The trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdurasheed Maina, continued on Tuesday at the Federal High Court Sitting in Abuja.
During the proceedings presided over by Justice Okon Abang, a defence witness, Ngozika Ihuoma, continued his testimony which was in favour of the defendant.
He told the court that Maina recovered N282 billion in cash and 222 choice properties valued at N1.6 trillion.
Ihuoma explained that the said money was warehoused at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He disclosed that out of the money, N74 billion was used to finance the 2012 national budget, as passed by the then National Assembly.
The witness also told the court that a presidential directive was issued by former President Goodluck Johnathan that 2.5 per cent which amounted to N7.05 billion of the recovered money be used to run the PRTT’s official duties.
He, however, stated that the fund was never released despite several requests and reminders to the Ministry of Finance and the National Assembly.
After listening to the testimony of the witness, Justice Abang adjourned the case until March 4 for the continuation of the trial.
Maina is being prosecuted by the EFCC on charges of money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.
The embattled former chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriation, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, is asking a Federal High Court in Abuja to award the sum of one billion Naira against Speaker Dogara, the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the House.
This is expected to serve as punitive and general damages for his suspension, his counsel said.
In an application for discontinuance of the suit filed against Dogara and 13 others, Mr Jibrin’s counsel said fresh originating summons had been filed before the court.
Mr Jibrin in the new suit is asking the court to declare that his suspension was a violation of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression.
It was a day earlier scheduled by the court to hear the suit the lawmaker had filed, but that did not happen, as the counsel had come with an application for the court to discontinue the suit while a fresh suit was filed.
Mr Jibrin was suspended for allegedly breaching the practices and precedents of the House of Representatives.
According to the House presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Representative Yusuf Lasun, Representative Jibrin is also required to tender a formal written apology to the House, before his future resumption of duties.
He is also barred from positions of authority in the House till the end of the 8th assembly.
The House of Representatives has three sitting days in a week and going by that the lawmaker will be away for 60 weeks.
After the suspension was issued, Mr Jibrin described the decision as ‘completely inconsequential’.
“Whatever product comes out of that process, as far as I am concerned, is completely inconsequential and cannot stand anywhere.
“The matter is in court and it is a matter of litigation,” he told Channels Television.
Mr Jibrin said he had asked his lawyer to file a suit against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, for contempt. That suit has now been withdrawn.
“While I wait for the formal correspondent from the House, I have in anticipation instructed my lawyer, Femi Falana, to charge Speaker Dogara for contempt, because he is aware that the matter is in court and he went ahead to table the matter before the House and referred it to the ethics committee.
“Of Cause, predictably, this is what they wanted and as far as I am concerned, it is not an issue,” he stressed.
The House had asked him to apologise, but the lawmaker said he would not apologise.
“I can tell you very clearly. I will never, ever, apologise to anybody in the House of Representatives.
“I did not commit any offense, I didn’t do anything wrong. I have said it repeatedly that in the five years that I have spent in the House of Representatives, I have never abused my office. I have never corruptly enriched myself, so I have no reason to apologise to anybody,” the lawmaker from Kano State said.
A day after the suspension was issued, the House of Representatives began the implementation of the resolution, changing the locks of the lawmaker’s office and sealing it off.
Jibrin’s office within the legislative chambers was on Thursday sealed and the locks changed by officials of the House.
Other officials took an inventory of items found in the office.
No Court Papers
Defending the decision of the House, the spokesman for the House, Abdulrazak Namdas, said the lower legislative chamber had not been served with court papers since its resolution to suspend Jibrin.
He said that the House could not be stopped from performing its constitutional duties.
“On this issue of court, I want it to be clear that there is clear separation of powers in this country. We have the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
“No arm of government is to gag another, and I can assure you, if decisions are taken here and someone is aggrieved, he can run to where actions can be taken.
“But for us, we have done what is within the rules. The constitution empowers us to have our rules, to implement it and this has been implemented.
“If he goes to court tomorrow, we will brief you accordingly, but for now, nothing has happened,” Namdas said.
The governor of Osun state, Rauf Aregbesola has presented the 2013 draft budget of N183,105,807,460 to the people of the state.
The governor had earlier on in December 2012, laid before the State House of Assembly the 2013 proposed budget estimates.
A breakdown of the 2013 budget draft shows that N64.3 billion representing 34.97 percent of the total sum is for recurrent expenditure while N119.75 billion, representing 65.3 percent percent was earmarked for capital expenditure.
The budget was Tagged ‘Budget of Freedom’, The transport sector had the highest sectorial allocation of N30.2 billion representing 25.3-8 percent, while N16.3 billion representing 13.6 percent of the total budget went to education. N8.1 billion representing 6.82 percent goes to the agriculture sector.
Mr Aregbesola who acknowledged the inputs of various stakeholders across the state to enhance the quality of the budget said the ultimate goal of the 2013 budget is to ensure a great improvement in the welfare and standard of living of the people.
