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Udom isn’t reckless with loans – Akwa Ibom Finance Commissioner

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From Joe Effiong, Uyo

Despite being rated as one of the heaviest debtor states by the Debt Management Office, the Akwa Ibom State Government has come out to defend Mr Udom Emmanuel as a loan-frugal governor.

That state Commissioner for Finance, Dr Linus Nkan, fielding questions from reporters on the high debt profile of the state Monday, said that Governor Emmanuel was a prudent manager and financial expert.

Nkan admitted however that the governor most often shifts the burden of contractual loans to contractors handling projects in the state.

‘What he does is that, for certain capital projects, we fashion out ways that some contractors who are given jobs or who are to be paid would be allowed to take money from the bank, while we repay them and that cycle out within that particular year,’ the commissioner stated.

The finance commissioner said the governor was committed to ensuring that any dealing with commercial banks to advance development programmes in the State are settled within the financial year.

‘Any commercial bank loan that this government ever contracted, not even one Naira will be left unsettled by the end of this administration. What we normally do is that like in 2021, all such loans that the government has taken for those contractors are cycled out, and we are even ready to take new one from the beginning of this year, which will cycle out again by December 2022.’

He said the debt profile as published by the Debt Management office appears ‘to a layman that the government is reckless in borrowing and all that. Let me clarify that it is not true.

‘The composite of that figure is made up of indebtedness and loan. Indebtedness is made up of contractual liabilities. Contractual liabilities are the amount government owe to contractors for various contracts that have been awarded.

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‘These are also embedded in this debt figure. Like in Akwa Ibom State, the massive infrastructural renaissance, starting from the last administration, accrues indebtedness. Because if you see the level of development in Akwa Ibom State, it won’t be out of place to think that not all the contractile amount were paid, some of these jobs are ongoing and some were awarded by the last administration. For instance, Eket -Ibeno Road, Eket-Etinan Road that was awarded to CCECC.

‘The job is ongoing and the last government did not finish paying the money because the job was ongoing. Even the present administration is still paying and they are at work. Part of their contract sum is part of the indebtedness and many others like that. So contractual liabilities take the lion’s share that amount,’ he explained.

The Akwa Ibom Finance Commissioner said the debt figure was influenced mostly by the massive transformation and infrastructural development undertaken by the government, adding that most of the contracts were not paid because they are not completed.

‘“In this country today, I don’t see any State is second to Akwa Ibom in terms of infrastructural development. If you compare Akwa Ibom of today to Akwa Ibom of ten years ago, it is not the same as Akwa Ibom. How does this happen? The transformation that has taken place in the State, part of it has not been paid for because some of them are ongoing. That is just the truth about it.

“The component of the loan aspect of the debt profile is not something that has to do with this administration. We also know that the government is continuing, with due respect to all the liabilities we took over, we are also servicing them. So that debt figure is not a loan. Contractual liability, gratuity and arrears of pensions are the bulk of what we have there. Not Loan,’ Nkan explained.

Nkan commended the governor for effective management of the resources to advance the development of all sectors of the state and expressed optimism that in 2022 he would do more.

‘The major constraint to the government fulfilment of its marked plan is insufficient funds. But we thank God that in Akwa Ibom State, we have a governor who is a financial expert. He sometimes breaks the rock to bring out resources to execute his project.

‘The governor is so good in financial management. With what we had, the governor had to ensure that we make the best use and utilisation of resources. I believe in 2022 it is going to be the same thing. The governor does everything to ensure that what we have, we optimise it.’

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Kebbi to partner with ‘Doctors without Borders’ on health services

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From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi

Doctors without Borders has declared its readiness to partner with the Kebbi State Government to deliver health services to the people of the state.

Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu received the team, led by their Head of Mission, Dr Shaukat Muttaqi, at Government House, Birnin Kebbi.

While receiving the team, at the Government House Birnin Kebbi on behalf of the Governor, the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Sulaiman Muhammad Argungu, welcomed the Doctors and expressed happiness about the readiness of the mission to sign an MOU and partnership with the government.

