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Press focuses on government’s pledge to check soaring food prices, others

The pledge by Nigerian President to check the soaring prices of foodstuffs and the reaction of Bishop Matthew Kukah to…

The pledge by Nigerian President to check the soaring prices of foodstuffs and the reaction of Bishop Matthew Kukah to attacks on him over his Christmas Day message that criticized insecurity, poor governance in Nigeria are some of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday.

ThisDay reports that President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday committed his administration to checking the soaring prices of foodstuffs, which have become a major driver of inflation in the country.

The president, at a virtual meeting of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) assured the council of his administration’s readiness to monitor the persistent general rise in the prices of food commodities in 2021 with a view to bringing them down.

The president made the commitment on the same day Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, gave a high rating to the quality of rice being produced in the country, saying that Nigeria is now competitive in the production of the commodity.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, also quoted the president as reiterating his directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to grant any foreign exchange for the importation of food items. This is the third time the president would issue the directive; first in August 2919 and again in September.

The Guardian says that Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Archdiocese., yesterday, responded to attacks on him over his Christmas Day message, urging Nigerians to ignore the lie against him.

He disclosed this in a chat with journalists yesterday, and asked Nigerians to dwell on the statement he made, not on lies against him, He explained that his message, titled ‘Another Christmas with Dark Clouds of Death,’ was based on his love for the country without any political or ulterior motive.

On the attacks on him, he said he was pained that his critics had failed to see that many innocent lives were being lost on daily basis and had failed to show concern for the loss of lives in the last ten years, even before the advent of this administration.

He said: “The reactions are a reflection of every citizen that make up Nigeria. It is sad that when you drop something in Nigeria, everybody goes back to their enclave and abandons the larger picture. I am someone who never takes offence to what people say about me.

“What I said was my opinion based on evidence and what has happened in Nigeria, and if you looked into the records, there is evidence that justifies that statement, and if anyone thinks I am wrong, they should come out with a superior position.”

He described as unfair news reports that he called for a coup while expressing his personal view about Nigeria.

The Sun reports that Nigerian agriculture stakeholders yesterday faulted the Federal Government decision to exclude the food importers from accessing foreign exchange (forex) from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

They argued that the policy would further escalate the food crisis currently rocking the nation. Reacting to the government decision, the National Coordinator of Agro Hub, Thomas Odue, has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision as ill-timed.

Odue, while reacting to Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), appealed to him to reconsider his stance until the country gets out of recession.

“It is a good decision which is coming at the wrong time. Government should still assist states until our economy is strong again. Don’t forget that we are yet to fully come out of recession, so, denying importers access to foreign exchange at this critical time would further widen poverty,” he said.

The PUNCH says that default on loans with collateral worsened in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The statistics department of the CBN disclosed this in its fourth quarter ‘Credit condition survey report’ on Tuesday.

“Secured loan performance, measured by default rates, worsened in Q4 2020, while lenders expect default rates in Q1 2021 to remain unchanged,” it stated.

It however noted that the performance of total unsecured loan to households, measured by default rates, improved in Q4 2020 and was expected to improve further in Q1 2021.

According to the report, the availability of secured credit to households increased in Q4 2020 and was expected to increase in the Q1 2021.

The newspaper reports that barring any last minute change in plan, President, Muhammadu Buhari, will sign the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law on Thursday,

The PUNCH has learnt. The National Assembly had last Monday passed the N13.58tn budget for the next fiscal year.

It had been the desire of the present regime to restore the country’s budget to January to December cycle. This was achieved with the 2020 budget which Buhari signed into law on December 17, 2019.

It is also the desire of the Presideny to sustain the feat this year. Thursday on which the 2021 bill is expected to be signed into law is the last day in 2020.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed this to our correspondent on Tuesday evening.

“All things being equal (and note this), the President will sign the 2021 budget into law on Thursday. “It is not likely that the plan will change though,” the presidential aide said.

The Nation newspaper says that Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) has recorded 57,399 members by the Third Quarter of last year, representing 0.65 percent growth, a report by the National Pension Commission has shown.

The membership moved from 8.78 million contributors at the end of the preceding quarter to 8.84 million. The growth was driven by the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) Scheme, which had an increase of 57,727 contributors, representing 0.66 percent.

However, membership of the Closed Pension Fund Administration (CPFA) Scheme declined by 328 members, standing at 17,548 while the Approved Existing Scheme (AES) membership remained at 40,951.

Similarly, the report showed that the RSA registrations hit 8,780,336 as at the third quarter, moving from 8,722,609 as at second quarter, 2019, representing a growth of 0.66 per cent.

The growth could be attributed to the increased level of compliance by the private sector as a result of the various steps taken by the commission to improve compliance and coverage, as well as marketing strategies of the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs).

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