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Saraki Gives C’ttee 48hr- Deadline To Submit Budget Report …Senate Approves N1.64trn New Borrowing To Fund Deficit …Passes Police Trust Fund Bill

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Senate President Bukola Saraki, yesterday, gave the Appropriations Committee till Thursday to submit the 2019 budget report.
The Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sunny Ogbuoji told the Senate that only 24 out of 61 sub-committees had submitted their reports.
Saraki insisted that the budget report must be presented on Thursday, April 11, ahead of the April 16 approval of the money bill.
The Senate President noted the Appropriations committee will be forced to use Executive submissions if the sub-committees fail to submit their reports to the Committee by Wednesday.
Saraki said, “It is unfortunate that only 24 committees have submitted their reports. Last week, we all took a decision here that we are not going to waiver on our position. Our position is very clear: that all committees should submit (their budget reports). And those that don’t submit, then the Appropriations Committee should use the Executive submission.
“That position is still where we are. And I want to appeal to all our committees that you really have just till tomorrow (Wednesday) to make sure that your reports get to the Appropriations Committee because Thursday, you must lay this report.
“Vice Chairman of Appropriations Committee, if you don’t get report from our committees by tomorrow (Wednesday), then you just use the submission of the Executive. But come Thursday, you must lay that report.”
It would be recalled that President Buhari, had presented the N8.83 trillion budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 19, 2018.
However, the Senate, yesterday, adopted N1.64 trillion proposed by the Executive as the amount for new borrowing to fund the 2019 budget deficit.
The upper chamber also approved the proposed N500 billion special social intervention fund.
The adoptions were parts of the 2019-2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) passed yesterday by the upper chamber.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent the MTEF/FSP to the National Assembly on November 6, 2018 for consideration and approval.
The passage of the MTEF/FSP came as the Senate is set to receive the report of the 2019 budget from its Appropriation Committee.
The Senate adopted all the critical projections in the MTEF/FSP as proposed by the Executive.
The MTEF/FSP an annual rolling three year-expenditure plan sets out the medium-term expenditure priorities and provides the basis for the preparation of the annual national budget.
The Senate Committee on Finance, which considered the MTEF and FSP, presented its recommendations for adoption by the Senate in plenary.
Apart from the adoption of N1.64 trillion as the amount for new borrowing to fund the budget deficit, the Senate advised relevant agencies to continue to explore ways of generating additional revenues for government to bring down the fiscal deficit.
It said that the Federal Government should harness the full optimal potential of the ministry of Mines and Steel Development in terms of revenue generation to minimize the level of new borrowing.
It also said that the Federal Government should consider reducing the granting of waivers and exemptions while ensuring that the Nigerian Customs Service personnel were at all oil terminals for accountability.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service, it said, should consider increasing tax on luxury goods and services.
On the N5,000 special social intervention fund, the Senate asked for the cooperation of relevant committees in the National Assembly and other relevant MDAs in ensuring that the funds are judiciously utilized to provide tangible impact of the funds on the Nigerians.
The Senate retained the oil output of 2.3 million barrel per day, oil price benchmark of $60 per barrel, exchange rate of N305/$1, GDP Growth rate of 3.0per cent and Inflation growth rate of 9.98per cent.
Other Executive proposals for 2019 also adopted by the Senate included: proposed expenditure of N8.83 trillion, FGN retained revenue N7.92 trillion, fiscal deficit N1.86 trillion, new borrowings N1.65 trillion, statutory transfers N492.4 billion, debt service N2.14 trillion, Sinking Fund N120 billion, total recurrent (non-debt) N4.72trillion, personnel costs (MDAs) N2.29 trillion, capital expenditure N2.86 trillion, Special Intervention N500billion.
The committee said that crude oil production output stood at 2.0 million barrels as of December 2018.
According to the committee, the 2.3million daily target is achievable “due to the continuous efforts of all stakeholders in checkmating the issues of oil facilities vandalism and other vices associated with such regard.”
The committee which recommended exchange rate of N305/$1, asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) “to continue adopting strategies that will aid the strengthening of the naira and bridging the gap between the official and parallel market rate of the foreign exchange.”
The Senate also, yesterday, passed the Nigerian Police Trust Fund Bill (HB 1583).
Recall that last week, the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had promised the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, that the Senate would fast-track its work on both the Police Trust Fund Bill and the Police Reform Bill.
Reacting to the Senate’s passage of the Bill, which has also been passed by the House of Representatives, Saraki said: “By passing this bill, we will be creating big strides towards providing and improving security and the policing in our country.
“One of the major concerns has always been the issue of funding. We believe that this bill will provide the funding needed for training and recruitment. I am confident that by the time we lay the report on the Police Reform Bill, we would have gone a long way in moving the police in the right direction,” the Senate president said.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, confirmed the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Paul Tarfa (rtd) as Chairman of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
The Senate also confirmed the appointment of Mohammed Alkali as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NEDC, alongside nine members.
This followed presentation of report by Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties, Sen Abdul Aziz Nyako on confirmation of nominations into the board of the commission.
The other nominees are Musa Yashi as Executive Director Humanitarian Affairs; Muhammed Jawa as Executive Director Administration and Finance; Omar Mohammed as Executive Director Operations.
Others are David Kente, member representing North-East Zone; Asmau Mohammed, member representing North-West Zone; Benjamin Adanyi, member representing North-Central Zone.
Still others are: Olawale Oshun, member representing South-West Zone; Dr. T. Ekechi, member representing South-East; and Obasuke McDonald, member representing South-South.
Contributing, Sen Binta Masi (APC-Adamawa) observed that the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer was from Borno State, while the headquarters of the commission was also domiciled in Borno.
She noted that in the spirit of fairness, other states facing insurgency should have been considered.
Masi noted that late Sen Ali Wakili suggested that the headquarters be domiciled in Bauchi State, but the request was turned down to allow for more negotiations, and wondered why the decision was made in favour of Borno.
In response, Nyako said the observation made by Masi was paramount, but indicated that the decision was reached during Senate and House of Representatives conference.
He said, “Recall that in our bill, we left that issue open and during the hearing, we agreed that if the headquarters should be in Borno, someone from elsewhere should be chief executive officer.
“It was the House bill that came with zoning within Borno. They had overwhelming votes in support of that during our conference and in the spirit of democracy we had to succumb.”
The Deputy Leader, Sen. Bala Na’Allah, also noted that the observation made by Masi was genuine but noted certain situations could warrant a change.
He said, “the citing of the headquarters is because the entire country associated the beginning of insurgency to Borno and other most affected states are Adamawa and Yobe states.
“So, chairman for the commission is from Adamawa and choice of Alkali is for certain convenience, which is required to galvanise support with the least inconvenience.
“Also, it should be noted that the action of the Executive led to choice of Alkali while citing of the NEDC in Borno is legislative action and in the spirit of cooperation among arms of govt we should let that go and confirm them.”
The Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, congratulated the National Assembly for passing the bill and the Executive for assenting to it and sending the list of board nominees for confirmation.
“The people nominated here are qualified and experienced and prepared to hit the ground running.
“So, I urge the committee to monitor the commission’s take-off to ensure that right things are done.
“We have learnt from issues of non smooth take-off of the Niger Delta Development Commission, so that the NEDC will learn from that. The commission needs urgent take off,” Lawan submitted.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, also congratulated the nominees.
He said the emergence of the commission was a sign that the National Assembly had concerns for happenings in Nigeria irrespective of region and other indices.
“The NDDC bill was initiated in the National Assembly. It was vetoed by the Executive, but we overturned the veto.
“It is the same spirit that led to the initiation of the NEDC. The smooth running of NDDC is due to so much protocol.
“So, from the day one of the take-off of NEDC, the National Assembly should start oversight to give life to North East and hope to other Nigerians doing business in those areas and I hope the pioneers would lay good example,” Ekweremadu said.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, congratulated the nominees, and urged them to hit the ground running.
He also emphasised the need for oversight of the commission to ensure proper implementation of projects.

