Electoral Bill: It’s Incorrect To Say NASS Did Shoddy Job – Senate Spokesman

 

The Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, has faulted claims that the National Assembly did a poor job with the Electoral Act Amendment Bill

He made the comment during a town hall meeting organised by a civil society body, Yiaga Africa, on Sunday.

President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the bill citing the direct primaries clause which he said goes against the “spirit of democracy” while some civil society organisations had also faulted the bill.

But the Senate spokesman said claims of errors in the bill are incorrect.

“It is very important to set this in context. I find some of the issues discussed here interesting — they are taking issues of legislation to be pedestrian work,” he said during the programme aired on Channels Television.

“I want to also say that it is not correct that the National Assembly has done shoddy work on the electoral bill and I take that with seriousness to say that out of 185 sections of the bill, we have a problem with one section.

“Taking the issue of cross-referencing to the level of the National Assembly doing a shoddy job, we don’t have any business being there if the bill is not worthy of consideration.”

A file photo of Senator Ajibola Bashiru. Credit: Facebook/Ajibola Bashiru

 

READ ALSO: APC Scuttled Electoral Act Amendment For Fear Of 2023, PDP Claims

Before now, several reactions have trailed President Buhari’s move. Governors and other lawmakers have also voiced their concerns about the development.

For the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the President’s decline of assent is a setback to the country’s democracy.

“It is apparent that the APC and the Buhari Presidency were never committed to the amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure credible elections and as such, triggered the controversy of the mode of primaries by political parties as a camouflage to scuttle the entire amendment bill, including provisions for electronic transmission of results among others,” the party said late December.

NASS Workers Protest, Demand Minimum Wage Implementation

 

Members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) have held a protest at the National Assembly complex over unpaid allowances.

The workers occupied the NASS complex on Monday morning chanting songs of solidarity and displaying various placards.

Among other demands, the workers want the full implementation of the national minimum wage signed into law in 2019 as well as the revised condition of service.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Countries To Shut Borders, Withdraw Ambassadors From Mali

The workers accused the National Assembly management of breach of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered with the union on the 13th of April, 2021 on the full implementation of the new national minimum wage Act 2019 and the revised condition of service.

Addressing the workers, the Chairman of PASAN, Sabiyi Sunday said executives of the association would be attending an emergency meeting called by the National Assembly Service Commission to address issues raised by the workers.

2022 Budget Won’t Fail Because APC Leads National Assembly – Buhari

A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
A photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he is certain the 2022 budget will accomplish the purpose for which it was created.

Speaking exclusively to Channels Television on Wednesday, the president said he is confident that the budget will succeed because the National Assembly is led by trusted members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

When asked if he is afraid that the budget might not be able to achieve its purpose, the president replied, “No! Not at all”.

READ ALSO: I Will Sign Electoral Bill If NASS Includes Consensus Candidates, Indirect Primaries – Buhari

He said, “My confidence that we can successfully implement the budget is because, in both houses, the party is leading.

“It’s APC party and the leadership; look at the Senate President, he was in the House of Reps for two or three terms before he went to the Senate.

“Look at Femi Gbajabiamila, I was watching on the television, when he was an ordinary member, he was always on his seat fighting for the party and the system we believe in.

“Really, I consider myself lucky. My party and their competent leadership are both leading in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“That’s why you don’t hear much about me, I allow them to do all the things because I can’t go against my party and I can’t go against people I have absolute confidence in. I know they are doing their best,” President Buhari added.

He further asserted that the objections earlier raised before he assented to the budget will not cause a rift between the Executive and Legislative arms of government.

“The legislature is amazing,” the president said.

Following President Buhari’s assent to the 2022 budget, there were reports of friction between the presidency and the parliament.

The president had expressed strong reservations on the “worrisome changes” made by the National Assembly to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal.

He frowned at many changes that the National Assembly made to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal, including “Increase in projected FGN Independent Revenue by N400 billion, the justification for which is yet to be provided to the Executive; Reduction in the provision for Sinking Fund to Retire Maturing Bonds by N22 billion without any explanation; Reduction of the provisions for the Non-Regular Allowances of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively”.

