Reps Endorse Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s Candidacy As DG Of World Trade Organisation

A file photo of former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
A file photo of former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

 

The House of Representatives has endorsed the candidacy of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, describing her as very qualified.

The resolution to support her followed a motion of urgent public importance raised by the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu at plenary on Tuesday.

The lawmakers also urged President Buhari to rally other African leaders in support of her candidacy.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar also endorsed the former Finance Minister on Saturday, saying her “experience and the enormous related works she has done confirms without equivocation that her leadership shall be a blessing to the WTO and the world”.

Read Also: Atiku Endorses Okonjo-Iweala For WTO Job

In a video posted on her Twitter handle on July 9, Okonjo-Iweala described the WTO as an organization that has become more important than ever.

According to her, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs to come together using trade to build a better society.

 

She said COVID-19 has changed the face of the world economy and thus the WTO needs to work with its members to pull through the difficult times.

President Muhammadu Buhari had nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG role with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later backing her nomination.

Other candidates also vying for the position inlcude South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy Director-General Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovsch.

The successful candidate for the job will replace Mr Azevêdo who said he will step down on August 31.

Reps Give Chief Of Naval Staff 7-Day Ultimatum To Appear Before Public Account Committee

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

 

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Account has given a 7-day ultimatum to the Chief of Naval Staff,  Ibok Ekwe Ibas, to appear before the Committee.

Lawmakers in the Committee expressed their displeasure that the Chief of Naval Staff failed to honour their earlier invitation, and instead sent the Nigerian Navy’s Assistant Director of Budget, whom the lawmakers consider to be too low ranked to address the Parliament.

They asked the Chief Of Naval Staff to ensure that he honours the invitation within seven days.

Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas is expected to respond to a query from the Auditor General of the Federation regarding certain activities within the Nigerian Navy.

READ ALSO: ‘Misunderstanding’: Lebanese Ambassador Walks Out On Reps

(File: Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ekwe Ibas, at a meeting with the President in Abuja on May 14, 2020.)

Recently, the House of Representatives launched various investigations and probes, querying some sectors and agencies within the country.

Most recent probes include an investigation into the alleged illegal withdrawals from the dividends accounts of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), as well as a probe of the power sector.

Some other investigations by the Reps include a probe into the financial budgetary provisions, approvals and multilateral donations on skills acquisition and related programmes of the Federal Government and its agencies, including the home-grown school feeding programme.

‘Misunderstanding’: Lebanese Ambassador Walks Out On Reps

 

The Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Houssam Diab, on Thursday, walked out on members of the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, at a meeting which lawmakers now say was informal.  

Mr Diab was reportedly asked to appear before the committee to explain the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in Lebanon.

The Ambassador is said to have walked out of the lawmakers because he was not expecting the level of media coverage given to what had been termed an informal meeting to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Reacting to the outcome of the meeting, the Minister of State Foreign Affairs,
Zubairu Dada stressed that it was an informal meeting and the Ambassador was nice enough to join in.

According to the minister’s communique, there is no law that says the Lebanese Ambassador had to attend the meeting, but he came because he has an interest in the joint relationship between Nigeria and Lebanon.

Mr Dada noted that there are a lot of Nigerians in Lebanon, and there are many Lebanese in Nigeria, so it was pertinent that the meeting held to further reiterate that the Lebanese community and the Nigerian community will always stand together to ensure that justice and respect for human lives is a priority.

He stressed that the relationship between the two nations will help bring an end to modern day slavery.

Throwing more light on the earlier misunderstanding, the minister said though the meeting was meant to be an informal one, the Ambassador was not aware that such a meeting needed to be documented.

“Because of the law of diplomacy, he wasn’t expecting to have media there and it was immediately resolved that it was going to be an executive session,” Mr Dada stated.

The minister apologized on behalf of the Ministry and the country.

Thursday’s incident follows a recent event involving one Temitope Arowolo, who is said to be undergoing trial for alleged attempted murder in Lebanon.

Mr Dada revealed that  Temitope will be home before the end of the week, adding that so many other Nigerians who want to come home from Lebanon will be availed the opportunity.

He said the ministry is also looking at the case of a Lebanese who is held in Illorin on charges of human trafficking.

The minister promised that collaborations will continue to ensure that Nigerians can go work in Lebanon legally, without being dehumanized.

He asked Nigerians to be vigilant and monitor what is going on around them, lest they fall prey to human traffickers.

Reps To Investigate $1bn Illegal NLNG Withdrawal

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

 

The House of Representatives has mandated its committee on public account to investigate alleged illegal withdrawals from the dividends accounts of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).