 

Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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FG Hails Rivers Top Spot In Literacy Education Dev

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The Federal Government has commended the Rivers State Government over its concerted efforts in the development of basic education that has guaranteed the state the highest ranking in literacy education in the country.
The state scored 70per cent ahead other states of the federation in a recent national ranking.
The Coordinator in charge of Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), Federal Ministry of Education, MrsAminaHaruna made the commendation, while speaking at a one-day state Technical Workshop on improving BESDA implementation at Bougainvillea Hotels in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Haruna said it was of good note that Rivers State has shifted to where it was before and attained a commendable height in the development of literacy education, adding that such feat was worth celebrating.
The BESDA coordinator, disclosed that Rivers State has also taken the lead to replicate the just concluded performance review meeting held in Abuja, recently, adding that the technical meeting was essentially designed to bring all stakeholders in the BESDA together to brainstorm on way forward.
She said that the Federal Government was committed to ensuring that the menace of out-of-school children in the country was resolved, adding that it was what informed the Federal Government decision to borrow $11million to tackle the menace headlong.
She called on parents to ensure that they give their children the right to education, adding that the importance of education in the society cannot be over-emphasised.
“Rivers State has done well in literacy education, and they are ahead of other states. So, whoever that has done well; praise him or her”, she stated.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku said one of the cardinal policy trusts of the present administration led by Governor Nyesom Wike was to provide access to quality and qualitative education for children in the state, saying that BESDA programme was one of the links to actualise it.
Ebeku thanked the Federal Government and the World Bank for initiating the BESDA programme, adding that it has given hope to many out-of-school children to have access to education literacy, saying that the cult clashes that ravaged some communities was responsible for the over-crowded nature of schools in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state.
He expressed satisfaction with the performance of both teachers and pupils in the BESDA schools in the state, adding that children in the conventional schools were not doing better than the ones in the BESDA schools.
He, therefore, solicited for cooperation among all stakeholders in driving the programme, and assured that the state Ministry of Education would drive the supervision and monitoring to ensure it achieves set objectives.
In his speech, the Executive Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Ven. Fyneface Akah said the workshop was organised to replicate the Federal Government’s model on peer review performance by getting all stakeholders involved in achieving gaining more grounds in the BESDA programme in the state.
Akah said the board under his leadership was determined to ensure both children of fishermen and those who are out-of-school have access to quality education, which he said, was essential.
“It is not about the reward but the effort and impact. We are organising literacy content to ensure that those children in the programme read, write and understand numerical skills, and whoever that acquires literary skills has acquired the knowledge for further education”, he stated.
In her remarks, the RSUBEB Director in charge of Physical Planning, Mrs Joy Ojirika, who doubles as the state BESDA focal person, gave a scorecard on the progress of the programme in the state.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Wike, Okonjo-Iweala, Others For 4th DAAR Awards, Dec 6

