Senate Approves NDDC N315.8b 2013 Budget

The Senate has approved the sum N315.8 billion as the 2013 budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The law makers approved N14.9 billion for personnel expenditure and N9.04 billion for overhead cost while the total estimated capital expenditure is put at N2.4 billion and N289.5 billion is for project development expenditure.

The budget estimate is to take effect from April 1st to March 31st, 2014.

However, the Deputy Senate President, who presided over the session warned against late submission of budget by government agencies.

Legal Practitioner Commends Mark Over Call For National Conference

A legal practitioner and public affairs analyst, Malachy Ugwumadu  on Wednesday commended the Senate president for retracing his steps on the need for the constitution of  a national conference.

Ugwumadu said “ Senator David Mark is on record to have made very sensitive comments regarding the convocation of a national conference” adding that “this is on the heels of his admission too, that the country as presently constituted, needs state policing”.

Ugwumadu, who is also at the forefront of those calling for the convocation of a national conference, noted that “the views they toed in the past are no longer working” saying that “we thank him for that”.

He however noted that cynics already believe that “the sovereign national conference has actually started in a different form” saying that “if Boko Haram for instance has as one of its demands, the Islamisation of Nigeria; you will find out that it is in direct contradiction of Section 10 of the constitution.

The Niger Delta, for instance, had issues with resource control and for long no one was listening to them and they had to take up arms. Today we have started hearing amnesty for kidnappers, armed robbers and so on and so forth” he said, insisting that “Nigeria as presently constituted cannot move forward”.

He listed the “consolidation of the culture of impunity” as one of the dividends of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rule in Nigeria noting that “impunity only strives when you do nothing with respect to any transgression and people are emboldened to do more”.

He said the “contradictions that led to the emergence of that organisation as a political party are beginning to resolve themselves one after the other”  insisting that “there is an advancement in that style of rascality” citing the fracas that ensued in the National Assembly on Tuesday over the visit of the Baraje-led leadership of the PDP.

He said it is “interesting too that our women have also dramatised capacity in wreaking the same measure of violence’’ advising that she should have “engaged in the force of logic”.

He likened the situation to “debates all over the world, particularly the intervention of the western world on Syria” insisting that there is no link between what is obtainable in the United Kingdom and United States with what is obtainable in Nigeria.

He said the Baraje-led executives of the party could not have visited the National Assembly to make their case without a “prior invitation” insisting that “I don’t think, as a private person, no less a factional leader of the ruling party, can just storm the National Assembly and just take over proceedings  in terms of been granted audience”.

He also said legislators should not continue to hide under the cloak of legislative immunity and cause bodily harm to each other.

Economist Urges FG To Generate Revenue Through Taxation

An economist, Odili Okey-Nwagbara on Tuesday called on the federal government to “use the internally generated revenue to service recurrent expenditure and externally generated revenue be used for capital expenditure”.

The economist, who noted that “problem is that the country has not actually structured its fiscal and monetary policy in a way that will be growth driven”, spoke from the Abuja studio of Channels Television during the morning flagship programme Sunrise Daily.

He warned that unless the government, “be it executive, legislature or judiciary” implements his recommendations, “they will not have any incentive to make sure the economy grows and develops” adding that “what is happening is what is supposed to be happening”.

He backed the recent statement by the former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, on the amount spent by the legislature in the past eight years and “taking the bulk of the recurrent expenditure”.

He also accused the legislative arm of government of allowing the executive to spend far more than they require.

In his words “it is the responsibility of the legislature to make the laws, including appropriation and oversight. So if they say that executive is spending more, it means that they are allowing the executive is spending in excess”.

Okey-Nwagbara also compared Nigeria’s economy to that of New York. He noted that New York had a budget of $148 billion to Nigeria’s $30 billion in 2013, adding that Nigeria’s economy is still a small one.

He argued that “whether you like it or not, what is been spent as recurrent, even though when you look at the percentage it is 68 to 70 percent, it is not actually big” noting that “had it been we have grown our economy to a larger extent, then what it means is that what we are spending on our recurrent is little or nothing”.

Explaining the reason behind the disparity, he said New York runs an income and corporate tax generating system while Nigeria relies solely on allocation from external sale of oil.

He therefore called on the government to re-engineer the economy to enable the government generate revenue through “taxation not allocation”.





Mark Challenges Military On Enhanced Security

The Senate President, Senator David Mark has challenged the armed forces to enhance its capacity to identify and disrupt threats to the country’s security.

Mark was speaking at the graduation ceremony of course 21 participants of the National Defence College.

The senate president said the federal government is prepared to take steps that will ensure the force is properly equipped to carry out its mandate.

The ceremony was attended by service chiefs, defence chiefs from participating countries, wives and families of the graduating officers.

