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Plan to rename “Apo Legislative Quarters” Abuja fails

The House of Representatives on Wednesday, rejected a call urging the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA) to change the Name, “Apo Legislative Quarters” to reflect current realities.

This followed a motion by Rep. Segun Adekola (PDP-Ekiti) at plenary.

Adekola moving the motion, explained that the motion was borne out of compassion for new legislators who passed through difficult experiences before they could get befitting accommodation.

Adekola said in 2004, the Federal Executive Council mandated the Federal Capital Territory Administration to sell all Federal Government non-essential Housing units in Abuja.

He said this included the Apo Legislative Quarters which was sold to Legislators occupying houses at the time under specific rules and guidelines.

He expressed concern over the challenging experiences new members of the legislature were subjected to in their quest to get decent accommodation in the FCT.

The lawmaker stressed that this was as a result of the sale of the quarters originally built to accommodate them.

Adekola further expressed concern about the continuous use of the name “Apo Legislative Quarters” in describing the place, when in actual fact, most of the houses were no longer being occupied by legislators.

According to him, it has since changed hands due to sales to third or even to a fourth Party.

He said that there was the need to protect and uphold the sanctity of the legislature by putting in place, a corrective measure to addressing the ugly trend and distortion of fact.

He therefore, called for the change of the name,  as over 80 per cent of the inhabitants of the legislative quarters were not legislators.

“Legislature is the distinctive mark of a Country’s  Sovereignty.

“The index of its status as a State and the source of much of the power exercised by the executive arm of government in the administration of the country.

“The Legislature is the bedrock of any government, being an institution which represents the common and collective interests of the citizens.

“Through the enactment of laws and the exercise of oversight functions on the activities of the executive arm of government.

“In June 2003, former President Olusegun Obasanjo,  based on the recommendation of a Committee headed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ufot Ekaette directed that the fringe benefits of all public and political office holders be monetised,”

Contributing to the motion, Rep. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP-Abia) sought a new prayer to the motion to ensure that FCDA urgently provided befitting quarters and set aside for serving legislators.

On his part, the Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun politely asked the mover of the motion to withdraw it, as many former members still resided in the quarters.

He said that the name of the place had no bearing on how the parliament performed.

Also, the Deputy Chief Whip, Mr Pally Iriase, stated that the world over, monuments were maintained for historical purposes.

He stated that though many members no longer resided in the quarters, the name was a point of history that should be preserved for historical purposes.

On his part, Rep. Johnson Agbonayinma (APC-Edo said that the quarters lost its status as a national monument, the moment it was monetised and lost its initial function and status.

The motion was unanimously rejected by members when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.

By Abiemwense Moru

FG Disburses N60m to Tackle Unemployment, Improve Lives in Nasarawa

The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in Nasarawa State says the Federal Government has disbursed at least N60 million as loan to people in the state as part of its employment drive since the directorate was established in 1998.

The loan was also part of efforts to address poverty and improve the living standard of the people of the state.

Alhaji Dauda Idris-Wase, the state’s Coordinator of the scheme, made this known in Lafia on Thursday at an orientation programme for beneficiaries of the NDE Empowerment/Loans Schemes in the state.

Idris-Wase explained that the programme was organised to educate the different categories of beneficiaries on how to start and run micro enterprises efficiently.

“This is in line with the plan of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to create massive opportunities for employment of especially women and youths.

“942 lucky young men and women are trained and provided with meaningful and gainful self-employment opportunities through the following schemes:

“Under the Agricultural Value Chain Scheme (AVCS), 60 beneficiaries got N40,000 each, and under the Food Processing and Packaging Scheme (FFPS), 48 women got N20,000 each.

“For the Agri-business Enhancement Scheme (AES), 36 beneficiaries received N50,000 each, while 15 beneficiaries were each given N85,000 in furtherance of the Business Enhancement Development Programme (BEDP).

“Under the Women Employment Programme (WEP), 50 women received N25,000 each, and under the Environmental Beautification Training Scheme (EBTS), 11 beneficiaries receive tools and equipment valued at N1,200,450,” he said.

