Iweala Is Qualified To Present 2014 Budget To NASS – Expert

A Budget Expert, Tunji Ogunyemi, on Thursday said there should be no cause for alarm if the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to present the 2014 budget to the National Assembly as the law does not stipulate that the President should carry out the task in person.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ogunyemi explained that the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, does not need to present the budget  because section 80 to section 84 of the CFRN (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) provides that “the president shall cause (the budget) to be prepared and laid.”

Hence, he need not personally lay them; “he can delegate the duty to the Minister of Finance,” Ogunyemi said, adding that “our Minister of Finance can perfectly lay the budget before the National Assembly. No law prevents her.”

Mr Ogunyemi also addressed issues which have besieged the presentation and approval of the 2014 budget. Such delays he said lead to “a frustrated capital budget” and “investors get very (very) wrong impression that the managers of the economy are not serious,” he added.

Also, “investors tend to believe that the government cannot be trusted on its fiscal plans.”

He disclosed that the Medium Time Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which the budget must be predicated has not been agreed upon by both the Senate and House of Representatives.

“It is yet to be agreed upon by the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he said and added that although the Senate has passed its version of the Framework, it is important for both Houses to pass and agree on the expenditure limit, revenue setting as well as the oil benchmark.

The MTEF is passed every three years and another version needs to be passed for the next three years.

The MTEF also provides that there must be a fiscal strategy paper detailing how much Nigeria expects to earn in the next three years and how much she expects to spend, so that the National Assembly can be guided on the revenue profile of the country and set an expenditure limit to tally with the revenue profile.

 

 

 

Rivers Assembly: Police Received Letters From Two ‘Speakers’

A member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Kelechi Nwogu, on Saturday told Channels Television via a telephone interview that Police had received two letters from two different Speakers, notifying them of their intention to resume session.

Speaking on Sunrise, Mr Nwogu who had initially denied the existence of factions among lawmakers, said that Evans Bipi, who he (Nwogu) referred to as ‘Speaker’ “had issued a statement that the house was supposed to reconvene on Friday and sent a letter to the Police” but the Police informed Mr Bipi that they received a letter from another party also claiming to be Speaker.”

According to him, this caused the Police to barricade the House of Assembly as a means to avoid the repetition of violent acts which led to the National Assembly take-over in the first instance.

Nwogu also said the “National Assembly took the Rivers State job in a hurry” and added that the authenticity of the recognised Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree, must be ascertained before progress can be made.

In July, mayhem broke following an attempt by 5 members of the House, led by Hon. Evans Bipi to impeach the Speaker, Amachree.

5 months later, Justice Ahmed Ramat of a Federal High Court in Abuja declared the National Assembly take-over of the Rivers State Assembly as ‘unconstitutional, null and void’ based on NASS’ failure to produce evidence that the State Assembly could not transact legislative business.

On Thursday, and barely 24 hours after the court ruling, the lawmakers gathered for session in front of the State Assembly but were dispersed by the Police.

Speaking on Sunrise, Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said that the crisis which has engulfed the state is as a result of the competition between two political opponents which the judiciary and the (presiding) judge pretended to be “completely oblivious” of.

“The only thing that judge (and the judiciary) has done with the decision on that Wednesday is to bring about the total collapse of Nigeria” because “what you had in Rivers State prior to the intervention of the National Assembly was a dangerous trend.”

The President, Leadership Watch, Martins Nwayawu, agreed with Mr Suraj’s assessment of the situation and added that the ruling of the judge showed that “he is living in a different planet.”

He continued by saying “no judge in his right senses would sit somewhere and give a judgment that the members of Rivers State House of Assembly can go back to resume their legislative functions.”

Security expert, Oladeinde Ariyo, faulted actions of men of the Police in barricading the State Assembly Complex on basis that it did not receive instructions to permit the lawmakers to enter.

In light of the unresolved issues amongst the lawmakers, a peace meeting should have been called to help reconcile their difference in order to avoid violence.

Aviation Scandal: More Revelations As Senate, House of Reps Investigate

The Senate Committee on Aviation has revealed that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, purchased 202 vehicles.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who had a meeting with the Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr George Uriesi, said that the committee is investigating the purchases, which include 4 armoured cars.

