Reps, Information Minister in dispute over N100m generators

Ministry of Information and Culture and House of Representatives are in quarrel over N100 million allocated for the purchasing of two 250 KVA generating sets in the 2016 budget.

The House Committee on Information and National Orientation, led by Hon Segun Odebunmi, during an supervision visit to the Ministry of Information and Culture on the 2016 budget, questioning the ministry for using the allocation to buy lower capacity generators rather than the precise items proposed in the budget.

But Information Minister, Mohammed, told the lawmakers that the price initially set for the procurement of the generators, verified by Tenders Board, was above the budgeted cost due to fluctuating exchange rates.

According to him the development prompted the ministry to procure two sets of 100 KVA generators and 13 smaller sets for the Federal Information Centres nationwide. The generators would provide back-up electricity supply to the Federal Secretariat and the National Press Centre under construction.

The minister said that an application for a No Objection was granted by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) when a request for 100 KVA generators be purchased.

One of the lawmakers, Hon Saheed Fijabi, contended that the minister’s action contravened the Appropriation Act, adding the ministry did not have the right to move from a sub-head to another without approval.

He said the ministry should have approached the National Assembly for virement since it was 250 KVA units that were approved in the 2016 budget. But Mohammed and the ministry’s permanent secretary Mrs Ayotunde Adesugba insisted that the spending complied with the procurement act as fell within the approved threshold in the budget.

“We had to go back to BPP for permission for selective tender for the other ones because of the variation in the price for the 250 KVA units because of the high exchange rates. Aside we spent within limit buying more sets to power the federal information centres,” Mohammed said.

The minister also said that the three 18- seater staff buses that were advertised for tenders at N52million were equally affected by the high exchange rates.

The controversial generators, staff buses, federal government printing press and establishment of cultural industrial centres in six states were the four capital projects approved for the ministry in 2016.

The printing press is to cost N513million while N210 million is earmarked for the industrial centre.

But the session became rowdy when Fijabi interrupted Hon Boma Goodhead for asking Mohammed about government handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the Chibok girls, saying that they were on a budget defence visit.

The minister appealed to lawmakers to take interest in the North-east crises, saying that while Boko Haram is defeated , the problem of suicide bombing will not abate.

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IGP Idris threatened to be arrested by Reps over alleged diversion of N1.2bn for armoured cars

The House of Representatives on Thursday threatened to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, if he fails to appear before its Committee on Police Affairs on January 19.

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This followed the adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Gabriel Onyenwife, who condemned the continuous refusal of the I-G to honour invitations of the Committee.

The Committee is investigating alleged violation of the 2016 Appropriation Act by the Nigerian Police Force.

Moving the motion, Onyenwife noted that the I-G had failed to appear before the Committee to explain why the force diverted N1.2 billion approved for the purchase of 10 armoured personnel carriers.

He said that instead of using the approved sum to purchase the said carriers, the money was rather used for the purchase of 64 Toyota Hiace Commuter vehicles, without the approval of the National Assembly.

He also said that N6 billion was appropriated in the same act for rehabilitation of 102 police stations nationwide, but the amount was diverted for other uses.

“These infractions of the Appropriation Act 2016, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, and the Public Procurement Act 2007, are just two of the several infractions committed by the Nigeria Police Force in the course of implementation of the budget,” Onyenwife said.

According to him, the Committee on Police Affairs invited Idris on December 6, 2016 and December 13, 2016 in his capacity as the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Force to explain or justify these perceived infractions.

“But he failed or refused to honour the invitations or justify his failure or refusal to attend,” Onyenwife stated.

The House, therefore, resolved to summon the I-G to appear before the Committee unfailing on January 19, 2017 to justify the said infractions of the Appropriation Act 2016.

Re: Obasanjo Attacks Buhari, Senators, Reps, Judges by Ahmed Adoke

I wish to respond to the above subject matter published in The Nation newspaper of  Thursday November 24, 2016, pages 6 and 47.

The best friend is that courageous person who points out the shortcomings of  others with a view of making amends in the interest of the generality. One of such persons is former Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, whom I interacted with during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.

Thus far, I have not seen any positive response from those Obasanjo accused of impropriety that is contributory to our present hardship. Apart from name- calling, fagging him the ‘grandfather of corruption’, in truth, the issues raised by Obasanjo have not been addressed.

