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FG: Only 5% of Nigerians have above N500k in bank accounts, blames last admin for unequal wealth distribution

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun, said wealth in the last administration was unequally distributed, saying only the elite benefited from the administration.

Edun, while appearing on Channels TV, said the federal government’s policies were geared towards correcting wealth inequality, where the elite were prioritised over the majority of Nigerians.

Wealth inequality, or wealth gap, measures wealth distribution in a country. It is the difference between the richest and the poorest in a country or location.

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The minister said: “Wealth inequality is similar to income inequality, although it also includes the value of bank accounts, stocks and investments, homes, and personal possessions. It’s a major determinant of an unequal standard of living.

“There has been an effort to ensure that the people’s money is not in the hands of a few. And on that point, I must emphasize that when we talk about the last eight years before Mr. President came to power, there was this liquidity built up.

“The issue was that the funds were going to a few. Only about 5% of the population have bank accounts that have more than half a million in them. So, the majority was left out for eight years. They are on the sidelines while a small minority enjoys.

“That is the major correction being made by Mr. President now. That is the major microeconomic reform that has been put in place.

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“So, government revenue that was outside the federal government consolidated revenue funds has been brought back to the government funds,” Edun said.

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Adeleke demands decentralisation of power

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Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, has called for devolution of power to the states, rather than centralisation of governance powers and responsibilities.

The governor said employing such a strategy to tackle the challenge of inflation ravaging Nigeria’s economy, would yield the expected result.

Adeleke stated this on Sunday at the combined 10th undergraduate and 6th post-graduate convocation of the Adeleke University, Ede, where 1092 students were conferred with first degrees, masters and doctorate degrees, held at the stadium on the campus of the university.

He observed that the government was experimenting with many strategies to tackle the challenge of inflation, noting that there was an urgent need to move many items on the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, said the states are better positioned to handle many items for which the centre is presently responsible for.

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“You may also want to note that governments at different levels are working hard to address the parlous state of the economy. At the National Economic Council meetings, both the federal and the state governments regularly brainstorm on finding solutions to the economic hardship, unemployment, and hyperinflation facing the nation. Several options are being experimented on.

“For us as a state, we believe the solution lies in the devolution of powers and financing to the state governments. There is an urgent need to move many items on the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. The states are better positioned to handle many items for which the centre is presently responsible.

“So the solution is more devolution rather than more centralisation of governance powers and responsibilities. We must, as a nation, focus on economic federalism. This will deepen subnational prosperity, create an enabling environment for job creation, and boost local capacity across the sectors.

“We must, however, continue to maintain national stability and unity. We can not escape the several issues facing us as a nation unless we harness our potential across the regions. But only when there is peace can we resolve the economic question. We will continue to support President Bola Tinubu as all levels of government grapple with the crisis of the moment,” Adeleke said.

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In his admonition to the graduates, the governor urged them to take the current economic turbulence in the country as an opportunity.

He tasked them to be innovative and enterprising, saying they must tap into the turbulence to build a future of prosperity.

Delivering a commencement speech, Nigerian historian, Prof Toyin Falola, urged the graduating students to face the world without fear and turn challenges into opportunities for excellence.

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Why I rejected senate committee chairmanship -Ndume

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Two days after his removal as the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume has said the reason why he declined the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Tourism, is that he lacks the experience and exposure to lead such a sensitive group.

The Borno South lawmaker said this in his country home in Maiduguri on Friday about 48 hours after he was removed as the Senate Chief Whip, maintaining that he never wanted to be a senate whip after serving as the leader in the eight Senate

The lawmaker said he was given the chance to choose which committee to serve as the vice chairman having successfully led the campaigns that brought about the emergence of Godwill Akpabio as President of the Senate.

“Secondly, the party that recommended to the Senate that I should be removed from being the chief whip of the Senate, I take that as an act of God because if it is God who gave me that position. It is God that took it through APC. So, I bear no grudges about that,” Ndume said.

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“After all, I did not contest to be the chief whip. I did not contest to be the vice chairman of the appropriation committee. I contested to be… one of the Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and God granted me that victory and I’m happy with God, what God has given to me.

