The House of Representatives yesterday responded to critics of its invitation to President Goodluck Jonathan over the spate of bombings in the country.
The lawmakers said they have the constitutional backing to do so.
The Representatives also reminded Mr. Femi Otedola that he is as guilty, being a bribe giver, as Farouk Lawan who allegedly collected it.
The reponse of the lawmakers was coming on the heels of Otedola’s reaction to the reinstatement of his companies on the list of those that collected foreign exchange but failed to utilise it for the purpose of importing fuel.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed at a media interactive session on Thursday emphasized that the House has not erred by inviting the President for an interface on the security situation in the country.
he said: “ There is no exception, the House makes an application on issues bordering on what has been of national concern and in this instance, the President and Commander-in-Chief who happens to be the father of the nation, we think he is the best person to throw light on efforts taken so far.
“Of course we are saddened by the occurring violence in the country, the bombings and criminal activities but we believe that as a nation and representatives of the people, if we don’t take a position on the matter things will go on unabated.
“With the way this violence has been spreading, we believe that we need to get proactive and the best way to do it is to get Mr. President and his Service Chiefs to interface with us and be able to know what exactly the constraints are and what are their efforts.
Saying that the Representatives were not unaware of the debate the invitation has generated, Mohammed noted that some critics believed that the House overstepped its bounds with the invitation.
He said: “I want to say clearly here that we have not, in anyway overstepped our bounds. We said it in our legislative agenda that we intend to interface with other arms of government to the benefit of Nigerians and this is just one of it.
“Remember, Mr. President at the wake of subsidy introduction had to invite us to the Villa, we had light lunch with him, 360 of us, including 109 Senators, we were in the Villa, nobody complained, we listened to him and told him our own piece of mind as far as the subsidy issue is concerned.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian Senate, yesterday, adopted 104 out of 126 recommendation of its probe committee on pension fraud, ordering the immediate sack, arrest and prosecution of the embattled chairman of the pension task force team, Mr Abdulasheed Maina , 27 senior police officers, among others, over N275billion pension fund.
While the Senate moves to address the rot in the Pensions system, another N58billion pension money has been declared missing in the office of the Head of Service, where the sum of N1.7billion meant for payment of death benefits to the families of late workers were allegedly diverted by some senior officers. Already, some staff of the ICPC were also indicted in the monumental fraud.
Adopting the committee’s report, the Senate specifically ordered Maina and his team to refund another N15billion allegedly diverted into personal pockets by the task force team.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC) is to further investigate the transfer of the N4.6billion from the UBA to Union Bank plc and the transfer of another N7.6 billion from Zenith bank to Union bank.
It asked the office of the Accountant General of the Federation to recover another unspent N43. 2billion pension fund deposited in various banks.
Senate President, David Mark at plenary expressed deep disappointment over the looting and warned that if found out to be true, Marina and his co-travellers must relise that they have reeped from the blood of innocent pensioners.
Mark at the stormy session also threatened to sign the warrant of the arrest of the embattled chairman of the pension task team in the event he fails again to appear before the panel to explain his role in the alleged looting of over N275billion pension money.
He said that anybody indicted in the fraud would face the music no matter how highly placed he or she is in the society.
Senate resolution followed the adoption of the senators recommendations on the missing funds.
Throwing some light on the amount, Vice Chairman of the committee, Kabiru Gaya, said the records of the balance of N58.715billion was still missing at the office of the Head of Service.
He said, “within six years, the Head of the civil service received a total of N216billion as pensions. It only spent N154billion, remaining a balance of N58.7billion.
“We made efforts to get records of the balance of N58.7billionthroughout the period of the investigation and we did not get any.”
He noted that about N1.76billion earmarked for the settlement of the families of dead pensioners was diverted by the office of Head of Service to recurrent expenditure leaving the families without the benefits.
The panel in its recommendation specifically observed an entrenched corruption and fraud at the pensions department of the Head of the Civil Service.
But the senate at the end of the robust debate on the report said that the executive must implement the pensions report as adopted by the Senate to prove that it is not complicit to the corruption and pillages revealed in the nation’s pensions system.
The Senate agreed with the committee that “the unspent balance of pension funds to the tune of N58,715,239, 159.66 should be mopped up by the Accountant General of the Federation and transferred to the pension arrears with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Where the funds could not be traced in such accounts, the accounting officer should be held responsible
The Senate also identified a total of N43.21billion of Police Pensions as unspent.
The committee had noted that a total of N1.025trillion was received by all the pension offices between 2005 and 2011, but only N751.444billion was spent within the period, leaving a balance of N273.941billion.
The Senate resolved that “the outstanding pension fund balances of N273.941billion in all the pension offices of the Federal Government be mopped up by the Account General of the Federation and be used to settle all outstanding pension entitlements.
The report noted that the fake and dead pensioners which the exercises are intended to weed out are protégé of the relevant pension officials.
Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
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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