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NASS Jerks Up Budget, Okays N8.916trn …Approves N160bn For Minimum Wage, Others …Transmits Appropriation Bill To Buhari, ’Morrow

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The National Assembly, yesterday, passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill of N8.916trillion, jerking up President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier proposal to accommodate some extra funding for special projects.
The budget as passed indicates an increase of N90billion to the Appropriation Bill sum submitted on December 19, 2018.
According to separate reports presented by Chairmen of Appropriation Committees at both chambers, the N90billion increase in the budget profile would take care of N10billion intervention fund for victims of Zamfara crisis, N23.678 billion added as severance gratuity for outgoing federal lawmakers and their legislative aides, and about N66billion additional vote for the various security agencies for more potent war against all forms of crimes in the land.
Specifically, the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee in the Senate, Senator Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central), explained that the N23.678billion severance package for outgoing legislators also included induction programme/inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
Goje also explained further that to ensure the immediate implementation of the just approved N30,000 minimum wage for public servants, the N160billion proposed as service wide votes was appropriated under the public service wage adjustment for Ministries , Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
However, as recommended by the committees and approved by both chambers, all the parameters on which the budget estimates are based remain as proposed by the executive arm.
The parameters are $60 per barrel oil price benchmark, 2.3million barrel per day production level, and N350 to one US dollar as exchange rate.
Major highlights of the N8.916trillion 2019 budget passed by the National Assembly are N502.058billion for Statutory Transfers, N500billion for Special Intervention and N4.055trillion for recurrent expenditure.
Others are N2.094trillion for capital expenditure, N1.908trillion as fiscal deficit within the ambit of 1.37 per cent deficit to GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Within the service-wide allocation in the approved budget, N65billion was appropriated for Presidential Amnesty Programme on reintegration of transformed ex-militants, N5billion earmarked for payment of outstanding death benefit to civil servants and police personnel, while N15billion was approved as additional support for universities.
Within the capital expenditure component of the budget, N394.906billion is earmarked for the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, N107.218billion for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, N159.125billion for Ministry of Defence, and N92.178bn for Ministry of Water Resources.
Others are, N58.689bn for Ministry of Education, N179.384bn for Ministry of Transportation, and N53.678billion for Ministry of Interior, among others.
However, in the recurrent expenditure component of the budget, the Ministry of Interior has the highest appropriated votes of N564.222billion, followed by Ministry of Education with N463.395billion.
In his remarks after passing the Appropriation Bill for third reading, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki said: “With passage of this bill for third reading today, the Executive must ensure full implementation of the budget, sector-by-sector for the benefit and well-being of Nigerians”.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly yesterday approved N160bn for the payment of the new minimum wage for federal workers and payment of severance benefits.
The decision followed the unanimous endorsement of the 2019 Budget presentation by the lawmakers at separate plenaries which held simultaneously in both houses and presided over by Senate President BukolaSaraki and Speaker YakubuDogara at the National Assembly, Abuja.
Our correspondent reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had, on December 19, 2018, presented the 2019 Budget proposal of N8.83trn before the joint session of the National Assembly.
However, the Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill, jacking it up from N8.83trn to N8.92trn with a N90bn increase.
Under other service-wide votes, item 90 of the Report of the Senate Committee on Appropriation on the 2019 Budget Bill, which reads: “public service wage adjustment for MDAs (including arrears of promotion and salary increases) and payment of severance benefits” has N160bnn as its budget.
Also, item 88 that reads: “payment of outstanding death benefit to civil servants/Police” has N5bn for the budget.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, while addressing newsmen shortly after the budget passage, affirmed that the N160 billion was to fund the minimum wage increase and severance benefits as stipulated in item 90 of the report.
Goje, however, stated that if the amount budgeted failed to meet the demand, the Federal Government could present a supplementary budget to cover the shortfall.
Our correspondent reports that the National Minimum Wage Bill, which was passed by the lower and upper house on January 29 and March 19 respectively, was signed into law by President Buhari on April 18.
The National Assembly, after a short break, resumed to pass the votes and proceedings of the day, and adjourned to Tuesday, May 6, 2019.
Meantime, the House of Representatives, yesterday, said the National Assembly would transmit the approved 2019 Budget of N8.916trillion to President Muhammadu Buhari, tomorrow.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Rep. Mustapha Dawaki, made this known while briefing newsmen after plenary in Abuja.
Dawaki explained that the increase in total budget from N8.83trillion was due to the inclusion of funds for “special interventions’’ made by the National Assembly.
He said that the interventions included the provision of N24.6billion as severance allowance for outgoing lawmakers and N10billion for Zamfara terrorism.
He said that the Christmas break and the general elections accounted for the delay in the passage of the budget.
“The President laid this budget on December 19, 2018, but certain extraneous forces such as the Christmas and New Year breaks also affected quick passage of the Appropriation Bill.
“And, don’t forget that we had to go on break to fully participate in the February polls; all these were distractions that really affected the passage of the Appropriation Bill.
“Hopefully, by Thursday, the budget will be transmitted to the president for his assent.
“We left the oil benchmark and exchange rate as sent by the Executive, except for the deficit which we adjusted,’’ Dawaki said.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, directed its Committee on Youth and Sports to investigate the alleged illegal appointment of a new Director-General for the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.
It was also said that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai unilaterally made the alleged unconstitutional but controversial appointment.
This development was sequel to an adopted order 42 and 52 Senate Rule moved by Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West.
Melaye, in presenting his motion, said it was unconstitutional for Buratai to have made the said appointment as it was in breach of the provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
In his words, “I’m bringing to the notice of the Senate an infringement in the appointment of a new Director-General of NYSC.
“It was said that the Chief of Army Staff made a new appointment of NYSC Director-General in replacement of the former DG.
“This is unconstitutional as it is only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that has the right as provided by the constitution to do so.
“The NYSC Act Section 5 reads, “There shall be a Director-General for the National Youth Service Corps to be appointed by the President.
“But Buratai through a signal removed and appointed a new NYSC DG.
“We should not allow this, Mr. President. Otherwise, we should not be surprised to wake up one morning to hear that DG, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has been removed and appointed a new Senate President”.
However, Senator Bassey Akpan seconded the motion while it was put to a voice vote by Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki that resulted in the unanimous resolution to refer the matter to its committee to investigate and report back next Wednesday for further legislative action.

