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RMAFC advocates full autonomy for local governments, backs FG

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The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has advocated for full autonomy for Local Government Councils (“LGCs”) in the country just as it backs the Federal Government in its ongoing efforts to free LGCs from the firm control of State Governments through legal means by giving effect to the provisions of the Constitution.

The RMAFC Chairman, Mr. Mohammed Bello Shehu, in a statement, observed that LGCs as the third tier of government domesticated at the grassroots level ought to be outside the control of State and Federal governments as they are solely established to ensure effective governance at the grassroot.

The Constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states, and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and function from the Federation Account created by the Constitution

Mr. Shehu decried State governments’ dominance over the affairs of LGCs which emasculate their political, administrative and fiscal independence hence their inability to provide quality service delivery in the area of infrastructure and social services to the grassroot as provided for in the Constitution.

He noted that the political control of LGCs has made it virtually difficult and almost impossible for the masses to decide who becomes their leader at that level of governance, which is closest to the people.

The statement added that the “Commission is of the opinion that giving full autonomy to LGCs will reduce the rate of poverty and rural urban migration, and bring more dividends of democracy to the people just as it will attract more qualified candidates for council elections that will improve governance system at all levels in the long run.”

“Full autonomy will engender good governance, transparency and accountability at the local level. Security challenges like banditry, kidnappings, terrorism, electoral violence, etc, would be reduced to the barest minimum if the quantum of funds meant for local governments is channeled towards rural development.”

He added, “This will raise agricultural productivity, increase income generation, arrest rural-urban migration, create wealth and generally improve the socio-economic living conditions of the rural populace.”

The Chairman posited that the current spate of insecurity in all parts of the country could be arrested if LGCs are granted full autonomy as local government administration being the closest level of government for effective participation of the teeming population of the country in its governance system would avail the local population greater independence to determine their development needs.

Mr. Shehu emphasised the importance of granting full autonomy to LGCs, allowing them to recruit, manage staff, raise finances, make bye-laws and discharge their functions without State government interference, thereby ensuring their full bureaucratic autonomy.

“Financial autonomy of local government entails the freedom to impose local taxation, generate revenue within its assigned sources, allocate its financial and material resources, determine and authorise its annual budgets without external interference. It also relates to the disposition of tax powers, retention of revenue and methods adopted in sharing centrally collected revenue in accordance with the constitutional responsibilities of all levels of government,” he maintained.

The Chairman further said, “It is worth noting that the Constitution has made it explicitly clear that there must be a democratically elected local government system in place and that the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the Local Government level other than democratically elected local government system.”

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World Bank, Trade Ministry partner Shippers’ Council to tackle multiple-inspection border posts

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By Seun Ibiyemi

The Ministry of Trade and Investment, alongside the World Bank and the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), have identified simplified trade processes and procedures at the seaports, across states and regional borders as imperative for economic growth.

Speaking recently when the Enhanced National Trade Facilitation Committee and representatives of the World Bank visited the NSC in Lagos, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Udoka-Anite explained that the benefits of achieving harmonised, standardised and simplified trading processes and procedures are immense and cannot be overstated.

Udoka-Anite, who was represented by an Assistant Director in the Office of the Minister, Dr. Brenda Max-Nduagube, noted that trade facilitation has been a focal point of discussions at national, regional and international levels.

“This is ever more important to small and medium-scale enterprises where the NTFC helps create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs venturing into global markets. This translates to increased competitiveness, growth potential and a more level playfield,” the Minister stated.

She commended the World Bank for its steadfast support and collaboration, which have been instrumental in advancing Nigeria’s national trade facilitation goals while positioning her as a leading trade hub in the region.

She further commended the members of the Enhanced National Trade Facilitation Committee for tirelessly fostering collaboration and synergy across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the private sector and civil society, thereby paving the way for a more integrated and efficient trade facilitation framework.

She explained that the World Bank team was visiting to fully understand the daily operations, inspection processes and trade bottlenecks, and identify policy options to make trade seamless for the Nigerian government.

On their part, leader of the World Bank team, Aleksandar Stojanov, stated that, “We look at ways of supporting the government in terms of improving competitiveness and domestic value addition so that Nigeria can take full advantage of regional trade agreements such as AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement), as well as the international agreements that they have.”

According to Aleksandar Stojanov, the World Bank team was on a fact-finding mission that would guide their dialogue on trade, reduce dwell time, and improve trade processes.

“Today, the World Bank has state-level trade operations, which has an inter-state trade indicator for seamless movement of goods across states in Nigeria and export promotion at the state level.

“There is one operation in the pipeline that will support trade facilitation, which has a linked indicator, that is on reducing inspections at the border and improving trade facilitation overall to the authorised economic operator system, which has been launched with the Nigeria Customs Service,” Aleksandar Stojanov stated.

On his part, the NSC Executive Secretary, Mr. Pius Akutah, noted that the Council is one of the major stakeholders in trade facilitation in Nigeria, and West Africa at large, as a member of the ECOWAS Trade Facilitation Committee, among others.

