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Friday, July 12, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Wednesday morning

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Change Your Tactics, PMB Tells Security Chiefs [Leadership]

In a bid to change strategy against terrorists, bandits and other criminals in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered immediate reengineering of the nation’s security apparatus.

National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), disclosed this to State House correspondents after a Security Council meeting presided over by President Buhari at the presidential villa.

Monguno said at the security meeting, President Buhari directed the security chiefs to rejig their strategy, both in terms of operations and intelligence, to further prevent catastrophe in the country.

“We must bear in mind that we owe a duty to the people that elected this government and at the end of the day, without securing the nation all other things such as revamping the economy and fighting corruption cannot be addressed,” the NSA stated.

According to him, the president restated his earlier stance that the security chiefs need to do more to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.

He said, “What he (Buhari) said today was virtually a reaffirmation of what he said the first time. Yes, Mr President said ‘you are doing your best, as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a lot more to be done. I’m more concerned about the promise we made to the larger Nigerian society and I am ordering an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus. This is something that I believe will be done in a very short time, but I just want us to keep hope alive’.

“I know how everybody feels, I know how Nigerians feel. Definitely the President is not oblivious of the fact that securing the nation is a primary responsibility of government. I believe in his sincerity, but again, since he is not an octopus, since he’s not a spirit, if he delegates to people, then the onus is on them to actually fulfill the legitimate expectations of the larger Nigerian society”.

 

President Gives NDDC One Week To Pay Fees Of Overseas Students [Leadership]

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the beneficiaries of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) scholarship be paid by the end of the week.

NDDC director of corporate affairs, Charles Odili, disclosed this after delivering the NDDC management’s invitation to the president to inaugurate the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State.

The beneficiaries of the commission’s scholarship in the United Kingdom had on Monday protested the non-payment of their tuition fees.

The students converged on the Nigerian High Commission in London to express displeasure over “negligence of their welfare.”

The scholars lamented that they have been stranded since the NDDC stopped paying their tuition and allowances one year after they were awarded the scholarship.

In a statement, Odili said scholars of the commission “who are facing hardships abroad” because of the non-remittance of their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week following the order of President Buhari.

He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of NDDC former acting executive director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang, last May.

He stated: “Under the commission’s finance protocol, only the executive director (finance) and the executive director (projects) can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”

On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili said the one submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister.

The NDDC spokesperson said the list submitted to the National Assembly was compiled by the management in charge of the commission in 2018.

He said there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but these were not submitted to the National Assembly.

“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” he said.

Odili asked prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list not to panic as the commission is aware “that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts”, and that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.

The spokesperson said the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.

He added that the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts which were signed for and collected in one day by one person ostensibly for members of the National Assembly.

 

UBA Leads Consortium To Fund NNPC’s $1.5bn Investment [Leadership]

The United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) has acted as the lead arranger of a consortium of Nigerian commercial and international banks in a $1.5 billion Pre-export Finance Facility for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its upstream subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

UBA is providing $200million (Naira equivalent) to support investment growth and liquidity requirements.

The facility is expected to provide capital for investment in NNPC’s production capacity, which is of strategic importance to the Nigerian economy and the country’s leading source of foreign exchange earnings.

UBA’s position as Lead Arranger recognises the Group’s strength in structuring and deploying financing to the oil and gas sector, and the depth and liquidity of the Group’s balance sheet, the bank said in a statement yesterday.

The $1.5 billion facility is structured in two tranches as follows: the first tranche of $1 billion, to be repaid over a period of five years, will be provided in dollars, with UBA acting as the Facility Agent Bank; the second tranche of $500 million will be provided in local currency, over seven years, with UBA acting as Lead Bank, providing $200 million in Naira equivalent.

Both facilities will be repaid from an allocation of 30,000 barrels per day of NPDC’s crude oil.  UBA has a strong track record in the resources sector across Africa, having facilitated oil prepayment deals with the NNPC, including its 2013 $100 million participation in the PXF Funding Limited transaction, and a further $60 million in the 2015 Phoenix Export Funding Limited transaction.

In Senegal, UBA was responsible for the EUR 240m revolving crude oil financing facility for the Société Africaine de Raffinage and in Congo Brazzaville co-funded the $250m crude oil prepayment facility for Orion Oil Limited.

Other participants in the NNPC deal include Standard Chartered Bank, Afrexim Bank, Union Bank and two oil trading companies, Vitol and Matrix.

Speaking on the recent support for the Nigeria’s petroleum industry, UBA Group chairman, Tony O Elumelu said, “This has been one of the most economically challenging years that Nigeria has witnessed.  With the sharp drop in the price of oil and the ensuing hardship that followed the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the private sector must come together and contribute meaningfully to the economy.