With all the irregularities encountered, the president still signed the budget, and the presidency has since said that though disagreements were encountered with the insertions, the president and the parliament have not fallen out.

We Must Salvage Nigeria From Bad Governance – Wike

A file photo of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

 

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has said that Nigerians must salvage the nation from bad governance.

Wike stated this when he paid a New Year’s visit to his Enugu State counterpart, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his hometown, Orba in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State.

“You must join the rest of Nigerians. Nigeria is dying. Will you be here to see Nigeria die? Is it the kind of Nigeria that people like Nnamdi Azikiwe fought for?

“A Nigeria that when you wake up, what you will hear is 20 people have died, 42 people have been kidnapped, 100 people have been abducted. Everyday death, death,” Wike questioned rhetorically.

[READ ALSO] Magodo Land Dispute: Sanwo-Olu Visits Estate, Invites All Parties For Talks

While arguing that the APC-led Federal Government has failed Nigeria, Governor Wike urged the people of Enugu to speak out against the “poor governance” the country is experiencing.

Wike further advised them to join forces with other well-meaning Nigerians to save the nation from misrule.

To further buttress his point, the governor said it was hypocritical of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the “heavily padded” and “unimplementable” 2022 budget passed by the National Assembly, but declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

According to him, the speed at which the president signed the 2022 budget, was curious and smacks of insensitivity to the plight of the masses.

“Look at Mr President the other day while he was signing the budget, he said the budget is unimplementable.

“But he went on and signed what is unimplementable. A budget that will determine the state of the economy, the progress of this nation, and the President knew this thing can’t work and he signed it.

“Then the Electoral Act, he said he will not sign it because direct primaries are too expensive.

“What concerns me with party primaries? What concerns the poor people with party primaries? The one that concerns poor man, businessman, how to grow the economy, you signed it, knowing too well that it will not work,” Wike stressed.

In addressing his host, Wike described Governor Ugwuanyi as one of the shining lights of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and admonished him to continue to remain steadfast and supportive of the party’s cause.

The governor, who was conferred with an honorary traditional chieftaincy title of Agunechemba by the Chairman, Enugu State Council of Tradition Rulers, Ambassador Lawrence Agubuzo, also urged the people of Enugu State to continue to stand by their governor and aid him to deliver democratic dividends to everyone within the state.

Governor Ugwuanyi in his remarks said Governor Wike has distinguished himself as a bold and courageous leader, adding that the Rivers State Governor’s leadership is one to be proud of.

IPAC Asks NASS, FG To Dialogue Over Electoral Act Amendment Bill

IPAC Chairman, Yabagi Sani , speaks during a press conference in Abuja on January 3, 2022.

 

The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has reacted to the impasse between the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari, over the president’s refusal to assent on the electoral act amendment bill, describing the move by some lawmakers to veto the president as an exercise in futility.

Although the bill was transmitted to the president on November 19, 2021, Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on December 21 over the direct primaries clause.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday in Abuja, IPAC Chairman, Yabagi Sani appealed to members of the National Assembly to dialogue with the executive arm of government and address those areas of disagreement.

The council also maintained its position against the proposal for direct primaries for political parties, while applauding electronic transmission of results as contained in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

READ ALSO: One Killed As Police Repel Attack On Imo Traditional Ruler’s Palace

“Against the backdrop of Mr President’s decisive aversion to this particular provision of the electoral bill, the use of the veto by the legislature may merely result in a fruitless exercise if at the end of the day, its implementation is not supported by the required funding by the Executive,” he said.

“In summary, if we must call a spade by its name, we in the IPAC are inclined to the opinions that regard the National Assembly’s position on indirect primaries as amounting to an attempt to use up the constitutional rights of parties as to the method of choice of flagbearers.

“The way out of the logjam in our view is for the shifting of grounds by the legislature and executive arms of governments for a compromise and amicable resolution resulting in a win-win scenario. This should not be a given task given that the two arms are incidentally controlled by the same political party, the APC.”

