The Senate, yesterday, rejected the report by the Committee on Finance in which the N143.7billion budget of the Federal Inland Revenue Service was approved.
The lawmakers, while debating the recommendation of the committee during the day’s plenary, criticised the report as lacking details.
While some senators who spoke on the report said it was fraught with ambiguities, others cited duplication of projects in the proposed budget.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, asked the committee to work on the grey areas in its report and re-present it in one week.
On the proposed 2016 budget of the FIRS, the report said, “The Federal Inland Revenue Service projected to collect tax revenues to the tune of N4.082trillion in 2016.
“This comprises of N484billion oil and N3.597trillion non-oil revenues. The projected four per cent Cost of Collection on non-oil revenue is N143,904,640,000.
“The total projected available fund for the 2016 budget is N146,165,108,293, comprising of four per cent Cost of Collection and N2,260,468,293 or 20 per cent of 2015 operating surplus.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Enoh, while presenting the report to the chamber, recalled that the Senate on July 21, 2016, considered the request of President Muhammadu Buhari on the 2016 budget of the FIRS and referred same to the committee for further legislative action.
On the performance of the 2015 budget of the FIRS, the report said National Assembly’s joint Committees on Finance approved a revenue projection of N436trillion, comprising of N1.74trillion oil revenue and N262trillion non-oil revenue.
The joint committee also projected the four per cent Cost of Collection of non-oil revenue by the FIRS to be N104,723,880,000.
The committee stated the summary of the proposed 2016 expenditure of the service as follows: personnel, N64,491,130,526; overhead, N46,363,000,000; and capital, N32,868,300,000, bringing the total expenditure to N143,722,430,526.
The committee, according to the report, observed that the projected non-oil revenue collection had increased from the 2015 collection, thereby increasing the four per cent Cost of Collection to the service to N143,904,640,000bn from N104,723,880,000 in 2015.
The committee further observed that, “The total personnel costs are for salaries, wages, allowances, performance bonuses and social contributions. The 8,000 (members of) staff are proposed to be on the payroll during the 2016 financial year, which accounts for the increase of 19 per cent above actual staff strength of 6,748.
The projection presumes a recruitment of new staff in 2016.
It further observed that, “The overhead cost is very vital in driving the achievement of FIRS’ core objectives of tax revenue generation.
“The provisions in 2016 budget give more emphasis on availability of office materials, training, consulting and professional services and publicity.”
The committee added that, “The capital cost estimates proposed includes ongoing projects, which are to be completed during the 2016 financial year, as well as new projects to be carried out.
“These projects include new corporate headquarters and other prototype offices, construction of new offices nationwide and ICT projects.”
The committee, therefore, recommended that a total expenditure of N143,722,430,526 be approved for the FIRS in 2016, which the Senate rejected.
Meanwhile, the shadow of the past that prevented Nigeria from investing in the Sovereign Wealth Fund during the good days of Nigerian crude sale has again resurfaced as the Senate, yesterday, suspended the consideration of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (Establishment) Act 2011 (Amendment) Bill, following protests by some senators who insisted that further legislative action on the bill would be prejudicial since state governors are already contesting in court, the legality of deducting funds from the federation account by the Federal Government through the agency.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Eno, at plenary presented the report of the bill seeking to amend the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), for debate but just before commencement of debate, the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, described any legislation on the bill as illegal, as he pointed out that there is need to await the judgment of the court on the matter.
Akpabio admitted, however, that it is proper for Nigeria to save for the rainy day, but insisted that there is need to strengthen the relevant laws relating to the agency to forestall possible abuse in the management of the agency.
According both him, the major reason why the governors had opposed the policy during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan was because they wanted the major stakeholders to be involved in the regulation and administration of the agency.
According to him, since the funds will have a commencing seed of one billion dollars, to be deducted from the federation account, which constitutionally belong jointly to the local, states and federal governments, it is proper to have them well represented in the agency and its board.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his contribution noted that there is need to save for the scarce moments but emphasised that it is unconstitutional to consider and pass the report on the bill without first adjusting the Constitution to accommodate the controversial sections of the bill.
He, therefore, advice that the Senate to suspend the consideration of the bill until the Constitution Review Committee amends the Constitution in line with those sections that are unconstitutional in it.
President of the Senate, Senator Saraki, trying to save the bill and to ensure its passage, however advocated that only sections (10) of the bill be stepped down since it is the only section that is not in line with the Constitution.
