The Nigerian Senate has commenced a thorough investigation into operations of the Tin-Can Island and Seme Area Commands, as part of efforts to plug leakages in the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Exercise and Tariff, Senator Hope Uzodinma, hinted reporters of the investigation during a three-day oversight visit to the various commands in Lagos.
According to him, the committee, with mandate from the Senate, embarked on the fact finding mission in view of several petitions received from stakeholders on alleged corrupt practices in the service.
He added that the Senate would continue to work to help reposition the Nigeria Customs Service and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in view of the need to focus on non-oil revenue generation to fund the country’s annual budget with a deficit of over 2 trillion Naira.
“There is now a national call to duty for all of us irrespective of where you are and where you are working from to come up and contribute your own quota so that the economy can be rescued.
“So, our target is to be able to triple the revenue earnings of Nigerian Customs in 2017 and to be able to do that we have to identify the obstacles otherwise the challenges confronting the Nigerian Customs Service so that once they are identified they will amplify, increase or enhance the revenue earning mechanism of the service so that by 2017 Nigerian Customs will be in the position to even fund the national budget.
“There are opportunities and the traffic is very high but some of the challenges are also avoidable so we are looking at all these areas and that at the end of the exercise, we would have strengthened the process of revenue generation in the Nigerian Customs Service and also boost their profile in a manner that they will be happy and government will be happy. It will be a win-win situation for everybody”.
The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday asked the Executive Arm of Government to provide the National Assembly with a clear framework that would allow for proper administration of the 500 billion Naira Special Intervention Fund, staying action on the executive’s requests for funds.
The request, according to the Senate, would enable the lawmakers ensure that the failure of the past social intervention schemes was avoided.
President Buhari on September 25 forwarded a request to the lawmakers, seeking the approval of the National Assembly for virement of funds appropriated for special intervention to be used to fund some recurrent and capital items.
He is seeking a total of 180 billion Naira to cover the shortfalls in recurrent and capital expenditures.
In the letter read on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, President Buhari said the request is necessary because of the shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs and inadequate provision for the Amnesty Programme.
‘Discriminates Against Rural Dwellers’
Deliberations on the request opened on Tuesday with Senator Ndume pointing out some flaws in the initiative.
He insisted that the directive that all the beneficiaries should register online had the tendency of excluding and marginalising the targeted population.
Pointing out that the request by the Senate was not targeted at stopping the initiative, Senator Ndume stated that the Senate fully approved the request of the executive in the 2016 Budget to facilitate the 500 billion Naira fund.
Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who opened the debate on the motion he raised on the need to avoid the mismanagement of the 500 billion Naira intervention funds, further observed that current economic situation and the need to have a social intervention scheme that could lift people out of poverty, was the overriding concern of the National Assembly when it did not insist on having a proper framework before approval.
“But I expect the social intervention fund to get to all the 9,572 Wards of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he says.
He further highlighted a variable in the initiative – MPOWER – which he said required people to register online, saying “it is faulty and discriminates against rural dwellers”.
Giving his opinion on the issue, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he could not find any beneficiary of the programmes of the Social Intervention Funds in his LG.
On his part, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said the aspects of the implementation of the Social Intervention Funds run afoul of the Constitution.
Senator Na’Allah questioned how the people in the hinterland and localities without internet services that are supposed to get online to register on the website.
Before the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, asked Senator Ali Wakili to shed light on some of these concerns, Senators Hope Uzodinma and Biodun Olujimi condemned the implementation plan, saying it was not far-reaching to all nooks and corners of Nigeria.
Explaining the Social Intervention Plans of the Executive Arm of Government Senator Wakili said the fund was not domiciled in any ministry but managed in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office through consultants.
Senator Wakili told the Senate that he expected that the National Assembly, as the representative of the people, ought to be carried along “but this isn’t the case”.
Push For Manual Registration
Another issue that Senator Dino Melaye raised was that Nigeriens, Beninoise and Camerounians could as well claim being Nigerians and apply since it was online.
He concluded that a programme of action on the implementation of the Intervention Fund had to be brought to the Senate.
After the deliberations, the Senate resolved that manual registration of beneficiary from all Wards & LGs in Nigeria be incorporated in the 500 billion Naira Intervention Programme.
The Senate also resolved that a clear accountability channel must be created, continuously audited and submitted to the National Assembly.
Giving his final words on the issue, the Senate President said that despite the good intentions, the 500 billion Naira might not achieve what it was supposed to achieve with the current implementation.
Dr. Saraki further asked the appropriate committee to work with the executive to ensure the success of the Social Intervention Fund.
The promotion of made in Nigeria goods and services is a priority for the Nigerian government and this is seen in the commendation that the Nigerian Army has received from the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki for buying Nigerian made shoes.
The army had purchased 50,000 pairs of shoes from local manufacturers in Aba, a production hub in eastern Nigeria, for the use of officers and soldiers.
