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STATES GROAN OVER DELAYED REVENUE SHARING, FAAC MEETS TODAY

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FAAC

The Federation Account and Allocation Committee meeting initially scheduled for last week will now hold on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Chairman of the Commissioner, David Olofu, and the Delta State Commissioner for Finance, State Commissioner for Finance Mr Fidelis Tilije, disclosed this in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Monday.

But Olofu, who is also the Benue State Commissioner for Finance, added that the delay in holding the FAAC meeting had affected the activities of many states including payment of salaries and capital expenditures.

FAAC, which is headed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and whose members include state Commissioners of Finance, states’ Accountants – General, Accountant – General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance meet every month to share revenues among the federal, state and local governments.

The FAAC meeting was scheduled to hold on Wednesday and Thursday last week, but the Federal Ministry of Finance, in a statement on Wednesday by its director of Home Finance, Stephen Okon, said it had been postponed indefinitely.

The postponement of the meeting, which the ministry said was due to certain circumstances came a few days after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested, Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over an alleged N80 billion fraud.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed,  announced an indefinite suspension of Idris without pay.

When contacted on Monday, Olofu, who declined to comment on Idris arrest, said that the delay in the sharing of this month’s allocations had affected most of the states of federation of meeting their obligations.

He stated, “We are holding FAAC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, adding, ‘the delay has affected government activities.

“We have cash group plans at states, those cash group plans have not been met, so that has put in the cooler all plans of cash group and they have yet to be met including payment of salaries and capital expenditure because over 28 states in the country rely on federal allocation except Lagos and Rivers. In fact, no other states again, all other states depend on allocation,” Olofu said.

On his part, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Akin Oyebode, said the delay in the FAAC meeting brought to the fore the need to ensure fiscal federalism.

The commissioner, who said that Nigeria was producing less crude than OPEC quota and spending heavily on pipeline security and infrastructure, said, “Despite the huge spending on security, we are still unable to secure our pipelines, we can see heavy theft of crude oil, that should concern anyone.

“Despite significant investment in agriculture, agriculture is still growing at 3 per cent per annum. We should be asking questions about how do we invest in storage and irrigation which are the big drivers of productivity in agriculture, which is the mainstay of our economy. These are conversations we should be having.  

“We should be having conversations about how do we decentralise our grid infrastructures, how do we put in the grids that we need to deepen and increase electricity generation. We need conversation around even fiscal federation – is the current revenue sharing formula the right one?

“Oil production has dropped to about 1.4 million barrels per day and we are spending hugely on subsidy. Not only are we earning less from crude, we are actually spending more to import refined products. At the end of the day, we are going to end up with the position that subsidy is simply not sustainable and something has to be done.

“, I think, in the spirit of fiscal federalism, the states should be given the choice whether or not they want the subsidy for the refined products being sold in their state.

The Delta State Government has said even though Federation Account Allocation A Committee (FAAC) does not hold its meeting, it will no affect Delta state finance.

The State Commissioner for Finance Mr. Fidelis Tilije, stated this on Monday in an interview with The PUNCH in Asaba, said that there will be FAAC meeting on Wednesday.

Commenting on the delayed FAAC meeting, A political economist and former presidential candidate, Prof Pat Utomi, urged States to create an environment for wealth creation rather than depend solely on the federal allocation.

He said, “States must focus more on creating the environment for wealth creation. If you go back to the late 50s and early 60s, most of the developments that took place in Nigeria are from the subnational governments. They collected the revenues, and send 50 per cent of it to the centre but the military ruined all of that.

“So, Nigeria became more focused on sharing revenues than on the fundamental way of governing, which is the production and taxing earned revenue. Whenever there is no revenue to share, the States are in complete trouble and they become bureaucracies that are unable to manage themselves because they are dependent.

“This is not the way they should function. I have in fact argued that local governments should be restructured as economic development areas rather than political drain pipes where a local government in Ogun will be struggling with the one in Oyo to offer better incentives for businesses to relocate so that they can benefit from the tax.”

A Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Prof Sheriffdeen Tella, said that one of the reasons for the delay is likely the recent arrest and suspension of the Accountant-General.

He added that States should stop depending on the federal government and find a way to boost revenue.

Tella said, “I think the delay is caused by the action of the Accountant-General who stole money. He happens to be a major stakeholder in the meeting they are supposed to hold to decide on the allocation. It also exposes the States’ dependence on the Federal Government. That is not good enough because there is no State that cannot take care of itself if they are really working if the governors are thinking out of the box.”

He further said that this delay may lead to States being unable to pay salaries, adding that the States may also owe creditors and contractors, which may affect productivity levels.

“The major delay will be on salary payment. It would also be on paying their creditors and contractors. When this happens, it will likely affect productivity and reduce output,” Tella said.

NEC meeting fails to hold two consecutive months

He stated this as  the National Economic Council chaired by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, failed to meet two consecutive months as most members, including contesting 2023 elections intensified their electioneering.

 Impeccable sources close to council members who spoke to one of our correspondents anonymously affirmed that there has not been any sitting in April and May. More so, there were no prior announcements of suspension of NEC meetings.

According to the source, “Yes, there have been no meetings for two months now. Also, there was no official communication to members that the meeting won’t be held in the coming months.

“I believe everyone understands that this is an election season and they all moved on with their political activities.

PUNCH

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COMMUNITY SEEKS SOLUDO’S HELP OVER HARASSMENT BY SECURITY OPERATIVES

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The community leaders in Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, have called on Governor Chukwuma Soludo to save them from the incessant harassment and intimidation of indigenes allegedly by security operatives in the town.