“This facility is clear evidence of this – UBA is providing investment that will significantly improve Nigeria’s production capacity and in doing so also demonstrating the strength, depth, and sophistication of our commercial banking capability.  I believe that together, working with governments, we can create more jobs and more wealth for people, not only in Nigeria, but across Africa”.

The United Bank for Africa is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with over 20,000 employees and serving over 20 million customers.

UBA operates in 20 African countries and globally in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France, providing retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.

 

Hate speech: NBA, activists lampoon FG for raising fine to N5m [Punch]

  • Address senseless killings, economic hardship, SANs, lawyers’ body, others tell govt

Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor, Ade Adesomoju, Samson Folarin, Oladimeji Ramon and Temiloluwa O’Peters

The Nigerian Bar Association, senior lawyers and human rights groups on Tuesday took a swipe at the Federal Government for raising the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m.

The NBA and others, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said the hike was an attempt to stifle the media and kill free speech through an unconstitutional means.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while unveiling the reviewed Nigeria Broadcasting Code earlier on Tuesday in Lagos,  disclosed that the fine for hate speech had been increased to N5m.

Justifying the decision, Mohammed said, “We remain unperturbed, because we are acting in the national interest. The broadcasting code is not a static document. As we often say, broadcasting is dynamic. Therefore, even the sixth edition of the code shall be reviewed at the appropriate time.”

He stated that the new code  included,“the provision raising the fine for hate speech from  N500,000 to N5m.”

Mohammed said the amendments were necessitated by a presidential directive for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the National Broadcasting Commission and conduct of broadcast stations before, during and after the elections.

The minister said the recommendations were approved by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to reposition the NBC to perform its regulatory role better, mostly in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising, and anti-competitive behaviour.

He noted that the reviewed code also had provisions on exclusivity and monopoly, prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intended to create monopolies.

The minister said this would boost local content and encourage open access to premium content.

He explained that sub-licensing and rights sharing created opportunities for local operators to also gain traction and raise revenue for their services.

Mohammed also noted the law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts would promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

Recall that a senator from Niger State, Sabi Abdullahi, last year presented a bill seeking death penalty for hate speech.

But following criticisms by  Nigerians, the senator said he would amend the bill to remove death penalty as the maximum punishment for hate speech.

The bill, which passed the first reading in November 12, 2019, has yet to progress to the second reading.

But the Minister of State (Transportation), Gbemi Saraki, in an interview with state House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting in November 2019, said hate speech bill was already captured in the country’s cybercrime law.

Nine months after the controversy generated by the hate speech bill died down, the NBA, two SANs and human rights groups on Tuesday faulted  the Federal Government for hiking the fine for it.

Hike in hate speech fine unconstitutional attempt to gag the media – NBA

The NBA described the astronomical increase in the hate speech fine in the newly introduced broadcasting code as an unconstitutional attempt to gag the press.

The NBA said this through its outgoing National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kunle Edun, who was responding to The PUNCH’s request for the association’s position on the Federal Government’s new policy.

Hike anti-people – Lawyers’ association

Edun said the 900 per cent increase in the fine  was anti-people. He stated, “This is an unconstitutional attempt at gagging the press. The press as the fourth estate of the realm plays the constitutional role of a watchdog of our democracy in the face of increasing impunity, seemingly official policy of disobedience of court orders, sheer exhibition of rascality by some of our security agencies and unbridled corruption in government.

Be more concerned about killings, NBA advises FG

“Gagging the press by increasing the fine for hate speech by 900 per cent is anti-people. The government should be more concerned  about how to improve the welfare of Nigerians, stop the senseless killings in the country and give the people some hope that they have a government that cares. It is the failure of these core responsibilities of government that causes disaffection in society.

“These are the root causes and that is what government should  deal with primarily, not scratching the surface.”

On his part,  a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Seyi Sowemimo, said penalty increment was not the best way for curbing hate speech in the face of widespread divisiveness in the country.

The SAN also doubted whether the fine could be enforced or not since it was imposed by a code made by the minister and  not by the National Assembly, which is the body with the constitutional powers to make laws.

Sowemimo said, “It is difficult to really define hate speech in the context of the ethnic animosity and divisiveness that pervade the land. I am not sure increasing the penalty from N500,000 to N5m is the best way of discouraging hate speech. The ethnic animosity and divisiveness that pervade our society are some of the things that make people make statements that are being termed hate speech. I don’t think hate speech is the real problem that we have in our country now and so, I don’t see that this measure will serve any useful purpose.

“Besides, I think  this fine for hate speech is going to be difficult to enforce. I don’t see how the minister and some people will make a code and increase fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m. Until there is a law made by those who are charged to make laws, and not a code, I don’t see how this will be enforced.”

