The World Bank on Tuesday released its November 2021 Nigeria Development Update, which showed — among other things — that eight million Nigerians fell into poverty in less than two years as a result of inflation shocks.
The report also revealed that Nigeria no longer benefits from high oil prices, with record low revenues, and exorbitant fuel subsidies, which makes Nigeria the only country in the world granting universal price petrol subsidies.
Also, the report reiterated that Nigeria has the worst revenue-to-GDP ratio among 115 countries monitored by the World Bank. Worse than Haiti.
To address the grim picture of Nigeria’s economy going into the future, the World Bank has recommended a number of policy decisions for the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) starting from the year 2022.
The Cable brings you a summary of the policy recommendations from the 112-paged Nigeria Development Update.
RAISE TAXES ON SINFUL GOODS
The World Bank recommended that the government raises taxes on what it referred to as “sinful goods,” including cigarette, alcohol, sugary drinks.
The bank said FG has “accelerated efforts to diversify its revenue stream; however, risks to the implementation of these reforms remain high”.
“These reforms include improving tax administration, especially for VAT, while also undertaking some significant policy reforms, such as implementing a levy on electronic money transfers, and additional excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco
“While these reform efforts are expected to generate additional revenues of over ₦ 3 trillion a year, they may be challenging to politically implement in the run up to the national elections, planned for 2023.”
Despite the perceived difficulties, the bank advised that FG increase these taxes in order to generate adequate revenue.
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KILL FUEL SUBSIDIES
Fuel subsidy removal has been a recurrent recommendation in World Bank/IMF policy briefs for Nigeria for more than a decade, but little has been done about this.
In this report, the World Bank has asked the government to remove subsidies, again. The bank argues that the poorest Nigerians do not benefit much from the subsidy regime.
“Nigeria is the only country in the world with a universal price subsidy that applies exclusively to PMS. Universal price subsidies for liquid fuels are almost always regressive, as the rich consume far more fuel than the poor,” the report read.
“PMS subsidies are especially regressive because PMS is used primarily in light- and medium-duty motor vehicles, which are rarely owned by the poor. Since raising PMS prices tends to have minimal adverse effects on poor households, governments worldwide have typically prioritized eliminating PMS subsidies over those that apply to other fuels.
“However, Nigeria has done the opposite—eliminating all subsidies for liquid fuels other than PMS. Moreover, the Nigerian PMS subsidy is exceptionally generous, and in October 2021 the PMS pump price was the seventh-lowest among 168 economies surveyed at just ₦495 per liter”
The bank said the poorest 40 percent of Nigerians consume less than 3 percent of the total PMS consumption in Nigeria.
CUT LOANS FROM CBN
The World Bank said in its projections for Nigeria, that if current debt accumulation levels are maintained, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio will hit 40 percent by 2025.
The bank, therefore, advised that the Buhari-admin cut back on its request for overdrafts from the CBN through the Ways and Means financing system. The bank asked FG to keep overdrafts to levels stipulated by law.
“Faced with a widening budget deficit, policymakers have increasingly turned to costly CBN overdrafts (also known as Ways and Means financing), which are not properly integrated into the fiscal accounts.
“While Nigeria’s debt burden remains manageable for the time being, maintaining sustainable debt dynamics will require curbing the use of CBN financing for the deficit and addressing fiscal pressures to break the cycle of low growth and rising public debt.”
FIX FOREX POLICY
“The current mix of monetary, fiscal, foreign exchange (FX), and trade policies also plays a prominent role as a driver of inflation,” the World Bank said. The bank recommended that fixing inflation will need some solution from forex management.
“Trade and FX restrictions, including the closure of land borders starting in August 2019, have increased prices for food and consumer goods, and imports of over 40 goods, including many staple foods, are currently ineligible for FX through formal windows.
“Nigeria’s exchange-rate management has resulted in the rise of parallel rates, which are closely linked to food-price dynamics.”
To address inflation, the bank recommended enhancement of the “flexibility and predictability of exchange rate management”. It also asked that all land borders be fully open for trade.
BUILD THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM
“One leading barrier is Nigeria’s underdeveloped fixed broadband infrastructure, which is partly attributable to burdensome Federal and State regulations,” the World Bank diagnosed.
“This weak infrastructure base creates a ripple effect across the economy, contributing to low levels of financial inclusion, and persistent geographic and gender gaps in access to and use of digital technologies.
“Conflicts, particularly in the north, exacerbate these challenges, due to heightened security risks. By investing in its digital infrastructure and strong foundational ID systems, Nigeria can promote economic development, security, governance, and efficient delivery of services, thereby accelerating progress toward an inclusive digital economy.”
The bank advised Nigeria to build digital public platforms, digital financial services, digital entrepreneurship, digital skills, and digital infrastructure.
PROTECT THE POOR
When subsidies are removed, the World Bank forsees some inflation, which would affect the poor and vulnerable. The bank is therefore calling on the government to fix this by protecting the poor.
