Tag Archives: ahmad

‘Senate will stands always for National Interest’ – Lawan tells Ohanaeze

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President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has given assurance that the Senate will ensure that every part of Nigeria will continue to receive a just and fair deal.

“I want to assure you that the Senate will always stand by National interest,” Lawan told a delegation of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an Igbo social-cultural association from the South East of the country.

“We believe in the unity and the need for every ethnic group, every religious persuasion to have a very fair deal within the country.

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“We will work with your representatives from the South East, particularly from Ibo land. We will do everything to support them and they are representing you very well in the Senate,” Lawan said.

The group was led by its Secretary-General, Dim Uche Okwukwu on a courtesy call on the Senate President at the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.

The Senate President said notwithstanding their different political platforms, the national interest has remained their guiding principle in the National Assembly.

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The Senate President assured his guests that the Federal lawmakers would always support what would give them the kind of inclusion and sense of belonging in the southeast.

“We can see the commitment of the Federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in ensuring that every part of Nigeria gets some infrastructure development,” Lawan said.

The Senate President drew the attention of his guests to the progress on the second Niger Bridge and compared it with the unfulfilled promises of the past on the project.

“This administration may not talk too much but it is doing a lot across the country with very little resources. Not like the plentiful resources the previous administration had.

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“And of course, you have mentioned the appointments that you have as well and indeed there should be many more. As soon as the opportunities become available for more people of Ndigbo extraction to be appointed, I’m sure the President will do that and the administration will do that.

“It is in the public interest and it is in the interest of the administration and the party because it is when you are fair to people that they can give you support as an administration or vote you in, if you are a political party. And these are things that should be taken as given.

“So we will ensure that you continue to receive justice and fairness even in appointments.

“I believe there is a need for peaceful co-existance in all parts of the country. Where we have misunderstood, the best way to go is to dialogue and find solutions to our disagreement.

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“If someone feels he has a just cause or reason to seek redress in court, this is a democracy but the best way to resolve issues often is not going to court especially in a country like ours where we can do better if we dialogue more.

“I don’t know the essence of this court action but what is important is for me to assure you again that the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, will always ensure that you are given and every part of the country is given a sense of belonging.

“What is due to every part of this country should go there and that is why there is representation in the first place.

“If you have any concern, you have your representatives or you can simply write to the National Assembly, the two chambers if you like, to say that these are the issues we feel concerned about and you want the National Assembly to address them or if you feel it is better handled by the Executive side of government, you are free to do so to air your concerns.

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“I am sure that this administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari will continue to work hard to provide for every part of this country within the limited resources that we have,” Lawan said.

Earlier, Dim Uche Okwukwu who spoke for the delegation said the mission to Abuja was to congratulate Lawan as Senate President on behalf of the Igbo nation.

“Ndigbo are proud of you and the leadership of the National Assembly. We are aware that without your total support for President Muhammadu Buhari, the ongoing infrastructural projects across the length and breadth of Igbo land would be impossible.

“Mr. President, we are not unaware that presently, a misguided person, without the mandate and authority of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo joined some others to sue the government. Therefore, we wholly dissociate Ohanaeze Ndigbo and indeed Ndigbo from that stillbirth suit. It will certainly fail,” Okwukwu said.


#Newsworthy…

Lawan says electoral reforms must satisfy Nigerians

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President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has charged the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to engage relevant stakeholders with a view to reforming Nigeria’s Electoral Process.

Lawan gave the charge in his remark after referring the confirmation of the nomination of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu for an appointment as a Resident Electoral Commissioner to the INEC Committee.

According to Lawan, the reform of the country’s electoral process by the National Assembly must be carried out with a view to meeting the expectations of Nigerians.

“We must ensure that we work so hard and assiduously on the electoral reforms.

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“This is one way of ensuring that we collect all the different submissions from different stakeholders.

“Our Committee on INEC together with major stakeholders should start working on this as quickly as possible, to ensure that we are able to meet the expectations of Nigerians regarding electoral reforms,” Lawan said.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan

The Senate President also gave the Committee four weeks to submit its report on the appointment of Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu as a Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In a similar vein, Senator Lawan, on Tuesday, urged the Executive arm of Government to work on the estimates for the 2021 budget to ensure its timely presentation to the National Assembly by the end of September this year.

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Lawan stated this in his remarks after referring President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper request to the Senate Committees on Finance; and National Planning for further legislative work.

The Senate President while charging both Committees to engage the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning on the MTEF/FSP request, stressed the need for the panel to lend its support where necessary to Revenue Generating Agencies towards meeting expected revenue targets.

The Committees were given four weeks to report back to the Senate.


#Newsworthy…

Ahmad Lawan mourn Ben Murray-Bruce Wife’s death.


President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has condoled with Senator Ben Murray-Bruce over the death of his wife, Evelyn Murray-Bruce.

Lawan commiserated with the entire family of the Senator who represented Bayelsa East Senatorial District in the Eighth Senate and the people of Bayelsa State over the tragic loss.


He said the late Mrs Murray- Bruce was a pillar of support for her husband and their entire family, saying her untimely passage has left a void that will be difficult to fill.

Lawan urged Senator Murray-Bruce to take solace from the enviable life that she lived and the fond memories she left with all those whose lives she touched.

The Senate President prayed that God will comfort the Senator, the children and other loved ones she left behind and grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.


#Newsworthy…

Senate accept Buhari’s $22.8bn loan request for this reason…


The Senate on Thursday approved the $22.79bn loan request of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The process of approval, was not however, without protests from the opposition senators led by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Loans, Senator Clifford Ordia, laid the report and was about to read the executive summary when trouble started.


Senator Adamu Aliero asked the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to postpone deliberation on the document until next week to enable them study the report very well.

Lawan rejected the suggestion warning that the report may have become a public debate before next week because the press would definitely get copies and publish the contents.


The coast was then clear for Ordia to present the executive summary of his report but his conclusion generated another heated argument among senators.

The senators faulted the two-item recommendation proposed by the Ordia-led panel without furnishing them with details of the projects, the beneficiaries and the amount allocated to each of them.


Lawan, however, disagreed with them, stressing that by the Senate rules, the report should not be subjected to line by line consideration.

He said, “We are not doing second reading on this. We have recommendations which we will vote on but before we reach that stage, what is here is what is to finance our capital budget.


“It is important we are conscious that we need the capital aspect of the budget funding.”

But Abaribe faulted the position of the Senate President.