It’s an expression of Buhari govt’s despotism,  dictatorship – Ozekhome

Also, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, described the increment in the fine for hate speech  as unconstitutional.

The constitutional lawyer warned that if the Federal Government ever attempted to enforce the provision, it would be challenged and outlawed.

He described the move as an expression of intolerance, despotism and dictatorship.

 

 

We’ve submitted WASSCE 2020 timetable to FG –WAEC [Punch]

The West African Examinations Council Nigeria, has submitted the timetable for the conduct of West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination to the Federal Government.

The Head of Public Affairs, WAEC Nigeria, Demianus Ojijeogu, made this known in a chat with our correspondent on Tuesday.

He said, “It was released today (Tuesday) by the Head of Nigeria National Office of WAEC to the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja. WAEC wishes to inform its stakeholders-schools, parents and candidate that the final international timetable for the conduct of WASSCE, 2020 has been released.”

He noted that several versions of the examination timetable had been in circulation, urging the public to disregard them, saying they did not emanate from WAEC.

“The examination which has been slated to begin on Monday, August 17, 2020 will end on Saturday, September 12, 2020.

“The council hereby urges the candidates to abide by the rules and regulations guiding the conduct of the examination by shunning all acts of malpractice and obeying all Covid-19 protocols that have been put in place at the examination centres,” he said.

 

 

China becoming apprehensive about Nigerian loans, says FG [Punch]

China is becoming apprehensive about releasing loans to Nigeria following probes by the National Assembly on loans earlier released to Nigeria by the Asian nation, the Federal Government said on Tuesday.

Although the government insisted that no nation could recolonise Nigeria as a result of Nigeria’s indebtedness, it cautioned lawmakers not to hamper its ability to access international funds.

The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said this in a live television programme monitored by our correspondent in Abuja.

Both ministers argued that Nigeria’s sovereignty was not at risk in the country’s loan agreements with China, as recently claimed by the National Assembly.

Amaechi said the probe by the National Assembly had made some Chinese to think that Nigeria was probing the loan agreements in order not to repay the about $2bn so far collected from China.

He said, “You know, I specifically urged the National Assembly to please be careful about this probe on the loan agreements. It is because we are trying to make an application for the Port Harcourt Maiduguri rail.

“If nothing else is happening, you know that our brothers are already saying that we don’t want to do any rail project in the South-East.”

He added, “Now that we are planning to say that they should give us some loan for us to construct Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and we are about to go to cabinet for approval, you are now shouting these terms are bad, Chinese people are wicked.

“How will they give you the money? I have documents to the effect that we are getting signals that they are becoming a bit apprehensive on whether we are doing this because we don’t want to pay them back.”

The minister said Nigeria must learn to pay back loans collected from other nations or agencies, adding that the about $500m loan for the Abuja-Kaduna railway was currently being serviced.

He said, “Nobody has signed out anything. A sovereign nation is a sovereign nation; nobody can recolonise us. We must learn to pay our debts and we are paying, and once you are paying, nobody will come and take any of your assets.”

On his part, Malami explained that there was a difference between international diplomatic immunity, which had to do with a nation’s sovereignty, and commercial immunity, which had to do with a commitment to ensure repayment of loans.

He said the misconception was that the National Assembly was looking at the diplomatic immunity as against the commercial immunity of a country that had to do with loans.

 

95% of students in exit classes resume in FCT [Sun]

About 95 per cent of students in the exit classes of the secondary schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), resumed on Tuesday, in preparation for the 2020 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

Majority of the teachers and students said they were happy to resume after lockdown, which lasted for about five months, due to the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Mrs Essien Enewan-Okon, Principal of Government Secondary School, Wuse Zone 3 in Abuja, said that 90 per cent of students in the school’s exit classes have resumed.

“They are all in their classrooms, very happy and we teachers are equally happy to resume; we thank God and the FCT Administration, who have made it possible for us to resume.

“As a government school, we are fully prepared for resumption because the FCT Secondary Education Board gave us all it takes to resume, starting from hands sanitizer, buckets for handwashing to face masks.

“The entire school premises was fumigated, we washed our classrooms and created the two meters distance required for desk spacing in all our 11 classrooms before resumption,” she said.

A student of Government Senior Secondary School Tudunwada has his temperature checked during the resumption of exit classes in Abuja on Tuesday (4/8/20). 04045/4/8/2020/Jones Bamidele/NAN

An exit class of Government Senior Secondary School Wuse Zone 3, during their resumption of in Abuja on Tuesday (4/8/20). 04046/4/8/2020/Jones Bamidele/NAN

A cross-section an exit class at Fau-ad Lababidi Islamic Academy, during their resumption of in Abuja on Tuesday (4/8/20). 04048/4/8/2020/Jones Bamidele/NAN

The principal also said that the school on resumption began by giving the students orientation on the new normal and how to go about their lives in school and at home.

