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.

Former Rivers Commissioner Debunks Omereji’s Report

Former Rivers Commissioner Debunks Omereji's Report

Former Commissioner of Information, Ibim Semenitari, has discredited the Justice George Omereji led panel report on the administration of former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi.

Mrs Semenitari noted that at no time was the former governor officially invited to the judicial panel of inquiry.

The former commissioner noted that there are picking holes in the report and questioned the constitution of the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry.

Mrs Semenitari maintained that the processes of its constitution and the eventual report were flawed with irregularities.

The Rivers State Government had earlier presented a white paper demanding the immediate prosecution of former Governor Amaechi and all persons involved in what the government called fraudulent transactions.

The call was sequel to the report of the 30-day sitting of the panel which was set up to investigate the sale of state assets.

 

Rivers Panel Of Inquiry Indicts Former Governor Amaechi, Others

AmaechiThe Rivers State Government has presented a white paper demanding the immediate prosecution of the former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and all persons involved in what the government called fraudulent transactions.

This is following the report of the 30-day sitting of the Justice George Omeregi led Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the sale of state assets.

Members of the State Executive Council presented the white paper to journalists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The Commissioner of Housing in Rivers State, Emma Okah, who spoke on behalf of the State Government, told journalists in Port Harcourt that the state’s Attorney-General has been mandated to start all legal processes against former governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; a former military administrator of Rivers State, Brigadier Anthony Ukpo (Rtd) and some other former political office holders to refund over 97 billion naira allegedly misappropriated in the sale of the state valued assets.

The Commissioner of Housing stated that the issues of illegality cannot be swept under the carpet.

“You will agree with me that the Omereji commission had several terms of references and we will be taking them one after the other. The first term of reference is to ascertain the sale of the Omoku 150 megawatts gas turbine; Afam 360 megawatts gas turbine; Trans-Amadi 136 megawatts gas turbine and the Eleme 75 megawatts gas turbine by the administration of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

“The commission finds as a fact that the sale of 70% equity from the First Independent Power Limited in Omoku gas turbine, Trans-Amadi gas turbine, Afam Phase I gas turbine and Eleme gas turbine, have been very difficult to justify. They have therefoe recommended the review of sale of the power assets and the government of Rivers State has accepted that recommendation.

“Refund of proceeds by Rotimi Amaechi, Chamberlain Peterside, and Augustine Nwokocha. In furtherance of this findings that the sale of the four gas turbines was unjustifiable and against the interest of the government and people of Rivers State.

“The commission recommends that the former governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, along with his former commissioners for Finance and Power , Dr. Chamberlain Peterside and Augustine Nwokocha, respectively, should be held to account for their roles in the sales of the power generation assets of First Independent Power Limited and the disbursement of the proceeds there from.

“Government accepts this recommendation and directs the office of the Honorable Attorney-General and commissioner for Justice, to promptly set in motion the appropriate machinery for the recovery of the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbines from the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and every other persons implicated in the commission’s report,” he said.

However, a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and former Chief Of Staff Rivers State, Glory Emeh, while reacting to the development, expressed the view that the sale of the gas turbines was the right thing to do.

There are expectations that the fallout of the report of the judicial panel of inquiry would produce more controversy.

Ministerial Nominees’ List Is Not ‘Change’ Nigerians Voted For – Odenigbo

NomineesA member of the PDP National Publicity Team, Colet Odenigbo, has expressed disappointment in the ministerial nominees list sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“I have issues with both the timing and the capacity of the nominees of Mr President,” he said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday.

He based his view on the time taken by the President to present the list and wondered why the list ended up including people who had been in governance in the past.

“I’m sure you know that in-between this delay, there have been several constitutional violations where the country’s business is being carried along without the required constitutional requirements.

“Having taken all these length of time for the administration to present us with the list of these people that we all know, list of people that have questions hanging around them, list of people whose political DNAs are all over the country, to say that the Nigerian people are being taken for a ride will be an understatement,” he stated.

Odenigbo said that he could only identify three persons among the nominees who have the capacity and integrity and whose antecedents speak for but other than that, “it’s just a recycling of the old folks and it doesn’t give hope for the young and upcoming Nigerians that at some point they are going to be part of the administration of this country”.

