Friday, 3 August 2012

Fashola signs law against phone use, eating by motorists

For Lagos motorists, especially early risers, who miss their breakfast in their rush to workplaces but find solace in snacks or other quick-fix food while behind the wheels, it is the end of an era. In simple terms, it is motorists beware! Just a bite on that snack or a sip from a sachet or bottle of water from that harmless hawker while on motion is now a traffic offence in the state. It is also a crime for Lagos motorists to make or receive phone calls while they are on motion. And the punishment is a three-year jail term or a fine of N20,000 for first offenders and N30,000 for subsequent offences or both for any other breaches subject to the discretion of the presiding magistrate.
These sanctions are contained in the Lagos Traffic Bill, which Governor Babatunde Fashola signed into law yesterday. The law also banned commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada, cart, wheel barrow and tricycle operators from carrying out their activities on the states section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Eko Bridge, Third Mainland Bridge, Carter Bridge, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Victoria Island-Lekki-Epe Expressway and all bridges in the state. For routes, which the law allows them to operate, commercial cyclists must limit their activities to between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. One minute outside this time-frame is an offence.
However, motorcycles of courier companies are exempted except that they must have engine capacity of 200cc, bear the prescribed number plates and identification, fitted with proper mail cabin and without any passenger.
The law also prohibits articulated trucks (trailers and others) from entering or moving within the Lagos metropolis from 6.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. This, however, does not affect fuel tankers and long passengers vehicles. Any defaulting trailer operator will have his vehicle impounded and to pay a N50,000 fine or a six-month imprisonment upon conviction.
Fashola, who signed the bill at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Alausa, Ikeja, said the law was in response to the growing challenge of road and traffic management and the need to ensure that those who chose the state as their home are not short-changed by regular traffic offenders. He said his government was committed to addressing transportation challenges in the state, adding that the law, which took 18 months to prepare, would complement his administrations efforts at bringing sanity to the roads through the provision of adequate highway signs, traffic lights as well as a traffic radio.
The governor urged motorists to see the law as a means to changing the state for the better, adding that the success of the law would be defined by the voluntary compliance of motorists and road users and not the number of arrests traffic management officers would make.
For three hours Thursday, the Senate Committee on Appropriation grilled the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, over the implementation of the 2012 budget that has pitted the National Assembly against the presidency. Okonjo-Iweala, who led a delegation that included the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, told the senators that the executive arm of government had not violated any law regarding the release of funds to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in the implementation of the budget.
Others on the delegation were Director General, Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu, the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, and the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi. However, Senate President David Mark Thursday dismissed reports of a frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature over the implementation of the budget, describing them as over exaggerated.
Okonjo-Iweala, who was summoned by the committee to brief it on the implementation of the budget, said: We have violated no law. We have implemented the budget, releasing monies as and when due. At no time has the Ministry of Finance or the minister violated the Appropriation Act.”  Her defense on the piecemeal release of appropriated funds to MDAs that has irked the legislature was made just as she condemned the practice of allowing the budget to spill over into a new fiscal year.
She said the extension of the annual budget into the succeeding year was not good budgetary practice and pledged that the executive would endeavour to present the 2013 Appropriation Bill in September. This, she added, would give the National Assembly ample time to consider its passage so that the implementation can run its traditional course of January to December.
In her presentation, Okonjo-Iweala said of the N1.3 trillion earmarked for capital projects in the budget, a total sum of N404 billion had been released. Of the released sum, N324 billion of the amount was cash-backed, while N184 billion of the cash-backed sum, representing 56 per cent, had been utilized by the MDAs as at July ending. The remaining 44 per cent, she said, was yet to be utilized but she assured the senators that the MDAs were making efforts to utilize these funds through various procurements preparatory to the execution of projects.
The minister, however, drew a distinction between the utilization of funds released and the real budget execution which, she said, stood at some 41.3 per cent. She explained that so far, the budget had not fared badly because  going by the quantum of funds budgeted for capital projects this year, the Federal Ministry of Finance was expected to release, on average, N113 billion per month.
According to her, the budget has been implemented for only four months since the budget cycle effectively began in April. She said it was premature for anyone to describe the budget as a failure and advised the lawmakers to wait until the end of the budget year to be able to undertake a fair assessment of her performance in implementing the budget.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has released the list of 54 companies that met the July 31 deadline for submission of technical and financial proposals for the privatization of the 11 distribution companies (Discos) created from the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). A statement yesterday by Head, Public Communications at the bureau, Mr. Chukwuma Nwoko, identified the companies that submitted bids for Ikeja Disco as Rockson Engineering Ltd; SEO International;  Oando Consortium;  Amperion Power Distribution Co Ltd; Honeywell Energy Resources International Ltd;  Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Ltd; West Power & Gas Ltd;  Vigeo Holdings, Gumco, African Corporation AFC & CESC Consortium;  Daniel Power Plant Company Nigeria Ltd; and KEPCO/NEDC Consortium.
Rockson also submitted bids for Benin and Port Harcourt Discos, while Oando also bided for Eko Disco. The eight other bidders for Eko are Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Ltd; NPD Consortium; SEPCO-Pacific Energy Consortium; West Power & Gas; Electric Utilities Nigeria Ltd; KEPCO/NEDC Consortium; ENL Consortium Ltd; and Honeywell Energy Resources International Ltd.
Benin Disco attracted seven bids from Southern Electricity Distribution Company;  Cable & Rods Company Nigeria Ltd;  Copper Belt Consortium;  Rockson Engineering Company Ltd;  RENSMART Power Ltd;  Duncan Freeman Company/Draytom Energy Ltd; and Vigeo Power Consortium, while seven other consortiums, Western Consortium; ENL Consortium Ltd; Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Ltd; Skipper Nigeria Ltd; ICOMM Energy Ltd; Electric Utilities Ltd; and KEPCO/NEDC Consortium submitted bids for Ibadan Disco. Skipper Nigeria Ltd also bided for Abuja and Kaduna Discos.
Other bidders for Abuja are NAHCO Power Consortium; KANN Consortium Utility Company Ltd; Interstate Electrics Ltd; and ENL Consortium Ltd. For Enugu Disco, the bidders are Interstate Electrics Ltd; Rensmart Power Ltd; Proglobal Power International Consortium; and Eastern Electric Nigeria Ltd. The two companies that submitted bids for Jos Disco are Masters Energy Oil & Gas Ltd; and Aura Energy Ltd. NAHCO Energy & Power Ltd; and Skipper Nigeria Ltd were the only two companies that bided for Kaduna Disco, while Sahelian Power SPV Ltd; and Profile Energy Consortium Ltd submitted bids for Kano Disco.
Utility Integrated Management Services Ltd;  Rockson Engineering Company Ltd; and Power Consortium were the three bidders for Port Harcourt , while SNECOU Group of Companies Ltd; Vivadis Power Ltd (ORTECH Consortium); and Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Ltd bided for Yola Disco. Meanwhile, Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji yesterday met with workers and the management of the PHCN successor companies in a two-hour crucial meeting where he explained to them governments position in the ongoing power sector reforms.
Nnaji who was accompanied to the meeting in Abuja by Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Nwogu, Permanent Secretary in the ministry of power, Dr. Dere Awosika, and members of the government-labour negotiating panel told workers of PHCN that technically, the utility was no longer in existence. Stating that he was on a first contact interaction with the workers in his resolve to answer questions that may have troubled their minds over the ongoing privatization exercise, Nnaji explained to the workers that it was high time they realized that they were been deceived by officials of PHCN and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) who had since 2004 failed to remit accumulated funds from the 25 percent deducted from their salaries into their pension scheme.

