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PHOTOS: Zainab Aliyu arrives Nigeria after four-month in Saudi Arabia detention

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PHOTOS: Zainab Aliyu arrives Nigeria after four-month in Saudi Arabia detention

The Nigerian lady previously detained in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug trafficking, Zainab Aliyu, has returned to the country after spending four months in detention.

Aliyu had been detained in the Arab country since December when she was arrested at the Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina because tramadol, a banned drug was found in her bag.

She arrived in Nigeria through the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano on Monday in the company of Ibrahim Abubakar, another Nigerian accused of the same crime.

Aliyu, a 22-year-old student of the Maitama Sule University in Kano, had travelled to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj alongside her mother and sister.

Zainab Aliyu in a warm embrace with her father

PHOTO CREDIT: Saleh Shehu Ashaka‏

She was arrested by Saudi police authorities over allegations that the bag bearing her name tag contained tramadol.

Her arrest had led to the discovery of an alleged drug cartel at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport that reportedly transferred her excess luggage weight to bag that contained tramadol.

She was released to the Nigerian mission in Saudi Arabia after the federal government made efforts to investigate and establish their innocence.

It was reported that the 7-man syndicate specialise in planting banned drugs in travellers’ luggage to export the substances to Saudi Arabia and other foreign countries.

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Army: Troops kill 7 Boko Haram commanders

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Army: Troops kill 7 Boko Haram commanders

The Nigerian Army has announced the killing of seven suspected Boko Haram commanders during joint operations between its troops and elements of Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

The Army further reiterated earlier claims that the suspected terrorists were fleeing to North and Central Africa, to escape the heat from ongoing operations in the North East.

Acting Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sagir Musa, who made the disclosure in a statement Friday, noted that the said feat has since attracted the commendation of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai.

“The MNJTF and the Nigerian Armed Forces are in celebrative mood today and have been basking in the successes of their combined efforts of artillery and air bombardments of suspected hideouts of erstwhile Boko Haram/ISWAP at the Tumbus of Lake Chad region that neutralized many including key commanders.

“However, it was mourning and a monumental set back to the erstwhile Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters hibernating at the triangular area.

“Reliable information coming out from the inner circles of the demented and criminal group’s enclave escaping to Sudan and Central African Republic, indicates that at least not fewer than seven of their key commanders have been wasted by the superior forces of the MNJTF.

“The neutralized commanders are said to be Abba Mainok,  Bukar Dunokaube, Abu kololo, Abor Kime (said to be of Arab origin – likely their ISIS trainer), Mann Chari, Dawoud Abdoulaye (from Mali) and Abu Hamza” Musa said

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Tribunal judgment, triumph of truth over falsehood – Kwara Gov

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Tribunal judgment, triumph of truth over falsehood – Kwara Gov

Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Friday said the tribunal judgment dismissing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s certificate forgery allegations against him and upholding his election was a triumph of truth over falsehood and a sweet victory for Kwarans.

“This judgment affirms the truism that never will falsehood triumph over truth nor evil over good till the end of time — no matter the efforts or public grandstanding of the purveyors of such falsehood,” he said, according to a statement by the governor’s spokesman, Rafiu Ajakaye.

The statement said the judgment confirmed the party’s long-held position that the entire allegation was malicious and a tale by moonlight.

“For us, the judgment serves as a tonic to go the extra mile to build a polity where players will be motivated only by truth and the dream of serving our people and not by unbridled ambitions,” the statement added.

Earlier, the Kwara State Election Petition Tribunal had dismissed the (PDP)’s petition seeking the nullification of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s election on the ground that he lacked the academic qualification to run.

The tribunal said the PDP’s candidate Razaq Atunwa failed to prove the allegations, holding instead that “all evidences before us show that (AbdulRazaq) sat the exam and was therefore qualified to run for the office of governor.

“From all the evidences before us, we hold that the petition lacks merit and is hereby dismissed,” Justice Bassey Effiong, Chairman of the three-person panel, held in a unanimous judgment in Ilorin, the state capital.

Effiong said the law is that where a petitioner makes the commission of a crime the kernel of their petition, then they must prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

“Has the petitioner discharged the burden of proof expected of them? From the evidence in this case, the answer is a resounding no,” Effiong added.

“We hold that all the evidences presented by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) – which the petitioners had relied upon and subpoenaed – were at variance with the pleadings of the petitioners,” Effiong added.

He insisted that the petitioners failed to prove that the governor forged a certificate or presented a forged certificate in support of his candidature as alleged in their petition.