2022 Budget: Buhari Will Not Hamper Implementation Despite Changes – Garba Shehu

A combination of photos of President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly complex in Abuja.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will not hamper the implementation of the 2022 budget despite the numerous changes made by the National Assembly.

This is according to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu, on Sunday.

President Buhari had on Friday morning signed the budget into law and expressed strong reservations on what he described as worrisome changes made by the National Assembly to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal.

Two days after, the presidential spokesman dismissed reports of a crisis between his principal and the federal lawmakers.

READ ALSO: Buhari Signs 2022 Budget, Decries Changes Made By NASS

He noted that while it is true that the “President expressed disagreement with these and many of the other alterations, including the “reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’,” innumerable lies are being spread about the President being “angry” at, had “blasted” or “lashed out” at the Parliament. This cannot be farther from the truth.”

“Mr. President was clear and candid in expressing his reservations with the numerous changes to the 2022 Budget made by the National Assembly, which would hamper its implementation,” the statement read.

See the full statement issued by Garba Shehu below:

PRESIDENCY: NO CRISIS OVER BUDGET BETWEEN EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATURE, THERE WILL BE NONE

-REPORTS OF BUHARI ANGER WITH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FICTIONAL.

The Presidency wishes to clear the air regarding the widely viewed/reported episode on Friday, December 31st at the State House during the signing of the 2022 Budget and Finance Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari; specifically on the insertion in the 2022 Appropriation Act, of 6,576 new schemes worth about N37 billion by the National Assembly.

While it is true that the President expressed disagreement with these and many of the other alterations, including the “reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’,” innumerable lies are being spread about the President being “angry” at, had “blasted” or “lashed out” at the Parliament. This cannot be farther from the truth.

As the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan said shortly after the budget-signing ceremony, disagreements as the ones listed by the President are normal in the everyday Executive-Parliamentary relationship because, as he explained, “executive and legislative judgements don’t always have to be the same.”

While we note that there are people who are trying to create a fiasco between the two arms of government on account of the budget, we assure that they will, in the end, be disappointed. The Executive and the 9th National Assembly have since moved away from the wild, destructive political games of the past, conducting themselves in a way that puts national interest supreme in their decisions. We doubt if there is a patriotic citizen who wants to see the return of the operating environment engendered by the 8th Senate when an elected government was held in chains, held hostage to the desperate political ambitions of a clique, and the public denied needed services including that which impinged on national security. Happily, the 9th National Assembly is more about policy than politics.

Under the constitution, both arms of government are coequal and at the same time, independent and interdependent. The rule of the game is cooperation and the President, as a democrat fully accepts this.

Rationale for Assenting to the 2022 Appropriation Act:

Mr. President was clear and candid in expressing his reservations with the numerous changes to the 2022 Budget made by the National Assembly, which would hamper its implementation. However, to respond to critics that question why assent to the Budget if it was so severely tampered with, we wish to respond as follows:

(1) Need to Save Value-Additive Projects, Programs & Policies:

Although over 10,733 projects were reduced and 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly, there are tens of thousands more provisions in the 2022 Budget, all of which, when efficiently and effectively implemented, will have significant developmental impact on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians.

Given Mr. President’s commitment to improving the lot of the Common Man, it was felt that it would not be wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater. Ongoing Capital Projects, Critical Recurrent Votes, Priority New Projects – all feature in the 2022 Budget and Mr. President’s forbearance in assenting to the Budget will save these provisions from implementation delays and other challenges.

(2) Dealing with Modern Democratic Norms:

President Buhari is a democrat who deeply believes in the supremacy of the Constitution, with its checks and balances across the three arms of Government. In terms of the passage of legislations like the Appropriation Act and other Money Bills, the National Assembly has equal responsibilities with the Executive. Indeed, if Mr. President had declined assent to the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly has powers to override the President’s veto if they can drum up a 2/3 majority vote. This is the constitution. Happily, this situation has not arisen during the tenure of Mr. President’s Administration, and the Executive’s relationship with the Leadership of the 9th National Assembly is much improved over what happened with the 8th National Assembly. It is on account of his confidence in the strength of this excellent working relationship that Mr. President has directed that an Amendment Budget Proposal should be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly, once they return from their recess. It is hoped that the National Assembly will carefully consider and approve the 2022 Amendment Budget Proposals, once presented to them in due course, for the benefit of all Nigerians.

