After two days of debate, the House of Representatives has passed the 2020 budget for second reading.
The bill was extensively debated by members of the House for straight two days, and when it was put to vote by the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, the “ayes” had it.
Wase subsequently referred the bill to the committee on appropriation and other relevant standing committees of the House.
The N10.3trillion bill was submitted, last Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While debating the budget, the House of Representatives said that the N48billion capital budgetary allocation for education in the 2020 appropriation was poor.
This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Babajide Benson (APC-Lagos) in commemoration of World Teachers’ Day at plenary presided over by the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday.
Education, however, got an additional N112billion allocation under Universal Basic Education Commission.
There is also TETFUND, which has a budget in three figure billions.
Nevertheless, the House stressed on the need for an increase in the budgetary allocation to the Education sector in the 2020 appropriation bill to better equip teachers with the required training and adequate facilities in schools.
It also expressed concern that teachers in the country were overworked and remained among the worst paid in the world with poor welfare packages and teaching environments in spite of their contributions to societal development.
The green chamber also urged the Federal Government to improve on the welfare and support schemes for teachers.
It called for more training for teachers using the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) approach to address education policy and curriculum choices in schools.
The legislature emphasised that the training would improve competitiveness in science and technology development in the country.
The green chamber also called for the employment of more teachers to address the issue of inadequate staffing and low productivity within the education sector.
The House further mandated the committees on Tertiary Education and Services, and Basic Education and Service to ensure implementation.
The legislature, however, recognised and honoured the best teacher and principal in Nigeria to appreciate and show support for their selfless sacrifices towards societal development.
However, senators belonging to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for adhering strictly to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by ensuring the timely submission of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
The lawmakers, during the second day of debate on the 2020 Budget estimates, said the early submission of the appropriation bill will facilitate its quick passage by the National Assembly, as well as return the country’s budget cycle to the January-December timeline as provided by Constitution.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) applauded Buhari over his determination to reverse the poor annual budgetary practice that characterised late submission of the appropriation bill to the National Assembly.
He said: “What President Buhari did this year, is a complete deviation from what we have been seeing in terms of procedure in the presentation of our annual budget estimates to the National Assembly.
“For the first time, the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) were strictly adhered to. Last year, we had the budget presented to the National Assembly before the MTEF/FSP came.
“We know the Act states very clearly that MTEF/FSP must come first, and the National Assembly must pass it, before the budget estimates come.
“This is the first time we are adhering strictly to this procedure. It is commendable on the path of President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly.”
Urhoghide, while calling on the Federal Government to ensure that capital expenditure in the 2020 budget benefits Nigerians, added that “the provisions of the FRA as regards the budgetary execution and meeting of targets must be adhered to.”
“It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to meet with the joint Committee of Finance of the Senate and House of Representatives, so that there is a quarterly briefing of releases and distribution of funds. This is lacking, that is why there are mistakes in the execution of the budget,” Urhoghide said.
Another lawmaker, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North-East), also commended Buhari for throwing his weight behind the amendment of the Deep Offshore Inland Revenue Act.
According to the lawmaker, Nigeria stands to benefit “an additional N400billion for this year” with an amendment to the Act.
He, however, stressed that the Committees on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly have a task to balance the submission of the President.
“What we do as a National Assembly must reflect equitable distribution of available resources to the good of all Nigerians,” Akpan said.
Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP, Edo Central), while lending his voice to the debate of the budget estimates, said “this budget of growth and job creation is apt at this point in time in the history of our national development because when fully implemented, it will go a long way in removing our youths from the streets.”
He added: “The infrastructural development of this country needs to be handled holistically with timelines. This is the only way we can be able to attract investors to this country.”
While commending Buhari for providing N296billion sinking fund for payment of local contractors, Ordia urged the Federal Government to ensure that those owed over a period of time are duly paid.
Speaking on the manufacturing sector, the lawmaker said “It is supposed to be one of the major sectors contributing to our GDP. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
“Presently, the manufacturing sector and in fact the private sector only contribute about nine percent to our GDP.
“This will not create the right environment that would create jobs for our young school leavers,” Ordia added.
Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central) bemoaned the high level of unaccountability by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government charged with the responsibility of revenue generation.
According to him, revenues accruable to agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) if accounted for, are sufficient to fund the Nigeria’s annual budget.
He said: “Not much emphasis is made in the revenue of government. The revenue of NNPC if accounted for can fund the national budget.
“The internal revenue of the immigration is not accounted for. They are made away with by contractors.