The judge said WAEC confirmed to the tribunal that AbdulRazaq’s certificate was “genuine and authentic”, adding that a classmate of the governor also told the panel that the latter sat in front of him in the secondary school leaving certificate examination of June 1976.

 

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Tribunals dismiss petitions against Ikpeazu, Ishaku Darius’ elections

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Tribunals dismiss petitions against Ikpeazu, Ishaku Darius’ elections

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Friday dismissed the petition challenging the election of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu’s re-election as Governor of Abia.

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and its candidate, Dr Alex Otti had approached the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the petitioners alleged that Ikpeazu did not win the majority of the lawful votes cast in the March 9, 2019 election.

NAN reports that Otti came third while Uche Ogah, the candidate of All Progressive Congress (APC) was second in the governorship election.

However, the petitioners urged the tribunal to declare the election invalid by reasons of criminal practices,  non-substantial compliance with the electoral guidelines, and over voting in 788 polling units in the conduct of the election

Delivering a unanimous judgment, Chairman of the panel, Justice Lekan Ogumonye dismissed the petition for the  failure of the petitioners to prove their allegations  beyond reasonable doubts.

The tribunal held that testimonies told by 65 polling units agents who appeared as witnesses for the petitioners were not sufficient to prove  allegations of over voting  in 788 polling units.

The tribunal held that if even there were some infractions in said polling units, they were not substantial to invalidate the entire election.

The tribunal therefore held that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt and thereby dismissed it for lacking in merit.

Speaking newsmen, Dr Paul Ananamba, SAN, counsel for the second respondent (Ikpeazu) described the decision as “a landmark judgement borne out of thorough scrutiny and solid analysis.”

And in a related development, The Taraba Governorship petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Friday upheld the election of Gov. Ishaku Darius of the PDP, as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.

Alhaji Abubakar Danladi of the APC filed a petition, challenging the election of Darius.

Delivering judgment, Chairman of the three-member tribunal, Justice M.O Adewara, declared that Danladi and his party, APC, were not qualified to contest in the election.

Adewara held that due to the disqualification of Danladi by  the Federal High Court, Jalingo APC had no candidate in the governorship election and as such can be deemed to not have participated in the election.

“A political party can be said to have participated in an election where it has not been restricted by the law.

“A candidate that has been disqualified isn’t a candidate under the law and the political party should not have sponsored him,” the Tribunal ruled.

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JUST IN: AbdulRazaq qualified to run for gov – Tribunal

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JUST IN: AbdulRazaq qualified to run for gov – Tribunal

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ilorin on Friday dismissed the petition challenging the election of Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on the grounds of forgery.

In its ruling the Tribunal said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which filed the appeal, failed to prove the forgery allegations.

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Group hails Buhari for sustaining the amnesty programme in Niger Delta

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The Nigerian Diaspora Professionals Forum (NDPF) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for what has been described as a determined effort to sustain the amnesty program to improve security and stability in the Niger Delta. Addressing journalists at the departure wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State, the Vice President of the organisation Dr. Abdalla Hussein confirmed that a seven-man fact-finding mission visited the Nigeria delta to assess the security situation.

According to him “we came on a verification mission in Niger Delta to see things for ourselves. We say development challenges, but we were glad to note that in the past four years one hardly hears about the destruction of oil installation and organised confrontation and conflict in this region. We have visited the nine states in the region, and we shall be heading to Abuja later today. We want to learn more about the development challenges in the region, the amnesty programme and how the Buhari administration has managed to sustain peace so far. It is clear to all stakeholders that we need peace for investment and development” he added.

Speaking in the same light, one of the members of the delegation Mr. Abiye Davies confirmed that the group visited several vocational training centres build by the program in several locations like Gelegele in Edo State, Bomadi in Delta State and Oboama in Rivers State. According to him “the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme has achieved so much and has become an important example that many resource rich African countries can learn from. With the implementation of the program now in the Integration phase, the ex-agitators who were formerly involved in conflict have become gainfully employed and can now go back into society as responsible citizens.
It will be recalled that earlier in the year, the former Group Managing Director of Nigeria’s National Oil Company, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru confirmed an increase in the country’s oil production has moved to 2.32 million barrels per day.

The news comes as a big boost to the government’s revenue projection in the N8.92 trillion 2019 budget signed recently by President Muhammadu Buhari. The budget, signed into law on May 27, was based on a target of 2.3 million barrels per day (b/d) oil production and $60 per barrel price. A major reason for this boost is that most of the ex-agitators were absorbed in the amnesty program.

