The pound has slipped further from last week’s gains after remarks by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel directed at Boris Johnson.
Sterling fell 0.8% to 1.2408 against the US dollar, after briefly rising above $1.25 in early Asian trading – its highest level in nearly two months.
Last week, the pound rose by 1.7%, but on Monday it also weakened by 0.2% against the euro – to 88.68p.
Futures data shows investors have resumed shorting the pound – betting on its decline – after a brief pause.
The pound fell to a three-year low below $1.20 earlier this month, but then soared over 4% for a few days.
But in remarks showing that a gulf remains between the British and European Union positions on Brexit, Bettel said the prime minister had failed to propose serious alternatives that would get a deal done.
Bettel said the British leader needed to “stop speaking and act”.
“We need more than just words,” he said. “We need a legally operable text to work on as soon as possible.”
He added that Johnson was seeking to blame the bloc for the “nightmare” of a prospective no-deal Brexit that would also affect EU citizens resident in Britain.
Bettel was standing alone at a podium that had been prepared for both leaders as Johnson left immediately after the meeting amid a loud anti-Brexit protest.
Johnson and his ministers have been talking up progress in negotiations with Brussels, but the EU side has sounded less optimistic, putting the onus on Britain to come up with new, concrete ideas, reports sky news.
Johnson said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that “there is a good chance” of a Brexit deal with the European Union.
He added that he could “see the shape” of an agreement, but it would “require movement” from the EU.
But Monday’s comments indicated that no agreement was in sight despite meetings between Johnson and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and later Bettel.
Thu Lan Nguyen, a currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt said: “The fact remains there is still a decent chance of Britain not (being) able to secure a deal, and that is prompting investors to take profits after last week’s rally.”
Govt must stop indiscriminate termination of contracts, concessions –Utomi
Says Nigeria should be investing massively in transport infrastructure
Patrick Okedinachi Utomi is a professor of political economy and management expert. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate. He is the founder of Centre for Value in Leadership (CVL) and the African Democratic Congress. In this interview on the sideline of the recent Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIoTA) median national summit/AGM in Abuja, he said African development can happen like a set of flying geese soaring higher and Nigeria is central to that. PAUL OGBUOKIRI brings the excepts
It is reported that transport contributes less than two per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) despite its significance in economic growth. How can this unfortunate trend be corrected?
Logistics or transportation whichever one you use is central to every economic transaction. If you talk about any economic process and you do not mention a catalytic play of logistics, you are not talking economics.
If you doubt it, give me any example of how you can do without it even consulting the internet.
Economics is about transformation of whatever you are talking about from a particular state to a higher level. What goes into it invariably involves logistics or transport. It is so strategic and fundamental that most of the works involved are based on logistics. China’s dramatic ascent in recent years is so significant because of how they have turned their logistics around and infrastructure.
This example is important to us if we are going to make the improvement of the natural endowments our country has. Africa will not make the progress that God has destined it to make unless Nigeria leads the way. People reflect on South East Asia miracle. What simply happened there was that one country started to get it right and others looked across the border and asked, what is happening in Singapore?
Malaysia, China and others moved upward like a set of flying geese moving towards progress. African development can happen like a set of flying geese soaring higher and Nigeria is central to that. Things may have not worked for us because we have not done some things around our transport well; small countries are propping up to take the lead in doing what we ought to do.
I was in Addis Ababa recently; there is a light rail around Addis that the Chinese have put in place. The road network has improved tremendously. Addis Ababa that we used to go that looked like a joke in the 70s.
I was also in South Africa; you know they have always been a leader in infrastructure that has always been their advantage. We ought to see a lot of investments going into transport infrastructure in our country
Many things are happening under this government but somehow this government doesn’t know how to communicate. There are many things they can’t put out for people to know. More importantly we need to have a change of orientation on infrastructure as something that comes out of government budget. How much is Nigeria’s budget? Nigeria’s budget is more part of the GDP of the country and of what is required to get the GDP.
What you require is investments and they cannot come from that budget. We have to make ourselves attractive as destination for inflow of foreign capital. There is plenty of capital out there. There is a French economist called Thomas Piketi, he has become quite famous, some call him the new Marx because of the work he has done in the area of capital.
He authored a book on capital and the origin of inequality which is one of the most popular books in economics today. The point that Piketi makes is that at no time in human history was there enough capital in the world as a result of globalisation.
The problem, which he argued, is that most of the capital is in a few hands. But that is not really my problem right now. Look, just 10 young men in California hold more capital than the whole of African countries put together. People like Mark Zukerberg and other internet boys. Between them, they have more capital than the entire continent of Africa.
So how do you get part of that money? The narrative on Nigeria regarding the money is that such volume of money is not coming to Nigeria. At the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7), someone made a presentation and said they would build a plant in Ghana. Why will they be talking of Ghana? Because we don’t tell our stories well and we don’t do some things well we miss some of these things.
Property rights matters a lot. People don’t go to countries where property rights are threatened or not highly respected. You see some governors are revoking C of Os approved by their predecessors after some persons or organisations may have invested billions of naira, just because they want to steal the land and give it to their friends. People will not want to come to a country like that and the media needs to be able to challenge some of those things.
If you are bringing someone to invest billions in transport infrastructure in Nigeria, we can’t trust the fact that one state governor will just wake up and revoke the C of O for land , rail line and others. It can happen because it is happening
One of the things you hear people say is “Na grammar we go chop?” Every laudable programme must first start as a theory. But we have allowed a popular culture that snares our thinking and it is not helping our cause. Thinking is about applying the mind to solving problems and we need more thinking.
