Mr Dimeji Sabur Bankole was two years as speaker of the House of Representatives, November 2, 2009. In July, 2009, a plot to unseat him was revealed at the plenary session of the day, bringing the total attempts to remove his leadership to at least four since he assumed office. But, somehow, he survived.
On that July plenary, a distraught Abdul Ningi (PDP/Bauchi) , a charismatic figure and former Leader of the House, had complained that someone was impersonating him. According to him, the person had sent text messages to some members asking that the leadership of the House be removed.
Interestingly, the person sent the text to him too. Distancing himself from the plot, Ningi had said that he was very embarrassed by the message. The deputy speaker, Bayero Nafada, who presided over plenary that day, cleared Ningi from the conspiracy, vouching for his integrity.
He told the Green Chamber that a powerful committee had been set up to fish out the culprit(s). It was then clear why Bankole did not preside over proceedings that day, though he had led principal officers into the chamber, and had even said the opening prayers.
The speaker immediately after the prayers stepped down for Nafada. He then started going from seat to seat, chatting up members, while proceedings went on. Many observers said it was a move to consolidate his friendship with those he wasn’t so sure of their loyalty.
And that observation was correct, since he avoided going to the woman (Patricia Etteh) whom he had replaced amidst rancour. He also shunned Independence Ogunewe, the man who does not hide the fact that Bankole is not his man, as the speaker not only suspended him but also stripped him of standing committee membership. But Bankole as since managed to have a firm grip over the House as he marked his second year as speaker.
Budget implementation: Civil servants as enemies of state
Last Tuesday, as he presided over proceedings of the House, Bankole, for the umpteenth time, upbraided the civil service over unremitted revenue and poor budget implementation. His words: “Now, it is obvious that the civil service is the problem.
It is painfully obvious. The records are very clear that the question of output (release of funds) had been significantly solved but it is now a question of desired and expected outcomes of the budget. The engine room of government, which is the civil service, has not performed.
“How come monies amounting to about N500 billion approved for certain projects is still lying fallow at the CBN? We have information that some roads contracts that were awarded in this years’s budget have not been executed three months after the contractors were mobilized. We need to begin to push further to see that the civil service works and need to do this with all of us on the same side.”
He said that over N70 billion was generated by government agencies and squandered. Bankole was indeed in his element, and he had his facts and figures. And that has been his posture over this issue in the last two years.
Achievements: Keen watchers of the House believe that the insistence that Nigeria could be richer if ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government that generate revenue remit what they make to the Federation Account may be his biggest achievement since becoming speaker.
The Committee on Finance of the House which carried out investigations on revenues generated by MDAs submitted its report last month. According to the report, MDAs have generated at least N1 trillion in the last five years and squandered all.
Oversight functions: It is also believed that House Committees now take oversight duties more seriously. Bankole had purchased cars for members last year for that duty, though that action almost cost him his job. Last month, he threatened to sack any committee chairman that did not submit his third quarter report before November 7, 2009.
Faltering welfare: After an executive session, last July, members emerged grim-faced. Their remunerations had been slashed by almost half.
Reason given was that many new tax initiatives had crept into their take-home packages, thus eating up a good chunk. This clearly irked most of them, who, as politicians, pride themselves as belonging to the upper echelon of the “business”, and needed every kobo to meet up both personal and constituency demands.
Though it was explained that the problem was with the National Assembly Management, which did not explain beforehand how the deductions were made, many still believe that the leadership is lackadaisical to their welfare. But, somehow, the loyalty of members to their speaker keeps waxing stronger, invoking speculations that he must have devised a means of “settling” them.
Unspent billions: Unlike under the past regimes of the House when unspent funds of the two chambers of the National Assembly were shared among lawmakers on a formula based on rank, last year, the House returned N2.1 billion to the treasury. Though outwardly, members bragged that the House, which is the champion of returning unspent appropriation to the treasury, they still fumed in private. Those who have stayed long enough looked back with nostalgia to when such funds were shared.
Talking down on members: Some of the members said the speaker has penchant for talking down on members, both in and out of the chambers. And true, during plenary, reporters covering proceedings from the press gallery have been taken aback a few times by the manner an exasperated Bankole shouted down on recalcitrant colleagues. Most would sulk about their humiliation. At least one member had been suspended and stripped of committee membership when he refused to obey Bankole’s order to take his seat and remain silent.
The ghost of power probe: A monthly news magazine once published a story on the power probe instituted by the House which the leadership found unsettling. The magazine – The Lawmaker – , which the National Assembly subscribes to, was audacious to say Bankole should resign because of the way the power probe was handled.
