At the 2-day presidential retreat that preceded the inauguration of new ministers, President Muhammadu Buhari apprised the appointees on the enormity of the tasks ahead.
The president told them that Nigerians were anxiously waiting for their services; hence they could not afford to fail on their mandates.
According to Buhari, there is a collective responsibility to improve the welfare of majority of Nigerians.
The president reiterated the urgency of driving accelerated economic development as majority of Nigerians were poor and eagerly hoping for a better life.
“Hoping for a Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.
“Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people.’’
More, so, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha said that the retreat underpinned the appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPls) and measures of success for each initiative.
“Some of the agreements from our deliberations include: Consolidate and accelerate on the agricultural agenda to achieve full food sufficiency, increase revenue, implement measures to reduce leakages and drive cost optimisation and ensure effective coordination, between monetary and fiscal policy.
“Invest in human capital development with strong focus on early education and health insurance, facilitate investment in oil and gas sector by ensuring speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and Deep Offshore Oil and Exploration and Production Bill, resolve the liquidity challenge in power sector and facilitate private sector investment,’’ he said.
Again, at the swearing in of the 43 ministers on Aug. 21, Buhari reminded the appointees that the primary business of the administration over the next four years was to work together towards delivering the results that the people of Nigeria expect.
Buhari said that there was a great opportunity as an administration to build on the progress already made, in order to ensure steady growth and development.
“While recognising the existing challenges and the urgent need to surmount them; we must not fail to note the progress we have made since inception.
“Our economic policy, which is the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, is still robust and on course with the necessary policies and initiatives to sustain the country’s exit from recession, engender growth and promote the value chain of infrastructural development, he said.
In tandem with the focus of the administration, the new ministers, after taking their oath of office, expressed optimism on delivering on the mandate of their respective ministries.
Sen. Chris Ngige, who was returned as the Minister of Labour and Employment said that it was a good home coming for him as he hoped for better working relations with labour unions.
“I expect better working relations; I will align with labour in their legitimate struggles.
“There is no job that does not have hazards; what happened at the last moment was part of the hazards of the job.
“There is nothing like crisis; we are a family; we had family disagreement and we have resolved them; we are in good term,’’ he said.
On the stalemate about the implementation of the minimum wage, Ngige said it would be resolved immediately.
He however, explained that there were intricacies of minimum wage negotiations which would be sorted out.
“We know what a good template will be for government at federal, states and local governments and for the workers themselves; we want them to smile; so, we must do something that put smile on their faces.
“We are bringing a template that we will send down from the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
“We will agree on it with the Joint Negotiating Council; my permanent secretary held forth while I was away; he will brief me and we will take it up from there,’’ the minister said.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said the ministry under her would work to sustain the Nigerian economy on the part of growth.
She said that the ministry would try its best to make sure that the economy was sustained on the path of growth and prevent fiscal crisis.
Ahmed said that her focus would be on the economy.
On combining finance, budget and national planning, the minister said that she had worked with budget and national planning, therefore combining both tasks would not pose a challenge to her.
“There are competent persons on both sides that will support me in my work.
“I will be co-coordinating both the budget and planning work as well as that of finance.
“So, I am sure that we are going to do well,” she said.
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed reminded heads of parastatals under the ministry, that the only reward for hardwork was more work.
He said that they were entrusted with the responsibility to turn down the heat, hostility and hatred that was threatening the country.
“Use your powerful platforms to restore unity to the country and promote cordial relationship among the various groups, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.
“I want to appeal to you to please redouble your efforts and ensure that we work together to take back our country from agents of disunity and destabilisation.
“I have no doubt that together we can turn down the acrimony that is being promoted by enemies of the country, using platforms which are not as powerful as yours,” he said.
On his part, the new Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite said that President Buhari had set an agenda from the 2-day retreat.
He said he would put in his best and deliver on his mandate for Nigerians.
“In line with the three-point agenda of the President, there is a lot of potential in mineral resources which we can exploit further to diversify from oil.
