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Senate Tasks FG On Oloibiri Oil, Gas Centre

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The Senate yesterday, urged the Federal Government to direct the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and concerned contractors to begin immediate construction of the oil, gas and research centre at Oloibiri in Bayelsa.
The call is sequel to a motion by Sen. Degi Biobarakuma (PDP Bayelsa) and co -sponsored by 28 other Senators.
The motion centres on the need to ensure immediate commencement of the Oil and Gas Research Centre and Museum in Oloibiri in Bayelsa.
Presenting his lead debate at plenary, Biobarakuma said that 63 years after discovery, exploitation and production of crude oil, the Oloibiri oil field and its surrounding communities had suffered neglect and environmental degradation.
He also said the inhabitants of the area had suffered and some deaths recorded from epidemics and terminal diseases due to oil spills and flaring of natural gas.
The Senator said the national oil gas and research centre was conceptualised given the need to develop great foreign exchange earnings and improve on the living standard of host communities.
Biobarakuma recalled that the designed and foundation stone was laid by ex President Shehu Shegari in 1983, noting that the project was however halted, no sooner than it commenced.
He said the Federal government had removed the project from the National Commission for Museum and Monuments and domiciled it with the PTDF in 2011.
According to him, the project remains moribund, despite the transfer.
He said it was worrisome that the contract, valued at about N35 billion, was yet to be completed, leaving inhabitants of the host communities with negative memories of oil exploration and production.
Senators, who supported the motion include George Sekibo, (PDP Rivers), Ibrahim Oloriebe ( APC Kwara ) among others.
Following affirmative voice vote,the Senate accordingly resolved to commend the Federal government for the conceptualisation,design and award of contract for the establishment of oil, gas research centre and Museum in Oloibiri.
It also urged the government to give priority attention to the development of the heritage institutions such as Oloibiri oil and gas research centre and museum.
The Senate, therefore, directed its relevant committees to carry out intensive oversight on the implementation of the project.
The Senate also at plenary received the report of bipartisan Ad-hoc Committee on the alleged assault by Sen. Elisha Isaku.(PDP Adamawa).
It also considered the first reading of 10 bills.
The bills are:Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Boroffice Ajayi,(APC Ondo),Federal University of Gusau Bill, sponsored by Sen Ya’u Sahabi(APC Zamfara).
Federal University of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Abeokuta Bill, sponsored by Sen.
Amosun Ibikunle (APC Ogun) and Nigeria Metallurgical Industry Bill,2019 by Sen Theodore Orji (PDP Abia).
Others are: Federal Polytechnic, Orogu, Delta, sponsored by Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta), Dormant Accounts Fund Management Bill, 2019 also by Sen. Ovie Omo- Agege (APC Delta), Social Assistance Bill,2019, sponsored by Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP Enugu).
Others are: the Federal Polytechnic, Silame,Sokoto state sponsored by Sen .Aliyu Wamakko (APC Sokoto), NDDC Act Amendment Bill 2019, sponsored by Sen .Mpigi Barinada (PDP Rivers) and Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill,2019, by Sen. Gyang Istifanus(APC Plateau).
In the same vein, a Bill for an act to amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract, sponsored by Sen.Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa-Ibom while Sen. Ubah Ifeanyi (YPP Anambra) was considered for second reading.
Contributing on the bill, Sen .Theodore Orji, urged the Senate to ensure the bill is passed into law for the president’s assent, given its importance.
According to him, the bill has earlier been presented in the 8th Senate but was not passed when it was sent for further legislative input at the committee stage.

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Still On Security Votes

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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).

 

Naomi Sharang

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Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President

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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.

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Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari

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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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