They made the call on Friday in Awka at a news conference following the invasion of Nteje by suspected security operatives on Thursday.

The spokesman for the community, Mr. Martins Okechukwu, said seven persons, including the acting President-General of Nteje, Chief Benneth Chinweze, were seriously injured by the security operatives.

Okechukwu said, “Apart from our president-general, who is now lying critically ill in the hospital, one Oluebube Anukwu, who was among the seven persons that sustained gun shots is now dead, while five others are receiving treatments in different hospitals.

“Before now, Nteje has been a peaceful community, but in the past 10 years now, all that we are facing are incessant attacks and arrest of our people, who in some cases, are taken to Abuja where they suffer grievously.”

Okechukwu who blamed the ugly development on some natives mentioned one Chief Mike Nwakalor as the person fanning the crisis due to his interest in land grabbing activities.

He said that the Nteje community today has about four army checkpoints which some privileged individuals take undue advantage to harass the residents.

The acting President General of Nteje, Chief Benneth Chinweze, who spoke from his hospital bed in Awka, when our correspondent visited the hospital, said he had a harrowing experience in the hands of the security men on June 16.

“I was driving when, suddenly, some persons who all covered their faces double-crossed my vehicle and ordered me out.

“They forced me into their Hilux truck, tie my legs and hands and blindfolded me before they began to give me treatments like a common criminal.

“This incident took place on Thursday, June 16, but it was on Friday, June 17, that I regained consciousness in a hospital.

“As you can see, I cannot raise my two hands up or use them to eat and bath, I am just helpless here as you can see,” he said.

Chinweze who doubles as the regent of Nteje Community, added that he suspected that it was Chief Mike Nwakalor that was behind his ordeal.

”Before I lost consciousness, the people beating me kept saying, you always insult Chief Mike Nwakalor and if you don’t respect yourself, we will teach you bitter lesson,” he added.

When contacted, Chief Mike Nwakalor said he was not involved in the problem which occurred in Nteje on June 16 and do not have any hand in land grabbing activities in Nteje.

“As a community leader, I heard what happened and upon investigation I was told that Chief Chinweze wrote a petition and when security operatives came for him, he tried to evade arrest.

“I further gathered that those who were wounded by gun shots blocked security operatives and in the exchange of gun fire some of them got injured,” he said.

Nwakalor, however, explained that he was also not involved in any land dispute with any person in Nteje, saying, ”I have 200 plots of land between Nteje Park and Umunya and the property is not in dispute because I have my certificate of occupancy.”

Reacting, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said that the command was not aware of the matter which occurred in Nteje on June 16.

He rather urged people of Nteje who were affected in the matter to come up with information that could help police in nipping the matter in the bud.

PUNCH

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ICPC RAIDS MILITARY CONTRACTOR’S ABUJA HOME, RECOVERS $220,965, CARS, OTHERS

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has raided the Abuja home of a military contractor and seized N175,706,500; $220,965; G-Wagon; 2022 editions of BMW and Mercedes Benz cars.

Operatives also recovered customised mobile phones; several designer wrist watches, including three Rolexes, and some property documents.

ICPC arrested the Managing Director of K Salam Construction Company Nigeria Limited, Mr. Kabiru Sallau, said to be the owner of the property.

The anti-graft agency in a statement on Friday denied that the home belonged to a former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.

The statement by the ICPC spokesperson, Azuka Ogaga read, “The Commission wishes to state that ICPC operatives raided a property in Wuse 2 of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Thursday, June 16, 2022, between 5:00 pm and 12:00 am in suspicion of money laundering. Facts available for the time being indicate that the property is owned by the owner of K Salam Construction Company, a military contractor.

“The Commission recovered money and other items from the property viz-a-viz N175,706,500; $220,965; G-Wagon; 2022 editions of BMW and Mercedes Benz cars; customized mobile phones; several designer wrist watches, including three Rolexes, and some property documents.

“The Commission arrested the Managing Director of K Salam Construction Company Nigeria Limited, Mr. Kabiru Sallau, and the investigation is ongoing.

“The Commission is yet to conclude its investigation and prefers not to preempt its outcome and also avoid the frenzy of a media trial.”

PUNCH

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CALL FOR ASUU BAN ABSURD, MEMBER SAYS

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Academic Staff Union of Universities,

A former chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Port Harcourt Branch, Dr. Austen Sado, has described the call for the ban of the union as absurd and irrational.

A member of the National Caucus of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Sam Nkire, had asked the Federal Government to consider banning ASUU, alleging that the union had stifled the development of tertiary education and “trying to bring the government and the society to its knees.”

But Sado, who spoke in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday, expressed shock that a party leader could call for the prescription of a union as a result of a problem caused by the government.

Further describing Nkire’s act as an exhibition of ignorance, the former ASUU chief said Nkire’s statement showed the dilemma of leadership Nigerians had to endure.

“I am shocked to my marrow that a party leader could say this. To suggest that a way to solve a problem caused by the government’s irresponsibility is to ban a group of people that are asking the government to do the right thing is absurd.

“I have never been shocked by any exhibition of ignorance to that extent. That tells you the quality of leadership in Nigeria. It tells you the thinking behind our developmental quest.

“This person went to school and understands what is required to fund education, so that you can enhance and equip your people for developmental purposes, and you think that the way to achieve that is to silence a group of people that are holding you accountable to your irresponsibility. Nothing could be more absurd and irrational than that,” he said.

PUNCH

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