“We work with transport and cross-border infrastructures to reduce transport bottlenecks and facilitate trade, both in local and international markets.

“To consolidate this effort and that of the international agencies, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has embarked on trade facilitation tools like the inland dry ports, and complaint centres across the country, in order to facilitate trade in the hinterlands and decongest the seaports, especially Apapa and Tin Can Island,” the NSC boss explained.

He disclosed that while on its mandatory activities, the NSC discovered that many traders along the border corridors perform their activities informally, with many small scale businesses carrying out their trades very well.

“We intend to do everything within our mandate to ensure that we formalise these activities. This has necessitated the Council’s collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service and other stakeholders to establish Border Information Centres at the borders,” Barrister Pius Akutah added.

He assured the World Bank, Ministry of Trade and Investment and the National Trade Facilitation Committee of the NSC’s continued partnership to improve trade and other related activities.

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Customs brokers commend NPA over access road clearance

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By Seun Ibiyemi

The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello KoKo has received commendation from the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) for the uncommon initiatives that cleared the decade-long traffic gridlock that had menaced the Apapa/Tin-Can Ports access roads and undermined the ease of doing business in Nigerian ports.

Leading the largest group of Customs Brokers on a working visit to the NPA headquarters recently, the National President of ANLCA, Mr. Emenike Nwokeji, in the company of ANLCA Board Chairman, Mr. Taiwo Mustapha, lauded Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko for improving the ease of doing business at the ports with the clearance of the port access roads.

Responding, Mohammed Bello-Koko said, “Breaking the jinx of the agelong traffic gridlock that was causing huge revenue losses and reputational damage to our dear country Nigeria was a product of our relentless commitment to doing what is right by entering into open-minded collaborations with the Lagos State Government and relevant stakeholders.”

Reiterating the Authority’s commitment to enhancing ease of doing business and deepening Nigeria’s balance of trade through promotion of exports, Bello KoKo added, “We are committed to fulfilling the priorities as enunciated in the Presidential/Ministerial Performance Bond which we signed and to sustain the sanity on the Port access which has resulted in the unprecedented increase in export numbers.

“We have developed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for cargo evacuation which we would be implementing with renewed vigour going forward to sustain the growth in exports in order to achieve the national trade surplus required to grow the domestic economy.”

Recall that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its foreign trade report for the first quarter of 2024 highlighted that Nigeria recorded a N6.5 trillion trade surplus between January and March of 2024. The NBS detailed that Nigeria’s exports totalled N19.1 trillion and total imports stood at N12.6 trillion — indicating a trade surplus of N6.5 trillion.

A trade surplus is an economic indicator of a positive trade balance in which the exports of a nation outweigh the country’s imports.

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Inaugurating a new era: The vital role of NAFDAC in Nigeria’s health sector renewal

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The recent inauguration of the Governing Board of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) marks a significant step in renewing Nigeria’s health sector.

NAFDAC is a cornerstone institution, essential for regulating the food and drugs that Nigerians consume, and it plays a vital role in ensuring the population’s health and safety.

This aligns with President Tinubu’s #RenewedHopeAgenda to save lives, reduce physical and financial pain, and promote health equity for all Nigerians.

The President’s health agenda is built on four foundational pillars under Nigeria’s Health Sector Renewal Investment Initiative #NHSRII.

The first pillar, governance, emphasises the need for strong regulatory frameworks for both products and professionals. NAFDAC’s role here is crucial, ensuring the integrity and safety of health commodities, which are foundational to the nation’s health system.

Improving population health outcomes is the 2nd pillar. For Nigeria’s primary healthcare systems and hospitals to function effectively, the quality of pharmaceuticals must be guaranteed.

NAFDAC’s efforts in preventing counterfeit and substandard drugs are essential in achieving better health outcomes for the populace.

The 3rd pillar focuses on unlocking the potential of the healthcare sector. A strong regulatory framework supports local production and ensures that quality products can compete both locally and internationally.

NAFDAC’s regulation of production and distribution channels is key to fostering a thriving healthcare industry, protecting investments in quality production, and preventing market disruption by substandard products.

Health security is the 4th pillar, emphasising NAFDAC’s role during crises, such as ensuring the safety and efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics. This function is critical for maintaining public trust and managing health emergencies effectively.

Inaugurating the Board, the Hon. CMHSW Muhammad Ali Pate said “the membership is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, reflecting a careful selection process aimed at fostering effective teamwork. This diversity is seen as a strength, providing varied perspectives and enhancing the council’s ability to address complex challenges.”

Minister Pate added, “The Board’s role is dual: to support and challenge the DG and the institution. This approach promotes growth and improvement, ensuring that NAFDAC continues to meet its mandate effectively. While NAFDAC has made significant progress, continuous improvement is essential.

“Recent reviews have identified areas for enhancement, and the DG, Prof Moji Adeyeye, has begun addressing these, focusing on structure, strategy, systems, financing, and culture.”

As the new Board embarks on its duties, there is a renewed sense of purpose and dedication to safeguarding the health of all Nigerians.

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