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Much Ado About Rivers 2014 Budget

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Tuesday, January 7,
2014 will no doubt go down in the annals of the history of legislation on Rivers State, nay Nigeria, especially against the background of events that preceded the passage of the state’s 2014 Appropriation Bill by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Expectedly, the presentation and subsequent passage of the 2014 Appropriation Bill by the House had elicited mixed reactions from individuals, lawyers and lawmakers.
One of them is the Chief Whip of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Ikwuiyi Ibani, who criticised the manner in which the budget was quickly passed into law.
“I couldn’t have attended any sitting outside the Chambers of the Rivers State House of  Assembly. What my colleagues did was unconstitutional in the first instance because it is a known fact that the Rivers State House of Assembly sits at Moscow Road, we have our official office which is the Assembly complex, so any business of the House conducted outside the premises of the Assembly is null and void”, Hon Ibani said.
Also, the member representing Obio/Akpor constituency 1, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, said it was illegal for the Assembly to sit outside the complex. According to him, “The standing order of the Rivers State House of Assembly is very clear, you cannot, and it is not possible for a Governor to present a budget and have it passed on the same day.
“The standing order is very clear, go to order 50, it is very clear, you cannot, in fact, the debate on the presentation of the budget cannot take place on the same day”, Hon Amaewhule stated.
The state Chapter of the PDP, on its part, described the action to present the 2014 budget outside the Hallowed Chambers of the Assembly as “illegal, criminal and of no effect”.
Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt shortly after Governor Amaechi presented the budget before the House, the state Chairman of the PDP, Chief Felix Obuah also described the presentation as “an illegality that will not stand”.
In an obvious response to the above, the State interim APC Chairman, Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, described the Felix Obuah-1ed PDP in the state as a “bunch of ignoramuses who expose their total ignorance of law making shamelessly”.
According to him, the stand of Rivers State PDP on the budget presentation only further “exposes their hatred for the development of Rivers State, knowing very well that without budget, the government can’t finance most of its projects or pay salaries.
“What PDP does not understand is that first, it is the Speaker that designates where the House sits as far as the Mace, which is the symbol of authority is present. The Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree, as the Head of Legislature in Rivers State designated the venue of sitting in line with his powers.
“In other words, based on the fact that the Rivers State House of Assembly is under siege, coupled with the fact that it is still under renovation, the House did the proper thing. Besides, the House has powers under the rules, and with necessary quorum and number, to designate any place as its chambers as in this case”, Ikanya explained.
Earlier, the Speaker of the State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ote1emaba Dan-Amachree, had said the Assembly took the decision to carry out its legislative functions in a “makeshift chamber” in the Government House.
These claims and counter claims as to the legality of the venue of the plenary session, the presentation of the budget, and its passage as law raises a lot of questions which seem to have been inadvertently down p1ayed in the whole saga. Pitiably, it is done with such impunity that makes the interest of the common man seem unimportant. Ironically, they all claim to seek to protect the same interest.
The key questions that easily come to mind are: “ Does the Assembly have the right to pick another venue different from the Hallowed Chambers for its plenary?” “Is there any law that clearly states the number of days the budget must take to pass through the various stages before becoming a law?” “Did members of the Assembly form a quorum, including key officers, during the plenary?” “Was the Mace, which is the symbol of authority present during the session?”
Specifically, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not state that plenary must always hold in the Hallowed Chambers. Section 121(i) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which is to the effect that the Governor shall cause to be laid before the Assembly, “at any time before the commencement of any fiscal year”, the estimates of revenue and expenditure, clearly did not state venue for sitting. This is unlike Judges who must sit in the court.
In essence, if there is a lacuna in the constitution, should the Assembly be blamed for it when it acts, based on the exigencies of the moment, with the sole purpose of moving the State forward rather than letting it remain stagnant?
Naturally, every well-meaning individual should know at this point that the events leading to the passage of the 2014 budget should be an eye-opener to those that make our laws at all levels.
They should know by now that what is required of them is for them to make laws that can stand the test of time, for the sole benefit of the populace rather than a few privileged persons fortunate to be in power at any given point in time. Anything different will only create more lacunas that can create problems, and no one can tell who will be the recipient of whatever action that will emanate from it.
As the Governor explained while presenting the budget to the 23 lawmakers present, he proposed to spend N485.5bn this fiscal year, explaining that the budget was 0.98 per cent lower than the N490.32bn he presented in 2013.
He said the focus of the budget was the completion of ongoing projects in the health, education, roads, transport, power, water, agriculture and other critical sectors. According to him, capital to recurrent ratio is 76.24 for the 2014 as against 70.30 achieved as of September 2013.
The Governor also noted that “In the light of the 2014 budget, we will not accommodate new projects. This is in the light of current realities and out of a resolve to guarantee efficient service delivery.
“The economic realities arising from already dwindling resources since mid 2013 suggest a need for prudence and good sense this year. Government will continue to demonstrate good sense of management by making more money available to complete projects this year”.
If the whole hullabaloo over the passage of the 2014 budget is for the interest of the common man in the state, how would it be to his interest if the numerous road projects embarked upon by the present administration, for instance, are not completed and finally abandoned by subsequent government, knowing what usually happens to inherited projects? The same thing goes for all other uncompleted projects, which the 2014 budget seeks to complete.
It is noteworthy that for the first time in the history of the state a government has decided to complete projects before the expiration of its tenure. Considering the fact that this administration has less than eighteen months left, should it not be fair for everything to be done to  ensure the completion of the projects? If for nothing else, for the sake of the populace we claim to protect?

