The members of the House of Representatives have mandated its committee on Finance and Agriculture to investigate the Federal Government’s disbursements of agricultural loans and credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date.
The lawmakers observed that since 2009, 275 billion Naira was said to have been disbursed to farmers yet the country cannot boast of food sufficiency.
According to the lawmakers, the Federal Government has approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various Schemes to the tune of over N275 billion, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) to Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security in Nigeria.
They also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the Scheme was to grant agricultural loans to large and small scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
But the lawmakers are concerned that most farmers have not been able to access the loan due to stringent procedures by banks.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has faulted the 1999 Constitution, calling for an amendment by the National Assembly.
Speaking on Tuesday in Lagos during the public hearing on the review of the Nigerian Constitution, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly could only achieve the task after getting the inputs and support of the citizens.
While noting that the document failed to address some critical national questions confronting the country, Gbajabiamila said there was an urgent need for the legislature to amend it.
“Our constitution falls short of this standard,” the Speaker was quoted as saying via a statement issued by his spokesman, Lanre Lasisi.
“The 1999 Constitution is the product of a hurried national compromise that we entered into two decades ago in order to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and that we returned to democratic government.”
Participants at the 2-day public hearing included the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Babafemi Hamzat, who represented Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; members of the House of Representatives Special Committee on the Review of the Constitution; members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC); representatives of political parties, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), youth organizations and market women.
Gbajabiamila said though the current exercise is not the first of its kind, it might be the most important one in the nation’s recent history as the decisions to be made would have far-reaching consequences for the future of Nigeria.
In response to the doubts expressed in some quarters about the exercise, he noted that there was no perfect constitution anywhere in the world, but that it was imperative for Nigeria to have a near-perfect constitution to enable the country to confront and resolve many of its political, economic and socio-cultural challenges.
The Speaker, therefore, urged Nigerians to participate fully in the ongoing process so that their inputs would be captured for the country to have a new direction, adding that they could not afford to miss the opportunity of addressing their challenges and sustaining their future at this critical moment.
He assured Nigerians of the sincerity of purpose of the 9th National Assembly to deliver a reviewed constitution that everyone would be proud of.
He said, “The foundational constitution of the United States of America deemed people of colour to be ‘less than’ and denied women the right to vote. It did not include any limits on the President’s term of office and allowed for citizens to be denied the right to vote for failure to pay the ‘poll tax’. Twenty-seven reviews and amendments, over one hundred years cured these and other defects.
“No nation in the world has a perfect constitution, but we need a near-perfect constitution in Nigeria and we can achieve that through substantive amendments that significantly alter the character of our nation.
“Therefore, the task before us now is to use this process of review and amendment to devise for ourselves a constitution that resolves the issues of identity and political structure, of human rights and the administration of government, resource control, national security and so much else, that have fractured our nation and hindered our progress and prosperity.
“Our job is to produce a constitution that turns the page on our past, yet heeds its many painful lessons. It is not an easy task, but it is a necessary and urgent one.”
He added that “We will not be able to deliver on this historic assignment if we restrict ourselves to tinkering around the edges of the constitution or by imposing upon ourselves artificial redlines that restrict honest conversation.
“All of us in the House of Representatives will work conscientiously and in good faith so that it may be said of us in this process that we made an audacious attempt at creating for our nation a constitution that recognises our diversity and draws strength from it, and addresses once and for all, the fault lines that distract from nation-building.
“It is all too clear that many of our citizens have come to expect too little of our politics and government. We are suffering from the tyranny of low expectations and the cynicism that causes us to believe that the political process cannot produce anything worthy or worthwhile.
“I understand the causes of this cynicism, but I refuse to share in it. I still believe that politics and government in Nigeria can be a force for good and that by our common endeavour we can achieve the vision of a just, peaceful, and prosperous society.
“However, beyond these Public Hearings, you still have an opportunity to make submissions that will be considered and that will help this process achieve the best outcomes. Please, by all means, participate. Let your voice be heard, and let your vision also inform the direction of this process.
“I urge all who have come to participate here today to do so with decorum and respect for one another. Let our deliberations be well-intentioned, well informed and reflect our patriotism. In this way, we will have a most productive engagement over the next two days.”
In his goodwill message, Governor Sanwo-Olu through his deputy, Hamzat, said the need for a special status for Lagos State in the constitution could not be overemphasised.
The governor said being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, whatever affects the State has the capacity to affect the entire country, hence the need for a special status.
