Worried by the spate of complaints and unimpressive reports trailing the ongoing voters registration exercise across the country, the Senate on resumption yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise and summoned the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) , Prof. Attahiru Jega to the chambers, today to explain reasons for the poor performance of the exercise.
The senate also directed the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai to re-open schools which had remained closed nationwide due to the ongoing voters registration exercise ‘as soon as possible’.
These resolutions of the Senate came on the heels of a motion moved by the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba on the difficulties being experienced by Nigerians in the on-going registration exercise.
Senator Ndoma-Egba in his presentation had expressed fears that the problems of the voters registration exercise and the inability of millions of Nigerians who were willing to be registered to be captured are danger signs to free, fair and credible elections in April.
Regretting the disappointments trailing the exercise, he lamented that the high bill of N87billion paid by Nigerian tax payers to have a credible voters registration exercise was not justified.
His words, “There has been widespread report of all sorts of problems. Several registration centres in my constituency and nationwide have not received the DDC machines. The NYSC people are boycotting the exercise for non-payment of allowances. The consequences of all these problems are that the process of free, fair and credible elections is likely to be undermined because the substantial proportion of people will not be registered” .
All the Senators who contributed on the floor listed series of complaints and challenges facing several senatorial districts and constituencies across the country.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said Nigerians were suffering double jeopardy as a result of the shoddy registration exercise and the forceful closure of schools.
“We are suffering a double jeopardy, schools are closed and we are not getting the expected results from the voter registration exercise,” he lamented.
Senator Ayogu Eze, regretting the hitches so far recorded argued that if INEC could not conduct a credible fresh voters registration exercise for Nigerians , it should do well to go back to the old register , dust it and update it to save Nigerians the sufferings they are passing through now.
Senator Uche Chukwumerije had stated that the lapses so far recorded were only forerunners to the April elections.
Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Olorunibe Mammorah in his contribution emphasised the need to amend the Electoral Act to accommodate the challenges being raised in registering eligible voters.
He condemned the closure of schools for the exercise, saying it amounted to the ‘denial of rights of children’ which he said was unnecessary.
According to Senator Ahmed Lawan, “‘it is only the Chairman of INEC that believes that the exercise is a success while all Nigerians think otherwise. We have no choice but to amend the Electoral Act to allow for more time to capture more people. I am actually worried that the one man, one vote policy may no longer count considering the way the INEC chairman is going”.
In his remarks, Senator Mark expressed worries that the commission might disappoint the teeming Nigerians who are determined to make their votes count.
Addressing Senate correspondents on the closed door session of the Senate at resumption of plenary, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze reiterated the commitment of the Senate to accelerate the passage of 2011 Appropriation Bill , the Anti-Corruption Bill, the Petroleum Industry Bill and the FOI Bill.
His words “We want to make sure that we fulfill the promise we made to Nigerians that we will pass the Freedom of Information Bill within the life of this legislature, this sixth Senate. Very soon, we will be slating that Bill for third reading.
“I want to assure Nigerians that we are determined to pass that Bill and also to pass the Anti-Corruption Bill, because it’s a very crucial Bill that we need to pass, first of all to conform to international practice and to convince our development partners that we are very serious on the issue of cleaning up our house and fighting corruption with our gloves on”.
Senator Eze also assured that the Senate was not only determined to pass FOI Bill but also to pursue it to make sure that it was signed within the life of the sixth Senate.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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