“We even told them the type of food they should eat and pray to God that they should comply with the protocols,” she said.

A student in the school, Daniel Boluwatife said that she was excited to come back to school because the uncertainty of whether or not Nigerian students would be writing the 2020 WASSCE was very disappointing to her.

Also, Michael Oyegoke said, “I am excited to come back to school because there were a lot of distractions at home than in the school environment”.

On whether the teachers would be able to cover their syllabus within the two weeks preceding the WASSCE, both teachers and students were optimistic.

Mrs Felicial Ogbuegebe, head of sciences department in the school said that before they went on lockdown, there were only two weeks remaining before the WASSCE.

“We had covered our syllabus and we were doing revision before the lockdown came.

“All we need to do now is to revise with the students because staying at home for this long, they must have forgotten one or two things.

“Every safety measure has been put in place before the school resumed; so all the teaching staff are joining our hands together to teach the students, especially the sciences – Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

“All the teachers are now involved in preparing the exit class; this time it is not a time for a teacher to say that he teaches only SS 3 or SS 1 classes.

“Whatever class you teach, we are all involved with the SS 3 class now to make sure that they get whatever they need to get before their exams, ” she said.

An optimistic Nuralhuda Mohammed, a female student told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): “my expectation for WASSCE is that it will not be hard for me because I have read over and over during the lockdown, so, I am good to go.

“Since my teachers have all covered all their schemes of work and I am not new to the school environment, I have nothing to worry about,” she said.

In another vein, Malam Tamim Yusuf, the chief administrative officer of the Muslim Community Centre, owners of Fau-ad Lababidi Islamic Academy and four other institutions in Abuja, said that, the school was in full compliance with the government directives for resumption.

“In compliance with the directives of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, it is only our SS 3 students that have resumed.

“We decontaminated the entire school premises and an inspection was carried out by the Department of Quality Assurance of the FCT Education Secretariat on the arrangement of classrooms.

“They were satisfied with our compliance, so they issued us a certificate for having satisfied all the requirements.

“Today being the first day of resumption, we organized a general orientation both for students and teachers.

“The orientation is in two phases: a medical doctor came from the National Hospital Abuja to give a talk generally on the COVID-19 protocols and an Imam gave another talk on what the Qura’an says about the pandemic and human responsibility.

“Right from the gate, no one is given access to the school premises until they have washed their hands and had their temperature taken; our classes are compliant in terms of social distancing,” he said.

 

 

Buhari plans overhaul of security apparatuses [Sun]

  • CAN, NSCIA seek mop up of weapons

Following his dissatisfaction with the worsening insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has again challenged the nation security agencies to rejig their strategies in the ongoing battle against insurgency, banditry and other violent crimes in some parts of the country.

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Mongonu (retd), revealed this when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the National Security Council meeting, presided over by President Buhari at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.

The president, according to the NSA, reaffirmed his last marching orders to the nation’s security chiefs that their best effort was not good enough.

Monguno revealed that since the issues involved were operational issues, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, “is working on something” likely to give a new direction to the security agencies.

The NSA also disclosed that the council noted that proliferation of drugs is driving insecurity in the country.

Monguno said the manner of killings of their victims could only mean one thing, that the bandits, kidnappers and terrorists are out of their minds.

He said President Buhari noted that Nigerians have lost confidence in the security sector and  in he is determined to restore that confidence.

The NSA said his office presented a memo to the Security Council on the danger of drug abuse in the society as well as the need to urgently address the problem

He revealed that between 2011 and 2019, approximately 17 manufacturing laboratories of dangerous substances were located by the various security agencies and destroyed while an increasing activities of illegal cultivators of `Canabis’ were also recorded.

He said criminals had resulted to the use of illegal substances and dangerous drugs like Tramadol to unleash violence on innocent citizens in the society.

“Basically, what I told council was that this has taken on a worrisome dimension. Nigeria’s perception on the drug trafficking index has changed from the status from a transit hub to a production centre.

“Between 2011 and 2019, approximately 17 manufacturing laboratories of dangerous substances were located by the various security agencies and destroyed. That is a large number.

“At the same we have had increasing activities of illegal cultivators of Canabis in Nigeria.

“These people basically use extremely large space of arable land to cultivate this illegal substance, employing militia men to protect their farms and also their storage facilities.

“When you look at drugs, our main concern as security operatives is the ultimate destruction to the social fabric and economy of the nation.

“There is hardly any violence crime today in Nigeria that is not propelled by the use of these hard substances. And these hard substances have been coming in from all nooks and crannies,’’ he said.

Monguno believed that the reckless use of these dangerous substances had direct link to the insecurity being experienced across the country.

