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Saraki Gives C’ttee 48hr- Deadline To Submit Budget Report …Senate Approves N1.64trn New Borrowing To Fund Deficit …Passes Police Trust Fund Bill

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Senate President Bukola Saraki, yesterday, gave the Appropriations Committee till Thursday to submit the 2019 budget report.
The Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sunny Ogbuoji told the Senate that only 24 out of 61 sub-committees had submitted their reports.
Saraki insisted that the budget report must be presented on Thursday, April 11, ahead of the April 16 approval of the money bill.
The Senate President noted the Appropriations committee will be forced to use Executive submissions if the sub-committees fail to submit their reports to the Committee by Wednesday.
Saraki said, “It is unfortunate that only 24 committees have submitted their reports. Last week, we all took a decision here that we are not going to waiver on our position. Our position is very clear: that all committees should submit (their budget reports). And those that don’t submit, then the Appropriations Committee should use the Executive submission.
“That position is still where we are. And I want to appeal to all our committees that you really have just till tomorrow (Wednesday) to make sure that your reports get to the Appropriations Committee because Thursday, you must lay this report.
“Vice Chairman of Appropriations Committee, if you don’t get report from our committees by tomorrow (Wednesday), then you just use the submission of the Executive. But come Thursday, you must lay that report.”
It would be recalled that President Buhari, had presented the N8.83 trillion budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 19, 2018.
However, the Senate, yesterday, adopted N1.64 trillion proposed by the Executive as the amount for new borrowing to fund the 2019 budget deficit.
The upper chamber also approved the proposed N500 billion special social intervention fund.
The adoptions were parts of the 2019-2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) passed yesterday by the upper chamber.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent the MTEF/FSP to the National Assembly on November 6, 2018 for consideration and approval.
The passage of the MTEF/FSP came as the Senate is set to receive the report of the 2019 budget from its Appropriation Committee.
The Senate adopted all the critical projections in the MTEF/FSP as proposed by the Executive.
The MTEF/FSP an annual rolling three year-expenditure plan sets out the medium-term expenditure priorities and provides the basis for the preparation of the annual national budget.
The Senate Committee on Finance, which considered the MTEF and FSP, presented its recommendations for adoption by the Senate in plenary.
Apart from the adoption of N1.64 trillion as the amount for new borrowing to fund the budget deficit, the Senate advised relevant agencies to continue to explore ways of generating additional revenues for government to bring down the fiscal deficit.
It said that the Federal Government should harness the full optimal potential of the ministry of Mines and Steel Development in terms of revenue generation to minimize the level of new borrowing.
It also said that the Federal Government should consider reducing the granting of waivers and exemptions while ensuring that the Nigerian Customs Service personnel were at all oil terminals for accountability.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service, it said, should consider increasing tax on luxury goods and services.
On the N5,000 special social intervention fund, the Senate asked for the cooperation of relevant committees in the National Assembly and other relevant MDAs in ensuring that the funds are judiciously utilized to provide tangible impact of the funds on the Nigerians.
The Senate retained the oil output of 2.3 million barrel per day, oil price benchmark of $60 per barrel, exchange rate of N305/$1, GDP Growth rate of 3.0per cent and Inflation growth rate of 9.98per cent.
Other Executive proposals for 2019 also adopted by the Senate included: proposed expenditure of N8.83 trillion, FGN retained revenue N7.92 trillion, fiscal deficit N1.86 trillion, new borrowings N1.65 trillion, statutory transfers N492.4 billion, debt service N2.14 trillion, Sinking Fund N120 billion, total recurrent (non-debt) N4.72trillion, personnel costs (MDAs) N2.29 trillion, capital expenditure N2.86 trillion, Special Intervention N500billion.
The committee said that crude oil production output stood at 2.0 million barrels as of December 2018.
According to the committee, the 2.3million daily target is achievable “due to the continuous efforts of all stakeholders in checkmating the issues of oil facilities vandalism and other vices associated with such regard.”
The committee which recommended exchange rate of N305/$1, asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) “to continue adopting strategies that will aid the strengthening of the naira and bridging the gap between the official and parallel market rate of the foreign exchange.”
The Senate also, yesterday, passed the Nigerian Police Trust Fund Bill (HB 1583).
