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No budgetary provision for COVID-19 vaccines – Finance minister



Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has said that there is no provision in the 2021 budget to procure COVID-19 vaccines.

She stated this during a virtual presentation of the 2021 budget in Abuja, adding however that the government was working on the type and quantity of COVID-19 vaccines to procure.

Nigeria is expected to receive about 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January.

But the minister said her ministry and the Ministry of Health would meet to finalise the amount to be allocated to vaccine procurement in the next two weeks.

The country, under phase two of its COVID-19 vaccination scheme, will also get 42 million extra doses of vaccines through the COVAX facility.

The government is targeting to vaccinate about 40 per cent of Nigeria’s population in 2021.

Ahmed expressed the hope that the National Assembly would provide a supplementary budget for additional spending on COVID-19 vaccines, when needed.

She said, “We agreed that the effort needed to be done so that we have clarity as to whether the provisions in the budget will be adequate or we have to make additional provisions by way of a special supplementary budget to make more provisions for COVID-19 vaccinations.”

On whether there was a provision for fuel subsidy in the 2021 budget, Ahmed stated that no such provision was made for it.

She also foreclosed subsidy on electricity due to the recent suspension of the hike in electricity tariff.

The minister, however, added that the Finance Act, among others, exempted workers within the N30,000 minimum wage bracket and below from personal income tax deductions.

According to her, another key provision in the Act is the exemption of all micro and small companies earning N25 million or less as annual turnover from paying the Tertiary Education Tax.

The Act also excluded commercial airline tickets, commercial aircraft spare parts and components; interests in land and buildings; animal feed and hire, rental or lease of agriculture equipment for agricultural purposes from 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) charge.

She said, “The key guiding principle of the Finance Act 2020 is to ensure that there is a balance between broader macroeconomic strategies to attract investment, grow the economy, create jobs as well as provide immediate fiscal strategies for accelerated domestic revenue mobilisation, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the domestic / global economic downturn.

“Specifically, the Finance Act 2020 adopts counter-cyclical fiscal policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing fiscal relief for taxpayers; reforms fiscal incentive policies to prioritise job creation and accelerate economic recovery and growth; and fosters closer coordination of monetary, trade and fiscal policies.”

Ahmed added that the 2020 Finance Act also provided for the establishment of a N500 billion crisis Intervention Fund as well as other sources approved by the National Assembly to fund the Federal Government’s expenditures.

Proceeds from unclaimed dividends of listed companies and unutilised amounts in dormant bank accounts outstanding for six years or more would be channelled to the fund, she stated,

The unclaimed dividends and bank balances are subject to a perpetual trust to be managed by the Debt Management Office (DMO), with governing council to be chaired by the finance minister and co-chaired by a nominee from the organised private sector who is of impeccable integrity and reputation.

Ahmed, however, added that genuine beneficiaries would be able to claim their funds back from the Federal Government at any time.

The minister also spoke on the performance of the revised 2020 budget, noting that the Federal Government expended a total of N1.8 trillion on capital projects.

According to her, the N1.8 trillion represents about 89 per cent of the total provision for capital projects.

She explained that out of the amount spent, N118.37 billion was released for COVID-19-related capital expenditure.

Ahmed said while the Federal Government projected N9.97 trillion for expenditure in 2020, it spent about N10.08 trillion, representing 101 per cent performance.

Debt service, she also stated, gulped N3.27 trillion while personnel cost, including salaries and pensions, accounted for N3.19 trillion.

She noted that the crude oil price benchmark was retained at $40 per barrel although the World Bank forecast $44 per barrel average crude oil price in 2021.

She added that crude oil production was projected to increase from 1.80 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2020 to 1.86mbpd in 2021, as economies recover from recession, and moderated by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota agreements.

Ahmed stated that the aggregate revenue available to fund the N13.5 trillion 2021 budget was projected at N7.99 trillion (36.9 per cent higher than the 2020 projection of N5.84 trillion).

To promote fiscal transparency, accountability and comprehensiveness, she said the budgets of 60 Government-owned Enterprises (GOEs) were integrated in the Federal Government’s 2021 budget.

“In aggregate, 30 per cent of projected revenues is to come from oil-related sources while 70 per cent is to be earned from non-oil sources. Overall, the size of the budget has been constrained by our relatively low revenues,” she added.

The minister also explained that the deficit of N5.6 trillion will be funded via domestic and external borrowings of N2.34 trillion apiece.

She said N2.5 billion was expected as privatisation proceeds.

The budget also has an aggregate capital expenditure of N4.37 trillion or 32.2 per cent of total expenditure, which is 62.9 per cent higher than the 2020 Revised Budget, inclusive of capital component of statutory transfers and GOEs.

At N3.32 trillion, the provision for debt service for 2021 is 24.5 per cent of total expenditure and 12.6 per cent higher than 2020 revised budget, according to her.

The minister also put the provision to retire maturing bonds to local contractors / suppliers at N200 billion.

Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation (BoF), Mr Ben Akabueze, said the country was expecting donations of COVID-19 vaccines to cover 20 per cent of its population while 50 per cent would be acquired to achieve herd immunity.

Akabueze said, “To have herd immunity, 70 per cent of the population has to be vaccinated. Already, vaccine for 20 per cent of the population will be donated while the balance of 50 per cent will be paid for by the government.”

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African economies lost $190bn to COVID-19, says AfDB



President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has said the economy of Africa has lost over $190 billion due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated this on Wednesday during the AfDB’s 2021 virtual Annual Meeting, adding that the pandemic had forced 30 million people into extreme poverty with “an estimated 39 million people could fall into poverty by the end of 2021.”