He said, “The position is that we would now approve some of this. It is when we get to the point of looking at each one of them that we will now determine which of these projects will help in growing our economy. Now that you have said we will take it line by line.”

But Lawan said, “Let me make this point very clear. This is a request and what I said is, this is to fund our capital budget. It means the capital budget is weighty.


“Until we pass it, there will be no implementation of the capital budget. So it is a choice.

“If we want, we pass, if don’t want, we don’t pass. We are going to make it tight spending this money.”


Not done with the issue, Abaribe said, “I just want to end with a very apt saying which I think the whole world knows, ‘who goes aborrowing, goes asorrowing’.

“We are going to pass a loan approval of $22.7bn and we, who are going to pay back that are making efforts to make sure this is clarified and Mr. President, you are not giving us the privilege to make our points known and come across. We don’t see anything that is so difficult for us.”


The situation became tensed afterwards and the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, saved the day by calling for a closed session, a suggestion earlier made by Senator Gabriel Suswan but overruled by Lawan.

The Senators, however, approved the loan request when they emerged from the 45-minute closed session.


Details of the loan approved by the Senate

The funding agencies, according to the Senate panel are:


World Bank ($2,854,000,000), African Development Bank ($1,888,950,000), Islamic Development Bank ($110,000,000), Japan International Cooperation Agency ( $200,000,000 ), German Development Bank ($200,000,000), China-Exim Bank ( $17,065,496,773), and the French Development Agency ($480,000,000)

Some of the projects to be funded with the loans include the Nigeria Electricity Transmission and Access Project ($364,000,000) and Social Inclusion and Welfare Advancement project, renamed National Social Safety Net Project, ($500,000).

It also included the Economic Reforms and Governance Project all (renamed Fiscal Governance Project ($200,000,000).

Others include development of the Mining Industry ($150,000,000), Education Sector Reform Programme (renamed Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) ($500,000,000).


#Newsworthy…

Yobe Emir’s attack: Senate presidency, Ahmad frownsk


President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has condemned the gun attack in Kaduna on the convoy of the Emir of Potiskum, Yobe State, Alhaji Umaru Bubaram.

Gunmen on Tuesday night attacked the convoy of the Emir around Maraban Jos on Kaduna-Zaria road, killing some of the Emir’s aides and leaving others injured.


Lawan expressed his condolence with the revered Emir and the families of those killed in the sad incident.

The Senate President also prayed for speedy recovery of the Emir and others who were injured.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan


Lawan called on the security agencies to ensure that everyone with a hand in the heinous crime is brought to justice.

He also called on the security agencies to ensure quick rescue of those who were abducted in the incident.


#Newsworthy…

2020: FG plans to to change 100m people’s story – Finance Minister


In what may be termed the first soothing news of 2020, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed on Monday reiterated Federal Government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty this year, in line with a pledge earlier made by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

Ahmed, who made the disclosure in a television programme said the fulcrum of achieving that goal would be to provide sufficient enabling environment for small businesses across Nigeria.


She said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that we must pull 100 million Nigerians out of poverty and that is our major focus. Based on the president’s directives, we want to move fast to make the kind of change the president wanted in the country.

“In 2020, we want to move very fast because we realized that going at the steady rate we are doing is not going to make the kind of change that the president has directed must happen.


“So, we have to make sure that we are creating more jobs and reducing unemployment, and pulling as many Nigerians as possible out of poverty. And that is the reason why when we did the finance bill, you will find that the bill was largely targeted at making businesses easy for the small and very small businesses. This is because we believe that is where the economy needs to really grow and stabilize from.”

The World Poverty Clock shocked the federal government in 2019, when it revealed that 91,885,874 people in Nigeria now live in extreme poverty (less than $1.9 or N693.5 per day).


In June 2018, the World Poverty Clock named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world with statistics showing that 87 million people live in poverty.

The latest numbers indicate that from June 2018 to June 2019, four million Nigerians have joined the poverty club occasioned by factors such as unemployment, insecurity, among others.


Industry records show that the Nigerian economy recorded 2.3 per cent GDP growth in 2019, particularly in the telecoms sector.

More so, agricultural growth increased slightly, but remained blighted by insurgency in the northeast region, and incessant farmer-herder conflicts.

Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed


Oil sector growth remained stable, but manufacturing production slowed due to the weaker power supply sector. Overall, the slow pace of recovery in 2019 is attributable to weak consumer demand and lower public and private investment.

According to the World Bank, the country’s growth outlook is vulnerable to domestic and global risks. It is facing a sharper than expected slowdown in the global economy, as well as geo-political and trade tensions.


#Newsworthy…

PMB confirms appointment of Engr. Ahmad Salihijo as MD & CEO, REA.


President Buhari has appointed Engr. Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

The Minister of Power, Engr. Mamman Sale broke the news in a statement this morning. His Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Aaron Artimas, who issued the statement in Abuja, said that Buhari also appointed Chief Olaniyi Alaba Netufo as the Executive Director – South West.


The statement also noted that the President has also appointed Eddi Mietuade Smith Julius as Non-Executive Director, South-South. According to Artimas statement, Ahmad is a renewable energy expert, who holds two Masters Degrees in Development Studies and Project Planning.

The new CEO, said the statement, has acquired vast knowledge and planning experience in power sector development.


#Newsworthy…

OMG! SERAP, EiE, BudgIT dragged Moh’d Buhari to court over N37Bn.

…stop Buhari and Zainab Ahmed


Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT, Enough is Enough (EiE) and 583 concerned Nigerians have dragged President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed before the Federal High Court, Abuja over the proposed N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1633/2019 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja by Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, they described the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly as “self-serving, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds,” which they said would translate to “less money for educating millions of out-of-school Nigerian children, providing access to clean water and healthcare to Nigerians including the elderly, or repairing the country’s roads and bridges.”


The groups said: “Spending N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex is self-serving, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds, as it means less money for educating millions of out-of-school Nigerian children, providing access to clean water and healthcare to Nigerians including the elderly, or repairing the country’s roads and bridges.

“The National Assembly complex should be a safe and conducive environment for those who work there, but spending ₦37 billion to renovate the place is not commensurate with the constitutional commitments to public services and goods, decreasing public revenues and increasing level of debts as well as the poor economic and social realities in the country.”


They are therefore seeking an order of the court to “restrain and stop President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly until an impact assessment of the spending is carried out.”

They also asked the court to “restrain, prevent and stop the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and the Federal Capital Development Agency from demanding or collecting the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of the National Assembly complex until an impact assessment of the spending on critical sectors and access to public goods and services, is carried out.”