“So, I’m not interested in accepting the committee on tourism for the two reasons I told you. I told you I am inexperienced in that. I don’t know anything, I’m not knowledgeable about tourism. So, I would, if any, prefer to remain as an ordinary member so that I can learn about tourism,” the Borno South lawmaker said

Reacting to his criticism of President Bola Tinubu, Ndume said he stood by his word and hoped the President would take appropriate measures to eliminate the suffering of the people.

He said, “I did not say anything wrong. Therefore, I want to state that I stand by all my statements in the interview I granted.

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“So, I know that I’m not wrong. The people are not wrong by speaking the truth and standing by the truth.

“And I pray that the president who by now, I expect the message should have gotten to him, looks at what I have said and takes appropriate measures to eliminate the suffering of the people.”

On the charge to resign from the APC, the senator said he was a founding member of the party.

He also stated that when ex-President Muhammadu Buhari in the company of President Bola Tinubu ordered him to sign a document to join APC at the Imo House in Abuja, he informed his people before going public hence he would consult his people before deciding on whether to leave the APC or not.

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“So, I am not a new member. I didn’t join APC just like that. It was in consultation with my people that I joined APC.” the lawmaker said.

Ndume said he could not speak up immediately after his sack because he was mourning the death of a family member.

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Inferior fuel: FG demands Dangote refinery’s diesel report, orders new test

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The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, is expecting fresh reports to confirm the real sulphur content of the diesel produced by the Dangote refinery as the company debunked claims of inferior fuel production.

The NMDPRA spokesman, George Ene-Ita, in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said the agency had done its job and would not engage in a media fight with anybody over the claims made by the NMDPRA Chief Executive, Farouk Ahmed, that Dangote’s diesel has more sulphur content than imported one.

According to Ene-Ita, the authority has about 15 engineers and scientists embedded in the Dangote refinery, whose fresh report about the refinery’s sulphur content will be out on Monday (today).

The PUNCH reported Ahmed as alleging that the diesel from the Dangote refinery contains high sulphur content.

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Reacting to Dangote’s allegations that the NMDPRA was giving licences to some traders to import dirty fuel into Nigeria last week, Ahmed argued that it was the Dangote fuel that had a larger content of sulphur.

He also said the refinery, which has been selling diesel and aviation fuel in Nigeria for months, had yet to be licensed, stating that it was still at the pre-commissioning stage.

“The claim by some media houses that there were steps to scuttle the Dangote refinery is not so. The Dangote refinery is still in the pre-commissioning stage. It has not been licensed yet; we haven’t licensed them yet. They are still in the pre-commissioning. I think they have about 45 per cent completion,” Ahmed declared.

The NMDPRA boss warned that Nigeria could not rely heavily on the Dangote refinery for its fuel supply.

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According to him, the refinery had requested the regulator to stop giving import licences to other marketers so as to be the only fuel supplier in Nigeria.

“We cannot rely heavily on one refinery to feed the nation, because Dangote is requesting that we should suspend or stop importation of all petroleum products, especially AGO and direct all marketers to the refinery, that is not good for the nation in terms of energy security. And that is not good for the market, because of monopoly,” he stressed.

Speaking about quality, he said, “So, in terms of quality, currently the AGO quality in terms of sulphur is the lowest as far as the West African requirement of 50 ppm is concerned.

“Dangote refinery and some modular refineries, like Waltersmith refinery and Aradel refinery, they are producing between 650 to 1,200ppm. So, in terms of quality, their product is much more inferior to the imported quality,” he alleged.

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Reacting during a tour of the refinery by members of the House of Representatives led by the Speaker, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, over the weekend, Dangote asserted that products refined at the world’s largest single train refinery are of superior quality compared to the imported fuel.

The speaker and other members had observed the testing of Automotive Gas Oil from two petrol stations alongside the same taken from the Dangote refinery.

The diesel samples were procured from two well-known filling stations near Eleko junction along the Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos, by the lawmakers.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Downstream, Ikeagwunon Ugochinyere, and Chairman of the House Committee on Midstream, Okojie Odianosen, oversaw the collection of samples from the Mild Hydro Cracking unit of the Dangote refinery for testing of all the samples.

