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Senators protest fuel, electricity hikes

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There is tension in the camp of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, over increasing protests from lawmakers, following recent actions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

The fear, Daily Sun gathered, is borne of claims that some of the lawmakers drawn from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were plotting to convene an emergency sitting next week.

The emergency sitting, it was further gathered, is to provide an avenue for lawmakers to question the response of the leadership to recent hikes of electricity and petroleum products.

The Petroleum Pipeline and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian NationalPetroleum Corporations (NNPC), had on Wednesday announced a new ex-depot price of N151.56k for petrol.

However, some filling stations owned by Independent marketers dispensed the product at between N162 and N164 per litre, depending on their location.

Lawmakers spearheading the move against Lawan are complaining that the inaction of the leadership was fueling a conspiracy against them.

“There’s this sentiment against lawmakers in our constituencies. They think that we are not doing enough and they’ve now labelled us stooges of Buhari. They call us rubber stamp and Lawan and other leaders of the Senate are not doing anything. Yet, Lawan wants us to approve everything sent to us by Buhari because they put him in office. We made a mistake by not insisting on having our own as president. We wanted to be loyal to our party, the APC. Today, we regret it,” a senator said in confidence.

Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, in a chat with newsmen, said he was currently out of town and could not confirm if there were plans to convene an emergency sitting.

“President of the Senate called me a while ago. I’m not sure what he wanted to discuss with me. It may have been related to that. But I can’t tell. The Senate committee chairman on Rules and Business can confirm that,” he said.

As part of moves to further escalate the issue, the senator said that a world press conference was being planned. He said consultations were ongoing  at the zonal caucuses about the protest which according to him, could be concluded by the weekend.

He said many senators were disappointed in the hurried manner the fuel price hike was done without consultation with the National Assembly.

Senate president had earlier this year claimed he waded into a planned hike in the electricity tariff. He had also claimed the development resulted in its postponement till the first quarter of 2021.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Obinna Ogba, said the increase in electricity tariff and fuel price at a time the economy was yet to recover from the deadly effects of COVID-19 showed government’s insensitivity.

“The country and indeed the whole world is facing serious problem right now because of the pandemic. Therefore, these increases are not good at all. It is adding salt to injury,” he said.

But Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun has defended Federal Government’s decision to hike petrol pump price and electricity tariff, saying the right amounts must be paid to attract investments to the sectors.

He told journalists after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari to present a publication on his first one year in office that Nigerians should be able to pay the slight increase since they will also enjoy lower prices when the prices of crude oil drop.

“First, you want to enjoy lower prices when the prices of crude are low and then not want to pay for a slight increase when there is an increase in price of crude.

“The price of crude is directly proportional to the price of refined products. So, I believe that is what is happening at the moment.”

On electricity tariff increase, he observed that there had not been an appropriate pricing, which had militated against the value chain of the power sector.

He said there was, therefore, the need make the electricity value chain profitable to attract investment and have enough electricity for transmission.

“In terms of the tariff increase in the electricity industry, again, we also have to decide what we want to do. We all complain that we are not generating enough electricity and we all complain about the fact that we don’t have the right infrastructure to transmit electricity, we complain about the fact that the distribution companies do not seem to be efficient. The problem is because, perhaps, the pricing is not right.

“If you want people to invest in production of gas, in gas floatation, which our turbines and our power plants rely on, we must ensure that the entire value chain is profitable. Because if one part of it is not profitable, that means there will be a short fall in one of the value chains, if we don’t have enough investment.

“So, if you don’t have enough investment in gas gathering, if we don’t have enough investment in gas transportation, we will not have enough gas supply to sustain the quantum of generation we require as a government or as a nation. And when we don’t have that, we don’t have enough that will be transmitted to our homes and the transmission grid, and then, we continue to complain. So, really the truth is that it’s a cache 22 situation.“

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APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED

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APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED

• Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been expected to be confirmed as leader on Monday

By Richard Partington

The race to find a new leader of the World Trade Organization has been thrown into renewed uncertainty after the cancellation of a key appointment meeting following the US presidential election.

The Geneva-based WTO, which acts as an international arbiter for trading disputes, said it had put off a meeting scheduled for Monday that had been called to appoint Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director general.

Donald Trump’s administration opposed her selection in one of its final acts before the US election, despite the former Nigerian finance minister securing the overwhelming backing of the WTO’s 164 members.

The special meeting of the trade body’s general council had been convened to take a formal decision on the appointment. Officials had been set to put forward Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the candidate most likely to attract a majority, after most countries expressed a preference for her over South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.