Much as Obasanjo cannot exempt himself from blames over our present economic imbriglio, well meaning Nigerians will appreciate that we have somebody blunt enough to point out mistakes of those in governance.

Experience, they say, is the best teacher. Obasanjo has seen the two sides of the coin in governance, military and civilian; hence, those in the present government should listen to his advice rather than castigate him.

The poor Nigerians who have suffered so much from past governments hope that President Muhammadu Buhari has a magic wand that would automatically ease their suffering, but, unknown to them, the fraudulent wrongs of the past military and civilian governments, inclusive of the two tenures of Obasanjo, through to Jonathan, have so much heaped unimaginable fraud in the annals of the country.

Obasanjo is very blunt in his analysis  of what the Nigerian youths can resort to if no immediate economic remedy is taken. Nigerian leaders have never witnessed the inevitable avowed anger of hungry youths.

Time shall come. If no remedy is taken to ameliorate the present hardship in the land which has turned most Nigerians to live on the edges of survival, forced the down trodden into compulsory beggars – that it could warrant them preferring to die than look helplessly as their wives go awhoring and children telling their parents they didn’t beg them to bring them to the world.  Obasanjo used the word ‘revolt’.

As for the National Assembly members who resorted to name-calling rather than addressing issues raised by Obasanjo on state of the nation, could they be described as outlaws in view of their cabal-like behaviour – for refusing to allow Nigerians who voted them know how much self-serving interests they allocated to themselves?

It is sad that the corruption inherited by President Buhari is so enormous, so much so that there is no Law Enforcement Agency and judiciary that could check it largely because of the rub-my-back-I-rub-yours syndrome in the system.

Our present condition in Nigeria is such that if you want to steal, steal big enough to enable you share with security agents (including some rogue anti-graft officers), the Judiciary and the lawyers. By this, your case will enjoy consistent adjournments so much so that the prosecution witness will tire out. It is unfortunate, and saddening, how most Nigerians take it out on the ‘innocent’ hungry thief, like the recent Lagos incident where a teenager out of hunger allegedly stole a cup of garri and was beaten and burnt to death.

As for the military, some of the past military heads of state, including Obasanjo himself, contributed gravely to the present woes of the Armed Forces, even before the advent of Boko Haram. It is, therefore, a good thing that Obasanjo remarked on the gross fraudulent misconducts of some Armed Forces Officers (Army, Navy, Air force and Police respectively involved in the Boko Haram finance/hardware saga.

There is remarkable departure from unmilitary behaviours in terms of keeping militarily fit and less fraudulent since President Buhari assumed office, his second coming, this time as civilian president. Not all are happy with his present anti-corruption stance even within the military, high-level civil servants, and some top officials who Buhari so much trusts within the Presidency. You cannot rule out fifth columnists within any set up in Nigeria against those who want it right.

For sake of brief introduction, I have witnessed so many civilian and military administrations since 1964 as a reporter and, God’s mercy sparing my life to date, I can say a few positive and negative occurrences from the time of the Wild Wild West crisis of 1965, 1st Nigerian Coup of 1966, and the Civil War of 1967-70. There is none of the notable civil war combat officers I have not interacted with, at the warfront or at the rear. Notably, those still alive include Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalam, Maj. Generals Chris Ali, Zamani Lekwot, Oladipo Diya, David Jemigbewon, I.B.M. Haruna, Muhammed Jega (present Emir of Gwandu), and present President Muhammadu Buhari.

As Obasanjo said, drastic problems deserve drastic solutions. If the NASS members behave seemingly as outlaws by being secretive about their budget, President Muhammadu Buhari should as well go drastic for the sake of our collective prosperity and posterity.

 

Christian courts needless now, Northern CAN tells Reps

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern States and Abuja has caked against the law for Christian Courts before the House of Representatives.

They said the Christian Courts Bill at this point in time, was needless as it would only generate crisis in the country.

The position of the Northern CAN was made known to our correspondent in Kaduna on Thursday by the Public Relations Officer of the association,  Rev. John Hayab.

He expressed concern over the inherent danger posed by the proposed bill that had scaled the second reading in the House.

The bill is sponsored by Hon. Gyang Dung(PDP) from Plateau State and eight other members of the House.

Gyang while  presenting the bill during plenary on Tuesday  had said the courts would complement the regular courts especially with matters relating to the tenets of the Christian faith, when established.

