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Senate’s Approval of Fresh $800m World Bank Borrowing Sparks Uproar

The Senate has approved President Bola Tinubu’s request for $800 million borrowing from the World Bank.

The president’s request was in a letter read by Godswill Akpabio, Senate President, at the plenary on Thursday.

Tinubu, in the letter, explained that the loan would be used to scale up the national social safety net programme.

Attached with the request was a decision by the Federal Government to transfer the sum of N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor and low-income households for six months.

He said the money would be transferred directly to identified beneficiaries’ accounts.

The President’s letter stated in part: “Please note that the federal executive council led by President Muhammadu Buhari approved an additional loan facility to the tune of $800 million to be secured from the World Bank for the National Social Safety Net programme, Copy of FEC’s extract attached.

“You may also wish to note that the purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock responsive safety net support among the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. This will assist them in coping with basic needs.

“You may further wish to note that under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the Federal Government of Nigeria will transfer the sum of N8,000 per month to 12 million poor and low income households for a period of six months, with a multiplier effect on about 60 million individuals.

“In order to guarantee the credibility of the process, digital transfers will be made directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.

“It is expected that the programme, will stimulate economic activities in the informal sector, and improve nutrition, health, education, and human capital development of beneficiaries’ households.

“Given the above, I wish to invite the Senate to kindly grant approval for the additional loan facility of $800 million to be secured from World Bank for the National Social Safety Net Programme.

“While hoping that this submission will receive expeditious consideration by the Senate, please accept the assurances of my highest regards.”

Senate approves request

Before approving the request yesterday, the Senate went into a closed session at 3. 32pm and came out at 4.41 pm to brainstorm and give the request accelerated passage.

The President’s letter was read during Plenary by the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

NLC, TUC kick

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, faulted President Tinubu’s plans, saying it runs contrary to the works of the Presidential Technical Committee on the removal of Subsidy.

NLC and TUC argue that it is not only undemocratic but shows that the President is merely setting up the committee as a window dressing for whatever purposes he has set out for himself, stating, “Any palliative payment must be in line with the agreement reached with labour in line with the technical committee meeting.”

Though the President and General Secretary of NLC, Joe Ajaero, and Emma Ugboaja, could not be reached, a senior officer of NLC who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “The issue is whether the President has trust and confidence in the Steering Committee set up or not. If he has a budget already, it means that he already has activities he has planned on his own. If he has that, what is the need of the Committees? The action of the President has actually undermined the credibility of his own Committee
“We believe that it is not only undemocratic but shows that the President is merely setting up the committee as a window dressing for whatever purposes he has set out for himself.

When you also look at what he has planned, to give N8,000 to households for six months which approximates to N48, 000, you ask yourself, can N48,000 address the millions of suffering the government has already inflicted on the poor? Will it make any significant impact in addressing the consequences already being faced by Nigerians? Will the suffering suddenly end after six months?”

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On his part, the President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Festus Osifo, who also doubles as President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, simply said “Any palliative payment must be in line with the agreement reached with labour in line with the technical committee meeting.”

Corroborating, the President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, and TUC’s Deputy President, Dr Tommy Okon, said, “As far as I am concerned it is economic waste. What is N8,000 monthly to 12 million Nigerian households with this hyperinflation and socio-economic challenges?
“How did the government or the president determine those who are to benefit from the data deficit in Nigeria? I think the government should stop this ad-hoc and unsustainable programme.

“What form of poverty alleviation policy implementation strategy is this? Is it not proper to allow the Presidential Committee on Removal of oil Subsidy to conclude its assignment and arrive at a collective agreement with organized labour before embarking on any palliative care distributions? What the government is doing could amount to doing exactly what the previous administration did that yielded no positive impact on the economy and the citizens.

NASU’s raises concerns

Similarly, General Secretary of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, Prince Peters Adeyemi, said “Any effort geared towards the alleviation of the present hardship Nigerians are going through as a result of the President removal of subsidy and the harmonization of the exchange rate markets should be supported.

“However we need to know the criteria to be used in determining those that will benefit from the programme. We hope that this will not be another avenue for a few individuals to divert such money to their private pockets.”

Framework must be inclusive and transparent – CPPE

Also commenting, Director/CEO, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, said although vulnerable segments of the society deserve palliates, the framework must be inclusive and transparent.

He stated: “The vulnerable segments of the society deserve palliatives to mitigate the pains of recent reforms, especially the surging inflation. But the palliatives framework must be inclusive and transparent.

