Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Tuesday, 30 January, 2018.

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
Deep-Seated illegality and abuse of financial procedures still bedevil the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) two years after a regime change, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki declared yesterday in Abuja. Saraki said the problem had continued in spite of efforts to sanitise the oil industry.

Saraki, who was represented by the Senate leader, Ahmed Lawal, at a public hearing on the re-introduction of subsidy being conducted by the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), expressed displeasure at what he described as secret and opaque re-introduction of subsidy in the prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) without any budget approval by the National Assembly.

The Senate President regretted that “government has not done what we need to do to nip this problem in the bud.”He said payments amounting to some N10 trillion were hijacked to favour few individuals. “Findings have brought to light the fact that our downstream oil and gas industry needs critical reforms”, he said.

Saraki further stated that it had been exposed that “in spite of the stoppage of the fuel subsidy regime, and non-appropriation of funds for the scheme due to the fraud and maladministration going on in the scheme, fuel subsidy payments continue to be maid illegally from our commonwealth to a few quietly in order to dodge scrutiny and avoid exposure.”

Insisting that the Senate would not rest until all perpetrators of the fraud particularly those in high public offices were exposed, the Senate president stated: “But this 8th Senate is here to expose all corruption in the system irrespective of how highly placed those involved are. This unconstitutional and illegal practice must be addressed and we are not going to rest until it is fully addressed.”

Saraki charged the committee to “get to the bottom of this issue and proffer long-lasting solutions to this racketeering in the fuel market that leaves the Nigerian people poorer every year.” Other questions the committee must seek answers to, according to the Senate president, are “the actual quantity of fuel the Nigerian market consumes; the underlining reasons why the market is struggling to operate without government intervention; and the process and all those involved in signing out unbudgeted funds outside the budget passed by the National Assembly.”

Meanwhile, the NNPC has claimed that the Nigerian Federation was indebted to the corporation to the tune of N170.6 billion outstanding subsidy payments due from January 2006 to December, 2015.

Leading a team of top management of the NNPC to the ongoing investigative hearing on N5 trillion subsidy payments from 2006 to 2016, the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru, said the figure was arrived at after the deduction of N4.950.80 trillion received as payments from theN5.121.40 trillion approved subsidy claims of the corporation from January 2006 to December 2015.

Providing details of the accruals, the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr. Isiaka AbdulRazaq, traced the advent of the subsidy regime to October, 2003 when NNPC was directed by government to commence the purchase of domestic crude oil at international market price without a corresponding liberalisation of the regulated price of petroleum products.

He explained that under the subsidy regime, NNPC and other suppliers of refined petroleum products were entitled to file subsidy claims to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).AbdulRazaq, however, noted that unlike other oil marketers, NNPC did not receive cash payment for subsidy claims as its subsidy claims were deducted out of cost payment to the federation account after due certification by PPPRA.

‘’In summary, NNPC submits that the amount of over N5.1 Trillion was duly approved by PPPRA as subsidy claims for NNPC. Out of this sum NNPC is still being owed N170.6 billion,’’ the NNPC CFO said.

The corporation called on the Senate Downstream Committee to assist in ensuring that the outstanding debt was settled to enable the NNPC to effectively achieve its obligation as the supplier of last resort to the downstream sector.

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
Disbelief and shock yesterday trailed Federal Government’s claim that it would spend over N1 billion in preparation for the burial of the former Vice President, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, whose remains arrived in Enugu yesterday.

The Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, was quoted as saying that the Federal Government approved N1bilion, part of which had been spent, in readiness for the burial billed for February 2 in Oko, Anambra State.

Although efforts to speak with members of his family to ascertain the veracity of the claim proved abortive (as none was willing to speak on the matter), some prominent Igbo leaders, who reacted to the development, doubted that any such thing happened.

A former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, stated: “I do not doubt that the Federal Government may have spent such a huge amount but my worry is how much of it that may have entered private pockets. How much is the burial envelope and what are the plans for the burial? I don’t know what to believe but if it is true that such an amount has been budgeted for the burial, it is unreasonable.”

The Chairman of the South-east burial committee, Prof. Simeon Ortuanaya, denied that his committee has received assistance from the Federal Government in planning the burial.

“We were shocked to hear that. We did not see any such money. We read it from the newspaper”, he said.The Anglican Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, who was part of the dignitaries that received Ekwueme’s remains at the Akanu Ibiam, Enugu airport had queried the claim as “unacceptable.” He said the Federal Government should explain how the N1 billion was spent, stressing that the late Ekwueme, being a man of accountability, would not be happy with such an amount being spent on him, especially in the face of the infrastructure challenges in his South-east region.

Chukwuma described Ekwueme as a great politician that would never be forgotten as far as politics of the country is concerned. “We are happy that the government is giving him a befitting burial, but one thing is that people should emulate the legacies he left behind. Giving him a befitting burial, however, does not mean making all sorts of claims concerning it,” he said.

For the Emeritus President of a pan-Igbo organisation, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, it was unimaginable that the Federal Government would spend such an amount of money to bury Ekwueme when there are various challenges facing the south-east which government has neglected.

He said: “I think it is incredible news. It’s too fantastic. I can’t imagine the Federal Government spending such on a man his family single-handedly took care of while he was sick as well as ensured that he was flown abroad. If you are building a new road to Oko, of course that is expected because you need the road to pass through. If you are rehabilitating the Akanu Ibiam Airport that is also expected. But to bury Ekwueme with such an amount is unthinkable.

