Zimbabwe’s scaled-back Christmas celebrations

Africa, economy, Politics
Box of Christmas crackers

Most Zimbabweans have been unable to afford Christmas treats because of soaring inflation, writes the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka from the capital, Harare.

Two women with large trolleys had come prepared to stock up for the holiday season, but they looked at each other in dismay.

“What kind of a party are we going to have?” one asked the other.

They were staring at a notice taped to the supermarket fridge door which said: “2 units per customer”.

This was the drinks section of a shop in the centre of Harare, and the units referred to were the 300 millilitre bottles of soft drinks and beer.

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are usually a time for Zimbabweans to loosen their belts for feasts and celebrations.

Notice saying "2 units per customer
The rationing of drinks has affected people’s ability to hold parties

During the break the whole country shuts down. Factories close for the month, and the rains herald the start of the agricultural season.

Many Zimbabweans travel to their rural homes to see their extended family and to plant maize, to provide a year-long supply of the staple food.

On Christmas Day most people attend church, while throughout the season family gatherings are at the centre of the holidays.

Avoiding Christmas trimmings

This year, however, things are different, and belt-tightening is the order of the day.

The country is in the middle of an economic crisis.

People queuing outside a bank
At times, there have been long bank queues of people hoping to get hold of much-needed cash

According to the latest inflation figures, prices rose overall by 30% in the last year and each month that figure seems to be going up.

Supermarket shelves may be abundant with goodies but shoppers’ trolleys are uncharacteristically sparse as they face the consequences of rising prices.

The chicken that just over a year ago cost $3.50 (£2.76) is now priced at $7.19, while the price of 400g of muesli has risen from $5 to $12 and a pack of nine rolls of toilet paper has gone up from $8 to $19.

Salaries, however, have not kept up with inflation. In fact, the average wage of $300 a month is the same as it was a year ago.

A man wearing a hat decorated with worthless note bearers' cheques during a protest against government plans to introduce bond notes
Zimbabweans have held a series of protests to show their money has become worthless

Given that, the trimmings that can give a meal an extra sparkle might be avoided.

For example, an ordinary pack of 12 Christmas crackers with a joke, a hat and a small gift is selling at $40, compared to less than $15 last year.

Parties cancelled

It explains perhaps why some party invitations have been withdrawn and planned celebrations have been scaled back.

One businessman told me that he had to cancel his usual holiday party and turn it into a more abstemious lunch, thereby removing the burden of having to buy lots of drinks.

Back at the supermarket, a man was standing in an aisle next to shelves of rice, carefully comparing prices and products.

His eye rested on an unfamiliar product, Broken Rice.

Bags of broken rice
Image captionBroken Rice is made up of pieces of rejected rice

The 2kg package was priced $4.69 and was the cheapest brand available.

“Broken” is a euphemism for tiny imperfect pieces of rejected rice.

It had been packaged in time for the festive season, where no meal is complete without chicken and rice, an imported luxury.

‘More suffering in post-Mugabe era’

In a way the broken rice is a metaphor for the season, which feels imperfect.

“I started seeing it in the shops about a month ago,” the man, who introduced himself as Shupi, told me.

“We are used to having rice at Christmas. It is supposed to be a treat but it has become so expensive.

“Initially, people had shunned this rice because it is in small pieces and in different sizes. Some complain it doesn’t cook evenly, but at least it is affordable.”

A protester with a fuel container, due to the continuing fuel crisis,as Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance party members gather in the Africa Unity Square, in Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 November 2018, to protest against the current economic situation facing the country.
Discontent with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is growing

Many, like Shupi, remember the promises made when President Emmerson Mnangagwa swept to power in November 2017 after Robert Mugabe was ousted.

“He promised us better years ahead and blamed our suffering on years of being under Robert Mugabe.

“But he has been in power for more than a year and the crisis has gotten worse,” Shupi added.

Runaway inflation

Zimbabweans have endured much over the last decade.

Ten years ago, supermarket shelves were mostly empty and record-breaking inflation was estimated to have topped 79 billion %.

It meant that prices for basic commodities would double or triple in a day, and bank balances for ordinary people could range from trillions of Zimbabwean dollars to octillions, that is a one followed by 48 zeros.

In 2009 the government scrapped the local currency and adopted the US dollar.

Emmerson Mnangagwa delivers a speech during a "Thank You" rally on November 24, 2018, in Murombedzi, Zvimba, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in November 2017
with a promise to improve the economy

Then, in 2016, in order to get over a shortage of physical cash, the authorities introduced a surrogate note, known as a bond note, that was supposed to have the same value as the US dollar.

In other words, a two-dollar bond note was supposed to be worth $2.

But the bond notes, or “bollars”, have lost value because of a lack of foreign currency backing the note. They are now worth 30 US cents each on the black market.

Zimbabwean companies are not producing enough to satisfy local demand or to earn foreign currency by exporting goods. Instead, the country is importing more, and struggling to pay.

In the six months from February to July this year, the country brought in goods and services worth $3.43bn, a 26% rise for the same period in 2017.

Driving the imports are the demand for fuel, electricity, soya beans, rice and wheat.

Businesses that want to import goods have been forced to buy US dollars on the black market at a premium price. This in turn pushes up the prices in the shops.

In order to increase its stock of hard currency, the country’s largest fast food franchise, Simbisa Brands, announced last Thursday that it had introduced a two-tier pricing model, offering discounts to customers who pay in US dollar notes.

‘Give us your cash’

“We need something like $1.2m in hard currency every month, but on average we are only managing to get about $100,000, so we need the foreign currency to meet our obligations.

“We are simply asking our clients to be able to support to get the forex we need,” chief executive Warren Meares told local daily paper Newsday.

But not everyone is complaining.