He said the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, headed by the Deputy Senate President, can address the constitutional issues raised by some lawmakers while reviewing the constitution, before the bill will be passed eventually into law.
According to Saraki, since there is a unanimous agreement among the lawmakers that Nigeria should save for the future, the Senate should go ahead to consider the report.
However, mid into the consideration of the report, the controversial section 10 came up again, seeking to allocate $1billion from the federation account to the NSIA, and became a road block for the debate as it would only be prejudicial to debate on an issue in court already.
At that point, the debate was suspended and the bill withdrawn.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (Establishment) Act 2011 (Amendment) Bill, seeking to save ( Sovereign Wealth Fund) for the rainy day during the hay days of oil price through cuts from the federation account (local , states and federal governments) but was vehemently opposed by state governors, especially governors of the opposition party.
Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
PH Law School Campus’ll Be Best, Chiroma Confirms
Director General, Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, has expressed optimism that the new Port Harcourt campus of the institution would be the best in the country.
Chiroma made the assertion when he paid a working visit to inspect ongoing civil construction work at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The director general was accompanied the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to assess progress of work at both the Nabo Graham Douglas Campus, Rumueme and staff quarters at New Government Residential Area, Port Harcourt.
He expressed gratitude to the state government for the intervention to build and deliver the Port Harcourt campus in order to help address the challenge of inadequate lecture and accommodation space for the ever-increasing number of students seeking to acquire vocational legal training at the current campuses of the Nigerian Law School in the country.
“The last time we were here was when the ground-breaking ceremony took place, and today, there is massive construction going on, and there is progress. I want to thank the governor and the good people of Rivers State for this progress.”
Chiroma, who observed that the teeming rainy season in Rivers State has slowed down the pace of work, noted that the amazing aspect of the project is that the quality of materials used for the raft foundation at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas campus is world class.
“The kind of materials used with what we have seen on ground, it is unimaginable, it is excellent. I can assure you that the problem we will be having is about our students, who will prefer to be posted to this place with what I have seen.
“That is the battle we are going to be faced with. But, I can assure you that all our Law School Campus are the same, but with the development going on here, it is going to be a problem for us to decide who comes to Port Harcourt. From what I have seen it is going to be the best.”
Facilities under construction at the Port Harcourt campus will comprise 14 structures, including 1,500-capacity classroom blocks, hostel blocks, students’ multipurpose hall, 16 units’ 3-bedroom flat staff quarters with swimming pool, gymnasium and lawn tennis court.
Other facilities are, library, moot court/law clinic building, sick bay, administrative block, cafeteria and sporting facilities for students.
Nigeria, Suffering From Leadership Failure, Wike Affirms
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that it was regrettable that 61 years after Independence, Nigeria was still grappling with leadership challenge.
The governor pointed out that because of such leadership failure, Nigeria was now at a point in its history needing God more than ever.
Wike made the assertion at the Interdenominational Church Service organised in commemoration of the 61st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor stated that there was hardly anything for Nigerians to celebrate as the country marks 61st Independence anniversary because its leadership continues to entrench hatred, mediocrity, promote ethnicity and religion.
“This is the time that Nigeria needs God more. The country is gone. Insecurity everywhere! Everyone needs to say God; we need you because man’s leadership has failed this country.”
The governor noted that, perhaps, the only thing Nigerians can boast of celebrating was the existence of the name, Nigeria.
“At 61 years, Nigeria is full of enmity, full of divisions, hatred, and ethnicity: A country that cannot put itself together.
“Everybody has responsibility; so, ask yourself questions, have I done my own part?”
Wike also observed the sorry state of Nigeria, and said at 61, it was far removed from being a country that can compete favourably with prosperous countries of the world, given its abundant resources.
The governor bemoaned what has become of the nation’s Legislature that continues to approve anything for the Presidency, and not minding the consequences.
He also decried how the nation’s Judiciary has succumbed to intimidation because its judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear, and wondered what fate Nigerians would have under such seeming tyrannical atmosphere.
“We cannot do the right things. Other countries are talking about how their elections will be transparent; we are talking about how we will rig the election in 2023.
“Simple thing, transmit election results electronically to show transparency, that really that the person you’re declaring won the election but we are afraid.”
“Where is the Legislature? A Legislature that cannot think, a Legislature, anything they bring is right, a Legislature that cannot say that Nigeria has nothing to regret from conducting free and fair election.