“Such a sum was not voted anywhere as there have never been signs that the Federal Government made Ekwueme its responsibility while he lived. If they used the money to build a road from Awka to Oko and Owerri, people will be happy and appreciate the government. So I think it is an insult to the Ekwueme family for anybody to make such a claim. What did the Federal Government do to show that Ekwueme served this country well when he was alive? Ekwueme used his personal resources to build the polytechnic in his Oko community as well as the hotel around his place as part of efforts to develop his community. What can we say has been government’s contribution? Are they saying they loved him this much? It is sad that someone is saying all these.”

His position was accentuated by a statesman, Chief Ralph Obioha, who described the claim as “ridiculous.” Obioha added: “I think the figure is exaggerated to the point that people cannot believe the story. This is the problem with Nigeria where figures are bandied to cause disaffection among the people. Even if the entire place in Ekwueme’s house is paved with gold, it will not cost as much as N1billion.That is not possible and I believe it can cause trouble. Such an amount cannot be spent on a state burial.”

Also, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), dismissed the claim as “blatant falsehood.” MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, said: “Ngige is ridiculing himself by that kind of statement. Is he now the minister of information or chairman of the burial committee? I am advising him to caution himself because he is an old man and should stop impressing his masters. As an Igbo man, he should know that you don’t lie over the dead. That is the way they cheapen themselves. We in MASSOB don’t believe such a story because this government has never demonstrated that it is in love with Ndigbo. A government that decided to allocate all the juicy positions in the country to their people cannot turn back to show that it values any Igboman even in death. I think they are trying to mock us and are using Ngige to carry it out. This government will be the last to accord such respect to an Igbo man. The Federal Government is not the one taking care of Ekwueme’s burial.”

Ngige has, however, said that the Federal Government has set aside the N1billion to cover the burial expenses and sundry items, including the fixing of the Agulu -Nanka -Oko Road, and the Nnobi-Nnewi Road at the cost of over N480 million.“The building of the tomb, hospital bills, flight of the casket among other things are all included in the amount,” he said, noting that the late Ekwueme would be given a befitting burial.The late Eklwueme’s younger brother, Laz who is also the traditional ruler of the Oko community told The Guardian that he was not in a position to comment on the matter.

It was learnt that work is in progress on some of the roads, especially on the Agulu -Nanka -Oko Road, and on his country home at Ezioko village, Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State. It was equally learnt that the Federal Government would name a national monument after the late former vice president.

“We are getting ready for the burial of our iconic figure. In the next 48 hours, everything will be ready, government has assisted the family in taking care of a lot of things.“From what I have seen here today, I’m impressed with the level of preparation and we have to equally thank the state government for its involvement in the burial, the government in this state has done well also,” Ngige said.

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, has revealed that despite the economic downturn fuelled by recession, the agricultural sector of the economy grew by three per cent.

Akabueze, who spoke at the Maiden Edition of Deloitte in Dialogue, tagged: Nigeria Economic Outlook 2018, disclosed this while relishing the opportunities that abound in the 2018 budget for the private sector.

He disclosed that the government is putting in more efforts to further boost the sector, saying: “The agricultural sector is one of the industries that the government is focusing on and it has seen some reasonable growth. Despite the biting recession, Agricultural sector recorded over three per cent growth.” Akabueze noted that the 2018 budget envisages development of value chain across 30 different commodities, including transportation, trading, marketing and exploit among others.

Speaking on transportation, the DG called for improvement across the different roads of the federation, noting that this would have a positive effect on the country’s economy.“You will not believe the impact of transportation in the economy. The sector is part of what has been holding up the inflation rate. Transportation cost is a significant driver of food cost, which is the reason for the inflation that we have. If we raise some investments in transportation the inflation around food will be lower.

“We expect that the budget will stimulate investment in some critical sectors, and we hope that the private investors will leverage on the opportunities that the 2018 budget present,” he stated.On his part, an associate professor at the Lagos Business School, Doyin Salami, decried the infrastructure deficit being passed on from one government to another.

He noted that the Federal Government needed to collaborate with the private sector to provide the necessary infrastructure, adding that an upsurge in international capital would necessarily boost Nigeria’s infrastructural deficit.“The state of infrastructure is critical to attracting foreign investment; the government must actively seek the participation of private investment in that area.

“Nigeria has elections in 2019, which, therefore, reduces her attractiveness in the international economic scene. It is not because it is Nigeria, but that is how it is anywhere in the world where there is election. We might see a reverse of capital inflows in Nigeria as the elections draw closer,” he said.

The Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, said the agency, which hit a record of N4trillion revenue in 2017, had initiated plans to move Nigeria to be among the top 50 countries in the ease of paying tax.Fowler urged businesses to take advantage of the tax amnesty initiative of the Federal Government, which would end in March, noting that “There would be no extension of the tax amnesty from the government after March.”

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
The former justice of the High Court in Australia, Michael Kirby, has pledged to contribute to the work of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI). He made this pledge during his appointment as the co-chair for IBAHRI. 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has said the zoning formula in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be sacrosanct, as the 2019 primaries for elected offices are approaching. 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
House of Representatives committee on power yesterday disagreed with the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola over the $1.5 billion loan it obtained for electricity distribution in the country.The loan was obtained on behalf of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
No fewer than 430 prisoners across the country are now pursuing their various degree programmes at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to enhance their status just as 951 others regained freedom due to the intervention of national stakeholders on prison reforms. 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
Seven persons accused of the murder of late former National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) chairman in Ekiti State, Mr. Omolafe Aderiye, were on Monday discharged and acquitted by an Ado-Ekiti HighCourt. 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) organised the third edition of Human Rights, Sexuality and The Law symposium in commemoration of the 2017 international Human Rights Day. 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
The President made the call while presenting Nigeria's position in favour of the Report on the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and related issues presented by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.... 

Tue, 30 Jan 2018
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