He said the FAAN management confirmed to the committee that the vehicles were for operational use.

Meanwhile, as the House of Representatives continues to probe the controversial procurement of 2 armoured cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) the Nigerian Customs Service has stated that no duty was paid on the vehicles, as a duty waiver was obtained for the importation.

In his presentation to the House of Reps Committee on Aviation, Deputy Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, Manasseh Jatau, said the 1 year waiver was from the Ministry of Finance for the 2012 Eko Games, which had Lagos State Government as beneficiary.

The President of Coscharis Motors, Cosmos Maduka, also led a team to the hearing. They spoke on the procedure followed on the purchase of the cars and other issues raised by the committee and explained that every requirement by law was duly followed.

The committee has however given the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, who was absent at the hearing, an ultimatum to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday.

 

NCAA Scandal: Anti-graft Crusader Calls For Resignation Of Top Officers

Following the public outcry against the controversial purchase of two armoured BMW’s at an allegedly inflated cost of N255 million by the aviation authority, an anti-corruption crusader and member of the Movement Against Corruption, Mma Odi, has called for the resignation of the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, the Director General of the NCAA, Dele Sasegbon, as well as the Director of Finance, Salau Ozigi.

Mrs Odi, who said the scandal surrounding the agency and the minister is indefensible, added that the fact that the National Assembly did not approve the purchase resulting in the breach of the procurement process is evidence that “there is something more than what we are seeing.”

While speaking on Sunrise Daily, she explained that the backlash is as a result of the corrupt practices involved in the purchase.

Responding to Ozigi’s statement that he didn’t see the need for the controversy as the agency wouldn’t be the first to purchase such cars, Odi said the ministry ran foul of the Appropriation Act of 2013 which only approved 25 utility vehicles.

“You jacked it up to 54 vehicles and you didn’t see anything wrong with that. They approved the amount of N240 million, and you jacked it up to N643 million, and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

She added: “You are going to pay N500 million interest for 3 years which means you would shut down everything to pay for two bulletproof cars.”

Analysts have said that the two BMW cars purchased at N255 million are available at the price of N60 million in the open market. “It is a clear case of corruption,” she said.

Reacting to the argument that other government officers and agencies also purchase security vehicles, Mrs Odi said the backlash resulting from the NCAA case is as a result of ‘corruption’ and ‘abuse of processes and the law.’

She also faulted the claim that the purchase of the two high priced security vehicles became necessary following threats made to the minister and NCAA officials as a result of their ‘good work’.

“If such a claim had any truth to it, they would have actually defended it before the National Assembly when the initial approval was granted for utility vehicles and Nigerians, especially you people (media) would have known that there is a threat to the minister and other stakeholders because of the good work they are doing, then people would have defended it,” the anti-corruption crusader insisted.

The agency has also not given satisfactory defense and called for the resignation of the top officials involved in the scandal.

“I actually think that all these people, both DG, both the Director of Finance, all of them should resign for sanity.”

Although corruption permeates other ministries in the country, Odi said President Jonathan should show his commitment to the anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria beginning with the NCAA case.

 Apologise To Nigerians

Odi has called on the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, to come clean with the truth and apologise to Nigerians. She also supported the call for the Minister’s resignation.

Several groups have protested against the call for the minister’s resignation on the grounds that she is doing a good job and insisted that the scandal was an attempt by her detractors to remove her from office. Others argued that the backlash is as a result of the Minister’s Igbo ethnicity.

Odi responded that “it is only in Nigeria we celebrate people who do what they are paid to do because in our society, people do not do what they are paid to do.”

If she is doing well, I am proud, as it will open doors for other women to be in power.

She alleged that those protesting in favour of Oduah are hired, describing them as ‘cash and carry’.

“Stella should actually tender an unreserved apology even if she didn’t know about the procurement process,” it happened under her watch.

Lawyers Have Confused Nigerians On National Conference – Adegbulu

An Associate Professor of Diplomatic History at the Redeemer’s University, Femi Adegbulu, on Friday stated that lawyers, who have contributed to the debate on the need for a National Dialogue, have confused the general populace by what he termed ‘intellectual dishonesty’.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, Adegbulu gave his perspective on the on-going debate revolving around the proposed National Conference. Lawyers, according to him, “have problematised the whole issue to the extent that many Nigerians are now confused as to what intention of the President is,” he said.