The Lawmaker made many claims, saying that there were a lot of underhand dealings that led to the rubbishing of the power probe report. The magazine quoted members as swearing that that the truth about the power must be revealed. It turned out that it was mere wishful thinking. But, the power probe was the most inglorious project ever embarked upon by any chamber of the National Assembly since 1999. And, in view of that, Nigerians will forever hold the Reps in suspicion in whatever they do, no matter how noble and sincere. And that took place in the early days of Bankole assumption to power.
Dwindling image: At a press conference addressed by Dino Melaye and West Idahosa, both notable members of the House, on the eve of the failed attempt to remove the chief whip of the Reps, Emeka Ihedioha, and the House Leader, Tunde Akogun, last July, Idahosa, who was the chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources opened a slit for reporters, covering the House to take a peep into the storm waiting for Bankole to brave over.
Idahosa, a well respected Reps who has been there since 1999, said this at the briefing: “I have served under six speakers since coming to the House of Representatives in 1999, and we have had image problem with the public, But, today, our perception index is zero.
“We wish to apologise to the Nigerian people on the style of leadership that the House of Representatives has today. We are now serious about giving back the House the integrity and respect it deserves. We are now going to build a new House, based on strong moral strength, not this kind of House that is the boot of unkind, cruel cartoons.” Asked if the speaker was also a target, Idahosa said, “We are not dealing with that now. That situation has not arisen. We just want Nigerians to watch how we are going to remove the areas of complaint in the House for now. And these two principal officers must go tomorrow (June 23, 2009)”.
At that time, it was alleged that at least 250 members had signed for the removal of the two principal officers, just for the table to turn over on Melaye and his colleagues the following day. It was said that on the night of the eve of the “coup”, the speaker had personally reached out to members and begged them to sheath their swords. The two embattled principal officers were equally asked to go and “see” members that night. With that done, Dino and his men were left alone. And the plot failed.
Opposition not in 10:0 defeat now a myth
Ogunewe was one of the alleged architects of the plot to remove Bankole over the N2.3 billion car scam which the speaker scaled through. On February 26, 2009 after displaying what members agreed was rudeness to the speaker at that day’s plenary session, he was suspended summarily with not even a single voice of dissent.
But when the motion to suspend Dino was moved by Emmanuel Jime (PDP/Benue) on June 23, the House erupted. Those in support and those against the motion took on each other, until a compromise was reached, which led to Dino’s apology. The implication of that could be that the “enemies” of the leadership were regrouping.
It is was then established by many that there was a crack within the ranks of the Reps. Observers also posited that though it was decisive victory for the leadership of the House, the Dino incident was just another bullet in the arsenal of those waiting to unseat the leadership.
The defeat of the opposition, it appeared, was not a 10:0 win. But, today, it is very hard to imagine that another conspiracy to unseat the leadership of the House, will work based on the almost cult figure that Bankole seemed to have carved for himself among his colleagues.
An Open Letter To FCT Minister, Chief Nyesom Wike
Dear Hon Minister,
First, a disclosure. You may not know me but we have met on two occasions in the house of our mutual respected Oga, first as a minister of state and second as a Governor, but l doubt if you can recognise me now. I am one of your admirers and critics.
As a two-term Governor of Rivers State, you did well in terms of infrastructure, for which l often commend you. I, however, sometimes disagree with you, particularly what l consider your streaks of high-handedness against those who disagreed with you politically.
I am writing this letter, with the hope that Don would send it to you, after watching your media interview with particular reference to your protégé and successor, Governor Siminalayi Fubara, a guy l have never met. No doubt, he would not have emerged as governor without your imprimatur. I do not have the details of your disagreement, and I am not even interested. What I am interested in is you to rise above the alleged offence.
Take a deep breath and have an introspective view of your political trajectory since 1999.
1999-2007: Obio/Akpor LGA Chairman
2007-2011: Chief of Staff, Rivers State
2011-2015: Education Minister (State)
2015-2023: Governor, Rivers State
2023-till date: Minister of FCT
And you are just 55!
I stand to be corrected, nobody from Rivers State has been so politically favoured and blessed by God as you are, not that you are the most politically-savvy politician from the State but it is just the Grace of God. I plead with you, do not take such grace for granted.
As governor of Lagos State in 2010, Governor Babatunde Fashola told me something that has stuck with me till today, regarding power and leadership. There was a three-month old strike by doctors in Lagos over pay increase. I stepped in to mediate between the doctors and the state, which by the grace of God, l was able to pull through after extensive negotiations with the doctors, and the strike was called off to the relief of millions of Lagosians. In the course of the mediation, Fashola told me that some people asked him to fire all the doctors but he made this profound statement: “Restraint is a powerful tool in leadership; the fact that you have the power to do something but chose to look the other way.” That statement has stuck with me till date. Why do you think American presidents, despite the temptation to press the nuclear button, when their interests are threatened, rather exercise restraint by refusing to go that route? It is leadership restraint.