Dung, however, noted that it shall be between individuals and groups that yield and submit to its jurisdiction.

But the Christian body noted that rather than embarking on an enterprise that could throw the entire country into crisis, the lawmakers should legislate laws that unite Nigerians.

“This Christian Courts Bill cannot help us,…that is why we are voicing it out.

“This thing is not really what Nigerians want now,” he said.

Reps members are ‘corrupt grandchildren’ of ‘corrupt’ former President Obasanjo, says CACOL

A civil society group, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, has stated that it is hypocritical for former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, to label any government, institutions, agencies, individuals as corrupt in view of the unresolved and lingering suspected acts of corruption perpetrated by the former leader.

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Obasanjo had while delivering a public lecture on Wednesday, stated that the “National Assembly stinks and stinks to high heavens. It needs to be purged,” adding that the parliament operates a cabal “worse than any cabal that anybody may find anywhere in our national governance system at any time.”

The House of Representatives responded yesterday by stating that Obasanjo has no moral authority to talk about corruption, accusing him of being the grandfather of corruption in the country, who introduced corruption to the National Assembly on its first day in 1999.

But CACOL, in a statement issued by its Media Coordinator, Wale Salami, alleged that both the former president and the lawmakers are culpable in the scourge of corruption that is plaguing the country, adding that the legislators have by their statement admitted being corrupt grandchildren of a corrupt grandfather.

The CACOL Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, was quoted as saying: “to put it aptly, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s anti-corruption stance is pure hypocrisy and akin to ‘the kettle, calling the pot black’. We can say this even at the risk of sounding ‘supportive’ of the gluttonous legislators who have frankly admitted as reported in the media to being ‘corrupt grandchildren of a corrupt grandfather’; both sides of the divide are indeed culpable in the infestation of corruption in the fabrics of our society. They are two sides of the same coin, actually!”

“We recall how all efforts to get Obasanjo to answer to allegations of corrupt practices over the Halliburton and Siemens Scandal against him were met with consciously and tactically placed obstacles that have shielded the former President from judicial and public scrutiny of his roles in the saga till date.”

Disclosing what CACOL had done in the past on Obasanjo and his suspected corruption cases, Adeniran said, “our coalition submitted a petition against former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd) to the EFCC on November 14th, 2007 at the Lagos Zonal Office on offences bordering on alleged conspiracy, fraudulent conversion of funds and abuse of office, foreign exchange malpractice and money laundering.”

“Following the submission and defense of our petition, an investigative panel was set up to look into the issues raised by our Coalition. Till date, we are still tracking the case and have even written to the EFCC as recently as May, this year for updates, but nothing is forthcoming.”

“We found it worrisome; indeed, when we discovered that a report on our petition that the EFCC had not officially released found its way into General Obasanjo’s Book titled ‘My Watch’, in which the former President published a purported report of the investigation panel (page 431 – 465). We had wondered why it was only the former President that appeared to have seen the report while the other stakeholders and the populace remain in the dark and groping. The experience definitely speaks volumes on why some apparently corrupt elements in our midst remain ‘powerful’, ‘untouchable’ and very well ‘above the law’ in spite of the fact that, constitutional footing/s for such status does not exist!”

The CACOL Executive Chairman continued, “Were it not against this sort of background, Obasanjo and his ‘grandchildren’ in the legislature ought to bury the heads in shame. A morally upright person would be more comfortable with clearing his name of the corruption allegations against him before pointing fingers. Four fingers are pointing right back at Obasanjo in whichever direction he points a finger to, in the decadence that presently obtains, for being profoundly suspect in the Nigerian situation almost on all plains.

“The ongoing banters are insensitive and insulting to the people’s sensibilities. For the umpteenth time we call on the Attorney General of the Federation, the EFCC and other agencies to re-open the Halliburton and Siemens scandal case promptly, a case that has remained unresolved till date.”

You are the most corrupt Nigerian president since the country’s independence – Reps reply Obasanjo

The members of the House of Representative are saying a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is the most corrupt president Nigeria ever had.

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In a recent lecture delivered,  the ex-president had denounced the lawmakers as massively corrupt. The lawmakers in retaliation called him the most corrupt Nigerian president since the country’s independence.

Senate and Reps probe navy over alleged vandalism of vessels

According to reports, the Senate and the House of Representatives have instituted probes into the alleged vandalism of two vessels belonging to Lifeline Maritime Nigeria Limited and Braza Oil Nigeria Limited.