The groups argued that “the defendants are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oaths of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens. The refusal of President Buhari to object to the Budget/Appropriation Bill containing a huge N37 billion on renovation of the National Assembly complex is a gross violation of the constitution and existing laws in Nigeria.”

The 583 plaintiffs include Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) co-convener Aisha Yesufu; a former Lagos State (Eti-Osa Federal Constituency) House of Reps aspirant, Bankole Wellington also known as Banky W, Mrs Ayo Obe, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, and Fisayo Soyombo.

They are seeking from the court: “A declaration that the N37 billion proposed, prescribed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 is a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] and Oath of a member of the National Assembly; a declaration that the N37 billion proposed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 signed is a breach of the defendants’ solemn constitutional obligations to know and follow constitutional oaths governing their conduct, including their duties of care to Nigerians to faithfully protect and defend the constitution and improve the well-being and welfare of Nigerians; an order of the court restraining, preventing and stopping President Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly leadership until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out; an order of the court restraining, preventing and stopping the National Assembly leadership from demanding or collecting the N37 billion proposed for the renovation of the National Assembly until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out; Any order(s) that the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of this suit.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.


#Newsworthy…

FG may borrow N2trn from pension fund – Mrs. Zainab.

… we’ve been able to release N1.2trn

Low revenue will constrain the implementation of the 2020 budget, Minister of Finance. Budget and Panning Mrs Zainab Ahmed said on Thursday.

She noted that 44 per cent of projected revenue would come from oil-related sources while the remaining 56 per cent is projected from the non-oil sector.

According to her, because the implementation of the budget will start on January 1, the operation of the 2019 budget has been terminated. There will be no release of capital funding henceforth.

The minister spoke on Thursday during the breakdown of the budget.

She explained that the government was doing its best to improve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate to seven per cent

Mrs Ahmed said: “We have been able to release N1.2 trillion. We will not be making any more releases before the end of the year. We are not doing any more releases. However, there are some in various stages of processing that would be completed. The 2020 budget takes effect from January 1, 2020.”

She noted that in releasing funding for capital projects, priority was given to critical ongoing projects in rail, roads, power and agriculture sectors while debt service and the implementation of non-debt recurrent expenditure, particularly payment of workers’ salaries and pensions will continue.

On the Finance Bill and the requirement of Tax Identification Number (TIN) to operate a bank account, she said not all the provisions of the bill would be implemented from January 1, 2020, adding that the government would engage banks on the modality for implementation of the TIN requirements.

She expressed optimism that the Finance Bill which has about 83 modifications meant to improve the business environment, especially for small and medium enterprises, would soon be sent to the President by the lawmakers for assent, adding, until the Finance Bill is assented; the measures we are talking about “are just plans for now. We are confident that within this week, Mr President will have this bill from the National Assembly”

She noted that the projected N8.42 trillion revenue is 3.2 per cent or N263.94 billion over the executive proposal, and 10.9 per cent more than the 2019 Budget of N7.59 trillion) .

To promote fiscal transparency and accountability, the budget of 10 major Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs) have been integrated in the Federal Government budget with effect from 2020.

#Newsworthy…

Buhari Regime set to pay workers consequential adjustment arrears in December – Minister.

…we have made adequate provision

Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning says arrears of consequential adjustment for the new minimum wage will be paid to workers in December.

Ahmed gave the assurance while answering questions from stakeholders during the highlights and breakdown of the approved 2020 budget in Abuja on Thursday.

She said the Federal Government had made adequate provision to pay the arrears of the consequential adjustments of the approved new minimum wage for federal civil servants.

“I want to confirm to you that we have made adequate provision in the 2020 budget on the issue of minimum wage.

“And we are also planning to pay the arrears of the consequential adjustments in December, ” she added.

Giving a breakdown of the 2020 budget, the minister said that the sum of N4.49 trillion would be expended on recurrent expenditure.

According to her, the sum of N2.465 trillion has been earmarked for capital expenditure, while N2.453 trillion is projected for debt servicing..

She said N2.64 trillion was expected to be generated from oil revenue, while N1.81 trillion was expected to be generated from non-oil revenue .

The minister put the projected revenue from other revenue sources at N3.97 trillion, adding that a total of N8.42 trillion revenue was expected to be generated in the N10.594 trillion budget.

Ahmed added that N2.175 trillion would be used to finance deficit, N560 billion for statutory transfer, N273 billion for debt sinking fund, while N350 billion would be expended on special interventions.

#Newsworthy…

Senate, Ahmad Lawan – Reasons 2020 Budget Will Not Fail.

…says financial bill to provide additional $2bn to coffers

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has given reasons why the implementation of the 2020 budget will not fail.

Speaking to State House Correspondents after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the budget into law, Lawan said with the signing of the finance bill and the passing of an amendment to the production sharing contracts, the executive will have more revenue to implement the budget.

The Senate and the House of Representatives had on December 5, 2019, simultaneously passed the 2020 Appropriation Bill, raising the total estimates from the proposed N10.33 trillion to about N10.6 trillion.

Speaking on the expectations from the executive as regards implementation of the budget and releases of funds as at when due, the Senate President said: “I think the tragedy of the past was not the budget being passed in good time, the budget was not passed in good time. The tragedy of the past and could be the tragedy of tomorrow is for us not to be able to get the revenues, that is very important. But this time around, we have passed the finance bill. The finance bill will provide more revenue to government. We have also passed an amendment to the production sharing contracts, that will also provide more revenues. We all know that the production sharing contracts was never available to fund our budget properly. In fact, in 2019, N350 billion was earmarked but we couldn’t get anything. Next year by the grace of God because of the amendment, we are going to get close to $2 billion and that is going to be a mark difference from what it use to be.

“So we are going to work on revenue generation, collection and remittance. Once we are able to get our revenues, we are all determined on both sides to ensure that the budget 2020 is implemented fully and we believe the Nigerian public will be in support of this. We continually ask for the support of Nigerians because governance is not about those in office, is about everybody playing his/her role.

“I’m so confident and optimistic that we will have the revenue to implement the 2020 budget.

We will work with the executive to ensure that the revenues continue to stream in.”

Lawan commended members of the National Assembly for disappointing naysayers, who doubted that the budget could be passed in two months.