Man loading goods into a minibus
Image captionPeople transporting goods across the border are doing a roaring trade

The Beitbridge border post which connects Zimbabwe to South Africa is the busiest in the region, and Christmas is the busiest period of them all.

Cars, pick-up trucks, lorries and buses are laden with groceries from South Africa ready to be delivered to Zimbabwean homes.

The cross-border traders known as Malayitshas – meaning “one who carries goods” in the Ndebele language – have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the crisis.

They offer a courier service for those with foreign currency. They buy goods – anything from soft drinks to building materials – across the border and deliver them for a fee of 30% of the value.

‘Austerity for prosperity’

In Musina, on the South African side of the border, business is picking up and small Indian and Chinese-owned shops are coming back to life.

Many had closed in 2009 when the economy began to improve, but they have recently reopened as the prices have spiked in Zimbabwe.

Solomon Chakauya, waits for customers in his grocery store, in Chinamhora district north-east of Zimbabwe's capital Harare on December 10, 2018.
Image captionMany shopkeepers say business has been bad this Christmas

Despite the Christmas woes Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has expressed confidence in the future of the economy.

He says it is “just a matter of time” before the country is “restored to its glory days”.

Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of southern Africa feeding its neighbours and providing economic refuge and jobs in times of crises.

The government has now introduced what it calls “austerity for prosperity” measures. These include lowering government expenditure while increasing duty on items such as cars to reduce imports.

The optimism is not shared by those whose Christmas meal will consist of reject rice and miniscule portions of chicken washed down with small amounts of drink.

Source: BBC News

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Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up

Business, economy, International Finance, international News, Tech
Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up
This March 1, 2017 file photo shows the exterior of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. Uber is ceding control of its operations in Russia by agreeing to merge its ridesharing business in the country and five other ex-Soviet …more

Uber is ceding control of the Russian market by agreeing to merge its ride-hailing business in the country with Yandex, the Russian search-engine leader that also runs a popular taxi-booking app.

For Uber, the deal marks the exit from another big market after it sold its operations in China last year to local rival Didi Chuxing.

Yandex said in a statement on Thursday that Uber and Yandex Taxi would combine into a new company in Russia as well as in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Yandex will own 59 percent, Uber roughly 37 percent, and employees the rest. The CEO of Yandex Taxi, Tigran Khudaverdyan, will become the chief executive of the new combined company.

San Francisco-based Uber will invest $225 million in the new company and Yandex $100 million, putting its value at over $3.7 billion. The companies said that together they deliver over 35 million rides a month, with $130 million in gross bookings in June. Yandex is the bigger company, with roughly the twice the business Uber currently has in the region.

In both Russia and China, Uber was having trouble competing against larger ride services that have the advantages of being the hometown company and knowing cultural differences, said independent technology analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research in California. “It’s like competing with Google in the U.S.,” he said. “They just weren’t really making headway against the local competitors.”

At this stage of its development, the money-losing Uber is looking to move to profitability, reviewing regions to see if there are prospects for making money. If the prospects aren’t good, Uber is likely to get out, Dawon said.

In the Yandex case, Uber will exit “in a dignified way” with the 37 percent stake in the new company. Uber had invested $170 million in Russia and is adding $225 million to the new company. So for about $400 million, it’s getting a stake in Yandex that’s worth over $1 billion, Dawson said.

Shares in Yandex jumped 15 percent on the Moscow stock exchange on news of the deal. The company is one of Russia’s most successful Internet enterprises, accounting for some 65 percent of all searches and operating popular maps and public transit apps.

Once the deal is closed toward the end of this year, consumers will be able to use both Yandex and Uber apps to hail rides while for drivers, the apps will be integrated.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-uber-cedes-russian-yandex-tie-up.html#jCp

Of Buhari, Tinubu, Macbeth and Odu Isa

2019 Elections, Africa, APC, Corruption, economy, Facts, Nigeria, PDP, PMB, Politics, Power, relationship

Of Buhari, Tinubu, Macbeth and Odu Isa.

“Owe ni Ifa npa, Omoran ni imo” Ifa’s revelation is always in parables; only the wise can understand their meanings.

In his analysis of the Shakespearean Tragedy “Macbeth” Michael Stratford argues that the essence of human pride was covered in three dimensions by this work. He asserted in supports of the works of Majorie Garber on the play which concluded that Macbeth’s confrontation with morality at the end of the play portrayed “real recovery” and completed the depiction of the phases of pride in men. He went further to outline these stages as: The hubris that hurls a man into sin and error, the false pride that secure and justifies all and perpetuates us in evil acts, and the final realization of our immortality and futility of all things.

The play Macbeth has been analyzed by many due to its relevance in everyday human progression. Macbeth was a young and virile soldier honored for his love of Scotland and bravery at war by King Duncan. He was at the zenith of his profession as a soldier and revered titled gentleman in Scotland when the story started. A chance meeting with the “three witches”, their predictions of Macbeth as the King of Scotland, transported this gentleman into a murderer and usurper and finally his death.Given the level of public exposure to education and the current public discourse about the ruler of Nigeria which pulls towards lack of proper formal education, maybe this narrative could be brought home more.

Curiosity recently made me look into the Ifa esoteric and cosmogony and I was amazed at the level of sophistication of the Odu Ifa in explaining and predicting main pattern of human conscious, and unconscious acts; going even further to reveal the purpose and destinies of humans on earth. I was further impressed by the manner with which knowledge and wisdom for managing pride and power were expressively itemized thorough the use of parables.For noninitiates, the Ifa divinity comprises of sixteen major quadrant of ancient Yoruba Ifa cult, which was subdivided into 256 distinct sub-heads detailing all areas of human: wisdom for proper interrelations, truth and moralities, science, cosmology, metaphysics, medicine and other established norms of the Yoruba People of Southwest Nigeria as established by Orunmila. Orunmila the first Ifa priest was reputed to have started the accumulation of this knowledge base, handing it over to his sixteen children, who continued to practice and develop the Ifa practice.

