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Senators, Reps query NCC over secret recruitment, arbitrary funds increase



Federal lawmakers on Monday queried arbitrary increase in the financial provisions for payment of consultancy service of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and N29.195 billion proposed for payment of salaries and wages in the 2021 fiscal year, against the sum of N16.850 billion approved in the 2020 fiscal year.

Members of the Joint Senate and House of Representatives’ Committee on Telecommunications, who raised the red flag during the 2020 budget performance and 2021 budget defence presented by the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Umar Dambatta, also demanded an explanation over the increase in the consultancy services of N1bn proposed for 2021 against the sum of N394.331 million approved in the 2020 Appropriation Act.

One of the aggrieved lawmakers, who queried the Director of Finance and Administration’s report on the wide variance between the proposed N29.195 billion salaries and wages for 2021 and N16.850 approved for 2020 in relation to the 300 staff recruited by the commission, alleged that “you employed people but it was done through the backdoor.”

Hon. Siaka Adekunle Ayokunle alleged that “a lot of things are shredded in secrecy here”, expressed concern over the difference between the projected revenue and expenditure,

Senator Emmanuel Orker-Jev who expressed concern over the recruitment of the 300 workers, stressed the need for the commission to provide the nominal roll with a view to ascertaining the actual number of employees and adherence to federal character policy.

Dambatta, who was asked by the Director of Finance and Administration to provide details of the budget performance for the year under review, had said the budget performance as of November 30, 2020 showed the total budget of N140.383 billion, but the actual came to N79.660 billion.

He said, “For the expenditures (recurrent), a total recurrent expenditure that was budgeted was N39.297 billion and what was spent was N28.5 billion.

“Under the capital project, the total capital expenditure was budgeted at N8.129 billion and the actual as at 30th November was N1.427 billion.

“For special projects, the total budget was N20.863 billion and what has been spent so far is N13.65 billion.

“For total capital project, the budget was N28.9 billion and what was spent was N1.4 billion; Transfer to USPF, N7.5 billion was projected and N5.583 billion was spent.

“For Transfer to Federal Government of Nigeria, N64.208 billion was budgeted and N35.7 billion was remitted.”

On the revenue side, the commission realised total sum of N167 million out of N1.5 billion budgeted for licensing fees; realized N51.5 billion out of N68.5 billion for annual operating levy; realized N22.778 billion out N47.653 billion budgeted.

From the documents presented to the joint committee, proposed total revenue expected for 2021 stands at N112.810 billion and an additional sum of N49.527 billion from funds for broadband infrastructure and transfer from reserve (totalling N162.067 billion for 2021), against the sum of N123.132 billion and an additional sum of N17.252 billion from funds for broadband infrastructure (totalling N140.384 billion) for year 2020.

The total recurrent is also expected to rise from N39.297 billion in 2020 to N61.541 billion in 2021; total capital and special expenditure are to rise from N28.993 billion in 2020 to N51.524 billion in 2021; showing an overall increase in the Commission’s total expenditure from N68.290 billion in 2020 to N113.065 billion in 2021 as proposed.

The commission’s projected transfer to the Federal Government for the year 2021 is N42.002bn against N64.208bn for the year 2020 out of which N29.697bn has so far been remitted, in addition to N5.5 billion paid recently.

Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, Hon. Akeem , said, “Legislative approval to budget proposal is a cardinal ingredient of democratic practice. It provides a window of checks on the expenditure profile of the Executive, so the people, through their representatives have a say on how the Executive arm of government runs the government as part of the checks and balances of governance.

“It is pursuance to this that we are here to examine your proposal for 2021. The extent to which your commission was able to meet its 2020 budget responsibility will also be examined to identify if they were problems and how to resolve them where they exist.”

Adeyemi who directed the NCC management team to provide the nominal roll for further legislative action, said the “Committee will call for interactive session sometimes next year with the view to addressing some of the concerns raised.”

Dambatta promised that the nominal roll would be made available to the committee as requested.


Oil Prices Continue to Climb on Supply Disruptions As Brent Hits $78/1



Brent crude futures rose more than 1% to above $78 a barrel on Friday, the highest since October 2018 and widening a weekly gain to 3.6 per cent amid global supply concerns following storms in the US that damaged facilities on the Gulf coast.

WTI crude rose for the fifth consecutive week, with futures up almost 3 per cent to an 8-week high of $73.98 a barrel boosted by growing fuel demand and falling US crude inventories.