The matter was raised as a matter of urgent national importance by the minority leader of the House, who alleged that the withdrawals were made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Details later.

Reps Pass Revised 2020 Budget Of N10.8trn

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

 

The House of Representatives has passed the revised 2020 federal budget of N10.8 trillion from the initial N10.5 trillion submitted by the president.

The lawmakers also approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for $5.5 billion external loan.

Meanwhile, the Senate has hinted that it will on Thursday, consider the revised 2020 budget.

The red-chamber had on Tuesday deferred presentation of the report over a delay by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to provide details for the sum of N186 billion, an amount which is part of the N500 billion COVID-19 intervention fund.

Read Also: Senate To Consider 2020 Revised Budget On Thursday

Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, explained to his colleagues that the Finance Ministry was yet to comply with the request of the Committee by attaching necessary details for the amount to be captured as part of the 2020 budget amendment bill.

However, Lawan on Wednesday disclosed that the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning had complied with the request of the Appropriations Committee by providing the relevant details for the outstanding N186 billion.

The development, according to him, makes it expedient for the upper chamber to consider the revised 2020 budget on Thursday during plenary.

Public Hearing On Control Of Infectious Disease Bill

 

The public hearing on the bill to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Act has begun in the House of Representatives.

The two-day hearing which is taking place at the conference hall of the House of Representatives according to the Speaker, is necessary to uphold transparency and accountability in the passage of the controversial bill into law.

Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila had said that the public hearing will be both physical and virtual and open to submission of memorandum and position papers from members of the public.

He also gave the assurance that the parliament would continue to pass critical legislation during the COVID-19 period.

Reps Seek Ban Of Foreign Herdsmen Into Nigeria

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

 

The House of Representatives has urged the Federal Government to stop the entry of herdsmen into the country from other African countries.

The matter was raised at plenary on Tuesday, after Rep. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta), moved a motion urging the government to ban the entry of herdsmen into Nigeria.

It was, thereafter, unanimously adopted by the House.

According to the lawmakers, herdsmen have been on rampage, destroying farmlands and killing innocent Nigerians.

They also noted that they are aware that security agencies have consistently said the herdsmen come from neighbouring African countries.

Read Also: Ganduje Calls On FG To Ban Entry Of Herdsmen From Other African Countries

The appeal is coming days after the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, called on the Federal Government to put a stop to the movement of herdsmen from other African countries into Nigeria.

This, according to him would help to curb the rate of crime attached to the Fulani-herders conflicts across the country.

The governor, therefore, on Tuesday, thanked the lawmakers for lending their voice to the request, and described their actions as “apt and patriotic”.

May 27: We Will Stop At Nothing To Give Children Quality Education, Says Gbajabiamila

File photo of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the House will stop at nothing to ensure the provision of quality education to Nigerian children.

He also stated that all efforts would be made to reduce the number of Out-of-school children in the country.

The Speaker was quoted to have said this in a statement issued on Tuesday by his spokesman, Lanre Lasisi, ahead of the 2020 Children’s Day Celebration.

“Nigerian children must be given all the necessary care and attention, especially quality education, that they require to attain their goals in life,” the Speaker said.

He also noted that in support of the age-long maxim that children are the leaders of tomorrow, concerted efforts must be done by all well-meaning Nigerians to achieve a better tomorrow for Nigerian children.

While celebrating them, he said he would always champion the cause of the Nigerian child both in Parliament and outside, to ensure that their potentials are carefully harnessed through good education and training.

According to him, the country cannot set aside May 27 every year to celebrate her children without taking decisive action to better their lives.

Consequently, the Speaker said all policies, including legislative framework, must be put in place to give qualitative education to the Nigerian child and ultimately, reduce the number of out-of-school children.

[Read Also] Coronavirus: FG Orders Closure Of All Tertiary Institutions, Secondary And Primary Schools

The Speaker also called on governments at all levels to come up with programmes and policies that would promote the rights of children.

Meanwhile, he called on parents to be responsible and responsive in training and taking good care of their children so that the country would be better for it in future.

House Of Reps Resolves FCT Health Workers’ Salary Delays

 

The leadership of the House of Representatives has resolved the issues surrounding the delays in the payment of the salary of some health workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

This is according to a communique by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives.

He noted that consequently, some of the health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professionals would receive their salary on or before May 22, 2020, which will be Friday.

