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Oil Subsidy’s Many Contradictions

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The debate on the subsidy regime thrown up by the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government and the resultant nation-wide strike and protests  by organized labour and civil society groups is far from being over, as the issue is still on the front burner of national discourse.

At the National Assembly, for instance, the House of Representatives’ Ad-hoc committee on the subsidy regime concluded its indebt probe a fortnight ago and is currently putting its report together, while the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Down stream) resumed its suspended public hearing on the sector last week. At both the House probe and Senate public hearing, the nation was treated to startling revelations that shocked not a few.

As the nation awaits the separate reports of both Houses of the National Assembly, The Tide took up issues arising from the probe with the sole sponsor of  the motion on subsidy in the House, Hon. Kingsley Ogundu Chinda. A frontline member of the 7th National Assembly (Vice Chairman, House Committee on Customs and Excise) Hon.  Chinda told The Tide  that he sees contradictions in the handling of the fuel subsidy regime in the country and the entire imbroglio should be tackled frontally, and he tasked the  government on this.

“So far, investigation by the House ad-hoc committee has been concluded and startling facts were revealed; the report of the committee will be made and forwarded to the Executive arm for action. I hope and pray that the Executive arm, in the interest of the nation, will act on the report expeditiously and not allowed the report rot on  the shelve like many other reports,” he said.

The Obio/Akpor Federal  Constituency (Rivers State) legislator said it was good that President Jonathan in  fulfillment of  his promise of creating employment with the money saved from subsidy, launched the government’s employment programme last week by inaugurating the implementation committee.

He acknowledged that the Dr. Christopher Kolade-led committee is empowered to manage proceeds from the subsidy, but added, “Let me say clearly that there are several contradictions in the system. Nigeria is still borrowing as we speak and appears to be poised to continue borrowing .

“We were informed that the country borrowed to fund fuel subsidy in 2011. If we stop subsidy payment, what we would have achieved is that we would  have stopped borrowing. The issue of reinvesting the fund is illogical and contradictory. There are  places in this country where fuel sells for N500 per litre as we speak. One of such places is Mr. President’s home state (Bayelsa)”, he lamented, adding persuasively, “something needs to be done.

“Government needs to gain citizens’ confidence and get them to buy into government policies. This can only be achieved if government is transparent and operates strictly by laid down rules that are clearly predictable.”   He continued: “As I stated earlier at the heat of the subsidy removal, ‘for systems of administration or policies of government, let fools contend; what is best administered is best in any society’. What this means is that: It’s not the removal of subsidy that is the crux of the matter but it’s effective administration; it is not the policy but the administration of the policy that matters. That is why a policy can work in Ghana and may not work in Nigeria.

“Again, when national issues are discussed, people take regional and ethnic positions and abandon the nation; even among very highly placed officers, you see more of Ikwerre, Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa or Ijaw opinion or agenda, than the Nigerian project.  All I will say is that we do not have a true Nigerian nation. What ww have is an amalgam of various nationalities. I pray that we begin to produce true Nigerians with Nigerian spirit, Nigerian orientation and Nigerian interest to get us out of this quagmire”.

The Tide asked Chinda of his input into the security puzzle that has bedeviled the nation and he drew The Tide’s attention to his recent motion on the prevailing security situation. Titled: ‘Need to urgently investigate and check the rising security challenges in the country’, the motion  tasked the Federal Government to come up with a clear programme, solution, and/or policy on how to tackle the problem and not just to beg the problem or adopt a fire brigade measure.

Drawing example from late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme, which was instituted to quell the security challenges the nation was facing at the time from Niger Delta militants, Chinda said, “Now, I’m yet to see a clear programme on how to tackle the upheaval, We must come up with a clear programme on how to tackle the security challenges”.

The just-concluded 2012 budget defence of federal MDA’s at the National Assembly is one issue that cannot escape  mention, especially since some committees embarked on a tour of some of these MDA’s before approving their budgets.