Lauding the decision, the Senate President said: “The move shows that the military is living up to its billing as an institution that can play vital roles in boosting the national economy”.
A statement by Dr. Saraki’s spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said that the Senate President pointed out that the decision to patronise Made in Nigeria footwear was a good example which showed the force as a pace setter and a truly national institution which is ready to contribute its quota in ending the present economic recession.
Mr Olaniyonu said that the Senate President had been a major supporter of the Aba local manufacturers.
According to him, Senator Saraki urged all the other military and para-military forces like the Air Force, navy, police, civil defence corps and the National Youth Service Corps to emulate the army by immediately banning the purchase of all imported foot wears in preference for locally produced ones.
He also urged the military and paramilitary agencies not to limit their patronage and promotion of Made in Nigeria goods to only shoes but to other items that can be sourced locally, while also praising the Air Force for the co-operation it is forging with the Innoson Motor Group in the area of manufacturing of some air plane parts.
“This is the essence of the amendment of the Public Procurement Act by the Senate since June. The new law compels all Ministries, Department and Agencies of government to compulsorily give preference to goods and services which can be sourced locally. We believe one of the gains that our country will derive from this recession is to make our people look inward and patronise locally made goods.
“Patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods is an obvious panacea for our economic problems. We will by doing that increase our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), empower our youths, challenge their creativity, increase revenue generation ability of state governments and improve on the sense of self pride and patriotism of Nigerians”, he said.
The Senate President further advised State and Federal Governments to encourage local manufacturers by providing them with necessary infrastructure, soft loans, patronage and helping them to improve on the quality of their goods as well as facilitating their ability to access the export market.
Saraki also implored organised groups like the National Economic Summit Group (NESG), associations in the field of marketing communications and others who can help in the areas of goods packaging, sales promotion and quality enhancement to engage the local manufacturers and see how they can help them broaden their reach and produce goods that can be sold across the world.
“We have an opportunity to turn our challenge to prosperity. We can create mass employment and make the private sector centre of our economy if we can make our small and medium enterprises to prosper. This is a task for all of us and this promotion of Made-in-Nigeria is a cardinal point in the Agenda of the present Senate”, he said.
The Senate has begun investigation of alleged connivance of communication giant, MTN and some banks in the repatriation of $13.92 billion out of Nigeria between 2006 and 2016.
The probe kicked off on Thursday at a public hearing in the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
A lawmaker, Senator Dino Melaye, claimed that MTN did not request for a ‘certificate of capital importation’ from its bankers, Standard Chartered Bank within the regulatory period of 24 hours of the inflow.
Giving his testimony, a member of the MTN Board, Mr Pascal Dozie, described the allegation as false, saying the company never contemplated breaking any Nigerian law.
He further explained why his company did not request for the said certificate.
The Executive Secretary of the Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Mr Jim Obazee, blamed the failure of regulatory agencies such as the CBN for the gradual depletion of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, was also scheduled to give his testimony on the allegations leveled against him in the matter but left immediately after the opening ceremony.
This annoyed the Senate Committee on Banking and they threatened to sanction him for what seemed like a refusal to verbally address the accusations.
They also promised to analyse the documents submitted by all concerned parties in the next few days.
The Nigerian Senate has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a proclamation for a population and housing census to be held in 2018.
Moving the motion on the floor of the Senate, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi expressed displeasure with the inability to conduct the exercise this year due to inadequate funding.
The lawmakers directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the National Population Commission and other relevant agencies to make adequate provision in the 2018 budget as a critical prerequisite towards the proposed 2018 population census.
The last time Nigeria held a census was in 2006 and that exercise was steeped in controversy with allegations of fraud.
Many Nigerians complained of being left out of the exercise as well as boycotts, protests and enumerators complaining of not being paid for their work.
Regardless of these complaints, federal lawmakers are mindful of the importance of census to national planning and have asked the executive to abide by the recommendation of the United Nations that census be conducted every 10 years.
Some of the lawmakers also stressed the need for the provision of funds in the 2017 budget to aid planning for the census.
To address concerns of irregularities, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, asked relevant agencies to take advantage of the development in technology to conduct a credible census exercise.
The Senate also asked relevant committees to join the Federal Government in the planning towards the forthcoming population census to achieve a credible exercise.
The Senate in Nigeria has passed for second reading, a bill to establish a Nigerian Political Debates Commission.
The bill is to give legislative backing for the establishment of a commission with the responsibility of organising and conducting debates for all candidates cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Candidates that are to participate in elections into the offices of the president and vice president of the country as well as governor and deputy governor would be made to take part in debates if the bill scales through.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, says the Election Debates Bill if passed into law shall be used to sample the candidates’ knowledge on a wide range of issues and offer the electorates the avenue to evaluate candidates.