Idris-Wase further said that 22 graduates of tertiary institutions were recruited for a three-month post-graduate attachment programme during which each would get a monthly stipend of N18,000.

He advised the loan beneficiaries to pay back the amount collected based on laid down guidelines for the scheme so that other people would benefit.

The coordinator restated NDE’s commitment to sustaining the programme for the benefit of unemployed youths, women, and others.

Also speaking, Alh. Suleiman Gambo, the Nasarawa State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, lauded the Federal Government for the gesture.

Gambo urged the government to sustain the programme as it would go a long way toward making the beneficiaries self-reliant.

The commissioner, who was represented by the ministry’s Director of Finance and Account, Ibrahim Dauda, called on the loan/facility beneficiaries to make judicious use of the items to improve their living standards.

Earlier, Mr Rotgak Goar, Head of Vocational Skills Department, also lauded the Federal Government for being up and doing in tackling unemployment in the country.

He urged the beneficiaries to use the skills acquired and the funds for the purpose it was meant for and to re-train others.

(NAN)

Cambodia, Thailand Reconnected by Rail After 45 years

A railway reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand was officially inaugurated on Monday in a bid to slash travel times and boost trade between the Southeast Asian neighbours. Cambodian premier Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-O-Cha witnessed a signing ceremony at a Thai border post before riding together to the Cambodian town of Poipet on a train donated by Thailand.

The pair — with Prayut dressed in a bright yellow shirt — stepped from the carriage in Poipet with their clasped hands held high to the cheers of waiting crowds, waving flags of both countries. Hun Sen described their journey as “historic” and thanked Thailand for its efforts “to reconnect the railway between Cambodia and Thailand”.

The railway would also better link his country to other Southeast Asian neighbours and boost economy and trade, he added. Bilateral trade between Thailand and Cambodia currently stands at $6 billion. Cambodia last year re-opened the final stretch of a 370-kilometre (230-mile) railway running from the capital, Phnom Penh, to the Thai border.

The Asian Development Bank bankrolled the reconstruction of the link to the tune of $13 million. Much of Cambodia’s railways — built by the French in colonial times — were damaged by the years of bitter conflict that engulfed the country during the Cold War era. The 48-kilometre (30-mile) section of track near Poipet was destroyed in 1973 while the rest of the track to Phnom Penh had been suspended for over a decade due to its poor condition.

The Southeast Asian country has more than 600 kilometres (375 miles) of track extending from its northern border with Thailand to the southern coast, AFP reported.Vn

Vanguardng

 

Climate Change: CRBN Calls for Proper, Adaptive Building Designs

CRBN stated that a good building design would consider energy efficiency, as there had been concerns lately over the increasing cost of energy occasioned by its high demand around the world.

In his address at the 2019 Federal Capital Territory Builders Conference and Annual General Meeting, the Abuja Chapter Chairman, CRBN, Odunmbaku Wilson, urged builders in Nigeria to always develop proper building designs as a result of their enormous benefits.

He said, “Buildings all around the world consume significant amount of energy and this has raised concern about energy demand and supply, rapid energy resource depletion and rising building service demand. This is why it is important to have a proper building design, as this will help in the management of climate change and boost energy efficiency.“

Wilson stated that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had been in the forefront canvassing for the development of buildings with adequate designs.

“The minister has been speaking on the importance and relevance of energy efficiency in buildings and in a broader discussion on climate change,” he added.

Wilson noted that the conference brought together experts in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability, green development and facilities management to enlighten practitioners on the latest developments in the built environment.

Okechukwu Nnodim

Toronto’s Global Housing Market Rank And Another Cancellation

More buyers are finding themselves at a loss after Terranata Developments cancelled The Step Condos, a pre-construction development near Islington and Finch Aves.

The developer sent a notice of cancellation to Tarion, the agency that regulates new homebuilders, the Toronto Star reports. Tarion has since reached out to Terranata Developments requesting more information.

The Step Condos was announced three years ago and completely sold out its 111 units. The six-storey building was branded as an affordable residential condo with prices starting at $192,990. The entry-level pricing — as well as its ideal location just “steps” away from Humber College and York University — was a huge draw for prospective homeowners.

