AGRIC : FG stocks grains to avert famine

From Magnus Eze, Abuja

As part of measures to avert famine, the Federal Government has commenced massive stockpiling of assorted grains.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this in Abuja when members of the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development came on an oversight visit at the ministry.

The Presidency recently raised the alarm of imminent famine because of the large quantity of grains exported to neighbouring countries. But Ogbeh said the ministry has engaged in the buying back of assorted grains under the Guarantee Minimum Price Programme for restocking of strategic silo complexes while farmers in some states of the federation have already commenced preparation for dry season farming to ensure food security in the country.

On the implementation of the 2016 budget, the minister identified inadequate funding and bureaucratic bottlenecks in the handling of the procurement process as obstacles to the ministry’s operations.

He put the level of budget release to the ministry at 61 per cent and said the sector has continuously experienced decline of budgetary allocations that fall short of the Maputo Declaration of 10

per cent of national budget allocation to the agriculture sector.

“The procurement process has slowed down the implementation of budget, we began implementation about a month ago because the processes were not fast,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Ogbeh explained that the ministry had acquired 110 various capacities of rice mills of 10, 20 and 50 tonnes per day for distribution to cluster farmers to boost rice production in the country.

The minister also noted that the 30,000 slots allocated to the ministry under the N-Power scheme of the Federal Government would be trained through the Agricultural Development Programmes as agric extension workers and sent to local government areas of the country.

CUSTOMS :Maritime varsity takes off 2017

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The Federal Government is set to give due recognition to Nigerian Maritime University, otherwise known as Admiralty University, with the issuance of provisional licence of operation that would take effect from the 2017 academic year.

Daily Sun learnt that the university would take off with two campuses at Ibusa and Sapele, both in Delta State.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, in statement, said final plans were being made to overcome obstacles that could work against the licencing of the university.

Adamu reportedly assured the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibo Ekwe Ibas, who visited him in Abuja, yesterday, that the ministry was committed to ensuring that the university takes off without further delay.

He was optimistic that the university would provide the needed platform to enhance the growth and development of Nigeria’s maritime sector.

Ibas, in his response, told the minister that foundation for the university was fully in place, with infrastructures and other facilities at both campuses.

The Navy chief explained that, apart from existing institutions under the Navy that are running various courses such as Aeronautical and Maritime Engineering, the Maritime University would also offer courses in arts, humanities and medical sciences.






Education tax: TETFund challenges FIRS

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has asked the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to up its game as regards the collection of statutory 2 per cent education tax from all registered companies in Nigeria.

TETFund averred that such increased monitoring and collection of the education tax would help expand the tax net, thus accommodating all that were hitherto not captured.

Executive Secretary of TETFund, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa, told members of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund, who were on oversight duty in Abuja, that the fund was desirous of expanding the tax net in order to have more resources for higher education development, but the FIRS and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) must fully support the fund to achieve its goals.

He decried a situation where only oil firms and a few other companies have been consistent in remitting their education tax.

“The law is explicit and it clearly stated that all companies registered in Nigeria are supposed to pay 2 per cent of profit as education tax, but, unfortunately, not up to 50 per cent are within the tax net.

“Therefore, expanding the tax net is not to change the law but for FIRS to improve on its own monitoring and collection capabilities. They should also improve on whatever means they have to ensure that all register companies comply with tax laws. To this end, there is great need for us, FIRS and CAC to synergies in order to successfully achieve the goal,” he said.

The Senate Committee Chairman, Jibrin Barau advised the Fund to demand for more transparency in monitoring and collection of the education tax.

“If possible, let the portal be accessible to all stakeholders so that it can be monitored for proper accountability,” he said.