Since there is no law mandating all candidates for elections in Nigeria to take part in a debate, most of the candidates stay away from debates when they are conducted by media houses or other organisations.
The law is expected to mandate them to take part in debates.
It is not yet clear if there would be sanctions that the law will prescribe for candidates that shun debates after the bill has been passed.
Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is calling for more support from Nigerians and members of the international community to tackle the issue of child malnutrition in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in the northeast.
The Senate President made the appeal during a meeting with representatives of 32 IDPs’ camps located in the Federal Capital Territory.
He said that the Senate is ready to ensure that resources meant for the IDPs get to the intended beneficiaries rather than being diverted for selfish purposes.
He also assured those gathered that the adhoc committee recently constituted by the Senate on the diversion of funds and aids meant for IDPs would not stop at identifying the problems but would also outline solutions going forward.
The Nigerian Senate says the rule-forgery case against its presiding officers, Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has been a distraction to the law making body.
Reacting to the withdrawal of the forgery charges, the Senate further stated that the withdrawal was a confirmation of its position that the nation could not afford any sharp division between the various arms of government.
In a statement by its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, the Senate said the decision to withdraw the case and its subsequent dismissal had confirmed its earlier statement that the case was indeed an abuse of court process having been dismissed earlier by the court.
He further stated that the Upper Chamber had always believed that the case was politically motivated and that the executive could not decide for the legislature the genuineness or otherwise of its standing rules.
While commending the judiciary for its continuous dedication and commitment to the rule of law, the Senate called on the executive to go the whole hog and withdraw other cases with political coloration.
The Senate Spokesman stated that with the country facing economic recession, it was a period for the political leadership to present a united front.
A High Court in Abuja had earlier struck out the two-count charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery filed against Senator Saraki, Senator Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Abubakar Maikasuwa and the current Deputy Clerk of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The trial judge, Justice Yusufu Halilu, struck out the charges, following an application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr Aliyu Umar, withdrawing the case.
Mr. Umar told the court that the charges against all four accused persons are withdrawn because the subject matter is before a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
With no objection from the defence counsel, Justice Yusuf struck out the charge and discharged all the accused persons.
All four accused persons pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge.
In the affidavit filed on June 10, the Investigative Police Officer (IPO), swore that the investigation into the case had been concluded.
It read: “The charges filed through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, by the Federal Government, against the senators reads that you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about, the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired amongst yourselves to forge the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed the offence of conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law”.
It also accused them of allegedly forging the Order, causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senator Saraki has maintained that he knows nothing about how the rules adopted in the inauguration of the Eighth Senate on June 9, 2015 were formulated.
He said the on-going efforts to drag him into a case of forgery before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, was just another phase in the orchestrated persecution he has faced since he emerged as Senate President a little over a year ago.
Saraki, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated that he was not a part of the leadership of the 7th Senate that made the rules in question.
He also stated that prior to his unanimous election as Senate President on June 9, 2015, he was merely a Senator-elect like all his colleagues and therefore was not in a position to influence the rules that were to be used in the conduct of the election.
The Nigerian Senate has thrown out a bill which seeks the provision of special grants to Lagos state.
The bill entitled the ‘Lagos State Special Economic Assistance Programme’, is seeking a one per cent grant from the Federal Government for the share of the revenue accruing to the Federal Government.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, argued that although Lagos State generated much of Nigeria’s income outside the oil sector, the economic activities and huge population of the state places a huge strain on infrastructure and services in the state.
Lagos state is one of Nigeria’s richest states, with huge internal revenue coming from tax and the state recently joined the list of oil producing states.
The request for economic assistance for Lagos State is coming at a time that the nation’s economy is in recession, with a report of the National Bureau of Statistics showing that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product index contracted by 2.06% in the second quarter of 2016.
Plan Has Not Changed
Every revenue counts now for the nation that depends largely on crude oil sales for revenue and the Federal Government had in the past months handed down a bailout to states that could not pay workers salaries.
On what the government is doing to address the economic crisis, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the tactical plan of the Nigerian government to address its economic challenges had not changed in spite of the official confirmation that the country had gone into a recession.
Mrs Adeosun was the guest of Channels TV’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, September 20, where the conversation centered on the state of the Nigerian economy.
She recalled that the country had been in negative growth since 2012 with the hope that it would avoid recession but since the reality of the recession has dawned on the nation, the government is prepared to address it.
“Our plans haven’t changed. We need to stimulate the economy and we are going to do so largely by redirecting expenditure from recurrent into capital because we believe that capital expenditure will create jobs and create more productivity in the economy in the long run and help us to diversify,” she said.
The Finance Minister noted that the solution to Nigeria’s problem has been the same and getting out of recession remains dependent on how productive the economy becomes as well as how well it can create jobs.
“To do so, we’ve got to invest in our capital infrastructure,” she maintained.