You stressed the need for private sector investment in transport infrastructure. However, several investors who got legitimate contracts and concession ended up losing their investments as a result of political interference. How could CIoTA lead the campaign against such practice?
A foreigner that views such actions critically would not find the country as a place attractive to make investments. This leads to poverty from generation to generation. You don’t have to look hard to find examples. I can give you a thousand of such occurrences. I wrote an opinion piece few months ago entitled “Internally Generated Poverty”. That piece focused on this issue.
We need strong institutions to hold politicians accountable and restrain them from such irrational actions. There is no difference between a Nigerian politician and an American politician. The difference is in the system. It’s just that what they will like to do there, they can’t do because there are institutions that hold them back.
As terrible as President Donald Trump is claimed to be in America, whatever he tries to do, the system checks him and the court can hold him back. That is what credible institutions do. That is what assures of property rights.
There is a brilliant book written by a former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and one of his colleagues, the book is titled: “Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists”. The greatest danger to the growth of capitalist is to apply creative destruction. You have to destroy those on top with a better idea and better way of doing things. However, these people have a lot of power, they are the ones that have dinner with presidents and governors and they can sabotage a young man who has a good idea. The only way you can progress when you have obstacles like this is to bring ideas.
What do make of government’s aggressive tax policies viz-a viz the need to attract investors to the economy?
There is need for the Federal Government to consider the relationship between tax and investment before increasing or introducing more taxes
Because of the need to build her economy, Ghana has started reviewing taxes downward in order to encourage her citizens to save more and investors to bring more funds. Nigeria’s biggest challenge “is production. Our economy does not produce, and the biggest link is investment.
“If at the time you need massive resources to put into the economy and you begin to tax everything, the federal government may actually end up discouraging investments and end up shooting itself in the foot. We have an economic outlook today that focuses mainly on sharing. The governments shares revenues and get more revenues. There is quarrel about FAAC accounts and all of that, everything is about sharing, sharing and sharing.”
$29.9bn loan request: Nigeria can’t get debt forgiveness –Experts
Worried by the Federal Government’s plan to borrow a fresh $30 billion, despite the nation’s over $84 billion debt profile, experts say that Nigeria won’t get another debt cancellation if she defaults in servicing the debts. PAUL OGBUOKIRI reports
•Debt profile set to hit $114bn
•Nigeria loses over N1.5trn yearly to FX, oil subsidies
•Chinese loans not Paris Club arrangement compliant, says IMF
f the Senate approves the $29.9 billion borrowing plan presented to it recently by President Muhammadu Buhari and the nation goes ahead to borrow that much, Nigeria’s debt profile will hit a historic mark of $114billion.
This is about 300 per cent more that Nigeria’s $30 billion debt which the Minister of Finance at that time, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s extra-ordinary efforts miraculously secured the Nigeria a debt forgiveness from the Paris Club of creditors to the tune of $18 billion in October 2005.
Some experts on the economy spoken to by the Sunday Telegraph said while the rising debt profile is alarming, more scary is what will befall the country if anything goes wrong in the servicing of the loans.
Speaking, former president of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), Dr Samuel Nzekwe said though worked hard to qualify for the debt cancellation. “However the conditions which encouraged the Paris Club to grant Nigeria that debt exit is no longer there, moreover Nigeria has so much diversified her borrowings away from the Paris Club. That has its advantages and disadvantages, you can get a more favourable and cheaper loan outside the Paris Club, but when there are issues of refinancing or default you would not be able to get the Paris Club rule to apply,” he said.
Also speaking, Prof George Adaba of the Department of Economics University of Jos insisted that it will be difficult for Nigeria to negotiate for debt forgiveness again because the condition is no longer there, “moreover Nigeria did not make good use of the benefits of that extra-ordinary gesture of the Paris Club.”
“The government must be mindful of the conditions attached to the loans it is taking. Are there windows for renegotiations, refinancing and all that in case the country finds itself in a difficult situation that it needs some breathing space. We pray that Nigeria is able to service the debts and that brings us to committing the loans to productive aspect of the economy,” he said.
Paris Club debt forgiveness of 2005
According to an International Monetary Fund factsheet, the idea of debt forgiveness, which was tagged the Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC Initiative), was a collaboration between the IMF, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, and the African Development Fund (AfDF), to cancel 100 per cent of the debt claims of “countries that had reached, or would eventually reach, the completion point—the stage at which a country becomes eligible for full and irrevocable debt relief”.
The countries that benefitted were 38 in all, and they were as follows: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo , Uganda, Benin, Bolivia, Cameroon, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Senegal, Zambia.
Also, Cambodia, Tajikistan, benefitted from the initiative even though they were non-HIPC countries, but they had a per capita income below $380 and outstanding debt to the IMF.
The Group of Eight Industrialized Nations (G8) reached a decision to forgive indebted countries, but Nigeria was not one of them.
The G8 debt cancellation did require some efforts on the part of benefitting countries. The IMF stated that there were requirements to be met before countries could have their debts forgiven them.
According to the IMF factsheet: “To qualify for debt relief, the IMF Executive Board also required that those countries be current on their obligations to the IMF and demonstrate satisfactory performance in macroeconomic policies, implementation of a poverty reduction strategy, and public expenditure management. Nigeria was not qualified.
However, negotiations continued after Nigeria missing out of the HIPC initiative. These negotiations culminated in the Paris Club writing off $18 billion or 60 per cent of the total $30 billion being owed it by Nigeria in October 2005. The group, at the time, also promised to raise the amount of the debt to be cancelled to $20 billion or 67 per cent.