“Implement a large-scale (covering 25% to 50% of the population) and time-bound targeted cash-transfer program to mitigate impacts of high inflation and the PMS subsidy removal,” the bank said.
It also called on government to “redirect savings from PMS subsidy to finance primary health, basic education, and rural connectivity projects”.
The bank said that the government in 2022 has planned to spend ~N3,000 per person per year on health while fuel subsidies could cost N13,000 per person per year in the same year”.
It called on the government to rearrange its priorities to shield the poor from bearing the burden of the subsidy removal.
SPEED UP PORT CLEARANCE
The World Bank advised that the government “reduce delays in border and port clearance by simplifying and harmonizing
documents, streamlining, automating procedures, and introducing risk-based customs interventions.”
This would entail spending up the processes of import at the popular Apapa Port, which is the busiest in the country, and one of the least efficient on the continent.
Despite FG’s Plea, Electricity Workers Cripple Power Supply in Abuja, Environs
Despite a federal government statement pleading with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) not to embark on an industrial action, the workers yesterday made good their threat, crippling power supply in parts of Abuja and environs.
The affected areas under the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) franchise included Abuja, Nasarawa, Kogi, parts of Edo, Niger and Kaduna states.
Specifically, the protesters attached to the AEDC said they were embarked on the industrial action over the non-payment of their entitlements for over 20 months.
The federal government at the weekend through the ministry of power had cautioned workers against the action, as a consequence of the impact of the ownership tussle in the Distribution Company (Disco).
Minister of State, Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, had urged members of the labour union to follow due process in airing their grievances, stressing that going contrary to established rules will run against extant laws which may have unintended consequences.
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The minister had advised the union members to be, “cautious and responsible to avoid endangering the fragile state of our electricity infrastructure which the present government is working hard to strengthen.”
But in defiance, members of staff of the company who are demanding the payment of their 2020 bonus and other entitlements and remittance of pensions allegedly deducted by the company to their pension fund administrators, shut down some the of facilities belonging to the AEDC.
“Enough is Enough! Pay us our outstanding pension remittances, thrift/corporative deductions, 2020 productivity bonus, bulk rent and union check off bonus,” some of the banners in a number of the AEDC’s offices in Abuja read.
In its reaction, management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) informed that though it had available bulk power for delivery to the distribution load centres of the AEDC to offtake for its customers, power evacuation from injection substations across the franchise area had been disrupted.
“TCN regrets this disruption and assures Nigerians that normal bulk power delivery to AEDC will be restored as soon as the injection substations are opened for onward electricity supply to consumers,” a statement by TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, stated.
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Also, a statement from the AEDC signed by its Public Affairs Manager, Oyebode Fadipe urged the distribution company’s customers to be calm as all the pending issues were being resolved.
“Following the industrial action embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees, power supply to some of our areas of operation, especially those on the 11kV network, may be affected.
“We would like to assure all our customers that all hands are on deck to resolve the issues that prompted this action. We would also like to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and disruption,” the Disco stated.
How to halt N1t electricity subsidy, CBN’s N1.5t interventions
Electricity stakeholders in the country, yesterday, insisted that removal of subsidy in the power sector was feasible if the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could streamline interventions in the sector to mitigate the negative impact on the masses.
Last week, the Federal Government alerted that the gap between the Cost Reflective Tariff (CRT), and Allowable Tariff (AT) peaking at N28 per unit of electricity supplied to consumers, this year stands at about N1t.
Coming at a time that it is also considering subsidy removal on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, had disclosed at the 12th edition of PwC Nigeria’s Annual Power and Utilities Roundtable, that the nation needs to optimise the potential in the power sector through a cost-reflective tariff regime.
Since the sector was privatised in 2013, perpetual interventions through the CBN have served as lifelines to the sector. They include Power and Aviation Intervention Fund (PAIF), hovering at about N300b, Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (NEMSF), which is about N213b, an N140b Solar Connection Intervention Facility, an over N600b tariff shortfall intervention, as well as a recent N120b intervention designed for mass metering among others.
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In March 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved an N701b CBN facility as Power Assurance Guarantee, just as the Federal Government, in 2019, also signed the release of another N600b to bridge the shortfall in the payment of monthly invoices by key stakeholders in the sector.
Fueled by tariff shortfall, receivable collection, technical, commercial and collection losses, financial liquidity in the power sector hovers around N4t as the apex bank, alongside the Federal Government has continued to initiate a series of interventions to douse tension and avert a collapse of the 2013 electricity privatisation exercise.
In about eight years, the CBN would have spent over N1.5t to keep the nation’s power sector afloat although the sector was privatised to survive by itself.
Although most stakeholders insisted that the interventions remained critical, especially in easing the liquidity crisis and attracting further interventions, they maintained that tweaking the interventions in manners that would ease further the masses’ burden and halt arbitrary billing of consumers was very important.
