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Defence/Security

SMEDAN, BCDA mostly used to embed constituency projects —ICPC

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SMEDAN, BCDA mostly used to embed constituency projects —ICPC


The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has identified two agencies it alleged are mostly used to pad the budget.

They are the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, made this known at a two-day National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service, organised by ICPC in Abuja on Tuesday.

Owasanoye said the discovery formed part of the findings of the ICPC’s Constituency Project Tracking Initiative (CPTI) launched in April.

“We discovered that some agencies of government are favourites for embedding of constituency projects irrespective of their core mandate and capacity to deliver or supervise projects.

“The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies or the inherent weaknesses within them.

“Most notorious in this regard are Border Communities Development Agency and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria,” he said.

According to him, it was discovered that MDAs duplicate contracts for projects using the same description, narrative, amount and location of award.

He said the aim was to ensure that either the amounts allocated for the projects remained within the approval threshold of the executing agency or allocations were diverted to sponsors of the projects.

“Many of the contracts were inflated yet poorly executed. Substandard items were used against specifications in the Bill of Engineering Measurements and Evaluation (BEME).

“These diminished the value of the projects to the intended beneficiaries. Many projects were also not built to specifications.

“Some contracts were awarded without standard contract documents available to assist quantity surveyors evaluate state of project in line with the contract,” Owasanoye said.

He disclosed that under the pilot phase of the CPTI, the commission had tracked and ensured the completion of 255 out of 424 projects in 12 states across the six geo-political zones.

According to him, a total of N24.3 billion was appropriated for the selected 424 projects out of which N22.2 billion was awarded in contracts.

The ICPC boss stated that by monitoring the projects and enforcing completion, the commission had saved the government not less than N2 billion.

He explained that the amount was saved through recovery of diverted materials and equipment for school, hospital, farm, water and energy projects.

Owasanoye stated that the initiative had seen “marginal improvement in the use or supply of substandard materials and recovery of money from over valuation”.

He said that the ICPC has also identified loopholes and put in place preventive measures for future projects.

“We forced 34 contractors back to site in the selected states and a cumulative number of 200 contractors back to site across the country in states where we have not commenced enforcement activities.

“In line with the government’s vision we prioritised education and health projects which made up almost 60 per cent of projects we inspected nationwide,” he said.

Edited by Ismail Abdulaziz

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Health

School feeding programme gulps over N500m during Lockdown – Minister

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The Federal Government expended about N523.3 million on school feeding programme during the lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic.


The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (MHADMSD), Sadiya Farouq, announced this at the Presidential Taskforce briefing on COVID-19 on Monday in Abuja.

Farouk made the revelation against the rumours and speculations going around one of our key interventions of the government – the Home Grown School Feeding Programme.

She said that the programmed was modified and implemented in three states following a March 29th, Presidential directive.

“It is critical at this juncture to provide details that will help puncture the tissue of lies being peddled in the public space.

“The provision of ‘Take Home Rations’, under the modified Home Grown School Feeding programme, was not a sole initiative of the MHADMSD.

“The ministry, in obeying the Presidential directive, went into consultations with state governments through the state Governor’s Forum, following which it was resolved that ‘take-home rations’, remained the most viable option for feeding children during the lockdown.

“So, it was a joint resolution of the ministry and the state governments to give out take-home rations.

“The stakeholders also resolved that we would start with the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, as pilot cases,’’ the minister said.

According to her, each takes home ration was valued at N4,200 and that the figure was arrived at with proper consultation.

The minister said that the figure generated from statistics provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN)

“According to statistics from the NBS and CBN, a typical household in Nigeria has 5.6 to six members in its household, with three to four dependents.

“So, each household is assumed to have three children.

“Based on the original design of the Home Grown School Feeding programme, long before it was domiciled in the ministry, every child on the programme receives a meal a day.

“The meal costs N70 per child.

“When you take 20 school days per month, it means a child eats food worth N1,400 per month.