In Odi Isa, amongst the Odu Ifa, Orunmila tried to balance power and pride; where he depicts the travail of the Tiger, the king of the jungle when the entire animal challenged him to battle. The tiger despite his acclaimed overwhelming power, applied wisdom and appealed to the elders for help. The elders asked the Tiger to perform a sacrifice and in respect to the words of the elders, the Tiger performed all necessary rites. And to this day, no animal was able to conquer the tiger.

Tiger’s powerful could have stupidly against public opinion challenged the whole animal kingdom. which will then overrun him and take over his kingdom. When faced with adversities, he went begging the elders for advice. Instead of ruin and death as in Macbeth case, the tiger excel and its kingdom expanded.

Many writers in the pre-2015 era had lauded the achievements of the new progressives led by General Mohamadu Buhari and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The duo in conjunction with other heavy weights in Nigerian politics had performed the first presidential election upset in Nigerian history; the defeat of a sitting president in a general election. The global press was agog in the spirit of the wave of change coming to Nigeria politics.

The emergence of Buhari as the new government leader was heralded as a milestone in Nigerian political arena. Given the sixteen years politicking before his emergence as the president, people were thoroughly misled that the “Buhari presidential dream” was driven by passionate goals for real change. When the new government started showing signs of unpreparedness to rule and obvious lack of cohesion were being revealed, the Nigerian people still believed and attributed it to huge challenges emanating from long period of institutionalized corruption by previous governments. Nigerian new government was later revealed to have been distracted by huge amount of propaganda, vain retribution, illegal and unnecessary arrests and prosecutions in its first year in power.

Apparently, governance and economy finally start to show negative growth. Before the end of the second year, the country which was reputed as one of the ten growing global economies was in recession. Economic indicator aside, the failing security architecture has been witnessed in all theaters of operation. Conflict escalations in most areas were being witnessed. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) continued to rise as conflicts engulfs the state. Youth and elites migration have more than doubled within three years, and statistics on youth unemployment is reading above one third of population. The national currency’s value in international trade fell by over 200 percent in the first year of this government and it took direct intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria to shore up the Naira to its current 360 to one dollar status.

Failed economy, repetitive conflicts, insurrections, low school attendance, thriving illicit economies, and high youth emigration, according to Mary Kaldor are signs of failing states. The constant stay outside the country by the president was a minor issue until the whole world was treated to the caricature of Nigerian President’s show of shame in faraway Poland on the Saturday Night Show recently. The lack of grace and charisma that goes with the esteemed office of the president of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the representative of over 200millon people and one of the fastest growing states globally by this current president reflects his depth of understanding of the power and privilege of Nigeria in global politics.

Tinubu’s rise to stardom in Nigerian politics was midwifed by the NADECO movement against military rule in the late eighties and early nineties. The movement which led to the emergence of this ongoing republic equally blessed BAT with the governorship of the most priced state in Nigeria, Lagos. Lagos represents the hub of commerce and economy of Nigeria. Nigerian position as a giant in Africa business resides in the economic performance of Lagos State. Eight years of his direct rule, twelve years of his protégés ruling, characterized by unashamed plundering of Lagos state’s resources has created a new Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The Czar of Southwest Nigeria was born. By 2014, Tinubu had in his control a war-chest big enough to start and prosecute any political war in Nigeria against any opposition.

When Tinubu pitched his tent against President Goodluck Jonathan, midwifed a coalition of parties to form All Peoples’ Congress (APC) in supports of Buhari, the die was cast. Tinubu’s prowess and political machinery was founded on the Lagos State dynasty. This base he has always controlled since 1999. Experts have posited that the loss of Lagos by the Tinubu gang will surely sound the kernel of his political demise. Recent happenings have shown the arrival of the new Tinubu. Four month to general elections, Tinubu unilaterally influenced the removal of the name of the incumbent governor of Lagos State from the ballot and imposed a new man as the party representative. A move that has been reported irked many locals and party faithful.

Obviously, Tinubu’s power as sole godfather and power broker in Lagos politics is on test as 2019 February elections looms. Buhari’s reign and reelections as president is being supported by the Tinubu’s camp. The alliance many agreed was based on the pact to return Tinubu as president in 2023. This ambition has fueled the unalloyed support from Lagos APC for Buhari’s return. It’s a big gamble on the path of Tinubu and Buhari. Like the proverbial fly, Buhari has tasted the wine and is ready and willing to die in the same cup of wine.

Tinubu’s ambition also has turned him to the fly that refused to heed the warnings of the elders and has decided to follow the corpse into the earth. Ambition is necessary to achieve and progress in life, yet ambitions should be ethically based, no normal leader will continue to aspire to hold and office in which he does not have capacity for managing, and no normal human being will sacrifice the future of his people, merely for his own selfish ambition.

Ambition contaminated by acute pride surely begets disaster. Macbeth ambition was fueled by greed and selfish ambition to rule Scotland, never because he was a pushed by a need to work a better society for his people. His endgame led to war and carnage pushing Scotland which was growing as a nation into complete recession and pillage by ravaging armies. Equally, the Tiger would have resorted to use of might against his enemies as he was in power, but wisdom led him to the elders. Tinubu and Buhari have achieved the impossible in Nigerian politics; the time has come for them both to respect the people and leave the scene. Unrestrained pride and ambition, the elders says always lead to death and destructions.

