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Market Digest Nigeria

News Highlights

Nigerian Newspapers Headlines (19th August, 2019)

Flood

Residents of flood prone states are living in fear as heavy downpour is expected in September according to a report by the Nigerian Hydrological services agency. State governments of the red flagged states have been advised to make adequate provisions for their indigenes to avoid fatal disasters.

The auditor general of the federation has raised alarm that the gross misconduct in the statutory financial reporting obligations by government agencies is worrisome.

Major Nigerian Newspapers have more on these stories:

flood

Punch Newspaper: Fear spreads in flood-prone areas as Sept rains loom

Some residents of flood-prone states across the country are now living in fear following the 2019 Annual Flood Outlook in Abuja released on August 7 by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency.

NIHSA had placed 15 states on the red alert asking their residents to get prepared for massive flooding while the affected state governments should put strategies in place to save their people from the impending disaster.

The states to be affected by the looming flood, according to the Director-General of NIHSA, Mr Clement Eze, are Cross River, Oyo, Enugu, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Lagos, Edo, Imo, Abia, Jigawa, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers and Bauchi  as well as the Federal Capital Territory. “River flooding as well as coastal flooding is expected to come into place as the nation approaches the peak of the rainy season,” he said while giving the 2019 Annual Flood Outlook in Abuja on August 7.

He said the agency had been sustaining the AFO in order to prevent a recurrence of the 2012 flood disaster where scores of people were killed and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. This year’s flood, he said, could be catastrophic because “flood from the upper reaches of the Niger Basin comprising Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Chad and Cameroon will be coming to Nigeria in about a month’s time.”

In spite of this warning, however, checks in some of the 15 states by our correspondents show that little or nothing is being done to prepare against the impending flood. However, some state governments are only asking the people living in flood-prone areas to vacate such communities.

But while some residents are heeding this warning, others are not. They claim they have no money to rent new apartments. But majority are expressing fear that they could lose all they have laboured for if the state governments fail to mitigate the effect of the impending flood. They are trusting God to protect them as the September flooding approaches.

In Kaduna State, it was discovered that despite warnings of imminent floods in some areas of the state, residents of Kigo Road New Extension, Kotangora Estate, parts of Ungwan-Rimi, all in Kaduna North and South Local Government Areas of the state, were unperturbed.

They (residents) are still living as though there are no warnings. One of our correspondents, who visited areas close to the Kaduna River bank, saw residents going about their normal business; some literally resigning to fate.

According to a resident of Kotangora Estate, in Barnawa area of the state, Mr Saidu Yusuf, there is no preparation to relocate the people living close to the river. He lamented that if the Nasir-el-Rufai government had done its own beat, the perennial flooding in the area would have ended. He said the government should have long before now dredged the river while calling on neighbours especially those close to the river bank to be on the look out for the rains.

Yusuf said, “The major problem of this area is not the flooding but the inability of the government to dredge the river. If the government had dredged the river, the problem would have long become a thing of the past. So, what we expect the  government  to do, is that during the dry season, they should take the initiative to dredge the river.”

On his part, the Chairman of the Kotangora Estate Residents Association, Mr Victor Olushola, lamented how floods had ravaged the area in the past. Olushola  said, “We are aware of the flood alerts but the government has not really done well in terms of sensitisation. We have resolved that we shall accommodate our neighbours living close to the river if there is flooding. “We are equally encouraging our neighbours close to the river to move their property to the houses of those that are safe from the flood in case it happens.”

But Okechukwu David, a resident of Kigo Road New Extension, another flood – prone area in the state, said relocating remained a pipe dream due to the current economic hardship in the country. He said, “Where do I get the money to relocate? Flood is an annual ritual for us here. It will come and go. We have been experiencing this for many years. God will protect us.”

But as of the time of writing this report, government appeared not to have plans to dredge the river before September. An official of the Kaduna State Environmental Protection Agency, who pleaded anonymity, told The PUNCH that there was no way the government could dredge the river before September. He advised residents living in flood-prone areas to dispose of waste in hygienic manner.

The state Commissioner for Environment, Mr Ibrahim Husseini, had alerted residents close to the Kaduna River to an imminent flood and directed them to vacate the area.