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The Dangote laboratory tests were said to have revealed that Dangote’s diesel had a sulphur content of 87.6 ppm while the other two samples showed sulphur levels exceeding 1,800 ppm and 2,000 ppm respectively.

Dangote faults NMDPRA
Speaking, Dangote emphasised that the findings had debunked claims made by Ahmed that imported diesel surpasses domestically refined products.

The Africa’s richest man openly challenged the regulator to compare the quality of refined products from his refinery with those imported, advocating for an impartial assessment to determine what best serves the interests of Nigerians.

“We produce the best diesel in Nigeria. It is disheartening that instead of safeguarding the market, the regulator is undermining it. Our doors are open for the regulator to conduct tests on our products anytime; transparency is paramount to us. It would be beneficial for the regulator to showcase its laboratory to the world so Nigerians can compare. Our interest is Nigeria first because if Nigeria doesn’t grow, we have limited capacity for growth.

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Dangote argued that the imported products being encouraged by Ahmed have failed in tests, saying most of the importers have fake certificates because the owners of the laboratories have been told what to write.

On the allegation of monopoly, Dangote said, “If you are saying how can Dangote alone supply the market, are you saying the N4bn that the NNPC spent now on the activation of their refineries in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt is down the drain? Are the refineries not going to work? They have announced a date. If they are there, we cannot be a monopoly because we are not the only one; actually, they are more powerful than us. So, there is no way we can be a monopoly, it is not done.”

Speaking about the sulphur content, he added, “I am surprised for somebody to come and mention that we have a bad quality; we and other modular refineries. I can’t talk of the quality of the modular refineries, but our own today is 87ppm and by Monday, we will be at 50ppm, by the beginning of August, we will be at 10ppm.

“All the test certificates people are busy flaunting around today are fake. Where are the laboratories? We have the laboratory.

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“The demarketing of a company by a regulator that he is supposed to protect is very very unfortunate. We produce the best diesel in Nigeria and if the regulator wants, he can come any time to conduct a test. I would like the media to show our lab and I would like the regulator himself to show us which lab is he using. As a regulator, he is supposed to have a lab. If the regulator doesn’t have a lab, then we have an issue because he cannot rely on somebody. He is supposed to check us.”

However, while commenting on the claim that the Dangote’s diesel has 87ppm sulphur content, the NMDPRA spokesman posited that a lot might have changed within a space of five days.

“We are not fighting anybody. Dangote refinery is the same as an indigenous local refinery. We are regulators, we don’t fight in the media. We have done our job, and that is it.

“You know we are dealing with engineering and time, and when we deal with engineering and time, it means that whatever claims put forward can be put to test and verified or debunked. If you recall, the ACE made that pronouncement on the sideline of an interaction on Wednesday or so. Between that time and now, it’s been like five days, a lot can change. So, 650ppm or 500 can come down to whatever.

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“What I am saying is that I can’t give you any verifiable result for now, being a Sunday evening, until perhaps tomorrow when we will be in a position to review our technical report that must have been submitted by our engineers who are embedded in that plant. What normally comes to us are weekly reports. These particular tasks are done across the week from Monday to Sunday; even now, operations are going on and our engineers are there. So, I can’t speak to the claims made by that refinery now,” Ene-Ita explained.

On the insinuation that ACE may be relying on a report from other laboratories to describe his fuel as inferior, he replied, “Of course we have laboratories all over the country. Does Dangote work in NMDPRA? He doesn’t work in NMDPRA.”

The NMDPRA official fumed over the allegation that the regulator was demarketing a company it should protect, wondering if Dangote wants the agency to bend the rules in his favour.

“Why should we protect any company? We are regulators, operations are going don’t protect anybody; we regulate operators. If he says protect, it means we are shielding. It means that we should bend the rules. We don’t do that, we regulate every company.

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“And we don’t demarket, what does he mean? You only demarket your competitors to gain an advantage. We are not competing with an operator. The word, ‘demarketing’, is only used when two competing brands are fighting. We are not an operator; we are a regulator. How can we demarket? Please, I take exception to that, on behalf of my organisation. We are not demarketing anybody. We are regulating every local refinery, including NNPC,” he clarified.

