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2021 Budget Scales Second Reading In Senate

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The 2021 Appropriation Bill of N13.08trillion, yesterday, scaled second reading in the Senate.
This followed a three- day debate on the general principles of the budget of “Economic Recovery and Resilience” presented to a joint session of the National Assembly, penultimate Thursday.
During the period, senators took turns to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of the Bill.
Some senators were particularly worried about the amount for debt service in the 2021 budget put at N3.124trillion and the proposal to finance the budget deficit through borrowing to the tune of N5.20trillion.
Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, threatened to deny funds to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government, that fail to adhere strictly to the 2021 budget defence timetable.
Lawan, who revealed that the budget defence would commence, next Tuesday, also said the exercise would end in the first week of November.
He pointed out that ministers were expected to appear in person for the budget defence, warning that ministers who failed to appear within the stipulated time frame would not get allocation for their ministry.
Lawan recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, while presenting the Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly, penultimate Thursday, had directed that ministers should come in person for the budget defence.
He noted early consideration and passage of the 2020 budget, which returned the country’s budget cycle to January – December, has significantly boosted the implementation of this year’s budget.
On funds generated by agencies of government, Lawan faulted the country’s low revenue earnings due largely to the failure of revenue agencies to remit all funds realized to the Federation Account after collection.
He advocated for improved revenue generation, collection and remittance methods as a way of increasing the nation’s revenue profile.
The 2021 Appropriations Bill, which passed the second reading, was referred by the Senate President to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative work.
The committee, which is chaired by Senator Jibrin Barau (Kano North), was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.
Barau later told reporters that his committee has proposed to submit its report to Senate in plenary on November 3, 2020.
He spoke while outlining the timetable for the budget defence by MDAs at a press briefing.
Barau said the committee would adhere strictly to the timetable, and urged all MDAs to keep to the schedule.
Similarly, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, said, yesterday, that the early consideration and passage of the 2020 budget which returned the country’s budget cycle to January – December, has significantly improved the implementation of this year’s budget.
Speaking, yesterday, in Abuja on the third-day debate on the general principles of the 2021 Appropriations Bill, Lawan said that the country’s return to the January to December budget cycle is a major achievement under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Ninth Assembly.
Speaking further, the President of the Senate said that the low implementation which characterised previous budgets has been significantly improved upon as evidence in the 2020 budget in which ministries have so far recorded between 50 and 75 percent implementation rates on capital projects across the country.
Lawan said, “In the last three days, we’ve witnessed submissions raising issues about the budget estimates presented to us by Mr. President. This is in continuation of our efforts to ensure the desirable cycle that we have taken the annual budget to (January – December) will be a legacy.
“This will be our legacy as the 9th National Assembly and the legacy of Mr. President.
“We have been able to do this together and there’s definitely a difference in the implementation of the 2020 budget compared to the others.
“Some Ministries and projects have received up to 75 per cent funding. There’s none that has received less than 50 percent.
“While this may not be exactly what we want, it is still an improvement and we will continue to urge the executive to implement the budget up to 100 per cent.
“But I believe that we have seen the benefit of passing the budget in good time, and this is something that we will continue to do.”
On monies generated by agencies of government, the President of the Senate who faulted the country’s low revenue earnings on the failure of revenue agencies to remit all sums to the Federation Account after collection, however, advocated for improved revenue generation, collection, and remittance methods as a way of shoring the nation’s revenue figures.
Lawan said, “Like all of us, I also have some observations. Firstly, I think our revenue generation, collection, and remittances need to be better.
“There are many agencies of government that are supposed to be generating revenues and they do so, but they don’t remit all that they are supposed to,” he said.
The Senate President announced that the relevant committees would interface on a monthly basis with revenue-generating agencies to evaluate their performance and device ways on how the same can be improved where they underperform or fail to meet revenue targets.
According to him, doing so would reduce the deficit contained in next year’s budget and subsequent ones, as well as reduce Nigeria’s dependence on loans to finance capital projects which the country direly needs.
He said, “When we are able to get more revenues, we will reduce the deficit, because this budget has a big deficit, and this is because we simply have no resources as of today and we need to have our infrastructure in place.
“So, the issue is for us to diversify the funding and finances of the projects. We may not do completely without borrowing, but we could do diversification of the sources of funding. We could go for Public-Private Partnership like many senators have suggested, so that we reduce the necessity to borrow.
“Whatever it takes, we have to provide infrastructure in this country, otherwise, we would never move beyond where we are.”
The Senate President while underscoring the importance of oversight by the National Assembly, harped on the need for the Federal Government to cut down on the cost of governance by merging some of its agencies.
“The responsibility of the National Assembly or Parliament is that whatever we appropriate is properly, economically, and efficiently applied. This is an oversight function that we must continue to do.
“Before we pass the 2021 budget, we should be able to know how much of 2020 has been implemented. This is because some projects need to be rolled over to 2021, and we need to know the extent to which they have been funded in the 2020 financial year.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives may compel itself, to subject yearly national budgets to public scrutiny, it was learnt, yesterday.
The House is considering a Fiscal Responsibility Act Amendment Bill, 2020.
The Legislative instrument, sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Mzondu (PDP-Benue), seeks to alter the original law, to allow for estimates from the president to undergo public scrutiny before implementation.
The Bill, amends Section 11 of the Principal Act, to assert the phrase “open to the public, the press and any citizen, or authorized representative of any organisation, group of citizens, or community, immediately after the word shall of that section.
“Section 13 of the Principal Act, is amended in subsection 2(a) by deleting the word May, in the first line of that paragraph and replacing it thereof, with the word ‘Shall’.
“Section 2(a) of Section 13 of the Principal Act, is further amended by inserting the word communities immediately after the word citizens in the provision to that subsection.
“Section 49 Subsection 2 of the Principal Act, is amended to read as follows: ‘The National Assembly shall ensure transparency during the Principal Act preparation and discussion of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, Annual Budget and Appropriation Bill, by making consultations open to the public, the press and any citizen or authorized representative of any organisation, group of citizens or community’.”
The explanatory part of the Bill states that: “This Bill, seeks to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 to make it mandatory for open consultations with the public and all interested Nigerians during the preparation and discussion of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, Annual Budget and the Appropriation Bill and ensure participatory and Inclusive Budget Process in Nigeria”.
The House, on Wednesday, referred to its Committee on Appropriations, estimates of the 2021 Budget, as presented to a Joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, penultimate Tuesday.
Committees of the House, are expected to start receiving inputs from ministries and agencies of government, next week.