Old Way of Doing Things

Mr Odenigbo was, however, reminded that his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could be considered guilty of the recycling process he complained about, looking at the party’s antecedent, but he disagreed on the grounds that Nigeria should not be looking at the old way of doing things.

“The President came on board on the mantra of change (but) to continue his administration with the business as usual, I don’t think that that was the basis on which Nigerian citizens gave him a mandate of change.

“The essence of growing democracy is that we continue to refine the process by which we do the people’s business.

“If there is anything that the past administration did wrong or has done wrong, the optimism of Nigerians is to look forward to a new way of doing things so that they can say ‘yes this change is coming finally’.

“But when you look at that list and when you look at what is going on, it doesn’t show any seriousness in the claims of fighting corruption. I don’t think it sets a good precedence for the young Nigerians who went out in droves claiming that they want change in this country.”

Results

The PDP man remained pessimistic about the capacity of a majority of the ministerial nominees to produce results as suggested by many Nigerians.

He maintained that their antecedents have left him with less to expect, although with few exceptions, singling out the current Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.

“I don’t think anybody would argue about his competence and capacity to run that agency because he has the track record to do that, having being exposed to multinational corporations where he must have imbibed some organisational culture that will be favourable to the organisation of the NNPC.

“But when you have other names which you and I know is nothing short of political patronage, under the disguise of change, it’s nothing but short-changing Nigerians.”

He stated that the President should have shown enough courage to select his cabinet putting competence and integrity ahead of political patronage.

“It takes a lot, yes some people worked for the campaign but that doesn’t mean that you have to choose those individuals that worked for your campaign. We need to look for Nigerians that are capable – Nigerians that will spend more time focussing on the business of Nigeria rather than the issues of allegations hanging over their heads.”

Mr Odenigbo maintained that President Buhari needs to “bring in some new blood” to his cabinet to ensure real change.

 

Senate Receives Petition Against Amaechi’s Ministerial Nomination

SenateSenators from Rivers State have submitted a petition to the Senate against the nomination of the former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi as minister.

Mr Amaechi was one of the twenty one ministerial nominees unveiled on Tuesday by Senate President Bukola Saraki.

The petition was written by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Integrity Group based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

Presenting the petition on the floor of the Senate, a federal lawmaker from Rivers State, Senator George Sekibo informed the Senate that the petition bordered principally on corruption and criminal breach of trust levelled against Mr Amaechi.

The Senate President referred the petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges for consideration.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday unveiled the partial list of 21 ministerial nominees, including Mr. Amaechi.

 

Senate Asks Buhari To Constitute North-East Rehabilitation Committee

Nigeria-SenateThe Nigerian Senate has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to establish a Presidential Intervention Committee on the rehabilitation of the north-eastern part of the nation, devastated by activities of the Boko Haram terrorists.

The Senate reached the resolution after an observation by Senator George Sekibo, a Peoples Democratic Party member representing Rivers East Senatorial District, on infrastructural damages caused by the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east.

He said: “Thousands of personal buildings and properties, social amenities and infrastructure, such as electricity, and telephone services have been destroyed in many parts of the zone.

“The livelihood of many indigenes of the area has been disrupted such that majority of the people are either in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps or are helplessly roaming the streets without any hope for their future”.

Some lawmakers argued that any rehabilitation of the north-east without first winning the insurgency would be a waste of time.

Others also called for a deliberate strategy to generate adequate funds for the reconstruction of social infrastructure destroyed by the insurgents.

While rounding off the debate, the Senate President pledged that the Senate should complement the efforts of the President to actualise his campaign promises, which was basically to guarantee security and welfare of Nigerians.

After an exhaustive debate on the issue, the Senate resolved that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, would lead a delegation to visit the troops and Internally Displaced Peoples camps in the north-east.

For over five years, the Boko Haram terrorist group has carried out series of attacks on communities, schools, places of worship and other public places in the north-east, rendering many homeless.

Senate Screens Service Chiefs

The Senate on Monday screened the newly appointed service chiefs. This is the first time it is happening since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999.

