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UNRWA: Hope for improved relations with US under Biden

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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced today that it hopes the US will end its boycott of the international aid group when the administration of President-elect Joe Biden comes into power.

During a press conference by UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, at the agency’s headquarters in Gaza City, the official said: “UNRWA witnessed an unprecedented financial crisis during the past year,” one, he explained, which affected its ability to pay “the salaries of UNRWA employees.”

The international community “is aware of the details of the crisis that UNRWA is going through,” Lazzarini explained, noting that UNRWA “knocked on all doors to obtain other sources of funding” and was able to pay staff salaries in November and December.

The US, which was UNRWA’s largest donor, halted funding to the international aid group in 2018. Prior to the Trump administration’s cuts, the US had been providing UNRWA some $350 million a year, more than a quarter of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget.

With regard to the UNRWA food programme, Lazzarini said the organisation had established a new system that targets the poor in all regions of Gaza as a result of the increasing rates of poverty.

READ: UNRWA resumes distribution of aid to 140,000 Gaza families

indicated that his agency, in light of the expansion of poverty in the Gaza Strip, Lazzarini described the year 2020 as “difficult for UNRWA, and for refugees in all their places as well,” adding: “The past year witnessed political developments and economic and social problems, in addition to the corona pandemic, which increased the suffering of people, especially the poor.”

“Palestine refugees and the poor are the most vulnerable to exposure to coronavirus, as the effects of the disease on them are greater,” he said, adding that UNRWA will have a major role in “any vaccination process against coronavirus.”

Gaza has witnessed 46,000 coronavirus cases since March with 464 fatalities.

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Wike under fire over donation of N500 million for rebuilding of Sokoto mosque

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Pensioners in Rivers State are gnashing their teeth over Governor Nyesom Wike’s N500million largesse to the Sokoto State Government to douse the pain on the state and traders affected by the inferno at Sokoto Central Market.

The pensioners, who lampooned the governor, said N500million would have to a high extent met some of the demands of retired civil servants in the State.

Some retirees who spoke to newsmen at the Rivers State Secretariat Complex lamented that since the Governor assumed office in 2015, Pensioners are yet to receive their gratuities and pension arrears.

One of the retirees, Bariza Kpaen said, “How can our governor give out such an amount of money when there are so many unresolved financial issues? We the governor to immediately settle the issues surrounding the gratuity and Pension arrears now that it is obvious that he has so much to spend.”

Another retiree who simply identified herself as Hart, said, “Some of our colleagues have died for lack of funds to take care of themselves medically and otherwise. The Governor must stop playing politics with the lives of pensioners in this state.”

On his part, Youth Activist, Charles Jaja blamed elders statesmen and youths for being silent in the face of Governor Wike’s financial recklessness; “I am disappointed because I am simply worried about our elder statesmen and good number of youths who sing the praises of Governor in the face of this financial irresponsibility.”

Also reacting, Chairman of the Rivers Civil Society Organizations Enefaa Georgewill, expressed disappointment in an interview with Muhabarishaji over the donation, stating that while it is not wrong for an entity to make donations, noted that it is wrong for a government who is yet to develop its State to do so.

Enefaa, stated that it is saddening that residents of Rivers State are currently grappling with survival tendencies while Governor Wike has embarked on a spending spree without appropriation by the Legislature.

According to Georgewill, “There are flooding issues that need urgent attention that have not been looked into, every year buildings, plants and people’s source of livelihood are being destroyed due to the disaster that can be managed if the government simply pays attention.

“Indigent Rivers students are struggling in different tertiary institutions because the Governor stopped paying them bursary. Pensioners are dying because the Governor is withholding their pensions and gratuities.

” What Governor Wike has simply done with that donation to Sokoto is eye service and dirty politics. The Governor should be concerned about removing the log in his own eyes before removing the spec in another person’s eyes.”

Wike had on Wednesday pledged the sum of Five Hundred Million Naira to support the Sokoto State government to rebuild the Sokoto Central market that was gutted by fire.

“What affects Sokoto State affects Rivers State. We are going to support the traders and the government of Sokoto State. We are donating the sum of N500million to support the traders and also support in building the market back part of which will go to bringing back the market”, Wike said.

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Buhari approves N6.45billion oxygen plants for COVID-19 treatment

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Ministries, Departments, Agencies, MDAs, and business enterprises to grant access to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to their systems for the purposes of tax collection.

The President issued the directive on Thursday at the First Annual National Tax Dialogue organized by the FIRS in Abuja.

Buhari also ordered the FIRS to “immediately put all measures in place to fully implement programmes to stamp out Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in all of its ramifications and generally automate its tax processes.”

He urged the FIRS to fast-track its digitalization of the tax collection process.

“I have directed all government agencies and business enterprises to grant FIRS access to their systems for connection. We all are now living in a fast digitalising world.

“As such, business transactions are continually being migrated from “brick and mortar” locations to digital places.

“However, It is necessary for tax authorities to adopt digital means to efficiently track taxable transactions for the purpose of collecting taxes.

“We also made necessary amendments to the FIRS Establishment Act in the Finance Act 2020 in order to provide the necessary legislative framework for adopting technology in tax administration,” he said.

Speaking also, the Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, revealed that the FIRS would match on to digitalize the tax process fully.

He also thanked the President and all other stakeholders that worked together to implement the necessary laws for their continued support to the service.

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