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VP Osinbajo Wades Into Governors, CBN Dispute Over Budget Facility Repayment

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is to meet soon with representatives of state governors, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in an attempt to resolve the disagreement over the repayment of the budget support facility obtained by the states.

This followed a disagreement between the governors and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, at Thursday’s virtual meeting of the National Economic Council, NEC, presided over by the Vice President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the meeting, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had insisted that the governors wanted the loan repayment due in May to be deferred.

But the CBN boss, Emefiele insisted that the states should begin the repayment without future delay especially the monies owed to the banks.

Emefiele said there were challenges arising from delays particularly as it concerned auditing.

A statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said “on the Budget Support Facility, state governors restated their request to defer the repayment of the loans, which was to have started this month. Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is also Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, reported interactions with the Finance Minister and the CBN Governor regarding the matter.

“The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, also emphasized the importance of the timely repayment of loans, especially those owed to commercial banks, indicating the challenges inherent in a further delay in payment, including audit concerns. He said the repayment of the commercial loans should resume this month.

“In addition, the Vice President stated that he will be holding a meeting soon with representatives of the State Governors, the Finance Minister and the CBN Governor to resolve the issue raised.”

According to the statement, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) recorded a 343% growth in total comprehensive Income totalling N160.06 billion in 2020 compared to N36.15 billion in the previous year and 33% growth in Net Assets, rising up to N772.75 billion from the previous N579.54 billion.

The statement reported that the Council held the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NSIA where reports and financial statements, including the audit were presented.

It said in particular, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, submitted that the NSIA achieved core income of N109 billion compared to N33.07 billion in 2019, excluding forex gains of N51 billion in 2020 and N1.29 billion in 2019.

The NSIA presentation noted that despite the challenges of COVID-19, it had a favourable year owing to strong performance from its investments in international capital markets, improved contribution from associates, as well as exchange rate gains from foreign currency positions.

In response to COVID-19, the NSIA partnered with Global Citizen, a not-for profit group, to form the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF), acquired and distributed oxygen concentrators to 21 teaching hospitals as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility; in addition to staffing support to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 towards combatting the pandemic.

Other major milestones reached by the NSIA were recorded across domestic infrastructure projects, specifically in roads, agriculture, healthcare, technology and gas industrialization.

NEC also received a presentation on the Digital Switch Over (DSO) by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. He stated that it was the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, that decided on member states switching off analogue television transmission to ‘go digital’.

The DSO will be taking off first in Lagos, Kano and Rivers States, he stated.

According to him, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the DSO Ministerial Task Force are tasked with ensuring that Nigeria ‘digitizes’ and develop a public information and awareness campaign to inform citizens about DSO/FreeTV.

The Minister disclosed that the switch-over has a revenue generation potential of N20 billion annually; and that the funds will enable the NBC support and upgrade DSO initiative, as well as fund local producers.

The Council also received an update on Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.

According to the DG, NCDC, in the last two months, there has been reduction in the number of cases globally, stating that even India has also experienced reduction in its infection rates in the last five days.

He added that in Nigeria, the total number of cases as of yesterday, May 19, 2021, was 165,809, while the number of cases tested was 2,002,653, with 7,323 active cases. It was also disclosed that discharged cases were now 156,419, while there had been 2,067 deaths.

According to the NCDC boss, the “transmission rate in the country is low,” adding that attention is now on tracking the new B1.617.2 variant from India. He said there are only three such cases identified in Nigeria so far.

He added that focus should remain on the protocols to stop the spread of the virus, while the health authorities and agencies will keep an eye on tracking the Indian variant. Governments and leaders in the society are also urged to discourage pandemic fatigue and stick to the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba, gave the Council the monthly update on Excess Crude Account, Stabilization Account and Development of Natural Resources Account, with balances as at 18th May 2021 standing at $72,413,574.70, N24,741,213,941.88 and N23,650,579,140.23, respectively.

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