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2021 Budget: Senators Divided Across Party Lines

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As the Senate begins consideration of the general principles of the Budget proposal for 2021 fiscal year, yesterday, members of the Upper Chamber have expressed divergent opinions on workability of the N13.08 trillion proposal.
While the Senate Majority Leader; Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, painted a picture of a budget of hope, some of the lawmakers from the other divide saw it from a different angle.
Leading the debate, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, noted that the Senate leadership was fully aware of the proposed parameters in the budget proposal.
He, therefore, urged his colleagues to critically look at the proposals and ensure that all rough edges were fine-tuned.
His words: “It is important to note at the outset, that this proposal is not strange to the leadership of the National Assembly and the Committees of Finance and National Planning. All the parameters were discussed and agreed upon, at least in principle.
“What remains for us is to closely examine the contents and the details in order to sort things out and smoothen the rough edges.
“A budget deficit of N5.19 trillion represents 3.64% of GDP, and is therefore, above the threshold set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
“Even though the deficit is covered by N4.28trillion of new borrowing and funds obtainable from privatization proceeds and multilateral and bilateral sources, it is important for our committees on Finance to raise the matter for the National Assembly to permit this increase, as specified in the extant law, particularly given the special circumstances which made this necessary.
“It is also important to note that a budget deficit of this size requiring more indebtedness is not healthy for the long-term development of the country, but this must be tolerated now because of the challenges of the times”, he said.
While most of the PDP senators, who contributed to the debate, picked holes in the budgetary proposals, their APC counterparts said as bad as the situations on ground are, the budgetary proposals can still bring about required recoveries in various sectors of the nation’s economy as anticipated by President Muhamnadu Buhari, who christened the budget as one of “Recovery and Resilience”.
Other APC Senators like Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Uba Sani, Adamu Aliero, and Ibikunle Amosun, spoke in same direction, and expressed hope in the workability of the budgetary proposals.
However, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in his contribution, dissected the budget proposals, and described it as mere old news.
According to him, “The 2021 Appropriation Bill proposes to spend N13.082trillion, with expected revenue of N7.886trillion and a deficit of N5.196trillion. As with the other budgets over the last few years, it looks impractical and unimplementable.
“The major challenge, as with previous budgets, is with revenue and an overly optimistic revenue target. The 2021 budget hopes that the federal government will be able to generate almost N8trillion. If history is anything to go by, this projection looks impossible.
“This overly optimistic position is not new in Nigeria but is part of a continuing pattern of false
optimism that has put the federal government’s accounts in the deep red and the country in dire straits.
“To demonstrate this point, the observers need to look at the performance of previous approved budget revenues and what were achieved as actual revenue.
“In 2016, Nigeria had an approved budget with revenue of N3.855trillion. By the end of the year, the total retained revenue was only N2.621trillion.
“This performance was a 32 percent shortfall, according to the budget implementation reports. In 2017, instead of trying to readjust to the reality of a difficult revenue situation, Government of Nigeria repeated the same overly optimistic exercise. The approved budget had revenue of N5trillion while actual revenue that year was only N2.37trillion.
“This performance was a whopping 53 percent shortfall. In 2018, Federal Government of Nigeria
repeated the same thing by submitted a budget that expected revenue to jump from N2.37trillion to N7.165trillion. By the end of the year, actual revenue was only N3.48trillion; a 51 percent shortfall. The story was the same in 2019 and 2020. In 2019 the revenue shortfall was 41 percent and so far in 2020 the shortfall is 38 percent.
“Here we are in 2021 and the submitted budget expects revenue to be N7.886trillion. Based on the half year numbers, Nigeria would be lucky to realise N3.3trillion in revenue in 2020 by the end of the year. Yet, the Executive expects revenue to increase by over 200 percent in 2021.
“When the Executive announces a N13trillion budget, the ministries and agencies take it as a signal that the largess can continue. A casual look at the Appropriation Bill contains items like SUVs for chief executives and fancy office buildings for agencies whch really do not need them.
“All of these things will count as “capital expenditure” without adding much to the productive ability of the economy. At a time when the Executive is on the verge of a serious fiscal crisis some of these proposed spending items are unnecessary.
“The budget betrays a lack of understanding of how modern economies functions.
Other PDP Senators; including Ike Ekweremadu, Gabriel Suswam, Oker Jev, among others, made their presentations against workability of the budget.
Debate on the general principles of the 2021 budget continues today, and tomorrow.

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LG Boss Uncovers Bloodstained Army Uniform At ‘Cocaine Village’

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The newly inaugurated Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Obarilormate Ollor, has gone to ‘Cocaine village’ at Eleme Trailer Park to execute Governor Nyesom Wike’s quit order on residents of the illegal settlement when he made a shock discovery in one of the rooms.

Ollor had visited the area notorious for drugs and crimes, last Sunday, along with some security personnel to serve the quit notice on residents but met the area deserted—an indication that someone had alerted them about the visit.

Out of curiosity, the chairman opened one of the rooms in the ghetto-like settlement, and found the bloodstained uniform of a soldier, his knife and ATM card.

The chairman and his entourage had expressed suspicion that criminals in the area had killed the owner of the uniform and robbed him.

Ollor said, “Remember that a week ago, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, gave a directive that all illegal structures be removed. As the chief security officer of the local government, I am under that obligation.