The issues were resolved at a meeting, on Wednesday, between the leadership of the House, led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minister of the FCT Mohammed Musa Bello, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and officials of JOHESU, led by their chairperson in the FCT, Comrade Deborah Yusuf, among others.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Zamfara Launches Sample Collection Booths

In his remarks at the meeting, Gbajabiamila expressed dismay that some health workers in the FCT, who have been at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, did not receive their salary and allowances since January.

The Speaker, who said he considered the meeting “extremely important because there is the potential that lives are at risk,” noted that the House would not fold its arms and watch the health workers embark on strike, as they threatened to, on May 28.

Gbajabiamila said from the information at his disposal, the issues had to do with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, saying equity and diligence must be adhered to in dealing with such issues.

He commended the health workers for their sacrifices and patience over the past few months and assured that the House would always prioritize their welfare.

Speaking, FCT Minister, Bello, while thanking the Speaker for his intervention, said the FCT Administration had always paid salaries as and when due, but that with the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), they have been experiencing some hiccups.

However, he noted that following the intervention of the House leadership through the Committee on Healthcare Services, all the issues were resolved with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

On his part, Minister of Health, Ehanire, thanked the Speaker for the good leadership he has been providing and for championing the cause of the Nigerian masses.

Giving an update on the issue, the Accountant General of the Federation, Idris, said all issues have been resolved and that the FCT health workers would get their salary on or before May 22.

Narrating how the problem came about, he said after the FCTA approached his office for enrollment into the IPPIS sometime in 2018, over 25,000 workers of the administration were enrolled in over 12 months.

However, he said it was later discovered that more than 500 of them, mainly health workers and teachers, were not captured and that the process of capturing them was delayed due to the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19.

“As we speak, we’ve done the payroll and payment will be made on or before the 22nd of this month. Today is 20th, I can assure that they will get their salary before the 22nd,” he said.

Earlier, the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Rep Tanko Yusuf Sununu, briefed the meeting about the actions taken by the House through his Committee, which included series of meetings with the relevant authorities since March.

The chairman of the JOHESU in FCT, Mrs Yusufu, thanked the Speaker for his intervention as well as the two ministers for their concern. She also thanked the Accountant General for the actions taken so far.

She said the Speaker has been a father to the FCT JOHESU and that he has now become an honorary member of their union, saying they were not against IPPIS, but that all they desire was for their salary and allowances to be paid on time.

Dino Melaye’s Suit Over Infectious Diseases Bill Suffers Setback

 

The hearing of a suit filed by a former Senator representing Kogi West at the National Assembly, Dino Melaye, over the Infectious Diseases Bill has suffered a setback.

This was after a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday rejected Melaye’s request to restrain the House of Representatives from continuing the consideration of the bill.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in her ruling, refused to grant the order because the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila who is the third defendant in the suit, had yet to be served with the court documents.

READ ALSO: House Of Reps Wants 300 Sacked WRPC Workers Reinstated

She adjourned the suit till June 1 for further hearing.

Dino, who instituted the suit on May 5, 2020, asked the court to declare that some sections of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, currently being debated on the floor of the House of Representatives are draconian, oppressive and authoritarian.

The former lawmaker also wants the court to rule that the Bill is in breach of his fundamental rights as provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

The respondents to the bill are the Clerk of the National Assembly; the Clerk of the House of Representatives; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu.

At the resumed hearing of the suit on Wednesday, lawyer to the House of Representatives, Kayode Ajulo informed the court that he is yet to be served with the processes as he insists that the service is key and fundamental to fair hearing.

Also, clerks of both the National Assembly and the House of Representatives and the AGF were absent from court and not represented by their lawyers.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Okoro Nkemakolam, said the respondents had failed to file any processes to show cause why such restraining order should not be issued by the court.

He urged the court to order parties to maintain the status quo to protect the subject matter and prevent a situation of foisting a “fait accompli” on the court.

The judge declined to grant the plaintiff’s request on the grounds that the May 13, 2020 summons for the defendants to appear in court on Tuesday to show cause why they should not be restrained concerning the bill, was predicated on the service of all the respondents with the required court documents.

She then ordered that the Speaker of the House of Reps be served through his lawyer, Ajulo and adjourned till June 1 for further hearing.

House Of Reps Wants 300 Sacked WRPC Workers Reinstated

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

 

The House of Representatives has called for the reinstatement of over 300 casual staff of the Warri Refining And Petro-Chemical Company (WRPC).

The leadership made this known at plenary on Tuesday, as part of its resolutions after a member, Hon. Thomas Eveyitomi moved a motion that the sack of the over 300 workers be looked into.

Eveyitomi noted that the workers were laid off in spite of the Federal Government’s directives that no government agency or private establishment should sack or lay off any of its staff at a time when the world is battling a pandemic.