It is important therefore that, in place of “anger” or confrontation, President Buhari showed the democracy-loving side of his personality as he signed the budget at the same time calling for dialogue with the parliament to resolve the contentious issues.

The Presidency under Muhammadu Buhari and the parliament under Lawal and Gbajabiamila are committed to a good neighborly relationship and this or any other disagreement between the two arms of government will not alter the dynamics of that relationship.

Garba Shehu

Senior Special Assistant to the President

(Media & Publicity)

January 2, 2022

2022 Budget: Why Buhari Is Unhappy With Changes By NASS

This picture taken on December 31, 2021, shows President Muhammadu Buhari holding the 2022 Budget at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday expressed strong reservations on the “worrisome changes” made by the National Assembly to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal.

The President stated this on Friday in Abuja when he signed into law the 2022 Appropriation Bill and the 2021 Finance Bill in the presence of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and some members of the Federal Executive Council.

He recounted that during the presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, he had said the fiscal year 2022 would be very crucial in his administration’s efforts to complete and put to use critical agenda projects, as well as improve the general living conditions of the people.

“It is in this regard that I must express my reservations about many of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal,” President Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Remarks After Signing 2022 Budget Into Law [Full Text]

“Some of the worrisome changes are as follows: Increase in projected FGN Independent Revenue by N400 billion, the justification for which is yet to be provided to the Executive; Reduction in the provision for Sinking Fund to Retire Maturing Bonds by N22 billion without any explanation; Reduction of the provisions for the Non-Regular Allowances of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively.

“This is particularly worrisome because personnel cost provisions are based on agencies’ nominal roll and approved salaries/allowances. Furthermore, an increase of N21.72 billion in the overhead budgets of some MDAs, while the sum of N1.96 billion was cut from the provision for some MDAs without apparent justification; increase in the provision for capital spending (excluding capital share in Statutory Transfer) by a net amount of N575.63 billion, from N4.89 trillion to N5.47 trillion.”

The President was also concerned about the reductions in provisions for some critical projects, including N12.6 billion in the Ministry of Transport’s budget for the ongoing rail modernisation projects; N25.8 billion from Power Sector Reform Programme under the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; N14.5 billion from several projects of the Ministry of Agriculture, and introducing over 1,500 new projects into the budgets of the ministry and its agencies.

He also expressed his reservations on the inclusion of new provisions totalling N36.59 billion for National Assembly’s projects in the Service Wide Vote which negates the principles of separation of powers and financial autonomy of the Legislative arm of government; the changes to the original Executive proposal are in the form of new insertions, outright removals, reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects; the reduction of provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects and introduction of 6,576 new projects into the budget by the National Assembly, as well as reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘empowerment’ projects.

President Muhammadu Buhari signs the 2022 Budget at the State House in Abuja on December 31, 2021.

 

“The cuts in the provisions for several of these projects by the National Assembly may render the projects unimplementable or set back their completion, especially some of this administration’s strategic capital projects,” President Buhari decried. “Most of the projects inserted relate to matters that are basically the responsibilities of state and local governments, and do not appear to have been properly conceptualised, designed and costed.

‘‘Many more projects have been added to the budgets of some MDAs with no consideration for the institutional capacity to execute the additional projects and/or for the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.”

He declared that it was surprising that despite the National Assembly increasing projected revenue by N609.27 billion, the additional Executive request of N186.53 billion for critical expenditure items could not be accommodated without increasing the deficit, while the sum of N550.59 billion from the projected incremental revenues was allocated at the discretion of National Assembly.

