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NASS Suggests New Budget Frameworks …As Senate Calls For State Of Emergency On Jobs

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The National Assembly has identified 15 key reform strategies, including the adoption of a budget calendar which will begin with the submission of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) by the second week in July and end with the President signing the Appropriation Bill into law by the third week of December every year.
According to a statement from the Media Office of the Senate President, the strategies which also include provision of laws on development plans by the Federal Government are aimed at easy and timely preparation of the budget and its efficient implementation.
The measures contained in a report submitted to the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, by the Senator Ali Ndume-led technical committee on reforming the budget process in Nigeria, proposed a budget calendar that will ensure that the President assents to the appropriations law by the third week of December while the MTEF is submitted in the second week of July as the first step in the budget process.
The report to be discussed at plenary by the Senate, also include amendments of the relevant sections of the Constitution and extant laws as well as enactment of new laws to improve the country’s budgetary process and align it with international best practices.
Other key recommendations in the report include the proposed provision of a legal backing for national development plans, and enactment of organic budget law to fix a realistic budget calendar.
According to the report, the broad strategies aimed at improving the budget process “revolve around reforming laws and frameworks for budget formulation, enactment, and implementation, aligning the budget process to international best practices, strengthening capacities, and institutions for budget formulation and implementation, and strengthening the revenue base for budget implementation.”
Some of the key reform strategies for budget preparation include, the alteration of Section 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution and amendment of Sections 11 and 14 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) to provide for a fixed and realistic budget calendar by which the President will present the budget to the National Assembly by the first week of September, considered and passed by 30th November and assented to by the President by the second week of December.
Others include the provision of legal backing for development plans to serve as basis for the annual budget and ensure continuity of development plans. In this regard, complete the legislative actions initiated for the enactment of laws: “Development Planning Act” and “Project Implementation and Continuity Act”, pending in NASS.
It also plans to amend Sections 13-18 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to link MTEF with a development plan to trigger a long term (10-15 years) development plan to be implemented with three-year MTEF and Medium-term Sector Strategy (MTSS), and ensure the National Assembly buy-in with a resolution to ensure that the annual budget is linked to it.
The rest are to amend the FRA to enlarge the list of stakeholders to be consulted during the budget preparation process, and ensure pre-budget consultation between the legislature and the executive as well as between the executive and the public, while budget defense by the MDAs before the committees, should be witnessed by relevant stakeholders.
They also plan to enact an organic budget law that puts together all laws relating to the budget, including a fixed and realistic budget calendar and a pre-budget statement; alter Section 162 of the Constitution; recognize saving by the three tiers of government through the Federation Account and provide legal backing for excess revenue savings to enable the country save revenue windfalls and stabilize government expenditure during fiscal crisis.
Other issues include the development of a budget manual which shall embody the procedure for public participation in the budget process and public access to budget information during the budget preparation process; amendment of Section 19 of FRA to include project documents in the list of budget documentation; amend Part III of the FRA to provide for reporting standards and information sharing arrangements; and the provision of effective timelines for monthly and quarterly financial and non-financial reports, which must be uploaded on a dedicated website.
It is also to develop and publish criteria or methodology for determining the aggregate expenditure estimate and its allocation to sectors and line items, and expand the information content of the Budget Call Circular to include the modalities for public participation in the budget preparation process; while further developing the capacity of MDAs and other relevant stakeholders to effectively apply the zero-based budgeting technique or any other performance-based technique that may be adopted.
The committee also urged the National Assembly to strengthen the capacity of its committees in the area of budget scrutiny and appraisal by helping members and the staff to undergo training and enlightenment programme on the economy and budget appraisal.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, ýasked the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on employment to enable government address the challenges facing youth unemployment in the country.
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Duro Faseyi, representing Ekiti North Senatorial District maintained that the number of unemployed Nigerians rose from 24.4million in the first quarter to 26.06million, ýsaying the situation had worsened as some companies have closed shops due to recession.
“We are worried that the economic recession which has hit the country would multiply the level of unemployment in the country as more companies have started downsizing in order to cut costs”, Faseyi noted.
In his contribution, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, maintained that government cannot create job opportunities for everybody, while suggesting that government should create policies that empowers private sectors.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, no government provides jobs for all citizens anywhere in the world, but what we should do is empower the private sector”, he said
Senate Rose Oko asked government to look towards agriculture which has capacity to absorb sizeable number of citizens which at the same provides availability of food at the same time.
In his prayers, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, asked the minister of labour and productivity, to provide blue print for employment as well as ensure the enlistment of Nigerians in security outfits.