According to him, all the affected persons are indigenes of the host communities where the Refinery is located, which is made up of Itsekiri and Urhobo communities.

Speaking further, Hon Eveyitomi noted that sometime in 2019, Hon. Ben Bakpa had presented a petition to the House on behalf of the host communities seeking, amongst other things, a de-casualisation of the employment status of indigenous workers with the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company.

Also according to him, without respect for the House committee on public petitions, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation went ahead to recruit 1,050 graduate trainees against the resolution and recommendations of the committee.

“This recruitment did not reflect the principles of fairness as enshrined in Section 28(2) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Act which provides inter alia that “the Board shall ensure that the operator or project promoter maintains a reasonable number of personnel from areas it has significant operation,” he said.

Hon. Eveyitomi added that the WRPC went ahead to lay off hundreds of its staff, despite the fact that the casualisation of the status of the workers and the non-concession to the host communities in the recent recruitment of graduate trainees is a matter that was still before the House committee on public petitions and going against the government’s directives.

He, therefore, noted that if the House does not step in immediately to arrest the situation, there may likely be a breakdown of law and order and interruption of the smooth operations of the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company and its subsidiaries.

Consequently, the House reached a resolution to direct the NNPC and management of the WRPC to reinstate the over 300 persons affected by their actions pending the investigation by the House committee on public petitions.

Secondly, it said it would mandate its Committee on Petroleum Down Stream to carry out a forensic investigation into the recent recruitment of graduate trainees by the NNPC with a view to determining how many persons were recruited from the various host communities.

Reps Ask FG To Set Up N15bn COVID-19 Emergency Fund For Tertiary Institutions

A section of some members of House of Reps at plenary on May 19, 2020.

 

The House of Representatives has called on the Federal government to set up a strategic N15billion Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions as part of its response to the impact of the pandemic on academic, research and administrative operations.

The House made the call as part of its resolutions at plenary on Tuesday and in response to a motion moved by Hon. Steve Azaiki over the suspension of academic activities at tertiary institutions as a result of the COVID-19.

According to Azaiki, the structure of Nigeria’s university and tertiary institutions may never remain the same especially in the absence of an effective therapy or vaccine for the COVID-19 as well as mass testing and even a new strategic infusion of federal funding.

The rep member further explained that while school enrollment translates to revenue, this revenue may be cut short considering the short-term economic and social shocks of the ‘stay-at-home’ orders coupled with difficulties of containing the virus.

Azaiki further stated that there are estimates that universities and tertiary institutions will experience at least a 15% reduction in enrollment, as many students will likely decline and postpone their enrollment in the new session.

He also noted that many parents and guardians who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may be unable to afford tuition for their wards to continue going to school and therefore, pursuing higher education may become a thing of luxury.

Among other things, Rep Azaiki raised concerns about the need to ensure the provision of appropriate student support scheme (COVID–19 Student Emergency Grant) for those affected by the impact of the pandemic physically, economically and mentally, especially the vulnerable students’ groups e.g. persons living with disabilities, students with trauma or mental health issues, refugees or displaced persons within the tertiary education system.

He made reference to the United States, saying that the government recently provided the sum of $14.3Billion for higher education, with $12.4Billion split between emergency grants to student and money to colleges for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of campus operations, as $1Billion would be targeted at historically black colleges and universities, while $300 million will be given to colleges most affected by coronavirus.

Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, Hon. Muktar Betara Aliyu, Hon. Fred Obua, Hon. Francis Ottah Agbo, Hon. Makwe Livinus, Hon. Umana Aniekan, Hon. Olaide Adewale Akinremi, Hon. Kabiru I.Tukura, and Hon. Mahmud Abdullahi Gaya all sponsored the motion.

Consequently, the House reached a resolution, urging the Federal Government to set up a strategic N15Billion Naira Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions.

It also urged Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions to launch a Coronavirus Student Emergency Fund, where indigent and vulnerable students can apply for student emergency grant to assist them recover from the economic impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the House urged the Government to immediately establish an Infectious Diseases Research Institute in six selected government universities across the six geo-political zones of the country, which will be given specific research funding by the FG.

They also called on the Federal Government to empower some special universities to build the capacity to do the required testing so as to meet up with the national demand on testing due to rising number of coronavirus cases.

As the world continues to seek solutions to the COVID-19, the reps urged the Federal Government to constitute a team that will comprise of representatives of the government, academia and relevant stakeholders to undertake a study tour to Madagascar and Senegal to explore the reported progress in indigenous research into a possible cure for the virus and bring back relevant knowledge to the country.