Rising from a two-hour closed door session , yesterday, President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki again denied the disappearance of the 2016 Appropriation Bill but disclosed that copies of a version different from the Bill as originally laid by President Muhammadu Buhari have been served to the Senators by the Special Adviser to Mr President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Eta Enang.
Saraki, in his speech after the closed-door session, said the
Senate considered the report of the ad-hoc committee mandated to investigate the controversy surrounding the 2016 budget document which has established that the copies sent to the Senate by the SA’s office is not the version presented to the joint session of the National Assembly in December last year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The controversy, which started with reports of withdrawal of the N6.08trillion budget proposal by the Presidency for some corrections about two weeks ago ,metamorphosed into missing of the document this week. But yesterday, Senate President said its a case of alteration or doctoring of the original docume
Saraki’ words “We have received the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on investigations surrounding 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“Our finding is that Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on NASS Matters printed copies on the 2016 Appropriation Bill and brought to the Senate from where we discovered that what he brought is different from the version presented by Mr President.
“We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr President as soon as we receive soft copy of the original document from the Executive”.
Explaining further the new position of the Senate over the budget document controversy, the spokesman of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi, ( APC Niger North), said with the committee’s discovery, it is clear that the document was not missing but doctored.
He said the Senate at the closed-door session resolved not to consider the fake document put in circulation by Ita Enang but the original one presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari in December last year.
According to him, the Senate in carrying out that resolution, was already putting machinery on ground at getting across to the Presidency directly for the soft copy of Mr President’s presentation for duplication to all senators ahead of general debate on it next week.
According to the Senate spokesman, “The report about a missing budget is not true. We don’t have a budget that is missing. But you recalled that the Senate President did inform Nigerians that there is an issue that a committee was asked to investigate.
“The investigation by the committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, has been submitted in the executive session. It was a decision we took at the last executive session.
“Our findings are these: That Mr President did lay the budget before the joint session of the National Assembly, and thereafter, the Senate went on recess and upon resumption, copies of the document were produced by Senator Ita Enang, who is the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters ( Senate ) and the copies were submitted to Senate and House of Representatives.
“What we found out is that the document submitted by Senator Ita Enang, upon our resumption, has some differences, discrepancies with what was originally laid by My President in the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“However, the Senate in defence of its own integrity, honour, will not work with what has not been laid on the floor of the National Assembly. We are constitutionally mandated and duty bound to consider only that budget that had been so laid by Mr President.
“Right now, for reproduction, we are awaiting the soft copy of the originally submitted budget so that the National Assembly can reproduce the copy itself. That is the only time we can have confidence in the document we want to work with”.
Sabi, however, refused to speak on the claims by the House of Representatives that it had its own original version of the document, saying “I am not in the position to say the differences between the document submitted by the president and the one brought by Ita Enang. The committee that investigated the issue did not include that in their report”.
But efforts made by journalists to get reaction from Ita Enang on allegation of forgery levelled against him by the Senate on the 2016 budget document proved abortive as he declared that he will not join issues with them.
“The senators like the President, Muhammadu Buhari is my bosses, and I won’t like to join issues with them, particularly on this 2016 budget document controversy”, he said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has asked the National Assembly to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari, over the budget scandal rocking the National Assembly.
The party also demanded the resignation of two ministers, and the central bank governor.
The Senate yesterday accused ýa Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari, Ita Enang, of presenting to lawmakers an altered version of the 2016 budget.
Senators had earlier told newsmen that the budget documents presented by the president in December were missing, prompting a senate investigation.
At its plenary yesterday, the Senate said Mr. Enang, a former senator and now President. Buhari’s Assistant on National Assembly, changed the contents of the original document as presented by President Buhari.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said, “What he distributed is different from what was presented by the President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by the President”.
The PDP said in a statement signed by its acting national chairman, Uche Secondus, that its National Working Committee “rose from a meeting yesterday charging the National Assembly to commence impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari for the various constitutional breaches especially the submission of two version of the 2016 budget”.
The party said the National Assembly should thoroughly investigate the “shameful act, including the distortion and banding of figures to accommodate their personal interest and ensure that appropriate sanctions is meted to whoever has a hand in the dubious action that has brought embarrassment to the legislative body”.
The party also asked the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, to resign “having failed to provide the much needed capacity in the management of the nation’s economy resulting in the embarrassing crashing of the nation’s currency to as low as N305 to a dollar”.
Also, the party asked the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to resign “for plunging the country’s currency policy into chaos an action that thrown investors into total confusion”.
“We sympathizes with Nigerians who are seriously undergoing terrible hardship because of the now obvious inept leadership of APC despite the promise of one Naira to a dollar.
“What hope can a government that allows its currency to break a 43 year old record crashing to over N300 to one dollar offer and yet does not show it has clear focus of what to do,” the party said.
The party said that “APC government rather than address very grievous national issues created by its lack of capacity to govern has instead resorted to violation of peoples rights in the name of fighting corruption”.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has reacted to the call by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The PDP attacked the President yesterday after the Senate accused the presidency of altering the 2016 budget.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said a copy of the budget received from the President was different from what his aide, Ita Enang, distributed to its members.
Lawmakers had earlier told newsmen that the original document was missing.
In a statement yesterday, PDP asked the National Assembly to impeach the president, and called for the resignation of the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, and Budget and National Planning Minister, Udo Udoma.
The party also demanded the resignation of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
APC dismissed the call as “comical”.
It is confusing and worrisome that the PDP calls for an investigation into the budget issue and at the same time calls for the removal and resignation of the aforementioned,” the party said in a statement by its national secretary, Mala Buni.
“In both content and context, PDP’s statement constitute a distraction to the National Assembly.”
The party said it was confident that the 8th National Assembly would not be distracted by the PDP in “its new desperate plot to divert attention from the ongoing investigation into mind-boggling cases of corruption perpetuated under its defunct 16-year rule”.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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