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Press focuses on plans to borrow $6.183bn to fund 2021 budget deficit, others

The request made by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly for approval to borrow fresh $6.183 billion to fund…

The request made by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly for approval to borrow fresh $6.183 billion to fund the 2021 budget deficit of N5.602 trillion dominates the headlines of Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday.The Guardian reports that President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, wrote the National Assembly for approval to borrow fresh $6.183 billion (N2.343 trillion) to fund the 2021 budget deficit of N5.602 trillion.

Titled “Request for the resolution of the National Assembly to the implementation of the new external borrowing of N2.343 trillion, which is about $6.183 billion in the 2021 appropriation Act” and addressed to the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the President explained that the fund would be sourced from multiple avenues, including multilateral and bilateral lenders, as well as the International Capital Market (ICM) via issuance of Eurobonds.

The letter read: “From recent trends in the ICM, it is now possible for Nigeria to raise funds from there and this explains why we are proposing that the new external borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act should include issuing Eurobonds in the ICM.

“We estimate that Nigeria may be able to raise $3 billion or more, but not more than $6.183 billion (the amount provided in the 2021 Appropriation Act) in a combination of tenors between five and 30 years.”

According to Buhari, the outcome would be determined when the nation approaches the market, noting that “not only is the ICM now open to issuers like Nigeria and interest rates lower than the levels In 2020, given the recent monetary policy stance, as well as rising levels of inflation, the level of liquidity in the domestic market has decreased while domestic interest rates are beginning to rise.”

The newspaper says that President Muhammadu Buhari has called on European countries and global financial institutions to consider reducing the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on African economies by restructuring debt portfolios and providing complete debt relief.

The Nigerian leader made the call at the Financing Africa Summit held at the Grande Palais Ephemere in Paris, France, on Tuesday, with the theme: “External Financing and debt Treatment”.

He observed that many African countries were already experiencing debt distress and the debt service suspension by France and the G-20 was not far-reaching enough.

Buhari added that there was a need for more sustainable and affordable financing solutions, including debt relief and further debt restructuring.

He also called for the release of vaccines to Africa, which, he asserted, had been left behind in protecting the majority of its citizens.

The Nigerian leader said the fall in commodity prices as COVID-19 took a toll on the global economy had further slowed growth in some countries and strained health facilities.

“It is in this vein that we solicit the support of the French government, with its influence in the European Union, to lend its voice to the efforts being made to mobilize additional resources for developing economies most especially in Africa, in order to strengthen the quantum of investments to our economies.

The Punch reports that the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUOENG) said on Tuesday that it might declare a nationwide industrial action following the ongoing face-off between the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Kaduna State Government.

NUPENG, in a statement jointly signed by its National President, Williams Akporeha, and General Secretary, Afolabi Olawale, told its members to be on red alert over the attack on NLC peaceful protest in Kaduna State.

NUPENG warned that if any harm was inflicted on any of the members of the organised labour, the leadership of the union would not hesitate to call on all its members throughout the nation for a total shut down of all services in the upstream, mid-stream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.

The union said its national leadership was deeply saddened with the violent turn of NLC peaceful protests by the ‘dictatorial and despotic regime of Governor Nasir el-Rufai in Kaduna State’.

The union said it was raising the alarm following the very reliable report of the clandestine move of el-Rufai to hurt and put the lives of NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and other labour leaders in danger “in his usual blind egotistical style of running government in the state.”

The Sun says that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has suspended the capturing and issuance of new passport booklets applications in all passport offices nationwide.

A letter dated May 17, 2020, and directed to the Deputy Comptroller General by NIS Headquarters, states: “This directive, which comes into effect from today 17th May, 2021 has become necessary to allow enough time to clear all blockage of applications sequel to the commencement of the new passport regime on June 1, 2021.

“Consequent upon the foregoing, all PCOs are therefore directed to utilise this period, May 17, 2021 to May 31, 2021, to ensure that all backlogs are produced and handed over to command comptrollers for collection by members of the public concerned. New applications for passports, whether fresh or renewals, are by this circular suspended till June 1, 2021.”

Daily Sun had previously reported that the acute scarcity of passport booklets at Immigration offices nationwide is mainly due to the huge debt owed by the country’s immigration agency to Iris Smart Technology Nigeria, through its Malaysian- based parent company, Iris Corporation.

Immigration sources also said that machines for capturing and processing of passports and other working materials have deteriorated and as such, it would be difficult for the agency to meet with the high demand in passport applications.

 The Nation reports that the British Government has paid Nigeria the £4,214,017.66 looted funds recovered from family members and associates of former Delta State Governor James Ibori.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) said the Federal Government’s account was credited with the naira equivalent as of May 10.

Malami’s spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu, in a statement, quoted the AGF as confirming the receipt of the recovered loot.

There was a debate as to who should receive the money when it was first reported that it would be returned. Activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) said the money should be returned to Delta. But, another SAN, Yemi Candide-Johnson, SAN, said Delta had no valid claim to the £4.2 million.

The UK government, he argues, owns the money under its laws authorising it to confiscate proceeds of crime from persons convicted via the British judicial system, such as Ibori.

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