only pay tax on profits of income,” he explained.

FG Moves to Seize BVN-less Accounts

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja has granted a request by Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for a temporary forfeiture of all funds held in bank accounts not linked to BVNs.

Also to be forfeited are funds in accounts whose ownership could not be identified.

The latter are accounts without sufficient know-your-customer credentials, PREMIUM TIMES has reported. .

The order followed an originating motion of notice filed by Mr. Malami on behalf of the Nigerian government on September 28.

Justice Dimgba granted all the nine reliefs sought by Mr. Malami —himself represented by a lawyer, Usman Dakas— on October 17.

The court ordered all the 19 deposit money banks, DMBs, operating in the country to release to Nigerian government names of accounts not yet connected to BVN; account numbers; their outstanding balances; domiciling locations; and domiciliary accounts without BVN and where they are domiciled.

Nigeria deposit money banks that were listed as respondents in the ex-parte suit are: Access Bank, Citi Bank, Diamond Bank, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank and First City Monument Bank.

Others are: Guaranty Trust Bank, Heritage Bank, Keystone Bank, Skye Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank, Union Bank and United Bank for Africa.

The remaining three are: Unity, Bank Wema Bank and Zenith Bank.

The court also ordered all of them to disclose any investments made with funds and to withhold authorisation for any outward inflow of funds from the accounts. All the details are to be submitted to Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, NIBSS, and the CBN for authentication.

The banks were also directed to publish all bank accounts not linked to BVN in national newspapers with a 14-day notice for individuals with interest in such accounts to come forward and justify why their funds should not be forfeited to the Nigerian government.

Mr. Dimgba also ordered the CBN, which was joined as 20th respondent alongside the 19 DMBs, to appoint an official who will examine all the details submitted to the apex bank for compliance.

The government argued the matter under Section 3 of the Money Laundering Act, 2011.

The section said banks must “ensure that documents, data or information collected under the customer due diligence process is kept up-to-date and relevant by undertaking reviews of existing records, particularly for higher risk categories of customers or business relationships.”

The Bank Verification Number is a unique identification number that can be verified and used to transact business across all the banking platforms in Nigeria.

The CBN imposed the policy to capture customers’ data for financial transactions and check fraud in the banking system.

Registration for BVNs commenced on February 14, 2014, across the country. The CBN said over 20.8 million customers enrolled 40 million bank accounts before the October 31, 2015, final deadline for customers residing within the country.

The CBN extended the deadline for Nigerians in the diaspora to December 2016 to sign up for the BVN system. But hundreds of thousands home and abroad are still believed to be left behind.

NAN

Society Advises FG To Invest In Biotechnology To Achieve Food Security

President of Biotechnology Society of Nigeria, Prof. Benjamin Ubi  has advised the Federal Government to invest massively in Biotechnology to achieve food security and avert the impending food crisis across the globe.

The advice was fiven as  keynote lecture by Ubi at the Biotechnology awareness week and capacity building workshop in Umuahia.

The forum was organised by the Centre for Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia.

The president of the society said that the rising global population and the growing impact of global warming and climate change posed serious adverse effect on agriculture production all over the world, hence the need to check the development.

Ubi, a Professor of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Ebonyi State University, said that sub-Sahara Africa “is highly threatened by hunger and malnutrition.”

He said that although Nigeria was not yet in the danger zone, “the country is presently at moderately high hunger.” adding that urgent measures became imperative to develop the nation’s diverse food crops through biotechnology.

He said, “Nigeria is lucky because it has a diversity of food crops but we should not be lazy, rather, we should find ways to develop and harness the crops for greater economic benefits and nutritional value.”

The professor said that with biotechnology, Nigeria could achieve improved crop variety with the resultant high agricultural yield.

In an address of welcome, the Acting Director of the institute, Dr Emmanuel Ekundayo, said that “Biotechnology is changing the world of science and the way of life of human beings around the world.”

Ekundayo further said, “Modern biotechnology is creating breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, feed the hungry, reduce environmental footprint, use less and cleaner energy.’’

According to him, modern biotechnology also ensures ‘’safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.”

He said that at least, “13.3million farmers around the world used agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce the farming impact on the environment.

Ekundayo, however, expressed concern that the level of knowledge and capacity to achieve a breakthrough in producing biotechnology was pitifully low in Nigeria.

He listed the challenges limiting progress in biotechnology in Nigeria to include “intellectual apathy, the paucity of facilities to do research in biotechnology and the low level of awareness about the potentialities of biotechnology.”