Renowned energy expert, Prof. Wunmi Iledare, noted that interventions by the CBN as a payable loan was understandable, even if it is a forgivable loan.
He insisted that the current structure of the electricity market in the country could mar the interventions, stressing that there must be a decentralised energy planning system.
According to him, while it is good that banks are targeting spending, subsidy may be a political expediency instrument, not economic efficiency hence “it should be disavowed. By the way, estimated billing now termed electronic billing is fraudulent! A quick way to bring subsidy to an end is metering and decentralisation of power management and services. Nearly everything centralised in the fashion of militarism has failed woefully, education, health, energy services road infrastructure, name it,” Iledare said.
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An energy expert, Eseosa Lloyd Onaghinon, stated that the energy sector must be rid of inefficiencies, which is usually passed on to consumers, adding that there are about 40 per cent inefficient losses between transmission and distribution.
“If we do not address such losses that occur, we might as well get into a trap where it’s an unending discussion of ‘subsidy’ even though it is continuous inefficiencies covered up as subsidies,” Onaghinon stated.
For energy lawyer, Osagie Agbonlahor, most of the woes experienced in the sector were responsible for the poor electricity situation in the country, adding that the development should be blamed on electricity operators, revenue collectors and the powers that be.
“How many army, police, air force, navy barracks in the country that their residents pay electricity bills at all? How many government ministries, army, air force, navy offices pay for the electricity that they consume? Who has ever dared to drive to the barracks and disconnect their source of public power supply the way they do to ordinary Nigerians? For how long has this been going on in this country? If you take away these huge leakages, you will see that the ordinary Nigerians have been sustaining and subsidising the electricity consumption of these people.
Agbonlahor said that the government broached the idea of deducting the huge outstanding electricity bill consumed in barracks and government offices under President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He noted that “until we start to do the right things, we are just going to be beating about the bush.”
He asked the government to do a forensic audit of the N1t subsidy to check where the so-called subsidy is coming from.
The Guardian had earlier reported that the failure of federal and state governments, as well as their ministries and agencies to pay over N100b outstanding electricity bills is currently worsening the liquidity crisis in the sector.
The situation has also reportedly led to distribution companies hounding private electricity consumers who pay more through estimated bills and higher tariffs, rather than recover outstanding debts from government agencies.
Range Rover shines as Velar wins 2021 Nigeria luxury SUV
The 2021 will go down as a year of glory for Range Rover brand as its new model, the Velar, has won multiple awards. The latest is the Luxury SUV of the Year 2021 at the annual Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) Awards just in Lagos.
The Velar, which is currently on sale in Nigeria via Coscharis Motors, had earlier won the 2021 Business Motoring Award for the Best Large SUV.
A statement by Coscharis Motors said the awards were a follow up to the 2018 World Car Awards for the design of the year.
The auto firm noted that the new Range Rover Velar fought off stiff competition from other brands nominated for the same category.
The editorial team considered the entrants based on a combination of factors such as technology, design and style, adding that the Velar excelled on all fronts.
The Range Rover Velar was said to have been chosen as the outright winner in the luxury car of the year category due to its class-leading technology, exhibiting novel features such as Pivi and Pivi Pro, providing the latest in-car artificial intelligence such as self-learning navigation system for a fully connected journey; the deployable door handles which could retract when not in use, the split armrest and crafted materials throughout.
The organisers praised Land Rover’s cutting-edge lineage, said to be instantly recognisable in the Velar, given its beautifully balanced stance with optimised proportions from the formal, powerful front end, through a flowing, continuous waistline, culminating in a taut and elegantly tapered rear.
The Velar was also commended for its Meridian’s Trifield 3D technology, found to create a truly unique ‘live’ sound experience.
Group General Manager, Marketing and Communications, Abiona Babarinde, who received the award on behalf of the auto firm, said, “For combining the off-road capabilities of a Range Rover and leading technology with the desirability of an electric vehicle, the Range Rover Velar just had to win it for us.”
He also said the NAJA award meant a lot to Coscharis Motors and “it is fantastic for the Velar to win the Luxury SUV of the Year as that is what the vehicle truly represents.
“I am really happy to pick it up on behalf of Coscharis Motors and most especially the Land Rover team who put so much hard work into the design and engineering – it is great to be recognised for leading edge and innovative technology wrapped in such a fantastic design.”
According to the statement, every Land Rover vehicle sold by Coscharis Motors comes with a complementary five-year/100,000km service plan and five-year/150,000km warranty.
L-R: Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, giving award of Luxury SUV of the year to Mr Abiona Babarinde, GM, Marketing Corporate Communications, Coscharis Group; Mr Felix Mahan, Brand Manager, Coscharis Motors; and Mr Mike Ochonma, Chairman, Nigeria Auto Journalists Association, during the 2021 edition of the association’s award night held in Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
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