The commandant of the college, Rear Admiral Thomas Lokoson encouraged the graduates to act proactively in the different leadership positions that await them, a view the senate president agreed with even though he also added a challenge to the country’s armed forces.



Mark Assures Czech Parliament Of Foreign Investment Safety In Nigeria

Senate President David Mark has assured the leadership of Czech parliament that terrorism would soon become history in Nigeria.

Senator Mark gave the assurance at a meeting with the Senate President of Czech’s Parliament in Prague the country’s capital.

He said the state of emergency in three north eastern states in Nigeria would ensure the end of terrorism in the country.

The Senate President led a delegation of federal lawmakers to Czech Republic for an inter parliamentary exchange programme in the central European country.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Senator Mark and his Czech counterpart, Senator Milan Stech  listed the areas which they hope both countries would strength ties

Senator Mark also assured the Czech of the safety of foreign investment in Nigeria despite the looming scepter of terrorism in the country.


Senate Approves State Of Emergency In Borno, Yobe And Adamawa

The Nigerian Senate has approved the state of emergency declared last week in three states believed to be the epicentre of Islamist insurgency in the country.

The Senate, after a closed-door session with 100 members (out of the 109 members), approved unanimously by a voice vote the official gazette of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, transmitted to it by President Goodluck Jonathan.

“We, therefore, approve Mr. President’s request for a declaration of state of emergency,” said Senate President, David Mark, after the voice vote.

The Constitution requires an endorsement by a minimum of 72 senators representing two-third of the total members.

Mark said: “We must emphasise very emphatically that all democratic structures must be left in place and they must be allowed to operate fully and actively and they must also be involved in all the effort by the Federal Government to put this ugly situation to an end.”

The Senate  emphasized that the armed forces should be issued proper code of conduct where they will be humane, benevolent and to make sure that all citizens are treated with utmost respect.

Legal Practitioner Says State of Emergency Is Yet To Take Effect

A legal practioner and public affairs analyst, Ikechukwu Ikeji has faulted the manner in which President Goodluck Jonathan has handled the declaration of State of Emergency in Adamawa, Yobe and Adamawa states.

Ikeji, who was fielding questions on Channels Television’s morning flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, argued that the president should have sent a Gazette of the declaration before going ahead with the announcement.

Ikeji said “What matters is the publication of the Gazzette. As sson as you want to declare a state of emergency, you publish the Gazette and send it forthwith as soon as you have declared it to the Senate and the House of Reps”.

He further argued that political structures in the affected states should not be upstaged until the Gazzette has been published. He also said the military shouldn’t have carried on with the deployment of troops to the states.

Reacting to a press conference by the Senate Majority Leader, Victor Nodma-Egba that the senate is yet to discuss the declaration because the Gazzette has not been sent to them, he said “If somebody is saying that the Gazzette has not been published or has not been transmitted, absolutely what we are just simply saying in effect is that there is no declaration yet of state of emergency”

Ikeji described the present declaration as an improper declaration of state of emergency, saying that people can seek redress in the law courts if they feel their fundamental rights have been trampled upon.

However, he agreed that the president, empowered by Section 130 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Section 218, can deploy troops to any part of the country.

He said the president can premise the deployment of troops on the aforementioned sections of the 1999 constitution but not on the state of emergency.

House To Probe Minister of Petroleum Over “Suspicious Oil Deals”

The House of Representatives is set to investigate the Minister of Petroleum Resources,  Diezani Alison-Madueke over allegation of suspicious oil deals worth N59 trillion.

Speaking on a matter of public importance, member Representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency in Anambra State, Representative Victor Ogene accused the minister of impropriety and abuse of due process in the transaction leading to the sale of seven oil mining leases.

The matter was brought to the house following a petition by group from oil producing communities in Delta, who alleged that there was a deliberate exclusion of indigenious operators from the exercise.

Last week, members of oil producing communities in Delta state stormed the National Assembly to demand better control of the resources in their community.

They also protested what they described as the fraudulent allocation of oil mining leases.

During the protest last week, federal lawmakers from the senate addressed them and promised to take necessary action.

However, the matter was brought before the House of Representatives and they plan to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegation.

The House has asked members of the public to submit necessary documents to the committee, which has four weeks to conclude the investigations

FG Illegally Withdrew N1.04 Trillion From Special Funds Account In 10yrs- Senate

The senate has accused the executive of withdrawing money from the Special Funds Account (SFA) from 2002 till 2012 without due process and appropriate financial practice.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Ahmed Lawan (ANPP, Yobe State) submitted the committee’s finding in a report on the status inquiry into the SFA, which was presented at the floor of the Senate.