Among other explanations that led to the partial debt cancellation, the Paris Club said the gesture was in recognition, as well as part of its contribution to Nigeria’s efforts at economic development, adding that “It would also help Nigeria in its fight against poverty”.
Chinese loans conditions more stringent than that of Paris Club
Obadiah Mailafia, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has warned that the country will get its ‘fingers burnt’ if it continues with borrowing from China.
Mailafia said this while explaining the danger involved in continuous huge borrowings from a particular country. According to him, Nigeria could suffer same travails as some African countries over their sizes of loans from China. While warning Nigeria to be cautious over the loans it has collected so far from China, it added that the country could end up losing critical national assets. While noting that China may have genuine interest in Africa’s development, Mailafia said there is a reason for Nigeria to be worried about loans from the country, especially as a result of the projects they are tied to.
He also lamented that after collecting loans from China, labour is imported from there while maintenance of such projects and spare parts are also brought from the country.
This came as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Nigeria and other emerging market countries taking excessive loans from China to consider the terms of such facilities, especially, their compliance with the Paris Club arrangements.
Speaking at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in United States of America, Director, IMF Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Tobias Andrian, said there was nothing bad in borrowing from China, except that the terms of such loans are always questionable.
He said: “Loans from China are good, but the countries should consider the terms of the loans. And we urge countries that when they borrow from abroad, the terms are favorable for the borrower, and should be conforming to the Paris Club arrangements.”
Andrian, who spoke on the Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), said: “Let me reiterate that in many frontier markets, we see that the share of debt that is not conforming to the Paris Club standards is on the rise. And that means that if there is any debt restructuring down the road one day that can be very unfavorable to those countries. So, the borrowing terms, the covenants, are extremely important. And we do see deterioration in that aspect.”
Meanwhile, the Debt Management Office (DMO) said that as at June 2018, loans obtained by the Federal Government from China represented about 8.5 per cent of Nigeria’s external debt and that there taken under concessionary terms. But Nigeria was last year seeking $6 billion from China to fund the construction of the Ibadan-Kano rail line project.
Andrian said Nigeria has been borrowing from international markets, which gives the IMF some worries, saying however that such loans are good as it allows the country to invest more, but expressed concerns over rollover or repayment risks going forward.
“At the moment, funding conditions in economies such as Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries are very favourable but that might change at some point. And there is risk of rollovers and whether these need for refinancing can be met in the future,” he stated.
Why NASS should not approve the $29.9billion roan request
According to the National chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Falalu Bello, the country’s debt profile skyrocketed from $10billion in 2015 to $84billion now.
Bello, who was at different times the Managing Director of Unity, Habib and Intercity banks, while speaking during a media dialogue in Abuja, urged the National Assembly not to approve the $29.9billion loan request of President Buhari before it.
Describing as unacceptable the rising debt profile of the country under Buhari, he said if the new request is approved, the country’s debt profile will rise to $114billion.
“When it came into office in 2015, the Buhari administration inherited a debt burden of just $10 billion, today our country’s debt exposure has spiralled up to about $84billion. Yet there is hardly anything on the ground to show for this staggering debt profile.
“This irresponsible profligacy must stop before our country and its present and future generations become indentured slaves. Already debt servicing is costing us almost half the budget with nothing left for development,” he said.
Bello, while faulting the Federal Government’s claims that Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio was low, said the justification was wrong, looking at the amount being used for debt servicing and the utilisation of previous loans. He said the ratio only favours developed countries and not a developing country like Nigeria.
However, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) says President Muhammadu Buhari’s $29.9 billion external borrowing request to National Assembly for approval was in the interest of the country.
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju in Abuja recently, BMO said the funds were necessary in order for the country to bridge the infrastructure gaps that were left unattended to by previous administrations in the country.
Akinsiju said if the requests had been fully granted in 2016, Nigerians would have seen more projects at various stages of completion across the country.
“Buhari has made a bold move by sending back the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the National Assembly for reconsideration,” he said.
Concerns keep rising over Nigeria’s debt profile
The issue of Nigeria’s rising debt profile has always generated concerns from across the nation’s economic and political spectrum. For instance, recently, some senators raised formal protest on the floor of the Chambers over the rising debt profile as contained in the 2019 Appropriation Bill. Early this month, the DMO said Nigeria’s total debt as at December 31, 2018 stood at N24.39 trillion ($79.437 billion) which represents a year-on-year growth of 12.25 per cent.
A member of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Yusuf, who also brought the issue of Nigeria’s debt profile up for discussion at a plenary session recently, noted that the House was concerned that aside from the rising national debt profile, there was a sharp increase in sub-national borrowing in the last three years, such that the domestic debts of state governments rose from N1.69 trillion in June 2015 to N3.4 trillion in June 2018.
Also, during the launch of the Global Financial Stability Report for April, 2019 at the IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington D.C, U.S, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cautioned Nigeria and other developing countries on borrowing. The Financial Counsellor and Director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Mr. Tobias Adrian, who disclosed this, also said on Nigeria’s rising debt levels, funding conditions are very favourable but that may change at some point.
Similarly, financial experts have advised the federal government to check the rising external debt profile of the country. A former president of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), Dr Samuel Nzekwe, said it would be difficult to finance capital and recurrent expenditures when using more than a quarter of revenue generated to service debt. He urged the government to be cautious in accumulating more debts as this has the ability to erode investors’ confidence.
Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) had cause to express its concerns on the issue. It pointed out that borrowing could have been permissive given the state of the economy in 2015, but not to the high level it had turned out to be. It further said that incurring debt for purposes of development was not in question, but that the over N24.39trillion debt stocks taking over 70 per cent of annual national budget to service debt should be enough source of worry. It, therefore, urged the government to manage the rising debt profile, both at the states and federal levels, as this trend portend a gloomy future for the nation.
