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Budget: Senate Uncovers N16bn Hidden Vote

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The Senate Committee on the Environment has uncovered the sum of N16 billion allegedly smuggled into the 2022 budget of the Ministry of Environment.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, made this known before the Appropriation Panel to defend his committee’s 2022 budget report.
Noting that the same anomaly was discovered last year, the Senator said the money was meant to service loans believed to have been collected by the Federal Government on behalf of some states being ravaged by erosion. He noted that the ministry had described the anomaly as a mistake.
Ekweremadu explained that the loans were supposed to be paid by the states for a period of 10 years, starting from 2023.
According to him, the loans would be deducted from the allocations to beneficiary states and not from the service wide vote or the budgets of agencies of the Environment Ministry.
He explained that last year, there was N6 billion in the environment budget for the servicing of a multilateral loan regarding erosion control.
“About N1.5billion of it was released to the Environment and later the Ministry of Finance wrote, saying it was a mistake that it was supposed to be from the service wide vote from where we service most of the loans,” he added.
Ekweremadu continued: “So, we took it in good faith but surprisingly, we now got another N16 billion for the same reason from the Ministry of Environment. However, there was a directive from the leadership of the National Assembly that we should not tamper with monies provided for multilateral loans.”
Furthermore, the Senator said they had invited the ministry, which said by the time they got their envelope and wanted to distribute to agencies, there was no such amount.
The chairman explained that by the time the money came to the National Assembly, there was this N16 billionn for the servicing of the new map loan.
“We asked when this money is due for servicing, they said they have a 10-year moratorium; we can’t be providing for it until 2023.
“We also found out that about 21 states are benefiting from it and it is these states that will pay the loan and not the Federal Government.
“So, it is either we wait until 2023 before making provisions for it or we ask the states to start making provisions for it if they have to pay now.
“Even if the Federal Government has to pay, it has to go through the service wide votes, not the respective budgets of the MDAs; it’s wrong. The anomaly is untidy,” Ekweremadu added.
On his part, the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, praised Ekweremadu’s panel for its diligence and meticulousness to the assignment committed to it.
He said the report submitted was precise and straight to the point and they were satisfied with your report.
Jibrin said: “What you are doing in this committee is commendable. It shows that you are doing your oversight properly.”

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Rivers’ll Be Known For Peace, Not Crisis -Fubara

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that peace has prevailed because he draws strength from God to resist insults and tantrums thrown at him while frustrating attempts by some disgruntled persons who wanted to plunge the State into unending crisis.
The Governor also said that because he has anchored his Government on promoting peace, the enabling atmosphere has been provided for investments and sustainable development to flourish.
Governor Fubara made the assertion when he received a delegation of members of the Bishops and Gospel Ministers’ Association International Incorporated, Rivers State Chapter, at Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by the Head of Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke, Governor Fubara said while most people took his meekness for weakness, his stance on peace has unarguably enhanced harmonious atmosphere of concord as residents sleep with their two eyes closed, and investors and shareholders are happy with the returns on investment.
He said, “Before, what they hear of Rivers State is that they are fighting, and some genuine investors will not come. Some people even ask you: How are you coping in Rivers State?
“But now”, he asserted: “The Governor has brought about a lot of changes in the State. One of the most important things is that he has changed the negative narrative. It is no longer Rivers of blood. It is now Rivers of peace.
“We are enjoying our lives here. Why? Because there is a change in the narrative. We have peace. The Governor is, as much as possible, absorbing any level of insult at him only for one purpose: that Rivers State may have peace; that we may grow; that this state will experience genuine development.”
Governor Fubara urged them, as members of the Christian family in the State, to continue to pray for the State and the Government so that the enemies of the State will be put to greater shame.
“This peace is what I want you to embrace. Go and continue to pray, because when the sower of the seed went and sowed, the enemy went in the night and sowed tares inside there. But the Governor is sowing peace.
“When I listened to the leader of the team, His Grace Eddy Ogbonda, he said you came all the way from Eleme Junction, and stopped at major junctions, and you uttered prayers for the peace of Rivers State.”
He also said: “I, hereby want to thank you for identifying with the Governor at a time like this. At a time when it looks as if someone wants the Governor’s peace posture misunderstood as weakness.
“When someone has the strength to fight back, but refuses to fight back. That is a bigger strength; that power of restrain does not just come, it can only come from God.
“You cannot give peace, if you do not have peace within you. The Governor is not interested in any form of trouble or violence. What he is interested in is known, and it is: let there be peace in Rivers State,” he said.
In his address, leader of the group, Archbishop Eddy Ogbonda, said they had observed a week-long intensive prayers that culminated into a peace rally, which brought them to Government House, and assured the Governor that God will continue to give him victory over his adversaries while preserving Rivers State.
“It is Rivers State Prophetic Prayer Convocation and Rally 2024 with the theme: ‘Peace be still’. Of a truth, everyone of us understands that we live in a time when we need peace much more than any other thing.
“Rivers State needs peace. Everyone as individuals need peace. The country needs peace, and the world at large needs peace. So, we are here to do a peace march. We pray that God will command His peace to reign in Rivers State,” he said.

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Hoteliers, School Owners Charging In Dollars Risk Arrest -EFCC

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has stated that hotels, schools, and other establishments that accept payments in dollars from their customers are at risk of facing arrest.
The Chairman of EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, said this in the agency’s publication called EFCC Alert on Monday, adding that action would be taken against individuals involved in the dollarisation of the economy.
According to him, the exception is if foreigners come in to transact business and the only means of transacting is their credit card and dollar but to charge local customers in dollars or other foreign currencies would no longer be allowed.
He said charging local activities and customers in dollars is against Nigeria’s constitution.
The EFCC chairman said, “Schools that charge Nigerians in dollar, supermarkets that trade in dollar, estate developers that sell their property in dollar, hotels that are invoicing in dollar, we are coming after you and we have made arrests in that area.
“Yes, if foreigners are coming in and the only means of transacting is their credit card, and dollar, why not? You will get that.
“But document it properly as against selling things within the system, local economy and you will be using dollar as the medium of exchange, it is illegal.
“Our law does not allow for that. And we have also affected some arrests.”

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Eid-El-Fitr: Fubara Felicitates Muslims, Calls For Unity, Tolerance

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has enjoined Muslim faithful to remain steadfast to the lessons learnt during the holy month of Ramadan.
Governor Fubara stated this in his message of felicitations to Muslims as they celebrate the 2024 Eid-el-Fitr Sallah, which marks the end of the one-month Ramadan fasting.
The Governor emphasised the importance for Muslims to also uphold the tenets of Islam by exhibiting the fear of God and showing piety in their daily work.
Governor Fubara said, “We must all continue in the good attributes imbibed during the holy month of Ramadan as directed by God through His Prophet, so as to ensure peace, unity and harmony in the society for a better future.”
While praying that the essence of the festival offers them happiness, peace and prosperity in all aspects of life, Governor Fubara said he recognises and appreciates the critical role that the Muslim community continues to play in the development of Rivers State, and indeed, Nigeria at large.
Governor Fubara charged them to remain unwavering and steadfast in their commitment and positive contributions to advance the development of the State and the country.
“I enjoin you all in the State to remain calm, be patient and continue to do what is right,” the Governor added.
He wished the Muslim faithful in the State and across the country a happy Eid-el-Fitr celebration.

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