Despite interventions from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike.
NARD President, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, stated that strike is binding on all resident doctors, medical officers below the rank of Principal Medical Officer (PMO), and House Officers across all the Federal and State Hospitals in Nigeria.
He however noted that the union had decided to exempt its members working in various coronavirus (COVID-19) isolation and treatment centres across the country, for the first 2 weeks after which they will join the industrial action.
According to Sokomba, the exemption was made in recognition of the intervention of Hon. Tanko Sanunu, Chairman House Committee on Health Services, other stakeholders and a demonstration of NARD goodwill to the country.
NAN reports that the union had reached this decision at a virtual extra-ordinary National Executive Council meeting of the association held on Sunday to review the 14-days ultimatum earlier issued.
Sokomba noted that despite series of meetings between the doctors and the Federal Government in the last two weeks, several issues remained unresolved.
Some of these issues according to him include non-payment of special allowances for the resident doctors, the deplorable state of hospitals and the lack of protective equipment for members of the union treating COVID-19 patients leading to the death of some doctors in recent times.
The doctors are also asking for universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all Federal and State Hospitals and ensuring pay parity among doctors of equal cadre, provision of funding of medical residency training in the 2021 appropriation bill, as well as the implementation of the revised hazard and payment of agreed COVID-19 inducement allowances.
“Immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance agreed with the government and healthcare workers three months ago.
“Stoppage and immediate refund of all illegal, unjust and callous cut in salaries of our members by Kaduna State and other state governments,” Sokomba said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Gbajabiamila had expressed surprise over their insistence on the industrial action, after what he described as a successful meeting between the union, the two ministers manning the Ministry of Health, and stakeholders from the National Assembly by last Tuesday.
He noted that efforts had already been put in place to meet their demands, as the sum of N4 billion was approved by the House on Wednesday and confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, for the commencement of funding of residency programme as provided for by the Medical Residency Training Act.
On the issue of a template for implementation, Gbajabiamila directed that an emergency meeting with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission be held on Monday, June 15, to produce a template within the next 48 hours.
He had also promised that the House would come up with a law to back the payment of hazard allowance and define the same for clarity. He assured them at the meeting that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether or not it is included by the Executive in the ministry’s budget.
With the steps taken, the Speaker had appealed to the union to stay the action for a while as the government speeds up the process of meeting their demands.
His appeal notwithstanding, the union commenced the indefinite strike by midnight of Monday, June 15.
Over 20% of N-Power beneficiaries are now business owners – FG
The Minister emphasized the President’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has said that about 109,823 beneficiaries of the N-Power programme now have their own businesses.
This represents about 22% of the 500,000 Nigerians that have benefited from this programme since its inception.
This was disclosed in a statement by the Minister’s Special Assistant on Strategic Communications, Mrs Halima Oyelade on Saturday, July 4, 2020. She said that the beneficiaries of Batch A and B of N-Power have established businesses in their communities.
The Minister in the statement said, “Statistics like this gives me joy and once again, I want to say congratulations; I look forward to hearing amazing testimonies and meeting beneficiaries of this programme who will be doing great things in the future”.
She emphasized President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years by creating opportunities that would improve the productivity of Nigerian youths for entrepreneurship or employment.
Going further the minister said, “Thus, the need to find ways to engage them is of utmost importance. However, the commencement of the enrolment of Batch C was predicated on the need to give more Nigerian youths the opportunity to benefit. This is because, keeping only 500,000 beneficiaries for four years defeats the purpose of Mr President’s vision, hence the need to scale up and was in no way meant to be punitive.”
While acknowledging the beneficiaries’ contributions, Farouq said, ‘’You are our model N-Power beneficiaries. Please avail yourselves of all opportunities provided by government like interest-free loans and leverage on those opportunities while using N-Power as a stepping stone”.
The minister said the ministry is working at resolving some of the challenges facing the programme which include delays in the payment of stipends, beneficiaries not showing up at their places of primary assignments and people accessing the programme while gainfully employed elsewhere.
The minister also assured beneficiaries that outstanding payments would be made and transition plans were ongoing and would be duly communicated to them on their platform.
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Some of the beneficiaries of the programme gave good testimonies about the impact of the programme in their lives and all expressed their gratitude to the Federal Government for the opportunity.
Nairametrics has reported the opening of application portal for batch C of the programme with effect from 11.45 pm on June 26, 2020. There have been over 3 million applicants that have shown interest in batch C of the programme in about a week.