Don Michael Adeniji                                                                                          Director, African Initiative for Peace and Human Development, Abuja Chicago Illinois. December, 2018

Buhari, NASS and unlawful use of $469m ECA funds

2019 Elections, Africa, APC, economy, Legal, Nigeria, Nigerian Army, PMB, Politics

On April 9, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, lied to worried and inquisitive Nigerians that the president was yet to authorise the payment of $469m from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to buy 12 Super Tucano military jets from the United States government. It turned out that as far back as February, despite repeated denials, the president had both approved the said sum and authorised disbursement. It was only the Defence minister, Mansur Dan Ali, who somewhat truthfully hinted early February that the procurement had been done in order to meet the deadline set by the American government for the deal to be consummated.

It is unlikely that Sen Enang, who is himself very conversant with legislative appropriations process, did not know that the approval had been given and the payment made. Nor is it likely that he does not know the gravity of the executive branch arbitrarily and unilaterally authorising the disbursement of funds not appropriated. The special assistant knew; he only chose to lie. Here is what he said when the public initially suspected that the president had made the unauthorised disbursement of ECA funds: “…That the said sum has not and cannot be approved for spending by Mr. President. That in accordance with best practices, Mr. President, having received approval of the sum from National Economic Council made up of all the governors, now had a meeting with the Minister of Defence, service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, among others, to collate the needs of each of the services and the money available for appropriation…As of now, the process of approving the money for use is inchoate and still undergoing executive standard operating procedure before laying same before the National Assembly for appropriation.”

When Sen Enang told this open lie, members of the National Economic Council (NEC), the president himself, and the vice president already knew that the money had been disbursed. They chose to keep quiet, associated with the lie, and perhaps sought for ways to blunt both public and legislative reactions to the unlawful use of ECA funds. The governors who in December authorised the withdrawal of $1bn from ECA on the grounds that previous governments periodically accessed the account for one reason or the other also knew by experience in their states that the executive arm, in this case the president, could not spend a kobo without appropriations. Instead, they incredibly decided at a meeting headed by the vice president that their collective assent was as good as legislative assent because no one complained when previous governments made similar withdrawals.

To put the whole matter at rest, and knowing that the infernal lie told by Sen Enang and connived at by the presidency could not be sustained for too long, the president finally wrote to the National Assembly this April to inform them that he had spent the money from ECA, and asked for their understanding. Other than implying that the urgency of the spending necessitated the illegality, the president offered no other substantial or persuasive reason for breaching the constitution. According to him: “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the country. These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently, at the meeting of the National Economic Council on 14th December, 2017, where a resolution was passed, with the Council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation… It would be recalled that, for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct Government-to-Government arrangement. Recently, approval was finally granted by the United States Government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise, the contract would lapse.”

The president continues: “In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00. This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government. I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising. The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, in due course.”

There is no question that the president knowingly and subversively took the money from ECA. But nothing justifies it: no emergency, no urgency, no security situation. There was nothing to suggest that since the governors decided on that course of action last December, the president didn’t have enough time to present a supplementary estimate to be thoroughly scrutinised by the legislature. He missed the point by giving the impression that critics who denounced the executive arm for disbursing ECA funds were unmindful of the country’s security situation, or insensitive to the urgency of making the military purchases. Critics in fact sensibly suggested that though the motive of the purchase was sound, it was nevertheless wrong to eye the ECA fund meant for the three tiers of government, let alone make the disbursement outside due process. For neither the president nor the governors, nor yet the local councils, approximated the legislative assemblies of their various tiers. Moreover, even the seller of the jets, the US, would be privately appalled by the illegitimacy of the process through which the $469m was released. Such flagrant abuse could never be countenanced in the US. It also beggars belief that those who kept the money feigned ignorance of the proper process by which the funds are to be shared constitutionally between the three tiers of government

It is disturbing that President Buhari, sitting at the head of a government that prides itself on being ethically different from its predecessors and intolerant of past abridgement of financial regulations, could countenance that constitutional affront. By his letter to the legislature, he seems to think that both the urgency of the purchase and the intensity of the insurgency problem justified the spending from ECA. It is even worse that he indicated in his letter that he expected the legislature not to turn down his request, hence his approval of the unlawful ECA spending. This unilateral action is truly shocking. How could he tell the mind of the legislature? Does he not know what the law say very clearly? The truth is that the Buhari presidency and the federal government under him, including the cabinet and security agencies, think very little of the legislature. They think that if the public were forced to choose between the executive arm headed by the ‘saintly’ President Buhari, and the parliament headed, for instance, by the Machiavellian Bukola Saraki, the public would sack the parliament and embrace the executive. This is the classical beginning of fascism.

It is also strange that with all the lawyers and constitutional experts around the president, he could still subvert the constitution in the manner he has done. This speaks to the lack of cohesion in the government — in such a manner that suggests only a few people carried away by the importance of their offices take decisions for the presidency and present a fait accompli to the rest of the cabinet — or to perhaps the fear of confronting the president and educating him on the dangers of flouting the constitution and diminishing the importance of the parliament, as his government and cabinet have serially done.

A far more disturbing truth is that, given the arguments and logic of some of the governors rationalising the ECA spending, there are indeed very few democrats presiding over the affairs of their states in this Fourth Republic. The Governor of Jigawa State, Muhammadu Badaru, for instance, simplistically argues: “We forget easily. If you recall, we have been battling with approval from America to buy these equipment in 2014. We have been begging America to sell this equipment to us. We tried Dubai, they could not allow us; we tried a factory in Brazil, the federal government tried, we couldn’t get it. America still could not sell to Nigeria. Then luckily, President Trump said it was okay to buy. So we had to quickly buy before they change their minds. Because there is also deadline and this is a state to state transaction, no middleman, and we are all here concerned about security and they are raising questions on way and manner you protect people. This is an emergency situation.” The puerility of Mr Badaru’s logic is numbing. No less bewildering is the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, who sheepishly suggested that critics of the spending as well as the National Assembly should not just look at the law but the interest of Nigerians. Awful!