According to him the transport sector gets the largest allocation because road construction and maintenance has to be vigorously pursued due to the pivotal role of good road network in the attainment of socio-economic and political goals.
He assured of objective and faithful implementation of the budget, urging members of the State House of Assembly to give speedy consideration to its passage for implementation to commence as early as possible.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam appreciated the relationship which exists between the legislature and the executive arm of government.
He noted that inspite of the tight financial situation position of government due to dwindling revenue from the federation account; government has been able to execute projects and programmes that were very beneficial to the people in 2012.
The 2013 budget of N183,105,807,460 as against the 2012 budget of N150, 124, 621, 880 represents a 21 percent increase.
In what is a significant departure from the past, the National Assembly has passed the 2013 Budget before the end of the year with an increase from N4.92 trillion to N4.98 trillion.
This figure represents a difference of N62 billion as against the proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan in October.
A report of the Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance on the 2013 Appropriation Act was on Thursday considered by both chambers of the parliament and passed.
The budget is made up of N2.3 trillion as recurrent non-debt expenditure and N1.6 trillion for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure for the year 2013.
Not giving up on the controversies over the non-implementation of the 2012 Budget, the lawmakers warned that all unutilised capital expenditure in the 2012 budget should be rolled over to form part of the 2013 Appropriation Act.
The lawmakers also retained the $79 per barrel oil benchmark price for the budget, higher than the $75 a barrel proposed by the President.
The budget is based on an assumption of 2.53 million barrels of oil production per day with an economic growth of 6.5 per cent, inflation at 9.5 per cent and an exchange rate of N160 to the dollar.
This is the first time that a budget will be presented and passed in the same year, despite the myriad of threat by members of the House of Representatives who had picked issues with the executive over the non-implementation of the 2012 budget.
With the early passage of the 2013 budget, the lawmakers urge the executive arm of government to ensure better implementation of the budget.
Dismiss Oteh or no budget for SEC
Members of the House of Representative however failed to approve the budget of the Security Exchange Commission (SEC), insisting that the Director-General of the commission, Ms Arunma Oteh must be sacked.
The national assembly took a tough stance on SEC and approved zero allocation for the commission.
Ms Oteh has been embroiled in a long-running feud with the House of Representatives after she accused members of a committee set up to probe the capital market, of soliciting bribes from the commission.
The allegation has led to the prosecution of the two members, Herman Hembe and Emeka Azubogu while the House in a unanimous motion asked the President to dismiss the SEC boss, claiming that her appointment was illegal.
The Senate Committee on Capital Market had also during the year, declared that it will have nothing to do with Ms Oteh, as long as she remains at the helm of affairs at the commission.
In a bid to ensure that the 2012 budget is fully implemented, the House of Representatives on Tuesday mandated a joint committee of the house to study the implementation so far and recommend ways to ensure its full implementations. The report, according to the lawmakers, is aimed at ensuring the full implementation of the budget.
The committee is expected to submit the report to the House within one week.
The resolution is sequel to a motion moved by Abdulrahman Terab (ANPP-Borno) which was unanimously adopted.
Leading the debate, Mr Terab noted that annual budgets were meant to provide for the planning and equitable allocation of resources for purposes of development.
He said that the national budget, if well formulated and effectively implemented, would lead to the achievement of development objectives of the country.
The lawmaker disclosed that Nigeria had infrastructural deficit of over N4 trillion and a very high unemployment rate of over 70 per cent. He said that the revenue receipts so far for 2012 was higher than what was projected for in the 2012 fiscal regime.
Mr Terab also described the fourth quarter capital releases to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in December as inadequate. He claimed that only about 30 per cent of money appropriated was actually remitted to the MDAs.
He said that money saved from recoveries, non-oil, unspent revenues and fake subsidy claims were not captured in the 2013 budget estimates.
“If this House does not come to the rescue of the 2012 budget, the dream of Nigeria becoming one of the 20 great economies by the year 2020 can no longer be achievable,” he said.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on finance, Abdulmumin Jibrin (PDP-Kano) said that out of the 60 revenue generating agencies of government, only one remitted up to 50 percent to the Federation Account.
He called on relevant committees of the House to investigate the role of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in the area of budgeting. He told the House that 15 agencies were absent from the meeting with the committee.
The chairman, committee on Appropriation, John Enoh (PDP-Cross River), urged the House to ensure a conclusive implementation of the 2012 budget. Mr Enoh noted that unless the House was careful, the budget would witness more abandoned projects than the previous years.
“Given the problem that characterised the 2012 budget, we need to examine the 2013 budget,” he said.
The total releases for this year’s capital budget has risen to N1.01 trillion as the Federal Government announced the release of another N300 billion for the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter release, which represents 75 percent of the total capital budget of N1.3 trillion, according the Ministry Finance, is to ensure that the momentum on capital budget implementation is maintained as the year comes to a close.
