The Rivers State Government has condemned the protest carried out on Wednesday by some ex-militants in the state that obstructed traffic along the Port Harcourt Aba Expressway.
Reacting to the ex-militants protest, the Special Adviser to the Rivers State Governor on Amnesty Programme, Sir Kenneth Chinda, frowned at the attitude of the protesters for not utilizing available avenues before embarking on the action and called the youth to desist from such irresponsible protest.
Chinda noted that the way the protest was carried out suggests an orchestrated attempt to tarnish the reputation of the state government, and advised the youth not to allow themselves to be used as agents to destabilise the state.
The special adviser regretted that the ex-militants carried out the protest barely two weeks after the National Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme revalidated the names of those engaged in the programme for payment in the state.
He berated the youth for carry out such protest at a time the state government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike was doing all within available resources to improve social and economic well-being of Rivers people.
Chinda warned that the state government would not fold its arms and watch hoodlums under any name constitute security threat to residents of the state, and lauded the police for their intervention.
“Some elements have been trying to score cheap political points by using the youth to create tension in order to degrade the good work of Wike in the state’, he said.
He said, Wike will ensure sustenance of all on-going human capital development initiatives for the teeming youth in the state while urging them to remain calm and support the state government in its developmental plan.
Chinda intimated the youth that the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Amnesty Programme was open and handles grievances on amnesty-related issues while protests should only be seen as the last option.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, condemned the blowing up of oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta area by suspected militants.
The upper chamber asked the Federal Government to take necessary measures to safe guard the pipelines in the interest of the country.
Chairmen of four committees of the Senate including committees on gas, petroleum (downstream and upstream) and media and public affairs stated this at a press briefing in Abuja.
Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Senator Tayo Alasoadura, who read the position paper of the committee, said that the activities of the vandals who blew up the pipelines should be condemned in their entirety.
Alasoadura described as most unpatriotic the action of the vandals who decided to blow up pipelines especially at this time of national emergency when the dwindling price of oil and the insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria is confronting the country.
He said, “It is very disheartening that at a time when all hands should be on deck to revive the economy and ensure the survival of the country, some people could decide at this point in time in the history of the nation to further sabotage the efforts of the present administration to bring some sanity into our country.
“It is therefore apt for the Senate to condemn strongly and make an ambiguous statement about this dastardly act that portends to send the hands of the clock backwards.”
He noted that “this sabotage has led to the shutting down of two refineries that had just started working few months ago.
The militants, he said should give respite to Nigerians “so that we can see some governance.”
He added, “It is not good enough for an administration to be fighting one war there and they are waging another there, when will he have time to govern? So please help us appeal to them so that Nigeria can move forward.”
He appealed to the militants to stop “this mindless act by giving Nigerians necessary respite to allow this present administration to stem the tide of poverty and want ravaging our people.”
Chairman Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan noted that the explosion affected major gas pipelines in the country.
Akpan said that the committee on Gas had invited the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) who explained that the country will lose over 200 million score of cubic feet of gas on a daily basis with low supply of electricity.
He said, “this is the gas terminal that supplies Egbin and most of the NIPP along the South Western region of this country.
“In a period where we are grappling with the challenges of domestic gas supply, we believe very strongly that the act of vandalism should be condemned.”
Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (downstream) Senator Barau Jibrin, said that members of the committee are highly worried about the development especially when two refineries that recently came on stream had to be shut down.
Jibrin said that Nigerians should appeal to those behind the act of sabotage to stop their unpatriotic act in the interest and well-being of country.
He commended the assurance of the NNPC to restore normalcy as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, justified the allocation of N115 billion for the National Assembly in the 2016 budget.
This is coming as the upper chamber asked the government to explore all tax avenues to fund the N6.08 trillion budget.
Making his contribution in continuation of the debate of the general principle of the 2016 Appropriation Bill, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, said N115 allocation to the National Assembly represents only 1.8% of the total budget figure of N6.08 trillion.
He said that some of those who criticised the allocation spoke as if the amount was provided for Senators and members of the House of Representatives alone to share.
The Osun Central lawmaker said that the provision was also made to pay the salaries and allowances of those in the National Assembly bureaucracy and agencies.
He said, “I want to point out that I have looked at the budget and in the light of all the opprobrium that has been heaped on the National Assembly in the press, I want to report that this year’s budget contains a total request of N115 billion for the National Assembly. This represents only 1.8 per cent of the N6.08 trillion.”
On how to fund the budget, he said that 54 per cent of the $3.8 trillion US budget is sourced from tax.
He said, “If we are going to move this country forward, we must go back to what we did in the days of Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“Nobody in my village will go to his farm until he can produce his tax receipt; we need ingenuity to bring this to pass.”
He said that time has come to tax things like cigarette, alcohol including taxing heavily those who beat their wives.
“Text messages cost N3.81 a page; if we add just N1 to a page of text message and we say that the money belongs to government we will make billions.
“We must install toll roads but that is not enough: across the world, when you park at any airport you pay per hour; we must do what the rest of the world does.
“We must begin to tax allowances. Nigeria is the only country that shelters the bulk of the earnings of its workers and calls them allowances,”
Immediately he suggested that allowances should be taxed, Senator began to murmur and showed other signs of disapproval.
Adeyey asked, “You don’t want your allowances taxed? They will be taxed.”
He insisted that ‘if we are going to save this country, we must reduce the cost of government.”
He noted that “there are too many parastatals and when you look at these parastatals many of them have failed in their missions, we continue to protect them and give them money, it’s time for them to go.”
The Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, in her contribution, noted that the budget is for all Nigerians.
She said that whatever criticism directed at the document is meant to strengthen the system and ensure that a better Nigeria is born.
Olujimi said that though she is not a financial expert, expenditure and deficit are the major problems of the budget.
She said, “Right now we have a deficit of $11 on every barrel of oil that we sell and in the budget we have a deficit of N2.2trillion that is $11 deficit in N2.5- 2.6 trillion, that’s not a serious problem, the problem is if we need to borrow to manage this N2.6 trillion it means we will be borrowing N500 million everyday of this year.
“Every day of this year this government will look for N500 million to borrow and that has not been fixed.
“To crown it all, there is nothing in this budget that suggests repayment for this; it is only expenditure nothing has been set aside to ensure that we pay back our loans.
“A country that borrows and does not plan to pay back has not done enough work at all. If we borrow N500 million a day and cannot pay it in one year it rolls over to the next year and in four years you find that we are in deficit of almost N6 trillion.
“There are too many policy changes in the this system in the last six months, the policy somersaults in the foreign exchange regime in such that it will lead us back to our status of round tripping where our people were doing anything to make ends meet and our currency went to zero. We must not drive our people down to such a stage that would not be good for the nation.”
Olujimi continued, “In the budget what has been used is not zero budgeting, you find that it is still the envelope system.
The envelope system provides funds and they are broadly explained, the people who will operate it will wait for the projects to come and that’s what we have found in this budget, there is nothing about being zero based or being protected by the various ministries.
“The capital expenditure has increased and the inflow has decreased what it means is that this budget has a serious deficiency.
“This budget is not a budget of change yet, I think they are still looking for how to bring in the required change.
“There is need for retrospection, there is need for us to have a solid economic team and have economists who have the interest of Nigeria at heart so that they can look again at this budget and see where we can cushion the effects of all this for our people.”
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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