Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged President Buhari to instruct the Director-General and Board of the National Pension Commission to use their statutory powers to stop the 36 state governors from borrowing or withdrawing ₦17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for ‘infrastructural development.” The organisation said this in a letter dated December 5, 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare. Part of the letter read, “This proposed borrowing faces the risks of corruption and mismanagement, and would ultimately deny pensioners the right to an adequate standard of living and trap more pensioners in poverty. Rather than devising ways to address pensioner poverty, governments at all levels would seem to be pushing to exacerbate it.” “Allowing the governors to borrow money from the pension funds would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional provisions, the Pension Reform Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations, as well as fiduciary duties imposed by these legal instruments on all public officers to prevent pension funds from unduly risky investments, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of pension funds.” The governors last week reportedly proposed to borrow around ₦17 trillion from the pension funds after receiving a briefing from the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds for Investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said that it would not end the strike it embarked on until government paid all the salaries of its members it withheld. The President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, told the Punch that government should not expect the lecturers to resume without paying the withheld salaries. Mr Ogunyemi emphasised that once the timeline expired this week without the salaries being paid, the union would take a final decision, and stressed that he could not determine when ASUU would suspend the strike. There were reports on 27 November that the union had agreed to end its strike following the Federal Government’s promise to release ₦70 billion to ASUU as earned allowance.
The FG’s inability to find a solution to the gridlock in Apapa, Lagos has negatively impacted the cost of shipping containers into Nigeria, which has risen by 600 percent. On average, 100,000 containers, carrying various cargos are discharged in Lagos ports monthly. ThisDay reported that with shipping companies now charging $6,000 to ship a container to Nigeria, it costs shippers in Nigeria $600 million (₦234 billion) every month to transport 100,000 containers to Nigeria. As a result of the blockage of the roads in and around the ports, millions of containers are trapped in the ports and shipping companies have had to stay at anchorages for between three to four months incurring various surcharges due to circumstances beyond their control. In the first half of this year, it cost $1,000 to ship a 20-foot container to Nigeria from the Far East, but today, the cost charged by shipping lines for the same service is between $5,500 and $6,000. Also, haulage cost from Tin Can Port to any other part of Lagos has risen by more than 1,000 per cent from about ₦100,000 to about ₦1.2 million. The newspaper said that due to the congestion at Tin Can and Apapa ports, many shipping lines have started diverting Nigeria-bound cargoes to neighbouring ports in Cotonou and Ivory Coast.
Sudan said it will not accept a second filling of the reservoir behind the Nile dam being built by Ethiopia until the Horn of Africa country enters a legally binding agreement on the operation of the giant structure. Sudanese Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasser Abbas said a second filling without an agreement would pose a threat to Sudan’s security. Mr Abbas did not elaborate, but he and acting foreign minister Omar Qamar El Din, speaking on Sudanese state television on Saturday night, ruled out military action. Ethiopia’s dam on the Blue Nile, which originates in its highlands, was built near the border with Sudan. The Blue Nile meets the White Nile north of Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and accounts for 85 per cent of the River Nile’s waters as it flows north through Egypt to the Mediterranean. A decade of negotiations between the three nations has yet to produce an agreement on the dam’s operation and a mechanism for resolving future disputes and dealing with persistent drought. Sudan last month pulled out of the negotiations after Egypt and Ethiopia rejected its proposal that African water and river experts be given a more proactive role in the negotiations. “We will not accept from Ethiopia that it goes ahead and starts a second filling in the Renaissance dam without first reaching a binding agreement and consequently poses a threat to the security of Sudan,” Mr Abbas said. No date has been set for the next round of negotiations.