The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a 2022 budget of N17.126 trillion against the N16.391 trillion sum presented by the president.
The Senate is also expected to pass the appropriation bill on Tuesday.
While the major capital, recurrent, debt service, statutory transfers remain untouched, the House made provision for an increase by N400 billion for agencies that came forward with financial reports which were not captured in the proposed budget, such as INEC, Ministries of Humanitarian Affairs, the National Assembly, and more.
In passing the bill, the House increased the benchmark price for crude from $57 to $62 per barrel, from which a proposed increase in revenue is expected.
The lawmakers also made provision for 10 percent of monies recovered by EFCC and the National Financial Intelligence Unit to be utilised by the agencies for their operations, to strengthen their fight against corruption.
The budget deficit was increased by N98 billion to accommodate some other requests of national importance which have not been captured in the budget estimates and which could not be covered by the revenue increase.
The House of Representatives is seeking the compulsory establishment of creches in all public and private workplaces in the country.
This, according to the House, is to assist breastfeeding/nursing mothers, especially those observing exclusive breastfeeding, to perform their official duties and care for their babies at the same time.
A bill seeking to establish the creches passed second reading on the floor of the House in Abuja on Thursday.
The bill passed the second reading in a unanimous voice vote and was sponsored by a lawmaker from Edo State, Rep. Sergius Ose-Ogun.
The long title of the bill reads, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Labour Act, Cap. L1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to make Provision for Establishment of Creches in every Public or Private (Health, Educational, Industrial or Commercial, Etc.) Workplace for employees who are Breastfeeding/Nursing Mothers; and for Related Matters (HB. 1438).”
The World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) both recommend that nursing mothers should feed their infants exclusively on breast milk for the first six months.
WHO states the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding thus: “Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
“Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less prone to diabetes later in life.
“Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”
The House of Representatives has ordered an immediate investigation into debts totalling N2.6 trillion allegedly owed the Federal Government by oil and gas companies operating in the country.
A report by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) which contains the figure, said to be accruals from “failure of the firms to remit Petroleum Profit Tax, Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Value Added Tax, Withholding Tax, Royalties, Penalties and Concession on rentals to the Federal Government.”
The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday, raised an Adhoc committee to investigate the matter after the lawmaker representing Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State, Rep. Ahmed Munir, brought it up the floor through a motion on notice.
His motion, which received unanimous endorsement by his colleagues, reads partly, “The House, concerned that such a huge debt is being overlooked at a critical time when the country needs funding for its annual budget.
“Cognisant that if debts are recovered, the money could be used to service some of the Federal Government’s debts as well as fund up to 16.2 per cent of the 2022 budget deficit.
“Also cognisant that recovery of the debts is critical in this period of dwindling revenues especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has grossly affected the country’s economy.”
The Speaker and most members were jolted on hearing about the huge debt figure. “N2.6tn is a lot of money. Hon. Munir, are you really sure of this figure?”
However, a member from Ogun State, Rep. Isiaka Ibrahim, advised the House to proceed on the side of caution by conducting what he called a “proper investigation.”
He argued that there was a possibility that some of the debts might be due to delays in the reconciliation of figures between the federal government and the oil firms.
“Let us carry out a proper investigation on what oil firms owe the FG and what the FG owes the oil firms,” the lawmaker added.
Isiaka noted that there had been some unresolved issues between the two sides relating to Joint Venture (JV) Cash Calls.
Nonetheless, the motion secured a unanimous voice vote and an Adhoc committee was set up by Speaker Gbajabiamila to give effect to the House resolution within four weeks.
Hamidu who was a former director of Protocol in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), recently ran for the governorship position in Zamfara State and is said to have had his eyes on the seat come 2023 elections.
He was reportedly wounded fatally by bullets from the guns of the bandits who shot sporadically, leaving several others injured.
Witnesses say the gunmen also kidnapped many travellers and carted away some valuables they could instantly lay their hands upon.
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has mourned Tordue Salem, the Vanguard Newspaper correspondent attached to the House of Representatives.
The body of Salem was found by the Police on Thursday, November 11, a month after he went missing.
The lawmakers in a statement signed on Saturday by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, described the news of Salem’s death as shocking and devastating, demanding a further investigation by the police.
“The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives receives with shock and utter devastation, the news of the death of the Vanguard Newspaper correspondent attached to the House of Representatives, Mr. Tordue Salem.
“The news of the reported discovery of the remains of the journalist on Thursday, a month after he went missing, is horrifying and yet another sad commentary on worsening insecurity in our country,” the statement read in part.
The minority caucus said it notes the report by the police that the journalist was knocked down by a hit and run driver, around Mabushi area in Abuja and demands a further investigation by the police to unravel more mysteries concerning Salem’s disappearance and eventual death.