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Assailants Murder Obiano’s SSA On Security

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Unknown assailants yesterday stormed the residence of Mr Azubuike Ekwegbalu, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on Security, leaving him dead after allegedly stabbing him with a kitchen knife.
Our correspondent gathered that the incident occurred early hours of yesterday at his residence at the Commissioners’ Quarters, Awka, a high brow area for government officials.
An eyewitness said the late Ekwegbalu, who hails from Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of the state, was a close relation to the wife of the governor.
“He was murdered by unknown men last night at the commissioners’ quarters, Awka.
“This is barbaric. May his soul rest in peace.
“Security operatives must do all that is possible to bring the killers to justice,” the source said.
Confirming the incident in a statement, the spokesman for the Police Command in the state, SP Haruna Mohammed, said one suspect, who was seen in the premises had been arrested.
“On August 9, 2020, about 1:30 a.m., there was a report of alleged murder of one Azuibuike Ekwegbalu, aged 43 years, native of Ogbunike in Oyi LGA but resident at the Commissioners quarters Awka.
“Following the report, Police detectives attached to ‘B’ Division Awka led by the DPO, CSP Emma Ogbuanya visited the scene and rushed victim who was found in a pool of blood to COOUTH Awka for medical attention.
“He was certified dead by the medical doctor on arrival while his corpse was deposited at the hospital mortuary for autopsy,” he noted.
Mohammed said a careful observation on the deceased body revealed stab wounds while a blood-stained kitchen knife was also recovered as an exhibit at the scene.
“Consequently, one suspect who allegedly was in the premises has been arrested and the case is under investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident,” he stated.

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Insecurity In Nigeria, Alarming, Wike Alerts …Suspends JAAC Accounts From Defaulting Banks

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says insecurity in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion.
He has therefore called on security agencies to redouble their efforts in curbing it.
Governor Wike expressed the concern yesterday when the new General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Olu Irefin paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt.
He noted that the prevalence of insecurity in every State of the Federation seems to overwhelm the military.
Governor Wike stated that the situation is different in Rivers State because of the robust collaboration between his administration and the security agencies.
“Our determination is to keep the State safe but development also attracts criminality, so we can’t say we are totally free.
“There are still pockets of criminal elements. So, as a professional whose role is to defend the territorial integrity of the country, fight crime and do not involve in politics.
“We are willing to collaborate with you as a government because security is important for us. Just let us know what you require to succeed in the fight against criminality.
“That way, we will be partners in progress and make the State safe for all residents,” he stated.
Earlier, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General OluIrefin commended Governor Wike for his developmental strides.
He said on assumption of duties, his commanders told him that they have enjoyed tremendous support from the state government in the discharge of duties.
He pledged to sustain the existing collaboration in protecting lives and property in the State
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has directed the removal of Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) from banks that gave unauthorised loans to some Local Government Chairmen in the State.
Governor Wike gave the directive on Wednesday, while swearing in the substantive Chairman of the Asari-Toru Local Government Area at Government House, Port Harcourt .
He directed the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take legal action against the defaulting Banks.
Governor Wike said both the Banks and the Councils that defaulted would suffer the consequences of the illegality.
He noted that the Banks cannot seek refund of the loans because they contravened extant Laws of the State.
“We have taken a decision that for all those loans taken without approval, the affected accounts must leave the defaulting banks.
“I have told the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take necessary steps. The Banks cannot go and seek for refund from the Local Governments. When you default the Law, you suffer for it.
“Council Chairmen who want to take loans from banks must get official approval. You cannot take loans that will mortgage the future of the people”, he stated.
Governor Wike charged Mrs. AlasoJohnbull Obi to use her new position to make a difference because the people are yet to feel the impact of the Council.
“Go and put your local government together. Do not allow busy body politicians to distract you. Use this opportunity you have to make a difference.
“We never thought that Chief Odiari Princewill will die but as God will have it, he is dead and we have to abide by the constitution.
“That is why you, as the deputy, has to step in as the substantive chairman of Asari-Toru local Government Area today.
“In choosing your Deputy, you must consult widely with all the stakeholders of the Party. As election is coming up next year, you have an opportunity to sell yourself,” he added.
Until her swearing in, Mrs. AlasoJohnbul-Obi was the Vice Chairman of the Council but the death of the elected chairman, Chief Odiari Princewill on the 27th May, 2020 created a vacuum that needed to be filled.

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SSANU, NASU Threaten Strike Over Unresolved Issues

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The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said they would proceed on strike over unresolved issues with the Federal Government immediately the universities reopen.
Mr Samson Ugwoke, the Chairman, Joint Action Committee (JAC) of both unions said this while addressing newsmen on the resolutions reached by the unions yesterday in Abuja.
The resolutions were signed by the SSANU National President, Mr Samson Ugwoke, and the General Secretary of NASU, Mr Peters Adeyemi.
The unions’ grievances included the lingering Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) debacle, nonpayment of arrears of earned allowance and minimum wage. Others are the alleged lack of seriousness by the Babalakin Committee renegotiating the 2009 FG/NASU, SSANU agreements, neglect and poor funding of state universities, absence of visitation panels, among others.
According to Ugwoke, long after many other sectors had been paid the arrears of the national minimum wage and consequential adjustment, university workers are yet to be paid. “We find this development totally unwholesome and very unhealthy.
“Given the time lag of over a year since it was implemented in other sectors, members of the public would agree that we have been patient enough in the university system,” he said.
He pointed out that in spite of the series of letters by the unions to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) Office since February, their members were still confronted with many challenges, including salary payment. Ugwuoke also said that their members, whose monthly salaries were being paid in the second week of the following month in the past seven months, were suffering as a result of the difficulties posed by IPPIS.
He argued that as responsible unions, they had avoided the planned action, adding that the unhealthy situation had made it inevitable.
Ugwoke said: “We have again cried out to the general public with a view to inviting stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to correct the anomaly of IPPIS. “Pay us the arrears of both earned allowances and minimum wage, among others.”
He warned that the unions would have no option than to embark on strike effective from when universities would reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown.

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