The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, indicted the Federal Ministry of Health for not putting serious measures in place to prevent the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
He, therefore, urged the Senate Committee on Primary Health Care to further liaise with the ministry to intensify screening of passengers at the nation’s airports and seaports.
Lawan stated this following a point of order by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice.
Boroffice drew the attention of the Senate to the failure of health personnel at the airports and seaports to thoroughly screen passengers coming into the country.
He explained that he was subjected to screening for Coronavirus on arrival at a South African airport, recently.
He said the screening at the South African airport usually takes up to 30 minutes before passengers would be allowed to disembark the aircraft.
He said the situation was different on his arrival at the Nigerian airport when the health officials in the nation’s airports merely issued a form for passengers to indicate if they were sick or not.
He said, “There is no form of any screening of passengers for Coronavirus by Nigerian officials at the airport.
“It is worrisome, situations where travellers coming into the country were not dully screened for the dreaded virus.”
Boroffice said he brought the attention of the Senate to his experience for the Federal Ministry of Health and other concerned agencies to take note.
Lawan commended Boroffice for raising the issue.
He said every country in the world was making efforts to ensure that the virus did not cross their borders.
He said although the Federal Ministry of Health and other associated agencies were doing their best, their best was not good enough.
“We must take all the necessary measures at our ports, airports, seaports, to protect our people.
“If anybody is coming from China, he or she should be quarantined not even isolation for two weeks or four weeks, we have to protect the lives of Nigerians,” he added.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, condemned the high lending rates in the country, accusing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of not encouraging investors with the monetary policy.
The Senate insisted that the CBN has not done enough in balancing the deposit interest rate and lending with the goal of encouraging savings.
The chamber expressed concern that with higher interest rates, interest payments on credit cards and loans are more expensive.
It said the development was thereby discouraging people from borrowing and spending.
The red chamber, therefore, mandated two of his committees to probe the CBN and the commercial banks involved in the monetary policy.
The committees are Finance and that of Banks, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions.
The decision was taken sequel to a motion by Senator Solomon Adeola, representing Lagos West and chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
The motion titled, “Urgent need to bridge the gap between the lending interest rate and deposit Interest rate among commercial banks and other financial institutions”.
He said, “The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the inflation rate further rose from 11.98 per cent in December, 2019 to 12.13 per cent in 2020.
“This development negatively affects the deposits of commercial bank customers in addition to the low-interest rates on deposits.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria still has no confirmed case of the raging Coronavirus infection, according to the National Economic Council.
However, 11 suspected cases in the country turned negative so far.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, had given an update on the infection to the NEC meeting chaired in Abuja Abuja by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday.
Briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said Coronavirus, otherwise known as Corvid-19, had yet to reach Nigeria.
Egypt and Algeria are the only African countries with confirmed cases.
He spoke more, “In Nigeria, the good news is, yes there have been a total of 11 suspected cases, but all the 11 have turned out to be negative.
“In fact, there was a scare in Lagos yesterday (Wednesday), about two cases, but all have been confirmed negative as we speak.
“But Nigeria still places itself on high risk, as also advised by the World Health Organisation. So, what are the federal and all the states are doing? We are looking at all the international airports that we have as major entry points.
“They are Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Enugu and Port Harcourt. The alertness in each of these airports is very high.”
He added that the country had testing facilities in Lagos, Abuja and Edo State to respond to any emergencies.
On Lassa Fever, the governor said there were 690 reported cases in the country from January to date, out which 118 of the patients died.
He added that Edo, Ebonyi and Ondo states had 72% of all reported cases out of the 18 states with incidents.
The states include Edo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Plateau, Enugu, Gombe, Katsina, Kogi, Sokoto, Taraba, Delta, Rivers, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Lagos.
“Of all these confirmed cases, about 72 per cent of them are prevalent in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states.
“So, the Ministry of Health and the federal government are concentrating on these three major states”, Sanwo-Olu said.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, considered a bill which proposes stiffer sanctions for any person or corporate entity involved in gas flaring in Nigeria from January 1, 2021.
The Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill, 2020, which scaled second reading during plenary, was sponsored by Senator Albert Bassey Akpan (Akwa-Ibom North East).