“As representatives of the people, we demand that the Police must not foreclose investigations, particularly given conflicting official security reports trailing Mr. Salem’s sudden disappearance and death.
“Our caucus is still trying to come to terms with the conflicting reports as well as how it took a month before a body of a motor accident victim is discovered in a very busy area like Mabushi or any part of the Abuja municipal for that matter,” the statement added.
The lawmakers lamented that “it is indeed saddening that our nation will, in this manner, lose such a young, energetic, highly resourceful and experienced journalist, like Mr. Salem, who used his investigative journalism skill towards entrenching democracy and good governance in our country.
“His death is a huge blow to the media and journalism practice in Nigeria.”
The Minority caucus urged the police to leave no stone unturned in addressing all conflicting issues related to the disappearance and death of the journalist.
They also commiserated with the Salem family, particularly, Mrs. Salem, the Vanguard newspapers, the House of Representatives Press Corps, and the entire media industry for the loss.
Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts and the Auditor-General of the Federation, Adolphus Arhotomhenla, have had some disagreements over budget expenditures.
They had the disagreements on Wednesday when the committee paid an oversight visit to the Audit House in Abuja.
During the visit, the members of the committee, led by the Chairman, Wole Oke, picked holes in the financial reports presented by the Auditor-General.
A member of the committee, Hassan Sokodabo, for instance, faulted the rise in welfare packages in 2020, compared to 2019.
“In 2019. you said N12 million and I begin to wonder how, in 2020, the welfare package jumped to N77 million,” Sokodabo said.
Another member of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Omowumi Ogunlola, had concerns about how the expenses of the office of the auditor-general of the federation, were audited.
“This is the Office of the Auditor-General of that Federation. You audit all the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. Who audits this office? Which office is saddled with the responsibility of checkmating this office? “We are not auditing any of their expenditures, we are just oversighting (sic).”
Both parties also had some disagreement on the auditing of Nigerian foreign missions.
In response, the Auditor-General said he was not informed that the visit was for an audit and he was, therefore, unprepared.
“This is an oversight visit. There is no way I would have prepared for the questions you are asking. If it is evidence you want, constitute an audit,” the Auditor-General said.
The committee, therefore, demanded every document backing the claims of the Auditor-General.
The deputy chairman of the committee pleaded with his colleagues to give the Auditor-General more time to provide the needed documents. But they disagreed, insisting that the request must come from the Auditor-General.
Thereafter, the Auditor-General suggested that a law be put in place to identify and empower someone to audit his office.
Currently, the office of the Auditor-General is the only agency that the House Committee on Public Accounts is empowered by law to exercise oversight function over.
The Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, has faulted the debate over the Petroleum Industry Bill allocation for oil-producing states.
Governor Sule who was a guest on Channels TV’s Sunday Politics, said beyond figures or percentages, what matters more is the wellbeing of the states involved.
“You have to look at the totality of what goes to the communities,” he said.
“Is it just the three per cent that is going to them. People have forgotten about the 13% derivation that goes to the states. So even if you give the three per cent or five per cent is it changing the communities or is it going to some private pockets,” he asked.
Speaking further, Governor Sule said: “really, I care less about whether it is three per cent or five per cent. The most important thing is, let us go and take a look at what is happening in the Niger Delta. Even if we give them five per cent, is that the end of the crisis there? It is deeper than that.”
The host community allocation was a subject of heated debate last week as both chambers of the National Assembly struggled to decide between three and five per cent.
The allocation was one of the clauses left in consideration after the National Assembly had passed the PIB earlier this month.
If cleared, it is expected to transform the nation’s oil industry.
The three per cent is different from the 13% derivation fund which is paid to oil-producing communities from the federation account.
Instead, the three percent allocation will come from an entity’s actual yearly operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors.
All contributions will be deposited in a trust fund for host communities.
According to a draft of the PIB, the trust fund will enhance peace and cordial relationship between oil companies and host communities.
While the Senate on Thursday adopted the three per cent allocation despite protests by southern lawmakers, the House of Representatives, on the other hand, stepped down the controversial Bill after an hour-long closed-door session.
Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has explained why the chamber did not adopt electronic voting for the clause-by-clause consideration and passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.
Gbajabiamila on Thursday said it would be difficult to deploy e-voting for such huge legislations.
The Speaker, in his valedictory speech at the plenary, noted that the 9th House of Representatives has carried on its constitutional duty to make laws for the good government of the country.
“After multiple failed attempts over two decades, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has passed both House of the National Assembly and will shortly be transmitted to the President after proper harmonization with the Senate.