Although stakeholders agree that the Conference should be sovereign, lawyers who have aired their views on Sunrise Daily have given different definitions as to what sovereignty is.

According to Adegbulu, “there are two basic types of sovereignty.”

Popular sovereignty resides with the people and these people confer sovereignty to those they elect including the president, governors and the law makers.

The president, governors and lawmakers enjoy legal sovereignty “but we the people still retain the popular sovereignty which is superior to legal sovereignty,” he said.

He continued by saying the people can withdraw the sovereignty they bestowed on elected officers which is why there is a ‘recall’ in the constitution.

On President Goodluck Jonathan’s order that the recommendations on the conference would be subjected to the authorisation of the National Assembly, Mr Adegbulu opined that it became evident that the whole procedure would be another ‘jamboree.’

He also submitted that the recommendations on the National Conference should only be handed over to the NASS for inclusion into the constitution and not for debate.

People are clamouring for the Conference because they have been shortchanged and those elected into power are not functioning as they should and if the proposed National Conference is not sovereign, “it would remove the subliminal content and the sacrosanctity of the people’s will”.

The call for the Conference is a call for a people oriented constitution, he said.

We Did Not Approve Armoured Cars For Oduah – National Assembly

The National Assembly Chairman House Committee on Media and Publicity, Zakari Mohamed has countered claims by the NCAA that the alleged purchase of armoured vehicles for the Aviation minister was approved by the House of Reps.

While speaking from the Channels TV Abuja studio as a guest on Sunrise Daily, Mr Mohamed who is also a member of the aviation committee, stated categorically:

“I want to say clearly for the records, I am a member of the aviation committee and I partook in the budget defence of 2013 and I remember that there was a defence (during which) NCAA in its budget this thing was brought.

They said ‘purchase of security and armoured vehicles’, it was a lengthy debate and we rejected it, we turned it down and said gentlemen we will not as a body approve this and of course you need to take it back”.

Speaking further he said “they took it back and came back with ‘used utility vehicles’. When they brought utility vehicles we said yes that is not enough, itemise the utility vehicles. Hiluxes, Corrollas were stated there for the use of the NCAA in their operations”.

And we said ok, we will now be guided by this since we have the items and we have the monies being attached on it, we will approve and we approved. So if somebody comes to begin to tell Nigerians that we approved, then I think we need to make things very clear that what we approved were operational vehicles which were stated in black and white – the number, the prices”.

He further shed light on how the appropriation act works; stating that if the parliament approves the purchase of any item and it is appropriated in the budget, then at the time of purchase the buyer decides to use the money approved to purchase other items not originally stated, such persons or organisations have flouted the appropriation act.

He claimed that if such purchases would have to be done, “you will have to come back to the parliament … but in this case what we approved was ‘operational vehicles’ and there was no occasion, (I can remember vividly) when they brought back their budget to the house and instead of utility vehicles changed it to armoured or security vehicles. We didn’t veer, and the only statutory body that is empowered to veer monies; move it from one subhead to the other is the |National Assembly”

When asked to verify other processes involved in such purchases which the NCAA claimed to have passed through, he promised that series of meetings have been scheduled to immediately look into the claim. He stated that the committee will invite a cross section of people who should have the details including the due process office as he would prefer to be guided by facts.

He urged Nigerians to be patient as a committee is already in place to work on this and their findings and recommendations will be out within 1 week.

He added that flouting the appropriation act carries a minimum jail term of 2 years.

APC Governors Warn National Assembly Against LG Autonomy

State governors on the platform of the newly registered mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday cautioned the National Assembly against legislating on any aspect of the local government administration in the country; saying that such an action will tilt the country towards a unitary state.

This was part of the resolutions of the APC governors at their maiden meeting held in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital on Wednesday.

