The major headlines in mainstream newspapers today, Friday, October 18 are focused on the domestic debts of states and the FCT, the federal government’s admission that it’s having difficulty settling its debts, the plans by the govt to introduce taxes on carbonated drinks, the agreement reached between labour and the govt on the new minimum wage, and President Buhari’s order for an audit of the NDDC.
Kicking off our review, Guardian reports that the Debt Management Office (DMO) has disclosed that domestic indebtedness of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as at the end of March 2019 was N3.972 trillion.
The debt profile includes the more than N600 billion bailout fund which President Muhammadu Buhari gave to states in 2016 in the wake of falling oil prices at the international market. The states had complained that they were unable to pay salaries and meet operational costs.
Although Lagos is one of the few states that never accessed the fund, it leads the pack of heavy domestic debtors with N542.231 billion. It is followed by three oil-rich states: Rivers, N225.592 billion; Delta, N223.442 billion; and Akwa Ibom, N199.768 billion.
FCT has N163.518 billion, Cross River, N167.252 billion; Osun, N147.702 billion; Bayelsa, N133.339 billion; Ekiti, N118.0113 billion; and Kano, the most indebted northern state, N121.305 billion.
The states with the least debts include Yobe, N26.990 billion; Anambra, N33.490 billion; Jigawa, N38.227 billion; Ebonyi, N55.597 billion; and Kebbi, N67.037 billion.
Still on the issue of debts, Punch reports that barely 24 hours after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised Nigeria to increase tax to raise more revenue, the federal government on Thursday, October 17 said its low revenue was affecting its ability to service debts and fund day-to-day recurrent expenditure.
The minister of finance, budget and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington DC, United States, noted that although Nigeria did not have a debt problem, she said, “underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt.”
She also justified the $3bn loan the country was seeking from the World Bank, saying the money would be used to finance the power sector.
A quarter (N2.5trn) of N10.3trn budget President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly on October 8 would be spent on debt servicing.
In what would certainly be good news to workers, The Nation reports that an agreement was finally reached between the federal government and organised labour on Thursday on the consequential adjustment in salaries as a result of the new N30,000 minimum wage.
Both teams reportedly finally shifted ground from earlier positions and agreed on certain percentages, following three days of intense negotiation.
At the end of the meeting, both sides agreed to a 23.2 percent increase for workers on level seven, 20 percent increase for level eight workers and 19 percent increase for level nine workers.
Organized labour and the government also agreed that for level 10-14 workers, there’ll be a 16 percent salary increase, while for those on level 15 to 17, there’ll be a 14 percent increase.
On its part, Vanguard reports that the minister of finance, budget and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed that the federal government is considering introducing excise duties on carbonated drinks (like soft drinks).
Ahmed gave the indication in an interview with newsmen on Thursday on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC, United States.
She said the idea was one of other areas, besides the proposed increase in VAT, that the government was looking at to broaden its revenue base.
The minister explained that the government was working hard to ensure efficiency in existing revenue streams while searching for new ones. She said the government would consult with all stakeholders on the proposal in line with standard policy formulation process.
Finally, ThisDay reports that President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The audit, which will cover the commission’s operations from 2001 to 2019, is in response to persistent criticisms of the management of the special intervention agency, set up to address environmental and developmental challenges in the oil-rich area.
In addition to the presidential order, the Senate has also commenced investigations into the alleged inflation of the contact for the clearing of silts and water hyacinths on the waterways in the commission from 2017 to 2019.
Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said in a statement in Abuja, that the president’s order came while receiving a delegation of leaders from the nine states making up the Niger Delta, who were led by the Bayelsa state governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.
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