Recall that last week, the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had promised the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, that the Senate would fast-track its work on both the Police Trust Fund Bill and the Police Reform Bill.
Reacting to the Senate’s passage of the Bill, which has also been passed by the House of Representatives, Saraki said: “By passing this bill, we will be creating big strides towards providing and improving security and the policing in our country.
“One of the major concerns has always been the issue of funding. We believe that this bill will provide the funding needed for training and recruitment. I am confident that by the time we lay the report on the Police Reform Bill, we would have gone a long way in moving the police in the right direction,” the Senate president said.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, confirmed the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Paul Tarfa (rtd) as Chairman of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
The Senate also confirmed the appointment of Mohammed Alkali as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NEDC, alongside nine members.
This followed presentation of report by Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties, Sen Abdul Aziz Nyako on confirmation of nominations into the board of the commission.
The other nominees are Musa Yashi as Executive Director Humanitarian Affairs; Muhammed Jawa as Executive Director Administration and Finance; Omar Mohammed as Executive Director Operations.
Others are David Kente, member representing North-East Zone; Asmau Mohammed, member representing North-West Zone; Benjamin Adanyi, member representing North-Central Zone.
Still others are: Olawale Oshun, member representing South-West Zone; Dr. T. Ekechi, member representing South-East; and Obasuke McDonald, member representing South-South.
Contributing, Sen Binta Masi (APC-Adamawa) observed that the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer was from Borno State, while the headquarters of the commission was also domiciled in Borno.
She noted that in the spirit of fairness, other states facing insurgency should have been considered.
Masi noted that late Sen Ali Wakili suggested that the headquarters be domiciled in Bauchi State, but the request was turned down to allow for more negotiations, and wondered why the decision was made in favour of Borno.
In response, Nyako said the observation made by Masi was paramount, but indicated that the decision was reached during Senate and House of Representatives conference.
He said, “Recall that in our bill, we left that issue open and during the hearing, we agreed that if the headquarters should be in Borno, someone from elsewhere should be chief executive officer.
“It was the House bill that came with zoning within Borno. They had overwhelming votes in support of that during our conference and in the spirit of democracy we had to succumb.”
The Deputy Leader, Sen. Bala Na’Allah, also noted that the observation made by Masi was genuine but noted certain situations could warrant a change.
He said, “the citing of the headquarters is because the entire country associated the beginning of insurgency to Borno and other most affected states are Adamawa and Yobe states.
“So, chairman for the commission is from Adamawa and choice of Alkali is for certain convenience, which is required to galvanise support with the least inconvenience.
“Also, it should be noted that the action of the Executive led to choice of Alkali while citing of the NEDC in Borno is legislative action and in the spirit of cooperation among arms of govt we should let that go and confirm them.”
The Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, congratulated the National Assembly for passing the bill and the Executive for assenting to it and sending the list of board nominees for confirmation.
“The people nominated here are qualified and experienced and prepared to hit the ground running.
“So, I urge the committee to monitor the commission’s take-off to ensure that right things are done.
“We have learnt from issues of non smooth take-off of the Niger Delta Development Commission, so that the NEDC will learn from that. The commission needs urgent take off,” Lawan submitted.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, also congratulated the nominees.
He said the emergence of the commission was a sign that the National Assembly had concerns for happenings in Nigeria irrespective of region and other indices.
“The NDDC bill was initiated in the National Assembly. It was vetoed by the Executive, but we overturned the veto.
“It is the same spirit that led to the initiation of the NEDC. The smooth running of NDDC is due to so much protocol.
“So, from the day one of the take-off of NEDC, the National Assembly should start oversight to give life to North East and hope to other Nigerians doing business in those areas and I hope the pioneers would lay good example,” Ekweremadu said.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, congratulated the nominees, and urged them to hit the ground running.
He also emphasised the need for oversight of the commission to ensure proper implementation of projects.