The latest release is coming amid criticisms by the National Assembly that the implementation of the budget, which effectively commenced in April, is below expectations.
In a statement issued by Paul Nwbuikwu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the ministry said the impact of budget implementation can be gleaned from improvements in various sectors of the economy, including power, agriculture, job creation, transportation, and ports reforms.
Power supply in many parts of the country, the ministry pointed out, “has improved to a consistent level of 15 hours per day” even as it stated that rehabilitation of existing power infrastructure has yielded up to 1000 megawatts of additional electricity.
“NIPP projects are being fast tracked which will lead to an additional 1055 megawatts by end 2012. The prospects for progress in power supply have increased significantly with the imminent conclusion of the privatisation programme,” the statement said.
On agriculture, it affirmed that in pursuit of the 3.5 million jobs target by 2015, 13 new private sector rice mills with a capacity of 240,000 metric tonnes have been established even as one million metric tonnes of dried cassava chips are exported to China.
It also stated that the railway modernisation programme is progressing with the Abuja-Kaduna line is now at 46 per cent completion while the rehabilitation of Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Ibadan lines has opened up new platforms for passenger traffic.
Giving an insight into how the implementation of the 2012 Budget has rubbed off positively on ports reforms, the ministry stated that the clearance time for cargoes in the ports has been reduced from 39 days to seven days.
On job creation drive, the ministry said the Community Services, Women and Youth Employment Programme components of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), which was inaugurated in February 2012 are already working in 14 states.
The 2013 Budget on Monday passed second reading in the Senate but the lawmakers faulted the budget expressing concern that funds appropriated for capital expenditure would not encourage growth.
Leading the debate on the budget, Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba said the 2013 budget makes provisions for the sum of N971 billion for petroleum subsidy.
The plenary session lasted several hours as lawmakers took their time to debate the 2013 budget as some of the lawmakers noted that the proposed budget is not offering Nigerians anything dramatically different.
The 2013 budget of N4.92 trillion is made up of N591.76 billion for debt service, N2.41 trillion for recurrent expenditure and N1.54 trillion for capital expenditure.
The lawmakers faulted the allocation for recurrent expenditure and debt servicing.
Some other lawmakers also flawed the allocations for what they consider to be critical sectors of the economy while some expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the SURE-P program has been managed.
Meanwhile, some lawmaker’s grievance still lies with the level of implementation of the 2012 budget.
An economist, Sam Olisa on Thursday said that Nigeria has one of the best budgeting systems in the world but the only challenge the country face is implementation.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Olisa said the indices to measure the success of a budget should not be the percentage of implementation as suggested by either a Minister or the National Assembly but on its impact on the ordinary Nigerians.
An economist, Katchy Ononuju on Thursday said that next year’s budget as proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan before a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday is by far better than that of 2012.
Mr Ononuju, who was a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, said: “This is a much better budget as a proposal of intent than the last one we had. In this, we’ve been able to reduce our exposure to recurrent expenditure. We actually brought it down from the former 72 percent to now 68 percent.”
The economist said the reduction of recurrent expenditure will help release more money for capital expenditure. He said those in government need to ‘put something in for those who voted politicians into place.’
A public Finance analyst, Professor Akintola Bello on Thursday said one of the challenges facing budget implementation in Nigeria is the inclusion of too many items on the budget list by government agencies.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Bello said: “I don’t think that our people do budget very well. If you give anything (project) to an agency and ask them to cost it, they will come up with a cost and the costing is so bogus. There is no rationale to the cost; they just put an idea there.”
The financial analyst said the government lacked the capacity to do costing insisting that outlook of the previous budget should determine the subsequent one.
Frank Nweke Jnr, the Director General of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) on Thursday said that his group does not support the House of Representatives’ demand to increase the benchmark price of crude oil in the 2013 budget from $75 to $82.
Mr Nweke, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said that the NESG also does not support the “perennial altercation between the legislature and the executive” arms of governments.
“This latest jack-up in the benchmark price for the 2013 budget is ill-advised. When I first got information about this yesterday, I described it as tragic,” he said.
The House of Representatives’ Minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila on Thursday said the power to decide how the revenue earned by Nigeria is spent is the prerogative of the National Assembly not the executive arm of government.
The lawmaker, who was speaking on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, against the fallout between the presidency and the legislature over the benchmark price of crude oil in the 2013 budget, said pegging the price of crude oil is a way through which the Federal Government short-changes the states.
“There is no issue of benchmark vis-à-vis the constitution. If we decide we want a benchmark so that we can save, that part of the constitution needs to be amended. There is no issue of benchmark as far as I am concern,” Mr Gbajabiamila.
The Minority leader said though the House of Representative is yet to receive the 2013 budget, it would improper to present a fresh budget when previous one is yet to be implemented.
“The position of the House is very simple. You don’t jump from one to the other without care of the one that comes before. Again, it is very tardy to present a budget when there is a 2012 Budget that is pending,” he said.