He said: “I take this opportunity to thank distinguished members of the National Assembly who committed and engaged themselves in working on the budget 2020. Initially it looked like it was impossible, in fact many didn’t believe it was possible to work on this budget and produce it in December before we go for Christmas. But the members of the National Assembly decided consciously and patriotically to work on the budget day and night, in fact National Assembly became a beehive of activities more than anywhere else in Abuja. And we were able to by the grace of God finish all the processes and of course pass the budget in record time.

“I also want to use this opportunity to thank Mr. President for also keying in. Because, Mr. President did something that helped the National Assembly, when he said that every minister and head of agency must not travel out of this country without defending the budget of his or her ministry. That worked so well for us because for the first time we have almost every minister, head of an agency visited the National Assembly to defend the budget of his or her ministry.

“I also want to commend Nigerians for praying for us that we should achieve this. Because, everybody understands the implication of having a budget that is predictable, a budget that starts from January through the 12 calendar months to December, that tells you our economy is going to receive a boost, an injection that will see more businesses, employment opportunities and of course we hope that our teaming unemployed youths will now have opportunities to be gainfully employed.

“We also hope that this will also support the private sector so well, we all know that the private sector employs much more than the government. So we are optimistic that the economy will receive a boost from this 2020 budget implementation by the grace of God. I believe we are on the right path.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on his part said the various committees saddled with oversight functions will not relent in ensuring the budget is fully implemented.

According to him, “To monitor the implementation of the budget is straightforward, we have committees in place in both houses, that’s the work of the committees. The committees, both in the Senate and the House, their membership and chairmen were carefully selected and I believe there’s a lot of responsibilities on us to monitor the budget and we will do that.

“We have a year to monitor; from January to December. Just as he gave investors confidence, he also told members of National Assembly that there’ll be oversighting confidence and room to do their work, so I don’t think there’ll be any problems in terms of monitoring and oversighting.”

Asked the driving force behind their uncommon passion to work with the executive in effective service delivery to Nigerians, Gbajabiamila said: “I’ll quarrel with the word uncommon. Everybody has the passion to work, everybody has the good of Nigeria at heart, it’s just a question of being in the right enabling environment, having harmony between the two arms; the Executive and Legislature. It’s not uncommon, it’s a common passion, but are you able to unleash it? that’s what we’ve been able to do, there’s a synergy between the Executive and the Legislature, like never before.

“Many are wont to criticize that because we have a lot of naysayers; many will say we are rubber-stamps, on the other hand others will say the budget has come out with higher figures. So which one is it; are we rubber-stamps or are we doing what we are supposed to do as a legislature? There’ll always be naysayers, but we’ll continue to do what we need to do as legislature and the executive will continue to do what they do and the harmony between the two, guess who benefits. It’s not the legislature, it’s not the executive, but the Nigerian people.”

#Newsworthy…

$30Bn loan request from Buhari to be passed by the Senate.

…Bukola Saraki led Senate rejected the same loan request

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has revealed that the 9th Senate will pass President Muhammadu Buhari’s $29.9 billion loan request.

Lawan who spoke in Abuja during a media parley, however, said the various standing committees will carry out serious oversight functions and ensure that the money is not misappropriated by the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

In November 2016, Bukola Saraki led Senate rejected the same loan request from President Buhari. It had complained that details of the request were not forwarded to the chamber.

Lawan said: “The question of whether we will pass the loan request of the Executive arm of Government, yes, we will pass it. If we don’t have money and you have projects to build them, how will you provide infrastructure that you need?

“But one thing is that, we are going to be critical that every cent that is borrowed is tied to a project. These are projects that will have spillover effects on the economy and we will undertake our oversight so well to ensure that such funds are properly, prudently, economically and transparently are applied on those projects.”

#Newsworthy…

Senate, Ahmad Lawan demand payments of stipends to unemployed, jobless Nigerians.

…provide employment for our teeming unemployed graduates/youth

…at all tier of government

The Senate on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to set up a sustainable unemployment fund for the payment of living stipends to jobless Nigerians until such persons secure any kind of employment.

The Senate also urged governments at all levels to declare emergency on the provision of employment to the youth of Nigeria.

The upper chamber further urged the Federal, State, and Local Governments to revitalise existing industries, build new ones, and provide conducive and enabling environment for the Private Sector to build more industries in the country.

Besides, it called on the government through the Ministry of National Planning, “to put up mechanisms and programmes that would provide employment for our teeming unemployed graduates/youth at all tier of government.”

These resolutions of the upper chamber followed the consideration of a motion titled: “Escalating rate of unemployment in the country” moved by a former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

Ekweremadu in his lead debate, urged his colleagues to be alarmed that the huge number of graduates being turned out annually by the nation’s tertiary institutions without requisite employment spaces to absolve them.

According to him, the ugly development represents a time bomb waiting to explode.

The Enugu West Senator noted that a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019 stated that Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 23.1 per cent of the workforce in the third quarter of 2019.

He lamented that according to a statement credited to the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, showed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate will hit 33.5 per cent by 2020.

He urged the upper chamber to be worried that “any nation with such number of unemployed, but employable youth population, is only sitting on a keg of gunpowder.”

He further called on his colleagues to be perturbed that the most pressing demand on the hand of every legislator and public officer in the country today is the rising number of Curriculum Vitae and application for employments from constituents and Nigerians.

He said that he is convinced that a situation where every graduate has to queue up for job only in government offices is an indication of the breakdown of the private sector, “which is the major driver of world economies.”

The Senator lamented that the energies and potential talents of youths that are lying idle and wasting away are usually misdirected toward many unprofitable and harmful ventures and lifestyles.

He further averred that the most active percentage of the nation’s population is forcefully caged by unemployment “from participating in the economic development of fatherland and from contributing toward the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Aware that high level of crimes in any society are most times related to high rate of unemployment.

“That unemployment is one of the major causes of the upsurge in Rural-Urban migration, which puts pressure on facilities at the urban centers.

“That unemployment is one of the major reasons insurgency, kidnaping, armed robbery, cybercrimes and other vices are on the increase.”

Ekweremadu recalled that various intervention programmes by successive governments targeted at “reducing youth unemployment and eradicating its co-traveler, poverty, have not yielded the desired results.”

In his contribution, Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP, Plateau North), described unemployment as “a monster that, if we (Nigerians) are not careful, can consume us as a nation.”

On his part, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC, Ekiti North) decried the inability of the private sector to address the escalating rate of unemployed persons in the country.

He argued that the government lacks the capacity to create jobs, “as doing so would create an expansion in the fiscal responsibility of government.”

#Newsworthy…

Update: Senate thinks of setting bill to address food security problems.

