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Nigeria to reopen land borders soon – Finance minister

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  • Says no issue with federal workers’ salaries

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the nation’s land borders closed in August 2019 will be reopened soon.

She stated this during an interview with State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.

Already, she said the presidential committee set up on the matter had completed its job and recommended the reopening of the borders.

The committee would soon submit its report to President Muhammadu Buhari, the minister who chairs the committee said, adding that a formal pronouncement would be made on the matter thereafter.

She said, “Mr President has set up a committee that I chair, alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other ministers, including Interior, Customs, Immigration, the security services, to review and advise him on the issue of border closure.

“The committee has just completed its work and we’ll be submitting our report. I’ve signed my copy; I gave everybody to sign between today and tomorrow so that we can submit the report to Mr President.”

she also spoke on the plan to save the economy from recession, saying the administration hoped to use the Economic Sustainability Plan to rescue the economy from its current situation.

She said that the government already anticipated the current recession and had designed the ESP to help fast-track its exit from the economic woe, adding that so far the plan was still very much on track and that the economy was expected to come out of recession in the first quarter of 2021.

She said, “The steps that were taken involved a vigorous implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan. You will recall that the ESP was designed to be a 12-month plan, to act as a bridge between the ERGP and its successor plan. Also, it was designed specifically to help us quickly exit recession, which we had projected was going to happen.

“So the ESP implementation is really on course; it’s focused and the implementation of the 2020 budget is really on course and very focused. We have been able to release a large volume of capital funding into ministries, departments and agencies, enabling a lot of public works going on simultaneously all over the country.

“So how we will maintain this is to make sure we continue to implement the ESP as it is planned. It will help us exit recession; it will help us reset back on the path of growth and on a road that is sustainable.”

Asked if there were plans to withdraw and rework the 2021 budget proposal which was with the National Assembly in view of the recent announcement of the contraction of the economy, the minister said, “We are not planning to retrieve the budget or reverse the budget beyond the work of appropriation that the National Assembly is currently doing in consultation with us.”

The minister explained the cause of delay in the payment of federal workers’ salaries, saying, “There’s no issue with federal workers’ salary. We have paid salaries for November and we shall pay salaries for December so there’s no issue at all with federal workers’ salary.

“If you hear about any issue, it is for agencies whose budgets funding on the GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System) was exhausted and we are about to make an adjustment to them.

“When we were doing the 2020 budget, we made estimates of the consequential adjustment that is required as a result of the minimum wage and we had sent the budget before a decision and approval was taken on the consequential adjustment. So, it is anticipated that some agencies might run short and we made a block provision in the service-wide vote of the budget.

“So when we have such a situation, what we simply do is remove funds from the service-wide vote to the agency so that they pay their budget; so there’s no problem of payment of salaries at all.”

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Fears over food scarcity as Niger farmers flee

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AS bandits continue to attack and get away with their atrocities without serious challenge from security operatives, many farmers in Niger State have fled their farms and have vowed never to return until security is beefed up around them.

To underscore their seriousness, many of them have already relocated from the farming communities to Minna, the state capital, to escape the brutality of criminals variously described as bandits, kidnappers, hoodlums, cattle rustlers and armed robbers.

Things got to the worst in recent times when the criminals not only attacked and dispossessed the farmers of their possessions, but began to set their houses ablaze as a conquered people, leaving them with nothing to manage their lives with.

The bandits have successfully taken their atrocities to no fewer than 18 of the 25 local government areas of the state and are unwilling to halt their infamy despite threats from security agencies.

They appear to be more daring after being challenged by the security organisations, thereby sending fears into residents of the remaining local government areas.

Farmers whose areas have not yet been visited by the hoodlums now live in fear of possible attack by the daring bandits.

As a result of the unrelenting onslaughts by bandits on farmers, many have since abandoned farming and harvesting of their mature crops, a development that is already forcing an increase in the prices of foodstuff. Many of the farmers interviewed by Arewa Voice said they would not risk their lives by going back to the farms except adequate security is assured.

A yam farmer, Adamu Useni Allawa, who also cultivates maize and millet, lamented that although he was eager to return to his farm, he would only do so when there is improved security in the farms.

He said, “I am eager to go back to my farm but my fear is this insecurity. It troubles my mind to go back because of insecurity. Any time it pricks my heart to go back to the farm, I often have another premonition that going back there might be a journey of no return. I am not in any way preparing now because I don’t have the confidence. I don’t do any other work than farming but I cannot risk my life for farming as it is.

“I have a bitter experience, which is still fresh in my memory. It is about my uncle and his friends who the bandits met in their farms and shot them to death instantly without any sympathy. Some of these bandits after attacking and killing our people even run away with their seedlings and we are left with virtually nothing to start fresh planting. We have relocated to Pandogari and have become refugees in a strange environment, doing nothing.”

Another farmer, Umaru Adamu Allawa, said his hope rested on government to provide more security to enable him and others go back to their various farms.

Allawa said, “If the banditry situation continues like this, there is no hope for us to go back to the farm. Our yearly turnover is massive and even if we cannot feed the state or the entire nation, we can feed our zone that comprises eight wards in Shiroro Local government effectively.”