ECB may resort to bond market for EU debt crisis

The European Central Bank (ECB) President, Mario Draghi, said the financial institution may wade forcefully into bond markets in tandem with Europes rescue fund, stepping up its crisis response, despite the reservations of Germanys Bundesbank. The euro is irreversible, Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt today after keeping the benchmark interest rate at 0.75 per cent.
Elevated bond yields that are related to fears of the reversibility of the euro are unacceptable, and they need to be addressed in a fundamental manner, he said. The ECB may therefore undertake outright open market operations of a size adequate to reach its objective.
The euro declined and Spanish bond yields rose on disappointment that Draghi didnt signal imminent ECB action. While Draghi said the Bundesbank has reservations about ECB bond purchases, and the details of the plan still need to be hammered out, the proposal, nevertheless, signals a new chapter in the battle against the debt crisis.
Draghi left open the question of whether the ECB would print new money by refraining from sterilizing asset purchases. Although the ECB did not start to actually intervene in bond markets today, Draghi sent a strong message that the ECB will do all it takes, said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London. Of course, the ECB cannot and has not solved the euro crisis. But all in all, the chances have risen substantially that the worst of the current wave of the crisis could soon be over.
Draghi said ECB bond purchases would be in the secondary market, focus on shorter-term maturities and address investors concerns about seniority. They would only be used to complement buying by the rescue fund in the primary market, to which strict conditionality is attached, he said. ECB officials are working on the plan and details will be fleshed out in coming weeks.
Unlike the ECBs previous bond-buying programme, which was shelved in March, Draghi said no decisions have been taken on whether new purchases would be sterilized. If they arent, the ECB would be entering similar territory to the Federal Reserve and Bank of England by pumping new money into the system without draining it elsewhere.
The euro initially climbed as much as 0.5 per cent to $1.2405 after Draghis comments before falling to $1.2151 at 6:10 p.m. in Frankfurt. The yield on Spains two-year bond dropped 10 basis points to 4.8 per cent, while those on longer- dated maturities rose. Italys 10-year yield surged 58 basis points to 6.32 per cent.
The market reacted positively when Draghi said the ECB will address the seniority issue, said Mohit Kumar, head of European fixed income strategy at Deutsche Bank AG, Germanys biggest bank. But then when details emerged, it suggested he is giving guidelines without giving concrete measures.

