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Presidency Revises 2016 Budget …Senate Begins Debate, Today …Reps Bicker Over Corrections

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There are indications that the 2016 budget was actually withdrawn for a major amendment as two different versions of the budget are showing different figures and adjustments in expenditure heads.
A version indicating to be an amendment version shows a major cut of about N8.8billion in the Presidency’s original figure with purchase of vehicles receiving the deepest cuts.
Also, the new version has provision of N17billion for capital expenditure allocated to Niger Bridge in Asaba-Onitsha, Delta and Anambra states, though there was no such provision in the first version submitted to the National Assembly.
The expense heads that received big cuts include Fixed Asset Purchase reduced by N3.374 billion to N1.196 billion from N4.57 billion while purchase of motor vehicles was reduced by N3.29 billion to N599 million from N3.889 billion.
Others include State House headquarters, recurrent costs, overhead, miscellaneous, honorarium/sitting allowance each of which were reduced by N100 million.
Expenditures for construction and provision of general fixed asset, which appeared to have had double entry at N764.67 million each, were scrapped in the second budget.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had last Thursday accused the Presidency of substituting the original copy of the budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 with a new version.
Saraki’s claim was the climax of days of suspense following claims and counter-claims that the document was missing.
The president also reduced allocation for exotic cars by N17billion
A review of the fresh copy of the budget uploaded to the website of the Budget Office of the Federation on Friday showed a massive cut by about 83.5 per cent in the total allocation for the vehicles.
A total of N7.52 billion was provided previously for the purchase of various exotic vehicles, including BMW saloon cars, in addition to another N566 million for the procurement of vehicles, including 16-seater Toyota Hiace coaster buses for the State House.
Despite the adjustments to the allocations to the various departments and units, the total appropriation of N39.13billion for the Presidency remained unchanged in both the previous and current budget versions.
Details of the different adjustments showed that State House headquarters, which got total allocation of N11.91billion in the original budget has now been cut by N100million, same as allocations for its recurrent costs, overheads, honorarium & sitting allowances as well as miscellaneous expenses.
Equally, the purchase of fixed assets, which received N4.57billion previously, has drastically been reduced to about N1.2billion, while preservation of the environment and wildlife conservation, which got a total of N978.3million, has now been reduced to N347.4 million.
The Office of the Chief of Staff to the President had its initial allocation of N2.3million raised to N22.3million, while allocation to the office of the Chief Security Adviser to the President has also been raised from N3.18million to N28.18million.
Details of the provision for the two offices include allocation of N25 million each for overhead costs, recurrent and miscellaneous expenditures. Another N25 million has been budgeted for honorarium and sitting allowance for the office of the Chief of Staff.
The State House Medical Centre has been allocated N100 million for total overheads and recurrent costs.
The State House, Lagos Liaison Office, which had its allocation increased from N126.7million to N151.7 million, would get in addition N25 million each for recurrent, overhead and miscellaneous costs.
About N2.3 billion provided earlier for the construction and general provision of fixed assets as well as recreational facilities for the State House has now been removed, while rehabilitation and repairs of fixed assets previously allocated N4.48 billion was increased to N13.2 billion.
Rehabilitation/repairs of residential buildings and electricity facilities previously allocated N388million and N1.7billion respectively have now been raised to N642.6million and N1.8billion respectively.
Another provision of N3.9 billion has been made for the rehabilitation of office building, while renovation of eight blocks of 16 two-bedroom flats at State House Security Quarters, Asokoro, would take about N254.6 million.
About N3.9 billion has been set aside for the annual routine maintenance of Villa facilities by Julius Berger, in addition to N764.7million provided for the construction/provision of recreational facilities.
However, after receiving the corrected version of the 2016 budget, yesterday, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, told members of the upper chamber that the Senate will now begin consideration of the 2016 budget, today.
Saraki said that the debate on the document follows the acceptance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the budget’s amended areas to be considered.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, argued over a letter sent by President Muhammadu Buhari indicating corrections in the 2016 budget.
The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, while reading the letter said the president said corrections have been made to the details of the budget as presented on December 22.
Bickering, however, started at about 11.25am immediately the speaker read the president’s letter when the Minority Leader of the House Rep, Leo Ogor (PDP, Isoko Federal Constituency), cited Sections 81 and 84 of the Constitution, which he said do not give the president powers to amend budget, adding that such powers lie with the legislature.
Ogor immediately called on the House to disregard Buhari’s letter.
Dogara apparently defending the president said there was nowhere in the letter that Buhari said the budget was amended, adding that it is only the president that has powers to make corrections to the budget if he observes any error.
The PDP lawmakers started chanting “no, no!” preventing Dogara from making his point for some minutes.
But the speaker drove home his point as he hinged his argument on the fact that there was nowhere the president mentioned the word amendment rather he used the word correction “which the president alone can correct,” the speaker added.
Also, Rep Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), raised a point of order that the speaker did not follow the order of House procedure as he chose to read petitions before the House when in actual practice, the president’s letter ought to have been read first.
Again, Dogara simply told Okorie that he followed the House rule in his introduction of issues for the day, unless the House otherwise directs, and an applause from members followed immediately.
The speaker in self-defence, told the House that immediately he arrived the House chambers, the first thing he did was to explain to the entire House that he was going to take petitions first before the letters he had with him.
The president’s letter read in part: It will be recalled that on Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, I presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details. At the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule. That has since been completed and I understand that the corrections have been submitted.
“The National Assembly would therefore have the details as submitted on the 22nd December, and a copy containing the corrections submitted last week. It appears that this has led to some confusion.
“In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the National Assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates. The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures”.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (right), with the General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (left) at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (right), with the General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (left) at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday

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Dislodge Illegal Oil Refinery Operators, Wike Tasks Monarchs

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has urged traditional rulers in the state not to allow illegal crude oil refining (Kpo-fire) activities to take place in their domains anymore.
Wike gave the charge at a meeting he held with traditional rulers in the state at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday.
The meeting was also attended by heads of security agencies and chairmen of the 23local government areas of the state.
Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal oil refining activities were sabotaging the economy.
He regretted that the Federal Government, which controls the oil industry and the security agencies, has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it was inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.
“I should think that the way Federal Government intends to fight insurgency is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage! It affects our own revenue.
“If we are supposed to produce two million barrels, for example, we are now producing 1.2million. And that 1.2million barrels, it affects Rivers State because we are not producing up to the volume we are supposed to produce, and then, we cannot get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”
The governor also said that illegal oil refining activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer-related illnesses in the state.
According to him, his primary concern was to ensure that the health of residents of the state was not jeopardised.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business. My business is the health of my people. I will not because the Federal Government is not interested to stop it, therefore, my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern?”
The governor, therefore, urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDCs) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domains.
Wike berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they were not committed to the fight to stop the illicit business.
He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly involved in sabotaging the national economy.
“I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that are going on in this state.”
Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army Major was providing exit services to illegally refined petroleum products, and had to send security personnel to thwart it.
“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”
The governor declared that his administration would not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal oil refining activities.
Wike frowned at the inability of the Nigeria Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha; Fubara Ohaka; and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
He said the names of all indicted persons would be published soon and they would be declared wanted.

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Rivers Rating In Ease Of Doing Business Rises -Banigo

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that the sub-National Ease of Doing Business Baseline Survey indicates that Rivers State was doing great in the Ease of Doing Business Index in the country.
Banigo stated this at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, last Thursday, shortly after her arrival from Abuja, where she represented the State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council meeting.
Banigo disclosed that the factors, which determine this survey, include infrastructure, security and healthcare.
“With the 10 flyovers the governor was constructing in Rivers State, and of course, with all the other infrastructure in health, education; and the monumental improvement in security as well as the clearing of the hideouts of criminals, obviously gave us a head way in doing very well in this baseline survey”, the deputy governor further stressed.
According to the public health physician, the response of the state to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the watch of the governor as the incident manager, has been tremendous in terms of healthcare delivery.
“I want to encourage the citizens of the state to maintain the non-pharmaceutical measures like the correct wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands with soap and running water for, at least, 20 seconds, social distancing, coughing and sneezing into one’s elbow as well as the improvement of personal and environmental hygiene. I also want to encourage Rivers people that vaccination actually reduces the mortality and morbidity that arises from COVID-19″, Banigo said.

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Ex-Agitators Beg Firms To Return To N’Delta

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Ex-agitators have pleaded with companies especially oil companies that relocated from the Niger Delta region following spate of insecurity triggered by militancy to return to the region promising uninterrupted peace.
The former warlords also called on interventionist agencies to work together to sustain the peace and ensure development of the region.
They spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a regional peace summit to sensitize people on the need to advance the peace currently enjoyed in the region.
The ex-agitators also condemned proliferation of illegal refineries and lamented its adverse effects on development.
One of the participants at the summit and ex-freedom fighter, Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe said as ex-agitators, who keyed into the vision of the Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), they have resolved to work for a new and better Niger Delta.
“It is important to sensitize our people towards a peaceful Niger Delta and create a friendly environment that will attract development, Multinational companies and other foreign investors to the region.
“We, who once carried guns, are now here to preach the message of peace to our people in the region. Peace is the only way we can have the developed environment that we dream of. Peace is the only way to attract the multinationals, investors and also be gainfully employed,” he said.
According to Nature, peace remained a vital tool to attract investors to the region which would in turn create business and job opportunities for the people.
“Companies that have left the Niger Delta because of insecurity need to return, this is the purpose for sensitization. We are blessed with an environment that is supposed to prosper us, we can only enjoy our natural resources if there is a peaceful environment, “ he added.
Nature pointed out that a major setback to the development of the Niger Delta was the absence of proper coordination among key stakeholders.
He said with the right synergy, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Presidential Amnesty office, could hasten the needed development of the region.
On illegal oil refinery, Nature explained that beyond hampering the development of the region, illegal refining of petroleum products was life threatening and dangerous to the ecosystem.
The sensitization programme commenced in Bayelsa state with 150 Niger Delta youths in attendance and would be held across the nine states of the region to create adequate awareness.

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