Disruptions in US Gulf Coast production following Hurricane Ida and other storms have led to sharp draws in US and global inventories. EIA data showed US crude stocks fell by 3.5 million barrels to 414 million last week, the lowest since October 2018. Capping some gains was China’s first public sale of state oil reserves. State-owned PetroChina and private refiner and chemical producer Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totaling about 4.43 million barrels.

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Buhari: Five million homes to get solar power by 2030



Nigeria is working on an ambitious energy plan including decentralised solar energy solutions that will substantially reduce the energy shortcomings by the year 2030, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

The President spoke on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York on the High-Level Dialogue on Energy.

Spokesman for the President, Mr Femi Adesina, in a statement Friday night, quoted Buhari as saying, “Nigeria’s commitment to a just transition is reflected in our ambitious Energy Compact, which includes the government’s flagship project to electrify five million households and 20 million people using decentralised solar energy solutions.

“This is a major first step towards closing our energy access deficit by 2030. Nigeria’s commitment is also reflected in the development of our Energy Transition Plan, which was developed with the support of the UK COP26 Energy Transition Council.”

He called for support from developed countries to unlock the financing needed to accelerate a just energy transition for all.

“The focus of our discussions on transition must now evolve how we help countries develop detailed energy transition plans and commitments to mobilize enough financing to empower countries to implement those plans,” he said.

The President said the scale of financing required for Nigeria to achieve net-zero would amount to over $400bn across the Nigerian economy in excess of business-as-usual spending over the next 30 years.

He said, “This breaks down to $155bn net spends on generation capacity, $135bn on transmission and distribution infrastructure, $75bn on buildings, $21bn on industry and $12bn on transport.”

Buhari, however, said that gas would continue to have a big role to play before phasing it out, explaining that solid fuel cooking was still wreaking havoc in Africa:

He said, “As a global leader on the energy transition, it is imperative that I flag a major risk to development that stems from the current narrative around the energy transition, particularly on the role of gas and the lack of financing.

“Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan has laid out our road map to reach net-zero and highlights the scale of the effort required, which includes the development and integration of renewables into current grid infrastructure at tremendous scale and electrification of all sectors.

“This is challenging for any country, especially a developing country. On our development objectives, gas will have a key role to play here for some years before being phased out.”

President Buhari noted that these plans must also take into account the provision of access to electricity and clean cooking solutions for those in Nigeria and around the world currently without access.

He also stressed the essential role of gas in addressing clean cooking challenges.

“Globally, there are 2.6 billion people who lack access to clean cooking – which is unacceptable. Even more concerning is that solid fuel cooking in Africa causes almost 490,000 premature deaths annually, making it the second-largest health risk in Africa,” he stated.

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States can’t collect VAT, it’s on exclusive list – Malami



State governments are not empowered to collect value-added tax (VAT) in the country because it is on exclusive legislative list, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said.

The AGF gave this position on Friday night in an interview with Channels Television.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service has been at loggerheads with Rivers and Lagos State governments over VAT collection. And the matter already receiving the backing of some other state governments is current in court.

Malami, who said the collection of VAT in the country is under the exclusive legislative list, posited that only the National Assembly could make laws on VAT.

He said, “A lot has precluded the state from collecting value-added tax. One, generally speaking, as you rightly know, the issue of the value-added tax is an issue on the exclusive legislative list.

“And the implication of being in exclusive legislative list matter is that only the national assembly can legislate on it. The question that you may perhaps wish to address your mind on is whether there exists any national legislation that has conferred the power on the state to collect VAT. And my answer is ‘no’.

“In the absence of a law passed by the national assembly in that direction, no state can have a valid claim to collection of value-added tax.

“The responsibility, right and constitutional powers to legislate on collection of VAT are exclusively and constitutionally vested in the National Assembly and not in the state.

“Where the national assembly has not passed any law in that regard authorising the state to collect VAT, then it goes without saying that no state can arrogate unto itself the powers to collect VAT.”

According to the minister, it will be reckless for any state to go ahead to collect VAT, despite the court’s decision asking parties to maintain the status quo.

He said, “I don’t see any state perhaps taking the law unto its hands without allowing the judicial process to take its natural course and in breach of the prevailing legislation.

“I don’t see the states acting arbitrarily and setting a very bad precedence as far as governance is concerned with particular regard to the fact that the matter is receiving judicial determination.

“I can’t understand. I can’t perhaps bring that thought into consideration that I believe it could amount to a high level of recklessness on the part of any state government to be operating in breach and to be operating a lawless governance style as far as the Nigerian state is concerned.”

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