He, therefore, stressed the need for a collective, concerted effort to deal with the menace of dangerous drugs in circulation to safeguard the country from the bottomless pit of self-destruction.

The NSA boss disclosed that he later updated the Council on the security situation in the northwest and the north central, “in terms of looking at the issue of kidnapping, banditry and killing of innocent people.’’

“The Chief of Defence Staff, army chief, inspector general of Police, heads of the various intelligence agencies also gave synopsis each of the current security situation and what their various organizations and agencies are doing about these situations,’’ he said.

This is as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), registered their displeasure with the state of security, particularly the recent activities that led to loss of hundreds of lives.

Speaking under the platform the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), leaders of both faiths challenged Federal Government to quickly change its approach to issue of the rise in insecurity to avoid unfriendly reactions of Nigerians.

They condemned the terrorists’ attacks on innocent citizens in the north east part of Nigeria, and the various criminal activities in the various parts of the country, registering its concerns that the threats and killings are fast spreading across other parts of the country.

They particularly asked the security agents to mop up arms and ammunition in wrong hands, particularly criminals, and ensure a complete stop to the proliferation of all forms of arms and light weapons being used by criminals to terrorise and destroy lives and property.

Co-chairmen of NIREC, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of NSCIA, Sa’ad Abubakar and CAN President, Rev. Sampson Ayokunle, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, by the Executive Secretary of NIREC, Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua, said they were constrained to call on government to provide security for the Nigerians.

They made reference to a recent statement credited to the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, during his Sallah homage to the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, in which he said people of Borno were no longer safe due to increasing activities of Boko Haram insurgents.

He appealed that Maiduguri, in particular, should not be allowed to be run over by insurgents who have been throwing mortals, killing people, which is a pointer to the sorry state of security in the state and beyond.

The religious leaders reminded the government that over the past few days, over 76 people have been killed in Sabon Birni Local Government of Sokoto State; RuwanTofa Dansadua district in Zamfara State; Zagon Kataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State; Bethel Baptist Church Aguda-Dauruwan, Kogi State, and the attack on the convoy of the Borno State Governor in Baga.

NIREC challenged security agents to fish out the criminals so they can face justice. In addition to that, they must mop up arms and ammunitions in wrong hands, particularly criminals and ensure a complete stop to the proliferation of all forms of weapons that criminals use to destroy lives and property.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Bendel Province of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Dr. Cyril Odutemu has said it would be difficult for Nigeria to win the war against insurgency with the current security architecture.

Odutemu said the nation’s security architecture cannot address the incessant killings and displacement of innocent Nigerians by rampaging Fulani herdsmen and bandits.

He, therefore, suggested that the security architecture be restructured in such a way that members of the armed forces and the police are deployed to their areas of origin.

 

 

Hate speech now attracts N5m fine, FG tells broadcast stations [Sun]

Stations that broadcast materials considered to be hate speech will now pay N5 million.

Before now, fine for hate speech was N500,000.

Minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, who made the declaration during the unveiling of the amended portion of the sixth edition of the National Broadcasting  Commission (NBC) code, in Lagos, yesterday, insisted that Federal Government would  not yield to blackmail by a segment of the stakeholders opposed to the new code.

He warned that stations that rebroadcast foreign news materials that endanger national security or national interest would be penalised.

“What I have observed in the reactions to the amendment are interests who believe that their singular business interest is superior to the national interest.

“Therefore, they have resorted to all kinds of blackmail, using hack writers. Ladies and gentlemen, we remain unperturbed, because we are acting in the national interest,” he said.

The minister reiterated that the intentions of government in effecting the amendment was to catalyze the growth of the local industry and create jobs for the teeming creative youths.

Mohammed said the broadcasting code is not a static document, therefore those who have misgivings about the amended code should meet with the regulator and present their views for considerations in subsequent amendment.

“As I said, there are opportunities for constant review of the Code, but please note that this latest amendment is signed, sealed and delivered, and we are committed to making it work for the good of the country.”

He recalled that the  amendments were necessitated by a Presidential directive for inquiry into the unwholesome conduct of some broadcast stations in the wake of the 2019 general elections.

He said government equally saw the need  to strengthen the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to effectively perform it’s regulatory roles.

He said the amendments were mostly in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising and anti-competitive behaviour.

He explained that provisions relating to exclusivity and monopoly in the code would  boost local content and local industry as well as encourage open access to premium contents.

“Sub-licensing and Rights sharing create opportunities for local operators to also gain traction and raise revenue for their services.

“The law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts will definitely promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

“The law on registration of Web Broadcasting grants the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that can harm us

as a nation. Such harms could be in the area of security, protection for minors, protection of human dignity, economic fraud, privacy,” he said.

Acting Director-General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba thanked the government for implementing measures for effective functioning of the broadcast industry in the country.