Bala Usman, a public servant who also is also a farmer, said, “With the present insecurity in my area-comprising Lakpma, Munyan and Rafi local government areas, the farmers are no longer able to go to their farms. The implication is that it will surely affect the economy of the areas concerned, the state and the country in general. That is why we call on government at all levels to intervene immediately in order to enable farmers go back to their farms.

“Even if we are supplied the necessary farming inputs like fertilisers, seedlings, among others, it will be difficult to transport them to the affected areas because of these bandits. Also, we will find it difficult to start all over again because apart from killing our people, the bandits also steal and burn down our seedlings and we are now left with virtually nothing to take off again.”

Shuaibu Yusuf, who is from Manta, one of the ravaged areas by bandits, said from the look of things, it will be very difficult for farmers in the troubled communities to farm this year.

The Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Idris Usman Gbogan, however, assured the farmers that the Niger State government was aware of the security challenges and has taken steps to further protect lives and property of its people, especially those areas constantly raided by the bandits.

Gbogan told Arewa Voice in an interview that the state government has procured farming inputs in preparation for the coming planting season.

He said, “The step taken by the state government is to cushion the effect of transportation cost for the agro input companies as a way of reducing the cost of agricultural inputs.

By the first week of next month, the state Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, will launch the 2021 farming season and, thereafter, all these agricultural inputs will be ferried to all parts of the state under tight security.

“As at now, we have one extension worker to about 5000 farm families which is not acceptable because the ideal situation is to have one extension worker to between 800 and 1,000 farm families so in each of our stores presently across all the 25 local government areas, we are going to position extension workers so that as the farmers come to buy their inputs, we have the extension workers who will educate them and give them necessary extension knowledge on the inputs they are buying from the stores.

Gbogan said despite the insecurity and other challenges, there is still hope for bumper harvest in the state and this is why government is ensuring that they get the necessary inputs they need.

The state Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Niger State Chapter, Alhaji Shehu Galadima, told Arewa Voice that banditry was a bad omen for the state and its people and should be tackled with immediate effect.

He said, “Last year, it was not easy for farmers because many of them could not conclude their farming processes. Some of them who fled their ancestral homes because of the bandits cannot even go back to their homes to get their seedlings and other property in readiness for this planting season.

“Just about two days ago, in Kuchi Town in Sarkin Pawa Local Government Area of the state, the entire community was sacked and the people had to run for their lives.

“Other places having similar problems are Shiroro, Mariga, Munyan and parts of Paikoro, Rijau, Mashegu local government areas, just to mention a few. They are all overwhelmed with this type of problem.

“We are afraid that this year’s farming is being seriously threatened and it is not going to be easy for our farmers in the state because of the security issues. If the lives and properties of people are not secured, nobody will be able to do anything.”

-Vanguard

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NLC plans strike over Kaduna workers sacking

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The Nigeria Labour Congress says it will withdraw services from both public and private organisations in Kaduna State for five days to protest mass sacking of workers by the state government.

The decision to withdraw the services of workers was taken by the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the NLC at a meeting in Abuja on Thursday.

President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said the five-day withdrawal of service by workers in the state will become total if there is no remorse from the state government.

He condemned the decision of Governor Nasir el-Rufai to sack close to 4,000 workers who are mostly from the 23 local government areas in the state.

Wabba said: “CWC has decided and has also recommended to the National Executive Council, that labour will withdraw all services from either public or private. This means all services for all sectors of the economy for five days in the first instance and where there is no remorse, it is going to be a total action.

“We thought that workers should not be allowed to die in silence because thousands of them that have been sacked have not been paid in line with the provisions of the law.

“More worrisome is the policy targeted at workers that have spent more than 30 years in service or some more than 20 years in service.

“In fact, the policy said that once you are up to 50 years in service, you will be disengaged and be sent off without any entitlement.

Wabba noted that the governor violated all the known laws that regulate labour and industrial relation in Nigeria.

He stated that some teachers disengaged by the state government were yet to receive their entitlements till date.

He added, “The entire working class in Nigeria has condemned the sack of thousands of workers in Kaduna. The CWC condemns the conversion of workers to casuals by the Kaduna State government under the pretext of paucity of funds or drop in revenue.”

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FAAC shares N680bn to FG, states, LGs for April

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The Federation Accounts Allocation Committee on Thursday shared the sum of N680 billion among the three tiers of government.

The money was from the revenue that accrued to the federation in the month of March, which has been distributed to enable government meet its financial obligations for the month of April.

An official of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning who disclosed the amount distributed, did not provide details of what each tier of government received.

He said that top officials of the ministry and the FAAC were preparing the communique/statement.

The general declining revenue profile of the nation has generated tension between the federal and state governments, of recent. The disagreement between officials of the two tiers of government over the poor revenue led to a stalemate at last month’s FAAC meeting, as learnt.

Those who are knowledgeable about the FAAC said the disagreement was responsible for the failure of the ministry to issue any communique last month.

The debate generated by Edo State Governor Godwin Obadeki’s claim that the federal government printed N60 billion to augment March Federation Accounts Allocations, has continued to generate reactions from different quarters.

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