 

Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Ateke’s Reign As King Has Brought Peace To Okrika, Wike Confirms

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said that the recognition of King Ateke Michael Tom as the Amanyanabo of ancient Okochiri Kingdom by the Rivers State Government has brought peace, stability and security to Okochiri and entire Okrika communities.
The governor acknowledged that without the support of traditional rulers, it would be difficult for any government at whatever level to achieve peace.
Wike stated this after he was conferred with the traditional title, “Se Taribo 1st of Okochiri Kingdom (a man who has love for his people),” at Okochiri in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, last Saturday.


The governor said: “The recognition of Ateke Tom by government as the Amanyanabo of Okochiri has brought peace in this domain, and the people are happy with his leadership. And that is why, today, you can see that there is peace that reigns within the environment of Okochiri, and to greater extent, the entire Okrika Local Government.”
The governor noted that when a person is saddled with the responsibility of presiding over the affairs of the people, once his administration is predicated on justice, fairness and equity, it would yield peace and happiness for those governed.
“It is one thing to be traditional ruler, it is another thing to live up to the expectation of a traditional ruler. You have kept your kingdom as one, you have kept your kingdom in peace, you have kept your kingdom united, and that is what is expected of a traditional ruler.
“You’re not just a traditional ruler to confer chieftaincy title on us; you’re also a traditional ruler to help government to maintain peace in your domain; because without the traditional rulers, it will be difficult for any government at whatever level to achieve anything.
“Governance without peace, governance without security is no governance. Governance is predicated on protection of lives and property.”

Wike noted that the massive turn out of people from all walks of life to grace the fourth anniversary of the coronation of King Ateke Michael Tom as the Amanyanabo of Okochiri, and dedication of his new palace, was a demonstration of their appreciation of his leadership.
“Ateke Tom has brought peace. Don’t see him as Ateke Tom that fought for the Niger Delta, see him as Ateke Tom, the traditional ruler, the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, whose traditional duty is to make sure peace reigns in his domain”, Wike told the people.
Wike, who commended the king for being supportive of the Government of Rivers State, promised to complete all ongoing infrastructural projects started by his administration in Okochiri and the entire Okrika Local Government Area.
The governor urged the people of Okrika and the rest of the country to rally round, and collectively ensure that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was ousted from power in 2023.
“It’s only God that is holding us today. Things are very difficult day by day. The government at the national level has failed us, and therefore, it’s time for Nigerians to rally round to make sure we have a government that will take care of our people.”
In his remarks, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo said the recognition of the ancient Okochiri Kingdom stool by the governor has brought peace, joy and development to the entire Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.