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; are among those to be honoured at the fourth edition of the DAAR Awards.
The DAAR Awards, scheduled to take place on December 6, 2021 in Lagos, is organised by DAAR Communication Plc, which owns RayPower broadcasting station and African Independent Television.
At the ceremony, Wike would be honoured with the DAAR’s Man of the Year Award, while Okonjo-Iweala would be honoured with DAAR’s Woman of the Year Award, just as Okowa would receive award for outstanding leadership in public service.
In a letter to the recipients by the Group Managing Director of DAAR Communications Plc, Tony Akiotu, said the awardees were selected for their exemplary qualities and immeasurable contributions to the sustainable development and progress of humanity in various sectors.
On the criteria for selecting Rivers State governor,Akiotu said, “The Editorial Board and DAAR Communications panel of assessors for the 4th DAAR Awards had unanimously voted to confer the award of Man of the Year 2021 on Wike for his giant strides in infrastructural development of Rivers State and deepening of Nigeria’s democracy”.
Akiotu said that Deputy Senate President, OvieOmo-Agege would also receive award for Outstanding Leadership in Public Service along with Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum; Oyo State Governor, Engr. OluseyiMakinde; and Osun State Governor, Prof. Adegboyega Oyetola.
Also to be honoured are the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who would receive award for Outstanding Performance in the Academia, and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who would receive Outstanding Performance on COVID-19 Pandemicaward.
According to DAAR CommunicationsPlc, it would honour Ogundipe for extensive work on molecular systematics, plant anatomy, food security, natural resource management and biodiversity conservation.

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Senate Blasts Saipem Over Breach Of Local Content Act On NLNG Train-7

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The Senate Committee on Local Content has expressed displeasure at Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, a company handling the Train-7 gas project, for what it termed “deliberate breach” of Nigeria’s Local Content Act.
The company’s management has been evading appearances before the committee until last Wednesday after the panel threatened to compel their appearance with sanction.
However, the panel, chaired by Senator Teslim Folarin, after inference from evidence made available to the panel, demanded an explanation from Saipem Contracting Company why the gas project company awards contracts to foreign companies for supply of steel, rods, among other materials for execution of the project contrary to local firms in clear breach of LCA.
According to the committee, they have been flooded with petitions from the public over the sharp practices of the company in connivance with some Nigerians.
The committee said it was based on that the Train -7 gas project was invited while pointing out the breach of the local content act on the award of contract for the purchase of items for the gas project.
The committee, however, regretted the non-appearance of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Saipem and Daewoo, which they said their appearances would have deepened investigation on why foreign firms habitually shortchange the nation.
It rescheduled the meeting and asked the committee clerk to issue fresh letter of invitation to the absentee organisations.
Senators Folarin and Sabi Abdullahi in reference to a petition pointed out that Saipem management is aware of contracts to foreign firms than Nigerian companies for supply of materials running into millions of euros in breach of the provision of the local content act.
Teslim said: “Can you explain, how you came about awarding the contract for the supply of steel for €4million, to TK Corporation, a Korean company, and €4.27million, contract to another Korean company for pipes, €3.86million to an Italian company and another €5.5million.
“All these are not Nigerian companies.”
He said the local content act provided for 50percent Nigerian content in the execution of the project.
In his response, the Managing Director of Saipem, Mr Walter Peviani said execution of the project by the company was based on a contractual agreement, and documents presented to the company by the NLNG and the NCDMB.
“Within the contractual documents, which we received, entailed, a project Nigerian content plan and entry procedures for Nigerian companies compliance certificate,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Executive Secretary of the National Content Development Management Board was absent despite invitations, a development, the committee said was deliberate and suspicious.

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