He also called for investment in biotechnology, especially in the establishment of functional centres of excellence in biotechnology in the universities and research institutes across the country.

Ekundayo, who said that forward-looking nations of the world were investing massively in biotechnology, called on the government to take a cue from such countries toward the development of modern Biotechnology.
“Capability in modern biotechnology will be a major factor for economic competitiveness in the 21st Century.”

He said that the workshop was “designed to stimulate interest and promote knowledge about biotechnology in MOUAU and its environs in line with the mandate of the centre.”

In a goodwill message to the workshop, Prof. Joseph Ukpabi, the Acting Executive Director, National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, described the potential of biotechnology as enormous.

Ukpabi was represented by a Director in the institute, Dr Ifeoma Ukwuonu.

He said that the institute had acquired “decades of experience in the application of modern biotechnology tools in breeding, seed multiplication, disease diagnosis, food chemistry and industrial applications.”

He also said the institute was ready to collaborate with MOUAU and other institutions in research on biotechnology that would be of mutual interest and for the nation’s economic viability.
The Vice-Chancellor of MOUAU, Prof. Francis Otunta, expressed the hope that the workshop would come up with recommendations that would help in the development of biotechnology in the university.

He was represented by the Deputy VC (Academic), Prof. Madu Iwe.

The Chairman of the opening ceremony and Director, MOUAU Extension Centre, Prof. Ike Nwachukwu, commended the centre for organising the programme.

He said that the recommendations that would emanate from the workshop would be beneficial to farmers, Nigeria and humanity in general.

Nwachukwu described the theme of the workshop, ‘’Biotechnology: Key to sustainable food security,’’ as apt, in view of the current challenges facing agriculture and the environment.

Mr Rice Urges FG To Address Power, Infrastructural Deficit In the Country

Mr. John Rice, General Electric (GE), Vice Chairman, has told the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency address the infrastructure challenges the country is facing as Nigerians can’t wait forever.

He said “nothing else matters” other than that Nigeria should fix its power, transport and other basic infrastructure.

Mr. Rice made the remark during a panel discussion with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Mr. Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings at the 23rd Nigerian Economic Summit.

Apart from several energy projects GE is currently undertaking in-country, it recently won the concession rights to all the narrow gauge tracks in Nigeria – from Lagos to Kano and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. He said GE has been investing in Nigeria because of its human capital resource, the size of the country and natural resources.

He said GE has been investing in Nigeria because of its human capital resource, the size of the country and natural resources.

FG Approves Sales Of Three NIPPs

The Federal Government’s plan to sell part of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) has disclosed the government’s approval to sell three power plants.

The said plants are the 634 megawatts (MW) Calabar, 1,076MW combined cycle Alaoji, and 506MW Geregu.

Managing Director of NDPHC, Mr Chiedu Ugbo made the disclosure at the 20th monthly power sector meeting hosted by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) at the Z05 Injection Substation along Owerri-Onitsha Road, Owerri, Imo State.

Ugbo explained that the challenges that stalled the sales had largely been cleared and were now ready to be privatised.

He noted that preferred bidders for the plants were still very interested in them as against thought that they might have lost interest.

Ugbo said: “This privatisation process started in 2012 and moved to 2013 with the emergence of the preferred bidders. At that time it was a mix of market issues and internal issues that had to do with gas supply, completion of the power plants and evacuation.

“NIPP has the mandate to build and sell. It is a project company so the sale will affect the 10 power plants ultimately.

“We have received approval to start with three; that is Calabar, Geregu and Alaoji. Discussions have advanced; except for market issues, liquidity problems, we would have closed by now.”

He noted that the company on its part was trying to resolve all issues impeding on privatisation, adding that “Once we get the necessary approvals we close the sale.”

The MD further noted that most of the company’s community-related projects were at various stages of completion with a focus on key priority projects.

The projects he listed include Olorunsogo, Omotosho, Ikot Ekpene-Afam, Egbema, Okija and Ihiala.

“Typically we give updates on some of the projects we are doing. Every project is important, but there are key priority projects that the minister is focusing on and is saying that we must complete.

“The projects cut across the states, but if you allow me, I will start from Ogun State. We have a number of projects including transmission projects in Ogun State from Ota, Papalanto to Abeokuta and that project is 35 percent complete; and we are putting finishing touches now before commissioning.

“We also have some distribution projects works in Olorunsogo – Papalanto area who are the host communities for our 750MW power plant. We are also working to ensure that they have supplied. The work has advanced, we should be done by end of this year.”