Out of the N8.9 trillion proposed national budget before the National Assembly, over N2.3 trillion has been set aside for debt servicing, a development economists said was unhealthy for national development and economic growth.
Nigeria loses over N1.5trillion to foreign exchange, oil subsidies
Meanwhile, Falalu Bello has tasked the Federal Government to stop the foreign exchange (FX) subsidy, saying it benefits only a very few privileged individuals at the expense of the masses.
“Multiple Exchange Rates of N305 to a dollar for government business; N345 to a dollar for the Interbank Market; and N345 to a dollar at the Import and Export window benefit only a few and deprives the federal, states and local governments of much needed revenue.
“The President should order the merger of these rates to increase revenues to the three tiers of government and eliminate the arbitrage benefiting only the corrupt in the system,” he said.
The PRP national chairman also said that the president has failed to fulfil his campaign promise to stop the fraud being perpetrated under the payment of fuel subsidy.
“Stop the fraud in the Fuel Subsidy regime which the APC government and President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to stop during their electioneering campaigns.
“Mr. President Sir, the petroleum subsidy fraud you have identified and promised to stop is continuing and has even become bigger and need be brought to an end,” he said. According to him, in so far as the Federal Government continues to was its meager revenue on the subsidy of FX for the privileged Nigerians and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), it always be difficult for the Federal Government to have funds to finance capital projects.
Nigeria not in debt crisis
Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company and a member of the President Buhari’s Economic Advisory Council, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, who also spoke at the forum, said: “We don’t have a debt crisis, we have a revenue problem but there are also other problems such as poverty, productivity. So, it is not if we have a debt or revenue problem. Also, what we use our revenue for is also important.
“So the government expenditure and the government investment multiplier are much lower than the private sector multiplier and the difference between the flow of wealth and the stock of wealth is a different story.”
This came as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Nigeria’s debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which currently stands at 28 per cent, is still below the average in Africa, despite the fact that the country’s debt level has risen.
It also reiterated that revenue-to-GDP ratio in the country remains low and urged the Federal Government to increase its drive to create more jobs and enhance fiscal consolidation.
IMF Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria, Mr. Amine Mati, said this recently in Lagos at the public presentation of the ‘Fall 2019,’ a Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Debt Management Office had recently revealed that out of Nigeria’s total debt profile of N25.7 trillion as of June 2019, external borrowing accounted for about 32 per cent while 68 per cent was from domestic borrowing.
But Mati noted that even though Nigeria’s debt has increased, the level was way below the average for the region.
“Even if we include the Central Bank of Nigeria’s overdraft and others, we are talking about a debt-to-GDP ratio that doesn’t go beyond 27 or 28 per cent to GDP, and that is including AMCON overdraft, etc,” he explained.
Commenting on the need for fiscal consolidation, he said: “For resource intensive countries and the non-resource intensive countries, one thing that is common is that when there is trade shock, they react. So, you lose revenue and debts go up. In most countries, you would see debt is about 50 per cent to GDP and has increased since 2016 in all cases.
“But what is new is that most of the countries are back on a sustainable path and most countries have plans to reduce debt through fiscal consolidation and have seemed to have stabilised.
“The three largest countries that are driving Sub Saharan growth are Angola, South Africa and Nigeria. Angola has a negative growth; South Africa has a growth below one per cent and Nigeria growing between 2 and 2.5 per cent, which is still on the negative per capita growth.
“Nigeria in the first three quarters, the numbers that came out was at 2.2 per cent and our forecast of 2.3 per cent for the year is still on track depending on how agriculture, ICT perform.
“Nigeria is still on 2.3 per cent for 2019, but for 2020 we project a growth of 2.5 per cent. So, it is still not growing as fast as others for a variety of reasons, including some of the structural reforms and others but it is picking up.”
Most experts spoken by this newspaper, believe that it will be very dangerous for Nigeria to find herself in the dangerous situation it was before the Paris Club debt exit of 2005. They want government to block loopholes and ensure that all loans go to the productive sectors of the economy.
Customs Spokesman, Attah emerges best federal agency image maker
pokesman for Nigeria Customs Service, Joseph Attah has emerged overall best in information dissemination and communication with the public among other public institutions.
At a well attended award ceremony put together by a coalition of civil society bodies under the aegis of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Abuja, the Customs Service also bagged an Award of Excellence for its contribution to national security.
Organisers of the award disclosed that among agencies of government, the Customs aside bagging a Certificate of Excellence came up as overall best in disseminating relevant information to members of the public on its activities and addressing several unanswered questions.
The organisers also noted the effective manner in which information on the ongoing partial border closure is seamlessly being disseminated by Nigeria Customs.
While making the presentation to Attah, Air Vice Marshal Yusuf Ana (rtd) of the Crises Communication Centre described Attah’s and Customs award as well deserved
Speaking to reporters after the award ceremony in Abuja, Attah said the increasing revenue collection, unrelenting anti smuggling activities and higher dedication to duty by officers is results of an integrity driven management of the service.
He said the award is a sign that the efforts put to work by his unit and the entire service were being observed and noted.
“I thank the organisers for this recognition and we see this as a motivation to do more in the collection of revenue, protect Nigerians from dangers associated with smuggling and step up our enlightenment activities.
“The ongoing Exercise Swift Response has recorded gains that includes creating good business environment for Nigerian farmers, increased revenue collection at the ports and reduced our overall fuel consumption by curbing trans-border smuggling of petroleum products
“It has also improved on the security situation of the Northwest States and other parts of the country covered by Exercise Swift Response” Attah said.