He also urged members of the National Assembly to prioritise fiscal federalism, local government autonomy, in addition to state police in the ongoing review process.
Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The minority caucus in the House of Representatives has condemned the killing of Mr Ahmed Gulak, a former political adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a statement on Monday by the Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, the lawmakers described the killing of Gulak as wicked and barbaric.
They called on the police and other security agencies to apprehend the assailants and ensure that they were immediately made to face the full wrath of the law.
“The minority caucus is heavily disturbed by the worsening insecurity, violence, and killings in Imo, particularly since the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration took over the state.
“As representatives of the people, our caucus believes that the situation has gone beyond the capacity of the government of Imo State, especially given its failure to gain control since inception,” the statement said.
The lawmakers, therefore, demanded urgent security and constitutional steps to check rising violent activities, restore law and order, and bring the tense situation in the state under control.
They condoled with the family of late Gulak over the sad incident and urged Nigerians to remain at alert and continue to pray for God’s divine intervention for Nigeria at this trying time.
Gulak died on Sunday after gunmen attacked a cab conveying him and two others while on their way to the Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
He was reported to have left his hotel without informing the police and other security agencies in view of the fragile security situation in the South East.
According to the police, the APC chieftain left without any security escorts while the cab driver took an irregular route to the airport before the gunmen shot at him around Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area of the state.
They said the assailants, identified as members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/ Eastern Security Network (ESN), have been killed.
“Three AK 47 rifles, one pistol, five AK 47 magazines with 92 rounds of live ammunition, and criminal charms were recovered.
“The driver who drove late Ahmed Gulak and a co-victim who survived have all identified the dead body of the IPOB/ESN members positively as their attackers and also identified the three vehicles recovered as those used by the attackers,” a police statement said.
The House of Representatives has suspended its constitution review hearing scheduled to hold in Imo and Abia States.
This suspension was contained in a communique by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase.
Rep Wase who serves also as the Chairman, House Special Committee on Constitution Review noted in his statement on Sunday that “The House of Representatives Special Committee on Constitution Review Zonal Public Hearing scheduled to take place in Owerri Central (Imo and Abia States) on Tuesday, 1st and Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, has been suspended until further notice.”
This suspension of the constitution review hearing in the two South-Eastern states comes on the heels of the gruesome murder of a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak, in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
Gulak who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was brutally murdered while he was on his way to catch a flight at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Owerri.
The House of Representatives Special Committee on Constitution Review has fixed Tuesday and Wednesday next week for its zonal public hearing scheduled to take place across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
According to the Deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Wase, each zone will have two centres.
He called Nigerians, including members of the executive and judicial bodies, traditional institutions, political parties, civil society organisations, and professional bodies, among other stakeholders to attend the hearing in their respective zones.
“I am appealing to you all to think only about Nigeria and work for Nigeria and ensure we deliver for our country the best Constitution,” said the lawmaker who urged the people to put the country first.
He noted that the members of the committee would be posted outside their zones to have a feeling of what was obtainable in other regions.
The Deputy Speaker said, “We have an opportunity to write our names in gold. Let us not waste this golden opportunity as all eyes are on us; we must ensure that we do not betray the confidence Nigerians have in us.”
Wase explained that the hearing for the north-central zone would hold in Jos – with Plateau, Benue, and Nasarawa States, as well as Abuja in attendance, while Lokoja would serve as the second centre, hosting Kogi, Niger, and Kwara States.
The venues of the hearing in other regions are listed below:
North East – Bauchi, Borno, and Yobe (Bauchi Centre); Adamawa, Taraba, and Gombe (Yola Centre)
North West – Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto (Birnin Kebbi Centre); Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa (Kano Centre – June 2 and 3).
South East – Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi (Enugu Centre); while Imo and Abia (Owerri Centre).
South West – Ondo, Ekiti and Osun (Akure Centre); Lagos, Oyo, and Ogun (Lagos Centre).
South South – Delta, Bayelsa and Edo (Asaba Centre – June 2 and 3); Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River (Uyo Centre – June 1 and 2).
The House of Representatives has postponed the planned security summit scheduled to hold on Monday.
This was announced in a statement issued on Sunday by the Clerk of the House, Chinedu Akubueze, adding that the decision was in honour of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military personnel who died in a plane crash in Kaduna on Friday.
Akubueze also expressed the House’s grief and sorrow of the families of the late top military officers, praying that the Almighty God will grant them eternal rest.
