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DR. BUKOLA SARAKI RESPOND TO RUMORED FUEL HIKE ALLEGATION……Described it as false and wicked report!

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President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has described as both false and wicked the swirling reports about likely fuel hike, allegedly being orchestrated by the Senate, saying there is no such intention in the first place.

Saraki, who said he was going to order an official statement to that effect, however dismissed as a lazy type of journalism the habit of taking innocuous reports on the surface and misinterpreting them as if such writers have predetermined motives.

In the same vein, the Senate has said the recommended increase in the pump price of petrol and diesel by N5 per litre, remains a proposal that is yet to be reviewed by the Senate as a whole. The legislative body however assured Nigerians that it would reject any proposal to increase the price of fuel, just as it abolished fixed electricity charges and rejected the hike in hike in data price.

Addressing the issue in an exclusive chat with THISDAY yesterday, Saraki said the story was obviously taken from the report of a public hearing on road maintenance, which suggested taxing the already existing templates of internal inflow, such that would not affect the pump price of petroleum or the end users.

According to him, since appropriation for the road maintenance was no longer feasible and it was important they took care of it, the idea was suggested that they looked inward, perhaps, by reviewing the Petroleum Products Pricing regulatory Agency (PPPRA) inflow template and see the areas the suggested N5.00 could be taken from, albeit in bits.

He said, for instance, the public hearing reports identified some of the steady inflow from the ports in terms of charges, from where some bits could be taken, adding that the overriding instruction was that the N5.00 must not reflect on the pump price or passed down to the consumer in whatever way.

“I am surprised therefore that anybody would take such a report and turned it on its head. Do I call that lazy journalism or what? The report is so false and wicked that you can’t but see the sinister intention in it. The charge to maintain road is in no way a concern to the public because it would not be passed down to them.

“But because anything that is anti-senate sells quickly, nobody bothered to find out the true picture and the negative report sold like wildfire, when indeed, it was the imagination of the writers and possibly their sponsors.

I am going to get Yusuph (his media aide) to issue a statement on this. Whether or not the critics of the Senate like it, we are and will always be pro-masses.

“Whatever this Senate does, even if it appears in the estimation of our critics as anti-people, is done first with the interest of the people factored critically into accounts. We set out ab initio to protect our people and their interest and that has remained our guiding principle. We will not depart from it. Now ask yourself, on what basis will an increase in the pump price of fuel be justified at this period, when you consider the state of the economy?

“Maybe those who sold the story and their sponsors would have an answer. We are not insensate representatives and if that is the impression that some out there want registered in the subconscious of the people about the senate, then, they will try harder. Check out our records and genuinely analyse them, we have consistently been pro-masses of this great country and that is not going to change,” he maintained.

The Senate on its Twitter handle @NGRSenate yesterday said there was no cause for alarm over the issue which had already drawn condemnation from several sections of the country.

The tweets read: “Story about recommended increase in price of fuel remains a proposal. It has not been reviewed by Senate plenary which comprises of all 109.”

“Rest assured senate that abolished fixed electricity charges, halted hike in data price & much more will not support increase in fuel price This recommendation, like all reports, will still be reviewed & debated at plenary in line with Senate procedures and democratic practices.

“Committee Report on funding road was being deliberated, when salient issues arose which led to the stepping down to clarify grey areas. Absolutely no proposal to increase fuel price! What was discussed at public hearing with stakeholders is the need for ways to maintain roads.”

“While everyone agreed on need to set aside a particular amount to fix roads, a proviso was set that price of fuel SHOULD NOT BE INCREASED. Even for purpose of funding road maintenance, we must maintain charges as it exists within the PPPRA template of PMS at 145 Naira.”

The Senate Committee on Works recently presented for enactment by the upper chamber, a proposed law titled: ‘The National Road Fund Establishment Bill’, which is part of the 11 economic reform bills initiated by the Senate and already endorsed by the House of Representatives. The 11 economic recovery bills from where the National Road Fund Bill originated was initiated by the National Assembly leadership to help take the country out of recession.

They are the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill; National Road Fund Bill; Federal Roads Authority Act (Amendment) Bill; and National Transport Commission (Establishment) Bill.

Others are Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill; Warehouse Receipts Act (Amendment) Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) Bill; Investment and Securities Act (ISA); Customs and Excise Management Act and Federal Competition Bill.