The Nigeria Police was also honoured at the ceremony for Excellence in overall national security while Nigerian Air Force came to Community Services.
Also honoured at the ceremony were two identical twin officers who displayed gallantry and achieved the arrest of over 100 kidnap suspects.
Why there is racketeering in railway ticket sales –Okhira
anaging Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) Engr. Fidet Okhira has said that alleged ticket racketeering on the Abuja-Kaduna railways may not come to an end soon even as the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) has planned to introduce e-ticketing soon to curtail it.
He said that as the chief executive officer of the Corporation he will not say “no” to a VIP who asks him to reserve a ticket for him, which means that he allows preferential treatment and favouritism in ticket sales on the route.
Speaking at the three-day Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIoTA’s) National Transport Summit/ Annual General Meeting in Abuja which ended on Thursday, he said he cannot pretend not giving tickets to favour some passengers.
He said: “I am not a hypocrite, I cannot pretend, someone like Madam (referring to a participant at the event) cannot say she wants to travel and I say ticket has finished or ask her to go and queue.
“I must find a way to provide ticket for her. I cannot hide behind a finger to say I don’t do it,” he said.
He admitted that the Abuja-Kaduna route is over stretched and assured that more coaches and locomotives will arrive in January 2020 to increase the number of trains on the route.
He also said that the Warri to Itakpe rail service will commence in the first quarter of 2020 while rail passengers in the South South and South East areas of the country will enjoy travel at average speeds of 120km per hour soon.
Okhira described the rail transport mode as faster, safer and easier for persons with high volumes of cargoes.
He decried the rate of vandalism on railway infrastructure, saying over 5000 clips and 10,000 bolts and nuts have been replaced along the Lagos – Ibadan rail track due to vandals’ activities capable of causing fatal rail accidents.
Recall that due to heavy passenger traffic on Mondays and weekends on the Abuja-Kaduna, passengers have been facing difficulties securing seats in the coaches. This has forced many of them to opt for standing through the two-hour journey. And with a surge in passenger traffic comes the deplorable act of ticket racketeering by some railway officials.
Piqued by the ugly trend, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had, during one of his unscheduled visits to Idu and Kubwa stations, Abuja, sometime in 2017, ordered the immediate removal of the station manager, ticket sellers and porters at Idu and Rigasa. They were caught red-handed by the Minister in the act of ticket racketeering. But that seems not to have deterred the perpetrators of the act.
During the minister’s visit, it was learnt that some officials were extorting money from passengers in business class. The fare is pegged at N1500 for the first and last trip for economy class, while the second and third trips in the economy class are N1300. For the business class, the first, second, third and last trip remained N2500. However, some of the officials were discovered to have doubled the fare for desperate passengers.
Narrating how desperate passengers are extorted, one of the officials who didn’t want his identity disclosed said, “Those behind this act sometimes lie to passengers that there are no more tickets. Because of desperation, insecurity and probably because they have appointments to meet, they pay whatever amount to get on board.”
Umeh reconciles with Ekwunife at ASATU Award
t was a melodrama in Awka, the Anmabra State capital when the two embattled senators of Anambra central senatorial zone, Senator Victor Umeh and Senator Uche Ekwenife engaged themselves in reconciliation, tete a tete at the Omams Event Centre Awka.
They came to recieve the 2019 Anambra State Association of Town Unions Annual Community Service Award (ASATU). The award was the maiden edition and a cross section of the people of the state who have distinguished themselves in various fields of human endavour were nominated for the award including Senator Umeh and Ekwunife among others .
Umeh, first to arrive the venue was addressing the gathering, while he regaled his audience with his exploits as a founding member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in the red chamber, where he spent only 17 months, when Senator Ekwunife came in with her entourage. The meeting of the two political giants immediately changed the mood of the event. But shortly after his address the duo in the spirit of sportsmanship hugged and exchanged pleasantries in a low tone.
Addressing journalists shortly after, Senator Umeh said: “Politics is not a do or die affair. I have no regret whatsoever for not being in the Red Chambers today because in politics it is only one person that will win at a time.
“We have done what we can do as human beings and the people have decided on who they want. I am happy that the distinguished Senator reorganised that I made her whatever she is in politics today.
“As the National Chairman of APGA, I gave her a ticket to the House of Representatives as I made others including former governor Peter Obi. I was behind him during that trial period until he left and I am strongly behind the present Governor, Chief Willie Obiano. APGA is our party and there is no other we can call our own.
“I am equally fulfilled that for the 17 months I was in the National Assembly, I made my mark as an Igbo man for the world to see. I have forgiven her and I ask the people of Anambra State to give her their support.”
On her part Senator Ekwunife said she was in Anambra to receive the Award. She said, however, that it is not yet time for political campaign but what is clear is that what speaks for anybody in power is his or her track records and achievements.
The senator remarked that Ndigbo cannot get their own better share of the national cake without queuing into the national grid.
Hear her: “We have only two major political parties in Nigeria today and we cannot benefit if we continue to be in opposition. She said the clarification will be made clear during the campaign but what every reasonable Igbo man should know is that Nigerian is a secular state and unless you belong to the main political party you would never get a better bargain.”
On the 2021 Governorship race in Anambra State, Senator Ekwunife said although she has not declared, Ndi Anambra should be thinking of trying women, pointing out that the men folk have done their best and it is time for the women.
“I have not declared to run but I do know that what men can do women can also do better. We had Dame Virgy Etiaba and her track records are there for everybody to see. We should try women this time. “I will mobilize them and ensure that they are given chance to reposting Anambra State.