Clause 11(a) of the bill provides that, “Any person who flares gas after December 31, 2020 contrary to section 4 of this Act, commits an offence under this Act, and shall be liable on conviction to pay a fine which shall not be less than the cost of gas at the international market.”
Leading the debate on the floor, Akpan recalled that though the Bill was passed by the 8th Senate in 2018, it failed to receive concurrence by the House of Representatives due to time constraints as it was close to the end of the legislative session.
He said that the bill’s introduction by the 9th Assembly, which promises guaranteed rapid infrastructural development of the oil and gas sector, will enhance revenue accruable to government and ensure environmental improvement for the people of the Niger Delta.
“The flaring of natural gas produce in association with crude oil is one of the most dangerous environmental and energy waste practices in the Nigerian petroleum industry.
“Gas flaring affects the environment and human health, results in economic loss, deprives the government of associated tax revenues and trade opportunities, and deprives consumers of a clean and cheaper energy source and environment,” Akpan added.
The lawmaker stated that available data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) showed that in 2018, Nigeria lost over N217billion in revenue as oil and gas companies flared a total of 244.84 billion standard cubic feet (scf) of natural gas within the same period.
He added that with the average price of natural gas put at $2.90 per 1,000 scf as of February 16, 2017, the 244.84 billion scf flared translates to a loss of $710m or N217billion – using the official exchange rate of N305.25/ dollar.
According to the lawmaker, “The volume of flared gas according to analysis, is sufficient to feed 3 LNG trains or generate 3.5GW of electricity.”
Bassey explained that the bill when passed into law, will address the inadequacies and shortcomings of the 1979 Act; bring gas flare penalty in line with current economic realities; and ensure the achievement of the National Flares-out target of January 1, 2030.
“The current gas flare penalty of N10 per 1,000 scf is too low, and not in line with current economic realities and encourages continuous gas flaring by operators with its attendant negative effect on our environment instead of encouraging investment in infrastructure by the operators to make gas available for our domestic use,” Akpan lamented.
The Gas Flaring Prohibition and Punishment Bill 2020, according to the lawmaker, “seeks to increase the gas flaring penalty to an appropriate and commensurate level sufficient to de-incentivize the practice of gas flaring, whilst introducing other market measures to encourage efficient gas utilization.
“The Bill equally makes it mandatory for operators to submit gas utilization plan within 90 days of the commencement of the Act for effective monitoring and makes provision for a two year periodic: review of the Minister’s powers granted under the Act,” he added.
Citing the United States of America, he said that the piece of legislation also makes specific provisions for the installation of requisite gas flare meters equipped with facilities that enable real time, online data retrieval for independent reporting and monitoring by the industry regulator.
President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Gas for further legislative inputs.
BoT Meets Wike, Determined To Resolve PDP Internal Crisis
The Acting Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Adolphus Wabara, has said that their effort at resolving the lingering crisis rocking the party was a work in progress.
Wabara made the statement while briefing journalists after a closed-door meeting with the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The meeting, which lasted four hours, had Dr. Ibrahim Idris; Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo; Chief Shuaib Oyedokun; Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN); Dame Esther Uduehi; and Hajiya Zainab Maina; on the BOT delegation.
On the Rivers State governor’s delegation were the Rivers State PDP Chairman, Amb Desmond Akawor; Rivers Elders Forum Chairman, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba;Chief of Staff, Government House, Engr Emeka Woke; former deputy speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Chibudom Nwuche; Senator Adawari Pepple; Elder Emmanuel Anyanwu; Senator Olaka Nwogu; and Dr. Sam Sam Jaja.
Wabara, who was former President of the Senate, said the meeting afforded them the opportunity to properly understand the concerns of Wike and were better informed about the crisis.
“We’ve been rubbing minds with His Excellency, the performing governor of Rivers State, Mr. Project. I think the meeting took about four hours.
“We have not concluded. It’s always easy to destroy but to make up, to make peace takes some time. But I think we are better informed, we have gotten some information. Every coin has two sides. We have been briefed by His Excellency. We will go back to Abuja to re-digest all that we gathered from His Excellency. We had very frank talks.”
Wabara informed that they were taking what they have gathered from the Rivers State governor back to the larger BOT house in Abuja to take a position.
