Xenophobia: Senate Demands Speedy Action From Foreign Affairs

Senate Spokesman Confirms Receipt Of Letter From BuhariThe Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Khadija Bukar-Abba, says no Nigerian was killed in the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The minister disclosed this on Tuesday while briefing members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on what the Nigerian Government is doing to protect its citizens in South Africa from attacks.

She said the government would send a delegation to the country to ascertain what the issues were with the aim of finding solutions.

After the last xenophobic attack in April 2015 where 10 deaths were recorded and properties looted or destroyed, Nigerians in South Africa are still seeking compensation for destroyed properties.

However, Bukar-Abba told the committee that no compensation has been paid by the government.

The committee expressed displeasure at the manner with which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has so far handled the crisis.

A member of the committee, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, called for hard hitting actions from Nigeria to address what has become a regular occurrence in South Africa.

The senators strongly condemned the recent attacks and looting of Nigerian-owned businesses in Pretoria West in South Africa.

The Nigerian community, led by Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, said they had reported the incident to the Nigeria Mission and South African Police.

The Senior Special Assistant to Nigeria’s President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, in a statement described the attacks as an unnecessary setback.

She advised Nigerians to be extra cautious, saying it appears the South African Government seems to have no control over the attacks.

How Senators View Nigeria’s 2017 Budget

Senate on 2017 budgetAt least 30 Senators on Wednesday gave their views on areas they feel the Executive Arm of Government needs to focus on if the nation is to attain some level of socio-economic development.

It was the second plenary in the week presided over by Senator Bukola Saraki, the Senate President and the 2017 Budget was one major bill that deliberations focused on.

Some of the areas the senators want the government to prioritise are infrastructure and agriculture.

After the Senate President led the lawmakers into plenary, he demanded that Senators should make their individual contributions to the 2017 Budget.

Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso spoke on the need to have at least one per cent allocation of the budget to the Health Sector. The Senator also harped on the need for increased personnel provisions for salaries to avoid incessant strikes in the health sector in 2017.

Senator Nelson Effiong identified what he called the focus of the budget on local workforce and commended the five per cent VAT which he believes will build investor confidence.

He also commended the increase in budgetary allocations of the Amnesty Programme from 45 billion Naira in 2016 to 65 billion in 2017.

The low capital expenditure in the budget, was of concern to Senator George Sekibo, who warned that Nigeria was indeed broke and had no money.

He pointed out that there was an increase personnel cost in the 2017 Budget “even when we say we are saving costs” and demanded that contractors should be paid.

While Senator Bassey Akpan lamented the high budget deficit and the poor management of foreign exchange rates, fiscal and monetary policies, he also commended the increased budget allocation towards increasing agricultural production.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa commended the Executive for bringing the MTEF in good time as well as keying-into the revamp of railways.

“We must compare the 2016 Budget’s performance with the estimated allocations in the 2017 Budget,” he said, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should tell Nigerians how much funds they had recovered in order to ensure transparency.

Senator Shehu Sani expressed hopes that the allocation to Education in the budget would address the basic issues in the sector while Senator Yele Omogunwa spoke on the factual data and statistics of unemployed, widows and others for National Planning and budget implementation.

Senator Omogunwa further highlighted that Nigeria’s budgets do not have maximal impact due to corruption and mockingly called for the legalisation and liberalisation of corruption.

Senator Jide Omoworare spoke on the need to reduce recurrent and increase capital expenditure. “Government has to spend more.  The allocations for Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture should be increased as the nation moves move towards diversification, PPP and Concessioning.

“The Peace in the Niger Delta Region should be sustained and the time line on MTEF and Budgets be reviewed,” he requested.

The Senator further stressed that there was a need to look at developmental planning from the past and improve on it for the future.

On his part, Senator Dino Melaye told the Senate that “truth be told, the 2017 Budget is too ambitious” and that “we borrow to swagger”, harping on the need to develop Agriculture to liberate the economy.

Senator John Enoh, like a professional in developmental economics, focused on the need to increase salaries and wages; high personnel costs; deficit budget; borrowing and revenue projections towards the implementation of the budget.

Senator Biodun Olujimi questioned the success or otherwise of the Treasury Savings Account. She said the Federal Government was paying lip service to diversification.

Senator Matthew Urhoghide spoke on the non-implementation of the Abuja Declaration on allocations to the Health Sector.

Senator Urhoghide further told the 8th Senate that they owed Nigerians a duty to do the right thing by allocating for basic health infrastructures budget.

Senator Sola Adeyeye decried the allocation to the education sector, saying “Nigeria is a pathetically poor country with an entire education budget of 448 billion Naira being 20% of that of Harvard University”.

Senator Adeyeye further identified an increased debt servicing in the 2017 Budget and demanded that cost of government must be reduced.

He said: “We must strengthen our private sector. Power, Road, Railway and Refinery Infrastructure must be developed”.

Senator Abu Ibrahim appreciated President Buhari for plans towards stabilising the country, commending the Social Intervention Plans.

For Senator Ali Ndume, the budget passed annually by the Senate so far lacks details. He says Senators need to know the sub-heads.

Senator Ndume further stressed the need for the allocations towards the humanitarian crisis in the North East to be increased.

After several other Senators took turn to give their views on the budget, the Senate Leader moved that the plenary should be adjourned to the next legislative day, Thursday, to continue the debate on the budget.

Land Transport: NASS Reaffirms Support For FG Reforms

Land transportThe joint committee of the National Assembly on land transport has reaffirmed its support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to revamp the nation’s land transportation sector.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, made the disclosure in Abuja while speaking at the headquarters of the Ministry of Transportation.

He said that the National Assembly is determined to ensure that Nigerians receive the benefits of the desired change being championed by the federal government.