Earlier in his welcome addresses the National President of ASATU, Chief Alex Onukwue said that ASATU, the umbrella body of the town unions of all the 179 communities in Anambra State, has thought it wise to honour some illustrious sons and daughters of Ndi Anambra who have distinguished themselves in the community service.
“We believe that doing so, would only be encouraging those who have done a lot to do more but would be certainly be encouraging others to emulate them. There is a doubt also that government cannot do it alone given the lean resources available at their disposal and weighed against competing developmental challenges can hardly do it all alone. It matters a lot therefore that those who have the means should come forward to give back to the society,” he said. Chief Onukwe said that presently the association is building a cultural center at Mgbakwu, Awka South L.G.A, named after the founding national president, Late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN), a great son of Anambra State and Nigeria.
According to him when completed the center will add to the strength of the town union in promoting peoples participation in democratic governance going on in the State.
Speaking one after the other the Chairman of Ohaneze, Anambra State and Grand Patron of ASATU Chief Okeke Ogene, explained that ASATU has done very well in the state by brokering peace in the communities.
Also, he commended Governor, Willy Obiano for making the town union the fourth tiers of government through his Choose your Project Initiatives, which he saidhad brought tremendous development to all the communities in Anambra state.
Other recipients of the award were: the Late Professor Dora Akunyili, who received a Post Humous Award, Mr. Emmanuel Okala, A K A “Man Mountain”, former Enugu Rangers goalkeeper, Professor Kate Omenaugha, Chief Charles Allen Onyema, and Dr. Comas Maduka, Chairman Coscharis farms.
All new Jaguar F-Type debuts
he new Jaguar F-TYPE looks more beautiful than ever and embodies Jaguar design DNA in its purest form. The two-seat sports car offers a perfect balance of performance and driver reward with an even more muscular, assertive design and a cabin defined by rich, luxurious materials and beautiful details.
The range of powerful, responsive engines includes four-, six- and eight-cylinder options, all matched to eight-speed Quickshift transmissions with full manual control using either the SportShift gear selector or the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The new F-TYPE also offers more driver-focused technology, including a reconfigurable, high-definition, 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, Touch Pro infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and software-over-the-air functionality so future software updates can be made at the customer’s convenience without having to visit a Retailer. Two superb Meridian sound systems also offer enhanced sound reproduction.
Julian Thomson, Design Director, Jaguar, said: “Design the most beautiful sports car, with purity, proportion and presence that’s unmistakably Jaguar: that was the challenge we set ourselves. The new F-TYPE is more dramatic than ever, with even greater clarity of purpose in every line, surface and feature, and embodies true Jaguar design DNA.
“State-of-the-art technologies together with luxurious materials and finishes deliver beauty with purpose in an interior which will delight driver and passenger alike even before the engine starts and the journey begins. Jaguar has been making sports cars for more than 70 years, and that rich heritage has inspired the team to create something truly extraordinary.”
F-TYPE’s award-winning design has evolved still further with a focus on even greater purity and discipline to the perfectly-sculpted form. Super-slim pixel LED headlights* with subtly updated signature ‘Calligraphy’ J daytime running lights, and sweeping direction indicators, blend perfectly into the ‘liquid metal’ surfacing of the new clamshell bonnet, exaggerating the car’s visual width and accentuating its assertive stance. The new front bumper and subtly enlarged grille deliver even more visual impact and presence.
The rear haunches enhance the F-TYPE’s inherently dramatic, purposeful form, while the new slender rear lights combine an unmistakable LED chicane signature, inspired by the Jaguar I-PACE all-electric Performance SUV, with subtle monogram pattern detailing and a fine ‘pinstripe’ beneath.
The interior combines traditional Jaguar craftsmanship with rich, contemporary materials such as Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome. Beautiful details include monogram stitch patterns in the seats and door trims, Jaguar Leaper motifs in the headrests, and subtle ‘Jaguar Est.1935’ markings on the centre console finisher, glovebox release button surround, and seatbelt guides.
The 12.3-inch reconfigurable HD TFT instrument cluster offers a choice of different displays, including full map mode but, as befits a true sports car, the default mode is characterised by the large central rev counter. This feature and the gearshift light subtly convey the F-TYPE’s driver-focused character and performance potential.
Even before the drive begins, the F-TYPE delights the driver with the visual theatre of flush, deployable door handles and deployable air vents. Pressing the start button brings the car to life with its hallmark exhaust flare as purposeful as ever.
All engines – 221kW turbocharged four-cylinder, 280kW supercharged V6 and 423kW V8 – feature active exhaust systems, which are switchable either as an option or as standard. Customers who choose the 423kW supercharged V8 benefit from the new Quiet Start function, which ensures a more subtle, refined sound – the electrically-actuated bypass valves in the rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open up under load. If desired, Quiet Start can be over-ridden by selecting Dynamic Mode or by pressing the switchable exhaust button before starting the engine.
Alan Volkaerts, Vehicle Line Director, Jaguar F-TYPE, said: “The new F-TYPE is the definitive Jaguar sports car and continues to set the benchmark for design purity, driver engagement and reward, and a truly visceral driving experience – it makes every journey extraordinary.
2nd Niger Bridge hits 33.33% completion
•Host communities, others excited
hough the date set by the Federal Government for the completion of the N220 billion second Niger Bridge is 2022, there is already excitement and celebration in the air over the news that work on the bridge which is the main road link between the West and Eastern parts of Nigeria has reached 33.33 per cent completion.