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Subsidy Removal’ll Worsen Nigerians’ Suffering, PFN Tells FG

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The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has told the Federal Government that removing fuel subsidy would worsen the suffering of the majority of Nigerians who are already impoverished.
The President of PFN, Bishop Wale Oke, urged the government to shelve the proposed policy in order not to worsen the hardship and trigger crisis in the country.
Oke said this in a statement, yesterday, on the proposed subsidy removal.
He explained that the implementation of the policy would lead to hike in the price of fuel and this would have a ripple effect on prices of goods and services
Oke warned that the implementation of such policy would increase the hardship currently being experienced by the people of the country.
The cleric said prices of foodstuffs and other daily needs were increasingly going out of reach of the people, noting that if the proposed subsidy removal was effected, it would exacerbate the hardship of the people of the nation.
Oke further said the situation in the country was very bad because of the steady decline in the purchasing power of Nigerians as a result of the continuous fall in the value of the nation’s currency.
The statement read, “Everybody will feel it, particularly the less privileged. The negative effects will surely outweigh the positive.
“The cost of transportation for human and goods across the country will skyrocket and other things connected which will have a spiral effect on general living standard of the populace; the suffering will be multi-dimensional. Please let all stakeholders be sensitive to this avoidable path and do the needful.
“By whatever means, let the Federal Government put its heart into ensuring that our refineries are back to life. In addition, in order to stem the rising cost of living, farmers and others connected to them should be encouraged. This is what can help our economy.”
He said the PFN would always support policies that would enhance good governance, but charged the government to this effect to put in place tangible palliative measures that could ameliorate the hardship being experienced.
He said, “Without begging the issue, there should be well defined palliative measures in place that can cushion the effect of the hardship being experienced by Nigerians, especially the commoners. One is not talking about political palliatives that never last. We have seen enough of such.
“An increase in the price of petroleum from its present N165 to N340 per litre can trigger tension and crises in the country which in turn can paralyse our economy if not handled with utmost care.
“Again, the planned introduction of N5,000 for 40million poor Nigerians is to create a cesspool of corruption. How do you define the poor? They, mostly, don’t use telephones. They, mostly, don’t have bank accounts. How will the money get to them?”
Oke advised the government to be wary of policies that could jeopardize the conduct of the 2023 general elections, insisting that all hands must be geared towards steering the wheel of the country to safety.
As a panacea to the rising cost of food items, the PFN President advised that farmers and relevant stakeholders should be empowered with relevant tools and funds through loans with little interest.
Oke, who is also the presiding Bishop of The Sword of the Spirit Ministries, implored the government not to relent in its efforts at ensuring that security challenges in the country become a thing of the past.
Similarly, the Leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele has warned President Muhammadu Buhari against the proposed fuel subsidy removal.
In a statement released by his media aide, Osho Oluwatosin, Ayodele warned the government to withhold plans to remove fuel subsidy in the interest of the poor masses because a lot of things would be affected by it.
He made it known that the Nigerian economy isn’t in good shape at the moment and removing subsidy at a critical economic situation would cause more damage than good for the Nigerian economy.
He noted that some banks, companies would be affected and that the debt profile of the country would keep on increasing unless the government swings into action.
Furthermore, he warned Buhari not to be carried away by wrong advice because it would lead his government to nowhere.
‘’The removal of fuel subsidies at a time like this is not advisable because the economy of Nigeria isn’t in good shape. Already, the people are faced with enough hardship and removal of fuel subsidy will only worsen the situation.
‘’When the report came up last week that the government will be replacing subsidy with N5,000 transportation grant for 40million poor Nigerians, I smiled because that plan is not sustainable, there is no provision for it in the 2022 budget, then what’s the plan?
‘’I have said it before that I foresee a massive protest against hunger which will involve everyone in the country, the government doesn’t have to wait till this happens, that’s why I warned them ahead, but the path they are toiling right now is moving towards the direction of the protest. They have gotten it wrong and a time will come when political leaders will regret their positions because there will be attacks against them from everywhere by those who elected them.
‘’I advise the Federal Government to hold on with the plans to remove subsidy for the sake of the masses and for peace to reign in the country. If not, there will be an uprising,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma has asked the Federal Government to jettison the idea of paying N5,000 palliative to 40million Nigerians.
The government said the decision was to cushion the effect of the planned removal of fuel subsidy.
But Chukwuma, who rejected the removal of subsidy, described the proposed N5,000 palliative “as a huge disgrace.”
He said this during a press conference on the activities lined up for the 50th Anniversary of the Enugu Diocese, Anglican Communion.
While noting that the Enugu Diocese was concerned about the level of governance of Nigeria, he added that “we are also concerned about peace and the unity of Nigeria, as well as infrastructural development.”
He called on the government “to be sensitive about the situation of Nigeria; we frown against the killings, the banditry, the kidnappings, inequality, injustice and all the evils.
“Of late, we can see how ‘Mkpuru Mmiri’ is destroying our youths, it is highly condemnable. We are calling on our youths to please avoid this so that they don’t get their heads out of order. This is not how they will become future leaders.
“Right now, I want to say that the government of Nigeria has not treated the South-East fairly; particularly now that we are getting into the yuletide, Enugu-Onitsha Expressway is a total disaster, Enugu-Port Harcourt they are putting it to use but it is not yet complete.
“We are calling on the minister of works to stop playing pranks and politics with the roads in the South-East. Rail transport should also be extended to the South-East; we see no reason the minister of transport should neglect his own zone.
“It is important for our government to know that most youths are angry; they are angry because they are hungry. I just heard about giving N5,000 to 50million Nigerians, it is a disgrace. It will not bring any positives on our people. We are also frowning at galloping inflation.
“Our naira is becoming useless and something must be done about it. E-naira or whatever is not the solution at all.”
He also called on the residents of South-East not to toy with the on-going voter’s registration exercise, stressing that “these things count; South-East should stop shortchanging themselves; that’s the only way they will have a say in 2023.”
On the church’s anniversary, Chukwuma disclosed that, “It became a Diocese in August, 1970; exactly last year August, Enugu became 50 years of its inauguration with the first Bishop, Rt. Rev. Gideon Nweke Otubelu. By the grace of God, he championed the course of Enugu Diocese for 27 years.
“Last year, when it became 50 years of Enugu’s inauguration as a Diocese, we could not celebrate because of COVID; we had to shift it to this year.
“Right now, we have mapped out a one-week anniversary programme to celebrate the 50 years of Enugu Diocese. We started with a crusade which is going to last till Sunday and we have decided that from last week of this month, we will have activities from church to church, and rally, and then end it up with thanksgiving service on the 5th of December at the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd.
“More importantly, the two days out of it all are the 4th and the 5th of December. On the 4th, we shall be having a rally at the Christ Church field, where all the churches will assemble to have a rally for the 50th anniversary and they are going to march, church by church, archdeaconry by archdeaconry and so on.
“There, we will also have a dedication anniversary of the diagnostic centre of our hospital at the Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Uwani, Zik Avenue. The diagnostic centre is necessary to complement the hospital because we believe in health care, we believe in mission; on that same 12th, we are also going to dedicate a building built by the women at the Brethren Home Convent.
“Then on the 5th of December, which is Sunday, will be thanksgiving day, during which all the churches in the diocese and the dioceses created out of Enugu, 11 of them will also participate. Enugu has given birth to 11 Dioceses, with Enugu making it 12, forming what is now the ecclesiastical province of Enugu, for which I’m the Archbishop. We have the Nsukka Diocese, Abakaliki, Oji-River, Enugu North, Awgu-Aninri, Nike, Mgbo, Afikpo, Udi and Eha-Amufu Dioceses.
“Enugu Diocese is out to execute pragmatic evangelism; Enugu Diocese is out to make sure that we care for the poor, the less privileged, the widows, orphans and those who are displaced.”

