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Buhari Seeks NASS’ Amendment Of PIA …Wants NNPC, EFCC Boards’ Confirmation

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President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Senate, seeking an amendment to the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
President Muhammadu Buhari also sought the House of Representatives’ amendments to the Petroleum Industry Act, including removal of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the boards of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
In the letter, Buhari wants an amendment to the new Act to allow for the removal of the Ministers of Petroleum and Finance from the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), saying that they can continue to perform their functions without necessarily being members of the board.
In the letter read, yesterday, during plenary by the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Buhari is also seeking for the amendment to allow the Non-Executive Members to be increased from two to six in the national interest.
The President, in three other letters to the Senate, asked for the confirmation of nominees into the boards of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three confirmation letters from the President were read in yesterday’s plenary by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan.
In a letter dated September 16, 2021, Buhari stated that the request to confirm the chairman, chief executive and executive directors for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was being made in accordance with the provision of Section 34(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The nominees for confirmation into the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Board are: Idaere Gogo Ogan (chairman); Engr. Sarki Auwalu (chief executive); Abiodun A. Adeniji (executive director, Finance and Accounts); and Ogbugo Ukoha (executive director, Distributions Systems, Storage and Retail Infrastructure).
In another letter also dated September 16, 2021, the President while relying on the provision of Section 11(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of four nominees as chairman, chief executive and executive commissioners to the Board of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
The nominees are: Isa Ibrahim Modibo (chairman); Engr. Gbenga Komolafe (chief executive); Hassan Gambo (executive commissioner, Finance and Accounts); and Ms Rose Ndong (executive commissioner, Exploration and Acreage Management).
According to the President, requests for the confirmation of the board’s membership were made “in order to fast track the process for the establishment of the commission”.
In the third letter dated September 17, 2021, Buhari requested the upper legislative chamber to confirm the appointment of the secretary and board members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He explained that the request for the confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provision of Section 2(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
Those to be confirmed include George Abbah Ekpungu, secretary (Cross River); Luqman Muhammed (Edo); Anumba Adaeze (Enugu); Alhaji Kola Raheem Adesina (Kwara); and Alhaji Yahaya Muhammad (Yobe).
At the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, read the cover letter attached to an executive bill presented to the House by Buhari at the opening of plenary, yesterday.
The proposals also include the appointment of non-executive board members; removal of the ministries from the boards of the two institutions; and appointment of executive directors to the boards.
The President’s requests to the House of Representatives are a rehearsal of the same demands he made to the Senate.
It would be recalled that the joint National Assembly committees that worked on the PIB had proposed five per cent equity share for the development of the host communities but the Senate-led the campaign for its reduction to three per cent while the House of Representatives approved the panel’s recommendation.
The conference committee set up by the presiding officers of both chambers in their recommendation, fixed the equity share at three per cent and was invariably approved by the National Assembly.
The development generated into controversy with senators from the South-South geopolitical zone kicking against it and asked Buhari to resolve the impasse by seeking amendment to increase the equity share to five per cent.
However, the new amendments proposed by the President did not address the concerns of the South-South stakeholders.
Rather, Buhari’s fresh request centred basically on the need to review the administrative structure of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Buhari is seeking the senators’ approval to increase the numbers of the non-executive board members of each of the regulatory agencies from two to six, in order to capture the six geopolitical zones.
He said, “The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 provided for the appointment of two non-executive members for the board of the two regulatory institutions.
“I am of the view that this membership limitation has not addressed the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country.
“Therefore, I pray for the intervention of the 9th Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of our national unity.
“Needless to add that this amendment will provide a sense of participation and inclusion to almost every section of the country in the decision making of strategic institutions such as oil industry.
“If this amendment is approved, it will now increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six that is one person from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country”.
The President also removed the Ministers of Finance and Petroleum Resources from the board of the two agencies.
He said the two ministers already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations.
He said, “They can continue to perform such roles without being in the board.
“It is also important to note that administratively, the representatives of the ministries in the board will be directors – being the same rank with the directors in the institution
“This may bring some complications in some decision making, especially on issues of staff related matters.”
Buhari added that the appointments of the executive directors who would be in charge of the seven departments in the NMDPRA should not be subjected to Senate confirmation since they are civil servants who were promoted in the course of their career.
He said, “The Act has made provision for seven departmental heads in the Authority to be known as executive directors.
“Their appointment (according to the PIA) will also be subjected to Senate confirmation. These category of officers are civil servants and not political appointees.
“The Senate is invited to note the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments.
“This will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the authority.
“In the future, these positions will obviously be filled by the workers in the authority.
Buhari said the proposed amendment would also increase the membership of the board from nine to 13 members that is representing 44 per cent expansion of the board site.
He said, “This composition would strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread and also achieve the expected policy contributions”.