The Tide asked Hon Chinda, who led his Customs and Excise committee along with the chairman, Hon Sabo Nakudu on a tour of the Customs, their areas of operation, as part of their oversight function, on the committee’s discovery.

According to him, “We discovered during our oversight visit that our ports are heavily under-utilized, They are colossal wastes!” To this end, he has a motion before the House, mandating government to ‘put our ports to full use’.

There is also the issue of failed contract  in the sector and already the erudite legislator has come up with a motion on that, titled : “ Failed contract for dredging of the Calabar channel and the Port Harcourt ports”.

He said there was need to re-award the contracts and put the channel and ports on sound footing so that they can generate more revenue to the Federal Government and create room for wealth creation in the region.”

He continued: “There is also need to connect Onne port to the National grid. It is disturbing that Onne port is not connected to the national grid till now; this is a misnomer. We also observed that fixed scanners were supposed to be installed at Onne and Port Harcourt ports but they are not there. Work has just started to fix the scanners and this is the last year of the five (%) year contract with SGS.

“Nigerians lost the opportunity of using the scanners for the duration of the 5 years contract and SGS is not likely to be there after this year to properly conclude the installation and testing of the scanners unless their contract is renewed. These anomalies should be corrected. I have motions before the House to properly empower the Committee to effectively deal with the situation”.

In addition, “We discovered that the employment pattern in the Nigeria Customs appears to be lop-sided and not in compliance with the constitutional provision for geographical spread. The Committee on Customs is recently working on that and we can say that we have received the assurance of the management of Nigerian Customs to correct the anomaly which has existed over the years.

“Also we discovered that state governments, particularly border states, do not pay attention to Nigeria Customs as one of the security agencies in the country. Nigerian Customs is supposed to protect borders and ensure that illegal goods, fire arms and explosives are not moved into the country. What it means is that they’ll be faced with the challenge of fighting criminals and high-class smugglers.

They, therefore, need proper equipment  and they ought to be knitted fully to face the challenges,” he had expressing regret that while State Governments support the Police and other security agencies by providing operational vehicles and allowances, this goodwill is not extended to the Nigeria Custom.”

He that they observed in the course of the oversight function the commendable changes going on in the Nigerian Customs noting that the operations of custom are being digitalised making room for easy monitoring of the Customs and increases transparency, particularly in revenue collection in form of Excise duties, which accounts for the over 100% increase in revenue generated in 2011.

“There’s also concerted efforts to ensure speedy clearance of goods at the wharf. In this light, I’ll urge Nigerians to co-operate with the Agency and also report all cases of extortion or inordinate delay by the custom to the appropriate quarters, either the Controller – General’s office or the House Committee on Customs and  Excise”, he said.

 

Justus Awaji, Abuja

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PDP Caucus Demands Prosecution Of  NCC Officials

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives has called on the appropriate authorities to arrest and prosecute officials of the National Communications Commission (NCC) for claiming that electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not possible in the country.
The Tide reports that NCC officials led by Executive Director, Ubale Maska, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, while testifying before the House, on the adoption of electronic transmission of results from the units, claimed that the 2018 Technical Report of the NCC showed that only about “50 percent of the polling units had 3G while 49 percent had 2G network and below.”
But the PDP Caucus Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said the NCC officials lied to Nigerians while on oath and as such, must be prosecuted for allegedly misleading Nigerians.
Chinda said the NCC officials “cleverly sought to rely on 2018 data in 2021, when they knew or ought to know that internet penetration has advanced substantially in Nigeria since 2018.
“Indeed a perusal of NCC Website even today shows that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 (P .33) says that by September 2019, the ‘Spread of 3G/LTE’ had reached 74.2 percent in Nigeria,” the PDP caucus added.
“We call on the prosecuting authorities to immediately arrest the officials of the NCC, under Prof. Danbatta and all those who procured Ubale Maska and other officials to lie under oath to be investigated and where found culpable, be brought to justice by standing criminal trial, he said,”.