He commended the minister for implementing reforms in the sector, laudable intervention to assist practitioners as well as refocussing and repositioning the Digital Switch Over programme.

 

 

CAN president, Sultan raise alarm over killings [Nation]

Islamic and Christian leaders have expressed sadness over killings in the country.

They also raised the alarm over proliferation of arms and ammunitions.

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President Rev. Samson Ayokunle and the Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar spoke on Tuesday through the platform of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).

They are co-chairmen of the organisation, which made the following demands on the Federal Government.

             Fishing out of perpetrators of crime and killings to face justice

             Mopping up of arms and ammunition in the hands of criminals

             Complete stop to the proliferation of all forms of weapons that criminals use to destroy lives and property.

The Executive Secretary of NIREC, Prof. Cornelius Omonokhua, signed the statement, which said: “NIREC is worried that the threats and killings keep spreading. We condemn the carnage on human life especially the recent killings of 76 people in Sabon Birni Local Government of Sokoto State; RuwanTofa Dansadua district in Zamfara State; ZagonKataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State; Bethel Baptist Church Aguda-Dauruwan Kogi State”.

NIREC also frowned at the attack on the convoy of the Borno State governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, at Baga, adding that: “We condemn absolutely, the political thuggery that threatens human life and peaceful coexistence.

The security agents must fish out the criminals to face justice. They must mop up the arms and ammunitions in the hands of criminals. The government must ensure a complete stop to the proliferation of all forms of weapons that criminals use to destroy liives and property.

“During his traditional Sallah homage to the Governor of Borno State, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai ElKanemi cried out: “My people in Borno are no longer safe.” Consequently, Maiduguri, in particular should not be allowed to be run over by the insurgents who have been throwing mortals there, killing people. These show how serious the State of insecurity is in the nation. These situations and the likes are of grave concern to NIREC. The unabated carnages leave the citizens in a state of complete despair as economic activities are almost paralyzed.

“NIREC is therefore constrained once again to call on the Government at all levels to take security as a top priority for every Nigerian. The Government at all levels must double up their efforts of securing the lives and property of the citizens”.

 

 

Buhari orders security rejig as CAN, Sultan raise the alarm [Nation]

             Religious leaders call for end to arms rise

             Governors meet on security, economy

A rejig of the nation’s security operations has commenced in response to the growing insecurity in many parts of the country.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Major. Gen. Babagana Monguno, stated this on Tuesday after the National Security Council meeting at the State House in Abuja.

According to the NSA, President Muhammadu Buhari, who presided over yesterday’s meeting, gave the directive, adding that he is “working on something” with Minister of Defence Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi in that regard.

Gen. Monguno told reporters after the meeting that the Preisdent directed a “rejig of our strategy, both in terms of operations and intelligence, to further prevent catastrophes. We must bear in mind that we owe a duty to the people that elected this government and at the end of the day, without securing the nation, all other things such as revamping the economy and fighting corruption cannot be addressed.

He added: “I know it has not been easy, there has been a gradual loss of confidence over the years and the president is determined to restore confidence.

Speaking specifically on what transpired at yesterday’s meeting, the NSA said: “What the President said today was virtually a reaffirmation of what he said the first time. Yes, Mr President said you are doing your best, as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a lot more to be done. I’m more concerned about the promise we made to the larger Nigerian society and I am ordering an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus. This is something that I believe will be done in a very short time, but I just want us to keep hope alive.

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“I know how everybody feels, I know how Nigerians feel. Definitely, the President is not oblivious of the fact that securing the nation is a primary responsibility of government and I believe in his sincerity, but again, since he’s not an octopus, since he’s not a spirit, if he delegates to people, then, the onus is on them to actually fulfil the legitimate expectations of the larger Nigerian society.

“The office of the National Security Adviser, in conjunction with other security agencies, will work on a blueprint in a short, medium and a long term to address this matter”.

Asked on President Buhari’s earlier marching orders to service chiefs to shape up and live up to their task, Monguno said: “basically, these are operational matters that are best dealt with by the Minister of Defense.

“I know that there’s something that he’s working on, which has led to this meeting being delayed slightly, this meeting was actually supposed to take place before the Sallah holiday, but I think one or two things have come up that I don’t think I can explain, but I want you to be comfortable that something is being done, following that marching order”, he said.

On the clash between Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, and the military, the NSA said he would get a better briefing after the meeting of the National Security Council with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).

“Just like you have seen things on the social media here, again I don’t know the final details of what happened, but I know that the governor will meet with Mr President to discuss whatever led to the incident and the debacle. What I know, however, is that in another 30 minutes from now (yesterday), we are going to have a virtual meeting with the Governors’ Forum.