In Cross River State, residents have even been suffering from the effect of flood when the predicted September flooding has not even started. One of the victims of the recent flooding in the state, Inyang Akak, who resides on Archibong Ika Street behind the Cross River University of Technology staff quarters in Calabar South, narrated his harrowing experience after a downpour recently. He said, “It was indeed a serious calamity that befell me. I was at work when the fence caved in as a result of accumulated pressure of the flooding. I lost most of my belongings especially books and personal effects.”

Despite the warning that flooding might still occur in the weeks ahead, he said he had resigned himself to fate since he did not have money to rent a new apartment. However, the acting Director-General of SEMA, Princewill Anyim, said “structural and non structural steps” were being taken to prevent flooding in the wake of the warning by NIHSA.

However, residents of Nkpolu community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State have started fleeing their homes over fear of being caught in the predicted impending flooding by NIHSA. Stating the preparedness of Nkpolu community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State towards the impending flooding, the Chairman, Community Development Association of the community, Achinike Orugbuogwu, said some residents of his community had fled the area.

He added that though the CDA wrote the state SUBEB to allow the community to use a section of the primary school as a camp for the impending flood victims, “they turned down our request and asked us to look for somewhere else.” He said the residents were living in fears because thousands of Nkpolu community residents were sacked by flood in 2018.

When contacted to speak on the efforts being made by the state government to mitigate the effect of the predicted flooding, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Paulinus Nsirim, said the government had scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to discuss strategies it would employ to tackle the impending flood crisis.

However, the people living around flood-prone areas in  Makurdi, Benue State may have resigned themselves to fate despite the warning given by the state government that they should vacate the areas. One of our correspondents, who visited Wadata, Wurukum and the bank of the River Benue, observed that residents of the affected areas were not taking the threat of possible  flood  with seriousness.

According to Madam Aisha, the flood alert is not a problem to her. She said, “We are used to flood in this area and the state government has been telling us to relocate but where are we relocating to? If the state government provides  a place for us, we will gladly move to the place, until then we will wait to see the flood.”

When one of our correspondents visited the bank of River Benue, it was observed that the volume of water was steadily rising sending ominous signs of imminent flood. A community leader in Wadata, Alhaji Aliyu Shaban, said that residents of the community had decided to assist in evacuating the dirt from culverts for easy flow of water.

But the General Manager,  Benue State Urban Development Board, Rev. Saint Gbileka, told one of our correspondents that government  had identified some structures erected on floodplains, adding that such buildings would be demolished. Gbileka maintained that his office had put every necessary mechanism in place to  carry out  demolition of such buildings and clear the drains for free passage of water at various flood-prone areas particularly around Gboko Road, North Bank area and Wadata axis.

The state Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dodo Ahire,  added that government was putting necessary measures in place to address the  drainage system in the state and called on those living in the flood-prone areas to relocate.

However, some residents of Ngenanwanta – Ezinesi and Ohofia both in Oduma Town in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State have started relocating from their houses after the flood warning alert. Some residents of the two communities who spoke to The PUNCH lamented the pain flooding had caused the community in the past.

At Ohofia, the residents told The PUNCH how two people got drowned during the 2017 and 2018 flooding disasters at Attah River. The leader of the community,  Moses Onyeabor, who conducted one of our correspondents round the houses where the occupants had abandoned and relocated to safer area, said they left because of the horrible experiences they faced in the past due to flooding.

He said that he and  over 20 families had abandoned their houses and relocated to safer places since Attah River had overflown its bank.  “The government should dredge Attah River so that we will have a very good bridge” he said. Another resident, Bishop Nwigwe Njoku, told The PUNCH that he could not abandon his house because, he had no building elsewhere to relocate to.

In Lagos State, some residents of the flood-prone areas have disagreed with the government over preparations being made to mitigate the impending flooding in September. While a community leader in Ikorodu, Obatungashe Adebayo, said there was no sign that the Lagos State Government was doing anything to prepare for the flood, the government said it was prepared for the rains.