The National Assembly knows that it can only cry itself hoarse over this needless controversy. To impeach President Buhari, even if the divided legislature can be coaxed into unity, will be nigh impossible, not because an impeachable offence has not been committed but because the presidency seems to be counting on the masses who can neither understand the illogic of the ECA spending nor appreciate the role of the parliament in sustaining democracy. Had the people been educated enough to know that it is the parliament that sustains democracy — not the executive, not the judiciary, as important as they are — they would have found a way to force the resignation of the government. But the government is counting on the people’s ignorance to constitute a deterrence to the legislature, or if push comes to shove, join hands with the Buhari presidency in sacking parliament.

The NASS will have to find a way of saving face on this appalling matter. The cards are stacked against them. Meanwhile they can legislate away the temptations that so easily take the Buhari presidency prey, such as ECA itself. There is no reason for the dedicated. If President Buhari cannot discipline himself and his government to find legitimate and constitutional ways of raising money to execute their agenda, and the governors are either too obtuse or too timid to think straight, and the people will not eschew sentiment in public discourse, it is time for the legislature to anticipate other possible temptations beguiling the presidency and remove them.

http://thenationonlineng.net/buhari-nass-and-unlawful-use-of-469m-eca-funds/

Again, FAAC Meeting Postponed over Shortfall in NNPC Remittances

economy, News, Nigeria, PMB, Politics, Power
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun

The meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) for the month of April was Wednesday postponed, the second time in a row, as controversy again dogged the remittances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Federation Account.

The FAAC meeting for March where the representatives of the three tiers of government had gathered to disburse revenue that had accrued to the account for the month of February had ended in a stalemate due to a shortfall of about N37.7 billion in NNPC remittances for that month,

It took the intervention of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who pleaded with the governors before the meeting was reconvened for the sharing of revenue to the various tiers of government.

The Chairman, Finance Commissioners Forum, Mallam Yunusa Mahmoud, who confirmed the postponement of the FAAC meeting for March Wednesday, described the situation as unfortunate.

He stated that the development had prompted the governors’ intervention again, adding that the governors held a “high-level meeting” with top officials of NNPC Wednesday in Abuja.

“We have some challenges, the figures we have gotten is far below what we expected to be remitted by NNPC. As it is now, there is a meeting between the governors and the top management of NNPC at the State House.

“I believe this is a very high-level deliberation and something good will come out of it,” he said.
According to him, the NNPC was duty-bound to carry FAAC stakeholders along in its business, adding that anything short of transparency in the rendition would elicit questions.

“There are processes okay. Before now, you did not hear such news, but because this government is a government of change, some level of transparency is expected.

“When you pick your figures and you submit your figures, the person that is supposed to look at it and deliberate on it will ask questions if need be,” he said.
On whether NNPC’s action was not tantamount to deliberately shortchanging the Federation Account, Mahmoud said it was too hasty to hold the position.
He said: “I don’t want to use the word insincerity. What happened could be an error. If one party is wrong, the other party is right; if you add it together at the end of the day you make progress.

“The last FAAC meeting was postponed twice and at the end of the day, we made progress. That was during the Easter break.
“But in the spirit of Easter, we held a meeting, because we were looking at the plight of the workers that were supposed to receive their salaries as and when due, but based on the submission we have now, some states will not pay salaries now.
“What we are doing now is we have to table where we will discuss. That is why the matter is at the highest level and is being discussed now.”

Senate Summons Adeosun, Emefiele Over ‘unauthorised $462m’ For Helicopter

APC, Corruption, economy, local news, Military, Nigerian Army, PMB, Politics, Terrorism

Senate Summons Adeosun, Emefiele Over ‘unauthorised $462m’ For Helicopter

adeosun1     emefiele.jpg

The senate has summoned Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, and Godwin Emiefele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), over the alleged withdrawal of $462 million from the federation account without approval of the national assembly.

Also summoned to give reasons for the said withdrawal is Mansur Dan-Ali, minister of defence.

The upper legislative chamber summoned the trio after Sam Anyawu, a senator from Imo state, raised a motion at plenary on Tuesday.

Anyanwu drew the attention of his colleagues to the alleged withdrawal of the money.

He made reference to section 80 (2) and (3) of the 1999 constitution which prohibits such withdrawal without the consent of the lawmakers.

“I have it on good authority that in March 2018, a whopping sum of $462 million was withdrawn from the federation account and paid for helicopters to an American firm called Helicopter Tecno Fights Helicopters,” he said, adding: “And I know there was no such approval from the senate.”

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He urged the lawmakers to invite the three governnment officials “to tell us how this money was withdrawn and paid to an American company without the approval of the senate.”

The upper legislative chamber adopted his prayers for the trio to be summoned by the committee on appropriation and asked it (the committee) to report back to them after one week.

source: nai

We Pay N1.5billion To Poorest Nigerians Monthly – VP Osinbajo Says

2019 Elections, APC, economy, PMB, Politics
We Pay N1.5billion To Poorest Nigerians Monthly – VP Osinbajo Says

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the present administration is paying N5,000 monthly to over 300,000 of the poorest families across the country.

buha1The vice president said the payment was being done without discrimination along party lines.

Speaking on Thursday in Umuahia at the launch of Abia State Tele-Health Support Centre, Osinbajo said the federal government was giving loans to over 300,000 traders and artisans, feeding 125,624 pupils in 742 schools “and we have 1,569 cooks in total; for microcredit loans under our GEEP scheme, we have given loans to 7,585 small businesses.”

He said the government had so far invested about N2.4 billion of the Social Investment Programmes’ funds in Abia State “and specifically in healthcare, we have the Saving One Million Lives Initiative, which has made available $1.5 million to each state government – including Abia State – to improve the quality of basic healthcare available especially to our women and children.”

