Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has flagged off the cash transfer of ₦5,000 to low-income earners in urban areas, as part of efforts to ease the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. The FG is giving the low-income earners the money under its Rapid Response Register (RRR) and beneficiaries will receive the stipend for six months. The target beneficiaries are “self-employed”, “wage employed” and the “urban poor.” The ministry of humanitarian affairs, using “cutting-edge” technology, had undertaken a pilot scheme where over 100,000 beneficiaries in Lagos and the federal capital territory (FCT) were captured. Over 300,000 beneficiaries are said to have received the aforementioned sum the moment the scheme was launched. Speaking at the virtual flag off of the RRR in Abuja on Tuesday, Osinbajo said this set of vulnerable people were not captured in the National Social Register (NSR). “The groundbreaking success of the RRR, now emboldens us to achieve our aspiration of a social security programme for a minimum of twenty million Nigerians in the next two years.”, the vice-president said. Sadiya Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, said there is a need for the government to ameliorate hardship of low-income earners in urban areas. “It became obvious very early into the pandemic crisis that we needed to establish a shock responsive system beyond just responding to the pandemic. “We needed to develop the capacity for rapid response to any emergency, whether natural or man-made – such as the crisis of banditry, insurgencies, communal crisis and the emerging food crisis it sprouts, or the displacement arising thereof, and not least, future emergencies arising from climatic changes or similar pandemics.” Apart from the FG, the World Bank is expected to provide funding for the RRR.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says it collected ₦4.9 trillion as tax revenue in the 2020 fiscal year. Abdullahi Ahmad, FIRS’ director of communications, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday. Mr Ahmad said this represented about 98 per cent of the government’s tax target of ₦5.1 trillion. The director quoted the chairman of the agency, Muhammad Nami, as saying that this performance was remarkable, considering the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy. He identified the all-time low price of crude oil in the international market, business disruptions and lootings during the #EndSARS protests and tax waivers granted to ease the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown as some factors that hindered the FIRS operations last year. According to Mr Nami, oil, which used to contribute more than 50 per cent in tax returns through the Petroleum Profits Tax in previous years, accounted for only 30.6 per cent of the tax revenue generated in 2020. He also said that non-oil tax collection was 109 per cent in 2020, nine per cent higher than the previous year. He attributed the success recorded in 2020 to many reforms initiated by the board and the management of FIRS under his leadership.

The Independent National Electoral Commission has scheduled the Anambra State governorship elections for 6 November 2021. INEC National Commissioner and chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye, made the announcement in a statement issued on Tuesday after its meeting in Abuja. He said: “In the exercise of the powers conferred on it by the constitution, the Electoral Act, and all other powers enabling it in that regard, the commission has fixed November 6 2021 as the date for the conduct of the Anambra State Governorship election. Consequently, the commission hereby issues the timetable and schedule of activities for the election”. The party primaries and resolution of disputes arising from the primaries will take place on 10 June – 1 July 2021, while the parties will commence campaigns on 8 August 2021. The final list of nominated candidates will be published on 7 October 2021. The commission enjoined all the registered political parties to pay close attention to the timelines and schedule of activities, conduct rancour-free primaries, guarantee a level playing field for all aspirants and conduct necessary due diligence on all forms and documents that will be submitted to the commission.

French President Emmanuel Macron opened the door on Tuesday to withdrawing some troops from Africa’s Sahel region, saying France could “adjust” its operations after successes against Islamist militants and the arrival of more European forces. France, the former colonial power, has the West’s largest military presence waging counter-insurgency operations in Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa just below the Sahara desert. Last year, Paris boosted its troop numbers for its Barkhane counter-terrorism operations by 600 to 5,100 soldiers. “The temporary reinforcements that I decided to deploy have enabled the Barkhane force to put in great difficulty terrorist groups, which find themselves cornered and reduced to cowardly acts,” Macron said in his annual New Year’s wishes to the military. “The results obtained by our forces in the Sahel, combined with the greater intervention of our European partners, will allow us to adjust our effort,” he said, referring to the arrival of special forces from various European Union countries in recent months. Though Macron hailed successes against militants, the situation remains fragile. Five French soldiers have been killed in Mali this year and four U.N. peacekeepers were killed there last week. Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso. Diplomatic and military sources have said France is expected to announce a partial withdrawal by mid-February. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has said Macron and regional heads of state will discuss the situation at a summit in Chad next month. An opinion poll published last week showed for the first time that the majority of French people oppose the operation in the Sahel. That has put pressure on Macron to consider a bigger withdrawal before a presidential election in 2022.