Nigerian Press Highlights  - Labour’s position on borrowing from pension funds, others

Africa Link Special Reports

The decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to resist any attempt by state governors to borrow from pension funds and the lawyers’ view that the non-appearance of President Buhari before the House of Representatives on Thursday has put the Nigerian Constitution on trial are some of the leading stories in Nigerian newspapers last Friday.

The Guardian

The Guardian reports that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to resist any attempt by the governors to borrow from pension funds.

The President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, who spoke in Abuja at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWN), revealed that less than five percent of all the states are contributing to the fund.

“We will not agree for governors to dip their fingers into the pension funds. As I speak, less than five percent of the whole states of the federation are contributing to the fund. The governors cannot reap from where they have not planted any seed.

“Let me sound a note of warning to the government, any day that money is touched, every Nigerian worker will be on the street and will remain there until every kobo is returned. We will protect our hard-earned money. The money belongs to workers. We contributed that money so that when we retire, we will have something to retire to.

“The money is not piled up in one place, but are warehoused in the pension retirement accounts that are operated by the pension fund administrators. So, it is not idling out there. If governors want to borrow money, there are guidelines that have been spelled out on how to borrow to fund infrastructural development,” he stated.

The newspaper says that following a declaration by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that the appearance of President Muhammadu Buhari before the National Assembly is discretionary, lawyers have said the development has put the Nigerian Constitution on trial.

Malami had made the statement in opposition to an invitation to the President by the House of Representatives to explain the worsening security situation in the country, among other matters.

Lawyers’ reactions came just as the leadership of the House disclosed that the President had not formally communicated whether he would appear before it as earlier scheduled or not. Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu stated this in an update on the matter.

Malami had declared that because the issue the National Assembly intended to interrogate the President on bordered on national security, the President’s visit to the National Assembly could not be at the behest of the lawmakers.

But while some lawyers describe the statement by Malami as unconstitutional, others argue that since the President is covered by immunity as stated in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, the position of the AGF is in order.

The Sun

World Bank: Nigeria needs to reforms of its currency

The Sun reports that the World Bank needs Nigeria to strengthen reforms of its currency, the naira, before it can approve a $1.5 billion loan, its country director said recently.

Nigeria needs the support to survive low oil prices and make it through the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognise how much Nigeria has done,” Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank’s Nigeria country director, said during a webinar with journalists.

“There needs to be a little bit more.” World Bank loans are often contingent upon reforms, and its officials said previously it was “recommending” a more unified, flexible exchange rate. The Nigerian naira hit 500 per dollar on the black market last month as a dollar scarcity squeezed the economy. Nigeria’s central bank devalued the official rate by 15 per cent in March and weakened the foreign exchange rate for exchange bureaux in November and in March.

The newspaper says that the Lufthansa Airline has resumed flight operations into Nigeria after an eight months suspension due COVID-19.

Lufthansa

The German carrier will offer up to five weekly departures from Lagos to Frankfurt and also connect the capital Abuja with three weekly departures.

All long-haul flights depart from Nigeria in the evening as overnight flights, arriving in Lufthansa’s main hub Frankfurt in the early morning.

This allows all passengers from Nigeria to get the full choice of connecting flights to European, American and Asian destinations, leaving all from the same terminal.

The airline’s General Manager, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, Adenike Macaulay said: “Lufthansa always was and will stay dedicated to Nigeria, one of our key markets in Africa.

As we have received the final permission to reopen our flight operations, we are happy to be the first airline to reconnect Nigeria directly to the centre of Europe and onwards to all other continents.

The Punch

Security and Exchange Commission

The Punch reports that shareholders and the Security and Exchange Commission kicked against the plan by the Federal Government to take over the management of unclaimed dividends and deposits in dormant bank accounts in the country.

They expressed their objection at a one-day public hearing organised by the Senate committees on Finance, National Planning, Banking, Customs, Trade and Investment on the proposed amendments to the Finance Bill 2020.

The bill is seeking amendments into 12 Acts of Parliament relating to capital gains tax, personal income tax, Customs and Excise Tariff, Companies Income tax, Value Added Tax and Stamp duties among others.

Trouble started after the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed plans by the Federal Government to borrow and manage the unclaimed dividends in the stock exchange.

The minister also reacted to the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who raised a question on whether the government would also take over the deposit in the various dormant accounts.

The newspaper says that the Debt Management Officer has said the Federal Government will offer N60bn bonds for subscription in December.

A circular by the DMO on its website on Thursday showed the breakdown to be a N30bn FGN 15-year re-opening bond to be offered at the rate of 12.5 percent to mature in March 2035; and another N30bn FGN 25-year re-opening bond to be offered at 9.8 percent and to mature in July 2045.

The bond which would be auctioned on December 16 has a settlement date of December 18.

GIK/APA