“It has been mentioned to me that landmark legislation such as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill ought to have been considered using the electronic voting system in the House. While I agree with this suggestion, e-voting usually in most parts of the world is meant for single item pieces of legislation not 400 clause considerations, except on reports that contain the limited number of clauses. As such, it is not ideal for this bill,” the Speaker stated.
Gbajabiamila however assured that the lawmakers will make sure that the system is fully deployed in advance of the House’s resumption, even as the legislative year comes to an end.
While stressing that the work of the legislature never ends, the Speaker said even though the legislators will not be in the chambers making laws and advocating for the people, still, their attention will be required in their constituencies on other engagements relating to their service in the House of Representatives.
He urged the congressmen to endeavour to use this recess to spend time with their families, as well as use them for deep reflection, to examine themselves and assess the quality of the service they have each provided in the year under review. as to determine those areas where improvements are needed, and where they need to do better than was done in the past year.
A fight broke out today at the House of Representatives, as lawmakers debated over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, with a major focus on section 52(3) which deals with electronic transmission of poll results.
The new amendment provides that INEC may consider electronic transmission so far as the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.
All initially seemed well as plenary got underway with deliberations on the matter, however, things began to fall apart after lawmakers voted orally, and Deputy Speaker Idris Wase clanged the gavel ruling against electronic transmission of results despite a resounding chorus in support of E-Transmission.
The House became rowdy as many congressmen frowned at the Deputy Speaker’s action, with some asking that a clear line of demarcation be drawn.
When the House eventually came to order, deliberations continued on the subject and the lawmakers resolved to vote again regarding the matter.
Another round of votes held and again the Deputy Speaker, despite a resounding vote in favour of an amendment for manual and electronic transmission of results, ruled against the ayes, sending the House into yet another frenzy.
This time it proved almost impossible for the House to be called to order, but decorum returned after a long while.
All was far from over after the House was brought to decorum a second time, even as a motion to suspend consideration and revert to plenary was moved, seconded, but kicked against by members of the Green Chamber.
The house eventually reverted to plenary but in reporting progress, the deputy speaker stated that the controversial clause 52 has been considered and approved, but some lawmakers insisted that this is not the case; it was at this time that yet another heated round of arguments rocked the floor of the hallowed chamber with two lawmakers Ifeanyi Momah and Shehu Koko getting involved in a heated exchange.
Other lawmakers joined the fray while some other honourable colleagues went a great length to restrain those gunning for each other’s necks. This forced the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila to take back his seat as chair of the House and moved that the session be adjourned.
With the Speaker’s notion seconded, the session was adjourned till Friday 10am to commence from clause 52, with the INEC Chairman and his NCC counterpart in attendance.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has spoken on how the House will resolve overlapping mandates among security agencies.
He said the House has made a commitment to support the executive in addressing the security challenges confronting the country.
Gbajabiamila said this in Lagos on Friday where he declared open a two-day National Security Legislative Reform retreat.
The speaker noted that the initiative was another “evidence of our commitment in the 9th House of Representatives to doing what is required of us to make sure our country can overcome the serious national security challenges that currently threaten the safety and wellbeing of our people.”
Participants will use the retreat to review seven bills with overlapping mandates on security, intelligence and the related agencies.
The bills include the Armed Forces Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Police Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; National Security and Civil Defence Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Customs and Excise Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, The Ammunition and Other Related Materials (Ratification and Enforcement) Bill, 2021; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
“How best to ensure the objectives of our national security and ensure that the men and women who live and work in our country can have full lives, free from the terror imposed by marauders and fundamentalists is now the defining question of our national life.
“How we answer this question and our ability to overcome the evident challenges of the moment will determine whether or not we can educate our children, attract investment to grow the economy, build critical national infrastructure, create jobs and ensure the continued and prosperous existence of our republic,” the Speaker said.
The speaker, who was represented by the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Rep. Toby Okechukwu, noted that even if the House was constitutionally handicapped in taking certain necessary actions to address the issue, it would not fold its arms and watch insecurity spiralling out of control.
He stated, “In the legislature, we do not control armies, we cannot deploy men and equipment to fight insurgencies and to prevent the taking over of spaces by bandits, criminals and assorted bad actors.
“Our power, and therefore our responsibility, lies in our constitutional mandate to make laws for the good governance of the country. And we serve this mandate by convening ourselves and others in programmes like this, to critically consider problems, advance solutions and agree on a joint strategy for law-making, for oversight and collaboration with the executive.”
According to Gbajabiamila, the objective of the retreat is to review each of the seven bills, with a view to eliciting discussions that will culminate in the passage of a series of legislation that will strengthen the efforts of the executive in tackling insecurity.