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FG Alerts On Massive Flooding In Rivers, FCT, Others

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The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), an agency of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, has predicted more devastating floods from the end of August to early October in some states of the federation, including Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Already, the agency said in line with its earlier predictions, Lagos, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia, Kwara, Kaduna, Rivers, Enugu, Borno and Ondo states had witnessed severe flooding as a result of heavy local rainfalls compounded by poor drainage system.
The Director-General of the agency, Engr. Nze Clement Onyeaso, in an interaction with some journalists in Abuja, yesterday, said all areas earlier identified as flood prone this year as well as those along the Rivers Niger and Benue might likely begin to experience more devastating flooding from the end of August.
“Nigeria is located within the River Niger Basin which is occupied by nine countries namely Benin, Burkina- Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivore, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Nigeria is located at the lowest position of the Basin and this means that once the upper catchment of the Basin gets flooded, Nigeria should be prepared to experience flooding. The period of flooding in these upstream countries is August and September of every year,’’ he said.
The DG said his agency was monitoring the development as we approach these critical months, adding that it will also continue to monitor Cameroonian authorities with regards to flood scenarios in the upper catchment of the sub-basin.
Nze warned Lagosians against the practice of dredging and sound filling the Atlantic Ocean, to build what they usually call model cities like those in Lekki and Banana Island, saying such may, in the future, pose serious threats.
As part of the preparation for the expected floods, the DG called on Nigerians, especially the state governments to be fully prepared by ensuring cleaning of blocked drainage system and canals remove refuse, weeds, water hyacinths and floats on water channels.
The agency had earlier predicted that 121 LGAs in 27 states and FCT might experience severe flooding this year.

