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Rising number of Nigerians schooling abroad, medical tourism responsible for Naira free fall – CBN Gov

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Naira rebounds to 1,275/$ at parallel market
Nigerians spent over $40 billion to access education and healthcare abroad between 2010 and 2020, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Oluyemi Cardoso, disclosed Tuesday, noting that the high number of Nigerians in foreign schools and medical tourism are two of the major factors putting pressure on the naira.

He made this disclosure while appearing before the House of Representatives for the sectoral debate on the economy. According to the bank chief, the demand for dollars by these students and those travelling for medicals abroad is hurting the naira. While foreign education expenses amounted to $28.65 billion, the CBN governor said medical treatment abroad incurred around $11.01 billion, an amount that surpasses the total current foreign exchange reserves of the apex bank.

The sectoral debate/dialogue is an initiative of the 10th House of Representatives as part of its periodic Policy Brief Series. In attendance also were Minister of Finance, Wale Edun; Minister of Budget and Planning, Atiku Bagudu; and Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS), Zacch Adedeji.

Quoting recent data from UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, Cardoso said the number of Nigerian students abroad increased from less than 15,000 in 1998 to over 71,000 in 2015. According to him, by 2018, the figure had reached 96,702 students and is presently estimated to be above 100,000 students.

“Another report projects the number of Nigerian students studying abroad to exceed 100,000 by 2022. Given this data, it’s crucial to highlight that between 2010 and 2020, foreign education expenses amounted to a substantial $28.65 billion, as per the CBN’s publicly available Balance of Payments Statistics. Similarly, medical treatment abroad has incurred around $11.01 billion in costs during the same period.
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“Notably, this amount surpasses the total current foreign exchange reserves of the CBN. Mitigating a significant portion of this demand could have resulted in a considerably stronger Naira today,” he said.

Speaking further, Cardoso explained that the Federal Government spent $58.7 billion on Personal Travel Allowances within the same period and disbursed an additional $9.01 billion to Nigerians for personal foreign travel between January and September 2019. He said his take on medical tourism and education was not to condemn anyone, but to explain the factors putting pressure on the naira.

However, turnover in Nigeria’s foreign exchange market jumped to $844 million on February 3, the highest dollar trade since June 2, 2022, according to data compiled by the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd.The amount is three times more than the $266 million traded on February 1. The spike is reportedly attributed to the latest reforms by CBN governor, Cardoso, who unveiled a series of measures that enabled the naira to trade more freely against the dollar.

There is better transparency in the official market and banks were mandated to offload excess dollars. The CBN also removed the cap on transactions by the International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs). The improved supply is rubbing off on the embattled naira which suffered wild swings last week.

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The naira strengthened to N1419/$ on Monday, up from N1435/$ Friday. Parallel market rate is not yet strengthening as much as the official rate. This is fanning fears that it may only be a matter of time before a huge gap re-emerges between both rates. The dollar sold for N1455 on the streets on Tuesday, leaving a two per cent gap compared with the official rate.

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Speaking on the development, Cardoso said: “We are at a turning point and the bold reforms on the way across different segments of the economy, though initially challenging, are aimed at addressing these challenges sustainably.

“I am confident that positive outcomes are already emerging and will become more apparent soon. The dedicated and relentless efforts being made are certain to bring about significant and positive changes for our economy.

“On that note, I am happy to inform you that as of yesterday, the volume of transactions on our market was over $800 million. This is the first time in many years that it has achieved this level.”

Edun, on his part, said the Federal Government was achieving positive results with measures rolled out to address the economic challenges. According to him, allocation to states and local governments have increased with the blockage of wastage and removal of subsidy.  In his presentation, the FIRS boss said though the agency set a target to collect N19.4 trillion in tax this year, it won’t introduce new taxes.HOWEVER, as a drastic step to address the growing discontent over rising cost of food and tackle the hunger in the land, the House of Representatives urged the Federal Government to immediately open the grain reserves and distribute grains to needy Nigerians.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion of national urgent importance moved by the member representing Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency, Ogun State, Mr Ibrahim Isiaka.

Leading the debate, Isiaka noted the cost of living has become very difficult for Nigerians, even as he lamented the rising cost of cement despite having all the raw materials to produce cement.

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But the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election, Atiku Abubakar, has described evidence of the failures of President Bola Tinubu’s economic policies as overwhelming.  He noted that the presidency failed in its bid to provide a credible defence of Tinubu’s failures in tackling Nigeria’s economic challenges. This was contained in a statement signed by Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, in Abuja on Tuesday.

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He said: “The presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, failed to provide a credible defence of Tinubu’s failures in tackling the economic challenges facing the country. He demonstrates ignorance of the happenings around him, as he denies, for example, that Tinubu’s policies are creating excruciating pain and causing despair.”

Atiku insisted that he offered better policy options during the 2023 presidential campaign when compared to Tinubu’s “morbid prescriptions. Did Atiku offer any better policy options in his run for the presidency?Yes, he did. His living prescriptions contrast sharply with Bola Tinubu’s morbid policies.

“Atiku’s policy document, My Covenant With Nigerians, offers a clearly defined and robust roadmap for the socio-political and economic transformation of Nigeria. On the economy, the policy document outlines the challenges we face and our vision to get the economy on its feet and create prosperity. If Bayo desires, he can have a copy for free!”

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Alleged N80bn Fraud: Yahaya Bello to appear in court for trial today

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Ex-Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello

After several months of hide-and-seek between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the former governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the ex-governor is expected to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 13 for arraignment on the corruption charge against him.