“Three children would then eat food worth N4,200 per month and that was how we arrived at the cost of the ‘take-home ration’.

“The agreement was that the federal government will provide the funding while the states will implement.

“To ensure transparency in the process, we partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) as technical partners.’’

She said that her ministry invited government agencies like the EFCC, CCB, ICPC, DSS and some NGOs to monitor the process.

“TrackaNG monitored and gave daily updates validating the programme.

“In the FCT, 29,609 households were impacted, 37,589 households in Lagos and 60,391 in Ogun, making a total of 124,589 households impacted between May 14, and July 6.

“If 124,589 households received take-home rations valued at N4,200, the amount will be N523,273,800.

Edited By: Bola Akingbehin/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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COVID-19

COVID-19 an opportunity to repent of our sins – Bishop Kaigama

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Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, says the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for people to repent of their sins and turn to God.


Kaigama said this at his first Interaction Session with newsmen Abuja, since he became the substantive Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese.

He said: “God is giving us a second chance to begin again. If we sincerely repent and turn to God, just as He forgave the people of Nineveh, He will forgive and heal us.

“We should not be blind to our personal sins and the sins of the world.

“Let us turn the positive experiences being garnered during this pandemic, like the sense of solidarity, selflessness and community into policy and practice and be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

“The all too familiar bad news about social maladies such as embezzlement of public funds, kidnaping, banditry, militancy unemployment, cybercrime, immortality, violence and killings are still with us.

“We must ask the question whether all these leave our youths with any decent future.

“We can certainly do something differently and positively for Nigeria and Nigerians. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Let us all take that little but significant step forward.’’

According to him, COVID-19 has led us to the realisation that we are not masters of our fate and that ultimately, our lives are in God’s hands, which means far better hands than our own.

“In the midst of all the harshness the pandemic poses, perhaps we might feel a gentle nudge that will help dispel the illusion that we are in control.

“God wants us to draw lessons out of the evil of COVID-19.

“Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural and human resources and should be very ready at such critical times to provide and efficiently distribute palliative to the poor and the needy.

“Our politics must be further refined, to include high principles and values, and must become an offer of self to serve the people.

“The social cancer of corruption must give way for Nigeria to speed up her journey to join the league of developed nations.

“Well intentioned anti-corruption agencies like ICPC and EFCC do not appear to have performed optimally, with the allegations of high level corruption in the news,’’ he said.

Kaigama further emphasised that COVID-19 pandemic had left some indelible lessons for Nigeria and the world at large, especially in fixing education and medical facilities.

“With the advent of pandemic, it became obvious that our medical facilities are highly insufficient to cater for emergencies like this; they are also below standard and need to be upgraded.

“Ideally, well equipped and functional medical facilities should be available and accessible in all the 774 Local Government Areas of the nation.

“We must resolve, as a country, to make access to health care possible for all.’’

In the same vein, he said the educational facilities in many of the public schools and institutions were not in line with global best practices.

The archbishop said that COVID-19 pandemic had forced schools globally to switch to online learning, saying that Nigeria must not be left behind.

“Education should be given a high priority, even though educating our students in the present circumstance will not be easy.

“It is good news that government is allowing the exit classes to resume and to sit for their final exams; all precautionary measures against COVID-19 must, however, be put in place.

“I believe strongly that the needed funds could come from the generous donations received, part sacrifice of salaries lavishly used by political parties before and during elections, recovered “looted’’ funds, etc.

“These could be used to improve or create structures for our students in public, private and faith based schools so that their academic life is not truncated.

“We cannot afford the adverse consequences of leaving our students idle for such an undetermined period of time,’’ he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Kaigama, who succeeded John Cardinal Onaiyekan, resumed his pastoral assignment in March during the lockdown from Archdiocese of Jos, where he had served for close to 20 years.