“This is to inform the general public that the House of Representatives has postponed its national security summit scheduled to hold from Monday, May 24, 2021, in honour of the late Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Attahiru, and 10 other military officers and men that died as a result of air mishap on Friday,” the statement partly read.
“The security summit will now kick off on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. The House shares in the grief and sorrow of the families of the late top military officers and prayed that the Almighty God will grant them eternal rest.
It should be noted that the postponement became necessary as the late Army Chief was one of the major stakeholders that would have taken part in the summit. The House regrets any inconvenience the postponement may cause invited guests.”
Earlier, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, mourned the late COAS, noting Attahiru had “shown a lot of commitment in tackling the security situation in the country”.
While describing Attahiru as “a core professional officer,” the Speaker said the Nigerian military, especially the Nigeria Army, had lost a dedicated and committed senior officer whose services to the fatherland will be sorely missed.
Gbajabiamila also “sent his condolences to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian military, and the Attahiru family over the loss. He prayed for the repose of the souls of Attahiru and the seven others.”
The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to stop the proposed increase of electricity tariff for June.
This formed part of the resolutions by the lawmakers during Thursday’s plenary in the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
They stressed that it was important to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to rescind its decision on the proposed increment in view of the hard times Nigerians were going through.
Similarly, the lawmakers mandated the House Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation, as well as Labour, Employment and Productivity to ensure compliance with the directive.
A member of the House, Aniekan Umanah, had raised a motion seeking that the nation’s electricity regulator should suspend the proposed increase in electricity tariff.
He wondered why there would be an increase in electricity tariff at a time when Nigerians were going through hard times and governments all over the world were providing means to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the motion, the Electric Power Sector Act of 2005 established the NERC with a mandate to license Distribution Companies (DISCOs), determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations, as well as set cost-reflective industry tariff.
The lawmaker stated that the Act prescribed its funding from 15 per cent of electricity charges paid by consumers to distribution companies.
He decried that NERC, working with the distribution companies, had increased the tariff five times since 2015, the latest being on January 1, 2021.
Lack Of Empathy
Despite the increases, Umanah lamented that Nigerians have not enjoyed significant improvement in power generation but grapple with daily epileptic services from the DISCOs.
He also accused the distribution companies of exploitation in the name of estimated billing arising from non-metering of over 50 per cent of consumers across the country.
The lawmaker informed his colleagues that poor services by the DISCOs have impacted negatively on the socio-economic growth of the country, saying the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report of 2020 on Nigeria indicated that the manufacturing sector lost over $200 billion to inadequate power supply while $21 billion was said to have been spent by Nigerians on generators within the period under review.
He noted that Nigerians have gone through many hardships in recent times arising from acts of terrorism, banditry, and kidnappings.
Umanah said he was concerned that at a time governments all over the world were adopting measures to cushion the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic by providing a wide range of palliatives to losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses and general distortion in the social life, NERC was considering a further increase in electricity tariff in a country where two-thirds of its 200 million population were grappling with the effects of the pandemic.
He stressed that the current economic recession made worse by inflation has resulted in disturbing prices of foodstuffs, and increased prices of petroleum products have triggered the further increase in transport costs and rents.
The lawmaker added that the spending power of an average Nigerian has drastically reduced, warning that any further hike in electricity tariff would amount to overkill, lack of empathy, and height of insensitivity on the part of the government.
The House of Representatives through its Committee on Basic Education and Services is seeking to probe the over 2 billion Naira released for the safe school initiative alongside other donations from foreign Countries and Organisations.
The lawmakers are concerned that although an initial $20 million was donated for the takeoff of the Safe School Initiative project in 2014 and as of 2018 a total of $1,720,2406 (N41 Billion) has been realized as donations from countries and donor agencies yet not much is on the ground to indicate seriousness to fully implement the laudable objectives of the initiative as it relates to the safety of schools, students, teachers, and facilities.
Hon. Aniekan Umanah who moved the motion raised Concerned that the latest development in the criminal activities associated with insecurity in Nigeria, especially as it relates to the invasion of school premises and kidnap of students and teachers for ransom could be contained and defeated through the full implementation of the safe school initiatives.
The House is urging the Federal Government to collaborate with State Governments to restore, revive and revalidate the safe school initiative and deploy Special Security Personnel to schools in Nigeria.
The lawmaker while leading the debate on the motion told the House that several factors would work against the accuracy of the figures that would be obtained and the overall success of the exercise due largely to insecurity.