The former governor, through his lawyer, finally agreed to submit himself to the court at the last adjourned date.

Bello’s lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, gave the undertaking to Justice Emeka Nwite on May 10, shortly after the court rejected the defendant’s request for suspension of trial.

According to him, the former governor was not afraid of arraignment but of the safety of his life in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja.

He said the life of his client has been under consistent threats in Abuja, hence his decision to go underground for safety.

The agreement to submit to court trial was informed by Justice Nwite’s remarks that the EFCC, as a law-abiding body, would not do anything contrary to the provisions of the law.

The judge said Bello was not the first former governor to be merely invited by the anti-graft agency and would not be the last.

The judge also said that the charges are based on allegations that have not been proved, adding that the law presumes any accused person innocent until proven otherwise.

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He advised the senior lawyer to prevail on his client to respect the law and order of the court as a law-abiding person.

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Bello’s lawyer, responding to the admonition, thanked the Judge for the hint, adding that, with the assurance that the EFCC would not do anything untoward, the former governor would be brought to court.

“All my client needs is just an assurance for the safety of his life, which has been under threat for some time in Abuja.”

The lawyer requested for four weeks to bring his client before the court.

He said Bello would, however, come to the court instead of the EFCC to take his plea in the charges.

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‘I did my Dobale’, Tinubu breaks silence on Democracy Day fall at Eagle Square

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Minimum Wage: FG denies offering N105,000
President Bola Tinubu

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu late yesterday, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, broke his silence on a viral video on social media where he missed his steps and tripped earlier in the day during the proceedings at the Democracy Day Parade at Eagle Square, Abuja.

Speaking at the Democracy Day Dinner, Tinubu, a Yoruba from South West Nigeria, said tongue-in-cheek that he was only performing a traditional Yoruba gesture of respect.

“Early this morning, I had a swagger and it is on social media. They are confused on whether I was doing Buga or doing Babariga but it is a day to celebrate democracy while doing ‘dobale’ for the day. I am a traditional Yoruba boy and I did my Dobale,”

The president also underscored the importance of national orientation and collective effort in fostering a prosperous future for the country.

“Nigeria is blessed, our complexity, our diversity is there, but is the best road to success. Whatever we have to invest in our national orientation, we have to do it,” Tinubu declared, stressing the need for a concerted effort to instill a sense of service and patriotism among Nigerians.

He also noted that the nation’s national anthem encapsulated the essence of service, a value he observed being practiced by many governors across the country.

He expressed his gratitude to the governors, acknowledging their dedication to serving their people irrespective of their political affiliations.

“We include in our national anthem, the essence of service. I have seen many governors, both live and on tv, serving their people. They belong to other parties and many of them are here tonight. Thank you, Governor Eno, of Akwa Ibom, thank you Governor Okpara, my comrade from Kaduna, thank you, Sheriff and Abia, thank you. If I miss you, forgive me. Everybody has forgotten the partisanship column and embraced that green, white, green that depicts Nigeria.”

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Acknowledging criticisms of the national anthem, he called on governors to redouble their efforts in fostering a sense of duty and national character among citizens.

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“Citizenship is not just the dictionary meaning of it, it is the actual character. Let us teach this to our children, so that Nigeria collectively, we will do the job that we are called upon to do as both family or nation under God almighty,” Tinubu urged.

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NLC counters Tinubu, says no agreement reached with FG on minimum wage

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Minimum wage: Govs who can't pay should resign - Labour
NLC President, Joe Ajaero and other union leaders

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) says it has not reached an agreement with the federal government on the minimum wage.

In his Democracy Day speech on Wednesday, President Bola Tinubu said the federal government has negotiated with organized organised labour “in good faith and with open arms” on a new national minimum wage.

The president added that an executive bill on the minimum wage would be sent to the national assembly “to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less”.

In a statement on Wednesday night, NLC said the president may have been misinformed regarding the outcome of the wage negotiation process.

“We appreciate the President’s commitment to those fine democratic ideals which allowed the work of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Negotiation Committee to proceed unhindered despite some hiccups,” the statement reads.

“However, we had expected Mr. President to have used this understanding as one of those who was in the vanguard of the struggle with us around the nation to rescue Nigeria from the hands of the military to harmonize the two figures submitted to him by the Tripartite Committee in favour of workers and masses. It would have been a fitting Democracy Day gift.

“The NIC would have expected that the advisers of the President would have told him that we neither reached any agreement with the federal government and the employers on the base figure for a National Minimum Wage nor on its other components.”

The NLC said its demand still remains N250,000, adding that it has not been given any compelling reasons to change this position.

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“We are therefore surprised at the submission of Mr. President over a supposed agreement. We believe that he may have been misled into believing that there was an agreement with the NLC and TUC,” the labour body added.

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“There was none, and it is important that we let the president, Nigerians, and other national stakeholders understand this immediately to avoid a mix up in the ongoing conversation around the national minimum wage.

“We have also not seen a copy of the document submitted to him and will not accept any doctored document.

“However, we want to reaffirm our belief that the President, on whose table the Tripartite Committee’s report presently resides, will prepare an executive bill which content will reflect the true demand of Nigerian workers.

“We think that this is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his love for Nigerian workers and the masses by shunning the pieces of advice that may be coming from those whose intentions are continuously focused on hurting the poor and struggling workers of Nigeria.”

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