He assured the team that Kebbi State Government would provide an enabling environment for the mission to operate accordingly for optimal performance.

Head of Mission Dr Shaukat Muttaqi explained that their visit was to discuss medical services related to nutritional program and Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) in a local government area of Kebbi state MSF.

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Muttaqi said that the Doctors without Borders intends to start a ten-bed Inpatient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC)/stabilisation unit with two Ambulatory Therapeutic feeding centres (ATFCs) in Maiyama local government with ICCM services and also provision for IDPs in other LGAs related to environmental health.

According to him, Doctors without Borders are committed to providing free cost medical services to the people of Kebbi state in its initial six-month programme and looking forward to an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Kebbi State to start activities as soon as possible.

He disclosed that their team, which is an International Medical Humanitarian Organization are operating in eight states of Nigeria provides primary, secondary and tertiary health care with quick response to outbreaks.

He added: “Already the team has visited Augie, Maiyama, Shanga, Bagudo, Zuru and Dank Wasagu local government areas during the initial assessment. We are in over 70 countries of the world and we have been in Nigeria for more than 20 years providing support and health services free of charge to Nigerians.

“The team also visited the Commissioner for Health Alhaji Jafar Muhammad Zuru and the Executive Secretary Kebbi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Abubakar Abdullahi Ka’oje, Director Public Health Mr Abubakar Bagudo,” he said.

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Indonesia moves capital from Jakarta to Nusantara

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Indonesian lawmakers have passed a law, moving the nation’s capital from Jakarta in Java to Nusantara in the island of Kalimantan.

Kalimantan shares borders with Malaysia and Brunei.

The move is a step forward in one of the most ambitious projects initiated by the country’s President Joko Widodo.

Some former presidents have floated ideas of relocating the capital city in the past.

The president, widely known as Jokowi, three years ago vowed to relocate the capital city to the province of East Kalimantan.

Among the reasons are high population density and land subsidence in Jakarta, home to more than 10 million people.

Nusantara, which the new capital is called, will be built in two districts in East Kalimantan — Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara. It is set to occupy about 256,000 hectares of land.

The name of Nusantara, which can be translated as an archipelago in English, was chosen by President Jokowi, Minister for National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa has said.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, is home to some 270 million people, consisting of about 17,000 islands.

“The national capital has a central function and serves as a symbol of a country to show the identity of the nation and state,” Minister Monoarfa explained during a meeting with lawmakers at the House of Representatives building on Tuesday.

The ground-breaking of the construction project that is slated to cost $32 billion was initially expected to be conducted in August 2020.

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to put it on hold.

Some of the projects on the construction of the new capital will be carried out by public-private partnerships, and the early stage of the relocation will begin this year and is expected to end in 2024.

At this stage, the government will build a presidential palace, parliament buildings, and a housing complex in the primary zone.

The move of civil servants at the early stage must be completed before Aug. 16, 2024.

Nusantara will serve as the centre of government, while Jakarta would remain the business and economic centre of Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

A day before the lawmakers passed the bill, President Jokowi stressed that that new capital is not only about physically relocating the offices of government institutions, but also “building a new smart city.”

It is reported that Nusantara will be headed by an authority chief appointed by the president and its level of position is equal to a minister.

Several former government officials which will likely become the chief include Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and former minister for research and technology Bambang Brodjonegoro.

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BREAKING: Court grants Nnamdi Kanu N1 billion damages against FG

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From Okey Sampson, Umuahia

An Abia High Court sitting in Umuahia and presided by Justice Benson Anya has awarded N1bn to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, against the Federal Government over the infringement of his Fundamental Human Rights by the military.

In a judgment delivered Wednesday morning that last for an hour, Justice Anya said it was wrong for the military to have invaded his home in Afaraukwu, Umuahia on September 10, 2017, which made him flee the country.

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The court while delivering judgment, urged the Federal Government to apply a political solution to resolve the Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB problem.

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