“When we talk about increase in VAT, the Federal Inland Revenue must double its efforts when it comes to remittance of revenues.”
Akinyelure, however, advised that if revenues accruable to government are properly allocated to several projects, same would go a long way in bringing about the much desired development expected by Nigerians.
The Senate adjourned debate on the 2020 budget estimates till next week Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a senior lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba has written to President Muhammadu Buhari on issues surrounding the 2020 appropriation bill laid before the joint session of the National Assembly, last Tuesday.
In the letter, a copy of which was made available to newsmen, yesterday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), applauded the President for laying the budget estimate in good time. He, however, drew the president’s attention to salient issues regarding the budget and made some recommendations.
The letter reads, “I applaud the unusual departure of the Government of Nigeria by laying the budget estimates in good time and the reciprocity of the National Assembly to pass the estimates in 2019! This is record-breaking, but alas, this is only as good as can be said of the budget estimates.
“In a country of 200 million and 50 per cent living in poverty, the budget reflects many missing fundamentals. The starting point with this budget is a diagnosis of our condition. I would diagnose that Nigeria is afflicted with malignant metabolic economic syndrome complicated by high inflation, high interest rates, mass unemployment, weak infrastructure, slow growth, unclear borrowing policy, unaccountable subsidy, etc.
“To turn things around, I like to assume that you have charged the new Economic Advisory Council to give us short and immediate solutions. Working from my diagnosis of Nigeria’s economic disease, we need to work out a macro-economic development framework that lays out a harmonized fiscal, monetary, investment, legal, institutional and regulatory agenda. Fiscal policy or rate at which government spends, must be dramatically expansionary. We cannot have an anaemic budget of N10trillion for 200 million Nigerians, which is equivalent to N50,000 per person, per annum. This will keep us in poverty abysmal when we need double digit growth!
“On the basis of a GDP of $400billion, the baseline annual budget should be 20 per cent which approximates N20-30trillion annual spend rather than the miserly N10trillion budget. Our annual spend is anaemic and we have to infuse large money. For monetary policy, we need urgent quantitative easing, which is easing of all interest rates in particular to slack the heavy burden of high-interest rates on lending afflicting long-suffering Nigerians. We must be very proactive to look for new funds.
“Traditionally, public revenue has depended on tax and oil receipts but there are far too many other sources- the maritime sector is laden with cash, agriculture and the blue ocean, trade, the real sector, and controversial as it may appear, revenue that can be derived from new legislation on immunity from criminal prosecution. Government must consider legislation on criminal immunity to those who have plundered us, and we will likely see massive inflows of our money in foreign banks back to us. At present, the money is out of our reach anyway! I estimate $100billion will flow back if we grant immunity from criminal prosecutions but with civil sanctions.
“Engagement of the private sector in partnerships will yield a massive stock of revenue. We need our Dangotes, Jim Ovias, Mike Adenugas, Innosons to be involved, just like the Chaebols of South Korea. I know that the Onitsha-Nnewi-Ogidi market axis can generate up to N10trillion if the proper incentives are offered.
“Foreign and domestic investments in infrastructure is possible if the proper legal institutional and regulatory environment is established. Public revenue will be enhanced by, at least, N3trillion if we rebase foreign exchange rates from N305 to N360 and remove fuel subsidy at once.
“Additionally, we must review public expenditure. Far too much money is consumed by recurrent receipts. Downsizing government is a task that needs immediate attention by implementation of the Oronsaye report. Our public sector borrowing requirement needs review so that our revenue to debt ratio is less than 30 per cent. Banks must focus on their primary function of lending not trading as we have seen in purchase of Treasury bills in excess of N400billion. Tax collection efficiency and not increase should be the policy and chairman of FIRS, Fowler, and Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor are two public servants deserving special mention for their innovation.
“As an expert in shipping and hydrocarbons, I query why government only sees dollars from a barrel of crude when the value chain has at least 34 soft and hard by-products other than crude oil. In my field, there is banking, shipping, legal and insurance, but very little of the cash from this value chain from crude oil stays in our economy. We need to reset the clock. I will assume that that the budget estimates is just the start of a turnaround process of economic transformation.
“Having held their meeting with you, can the Economic Advisory Council give us a short turnaround plan to create jobs, opportunities and double digit growth? A good plan can create 10 million jobs annually, open the economy, expand local production and put the economy into double digits and pull millions out of poverty in addition to good education and healthcare.”