Adebayo, who is the General Secretary of the Igbo Olomu Community Development Association, pointed out that the Odo Afa Bridge around Ishawo Road always created problem for residents during the rainy season. He said, “In all parts of Ikorodu, there is nothing to show there is any preparation for flood. Even the roads the government was constructing have been abandoned. The two major roads under construction in Igbogbo and Ishawo have been neglected. People are suffering here.”

But the President of the Lekki Residents Association, Kayode Otitoju, said although the area was well planned, it had flooding problems because some residents failed to clear their gutters. He said, “The master plan gave Lekki a good drainage system. The three primary drainage systems are functioning well. They are cleared at least twice a year. We just cleared the two major ones.  “Where people are well coordinated and the gutters are cleared, the maximum time is 15 minutes. But when the tertiary gutters are blocked, there could be stagnant water for up to a week.”

However, the spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, South-West zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, explained that the agency held a meeting with the state’s emergency agencies to prepare them for the coming flood. He noted that the Nigerian Meteorological Agency had also been advised to be  providing hourly information on rainfall in the country.

Farinloye, however, said Lagos could witness the heaviest flood in the country.  “In every part of the country, there has been consistent rainfall. But in Lagos, in the past three weeks, there has not been rainfall, and that is a signal that when the rain eventually comes, it could be forceful.  “The rain that should have come in three to four weeks may come in the remaining part of the month. That means we must prepare for heavy rainfall in Lagos. And one of the preparations is alerting the council and state emergencies,” he said. The NEMA spokesperson said most of the drains and canals, which had lasted for years, were not built to withstand the current flooding situation.

But the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the state government was prepared for the worst. He said, “We realised the topography and the vulnerability of Lagos State to flood. Empirically, we have analysed that out of the 57 LGAs in Lagos, about 33 of them are vulnerable to flood. So, we are strengthening our local emergency committees. We have also started carrying out simulation among key stakeholders that are important in managing emergency in the state.  “We have also bought sophisticated equipment, zoned LASEMA and decentralised our operations. We are carrying out simulation to respond to flood disasters in Lagos State. “By next week, we will find out from the local governments to ensure they comply with what we have put in place. Some of our relief camps too, we are putting final touches to them. While we believe the situation will be handled, we are preparing for the worst. If need be, we will evacuate the citizens who are vulnerable to our relief camps.”

In Abia State, it is discovered that over 65 erosion sites in the three senatorial districts in the state; Abia North, South and central may worsen the impending flood in the state. In Abia North, local government areas mostly affected were Isuikwuato and Bende.

According to the member representing Bende Federal Constituency at the Federal House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, the impact of floods and erosion in Bende Federal Constituency needs an urgent intervention. “It is not only in Bende , it is in Isikwuato and Ohafia. If we keep quiet, our communities will be completely wiped off. The action has to be now to avoid  greater damage. It is killing us and leaving the living with the pangs of hunger,” he said.

flood

Guardian Newspaper: Auditor-general indicts presidency, EFCC, NASS

Almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been indicted for financial wrongdoings in the latest fiscal assessment of the country. The indictment came against the backdrop of the much-talked-about fight against corruption being waged by the Federal Government.

Some of the cases of irregularity included improper records of transactions, unsubstantiated claims and outright non-report. For instance, an estimated N500 billion was submitted to the National Assembly. But the money, according to the 2016 report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, was not properly accounted for. The situation however might not be resolved any sooner because of a lack of enabling laws that would compel and sanction erring MDAs that ignore audit queries.

The Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Anthony Ayine, lamented that the gross violation of statutory financial reporting obligations by government agencies is worrisome. “Most of the government corporations, companies and commissions have not submitted their audited accounts for 2016 to me. Only 51 audited financial statements for 2016, and 149 for 2015, have been submitted to my office as at December 27, 2017, despite the provision of Financial Regulation 3210(v), which enjoins these bodies to submit both audited accounts and management report to me not later than May 31 of the following year of account. “As at April 2018, 109 agencies have not submitted beyond 2013; 76 agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year; while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception,” Ayine said.