Permit me to recall a story which you yourself regaled your audience with at the 70th birthday reception you held in honour of Dr Peter Odili. You said that when you wanted to contest for the Chairmanship of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council in 1998, you approached Dr Odili, whom you were meeting for the first time and sought his support. He obliged by giving you his support, and according to you, he gave you the first financial support towards your ambition, even when he himself was campaigning to run for the governorship of Rivers State. You became the chairman, and when you wanted to go for a second tenure, some political actors removed your name, and according to you, you ran to Dr Odili who was then the governor and he saved your political career by reinstating your name.
Fast forward to when you completed your tenure as the chairman of the local government, when your erstwhile friend, Rotimi Amaechi, who just became the governor, appointed you his Chief of Staff and that administration commenced a process to humiliate Dr Odili by setting up the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where your benefactor, Odili was the target and was put in the witness box.
Later when cracks began to emerge in your relationship with your boss, Amaechi, you ran back to your benefactor, Dr Odili to apologise for how your administration humiliated him. As a large-hearted person, he forgave you, and that began a wonderful relationship till date. Why am l making references to these incidents? If Dr Odili could forgive you and took you back, why can you not also forgive your political offenders, including Fubara, particularly since God has been so good to you?
Anyone who has traversed Ada George Road, Port Harcourt and seen the humongous, palatial estate you reside in, that takes a substantial part of that road, would know that you are not lacking materially. Coupled with that, you are a Minister in the current government and your wonderful wife is a judge. What else does any human being want?
My brother, please calm down, and let go of your ego and learn from history. Who would have thought that a whole General Shehu Yar’Adua (rtd) could die like a chicken inside prison; who would have imagined that a whole Bashorun MKO Abiola, the then richest man in Africa could spend five years in detention and die in custody, despite his international connections; who would have imagined that Major Hamza Al-Mustapher, the de facto Head of State during the junta of General Sanni Abacha, a man even Generals genuflected for, would spend 14 years in prison? Please, pause and think. This life is ephemeral. As the book of Ecclesiastes 1 states: life is vanity.
In Oyo State, there used to be the strong man of Ibadan politics, Lamidi Adedibu but his house in Molete, Ibadan is now desolate after his death. Adedibu was law as far as Ibadan politics was concerned. He was feared by all political actors across the nation. Before him, there was Busari Adelakun, otherwise known as “Eruobodo” in Ibadan politics. They have all been consigned to the dustbin of history. Learn from these because whether you like it or not, you would also pass away one day like all mortals.
God has been so good to you. Though I do not have the details of your feud with Fubara, you claim he is an ingrate, but this same “ingrate” took bullets for you as your Accountant-General when the EFCC was investigating your government. If you did not have confidence in him, you would not have put him forward to succeed you. Please, rise above political offences and be a leader. May it not be counted against you that since 1999, your successor would be the first governor of Rivers State to be impeached. No garland for such feat. It would be a pyrrhic victory and your new political masters in Abuja would even be wary of you. You are new to Bola Tinubu’s school of politics. Do not get carried away.
May God guide you right.
By: Richard Akinnola
Abbas Recommends Privatisation Of Nigeria’s Refineries
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Tajudeen Abbas, has recommended the privatisation of oil refineries in the country to enable them function optimally.
Abbas gave the recommendation yesterday, while receiving the management of NNPCL led by the Group Managing Director, (GMD), Mr Mele Kyari in Abuja.
He described the state of refineries over the years as shameful, adding so much money was being spent on workers as salaries and allowances for doing very little.
“There is need to make these refineries have multi -dimensional uses, if there is no crude oil, are there other activities that can make the workers to be active so that why they earn is deserved? I need you and your management to look at how we can turn around these decades of losses.
“One way to do so is to find a way to privatise these refineries; we have spent so much money and time deceiving ourselves that some businesses can be run by government.
“In the case of the refineries, we have now realised that some sectors of NNPC business can only be handled by the private sector and our refineries are one of those.
“The inadequacies will become manifest as soon as Dangote refinery comes on board because the competition will be there and inefficiencies of the refineries will become more naked.
“I want you to put it as part of your cardinal objectives; let us find ways to privatise our refineries so that they can be active ,so that in the near future, they will be able to compete with new refineries that will come up,” he said.
Abbas said that the NNPCL is central to the economic development of Nigeria, pledging the commitment of the House of Representatives to supporting the company to succeed.
According to him ,the House is concerned about the high rate of oil theft as it is draining revenue, affecting forex availability and causing inflation in the country.
The speaker said that the House had inaugurated a special committee on oil theft,to interface with stakeholders with a view to addressing oil theft in the country.
Earlier, Kyari said that all refineries would become fully operational and Nigeria would become a net exporter of petroleum products by the end of 2024.
He noted that subsidy was responsible for poor activities at government-owned refineries over the years ,saying that the removal of subsidy was already attracting a lot of private sector investments.
