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N37bn NASS Renovation: When A Budget Becomes A Burden

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The N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of phase one of the National Assembly which comprises of the two chambers, the dome, committee rooms and offices within the White House, has sent shivers down the spines of many Nigerians.
Instead of sinking such huge sum in one building that is still very much alive, some Nigerians wonder why a country described as the poverty headquarters of the world, where its citizens cannot afford three square meals in a day could be so careless with money.
The money, some school of thought pointed out, can generate job opportunities for Nigerian citizens and remove hunger and poverty from many homes.
Many Nigerians who read or heard about the amount earmarked for the renovation, asked if the money is meant to construct another National Assembly from its foundation, noting that the sum, if judiciously used, could build many schools, hospitals and many other things needed for the wellbeing of this nation.
A critical analysis of the money shows that it is more than the budgets of some ministries, departments and agencies.
For a country with the problems of power, infrastructural development, good roads, food security, housing deficit among others, to have earmarked such a huge amount of money for the renovation of a building built with just N7 billion in 1999, shows that Nigeria is drifting towards a dark tunnel.
Ajaokuta Steel, which many experts said would create so many job opportunities for Nigerians, has been laying waste over the years because of lack of funds to put finishing touches to the project.
Analysts have also taken a critical look at the policy statement and decision of government some times and concluded that many of the problems facing the country are misplaced priorities.
The educational sector in the country, which is supposed to be given priority in the scheme of things, is begging for serious attention and most of the infrastructures are decayed and in some cases, children receive lectures in the open, while some schools cannot boast of good buildings, seats or tables.
A critical analysis of the budget shows that the increase of the 2020 budget by N264 billion, increased some subheads. President Muhammadu Buhari had presented a budget of N10.33 to the National Assembly, which was increased by the lawmakers to N10.59 trillion.
However, the increase in the budget has resulted in the hike of many sub heads in the aspects of the budget that related to the National Assembly.
Apart from the statutory allocation which increased from N125 billion to N128 billion, the N10 billion earlier proposed for some renovation work at the National Assembly was increased to N37 billion. The renovation is the responsibility of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
Some Nigerians have raised concern over the increase and are telling the government to be sensitive to the plight of the people, as the lopsided attitude of the government towards the people is fuelling insecurity, hatred and bottled up anger that can explode at any given time.
The explanation of the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, that the complex, built about 20 years ago, was now rather dilapidated, didn’t go down well with many Nigerians.
Lawan had said that “when we resumed office (at) the National Assembly Complex, we noticed that many parts of the National Assembly complex were dilapidated.
“We convened a meeting involving the management of the National Assembly, the Federal Capital Development Authority, Speaker of the House of Representatives and I. We had an exhaustive engagement. The Speaker and I later met with Mr. President and we told him the situation of the complex.
“Since the takeover of the complex, there was never, ever, any major rehabilitation or renovation, 20 years ago. Mr. President responded by telling us that he was going to renovate the National Assembly. We went back to continue the engagement with the National Assembly management and the FCDA.
“Eventually, we took what is required to renovate the phase one of the project. This includes the two chambers, the dome and other committee rooms and offices within the White House.
“N37bn was sourced and was approved and put under the FCT, not under the National Assembly.”
Lawan had said that the project would be executed by the FCDA because the National Assembly is a national monument, adding that “all we require is to have the National Assembly complex renovated, including the reconfiguration of the two chambers and of the Press Centre.
“We have the opportunity, after 20 years, to embark on the renovation of phase one (of the) building of the National Assembly. When we are through with the phase one, we will go to phase two.”
Reacting to this development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had described the N37 billion claimed to be for the renovation of the National Assembly complex as an unpardonable rip-off plot and a last straw of alleged corruption that pervades the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration.
The party said it is indefensible for the Buhari Presidency to propose a whooping N37 billion for renovation work on the National Assembly complex, which was built at the cost of N7 billion.
The main opposition party in the country, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan had said, “our party insists that the over 500 percent padding of the original construction cost is completely insupportable even with the prevailing costs and exchange rate regime, a development that has already spurred public outcry and apprehensions of plots to divert the fund for political interests of certain APC leaders.
“The over bloated renovation figure is therefore not only sacrilegious but also further confirms that the APC-led administration is overtly corrupt and only out to steal, drain and divert our national resources for selfish purposes of certain individuals in the present administration.”
Aside the PDP, other Nigerians have also  condemned the whopping sum budgeted for the renovation of National Assembly complex, insisting that if government is sensitive and sincere with the people, with the level of poverty and insecurity in the land, such would not have been contemplated.
The N37 billion, which is embedded in the budget of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), has already been approved by President Buhari.
Will the cry and the condemnation trailing the budgeted sum change the narrative and will the federal government listen to the voice and opinion of the people and use the money for other pressing needs?
Like the PDP said, the burden of explanation is on Mr. President’s doorsteps.