An analysis of the report showed that government agencies, despite the anti-corruption campaign, have increasingly become more reckless with public finance, with 323 agencies failing to submit reports in 2016. In 2015 and 2014 however defaulters numbered 215 and 148. Highlighting a breach of transparency and accounting standards, the report further detailed unremitted deductions worth more than N3.79 billion involving over 40 agencies including the presidency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the National Assembly.

It noted that about N13.96 billion reported as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation. Besides, the EFCC was listed as one of the agencies with “doubtful cash balance” of over N315 million. Others on the list include the House of Representatives (N291.68 million) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (N343.7 million).

The State House, Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, and EFCC led 62 other MDAs on the list of government offices with outstanding personal advances estimated at N4.87 billion as at December 31, 2016. The audit inspection of accounting records at the Federal Ministry of Health showed several overdue cash advances of N380.9 million outstanding as at October 2016. Some of these have been outstanding since 2014, even as multiple others were granted without retiring the previous ones, contrary to financial regulations on granting and retirement of advances. The magnitude of the amount involved suggests the absence of an effective internal control in respect of advances.

At the Ministry of Trade and Investment, 13 payment vouchers of N60.39 million were raised for payment of estacode and air tickets for staff. All were, however, without supporting documents as required by Financial Regulation 603.

President Muhammadu Buhari has consequently been accused of encouraging fiscal indiscipline by refusing to assent to sensitive bills on fiscal governance. He has also been blamed for showing a lack of concern for the economy by keeping the national budget perpetually “incapacitated” and subjecting it to a three-month abuse by delaying the appointment of ministers. The president who has repeatedly said he would return the budget calendar to the January-December cycle rejected the Budget Timeframe Bill and has not come up with a working alternative. Also, since January 2019, a duly passed Federal Audit Reform Bill sent to him for assent has not been signed. There has not been any communication from the presidency about its rejection.

The bills however have lapsed. Since the Eighth Assembly which drafted them has ended, they would require fresh legislative exercise, lasting years perhaps, and additional millions of naira in cost. The fiscal anomaly meanwhile appears set to continue.

In his reaction, Taiwo Oyedele, Partner/Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services at PwC Nigeria, stressed the need for fiscal transparency in the country. He cited a national survey by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, which showed that about two in every three adults do not trust government with their taxes, hence about 83 per cent of individuals and nearly 70 per cent of businesses do not consider tax evasion as wrong. “With such a high level of apathy towards tax, it is impossible to move the needle on revenue generation. Government at all levels must urgently start taking steps to address fiscal transparency issues to build the much-needed trust in the system. “Based on the audit report by the AGF, it was revealed that the National Assembly, the presidency and some agencies such as the EFCC defaulted in remitting various taxes, including the Pay As You Earn of their staff and Value Added Tax (VAT) on payments to their vendors,” Oyedele said.

He noted further: “This trend unfortunately sends the wrong signal from the top and further dampens citizens’ tax morale. The vast majority of citizens and Nigerian businesses are unwilling to voluntarily comply with their tax obligations mainly because of lack of transparency and non-commensurate social services. “This is a key factor responsible for Nigeria’s low tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio. Addressing the problem could easily raise the country’s tax revenue by over 100 per cent, from the current six per cent to at least 12 per cent of GDP.”

The Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, on his part, faulted the president’s rejection of the Budget Timeframe Bill. He said: “It was clearly evident that the president was misled and misadvised by his legal and fiscal governance team. In one breath, he kept repeating the desire of his administration to return the budget calendar to normalcy but when the opportunity presented itself on a platter of gold, to walk the talk, he declined. “The bill was not an executive bill and he offered no old or new ideas on how the bill could be remedied, to return to the January-December calendar,” he said.

Onyekpere noted that the Federal Audit Service Commission Bill or the Audit Reform Bill received a much colder treatment. According to him, “The president neither formally declined assent nor gave assent to this bill. It is customary when the president declines assent to send a letter to the National Assembly, indicating his reasons for declining assent. He just acted as if the bill was not forwarded to him. “It shows a clear lack of understanding of what is needed for fiscal governance, transparency and anti-corruption reforms. It could also be interpreted as a lack of political will on the part of the administration to implement reforms. The implication is that the government does not believe in most of what it says. It believes more in the propaganda of reforms, rather than actually implementing real reforms. “There is evidence of lack of capacity and political will on the part of this administration to timely and properly account for resource expenditure. Budget Implementation Reports (BIRs) no longer come on time and no longer reflect what actually happened. “Fiscal stability is part of fiscal responsibility and transparent reporting is a key cornerstone of the two. Therefore Nigeria cannot be said to be fiscally stable in an environment of uncertainty and failure to report timelines, coupled with the administration’s impunity mindset that believes it owes the citizens no reporting obligation.”