“I’m acting chairman of the Board of Trustees of this party. I do not have the exclusiveness to stand here and tell you what the Board of Trustees will come up with. We have come here, we are going back, we will convene a meeting of the Board of Trustees, brief them and that is when Nigerians will hear where the Board of Trustees stands. Since it is an advisory body, conscience of the party, we will be there to tell the party the truth and nothing but the truth about our findings.”
He said, since this was the first meeting of the BOT intervening in the crisis, they were optimistic of attending to the issues as a family.
“But one good thing is that this family remains one. You know, we are still under the umbrella called PDP and by the special grace of God, we will end up very victorious and we will end up in the Villa in May, 2023 with his cooperation and support of other governors; four of them. I think we will make progress, no doubt about it.”
Wabara, who described Wike as an inestimable asset to the PDP, pointed out that ahead of the 2023 general election, the governor’s infrastructural development in Rivers State was already campaigning for the party.
In his speech, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, said what was important to all of them is to ensure that the unity of the party was not endangered.
Wike reiterated that he and his allies were not leaving the party, but are more interested that the contending internal issues be addressed adequately.
“What’s important is that the house is united for the war that is coming in front. So, for me, the issues of whether they achieved peace or not today is immaterial. What is material is that PDP is united.
“What is important is to have unity, even if it takes you longer days. I think that is the message he(Wabara) is conveying.
“We have said repeatedly that we are not leaving the party. We have said so. But that does not mean that there are no internal issues that ought to be sorted out. I think what they are here for is to see how they can sort out some internal issues.”
FG Approves CONUA, As Academic Union
Following the disagreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Union of the Universities (ASUU), the Federal Government, yesterday presented a certificate of registration to the Congress of Nigerian University Academics, a separate body of academic unions.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, presented the certificate to the new union at the Minister’s Conference Room, Federal Secretariat, Phase 1, Abuja by 2pm.
Recall that ASUU has been on strike for about seven months now.
Some of the lecturers demands are funding of the Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earned Academic Allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.
Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.
Reacting, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has said the registration of two new trade unions by the government for academic staff in the university system is inconsequential and does not pose any threat to its existence.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, stated this in a chat with Vanguard while reacting to the registration of the two new unions.
“That does not in any way affect us. We are a disciplined and focused union and we know what we are doing and what we are after. Let them register as many unions as they like. That is inconsequential as far as we are concerned. We are not also in any way threatened. The sky is big enough for birds to fly.
“We know our members, we know our strength and we also know what our vision and mission are. Our members are not saboteurs or bootlickers . Our struggle is for a better educational system in the country. If the system is good, all of us will benefit and it is not only ASUU members’ children and wards that are going to benefit from improved funding and the provision of better facilities in our institutions,” he said.
Osodeke, who also reacted to the allegation by the Presidency that ASUU members are complicit in the corrupt practices in the university system, described such as unfounded.
“As a union, we have been championing transparency and accountability in the university system. That is why we are calling for the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, as the payment platform in the university system. Those indicted for misappropriating over N100 billion through their IPPIS, are they our members?
“Moreover, one of our demands is that Visitation Panels be set up to probe the activities and the finances of universities in the country. If we don’t want corruption stamped out, we would not be asking for that,” he explained.
In a statement signed by the National Coordinator of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, described the registration as monumental and historic.
“The registration of the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), as a trade union in the Nigerian university system, is monumentally historic. The hurdles we have faced to get here, since 2018 when we submitted our application for registration, have been seemingly insurmountable. The registration is therefore the validation of the power of the human will. It asserts the value of courage, initiative, focus, tenacity, patience, forbearance and persistent positive thinking.
“We are immensely grateful to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and his team of diligent staff for insisting on merit, due process and thoroughness all through the processing of our application for the registration of CONUA. The very strict and dispassionate review of our application brought out the best in the membership of the union.
“We regard the registration of CONUA as a sacred trust, and pledge to reciprocate by devoting ourselves unceasingly to the advancement of university education in this country. We would make the details of our programmes available to the public in due course. For now, we are giving the assurance that we would work to ensure that the nation is not traumatised again by academic union dislocations in the country’s public universities.
“We are also deeply grateful to the numerous personalities and well-wishers whose good counsel and concrete actions have facilitated the success we have witnessed today. We believe in the saying that to whom much is given, much is expected. We would therefore constantly strive to make them all proud of CONUA.