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Onochie Makes Case For True Federalism

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An elder statesman, Dr Nnamdi Onochie, has again told the Federal Government to come up with a blueprint on true federalism, to address worrisome fault lines keeping Nigeria divided.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, Onochie lamented that Nigeria would continue to wallow in problems until political leaders mustered courage to address endemic problems holding the country down.
Former colonial masters, Britain amalgamated Nigeria in 1914, to give birth to Africa’s largest nation but 107 years down the line, the country has been engulfed in various problems, making the country not to realise its potential to the fullest.
According to Onochie, the way out is for the government to implement true federalism as an article of faith to ensure equity, fair play, justice and equality of all ethnic nationalities in the country.
“Unless the path of equality of all states, as they stand today, is guaranteed without contestation, Nigeria will continue to contend with divisive tendencies and the centre will never hold to build a united indivisible nation.
He reiterated that recurring problems in the country had highlighted the inevitability of genuine federalism to be implemented by government, to make Nigeria truly great to achieve the set goals of its founding fathers.
“I have earlier suggested that government should convene a Peace and Reconciliation Conference of all shades and creeds of Nigeria by October 2021, to map out the path of stable devolution of all functions in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution.
“The sooner these recommendations are implemented the better for the corporate entity of Nigeria, because no one is excited with current developments threatening the existence of Nigeria from day to day.’’
Onochie, who was a former Nigerian envoy to Algeria and the Philippines, argued that true federalism would address some endemic problems tearing Nigeria apart, including banditry and restiveness in some parts of the country.
He criticised what he described as parochial tendencies displayed in the National Assembly on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, saying that displaying partisanship in critical issues would never promote unity and national integration.
The political stalwart reiterated that he stood for one Nigeria and that he would continue to campaign for Nigeria not to disintegrate as he gets set to offer himself to serve in the highest political office in the upcoming general elections.
On the directive by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to media houses not to report kidnappings, killings, maiming and other nefarious activities of terrorists, bandits and insurgents freely and openly, Onochie described the directive as draconian and totally at variance with global democratic tenets.
“Nothing should be done to tamper with the freedom of speech as spelt in the constitution to deny Nigerians their freedom of free speech, expression, association and other rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).’’
He described press freedom as the bedrock of democracy, saying that Nigeria should copy values that promote development and sustain nation building “to make the nation respected in the comity of nations.’’
“Nigerians and the international community must be made to be fully aware of the gains of a free press, rather than allowing the NBC to gag the civil space and disallow media houses from performing their duties as the fourth estate of the realm.”
Onochie, a polyglot, who was a former Commissioner for Special Duties in Delta has been campaigning for Nigerian unity and for separatists in parts of the country to drop their agitations and say farewell to disintegration.

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INEC Registers 752,011 Voters In Three Weeks

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that 752,011 eligible Nigerians have completed the online pre-registration as fresh voters in the last three weeks since the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) commenced online on June 28, 2021.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said in Abuja, that in the last 21 days as at 7am on Monday, 19 July 2021, INEC recorded an average of 35,810 registrants per day.
According to him, out of this figure, 562,254 (74.7per cent) are youths between the ages of 18 and 34; and that in terms of gender, 493,128 were male while 369,188 were female.
He said that detailed distribution of registrants by states/FCT, age, occupation and disability has been uploaded on the commission’s website and social media platforms.
“The commission wishes to reiterate its earlier decision that because of the declaration of Tuesday, 20 and Wednesday, 21 July 2021 as public holidays by the federal government, the commencement of physical registration is now rescheduled to Monday, 26 July 2021.
“Online pre-registrants who booked for appointment to complete their registration physically between Monday 19 and Friday, 23 July 2021, will be notified within the next few days of the new dates for their appointments. They may also visit the portal (https://cvr.inecnigeria.org) to choose a new available date and time, if they so desire,” Okoye said.

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