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Sanwo-Olu Signs Anti-Open Grazing Bill Into Law

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, signed the bill to prohibit open cattle grazing and trespass of cattle on land in the state into laws.
With the law, Lagos has joined some states in southern Nigeria that have anti-open grazing laws in place.
The law is coming more than two weeks after the September 1 deadline set by the Southern Governors Forum for states.
The governor also signed the Lagos State Domestic And Sexual Violence Agency Bill, into Law.
Meanwhile, the state government has said it is committed to tackling the menace of drug abuse frontally to reduce the ravage among youths in the state.
Sanwo-Olu stated this on Monday at the Lagos House, Ikeja, during a courtesy visit by the delegates of Anglican Communion Church of Nigeria, led by the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate, Most Reverend Henry Ndukuba.
Sanwo-Olu said his government was building a massive rehabilitation hospital at Ketu-Ejirin to tackle drug abuse, adding that his administration would  partner with the Church to ensure that the people lived a better life.
He said governance started from the leadership of spiritual homes, noting that government and church can jointly build a community that would outlive all, while restating the commitment to improve the movement of people on road, water as well as building rail infrastructure to make Lagos a livable city.
Speaking earlier, Ndukuba thanked the governor for partnering with the church in the welfare of the people and commended him for his outstanding performance in tackling Covid-19. 
 Also present at the courtesy visit were the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Tayo Ayinde, Secretary to the State Government, Folashade Jaji, Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, among other dignitaries.

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Okowa Tasks NASS On True Federalism

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Delta  State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the National Assembly to embody in the 1999 Constitution being amended, true federalism and independence of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The governor made the call on Monday at a nationwide sensitisation on the review of the existing revenue allocation formula held at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He explained that an independent RMAFC would carry out its functions independently, including laying its proposals directly before the National Assembly for approval.
According to the governor, the current practice where recommendations of the commission are presented to the President has led to the non-review of the revenue allocation formula since 1992 as no President demonstrated the political will to forward the amendments to the parliament.
He commended RMAFC for ongoing sensitisation of the states before a zonal exercise where recommendations from the states would be received.
“For quite some time a lot of talks have gone on in the revenue allocation and it’s very unfortunate that in this country we are still operating a revenue allocation formula that was actually reviewed in 1992.
“As we look forward to a new revenue allocation formula, we hope that you come out with something that is fair, justifiable and equitable.
“But, the challenge is that when you have done all this work, you are going to eventually, by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lay this before the President and the President ought to lay it before the National Assembly.
“There is a challenge there and there has always been a challenge there, because what is there in our laws that will ensure that the President lays the recommendations of RMAFC before the National Assembly?
“We hope that the National Assembly takes a look at this amendment because RMAFC is supposed to be an independent commission, a commission on behalf of all federating units and component parts of the federation.
“They cannot tie your hands; the constitution ought to be amended to enable chairman of RMAFC to directly lay before the national assembly whatever review it has come up with so that nobody stands it down,’’ he said.
Okowa stated that the National Assembly must do what was right because “a nation is a nation.

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Reps Query Presidential Committee Over Assets Seized From Past Leaders

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The House of Representatives on Monday ordered the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on Landed Property to produce reports of all assets seized from former Nigerian leaders.
Members were more particular about the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, whose property and money were recovered by the Federal Government. 
 The chairman, ad-hoc Committee on Abandoned Property, Ademora Kuye, said the House wanted a report on all assets seized from Nigerian leaders in and out of Nigeria, particularly Abacha.
He said this when the Executive Secretary of PIC appeared before the committee in Abuja.
“We need to know the state of those property and to also know if the property have titles of deed,’’ Mr Kuye said.
The committee also queried the sale of federal government’s assets held in trust by the PIC.
Mr Kuye said the committee discovered that some of the property the PIC claimed to have sold were either not sold or were not paid for, contrary to claims made by the PIC.
He added that some of the seized houses which the PIC claimed were vacant were still being occupied.
He directed the PIC to furnish the House of Representatives committee with up-to-date reports of federal government’s assets sold, amount realised from the sales, those yet to be sold and those under litigation.
Mr Kuye also asked that the PIC must state the amount of money remitted to the federal government from the sales with evidence of remittance, adding that all assets pointed out to the committee but not included in its first report should be forwarded to the House of Representatives committee.
Responding to Mr Kuye’s submissions, the Executive Secretary, PIC, Bala Samid, stated that some of the people occupying government quarters had refused to vacate them.
He added that as soon as the occupants were approached for payment or to vacate the houses they went to court to obtain injunctions restraining the PIC.
“We approached the federal government to report them and the federal government said that we should give them time”.

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