Members of the host communities and people from the South East geopolitical region who spoke to Sunday Telegraph in different interviews on Tuesday expressed happiness over the pace of work on the project since the contraction on the main project commenced in 2017.
A trader at the Onitsha market, Confidence Chukwu, said though work on the project was slow initially, “there is already excitement in the air as people start to see the pillars of the bridge standing. People are no longer in doubt over the sincerity of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete the project as he promised. Infact, where work on the project has reached now, it is almost getting to the point of no abandonment. We are confident that President Buhari will as he promised; complete the construction of the bridge in 2022, a year before he leaves of office.”
Speaking, Chief Okechukwu Mgbolu from Asaba said if the bridge is completed it reposition the economy of the town, saying the gateway town will only realize its full potentials when the road is completed and put into use.
Mrs. Nkiruka Ugboma, a women leader in Onitsha said they are happy over the recent increase in the pace of work at the site adding that it has also opened up the host communities to commercial activities. “We thought that it was one of those promises of the government but what is going on is interesting and we thank the Federal Government for bringing development to our town.”
Also speaking, Chief Davidson Nwankwo, who has lived in Atani for 40 years though he is a native of Ehime Mbano in Imo State, described the project as a landmark that will have catalytic effect on the economy of the South East and Nigeria in general.
The bridge is a new construction of an 11.9kilometre long, double three-lane highway designed to connect Asaba and Onitsha in Delta and Anambra states.
The bridge is being executed under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Plan (PIDP) and it is being funded by the three tiers of government through the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), in collaboration with private investors.
PIDP is an initiative of the present administration to accelerate the execution of critical and strategic infrastructure projects necessary to drive the rapid growth and modernization of Nigeria’s economy.
Meanwhile, in a visit to the site on Tuesday, Sunday Telegraph was told by the project supervisor Engr. Oluwaseyi Martins that the Second Niger Bridge is 1.59 km in length which forms part of the 11.90 km length of the project.
He said that it is located 1.7 km downstream of the existing Niger Bridge on a new alignment, adding that it consists of two end spans of 40.25 meters and 40 meters respectively 16 equal intermediate spans of 55 meters each and two intermediate spans 90 meters each, three navigational spans of 150 meters each.
He said that it has a total width of the dual carriage bridge is 30.1 meters consisting of 12. 25 meters width of three lane carriage with 0.9 meters shoulder in each direction and 3.6 meters central reserve.
According to him, two under passes classified as secondary bridges are planned at Amakom village and Atani roads with an interchange on the Onitsha, Owerri road consisting of important sediment of the project.
He explained that the Berger Nigeria Plc had commenced early work on the other phases, which were integral parts of the construction of the main works adding that it commenced at 23 +000 km on Asaba side and terminates at 34+900 km on the Onitsha side.
Sunday Telegraph also learnt that the toll plaza is located at 25+700km while the Onitsha -Owerri interchange is located at 34,100 adding that the express way including the Niger Bridge has two directions with three lanes each.
Martins stated that at the moment the project has reached 33.33 per cent completion from the previous percentage of 25.
Currently the two other bridges are located at Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra and Amakom village in Delta State as a link to the bridge have been completed and work on the toll plaza have commenced.
Martins disclosed that the host communities were also integrated in the project through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the construction company.
To this end sub contracts have been awarded to the natives in the area of supplies as well a percentage of employment to the villagers.
He said that 90 per cent compensation has been paid to the host communities for economic trees graves, shrines and buildings in Amakom village and Atani respectively.
Recall that on March 10, 2014, the then President Goodluck Jonathan performed the ground breaking ceremony of the Second Niger Bridge which was heralded by so much celebration giving an indication that the pressure on the first Niger Bridge constructed in 1965 would be reduced drastically.
The first Niger Bridge has since it’s construction served as the only gate way to the nine states in the old Eastern Region namely Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu as well as Akwa Ibom, Rivers Bayelsa and Cross River states.
Mercedes-Benz delivers over 200,000 vehicles in November
or the first time, global sales by Mercedes-Benz passed the mark of 200,000 units in a November: deliveries of 209,058 cars constitute an increase of 5.3 per cent. Not only was a new record high reached for the month, but unit sales also increased by 1.4 per cent in the period of January to November. Last month and also since the beginning of the year, the previous year’s sales were exceeded in the three largest markets: China, Germany and the United States. Important growth drivers for Mercedes-Benz unit sales in November were compact cars and SUVs, among other things due to new models such as the A-Class Saloon, the B-Class, the GLC and the GLE.
In the first eleven months of the year, Mercedes-Benz maintained its market leadership in the premium segment in markets including Germany, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Portugal, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Canada, Republic of South Africa and other markets.
“With convincing products and the impetus from our model offensive with compact cars and SUVs, we have started the year-end spurt with confidence. In November, we presented the Maybach GLS, the first SUV model from our exclusive Mercedes-Maybach brand. For our customers, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS combines the advantages of the popular GLS with the luxury of a high-end Saloon that Maybach customers are used to. Since the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Saloon was launched in 2015, more than 45,000 units of this model alone have been delivered to customers all over the world,” stated Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and of Mercedes-Benz AG responsible for Sales.
Mercedes-Benz unit sales by region and market
A total of 82,123 cars with the star were delivered in the Europe region in November (+0.1). Since the beginning of the year, unit sales in the region increased by 0.6 per cent. In Germany, the region’s core market, Mercedes-Benz sold 30,872 vehicles last month (+5.8 per cent). From January to November, unit sales by the Stuttgart-based company with the star in its domestic market were 5.1 per cent higher than in the prior-year period. Deliveries in Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal increased to a record level in November.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Mercedes-Benz set a new record in November with sales of 83,652 units (+11.0 per cent). In the region’s core market, China, 57,901 customers were delighted to receive their new car with the star. This is the highest number of cars ever sold in a November by Mercedes-Benz in China and as well as double-digit growth (+11.0 per cent). Since the beginning of the year sales there have continued to be at record levels with 640,933 units (+6.3 per cent). Since the beginning of the year new sales records were also set in South Korea and Vietnam.