“I signed the 2022 Appropriation Bill into law to enable its implementation to commence on 1st January 2022,” said the President. “However, I will revert to the National Assembly with a request for amendment and/or virement as soon as the Assembly resumes to ensure that critical ongoing projects that are cardinal to this administration, and those nearing completion, do not suffer a setback due to reduced funding.”

President Buhari, however, commended the understanding and speedy action of the National Assembly on the matter.

‘Doing Nothing Not An Option, Act Fast,’ Saraki Charges NASS On Electoral Bill

CCT, Bukola Saraki, Danladi Umar,
A file photo of former Senate President Bukola Saraki.

 

The immediate past President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has challenged the National Assembly to be quick in its next line of action fowling President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

In a statement on Wednesday, he proposed two critical decisions the lawmakers should make to ensure the bill becomes a law by January.

“Now that Mr President has conveyed his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act [amendment] Bill, I am sure that I speak on behalf of millions of Nigerians in urging the National Assembly to act fast,” said the former Senate President. “This is because we cannot sit back and allow one contentious clause to throw away all the positives in the proposed Electoral Act [amendment] Bill.

“At this point, two options are open to the National Assembly. They either veto the president’s decline of assent or remove the contentious provision on direct primaries and send it back to the President for his assent.

Whichever option, our legislators choose, can be accomplished in the shortest possible time. We could have a new electoral law in January 2022.”

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Letter Declining Assent To Electoral Act Amendment Bill Read At NASS

It was either commendation or criticism for various political players on Tuesday after it was revealed that the President had opted to withhold his assent to the bill.

In the letters read to lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, President Buhari raised concern over the mandatory direct mode of primaries for political parties.

While some governors and groups gave contrary reactions to the President’s decision, the lawmakers in both chambers said they would take definite action after their recess.

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

 

‘Not An Option’

Saraki, in his reaction, believes the present mood in the country is the desire to have a new electoral law that will lead to a credible, free, fair, and peaceful process of electing leaders at various levels.

He stressed that Nigerians needed a system that would ensure their votes truly count in the election of those who govern them.

“This proposed electoral law is expected to reassure the youths, many of whom steer clear of the political process because they have no confidence in the system. They believe the system is usually rigged and compromised,” the former Senate President said.

“One way to bring this active demography into the political system is to enact a new law that will give them hope in our nation. This Electoral Act [Amendment] Bill serves that purpose.

“This is why, as the representatives of the Nigerian people, the National Assembly must take a decision in the interest of our nation and its long-term democracy. The option of not doing anything after the refusal of the assent by the President is not an option.”

Electoral Bill: NASS Must Redeem The Situation To Strengthen Our Democracy – CDD

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

 

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) is of the opinion that the National Assembly (NASS) must step up and rectify the quagmire turning the passage of the electoral amendment act into a nightmare.

In a statement by its Director, Idayat Hassan, the CDD urged the National Assembly to act with immediacy to save Nigeria’s elections and her democracy.

With the next general election being just fourteen months away, the CDD called on the National Assembly to immediately toe two urgent options which are either to veto the President and pass the Electoral Act 2021 bill into an act of the National Assembly or immediately remove the provisions on direct primaries as raised by the President and immediately re-present the bill to the President for his assent.

Read Also: [Electoral Bill 2021] Buhari Missed A Golden Opportunity – CDD

“We must not allow a single provision truncate the goodness in the proposed electoral bill,” the agency stressed.

According to the CDD, “Nigeria is in dire need of a new and robust framework for the conduct of elections. The reform in the Electoral Bill 2021 will improve the quality of elections thereby imbuing citizens trust in our democracy.

“The National Assembly as the true representative of the people must not allow the huge human and financial resources that went into the Electoral Bill 2021 – from drafting to readings at the floor, the public hearing, the committee works, the retreat, the conference committee et al to go to waste”.

Speaking further on the development, the CDD said President Muhamadu Buhari missed a priceless opportunity when he decided to decline assent to the Electoral Bill 2021.

CDD expressed shock at Buhari’s decision, saying that Nigerians had all expected that he would write his name in gold as the president who bequeathed an improved electoral framework on the country.