He however said the bank took prompt actions to African economies with the launch of a $3bn social impact bond on global capital markets, “which was at the time the largest ever US denominated social bond in world history. We announced a $10bn Crisis Response Facility. We provided $28m to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. We saved lives and livelihoods.”

With an average projected GDP growth of 3.4 percent in 2021, he said the continent was recovering.

He stated that to tackle Africa burgeoning debt, it has launched a Debt Action Plan and a new Strategy for Economic Governance in Africa and both would support countries to tackle debt, and embark on bolder economic governance reforms to forestall a debt crisis.

The Managing Director of IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, said the global economy is projected to grow by six per cent, but half of 3.2 per cent would come from Africa.

She added that public debt in sub-Saharan Africa had risen six per cent to 58 per cent of GDP in 2020 which is the highest in almost two decades.

She said interest payments reached 20 per cent of tax revenue last year in the region and exceeded one-third of revenue in some countries.

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Nigeria bleeding from rising petrol smuggling, says NNPC GMD



About 42 million litres of petrol are being smuggled out of Nigeria daily through the borders, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has lamented.

The corporation said the country was bleeding from such huge amount of fuel smuggling, which had increased daily consumption of petrol from 60 million litres to 102 million litres.

The NNPC Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, stated this in Abuja when he met with stakeholders, adding that smuggling had gone beyond what the NNPC could handle.

This is contained in a statement by the corporation’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr Taiye Obateru.

He also put the subsidy on petrol being paid by the government every month at N150bn, a situation meant to keep the pump price of petrol at N162 per litre.

Those that attended the meeting were the leaderships of the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and chief executives of agencies in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Other groups that attended the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the corporation to halt fuel smuggling were the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association (DAPPMA).

Kyari said fuel smuggling was increasing the country’s subsidy payment and exacerbating the foreign exchange crisis.

He said the gathering was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari who mandated the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the NNPC, the EFCC and all other security agencies to do everything possible to stop crude oil theft and illicit truck-out of petroleum products, which he described as major economic crimes that have hindered Nigerians from enjoying the benefits of subsidised petroleum products.

He urged all industry stakeholders to collaborate with the NNPC to ensure that the daily national petroleum products consumption, which shot up to 102 million litres in May, is reduced to about 60 million litres.

He added that it was obvious that that huge volume of petrol was not consumed by Nigerians alone.

Kyari said, “We all agree that smuggling is not a business that should be condoned because even for deregulated petroleum products, it brings extra cost burden on this country both in terms of safety and security of supply and in securing of foreign exchange.

“It even constitutes more burden to this country when the product involved is a regulated product like Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).”

He noted that with the increasing price of crude oil at the global market and the OPEC+ production cuts, the country could not afford to shoulder the cost of smuggling.

“We all know that our daily consumption is not up to 60 million litres. We all know that, and that is why we have to pull it down. We will pull it down by every means necessary,” he said.

He said the NNPC would introduce advanced cargo declaration in line with global best practices to tackle crude oil theft.

Kyari stated that going after smugglers was beyond the call of the corporation, adding that with the involvement of the EFCC, the situation would improve considerably.

 “But we in the NNPC, we are not in control of that, we are not in every depot, we don’t keep products in all the depots, but when the volume goes down, it comes down to us. When there is tight supply, it comes back to the NNPC and we solve the problem,” he added.

Kyari said, with the extant directive from the President that smuggling had to be halted, all the stakeholders must begin to work together to address the problem, especially with the involvement of the security agencies.

He said Buhari had instructed that the menace must be stopped by every means necessary, and called on the stakeholders present to think outside the box since all the layers of controls that had been put in place before now seemed to have failed.

He stated that with the current exchange rate and considering other price determinants, the pump price of petrol should be N256 per litre.

“What we sell today is N162; so the difference is at a cost to the nation,” he said.

Kyari said, “I know that so much work is going on, and then we have to manage the volume that we are exposed to between this price of N162 and N256. The difference comes back to as much as N140bn to N150bn cost to the country monthly.

“And as long as the volume goes up, that money continues to increase and we have two sets of stress to face, the stress of supply and the stress of foreign exchange for the NNPC.”

Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, also said, “We brought in the big hammer, and the big hammer as you can see is the EFCC because it is economic sabotage and I believe with the EFCC in the picture, the system will work even better.”

Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, said smuggling of petroleum products was worrisome, and assured Nigerians that the EFCC was fully committed to the special operation, codenamed “Operation White” designed to check illegal exportation.

He said since part of the commission’s duty was to ensure the reduction of financial crime, the EFCC would do all it could to stop smuggling.

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13 million Nigerians face deteriorating food crisis – UN report



  • Nigeria among six African nations with worst food insecurity

Nigeria may witness a serious deterioration in food security this year with about 13 million people falling into acute food insecurity during the season.

The 2021 Global Report on Food Crises stated this, whose latest findings also placed Nigeria among six countries in Africa with worse food crises.

The GRFC is prepared by 16 leading global and regional organisations belonging to the Global Network Against Food Crises.

It is released annually by the Food Security Information Network, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme, and International Food Policy Research Institute.

The report listed other countries with worse food crises as Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Sudan, and Zimbabwe, Republic of the Congo.

According to report, the number of people around the world facing severe food insecurity skyrocketed by 20 million in 2020.

It stated that acute food insecurity had now affected at least 155 million people across 55 countries and territories, with some regions facing famine-level hunger.

In West Africa and the Sahel, the report said market disruptions, rising food prices, and falling incomes stemming from COVID-19 containment measures also contributed to increasing hunger in the region, as did severe flooding in some areas.

It highlighted the high severity and numbers of people in crisis or worse or equivalent in 55 countries and territories, driven by persistent conflict, pre-existing and COVID-19-related economic shocks, and weather extremes.

The number identified in the 2021 edition is the highest in the report’s five-year existence.

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