The House of Representatives has passed the Finance Bill, 2019 submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Members present at Thursday’s plenary passed the bill one week after it scaled through the third reading and was passed on the floor of the Senate in Abuja.
The bill seeks to amend six tax provisions and make them more responsive to tax reform policies.
Apart from the worries expressed by a cross-section of Nigerians concerning the increase in Value Added Tax on specific goods and services from 5 per cent to 7.5 percent, the bill also amends the tax provision of the Customs and Excise Tariff Act to encourage local manufacturers.
It introduces tax incentives for investment in infrastructure, capital markets and supports small businesses.
The Finance Bill will reform the current tax regime by amending seven acts namely: Petroleum Profit Tax Act, Custom and Excise Tax Act, Company Income Tax Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, Stamp Duties Tax Act, and Capital Gains Act.
Meanwhile, the House has urged the Nigeria Police to ensure that all policemen on highway patrol were properly dressed in uniforms with their vehicles properly numbered.
The lawmakers were worried that policemen on highway patrol do not wear any means of identification such as name tags, boots, and even berets.
They noted that as a result of this, criminals take advantage to ambush unsuspecting Nigerians on the highways and rob them of their valuables.
The House, was, however, convinced that if policemen were properly kitted and their vehicles numbered, it would be easier for road users to clearly differentiate them from criminals on the nation’s highways.
Thereafter, the House Committee on Police Affairs was mandated to investigate why policemen on highway patrols were not properly kitted.
The lawmakers asked the committee to report back in four weeks.
Ahmed, however, acknowledged the formal letter notifying the Committee of the absence of the Chief Executive Officer of the agency.
He insisted that there were certain questions requiring the response of the Chief Accounting Officer of the NDIC.
The lawmaker added that it would amount to wasting legislative hours for the subordinates to take such responsibility.
The NDIC delegation was led to the meeting by the Executive Director, Agbatise Eradianwa.
The meeting held barely six weeks after President Buhari suspended international travels by members of his cabinet and all heads of government agencies to enable them personally lead the process of budget defence at the National Assembly.
This followed the presentation of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by the President, in a bid to ensure the bill was promptly considered and passed by the lawmakers.
In a communique by the Director of Information at the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Willie Bassey, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were directed to liaise with the relevant committees of the National Assembly for their schedules of budget defence.
Members of House of Representatives have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call off the planned operation positive identification exercise of the military.
In a motion raised by the House minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu as a matter of urgent public importance, the lawmaker expressed worry that the exercise will instill fear in the heart of Nigerians.
The motion also maintained that the operation will strip Nigerians of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement and instill fear, anxiety, and panic in the entire polity, adding that the nationwide operation would amount to an indirect imposition of a state of emergency across the country by the Army.
In their contributions, some lawmakers opined that it is the responsibility of the police and not the army.
The house committee on army is to meet with the chief of army staff for a clearer understanding of the motive of the operation
The House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary has called for reforms in the judiciary.
According to the committee chairman, Onofiok Luke, who stated this during the inaugural meeting of the committee, the slow pace of justice delivery and the backlog of cases, is a cause for concern which could be solved by carrying out major reforms.
“There are a lot of reforms to be carried out in the judiciary, the committee in the in collaboration with the relevant bodies and stakeholders like the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Ministry of Justice and the judiciary itself, civil society organizations promises to invigorate the judiciary for effective performance in quick and efficient justice delivery to the common man.
“The slow pace of justice delivery and backlog of matters in Nigeria is a cause for concern.
“We will have re-consider our laws so that we will not overburden our Supreme Court, hence slowing down the will of justice.
“We need to continual advocate and protect the independence of our judiciary so that our judges will be bold and firm to depense justice withour fear or favour.
“By our laws, our judges are not allowed to speak freely, we hold our judiciary and by extension the people a duty to speak up on the welfare of the judiciary”.
The chairman stated further that the lawmakers will continually advocate and protect the independence and welfare of the judiciary.
There was division among members of the House of Representatives on Thursday over a bill seeking to urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties in the country.
Those listed for deregistration are political parties who failed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly or a State House of Assembly in the last general elections.
While some of the lawmakers questioned the powers of INEC to deregister the political parties, others were of the opinion that it was necessary to investigate whether or not such powers existed.
They also stressed the need to ascertain why the electoral body has yet to deregister the political parties in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Mr Francis Uduyok from Akwa Ibom moved the motion calling on INEC to implement Section 78(7, ii) of the Electoral Act.
In the absence of the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, presided over the final plenary for the week.
After the motion was moved, the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, raised a point of order on the powers of the electoral body to which the deputy speaker agreed.