The vice president said the federal government’s plan for the
nation was a universal health coverage for all Nigerians.

“Health insurance is the most effective way of ensuring access to healthcare when needed and at the same time funding our healthcare system, and ensuring that healthcare personnel are well rewarded,” he said.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to the welfare of all Nigerians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, regardless of their ethnic or political affiliations.

“This commitment has meant two things. First is President Buhari’s determination to break from the past where the federal government only supported states where the party in office was their own. At the inauguration of the NEC in 2015, he publicly declared that our own NEC will assist every state because poverty in our nation is no respecter of ethnic group, religion or party affiliation. Consequently, as of today the federal government has supported states without discrimination along party lines to the tune of N1.91 Trillion.

“The second is that the Federal government has prioritized social and economic policies and programmes that will bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of our people. We have examples of these in our Social Investment Programmes. Today, we are feeding 7.5 million children in our Home-grown School Feeding Programme in 22 States. We have employed 200,000 graduates in our N-Power scheme, 300,000 more are waiting to be formally engaged. Every single local government in Nigeria is covered,” Osinbajo said.

He said the creation of the Abia State Tele-Health Support Centre would reduce the time spent travelling in search of healthcare, or waiting in line to see a doctor in healthcare facilities and close the access-to-healthcare gap between urban and rural areas.

“It will also make Abia State standout, within and outside Nigeria, as a forward-looking, people-centred state; one that is open to new ideas and to life-changing innovation,” the vice president added.

 

source: nai

Can Africa be the big Brexit winner?

Africa, Business, economy, International Finance, Politics
Starting at next week’s Commonwealth summit, smart moves from both sides could benefit the UK and Africa.

Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, Britain needs to forge new and strong strategic alliances and trade relationships. Where and how does Africa feature in this equation?

Despite significant challenges, both Britain and Africa could emerge as winners from a rapidly shifting and uncertain global landscape. Smart policies and diplomacy could allow Britain to capitalise on the indifferent economic attitude the rest of the Western world has towards Africa. And African countries with strategic clout and collective bargaining acumen could broker favourable trade and investment deals rather than have terms dictated to them, as has been in the past.

First, to offset the detrimental effect of a split from Europe, Britain needs to look to alternative trading partners to catalyse its economy. Using foreign policy as an economic stimulus is vital in achieving this, and Africa is appealing in this regard. For British businesses, Africa’s high growth rates, urbanising population and growing consumer market provide a marketplace for British goods and services.

For Africa, the nature and scale of its development challenges, combined with its commodity export dependence, means that improved partnerships and increased demand for goods and services are welcome. Through trade, investment and donor support, there is huge scope for UK Inc to grow a more prosperous Africa while boosting its own economy.

Second, the ‘pivot to Commonwealth’ is a strategy that has long been flaunted as a positive spin-off from Brexit. Indeed, many advocates of Brexit had argued that once the UK was freed from the chains of the European Union (EU), it could pursue a buccaneering future as ‘Global Britain’.

Given the cultural affinity with its former colonies, the linguistic, legal and educational symmetry, and sizeable diaspora in the UK, Britain has an advantage over other countries regarding Africa. Its deep historical (albeit controversial) relationships with regional powerhouses like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria could help secure trade and investment deals.

This year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London from 16-20 April is a clear attempt to both solidify and expand the UK’s network of influence with historical allies in a post-Brexit world.

Third, British rapprochement with Africa is likely to be well received in terms of trade policy. Africa’s relationship with the EU has often been tense, largely on account of the protectionist and distortionary polices Europe employs in the agricultural sector through the Common Agricultural Policy.

The UK has long been a proponent of freer and more equitable trade and would probably generate better opportunities for African markets to export their produce. This could be positive news for countries like Ghana (cocoa), Kenya (flowers and tea) and Ethiopia (coffee) in particular, who will benefit from fairer deals and better market access.

Thus disaffected countries may now see scope for more beneficial bilateral deals with the UK. Sensing this opportunity, Tanzania in 2016 refused to ratify the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, holding out for a more favourable deal with the UK. This could well be a sign of positive things to come – for both the UK and Africa.

But there are challenges.

Given the tight timelines for renegotiating trade deals with the World Trade Organisation, African countries’ placing on the list of priorities is unclear. African countries will likely fall behind larger trading partners like China, India and Brazil in the pecking order of who would offer more immediate and scalable benefits. Europe alone – with at least 759 treaties to be renegotiated – will probably receive most of the time and attention of British policymakers.

There is thus a risk that Africa’s status will be relegated to a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have’ – especially given its low levels of integration into the global economy in terms of global trade (2% according to the World Economic Forum).

Success will also depend on the institutional bandwidth of the British government to execute ambitious plans. The country’s bureaucracy is already stretched and suffers from a lack of co-ordination, according to Nick Oliver, an infrastructure financier with NMS International Group.

If a new relationship with Africa is going to thrive, it also needs to be ‘business unusual’ for the UK. Given the country’s colonial past, any new relationship must be a strategic partnership of equals. Any attempt to re-engineer ‘Empire 2.0’ will fail.

Further, the UK will be negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength. Europe remains Africa’s largest trading bloc and the multiple market access offered is still attractive to African countries. Britain will need to offer a compelling value proposition to counter the surety and scale that the EU offers.

Success in Africa for the UK will require not only cultural sensitivity, but also an appreciation of what African states actually want from a trade and investment perspective. This is an unenviable task on a continent with 54 vastly different counties, each with different priorities and preferences.

Symbolically, too, Britain needs to show Africa that it matters. The last UK head of state to visit Africa was Tony Blair in 2007. Emmanuel Macron’s first overseas trip, just a week after his inauguration as French president, was to Mali in 2017, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Africa in 2016. Both leaders knew that these visits were important in shaping their strategic interest amid changing geo-political and economic influences in Africa. Britain is at a disadvantage here and needs build trust among African policymakers.