Buhari Asks NASS To Address Issues That Will Strengthen Nigeria’s Democracy

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the National Assembly to address issues that will strengthen the nation’s democracy.

Speaking at the maiden parliamentarian lectures 2021 organised by NASS in collaboration with the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), he said the executive arm of government would continue to partner with the National Assembly.

According to the President, this is for the smooth governance and execution of bills for the overall benefits of Nigerians.

President Buhari was represented at the occasion by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.

READ ALSO: 2023: Zoning Presidency To South-East Will Stop IPOB Agitation – Weekly Quotes

While noting that Nigerians have called for the review of the 1999 Constitution, the President said he is aware that National Assembly is engaging stakeholders in the process of the constitutional amendment.

“I equally charge you to ensure that this lecture series is sustained and targeted at addressing key national and constitutional issues in a manner that will strengthen our democracy, eliminate grey areas and enthrone best practices,” President Buhari said.

“The Executive arm of government shall continue to build on the existing good working relationship with the legislature to ensure that the interest of each and every Nigerian is advanced and public good delivered.

“I, therefore, charge the National Assembly and the Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies to ensure that the outcome is well documented and circulated.”

He commended the 9th Assembly leadership for the maiden parliamentarian lecture, stating that it offers a veritable platform to enunciate outcomes of research, comparative analysis, best practices, tactical reasoning and policy implementations in the government’s quest to deliver good governance to Nigerians.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Buhari said the disease has tested the fabric of more established democracies around the world, with Nigeria equally affected.

He added, “There is no doubt that our system was equally affected, especially when the sub-national entities were allowed to determine whether or not to join others in enforcing control measures against the spread of the virus.

“It is on this important note that I wish to commend the leadership and members of the ninth National Assembly for their immense contributions to the promotion of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.

“It remains a statement of fact that the legislature is the embodiment of the doctrine of popular sovereignty which recognises that the people are the source of all political power.”

SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Probe ‘Missing N10bn NASS Funds In 2019’

File photo of Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila addressing journalists in Abuja. PHOTO: Sunday Agaeze

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to investigate the N10 billion funds budgeted to the National Assembly said to be missing.

In a statement issued on Sunday, SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare asked the leadership of the National Assembly to “promptly probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies fresh allegations that N10bn of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated or diverted.”

“The grim allegations that N10,051,283,568.82 of public money is missing are documented in the 2019 audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

READ ALSO: Imo Traditional Ruler Regains Freedom After Two Nights In Abductors’ Custody

SERAP’s statement followed a letter dated 11 December 2021 wherein the group wants the ninth Assembly to address the allegations that improve public confidence and trust in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities and to adhere to the highest standards of integrity in the management of public funds.

According to the group, little can be achieved by the National Assembly in the fight against corruption if the leadership and members do not first confront the specter of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks.

This is even as the organisation asked Lawan and Gbajabiamila to identify the lawmakers and staff members suspected to be involved and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to face prosecution, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to ensure full recovery of any missing public funds.

SERAP added, “As part of its legislative and oversight functions, the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country. But the National Assembly can only effectively perform its anti-corruption role if it can demonstrate exemplary leadership to probe the allegations of corruption and mismanagement involving the legislative body.

“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2019, the House of Representatives paid N2,550,000,000.00 to members as running costs between July and December 2019, but failed to account for the money, contrary to paragraph 1011(i) of the Financial Regulations. There was no evidence to show what the funds were used for, and no documents to back up the spending.

“The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been ‘diverted.’ He wants the money recovered.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N258,000,000 as cash advances to 59 officers between February and December 2019 but has failed to account for the money. The officers were paid the money despite the fact that they have not accounted for the previous cash advances.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N107,912,962.45 as repairs and maintenance allowance for unspecified residential quarters but failed to account for the money. The money spent was also in excess of the cash advances threshold of N200,000.00 as stipulated by the Financial Regulations.

“These fresh allegations amount to fundamental breaches of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

“SERAP is concerned that allegations of corruption continue to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in economic, social, and political institutions. Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly, therefore, has a responsibility to curb it.

