Press zooms in on Minister’s statement that government borrows to import petrol, others

The report that the Nigerian Government sometimes borrows funds to buy petrol as the country continues to incur rising fuel…

The report that the Nigerian Government sometimes borrows funds to buy petrol as the country continues to incur rising fuel subsidy bills is one of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday.The Punch reports that the Federal Government has said that it sometimes borrows funds to buy petrol as the country continues to incur rising fuel subsidy bills.

The government also confirmed that there was a possibility of global economic recession this year, but stressed that Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves were healthy enough to withstand the shocks.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this on Tuesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, while speaking during an interview with Arise TV.

In the interview, monitored by our correspondent in Abuja, the minister also stated that the Federal Government at some point had to borrow funds to buy Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, despite the huge subsidy spending on the commodity.

Ahmed again insisted on ending the fuel subsidy regime, while adding that would be done gradually from the second quarter of this year by the current government.

She said the government would be able to increase the revenue performance on the 2022 figure, as well as reduce the debt service to revenue ratio.

“We also have to exit fuel subsidy, because that is also a very significant contributory factor. You can look at it in two ways – it is revenue that would have come to the government but it doesn’t because it has been spent on fuel subsidy,” she said.

The newspaper says that despite spending over $1bn to reclaim Boko Haram-held territories in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States since 2015, Nigeria’s security and that of the Lake Chad Basin remains unstable due to lingering conflicts in Libya, the Central African Republic and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

President Muhammadu Buhari said this on Tuesday, shortly after receiving the “Award for Strengthening Peace in Africa” conferred on him by the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.

“Although we are winning the war, however, as a country and sub-region, we continue to be negatively impacted by events in Libya, the Central Africa Republic, The Sahel and the war in Ukraine,” Buhari told his counterparts at the African Conference for Peace, 2023.

The President premised his argument on the free circulation of “all sorts of small and light weapons” orchestrated by foreign fighters.

He also reasoned that the idleness of African youths and non-inclusion in discussing issues that concern them is providing a steady recruitment pool for the extremist organisations wreaking havoc in various parts of the continent.

He, therefore, urged leaders to place a premium on youth development, with more seriousness and actionable ideas in promoting skills acquisitions while discouraging idleness.

This is according to a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, titled ‘President Buhari receives award for peace in Africa, lists conditions for future harmony.’

The Guardian reports that the Managing Director of Inland Containers Nigeria Limited (ICNL), Ismail Yusuf, has said the company lost about N18 billion in 2022 due to non-functional rail system for cargo movement.

He lamented that cargo movement in the country are done through roads that are not in good condition, as trucks get stuck for about three days, coupled with floods that affected a lot of people transporting cargoes from the seaport to the hinterlands.

Yusuf said the company did an average of about 15,000 TEU in 2022, which was moved by road, noting that if the rail had been working, it wouldn’t have cost more than about N9 billion per annum. He said due to the non-functional rail system, using the road costs three times more, amounting to about N27 billion.

According to him, this is because rail takes N600,000 per container or per wagon, while truck takes N1.8 million, which is about 300 per cent increase.

“N18 billion lost just only on transportation, which is for my company alone. When you aggregate it with that of other companies doing the same business, then you can imagine the number of billions that have been lost due to the non-functioning of the rail,” he said.

Yusuf, while commending the Federal Government for the rail track from Lagos to Ibadan to boost passenger rail transport, said investing in wagons for cargo is the only way government can recoup its investment and build more tracks.

“You can see the stations; the little locomotive wagons provided for the passengers, but we are yet to see wagons for cargoes. There is no way only the passenger trains can generate the money already invested. I will advise the Federal Government to buy wagons so that those in cargo movement will patronise it and then government can recoup the money it invested on rail system,” he said.

The newspaper says that the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, declared to international audience that the Commission is ready to conduct next month’s general elections.

Yakubu gave the affirmation at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) London, while speaking on ‘Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Preparations and Priorities for Electoral Integrity and Inclusion.’

The presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 25 while governorship and State Assembly polls come up on March 11.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in our preparations. Our commitment remains only to Nigerians and not to any political party or candidate. That is what the law requires of us. We cherish the institutional independence and integrity of the Commission,” Yakubu said.

The INEC chairman also disclosed that the Commission would conduct mock accreditation nationwide ahead of the elections. He said the mock exercise would be carried out across selected polling units to ascertain the integrity of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) before the main polls in February.

He, however, revealed that every BVAS machine deployed across the 774 local councils has been tested, stressing that the functionality of the machines is impressive. He added that back up machines have also been provided in case of glitches.

According to Yakubu, “we have the machines for the 2023 elections but we didn’t want to take chances. Each and every machine has been tested and confirmed functional. For the last two weeks, our officials were in the 36 states of the federation testing these machines, and the functionality is simply encouraging.

“The second thing we’re going to do, and pretty soon, is to conduct mock accreditation exercise nationwide, ahead of the elections. We won’t wait until the main elections come. We will test the integrity of these machines with real life voters in selected polling units across the country.

“We did so in Ekiti and Osun. It was fantastic and we’re going to do so nationwide. Increasingly, our people are becoming more excited about the deployment of this technology and we’re really happy.

“Also, in terms of the numbers of these BVAS machines, we always make provision in case of malfunction or glitches. There is always a back up. We have IReV technical support that will fix the machines in the unlikely event of any glitches.

“However, where it fails to function completely in a polling unit, from previous experience, there were isolated polling units, the law has a remedy that the Commission should re-mobilise and re-conduct elections in the affected polling units within 24 hours, so we are really, really comfortable where we are.”