“We appreciate the entire membership of the union for believing in the righteousness of the CONUA cause and for believing in the leadership of the union, and thereby remaining statutorily steadfast, even when disconcerting and demoralising situations arose.
“In this journey, the invaluable role of the media cannot be discounted. We are truly grateful to the media, and look forward to further mutually beneficial interactions as we strive for the development of this nation.
“Above all, we are absolutely grateful to Almighty God for granting us this grace.
“God bless you all.”
In 2016, the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile Ife chapter of ASUU was enmeshed in serious crisis and as usual, leaders and members of the union took the matter to the national leadership for resolution.
However, instead of the crisis being resolved, some of the members felt the national leadership took sides with the leaders of the local chapter that they had grouse with.
The issues dragged till 2018 and when the aggrieved members waited endlessly for a solution that did not come, they formed CONUA.
Since it was formed, it struggled to get registered until that was done yesterday.
The body now has members in 12 universities across the country including OAU, Federal University, Lokoja, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Federal University, Oye Ekiti in Ekiti State among others.
The incessant face-off between ASUU and the government no doubt hasten the registration of CONUA.
ICPC Uncovers, Recovers N1.264b Tax Diversion
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has disclosed that it has this year uncovered and recovered the sum of N1.264billion diversion of tax and other statutory revenues as part of routine investigations, in itssupport of government’s effort to improve revenue generation in the country.
This is true even as it stated that in order to differentiate between outright fraud and administrative errors, it met with some MDAs to discuss recurring surpluses in their payroll in order to determine proactive measures to improve the budget process.
As a result, it discovered soft projects worth more than N7billion for a catchment population of about a million people under the guise of empowerment and another instance of a successful increase in an agency’s budget.
It added that both cases done by politically exposed persons are under investigation.
Chairman, of ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, made the disclosure at the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector, held at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
The event, with the theme: ‘Corruption and the Education Sector’, was jointly organised by the ICPC, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He said: “As is now widely publicised ICPC has intensified its scrutiny of personnel and capital cost of MDAs leading to proactive restraining of surpluses or duplications in the budget. Just last week the commission in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders met with some MDAs on the recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to improving the budget process.
“This is towards separating outright fraud from administrative lapses. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary allocation for direct benefit. In one case, PEP successfully increased the budget of an agency in order for the agency to buy a property from him. In another case the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7b for a catchment population of about one million people in the name of empowerment. Both cases are under investigation.”
The head of the ICPC said that among other things, the commission was assiduously working to root out phony appointments and scrutinize candidates for appointment to positions of permanent secretaries.
He noted that investigation results showed that numerous potential nominees are linked to financial misconduct, dishonest behaviour, a breach of code of conduct, and substance misuse.
Owasanoye applauded the commitment of the Head of Service to clean-up the stable by effective pre-appointment screening, noting that the ICPC would continue to play its part.
He said the commission was particularly delighted that Chief Superintendent Amah, who was conferred with the prestigious 2022 Public Service Integrity, for rejecting a $200,000 bribe from robbers, is from the Nigeria Police, an institution often derided, maligned and under- appreciated.
Amah, who was conferred the award by President Muhammadu Buhari is the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Nasarawa Division in Kano State.
The ICPC boss said: “On 24th April, 2022, a matter was reported to him that a suspect, one Mr. Ali Zaki convinced Bureau De Change Operators that he has $750,000 which he could sell to them at the rate of N430 to give him the equivalent N322,500,000.
“After a bank staff confirmed the availability of the money at the bank to the victims, the transaction took place. However, the suspect arranged with armed robbers to track and rob the victims while they were transporting the money.
“When the matter was reported to the Police Division in Kano State where SP Daniel Amah was the DPO, they recommended investigations. In the course of the investigation, they traced the principal suspect, Mr Ali Zaki who offered $200,000 to the SP to kill the case, through a bank staff. The offer was rejected, the bank staff was promptly arrested which led to the arrest of the principal suspect. The $200,000 was recovered and registered as exhibit.
“For this and other acts of integrity, SP Daniel Itse Amah is being conferred with the 2022 Public Service Integrity Awards.”
Owasanoye also said the ICPC has constituted a special team on investigation and prosecution of sexual harassment in secondary and tertiary institution in response to the recent epidemic of sexual harassment in the education sector.
