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How Jonathan Stopped First-class Travel Among Ministers In 2012– Ex-minister

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Former Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, has disclosed that former President Goodluck Jonathan restricted each of his ministers to the use of only two cars during the fuel subsidy removal crisis in 2012.

He stated that Jonathan also stopped members of his cabinet from travelling in first class with a view to providing more funds for other relevant government activities.

According to him, though some ministers didn’t comply with his directive, the ex-president told them to reflect on the sufferings Nigerians were going through by reducing the cost of governance.

The former minister spoke on the heels of the N27.5tn budget estimates for the 2024 fiscal year tagged the ‘Budget of Hope’ presented by President Bola Tinubu and currently being scrutinised by the National Assembly.

There have been mixed reactions from the public and the joint National Assembly Committees on the huge amount allocated to some items of ministries and agencies of the government in the proposed budget.

The Committee on Trade and Industry had frowned on the allocation of N1bn for a foreign trip to Geneva, Switzerland, by the Ministry of Trade and Investment.

The lawmaker representing Edo North Senatorial District, Adams Oshiomhole, at the defence of the 2024 budget of the ministry, cautioned against travelling with over-bloated teams, thereby increasing the cost of governance.

The State House had also earmarked N9.5bn for the purchase of tyres for bulletproof vehicles, Sport Utility Vehicles, operational vehicles, plain cars, and the construction of an office complex for Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants.

Earlier, the sum of N160bn was appropriated to purchase SUVs for lawmakers of the National Assembly.

Speaking in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the former minister expressed the need to reduce the cost of governance.

He said Nigerians would have hailed the National Assembly if they had reflected on the sufferings of the people by using part of the funds on constituencies and purchasing Nigerian cars.

He said, “I remember in January 2012, during the issue of the fuel subsidy. That was the first time the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, wanted to take the issue of fuel subsidy head-on. I remember at one of the meetings, former President Jonathan told us that as ministers, we could no longer travel first class.

“He also said we could no longer move around with sirens and we could only go out with our car and one other backup car. He said we needed to reflect sensitivity to the feelings of the people. Some people complied and some others didn’t comply, but the principle was very clear, and we also tried to adjust.

“I tried to imagine a National Assembly where a decision is taken that, given the situation of the country, they (National Assembly) are going to buy from Nigeria cars like Innoson Motors and they can use some part of the money for their constituency. I can’t imagine how Nigerians would hail them if that kind of decision were taken.”

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Order CBN to honour Letters of Credit– SINET to Tinubu, NASS

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Amidst several hardships facing the Nigerian populace, the Social Integrity Network, (SINET) has urged President Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the leadership of national assembly to compel the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.

The group also urged the Federal Government to make further clarification concerning a statement credited to the CBN Governor on issues regarding the alleged and well-publicized revelations of a $2.4 billion forex trading fraud.

SINET recalled that “On February 5, 2024, the governor of CBN made this declaration in both his interactions with Senate committees and his interview on a national television, following the engagement of Deloitte Management Consultant to conduct a forensic investigation where he claimed that the said amount was uncovered.

A statement issued on Monday by SINET national coordinator, Ibrahim Issah, disclosed that “On the contrary, we wish to unequivocally state that these claims lack merit and do not take into account the consequences they will have on businesses, public perception, or the economy of our cherished nation and its implication on forex both at home and abroad.”

According to him, “Without sentiment, the claim is completely falsehood and unacceptable as he, the CBN governor, failed to consider its economic implications. It is pertinent to state that genuine businessmen and women across the country, borrowed Funds from commercial banks, some with interest rates as high as 30% to secure forex from the CBN through their respective commercial banks since CBN does not sell the dollars to individuals directly.