Unfortunately, due to the cancellation, one buyer, Glenda Francis, told The Star she’s now out “well over $100,000” after investing $212,000 in a bachelor unit in June 2016.

While Francis has received back her $16,000 deposit plus $2,500 in interest arranged by Brattys law firm, it’s unknown whether or not other buyers have received a refund, The Star reports.

Builders always have an escape clause in their agreement of purchase and sale with investors, which allow them to get out of a contract if they pay back the deposit. However, if a builder does not reimburse their buyers, Tarion will offer a refund of up to $20,000.

This is the second condo cancellation in Toronto in less than a month. At the end of March, DIAM Developments terminated a 10-storey residential building on Danforth Ave. due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

Cancellations plagued the market last year, as more than 4,000 units (or 12 buildings) were scrapped, according to data by Urbanation Inc. This compared to 2017’s 1,678 terminated units is quite a contrast.

While it’s too early to say whether or not condo cancellations will be a problem this year, the recent termination of The Step Condos is certainly not good.

Isabelle Khoo

Second Term: Buhari Set To Dissolve Cabinet, Demands Reports

President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have begun the process of dissolving his cabinet as he has directed his ministers to turn in their work report within one week.

A statement issued by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Wednesday, said as the first term of the presidential administration winds down, he has asked for a comprehensive “status reports on policies, programmes and projects” from cabinet members on their respective ministries, departments and agencies.

The statement said the reports have Wednesday, April 24, 2019, as the deadline for submission to the Presidential Audit Committee in the office of the Vice President.

It revealed that a circular to this effect issued by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, also requested members of the Federal Executive Council to “ensure that all outstanding memoranda they intend to present to the Federal Executive Council are submitted to the Cabinet Affairs Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, not later than Tuesday, 30th April, 2019.”

The circular also informed members that the “9th and 10th meetings of the Council have been rescheduled to Thursday, 25th April and Thursday, May 2, 2019, respectively” in view of the Easter break and May Day celebrations, the statement informed.

 

Nigeria mismanaging Excess Crude Account – IMF

The Director, African Department at the IMF, Abebe Selassie , in an interview with Nigerian  journalists after presenting the regional economic outlook on the sub-Saharan Africa at the ongoing joint annual spring meetings with the World Bank in Washington DC, explained that though the country had done well with the Sovereign Wealth Funds managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, it decried the poor handling of the Excess Crude Account.

Selassie said, “There have been two Sovereign Wealth Funds in Nigeria. There has been the Excess Crude Account and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority. The NSIA has been run transparently and based on standard best practice and it has been doing a good job.

“The concern that we have is about the ECA, because if you recall that the ECA economically was set up to save resources when oil prices are high, and to be drawn on when oil prices are low. We do not think that the ECA has been doing effectively enough job that way.

“Because you see, when oil prices fell, the economy was very hard in the last couple of years, we feel like much better job could have been done, saving enough more in the ECA when oil prices were at $100 and $120 per barrel.”

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the ECA in 2004 to promote savings and every dollar above the annual oil benchmark was deposited in the account. The Obasanjo government built up the ECA to $20bn at the end of its tenure in 2007.

However, successive governments since after Obasanjo have grossly abused the ECA and treated it like a slush fund that could be spent by the President and the governors whenever they wanted.

For instance, the withdrawal of about $Ibn and another $496m from the ECA by President Muhammadu Buhari without the constitutionally required legislative appropriation sparked outrage from some states and opposition political parties recently. The funds were said to have been used to intensify the fight against Boko Haram and acquire military aircraft from the United States.

Using the management of the ECA as a basis, the IMF had ranked Nigeria second-worst performer on the Sovereign Wealth Funds user index only ahead of Qatar in the Fiscal Monitor report also released on Wednesday.

Though the IMF said the index was compiled using the corporate governance and transparency scores of the sovereign wealth funds and the size of assets as a percentage of 2016 GDP of the countries considered, Selassie clarified on Friday that IMF considered the ECA and not the fund managed by the NSIA (which was put at $2.15bn as of May 2018) to arrive at Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund ranking.

