Press focuses on defence of Nigeria’s high debt profile, others

The defence by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, of the loans taken by the Nigerian government,…

The defence by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, of the loans taken by the Nigerian government, saying it had done a lot by virtue of the facilities is one of the leading stories in Nigerian newspapers on Friday.The Vanguard reports that experts, including a political economist, Professor Pat Utomi, disagreed with the minister, wondering why government waited till the twilight of its tenure to take more loans and push the nation on the path of debt.

Mohammed spoke on a day the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Lukman, faulted ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s criticism of the fresh borrowing plans of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

It will be recalled that there had been outcry over frequent borrowings by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

But Mohammed, who spoke at a town hall meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State, said the loans are being used, among others, to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit and not for recurrent expenditure.

“Naysayers have recently ramped up their criticism of the Buhari administration for borrowing. These critics are insincere. We are not borrowing for recurrent expenditure or to pay salaries.

“We are borrowing to build world-class infrastructure that will benefit generations of Nigerians. We have a lot to show for the loans we have taken.

“There is a road project in every state. Today, we have started the countdown to when the second Niger bridge, which successive administrations have built only on paper, will be completed. The list of projects we are handling with the loans we obtained is long,” he said.

The Guardian says that the streets adjoining the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Manhattan, New York will today get unusually busy more than it has been since Tuesday when the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, opened the 76th session of the General Assembly with a wake-up call on world leaders to tackle COVID-19 and climate change.

Leaders of South Africa, Iraq and Libya’s national unity government, yesterday, took the floor of the hallowed UN auditorium to give their addresses on the third day at the UNGA.

Today, President Muhammadu Buhari will be the second head of state to address the high-level session around 9:00 a.m. (2:00 p.m. local time), where he is expected to speak on the theme of the conference and other issues.

While he gets set for the big stage, a group of Nigerians, who are members of the self-determination agitators, under the auspices of Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), have vowed to go ahead with the grand finale of its one-million-man freedom march at the UN headquarters today.

The indigenous people of the South and Middle-Belt of Nigeria had staged what it tagged ‘Million-Man Freedom March’ on September 14 and 15 opposite the UN headquarters to show before the world the crimes against humanity, attacks on press freedom, free speech and other criminalities being aided by the Buhari-led government.

Also, a socio-political activist, Reno Omokri, has expressed readiness to storm New York with other activists to ‘harass’ President Buhari back to Nigeria. The former presidential aide made this known via a live video on his verified Facebook page yesterday.

Reno, who expressed sadness over the current security and economic situations of the country, said he is currently in the United States for the mission.

“Join me tomorrow at 12noon for #HarassBuhariOutOfNewYork 829 second Avenue New York. I paid heavily to come to New York just because of my love for Nigeria. I’m doing this because when the President came to power, the Nigerian debt was just N12 trillion but as I speak to you now, the country’s debt has multiplied by three, we now have N36 trillion.”

The Punch reports that the Federal Government on Thursday set up an inter-ministerial committee on the recovery of the illegally refined petroleum products (crude oil) in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

The government said operatives of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps would be effectively used in the fight against crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

The committee comprised representatives of the Nigerian Army, Navy, NSCDC, Defense Headquarters and the Federal Ministry of Defence.

Others in the committee were representatives of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Environment, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Department of Petroleum Resources and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency.

The Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mallam Umar Mohammed, while inaugurating the committee, said that the committee was put in place in line with government directives on security and economy for efficient management of illegally refined petroleum recovered illegal operators in the creeks.

He charged the committee to detect, report, evacuate, assess and ensure transparent disposal of the product with due consideration to the environment. The SGF announced that the Federal Ministry of Justice would coordinate the process and house the secretariat of the committee.

The newspaper says that the Federal Government on Thursday descended on critics of its frequent request for fresh loans describing them as insincere.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, spoke for the government during a town hall meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State to address vandalism of power and telecommunications infrastructure.

Mohammed said the critics were members of previous administrations who ‘performed abysmally in terms of modernising our infrastructure, even when they served at a time when our earnings were multiples of what we get today.”

He said that government was not borrowing for recurrent expenditure or to pay salaries but to build world class infrastructure that would benefit generations of Nigerians.

According to him, based on the two town hall meetings held in Abuja on June 7 and July 5 2021, the situation regarding the wanton destruction of public infrastructure was worse than government had imagined.

He said, “For example, we were told that it would cost the Federal Government N3.8bn to repair just four bridges that were damaged by vandals and petrol-laden tankers. That’s a huge amount that could have been used to build new infrastructure.

ThisDay reports that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Muhammed Abubakar, yesterday said the federal government is currently working to provide incentives to feed millers and agribusiness companies as well as support various research institutes in developing alternative feed ingredients for production of animal feeds.

The minister who lamented that animal feed accounted for over 70 percent of the cost of animal production, thereby making it the most important consideration in a livestock business, said the government was determined to check the high cost of feeds in the country. Speaking at the opening of the maiden National Animal Feed Summit with the theme: “Developing a Roadmap for Animal Feed Security in Nigeria” in Abuja, he said if properly harnessed, the feed sector has the potential to engage over 20 million Nigerians, adding that the industry is yet to reach 25 per cent of its market size.

Abubakar said the sector currently engages over five million Nigerians directly or indirectly as technical or skilled personnel, distributors, fabricators of tools and machinery, input suppliers among others.

The sector, he said, generates massive employment across various value chains and strengthens the national social safety net with copious contributions to food security, household income and poverty reduction.

The Sun reports that the Federal Government has called for the deepening of trade relations between Nigeria and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made the call during a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on the sidelines of the ongoing 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States.

Onyeama reminded the Iranian Foreign Minister that Nigeria and Iran have excellent relations, saying that Nigeria will be very happy under the cooperation and engagement of Amir-Abdollahian to improve even more, the relationship between both countries.

“We are two big countries in our respective sub-regions, but unfortunately, the level of trade is not what it should be. And we should do a lot more,” Onyeama said.

Onyeama added that Nigeria appreciated the intricacies of international financial systems and some of the obstacles. “And we were trying to also discuss on how this should not interrupt our trade and how we can also work together to improve that aspect of our trade,” Onyeama also said.