New electricity policy targets gas access for new plants

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is working on a new regulation that would ensure that electricity power plants in the country have adequate arrangements for gas supply before being granted operating licences. When the law comes into force, the prevailing lack of gas supply to the generation plants, which has plagued the electricity power sector, is expected to be a thing of the past, as the future plant owners would be made to factor in gas supply into their power plant plan.
Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Sam Amadi, said in Abuja, on Wednesday, that the proposed procurement framework also focuses on the role of the bulk or special trader (now established as Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc) and on the distribution licensees who are authorized to procure electricity through bilateral power purchase agreements.
Amadi noted that the new framework would facilitate the involvement of the private sector in the provision of generation capacity to a buyer on the basis of rules that provide certainty, transparency and fairness of the procurement process and its outcome.
He added: Comments and observations have been invited from all stakeholders and members of the public on the draft guidelines and regulations. The general public is requested to send in their comments to the commission within 30 days of publication, starting August 1, 2012.
He stressed that the framework comprises guidelines and regulations to govern bulk electricity generation procurement and establishes a systematic, transparent and competitive process for procuring additional electric generation capacity at least cost to consumers.
NERC has so far issued over 40 licenses to potential independent power producers for the supply of new electricity on-grid generation capacity of more than 10, 000MW. All the proposals were unsolicited, and the resulting cost to the Nigerian power system and the consumer could be significant and perhaps unacceptable if this un-orderly approach continues.
In order to avert such costs both to the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and the Nigerian consumer, NERC seeks to evolve towards the procurement framework already mandated in the Market Rules for the Transitional and Medium Term Stages of the Nigerian Electrical Power Sector, 2010, brought into effect by Presidential order in February 2009, he said. There is a growing disquiet in government over the ability of this administration to meet up with its electricity targets for this year and neighboring years owing to poor planning for gas and a seeming cosmetic approach to solving the real problems of the sector.

Govt. to commence digital loading of petroleum products in N

Controversies over the accuracy of records for crude oil export and import, and the payment of subsidy claims to marketers may soon be laid to rest, as the government is planning to introduce 100 per cent electronic system of loading of petroleum products, beginning from November. The Executive Secretary of Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF), Mrs. Adefunke Kasali, gave the hint in Abuja yesterday, during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.
She said the project had been tagged Project Aquila, and would help to track down fraudulent marketers and enhance prompt payment of marketers claims. With project Aquila, the first thing is that there must be loading and there must be receiving. One of the things that we have had is an issue where we were never sure that an item that was loaded was received. And in some cases we even had situations where it was purportedly received, but it was never loaded.
Aquila will ensure that there is a genuine transaction and that the product was loaded and received. The other thing with Aquila is that the processing of that transaction is now very smooth and efficient and then the payment is done typically under two weeks. Kasali said at least 60 per cent of the depots in the country had been covered since the agency commenced electronic tracking of loading and movement of fuel tankers across the country in April.
According to her the agency was working very hard to ensure that all the depots in the country are Aquila ready by the end of November. She explained that the project would entail using the latest Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag, which would be administered to companies and operators. With Aquila we have moved to an end-to-end electronic solution where it is loaded and dispatched by a mobile computer working with an RFID device, so that at each of our depots, our depot representatives have this device, this is the mobile computer part of it and the RFID device, which reads the information, she said.
According to her, the new electronic solution would bring more efficiency and effectiveness in determining the volume of petroleum products bridged across the country to facilitate payments. She described the electronic solution as the first full end-to-end operation and payment solutions anywhere in the country. Kasali said the new software was designed to have little human interference and thereby not vulnerable to manipulation

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