“Also, we want to lift people out of poverty; we will begin to encourage our people to add value to the minerals, instead of just sending the minerals raw like that,’’ he said.
For George Akume, the new minister of Special Duties, it was a rare privilege to be selected to serve in a country of over 200 million people.
“What I have to say at this stage is that all the ministers are committed to the success of this administration.
“Nigerians are expecting so much from us; we cannot afford to fail and I believe by the grace of God, we shall not fail,’’ he said.
The new Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio said he knew why the ministry was set up and would deploy his energy toward achieving the mandate.
“Being a Niger Delta person, I will ensure that things are better for further and effective development of the region.
“So the president is looking forward to commissioning a lot of projects in the Niger Delta region.
“I believe the Niger Delta region and its people, are looking forward to the alleviation of poverty in their lives and transformation of infrastructure,” he said.
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola on his part harped on the need for cost and wastage reduction in implementation of projects.
As the ministers exude confidence on their ability to deliver, Nigerians await to see if they will perform.
Okoronkwo is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Still On Security Votes
When Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), spoke at the induction programme for returning and newly-elected governors, he did not mince words in accusing governors of misusing security votes.
He alleged that some governors deliberately fuelled insecurity in their states just to collect more money as security votes.
He noted that some of the governors “now covertly promote insecurity as justification to inflate their security votes.”
Magu also alleged that there was a link between corruption, banditry and terrorism.
His allegations were contained in a paper, titled, “Imperative of Fighting Corruption/Terrorism Financing in Nigeria.’’
Magu told the session that a debate on the legality of security votes enjoyed by the governors was ongoing.
“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors, cashing in on the insecurity in their states.
“Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired.”
A study carried out by the University of Nigeria, agreed with Magu on the abuse of security votes.
The study is titled “Legitimising Corruption in Government: Security Votes in Nigeria.’’
It was authored by Obiamaka Egbo, Ifeoma Nwakoby, Josaphat Onwumere and Chibuike Uche, of the Department of Banking and Finance, University of Nigeria.
“The tendency among Nigerian politicians, particularly the executive arm at the various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains is widespread.
“This has been fuelled by the abuse of security votes, an ‘opaque fund’ reserved for the executive which is not appropriated, accounted for or audited through the legislature.
“ Sometimes, a state governor could (mis)appropriate as much as N100 million monthly as security vote.
“Such slush funds are channelled into the secret funding of militias and gangs of government enforcers.’’
The appropriateness or otherwise of security votes was at the centre of discourse at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) second Quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue Series.
The dialogue focused on Accountability for Security Votes.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who spoke, agreed with Magu that security vote is an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds.
According to him, it is also a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment and ironically the escalation of insecurity.
“It has pushed up insecurity somehow, that is not to say we do not need security vote.
“In the 2019 budget as appropriated, for example, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had money appropriated for them as security votes.
“These MDAs span boards, centres, committees, ministries, commissions, councils, hospitals, schools, law enforcement agencies, obviously the armed forces and intelligence offices.”
Owasanoye said that the number and categories of MDAs given security votes, suggest that something was wrong with the parameters for determining those who are entitled to security votes.
“This then provokes some question as which MDAs are entitled to security votes and how should security votes be accounted for?
“It is clear from our present approach, that we do not have any rational principle being followed at the moment.
“If there is one, I will be happy that my ignorance will be diminished and removed,” he said.
The chairman explained that it was clear from the current approach to budgeting for security votes, that no principle was being followed.
He said that this is clear from the quantum and range of sums appropriated in the 2019 budget for MDAs, where the lowest amount for security vote was N3,600, while the highest amount was N4.20 billion.
“What on earth can anyone do with N3, 600, and I am not talking of an individual.
“If the N3, 600 is the security vote of an individual, most likely it will take him from somewhere to his house. That is the safest place to be.
“But what on earth can an agency do with N3, 600 as security vote, as appropriated?”
With this disparity, what then should security votes be used for?
Owasanoye opined that it was pertinent because MDAs with budgets for security votes also have separate budgets for other security related matters, such as the production or procurement for security or defence equipment.