Imo: PDP Seeks S’Court’s Reversal Of Verdict
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has knocked the panel of Supreme Court justices that delivered judgment in the Imo State governorship election.
The party asked for a review and reversal of the judgment and called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad to step down.
At a media conference, yesterday, addressed by the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, the party asked the six other justices that delivered judgment on the Imo case to recuse themselves from the remaining election petition cases pending before the apex court.
Other governorship election petition cases pending before the apex court and in which the PDP is involved, are those of Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau and Kano states.
Describing the verdict in the Imo case as recipe for crisis, Secondus said the judgement was a miscarriage of justice and a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo State.
The party chairman said, “That the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Mohammed Tanko, has become heavily compromised; lost its credibility and is now annexed to execute ignoble agenda of the APC-led Federal Government against the Nigerian people.
“That the judgment of the Supreme Court voiding the lawful election of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha (who scored 276,404 votes) and awarding fictitious votes to declare Hope Uzodimma of the APC, who scored 96, 458 votes as governor of Imo State, is highly irrational, unfounded, a provocative product of executive manipulation and a recipe for crisis, which should not be allowed to stand.
“With the verdict, the Supreme Court executed a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo State as well as other Nigerians, and such must not be allowed to have a place in our democracy”.
Querying the validity of the judgment, the party pointed out that the 127,209 votes added to the votes of the APC candidate, Hope Uzodinma by the apex court could not be justified.
Secondus said the added votes to the APC candidate shot the total votes cast at the election above the number of accredited voters, as contained in the record of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to him, while the INEC figure of accredited voters stood at 823,743, the apex court, through its judgment, shot the number to 950,952, which the party said was in excess of accredited voters in the election.
The party also queried the allotment of the entire votes in the disputed 388 polling units, saying that going by INEC records, election did not take place in those polling units as a result of violence and other disruptive activities on Election Day.
“The so-called results from the 388 polling units were rightfully rejected, in line with several decisions of the Supreme Court, by the Tribunal and Court of Appeal as it was merely dumped on the tribunal in a Ghana Must Go bag, by a policeman who had no mandate of the police to testify at the tribunal.
“The tribunal did not even open the Ghana Must Go bags as there was no basis to do so. It is one of the great wonders of the world how the Supreme Court opened the bag, counted the results and added them to only the APC candidate.
“What is more perplexing is the fact that INEC produced a schedule of reasons why results were not produced from the 388 units.
“Indeed, election did not even take place in most of the units for one reason or another, like violence, etc, and so, no result could possibly be obtained from those units. The results were not merely rejected or cancelled by INEC.
“None of the candidates or their counsel, except perhaps APC, as we speak, are aware of the number of votes scored by each party from the 388 polling units. The Tribunal or Court of Appeal did not mention or ascribe any figure from the units to any party in their decisions.
“In fact, in the cross examination of the APC candidate, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, he could not read any figure from the ‘Oluwole’ results. He said that the figures were not clear. And so it beats our imagination where the Supreme Court conjured and manufactured the figures it used in declaring Uzodinma/APC as duly elected”, Secondus added.
The party raised questions as to the propriety of the apex court to formulate and allocate votes as election results where such votes were not certified by INEC as required by law.
Knocking the apex court further, Secondus said, “The fact is that, the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Tanko, has lost its credibility and no longer commands the respect and confidence of Nigerians.
“If the people no longer repose confidence in the Supreme Court, then our democracy, national cohesion and stability are at great risk.
“The constitution of the panel that heard the appeal itself was a product of drama. The panel was changed three times and any judge that showed signs of not agreeing to murder democracy, in this case, was promptly removed by the CJN.
The result had to be unanimous to satisfy the script of rationality.
“But can any judge who sat on that panel go home and sleep well? Can any judge who sat on that panel face his Creator and swear that impartial justice was done? We think not.
“We had intelligence before the verdict on the Imo governorship that the hierarchy of APC had decided that they must use the Supreme Court to capture the states won and controlled by the PDP such as Imo, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Benue.
“Can the PDP rightly trust the impartiality and independence of the panel headed by Justice Tanko Mohammed, the CJN, to adjudicate on the remaining cases involving the PDP like Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau and others?
“Is the same fate awaiting the governors of these states that are controlled by the PDP and other states like Kano where the PDP clearly won and was robbed?
“Should Justice Tanko Mohammed and his colleagues on the Imo Governorship Panel not recuse themselves from the remaining cases involving PDP?