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Qatar Airways Begins Flights To PH, Enugu, Kano Airports

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Qatar Airways has concluded plans to resume flying to Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Kano airports following bouts of bilateral trade agreements between Nigeria and the Qatari government.
The two governments are also considering a partnership that would lead to the development of gas in both countries.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb Gabriel Aduda, said collaboration in the areas of air travel and gas development between Nigeria and Qatar would enhance economic growth and development.
A statement by the Embassy of Nigeria in Doha, Qatar, quoted Aduda as saying this when he met with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, in Doha.
The envoys appreciated the cordial bilateral relations both countries enjoy since the establishment of diplomatic relations about a decade ago in 2013.
They agreed that the good service being offered by the Qatar Airways by launching direct flight to Abuja will be expanded to Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt while acknowledging the contributions of the State of Qatar to the improvement of livelihood of many Nigerians in some states of the country through Qatar Charity and similar organisations.
Aduda was accompanied to the meeting by the Nigerian Ambassador to the State of Qatar, Yakubu Ahmed, and the Head of Chancery, Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa.
According to the statement, the Federal Government was currently deepening natural gas utilisation to enable it to boost investment in power and gas-based industries.
Aduda called for investment in gas exploration and infrastructure, technology exchange, skills acquisition and knowledge sharing, manpower development in safety and environment.
He also listed other areas of potential partnership to include gas shipping and marine transportation, advocacy and collaboration in campaigning for gas as fuel of choice in the midst of climate change and global energy transition.
As a result, Aduda called for relaxation of visa restrictions on Nigerians who intend to visit Qatar as well as easing of work visa for Nigerian professionals.
In his response, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, recalled the robust relations between Nigeria and Qatar, and lauded the proposal for cooperation between the two countries.
According to him, Qatar was ready to provide training for Nigerian diplomats.
To achieve this, he said the Head of the Diplomatic Institute would meet with the Nigerian side and agree on the terms and develop a framework to actualise set objectives.

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