…Buhari Set to Assent to 2018 Budget Next Week
…Another $500bn Abacha Looted Funds Set to Be Repatriated Soon
…FEC Approves N185bn for 14 National Infrastrutures
…As AGF Mulls Bill to Punish Copy Right Violators in Nigeria

Amidst calls for reduction in cost of governance, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday,gave his nod for the payment of N500 million to the team of external lawyers who compelled telecommunications giant, MTN to agree to pay the N330 billion fine slammed on it in 2015 for SIM registration breaches.

The gesture came just as President Buhari gave indications that barring any unforeseen circumstances, he would assent to the 2018 budget by next week.

All these were fallouts of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Recall that the legal battle instituted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) against MTN has seen the corporation paying at least N165 billion out of a total of N330 billion fine.

But Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in justifying the payments, said it represented a fair deal and amounted to less than 1percent of the entire fine slammed on the company for which it agreed to pay.

Malami however gave indications that the Federal Government was in the process of forwarding a Bill on copy right violations to the National Assembly to among other things spell out sanctions and other punitive measures applicable to defaulters.

He said the action became necessary to protect intellectual property of Nigerians.

Meanwhile a treaty between Switzerland and Nigeria may soon see the repatriation of $500 million US Dollars back to Nigeria.

This according to the AGF were looted funds stashed away abroad by the family of late General Sani Abacha and other corrupt Nigerians, noting that his ministry was in the process of perfecting the repatriation modalities, a development that would go a long way in helping to facilitate infrastructural projects.

Malami said, “MTN as you will recall, instituted a case seeking to retrain the federal government from recovering the over N1 trillion imposed on it.

“The federal government engaged the services of lawyers to put up defence on its behalf as a result the case was eventually settled by the parties amicably and arising from that settlement the lawyers were entitled to their fees.

“The federal government has now sanctioned the payment of N500 million for the N330 billion agreed upon for the alleged certain breaches in their operations. This amount is less than one percent of the fee instead of the internationally recognized fee which is pegged at 5%.

“Finally was a report on the global forum on assets recovery. You will recall that in December 2017, federal government participated in global forum on asset recovery in Washington DC and during that forum, Nigeria and Switzerland signed agreement that paved way for the repatriation of $322 million relating to looted assets and on the account of that the amount was eventually repatriated back to Nigeria.

“What transpired was only reported back to the council today. The report today was not only about the signing of the agreement but the report of the eventual repatriation of the amount of money that was signed and agreed to be repatriated during the forum.

“Nigeria has also engaged other countries including the UK, US, France and others in further negotiations relating to repatriation and I am happy to report that we are almost concluding the processes relating to the repatriation of additional $500 million”.

Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole who briefed State House reporters on other memos that sailed through the FEC meeting, announced that government has settled for a National Food Security Council to be chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

Adewole noted that functions of the Council will be encapsulated in the Food Safety and Quality Bill which got the nod of Buhari to be forwarded to the National Assembly soon.

Besides this, Council approved the draft National Tobacco Control Regulation all aimed at regulating the use and consumption of tobacco products which has negative effects on the population.

According to the Minister, irrespective of the attractive tax returns from the tobacco companies, government was also mindful of the negative effects tobacco could bring to the citizens.

“Council approved Draft Food Safety and Quality Bill as well as the Food Safety Institutional Reform working document.

“It is expected that with the formal approval of these two documents, we will have reduction in the incidence of food born illnesses through so many preventive controls that are already contained in the bill and will also help us to support achievements of sustainable effective food trade that will boost and enhance the economy.

“Thirdly, it will also help to strengthen institutional capacity for food safety and quality as well as improve information and communication system for food safety in Nigeria.

“The relevance of the bill could actually be appreciated when one considers some happenings in the past when food export from Nigeria was banned in Europe. We believe that what is required is for us to strengthen institutional framework that will enable various agencies of government to work together.

“Part of the institutional framework in the bill is for us to set up Food Safety Council that will be chaired by the Vice President. As well as an inter-ministerial committee that will handle food management as well as food safety in Nigeria. This will comprise of ministers of claimant departments, agriculture, environment, science and industry, trade and investment and so on and so forth together with several agencies,”Adewole stated.