“In the case of defence and core security and law enforcement agencies, some of these items and the votes are undoubtedly justified. But the quantum and use is open to scrutiny,” he said.
He, however, explained that it was apparent that security vote was not for any of those other security items mentioned, because they were often separately covered in the budget.
“There is the erroneous impression that security votes are not being accounted for with our recent experience as a country, that almost lost a geo-political zone to insurgency.
“Whereas billions of dollars were appropriated for security, but diverted by corruption to matters like engaging prayer warriors demands that we reflect very closely and ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue on the same trajectory of lack of accountability for security votes.
“We need security votes; we should give the votes to those who deserve to have security votes and we should demand some framework for accountability,” he said.
On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”.
He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces.
“Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity.
“We have funding for Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes?
“However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity,
“There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said.
Buratai explained that even though there was security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines set out on utilisation, the issue will be laid to rest
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, described security vote as the budgetary or extra budgetary allocation ostensibly for security, received by the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen.
This allocation he said, is spent without legal obligation to account for how it is spent.
Fayemi said that security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because of the assumption that such funds are being abused by state governments.
He said that the problem really is not about the security vote but about its usages and the character of the people administering it.
“Security votes attract more attention because of the seemingly non accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision.
“There is widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal.
“This is not correct because in the Nigerian constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification.
“The fact that huge amount of monies are routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice
“The act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading, covert or overt, legalises the concept. The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for is not true,” Fayemi said.
Like Magu said, the legality or otherwise of security vote is ongoing, and must continue until it properly defined. The earlier the better to avoid misuse and diversion of public funds in the guise of security vote.
Sharang writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President
Voombalistic Uncle P, National President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), says grudges among Nigerian musicians is not healthy for the music industry.
Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) is an umbrella organisation that guides, protect and promotes the interests of musicians in Nigeria.
Dr Obi Okwudili Casmir, popularly known as Voombalistic Uncle P, who spoke with our source in Lagos, advised musicians to shun grudges to avoid resentment in their relationships.
“Grudges amongst musicians is not healthy for our industry and will only create further resentment in their relationships as musicians and may affect what we represent or present to the public.
“Being emotionally immature when composing or writing your songs means you can not control your emotions or reactions towards your colleagues.
“Having quarrel is a fact of life amongst best of friends but you don’t take it too hard on yourselves because it might graduate to what happened in the case of 2pac and Biggie.
“I advise we settle our differences internally if we have any, rather than taking them to the studio and then streets/homes. That doesn’t project us in good light,” he said.
It was gathered that Nigerian rappers Jude Abaga popularly known as M.I and Olanrewaju Ogunmefun (Vector) are currently expressing grudges against each other in songs which had been trending on social media platforms.
The grudge, which reportedly began over supremacy in the rap category of the music industry, has being described as publicity stunts, while some saw it as real disagreement between the two rappers which had been brewing over the years.
Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to recind the N5,000 fee for national identity cards immediately.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the new fee is repressive and an attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to further impose hardship on the citizens.
The opposition party noted that the idea of an ID card fee is offensive to the sensibilities of Nigerians, as it amounts to stripping Nigerians of their constitutional rights in their own country..
“Our party holds that issuance of national identity card to citizens, as an obligation of the state to its citizenry, must remain free as established by the PDP. The N5000 levy must be immediately rescinded before it triggers restiveness in the nation.
“Already, the fee is generating tension in the country as Nigerians have continued to register their rejection in the public space.
“The PDP notes the increasing penchant of the APC administration to impose all sorts of taxes on suffering Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed five bills passed by the 8th National Assembly into law, Mr Umar Yakubu, his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) has said.
Yakubu who made the announcement at a news conference last Wednesday in Abuja, said that the Acts were to ensure good governance in the country.
The bills include the Obafemi Awolowo University Transitional Amendment Act, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi Amendment Act, the University of Maiduguri Amendment Act, the National Fertiliser Quality Control Act and the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Establishment Act.
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