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The Senate yesterday mandated its Committee on Ethics and Privileges and Public Petitions to look into a petition of the firms’ legal adviser, Mike Ozekhome Chambers, who said the Nigerian Navy refused to release his clients’ coastal tankers in Warri.

Ozekhome said the Nigerian Navy refused to release the vessel to its owner, even after the police advised them that nothing incriminating was found against it and that it was not linked to any crime.

The company is therefore asking that the Minister of Defence, who has supervisory authority over the Nigerian Navy to pay $29,283,500 (about N1.2 billion) damages and N8, 730,000.00 for the “wanton and criminal vandalism and destruction of our clients’ ships MT FOLMAG BOND and MT BESKID and the expenses and losses attendant thereto.”

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu said the panel would invite the Ministry of Justice, EFCC and Nigerian Navy to explain their side of the story because without this the committee could not give a valid judgment on the allegation.

He, however, urged the petitioner to provide more documents to the committee before they could submit their report to the Senate.

The House of Representatives Public Petitions Committee had also invited the Nigerian Navy and defence ministry officials to appear before it on the same allegations.

Ozekhome explained why he also brought the matter to the lower legislative chamber. He said it was based on the request of the ministry of defence, which sought an out-of-court-settlement on behalf of the navy in January this year.

He remarked that efforts to get the navy to settle the $29,283,500 damages for the vandalised vessels and another N8.7 million for the stolen 50 tons of gasoline were yet to yield dividends.

Ozekhome, who accused the navy of frustrating all processes aimed at resolving the matter, added: “We believe that going by the doctrine of separation of powers, this is the appropriate forum to seek redress from the almighty executive arm of government.”

Ozekhome disclosed that the police and justice ministry officials cleared an 11-man crew of MT Folmag after it was discovered that they did not indulge in any piracy and oil theft while the second vessel MT Beskid conveying 1000 metric tons of gasoline and 11 crew members were wrongfully intercepted over alleged oil bunkering.

However, the absence of representatives of the ministry officials and the navy yesterday stalled proceedings of the Mr. Nkem Abonta-led House Committee.

Abonta, who was apparently disappointed, hinted that the committee would give the duo another chance to appear before considering other legislative options.

Airports concessioning to wait until N120bn fund probe over – Reps

According to reports, the House of Representatives has called on the minister of state for aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika,  to suspend plans on the proposed concession of airports until he is able to brief the House as well as Nigerians, the benefits of the concession as well as how it will tackle the challenges the aviation sector faces.

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It also called for the probe of the former minister of aviation, Sen. Stella Oduah, over the diversion of the N120 billion aviation intervention fund provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2012.

These were part of recommendations of the report of the House Committee on Aviation on the investigation into how to rescue the airline industry from imminent collapse, which was considered yesterday.

The House is also to invite Sen. Sirika to brief it on his plans and programmes for the aviation sector, including the current status of the ongoing remodelling of international airports, the reasons behind the scope and design of the remodelling. He is also to provide detailed drawings and specifications of current design in order to enable the ascertainment of the action cost of ongoing work compared to the loan received.

The report’s recommendations include: “Urge the minister of state, aviation, to stay action on the proposed concession of airports until the minister has been able to brief the House and Nigerians on how the proposed concession will remedy the challenges facing the sector and benefit consumer.

“Refrain from taking any action on the concession agreement between FAAN, and Bi-Courtney till the case is determined by the Supreme Court.

“Invite the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and airline operators (Domestic and International) to deliberate on the possibilities of CBN’s intervention in the crisis of foreign exchange for the airline industry.

“Call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the diversion of the N120 billion aviation intervention fund provided by the CBN in 2012.

“Meet with the management of Aviation Regulatory Agencies (FAAN, NCAA, NAMA, AIB, etc) to deliberate on the possibilities of denominating the aviation sector in local currency (Naira).

“Urge the management of Arik Air to reconcile its accounts with FAAN with a view to paying off its debts”.

The committee also recommended that the House invite Asset Management of Nigeria (AMCON) to appear before the it and fully brief the House of its plan of action to resuscitate the airline, Aero Contractors.

It further urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to, as a matter of urgency, make aviation fuel available regularly at affordable prices and make effort to refine aviation fuel (Jet 1) locally.

