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2013Budget: Nigerians Hail High Education Vote



Stakeholders in the education sector yesterday lauded President Goodluck Jonathan for giving the sector the highest budgetary allocation in the 2013 Appropriation Bill presented on Wednesday.

Jonathan had proposed a N4.9 trillion budget to the joint session of the National Assembly for approval.

The proposal allotted N426.5 billion to education while defence came second with N348.9 billion and the police had the third highest share of N319 billion.

A former Minister of Education, Mrs Chinwe Obaji, told newsmen that the move was “a right step in the right direction’’.

She, however, called for effective measures in monitoring the use of the funds.

Also speaking, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, immediate past President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), expressed the hope that the education vote, if approved, would turn around the fortunes of the sector.

“However, we would need time to look at how the budget to the sector got to be one of the highest beneficiary, where it should be channelled, the implementation, how it should be managed and what it portends to the sector.

“It is only when we study all these details that we would be able to get a better view of how this would transform the system for the advancement of the country’s economy,” he said.

Dr Olubunmi Ajibade, a Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, said the budget, if approved, would be one of the best things that had happened to the sector in recent times.

“We have been advocating crucial funding of the sector because that is the only way to restore its glory.

“There is no way we can talk about national development without sound education.

Director, Centre for Environment and Science Education, at the university, Mr Ademola Onifade,  told newsmen that the “jumbo allocation’’ would improve the standard of education in the country.

For Head of Department, Mass Communication Department, Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu, Mr Ifedayo Daramola,  the allocation to the education sector was a demonstration of the interest the president had in developing the country’s education.

“Definitely, it will bring a lot of improvement to the sector. This shows that our president knows the importance of education’’.

In his contribution, Prof. Ayo Fadahunsi, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, said the allocation would enable the government to build more hostels and lecture halls in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mrs Adebimpe Akinsola, also lauded Jonathan for the initiative, saying the funds would help to improve infrastructure in the institutions.

Similarly, some financial experts yesterday said that the 2013 budget would impact positively on the financial sector if well implemented.

They told newsmen in separate interviews in Lagos that proper execution of the 2013 budget would impact on all aspects of the national economy.

Managing Director of Boaz Management and Financial Strategies, Mr Oluwole Ibikunle, said that the capital and recurrent expenditure estimates in the 2013 budget proposal were better than those of 2012.

“ If the N1.54 trillion allocated for capital projects can be judiciously used, more industries will be established and hence, more job opportunities for our youths,“ he said.

Ibikunle said that although the 75 dollars per barrel crude oil price benchmark was commendable, government should be careful of the sudden changes in international oil price.

General Manager, Capital Trust Broker Ltd., Mr Abiodun Omojokun,, said that the 2013 budget should focus on improving the Human Development Index.

General Manager, Apt Securities and Funds Ltd., Mr Peter Kanayo,  said that there was the need for the private-public sector collaboration to make a success of the 2013 fiscal proposal.

Kanayo also said that full implementation of the proposed budget estimate would restore confidence of foreign investors in the economy.

He commended the Federal Government for planning to invest more in the educational sector than before.

“The ailing educational system has made so many Nigerians to take their children aboard to study to the detriment of our own educational development, “ he said.

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Stiffer Anti-Kidnapping Bill Scales 2nd Reading In Senate