He said: “ICPC has escalated its prevention mandate in the face of costly, time consuming and unpredictable outcomes of investigation and prosecution. In this regard we are strengthening the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Unit (ACTU) in MDAs. For the education sector, we collaborated with other institutions, including Nigerian Universities Commission andNational Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and much more recently with JAMB our co-host for this event.
“With JAMB and Department of State Service, we conducted last year a series of undercover operations across the country on corruption in the university admissions processes leading to the busting of syndicates and arrest of its leaders responsible for compromising Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB) and Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board (JUPEB).
At the event, Buhari pointedly accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of being complicit in the corruption threat facing the nation’s tertiary education sector.
He said, “Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.”
The President also noted additional actions taken by academics, such as the use of covert terminology to commit corruption in ivory towers, which, in his view, undermines efforts to combat the threat of corruption in the education sector.
“Government and stakeholders in the educational sector are concerned about the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector. I am aware that students in our universities for example, use different terminologies to describe different forms of corruption they experience on our campuses.
“There is sorting or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.
“Sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include pay-roll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions, lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices,” he said.
Buhari, however, commended the ICPC for its due diligence in investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment as abuse of power in the country’s educational institutions.
He assured that “Government will continue to fund education within realistically available revenue”while urging stakeholders, including the media to “equally advocate for transparency in the amount generated as internally generated revenue by educational institutions and how such funds are expended.”
Buhari added that “Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.”
The President also urged stakeholders to demand transparency in the management of academic institutions and for unions to question their institutions’ bloated payrolls and ongoing expenses.
Additionally, he urged the unions to cooperate with the government in order to give names on the payroll faces and identities.
In his keynote address, former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, expressed concern that Nigeria is regarded as one of the most corrupt nations in the world in his keynote speech.
He asserted that the repercussions of corruption in the education sector limit the ability of the country to build the necessary social capital for socioeconomic growth and that no country can advance without making enough and wise investments in education.
He bemoaned that corruption from both the education sector itself and the larger public sector, as well as neglect, chronic underfunding, and crisis had all plagued Nigeria’s educational system.
In the higher education sector, particularly universities, which, according to the political science professor, statutorily enjoy some relative autonomy, there is growing evidence that corrupt practices anchored in the larger public sector influence and compel such behaviours.
He said: “There are examples of how reforms policies, formulated with good intentions are often circumscribed by endemic corruption in the public sector, and in their application in the education sector, create their own dynamics of corrupt practices. This can be illustrated with examples of how three reform policies by the Federal Government compel many vice chancellors of federal universities to become somewhat ‘compulsorily’, even if in some cases reluctantly, involved in or with endemic corrupt practices in the wider public sector.
“The first reform policy of measure is the Procurement Act 2007, which requires that contracts of certain threshold should seek for approval either at the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) or at the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). The second is the requirement by members of the National Assembly that every vice chancellor must appear before them to defend their budgetary proposals before funds would be appropriated to their universities. The third, which is relatively more recent, is the requirement by the Federal Government that no university should recruit any staff, even to fill existing vacancies, without at least three layers of approvals by the federal bureaucracy, at the NUC, at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, and at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation”
Jega noted that all these three policies in spite of the good intentions, which may have underlined them, not only undermined the relative autonomy of the universities, but have also introduced extraneous relations and influences laden with corrupt practices.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, commended the leadership of JAMB for “achieving what no other agency has achieved in recent past”.
He noted Nigeria must fight corruption to be liberated, adding that differences can be made in all sectors no matter how bad it is perceived.
“Nigeria has a bad reputation of being a corrupt society. Nobody will change that except us. At a moment you see people condemning corruption and the next moment, they engage in it. We have to sincerely fight it otherwise this nation is doom”, Adamu stated.
Speaking to newsmen after the investiture, Amah said “I’m quite happy. It’s, indeed, difficult to put these feelings into words. But I’m very excited.”
On what went through his mind when he rejected the huge amount of money, especially as a member of staff of a service that has been maligned over the years, he said
“Well, we have to protect the interest of the force, and the interests of the country at large. In all honesty, I take no personal credit. I believe there are very eminently qualified Nigerians out there that are doing great things for our country. To emerge from this stratum of Nigerians is indeed a great pleasure.
He dedicated the award to the Inspector General of Police, the ICPC and the President.
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