On the draft National Tobacco Control Regulation, the Minister also noted, “under this administration we have recorded several successes with respect to tobacco anti-control. Precisely early next month Mr. President approved increase in Tobacco taxes as well as alcohol. And then on the 23rd of May, government approved the framework to control illegal trade in tobacco products in Nigeria. And today, the regulation that will really enable us implement the National Tobacco Control Act was approved.

“The framework contains quite of sections that has to do with general provisions of regulations like licensing, approvals, who does what, penalties and so on and so forth. And more importantly to also enable us work closely with the state.

“We believe that once this is approved by National Assembly we will start seeing a lot of changes, effective ban on smoke areas in the country and also you will notice different warning labels on tobacco product in Nigeria”.

Similarly, about 14 federal projects cutting across road rehabilitation, repair of delapidated bridges are to be executed by the government at a total sum of N185billion.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina reeled out these projects on behalf of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

Fashola said, “the Federal Executive Council approved the rehabilitation/construction of fourteen roads in different parts of the country at a total cost of N185.276 billion.

“They include Gwoza – Damboa – Goniri – Ngamdu Road in Yobe/Borno States by Hajaig Construction Nigeria Ltd. at the cost of N34.608 billion, Mayo Belwa – Jada – Ganye – Torngo Road in Adamawa by Messrs Triacta Nigeria Ltd. at the rate of N22.699bn.

”Others are Ado – Ifaki – Otun – Kwara State border in Ekiti State at the rate of N6.002 bn, repair Makurdi bridge in Benue State by Messrs AG Visio Construction Ltd.N4.617 bn, Ihugi – Korinya -Wuse -Ankor in Benue State Datum Construction Ltd N15.641 billion.

”It also includes Gbagi – Apa – Owode in Badagry Lagos State by Messrs Smithcrown Nigeria Ltd at NN4.366 bn, construction Ijebu Igbo – Ita Egba Owonowen in Ogun and Oyo Statesto Messrs DC Engineering N9.833 bn, dualisation of Jattu – Fugar – Agenebode in Edo Phase II by Mothercat at N7.506 billion.

“Makurdi – Gboko – Wannune – Yander Section 1 in Benue State to Messrs Rockbridge Construction Ltd. at the rate of N18.669 billion, Old – Enugu – Poth Harcourt Road at Agbogugu – Abia border Spur by Messrs Setraco Ltd. at N13.933 billion, rehabilitation of Umulungbe – Umoka road at N6.249 bn, Amokwu – Ikedimkpe – Egede – Opeyi Awhum Road in Enugu State to Messrs IDC Construction N21.729 billion

“Rehabilitation of Nkwu Inyi – Akpugoeze in Anambra State Anbeez Services at N2.595 bn,construction of Sabon Birnin – Tsululu – Kuya – Maradi Junction road in Sokoto by Messrs China Zhonghao Nigeria Ltd at N4.354 billion”.

Buhari also bought into a memo presented by the Minister of Trade and Investment, Ikechukwu Enelamah, approving a whooping sum of N6.540bn for the construction of an industrial hub to be managed by the Industrial Training Fund(ITF).

The industrial hub when completed would house various workshops for skills acquisition cutting across automobile,welding and fabrication, ICT among other skills.

Enelamah explained that besides strengthening the ease of doing business policy, it would churn out quality manpower that would go into the world of work fully prepared to take up challenges.

“Council approved the award of contract for construction of the phase II and the completion of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Multi-purpose conference center in Abuja at the cost of N6,540,385,908 billion inclusive of VAT.

“The importance of this is that the ITF is one of the most important agencies of government when it comes to vocational training and skills acquisition and Abuja is a very important center of training for ITF. It has training facility that can trained 319 people per session. With this investment in this building, it can increase that capacity to about 1,200 per session. So it is a fairly big facility.

“Some of the areas of interest we want to increase training include the automotive skills sector, ICT, Tiling, plasters of Paris (POP), plumbing, GSM wielding and fabrication, refrigeration and so on.

“All these strategies are attempt to implement the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and to diversify the economy in a way that we can bring more and more of our people to have the skills that are needed to go to work,”he said.

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