The IMF also urged Nigeria to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement noting that when completed, the trade deal would establish a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.5tn.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to sign the AfCTA, saying the country could not afford to go back to the days of signing agreements without understanding and planning for the consequences of such actions.

Selassie said, “From our perspective, we think that the AfCTA will help the region integrate; it’s been the dream of our leaders dating back to independence days and we think that it’s a very important initiative and beyond politics, it will have a positive impact economically.

“Like all trade agreements, like all integration measures, there can be adverse effects but these can be identified and policies are introduced to address those. We have to look at the big picture. Coming to Nigeria specifically, we think that Nigeria will also benefit as the largest economy from joining the AfCTA and being a full participant of that. In my view, looking at how dynamic Nigeria is and looking at the business people Nigeria has, the wealth of talent and entrepreneurs that it has, I don’t think you have to fear anybody else in terms of competition.”

The Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde, had on Thursday called on the Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy, saying it was the right thing to do.

According to the IMF 2019 Article IV Consultation on Nigeria, phasing out implicit fuel subsidies while strengthening social safety nets to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable will help reduce the poverty gap and free up additional fiscal space in Nigeria.

Selassie, who reiterated the same position, noted that removing subsidy was important because the lion share of the benefit of the subsidy went to the rich people.

By Dayo Oketola

Remove Fuel Subsidy, Use Funds To Build Hospitals, Support Education, IMF Tells Nigeria

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)  has advised the Nigeria government to remove fuel subsidy and direct the money to the provision of social amenities for the country.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF, gave the advice during a press conference at the ongoing joint annual spring meetings with the World Bank in Washington DC.

Lagarde stated that with the low revenue the country is generating, removal of fuel subsidy would enable it to have enough funds to provide the social needs of the people.

Lagarde said: “I will give you the general principle. For various reasons and as a general principle, we believe that removing fossil fuel subsidies is the right way to go. If you look at our numbers from 2015, it is no less than about $5.2tn that is spent on fuel subsidies and the consequences thereof. And the Fiscal Affairs Department has actually identified how much would have been saved fiscally but also in terms of human lives if there had been the right price on carbon emission as of 2015. Numbers are quite staggering.

“I would add as a footnote as far as Nigeria is concerned that, with the low revenue mobilisation that exists in the country in terms of tax to GDP, Nigeria is amongst the lowest. A real effort has to be done in order to maintain a good public finance situation for the country. And in order to direct investment towards health, education, and infrastructure.

“If that was to happen, then there would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools, and to support education and health for the people.”

She added that the continuous payment of fuel subsidy could lead to a lack of social protection safety net for the people.

“Now, how this is done is the more complicated path because there has to be a social protection safety net that is in place so that the most exposed in the population do not take the brunt of the removal of subsidies principle. So that is the position we take.”

Sahara Reporters

 

Fed Govt Spends N79.2b on Monthly Pension

The Federal Government spent a total of N79.2 billion on the payment of monthly pensions to pensioners last year, the Executive Secretary, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Sharon Ikeazor, said yesterday.

She spoke at the stakeholders forum for pensioners from North Central Zone in Abuja.

Ikeazor said: “N6.8billion monthly pension was paid to Customs, Immigration and Prison Pension Department (CIPPD), N45 billion was paid to pensioners in Parastatals Pension Department (PaPD), about N21.2 billion was paid to pensioners under Civil Service Pension Department (CSPD) and N6.1 billion was also paid to pensioners with Police Pension Department (PPD).

“Under the CSPD, 30,770 pensioners who had not been on the payroll had their benefits computed and put back on the payroll with their arrears paid.

“As at March 2019, an additional 1,655 have also been computed and put back on the payroll.

“Under PaPD, an additional 14,678 pensioners from various agencies under the PaPD were verified, benefits computed and paid. They include Delta Steel, NITEL/MTEL, FHA, Savannah Sugar, and NDA – Civilian.”

“On the issue of 33 per cent arrears, which is the most relevant point that I am sure all pensioners are eager to hear about.