FG to to Give Huge Tax Debtors 3-Year Payment Plan

To encourage more voluntary or accidental tax defaulters to pay up, the Federal Government is to offer tax defaulters with huge (tax) liabilities up to a period of three years to spread their tax payment under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme.

According to a report by The Punch, “Top government officials involved in the implementation of VAIDS confided in our correspondent that those who failed to take advantage of the scheme and later found to have under-declared their income or assets would be treated as wilful tax evaders and made to face the full force of the law.

“The official said apart from prosecution, the government had agreed to allow taxpayers with huge tax debts to enter into arrangements to pay outstanding tax liabilities in instalments.

“However, he said while these categories of tax defaulters might be allowed to settle their tax obligations in instalments, they would be required to pay interest on the outstanding balance.”

“The official said, “Even though ignorance of the law is not an excuse, the government has decided to take the pragmatic approach of offering an amnesty window to allow Nigerians, who may have evaded tax, whether ignorantly or deliberately, the opportunity to do their civic duty and pay the correct taxes whilst providing the much needed revenue for Nigeria’s infrastructure.

“The Federal Government appreciates that many defaulters have assets but may not have cash. Therefore, taxpayers will be allowed to enter into arrangements to pay outstanding tax liabilities in instalments.

“Taxpayers may, at the discretion of the relevant authority, be granted up to three years to pay their liability, but will be obliged to pay interest on the outstanding balance.”

Apprehension As Allocation To FG, States, LGs Drops By N52bn For April

Allocation to the three tiers of government declined by N52 billion in April as the monthly Federation Account Allocation (FAAC) ended in Abuja on Tuesday, creating apprehension that civil servants across the states might not get their monthly salaries.

As against N467.807 billion shared in March, the sum of N415.73 billon was distributed in the month of April.
A breakdown of allocation to the three tiers showed that the federal government received N164 billion, states N117.5 billion, while the local governments got N88 billion.

For 13 per cent derivation, N30 billion went to oil producing states.
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) made a refund of N6.33 billion, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris said, adding the balance in Excess Crude was $2.299 while Petroleum Profit Tax stands at $67 million.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Commissioners of Finance Forum Mr. Mahmood Sali Yunusa, has expressed fears of tougher days ahead for workers across the states as a result of dwindling revenues.

Yunusa made this known on Tuesday during a briefing on the outcome of FAAC meeting.
He pointed out that the allocation getting to states might not guarantee payment of salaries for the civil servants.

Yunusa who fielded questions from journalists, said: “We don’t know how the workers are going to get their salaries going by the allocations the states are receiving.”
He, however, noted that the states were doing everything in their power to ensure that they improve on their internally generated revenue.

Nigerian government spends N41bn on Social Investment Programme

The Presidency has said that as at the end of last month, the Buhari administration has spent a total sum of N41billion across all the 36 states and FCT implementing different aspects of the four Social Investment Programmes.

This was stated in a release from the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Office of the Vice-President, Mr. Laolu Akande.

He said over a million Nigerians are now beneficiaries, including, 57,234 interest free loans given to artisans and traders even as Acting President has ordered urgent expansion of the programme to reach significantly more beneficiaries soon.

According to him the Nigerian government has served no less than 25 million meals under the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, which is an integral part of the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programme.

Breakdown

A breakdown of the total number of meals served shows that 1,051, 619 million primary school pupils are now being fed across the seven states of Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Zamfara state.

No less than 11,847 cooks have also been employed in a total of 8,587 schools involved in the states.

“Indeed possibly, later in the week, more meals will be served as Delta and Abia States are now ready to be paid under the federal government school feeding scheme,” Akande said in the release, adding that “Delta State is expected to receive soon, a sum of N63, 366, 100 to start the feeding of 90, 523 primary school pupils.”

Abia State is also expected to receive N42, 921, 200 while Kaduna State has been repaid N3.4B for its past expenses implementing the food programme ahead of FG’s roll-out.

In a breakdown of the over N41B so far spent on the SIPs, N-Power, which is the job programme for unemployed graduates has received N26.418 billion, being the single largest spending item out of the four social investment programmes under the 2016 Appropriation.

According to him, besides N-Power, actual released funding for the other 3 programmes, apart from other expenses, so far, were as follows:

*Home Grown School Feeding (HGSFP) – N7.092 billion

* Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) – N800 million

* Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP) – N7.301 billion

“The Acting President, who received the SIP Update Report recently, noted the progress made under each of the programmes, but gave express and urgent directives that the programmes be promptly expanded in coverage so that more Nigerians can start to benefit,” he stated.