“Beji said, the safety of enumerators would not be guaranteed in many parts of the country.
“He also stated that many households would be unwilling to make family members available for enumeration because of the fear of the unknown.
“He added that it would be unwise in the prevailing circumstances to post enumerators to some parts of the country currently considered to be volatile.
“Beji argued that the fact that many locations would not be reached by enumerators was enough a reason to suspend the planned exercise,” the tweets read in part.
The key prayer of his motion, therefore, urged the House to “call on the Federal Government to suspend the exercise until the security of the country stabilises.”
The prayer was endorsed by the House in a majority voice vote.
The House also invited the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Nasir Isa Kwarra, to explain the feasibility of conducting a population and housing census in the country amid the current security challenges.
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday demanded that the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, take over the murder case of Miss Iniobong Umoren who was killed in Akwa Ibom after she was lured with a fake job offer.
The House urged the IGP to ensure that justice is done by taking over the investigation and prosecution of the suspects.
The resolution of the House follows a matter of urgent public importance raised by Unyime Idem representing Ukanafun/Oruk Anam the federal constituency of Akwa Ibom State.
They also mandated the IGP to ensure the protection of Umoren’s family members from harassment, intimidation and harm.
Idem told the House that the family members of the deceased have reportedly raised an alarm of receiving strange phone calls and threats of various degrees and have been asked to withdraw the case.
Adopting the motion, the House mandated the House Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development to follow up with the investigation and prosecution and ensure compliance.
Find below the note presented by Representative Unyime Idem to the House:
Matter Of Urgent Public Importance
A Call For Comprehensive Investigation, Prosecution And Punishment Of The Perpetrator(S) Of The Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, Physical Assault And Heinous Killing Of Miss Iniobong Ephraim Umoren And The Need To Protect Her Family Members
Rep. Unyime Idem
Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency
AWARE that on April 30, 2021, the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the Akwa Ibom State Command of the Nigeria Police Force received a criminal report on the disappearance of Miss Iniubong Ephraim Umoren who left her house on a fateful day in search of employment.
NOTE that Miss Iniubong Umoren was a graduate of the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State who was without employment since her graduation from the University.
NOTE ALSO that available information has it that she received a phone call from the assailant who pretentiously called her and invited her to a false interview of an advertised job.
AWARE that the innocent Miss Iniubong Umoren was later found dead by the Officers of the Nigeria Police Force after an official report and with the help of a wide reportage of her disappearance and information of the false interview on social media platforms. Her body was further exhumed where it was buried in a shallow grave by her assailant.
COGNIZANT that It has been reported that the assailant upon his arrest by the police and subsequent voluntary confession boasted that he is well connected and will be released from the Police custody scot-free in a matter of days.
BOTHERED that the family members of the deceased have reportedly raised an alarm of receiving strange phone calls and threats of various degrees and have been asked to withdraw the case.
REGRETS that the Nigeria Police Force has been reporting a surging high record in rape and gender violation across the country. Unfortunately, a very scary number of cases have been reported daily with thousands unreported. These acts are a gross violation of human rights to dignity, life, and sexuality.
CONCERNED that the public outrage on account of rape and other violent crimes against women and the girl child should not go unpunished as a deterrent for the perpetrators and others nursing the thought to forestall future occurrence
Condemn in strong terms, the act of sexual assault and gruesome murder of Miss Iniubong Ephraim Umoren as barbaric, inhuman, and despotic
Mandate the Inspector General of Police to immediately commission and take over the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
Mandate the Inspector General of Police to ensure the protection of her family members from harassment, intimidation, and harm.
Mandate the House Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development to follow up with the investigation and prosecution; ensure compliance and report back to the House.
Observe a minute silence in honour of the deceased and other victims of this nefarious act.
The House of Representatives has approved the Federal Government’s External Borrowing Plan of 1.5 billion dollars and 995 Million Euros, to finance priority projects.
The lawmakers are asking that the terms and conditions of the loans from each lender as contained in a duly Executed Loan Agreements, should be forwarded to the National Assembly for proper documentation.
The House also approved a revenue target of l.678 trillion naira for the Nigeria Customs Service for the 2021 fiscal year.
The figure is an increase from the initial 1.465 trillion naira proposed by the Nigeria Customs Service, which the House considered inadequate.
The lawmakers are asking the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN to as matter of urgency to procure four Scanners for the Nigeria Customs Service from the best scanners manufacturers either from Germany or America but not China-made scanners.