“Ensuring the effective investigation of these fresh allegations, and full recovery of any missing public funds would strengthen the country’s accountability framework, and show that the National Assembly can discharge its constitutional responsibility of amplifying the voices of Nigerians, and act in the best interest of the people.

“We would be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly collected N1,594,807,097.83 as PAYE, car and housing loans from 17 members between February and December 2019 but failed to show receipt of remittance to relevant revenue authorities. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N1,010,598,610.97I from salary account but without any document to show for the payment, contrary to paragraph 601 of the Financial Regulations. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The Senate reportedly collected N219,645,597.08 as housing loans from 107 senators’ salary arrears between July and December 2019 but failed to remit the money.

“The Senate also reportedly recovered N123,320,916.72 being car loans to senators between July and December 2019, but there was no evidence that the money was remitted to the treasury. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted.

“The Senate reportedly collected N176,267,255.31 as PAYE from staff salaries but there was no evidence that the money was remitted to the relevant tax authorities, contrary to paragraph 235 of the Financial Regulations. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted.

“The Senate also reportedly collected N277,411,116.29 as Value Added Tax (VAT), and Withholding Tax (WHT) but failed to remit the money to the relevant tax authorities. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted.

“The Senate reportedly paid N1,718,130,630.24 for the supply of vehicle and other office equipment between February and December 2019 but failed to account for the money, contrary to paragraph 110 of the Financial Regulations. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been diverted.

“The Senate also reportedly paid N657,757,969.05 for the supply of motor vehicles, motorcycles and other office equipment between July and December 2019, but failed to show any document for the payment, contrary to paragraph 1705 of the Financial Regulations. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The Senate also reportedly paid N423,370,000.00 for the supply of utility vehicles and production of National Assembly Logo between August and November 2019 but without any documents. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The National Assembly Service Commission reportedly paid N31,927,760 as cash advances to 59 staff but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The National Assembly Service Commission also reportedly collected N276,749,014.68 as stamp duty from contractors and service providers but failed to remit the money to appropriate tax authorities.

“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2018, the Nigerian Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies deducted N577,634,638,20 as taxes but failed to remit the money to the relevant tax authorities. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted.”

“The Nigerian Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies also reportedly spent N47,750,000.00 to buy a residential building without due process, and contrary to Section 27 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Financial Regulation 301.

“SERAP notes that the Auditor-General in 2015, 2017 and 2018 reports documented that over N8bn of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated or diverted.”

Plenary Resumes At NASS After Three-Week Recess

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

 

Plenary has resumed at the Senate and House of Representatives after a three-week recess.

At the House of Representatives, the lawmakers began the day by wading into the matter of the missing journalist, Tordue Salem.

The minority leader Ndudi Elumelu, who raised the matter as a motion of urgent public importance informed the House that Mr Salem has been missing for almost a month.

Consequently, the committees on National Security and Intelligence Police and Interior, have been given two weeks to liaise with the service chiefs and security agencies to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance and report back to the House.

The House of Representatives is concerned about what it describes as the Fast deterioration of the FCT.

Another lawmaker, the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, raised concerns about what was described as the fast deterioration of the FCT, describing the situation as the most unsafe that the FCT has ever been.

Read Also: Senate Passes Electoral Act Amendment Bill, Approves Electronic Transmission Of Results

The lawmaker also drew the attention of his colleagues to what he termed the decaying infrastructure and poor waste management in the nation’s capital.

The House then resolved to summon the FCT minister on the matter, as the deputy minority leader insisted that the minister is not doing the job for which he was hired.

At the floor of the Senate the first matter that was discussed was the siege on the residence of Justice Mary Odili.

The Upper Chamber condemned the situation saying it was an invasion.

They, therefore, mandated the Inspector General of Police to make public the outcome of investigations into the incident.

Thereafter, the issue of electronic transmission of results was again brought to the fore.

The Electoral Act Amendment Bill was passed and electronic transmission of results, approved.