“My name sake has already told me that he’s coming for the meeting, it’s only after that meeting that I can really be able to understand the nitty gritty of what happened, but like you said, it’s unfortunate and I believe we’ll get over this issue”.

Gen. Monguno accused criminals of being driven by drugs: “These drugs basically are condone, opiums, cocaine, tramadol and pertamines and of course cannabis sativa. The popular drug of choice is tramadol, it is easily acquired. Tramadol has been the drug of choice for terrorists, bandits and kidnappers. And if we don’t tackle this we are going to be immersed great problem by virtue of the fact that he who resides in the town, urban or rural area must be able to collaborate with agents of government in revealing these abnormalities.

“The second issue of course is also tied intrinsically to that situation of banditry in the northwest and north central zones, where you have a lot of illegal aliens working just like what you see in the mining sector, illegal miners working with bandits and kidnappers. Of course there are also other issues of fully equipping the security agencies” he explained.

 

 

Businesses groan as COVID-19 impact on economy worsens [Nation]

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic raises several challenges across different sectors of the economy. No sector from banking, telecoms, manufacturing, e-Commerce among others are exonerated from the uncertainty and rising costs of operations triggered by the pandemic. Therefore, getting the economy and businesses working post-COVID-19 will require collaboration with private sector operators on key issues like taxation and stimulus packages for businesses across all sectors of the economy, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused widespread concern and economic hardship for consumers, businesses, and communities across the globe. It is estimated that there is no sector of the economy that has not been affected negatively including the banking, telecoms, e-commerce, manufacturing sectors.

The situation has come with widespread impacts across different sectors of the economy. In this vein, many economies have injected stimulus packages in the form of government spending, tax breaks, loan guarantees, to mention but a few.

Many countries have therefore intervened to save businesses and their economies from the pandemic impact. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report on economic responses governments are taking to limit the human and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States inaugurated the US$483 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

The legislation includes US$321 billion for additional forgivable Small Business Administration loans and guarantees to help small businesses that retain workers; US$62 billion for the Small Business Administration to provide grants and loans to assist small businesses; US$75 billion for hospitals; and US$25 billion for expanding virus testing.

For China, an estimated RMB 4.2 trillion of discretionary fiscal measures have been announced. Key measures include increased spending on epidemic prevention and control, production of medical equipment, accelerated disbursement of unemployment insurance and extension to migrant workers, tax relief, and waived social security contributions.

According to the IMF, in Australia, fiscal stimulus, consisting of expenditure and revenue measures worth A$134.5 billion put in place through the fiscal year 2023 to 24, with measures like sizable wage subsidies, income support to households, cash flow support to businesses, investment incentives, and targeted measures for affected regions and industries.

In Canada, the government carried out key tax and spending measures worth CAD 262.6 billion, with $5.7 billion to the health system while around $171.9 billion in direct aid to households and firms, among others.

Nigeria has been severely hit by the spread of COVID-19 and the associated sharp decline in oil prices. Government policy is responding to both developments. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the N2.3 trillion stimulus package (1.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product- proposed by the Economic Sustainability Committee, designed to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s economy.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cut the monetary policy rate on May 29 to 12.5 per cent, reduced interest rates on all applicable CBN interventions from nine to five per cent. The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele also announced a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities and created a N50 billion targeted credit facility, among other measures including N100 billion to support the health sector.

Stakeholders insisted on the need to re-evaluate other ways to use tax incentives to grow the economy post-COVID-19 without over-emphasis on multiple taxations for sectors that are required to support the economic recovery process.

Would it not be more sustainable for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to provide adequate incentives to taxpayers in key sectors as it is done in other climes, instead of seeking to ramp up collection of advance tax?

There are certain steps FIRS needs to take to reflate the economy and promote sustainable growth. FIRS can push for banks to provide loans for working capital for all private companies that were tax-compliant and solvent before the pandemic.

The agency can also adopt tax deferral measures allowing all large companies to defer payment of profit tax for the second and third quarter of 2020 in 2021. Telecom, Manufacturing, active processing, and call centres can defer payments for the rest of 2020 to 2021. Small businesses with turnover below N25 million could be advised not to pay profit tax for the remainder of 2021.

In a recent report titled “Changing Competitive Landscape in the Fintech and Banking sectors in Nigeria” by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said that all sectors of the economy are facing the adverse impact of COVID-19 at various degrees. The banking sector has had to contend with rising bad loans, although the ongoing shift to remote work is driving demand for networking infrastructure and connectivity in the telecom sector; the demand, could also strain the system and lead to public perception issues if the right technology, which requires a heavy capital outlay, is not provided.

The PwC report explained that excessive demand on mobile and communications networks — including temporary suspension of data caps — could affect service quality, creating a ripple effect as companies across various sectors implement remote-work plans.