President Goodluck Jonathan had last week forwarded the names of the service chiefs to the senate for confirmation.

They are Chief of Defence staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosu.

At the screening exercise, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Defense, Senator George Sekibo said previous administrations had flouted Section 217 to 219 of the 1999 constitution by not sending the names of service chiefs to the senate for confirmation.

Sekibo said, “The screening exercise today therefore is in fulfillment of the provisions of the constitution and the Armed Forces Act 2004 (Cap A.20 of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) which has been flouted since it was enacted.

“This exercise we are performing today would satisfy the provisions of the constitution and law, and completely put our Armed Forces under our democratic norms.” he added

Senator Sekibo however said the committee would ascertain the competence of the officers in strategic military operations.

The leadership of the APC had through a communique read by its Interim National Publicity Secretary,  Alhaji Lai Mohammed, last week directed their members in the National Assembly to block the passage of the budget, and the screening of new service chiefs and ministers.

Senate Decries Underfunding Of Armed Forces Command And Staff College, Jaji

The Nigerian Senate has termed as inadequate the funding of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji North West Nigeria.

At an oversight visit to the college by the Senate Joint Committee on Defence and Army on Thursday, the committee members lamented that the annual budgetary allocation to the college is insufficient to meet its demands, while at the same time; the funds approved are never released fully by the Ministry of Defence.

Worried by the insufficient funds allocated to the college in the 2013 budget, the committee said it was totally unacceptable that such a foremost military training institution in Sub Saharan Africa would be starved of funds to carry out its duties of churning out highly skilled officers for the country.

Chairman of the committee, Senator George Sekibo who led other members to the college said the committee will do everything within its powers to ensure that the institution is funded properly by the Federal Government, given its importance to the security of the nation.

Senator Sekibo told the commandant that the committee was at the college to ascertain if the funds approved to the college in the 2013 budget have been released by the relevant offices and also to know how the funds were spent.

In their separate presentations, the commandant of the college, Air Vice Marshal Eko Effiom Osim and Director of Finance, James Iliyasu told the lawmakers that out of the 3 billion Naira appropriated to the college for various projects this year, only 1.5 Billion Naira has been accessed on paper, while only the sum of 743 million Naira was released for Capital Expenditure as at October 31, 2013, a situation that has hindered rapid development of infrastructure in the college.

Despite the challenges, the commandant said the management has been able to execute some capital projects.

At the end of their presentation, the committee members were not impressed with the budgetary allocation to the college and blamed the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for the disparities in funds approved and the ones released to the college.

The committee however, expressed satisfaction with the expenditure pattern of the college and called on the Federal Government to take the college as a priority by allocating enough funds to the institution.

The Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) Jaji,  is a joint Service Institution established in 1976 to offer increased capacity for academic and professional training of military officers and other ranks of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Senator George Sekibo’s wife kidnapped

Asime G.T. Sekibo, wife of serving Senator George Thompson Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial District, was kidnapped on Thursday night by unknown gunmen on the outskirt of Port Harcourt.

Mrs Sekibo, who was kidnapped along with two other persons, was reportedly returning back home from the University of Port Harcourt, where she’s a student.

Though a source close to the family confirmed that the kidnappers had already contected her husband, Senator Sekibo, to give their ransom terms for her to be released, he could not state any specific amount they were demanding.

The kidnappers struck at about 7:00pm under the Obiri Ikwerre Bridge, which is still under construction, along the East-West Road.

According to the source, who would prefer his name not to be mentioned, there were four occupant in the car conveying the senator’s wife, but the hoodlums pushed one of the occupants out, taking off with their prime target and two other passengers.

“They called the Senator at about 9:00pm to inform him they were the people who kidnapped his wife. I don’t know for certain how much they are demanding, but I know they have asked for a ransom.

“The vehicle was later found abandoned around Aluu community, which suggests they might have escaped through that area. They also took the two other occupants with her”, the source revealed.

When reached for official confirmation and details, the Rivers state police spokesman, Ben Ugwuegbulam (DSP), said he was not informed yet, promising to get in touch with the police chief in charge of the area.
He, however, was not forthcoming until the filing of this report at about 5:10pm.