The audit bill was expected to reveal and plug channels of corruption, compel and sanction MDAs that ignore audit queries, monitor compliance of MDAs, and make the office of the AGF independent. Dr. Titilayo Eni-tan Fowokan said such low-level fiscal compliance by government offices is obtainable when enforcement is applied on corporate taxpayers and citizens without commensurate pressure and oversight on government agencies.

According to the Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, “When a country is transparent in reporting its resource utilisation and demonstrates accountability to the citizens, voluntary tax compliance is encouraged and the level of tax compliance vis-a-vis tax revenue generation increases.” Also, a development consultant, Jide Ojo, told The Guardian it is disheartening that the president rejected bills that would have ensured good governance after resources had been expended on their passage. “Now that the government has signed on to Open Government Partnership, it needs to show better transparency and accountability in governance. This will help in the crusade against corruption and financial instability,” Ojo said.

In his own submission, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda Edetaen Ojo said: “The fact is that our current audit system is quite archaic and in dire need of modernisation. So, it is very important that a system that has passed through a participatory and consultative process of a variety of stakeholders and also responds to the key concerns of independence and reliability is put in place.”

According to him, while President Buhari is not an expert on issues of fiscal governance, the quality of assistance he is getting from his advisers and other relevant officials is disturbing. “As a president who has put anti-corruption as his biggest preoccupation, this is an issue that has a huge impact on public sector corruption and should therefore be a priority for him, if he intends to be effective in his war against corruption. “It seems to me that the anti-corruption war is deliberately backward-looking, as it tends to target government officials in the last administration with good reason, but is extremely reluctant to institute legal measures to stem or prevent future acts of corruption, and even more reluctant to go after members of the administration who have also been accused of acts of corruption. “If that is the entire strategy, it is flawed and bound to fail because such an approach would only serve to politicise the anti-corruption war and thereby undermine its effectiveness.”

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Sun Newspaper: Ekweremadu attack: PDP’s “open support” for IPOB emboldened group, APC says

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has claimed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its leaders should not exonerate themselves from the attack on the former Deputy Senate President (DSP), Ike Ekweremadu, accusing them of playing politics when IPOB “raised a terror in the South East.”

Condemning the attack on Ekweremadu on Saturday in Nuremberg, Germany, in a statement signed by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the ruling party expressed regret that some of the people and organisations who openly supported IPOB in the past are now raising their voices.

The statement reads:

“The APC strongly condemns the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu, immediate past Deputy Senate President and serving Senator by members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on Saturday in Nuremberg, Germany. “Those involved in the despicable actions and the organisation they represent are unworthy in character. No Nigerian should be assaulted in the manner Senator Ekweremadu was.

“It is an indecent action and it is below the acceptable standard of behaviour expected of our citizens whether in Nigeria or abroad. “It is, however, regrettable that some of the people and organisations who had offered these irresponsible elements open support in the past are raising their voices now.

“It would be recalled that the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its leaders chose to play politics over a matter that called for collective patriotic actions when IPOB raised a terror group in the South East. “It is clear that PDP and its other shortsighted co-travelers who were the main cheerleaders of IPOB owe this country an apology. IPOB hid under regional identity to perpetrate criminality having recruited some misguided elements and miscreants.

“Are we surprised by the PDP’s hypocritical reaction to the unfortunate attack on Senator Ekweremadu? No! The PDP and their leaders have acted true to type. “This is what happens when politicians become myopic and allow narrow sentiments becloud their sense of judgement. “We all have a responsibility to collectively rise against evil wherever we find it and in whatever guise it appears. We hope lessons have been learnt from this unfortunate incident.”

 

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