“The PDP firmly holds that if the flawed judgment of the Supreme Court on Imo governorship election is allowed to stand, it would be a recipe for anarchy, chaos and constitutional crisis not only in Imo state but in the entire country.
“Our party has it in good authority that Justice Tanko and his panel are working on instruction from certain forces in the Presidency to use the Supreme Court to take over states lawfully won by the PDP and award them to the APC.
“The PDP, therefore, advises Justice Tanko not to allow himself to be used to push our nation to the path of anarchy and constitutional crisis as any further attempt to subvert justice in the pending petitions on Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue, Adamawa as well as Kano and Plateau states will be firmly and vehemently resisted.
“In other to avoid an imminent breakdown of law and order, the PDP demands that Justice Tanko Mohammed immediately steps down as CJN and chairman of the National Judicial Council as Nigerians have lost confidence in him and a Supreme Court under his leadership.
“Justice Tanko must not head the panel to determine the remaining election petitions before the Supreme Court”, the PDP added.
Bandits Kill 29 In Zamfara
No fewer than 29 people were feared killed by bandits in Babban Rafi village of Gummi Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
An eye witness and an indigene of the village, Malam Musa Ibrahim, who escaped being killed, told our reporter on the telephone that the bandits arrived at the village on the early hours of Tuesday on motorbikes, carrying AK-47 rifles.
According to him, immediately they arrived at the village, they began to shoot sporadically and killed many people, while others scampered for safety.
Musa explained that the bandits later pursued those who ran away and killed some of them.
He said, “I was one of those who ran into the bush. I managed to escape because I was able to climb a tree where I could not be seen.”
He maintained that the bandits also carted away with many animals and foodstuffs when they discovered that there was nobody left in the village.
Musa explained that the villagers buried 21 bodies after the attack, while eight bodies were left on the ground as they were strangers.
“We buried 21 bodies because they were natives of the village but we left the other eight corpses because they were strangers who came from Niger State.”
Musa further told our reporter that the figure of those killed could be more than 29 as “many people were still missing and have not returned to the village two days after the incidence.”
Musa stated that the villagers informed the police and the Emir of Gummi of the unfortunate incident.
However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Mohammed Shehu, said only 14 people were killed in the village.
In a signed statement the PPRO said, “Zamfara State Police Command has confirmed the killing of fourteen (14) people following an attack on the remote village of Babban Rafi in Gummi LGA near Danko in Kebbi State.
“The attack occurred on the 15th of January, 2020 where a large number of armed bandits suspected to have come from neighbouring Kebbi State stormed the village in the night and started shooting sporadically, a situation that resulted to the death of 14 people.
“Combined teams of PMF/CTU/FSARS attached to “Operation Puff Adder” in conjunction with men from “Operation Hadarin Daji” mobilized to the area with a view to trailing the perpetrators for arrest and to also avoid further attack on neighbouring villages,” the statement read.
Buhari Vows To End Girl-Child Marriage, Reduce Out-Of-School Children
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, disclosed that the Federal Government would sustain the on-going efforts to end child marriage and improve girl-child education in the country.
Buhari also said it was the collective duty of all to ensure that mothers of today and tomorrow are educated, encouraged and empowered.
He made the remarks during the commissioning of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Headquarters in Abuja, and was contained in a statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.
According to Buhari, ‘‘Our quest is to ensure that concerns of women, children, and other vulnerable citizens are given prominence and ultimately addressed.
“A key priority of our government is the development and implementation of social inclusion and economic sustenance policies. Our determination is to ensure that economic growth and prosperity are felt by as wide a circle as possible.
‘‘In particular, we are laying great emphasis on the education of the girl– child. The high level of young girls who are out of school or unable to complete school due to socio-economic pressures is disturbing and must be addressed.
‘‘The launch of the National Strategy to End Child Marriage, 2016 – 2021 has been the first critical step towards increasing children’s access to quality all-round education and enhancing the retention of the girl-child in our schools.’’
Buhari enjoined the ministry to continue to champion and coordinate all matters relating to the plight of Nigerian women and the most vulnerable citizens.
He assured Nigerian women of his continued support and determination to see that the ministry delivers on this mandate.
The president commended the ministry and other relevant government agencies for positive contributions in reducing human trafficking incidents and maternal mortality.
‘‘I expect this ministry to maintain its lead coordinating role on these, and other women’s related matters working with state governments as well as our regional and international partners,’’ he said.
He said that the quest for the administration was to make sure that women and children were given prominence, adding that he was determined to ensure that they feel economic growth and prosperity of his government.
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