“We would additionally want to see concessions in taxation and import duties focusing on moderating food prices, energy costs, and transportation costs. Palliatives must go beyond cash transfers. There are serious limitations with regard to data integrity.”

N8,000 per month is an insult on Nigerians — Maritime group

THE Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria, MAAN, stated that the move by the Federal Government to pay 12million poor households N8,000 per household monthly is a far cry from the economic realities adding, “It is an insult on Nigerians.”

Speaking to Vanguard on the decision, Vice President of the association, Ms Jean Anishere Chiazor, said that the President has been ill-advised as that amount of money cannot feed a child in one month, talk less a family.

He stated: “N8,000 for 12million households; who identified the poor households; what yardsticks; who is a poor family; what are the requirements to qualify as a poor family entitled to N8,000.

“How much is N8,000 in Pounds or Dollars; What will N8,000 buy in a day for feeding. Start with Garri for the poor, one Olodo is N3,500, that cannot feed a family for a week if they eat Eba every other day. One Olodo of rice, equivalent to a paint bucket is N4,800 if not more because the price is always going up. So that comes to almost N8,000.’’

What can N8,000 do for a family of 4 in a month? —Prof Uwaleke

Reacting to the FG’s palliative, President, Association of Capital Market Academics of Nigeria, ACMAN, Prof Uche Uwaleke, said: “This is rather a sub-optimal option. The government should look in the direction of non-cash palliatives.

“With the current galloping inflation rate (official figures are understated), what can N8,000 do for a family of four in a month? And this is meant for only 12 million families (about 48 million persons, that is, assuming they are adequately targeted and the National Social Register is clean and updated) in a country of over 200 million people.

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“The President is equally seeking approval of 800 million US dollars soft loan from the World Bank as part of funds to cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal. If we add this N500 billion to the N600 billion (assuming I & E average rate of N750 applied to the World Bank’s facility), that should give N1.1 trillion.

“Consistent with the principle of maximum social benefit in public expenditure, one way, in my view, to ensure this money reaches the grassroots is to divide it by 774 local government areas (LGA) in Nigeria, which translates to about N1.4 billion per local government, and transfer this sum to each Local government.’’

It’s a ploy to settle party members – Adonri

Commenting, David Adonri, Executive Vice Chairman, HIGHCAP Securities Limited, said: “N8,000 monthly as palliative to 12 million out of 130 million very poor Nigerians is immaterial. The policy is economically unwise and I suspect it’s a ploy to settle party members at the grassroot.

“FGN is in financial deficit and needs money desperately to exit its debt trap. This cash transfer is a sign of financial irresponsibility and lack of seriousness.”

No database to identify beneficiaries – Anchor Insurance boss

Reacting to the development, Deputy Managing Director, Technical of Anchor Insurance Plc, Mr. Adebisi Ikuomola inquired how government intends to go about distributing the money.

He said: “How will this money get to the poor Nigerians? Which data is used in fishing out these poor Nigerians?

“To be honest, the real poor Nigerians do not have bank accounts. That takes us back to the first question. Is this a way of adding funds to the elites? I strongly believe in investing that money in human and infrastructural development. I think that will make sure that the poor benefit from it.

“What database do we have of the poor? Who are the poor families identified? What can N8,000 do in battle against hardship presently experienced?”

Channel money to job creation, Nigerians are not lazy – Rights activist

Human rights activist, under the aegis of Ambassador for Peace and Enlightenment Foundation, Prince Saviour Iche, yesterday, said that Nigerians are not lazy people who rely on money palliative to survive but that jobs should be provided with enabling environment for them to earn a living.

Speaking to Vanguard on FG’s decision on subsidy removal palliative, he requested that government should disclose the criteria for selecting 12 million as poor households in a country of over 200 million people.
His words: “The federal government proposal of N8,000 monthly pay to 12 million Nigerian poor households is not feasible. Nigeria is more than 200 million, the question is how would they get these 12 million poor households and what can N8,000 do for these people whom the government claim are poor?

“In Alimosho where I stay, we have more than 10 million people who are poor. The government thinks that Nigerians are fools, it is under the same APC administration under Muhammadu Buhari that Minister of Humanitarian Affairs claimed that they spent billions to feed Nigerian children during the lockdown. The same Buhari administration was giving N500 billion every month to poor Nigerians by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor, that money never got to anybody.

“This is just one of their many strategies, this government should go to the market with that N8,000 and see how expensive food items have become in today’s Nigeria. A pet bottle of soft drink is about N200; a paint bucket of garri is about N2,000 and rice is between N2,500 and N3,000. So what do they want to do for poor Nigerian with N8,000?’’

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