By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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2023: Wike, Makinde, Ortom, Duke Confer With Obasanjo

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Three serving governors under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Engr Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; Mr Samuel Ortom of Benue State; and former governor, Mr Donald Duke of Cross River State; last Monday, met with the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, over the 2023 presidential election.
The governors arrived the residence of Obasanjo, within the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library at about 6.40p.m., and immediately went into a closed-door meeting.
Obasanjo, while speaking with newsmen, said Wike informed him about his presidential ambition, and that he wished him well.
The former president said the country needs a “courageous leader”, insisting that Nigeria was a complex nation, but not difficult to manage.
The former president said: “Of course, Governor Nyesom Wike as a presidential aspirant, in company of Governor of Oyo, Seyi Maknide; Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom; former Governor of Cross River, Donald Duke; and former Deputy Senate President and former minister came to express to me his desire, and of course, I made the point that I have always made that, ‘I have ceased to be a partisan politician’.
“I don’t belong to any political party, but if politics is the welfare of the people, I cannot cease to be a politician because I must always seek the welfare of the people.
“And of course, you all know what the situation of Nigeria is, and anybody who doesn’t know that is either not a Nigerian or is not being truthful to himself or herself; and as I often said, no one individual can say ‘yes I can do it’, because the situation Nigeria is today, we need all hands, all Nigerian hands on deck to restore Nigeria and that is what Governor Wike is saying to me.
“Courage, he doesn’t lack it, and if you have courage and you have conviction to speak your mind, well you will have a saying in this part of the world that a person who speaks the truth all the time may not even get a mat spread for him because you will incur the displeasure of people, but you need the truth to be spoken and to get ourselves move Nigeria on the path of unity.
“Of course, we cannot get unity if there is no justice, if there is no fairness, if there is no equity. And when you have the basic ingredients that will bring unity and inclusiveness, then all other things will take their position. You will remove conflict, you will be able to deal with this pernicious issue of insecurity, and of course, the issue of economy and the wholesomeness of the society.
“The issues he raised are the issues that are dear to my own heart for unity and stability of Nigeria.
“There is one thing that I believe in, and I have always said it over and over again, ‘Nigeria is a complex country, but Nigeria is not a difficult country, if we are sincere and fair to ourselves, it is not a difficult country to manage’, and I wish him well.”
In his response, the PDP presidential aspirant, Chief Nyesom Wike, said he possesses the capacity and courage to address the challenge of insecurity, if elected as the next president of the country.
Speaking on zoning of the presidential ticket, Wike said: “It’s not as if I am championing zoning, it’s provided in the Constitution of PDP.Section 7 (3c) provides clearly, in clear terms, unambiguous that there shall be zoning of political and elective offices. That’s what we are talking about in Nigeria.
“Personal ambition will make us to avoid or not to do the right thing with impunity. But again, since they have decided there is no zoning, we are not running away, we have the capacity.
“As it stands today, you know that I am the only candidate everybody is afraid of. You know because obviously, I have gone round. But what we are saying is that, ‘let’s do the right thing’.”