A bill seeking to introduce stiffer punishment for kidnapping, wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement for ransom, has passed second reading at the Senate, just as it also passed a bill seeking to establish the Nationwide Emergency Communications Service.
This was sequel to the presentation of the lead debate by the sponsor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun (APC-Osun) during plenary, yesterday.
The bill is titled “Abduction, Wrongful Restraints and Confinement Bill 2021”.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, Amosun said the bill was read for the first time on Wednesday, June 30.
He said the aim was to ensure stricter and more stringent punishment for the offence of kidnapping, and bring to an end the debate of the adequacy or otherwise of punishment for kidnapping and other related crimes, like false imprisonment.
“It also seeks to combat and prevent any form of kidnapping in Nigeria.
“This bill also provides more punitive measures for ancillary crimes flowing from the commission of the crime of abduction, like death or grievous bodily harm.
“To achieve the deterrent effect, life imprisonment is proposed for the offence of kidnapping, particularly where death results from the act.
“The law is made stricter by ensuring that recipients of any proceeds of the act of kidnapping are heavily sanctioned with term of imprisonment of up to 30 years.
“The bill proposes to give the Inspector-General of Police wider powers to enable adequate policing of the crime of kidnapping.”
The lawmaker further said that the highest term of imprisonment prescribed for kidnapping in the Criminal and Penal Code Acts was 10 years imprisonment.
“The light punishment against these offences has not helped in deterring the spate of abductions and kidnappings that have now become prevalent in the country.”
Amosun described the menace a major national challenge that deserved to be treated with all seriousness.
The bill was thereafter referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative action to report back in four weeks.
The Senate’s approval of Nationwide Emergency Communications Service followed the consideration of the report of Senate Committee on Communication on Nationwide Toll-Free Emergency Number (Establishment) Bill, 2021, at plenary.
It also approved 112 as the toll-free number for emergencies.
The report was presented by Sen. Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti) on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee, Sen Oluremi Tinubu (APC-Lagos).
Olujimi in her presentation explained that clause two of the bill sought to establish a service which would be responsible for deployment and coordination of seamless and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency needs nationwide.
She said clause five of the bill was amended to empower the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) with the responsibility of formulating regulations and guidelines for the workings of the service.
Olujimi explained that Clause 11 of the bill prohibited use of telephone and mobile telecommunications services to place false, frivolous or vexatious calls to the emergency number 112.
She added that Clause 12 of the bill provides that, “a person who violates any of the provisions of this bill or the regulations is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a penalty of not more than N50,000.
“Or in default to a term imprisonment not exceeding six months, and for each subsequent offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than N250,000 naira or, in default, to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.”
She said new sub-clauses (2), (3) and (4) were introduced into the bill to provide for the blacklisting of any person who violates Clause 11 for a period not more than eight weeks.

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UNICEF, EU Warn Of Damaging Effect Of Conflict On Nigerian Children



No fewer than 300,000 children have reportedly been killed in the northeast since the advent of insurgency in the region 12 years ago.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Nigeria, Peter Hawkins; and the European Union (EU) Head of Cooperation, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer; who disclosed these figures in a joint press statement, yesterday, also confirmed that over one million children had as well been displaced.
The aid agencies have now appealed to all sides in the conflict to protect children from the “short and long term effects of war, warning that a recent Mental Health and Psychological Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in Nigeria, revealed pervasive psychological distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger as well as aggressive and hyper-vigilance”.
They stressed that the scars of conflict were real and enduring for children and that too many children in the northeast were falling victim to a conflict they did not start.
UNICEF country representatives advised that affected children be allowed and supported to regain their childhood and restart their lives.
The EU Head of Cooperation, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, also advised that addressing the psychological well-being and development of children and teachers in conflict situations is an important part of re-establishing education provision and enabling children to re-enter schools safely.

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Pensions Scheme: Retired Police Officers Protest At NASS …Accuse IGP, Others Of Mismanaging Fund