Reps summon Prisons boss and perm sec over handling of funds

According to reports, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has invited the Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr. Ja’ afaru Ahmed and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba, to explain why their staff have failed to retire funds approved to them.

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Also, the officers are to give reasons for failing to remit the Valued Added Tax (VAT) deductions to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) correctly and promptly as required by law.

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Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Kingsley Chinda, who issued the summons at the weekend after a session with the officers and their staff said the committee would always ensure that every appropriated fund expended must is properly accounted for by agencies of government and their workers.

At the scheduled meeting, the Prisons boss is also expected to produce the latest assets register of the service and all store received vouchers for Owerri, Bauchi and Kuje prisons to ascertain the volume of receipts by the Nigeria Prisons Service.

He was directed to come along with the four officers who failed to retire the N6.6 million advanced payments made to them since December 30, 2011.

The committee’s concerns sprung from queries by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAGF) against the NPS between 2010 and 2013 and forwarded to the committee for investigations.

Chinda frowned at the non-remittance of 10 percent VAT deductions to the FIRS and called on Adesugba to appear before the panel to explain the action of the staff in her ministry.

She is to also explain the whereabouts of five vehicles belonging to the ministry, which were declared missing, with only two having been recovered so far.

The committee promised to embark on on-the-spot- inspection of the recovered vehicles today and carry out other findings as would be necessary.

Members said they expected to meet one Mr. Alabi during the visit. They said he was the project accountant for one of the many conferences on which huge sums of funds were spent but are yet to be retired five years after the event was hosted.

Similarly, the team from the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will respond to about 21 other queries raised by the auditor general of the federation, particularly on monies expended on conferences and seminars since 2011, which have not been retired.

Meanwhile, a member of the House, Timothy Golu is seeking the intervention of the National Assembly to regulate all mortgage activities in the country and guarantee housing for all categories of workers.

Through a bill titled, “An Act to establish the Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders of Nigeria to regulate the activities and ensure professionalism in the system and for related matters”, the lawmaker is seeking a legal framework to streamline mortgage operations in the country and end the chaos currently associated with land ownership, estate valuing and mortgage financing.

He said the players in the mortgage industry, such as surveyors, architects, engineers, estate valuers, developers and lawmakers were already in support of the bill and were looking forward to legislative action on the issue.

Why we bought N3.6 Billion exotic cars during recession – Reps explain

It was gathered that the House of Representatives on Thursday defended its decision to buy exotic cars for its 360 members at a period the country’s economy is in recession.

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It said lawmakers must have a means of mobility while carrying out oversight duties over Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.

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The House will spend at least N3.6bn across 24 months to complete payment for the luxury vehicles supplied by the Kaduna-based Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited.

It can be recalled that on Monday the firm had already delivered 28 units of Peugeot 508 series to members in the first batch of 50 cars.

A total of 360 units of the exotic automobile would have been delivered by January 2017.

The Deputy Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Jonathan Gaza, while defending the procurement of the cars on Thursday, said that recession would not stop lawmakers from performing their legislative duties.

He argued that in a recession, both the executive and legislative arms of government were expected to work even harder to find urgent solutions to challenges facing the country.

Gaza noted that while working during recession, members were not expected to trek to the premises of the MDAs for oversight duties.

He added, “In a recession, we will all put on our thinking caps. We are working; these are committees’ cars and they are not the personal property of members.

“When you came here today, how did you come? Did you walk down to this place (National Assembly) from your house?

“If a member is going to visit an agency, will he trek there?

“We need materials, computers, stationery, cars; these are all for work.”

Asked to comment on whether the National Assembly would approve Buhari’s bid to take a loan of $29.96bn, Gaza replied that discussions were ongoing between the two sides.

The lawmaker said no conclusions had been reached.

He also declined to speak categorically on whether the government had begun making releases for the constituency projects of lawmakers.

The constituency projects of senators and members are worth N100bn in the 2016 budget of N6.06tn.

The refusal of the government to fund the projects is reported to be one of the sore points in the relationship between Buhari and the National Assembly.

But, when asked a direct question on the issue, Gaza parried it.

“We don’t release money for constituency projects. Our work is to pass the budget and we passed the 2016 budget. It is the responsibility of the executive to release funds for projects.

“Also, the money is not paid into our pockets, we don’t touch it,” he replied.