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Section 84(12): Court Fixes June 28 For Report On Supreme Court Decision

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, fixed June 28 for report on the outcome of the Federal Government’s suit seeking an interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2022 before the Supreme Court.
Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter after counsel for the plaintiff (Peoples Democratic Party), Joseph Daudu, SAN, told the court that the hearing of his case would depend on the apex court decision on the suit before it.
Upon resumption of the matter, Daudu informed that though the case was adjourned for all parties to look at their processes, some applications were served on him by some of the respondents.
Justice Ekwo then asked the senior lawyer if he had done a review of his case going by the directive he gave on the last adjourned date.
Daudu said he discovered that the judgement of the Court of Appeal on Section 84(12), if applied, would make the work of the court easier because the appellant court agreed with his client on two points.
He, however, said that the Appeal Court judgement “is still merely persuasive since it is not the final court.”
According to him, it is only the Supreme Court that has the final say.
Daudu further said that if there would be a likelihood of decision on the suit filed by the president and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on Thursday at the Supreme Court, the outcome would be either for the judgement to be binding on them or to allow the court hear their matter.
“So, all is pointing to the direction to know what the Supreme Court will say,” he said.
The judge then said that since processes had been filed and no response had been done, that showed that no issue had been joined.
“That means this matter has to abate,” he said.
Justice Ekwo, who ordered all the parties in the suit to file relevant processes before the new date, adjourned the matter until June 28 for report.
The court had, on May 16, asked the PDP to take a critical look at the development in its suit to know if it could still continue with the case.
Ekwo gave the advice after counsel for the PDP, Daudu, informed the court that based on the Court of Appeal judgement sitting in Abuja, the court could continue with the matter before it.
The PDP had sued the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Clerk of National Assembly.
It also sued Senate leader, House of Representatives leader and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st to 8th defendants, respectively.
Others include Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives as 9th to 12th defendants in the matter.
The court had also joined Allied People’s Movement (APM) as 13 defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022.
The PDP had challenged the legality or otherwise of the National Assembly tinkering with Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, after it had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Amidst debate about the subject matter, a Federal High Court, Umuahia in Abia and presided over by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, on March 18, ordered the AGF to delete Section 84(12) of the Act.
Anyadike, in the judgement, held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
Anyadike held that Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f), and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.
But the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on May 11, vacated the judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, which voided the provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices led by Justice Hamma Akawu Barka, held that the person that instituted the matter at the lower court, Mr Nduka Edede, lacked the locus standi to do so.
The appellate court, which invoked its constitutional powers to look at the substantive suit on its merit, however, held that Section 84(12) was unconstitutional and in breach of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), stressing that the section denied a class of Nigerian citizens their right to participate in election.
The Federal Government had also on April 29 filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2022.
In the suit filed by the president and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
They are seeking an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, saying it is inconsistent with the nation’s Constitution.
The Supreme Court had also joined the Rivers Attorney-General and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly as defendants in the suit on May 19 and fixed Thursday for hearing.

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Subscribers Reject FG’s N90.49bn New Tax On Phone Calls

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Telecommunication subscribers have rejected a new Federal Government directive to impose a tax on telephone calls in the nation to fund free healthcare for the vulnerable.
The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria, according to the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, last week.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerians made 150.83 billion minutes of calls in 2020. This translates to 9.05 trillion seconds of calls, meaning the new tax will generate 9.05 trillion kobo, which converts to N90.49billion, yearly.
The new tax is coming despite moves by telecom companies to increase the price of calls, SMS, and data by 40 per cent as a result of an unfavourable operating environment.
According to the Health Insurance Act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.
It added that the Vulnerable Group Fund will subsidise the provision of healthcare to children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.
The Act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that one of the sources of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund shall include a telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.
Other sources of funding outlined in the Act includes a basic healthcare provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the government; motley that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.
According to the new Act, every resident in Nigeria is expected to obtain health insurance.
However, telecom subscribers under the aegis of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have said they will reject this new move by the government.
The President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “It is quite unfortunate that the government is viewing telecoms as a cash cow. We are saying there is a lot of corruption in the system, and rather than curb that, they want to focus on the telecoms sector.
“What do they mean by vulnerable? Vulnerable people in the nation are probably about 80 per cent of the population, we are all vulnerable. What has happened to the health budget? Why should it touch telecoms again? The government should look elsewhere for money. This new action is only likely to impoverish more Nigerians and they are masquerading as helping the vulnerable. This is not right”.
Recently, telecom companies wrote to the Federal Government, through the NCC, on the worsening conditions of the industry.
A source at the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said that the NCC and ALTON would meet this week in order to discuss the issues disturbing the industry.
Commenting on the act on his LinkedIn page, the Fiscal Policy Partner, and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said this new law would translate to a nine per cent tax on GSM calls.

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