When told perhaps the business mogul means the regulator should be boosting local refining capacity, he retorted, “That’s what we are doing. As we speak, there are over 15 engineers and scientists of the NMDPRA working with them for the last how many months. That’s how we get our reports. We have engineers and scientists there, who go there. That’s how we get them. That is why I keep on saying we don’t want to personalise this matter. We are working to see that the local refining capacity is booted to a point where we are self-sufficient in producing our fuel here.”

Dangote imports crude
Meanwhile, the Dangote refinery is in talks with Libya to secure crude for the 650,000 barrels per day plant and will also seek Angolan oil, a senior executive, Devakumar Edwin, told Reuters, as the refinery seeks to overcome problems with domestic crude supplies.

Since Dangote began operations in January, it has been unable to get adequate crude supplies in Nigeria, which, although Africa’s biggest oil producer, is struggling with theft, pipeline vandalism and low investment.

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Dangote has resorted to importing crude from as far as Brazil and the United States.

“We are talking to Libya about importing crude,” Edwin told Reuters late on Saturday. “We will talk to Angola as well and some other countries in Africa.”

He declined to give details about the talks but said international traders and oil companies were among the biggest buyers of Dangote’s gasoil, much of which was being exported.

“The biggest off-takers are the two big traders Trafigura and Vitol and BP and, to some extent, even TotalEnergies. But all of them are saying they are taking it to offshore,” Edwin said.

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Traders and shipping data have shown that Dangote is increasing gasoil exports to West Africa, taking market share from European refiners.

Dangote has said the refinery will begin the sale of Premium Motor Spirit in August, with a plan to stop the importation of refined fuel into Nigeria.

Marketers worried
However, Nigerians and marketers have been expressing concern over the ongoing controversies, especially after the regulator said the country would continue to import refined petroleum products into Nigeria.

The PUNCH recalls that while accusing the IOCs of plans to frustrate the refinery, the Vice President of Oil and Gas at Dangote Industries Limited, Edwin also accused the NMDPRA of granting licences indiscriminately to marketers to import dirty refined products into the country.

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According to Edwin, the Federal Government issued 25 licences for the construction of refineries in Nigeria, but only the Dangote Group delivered on its promise.

The vice president noted that more than 3.5 billion litres of diesel and aviation fuel had been exported to Europe by the refinery in the past few months. The exported fuel, it was said, represented about 90 per cent of its production.

“The Federal Government issued 25 licences to build refineries and we are the only one that delivered on our promise. In effect, we deserve every support from the government. It is good to note that from the start of production, more than 3.5 billion litres, which represents 90 per cent of our production, have been exported. We are calling on the Federal Government and regulators to give us the necessary support to create jobs and prosperity for the nation,” Edwin stated.

It was alleged that even though Dangote was producing and bringing diesel into the market, complying with the regulations of the Economic Community of West African States, “licences are being issued, in large quantities, to traders who are buying the extremely high sulphur diesel from Russia and dumping it in the Nigerian market.”

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Edwin lamented, “The decision of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority in granting licenses indiscriminately for the importation of dirty diesel and aviation fuel has made the Dangote refinery expand into foreign markets. The refinery has recently exported diesel and aviation fuel to Europe and other parts of the world. The same industry players fought us for crashing the price of diesel and aviation fuel, but our aim, as I have said earlier, is to grow our economy.”

He noted that because the refinery meets the international standard as well as complies with stringent guidelines and regulations to protect the local environment, it has been able to export its products to Europe and other parts of the world.

“It is regrettable that in Nigeria, import licences are granted despite knowing that we can produce nearly double the amount of products needed in Nigeria and even export the surplus. Since January 2021, ECOWAS regulations have prohibited the import of highly contaminated diesel into the region,” Edwin stated.

Meanwhile, some Nigerians online have called on President Bola Tinubu to relieve the NMDPRA chief executive of his job for saying the fuels produced by local refineries are inferior to imported ones.

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Also, the House of Representatives said the allegations would be investigated.

Credit: PUNCH

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