…means far more than having sufficient food

The Senate has commenced legislative action to address the country’s food security problems by considering a bill to that effect.

According to a statement signed by the Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, Ezrel Tabiowo, the bill, which was sponsored by Senator Theordore Orji (PDP, Abia Central), is for an Act to make Provision For Freedom From Hunger and the Right to Adequate Food of Acceptable Quality.

Senator Orji, in his lead debate on the bill which scaled second reading on Tuesday, said the piece of legislation before the National Assembly seeks to create basic right to food of acceptable quality and the right of every child to basic nutrition.

The lawmaker pointed out that the passage of the Bill by the legislature and its eventual assent by the President will address issues of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

“It is important to point out that Food Security means far more than having sufficient food to meet human needs on a national basis,” Orji said.

“Other very important factors include access to safe drinking water, primary health care and environmental hygiene”.

According to the lawmaker, developing countries have been enacting laws aimed at food security after the World Food Crisis in 2008.

Citing Mauritius as an example, Senator Orji said that the country enacted a Food Security Fund to enhance local production of food by tackling all the problems militating against it.

He added that the bill, among other things, seeks “to provide a framework that promotes the elimination and prevention of discrimination of marginalized groups in the access and distribution of food.”

The bill also seeks to establish an Agency as well as stipulates provisions for Chairmanship, membership of the board, tenure of office, amongst others.

It also proposes the establishment of a Food Security Committee in each State of the Federation, whose functions shall include: implementing food security policy and programmes, participating in collection, preparation and dissemination of data on food security and nutrition in the State.

The Committee shall also be charged with identifying food-insecure areas, appropriating programmes and eligible beneficiaries in relation to food security.

Clause 35, Part VII of the Bill establishes a “Food Insecurity and Information Mapping System”, making it mandatory for the Agency to work in collaboration with Ministries of Finance, Disaster Management, Planning and National Security to provide the information needed to develop and strengthen the capacity to respond to food emergencies.

The bill also gives the President the power to declare a food emergency if in his opinion there is a major shortfall in the domestic production or availability of a designated Agricultural commodity.

In a related development, the Senate also on Tuesday considered the Rice Development Council Bill, 2019.

Sponsor of the bill, Senator Enagi Bima, in his lead debate, said the proposed legislation seeks to establish a Council that will revolutionize the entire value chain on rice.

According to the lawmaker, the establishment of a National Rice Development Council will transform the activities of rice farmers, rice processors, millers, researchers, marketers and other important stakeholders across the entire rice value chain in the country.

The two bills after consideration were referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further legislative work.

#Newsworthy…

Update – Senate demands state of emergency on Nigerian power sector.

…intention to defraud Nigeria.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has called on the Executive to declare a state of emergency in the power sector to overcome problems stalling steady power supply in Nigeria.

Lawan stated this while declaring open a one-day round-table discussion with the theme: “Addressing Nigeria’s power problems” organised by the Senate Committee on Power.

He said the privatisation of the power sector in 2005 and 2013 was a grand scheme conceived with the intention to defraud Nigeria.

“For me, if there’s any sector of our economy that is so important and yet so challenged, it is the power sector. I believe that this is a sector that needs a declaration of emergency.

“This is an opportunity for us in this round-table to exhaustively discuss not only the problems of the power sector in Nigeria, but the solutions and way forward.

“The truth is that we all know what is wrong. What we really need to do is to have the political will to take on the challenges generally.

“From the electricity power reform of 2005 to the privatization of Gencos and Discos and to what is happening today, we know that everything is fraud. If we play the ostrich, in the next ten years we will be talking about the same things.

“I think the time has come for us to have courage. I want to remind us, that we have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. What will give us an edge is to have a competitive environment.

“Our industries and businesses must be able to produce things that can compete favourably with products produced in other countries in Africa. We are not in that position today, and we all know the consequences of that.

“Even our citizens, who have capital, will rather relocate to Ghana, produce whatever they want and bring to Nigeria to sell. Where does that leave our country? No employment opportunities; Nigeria becomes a dumping ground.”

Lawn, therefore, called for a review of the privatisation exercise undertaken by the Goodluck Jonathan administration which led to a takeover of the power sector by private Generating Companies (Gencos) and Distribution Companies (Discos).

“If we went wrong with our privatisation of Gencos and Discos, the time has come to look into it. Whatever we have to do to review these things, we should do. We must do it in the interest of the people of this country. We must admit there was something done wrong. This round-table actually is an idea of the Senate, that we should come together to talk among ourselves.”

#Newsworthy…

Senate amended the public procurement.

…increases mobilization fee by 30%

The Senate yesterday, amended the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and jerked up mobilisation of local contractors from 15 to 30 per cent.

The Red Chamber also reduced the timeframe within which contracts will be awarded to two weeks. The same now applies for processing and four days to issue certificates to qualified contractors. During the consideration of the report, senators said the current mobilisation fee for local contractors was inadequate and further argued that it usually leads to contracts abandonment. Senators who spoke were divided over whether the certificate should be issued by heads of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) or a special committee in the Bureau of Public Procurement.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, noted that the parliament should ensure that there was no delay in contract processing and award by giving a timeframe for the necessary document to issued. He said doing so was also a better way to avoid corruption.

Senators suggested having a representative of the Bureau of Public Procurement to be posted into the MDAs for the purpose of issuing certificates based on their various threshold.

Members after debate, however, agreed to use the issue of timeframe as a means of saving time and stopping corruption in contracts award. They agreed that contracts should be processed within two weeks while the certificate be issued within four days. On the issue on mobilisation for local contractors, the committee recommended not more than 20 per cent but the Senate approved 30 per cent after much debate on the issue.

The Senate did not fix any percentage as mobilisation fee for foreign contractors because some senators argued that they should be ready to use their money for projects and get paid afterwards.

Lawan noted that there should be a deliberate plan of the government to encourage local contractors through policies and legislation. He noted that the BPP has been problematic over the years.

#Newsworthy…

Controversial questions over Hate speech bill anchored by the Senate.

As President Muhammadu Buhari patiently awaits the social media and hate speech bills undergoing legislative processes in the National Assembly to get to his table for his final assent before they become laws in Nigeria, Nigerians have taken up the gauntlet to fight what they perceive as government’s move to suppress citizens’ inalienable rights to freedom of expression and speech.

For the government, the bills are good for the peaceful co-existence and survival of Nigeria as a country, and must eventually become laws. But, for many Nigerians, the bills when passed into law would shrink the democratic space, stifle the people’s freedom to challenge government’s bad policies, set the country backwards and ultimately midwife fascism and autocracy in the country; a situation they have vowed not to allow. The development has pitched the government against the people, with both sides flexing muscles and waiting for who blinks first.