After several allegations of leakages and theft of funds by the former leadership of the program, a new coordinator, Charles Dokubo, a former research Professor at Nigeria Institute of International Studies was appointed by President Buhari. Since taking over the mantle leadership, the renowned technocrat has made efforts insist on due process and restore transparency in the implementation of the program which brought back the confidence of stakeholders. He has vigorously pursued the masterplan that led to exit of many beneficiaries who are now gainfully employed saving government millions of naira.

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Afghanistan: US confirms drone attack that killed 30 farmers

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Afghanistan: US confirms drone attack that killed 30 farmers

The US forces in Afghanistan have admitted that a drone attack that killed at least 30 pine nut farmers in Nangarhar province on Thursday was conducted by them.

At least 40 others were injured in the attack in Wazir Tangi area of Khogyani district that was previously attributed to the West-backed Afghan government.

A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan confirmed on Thursday that the drone attack was conducted by the US with the intention of destroying a hideout used by the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.

“Initial indications are members of Daesh [ISIL] were among those targeted in the strike,” Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for the American-led coalition in Afghanistan said.

“However, we are working with local officials to determine whether there was collateral damage.”

Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in Nangarhar said on Thursday that the drone attack killed 30 workers in a pine nut field and at least 40 others were injured.

The defence ministry in Kabul confirmed the raid, but refused to share casualty details immediately.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar confirmed the air raid.

“The government is investigating the incident. So far nine bodies are collected from the attack site near a pine nut field,” he said.

Malik Rahat Gul, a tribal elder in Wazir Tangi, said the air raid happened at a time when tired workers, mainly daily wage earners, had gathered near their tent after harvesting pine nuts in a field nearby.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” said Gul.

Earlier this month, four brothers were killed in a raid by the CIA-trained and funded 02 Unit of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency.

Spike in Taliban attacks

Also on Thursday, at least 20 people were killed in Zabul province’s Qalat city in a suicide car bomb blast claimed by the Taliban armed group.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the past several weeks, as the West-backed government forces and Taliban fighters have stepped up attacks since a peace deal between the armed group and the United States collapsed earlier this month.

The Taliban fighters wanted to target a training base for Afghanistan’s powerful spy agency, NDS, in Qalat city but parked the explosives-laden truck outside a hospital gate nearby, a defence ministry source said.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said several women, children, health workers and patients in the hospital were critically injured in the blast.

“[The] truck bomb that drove up against an exterior wall of the NDS building detonated, but right next door was a provincial hospital that has taken the brunt of this explosion … the death toll is likely to rise,” he said.

The spike in Taliban attacks comes as Afghanistan prepares for the presidential election scheduled to be held on September 28.

The Taliban has warned that its fighters will step up their campaign against the Afghan government and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting in the presidential election.

“The government is still going ahead with its preparation for elections and trying to open up the number of polling stations,” McBride said.

“As the Taliban say, they are still open to peace talks; the Afghan government is saying it has to resume only after elections.”

More than nine million Afghans are expected to vote in the presidential election, for which the government has deployed more than 70,000 security forces across the country.

US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the Taliban earlier this month for a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

The talks, which did not include the Afghan government, were intended to lead to wider peace negotiations to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan.

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One killed, five injured in shooting near White House

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One killed, five injured in shooting near White House

A man has been killed and five injured in a shooting on the streets of Washington DC.

Gunfire erupted in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the Columbia Heights neighbourhood just after 10pm on Thursday night.

The complex is around two miles from the White House.

Police have not confirmed whether they have arrested a suspect but Reuters news agency cited a law enforcement source as saying it was not an “active shooter” situation.

Police Commander Stuart Emerman said the injuries ranged from “non-critical to critical” and all were being treated in hospital.

They are four men and one women. No children were among the victims.

When asked how many shots had been fired, Cdr Emerman said: “Multiple shell casings were at the scene so it could be an accurate assessment that [witnesses] did hear a lot of gunshots.”

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$9.6bn judgement debt: How P&ID defrauded Nigeria

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$9.6bn judgement debt: How P&ID defrauded Nigeria

The Federal Government yesterday told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) and its Nigerian affiliate, P&ID Nigeria Limited, defrauded the country and equally evaded tax.

This was just as the Federal Government arraigned the two firms on an 11-count charge bothering on fraud and tax evasion in respect of the contract leading to the recent controversial judgement of a British court empowering the firm to seize $9.6 billion worth of Nigerian assets.

The firms, through their representatives, Mohammed Kuchazi and Adamu Usman, respectively pleaded guilty to the 11-count charge when they were docked.

While Kuchazi was represented by his counsel, Dandison Akurunwua, Usman, who is also a lawyer, represented himself.

