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Senators Slam FG’s 2018 Budget – Say Projections Unrealistic

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Senators yesterday rejected the projections upon which the 2018 budget is based, declaring the projections as unrealistic.
The lawmakers, who commenced the debate on the general principle of the budget said that the implementation of the 2017 budget left so much to be desired.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) who opened the floor of the debate caused an uproar when he declared that the 2018 budget was ‘fictitious, adding that the budget is not consolidating on the 2017 budget.
The Senator said that the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget does not consolidate on the 2017 and 2016 budgets as claimed by President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2018 budget presentation.
The lawmakers also decried what they called the abysmal implementation of the N1.2 trillion capital component of the 2017 budget. The Senators also faulted the parameters contained in the 2018 budget especially the oil benchmark of $45 per barrel, adding that it should be jerked up to about $50. Senator Abaribe drew the ire of some senators, especially Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan who stated that the use of the word ‘fictitious’ was unparliamentary.
The Abia Senator then agreed to withdraw the contentious word but replaced the same with the word ‘imaginary’ even as he maintained that the implementation of the budget was very low.
He said: “I am just quoting the Senate Leader from his speech, which said the 2018 budget was designed to consolidate on the achievements of the 2016 and 2017 budgets. What was done in 2017 when less than 15 per cent of that budget was released? Nothing was done and that was why I called it (2018 budget proposal) fictitious. I am very sorry if that is the word he is bothered about. I will withdraw the word ‘fictitious’ and use ‘totally imaginary.” According to Abaribe, the receivables (revenue) in the budget were being exaggerated, adding that the revenues were only one-tenth of the figures being claimed by the government. He stated that the budget was being predicated on parameters that have been destroyed by facts available.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (PDP Bayelsa East) in his own contribution said that the 2018 budget proposal is a “budget of active imagination,” as according to him, the budget is already committing 25 percent to debt servicing.
He said: “We have to decide what the exchange rate really is. Is it N305 (to US$1) or N365?” Murray Bruce stated that the cost of governance in Nigeria remains very high, adding that agencies that have outlived their usefulness still remain on government’s payroll.
He said: “FRCN (Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria) has 8000 workers. Sell it to the staff. Who listens to the Voice of Nigeria (VoN)?” He said that while it was commendable that the Ministry of Transport and Chinese Firms were working on the multi-billion dollar rail projects, the Senate should take deep looks at the intricate details.
“We have steel, Ajaokuta is there. Why don’t we use that facility and create jobs through that,” he said.
Senator George Akume, who also contributed said that the oil benchmark should be increased to $50 because crude oil price has increased to between 58-$62 per barrel.
Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Francis Alimekhena (APC Edo North) told the Senate that the 2016 and 2017 budgets were bloated, adding that they lacked impact on the people.
He stated that it was unrealistic to assume that about N2 trillion would be realised from oil revenue and N4 trillion from non-oil revenue.
He also supported the increase of the budget benchmark to $50 while output is maintained at 2million barrels per day as in the 2017 budget.
The senator said: “There is no need to raise the hope of Nigerians and execution is zero. Let’s cut our coat according to our cloth. If the budget size is N3 trillion and execution is N3 trillion (100 percent), we will be happier than to say it is N8 trillion and execution is just N2 trillion.”
Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) who also contributed said that only the sum of N450 billion has so far been released in the capital votes of 2017 budget.
He stated that the key issue with the 2016 and 2017 budgets was the question of funding which he said made the budgets less impactful.
He said: “A budget can be big and bloated, but when you do not have enough funds for capital projects which are more impactful, then the budget is going nowhere.” The senator cited the example of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), which he said only N800 million has so far been released out of its 2017 appropriation of N25 billion.
Ashafa said: “What impact would that make on roads,” adding that only N500 million has so far been released out of the N11 billion budget of the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC).
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, said that there is an urgent need to reconsider the budget deficit projections.
He said: “I thank everyone for their contributions, I commend my colleagues for keeping their language clean and speaking their mind on the 2018 budget debate. “Some research agencies are not researching anything and are still being funded, we need to point them out so we don’t spend money on them.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has announced that it will suspend plenary from tomorrow.
This is to allow members proceed on oversight assessment of the 2017 budget and hold defence sessions for the 2018 budget.
The suspension will last for three weeks.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, who presided over proceedings, yesterday, made the announcement as debate on the budget began at the floor of the House, yesterday.