Okonjo-Iweala had moved a step closer to becoming the first woman and the first African to be director of the global trade watchdog after securing backing from the EU, China, Japan and Australia. Liam Fox, the leading Brexiter and former international trade secretary, had run as the UK government’s preferred candidate but failed to win enough support from other countries to reach the last two in the process.

Trade experts said Joe Biden defeating Trump in last week’s election may have led to countries calling for a delay in the WTO leadership race, with the aim of securing the Biden White House’s backing for Okonjo-Iweala after he takes charge in January.

The delay in selecting a new WTO director general comes at a fragile moment for the world economy amid the second wave of Covid-19, and after years of criticism of the WTO and calls for reform from Trump.

The WTO said the meeting would be postponed until further notice, during which time the organisation would continue undertaking consultations with delegations from countries around the world to pick a new leader.

It said in a statement: “For reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November.”

  • TheGuardian

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT

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UNITES ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT

BY SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORK

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to resume visa issuance to Nigerians, the government has said.

Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, announced this via his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

He disclosed that the move was to allow Emirates Airlines resume operations in Nigeria

He said, “UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, consequently decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria.

“Commencement of the Visa issuance is condition precedent. Please bear with this unusual situation. Many thanks.”

  • SaharaReporters

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UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN

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UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN

Mr Danu had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it with customs.

The United Kingdom has returned the sum of $100,000 confiscated by airport security from Nigerian businessman, Nasiru Danu, after a court gave judgment in his favour in a confiscation suit.

Court documents and banking details seen by this newspaper showed that the money was paid with interest that accrued in the last one year as ordered by a magistrate court on September 7.

Mr Danu was intercepted by officials of the United Kingdom Border Force and Immigration officials on arrival at the London airport on September 13, 2019 after his then newly-acquired Maltese passport with which he travelled there turned out to be fake.

The businessman, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, was duped of $35,000 by a ‘travel agency’ which offered to help him obtain a Maltese passport. Unknown to him the passport delivered to him by the agency was fake.

On returning to Nigeria, Mr Danu petitioned the State Security Service (SSS) over the passport fraud and his resultant arrest and deportation from the UK.

The SSS later referred the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is now pressing charges against one Rabbi Okpara.

PREMIUM TIMES had in December reported how Ms Okpara was docked by the EFCC before an FCT High Court for allegedly defrauding Mr Danu and other unsuspecting Nigerians.

Ms Okpara is the owner of Green Valley Concept Limited, a purported travel agency.

EFCC investigators said Ms Okpara used her travel agency to lure unsuspecting members of the public to buy into a sham travel/residency arrangement in Malta.

The EFCC said Ms Okpara in her statement to the agency admitted to liaising with a third party, one Mr Ugbaja, in obtaining these fake travel document for her clients.

Count one of the charges reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara and Jude Ugbaja(at large) sometime in August 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired between yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit; causing to be used as genuine forged documents, thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP, MI7 laws of Federation Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same act.”

Count two reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara, Jude Ugbaja ( at large), Green Valley Concept Ltd and Palmary Travels and Tours Ltd, sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court forged a maltase passport with the name Nasiru Haladu Danu with number 9647443 dated 27 April/AVR 2018 with intent that it be used as genuine; thereby committed an offence contrary to 320(a) of the Penal Code, Law of the Federation 1990 and punishable under section 322 of the same law.”

Seized cash returned

Aside deporting Mr Danu to Nigeria on his arrest at the airport in September, the UK authorities also took possession of $100,000 found on the businessman.

The businessman had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it appropriately with customs authorities in Nigeria before travelling with it to the UK.

Mr Danu also explained that he travelled with that amount of cash because his credit card had failed him repeatedly, leaving him stranded on a number of occasions.

But despite his explanations, the UK authorities seized the cash and approached a court for confiscation hearing.

However, the legal team for Mr Danu challenged the UK Border agency’s move to permanently confiscate the money. They succeeded.

“The court found that the security officials were wrong to seize the money as the money was from legitimate income which was not intended for an unlawful purpose and should therefore be returned to the owners,” said Mr Danu’s lawyer, Femi Joshua.

Mr Danu’s Nigerian Bank account was credited with the money with interest in two tranches of $50,471 on September 23, according to documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

When contacted Tuesday, Mr Danu said he was pleased that the court noted that he was a victim of crime by a syndicate which swindled him and sold him a fake passport.

“The court saw that I am a legitimate and honest businessman and that the cash found on me were legitimately earned and properly declared,” Mr Danu said.

  • PremiumTimesNg

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