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APC: C’River LP Disowns Decampees

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The Labour Party (LP) has disowned one Mr. Maurice Ekeng, who claimed to be Chairman of the party in Cross River State, and his purported exco who defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC)
The party, in a press statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, described the action of Ekeng and others as “laughable and unfortunate for an old man who parades himself as an elder of the church”.
The statement signed by Comrade Dr. Ofem Lekam, State Publicity Secretary of the party said, “The attention of the leadership of Labour Party in Cross River State led by Ambassador Ogar Osim as Chairman and Comrade Asuquo Etim as State Secretary has been drawn to publications claiming that the State Chairman and members of his executive have decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“Mr Ekeng is an impostor who was never made a State Chairman at any Congress. We challenge him to publish the names of his executive, pictures taken in 2021 extra-ordinary NEC meeting in Benin City where the National Chairman, Julius Abure and the Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim were elected, as well as that of Home Land Hotel Calabar where the National Leadership represented by the Vice Chairman South South, Prince Reuben Nuka inaugurated the current State Caretaker
“The impostor from all available evidences is a member of APC sponsored to create confusion in a peaceful party of idealists who are making sacrifices in travelling round the nooks and crannies of the state to revive the structures of the party at all level in the state which is already making monumental impact in the state ahead of 2023.
“We want to put it on record that, Labour Party is intact, and is not contemplating merging with All Progressive Congress (APC) and any other political party; rather it is a party to beat come 2023.
“We appeal to the general public to disregard any news making the rounds that the LP Chairman and his executive have decamped, it is the imagination of political jobbers and mischief-makers whose occupation is to sacrifice their integrity and ideology just for peanuts.
“It is also instructive to advise Mr. Bassey Ita serving at APC Secretariat at Marian Road Calabar not to allow the temporary excitement of the moment to cloud his sense of reasoning by accepting people claiming a platform without verification.
“It is pathetic that Mr. Bassey Ita is yet to realize that with Governor Prof. Ben Ayade now as leader of APC CRS, the days of kangaroo administration of APC CRS should have been over by now in Cross River State.”

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INEC To Deploy 5,346 Personnel For CVR