In attendance at the meeting were Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa State), Governor Kashim Shettima (Borno ); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti ); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos); Senator  Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Governor Abdulazeez Yari ( Zamfara),and  Senator Ibikunle  Amosun ( Ogun State); Comrade Adams Oshiomhole ( Edo) and Governor Rochas Okorocha ( Imo State, represented by his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere). Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State could not attend following his trip to the lesser Hajj.

Reading the communiqué after  the 4-hour long meeting, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the governors extensively discussed constitutional amendment and resolved that the issue of local government administration is a matter within the purview of the federating unit and that federalism is the basis of the nation’s  sovereignty.

The Governors added that any attempt by the National Assembly to legislate on any aspect of council administration will undermine and weaken the fundamental principles of the Nigerian federalism.

Fayemi also said that the Forum deliberated on revenue allocation and noted that in spite of recommendations made to the Presidency, no effect has been given to the extant proposals on the need to give more funds to the states and local governments because that is where the citizens reside.

There is no country where budget is implemented 100% – former Plateau commissioner

Yakubu Dati, a former Commissioner of Information Plateau state, said on the issue of budget implementation that there’s never been a country where budget is being implemented 100% and the budget of a country has part of it as a forecast of what is being expected.

He continued by saying the country is in need of leaders who can ‘Think out of the box‘ by searching for ways Nigeria and Nigerians can progress.
Yakubu also said he believes this administration can make things work for the nation as a whole.

Public Procurement Act:Lawmaker seeks rejection of amendment on bill

Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila has appealed to the house to reject a bill presented by President Goodluck Jonathan, which seeks an amendment to the public procurement act.

However, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, deferred ruling on the motion and directed some committee chairmen to consider the matter and guide the house on the next legislative day.

Edo Governorship Election:Motion to recall 3,500 soldiers divides lawmakers

Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, the house of representatives will today undertake a physical vote to determine if the 3,500 soldiers deployed to Edo state for the governorship elections should be recalled or not.

Tempers rose at the house yesterday after the majority Peoples’ Democratic Party members tried to shout down a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria who complained about the troop deployment.

The lawmaker, Mr. Bimbo Daramola from Ekiti state, had raised a matter of urgent public importance to draw the attention of the house to the troop deployment.

Mr. Daramola said since there was no war in Edo state, and that he could not understand the essence of deploying 3,500 soldiers for the election.

Court orders National Assembly to disclose lawmakers’ earnings

The Abuja Federal High Court on Monday ordered the National Assembly to within the next 14 days release details of the salary, emoluments and allowances received by lawmakers between 2007 and 2011.

In a suit filed by Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Justice B.B Aliyu gave the ruling on Monday.
LEDAP had last year written to the National Assembly management to furnish it with the details of payments made to lawmakers. The NGO made the request on July 6, 2011, citing the Freedom of Information Act which was signed into law in May that year.

Unfortunately the National Assembly refused to respond to the group’s request.

LEDAP filed in its suit last year September, seeking two reliefs which were: an order declaring that the refusal of NASS management to provide the required information was illegal; and an order mandating the NASS management to release the required information within 14 days.

The National Assembly through its counsel, Yusuf Usman, argued that legislators earnings were beyond the purview of the FOI, and that LEDAP had no locus standi to institute the suit.

In giving his ruling, Justice Aliyu disagreed with Mr Usman saying that the payments are of public interest since they were made from public funds.

Justice Aliyu’s ruling is a clear distinction from that made by Yetunde Idowu of a Lagos High Court.

Justice Idowu had ruled that salaries and allowances of lawmakers were personal information, and not covered under the FOI act; in a suit filed by an NGO against the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Counsel to LEDAP Chino Obiagwu, said his client would not relent until all the illegal allowances collected by lawmakers between 2007 and 2011 were returned.

Mr. Chino Obiagwu further added, Legislators are those who made the law on how much each public officer should be paid in salary and allowances, “They are liable to refund any excess money collected beyond approved sum, and we will pursue this issue in the courts until all unlawful over payments to the legislators of the 6th Assembly are repaid to public coffers.”

Oversight Functions:NASS in the spot light

Talking about job designation of the tiers of government,a deeper look into the functions of the NASS was the point of focus with our presenter Deji Bademosi and his panel of analysts.

Is the recent probes being manned by the NASS an oversight function or a designated one?