PwC says the crisis underscores the need for more flexible, resilient business models, that do not include draining liquidity through taxes from the telecoms, banks, or manufacturers.

It said a number of telcos have high debt loads, which could put pressure on their debt-reduction programmes.

To succinctly capture the overall situation in the telecom industry, Analysys Mason (Global consulting and research firm specialising in telecoms) in its April 2020 report, while commenting on revenue impact during the COVID-19 lockdown, says: “Overall revenue declines are expected to amount to 3.4 per cent in 2020 (against a previous forecast of an increase of 0.7 per cent) with a modest rebound of 0.8 per cent in 2021.”

“Consumer services, which account for the majority (68 per cent) of telecoms revenue, have a demonstrable level of resilience during economic downturns. The restrictions of movement in place in many countries and the emphasis on home working and entertainment means that fixed services perform relatively well. However, business telecoms will be badly hit. Increased unemployment, business closures and the overall decline in activity mean that spend by businesses on telecoms will fall sharply.”

This is exactly what telcos in Nigeria are facing at the moment. They have lost a huge percentage of their revenue which comes from their Enterprise customers (Organisations, big corporates).

In the banking sector, the CBN Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability Directorate Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, said 17 commercial banks have submitted requests to restructure 32,000 loans in their portfolios to the CBN. The majority of the loans were taken by energy companies affected by a drop in crude oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of commerce and Industry, Muda Yusuf, said the manufacturing sector has also been hit. He said aside difficulty in accessing foreign exchange due to a drop in Nigeria’s dollar earnings, the cost of operation for the sector has risen rapidly, impacting demand for goods and services. For instance, the manufacturing and non-Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Indices (PMIs) declined significantly to 42.4 and 25.3 index points, respectively, in May 2020, compared with 51.1 and 49.2 index points in March 2020.

The e-Commerce segment of the economy has also not been left out. As people have embraced social distancing as a way to slow the spread of the pandemic, there has naturally been a drop-off in brick-and-mortar shopping, but that has not led to increased sales for e-commerce companies.

An economist and Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane, said the attractiveness of the banking industry is deteriorating and rivalry is intensifying. For him, transaction banking is being threatened and cannibalized by leading financial technology firms.

According to Rewane, the economy is heavily challenged, and every segment is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said even though ICT resources were part of the tools used to adapt to the new normal, that does not exclude the sector from the negative impact the pandemic has had on the economy.

He said taking advance taxes from the telecom, banking, or manufacturing sectors will be unfair, and will be based on estimation, which is not the right optimization for tax collection.

Senior Vice Chairman, Africa Standard Chartered Bank Group, Mrs. Bola Adesola, said the world has changed, including the way people live and do business. Speaking at a webinar organized by Financial Institutions Training Centre, Lagos, she said that COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on people’s lives and businesses, hence the need for government, its agencies, and private sector operators to take steps that would guarantee continuous profitability for companies.

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on employment. According to the maiden report of COVID-19 impact monitoring recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the employment of Nigerians has been prevalent.

The report stated that nearly 40 million Nigerians are projected to lose their jobs by the end of this year, due to lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, underscoring the widespread devastation to the Nigeria labour market from the coronavirus. Preemptive measures can save this situation and cases have been made that good tax practices ultimately lead to job creation.

The theory behind the argument is that an increase in taxes will increase the real price of labour, decreasing the demand for labour and increasing the unemployment rate. In response, firms will replace labour with capital, and the long-run shift from labour to capital will eventually decrease the marginal product of capital low enough to reduce investment and growth. Now more than ever, policies should encourage job creation as the economy is grappling to survive and good tax practices can only be more beneficial to us.

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian economy has taken a big knock because of COVID-19. In line with established best practices, it is the responsibility of government (like most western countries) to reboot the economy by supporting businesses with various incentives which can also include a business support fund.

It will be important at this stage to recognise what the Nigerian government has so far done through the various COVID-19 committees, particularly in the injection of funds to support the economy.

Some of the notable initiatives being implemented by government include the investment of N2.3 trillion into the economy over 12 months, N10 billion loans and grants approved for various groups and organisations for pharmaceutical and healthcare-related research, under the COVID-19 intervention scheme and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Survival Fund, which incorporates a Guaranteed off-take Stimulus Scheme and the Credit Support to MSMEs.

While stakeholders commend the Federal Government for these initiatives, it is strongly believed that there is a lot more to be done to ensure that all sectors of the economy are adequately reflated post-COVID-19. This is therefore not a time for various State Governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) to invent new taxes or increase existing ones, rather, it is a time for them to see how they can reduce some taxes, outrightly eliminate some others, and provide the enabling business environment to help businesses tide over this period, leading towards a positive effect on job creation and overall economic growth.

 

 

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