Reps And Auditor-General Disagree Over Budget Expenditures

 

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.

PIB: I Care Less About Whether Host Community Allocation Is 3% Or 5% – Nasarawa Gov

File photo: Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule.

 

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.”

[Read Also] PIB: Senate Adopts 3% Allocation To Host Communities As South-South Lawmakers Kick

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.

Gbajabiamila Reveals Why Reps Did Not Adopt E-Voting For PIB

(File Photo) The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Fem Gbajabiamila.

 

 

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.

READ ALSO: Reps In Disorder As Deputy Speaker Rules Against E-Transmission Of Electoral Results

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.

Fight Breaks Out At Reps As Lawmakers Debate Electronic Transmission Of Results

 

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.

READ ALSO: Senate Approves Conditional Electronic Transmission Of Electoral Results

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.

Honourable Wase, the Deputy Speaker on Thursday clanged his gavel twice in favour of the nays, despite a resounding vote by the ayes in the House who were in support of transmuting electoral results electronically.
Honourable Wase, the Deputy Speaker on Thursday clanged his gavel twice in favour of the nays, despite a resounding vote by the ayes in the House who were in support of transmuting electoral results electronically.

 

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.

House Of Reps Steps Down PIB

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives has stepped down the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill after an hour-long closed-door session.

Further deliberation is expected to hold over the decision while the House is on recess.

Earlier in the day, lawmakers from the South-South had opposed the harmonised PIB allocation to host communities which was pegged at three per cent.

The lawmakers were heard chanting “five per cent” as against the three pre cent at the floor of the House.

 

 

Meanwhile, in the Senate, the three per cent allocation to host communities was adopted despite protests by the senators.

The number in dispute is the percentage of the total operating expenses (OPEX) oil companies are expected to contribute to a trust fund created for host communities.

Two southern senators George Sekibo and Seriake Dickson raised concerns over the approval.

Senator Sekibo said he is not part of the vote on the allocation clause and Senator Dickson said his privilege had been breached as his views were not accommodated.

Read Also: Senate In Rowdy Session Over Electronic Transmission Of Results

However, Senate President Ahmad Lawan replied that the Senate had taken a resolution on the matter and could not go back on its decision.

The host community allocation was one of the clauses left in consideration after the National Assembly passed the PIB earlier this month.

The PIB is expected to transform Nigeria’s oil industry.

The three per cent is different from the 13 per cent 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.

Reps To Resolve Overlapping Mandates Among Security Agencies – Gbajabiamila

A file photo of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

 

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.

READ ALSO: Oyo Government Moves 100 Mentally Ill, Destitute People To ‘Rescue Center’

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.

Reps Finally Pass Petroleum Industry Bill

A file photo of members of the House of Representatives attend a plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja on November 24, 2020.

 

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) after considering and adopting the bill’s 318 clauses.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said the electoral act amendment bill will be passed in the coming weeks.

The House’s decision comes as the Senate began considering the bill after committee work earlier on Thursday.

President Muhammadu Buhari sent the bill to the National Assembly in September last year.

The bill aims to modernise the petroleum industry and attract more investors into the sector.

NASS To Consider Petroleum Industry Bill On Thursday

A file photo of the National Assembly complex in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

 

The Senate and the House of Representatives are to consider the report on the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2021 on Thursday.

Senate President, Ahmed Lawan announced this during the plenary on Wednesday saying the Senate has invited the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari for a closed session to explain the technical, financial, and other details contained in the bill.

Senator Lawan said all committee activities have also been adjusted to enable all Senators to participate fully in considering the report.

READ ALSO: PDP Leaders Storm NASS To Protest Nomination Of Lauretta Onochie

The bill has now been laid before the House of Representatives

The Senate had earlier on Tuesday, received the report of the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream); Petroleum (Upstream), and Gas Resources on PIB.

Lawan also said Thursday’s plenary would be entirely devoted to the consideration of the report.

The bill, first presented in the National Assembly in 2008, aims to streamline how energy assets in Nigeria are operated and funded.

It would also regulate the oil industry and attract more investment to the sector, according to lawmakers.

Reps Confirm Army Chief’s Appointment

A file photo of Major-General Farouk Yahaya.
A file photo of Major-General Farouk Yahaya.

 

The House of Representatives on Tuesday confirmed the appointment of Major-General Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff.