Police retirees under the Contributory Pensions Scheme, yesterday, embarked on another protest over the alleged lack of equity in the scheme.
The police retirees converged at the gates of the National Assembly to push home their earlier demand to be exited from the scheme.
The officers had in April taken their protest to the National Assembly when they made similar demands in a form of a petition which received the blessings of the Senate following which an investigative hearing of their petition was carried out.
They also accused the Inspector General of Police, Baba Alkali, and the management team of aiding and abetting the alleged fraudulent mismanagement of the fund which they claim is being diverted to private pockets.
The retirees said based on their findings, the IGP and the management team have been foot-dragging in proposing a bill to the National Assembly to exempt the police from the Contributory Pension Scheme.
Part of their text made available to journalists read, “It would surprise you to hear that till date, the IGP has refused to comply with the advice given, instead, he mandated the DIG, Sanusi Lemu to join the NPF Pension Ltd marketing team to go on marketing campaigns against the exit of the Police from Contributory Pension Scheme.
“DIG Sanusi’s action violates Section 4 of Police Act which highlights the constitutional duties of a police officer. As contrary as this was, another crafty aspect of the act was a hired crowd that was induced with N10,000.00 and souvenir each to gather and pose as retired police officers to enable them make a clip for a press release to the effect that our genuine agitation was political and not supported by the generality of police retirees.”
The angry ex-officers recalled that the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, had ordered an investigative hearing of their petition since June 2, under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba, which outcome, the IGP was unwilling to abide by three months after.
The group said, regrettably, the Inspector General of Police rather directed the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Sanusi Lemu, to join the NPF Pension Ltd marketing to embark on a false campaign, stating that exiting from the Contributory Pension Scheme was not in the interest of retires and serving police officers.
The retirees wondered how the IGP and his management team would allow their pecuniary interests, overwhelm the thousands of retirees, saying that it was the police officers’ fund that was used to set up the capital base of NPF Pension Ltd.
The ex-officers expressed confidence that the National Assembly will intervene by amending the Act to do away with the flaws and those clauses that are inconsistent with the supreme law and further demanded that:
“The exemption clause in the Pension Reform Act should be expanded to include the Nigeria Police Force which is the leading agency in internal security in this country.
“All police retirees who enlisted into the force before the birth of the CPS in 2004 should be exempted CPS and the 300% of their annual salary be paid to them as gratuity and 80% of their last monthly salary be paid to them as pension as specified under the defines benefits scheme under which condition they enlisted into the force.”
The chairman of the Cross Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Police Retirees Under Contributory Pension Scheme, Christopher Effiong, who coordinated the protest on behalf of other chapters said, the IGP’s lukewarm attitude has justified their earlier findings that their pension was being fraudulently diverted into private pockets.
He alleged that they were being cheated by the pension managers and some serving senior Police officers, which the National Assembly has since directed the IGP to forward a bill.
“We are here to reiterate our former appeal to the National Assembly to exit us from the Contributory Pensions Scheme for which we were coerced.
“We want to exit, we don’t want it again. We would rather prefer to return to the defined benefit scheme controlled by the Nigeria police pension board where our pension and gratuity would be paid. We are pleading that they should exit us from the Contributory Pensions Scheme.
“As experts and professionals in different fields that we were trained, if we are utilized properly we are a major asset to Nigeria as a nation especially these days of insecurity and terrorism.
“When such well-trained officers are treated with such disdain they can be hijacked to carry out some activities that would not be very good for the government of this country.
“We have bomb experts, anti-bomb and terrorism experts, we have highly trained intelligence officers among us.
“Government has to keep us somewhere to pacify us because in more civilised nations retired officers like us are kept as a reserved force.
“Anytime you have challenges you fall back and get ideas from us to get things right but here in Nigeria after we have suffered they have abandoned us”.
Offiong lamented that a police inspector who spent 35 years in service and retired would be paid a paltry sum of N785,284.40 and will be taking N22,000 as monthly pension, while an ASP retiree is currently paid N16,000 monthly, a situation he described as homicidal.
“Let them pay us debarment allowance, exit us from Contributory Pension Scheme. These are the two requests we are making that National Assembly should help us.”
Meanwhile, a bill for an Act to amend the Pension Reform Act 2014 so as to exempt the Nigeria Police Force from the Contributory Pension Scheme has passed second reading.
Sponsored by Rep Francis Waive (APC-Delta), the bill was read for the second time on the floor of the House of Representatives, yesterday, in Abuja.
Leading the debate, Waive stated that the bill sought to amend Section 5, Sub-Section 1 paragraph (a) of the Pension Reform Act of 2014.
According to him, this will include the Nigerian Police Force as part of the categories of persons exempted from the Contributory Pension Scheme, which presently include members of the Armed Forces, the intelligence and secret services of the federation.
The lawmaker said that the Nigerian Police was brought under the current pension scheme by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
He said that Obasanjo modelled the country’s Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) after the Chilean ‘Chilere’ pension scheme, which exempted both the armed forces and the police from the scheme.
Waive said, “Unfortunately, in adopting the same model, he brought the police under the Nigerian Contributory Pension scheme, while exempting the military and other intelligence agencies”.
The lawmaker said that the Nigeria Police Pensions Limited emanated from a Presidential approval that was aimed at enhancing the welfare of serving and retired police officers.
“Consequent upon the approval, the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), was in 2012 directed to guide the police towards the establishment of a Nigeria Police Pension Fund Administrator”.
This, according to him, was in order to remain within the Contributory Pension Scheme and to address all other areas of concern on welfare and pension matters.
He, however, alleged that operating under the current pension scheme had been both unpalatable and regrettable for the retirees of the Nigerian Police Force.
The police, being the front line security agency in the country, were exposed to dangers day and night more than the other security agencies and as such deserved better treatment during and after service.
“For example, the highest retirement benefit of a Deputy Superintendent of Police under this obnoxious pension scheme is N2.5million.
“That of Assistant Superintendent of Police is N1.5million, while their equivalent in Army (captain) and DSS are paid N12.8million and N10.3million, respectively,” he said.
In his contribution, Hon Uzoma Abonta (PDP-Abia), said that other security agencies should also benefit from the exemption.
An overwhelming majority of the lawmakers agreed with the sponsor of the bill, enabling it to scale second reading.

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