But African leaders must also play their part in getting this arrangement to work effectively. African states must use their negotiating power to their advantage. With other global powers jockeying for influence in Africa, both commercially and otherwise, competition is intense. But a strong and engaged Western partner to the continent is currently lacking, and this is where Britain could act as a counterweight to China’s muscular approach and increased interest from India and Japan.

To take advantage says Rohitesh Dhawan, director of strategy at Eurasia, African countries must be aware of the negotiating tactics used by countries such as Australia, New Zealand and India who have built fertile ground for detailed trade talks. ‘Keeping abreast of the acts of other countries can also help African nations know which issues the UK is more able to make concessions over (and is less hamstrung for negotiating space) than others, and where they should place their bets.’

Tactics, pragmatism and scalability are key – especially in light of the muscle that Africa could wield through the newContinental Free Trade Area agreement. By using its collective power, and prioritising agriculture, the continent’s leadership could broker a potentially game-changing deal that could reshape the nature of UK-Africa relations.

With Brexit negotiations at a critical juncture, it is still unclear whether the UK will emerge as ‘Great Britain’ or ‘Little England’. But the deadline is fast approaching and Britain would do well not to ignore Africa as it charts forward. With some out-of-the-box thinking, there are compelling reasons why the continent may yet emerge as a huge ally to the UK.

Ronak Gopaldas, ISS Consultant and Director at Signal Ris

Britain Aims to Close Gender Pay Gap With Transparency and Shame

economy, Facts, International Finance

easy

EasyJet headquarters at London Luton Airport. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, which has pledged to hire more female pilots. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The gender pay gaps detailed by British companies in recent months surprised almost no one — men are paid more than women, often by a wide margin, at the vast majority of businesses.

But by making companies publicly air their salary information, Britain intends to force a reckoning. Officials in London hope the embarrassing revelations in the reports, which had to be submitted by Wednesday, will shame companies into doing more to close the divide.

The push is one of a growing number of efforts among countries to promote the principle of equal pay. Australia recently mandated gender pay gap reporting for most companies. In Germany, a new law will require businesses with more than 500 employees to reveal their pay gaps. Nordic countries like Iceland have been even more aggressive, by making companies prove they are paying male and female staff equally.

Proponents of the British effort argue that the increased transparency will lead to smaller gaps. Research by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of rich countries that includes Britain.

“This is a game-changer,” said Andrew Bazeley, a policy manager at the Fawcett Society, a British organization that campaigns for women’s rights and equality. “It will force businesses to think about the gender pay gap in ways they might not have before.”

Under the new reporting requirements, companies with 250 or more employees must publish salary differences between men and women every year. They are also required to provide details on gaps in average bonuses paid, and the proportion of men and women who received those bonuses.

The submissions have made for uncomfortable reading for company executives. At Goldman Sachs’s sprawling moneymaking machine in Britain, women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, the country’s busiest discount airline. And at WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less than their male counterparts.

Photo

Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, is taking a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor.CreditGeorges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Still, at least in some cases, the requirement to publish the data has made an impact as big companies have scrambled to counter the fallout from embarrassing reports. EasyJet has said its male chief executive would take a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor, and pledged to more than triple the proportion of its female pilots.

In other cases, a change in the pay culture has been pushed from the outside. At Mills & Reeve, a British law firm whose audit determined it was paying women an average of 32 percent less than men, a major impetus has come from big clients that have started to request more female representation among the firm’s attorneys.

“It’s increasingly something we’re asked for as part of tenders and pitches, to give details of our diversity,” said Claire Clarke, a managing partner.

Some efforts predate the new rules, but have come into focus because of the requirements. The British bank Barclays, for example, has sought to hire, and retain, more senior female executives by offering a new 12-week “internship” targeted at experienced women who are coming off a career break and introducing greater flexibility in existing jobs.

Supporters of the British regulations acknowledge that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. But without it, companies and regulators in countries seeking to enforce equal pay laws would have scant evidence that a gap existed — and face less pressure to address it. Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice, sociologists at Washington University, found in a study that salary transparency raised wages, in part because “even being cognizant of gender pay disparity” helped change norms.

Such is the case in Iceland. The country has gone further than any other, becoming the first to require employers to submit to external audits to prove they are paying women on a par with men. The thinking was that unless equal pay laws were applied more forcefully, the imbalance might never close.

Iceland’s government has vowed to completely close the nation’s gender pay gap by 2022, after women walked out of their jobs en masse in protest on a chilly afternoon in October 2016.

NewYorkTimes>

AfDB sets $200m to aid farmers 600,000 African farmers

economy, International Finance, Politics

adeshna

Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank Photo: AfDB

The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) has signed a $200 million Soft Commodity Finance Facility agreement with the Export Trading Group.

According to a statement from the bank on Thursday, the facility, which will benefit 17 African countries, comes as part of its strong commitment to promote agriculture in Africa.

The AfDB said the facility was structured to run as two successive loans of $100 million each with a tenor of up to two years.

The bank said it was aimed at helping local farmers and soft commodity manufacturers to produce quality goods that could be exported.

“The intervention will help local farmers and soft commodity suppliers grow their revenues and produce quality crops for export.

“Specifically, the facility will be used to finance the procurement of identified agricultural commodities from over 600,000 farmers.

“Upon purchase of the soft commodities, the SCFF will provide working capital to ETC thus enabling the company engage in processing of the soft commodities such as cashew nuts prior to export.

“The SCFF will also provide funding to procure farm inputs to be supplied to farmers so as to ensure consistency and quality of the commodities being supplied to ETC.