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INEC said on Monday in Abuja that it would deploy 5,346 personnel to 2,673 registration centres for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) resuming nationwide on June 28.
Its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at the presentation of INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) and online registration portal for the exercise at a meeting he held with media executives.
IVED is an Android tablet to be used in place of the existing Data Capturing Machine used for CVR in previous exercises.
Prof. Yakubu said that before now INEC had 1,446 registration centres where it registered 14. 2 million voters between 2017 and 2018.
“Learning from the experience of what happened, we have now almost doubled the number of those centres.
“Our hope is that unlike 14.2 million we registered in the previous exercise, we are targeting a minimum of 20 million registrants this time. It will take the number of registered voters to about 100 million,’’ Yakubu said.
He said that majority of the 5,346 personnel to be deployed would be INEC officials, while ad-hoc staff would be used where the Commission lacked the required number of personnel.
He said that the Commission was working with stakeholders for the security of personnel and equipment to be deployed.
Yakubu disclosed that the design for both the online portal and IVED were done by INEC engineers, taking into consideration Nigeria’s peculiarity, including weather, for its durability.
He said registrants would be able to know where machines for registration are located via the portal.
He also noted that the Commission was working on ensuring that Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for internally-displaced persons were reproduced for them so as not to be disenfranchised.
Many would have lost their cards while under siege, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also said that PVCs for newly-registered voters would be produced on quarterly basis after the registration, noting that the list of the registrants would be displayed at the registration units for claims and objections.
Presenting the online portal and IVED, INEC’s Director of ICT, Mr Chidi Nwafor, said that the online portal was designed to serve various needs of eligible Nigerians for the registration.
These, according to Nwafor, include new registration, review of registration, and review of personal details or voting centres, PVCs replacement or collection.
“As a new voter, you can pre-register online, or as a registered voter, you can revalidate your voter registration, request to update your information or transfer your voter registration to another polling unit, Nwafor said.
He said that registrants could register their details online before going to the nearest registration centre selected by them for photographs and finger prints capturing to complete the exercise.
Nwafor said that the portal was designed in a way that once an intending voter completed the online registration, an appointment for physical registration would be generated by the portal for the registrant.
He added that any registrant who could not meet up with the appointed date and time could reschedule the appointment via the same portal.
He said that the portal also made provision for people to contact the Commission in the event of challenges during online registration.
He noted that a registrant had 14 days to complete the online pre-registration and a year to complete the whole process.
He advised registered voters to make use of the portal to identify polling units or centres nearest to them.
Nwafor also assured that the Commission was putting adequate security in place to protect the device and the portal against hacks or cybercrime.
He also said that concerns about underage voter registration would be taken care of as those that registered online would still visit the registration centre before the process could be completed.
The media executives in a communiqué issued after the meeting suggested that the CVR be devolved to INEC LGA Council offices based on thorough appraisal of security situations and related factors.
They also recommended that the CVR be gradually devolved to other designated registration centres nationwide after assessments of security situations and other factors relating to safety of personnel and materials.
They tasked relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, traditional institutions, religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to mobilise all eligible registrants to participate in the CVR.

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PDP NWC Harps On Unity Over Anambra Guber Poll

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) has called for unity among stakeholders in Anambra state, ahead the June 26 primaries for the state governorship election.
The party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made the call during the NWC meeting with the party aspirants, leaders and other stakeholders from Anambra, held in Abuja on Monday.
Secondus said the meeting was called to enable the NWC to interact with stakeholders, as elections held off season were always very stormy and tough.
“We are here basically for us to make sure first and foremost that all our leaders and all our aspirants are in unity. It is very important for this trying period and you know the period, we are in,”he said.
Secondus said that unity was key, especially now that the country was passing through challenges including insecurity that must not be taken for granted.
He said the only way to get out of that was to make sure that things were done properly.
“Let there be fairness, equity and justice, which is in deficit in our country; and that is what the PDP stands for.
“We stand for fairness, equity and justice under the rule of law. This is a party that believes that all Nigerians are one. We must live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The party chairman said that Anambra was key to the mission of rescuing Nigeria and uniting the country.
“Anambra is the economic key of our country and we must conduct our affairs to show the world that PDP is different and ready to rescue this country.
“That is why we are to interact with leaders of our party, and at the end of this meeting, I think we will go home happy that on Saturday it will be the freest congresses ever that are conducted.
“So, Anambra, we want to advise, we want to call our people, the time to put down ourselves is now.
“This is the time to look at each other. We must not allow both Anambra and our country to fail. We must show that good example.
“You have been leading in several areas, you must lead politically now. Our leaders must be statesmen. They must look beyond an individual and narrow interest.
“It is time for us to look at Nigeria. If we get it wrong, the consequences will be great. It will reflect on other parts of the country,” Secondus said.
Also, PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, said the meeting was customary anytime PDP had major contests.
Akobundu said the meeting was called to ensure everybody was carried along in the primary to ensure peaceful outcome.
“It is for this reason that the NWC directed to meet with all stakeholders in Anambra.
“This is just a cross section of our quality stakeholders in Anambra that were invited to attend this meeting.
“It is simply to rub minds, have an interactive session and discuss ways and means that we can employ to have hitch-free primary with everybody on board.”

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