Bayelsa Governor Signs Physical Planning And Development Bill Into Law

Bayelsa StateBayelsa State Governor has signed the state Physical Planning and Development bill into law.

The Act addresses urban, regional and physical planning in line with Governor Seriake Dickson’s administration policy of transforming the entire Bayelsa landscape.

Appending his signature on the bill at the Government House in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital in south-south Nigeria, Governor Dickson said the essence of the bill was not only to tackle the issue of physical planning, but also to strengthen its revenue generation drive towards boosting the internally generated revenue base.

According to the Governor, the establishment of the new law harmonises all the existing legislation in the defunct Capital City Development Authority (CCDA) to be administered by a board at the state level, while the local planning authorities would oversee the same assignment at the Local Government level.

Governor Dickson also urged intending development partners and oil companies operating in the state to abide by the physical planning and development law as responsible corporate citizens of the state, by paying levies as and when due.

“With the establishment of this bill, the stage is set for development partners, as well as those already doing business in Bayelsa and several other oil operators, who hitherto, were operating outside our laws; hopefully will comply with our laws as responsible corporate citizens and pay their levies and bills as and when due.

“The board will be in charge at the state level and in the case of the Local Government Areas, the local planning authorities will oversee their activities,” the Governor said.

The Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Right Honourable Konbowei Benson, who presented the Physical Planning and Development Bill for accent, explained that the passage of the new bill brought to 49, the total number of bills considered by the House.

Kidnapped Mother of Bayelsa’s Speaker Regains Freedom

The 78 year old mother of the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, who was kidnapped eight days ago, has regained her freedom.

Madam Betinah Okunwa Benson, kidnapped mother of Kombowei Benson, the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly was reportedly freed at about 10PM last night.

It is not clear if the N40million ransom demanded by her abductors was paid to secure her freedom.

The spokesperson of the Speaker, who confirmed the incident, stated that Madman Benson was handed over to members of her family by the officials of Sagbama local government council.

She was kidnapped at her country home; Korokorosei in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State a week ago by about 10 gunmen in two speed boats.

In an earlier  statement by the Speaker on the reasons given by the kidnappers for abducting his mother, he said they were aggrieved that the State Assembly under his watch passed the anti-cultism bill which threatens their operations.
He was also accused of interfering in the affairs of the Community Development Committees (CDCs) in the state.

N78m trip scandal: Bayelsa Speaker refunds N19.5m

The Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Kombowei Benson, has refunded N19.5m to the state treasury out of N78m the House collected from the Governor of the state, Mr. Seriake Dickson, to sponsor members to the 43rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in South Africa.

The Speaker also admitted that the Anti-Fraud Unit of the police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were on his neck over the N78m South African trip scandal rocking the state House of Assembly.

Benson spoke in Yenagoa on Friday through his spokesman, Mr. Piriye Jonathan, during a two-day Capacity Training for Journalists organised by the Federated Correspondent Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. He said the police stormed the House and grilled the lawmakers on the alleged fraud. But the speaker said he refunded part of the money on August 3, about one month after the programme.

Our correspondent gathered that the speaker took the option of returning part of the money after the matter leaked to members of the public.

The speaker and 23 other members of the House have been battling with an allegation that they frittered N78m belonging to the state on the pretence that they attended a conference in South Africa.

The allegation was first made public through a petition addressed to the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, by a civil society group, Transparency and Good Governance Coalition.

Benson and other lawmakers were said to have written to the governor demanding N78m to enable them attend the 43rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in South Africa which was held from June 29 to July 8.

Having received the request dated May 7, Dickson was said to have approved the money on June 28 on condition that it must be used for the conference.

But Benson who admitted that the police had commenced probe on the matter was silent over the allegations that he failed to honour the invitation of the EFCC.

Our correspondent found that EFCC through a letter dated August 6 invited the speaker to its office in Abuja for questioning.

The letter which was signed by the commission’s Head, Economic Governance, Olufunke Adetayo, requested the speaker to be at EFCC’s office on August 13. A copy of the letter was obtained by our correspondent in Yenagoa.

EFCC in the letter which was addressed to the Speaker said, “This Commission is investigating a case of conspiracy, abuse of office and diversion of public funds in which the need to obtain clarification from you becomes imperative.

“In view of the above, you are kindly requested for interview by the undersigned through Mr. Obioha Okorie on 13th August, 2012 at Block C, No 5 Fomella Street, Off Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja by 10 am prompt.

“This request is in pursuant to section 38 Sub 1 and 2 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004″.

But our correspondent learnt that Benson had been playing hide and seek with the commission, refusing to honour the invitation.

It was learnt that after receiving the letter, Benson wrote to the commission begging that the date should be shifted to August 20. The speaker was said to have reneged in his promise to appearing before the commission on August 20.

Benson, however, said he was willing to be investigated, adding that the allegation that members diverted the money earmarked for the conference was untrue.

“We attended the conference,” he said but admitted that the lawmakers only met the closing ceremony of the conference owing to visa problems.