However, another lawmaker Mr Toby Okechukwu (Enugu) raised a counter-point of order, but Mr Wase disagreed him.
This led to the division among members of House while the motion was eventually stepped down.
Reps Probe Crude Oil Theft
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the quantity of crude oil stolen on a daily basis and those accountable for the theft.
They took the decision after Mr Chukwuma Umeoji from Anambra State raised concerns over the economic loss suffered in the country due to the crime.
The House noted that Nigeria loses about N5 trillion annually as a result of the crime, adding that N1.3 trillion worth of crude oil was stolen in the Niger Delta region since the beginning of 2019.
It directed the ad-hoc committee to determine the volume of oil extracted and the quantity of oil sold in the country and report back to the House in eight weeks.
House Moves To Rename Fire Service
In another development, a bill for an act to repeal the Fire Service Act of 2004 scaled through second reading in the House during Thursday’s plenary.
The bill was sponsored by Mr Dachung Bagos from Plateau State.
It seeks to change the name of the agency from Fire Service to Fire and Rescue Service, to enable the service to carry out rescue services and not just firefighting.
The bill enjoyed the support of the lawmakers who agreed that in keeping with changing trends, it was necessary to upgrade the fire service to save not only property but lives as well.
It was, thereafter, referred to the Committee on Interior for a public hearing.
The House has adjourned till Wednesday next week, October 1 for the commemoration of the Independence Day billed to hold on October 1.
A bill for an act to repeal the fire service act of 2004 has scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill which was sponsored by representative Dachung Bagos seeks to change the name from fire service to fire and rescue service, to enable the service carry out rescue services and not just fire fighting.
In the letter, President Buhari said the 2020-2022 MTEF FSP was prepared taking into account key developments in the global and domestic environment.
He added that he is trusting that it will be expeditiously considered by the Senate
Senate President Ahmed Lawan earlier last week said the Upper Chamber is anxious to receive the MTEF and 2020 Budget from the executive and promised that the Senate will consider the MTEF within the first week of resumption.
The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the activities and sources of funding of non-governmental organisations, for possible culpability in the unending spate of insurgency in the north-east.
This was part of the resolutions reached when a matter of urgent public importance on increased funding for the nation’s security agencies was raised in at the green chamber on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted to allegations that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, ignored the summons by the House of Representatives.
In a statement on Wednesday by its spokesperson, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, the ministry stated that the minister could not have ignored invitations by the lawmakers to brief them on the spate of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
After a long debate on the issue at Tuesday’s plenary, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila noted that he was informed that the ministry failed to honour several invitations by the Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Buba Yusuf.
He alleged that Onyeama also refused to respond when the leadership of the House stepped into the matter and warned ministers against shunning invitations by the parliament.
Gbajabiamila threatened that the House would invoke relevant sections of the Constitution against erring government officials, adding that he would report the minister to the President.
But in its response, the ministry stated that there was “no iota of truth whatsoever” in the claims by the Speaker.
It said, “The truth of the matter is that by a letter dated September 9, 2019, by the Chief of Staff to the Honourable Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was invited to a meeting with the Leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 11.00 am in the Honourable Speaker’s Office.
“By letter dated September 10, 2019, the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Chief of Staff to the Honourable Speaker, informing him that the Minister would be in the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at that time, and that he looked forward to a meeting at a time to be mutually agreed on.”
According to the statement, Onyeama and the ministry respected the institution of the National Assembly.
A member of the House from Bauchi State, Mr Mansur Soro, had raised the motion in which stressed the need to improve the process.
He noted that the annual budget plays a crucial role in economic management and development policies of any nation.
Soro believes it is the main mechanism of fiscal policy and the tool through which government could stabilise and influence the economic direction of a country.
According to him, the standard global public sector budgetary practice requires the implementation of a defined budgetary framework synchronised with timelines, or a standardised budgetary calendar to reduce uncertainties and promote compliance and coordination.
The lawmaker decried the situation where Nigeria’s budget process perennially experiences delays despite the efforts of all relevant entities involved in the budgeting process.
He added that budget delay impacts negatively on economic growth, as a 2018 study shows that 100 days delay in its implementation tends to depress the economy by at least 2.5 per cent.
Soro was also worried that the nation’s experience of prolonged budget process has imposed substantial economic costs on the public and private sectors of the economy.
He was concerned that such a delay has led to poor budget implementation, adding that it has a direct correlation to poor service delivery in the public service.
The delay, according to the lawmaker, introduces opacity into the budget process, leading to the induced diversion of public funds and resources, as well as corruption which has become the scourge of society.
He said the foreign and domestic private sector investment was adversely affected due to uncertainty in the strategic direction of the government.