Thea report detailed the various withdrawals made by the federal government from SFA.

The report said N1.5 trillion was accrued to the Special Funds Account as at June 30th 2012 out of which the sum of N580 billion were released as loans which have not been paid several years later.

The report also showed that several beneficiaries of the funds utilized the funds for other purposes other than what the funds were created for.

The Special Funds Accounts were initially established to mitigate peculiar areas of needs in the country in 2002.

The funds were intended to tackle erosion and other ecological problems, provide funds to develop alternative mineral resources and provide for unforeseen contingencies and economic downturn.

The Accounts, managed by the Federal Government, comprises the three per cent Development of Natural Resources Account, 1.46 per cent Derivation and Ecology Account, and 0.72 per cent Stabilisation Account.

According to the report, N1.51 trillion accrued to the SFA as at June 30, 2012, from figures obtained from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF). Out of the amount, N1.23 trillion was recorded as total payments to beneficiaries from the account, the report said.

The report also shows how N750 million was released for frivolities such as the development of Abuja Downtown Mall and N10 million released for building an abattoir in Bida, Niger state.

Other loans granted from the funds are: N3.4 billion to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to purchase a chancery in Tokyo, N12 billion loans granted to Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe in 2004 and 2007 as well as N309 million granted to the inspector general of police for purchase of vehicles for UN peace keeping operations in Haiti in 2006, N16.2 billion loan granted to the Directorate of Pilgrim Affairs.

In other infractions, the report noted that N5.7 billion loan was granted to the Ministry of Power and Steel in 2005 for the payment of severance package to disengaged steel workers.

Similarly, in October 2007, the Ministry of Finance also withdrew N10 billion for the payment of arrears of monetisation benefits owed Federal Government parastatals.

The senate consequently directed its committee on Public Accounts to investigate further the utilization of the funds in the special funds account and report to the senate within four weeks.

Senate Charges Works Ministry To Commence Work On Niger Bridge

 The Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Works to commence immediate repairs of the Niger Bridge and take urgent action to commence work on the second bridge across the river.

The upper chamber also directed its Committee on Works to carry out investigation with the Ministry of Works and proffer immediate solution to the poor state of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos.

The federal lawmakers made these recommendations after two lawmakers brought up the issue of the poor state of the Niger and Third Mainland Bridges.

Senator Hope Uzodinma pointed out the worsening condition of the River Niger Bridge and the need for the federal government to ensure that the second bridge becomes a reality.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa, who moved the motion on the Third Mainland Bridge, noted that if the deplorable condition of the bridge is not addressed immediately, it could lead to a national disaster.

The Third Mainland Bridge which measures 11.8 km is the longest bridge in the country and connects the Lagos Mainland to the Island.

It was built by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Borini Prono, and commissioned by former military president Ibrahim Babangida in 1990.

The Federal Ministry of Works completed repair works on the bridge in October 2012.

However, some of the lawmakers are of the opinion that the repair works done on the bridge is not sufficient.

Mali: ECOWAS Speaker Flays Prime Minister’s Forced Resignation

The Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Senator Ike Ekweremadu has condemned in strong terms, the forced resignation of the Prime Minister of Mali, Cheik Moddibbo Diara by Mali military.

The Speaker who described the Prime Minister’s resignation as shocking said such effrontery by the military negated the efforts and sacrifices being made by the ECOWAS to restore peace, order and security in the West African country.

“This development is not only a recipe for worsening the travails of democracy and security in Mali, but a stain on the joys of the successes recorded in the Sierra Leone and Ghana general elections”, he said.

Senator Ekweremadu who is also the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate called on all parties in the Mali impasse, especially the military, to be cautious and restrain from worsening the Mali crisis.

“The political situations in Mali and the terrorist insurgency in the North of the country are already worrisome developments that hold grave implications for the entire sub-region and this latest event makes the deployment of an African-led International Force in Mali very proper and urgent” the Speaker emphasised.

The Speaker was speaking through a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu.

Jonathan Demands Additional N161.1 Billion For Subsidy

President Goodluck Jonathan has asked the National Assembly to approve the sum of N161.1 billion supplementary budget for 2012.

In a letter addressed to the Senate President, David Mark, President Jonathan said the sum is meant for fuel subsidy.

He explained that as part of the 2012 Budget Framework, a provision of N88O.1 billion was appropriated for payment of fuel subsidy for 2012.

However he stated that following the forensic audit carried out, the provision of fuel subsidy in the 2012 budget was under estimated.

President Jonathan stated that in order to accommodate the outstanding arrears resulting from the forensic audit exercise and payment for the remaining period of the year 2012, the additional sum is required.

He asked lawmakers to speedily approve his request to help maintain a steady flow of fuel during the festive season.