Deliveries in the NAFTA region increased last month by 7.7 per cent to 38,601 units. Mercedes-Benz was able to deliver a total of 33,721 cars with the star in the core market of the USA in November and achieved significant growth of 8.7 per cent. In addition, Mercedes-Benz was the highest-selling premium brand in the United States last month. For the first time in the year to date the Stuttgart-based company with the star reversed its sales trend in the USA: unit sales increased by 0.7 per cent.
Saudi Aramco prices shares at top of range in world’s biggest IPO
State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) will be the biggest in history, but will fall short of the towering $2 trillion valuation long sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the top of its indicative range, the company said in a statement, raising $25.6 billion and beating Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (BABA.N) record $25 billion listing in 2014.
At that level, Aramco has a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, comfortably overtaking Apple Inc (AAPL.O) as the world’s most valuable listed firm. But the listing, expected later this month on the Riyadh stock exchange, is a far cry from the blockbuster debut originally envisaged by the Crown Prince, reports Reuters.
Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market but two sources said it was scheduled for Dec. 11.
Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.
Demand from institutional investors, including Saudi funds and companies, reached $106 billion, while retail investment’s demand hit $12.6 billion.
Around 4.9 million Saudi retail investors have bought shares in the oil giant, including 2.3 million aged between 31-45.
Aramco’s advisors said they may partly or fully exercise a 15% “greenshoe” option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4 billion.
The pricing comes as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is gearing up to deepen oil supply cuts to support prices, provided it can strike a deal later this week with allies such as Russia.
Climate change concerns, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency put foreign investors off the offering, forcing the kingdom to ditch ambitions to raise as much as $100 billion via an international and domestic listing of a 5% stake.
Even at a $1.7 trillion valuation, international institutions baulked, prompting Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a 1.5% stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks offered citizens cheap credit to bid for shares.
DIVERSIFY FROM OIL
The IPO is the culmination of a years-long effort to sell a portion of the world’s most profitable company and raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil and create jobs for a growing population.
“The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
“Nevertheless, combined with other areas of funding, we believe that there is meaningful capital in place to progress with the investment plans aimed at diversifying the economy.”
The government promoted the investment as a patriotic duty, particularly after Aramco’s oil facilities were attacked in September, temporarily halving the kingdom’s oil output.
Despite the official push and offer of loans to fund share purchases, interest was relatively muted compared with other emerging market IPOs, including the listing of a top Saudi bank in 2014 which was oversubscribed many times over.
Alibaba’s listing in Hong Kong this month had bids for 40 times the number of shares on offer.
Sources have said the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), sovereign wealth funds of two of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf allies, planned to invest in the deal. ADIA declined to comment, while KIA did not respond to requests for comment.
Saudi citizens were offered 0.5% of the company or about a third of the offering, an unprecedented retail offering compared with previous Saudi IPOs.
Aramco has planned a dividend of $75 billion for 2020, more than five times larger than Apple’s payout, which is already among the biggest of any S&P 500 company.
But investing in Aramco is also a bet on the price of oil and growth in global demand for crude, which is expected to slow from 2025 as steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are rolled out and the use of electric vehicles increases.
The IPO also carries political risk as the Saudi government, which relies on Aramco for the bulk of revenues, controls the company.
Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and for its role in a war in Yemen.
Fowler: Digital space key to revenue generation
Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has described digital space as the new gold in revenue generation. Fowler said this yesterday in his opening remarks at the third Annual Nigeria Tax Research Network Conference holding at the FIRS Training School in Durumi, Abuja.
The conference is themed: “Revenue Challenges Online and Offline: Bridging the Digital divide in an Analogue Economy.” According to the FIRS boss, it is important that the service improves its capacity in the taxation of economic activities within the digital space.
Towards this, Fowler said the FIRS had deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of improving transparency as well as easing speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and administrators. “The volume of economic activities associated with businesses like Uber, Amazon and our own Jumia and Interswitch is further confirmation of the aptness of the theme. “To put it in clear terms, the digital space is new ‘gold’ in terms of revenue generation, and tax administration must be alive to this fact.
“It is with this in mind that FIRS has designed and deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of the improvement of transparency, ease and speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and tax administrators.
“These e-services have in no small way contributed to the successes recorded in the last two years amidst an economy characterised by the effect and aftermath of recession,” Fowler said. According to him, the e-services, are e-Registration for registration of new taxpayers; e-Stamp duty for payment of stamp duties on qualifying documents; e-TaxPayment for payment of all taxes of the Federal Government using Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Remita or Interswitch; e-Receipt for receiving and verifying e-receipts generated for taxes paid through the new e-TaxPayment. Others are e-Filing, which enables taxpayers file their tax returns through Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS); and e-TCC platform, which enables taxpayers apply for, receive and verify authenticity of their electronic tax clearance certificates (e-TCC).
Fowler stated that the conference was an opportunity for tax administrators to brainstorm on new ideas to broaden the tax net as well as strategise on optimal service delivery. The conference, according to him, is also for the discussion of current ideas, new trends and future prospects of revenue collection. “This conference, like others before it, presents us with an opportunity to brainstorm and articulate initiatives for the broadening of the tax net and strategies geared towards ensuring optimised service delivery.
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