“A Legislature that you’ll close your eyes, anything they bring, about borrowing, you say borrow. A Legislature that cannot say that this money we are borrowing, where is it? Where are you applying it? You have no confidence to ask questions.
“The courts have been intimidated. The judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear. You’re seeing something that is wrong, but because you will be summoned in the night, you abandoned your responsibility.”
Wike also blamed the woes the country has suffered on all Nigerians who have refused to do the right things, but rather allowed the wrong things to be perpetrated in all facets of the society.
He noted how ascendancy to leadership was no longer by merit but by ethnic affinity and religious consideration, even when such persons do not have the capacity required to function in such offices.
Speaking further, Wike berated the church leadership over the inordinate dressing of a young man that he saw in the church, and attributed such sight to lack of enforcement of discipline in the church.
In his sermon, Bishop of the Diocese of Niger Delta North, Rt. Rev. Wisdom Ihunwo, noted that only foolish people despise God and attribute their successes in life to personal efforts and ingenuity.
Ihunwo said such foolish people abound in Nigeria because they have hearts of corruption, treat humanity with disdain and delight in doing abominable things and divert public funds for personal use.
According to Ihunwo, it was baffling that despite having leadership over the country, there was unabated spree of killings, a seemingly thriving kidnapping business with some officers of the military killed without drastic measures taken to return Nigeria to the path of sanity.
While charging the church to rise to speak courageously against wickedness in the land, Ihunwo declared the judgement of God upon the sponsors of such killings and kidnapping that have put Nigeria in a pitiable state that its people cannot celebrate independence of the country at 61 years.
Special prayers were said at the service for God’s favour and grace upon Nigeria and its leaders, Rivers State Executive Council, Judiciary and the Legislature, for the governor and his family, as well as the church and its leaders.
Dreams To Achieve Peace, Dev In N’Delta Achieved, FG Boasts
The Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col. Milland Dixon Dikio, has said that the Federal Government has achieved its dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development.
Dikio said this, last weekend, when an ex-militant, High Chief Biobopere Ajube, was conferred with a chieftaincy title in Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Beleukoriwei (Pathfinder) by the Paramount Ruler of the kingdom, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, in his palace in Arogbo, Ondo State.
According to him, the present administration has succeeded in curtailing the restiveness in the region through engagements with the ex-militants.
He assured them that government would not renege in its promises to ensure that the region and its people are developed.
Dikio called on ex-agitators to emulate the disposition of Ajube in peace and entrepreneurship.
He lauded Ajube for leading the charge for a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta, noting that he was the face of what can happen in the region.
According to him, “with the likes of Ajube, who had undertaken the task of having 400 ex-agitators trained in his Bradama facility under the PAP’s Train, Employ and Mentor (TEM) model, the dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development is achievable.
“We’re here to tell this community and indeed the world what Ajube means to us. He is very special and we’re excited that he bought into our vision in PAP which is tailored to change the narrative in the region.
“He took the lead of our Train, Employ and Mentor initiative and has pledged to have 400 of our people trained in his facility.
“He is the face of what can happen in the region and there is no doubt that with people like him, the Niger Delta can truly be the place to live and do business”
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by his Deputy, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa, described Ajube as a proud son of Ondo, who had made a tremendous impact in the lives of his people.
He said the honour was a testament of all he had been doing for his people, and urged him not to relent but extend similar gestures to other parts of the state.
“We’re gathered here to celebrate a man who through self-development and engagement is where he is today. We’re proud of him as a true son of Ondo State. All he thinks about is development, peace and empowerment which is a good thing”.
Also speaking, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe said Ajube, during the height of militancy in the Niger Delta, was grossly misunderstood by the Federal Government but as head of the Amnesty Programme, he stood firmly by his side, to explain that he meant well.
He said, “This honour is well deserved. The story and struggle of the emancipation and dealing with the issues in the Niger Delta will not be complete without the mention of High Chief Bibopere Ajube. The story is deep for some of us.
“So, I’m proud that we’re gathered here to celebrate peace, excellence, leadership, strive for sustainable development, honest, and sincere man that loves his God. I know him when he had nothing. He is a man that has the interest of his people in his heart”.
The Traditional Ruler of Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, said it was not a mistake that Ajube was honoured with the highest title, noting that the kingdom has been blessed by him and decided to display that by conferring the prestigious title on him.
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