The court, however, ordered the forfeiture of all assets and properties to the Federal Government, as well as the winding up (closure) of the two firms.

The order was sequel to the conviction of the two firms.

The defendants were alleged, among others, of fraudulently claiming to have acquired land from the Cross River State Government in 2010 for the gas supply project agreement which led to the $9.6 billion judgement.

The prosecution also alleged that the defendants conspired with certain officials of Nigerian Government to commit felony to wit: dealing in petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.

The defendants were also alleged of attempt to deal in petroleum products without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(19) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.

After the defendants pleaded guilty to the charge read to them, the court called on the EFCC investigator, Usman Babangida, to the witness box for review of facts.

This was, however, not opposed to by the defendants.

The investigator tendered documents relating to the controversial 2010 gas supply contract and EFCC’s investigation activities to the court.

The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo subsequently admitted the documents as exhibits.

Also, the defendants did not object to the admissibility.

After reviewing the facts before it, the court pronounced the two firms guilty.

This was followed by an allocutus (plea for mercy) by P&ID’s counsel, Akurunwua.

He pleaded with the court to consider “the forthrightness and candour” of P&ID by pleading guilty and not wasting the time of the court in the trial.

Similarly, the second defendant aligned himself with the submission of counsel to the first defendant.

Prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, urged the court to deliver its sentencing in line with the provision of the Money Laundering Act which stipulates the winding up of the firm as well as forfeiture of all their assets to the Federal Government.

Delivering judgement, Justice Ekwo held that the firms, having admitted to the crime, he had no option than to convict them accordingly.

Relying on provisions of section 19(2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, and section 10(2) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, 2006, the court ordered the Federal Government to wind up the two firms and confiscate all their assets in the country.

“With the facts before the court, and the plea of guilty entered by the defendants, this court is left with no option than to convict the defendants accordingly.

“Relying on Section 29(2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 and Section 10(2) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, 2006, the court makes an order of winding up of the defendants’ firms in this matter and also an order of forfeiture of all assets and properties of the defendants to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Justice Ekwo held.

It will be recalled that a British Commercial Court had, on August 16, awarded judgement in the sum of $9.6 billion against Nigeria over a failed contract between P&ID and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010.

The charge reads in part:

*That you, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (Nigeria) being a company Incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Development (Nigeria) Ltd., Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased), and Brendan Cahill (at large), on or about the 11th day of January 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain benefit to wit: petroleum product from the Federal Government of Nigeria by falsely representing to the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources,that Process Development Ltd. was allocated land by the Cross River State Government which representation you know to be false, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 8(a) and punishable under section (1) (3) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Offences Act, 2006.

*That you, Process and Industrial Developments Limited, being a company incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased) and Brendan Cahill (at large), on or about the 11th of January, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired with certain officials of Nigerian Government to commit felony to wit: dealing in petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.

*That you, Process and Industrial Development Limited, being a company incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased) and Brendan Cahill (at large) between August 2006 and August, 2010 at Abuja within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, conspired amongst yourselves to launder proceeds of unlawful act to wit: tax evasion and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18 and punishable section 15(2)(b)(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No.1 of 2012).”

In count seven, they were accused to have, between August 2006 and December 2006, concealed the unlawful origin of the sum of N1,856,503.50 through the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc Account No: 3223250230110 operated by Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act to wit: tax evasion and you, thereby, committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended by Act No: 1 of 2012).

In count eight, the prosecution accused the defendants of concealing the sum of N3,923,237.65 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No: 1 of 2012.

In count nine, the defendants were said to have concealed the sum of N2,290, 472.50 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended) by Act No: 1 of 2012.

In count 10, the defendants were accused of concealing the sum of N1,414, 955.50, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended) by Act No: 1 of 2012.

Following a British court ruling that Nigeria owed the Irish firm about $9.6 billion for violating terms of the contract, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) commenced an investigation into the contract between Nigeria and P&ID.

The contract for gas supply and processing (GSPA) was signed by the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and P&ID.

The company was to build gas processing facilities around Calabar, Cross River State and the government was to supply wet gas up to 400 million standard cubic feet per day.

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Reps to CBN: Suspend cashless policy on deposits

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Reps to CBN: Suspend cashless policy on deposits

 

 

 

Worried by the controversy generated by the implementation of the cashless policy on deposits by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the House of Representatives has ordered the apex bank to immediately suspend the policy while appropriate and extensive consultation is concluded.

The House also mandated its Committee on Banking and Currency to interface with the apex bank to establish the propriety or otherwise for the implementation of the policy and report back in four weeks.