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Rivers Police Confirm Killing Of Disbanded OSPAC Leader In EMOLGA

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The Rivers State Police Command has confirmed the killing of one Alex Uwazuruike Isaac, the leader of disbanded OSPAC in Umudioga community in Emohua local Government Area of the state, last Tuesday.
The spokesperson of Rivers State Police Command, SP Nnamdi Omoni, who confirmed this in a telephone interview with The Tide, said the dismembered body of the victim has also been recovered and deposited in the mortuary for preservation.
The police spokesperson further stated that the police has restored normalcy in the community while the Commissioner of Police, Eboka Friday, has ordered for full investigation into the incident.
It would be recalled that gunmen suspected to be cultists, last Tuesday, invaded Umudioga community, and killed Alex Uwazuruike Isaac, who was said to be the leader of the disbanded OSPAC, a local vigilante group in the area.
A native of the community, who pleaded anonymity for fear of the unknown, disclosed that the gunmen, who were armed with sophisticated assault rifles, stormed the community in the afternoon and went for their target.
The source further revealed that the gunmen shot Isaac dead before beheading and dismembering his body, and later paraded the head of their victim in the community while urging natives not to panic as they came for the deceased and not for the community.
The Tide gathered that some other members of the disbanded OSPAC have already fled the community as a result of the killing of their former leader and fear of being attacked by the cultists who are hunting members of the defunct OSPAC in the area.
It was learnt that many suspected cultists were arrested and killed in the community while others fled during the reign of the deceased OSPAC commander in the community in 2019.
The Tide further learnt that the killing comes barely three weeks after the Chairman of Emohua Local Government Council, Dr Chidi Lloyd pronounced the dissolution of all vigilante groups in the LGA, and asked communities that make up the council area to submit five names of natives who would be screened and admitted into a new security outfit to be established and funded by the council in no distant time.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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JAMB Fixes Mop-Up UTME For 18,000 Candidates, Aug 6

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The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has rescheduled examination for more than 18,000 candidates who experienced biometric verification challenges and those who genuinely missed the just-concluded Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) as a result of a clash with this year’s National Business and Technical Examinations Board examination.
The mop-up UTME is scheduled for Friday, August 6, 2021, in some selected locations across the country.
JAMB Spokesperson, Fabian Benjamin, made this known in a statement, yesterday, titled, ‘Mop-Up UTME Holds Friday, 6th August, 2021…JAMB’.
The statement read, “Following detailed investigation and careful analysis of the highly-successful 2021 UTME, and with due consultation (resulting in gracious concession) with the National Examination Council (NECO) concerning the timetable of the council’s on-going SSCE, JAMB has scheduled a Mop-up UTME for Friday, August 6, 2021, in some selected locations across the nation.
“About 18,000 candidates slated for the examination are being notified through both text messages on their designated phone numbers and their JAMB profiles. In addition, the candidate can check using their registration number on http://www.jamb.gov.ng/2021mopup.
“For the avoidance of doubt, no candidate whose result has been duly released will be rescheduled for another examination.
“The rescheduled candidates are in the following categories:
“Candidates who could not be initially scheduled for examination owing to their inability to timely procure and supply their mandatory NINs or profile codes until after the close of the registration exercise and, therefore, had to purchase Bank Drafts (as against the usual vending of PINs) after the scheduled period for the examination and were later registered.
“Few candidates who encountered peculiar biometric verification problem, or who failed biometric verification on the examination date (and were recaptured) but were not allowed to partake in the examination. (Adequate screening arrangements have been made to re-verify such claims and any candidate found to be involved in any form of impersonation will be identified for prosecution).
“Candidates who were unable to sit for the UTME owing to the clash of timetables of the UTME and the then on-going NABTEB examinations and whose particulars have been verified and supplied directly to JAMB by NABTEB.
“Candidates who have been ascertained by JAMB to have experienced genuine rescheduling/technical problems as was the case in 30 of the 760 centres used for the examination.
“The rescheduled candidates are to print fresh examination notification slips containing the venue and time of the examination. The slips are to be printed from the JAMB website https://www.jamb.gov.ng using the candidates’ registration number from Sunday, August 1, 2021.
“The board strongly advises candidates to avoid supplying their vital information, including registration number to fraudsters who abound especially in cybercafe(s), tutorial centres springing up almost everywhere in the nation as a result of the illicit activities of examination syndicates. CBT centres approved by JAMB which are consistently monitored are relatively more secured for printing examination notification slips by candidates who cannot print such on their own.”

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