“The same funds have been deposited with CBN for the past one and half years for forwards allocated for which the Apex Bank is now claiming were fraudulent transactions. May we remind Mr. Governor that while the CBN allocated the forwards after collecting the naira for each forward allocated, the commercial banks used these same forward contracts as a hedge and issued Letters of Credit (LCs) to their various customers against their offshore credit lines and also as a sovereign guarantee to their offshore banks which stand unpaid till today as a result of the failure of CBN to honour the various forward contracts.

“May we also remind our CBN Governor that as a result of their failure to honour these contracts, the outstanding foreign loans continue to accrue interest (post-negotiation charges), which the commercial Banks are passing to their customers: the same customers you say do not have a genuine claim.”

The statement further stressed that, “The public would like to ask Mr. Governor the following questions: What will happen to the foreign bank that is expecting their payment to be paid back? What will happen to the businessmen and women who had borrowed Naira from commercial Banks and paid the same into the CBN account for the purchase of forex for over eighteen months? Who will bear the interest charged on borrowed funds locally? Who will bear the charges running against the offshore lines used in establishing Letters of Credit? What will happen to the businesses? What will happen to the employees that are dependent on the survival of the businesses that CBN is trying to kill?

“We call upon the senate president and, in fact, the president and Commander In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to call the CBN governor to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.

“Let us state categorically that the CBN is killing businesses by cancelling the forward contracts that were sold to them about 18 months ago at the rate of N450/dollar and now selling the same funds to the commercial banks and directing the bank to sell the money at the rate of 1,500/dollar to the same businesses who initially had a forward contract at the rate of N450/dollar.

“May we also remind Mr. Governor, that failure to honour these forward contracts is taking commercial banks longer time to clean the offshore lines already used for establishing Letters of Credit against which shipments have been done and payment made to LC beneficiaries by the offshore banks. The delays of the commercial banks to settle their Forex obligations to their offshore banks is making our country risk to be very high.

“Lastly, the public will like to call on the coordinating minister for the economy, Mr. Wale Edun to engage the CBN regarding this issue of undelivered forward contracts because at present in Nigeria, almost 60% of companies in the manufacturing sector have been closed due to the volatility of Forex in Nigeria in order to avoid the other 40% from also closing down.

“This will go a long way to help the few remaining manufacturing companies still in operation in Nigeria and also encourage the new investors that the president and commander in-chief of the federal republic is trying woo to bring their investments to Nigeria.”

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Senate Passes Sen Ashiru’s Bill To Establish National Road Transport Council

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The Senate on Tuesday granted first reading to a bill seeking to establish a National Road Transport Council which is to be saddled with the responsibility of regulating the road transport industry and the transport profession in Nigeria.

The bill titled National Road Transportation Council (Establishment) Bill 2024 is sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader Senator Oyelola Ashiru and was introduced to the Senate plenary after the Senators resumed from their 30 day recess.

Further details of the bill fronted by the Kwara South Senator reveals that if signed into law a council board will be established which shall consist of a Board chairman and six members drafted from each geo-political zone of the country.

More insights of the bill sighted by the Sun also states that the board shall be presided by a representative from Ministries of transport, commerce and industry and aviation and they shall not be below the rank of a Director.

As highlighted in the explanatory memorandum of the bill , [b]the functions of the proposed council include; creating an effective regulatory framework on road transport service operators; determining the standard of knowledge and skills required for road transport service operators; encouraging the advancement of education in road transportation; ensuring accessibility of road transport facilities, [/b]channels, and routes; monitoring the performance of the regulated road transport industry; conducting background check on road transport service operators; registering all road transport service providers and determine the fees for such registration; setting guidelines and general policies for road transport service operators; updating the Federal Government on its activities and progress through annual and audited reports; reviewing progress and suggest improvement within the provisions of this Bill and do such other things as are necessary or incidental to the objects of the Council under this Bill or as may be assigned by the Federal Government.

The bill received the nod of the Senators via voice votes presided by the Senate President Godswill Akpabio shortly after it was introduced to the floor of the Red Chambers by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.

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