The directive was consequent upon the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance brought to the floor at the yesterday plenary, by Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu (APC, Abia).

The CBN had, on Tuesday, issued a circular to deposit banks to commence the implementation of the cashless policy in six pilot states across the country.

The apex bank directed that implementation should commence from September 18 in Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Abia, Anambra, and Rivers states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It, however, stated that the nationwide implementation of the cashless policy would take effect from March 31, 2020.

The CBN explained that transactions will attract three per cent processing fees for withdrawal and two per cent processing fees for lodgement of amounts above N500,000 for individual accounts.

Similarly, corporate accounts will attract five per cent processing fees for withdrawal and three per cent processing fee for lodgement of amounts above N3 million.

Leading debate on the motion, Kalu noted that the CBN introduced a policy on cash-based transactions which imposed a cash handling charge on daily cash withdrawals that exceed N1,500,000 for individuals and N18,000,000 for corporate bodies in 2012.

The lawmaker said he was “aware that the policy on cash-based transactions (withdrawals) in banks, was aimed at reducing and not eliminating the amount of physical cash (coins and notes) circulating in the economy, and encouraging more electronic-based transactions (payments for goods, services, transfers, etc.).”

He noted that the cash policy was introduced for a number of key reasons, including the need to drive development and modernization of payment system in line with Nigeria’s vision 2020 goal of being amongst the top 20 economies by the year 2020, to reduce the cost of banking services (including cost of credit) and drive financial inclusion by providing more efficient transaction options and greater reach, inter alia.

According  to him, “A variety of benefits are expected to be derived by various stakeholders from an increased utilization of e-payment systems which include: increased convenience, more service options, reduced risk of cash-related crimes, cheaper access to (out-of-branch) banking services, access to credit and financial inclusion for consumers, faster access to capital, reduced revenue leakage and reduced cash handling costs for corporations and increased tax collections, greater financial inclusion, increased economic development for government.”

He said the CBN has signalled the implementation of a policy which would signal the imposition of charges on deposits in addition to already existing charges on withdrawals.

The motion received a unanimous support from the lawmakers.

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Nigeria seeks fresh $2.5bn World Bank loan

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Nigeria seeks fresh $2.5bn World Bank loan

Even as concern continues to mount about the country’s rising debt profile, the Federal Government is set to secure an additional $2.5 billion loan from the World Bank.

World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Mr. Hafez Ghanem, told Bloomberg yesterday that the Bank is holding talks with Nigeria over a new tranche of concessionary lending to Africa’s most populous country.

Ghanem stated that Nigeria received $2.4 billion from the World Bank in the past year, adding that: “We’re talking about a new set of programmes of about the same amount; it should be around $2.5 billion.

“The current economic performance of Nigeria is not enough to reduce poverty. We need to accelerate growth.”

Nigeria, which vies with South Africa for Africa’s biggest economy, has made a sluggish recovery since a 2016 contraction, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanding only 1.9% in the three months through June, slowing for the third consecutive quarter.

The World Bank in April lowered its 2019 growth forecast for Nigeria to 2.1% from 2.2%.

Coming into office over four years ago when the price of oil, Nigeria’s main export, nosedived, thereby leading to a drastic shortfall in revenue, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has increased borrowing to finance government spending.

In fact, according to debt statistics obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s external debt rose from $10.32 billion in June 30, 2015 to $22.08 billion as of June 30, 2018.

Currently, the country’s foreign loans and domestic debt stand at $25.6 billion and $55.6 billion respectively.

In order to ease the mounting debt burden, the Federal Government has sought more credit with low interest and long repayment periods from institutions, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Ghanem said the World Bank’s focus in Nigeria is to lift about 100 million Nigerians, half of the population, out of poverty, with special emphasis on women’s education, expanding digital opportunities and solving a power crisis that hobbles economic activities.

He also revealed that the Bank is supporting digital transformation in Nigeria because of its potential ability to transform other areas of the economy, including industry, agriculture and services.

“Nigeria has a comparative advantage in that area because of the youth, a majority of the population is young. So if we want to create jobs, we need to invest much more in the digital economy,” he said.

The World Bank official further stated that: “It’s important to resolve the problems of the power sector in Nigeria to bring in more investments. Because you need to bring down the cost of power to make the economy more competitive for the development of industries.”

It will be recalled that while presenting the draft 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) recently, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who announced that the government is proposing about N9.79 trillion as total expenditure in the 2020 budget, disclosed that debt service is projected to increase from N2.14 trillion in 2019 to about N2.45 trillion while new borrowing is to gulp N1.7 trillion next year.

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