 

Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Obasanjo, Abdulsalami, Sultan, Others Brainstorm On Insecurity

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Rising insecurity and agitations for secession by different ethnic groups across Nigeria has attracted the attention of elder statesmen and other national leaders to a meeting in Abuja.

The meeting was organised by Interfaith Initiatives for Peace jointly led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and Emeritus Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and the National Peace Committee chaired by Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).

Reporters were barred from taking part in the closed-door meeting, expected to proffer solutions to the ongoing security challenges threatening the peace and unity of the country.

It was also an exploratory meeting on pressing issues of national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development, women and youth welfare and general progress.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd); Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Tor Tiv, Prof Ortese Iorzua James Ayatse, Emeritus Cardinal John Onaiyekan; President General (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), Prof George Obiozor; and Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo; were all in attendance.

Others sighted at the meeting are President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba; CAN General Secretary, Joseph Daramola; JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede; Etsu Nupe, Yahya Abubakar; former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, among several political and traditional rulers at the meeting.

Elder statesmen, Chief Edwin Clark, also attended the event at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, but could not participate in the meeting because he could not climb the staircase to the meeting room.

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Fighting Corruption Difficult In Democratic Setting, Buhari Laments

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President Muhammadu Buhari says fighting corruption in democratic setting is a difficult task to accomplish.

The president disclosed this during an interview with Arise Television which was televised, yesterday.

According to him, the war against corruption has not been easy for him since he became a democratically elected president six years ago.

He, however, stressed that his administration had succeeded in easing out corrupt public officials without making noise about it.

Buhari recalled that much was achieved in the fight against corruption when he was military Head of State in the early 80s “when a lot of people were sent to prisons before I was also booted out”.

The president frowned at the way and manner local government system was being managed, saying the local government administration was almost non-existent in the country.

He cited situation where state governors continued to starve the local governments of funds saying “in a situation where N300million is allocated to local government and they are given N100million is not fair”.

On activities of bandits and kidnappers particularly in the North-West and North-Central zones, Buhari said he had given the police and Armed Forces the instructions to be ruthless with bandits and vandals terrorising innocent citizens across the country.

He stated that he had told the security agencies to treat bandits and other criminals in the “the language they understand.

“Problem in the north-west; you have people over there stealing each other’s cattle and burning each other’s villages.

“Like I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand.

“We have given the police and the military the power to be ruthless. You watch it in a few weeks’ time there will be difference.

”Because we told them if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve. And the government can’t control the public.

“If you allow hunger, the government is going to be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble.

“We are already in enough trouble. So, we warn them sooner than later you’ll see the difference,’’ he said.

On farmers/herders clashes, the president said the problem had persisted because old cattle routes and grazing areas had been violated by development, adding that those who had taken over such traditional arrangements would be dispossessed.

On the fight against insurgency, Buhari dismissed the assertion that majority of Boko Haram members were foreigners.

According to him, the majority of the Boko Haram members are Nigerians, saying this was further corroborated by Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum.

The president stated that his administration had done a lot to fight the terrorists and insurgents but the problem in the “North-East is very difficult.”

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Igboho Declares June 12 Day Of Protest, Warns Buhari

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Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, has declared June 12 as day of protest for Yoruba nation agitators.

The self-acclaimed Yoruba activist said the agitators will hold ‘peaceful rallies’ across the South-West region on Saturday, June 12.

Igboho, who spoke through his spokesman, Olayomi Koiki, in a live video programme aired, last Wednesday night, called on South-West governors to cooperate with the peaceful protesters during the exercise.

He warned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration not to attack the agitators.

He said, “Let us warn the Federal Government that if there is bloodshed this weekend, the international community is watching, if the military kills any Nigerian this weekend, it is going to be very hot.

“The Yoruba nation rally will go ahead in every part of Yoruba land and the rest of the country where it will hold.

“Red alarm will begin on Friday. People should stock up food Items from Friday night.

“We are not backing down this weekend; we are ready to take back what belongs to us.”

He also enjoined agitators to ‘fast’ on Friday.

This is coming after NANS under the leadership of its National President, Comrade Sunday Asefon, had declared June 12 as National Day of peaceful protest to call on the government to act decisively towards addressing insecurity.

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