Two senators representing Niger East and Niger North Senatorial Districts on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mohammed Sani Musa and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi have been in the news recently for initiating the bills to regulate the social media, and hate speech bills in Nigeria.

Senator Musa’s bill, which intends to regulate the social media, with the title, “Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation and Other Related Matters Bill”, successfully scaled through the second reading on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

However, his counterpart, Senator Abdullahi’s bill titled, “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches and for Other Related Matters,” not only seeks to control hate speech; but also pushes to ensure that those who are found guilty of hate speech face death penalty.

What the two gentlemen saw as their own little contributions to deepening the democratic space as well as bringing about growth and development in Nigeria is today generating so much controversy, both within and outside the country, with a cross section of Nigerians stoutly rising against the bills, which they have plainly described as government’s subtle means to gag the media, suppress the citizens’ freedom of expression and silence any kind of opposition’s voice in Nigeria. Although, Musa who initiated the social media bill had explained that the intendment of the bill was not to stifle free speech, but to address a growing threat, which if left unchecked, could cause serious damage in the polity and disrupt peaceful coexistence, Nigerians are not prepared to accept his explanation.

Since the introduction of the bills, various schools of thought have emerged. There are some Nigerians who believe that the development simply means that government has failed to meet up with the citizens’ needs and aspirations. They argue that the bills, when passed into law, would ensure that even though Nigerians are not happy with the government and their political leaders, they cannot complain. This is because any attempt to complain would amount to breaking either of the two laws which could lead to long term imprisonment or even death, depending on which of the two laws is infringed upon.

Again, there are people who believe that the promoters of the bills and the government have ulterior motives, otherwise why would they be pushing for such laws when the constitution has more than enough laws to take care of libel, defamation and sedition, which are what the bills when passed into law seek to address.

However, there is another school of thought which holds that senators are dancing to the drumbeats of the executive arm of government led by President Buhari, who is rumoured to be nursing a third term ambition.

Last week, an APC chieftain in Ebonyi State, South East Nigeria, Mr. Charles Enya, had approached the court to plead that the aspect of the constitution which denies Buhari the right to contest for the presidency a third time should be expunged from the constitution. He also asked that a similar step should be taken to pave way for state governors to also go for third term in office.

Although Buhari had publicly said he does not have any third term ambition and neither would he do anything that would endanger the constitution, while his party, the APC, has also publicly condemned Mr. Enya’s action, threatening to even expel him from the party for such an unconstitutional move, Nigerians are still not taking the matter lightly.

Close observers of political developments in Nigeria since the return of civil rule in 1999, would quickly make reference to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who at the twilight of his administration in 2007, was also rumoured to have had a third term ambition. Obasanjo, they said, was known to have dispelled the rumour at the time; but it eventually turned out to be true. If not for the doggedness and patriotism of the then fifth National Assembly and its leadership, coupled with constant pressures and protests by the civil society organisations and Nigerians at large, Obasanjo’s surreptitious plot would have pulled through.

It is the Obasanjo’s ugly history that the proponents of this theory don’t want to be repeated, as Nigerians learnt their lesson in a very hard way. And they also believe strongly that if Obasanjo could contemplate that, Buhari might not be an exception since both have military background and similar political trajectory of being military Head of State as well as civilian presidents. That is why in spite of the assurances from the president and his party, Nigerians’ scepticism remains strong and unwavering.

Yet, there are those who argue that instead of pushing for a law against hate speech, the senator should have considered a law against hate behaviour. Proponents of this view believe that it is hate behaviour that begets hate speech, and that without hate behaviour, there won’t be any hate speech. They cited instances of hate behaviour to include deliberate move by the government to ensure that certain section of the country is placed over and above other sections, flagrant disregard to court orders by the president, and failure of the party in government to deliver to the people its campaign promises among others.

In all of these, several questions agitate the minds of Nigerians. They want to know who determines what a hate speech is. They also want to know if one is deemed to have committed hate speech when one speaks truth to power or against government policies. For all they care, the bills when passed into law, will be anti-people, capable of sending Nigerians back to the Stone Age and as such, must be resisted by all lovers of civilization and modernity.

Political analysts are of the view that when the bills are passed into law, the rumoured third term ambition of Buhari, which has been vehemently denied, would resurface, and when that happens, the laws would be deployed to hound any voice that would rise against the president’s ambition. This is because anybody that criticizes or condemns the president’s ambition would have breached the hate speech law and would be decisively dealt with. To this group, if the bills are passed into law, Nigeria would have become a fascist and totalitarian state, where free speech is no longer guaranteed, and where the whims and caprices of the president and other political office holders can no longer be questioned or challenged by anybody.

Nigerians are equally angry that Senator Musa’s bill is an awful cut-and-paste job, copied from Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act No. 18 of 2019, which was signed into law on June 3, but entered into force on October 3, 2019. They wondered why Musa and his distinguished senatorial supporters are only interested in extinguishing in Nigerians any capacity to complain about misrule and not interested in copying Singapore’s experience of decent and effective government.

Opposition mounts

Since the introduction of the bills, there has been a groundswell of firm and stiff opposition from Nigerians cutting across political, religious, social and ethnic as well as professional divides. From the former president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, to Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, Civil Society Organisations and human rights groups and millions of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.

Babangida had stated unequivocally that nobody could muzzle the media, even as he insisted that there was no basis for the bill which had scaled the second reading in the Senate. He said the bill was an eye service by the sponsors and described the prescribed death penalty as crude and wicked.

The former president who bared his mind on the controversial issue at his palatial hill top home in Minna when the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), Christopher Isiguzo visited him, promised to team up with the union and other stakeholders to protest the passage of the bill. He said: “I am with you on this. I will also talk to those of us who could be in position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things.”

Babangida, who said he has been following media publications on the forthcoming American election, argued that if American journalists were to be in Nigeria, they would all have been jailed. He challenged the media to remain strong and focused on what Nigerians want, adding that the country could only succeed if unfettered freedom is allowed without death threat.

For the United Nations envoy, Amina Mohammed, there is nothing bad in trying to regulate the social media to ensure a decent media space, but that is not to say that hate speech offenders should be put to death. She clearly stated that she would not support death sentence for hate speech offenders.

Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola also described the bill as a slide to dictatorship. He said the bill was needless, and unwarranted for anyone to contemplate another law to deal with false publication when there are laws already promulgated to take care of such situation. He spoke at ABUAD in Ado-Ekiti when the Ekiti State chapter of the NUJ presented an award of excellence to him.

Gov Akeredolu at the opening ceremony of the sixth biennial conference of the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies department last week, opposed the proposed death penalty for hate speech offenders in the country, and likened it to sentencing someone who steals N10,000 to death and freeing another who steals N1million. “When I was the president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), I vehemently condemned capital punishment for criminals. I will be a turn-coat as governor to now support death penalty for hate speech offenders,” he said.

Also, the outspoken Catholic priest, Bishop Kuka, described the bill as a short walk to totalitarianism, even as he lamented that Nigeria has not been anywhere near democracy going by the real definition of the term ‘democracy.’

He said: “I have consistently tried to create levels of differentiation between democracy and dictatorship, especially dictatorships of the military variant as we have had in Nigeria. I have argued that Nigeria is still very far away from the goal posts of what could be called a democratic society. In my view, the environment does not as yet look anything democratic because the actors are largely strangers to the ethos of democracy, and what is more, too many of them are tied to the old order, not to talk of the fact that the presence of General – presidents suggest that we are still in the thrall of militarism.

“Democracy thrives on debate, consensus building, negotiation, persuasion, and argumentation, rule of law, process, and inclusion. The military thrives in a coup culture, secrecy, betrayal, violence, command structure, exclusion and lack of transparency. That explains why I have always warned against describing the current charade of violent elections as democracy.”

Former Minister of Education and co-founder of #BringBackOurGirls Movement, Obiageli Ezekwesili, has also urged women, especially those in political offices and women groups, to raise their voices against the passage of the hate speech bill. She made the call at a national women’s dialogue tagged, ‘WOMANIFESTO2019: What the Nigerian women want,’ held in Abuja last week. She described the bill as anti-people, as it seeks to stifle the voice of Nigerians. “Women will be the worst for it if the hate speech bill is passed because it is against the freedom of expression. The hate speech bill that they are talking about is not going to help the Nigerian woman when we are trying to say what women want,” she added.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on its own part had also insinuated that the bill was either to Islamise Nigeria or skewed to make the alleged third term ambition of the president a reality. But, the spokesperson for the Senate, Godiya Akwashiki had debunked the PDP’s allegation, saying that the hate speech bill before the Senate is a private senator bill and not an executive bill. “It is the right of a senator to sponsor a private member bill. We also have the executive bill but the hate speech bill before the Senate today is a private senator bill. Mr. President has nothing to do with it and it has nothing to do with third term agenda,” Akwashiki added.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders Foundation (HURIDE), has also issued a 21-day ultimatum to the National Assembly to throw away the bill, suspend the sponsors of the bill and tender unreserved apology to Nigerians.

A statement by HURIDE’s Board of Trustees chairman, Dede Uzor, said the reactivation of the bill was a clear indication that members of the National Assembly were despots disguised as democrats. “This bill cannot stand. It should be thrown into the dustbin of history, like its forebears, Decree 4, which was promulgated by Buhari as a military Head of State in 1983. He used it to imprison citizens without trial. The National Assembly should apologise to Nigerians for coming up with this obnoxious, Stone Age and anti-people bill. It is a revival of Decree 4 of 1983. It is shameful that our legislators allowed Buhari’s dictatorial tendency to loom large in a democratic environment,” Uzor stated.

Last week, scores of protesters stormed the National Assembly, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the bills aimed at regulating the social media and prescribing capital punishment for hate speech offenders. According to one of the organisers of the protest, Henry Shield, the protest was to express Nigerians’ displeasure and rejection of the two controversial bills. He also argued that there are existing laws in Nigeria which are appropriate for dealing with the issues that the bills are meant to address.

However, Senators Uba Sani and Oseni Yakubu who addressed the protesters on behalf of the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, assured that the bills would not be passed if they were rejected by Nigerians during the public hearing.

Sani, who represents Kaduna Central, said: “We have heard your agitation. We believe it is a very important agitation. Some of us in the chamber have also been involved in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in the country. The two bills in question were introduced by some of our colleagues. Some of us in the National Assembly, including the Senate president, would appear at the public hearing. Whatever Nigerians want is what the Ninth Senate would do.

“The law is not about the 109 senators. It is about Nigerians. Democracy is about free speech, it is about the rule of law. That is why their voices are extremely important. That is why we believe that your agitation is valid and also in the best interest of our own country. We are going to certainly work with you on the day of the public hearing. I can assure you we are going to do whatever is in the best interest of our country.

“We are aware of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act and some of us are on the same page with these agitations. We are not guided by any political affiliation. We are guided by the law and concerned about the progress of our country.”

Yakubu, who represents Kogi Central, also said: “I want to assure you that the Ninth Senate is not in any way an appendage of the executive. No single bill will pass without public hearing. We are here to make laws for Nigerians, not Senate. We are all here to protect the interests of Nigerians.”

But, many Nigerians will not buy into the assurances of the Senate; not when majority of Nigerians view the upper legislative chamber as a puppet and lackey in the hands of the executive. To this class of Nigerians, the Senate does not have a mind of its own; it is tenaciously tied to the apron string of the executive. “Can the Senate make any decision without the approval of the executive arm? It is not possible. This current Senate is a disappointment to Nigerians. No wonder the election of its leadership was a do-or-die affair for the executive arm. The coast is now very clear and Nigerians can now see the real intention behind the deep-in-neck involvement of the executive arm during that election. We cannot be deceived. What Nigerians want is outright withdrawal of the bills and not any public hearing,” they insisted.

Government’s stand

The minister of Information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Thursday, November 14, declared that there was going back on the plan by the Federal Government to regulate the social media in Nigeria. He made the government’s position very clear at a session with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers in Abuja. He insisted that it was the right thing to do, adding that no amount of criticism would discourage the government from the plan.

Again on Monday, November 18, when he received a delegation from the NUJ, led by its national president, Chris Isiguzo, he insisted that the social media bill when passed into law would bring sanity into the system, stressing that those who are uncomfortable with the bill are the purveyors of fake news and hate speech.

Following the barrage of criticisms and protests that have greeted the pending bills, the Senate has promised to look into the hate speech bill and see how it could drop the death penalty aspect of it. And for the FG, only rejection by the Senate would save Nigerians from the troubles of the intended social media law.