Nigeria’s debt rises to $79.5 billion, as debt to revenue ratio worsens
According to data obtained from DMO, $27.66 billion (N9.9 trillion) is the total external debt.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy’s total public debt rose to $79.5 billion (N28.63 trillion) as of the first quarter of 2020, which is March 31, 2020. This represents a 15% increase from the figure that was recorded for the corresponding period in 2019, which was about $69.09 billion (N24.94 trillion).
This was disclosed in a latest publication by the Debt Management Office (DMO) on Friday June 3, 2020.
Nigeria has seen its debt stock rise sharply in recent years as the country tries to fund infrastructural and developmental projects and boost its fragile economy, which has been in and out of recession. The country’s economy has been projected to fall into recession again, due to the adverse impact of COVID-19 that has seen oil prices crash globally.
According to data obtained from DMO, $27.66 billion (N9.9 trillion) is the total external debt. This represents 34.89% of the total public debt stock. Whereas, $51.64 billion (N18.64 trillion) is the total domestic debt, which represents 65.11% of the total public debt.
The Federal Government accounts for 50.77% of the total domestic debt, which is $40.26 billion (N14.53 trillion), whereas the State Governments and Federal Capital Territory account for 14.34% of the total domestic borrowing which is $11.37 billion (N4.11 trillion).
Nigeria has been under a lot of fiscal crisis following the crash of oil prices triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The oil sector accounts for about 90% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and about 60% of its total revenue.
The country, which had lined up a series of debt issue this year, had to halt the external commercial borrowing due to oil price collapse. The Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had last week disclosed that the country would no longer go ahead with its Eurobond debt issue.
The Nigerian government, for now, is focusing on the domestic markets and concessionary loans to help fund the 2020 budget deficit which is made worse by drop in revenue. In the recently approved 2020 revised budget, the federal government is expected to borrow N850 billion from the domestic market.
This rising debt has put a lot of pressure on the government’s resources as it spent $1.69 billion (N609,13 billion) to service its domestic debt in the first quarter of 2020 alone.
Nairametrics had reported that Nigeria’s global rating is at risk due to the sharp rise in the country’s sovereign debt and a growing finance gap. According to a report from the global rating agency, Fitch Ratings, this could trigger a rating downgrade as policymakers struggle to stimulate growth and deal with the impact of low oil prices and sharp drop in revenue.
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According to Fitch, the country’s debt to revenue ration is set to deteriorate further to 538% by the end of 2020, from the 348% that it was a year earlier.
Nigeria and US Authorities battle former Enron Nigerian Subsidiary over $80 million Yacht
Both Nigerian and American governments have opposed Enron Nigeria’s appeal.
19 years after the bankruptcy of Enron Corporation, one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in American history, a former subsidiary of the company is battling Nigerian and American Authorities over the sale of a yacht valued at over $80 million acquired by Nigerian businessman Kolawole Aluko.
The yacht was seized by the US Government in 2018 after prosecutors say it was bought with the proceeds of bribes paid to Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison–Madueke.
The yacht was later auctioned for $37 million in 2019. The Nigerian government also dropped claims to the proceeds of the sale recently and a Texas Court ordered all proceeds should be retained by the US Government.
However, a former unit of the Bankrupt Enron, Enron Nigeria Power Holdings claims it’s entitled to the proceeds and demands $22 million in a bid to get an arbitration awarded to them against the Nigerian government for suspending a contract signed with Enron in 1999 to build and operate a Power plant.
Enron Nigeria claims the Nigerian government dropped claims to the proceeds of the yacht’s auction in an attempt to fraudulently transfer assets to stop creditors from accessing them. Saying Nigeria dropping its claims was “a recognition of the factual and legal basis” in a DOJ court filing.
Both Nigerian and American governments have opposed Enron Nigeria’s appeal.
Enron Nigeria Power Holdings Ltd is owned by ex-Enron staff involved in the negotiations for the Power Plant contract in Nigeria and was bought out of bankruptcy for $750,000 in 2004 by a Cayman Islands registered company.
An arbitration ruling in 2012 awarded Enron Nigeria Power Holdings $11.2 million including interest in damages against the Nigerian government.
The DOJ says Mr. Aluko bought the yacht for $82 million in 2013 and funded a lavish lifestyle for Alison Madueke in exchange for NNPC contracts valued at over $1.5 billion.
Aluko and his business partner, Olajide Omokore are also accused of laundering illicit revenues into and through the United States