The Senate had confirmed his appointment on June 22.

Major-General Yahaya was appointed by President Muhamamdu Buhari on May 27, days after the immediate past army chief, Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Attahiru died in a Kaduna air-crash along with 10 others.

The serving army chief resumed office on May 28.

He has reiterated the army’s resolve to end insurgency in the North-East and other security threats across the country.

“We want to conclude this operation in the North-East,” Major-General Yahaya said on Saturday, “so that we can do other things; and that is the drive now.”

Reps Consider Buhari’s N896bn Supplementary Budget Request

A file photo of members of the House of Representatives attend a plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja on November 24, 2020.

 

Terry Ikumi, Abuja

The House of Representatives on Tuesday received a request for the consideration of the 2021 supplementary budget from President Muhammadu Buhari.

The President is requesting the sum of N895.8 billion to supplement the 2021 budget.

The proposed supplementary budget is intended to be used to equip the military, fund Covid-19 vaccination programs and the management of HIV.

The Senate last week considered the president’s request and passed the supplementary bill through second reading.

Two PDP Federal Lawmakers Defect To APC

FILE: Some members of the House of Representatives during plenary on April 28, 2020. Photo: Twitter- @HouseNGR

 

Terry Ikumi and Emperor Simon in Abuja

Two members of the House of Representatives have defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

Lehor Idagbo and Michael Etaba are both from Cross River State.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila announced their defection on the floor of the green chamber on Tuesday.

Their defection comes weeks after the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade defected from the PDP to the APC.

Meanwhile, the senator representing Zamfara Central, Hassan Gusau, has resigned from the PDP.

It is not yet clear whether he is defecting to the APC.

His resignation was announced on Tuesday on the floor of the red chamber by Senate President Ahmed Lawan.

According to Gusau, his resignation followed undemocratic tendencies in the PDP.

Senator Gusau’s resignation comes barely 48 hours after Zamfara state Governor, Bello Matawalle declared his intention to defect from Nigeria’s major opposition party, PDP.

PDP Caucus Threatens Legal Action Against FG Over Twitter Ban

A file photo of members of the House of Representatives attending a plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja on November 24, 2020.

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has threatened legal action against the Federal Government over its ban of Twitter operations in Nigeria. 

A statement by the leader of the caucus Kingsley Chinda on Sunday noted that the Nigerian government does not have the power to ban the social media platform, arguing that the action lowers the country’s image in the eyes of other democratic nations.

“We also call on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to immediately rescind its directive to the NBC to begin the licensing of social media operators in the country, having regard to the absence of any enabling legislative framework for such directive,” the statement read in part.

“We hereby give you notice that in the event of the failure, refusal and or neglect of the Federal Government to withdraw, reverse and/or cease the implementation of these oppressive and unconstitutional actions, we shall be constrained to institute legal proceedings at the appropriate judicial venue within the shortest possible time”.

READ ALSO: Twitter Ban: There Is No Constitutional Authority To Support FG’s Peremptory Action – NBA

The Federal Government has accused Twitter of double standards.

 

The caucus faulted the directive to the National Broadcasting Commission to license social media operators in the country, describing it as an attempt to introduce the  ‘Social Media Bill’ by mere executive fiat.

According to them, the move is a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers and an erosion of the rule of law.

“Whilst, these manifestly undemocratic actions of government on its own is grave enough, we fear that it may be a precursor to more ominous actions of blotting out dissenting voices,” the lawmakers explained.

“It is a known fact that as nonperforming, fragile or failed governments face increasing criticism from its citizenry, out of desperation, they resort to more draconian and lawless actions to intimidate and cow the citizens to consolidate its hold on power by brute force.”

While calling on the Federal Government to address numerous challenges facing the country including kidnapping and banditry, the PDP caucus noted that social media is a means of escape from the daily happenings in Nigeria and a source of employment for many.

“It is worrisome that, at a time when the country faces a real existential crisis and totters on the brink of implosion from acute challenges such as widespread insecurity manifesting in banditry, kidnapping and the activities of armed non-state actors across the Federation, coupled with the parlous state of the economy resulting in ballooning inflation and massive youth unemployment, the Federal Government appears to be more preoccupied with stifling the right of Nigerian citizens to freely express themselves on social media and elsewhere,” they added.