Kaigama has also celebrated his 39th anniversary as a Catholic Priest and clocked 62 years on Friday – July 31st, being a feast day of his Patron Saints, St Ignatius of Loyola.

 

 

 

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Politics

Lagos govt earmarks N1bn to boost hospitality sector

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The Lagos State Government says it has earmarked N1 billion as part of COVID-19 bailout for the hospitality sector in the state.


Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, made this known on Wednesday in Ikeja during the 6th Lagos Corporate Assembly, tagged: ”BOS Meets Business”.

The Lagos Corporate Assembly was organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives.

Sanwo-Olu said that the fund would be accessed through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).

”One of the commitment that we will continue to give to you is that when it comes to your businesses, we must continue to ensure that we give you the opportunity to do well, we give you the space to thrive.

”It is only when you do well that Lagos can continue to have that lead, that Lagos can continue to remain that place that good businesses can continue to thrive.

”We need to do a lot more for the industry. We have just given approval for a N1 billion support that will go through the Lagos Employment Trust Fund.

“The hospitality operators have to meet certain criteria to be able to access the fund.

”I am working collaboratively with the CBN to get specific sign up from them that I will donate to the hospitality industry in Lagos,” he said.

The governor said that measures already being implemented to ensure a business friendly environment included waivers of penalties on annual tax remittance and tax returns on COVID-19 donations.

He said that the measures also included the signing of a new Land Use Charge Law with a 48 per cent reduction in the 2018 payment of the charge.

Sanwo-Olu assured members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that a list of approved taxes would be published on the state’s website to resolve the issue of multiple taxation.

Representatives of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) who attended the interactive meeting, the first by the Sanwo-Olu administration, commended the state government for continuing the meeting.

Members of the OPS present included Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NACCIMA, SMEDAN and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association.

The meeting was also attended by the State Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, and other top government officials.

At the meeting, the OPS asked the state government to review the 10p.m. curfew imposed in the state because of the COVID -19 pandemic.

The OPS also urged the state government to address issues of taxation, bad roads and unwholesome attitude of some officials.

They commended the state government for the various measures already implemented and solicited more to ensure a robust environment for businesses to thrive.

In her welcome address, the Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Mrs Lola Akande, said that all the issues raised during previous meetings had been resolved by the relevant government ministries and agencies.

Akande said that the issues, contributions and feedback helped immeasurably to improve on government’s service delivery towards making Lagos a 21st Century Economy.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Economy

SMEDAN to launch rating agency to ease loan access for SMEs

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The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) says it will establish a ‘rating agency’ to enable small scale businesses have easier access to loans


Mr Oluwagbenga Ogundeji, South-West Zonal Coordinator of SMEDAN, said this during a stakeholders’ meeting with heads of small business groups and associations on the proposed rating agency on Thursday in Osogbo.

He explained that the rating agency, which would be an agency within SMEDAN, would be known as ‘Small and Medium Enterprises Rating Agency’ (SMERAN).

According to him, it will be established in partnership with the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Bank of Industry (BOI) and others.

He said the forum with shareholders was to deliberate on how the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) could access cheap loan in line with federal government ease of doing business

“A majority of the MSMEs are operating as informal entities and do not have the capacity to maintain minimum corporate governance standards.

“As a result most fund providers do not have confidence extending loans to enterprises whose track records are neither known to them nor easily verifiable.

“Such businesses are therefore perceived to have a high risk. This contributes largely to the inability of MSMEs to access affordable credit.

“The establishment of SMERAN is intended to reduce the turnaround time in MSMEs’ access to funds and other critical resources.” he said

He said the objectives of SMERAN, when established, would be to provide investment information, advisory services and credit rating services.

He added that SMERAN would also provide services to ascertain the credit worthiness of issuers of debt obligations and debt instruments.

He said SMERAN would also play the role of advisers and consultants on problems relating to the administration and organisation of MSMEs.

He said the SMERAN programme would hopefully commenced before the year ends.

Edited By: Angela Okisor/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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