He, however, criticized the Ministry of Transportation for failing to send an advance information on its budget performance in spite of an official request from the joint committee.

Senate Analyses President Buhari’s Borrowing Plan

Nigerian-SenateThe Senate has analyzed the various issues contained in President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter in which he had requested to borrow $29.960 billion for different projects.

The senate took a deep look at the Consumer Protection Bill, Hydro-electric Power Bill, and Prison Bill among others.

This took place on Wednesday at a plenary session in which the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, read out the letter sent by President Buhari, requesting approval of the Federal Government’s 2016-2018 borrowing plan.

This according to the letter, is to cover all sectors which include agriculture, health, water, employment creation, poverty eradication among others, across the country.

“Considering the huge infrastructural deficit currently being experienced in the country and the enormous financial resources required to fill the gap in the face of dwindling resources and the inability of our annual budget to bridge the infrastructure deficit, it has become necessary to resort to prudent external borrowing to bridge the financial gap which will largely be applied to key infrastructure projects namely power, railway and road project amongst others,” the letter read.

As the various bills were being considered, Senator Gbenga Ashafa in support of the Prison Bill said that he is particular about the improvement and attitudinal change of inmates.

While Senator Utazi Chukwuka explained the deplorable state of Enugu Prisons, Senator Musa Kwankwaso also affirmed that modern prisons should be built to accommodate prisoners, identifying that there are so many challenges with the operators too.

Mr. Ekweremadu expressed appreciation to the sponsors of the Prison Bill adding that it would help improve conditions of prisoners in Nigeria.

The sitting was adjourned to Thursday 27th October, 2016 when further deliberations into the President’s letter will continue.

Senate To Re-Enact Nigerian Railway Corporation Act

RailwayThe Senate has begun the process of re-enacting the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, to remove the bottlenecks that hindered the development of an efficient rail transport system in the country.

The Senate Committee on Land Transport held a public hearing in Abuja aimed at developing a practical and well-crafted legal framework for the Nigerian Railway Corporation to enable it meet with international best practices.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, at the public hearing said that the exercise when completed would set the Nigerian railway sector on the path of positive development.

At the hearing, Senate President Bukola Saraki said that the Senate has no choice but to speedily and comprehensively review and pass the bill which would aid the development of the railway sector.

Vehicles Worth N4.7 Billion Are Not For Legislators’ Personal Use – Ashafa

gbenga ashafa on senate vehicles proposalThe Chairman of Senate Committee on Land Transport has said the reported new vehicles worth N4.7 Billion are not personal vehicles to legislators, maintaining that they are meant for oversight functions.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said that “I must tell you that issues were raised and like any government arm, what you find out is that you can only manage whatever is given to you in the budget.

“Let me go further by explaining that there is no new vehicle for any legislator as I’m speaking with you.

“But for those who came in, whether first, second or third term, the vehicles some of them used at their previous administrations, were sold out to them at the current price that was prevailing. The money for the cars sold, would go back to the system”, he said.

The Senator further shed more light into the transport loans and car allowance allocated to legislators.

“The revenue mobilisation and fiscal commission had in place the remuneration allowances and salaries of legislators.

“Whoever comes in as Senate President or occupy any leadership position at the Senate, will have to comply with all those indices in the remuneration package”, he explained.

Answering a question on how members of the National Assembly are looking critically at reducing their budgets, Senator Ashafa said that “I can give you for a fact that whatever is necessary to do in order to sacrifice in ensuring that the budget is lean, transparent and workable as far as President Muhammadu Buhari is concerned, we will buy into it.

“President Buhari had promised that he would have a closed door session with us, we are waiting for that and we will will be transparent about whatever will be discussed in the meeting.

“If the consensus is that, this vehicle issue should be desiccant, so be it. We are ready to sacrifice for the sake of moving this country ahead”, he added.

President Buhari had frowned at plans by the National Assembly to buy over 400 new vehicles worth N4.7 billion at a time the nation is facing cash crunch.

The President criticised the plan on Wednesday, December 30, during his first televised Presidential Media chat, saying he had rejected a plan to buy new vehicles for himself in the 2016 budget estimates.

“I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the presidency, because the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years”, he said.

Nigerian Senate To Investigate State Of Refineries

Refineries in NigeriaThe Senate has summoned the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to find out the true condition of the country’s refineries.

At plenary on Wednesday Senator Gbenga Ashafa moved the motion for the investigation of the state of the refineries that have not been operational for years now.

The motion was moved with an intention to address the incessant fuel tanker tragedies on Nigeria’s highways.

In the last one month, there have been several incidents of tanker explosions and subsequent fire outbreak that has claimed lives and led to the loss of property work millions of Nigeria.

Senator Ashafa urged the Senate to address, with urgency, the repeated incidents of fuel tanker crashes in some Nigerian States.

He said: “Within the space of one week, four fuel tanker accidents occurred in two major cities in Nigeria, claiming lives and destroying property”.

The Senator further pointed out that the tragedies would have been avoided if the refineries were functional.

Lack of adequate maintenance of the refineries in Nigeria has led to so much reliance on imported petroleum products, making the nation the only major oil producing country in Africa that imports finished petroleum products from other countries.

To move the products from their landing states to other states, marketers rely solely on tanker.

On June 2, several shops and vehicles were destroyed by fire after a tanker loaded with petrol veered off a bridge at Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos State and exploded.

The fire burnt the line of shops, covering over 50 metres by the road side.

Few days after, another fuel tanker explosion occurred in Idimu area of Lagos State.

Reports say the tanker fully loaded with automotive gas oil otherwise known as diesel exploded around Idimu at about 12:30am on June 6.

During his political campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to fix the refineries and shore-up its capacity to reduce and eventually end importation of finished products.