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Group urges NASS against budget padding



BudgiT Foundation Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) says it is pertinent for the National Assembly to guard against padding of the 2023 budget in view of current economic reality.

Mr Gabriel Okeowo, the Country Director of the foundation, said this in a telephone interview with NAN on Tuesday, in Abuja.

He said increasing the size of the 2023 budget proposal above the N20.5 trillion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari would weigh so much on the economy.

According to him, the economy is already battling inflation, high interest rate among other economic challenges and should not be further burdened with a budget that will prompt more borrowing.

“The National Assembly should make sure that they streamline the 2023 budget proposal to make it as implementable as possible.

“From what we have seen over the years, no matter the size of the budget proposal presented to the national assembly, when it is coming out, there would be insertions that would blow it up.

“For instance, the President while assenting to the 2022 budget, said the National Assembly inserted several new projects.

“So, we have to start now to let the lawmakers know we are following up on the ongoing budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs),” he said.

He said the legislature should be able to stand its ground to ensure that it cuts down on frivolous items presented by MDAs.

He said if it would be difficult to reduce borrowing to fund the budget, the National Assembly should then be stringent on items that would form it.

He, however, said if the National Assembly refused to take to advice to streamline the budget proposal, the executive should reject it.

“On the side of the executive, it also needs to sit up because democracy is a system that checkmates itself.

“If the National Assembly ends up not doing what it is supposed to do, the Executive should be able to stand its grounds to return the budget for amendment.

“We should not for the sake of wanting to sign the budget into law by December, to keep to January-December Calender, mess up the credibility of the budget itself,” he said.

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FG Approves N24.2bn For Free Internet At Airports, Schools, Markets




THE Federal Government has approved free internet services worth N24.2 billion naira at 20 selected airports, 43 universities and six markets across the country.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Pantami, disclosed this after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday

Pantami said that the airports were selected from the six geo-political zones.

“Certain intervention projects are going to be implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Communications Commission of providing Internet in 20 selected airports in Nigeria and higher institutions of learning and also some markets to support micro small and medium enterprises.

“In each geopolitical zone, you have around three airports. In the South-West, we have Lagos and Ondo. For the South-East, we have Anambra and Enugu.

“For the South-South, we have Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom. For the North-Central we have Abuja and Ilorin. In the North-West, we have Kano, Sokoto and Kebbi. For the North-East we have Yola, Maiduguri and Gombe.”

The minister said the markets and 43 institutions which include universities and polytechnics were also drawn from the six geopolitical zones, adding that it will ease e-learning in schools and also enhance the transition to a cashless economy.

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VIN reduces false information on imported vehicles – Customs says




The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation system has recorded huge success since its introduction.

The Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, National Public Relations Officer of the service, said this in an interview with NAN in Abuja on Tuesday.

Bomodi said the system had been able to drastically reduce false information on imported vehicles.

He said, “the VIN valuation has been successful because it is no longer easy to play around with information.

“Before the introduction of the system, it was easy for people to manipulate the process because they were making manual declaration about vehicles.

“For instance, if they were bringing in 2020 model of vehicles, they might be able to manoeuvre and say they were bringing in 2010 model because they knew they would pay less’’.

He said with the system currently in place, every information about a vehicle gets revealed once entered into the system.

The customs spokesperson said the process had made it possible for the service to get appropriate duties for imported vehicles.

On whether the value fixed for vehicles was fair enough to allow for ease of doing business, Bomodi said necessary steps were followed before arriving at the current value.

He said customs arrived at a fair value for different models of vehicles after due consultation with import brokers and other stakeholders.

NAN reports that the VIN valuation policy was introduced in February for allocation of automated standard values to all vehicles being imported.

The VIN valuation system determines the value of import duty payable on a vehicle as soon as the vehicle goes through a dedicated scanning machine.

The automated scanning system was introduced to check corrupt practices and ensure trade facilitation among others.

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AfDB inaugurates project to create jobs in 3 African countries




The African Development Bank (AfDB), has inaugurated a multinational project to create jobs and improve livelihoods for youth in three African countries.

This is contained in a statement issued by Mr Ezekiel Chukwuemeka, AfDB Group, Nigeria Country Department.

According to Chukwuemeka, the project will support young farmers in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda, who are attracted to urban farming.

The project is also known as Creating Sustainable Youth Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Through Urban Farming (SYMUF).

The SYMUF project received 937,000 dollars in grant funding from the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance, a multi-donor trust fund managed by the AfDB.

He said the bank was partnering with a consortium of incubation centres in participating countries to implement the project.

They are the Africa Projects Development Centre (APDC) in Nigeria, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-Bukavu) in the DRC, and the African Agribusiness Incubation Network in Uganda.

Speaking at the inauguration in Abuja, Lamin Barrow, the Director- General, AfDB Nigeria Country Department said the bank was committed to promoting entrepreneurship.

Barrow was represented by Orison Amu, the bank’s Country Operations Manager for Nigeria.

“The bank is committed to creating jobs and providing incomes for African youths, who are attracted to urban agriculture but do not get jobs, capital, or credit to operate their agribusinesses.”

Barrow said the project would address unemployed youths and those in the early start-up stage who had not gained traction due to limited skills and financial resources.

Also, Alex Ariho, Chief Executive Officer of the African Agribusiness Incubation Network in Uganda, said the SYMUF project would help young African ‘agripreneurs’ overcome start-up incubation and management challenges.

“Working together with all the partners, we are committed to making the SYMUF Project one of the best projects sponsored by the African Development Bank,” Ariho said.

IITA-Bukavu’s Project Coordinator, Noel Mulinganya, however, said the bank has been “an important and tremendous partner over the years.”

Also speaking, Chiji Ojukwu, the Managing Director of APDC, Nigeria, said, “we are grateful to the African Development Bank for believing in the consortium.

“We are also grateful for giving us the opportunity to deploy our expertise in urban farming to develop young agripreneurs in these select African countries.

Also, Edson Mpyisi, AfDB’s Coordinator for the ENABLE Youth Programme, said, “this programme is designed to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain as ‘agripreneurs’ by harnessing new skills, technologies and financing approaches.”

Mpyisi further said the bank had invested more than 400 million dollars in 15 African countries under the programme.

Also, Damian Ihedioha, the bank’s Division Manager for Agribusiness, said, “the bank believes that Africa’s emerging vibrant wave of entrepreneurship must be supported and nurtured for the continent’s prosperity.”

SYMUF is expected to use business incubators and financial products to help transform start-up micro, small- and medium enterprises into bankable ventures.

The project is under the bank’s Empowering Novel Agri-Business Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth Programme.

It would also provide youths with agribusiness and technical skills, including climate-smart agriculture practices, technologies, market networks, and professional mentorship.

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