As it is, Nigerians are waiting to see what the Senate would do in the next couple of days. Although, they have made their stand clear, which is that the two bills should be consigned to the dustbin of history, where they belong. But, can the Senate which many see as a rubber stamp of the executive muster the courage to respect the wishes and yearnings of Nigerians, whom they represent? Would they change overnight from being a lapdog to an attack dog, which not only barks but also bites? Answers to these and many more questions, as the saying goes, are buried in the belly of time.

#Newsworthy…

SERAP: Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed Sued For Failed $460m Abuja CCTV project.

SERAP sues minister, seeks information on failed $460m Abuja CCTV project
A rights organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to a Federal High Court in Abuja, over her refusal to provide information on how the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project was expended.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019, SERAP contended that the minister has no legally justifiable reason not to heed its Freedom of Information (FOI) request of October 25, regarding the identities of contractors involved in the failed project as well as the reason behind Federal Government’s continuous repayment of the loan.

It noted that transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.
The organisation further argued that the information being requested for does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Democracy cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy. The citizens are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting.

“By the combined provisions of Sections 1; 2; 3(4); 4; 7(1)&(5); 9; 14(2)(b); 19(2); 20 of the FoI Act, 2011, among other provisions; SERAP’s right of access to information is guaranteed and there is a statutory obligation on the minister, being public officer, to proactively keep, organize and maintain all information or records about her ministry’s operations, personnel, activities and other relevant or related information or records in a manner that facilitates public access to such information or recor

“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.

“The minister is an appointee of the President of Nigeria and Head of the Ministry of Finance. Her official duties include; collecting and disbursing government revenue, formulating policies on management of the Federal Government’s finance, preparing annual budget and accounts for ministries, departments and agencies and managing federal debt.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules to regulate matters,” SERAP argued further.

#Newsworthy…

Lawan Dares Buhari, Says Senate Will Only Work With Confirmed Board Members.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, said the upper legislative chamber would not recognise the interim management team of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The controversial management team was constituted by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.

The team replaced an acting management board of the Commission.

Speaking, yesterday, while referring the budget of NDDC to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Lawan instructed the panel to only deal with the board screened and confirmed by the Red Chamber.

He told the Committee to turn in the report of the budget in two weeks, to enable the Senate pass it into law.

“This budget is hereby referred to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs. You’re to report back in two weeks. Let me state that only the Committee should only deal with board members confirmed by the Senate,” he said.

This is the first time Lawan is making such a daring move since he was elected as president of the Senate in June.

The move may also signal an end to the cordial relationship between the executive and the senate.

Three weeks ago, the Senate confirmed 15 out of the 16 nominees forwarded by President Buhari for confirmation as members of the board of NDDC.

Lawan had after the confirmation, said the inauguration of an interim committee by the Akpabio was alien to law setting up the Commission. He said with the confirmation of the board, the interim committee ceased to exist and warned that those who ought to protect the sanctity of the law should not deliberately flout them.

While reading a letter from President Buhari, presenting the 2020 budget of NDDC, on Tuesday, Lawan said the right thing to do was for the President to inaugurate the new board. He said if the President inaugurates the board, the right people would appear before the Senate and defend the 2020 budget of the Commission.

Lawan had said: “As far as we are concerned, this Senate knows that we have confirmed the request of Mr. President for the board membership of the NDDC and we have communicated that and the next logical thing to do by law is for the appointments of the members of the board to take immediate effect.

“I believe that the executive arm of government will attend to that quickly so that we have the right people to come and defend the appropriation request of Mr. President.”

Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, had while speaking on the development on Tuesday, said the Senate should not allow an illegal interim committee of the NDCC to defend the 2020 budget of the Commission. “We just heard from you (Senate President) the communication from Mr. President which relates to the presentation of the NDDC’s Budget for approval. Of course, what it will mean is that the budget will go to the relevant Committee of Appropriation and the NDDC Committee and some persons will come to defend the budget.

“Having regard to the fact that this Senate has confirmed members of the board of the NDDC and they are yet to resume office, Mr. President, I fear that we may run into a problem of delayed budget again since nobody will come to defend this budget.

“Because this august body having confirmed the board of NDDC, will not countenance any illegal contraption coming in front of us to say they are representing the NDDC. I know that this may be preemptive, but my people say that if we act quick we will prevent disaster from coming.”

#Newsworthy…

Make Cooking Gas Available For Domestic Use – Senate, Lawan Tells NLNG Boss…

Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Wednesday told the management of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas to make Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or cooking gas readily available for domestic use.

Lawan spoke when the Managing Director of the NLNG, Tony Attah and his management team visited him in Abuja, according to a statement by Ola Awoniyi, special adviser (media) to the Senate President.

He urged the NLNG chief to ensure improved supply of cooking gas in the country.

Lawan said: “The LPG you bring to the country, you should bring more because if we have to move away from using the firewood and so many other things that can cause problems to the environment, we have to have more LPG for cooking.

“I believe that you have the wherewithal. If it requires a policy or legislation, I believe there is need to fast track our ability to make the LPG available to Nigerians.

“Today what is available to Nigerians is very low. I believe that we can do much better than that.”

The Senate President described the NLNG as a project that is so important and critical to Nigeria.

He said even though the project is doing well, it can still do much better, adding that “Nigeria can benefit better from gas resource than even from oil.”

Lawan told the NLNG team to work closely with the relevant committees in the National Assembly with a view to fast tracking the realization of the objectives of the project.

The Senate President underscored the fact that Nigeria is reputed to be more of a gas nation than oil adding that “we have what it takes to be very ambitious” like other leading gas-endowed nations.

Lawan said there is also a need to ensure stability in the Niger Delta to sustain an uninterrupted operation in the region.

“We believe that we should work to ensure stability in the Niger Delta. A lot of projections for our budget every year are based on crude availability. That requires that we should continue to have a stable Niger Delta environment where our oil and gas are produced.

“We should make every possible effort to provide amenities either through corporate responsibility and of course through government intervention to make that place stable so that we can continue to have the operations going on uninterrupted,” Lawan said.

Earlier, Attah said the visit was to intimate the Senate President with the progress made by the company.

He said that the NLNG is seen as the fasted growing NLNG Company in the world.

“We are a global player but we are 100 percent Nigerian company and a major source of pride to the nation.

“This year defines our 30th anniversary of safely operating and when we talk to our customers, they refer to us as reliable, responsible but most importantly trusted.

“And we think that is really helping the image of our Nigeria because our ships go all over the world on a daily basis and we carry the flag to represent the country positively,” Attah said.

#Newsworthy. .