Nigerian press focuses on defense of removal of subsidy on petrol, UNICEF record of under-five deaths

The claim by the NNPC boss that petrol subsidy was corruption-ridden and only served the interest of the elite and…

The claim by the NNPC boss that petrol subsidy was corruption-ridden and only served the interest of the elite and report by UNICEF that Nigeria has overtaken India as the world capital for under-five deaths are some of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.

ThisDay reports that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday defended the federal government’s decision to remove the subsidy on petrol, insisting that allowing market forces determine practices was in the overall interest of the poor.

The Group Managing Director of the corporation, Malam Mele Kyari, who spoke when he appeared on a live TV programme last night, posited that petrol subsidy was corruption-ridden and only served the interest of the elite.

Kyari said the move to deregulate the market took a long while because it was difficult convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to sign off on the move because he (Buhari) was worried that the poor would be negatively affected by higher prices.

He said: “Petroleum subsidy has been a big issue for over 20 years. Every corruption you are aware of in the downstream sector of the industry is in one way or the other connected to fuel subsidy.

“Several licences were given to people to build refineries across the country and none could deliver, maybe only just a few. The reason is very simple because people are not sure when you produce petroleum product what price they are going to sell.”

The newspaper says that Nigeria has overtaken India as the world capital for under-five deaths, according to the 2020 mortality estimates released by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The development comes two years earlier than the World Bank projected.

The global bank had said in 2018 that Nigeria would take over from India as the world capital for deaths of children under the age of five by 2021.

According to World Bank figures, India recorded an estimated 989,000 under-five deaths in 2017, while Nigeria recorded 714,000 deaths in the same year.

UNICEF, in the report titled: ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’, said Nigeria recorded an estimated average of 858,000 under-five deaths in 2019 as against India, which ranked second with 824,000 deaths out of 5.2 million under-five deaths globally.

The Punch reports that President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday inaugurated the national steering committee to oversee the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan to succeed Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, 2017 – 2020.

Mr Atedo Peterside and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, will jointly chair the committee for the development plan.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement titled “Agenda 2050: President Buhari inaugurates national steering committee, says new development plan will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030.”

“The main objectives of these successor plans are to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years, particularly given the World Bank’s projection that Nigeria will become the world’s third most populous country by 2050 with over 400 million people,” the statement quoted Buhari as saying at the inauguration.

The newspaper says that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has said it spent a total of N41.98bn on pipeline repairs and management cost in the first half of this year.

The NNPC disclosed this in its latest monthly oil report, saying, “Products theft and vandalism have continued to destroy value and put NNPC at disadvantaged competitive position.”

A total of 1,067 vandalised points were recorded between June 2019 and June 2020, according to the corporation.
It said a total of 33 pipeline points were vandalised in June 2020, representing about 11 per cent decrease from the 37 points recorded in May.

The Sun reports that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has directed airlines to allow passengers coming into Nigeria without Quick Response codes (QR codes) board their flight following complaints about difficulties with the use of the online platform for uploading information.

The QR codes are machine-scannable images that can be read using a smartphone camera. By scanning them via a smartphone, travellers can access encoded information.

But online hitches have continued to make payments and printing of QR codes required for travel to Nigeria very difficult for several passengers.

In a letter dated September 8, 2020, signed by Musa Nuhu, director general at NCAA, it notified airlines “that the presentation of evidence of payment receipt in the form of a QR code is recommended for all passengers but not a mandatory requirement for boarding flights to Nigeria for now.

The Nation says that Nigeria’s total debt stock has risen in the last three months to N31.009 trillion ($85.897 billion), from N28.628 trillion ($79.303billion), according to the Debt Management Office (DMO).

DMO yesterday in Abuja new total debt figure comprises the debt stock of the Federal Government, the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The N2.381trillion (or $6.593 billion) increase recorded in the debt Stock, the DMO said, “was accounted for by the $3.36 billion Budget Support Loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

Other contributors to the nation’s growing debt profile include “New Domestic Borrowing to finance the Revised 2020 Appropriation Act, the issuance of the N162.557 billion Sukuk and Promissory Notes issued to settle Claims of Exporters”.

The DMO has also warned that it expects the Public Debt Stock to grow. “The nation’s debt will grow because of “the balance of the New Domestic Borrowing and expected disbursements are made by the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, which were arranged to finance the 2020 Budget”.