 “What we are doing here today is to inform them in advance and to remind them that the ultimatum still holds. So, on or before June 26, they should move out.

“What we have here is a mixed population of criminals, armed robbers, drug dealers, and even those who allegedly trade in human parts. Right now, we just found the uniform of an Army man who probably may have been killed. His blood all over the room and uniform, his knife and ATM card, which we have given to the police.”

The Rivers State Police Command has reportedly swung into action to unravel the perpetrators of the alleged crime.

Spokesman of the police, SP Nnamdi Omoni, said that the command had received reports about criminal activities in the area, including the alleged killing of a soldier.

Omoni said, “We have gotten complaints and reports of drug traffickers, criminal elements, human organ dealers, kidnappers and more from there.

“Though we have been carrying out investigation into all of the reports but thank God, we now have a good lead and evidence.

“We have been mandated by the state government to carry out massive arrest within the environs to ensure we arrest and prosecute all those persons involved.”

Residents said that the ‘Cocaine village’ is a haven for drug dealers and users, adding that security operatives also patronize the area.

An aide of the Eleme LG chairman, who spoke off-the-record said, “The governor received an intelligence report that the slum harbours criminals and drug addicts who carry out series of crimes, human organ trafficking, abductions and many other criminal acts in the LGA and state at large.

“We learnt also that some security men troop in there off and on to buy drugs and indulge in one crime or the other.

 “The military uniform stained with blood, knife and motorcycle discovered were found in one of the rooms we opened.

“The badge of the military uniform was removed and there were heavy blood stains on the uniform.

“We went there with some police men as assigned to us by the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Eboka Friday”, he added.

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Insecurity Hasn’t Hindered Projects’ Execution In Rivers, Wike Affirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says that his administration has fearlessly tackled insecurity headlong and created an enabling climate for smooth delivery of quality development projects.
Wike made the assertion at the inauguration of 16.2-kilometre long Omueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Eberi Road project in Omuma Local Government Area of the state, yesterday.
The governor noted that while other states of the country were still struggling with issues of insecurity, Rivers State was witnessing harvest of development projects with the non-stop inauguration and flag-off ceremonies to their amazement.
“Don’t fight anybody that God has blessed. Don’t fight the state that God has blessed. People are talking about insecurity. We are talking about commissioning and flagging-off of projects. Is it easy? If it is easy, let them try it.”
Wike asserted that it is only states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) like Rivers that has created a peaceful climate for the citizens while the government delivers democratic dividends.
“Those who say they don’t like what PDP is doing, they have no choice but to like it. You can see what the party (PDP) is doing. We are flagging-off and commissioning projects. Whether they like it or not, we are in charge.”
The governor said it is obvious that Rivers State is no longer on the same level with states that cannot provide dividend of democracy to their people.
Wike said the performance of his administration has restored confidence in Rivers people and they can walk with their heads raised high.
“Rivers people, are you not proud of your state? If you’re a Rivers man, anywhere you go, raise your shoulder high and say that you’re a Rivers man and woman. “They (other parties) can only jealous us, but they cannot do anything. We are of different class. We are not on the same level with them.”
Speaking further, Wike commended the member representing Omuma State Constituency, Hon. KelechiNwogufor his loyalty to PDP.
He also extolled him for his commitment to the welfare of Omuma people and being a trusted ally to him.
At the behest of Nwogu, Wike promised Omuma people that his administration would reconstruct the Umuakali-Eberi Road in appreciation of their support to the PDP.
Inaugurating the project, former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara, noted how Wike has redefined governance and broken the jinx of non-performance associated with second tenure governors.
According to him, the approach to development that the governor has adopted stands him out as a much sought-after leader who should be consulted in solving critical national issues related to governance.
“With my experience in elective politics, second terms of most governors are dull; some governors will just go to sleep because they don’t have anything to offer. But you are still commissioning projects, as if you’re not even going to leave.
“Your developmental approach, your developmental plans, and formula should make you an international consultant to the failing government. Because, quite frankly, the magic, I mean, nobody knows except you. You do it with ease, you do it with happiness.”
Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, EllokaTasie-Amadi said the Omueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Eberi link road in Omuma Local Government Area was another genuine efforts of the Wike administration to ease the transportation difficulties experienced by rural dwellers in the Omuma.
“Many of these rural projects go unsung probably because the residents are not social media savvy, as in the case of Omuma, who are predominantly farmers, or probably because SM activities are not a part of their past times as it is with city dwellers.
“It may shock you to know that for every kilometre of road we have built in the city we have built 12kms or more in the rural areas. This is a conservative estimate I would like you to ponder upon when you get home.”
He further stated, “This project is a 16.2km long, 10.3m wide road project which has 4.3km of drains. The roads are marked and have a total of 27 road signs to aid driving and enhance public safety.”

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Wike Flags Off Abonnema/ Obonoma Sandfilling Project, Today

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All is now set for the flag-off of the Abonnema/Obonoma Sandfilling project in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
A statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, yesterday, said that, “the project will sandfill 42 hectares of land that will help expand Abonnema and Obonoma Towns.
“It is in fulfilment of the promise made by Governor Nyesom Wike during the commissioning of the Abonnema Ring Road”.
The statement further added that, “The rich culture and tradition of the Kalabaris will be fully on display at the event.
“Please, note that all Covid-19 protocols will be observed at the event”, it stressed.

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