Governors deny loans, electricity tariff up 240%, Mercy Chinwo goes to court: Weekly news roundup

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Anger grew this week as Nigerians protested the 240% hike in electricity tariff prices by the Federal Government.

The Debt Management Office is yet to defend itself after some state governors faulted its debt report.

Philip Shaibu’s impeachment process builds up hype, as gospel singers, Nathaniel Bassey, Mercy Chinwo and her husband, Blessing Uzochikwa, refused to turn the other cheek by going after social media users who “defamed” them in a viral internet rumour.

Below is a recap of the biggest news stories in the country this week from March 31 to April 6 2024.

  • Governors debt deflection

In the first six months of their tenure, 13 new state governors collectively borrowed N226.8bn from domestic and external financiers, with 16 governors increasing their states’ debt profile by N509.3bn. These debts, classified into domestic and external borrowings, were disclosed in the latest sub-national debt reports released by the Debt Management Office.

The states, which include Benue, Cross Rivers, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory, got N115.57bn from domestic creditors, while governors of Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states borrowed $125.1m (N111.24bn) from external sources.

However, after the Sunday report, some governors have called out the DMO and said its report is not “true”.

The Kaduna State Government, through the Commissioner for Finance, Shizzer Bada, denied procuring fresh $17.69m loan.

AIT also reported that Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State denied being among 13 new state governors who collectively borrowed N226.8bn.

The Cross River State Governor, Bassey Otu, also denied taking nor signing any fresh loan, according to a report by Channels TV.

“Not a single loan has been collected by the present All Progressives Congress government in Katsina State under Governor [Dikko] Radda,” the Katsina State government said in a statement by the governor’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Mohammed, refuting the DMO’s claim, as reported by The Guardian.

A statement by the spokesperson for the Zamfara State Governor, Sulaiman Idris, revealed that the administration of Governor Dauda Lawal never took domestic or external loans.

The DMO is yet to respond as of the time of publication.

  • Tariff surge sparks shockwaves

The government, through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, announced hike in the electricity bill this week, adding that those affected would now pay a tariff of N225 per kilowatt-hour, up from the previous rate of N68 per kilowatt-hour, representing about a 240 per cent increase.

Anger grew as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Civil Society Organisations and the Nigeria Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network condemned the government’s implementation of a 240 per cent tariff hike, labeling it oppressive and detrimental to the populace. The Trade Union Congress also warned of potential industrial unrest, emphasising the citizens’ worsening plight due to consecutive policy measures like fuel subsidy removal and tariff hikes without commensurate improvement in services.

The controversial cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye, popularly known as Bobrisky, faced allegations of money laundering and abuse of the naira, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed charges against him.

He was accused of tampering with the naira while dancing at the Ajakaju movie premiere and failing to declare activities of his company.

This is fresh off a controversy at the premiere event where the crossdresser was awarded “Best Dressed Female” by the organisers.

Despite being granted administrative bail, he remained in EFCC custody for failing to meet bail conditions.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday reserved judgment till April 9, 2024. The judge also ordered that he should be returned to the EFCC custody pending the judgment.

The Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, failed to appear before the panel investigating allegations against him, despite being given the opportunity to defend himself. His absence on Friday marked the final day for him to respond to the accusations of perjury and leaking government secrets.

The Edo State House of Assembly, the petitioner, had presented its case earlier in the week. Shaibu’s counsel attended the initial hearing but withdrew after the panel rejected a request to suspend proceedings due to a separate lawsuit challenging the impeachment move against Shaibu. The Assembly alleged that Shaibu disclosed government secrets in documents submitted to support his lawsuit, breaching confidentiality oaths and constitutional provisions. The panel, however, adjourned its final sitting, reiterating the opportunity for Shaibu to present his defence.

A Chief Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, summoned five social media users for alleged “criminal defamation” against gospel singer Mercy Chinwo, and her husband, Blessed Uzochikwa. The court order, issued by Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, required the defendants to appear in person on April 23, 2024.

The summons followed a direct criminal complaint filed by Uzochikwa, stating that the defendants made defamatory remarks suggesting that Nathaniel Bassey, not Uzochikwa, is the father of Chinwo’s child.

The complaint stemmed from a social media post by the couple celebrating their son’s birth, which led to derogatory comments implying Bassey’s paternity.

Nathaniel Bassey had previously urged the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to investigate and prosecute those behind the false accusations.

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