However, the nine sources identified for generating revenue for the planned National Roads Fund are fuel levy of five naira (N5) chargeable per litre on any volume of petrol and diesel products imported into Nigeria and on locally refined petroleum products, as well as axle load control charges.

There is also the toll fees (a percentage not exceeding 10% of any revenue paid as user charge per vehicle on any federal road designated as a toll road, but not applicable to PPP roads); international vehicle transit charges; and inter-state mass transit user charge of 0.5% deductible from the fare paid by passengers to commercial mass transit operators on inter-state roads.

The bill also recommended road fund surcharge of 0.5% chargeable on the assessed value of any vehicle imported at any time into Nigeria; lease, licence or other fees which shall be 10% of the revenue accruing from lease or licence or other fees pertaining to non-vehicular road usages along any federal road and collected by the federal roads agency.

On the list too are grants and loans, and gifts of land, money or other property. The bill further stated that the National Roads Fund would be established with a high level of independence under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Finance, which will only oversee the fund for policy direction.

The Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Committee on Works, which processed the bill, said “The National Roads Fund shall set aside an amount not exceeding 3% of the total monies accruing to it in the preceding year as Administrative Fund.”

The bill was recently listed on the Order Paper but could not be considered, because of time constraint. Gaya, a representative of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kano State, however pleaded with the Senate to pass the bill to facilitate the nation’s economic recovery.

The committee report was reportedly signed by 15 members and they were Gaya (chairman), Clifford Ordia (vice chairman), Mao Ohuabunwa, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Biodun Olujimi, Ben Bruce, Gilbert Nnaji, Abubakar Kyari, Ibrahim Danbaba, Mustapha Bukar, Ahmed Ogembe, Sani Mustapha and Buruji Kashamu as members.

Unfortunately, the stories were written in a way that suggested that the end users, in this case the people were to pay for the increase. The import of the proposed fuel levy charge, according to the reports, was that end-users, including motorists, would pay N5 tax on every litre of fuel bought at any fuel station, insinuating that “This will worsen the hardship most Nigerians currently face.”

In a similar development, the Special Adviser to the Senate President (social media), Mr. Bamikole Omishore, in a statement made further clarifications on the matter.

“At the Public hearing on the National Roads Fund Bill the stakeholders were unanimous on the need to access a percentage of the funds for the sustainable maintenance of roads from the pricing template of petroleum products. While the unanimity was on a percentage, opinion varied as to what percentage. Some argued for 25%, 11%, 7% and 5% of the value of the price of the product.

“This position was held strongly since most other African countries have actually implemented an average of N25 surcharge on petroleum products for the maintenance of their roads.

“It was the widely-held view that we may not be able to go that far in view of the economic challenges the country was going through and the need to ameliorate the suffering of the ordinary Nigerian.

“The technical committee in review this submission determined that even at a surcharge of 5% which leaves the value at about N11 (at the current price of PMS) will be untenable not only due to implementation challenge that would have require that at all times, the surcharge will mean an addition burden is placed on Nigerians beyond the cost of the petroleum product.”

“Rather it was agreed that the charge be pegged at N5 (five naira) and implemented within the existing charges template rather than a calculation arrived at in addition to the price of the product.”

“Therefore, what the Senate has adopted is an innovative and most sensitive approach to eliminate the possibility of increasing the price of fuel in order to fund the Roads Fund. Now with what we have the charge on petroleum products for the purpose of funding road maintenance will have to be determined within the charges template as they already existing within the PPPRA template.

“Finally, it’s important therefore to make it clear that there is no ambiguity in what the Senate has done as there will be no one naira added to the current price of fuel as a result of this bill.

“The charge is to be accommodated within the pricing charge template in effect within the PPPRA. What the Senate has adopted is the minimalist approach to ensure that our roads can come back to life.”

“Where we are with our roads and why the need for the National Roads Funds: 77% of our roads are classified as dilapidated and dangerous, one of the highest in Africa. The average in Africa is 25%.”

“A total of 12, 077 road crashes were recorded across the country in 2015, the News Agency of Nigeria notes. Nigeria is ranked second-highest in the rate of road accidents among 193 countries of the world.”

“WHO adjudge Nigeria the most dangerous country in Africa with 33.7 deaths per 100,000 population every year. According to WHO, one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria”, he added.

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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