“As at Monday this week, the Federal Government through PTAD has paid the sum of N2.6billion to 103,000 Civil Service Pensioners who are on PTAD payroll.

“This is an inherited liability from the last salary increase of 2010. I will like to reassure the majority of parastatals pensioners who have not received their 33 per cent arrears that we have just paid that of Nigeria Railways.

“The rest of the parastatals pensioners 33 per cent arrears will be paid after the parastatals verification exercise which will commence at the end of April.

“This is to enable PTAD ascertain its true liability. You are aware that under the Parastatals Pensions Department, PTAD owes between 12 – 24 months of the 33 per cent arrears. But for Police Pensions and Civil Service Pensions, we have a zero balance; meaning that government has cleared all of the 33 per cent arrears.”

Concerning payment to Next of Kins (NoKs), the PTAD chief said it has paid 337 NoKs over N277million; 649 NoKs of PaPD (NITEL) have been paid over N613.4million; 1,019 of the NoKs in Health/Education sector under the PaPD have been paid a total of N1.9million; lastly, 19 NoKs of Delta Steel have been paid N25.9billion.

She said the only acceptable documentation for the processing of payment to NoK is the letter of administration from state or federal high court.

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by the Director of Legal at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Gabriel Christopher, while commending the PTAD for its exceptional, transparent, and technologically driven innovation and workforce, assured pensioners that the payment of the rest of the parastatals pensioners will take effect in due course.

The Acting Director-General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Hajia Aisha Dahir-Umar, represented by the Head of Complaint in the Commission, Mr. Michael Ejiofor, commended the progress and successes achieve by the directorate of PTAD, regardless of the many challenges it faces such as low funds.

Dr. Abel Afolayan of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), said: “Pensioners have never had it this good in the history of this country.”

While commending PTAD and the administration under President Muhammadu Buhari for clearing backlogs of payments of 33 per cent pension arrears, he however advised the government to pay speedy attention to the payment of the rest of the parastatals pensioners, and to address issues concerning payments to NoKs.

 

45 Schools Built By Borno for Orphaned IDPs

The Borno Government on Wednesday said it had constructed 45 mega schools to cater for the education of children orphaned by Boko Haram insurgency in the state.

The Commissioner of Education, Alhaji Inuwa Kubo, told newsmen in Maiduguri that the schools were established in the 27 local government areas of the state.

Statistics by the government indicate that over 53, 000 children were orphaned and 50,000 women widowed by the insurgency in the North/East state.

Kubo, who spoke on the sideline of the humanitarian stakeholders’ forum meeting, said the projects were part of a deliberate policy, to enhance access to quality education for orphans and out-of-school children.

READ ALSO: CITY SCHOOLS BELIEVE STABLE HOUSING IS KEY TO STUDENT LEARNING

He disclosed that the schools were designed with state-of-the-art facilities such as e-learning devices, air condition systems, power generators and other modern educational accessories.

orphaned

Kubo explained that meals, uniforms and instructional materials would be provided free to pupils in the schools, to create an enabling teaching and learning environment.

The commissioner revealed that the enrollment process of the children had commenced in the 27 LGAs, while the state government would embark on an awareness campaign to mobilise guardians to enrol their wards in school.

According to him, the state government has so far recruited 1,000 teachers to ensure the provision of quality services and sustainability.

READ ALSO: DELAYED INVOICE SETTLEMENTS THREATEN NIGERIA POWER PROJECTS

“Already, we commenced recruitment of 1,000 teachers and plans are underway to recruit additional teachers for the mega schools.

orphaned

While commending humanitarian and development organisations over their support to persons displaced by insurgency, the commissioner called on the organisations to provide scholarships for orphans and vulnerable children to enable them to pursue higher education.

READ ALSO: LAGOS ISLAND IS LONG OVERDUE FOR TOTAL REGENERATION

He also called on the organisations to provide livelihood support for poor families and sensitise them on the need to enrol their children in school.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the humanitarian stakeholders’ forum meeting was organised by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to appraise interventions, identify gaps and enhance collaborative efforts for emergency response services in the state.

Source: Tribuneng

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