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Tai APC Collapses As Hundreds Return To PDP …Say They Were Blinded By Fake Promises

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Over 500 former members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Tai Local Government Area have returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The returnees led by the first PDP Chairman of the area, Hon Peter Gwezia, announced their return to the PDP, last Saturday, during the GDI’s sensitisation programme for the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) at the Council Secretariat, Saakpenwa.
Speaking on behalf of the rest of the returnees while renouncing membership of the APC, Hon Peter Gwezia, said he and other APC members decided to leave the party due to failure of leadership.
While promising to work for the success of the PDP in the 2023 election, Gwezia said the APC lacked ideas, and was like a vehicle without engine, could not take them to their desired destination, hence their decision to leave the party.
In his remarks, Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hon Chukwuemeka Aaron, who received the returnees on behalf of the Chairman, PDP Rivers State, Amb Desmond Akawor, assured them of equal treatment, saying there are no new members in the party.
“I want to welcome you all and to say that in PDP and GDI where you are today, no person is new. We all have equal status, we all have equal rights. Some of the people that were with you there doing the jamboree that came back today, they are commissioners; they have gone to the National Assembly, become chairmen of councils.
“So, having seen what our leader, Chief Nyesom Wike has done in Rivers State, and in Tai, and what your chairman of council is doing in Tai, they have come back to take their rightful position. We want to thank all of you, and to say that the party chairman and the chairman of council will integrate you into the activities of GDI”.
Also speaking, GDI President-General, Chief Bright Amaewhule, said the performance of the present administration in the state was enough testimony for any Rivers son or daughter to reckon that PDP was the only party which had their interest at heart.
Amaewhule said that of the candidates lined up for the governorship seat in the state, only the PDP Governorship candidate, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, was competent and qualified to give the state good governance from day one.
He, therefore, challenged eligible voters who have not collected their PVCs to do so as soon as possible, and prepare to cast their votes for the right party which was a master of good governance and quality projects’ delivery in the state come 2023.
The returnees, alongside GDI members from the 10 wards of Tai, including youths, women and students groups, later engaged in a wild gyration, turning the entire arena into dance frenzy.
The event also featured solidarity speeches from stakeholders among them former and current National and State Assembly members, former and serving council chairmen, former commissioners, party stalwarts, and captains of industry, among others.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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MOSOP Tasks SPDC On Fresh Oil Spill

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Factional President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Fegalo Nsuke, has called on Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) Joint Venture (JV), the oil and gas multinational company, to take full responsibility and appropriate action to curb a fresh oil spill in Bodo Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Nsuke, who noted that the spill was first noticed in the community early last week, blamed Shell for the spill and urged the Dutch multinational to alleviate its impact on the community, curtail its spread and commence proper remediation and compensation in accordance with global best practices.
The MOSOP leader noted that the oil spills from the Trans Niger Pipeline operated by the Shell JV, suddenly erupted within the residential area of the community, alleging that it must have been caused by equipment failure.
He observed that although the cause of the spills, which was occurring 11years after the release of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports, was yet to be ascertained, the spills have affected residential areas and community dwellers have been asked by the MOSOP to evacuate the area, to avoid causality in case of a fire.
“This massive spill is occurring 11 years after the UNEP released a damning report exposing Shell’s devastation of the Ogoni environment.
“We have communicated with community leaders to cooperate with investigations and ensure that every detail about this spill is communicated to our secretariat as soon as possible”, he said.On his part, Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said, “the cause of the crude oil spill which occurred inside the community where people live is not yet known at this time.”

By: Tonye Nria-Dappa

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Nigeria’s Freedom Of Expression Attracting Global Attention, Buhari Claims

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday, said it was instructive that Nigeria was attracting positive international attention as a country that promoted media freedom and freedom of expression.
He said this was premised on the government’s understanding of the important roles that information literacy and media education played in sustainable development.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said this while pledging his “full support” for three major international events scheduled to hold in Nigeria in October and November 2022.
They include: the 2022 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Global Media, Information Literacy Week in Abuja, in October, the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry in Lagos, as well as the second Global Association of Literary Festivals Conference, Abeokuta, in November.
In the statement titled ‘President Buhari pledges support as Nigeria hosts major cultural, tourism and literary events,’ he said the global events were opportunities to showcase the nation’s rich heritage in culture, arts, tourism and entertainment as well as advancements on media freedom.
Earlier, the Minister of Information ad Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that hosting the 2022 UNESCO Global Media, Information Literacy Week, would help to address the rising spate of fake news, misinformation and hate speech.
Expressing his delight to welcome international visitors to Nigeria, Buhari urged citizens to leverage the events to exhibit the values “that make us a unique, friendly and peace-loving people.”
The statement read in part, “Welcoming the decision by the UNESCO’s World Tourism Organisation and the Global Association of Literary Festivals to grant Nigeria the right to host these separate historic events, the President assures all relevant stakeholders and participants of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Nigeria.
“On the MIL Week, Buhari notes that it is instructive that Nigeria is attracting positive international attention as a country that promotes media freedom and freedom of expression, recognising the important roles information literacy and media education play in sustainable development.
“On the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry, the President says the rapid growth of Nigeria’s film, fashion, music, and the Information and Communications Technology sector, and the increase in international appeal and acceptance would continue to spur government to devote more resources to the sector.”
Among other initiatives, Buhari noted that the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, established by his administration and managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, had provided single-digit financing to many young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and information technology.
He noted that the $100 million re-development of the National Theatre, Lagos, into a world-class creative park is also ongoing, following the handover of the facility to the CBN and the Bankers Committee.
The President, therefore, expressed confidence that the literary world would find many good things to celebrate about Nigeria when they meet in the historic city of Abeokuta, homeland and birthplace of one of Nigeria’s finest literary icons and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.

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