“This Trade Finance intervention along the agricultural value chain will enable the Bank to reach many small-scale farmers indirectly through ETC,’’ the bank said.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Josephine Ngure, AfDB Director General for the Southern Africa Region, said the facility would contribute to improving food production in Africa and also add value to it.

“The facility would also contribute to smallholder farmers’ access to inputs like seeds and fertilizers, mechanisation and access to international markets thereby ensuring significant revenues to farmers.

“It will also lead to sustainable process of economic growth and development; regional integration by developing sustainable platforms to supply local and regional markets.

“Lastly, it also has strong gender and youth impact as agriculture employs significant numbers of mostly youths and women,” Ms Ngure said.

Originally established in Kenya in 1967, ETC’s operations connect commodities sourced from the local economies to the broader marketplace and emerging markets to each other and the world.

ETC’s principal activities include: farm inputs and farm implements, processing of agricultural commodities and distribution.

ETC promotes agribusiness in countries where agriculture is, on the average, the biggest employer, providing in excess of 70 per cent of total employment and 77 per cent of all women’s jobs.

(NAN)

Nigerians to pay more for electricity as NERC approves ‘service charge’

Business, economy, Power

fash.jpgThe Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) says prepaid meters will soon flood the market with the licensing of 87 meter asset providers (MAPs).

What the power sector regulator downplayed, however, is there is also going to be an increase in the bills to be paid by electricity consumers in the country who get new meters under the latest regulation.

On March 12, 2018, Dafe Akpeneye, NERC’s commissioner, legal, licensing and compliance, unveiled the new regulation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.

He said MAPs will be independent providers who will be approved by NERC but contracted by the DisCos “to bridge the metering gap”.

They are to be saddled with the responsibility of providing meters and replacing faulty devices within 48 hours.

An analysis of the Meter Asset Provider Regulations 2018 (Regulation No Nerc-R-112) by TheCable shows that those who benefit under the new system will pay a monthly service charge.

Under chapter iv, section 10 (“Rights of Distribution Licensees”), subsection 5, the regulation states: “The Distribution Licensees shall include a metering service charge as a clear item on the billing of its customers provided with meters under an MSA with MAPs and shall be separate from the energy charge. The metering service charge shall be based on the outcome of the procurement process for the MAP and subject to the approval of the Commission.”

TheCable noted that this provision was not contained in the draft posted on the NERC website.

However, the finalised document, approved by the ministry of power and made public by NERC, is now on the regulator’s website and contains the addition.

In 2015, NERC had outlawed “fixed charge” from tariffs, abolishing the monthly average of N750 added to customers’ bills whether or not they use electricity.

But the abolition of the fixed charge then was accompanied by a slight increase in tariff.

NERC’s latest regulation came into effect on March 8, 2018 and will be enforced by the commission from April 3, 2018.

The objective, according to NERC, is to provide standard rules to “encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services, eliminate estimated billing practices, attract private investment to the provision of metering services in NESI, close the metering gap through accelerated meter roll out and enhance revenue assurance in NESI”.

Nigeria’s oil production Dips again; Lowest Production recorded in six months

2019 Elections, Africa, economy, Oil, Petroleum Products, PMB, War, World Bank

Nigeria’s oil production dropped by more than 82,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 2.022 million b/d in March 2018 — compared to the output in the preceding month, according to estimates released by the ministry of petroleum resources.

The ministry figures showed that oil production, including condensates, averaged 2,022,716 bpd in March, down from a high of 2,105,656 bpd in February. It was the lowest oil production by the country in the last six months.

The ministry provided no reason for the decline.

Sabotage attacks on oil production and exports facilities had seen Nigeria not able to produce up to its maximum capacity of around 3.2 million bpd. In 2016, oil production dropped significantly to 1.4 million bpd, and the Nigerian economy slipped into recession.

On Monday, Shell said operations at Forcados terminal, one of Nigeria’s main oil export routes, were ramping up after a momentary shutdown at the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP).

Forcados terminal exports an average of 262,000 bpd, according to loading schedule.

The terminal experienced low injection of crude around March 27, following a shutdown of the TFP, a Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) spokesman told TheCable Petrobarometer.

According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), about 300,000 bpd of oil were shut in at Forcados terminal alone in 2016, following the declaration of the force majeure that year.

Inflation declines; the biggest drop in 11 months

2019 Elections, Africa, economy, International Finance, local news

Organic-ProduceData made available by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that inflation has again slowed; this time by 0.99 percent points which is the biggest drop in 11 months.

In the Consumer Price Index and Inflation Report for March 2018, the NBS said inflation rate has dropped in 13.34 percent from 14.33 percent in February.

This is the 14th consecutive month of disinflation since February 2017 when inflation first slowed.

The highest increases were recorded in fruits and vegetables, fish, coffee, eggs and cereals.

“On a month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 0.84 percent in March 2018, up by 0.05 percent points from the rate recorded in February,” the report read.

“The composite food index rose by 16.08 percent (year on year) in March 2018, down from the rate recorded in February (17.59 percent).

“The urban inflation rate eased by 13.75 percent (year-on-year) in March 2018 from 14.76 percent recorded in February, while the rural inflation rate also eased by 12.99 percent in March 2018 from 13.96 percent in February.

“In March 2018, all items inflation on a year on year basis was highest in Bauchi (16.38%), Kebbi (16.36%) and Nasarawa (16.33%), while Kwara (10.30%), Kogi (10.87%) and Delta (11.17%) recorded the slowest rise in headline year on year inflation.

“In March 2018, food inflation on a year on year basis was highest in Nasarawa (20.83%), Bayelsa (19.03%)and Yobe (18.93%), while Kogi (11.99%), Bauchi (12.60%) and Benue (13.07%) recorded the slowest rise in food inflation.”

Inflation had doubled in January 2017 after the economy slipped into a recession in 2016. With consistent disinflation, the economy exited recession mid-2017.

NBS

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