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Presidency Revises 2016 Budget …Senate Begins Debate, Today …Reps Bicker Over Corrections

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There are indications that the 2016 budget was actually withdrawn for a major amendment as two different versions of the budget are showing different figures and adjustments in expenditure heads.
A version indicating to be an amendment version shows a major cut of about N8.8billion in the Presidency’s original figure with purchase of vehicles receiving the deepest cuts.
Also, the new version has provision of N17billion for capital expenditure allocated to Niger Bridge in Asaba-Onitsha, Delta and Anambra states, though there was no such provision in the first version submitted to the National Assembly.
The expense heads that received big cuts include Fixed Asset Purchase reduced by N3.374 billion to N1.196 billion from N4.57 billion while purchase of motor vehicles was reduced by N3.29 billion to N599 million from N3.889 billion.
Others include State House headquarters, recurrent costs, overhead, miscellaneous, honorarium/sitting allowance each of which were reduced by N100 million.
Expenditures for construction and provision of general fixed asset, which appeared to have had double entry at N764.67 million each, were scrapped in the second budget.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had last Thursday accused the Presidency of substituting the original copy of the budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 with a new version.
Saraki’s claim was the climax of days of suspense following claims and counter-claims that the document was missing.
The president also reduced allocation for exotic cars by N17billion
A review of the fresh copy of the budget uploaded to the website of the Budget Office of the Federation on Friday showed a massive cut by about 83.5 per cent in the total allocation for the vehicles.
A total of N7.52 billion was provided previously for the purchase of various exotic vehicles, including BMW saloon cars, in addition to another N566 million for the procurement of vehicles, including 16-seater Toyota Hiace coaster buses for the State House.
Despite the adjustments to the allocations to the various departments and units, the total appropriation of N39.13billion for the Presidency remained unchanged in both the previous and current budget versions.
Details of the different adjustments showed that State House headquarters, which got total allocation of N11.91billion in the original budget has now been cut by N100million, same as allocations for its recurrent costs, overheads, honorarium & sitting allowances as well as miscellaneous expenses.
Equally, the purchase of fixed assets, which received N4.57billion previously, has drastically been reduced to about N1.2billion, while preservation of the environment and wildlife conservation, which got a total of N978.3million, has now been reduced to N347.4 million.
The Office of the Chief of Staff to the President had its initial allocation of N2.3million raised to N22.3million, while allocation to the office of the Chief Security Adviser to the President has also been raised from N3.18million to N28.18million.
Details of the provision for the two offices include allocation of N25 million each for overhead costs, recurrent and miscellaneous expenditures. Another N25 million has been budgeted for honorarium and sitting allowance for the office of the Chief of Staff.
The State House Medical Centre has been allocated N100 million for total overheads and recurrent costs.
The State House, Lagos Liaison Office, which had its allocation increased from N126.7million to N151.7 million, would get in addition N25 million each for recurrent, overhead and miscellaneous costs.
About N2.3 billion provided earlier for the construction and general provision of fixed assets as well as recreational facilities for the State House has now been removed, while rehabilitation and repairs of fixed assets previously allocated N4.48 billion was increased to N13.2 billion.
Rehabilitation/repairs of residential buildings and electricity facilities previously allocated N388million and N1.7billion respectively have now been raised to N642.6million and N1.8billion respectively.
Another provision of N3.9 billion has been made for the rehabilitation of office building, while renovation of eight blocks of 16 two-bedroom flats at State House Security Quarters, Asokoro, would take about N254.6 million.
About N3.9 billion has been set aside for the annual routine maintenance of Villa facilities by Julius Berger, in addition to N764.7million provided for the construction/provision of recreational facilities.
However, after receiving the corrected version of the 2016 budget, yesterday, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, told members of the upper chamber that the Senate will now begin consideration of the 2016 budget, today.
Saraki said that the debate on the document follows the acceptance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the budget’s amended areas to be considered.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, argued over a letter sent by President Muhammadu Buhari indicating corrections in the 2016 budget.
The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, while reading the letter said the president said corrections have been made to the details of the budget as presented on December 22.
Bickering, however, started at about 11.25am immediately the speaker read the president’s letter when the Minority Leader of the House Rep, Leo Ogor (PDP, Isoko Federal Constituency), cited Sections 81 and 84 of the Constitution, which he said do not give the president powers to amend budget, adding that such powers lie with the legislature.
Ogor immediately called on the House to disregard Buhari’s letter.
Dogara apparently defending the president said there was nowhere in the letter that Buhari said the budget was amended, adding that it is only the president that has powers to make corrections to the budget if he observes any error.
The PDP lawmakers started chanting “no, no!” preventing Dogara from making his point for some minutes.
But the speaker drove home his point as he hinged his argument on the fact that there was nowhere the president mentioned the word amendment rather he used the word correction “which the president alone can correct,” the speaker added.
Also, Rep Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), raised a point of order that the speaker did not follow the order of House procedure as he chose to read petitions before the House when in actual practice, the president’s letter ought to have been read first.
Again, Dogara simply told Okorie that he followed the House rule in his introduction of issues for the day, unless the House otherwise directs, and an applause from members followed immediately.
The speaker in self-defence, told the House that immediately he arrived the House chambers, the first thing he did was to explain to the entire House that he was going to take petitions first before the letters he had with him.
The president’s letter read in part: It will be recalled that on Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, I presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
“I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details. At the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule. That has since been completed and I understand that the corrections have been submitted.
“The National Assembly would therefore have the details as submitted on the 22nd December, and a copy containing the corrections submitted last week. It appears that this has led to some confusion.
“In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the National Assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates. The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures”.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (right), with the General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (left) at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (right), with the General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (left) at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday

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RSNC GM Tasks Medical Practitioners On Emerging Pandemics

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The General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, Publishers of The Tide Newspaper, Chief Ernest Chinwo, has called on medical practitioners in the country to assist the government find workable solution to the array of emerging pandemics, including COVID-19, Lassa fever and monkeypox currently ravaging the country.
Chinwo said this in his office during a courtesy call by organisers of the Rivers State Joint Health Summit 2022.
Represented by the Acting Chairman of Editorial Board and Supervising Editor, Mr Nelson Chukwudi, the general manager also stressed the need for the health professionals to come up with private sector-driven health insurance scheme for the country.
He said that it also behoves on them to pool resources together with a view to building mega hospitals in the country to stem the tide of medical tourism abroad while at the same time curbing brain drain.
The general manager also tasked them to check the incidence of quackery in the medical profession.
Chinwo commended them for the proposed summit, assuring of the cooperation and support of the corporation, especially in providing adequate coverage to their activities.
He said the corporation, since inception has been on the forefront in publicising health issues, stressing that it was against this background that a page was dedicated in The Tide newspaper for health, and called for medical experts to contribute to the robustness of content on the page.
He further noted that beside newspaper publishing, the corporation also does all kinds of commercial printing jobs, and solicited patronage from the health professionals.
Earlier, Secretary General of the Rivers State Joint Health Summit, Dr. Joseph Olawuyi, said the summit with the theme “Repositioning HealthCare services in Rivers state” earlier proposed for the 22 to 26 of August 2022 was moved to October 2022 to ensure mass participation by both government and non-governmental organisations.
Olawuyi said the summit which is being put together by private medical practitioners in partnership with government aims at refocusing the health sector for quality service in the state.
He said a lot of people both within and outside the country have started registering for the summit.
According to him the event will also be used to train health practitioner’s on biomedical engineering as well as encourage the utilization of abundant medical equipment by practitioners.
He urged for a health bank in the country to create access to soft loans by health practitioners.
Olawuyi said the event which will be declared open by Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike will be attended by people from all walks of life including members of the armed forces amongst others.

By: John Bibor & Oreoluwa Adigun

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FG Spends N18.69bn Daily On Subsidy, Minister Confirms

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The Minister of Finance and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has disclosed that Nigeria spends N18.69billion daily on petroleum subsidies.
She stated this, yesterday, when she appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating oil subsidies.
The minister claimed Nigeria consumes 64million litres per day, and that the figure could have been influenced by smuggling.
Ahmed said the executive is also concerned about the increment in daily consumption.
She noted that some of the products are being smuggled outside the country, adding that during COVID-19 locked down, daily consumption dropped significantly.
She stated that the president alone cannot take the decision on removing subsidy, insisting that there must be a multi-stakeholder approach, including all political parties, who must sit to make the decision.
The minister disclosed that the landing cost of petroleum is N448 per litre and that the NNPC takes care of the rest through under recovery.
She further said the Federal Executive Council has also expressed worry about the figure presented by the NNPC, adding that as the Minister of Finance, she has no access to the bank statement of the NNPC.
The Chairman of the Committee, Ibrahim Aliyu, questioned the figure provided by the minister.
Aliyu said even during the COVID19 locked down, Nigeria was still consuming high volume, which according to him was not logical.
He claimed the daily petroleum consumption was about 32million litres.
But the minister responded that she is not sure whether daily consumption has doubled and not also sure if the total number of vehicles in the country has doubled in the past 10 years.

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Over 20 Countries Arrive Abuja For 2022 INAC

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The 2022 International Arts and Crafts Expo (INAC), themed “Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World”, was, yesterday, declared open in Abuja, by the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe.
The 15th edition of the Expo holding at the Abuja Sheraton Hotels & Towers has in attendance no fewer than 25 countries and eight states in Nigeria.
Some of the countries already on ground include Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Syria, India, Philippines, China, Iran, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Malaysia, Benin Republic, Sudan, Lebanon, South Korea and Tanzania.
States in Nigeria that have arrived Abuja for the annual international event are Lagos, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, FTC, Kaduna and Katsina.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Runsewe said the aim of the expo is to better project Nigerian crafts to various countries of the world given that our stories are better told by us. It is also to promote cultural exchange programmes and improve inter-country collaborations in music, arts, drama, etc.
The expo, as usual, is expected to amongst other items, feature skill acquisition trainings for young people, free medical examination and care, display of countries art documentaries, exhibitions of countries’ arts, crafts and culture.
Runsewe said: “This is another opportunity we have to showcase Nigerian crafts to the world and to let the world know that Nigeria is a safe place to be. We want Nigerians to know that the creative industry is capable of tackling Nigerian insecurity problems by engaging the youths in our crafts for revenue generation.”
The 2022 expo holds from August 18 to 20, 2022.

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