“I can confirm to you that by the end of December latest, we will start the Port Harcourt Refinery; early in the first quarter of 2024, we will start the Warri Refinery and by the end of 2024, Kaduna Refinery will come into operation.
“This is the commitment we are giving today and you can hold us accountable on this.
”In 2024, many initiatives, including the rehabilitation of our refineries, and also the efforts of small- scale refiners, and the coming of the Dangote Refinery, will make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products.
“We will no longer be talking about fuel importation by the end 2024, I am very optimistic that this will crystalise,” he said.
Kyari said that it was not the practice of the company to publish its financial statements some years back , but that the practice had changed, and all the company’s accounts from 2018 till date were now in the public space.
Kyari put the expected government revenue from the company by the end of 2023 at N4.5 trillion, saying that NNPCL was returning value to shareholders in line with the objectives of the Petroleum Industry Act.
Kyari said that the company had a robust supply plan assuring that there would be no shortage of fuel over the Christmas season and beyond ,and that no one could hold the country to ransom.
FAAC: FG, States, LGs Share N906.96bn
The Federation Account Allocation Committee says it shared N906.96billionn among the three tiers of government for October 2023.
FAAC disclosed this in a communiqué issued at the end of its latest meeting on Wednesday.
According to a statement by the Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Finance, Stephen Kilebi, on Wednesday, the total figure shared for October was a slight increase of N3.48billionn compared to the N903.48billionn shared in September 2023, recovering from a decrease recorded in the previous month.
The total amount included gross statutory revenue, Value Added Tax, Augmentations from Forex and Non-oil Mineral Revenue, and electronic money transfer levy, among others.
The communique disclosed that although a gross total of N1.35trillion was generated, only N906.955billion was shared to the three tiers of government as Federation Allocation for October 2023.
The total revenue distributed for October 2023, was drawn from Statutory Revenue of N305.070 billion, VAT of N323.446billion, EMTL of N15.552billionn, Exchange Difference of N202.887billionn and Augmentation of N60.000billionn, bringing the total distributable amount for the month to N906.955billion.
From the total revenue from Gross Statutory Revenue, Value Added Tax, Electronic Money Transfer Levy, Exchange Difference, and Augmentation of N60bn, the Federal Government received N323.355bn, the States received N307.717bn, the Local Government Councils got N225.209bn, while the Oil Producing States received N50.674bnas Derivation, (13% of Mineral Revenue).
The Communique stated that “the Federation Account Allocation Committee at the end of the meeting indicated that the Gross Revenue available from the Value Added Tax for October 2023, was N347.343bn, which was an increase from the N303.550bn distributed in the preceding month, increasing to N43.793bn.
“From that amount, the sum of N10.894 billion was allocated for Cost of Collection and the sum of N10.003 billion was given for Transfers, Intervention, and Refunds. The remaining sum of N323.446 billion was distributed to the three tiers of government of which the Federal Government got N48.517 billion, the States received N161.723 billion, and Local Government Councils got N113.206 billion.
“Accordingly, the Gross Statutory Revenue of N660.090 billion received in the month was lower than the sum of N1,014.953tn received in the previous month of September 2023 by N354.863bn. From that amount, the sum of N38.942bn was allocated for the Cost of Collection and a total sum of N316.078bn for Transfers, Intervention, and Refunds. The remaining balance of N305.070bn was distributed as follows to the three tiers of government: Federal Government was allocated the sum of N147.574bn, States got N74.852bn, LGCs got N57.707bn, and Oil Derivation (13% Mineral Revenue) got N24.937bn.
“Also, the sum of N16.199bn from the Electronic Money Transfer Levy was distributed to the three tiers of government as follows: the Federal Government received N2.333bn, States got N7.776bn, Local Government Councils received N5.443bn and N0.647bn allocated for Cost of Collection.
“The Communique disclosed N262.887bn from Exchange Difference, which was shared as follows: Federal Government received N93.323bn, the States got N47.334bn, the sum of N36.493 billion allocated to Local Government Councils, and N25.737bn given to Derivation (13% of Mineral Revenue) while the sum of N60.000bn was for Transfers, Intervention and Refunds.
“It disclosed that N60.000bn Augmentation was shared as follows: the Federal Government got N31.608bn, the States received N16.032bn, while LGCs got the sum of N12.360bn.”
Also, the balance in the Excess Crude Account stayed at $473,754.57 as of November 22, 2023.
FAAC revealed that N50.674bn was given for the cost of collection, and N386.081bn was allocated for Transfers Intervention and Refunds.
Petroleum Profit Tax, Import Duty, VAT, Customs External tariff, and EMTL increased significantly.
However, Excise Duties, Oil and Gas Royalties, and Companies Income Tax recorded a decrease.
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