A comprehensive SIP implementation analysis also shows that every local government area, every state and the FCT have beneficiaries in one of the four programmes, while some states are already benefiting in more than one.

For instance, under the N-Power job scheme for unemployed graduates now running in 36 States and FCT, 162,024 unemployed graduates have been effectively enrolled and validated-meaning have been cleared to be receiving the N30,000 monthly stipends, out of the 200,000 originally engaged late last year.

A vast majority of the validated beneficiaries have been receiving stipends as at 31st March, 2017 while an additional number has just been added to the list of those receiving their pay in the last several weeks.

However, effort is being made to validate others and ensure that the 200,000 places provided for in the first batch of the N-Power programme are all effectively validated as provided for under the first phase of the programme.

A date for the engagement of more N-power beneficiaries and the reopening of the portal to receive more applications would be announced soon.

Meanwhile, under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, 26,942 beneficiaries are now being funded as at last month with the monthly N5,000 stipend in nine States and 84 Local Government Areas.

The States are Borno, Cross River, Niger, Kwara, Ekiti, Kogi, Oyo, Osun and Bauchi.

Based on the recent directive of the Acting President, the number is expected to add up to about 400,000 beneficiaries, in more States, soon.

Also the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP), designed for the empowerment of market women, traders, artisans and others, has also recorded good progress with the disbursement of 57,234 interest free loans, except a one-time low administrative fee.

GEEP which is designed for well over one million Nigerians has now registered 3,162,451 people who have showed interest and are members of 26, 924 registered cooperatives for purposes of the loans.

So far, women participation has been remarkable with 56% of loans so far disbursed to women beneficiaries in 28 States and FCT.

VON

Bi-Courtney Highways Limited Partners With FG To Ensure Timely Construction On Lagos – Ibadan Expressway Project

The federal government may have agreed to enter a funding agreement in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) deal with Bi-Courtney Highways Limited to ensure the timely construction and rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project.

The issue was the crux of discussion at a meeting wednesday evening in the National Assembly, where it was also agreed that Motorways Assets Limited would be part of the PPP arrangement for the expressway.

The reconstruction of the highway was concessioned to Bi-Courtney in 2009 under a Build, Operate and Transfer deal, but was revoked in 2012, allegedly because the company violated some terms of the agreement.

Wednesday’s meeting which held behind closed doors, and had in attendance the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, and his Finance counterpart, Senator John Enoh.

It also had in attendance, the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highways Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin and the Chairman of Motorways Asset Limited, Mr. Abdulrasaq Oyinloye.

Adeosun declined to speak with journalists after the meeting, but sources said that the federal government and the Senate agreed that the expressway must be completed as soon as possible.

“We also expect that the expressway must be completed in such a manner that it will be a model for infrastructural development in this country,” a source said.

Another source added that under the new agreement, Bi-Courtney and Motorways are expected to merge their current concessions into a new company which would be a special purpose vehicle for the project.

The government would provide the new company with financial instruments, through which it can raise the necessary funds.

“The underlining objective of the new agreement is to ensure that quality work is done on the road which is said to be central to the nation’s economy and that the work is completed in the shortest time possible. Very soon, all parties would sign a formal agreement on this deal,” the source said.

 

Groups Commend FG On Amnesty Programme

The Coalition of All Progressives Congress Support Groups says the approval of additional N55 billion by Federal Government for the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme is a proof of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration commitment to the development of the region.

Amb. Sokari Afiesimama, the National Publicity Secretary of the coalition, said in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday that the groups also commended the president for the immediate release of N30 billion out of the amount.

According to the groups, the release of the money will quicken rapid development in the region.

He said the coalition, led by Amb. Munir Lawal, lauded the directive of the Federal Government to re-open the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta, noting that the university would serve as a requisite study centre for the youth.

“The coalition has been on the geopolitical zonal tour to Niger Delta Communities to educate, sensitise and advocate mass youth support for the re-opening of the Maritime University.

“We are glad for the response of Buhari’s administration to release timely intervention which truly indicates that the coalition is working with the presidency.

“We hope that the release of N30 billion out of the N55 billion will impact positive change in the region if the funds are effectively utilised for skills and vocational trainings,’’ Afiesmama said.

He said the coalition has also mobilised youths and groups and persuaded them to key to the new vision Nigeria project of President Buhari.